Christmas Caroling

Has anyone else noticed that holiday music is the only music that we listen to 220px-Single_Brenda_Lee-Rockin'_Around_the_Christmas_Tree_covercontinuously, year after year, for decades? I mean, radio stations still regularly play “Here Comes Santa Claus” by Gene Autry, “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Frank Sinatra, released in 1947, 1965, 1958, and 1957, respectively.

People still listen to these songs, some of which are in the 70-year range, every year as if they are fresh and new. They are aired by pop radio stations, get played at parties, and are piped in at malls and in elevators.

What other music can say that?blue eyes

Yes, you will catch the Beatles on your elevator ride, tap your toe to “The Girl from Ipanema” while waiting to be called in at the dentist’s office, or hear the chords of “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” while shopping at Walmart. And, of course, there are stations that are devoted to “oldies” or a specific type of music that, by virtue of the genre, will play older music. (For example, no self-respecting jazz station will omit playing Ella Fitzgerald, whose most famous recordings were done in the 1930s─1950s.) Occasionally, if you’re lucky, you might get to dance to a classic ’70s disco song at a club or party.220px-Have_a_Holly_Jolly_Christmas_cover

But for the most part, older music is treated as such—classics to be listened to either with reverence or nostalgia, and usually by those old enough to remember it when it first came out. So much music gets forgotten in mere months after their release. Look what happened with U2 a few months ago when iTunes automatically downloaded their latest album onto people’s playlists. People younger than 30 were like, “Who’s U2?” O_O

I mean, holy shit. U2 is only one of the greatest rock bands of all time (okay, I’m sure some of you would argue with me about that, but let’s just go with it for now). But the music scene is fickle. Very, very fickle. It goes through a midlife crisis basically all the time, like one long, continuous identity crisis.geneautry

But I’d be willing to bet that many of those same people who asked, “U2 who?” have heard “Jingle Bell Rock,” recorded by Bobby Helms in 1958, or the Hall and Oates version from 1983, at some time or another. If for no other reason, these songs continue to be used time and time again in holiday movies, which is a film category that seems to have the vampire’s life—it will never die. Yes, they use newer music, too, but they’ll slip in an oldie here or there. And since some pop stations play 24 hours of holiday music throughout December, starting right after Thanksgiving, it’s impossible to avoid entirely.

I just wonder how long we will be listening to these decades-old holiday tunes. Will we still be toasting with eggnog at the office party to the notes of “I’ll Have a Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley in 20 years? Fifty? A hundred? Beyond?blue-christmas-man-sparkle1

All this means absolutely nothing. I just find the idiosyncrasies of pop culture and society’s traditions fascinating. It amazes me how some traditions remain for centuries, even millennia. The tradition of the Christmas tree, as we know it today, began in the 16th century; mistletoe was hung for kissing beginning in the 18th century; and caroling began as a celebratory rite for the winter solstice thousands of years ago.

How will recorded music—specifically, Christmas music—stand the test of time?

We’ll never know. But holiday music comes in all different forms, and even the most cynical of us can enjoy some, whether it’s the heartfelt, sitting-by-the-fireside crooning of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” the sad wartime diddy “I’ll be home for Christmas,” the nostalgic “The Chimpmunk Song,” the fun and light “Santa Baby,” the silly “Grandama Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” or the anti-Christmas “Father Christmas” by the Kinks. Whatever floats your boat.

Just Released! A Truly Giving Christmas

This week I wanted to announce the release of Unwrap These Presents. The proceeds from this book go to the Ali Forney Center in New York City and the Albert Kennedy Trust in the UK, both of which provide housing for homeless LGBT youth. Unwrap These Presents

There are 23 authors in this collection, each of which brings you their own interpretation of what the holidays (Christmas and Hanukah) can and/or should bring. The authors are:

Andi Marquette
Ashley Stevens
Catherine Lane
Cheri Crystal
Cindy Rizzo
Clare Lydon
Devin Sumarno
Erzabet Bishop
Eve Francis
Fletcher DeLancey
Jae, Jean Copeland
Joan Arling
Jove Belle
L.T. Smith
Lee Lynch
Lois Cloarec Hart
Nikki Busch
Patricia Penn
R.G. Emanuelle
S. M. Harding
T.M. Croke
Wendy Temple

That’s some lineup, huh? There’s a wide variety of tales here, from sweet and heart-warming to sad and thought-provoking to hot and erotic. There’s something for everyone, even poetry! And who can resist picking up this book when we have the esteemed Lee Lynch in the mix? If Lee is involved, you know it’s gotta be something good.

And even if anthologies are not your thing, I urge you to purchase a copy anyway and support this very worthy cause. I’m sure that many of you remember what it was like coming of age and coming out—the fear of being rejected and ostracized or, worse, assaulted or killed. Some are lucky enough to be accepted by family and friends, but many others have had to deal with that rejection and, sadly, physical abuse simply because of who they are. And too many kids have had to feel the anguish of being thrown out of their own home by the very people who are supposed to love and protect them.

To be homeless is a terrible thing; to be homeless and just a kid with absolutely no resources is a tragedy. Maybe someday we won’t have to hear about such things, but until then, let those of us more fortunate help out where we can. Thanksgiving is upon us—what better time to do that?

I wish you all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

thanksgiving

A Turkey, Some Wine, and a Speech

Today at my office, we had our annual Thanksgiving luncheon. We had the whole shebang: turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, ham, mac and cheese, string beans, sweet potatoes, soup, salad, and rolls. Then we had apple pie, pumpkin-coconut cake, and a Dominican cake (because we also had 4 birthday people).

My boss made a speech, which was pretty much like all the speeches he makes at any of our gatherings. In this speech he stated that we are a special group of people and he appreciates each and every one of us for what we do.

Well, what the hell else was he going to say? That we’re all a bunch of incompetent, good-for-nothings? Of course he’s got to be nice. Plus, we (that is, the office staff) put together a really nice meal. Our table was lovely, the food was delicious, and everyone had a really good time. So he had to acknowledge that.

The thing is, every time he utters these words, I feel the sharpness of their ingenuousness. He is, perhaps, being sincere where some of the staff is concerned, but I know that he doesn’t feel that way about everyone on staff, particularly me. No, indeed. He and I have butted heads many times. Not where work was concerned, but on a personal level. Suffice it to say, if I leave, he wouldn’t miss me.

I guess this is bothering me because I’m coming to the end of another year of working where I’m not happy, and the flu season is coming up very soon. That means I’ll have to start wearing a mask again for who knows how long. It’s all rather frustrating.

In the end, my boss let us go an hour early, which is highly unusual. He doesn’t let us go five minutes early on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, but today he gave us an hour. Between the triptophan in the turkey and the sparkling wine that we quietly placed on the table (it took the managers a while to figure out that it was on the table), he must have been feeling good. So I’m going to stop bitching now.

Thanks for listening.

It’s so awesome that this post is going live on Halloween. Halloween is my favorite holiday for so many reasons. It’s so much more than just putting on costumes, going trick or treating, and getting candy. There is so much fascinating history behind the rituals and the holiday itself. And it all meant so much more to the people who participated in those rituals so many years ago. In fact, they took it quite seriously. It was all—literally—a matter of life and death.

I love Halloween because I love the spooky, mysterious, macabre side of Bela_Lugosilife. And those things are a part of life, even if many people choose to ignore them. I love watching all the classis, campy horror flicks, like the old Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff movies, the Hammer Studio films, and the Vincent Price movies. I love witches, ghosts, goblins, vampires, black cats, jack o’lanterns, and cauldrons. I also love the quainter side of Halloween: Pumpkin cake, trick or treating, and autumn leaves.

This time of year brings up so many feelings in me. Delight that the sweltering dog-days of summer have mellowed into the pleasant jacket-cool of fall. Playfulness at the naughty, mischievous atmosphere. Inspired by the Halloween horror.

October is also my birth month, so that brings a bittersweetness to the month. (Of course, I’m happy to be having a birthday—the alternative is not a pleasant thought—but becoming another year older is sometimes depressing.) Then there’s the sinking feeling that Christmas is right around the corner and I have to start thinking about gifts.

But October is also always an active time for me. It’s partly due to my Add Spice to Taste Coverenthusiasm for the season, but it’s also partly that I work on projects all year long and by the time October comes, I’m ready to release stuff. Last October saw the release of my first novella, Add Spice to Taste, which was very exciting. This October, I had intended on releasing another novella, but I encountered some problems with the story and that really set me back. However, I’m really happy to be part of Ylva Publishing latest Halloween anthology, Wicked Things, now available as an ebook, and soon as a print book! Woohoo!

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Coming soon is also Unwrap These Presents, a Christmas anthology Unwrap These Presentswhose profits will go to benefit the Ali Forney Center in New York and Albert Kennedy Trust in the UK. I’ve been talking about that a lot lately, but I think it’s important to get the word out about this project. It’s an important cause and I want as many people as possible to purchase a copy to help the mission.

I don’t have anything planned for this Halloween, but that’s okay. I’m going to watch some classic movies (maybe I’ll catch a Vincent Price flick), have some wine, and chill out. If you’ve got plans, I hope you have a great time and gets lots of goodies. If you don’t have anything to do, may I suggest that you tune into Lizzie’s Bedtime Stories and listen to some wonderful authors reading their spooky stuff. I read my story from Wicked Things, called “Strega,” for this Halloween episode. Strega in Italian means “witch, “ so if you like witch stories, check it out. Then, when you go to bed, curl up with Wicked Things for other creepy stories.

Sounds like a plan to me.

halloween fire

Like Fine Wine

I just had a birthday. Like, yesterday. I won’t say how old I am, but let’s just say that I now have to check off a different age box on some demographic questionnaires.

I find it so interesting how your perspective on life and attitude about the things and people around you change as you get older. For many people (not all), the kinds of people you hang out with change, your ideas on life change, your self-image changes, and (like it or not) your body changes. No one is exempt from that last one. Age shows no discrimination or mercy.

And what’s more, the people around you change how they are with you. This can be good or bad. I don’t know if it’s a direct result of your own metamorphosis or something that just happens with time.

You know the whole “cougar” phenomenon? There’s a reason for that. Women who enter into that zone known generically as “middle age” are different than younger women. They’ve been through stuff, seen things, and dealt with many different people. By that stage in their lives, they have found themselves, discovered their strengths, and learned how to handle their weaknesses, or at least identified them.pouring wine

There’s also the sexual aspects of a middle-aged women—her years of experience have presumably made her more comfortable and in-tune with her body and, therefore, a better sexual partner. Physically, women often “grow into their looks.” I have found that this has happened to me. I never got much attention when I was a teenager; then, as I traversed my 20s and 30s, I seemed to appeal to more and more people. Then I turned 40 and…well, I’m not quite sure what happened but I suddenly found myself receiving attention from both men and women. Lots of it on a regular basis. I spent so many years considering myself unattractive (thanks to my childhood bullies who called me fat and ugly) that when I did start receiving compliments as an adult, I simply didn’t believe them. I’m at a point now where I’m willing to accept the compliments, even if I don’t understand them. I guess like fine wine, I’ve improved. (I could also say like fine cheese, but considering its stinky nature, I’ll just stick with the wine metaphor.)

Of course, I’m speaking generally. There are some people who don’t change much (although, unless you live in a remote area with very little outside contact, I don’t see how this is possible). Sadly, there are also women who are broken down by life (men, too). I feel sorry for those people because we only get one life (unless you believe in reincarnation, but that’s a whole other bag of monkeys).

I’m only talking about this because birthdays make me think, and they bring to the fore of my mind issues that I’ve been grappling with. I like to think that I’m entering the better part of my life, even if my body disagrees. I hope that’s the case.

Into the Next

The members of my writer’s group are under the impression that I have a following.

That’s very sweet of them to think that, but it’s really not all that big.

Unless you’re one of the lucky few who are “overnight successes,” it takes years to build an audience. I put quote marks around that because even so-called overnight successes usually work at it for a while before they make it big. What I’m talking about when I say overnight success is when someone releases something (which could have taken them years and years to accomplish) and they get an immediate huge following.

Anyway, I’m nowhere near that. I’ve been working the last few years on building my audience and it’s slow progress. A lot of work goes into building an audience: blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, attending and/or speaking/presenting to conferences, readings, and other events, doing interviews and online chats, and writing. Lots and lots of writing. Taking on other projects gets your name out there, too. Volunteering at a conference or other event gets you known in those circles, as does editing work.AllYouCanEat-600x914

As this year starts winding down, I’m feeling the disappointment of not having accomplished all that I wanted to, but I’m also proud of all that I have accomplished. I co-edited All You Can Eat and Unwrap These Presents (which I’m told will be available in late October). I co-wrote, along with my writer’s group cohorts, Hunger: Stories of Desire, Discovery, and Dissatisfaction, and contributed a story to Wicked Things, which will also be out in October.

HUNGER COVER FINAL

Unwrap These PresentsThe disappointment part comes from the fact that I spent about 8 months writing and revising a novella, which was to be the first in a series, only to come to the conclusion that it’s riddled with problems and I will probably have to start from scratch. It’s heartbreaking to realize that something that you’ve worked so hard on doesn’t work. It’s like having a child for whom you’ve sacrificed and given everything to, and then they decide to hold up a liquor store and go to prison for a few years.

You wonder, what did I do wrong? What could I have done to prevent this? The answer, of course, is probably nothing. As long as you didn’t abuse or neglect them in some way, they chose their own path to take.

The whole thing has been so devastating for me that I’ve been unable to write anything for a several weeks now. I feel paralyzed, unable to even think about the next book, chapter, scene, or even sentence. Work on book two in the series came to a screeching halt, and I sometimes have doubts that I will be able to pick up the novella and work on it ever again.

The only thing you can do as the parent of a child who’s gone astray is to try and set them on a better path. That’s what I’m going to try and do. It hurts because I care for my child—I love its quirks and personality and I don’t really want to change it. But I have to. It makes me kind of nervous to say that because many homophobic parents would use that argument to put their gay kinds in a conversion camp, but then, I’m not really talking about a human being, am I?

This is not going to happen before the end of the year. I’d been hoping that I would get it out in October; now it looks like it won’t be until next spring, if I’m lucky. In the meantime, I’ll keep doing other things. Hopefully, I’ll get some more readers interested in my work and those who already are will come find me in the spring.

Hunger for Summer

Hunger NOW! I mean the anthology!

It’s here!! The anthology that my writer’s group, The Penheads, put together is finally published and available for Kindle. I’m so happy and excited about this because it’s been so long in the making. Well, it feels like a long time. We all worked so hard on it and we’re finally enjoying the fruits of our labor. (I guess I should’ve titled this post “Hunger for End of Summer.”)

Hunger: Stories of Desire, Discovery, and Dissatisfaction is a collectionHUNGER COVER FINAL of tales that home in on the various faces of hunger. What does hunger mean to you? Is it hunger for acceptance? Hunger for knowledge? Hunger for love? Physical hunger for food? Whatever it is, you’ll probably find a story here that addresses that concept. It’s available HERE. What a way to ring out the summer!

Speaking of summer…

I can’t believe that summer’s over already. What the hell? One minute, I’m packing up the snow boots and uncovering the A/C, and the next, I’m boxing up the sandals and wrapping up the A/C like a package headed to a remote village in the Congo.

And it seems that the snow boots enjoy a much longer life out in the open than do the sandals. But, of course, I live in the Mid-Atlantic region where this is a problem. For all you lucky people living in warmer climes, good for you.

At the beginning of every summer, I tell myself that I’m going to get outside and enjoy it more. Inevitably, I always have so much to do that it simply doesn’t happen. Then, the season starts winding down, kids start filling up the trains again, and I defy you to find a short-sleeved top among all the sweaters and turtlenecks in the stores. And once again, the reality slaps me in the face.

What that then comes around to is . . . all the projects I have to complete before the end of the year! Ack! Somebody speeds up the clock right around this time of year, anxious for New Year’s Eve, I guess. For those of us with deadlines, it gets to be insane.

Okay, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean. Those of you who have begun to panic, say it with me.

I have to remember that things will get done and freaking out doesn’t get them done any faster. Yes, the summer is over, but autumn, which is my favorite time of year, inspires a lot. From Halloween to delicious food to pumpkins and colors, autumn inspiration comes in many forms.

And to that I say: Summer, I will miss you. But, autumn, I will kiss you.