Dennis Sharpe's Blog

September 17, 2016

I love it when I do something in front of my children that they obviously find inexplicable and are baffled by... but they don't ask about. 

Things continue and I do the same thing over and over again... until they copy my behavior, assuming what I'm doing is just what should be done.

Tonight I made Rice-A-Roni for the first time with my daughter in the room. Every time, from her first seeing the packaging, that she would say Rice-A-Roni aloud I would immediately respond with "The San Francisco treat. Ding ding." in a singsong voice. 

The first few times were awkward. She looked at me strangely, even warily... but after about the tenth time she seemed to just accept it. After about twenty times of this happening my son walked into the kitchen to inquire as to what food was being prepared. I gestured toward the package on the counter top and he read aloud, "Rice-A-Roni?"

My daughter followed directly with "The San Francisco treat. Ding ding." without missing a beat. 

My son looked at her bewildered and walked out of the room.

My kids are going to have great stories of their childhood when they are older.
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Published on September 17, 2016 18:46 • 18 views

September 12, 2016

Taken from FacebookOK, let me be honest here...I don't watch sports ball. 

In fact, I don't know much if anything about anything that goes on in the wide, wide world of sports ball. 

I made the mistake of clicking on the "Randy Moss" trending link on the side of my Facebook newsfeed this morning, though. I had no clue who Randy Moss was. I still don't know much outside of the fact that he was a player, and now much is being said about the expression on his face (pictured here).


What I do know, though, is that white people in the country are coming out of the woodwork... from every direction... left, right, and sideways... to make sure that all black Americans know they are racists and bigots, and to keyboard jockey their white pride like it was something remotely positive to lord over black people who have clearly had more than enough.

Hearts and minds aren't changed overnight. Black people may have (and I'm not one, so I'm sorry if my speaking for them on this matter is offensive) been more easily won over to forgiving the injustices visited upon them a hundred years ago... maybe even fifty years ago... but with comments like the one on the photo here... and the countless others like it I scrolled through... holy crap. How can anyone expect anything but righteous indignation? When they are disproportionately targeted by the police, by the laws, by those in power, and by those who control the flow of money?


To be black in America is to know, and to be told (seriously, read the comments made on this Randy Moss topic if you don't believe me) early and often that your happiness, your freedom, your livelihood, your equality, and even your life is less valuable and important than white entertainment, relaxation, comfort, and worst of all... superiority.



Even Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and they really don't come any whiter, said: "It took me a long time, and a number of people talking to me through the years, to get a sense of this: If you are a normal white American, the truth is you don't understand being black in America and you instinctively under-estimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk,"

I get the look on Randy Moss' face in the picture from that video clip. I find it heroic that he kept his seat after I listened to what was being said in the video that picture was taken from. The class, the strength, the self-control, and the raw power Randy Moss showed in that moment to not rise up... to raise his voice or his hands... that showed a greater stoic dignity than any of those on the opposite side of the Kaepernick discussion has in them to put forth.

We are nation built on the ideals of equality and freedom... and until all people, of all colors, of all faiths (or choice to have none), of all sexuality, and of both genders are all... each and every last one... truly equally treated under the law... and equally free... then none of us are, and we are living a lie.

Wake up, white America! Wake up and see fear and hate for what they are! Wake up and actually be the American people you already claim to be. These things were never acceptable, and the time is more than a century past that equal and free actual meet in practice and definition, in this country, and in the world. Please.


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Published on September 12, 2016 04:31 • 8 views

August 27, 2016

Book Two in The Coming Storm trilogy.


You can take the dead girl out of the country...

Veronica Fischer, small-town bloodsucking madam, is an orphan or at least she finally feels that way. Jules, the one who made her, is gone and cleaning up after him isn't something she ever thought she'd have to do.

While her hometown seems to be turning against her, she’s forced to set off for the bright lights of the big city with a carload of her dysfunctional supernatural family, hoping not to have to face the Dragon of Chicago.

Now she has to rescue a sister she didn't know she had, keep Rachel—her adopted 8-year-old ghost—safe, and try to keep Pekin from unraveling under the onset of the coming storm.



Sex, violence, and cryptic undead 
prophecyall for fun and profit.



Links to Distant Thunder, Book Two in the Coming Storm trilogy.

Paperback
Kindle

Listing on goodreads.com


Sample text:

The first chapter -






CHAPTER 1



JULES IS DEAD, and there wasn’t even so much as a funeral. There were no services or gatherings to mark his passing. I guess I should be used to things like that by now—rituals like those are left behind when we stop breathing—but it just doesn’t sit right with me. It just seems so weird. Clearly, I haven’t adjusted to that part of what I am yet, even after all these years. All I can focus on is that the man who made me is gone. He only exists in the memories of those who knew him. For me, his loss is still so jarringly abrupt.    It’s taken Learner five weeks and my repeated requests to call a meeting of the Council to discuss the events surrounding Jules’s death. You’d think five weeks would be enough time for me to find some kind of acceptance of the fact that he had passed. He hadn’t been actively involved in my life in seventeen years. Here I am, though, still feeling like I’m in shock. I’m like a traumatized child who just lost her only parent. Believe me, I know what that’s like. I’d already been through it twice before Jules decided to make me, so I’m confident I can be fair in making the comparison.    Beneath me, the worn-out bedsprings groan in protest as I sit up and slowly stretch. Even if I hadn’t had some strange woman keeping my dreams more unsettling than usual, my living conditions wouldn’t have let me sleep restfully—not that I can ever sleep for long. While I may have my complaints about it, I’m still the only one with my condition that I’ve ever even heard of who can actually sleep at all. It’s just another curse of the condition, something besides the avoiding sunlight and the blood drinking, to bring on the madness, maybe. Focus on the positive, right?     At least the windows are bricked up in this room and not just tarped over like they are in the rest of the building. If I didn’t know better, I’d think this was a loft apartment somewhere in a larger city than the flyspeck that is Pekin, Kentucky. There’s a starving artist charm here, not the feel of an empty condemned building we’re squatters in.    The place really could do with a good cleaning, though. It looks like everything might have been given a good scrub down when Garrett and Sunny moved in months ago, and no one has so much as swept since. It’s not like there are piles of garbage littering up every room. There’s just a dingy feel to it all. It’s noticeably organized but without any upkeep.    Garrett’s a man built for Spartan living, one who doesn’t seem to notice little trifles like these. Sunny, as queen of this castle, can’t be bothered with something mundane like occasional light dusting. Garrett still treats her like the twelve-year-old she looks like and that only serves to keep her spoiled. She killed all the breathers who worked for them by throwing them at Paco and his Unquiet spirits at the funeral home, and now all she can do is constantly bitch about needing a maid.     As a guest, I’m not sure how they’d take it if I just started tidying up. I don’t want to go all Martha Stewart on the place or anything, but I’m afraid I might ruffle feathers if I start moving things around to do something as simple as running a vacuum cleaner.    The room service hasn’t been bad, though. As usual, there’s a glass of warm red liquid waiting for me on the table next to the bed when I wake up. Even though I rarely sleep more than half an hour a day, and never on a regular schedule, somehow, Garrett always seems to know when I fall asleep and makes sure I wake up feeling cared for. Bringing the glass to my lips induces an involuntary smile.    “Mmmm…Fresh squeezed. Not from concentrate,” I mumble the words aloud. On some level, I expect to hear one of my girls laugh at my odd sense of humor. I miss having them around. I need to be back in my own house.    Frank assures me this is the last day we’ll have to spend living on Garrett’s generosity at the old Masonic Lodge. The Jefferson House is supposed to be ready for us to move back into tonight and sleep in tomorrow.    I could have gone back to the ranch house, but the memories there are a little too thick. I don’t even want to look at the clothes in the closets there. I’ve been living out of suitcases and bags for more than a month.    Clothes have always been one of my eccentricities. They’re more important to me than they are to most people. Not only do they carry the memories of the places they’ve been and times they’ve seen, but they help set an emotional tone and showcase an attitude.    Frank spoiled me long ago by taking over all of my clothes shopping. I was resistant to him doing it at first, but over time I came to trust that I wouldn’t be disappointed. Having them bought for me also came with an unexpected bonus—the excitement of getting presents regularly. Who doesn’t love presents? Even if they happen to be bought with your own money, they’re still presents.    Since Frank’s now acquired my aversion to sunlight, I had to send someone else to L.A. to replace my whole wardrobe. Piper got saddled with the task, and she more than exceeded my expectations. While it’s true that I’ve always adored Frank’s taste in elegant formal wear and clubbing attire, Piper’s taste trends more toward the bitch end of the spectrum. I can appreciate that a lot, things being how they are these days, not to mention that a completely new wardrobe has done wonders for keeping forward momentum, emotionally anyway. Keep your mind on where you are and your eyes on where you’re going, right? Jesus, I sound like my shrink.    The sound of rushing of water tells me Garrett has beaten me to the makeshift shower set up in the next room. It’s probably for the best. I should just wait and get cleaned up in my own bathroom later. Something tells me that after meeting with Learner and the Council, I’m going to need an extra-long relaxing shower for an hour or five.     I rub my eyes as I cross the room to the garment bag hanging on the dark red flannel sheet serving as a curtain that divides the room in half. Dividing the room was Garrett’s idea. He thought giving me more privacy would make me feel more at home. While I appreciate the sentiment, it honestly just serves to make this place look tackier.    Pulling back the zipper, I go over each article of clothing, considering it carefully, even though I already know what I’m going to wear. Pulling out the slinky black number, I run my hand over the fabric and ponder what memories tonight will attach to this dress.     Hanging the dress next to the garment bag, I take off my sweatshirt and fling it in my laundry basket. Walking around naked in seedy places is just one of the many natural talents that the life I’ve lived has fostered. Modesty is for sheltered young girls with fleeting lives. I have no use for it.    Overall, Garrett’s done his best to be a sweetheart. He’s tried so hard to make Frank and me as comfortable as possible. I’ve had a hard time with the fact that he looks so much like Jules, but he’s done a million little things to try to comfort me. Julie, Leslie, and Piper are all convinced he’s in love with me or crushing really hard, at the very least. They don’t understand how different emotions seem when viewed through the prism of a dozen lifetimes.    If age were a thing that was strictly measured in the years we’ve been alive on this rock, I’d be in my sixties, but I can tell from conversations we’ve had that Garrett’s likely got a century on me, minimum. Physically, he looks about ten years older than me and my literally Forever 21 body that stopped aging when Jules infected me. I want to believe Garrett cares about me, but a voice in my head that sounds suspiciously like Frank’s keeps telling me he has to be too old for love. Even if he isn’t, he’s probably old enough to be the grandfather of the man who built the cradle he would be robbing me from. That’s something that, despite how much I try not to think about, I can’t seem to keep completely out of my mind.    I find my perfume in the overnight bag next to the bed and spritz myself. Two hundred dollars a bottle and worth every penny. I consider a thong for a moment and then look back at the unforgiving fabric of that dress. I’m not going to let panty lines ruin the particular brand of sexy man-eating monster look I’m going for.    The knee-length sheath dress comes off the hanger and drops over my head before I notice Garrett standing by the bed. He’s looking at me smiling and shaking his head. An involuntary shiver spills over me. I must have forgotten to close the curtain…again.    He’s already changed to meet with the Council, and he looks hot. His strategically messy short brown hair, precisely trimmed shadow of a beard, and deceptively expensive, slightly tight-fitting suit are impressive. There’s something about the way his perfectly toned, six-foot-three-inch body moves, though…no matter what he’s wearing. He’s just got something, a quality I can’t describe. My words could never do him justice. He’s masculine beautiful, not an easy thing to pull off.    He exudes a chaotic blend of modern fashion and classic sophistication that would turn any girl with a heartbeat into a gushing, stuttering idiot. I look back into the mirror and begin to pull my dress down in place slowly, instinctively putting on a show for him. I blame it on too many years in a sexual career field. You can’t work in or run a brothel for as many years as I have without it having some lasting effects.    As the fabric stretches down over me, gripping me like a glove, I being to worry that the seams will split. If it fit any tighter, I believe they would. Piper said she thinks skintight and black is what’s best for me right now. I don’t know if she thinks I should look like I’m in mourning, semiprofessional, or just slutty.     Looking back toward the bed, I find Garrett digging through a leather bag filled with antique bobbles and trinkets. It’s a real shame dead men aren’t as impressed with tits and ass as living ones. Everything in my life would be so much simpler if they were.    He walks up behind me and slips a diamond necklace over my head as I’m facing the mirror. It’s old. Older than me. I can tell just by looking. It’s more expensive than anything I’d normally wear to meet the vultures, but it’ll do just fine for tonight.    I have to move Rachel’s new chapter books off of the shoe boxes in the corner to locate the right heels to complete my look. The books remind me how much I owe her as well. Having a daughter to raise has kept me from dwelling too much on death, even if she happens to be dead herself. She may be a ghost, but she’s still a precocious eight-year-old with a voracious need for time and attention.     I’m really not thrilled with the idea of Rachel being exposed to Sunny any more than absolutely necessary, so Lucy has been looking after her during the day. At least that buys me more time to try to sleep, even if I do generally just spend the time working out elaborate plots for revenge on Paco or Learner. Besides, Sunny’s out-of-control addiction to pornography, her foul mouth, and her contempt for me are all good enough reasons to keep Rachel away from here as much as possible.    Having Lucy for a best friend has certainly proved invaluable. There’s nothing quite like having a ghost sitter on call for my ghost daughter when I need her. Yeah, even for me, life has gotten a little strange.    I strap on my heels and examine myself in the full-length mirror. Everything below the neck seems passable—hot, if I do say so myself. I look at Garrett, and he gives me a nod of approval. I’m not so much nervous about how things are going to go as I am just anxious to get it over with.     “You gonna be ready to go in twenty?” Garrett asks, stopping in the doorway and looking back at me.   “Give me thirty. My hair needs help, and I need to paint my face.”    Tonight, I go to war.
*    *    *
“You’re dead.” Marcus Learner’s voice booms with as much satisfaction as anger. He runs his hand over his head, a nervous habit, smoothing down his thick bramble of salt-and-pepper hair. “All those you care for are dead. Everyone who calls you friend or ally is dead. The Council will follow the procedures laid out to try you and prove your guilt, but Jacobi’s blood is on your hands. Trying to kill the investigator gathering evidence against you won’t go unnoticed by this Council either.”    Sitting in the center of the horseshoe-shaped table on a chair that’s a good foot shorter than everyone else’s, I am surrounded by pallid faces, drawn and emotionless—all, that is, save one. Next to Learner’s right hand on the table rests a silver mallet. I would give anything for that mallet to rest by the side of anyone but him. The air still hangs thick with his accusations. I’m seriously feeling that the point of this meeting—the very reason I asked that it be called together—is being overlooked.    I expect nothing less from Learner. We have a history. There is no love lost between us. He’s a spoiled, self-serving prick who only has power because of who he’s related to. He’s one generation removed from inbred, illiterate, racist trash. Rather than trying to better himself, he simply tries to cover up inadequacies with expensive clothes and by showering himself with luxuries. Somehow, that is supposed to make others revere and respect him. Right.    His uncle, Adrian Jacobi, was our eldest. He was an aberration in his family. He was a good man. His uncle is dead. Now Learner sits at the head of the Council’s table clutching and grasping to hold onto the power and position his uncle held. The fear wafting off him is almost as thick and fragrant as the humans we drink from.    “Paco is far from an investigator. He’s the one who actually killed Jacobi! That putrid cadaver’s plans to kill us all failed, but it’s only a matter of time before he regains strength. We’ve got to act quickly! We have to kill him now!” My voice is shrill and far too loud. I could almost kick myself. I let him get to me. I provided him with the latitude he needs to try to turn the Council against me. The almost imperceptible smirk on his face makes me nauseous.    “My uncle afforded you a voice in this room. He showed you kindness despite the fact that you’re nothing more than an orphan whore. You don’t belong among our kind. Now you stand here peddling your lies and expect us to stomach your impudence. Is it not enough that you’ve killed your creator and likely our eldest as well, but do you have to parade it in front of us and…and…try to have us believe that my personal agent, the agent of our family mind you, is somehow to blame for your…”    “Marcus!” I’m almost as shocked as Learner is that I’d raise my voice to him at this table. Fuck it, I think. I have to make them see the truth, even if they won’t ever accept it.“The repulsive creature that actually killed your uncle is wounded but still on the loose. He has to be put down once and for all! I’m begging you.” My eyes dart from face to face around the room. “All of you! That thing killed Jules as well. I don’t have the power to destroy it by myself. Not without your help!”    I look to Serena for aid. She met with Jules the night we went to battle that rotting fiend. With her silver blonde hair and prudish white on white suit, she could just as easily pass for a fifties schoolmarm as a member of this Council. She remains completely silent and withdrawn, careful to reveal nothing. Big shock.    “Just how stupid do you think we are? Paco knew about your involvement in Jacobi’s disappearance. I told you he was going to bring us proof.” Learner raises an eyebrow and looks around the room for grandiose effect thinking he’s somehow just proven my guilt. “You summoned your creator and had him help you attempt to slay my agent before he could give us the evidence of your guilt. This misdirection will not save you.” Learner’s glowing with glee as he speaks, knowing that my outburst has cost me dearly with the Council. He looks back into my eyes, and I can feel his delight. I hate that he’s loving this.     “No, idiot girl,” Learner continues, “We will not assist you in hunting and killing my servant. I have already sent for a reader. In one month’s time, we will hold Council specifically to sentence you for your crimes. You’re dead, you stupid twat. Ready your affairs for the end.”    “Okay, I’ve heard enough of this bullshit!” The youthful passion and indignation in Sunny’s voice guarantees that no one here will take her seriously, though that does absolutely nothing to stop her, “Captain Douchebag here is trying to blame V for doing things that she—all of us in this corner, for that matter—tried to stop from happening. Have you all gone retarded? You’re not buying into what this assface is saying, are you? I mean, really?”    For a moment, there is silence as all eyes look at Sunny in shock.    “You will muzzle your bitch, or I’ll see to it she doesn’t live to disgrace you further!” Learner’s hate-filled eyes flash at Garrett, sitting next to Frank and Sunny by the door. “None of you have earned a voice in this room yet. Don’t forget your place.”    “What about me?” Frank blurts out with contemptuous anger almost as childish and insolent as Sunny’s. “My family and friends are under attack here. I think that entitles me a right to speak, doesn’t it? Jules is dead. Paco killed him and your uncle, too. Why aren’t you listening? You said he was working for you? Does that mean that both their murders were your idea?”     Outside on the street I know that I can always count on Frank’s level head. I just hadn’t considered how he’d behave here. This is really not going how I need it to.    “You will leave now!” I bark at Frank, shocking both him and Learner. It’s far better that I reprimand him for his breach of protocol than let Learner kill him for it. “Until you learn how to conduct yourself in the presence of your elders and betters, you will not be permitted to approach this Council!”    The silence in the room is deafening. Every eye is on me, and every face is as emotionless as chiseled stone. None of them know how far my abilities to read their minds actually go, but none of them are willing to give me anything I don’t already have. It’s likely they would be equally stoic if I weren’t here, not wanting to betray themselves to Learner either.    Standing on display in front of these vacant faces is like the dream I used to have about being naked in public. I seriously doubt I get to wake up from this one though.    Frank rises from his seat quietly. I can feel his eyes burning a hole in me. He shakes his head a little, swinging his long mane of auburn hair before turning to leave. He’s going to be a loud, prissy diva and horrible to deal with later, but at least he’ll be alive. Garrett keeps his poker face and Sunny squirms in her chair as Frank exits. Sunny’s clearly nervous, but she still glares at Learner with palpable loathing.     From across the table, Gus Edelmann slides Learner a slip of paper. He’s clearly aware of it but holds his eyes fixed on Sunny’s. He makes a show of attempting to cow her down. The unabashed defiance on the face of the would-be twelve-year-old schoolgirl is lost on no one. Her dark red-black pigtails tremble from rage. I have been trained to show deference to how the system functions. It’s clear that Sunny has not.    Learner finally looks down and retrieves the scrap, scanning it quickly. He looks from Gus to his own family, Preston, sitting to his right, before addressing us all again. “We’ll take a recess to discuss the issues at hand within our individual families and return to order in closed session, with only Ms. Fischer, in thirty minutes.”    He smacks the silver mallet on its block dismissing us. I can’t help thinking how much I’d love to see how far down his throat I could force that symbol of his superiority.
*    *    *
Garrett tries to ride down with me, but I tell him it would be better if he stays with Sunny. He considers it for a moment before agreeing with me. I just have to get outside and light a cigarette. I don’t need the nicotine, but the relaxing routine of the habit might help calm my nerves.    I’m shaking as I step out of the elevator into the glass-walled lobby. It’s all I can do to hold my composure for another fifteen paces. I know there are cameras on me, and I will not give Learner the satisfaction of seeing me lose control again.     Two security guards open the doors for me while four more watch my every move. Each of them has a hand on their side arm as though bullets would do something other than annoy me if I decided to attack them. They fear me, and I must admit I like that. It doesn’t make up for the way things are going, but it does afford me a slight smile.    Once I’m outside, it becomes painfully clear that Frank didn’t just leave the room like I told him to. He left the premises. That’s going to be so much fun to deal with later. Likely, it will be even more fun than I’d originally thought. Great.    I pace up and down on the sidewalk several times before noticing that Serena Carlson is standing in the shadows of an alley off to the side of the building. I didn’t even see her come outside. She discreetly gestures for me to join her. Despite my better judgment, I step out of the streetlights’ glow and into the darkness beside her.    “I thought you…,” I start to ask, but she cuts me off.    “I know you weren’t involved in Jacobi’s death.” She hisses the words at me trying to sound forceful and quiet at once.    “Wait, what?”    “Paco killed him as you say he did. I know that.”    “If you know that, and excuse me for being impertinent here, then why the hell didn’t you open your mouth when I was being roasted by Learner in front of the assembled Council?”    “Timing,” she says, staring blankly at me. We stand in silence for a moment, and I’m almost convinced that she’s telling a joke I don’t get.    “Learner’s family is our concern here. They control Nashville and St. Louis, and they’re powerful. None of us have any desire to deal with the consequences that simply ridding ourselves of him would bring. We let him ‘take charge’ of the Council for now. He’s contacted his family to bring in a reader who will investigate and find the truth of the matter. He’s destroying himself for us. It’s the only way to truly be rid of him. You suffered a little, and you’ll suffer more before it’s done. That doesn’t matter. What matters is the end result. Learner will have killed himself, his family will have nothing to say to protect him, and I will take his seat. Hold your tongue for now and abide his slings and arrows. That might make me more affable toward orphans and their kin in the future.”    It takes every precious ounce of self-control I have left to seem unfazed by the thought of Serena running the Council. With a moron like Learner in charge, I know that I’ll never have a problem outwitting his attempts on my life even if they are annoying. Serena, however, is devious, calculating, and unabashedly evil. This development is truly disturbing and not at all what I want to think about right now.
*    *    *
The silver mallet strikes the block officially bringing us back to order. Learner stands at the head of the table and slowly looks from face to face, ham-fistedly attempting to reassert his dominance over the Council. I can feel how smug he is from here, and it’s far too much for my taste. While we’ve been in recess, he’s undoubtedly met in private with those whose opinions he feels are the most important and made sure he had their support. Now emboldened, this vainglorious dick shows no sign of letting me speak again. At this point, I’m only here for show, to be ridiculed publicly for his amusement. It comes as no surprise when I’m ordered to stand and face the Council.    “We’ve reached the point now where decisions must be made. This Council can no longer sit idly by and entertain wild accusations or misleading calls to action. As I said before recess, I have called for a reader to investigate this orphan and prove her guilt beyond question. We will plan to reconvene on that matter in one month’s time. Any objections?” He looks around the room pretending the issue is still open to discussion.     “None?” With no voice raised in dissent, he nods his head. “Excellent!”    He taps the block gleefully with his little hammer again, giving his most repugnant smile. This would almost be funny, if it weren’t such a blatant mockery of even the horribly draconian system of justice we’re supposed to operate under.    “In the interim, this Garrett will be required to stay in Pekin and make himself available to our reader. After that, he may remain here on a temporary basis only, provided he keeps his yipping dog restrained and their feeding is only done within guidelines arranged by Preston Warner. Objections?”    Again, the room drowns in silence until the hammer falls.    “Excellent. Now, on to other matters. Veronica’s newest little loudmouthed orphan friend. I believe you said his name was…Frank?” His voice is almost dripping.     “His name is Frank, yes.” I have managed to focus my hate into a calming force and my voice remains even.    “You, Ms. Fischer, will keep this Frank with you. He will also be made available to the reader if necessary—not that I believe we’ll need to investigate that deeply to prove your guilt. It’s better for our region, I believe, that we try to keep these two unfortunate orphans housed together for now. What say you all? Objections?”    I am so overcome with rage that I don’t really hear anything else. I sit and simmer until I see the hammer in his hand rise and fall again bringing this torture to an end for the evening. I walk out of the room with my eyes on the floor as those around me begin to engage in pleasantries. I cannot wait to be on the elevator and out of this building.    I don’t know where Garrett and Sunny have gone. They were waiting by the elevator when the meeting came back from recess. I don’t see them now, but I’m certainly not going to take the time to look for them. I can only focus on leaving before I do something else I’ll regret.    I am joined for the ride down by Gus Edelmann and his cousin Carson Dwight. I expect that this will be the disavowal conversation from them—the end of our on-again, off-again working relationship.    I am stunned when Gus’s gnarled and wrinkled hand pushes a note into mine. Neither of them looks at me, so I close my hand around the paper until I’m out of the lobby and almost to my car. Now I’m even more confused. It simply says, “Meet us at the riverfront.”
*    *    *
The pristine old black Lincoln slides up next to my Charger, and both Carson and Gus get out. Unlike the rest of the pampered family elite that make up the Council, these two had both lived lives of hard work. Their family chose who, never more than one or two in a generation, was given the bite based on merit not by birth order like the other families. They had to actually earn their opulent new existence of excessive money and feeding off the blood of the living.    Gus had been an auto mechanic when he still drew breath. It showed on his hands more than anything else, but his usually furrowed brow and the worry lines on his face showed the character of a man who cared about more than his own fickle pleasures. Even though I know I was born before him, the semicircle of grey hair around his bald head always gives me a grandfatherly vibe.    Carson was just plain scary to me. He’d been a roofer until he died at the ripe old age of thirty. Because of his former lifestyle, his hair was perpetually bleached blond and his skin somewhat tanned and leathery even though sunlight was now off-limits. He was near seven feet tall, well-muscled, and covered in tattoos. I’d heard the stories of the men he’d killed before he’d been made immortal. Word is it was self-defense, but those guys must have been nuts to get in a fight with him in the first place.    Rumors also abound that their family has more animalistic physical manifestations from the infection. I’ve never been bold enough to ask, but I don’t think I’d want to see Carson any more outwardly threatening than he already is.    They were respectable normal people once, and because of that, I’ve always felt I could actually almost relate to them. We might not always see eye-to-eye on things, but I can usually understand where they’re coming from.    We all stand looking at each other for a moment.    “You gentlemen asked me to meet you here?” I’m not even trying to hide my confusion. “Am I missing something?”    “I’m gonna try to locate Paco, now that I know what kinda threat he could be,” Carson says nonchalantly.    “Are you saying you believe me then?”    “I don’t know that you’re tellin’ the truth, but I’ve known Learner long enough to know that he’s almost as arrogant as he is stupid. We can’t afford not to look into your side of this story. If he’s wrong on this one, then we’re all at risk.”    “Thank you.” I can feel a little weight lifting off of me as the words escape my lips. Carson is a pro at finding people and things that don’t want to be found. “You should be careful, though. He’s a whole different kind of evil than you’re likely prepared for.”    Carson nods to me and then to Gus before walking off toward the floodwall. Turning back, he says, “If I find out that you’re telling the truth about him…Well, he’d best just hope he’s prepared for me.”    Gus watches him leave and then looks around to make certain there’s no one but me to hear him, before he speaks in muted tones. “I suggest you get ahold Jules’s family. It’s likely that Learner or some of his kin already did. And you need to make sure they know what happened, or your tellin’ of it, and suss out if they plan to come after you.”    “I hadn’t even thought…”    “I’ll bet you didn’t,” Gus cuts me off. “But if you’re gonna keep livin’, you need to play the game a little smarter than Learner and a lot quicker.”    “Thank you, Gus. It means a lot to me that you believe me.”    “Never said I believed you. Just like you a hell of a lot more than I do him. That’s all.” He turns and opens his car door then looks back at me. “I think I might know somethin’ more about who that Garrett fella is, or who his family is anyways. Gonna do some lookin’. I’ll tell ya what I find. There’s somethin’ there. More’n he’s sharin’ anyway.”    “You don’t trust him? Should I…”    “Never said I didn’t trust him. Just believe in knowin’ what there is to know ’bout someone ’fore makin’ any judgments. Alls I’m sayin’ is be careful.”



Links to Blood & Spirits, Book One in the Coming Storm trilogy.

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Published on August 27, 2016 04:00 • 7 views

July 7, 2016


I am the enemy.

I am identified as a white, cisgender, heterosexual, Christian male born in America. I am the enemy of the world. Literally the only thing that could possibly make me worse was if I were born into wealth. The fact that I was born poor is the only reasonable thing I have going for me.

Without knowing anything about me, personally, like what I think, feel, believe, say, write, practice, or do...I am already wrong. Hear me out, please.

I am not blind to the world around me. I see the struggles that are faced daily…minute to minute…by people of color, by the LGBT community, by people of other faiths, by women…all of them. Those struggles, the horror and reality of them are things I can see. I know about them and am aware of them. But I don’t live them. I can’t. I wasn’t born into them. Those are not mine to have. I do not want them, but I am not proud to say that I they aren’t mine, because I had no say in the matter.

I was born into a society that in many ways affords me the right to turn a blind eye, if I wanted to, to those struggles. I have the privilege of living my life without dealing with that burden. But you see, I have a conscience, and it is because of that conscience that I have to say something.

I’ve been told many times that I have no place in discussions on men’s violence against women, because I am a man…that I have no place in a discussion about racism because I am white…that I have no place in a discussion about homophobia or hate crime because I am heterosexual and cis…

I tried to fight that fight with people when I was younger and more ready to be combative, but ultimately I was only causing more pain and frustration for the very people who were already suffering, being marginalized, being attacked, denied, or outright assaulted and killed. I have no right to inflict more pain. It was that realization that convinced me that I should shut up. I should bow out of the discussion, because I was the enemy by birth.

I understand my thinking, at the time. I understand that I may likely hear the same thing, again. Again, and again, in fact. That doesn’t change the fact that my silence was a privilege. It doesn’t change the fact that for as much as the society I was born into, and the place I was born into at, made it necessary for me to speak.

Who am I? Am I important? No. I’m a guy. Just a guy. Poor. Average. I’m not a celebrity using a platform to speak out. I’m not high profile. I am no one special. The thing is, as I see it anyway, there are a lot more like me than there are of the high profile, celebrity, or “important” voices. The guys like me need to own who we are and where we are so that we can change it.

It is up to everyone, sure. It’s up to the people of color to speak out when a black man is killed in front of his partner and their child…but it is important that the majority stand with them, speaking the same truth to power. Saying that systemic racism is unacceptable. Even if, and especially if, those of color tell you that you have no place in that discussion. Taking yourself out of it is merely an exercise of the privilege provided by the very system that caused the symptom of the problem to be visible…in this scenario the murder of a father, lover, hero to children, and member of the community who is as deserving of all the same rights and privileges that I have.

As long as there are white faces on the television and in internet videos spewing racist hate I will feel it is a requirement of me to stand up in opposition.
As long as there are hate crimes on LGBT nightclubs, and Westboro Baptist Church protests, and rapists walking free even after being convicted, and I live in a world where I have the privilege of living my life without being affected by these things if I chose to, or living without the far of these evil acts…then I have to speak out. It breaks my heart that my children will grow up and have to be a part of this world. I can’t choose not to be affected even though, being the enemy, I could. I have a conscience, and I am too emotional, to let me be unaffected.
I’ve thought before “What good can I do?” Right? It’s a good question. Others I’ve talked to who were also, like me, the enemy by birth have felt the same way. But that’s not a question…not really. It’s a dodge. It’s the system we’ve grown up in talking. If straight, white, cisgender, men really are the majority…then they have the only real power to, all by themselves, refuse to accept the system the way it is…even if that system has benefitted them.

I’ve not acted out in a way that would support the system of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia…I’ve never been part of a hate group, or committed a hate crime… but I’ve not spoken out loudly in opposition at every chance I had. I’ve spoken out, here and there, sure. I’ve been an ally. I have friends of all skin colors, nationalities, faiths, and gender identities…but do I just want to be that? A passive silent straight white guy…benefiting from the system that holds my friends and people I care about down and oppresses them…only occasionally speaking out…and hating the way the world around me is? No.

I just did something I’ve never done before. I wrote a letter to a politician. It may make no difference, but I’m engaged, and I don’t intend to be passive any more. I’m going to voice my opinion. I will stand when I see things that are wrong. I will vote more often and be as involved in creating change as I can be. I will look for more to do. I will do all I can… This one lone… straight… white… cisgender… Christian… man.

I’ve been told many times that one person can do nothing to change the world. I’ve been mocked for thinking that my voice could matter. But the world is full of people. We all each have just one voice, but if we all speak out together, we are loud. If we all stand together and refuse to accept the evils of the world, refuse to accept the intolerance, the bigotry, the violence, the hate, the cruelty, the suffering of the innocent… those born into the world not white, not straight, not male… then the whole of the system can change. We are the system. It’s time to stop saying that one person can’t change it, and stand together and change it as one.

I am the enemy.

I want to be the enemy of the broken system I was born into, and not those who were born to be its victims.

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Published on July 07, 2016 21:01 • 28 views

June 20, 2016

No?
Well…  It happened like this:
I had an active warrant for my arrest out of Graves County, Kentucky, for a charge of “Flagrant Nonsupport” that had been dismissed almost a year earlier, but when it was dismissed the warrant was never taken out of the system.
Now the reason for the original charge was based out of not being able to see my son and not paying the child support out of protest. I was a kid and thought the legal system worked a little differently then. Only a great fool fails to recognize when he is being a great fool. I, at the time, was a great fool. Nonetheless, I had already been arrested, paid my arrearage, and had the charge dismissed. 
Cut to: two years later...
The year was 1997, and I'm living in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago when I get pulled over.
Well, not exactly. At the time of the event/arrest my car was parked, actually. 
The police officer, one of Roselle’s finest, rolls up behind my car, idling in park, standing next to the curb in the corner of the parking lot at the strip mall on the corner of Nerge and Plum Grove. I've got out-of-state plates still on my 1975 Ford LTD, which he said was made my vehicle “standing in the fire lane” of more “criminal investigation.” 
Blockbuster was in the corner here back then
I had left the car running in the fire lane while I ran into Blockbuster to give my girlfriend her dinner that I bought for her. When I came back out, I found the cop standing next to the open driver door of my car, his cruiser behind mine (also “standing in a fire lane”) with the flashing lights going.
The officer asked to search my car, and as I knew I had nothing in there to hide, I said he could.
It was during this extensive search of my car (wherein he unloaded the whole of the contents of my vehicle onto the sidewalk, while continuing to block the fire lane) that he found a one-and-half-inch pocket knife on the floor under the passenger seat. So...of course, he was forced to bounce my face off my trunk lid for not disclosing my “concealed weapon.” Let the party begin, right?
He arrested me and charged me with driving on a suspended license (that was suspended for the warrant I didn't know about), parking in a fire lane, and possession of a concealed weapon.
Once he had put me in the back seat of his car, the real fun began. His radio crackled to life and informed him that I was a wanted fugitive currently fleeing justice and that I had an active governor’s warrant from the state of Kentucky. They didn’t tell him the charge for the warrant, he didn’t ask. His behavior changed though. He stopped treating me like a kid he was going to enjoy slapping around and arresting and treating me like I was a murderer on the run and deserving of dehumanizing completely.
I could go on and on about where I was stripped, in front of how many people, where I was made to walk at the detention location while naked, and all of the chains that were on me, as well as the fact that I got hit every time my mouth opened…but do we really have time for that?
Anyway, it was a night that just sucked. 
Nearing dawn I was told that transport was being sent to take me to 26th and California, the Cook County Jail. For the record, not only were there no women or lawyers performing musical numbers, but it is one of the single most hostile environments you will find in the U.S.A.


I had to change uniforms again, had to get naked, get probed (yes, they put a stick in the guy from the tip, and yes they spin it like they are stirring coffee), get dressed again, sit in chain link cages, and generally hate life for about eighteen hours.
When they moved me again it was to plop me in D block in the old jail building (no lie, rats the size of house cats). It was medium security because with the out of state warrant I was a fugitive and a flight risk.
To make matters worse, I had just shaved my head before I got arrested, due to losing an unfortunate bet at work. Everyone on D block immediately started chanting “White Power” when I was brought in. I was the only white person...guards, prisoners...anyone...the only white guy...and I had a shaved head. I couldn’t make this shit up. I was waving my hands and yelling, “No! No white power! I’m not a racist!” I’m fairly certain they thought I was lying.
The people who booked me in at Cook County had told me that Graves County, Kentucky, had thirty days to come claim me on the warrant. If they chose not to come get me, I would be released. However, until those thirty days were up, I could not get bail. I could not find out what the charge was. I could do nothing. Absolutely nothing. 
I would spend all thirty days there.
Eventually, halfway through my stay, I was taken before a judge and he waived all the other charges against me because he had been informed that Kentucky did intend to extradite me on the warrant. He also noted to my arresting officer, who showed up there, that, in the future, a person shouldn’t be charged with driving and being parked at the same time.  That made me laugh, but anyway, on with the story. 
The second day I was locked up there I met Snake. No kidding, Snake. His real name was awesome, but that’s not what he went by, and I don’t think it would be fair of me to write it here, in case he’s cleaned up his life and doesn’t want this chapter of it spoken on…and also if he hasn’t cleaned up his life he might come find me, so, no.
He was a pimp. He was a member of the Gangster Disciples. It’s a gang, in case you have lived a life so removed from that culture to know that.
He started chatting me up. He told me later he was trying to get friendly with me so that he could lure me off to get stabbed, but while talking he found out I could write. So, he had me write some poetry for him. No kidding. Poetry on demand in lockup. It’s a thing. Lucky for me, he liked it
For the rest of my stay, he had me write letters to all his bitches outside. Even his bottom bitch. He called me his private secretary. He wouldn’t let the other guys roll on me, and he kept me in smokes as long as I kept writing his letters for him. It wasn’t a bad situation. I even got hot food cooked on a metal bunk. It was like a surrealist look at summer camp that taught me a lot more than I would ever have guessed I’d know about BET, and I don't at all mean that in a negative way.
I would eat snack food I didn't have to buy. I would smoke on someone else dime. I was given preferential treatment regarding the phone on the block. I just had to keep writing flowery prose that met the approval of the graying pimp who called me his own. I eventually got to know almost everyone there and what they were in for. One had stabbed his girlfriend in front of their daughter, one had robbed a liquor store with a gun and was looking at a big sentence as it was his third offense, and one was guilty of (in his words) “jaywalking in front of a cop who didn't like black folks.” 
There was a really strange sense of acceptance that I’ve rarely ever felt in classes, churches, or meetings of any sort. The group of us lived, ate, and slept in tight quarters under close watch, and I was secure because I was writing. I even began to be “loaned out” to other guys on the block to help edit their letters to their mothers, their girlfriends or wives or their “side pieces.” But alas, ‘all good things’... right?
When the representatives from Graves County Kentucky showed up to get me...it was the old, bald, fat sheriff...and his brother...his brother who wasn’t even a cop. They had driven from Mayfield, Kentucky, to Chicago to retrieve me in a personal vehicle that had been a police car but had been sold at auction, so it had the discolored spots in the paint where the police symbols had once been. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
The two brothers from down south had planned their retrieval road trip poorly. They didn’t think to bring inmate clothing/uniform or cuffs and they were without sidearms or uniforms. These facts weighed heavily on the Cook County employees and much debate was had, but eventually I was remanded to their custody. I had to put back on my street clothes to be transported, and once out of the jail, the sheriff and his brother argued loud, long, and hard about literally everything humans can bicker or fight over. They got lost. Not once or twice, but over and over again...I had to give them directions repeatedly, sometimes with them yelling over me at each other before getting angry with me for not speaking loudly enough and calling me names as they had me repeat the directions again.
They were arguing so badly and were so engrossed in their squabble that when they stopped for gas on the South Side of Chicago, they simply threw cash back at me and told me to go in and prepay and then pump the fuel. I’m not going to lie. I was speechless. Few occasions in my life have seen me in that condition, but I was in awe.
It occurred to me as I closed the door to the car and walked across the lot to the building that I could just leave. I could have taken the cash, bought a pack of smokes, and got in one of the cabs that was sitting right there, but I’d have still had a warrant. Worse, I’d have been an “escapee” at that point. 
When I finally got back to Kentucky, I spent the night at the guard station, shift after shift of guards came and went, none ever putting me in a cell...all the people who worked there just wanted to ask questions about what Cook County Jail was actually like. It was just another wave of the surreal crashing down.
The next morning I was taken before Judge Royce Buck who informed me that I didn’t have an active charge against me and that the warrant was just never taken off the books. He informed me that none of this would have happened to me if I hadn’t done something wrong to get charged in the first place, and I was just lucky that it was all over and I needed to let it “scare me a little” to remember to walk the straight and narrow. If you know me, you’ll understand why that is funny. My entire criminal history contains this event and the charges and warrants involved, and a check I bounced by one cent when I was eighteen, two speeding tickets, and one failure to stop at a stop sign ticket (that was also dismissed, because at the time of the ticket…there was no sign at that intersection). After I was admonished, I was taken back to the jail and left to sit and ponder for three hours, and then I was finally released. I was just shoved out the door. They put me out on the street there…in Mayfield, Kentucky…Four hundred miles, more than a six-hour drive, from where I’d been arrested. 
Photo taken at the time of my release
From left to right: my ex, me, my friend KarenMy car, and apartment, girlfriend, and my whole life, really, were in Chicago. I lost most of it as well as my job while sitting in jail. I was behind on all bills. Oh, and the judge made a big show of warning me in court that I was now a month behind on my child support...for the time I’d been in jail for their mistake...so I needed to “get on that” unless I wanted to come back before him again, which he warned me I didn’t ever want to do.
If my friend Karen and my girlfriend at the time hadn’t been there to pick me up I don’t know what I would have done.
So, yeah. That’s a thing that happened. That was a month in my life when I was twenty. Kind of sucked at the time, but now I can put “Personal Secretary and Head of Correspondence for a Gangster Disciple Pimp”  and “Temporary/Seasonal Employee/Member at Gangster Disciple” on my resume. So that’s a bonus, right?
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Published on June 20, 2016 01:31 • 16 views

June 18, 2016

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Published on June 18, 2016 08:20 • 14 views

June 13, 2016


June 12th, 2016, 05:18am EST, from my journal to myself:
In the times when things are the darkest, when the worst isn't yet to come but instead it is upon you, in the times when pain is all you see and all you know, it is at those times that the best and worst comes out. We are suffering. As a people, as a country, as a society, humankind as a whole, we are suffering. Comfort is in short supply. Anger and fear are at their apparent zenith. All sides are lashing out in fear and pain, blaming, shaming, and accusing each other. Healing isn't on the agenda.
Now isn't a time to talk politics. Now isn't a time to claim credit. Now isn't a time to belittle. Now isn't a time to do anything but stand together as human beings. Be shoulders to cry on. Be arms to hug and hold. Be calm and reassuring voices.
The politics will get sorted out soon enough. There will be ramifications for this, as there all for all things. The pendulum will swing. Hateful people will be hateful, and loving people will be loving. Just don't let yourself get carried away and lose focus on who you are, what you feel, and what you know is right.
Love is never wrong. Hate is never right. You must endeavor, always, to be the human being that best represents the humanity you believe in. You will fail, you will be weak, you will suffer, you will be attacked, all by those who are angry and afraid. These are the facts of it. It is sometimes easier, but this isn't one of those times. Love. Love people. Love them because it's right, and love them in spite of your indignant anger at their seeming disregard for both love and life. Be an example.
Even if all the world around you erupts into violence and hate, stand firm. Stand calm. Love. Look them all in the eyes and say 'No.' Don't be complicit or be taken on their journey. Don't let their vicious words intended to pull us apart for their own gain make you less than you are. Let it end with you.
Remember that you are not alone. Countless others will stand with you. They are hurting like you. They want to comfort and be comforted. They want to love and be loved. They are in the dark like you, searching through this moonless night for a hand to hold, or a shoulder to lean on. Be that. Be that for them, and for yourself.
‪#‎StandingWithOrlando‬ ‪#‎LoveWins‬ ‪#‎SpreadLove‬ ‪#‎BeTheChange‬ ‪#‎ThatMakesUsMighty‬ ‪#‎NoPolitics‬ ‪#‎OnlyLove‬
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Published on June 13, 2016 07:05 • 11 views

May 19, 2016

I'll start with this...

My friend Monica Marlowe shared this photo on Facebook this morning, and for a multitude of reasons I feel I need to share it as well.


In case you can't read the text, I'll quote it here:
     “So, last night an Indianapolis-based newspaper, IndyStar, ran an article about the burgeoning presence of women at Gen Con (and, more broadly, at gaming events in general). The article used a picture of me in my Hawkgirl costume as the lead image.      The article also included a reference to GamerGate, complete with hashtag.      I never consented to the use of (or, disturbingly enough, the sale of) the photo nor did I have any input on the content of the article. Despite this, and the fact that I was not mentioned by name, the various contact channels associated with my website have been inundated with rape/death threats, as well as a healthy measure of run-of-the-mill gatekeeping vitriol. I'm apparently ruining Gen Con, gaming, and All Things Geeky.      I'm grateful that the firewalling measures I'd put in place to protect my identity seem to be holding (knock on wood), and, hopefully, the horde will collectively move on in short order.        Cosplaying was such a deeply satisfying creative avocation that simultaneously paid homage to the properties that made me feel fundamentally at home. It's not ever going to be that for me again. As such, I'm gonna take this chance to retire from the cosplay game.      Hawkgirl was the most frustrating, challenging, rewarding, and wonderful costume I ever completed; I'll always regard it that way and, as I leave the hobby, I'm satisfied with it being my final work.”
Wow...
O.k., using someone's photo without their permission, without letting them know, and then selling it? Not cool. Not illegal, perhaps... but not cool.
Death or rape threats, though? Abhorrent. Unacceptable. Illegal.
This is an open letter to every geek, nerd, comic lover, and gamer I know, and all of those I have yet to meet. I’ll do my best to stay focused, but I may ramble a bit… sorry about that but I’m seriously passionate about the topic.
First, I know *FAR* more geeks and nerds that are female... than those who are male. Seriously. I’m in no way making a fallacious statement to attempt to support an argument. This is just a fact. A decade ago, this wasn’t true, but thank Stan Lee (or whichever other comic god you like, Rachel Gluckstern will also do nicely) it is true today. Has the gender balance hurt the community? Not in the least! The opposite is true, in fact.

The female geeks, nerds, and gamers I know are, by and large, better spirited, more well educated, kinder, usually more "in the know" about their fandoms, and generally more in touch with good hygiene than their male counterparts in geek and nerd culture. How can having them in the community or as friends be anything but a good a thing? That is unless you are a guy who is petty, small-minded, poorly educated, misogynistic, bitter and perhaps sad and lonely and the mere presence of females makes you anxious, apprehensive, awkward, and unsure of your place in the world and therefore willing to lash out in cruel, insensitive, and hurtfully ways that bullies have used on you in the past. But guys, that’s not who you are… is it? You’re better than that, aren’t you? C’mon.
I mean, guys, the argument can be made, far more easily today than at any time before, that perhaps you are only getting into gaming or geeky and nerdy things simply for all the women. You want to look like you know what’s going on and are adept only to impress and perhaps in hopes of being able to hook up with one of the myriad impressive women of geekdom. “Guys are only pretending to be into gaming and reading comics to impress the ladies. They’re just posers, pretending, so that maybe they can get close to some cosplay goddess.” Right?
I’ll admit that my kneejerk reaction to seeing the photo and caption above was an indignant “how dare you!” that upon thinking about it was well deserved, but perhaps didn’t come to me for all the right reasons. Not right away, anyway. See, when I grew up gamers were Atari kids, Nintendo kids, and PC gamers. We were nerds and geeks that picked on for not being into sports or dressing in the hippest newest styles. We read comics and traded cards. We were the outsiders who went into AV club, chess club, academic teams, choir, band, and theater. We usually didn’t want to be excluded or looked down on, nor did we want to be treated poorly, picked on, or bullied, but it was our lot. We were geeks and nerds. So where I come from in all this is: “How dare you treat other geeks and nerds the way the normal or popular kids treated us.” I think, perhaps that’s a statement on how old I am. I might be a little out of touch there, as geek and nerd culture has become a lot “cooler” these days. I’d love to say we’ve “come a long way, baby,” but clearly we’ve gone backward in some fairly important ways.
Lately I’ve seen blatant slut shaming of cosplayers by ComicCons in New Mexico, cries of “Poser” tossed at people who are into things, and like them, but haven’t let them take over their whole lives due to silly things like careers, families, budgets and the like, and I’m blown away.  This is not the community it once was, and we only have ourselves to blame for turning a blind eye to behavior like this for far, far too long. That has to stop.
However, I’m drifting from my earlier (unfinished) point. I was kneejerk offended for the wrong reason. “How dare you!” was absolutely the right reaction, I just arrived at it the wrong way. Taking a longer look at this I see that where I should have been coming from is a human point of view. I shouldn’t have *just* been upset that other geeks and nerds were being treated this way, and I shouldn’t have *just* been mortified and angered that women were being treated this way, I should have been outraged, in the age we live in, that any human being is treated this way and that it is treated with silent acceptance by those who are not directly affected by it. I’m looking squarely at you, men. The guys who would never do something like this in their wildest dreams, but also don’t speak out against those who are doing it or in defense of those who are being treated this way.

And don't even get me going on the Cosplay is not consent issue (which is related, but not my current topic). If you don't already know about it, you should. Really. Educate your self with a good Google search or just start here.

Ultimately this is where I am, and what I am saying to you...

Sexism? Not acceptable. Death threats to anyone? Not acceptable. Rape threats to anyone? Not acceptable. Racism? Not acceptable. Slut shaming? Not acceptable. Homophobia or Transphobia? Not acceptable. Verbal or text based abuse? Not acceptable. Sexually assaulting or harassing cosplayers? Not acceptable.

Is this difficult to grasp? Really? 
This cannot be tolerated in the world as a whole, let alone tolerated in a community of geeks, nerds, comic lovers, and gamers. Not even in the slightest.
This kind of treatment of women in fandoms has to end, and it has to end now. I cannot stress this enough. Men feeling somehow challenged by women to the point of lashing out with threats of violence is beyond ridiculous. It’s hateful, fearful, weak, and wrong. Moreover it doesn’t just simply violate the law, it violates the sense of community… the very essence… of acceptance of those with shared interests, passions, and loves that are the core of what being a geek or nerd or gamer are truly all about.
Women want to share the fandoms they love. Many of them love them as much, or more, than the men involved. Don't believe me? Check out people and places like "HARPY - FANGIRLHEADQUARTERS WITH DONNA DICKENS" online. Or try something even more revolutionary... approach them as equals, human beings, and respectfully ask them about their love of their fandoms. And if you do and it happens that they don't love whatever obscure thing it is that you adore to the core of you very being as much as you do... so what? It doesn't hurt you. It doesn't take food off your table. It doesn't lessen your ability to love what you love. Stop it. It's 2016, guys. Stop treating nerd/geek/comic/gaming culture as if it were the McCarthy era. Women are fans just like men. They aren't infiltrators. Your fandoms are not religions and those with ovaries are not infidels. Damn.
I am impressed with, and heartened by, the news that Gen Con has caught up withthe age we live in. Men? It's now your turn. You have a moral obligation to not only your community, but to the society we all share.
If you don't behave like this, that's wonderful. Not behaving like this isn't enough, though. Not anymore. You must speak out against it. You must challenge those who do behave like this. This is not something you can just sit idly by and let happen. To do so it to be complicit. If you see this happen, get involved. If you hear of it happening, support those who have been victimized and speak out against it loudly. Use your voice. Push out the offenders. If they are making illegal threats, report them, if you saw it firsthand then be a witness against them. Do not let this happen. Don't let it be someone else's problem. It is a cancerous illness in our community that we must all work diligently together to battle against.

Men and women are equal, and deserve equal treatment and respect. Stand up for everyone. When you let anyone be put lower, or be threatened like this, you are letting them make less of us all.

Now lets all enjoy some Team Unicorn and get down to the business of fixing this! 
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Published on May 19, 2016 08:25 • 15 views

May 2, 2016

Untitled 307 - April 21, 2016 Ziggy and the Artist - April 21, 2016
Hers - April 24, 2016 Undone - April 29, 2016 Still - April 29, 2016 Shared Passage - May 2, 2016
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Published on May 02, 2016 11:34 • 6 views

April 27, 2016

Fair warning, this is going to be highly personal. Don’t read this if you don’t want to know more than you feel comfortable with. You were warned. 


I guess the best way to start this like a meeting, like group therapy or something, right? So… Hi. My name is Dennis and I’m a thirty-nine year old single father with two kids still living at home. I’ve lived all over the United States, but I currently live in Kentucky. I was born here, and moved back here in 2006 to be closer to my family for my kids’ sake.
I'm an average guy. I'm not too tall or short. I'm a nerd. I adore Netflix binge watching shows like House of Cards. I watch too much Doctor Who, any movie Marvel puts out, and rewatch John Oliver and Nerd Machine videos on youtube (Operation Smile is such an amazing cause to get behind). I spend too much time on Facebook, and I likely make too many social media posts about the things my children do and say. I'm not all that different from most anyone I've come across.
Let’s be honest here, I’ve never been wealthy. In truth, I’ve never been anything but poor, but I’ve certainly been in better circumstance than I’m in now. I can, like so many others, blame the economy or politicians, but that’s never been my take on things. I’ve never drawn public assistance or unemployment outside of “food stamps” (or EBT or SNAP, your mileage may vary on the name) for my kids’ sake, and I don’t even do that presently.

Waiting tables, shooting indie film, managing music retail stores, writing novels, short stories, and poetry, handling packages for a shipping company… I’ve never really done work that was going to make me well-to-do. I’ve worked in a business I founded with a friend until it folded, at several other entry level jobs, and up until February of this year I worked at a food processing plant. In February my left hand was hurt while at work. The company has been good enough to cover my doctor’s expenses, but due to mixed messages from management and a zero tolerance policy that I understand all too well, I was terminated. I now have no job, no income, no way to get more income, and an injury that prevents me from doing much of anything productive.

For the last few weeks I’ve watched everything I’ve put together in my life slowly fall apart. I’ve watched my life burn down. As I write this I know that without a payment on my house tomorrow I enter into eviction.

I write this, not as a plea for attention or a plea for assistance, but to call attention to how easily and how quickly life can change. As I said before, I’ve never been wealthy. Paycheck to paycheck has always been my way of life and I’ve never had more than two thousand dollars in savings in my life. I have, however, never known this crushing level of depression at watching everything go away and having literally no options, and nothing that could be done to stop it.
I’ve always scoffed at people who said “at least you have your health.” Now, though? No. I understand that sentiment all too well, and all too late.
Will my hand heal? Yes. Will I be able to get back to work? Well, some work, I’m sure, yes. Will I be able to get my life back to the level it was at before all of this? Absolutely. However, the impact of all of this on the here and now, on the psychological and physical reality I exist in has been far greater than I could have imagined.

I had a heart attack in October of 2014 that nearly put me in this same situation and while my heart health, and my health over all, is better now I still hadn’t completely repaired all the financial mess that that created when this happened.

I’ve watched my utilities get turned off, I’ve watched my lawn grow out of control getting me tickets and threats of court action, I’ve stopped answering my phone due to constant calls from bill collectors and creditors (and before you have anything snarky to say about it, I don’t have credit cards or the associated debt, these are medical bills from my heart attack that are still unpaid and bills for replacement furniture only), I’ve taken up residence in an unfinished garage, and I’ve only had the food that others have seen fit to donate. I have a dear mother who has been kind enough to let my children stay with her and eat her food while this situation plays itself out in my life, so at least they aren't suffering with me. I don't think I could cope with it if I knew they were out like I was, even if they aren't thrilled with being at Grandma's house. But if you take all of that and add it to to my eviction happening tomorrow then perhaps you can begin to get into a bit of the headspace I’m in just now. As I said, I have children, so suicide isn’t an option, for their sake, but I’d be a liar if I told you I hadn’t considered it.

In January I wouldn’t have believed I could say any of this. I wouldn’t have believed I’d find myself in this place, and yet here I am. A life can be substantially altered, shattered, or turned inside out in less time than some people would think.  I would never have imagined that I could feel as worthless, helpless, and hopeless as I do now.

Talking about this sort of thing is something that has always been discouraged in my family. But, hey, most of them has passed on… as has my ability to care what I should or shouldn’t talk about in polite company. Besides that, this is the internet, right? This is usually not polite company. A good many things have happened in my life that I’ve stayed completely silent about, but through the aide of Sarah Fader, and her group Stigma Fighters, as well as many personal heroes like Nicole Lyons and Courtney Keesee, I’ve learned that it can sometimes be cathartic to get the things that often sit uncomfortably beneath the surface out and into the open. So this is my story. This is where I am in life, at the moment. I have a front row seat to watching it all burn down. I’m at a point where ending it all sounds good, but I’m not doing that. I’m not giving in. I don’t have a bag of marshmallows and a party hat… but I’m doing my best to have hope that something good will come tomorrow… or the day after… or the day after that. 


I’m a human being. Flawed. Broken. Real. Hurt. Low. But, still alive. Still hanging on. And no matter what you’re going through… a life easier than mine… or a life far harder (there are so many going through so much worse than I )… know that people are out there who can identify… can empathize… and maybe, in that, you can find some comfort, when your life is burning down around you.


(Listening to this on repeat has helped a bit, too... again, your mileage may vary)

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Published on April 27, 2016 23:48 • 20 views