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RE Bradshaw

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What did you learn?

Posted by RE Bradshaw
RE Bradshaw
RE Bradshaw has not set their biography yet
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on Thursday, 06 March 2014
in lesbian fiction

 

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I have a book on my desk written and compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., entitled Live and Learn and Pass It On. The subtitle reads: “People ages 5 to 95 share what they’ve discovered about life, love, and other good stuff.” During the introduction, Brown discusses how on his fifty-first birthday he thought it would be interesting to jot down some of the things he had learned in a half a century of living. He wrote, “I’ve learned that…” twenty times on the left-hand side of a piece of paper. He then completed the twenty sentences. He enjoyed the activity enough to add it to his Sunday routine. One thing led to another, which led to a book filled with the wisdom of people just beginning to learn and those amazed to be still learning nearly one hundred years later.

 
Between the covers of the book are such pearls of wisdom as the ten-year-old’s words, “I’ve learned that it’s not what happens to people that’s important. It’s what they do about it.” Or the sixty-six-year-old’s statement, “I’ve learned that nothing very bad or very good every lasts very long.” And my absolute favorite, today anyway, is the five-year-old who said, “I’ve learned that goldfish don’t like Jello.”
I sat down and wrote the first twenty things that came to mind. I’m sure my list would change from day to day, depending on what was on my mind, but here are just a few things I’ve learned in my first fifty-two years.
 
 
 
 

  1. I’ve learned that Dorothy was right. There is, in fact, no place like home, but home is where you make it.
  2. I’ve learned that plans never really go as planned. Being willing to adapt without fuss is the key to a happy vacation.
  3. I’ve learned that I should be thankful that the promise of tomorrow was kept. Every morning I rise is a good morning.
  4. I’ve learned that anything to excess is too much.
  5. I’ve learned that how people feel about themselves is more important than what anyone else thinks.
  6. I’ve learned that it is possible to eat healthy food and like it.
  7. I’ve learned that my parents were much younger than I thought they were when I was growing up.
  8. I’ve learned that seventy-five percent of the stuff I worry about never happens. Worry is not a smart investment of time and energy.
  9. I’ve learned that friends and loved ones can be taken in a tragic instant. Never take them for granted.
  10. I’ve learned that love at first sight is a real physical phenomenon. Our bodies recognize the connection before our hearts do.
  11.  I’ve learned that disciplining a cat only creates an enemy hell bent on terrorizing you.
  12. I’ve learned that knowing you are loved gives you wings.
  13. I’ve learned that finding a way to earn a living doing something you’re passionate about makes life so much more fun.
  14. I’ve learned that you’re never too old to pursue a dream.
  15. I’ve learned that I knew nothing about the proper glasses for consuming different kinds of wine, or that it even mattered. A Dixie cup was always just fine.
  16. I’ve learned that the compassion of a dog can heal a broken heart.
  17. I’ve learned that a home filled with laughter is a great place to be.
  18. I’ve learned that there is more truth to fiction than most people assume.
  19. I’ve learned that only our bodies age. My mind still thinks I’m 25.
  20. I’ve learned that I love to learn. The world is fascinating to me.
     
    I'll end with another favorite from Brown's book:
     
    "I've learned to keep looking ahead. There are still so many good books to read, sunsets to see, friends to visit, and old dogs to take walks with." —Age 86 
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
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Why not?

Posted by RE Bradshaw
RE Bradshaw
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on Wednesday, 14 August 2013
in lesbian fiction

When someone says, “We can’t change it, because that’s the way it’s always been,” I say, “Why not?”

At the heart of my need to speak out is my six-year-old self. I was seventeen days from my seventh birthday, June 8, 1968. I remember it vividly, but as an observer now. I see my white button-front, short-sleeved shirt with the Peter Pan collar; the tail of which hung over my blue cotton shorts. I was a notorious un-tucker. No shirttail would remain tucked in a waistband if I could get away with it. I see the white socks folded over the fine blond hair at my ankles, and the faded blue canvas Keds I’m surprised are still on my feet. It was Saturday, so we were probably going to town later, hence the shoes. I hated shoes almost as much as I hate my bra now. I was a scrawny tomboy with a Dutch boy haircut, the top layer of sandy blond faded white from hours in the sun. I had freckles on my cheeks and tears running from my blue eyes, as I squinted into the morning sun. I stood, one foot in each seat, pulling on the bars to make the sit-down swing rise and fall. As I swayed back and forth, the swing sang a rhythmic “scree-scraww,” and one of the swing-set legs thumped up and down, loosened from its buried concrete footing. Above the rusted iron protestations of the swing, a young man’s voice cut through the air.

I had procured, (probably without permission, because that is how I rolled at six,) a small transistor radio. It was in the corner of the swing seat, tied there with a piece of baling wire I found out by the horse barn. I was resourceful, if not wise, as evidenced by some of my other adventures as a child. I was alone on the swing because the rest of my family was inside, watching a grainy black and white TV image of what I was listening to on my pilfered transmitting device. I was only six, but I had fallen in love and my heart had been broken. The adults could never understand the depth of my misery, so I chose to deal with it alone, outside. That’s where most of my childhood miseries were dealt with, outside, on a swing, in a tree house, a hidden fort, or floating in a small boat. On this day, I was completely without hope, the sun would never rise again, and my little broken heart would never heal.


How I came to love that man, I will never know. I do not remember a single thing about my infatuation other than that Saturday morning of bereavement on my swing. Years later, as a sophomore in college, I wrote a research paper on his speech writing skills and innate ability to deliver a universally understood message. My first crush was Robert Francis “Bobby” Kennedy and, on June 8, 1968, I listened to his brother Teddy give his eulogy. I had been in deep mourning for two days and was now in attendance at the memorial for my beloved Bobby. I may physically have been standing in an old rusty swing set on a country road in Inez, North Carolina, but my mind was in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Teddy quoted from one of Bobby’s speeches, given to the young people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in 1966.

Robert Kennedy arriving in
Cape Town, the site of his famous
"Day of Affirmation" speech.
“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”  

Of course I don’t remember that quote off the top of my head. When I was older, I looked up the eulogy and printed a copy for myself. I also found a recording of the memorial service on vinyl and listened to it from time to time. I read every speech Robert Kennedy ever wrote for himself and his President brother. I’m quite sure that my devotion to standing up for what I believe in comes from the phrases I do remember from that sad day in June of 1968. Although I may not have always heeded them, I heard these words running through my mind throughout my life, as a gentle reminder to do the right thing.

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.
Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.
As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:
“Some men see things as they are and say why. 
I dream things that never were and say why not."

The passage of time has given me insights into Robert Kennedy’s life that I did not possess as a child. Without the taint of scandal and politics, I fell in love with an ideal. I believed that we could make a difference and that standing up for those who could not stand for themselves was always the right thing to do. I still believe that. I went through changes in my lifetime that affected my political views. We all do. But it seems I’ve come home to my roots as I aged. I, like many of my generation, still believe in ideals.

We are the generation that walked hand in hand through the civil rights movement in our classrooms. The adults were on the outside, fighting over the color of skin. We were at our desks, learning that we were not so different after all. We are the children that watched our first war from our living room television sets, and the resulting protests in the streets. We are the generation who saw women stand up to the status quo and win; fighting for equal rights and working to pass Title IX, from which I reaped many benefits in both education and athletics. We are the generation that blew away the closet doors and became very active on the issue of civil rights and equality for all Americans, regardless of race, gender, or sexuality. We are the generation that learned as babies, listening to the radio, that social change does happen. We never forgot what we witnessed.

Something else happened on June 8, 1968. James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr., was captured in London. That seems rather coincidental or perhaps poetic. The fiftieth anniversary of The March on Washington and King’s “I have a dream” speech is August 28, 2013. Many marches and events are planned for the anniversary. I hope they are well populated, for we still have much to do before discrimination is a thing of the past. With all I’ve read in the news lately, discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, and bank account status has not been overcome, just set aside, a “it's better than it used to be” kind of thinking, the status quo of our day. We tend to look at discrimination as something that happens outside of our homes, out of our control, a “we can’t change the way other people think” mentality. That little girl in the Peter Pan collar believed in a world where wrongs were righted. I still believe. I still ask, “Why not?”

"There is discrimination in this world and slavery and slaughter and starvation. Governments repress their people; millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich and wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere. These are differing evils, but they are the common works of man. They reflect the imperfection of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion, our lack of sensibility towards the suffering of our fellows. But we can perhaps remember -- even if only for a time -- that those who live with us are our brothers; that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek -- as we do -- nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can." Robert Francis Kennedy

Link to the last portion of the eulogy given by Ted Kennedy.

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"We read to know we are not alone." C. S. Lewis

Posted by RE Bradshaw
RE Bradshaw
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on Thursday, 08 August 2013
in lesbian fiction

I'm off to work with some teenagers this evening. I am really looking forward to supporting them in anyway I can. I miss working with young minds. The best part of this experience is that I'm going into it as me, not some part of me, but as a whole human being. When teaching before, I was required to leave part of me behind closed doors, away from prying eyes. Tonight, I get to look at LGBTQ young people and say, "Yes, yes I am." I can hold up a picture of my son's wedding and say, "I have a 25 year relationship with my wife and we raised a son together. This is my family."


I could never do that in public schools. I could never say this is the person I love; this is my happy life outside of these walls. No wonder our youth think there is something to be ashamed of. Their very obviously gay teacher isn't proudly displaying pictures of his child, because it's his partner's natural son. How would he explain his love for this young man, that he is his son too? That lesbian drama teacher calls her wife a “friend” and never introduces her to the class. They hide the truth. It must be shameful. There are no pictures of smiling vacations and happy family portraits to prove it gets better. Only the straight teachers have happy lives. After all, they have the photographic evidence displayed for all to see, right?


So, tonight I can be a real role model, a whole role model, not just the parts that others deem “mainstream.” Look around world. The LGBTQ family is out there and it is a distinction no different than the color of ones eyes. You work and live around people with blue eyes, brown, green, gray, the shades are endless and as unique as the individual possessing them. I look forward to the day that sexuality bears no more meaning in a description than a passing reference to eye color. I also look forward to the day when children aren’t taught to be afraid of the evil gay people. Hate and shame are both learned. I have the utmost hope that the next generation will teach less of it.



I want to help these kids, ages 13-20, build their library at the equality center. If you are an author and would like to offer assistance with this task, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . No explicit erotica, please. They can find that on their own like the rest of us did. I'm not playing censor as much as asking that you be conscious of the message you are sending along with your book. 

In addition to fiction, they have expressed an interest in learning LGBTQ history, which I find refreshing. These are our future leaders. Let us help them discover the roots to the tree of equality that they will continue to nourish. I hope for the day when a center like this is not the only place a child hears, “You are beautiful just the way you are.” Some kids never hear that. That has to change. Be the change you want to see. 

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My Tea Drinkin' Buddy

Posted by RE Bradshaw
RE Bradshaw
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on Sunday, 04 August 2013
in lesbian fiction

I have been forced to drink tea and not sweet iced tea. Nooooo, that's bad for you the nutritionist said. We are now drinking hot tea, healthy stuff with names like "Perfect Energy" and "Women's Energy." I have to admit drinking a cup each of those two kicked me into high gear. There isn't a low hanging limb within 9 feet of our yard—the terminal reach of my chainsaw on a pole. I finished projects that have been hanging on for years, not weeks or days; we're talking many years, decades. So, I'll give credit where credit is due. The tea really does make me feel healthier and engaged.


I'm a coffee drinker by habit, so the tea thing is new. All part of our get healthy and stay that way plan. Seems my favorite 1/2 & 1/2 and sweet coffee are now off limits. Soy creamer and a measured teaspoon of cane sugar in my two cups of coffee in the morning, (I had to beg for that from the nutritionist—I call her Satan.) Then I switch to tea, water, and almond milk. I can have a cup of coffee after dinner, but then it's back to "Stress Relief" or "Bedtime" tea. 
     

The tea thing is okay. I got into it; bought a variable temperature teapot for my desk and the "Tea Bag Buddy," which despite its unfortunate product name is very handy. I researched the proper temperatures for specific teas. I'm getting used to drinking slightly flavored warm water, as opposed to my usual "I like a little coffee in my cream and sugar" good old cup of java-syrup. I do have a problem deciding if the tea bag is used up, because the last cup and the first cup seem to taste a lot alike.

Anyway, Deb and I spend a lot of time staring at all the different teas and what they are formulated to do. We buy a box of something different every time we go in the store. We have a pantry shelf full of tea. I threw two more boxes of the energy varieties in the cart the other day, (that stuff is the speed of my generation,) while Deb was still searching, reading labels on a couple of boxes. 

I asked, "Are you looking for a specific kind of tea?"

She said, "The hurry up and write more books so I can retire tea."

"Ah, that would be the 'Sit your ass in the chair' tea."

"Precisely."

My tea drinkin' business manager/wife/buddy is not subtle.







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She hopes it's over soon. That makes two of us.

Posted by RE Bradshaw
RE Bradshaw
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on Tuesday, 30 July 2013
in lesbian fiction


Take your hands off the climate control device, do not block or complain about the fan or its speed. Keep the box of tissues handy and, for the love of all things holy, please don’t bring me more bad news.



Warning this blog contains adult language. 

I say fuck and some other rather colorful words.

I'm in a mood, so be forewarned.

MOM!
Bad news on any given day can be unsettling. Bad news on a menopausal mood-swinging day can be simply too much to endure; at least it can feel that way for a moment or two. I’m not enjoying this at all, these waves of hormonal modifications. Today, I was driving, when I felt it coming. I said, “I’m having a bad day,” and then tears just trickled down my cheeks. Deb asked what was wrong and I said, and I quote, 
“I don’t fucking know. Just find me a damn tissue.” My hairdresser asked what was wrong when I arrived red-eyed. I told her much the same thing. She told me I needed to go out in the yard, lie down, and re-center myself with nature. I’d like to tell Mother Nature to fuck off. This shutting down of the child bearing mechanism should be a much more agreeable process. I mean, I gave once a month like clockwork to Mother Nature’s cause, except for that one nine month stretch. I deserve some type of easy-out payoff in the end. Still, most of the time, with the aid of natural supplements, I’m managing to keep the emotional roller-coaster from leaving the barn. But some days—bad news is the last thing I want to hear.

Sorry, wrong number!
It wasn't so bad getting the phone message from the nurse explaining the cost of my pelvic ultrasound and asking me to call in for scheduling. I was poked, prodded, and smashed just a month ago, and then given a clean bill of health. This was obviously a mistake. I returned the call and inquired about this unexpected procedure. After verifying my birthdate, the nurse said, N-o-o-o-o, it wasn't just an ultrasound; I was to be scheduled for a biopsy. NOT ME! Yep, that was my educated, two degree holding, writes for a living response, NOT ME! She checked again. "Oh oops, it isn't you. I called the wrong one. We have several of you by that name."


Sorry, wrong door.
I kind of knew it was a name issue, because I've dealt with the name thing quite a few times. I once had my door kicked in by the Feds, looking for someone else with the same name. Luckily, one of the agents knew me and said I was "not the one they were looking for." That was a "thank God my Daddy knows everybody" moment, to be sure. I didn’t want the identity mishap to be discovered after I was already property of the CLIC, (Chief Lesbian in Charge at the jail.) Anyway, finding that I was not the one needing the pelvic ultrasound and biopsy was quite a relief. I went from, "Oh, holy shit" to "Thank you, Jesus" in the span of the thirty seconds it took the nurse to realize I was "not the one." Isn’t it funny how a non-church goer can turn so blasphemously religious in moments of panic and redemption?

Friend or Foe?
I spent most of the afternoon sitting here wondering if there wasn't really a mix up and it was me who needed the biopsy. What else have they mixed up? Are all our files jumbled together? Should I go get checked again, just to be sure? In the meanwhile, I’m heartsick for the other woman who has my name and is in need of a biopsy —— and then I feel her fear, the empathy tearing at my already hormonally unbalanced brain. I love and hate that I feel so much, that I can so keenly imagine pretty much anything and be swept away in the emotion of the moment—and that’s on a good day. Being able to do that was the basis of my theatrical career and is an asset to my writing. The world needs people like me, who feel very deeply the suffering of others. But then nature comes along and adds its complications to the mix. This midlife hormonal shift is kicking my ass and the empathy that was my friend is now the foreseer of gloom and doom for us all. My mind is my worst enemy and my best friend. It imagines stories people like to read, but it also makes up SHIT for me to worry about. I just keep mumbling to myself, "Count your blessings. Count your blessings."

Deb, poor thing, I know she hopes this emotional storm plays itself out soon. I think I can hear her over there on the couch mumbling, “This too shall pass. This too shall pass.” 

[Post Script: I am the patient of a menopause specialist. This fact was very obvious when the nurse called back, before she went home for the day. She wanted to reassure me that I was not the one in need of the procedure. That just goes to show that she is aware the patients she deals with are hormonally challenged and subject to dwell on something like this all night, until they are forced to drive to the office, where they will be found at dawn in a panic waiting in parking lot to resolve the identity issue, DNA kit in hand.]




Famous Faces of Menopause

Rejoice in five famous faces of menopause and discover how these women handled this "dreaded" stage in uplifting ways.
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Claiming My Space and the Right to Stand There

Posted by RE Bradshaw
RE Bradshaw
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on Monday, 17 June 2013
in lesbian fiction

I need to clear up some things, some notions resulting from misinterpretation of things I’ve said. This is how I truly feel, not what someone else told you they think I said. True confessions, horses mouth, and all that – here is what I think and why I think that way.


I taught Theatre Arts in both university and high school settings. This leads people to surmise that I like all Theatre Arts. I have two degrees in the subject and worked in the field professionally – both on stage and behind the curtain. Even with that background, I have to confess that I am not a fan of Shakespeare. Oh, I absolutely comprehend what the work attributed to “Shakespeare” (please hold your theories, I’ve heard them all) contributed to the theatre arts. Shakespeare created theatre for the masses, a voice of the people, a stage to tell tales and record histories, spread laughter, all while dressing the truth in fiction and thumbing noses at the powers that be. Great stuff from “The Bard.” But I’d rather see an adaptation of his work, like West Side Story, than the original Romeo and Juliet. It’s a matter of personal tastes, different palettes painting the same story. In visual arts I prefer Andrew Wyeth to Picasso, but they are both masters in their own right. My preferring one over the other does not make one less than. They all deserve their spaces in the halls of art appreciation. Oh yeah, I taught a Humanities class, as well.  
    
I studied theatre arts from its beginnings at the campfires of ancient peoples to its modern manifestations. I found much of the Theatre of the Absurd tedious and really what was the point, which was their point – to prove there was no point. I understood the value of learning about each segment of theatre history and all that it brought to the table. Each time period and movement added its flavor to the punch so to speak. The modern theatre world dips from that punch bowl and tells the same stories Shakespeare told, just as he told the tales of the Romans, and they the Greeks before them. We’re still telling the same stories. I prefer to see those old plots played out in contemporary American drama, with a bit of history and mystery thrown in the mix. That’s just the kind of theatre I like, it’s also the type of fiction I like to read. It doesn’t make me wrong or right, nor does it make those that prefer other forms of theatre and literature inferior or superior. We all like what we like. There’s a great line from a Sondheim song, “All they really like is what they know.” Yes, I’m that reader; I like what I like and I read what I like. Don’t tell me that I’m missing out by limiting myself. I want to read what I want to read. Don’t judge my single-mindedness on this. I celebrate the wide variety available to those who choose to read in many genres. Like the wife I’ve been married to for twenty-five years, I found what makes me happy. I don’t have to look any further. Please, validate that experience as much as I validate another’s right to try new things.


When I go looking for books online, I generally look for authors I already know, or have been recommended to me by someone whose opinion I value. I look at the books people buy who also purchase the same books I do. I look in the genre listings, like mystery or suspense/thriller. I’m generally safe when sticking to like-minded authors and readers. I’m rarely disappointed, but then I go to the lesbian fiction category and all those indicators go out the window. I can look under lesbian fiction-mystery, but it’s potluck whether I’ll get a well-written story or a sex romp between the clues. It’s not that way over in mainstream mystery, so why is it that way here in lesbian fiction land? This leads to something else I need to explain. Like theatre, literature with lesbian characters comes in varied forms and genres. As with theatre, I don’t like it all, but that doesn’t mean I think the rest of it is rubbish. It’s just not my cup of tea.

I’ve been accused of being a prude, or at the least unenlightened. My wife and close friends would disagree, but then they know me and most people only know the public me. But just so there is no misunderstanding, I will express my opinions about sex publicly. This is simply the truth of how I feel about sex and my sexuality.
In my house, there are some things that stay private. That’s just who we are, not what we expect everyone else to be. I will not be found discussing my sex life in public, and to be honest, I find people that do to be disrespectful of their sex partners. The bondage folks and erotica enthusiast are always talking about “trust” as a big issue with sex partners, learning to trust and let yourself be free of hindrance in your sexual experiences. I wholeheartedly support that. Explore and be free, allow yourself to be vulnerable in your consensual sexual experiences, in a safe and trusting environment. But, how much trust can there be when the woman you let yourself go with then proceeds to the nearest social media site or phone to discuss all the “hot” things she did with you last night? I also find a group of giggling, blushing, grown women cracking jokes about wet parts and dildos, as much fun as a dentist appointment. Can we have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around or devolve into what makes one “hot?” Is it necessary to make sure everyone in the room knows that one has had sex, that it was “hot,” and that given the opportunity it will be “hotter” next time. And can we get a word for a gratifying sexual experience other than “hot.”

I also feel that having sex with a woman does not a lesbian make. There is much more to my lesbian identity than the reproductive organs of my sex partner. I find the sexualization of my being a lesbian a tired stereotype. Yet, many lesbians don’t mind feeding the myth that we are only sexual beings, with no further drives than carnal ones. To me, there is absolutely no appeal in sitting around talking about sex like teenagers in a high school locker room.  I'm not judging you if you do, but don't expect me to hang around. Really, my friends and I talk about raising kids, getting old, politics, social issues, but rarely do any of us talk about sex. It’s not that we don’t have sex and enjoy it. We just do a lot of other things too.

Some lesbians will say they have earned the right to objectify women, to talk about sex any way and anywhere they want, and to wear their sexuality like a badge. Here, here, demand your space, ladies! I only ask that you allow me my space to be a lesbian as I see fit. One size does not fit all. I celebrate the diversity among lesbians, but my inclusion in the group does not mandate that I believe and behave in a prescribed manner or follow the splinter groups into the fragmented quagmire of lesbian feminism. These are my personal beliefs about sex and the role it plays in my lesbian life. They have nothing to do with how I feel about the way lesbian literature is labeled.

The lesbian fiction literary category is a complete mess. No one has any idea what he or she is buying, and don’t kid yourself that the boys aren’t in there buying it too. I take that back. Bless the hearts of those unabashed erotica writers and the titles that leave no doubt that theirs is a book meant to titillate. Contrary to some rumors, I am not out to remove sex from books in the lesbian fiction category, nor do I have my head in the sand. I know erotica is selling these days and erotic romance is burning up the sales counters. This is nothing new. It comes in cycles and has been around since the first ancient libraries were built. Just as I studied the theatre genres, I also studied literary genres. I learned to appreciate why each literary genre existed, to recognize well-written examples, and make informed critical decisions without regard to personal tastes. (That is what a critique is. Unfortunately, most reviewers are not offering this type of critique, which makes them book reviewers, not literary critics.) I have read and appreciated literary erotica. I believe it is a valuable part of the human literary history, and deserves its place alongside all forms of erotic art. Sex is part of the happy healthy human experience. We should reflect that sex in our art and literature as much as any other aspect of human existence. How it is portrayed varies along with the audience that finds these variants appealing. As the French say, “à chacun son gout,” each one to his own tastes.

Erotica author I. J. Miller wrote a piece for Huff Books on erotic history (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ij-miller/an-erotic-history_b_3140977.html). He spoke of how titles like The Happy Hooker and Fear of Flying earned their mainstream success in the 1970s, “because of their intelligence and good writing.” He went on to say, “Thanks to the writers of the previous decade, if a book was erotic, well-written, and told a good story it would be marketed as a literary book.” Miller was careful to point to his own titles as literary erotica. He then calls attention to “loosely plotted, explicit erotic fiction focused mainly on titillation, usually found in adult bookstores located in the seedy part of town—” and now online. Read the blog. It shows me that erotica writers want very much to distinguish themselves from material they deem too sexually explicit to be included in their genre. I applaud his efforts and that of others to have the craft of erotica writing critiqued fairly. Like him, I hope that walk to the cash register for the soccer mom becomes less intimidating, with the “mommyporn” tucked under her arm. Miller’s word, not mine, and no one is calling him a prude. Erotica deserves its own proud space in the literary world.


Sylvia Day, Passionate Ink’s co-founder, (Passionate Inkis a Special Interest Chapter of Romance Writers of America for erotic romance writers,) makes this point to her fellow erotic romance writers in a blog post: “New readers who pick up a book with ‘erotic romance’ on the spine and later discover that they hold an erotica title without any romance will be upset. Will this affect their decision to purchase more erotic romance? Possibly. How will they know that the entire genre of erotic romance is not the same as that mislabeled book they purchased?” Day goes on to define the varying “heat” levels, from high to low, as porn, erotica, erotic romance, sexy romance, the last one being “basically a standard romance with hotter sex.” (Go to the blog post to see the detailed descriptions: http://www.sylviaday.com/extras/erotic-romance/.) There is definitely no one calling Sylvia Day, #1 NY Times Best Seller of Erotic Romance, a prude. Erotic romance deserves its own space on the shelves, as well.

If these two, and there were many others, who write erotica and erotic romance respectively, are asking to be given their own space in the literary world, are quick to point out what there work is not, and do not want their work mislabeled, then am I really being prudish to ask for the same considerations for my novels? Day encourages erotic romance writers to label their work as such. She addresses the issues of a reader being mislead by mislabeling or lack there of. That is all I have ever said about the lesbian fiction category and erotica. If it is an erotic romance, call it that. If it is erotica, call it that. All I want is for authors and publishers to call it what it is. I want that reader looking for sizzling pages of erotica to find that book. If she’s looking for the erotic romance, I want her to find that too. I don’t want the reader looking for a “standard” romance or mystery to instead find the sizzler, be turned off, and refuse to read another "lesbian fiction" book. Sylvia Day also said of educating the public about the differences in porn, erotica, erotic romance, etc., “. . . perhaps the distinctions between genres will become clearer and more readers will get exactly what they’re looking for in a “hot” romance.” There needs to be a clear indication – in the blurb, on the cover, in the meta data, in the tagging system, or in the book description – some clue as to what the book really is. My point is proved every day, as book blurbs pop up for new releases, books written by authors who are very proud to talk about how “hot” the sex scenes are in their books, and who trumpet the cause of the erotica writer's place among lesbian fiction, but nowhere in their book blurb do they indicate the sex will be detailed and plentiful. I find that dishonest.


Everyone points fingers at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and other distributors for how they lump all books with lesbian main characters, F/F sex, and basically anything outside of a heterosexual M/F sexual encounter into the lesbian fiction category. I do think they could do a better job of removing the obvious porn from our midst. Even the erotica writers don’t want to be associated with that, remember? I also think that the writers and publishers of novels that fall in the lesbian fiction category do little to help readers understand what to expect in sexual explicitness when buying our books. If the Passion Ink people don’t want a reader mistakenly grabbing erotica, while searching for an erotic romance, then I think I’m on pretty solid ground to want to make the distinction that my books are neither. I respect both Mr. Miller and Ms. Day for wanting people to understand what they write, to claim their space on the shelves of literary-dome, and not be confused with what they are not. I have only asked for the right to stand as a lesbian writer in the way that suits me and find my place on the literary shelves, where I have as much right as Miller and Day to seek my own easily identifiable authentic space.



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The Silence of the Vaginas

Posted by RE Bradshaw
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My apologies to Layce Gardner for the title of this blog. You can find her blog, “The V-Word,” that prompted this response, here:

I know Layce was using her finely tuned sense of comic writing and I do try not to take myself too seriously, but alas, I am one of her "brouhaha" makers. The titles were funny and I did get a laugh. By the way, "The Devil Eats Vagina," that I spoke of in my post and that I believe Layce is referring to in her blog, was not on the best sellers page, but showed up in the kindle book search results for my name only, implying that the search engine had been tweaked to batch anything with the word lesbian together, or the tags had not been removed. (Tags were supposed to be removed by Amazon, because of misuse by authors tagging their books with best sellers’ names to draw readers. If you search for my name now, those books will not show up. Amazon addressed my complaint quickly and asked that I capture any further misplaced search results and report them.) This occurrence is a symptom of the problem. I was disappointed that with all the great Lesbian Fiction titles that could have fallen at the end of my list of publications, Amazon’s search engine inserted three titles that in no way resemble anything I write or would suggest to others. These titles don’t show up in my “people who bought these books also bought…” selections either. Most, not all, but most people who read my books are not reading “The Devil Eats Vagina.”
Here is my issue—and it is not the existence of Lesbian Erotica or crotch shots on the covers—but being crammed into a one-size-fits-all genre. It’s the assumption that because it says lesbian in the book then it must be about salacious, gratuitous sex. I don't know about you, but "Teen Lesbians Love Cock" is not something I want showing up in search results for my name. I suppose I'd feel the same if it said, "Teen Lesbians love Vagina." That's not the type of literature I read or write. It’s not the type of Erotica women I deeply respect write either. Yes, I said respect. It takes skill to write erotica well, a skill I do not possess. Again, my complaint is not with Erotica. I don't want my name associated with the “Love Cock, Eat Pussy” books. Is it true you can tell the difference between porn and erotica by the type of music playing in the background, or was that the lighting? I can never remember. If it's porn, it's porn—just because it is lesbian porn doesn't mean I have to like it; just like being a lesbian doesn't automatically make someone a good athlete. A non-athletic lesbian should not be thought of as less than a true lesbian, any more than my not liking Lesbian Erotica or porn makes me unworthy of true lesbian status. I swear I hear seventies “Chicka Bow Bow” music in the background.
The word Vagina doesn't bother me a bit. In fact, I’m rather fond of the word and the noun it names, one in particular. I am not the sex police. Read and write what you please. All I ask is that a dialogue open concerning Erotica being categorized as Erotica, and that porn trash find a home somewhere other than the lesbian fiction search results. Having a divided system of classification in mainstream publishing has not hurt Erotica sales. Look at 50 Shades—it was listed as the #1 Best Seller on the NY times list, but still clearly labeled Erotic. It was not, however, popping up when one searched for John Grisham novels. Lesbian Erotica doesn’t pop up when you search for Patricia Cornwell novels, and she is a lesbian and has lesbian characters in her books. It doesn’t show up when you search for Fannie Flagg, Rita Mae Brown, Dorothy Allison, and Sarah Waters. Something is amiss here. It’s worth pondering if these authors purposely distance themselves from the Lesbian Fiction genre, and if so, why?
Let’s just take the word lesbian out of the equation. Now we’re just talking Romance, Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal, Erotica, etc—categories that tell the reader exactly what to expect. It would be just as wrong for me to label my books as erotic. Someone seeking erotic material would be very disappointed in my writing style. That would be dishonest of me. And the few that have expected more gratuitous sex from my books have complained loudly in reviews that there wasn’t enough sex to be called a lesbian book. It seems there is a question as to what a lesbian book should contain. I think clear labels could take care of misunderstandings. I clearly label my Thriller series, so as not to confuse readers of my other styles of writing. Still, some people ignore the blurbs and press on to find themselves in a bloody murder. They are not happy. I go out of my way to let people know what to expect because of this. I don’t want people to be unhappy. I want that erotica reader to be able to find that clearly labeled erotic novel. I want the romance reader, who does not like erotic sex scenes in her books, not to be turned off by a mislabeled erotic novel and dismiss all lesbian fiction as such.
People say Vagina in the title sells—Yep, they're right, sex sells, but other types of books sell too. I had 3 titles in the Amazon Lesbian Fiction top twenty the other day, which have very minimal sexual content, appropriate amounts, but not erotic by any means. In fact, only 2 titles in the top 20 at that moment were Erotic in nature, or at least the covers and titles did not suggest that there were more, demonstrating that many readers are buying the non-erotic covers, titles, and content, as well. I'd say my success in this genre, and that of other authors, clearly points to lesbian readers looking for a wide variety of books, including those that do not revolve around vivid descriptions of the sex lives of the characters.
No one has suggested that sex is a bad thing or should not be a part of lesbian fiction. Just like the books are divided under the main heading of Lesbian Fiction—Romance, Mystery, Sci-Fi., etc—there should be a clear distinct listing of Erotica. Who decides what is Erotica? If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck. It really isn't that difficult to tell the difference between Romance and Erotica. And I’m willing to concede that this genre likes its romances very steamy. Still, my not so steamy romances sell too. I’m pretty sure we all know the difference between Erotica and Romance, and if not, ask an Erotica writer. They should be able to tell you.
I'll take the friendly poking and the implied "prude" label in stride; because yes, some of us do want to be taken seriously, not only as writers, but also as lesbians and women. I am a sexual being. Sex is happily a healthy part of my relationship. It is not, however, all that I am and all that I stand for. I'd like the world to see lesbians as everyday people—not just sexual beings, but human beings. I have been doing a lot of research on the lesbian evolution through the years and one thing sticks out—lesbians love to pick sides and decide who is and who isn’t demonstrating appropriate lesbian behavior. I’m sure some folks think I’m not very lesbianese, because I don’t want to read erotic sex books or chat about my sexual fantasies in open forums full of grown women giggling like middle-school girls. Surely there must be something wrong with me, right? No, really, I’m fully lesbianized—I just have a different tolerance for what I deem private, or appealing. I don’t judge—so why am I judged for not wanting to be associated with “The Devil Eats Vagina,” a title I expect to see on a Westboro Baptist Church protest sign, right beside “God Hates Fags.” My momma always said, “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” It was her way of saying you only have one name and one reputation to protect, be careful where you make your bed.
Ann Bannon and others like her are celebrated for taking the soft-core porn that was lesbian pulp fiction (the majority of which was written by straight men for straight men,) and attempting to treat the characters with more humanity and truth in the tales, as much as the censors allowed them. Dorothy Allison said of Ann Bannon, “Her books come close to the kind of books that had made me feel fatalistic and damned in my youth, but somehow she just managed to sustain a sense of hope.” Salacious lesbian antics sold and happy endings were not allowed or were carefully slipped between the lines in order to subvert the censors. Ann Bannon threw a lifeline to so many, because it was all the lesbian in a small town could know of others like her. The lesbian pulp fiction industry faded away around 1969, when women took to the presses to tell their stories, wrestling control of the lesbian voice from men.
I get that it is important that we be allowed to represent ourselves as sexual beings, celebrating lesbian sex and vaginas in our art, music, written word, etc. I am not asking for censorship of any kind and I am not slinging arrows at Erotica writers. Again, read and write what you wish. I am simply asking for clear product labeling and the removal of the assumption in search engines that if it says lesbian then it should all be together in one category. We are more than what takes place in our bedrooms—or any other place we’ve decided to get busy, because after all, forbidden is fun—and we should be allowed to celebrate the parts of our lives that are not sexually motivated. We've graduated from hiding our real selves between the lines of lesbian pulp fiction pocket-books. Our literature should and does reflect that. It’s time we were willing to admit that there is a place for lesbian literature that does not revolve around our Vaginas.
I know sex sells. Watch how my contribution to Layce’s titles, "The Silence of the Vaginas," gets my blog re-tweeted. 
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It's "Fanbloodytastic"

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This is the third in the award winning Rainey Bell Thriller series, following Lambda Literary Award Finalist Rainey Nights. Each book is stand-alone. It does help to read them in order, but it is not necessary. In The Rainey Season, former FBI behavioral analyst Rainey Bell has settled into her life as a wife and mother with Katie Myers and the triplets. Consulting and private investigative work occupy the time not taken up with the one-year-olds crawling around her ankles. As always, her eye is on the security of her family, because Rainey knows is out there and that it is probably watching her. Rainey may be paranoid, but she’s generally right. If it feels wrong, it usually is.    Buy at Amazon.com     Buy at Barnes and Noble
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Pecans, Texas, Birthdays, and Destiny

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on Wednesday, 13 March 2013
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(Follow me; it may be hard, but give it a try.)

I love pecans. I have always loved pecans. My grandparents had several giant pecan trees in the yard. There were always pecans on the coffee table, and this fantastic little pecan cracker that I spent many hours operating. I would sit happily shelling pecans for Grandma, stuffing paper sacks with nature’s candy, a squirrel’s dream and mine too. Cooked, raw, in pies or cookies, fresh off the tree, it really doesn’t matter how they are presented; I love pecans. There are little containers of pecans all over my house right now. Did I mention I love pecans?

(Major missing segue – but you’re still here, so that’s a good sign.)

I had a fascination with Texas from the time I could talk. Not sure if it was the steady diet of westerns I fed on or the fact my dad was doing rodeo stuff back then, whatever the link, I loved the cowboy way. This fascination followed me through the years. I remember meeting a friend’s mother for the first time and my jaw dropping. She was the tallest woman I had ever seen and she had huge hair. She was beautiful, tanned, and drawled Texas so thick; her “Pam” came out more like, “Pa-yam.” I loved Miss Joan. She was everything I ever thought about Texas rolled into one tall, big-haired beauty from just outside of big D. That’s Dallas in case you didn’t know, (sing it - big D, little a, double L - A, S.) Yep, loved me some Texas.

I have just discovered that these two things are related, my love of pecans and Texas, and are part of my destiny. It’s my wife’s birthday today. From the very first time I spoke to her, I sensed I had known her my entire life and many more lives before this one. People say we appear as two pieces of a puzzle, like we were made for each other in the giant puzzle factory in the sky, a matching set. My attraction to her was instantaneous. I have often wondered about that. Why, after years of ignoring and dismissing an attraction to women, would I suddenly say, “Yep, this is the one. This is the one for whom I will lose everything and gain so much more in return. This one will change my life.” And she did.

So how does my love of pecans, Texas, and a blue-eyed girl from Oklahoma prove there is such a thing as fate? Searching the 1956 headlines in the small town where my wife was born, I came face to face with my destiny. I knew the first time I heard my wife’s mother speak that I was honing in on something. When she says Deb’s name, it sounds like, De – yeb. Then I see the claim to fame of the little patch of earth southwest of Dallas, not far from Waco, where my wife was born. Yep, this was destiny – San Saba, Texas, Pecan Capital of the World.



I think that girl deserves a pecan pie for her birthday, don’t you? 
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Coming out of the Woods

Posted by RE Bradshaw
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on Thursday, 07 February 2013
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Recent events led to this letter. I have rarely talked about this incident. I am doing so now in the hope that it helps someone, somewhere. After forty-four years, this was a long time coming.


To my molester:
When I was seven years old, a group of you took me to the woods and molested me. Your deeds were discovered, but not because I told. I remembered the threats, so I kept quiet, but I wasn’t your only victim and you were all eventually found to be molesting more than one of the youngsters in our neighborhood. “Young adolescent boys being boys,” they said. “Don’t talk about it,” they said. “You must have done something,” they said. And in typical 1960’s fashion, the stain was covered with an area rug, like the spot where Uncle Joe spilled the wine at Christmas. If it couldn’t be seen, then it never really happened.
To my credit, even though I felt like damaged goods in my parents’ eyes, I instinctually did what it takes some victims years of therapy to accomplish. I moved on with my life and never really gave the incident much thought. Sometimes I would wonder why I didn’t think about it, why I was able to dismiss those memories completely. To this day, I only remember walking in the woods and the aftermath of the discovery of what happened under those tall pine trees. That’s really the part that sticks out, the aftermath, the shaming.
See, it wasn’t what you did that hung around for years. You were all a bunch of sick, stupid teenage boys, who should have received what was coming to you, but you didn’t. Back then the shame brought to the victims’ families overwhelmed any need to get justice for them. So, “the boys” skipped away free, while the victims carried the burden of “keeping the family secret.” It was never discussed again, NEVER. That is until I came out of the closet.
My mother wanted someone to blame for my being a lesbian. Guess what, she blames you. I find that amusing. Being a lesbian is the one true thing I do know about myself. It has nothing to do with “man hating” or the trauma experienced by a seven-year-old-girl. I loved several boys and later men, married, divorced, and raised an exemplary young man. I simply found my soul mate in a woman, and discovered the missing link in my life. Really, my mother gives you way too much credit, and I certainly give you none for the best thing that ever happened to me. Finding me had absolutely nothing to do with you.
Still, my mother cannot let go of the blame game. She has to have a reason for her daughter being a lesbian. It certainly can’t be something natural, there must be an explanation, and it can’t come back on her. So, for more than twenty years, since discovering I was gay, she has searched for answers and finds them in blaming you. She runs into some of you from time to time. She likes to call and tell me when she does. Now, the thing we NEVER talked about is her obsession. She wants me to be angry. She wants me to walk into your offices and let fly with the accusations. (By the way, I see you still run in a pack, with a few exceptions. Nice political positions some of you have, too. Sure would be a shame for people to know what you did. That next election or political appointment might be hard to pull off.) Besides the fact that the statute of limitations ran out years ago, I think it’s just too little too late.
The time for marching up courthouse steps was forty-four years ago, when standing up for a little girl’s dignity would have meant something. Fortunately, that little girl stood up for herself. I don’t give a rat’s ass who you are and what you’ve become. I did just fine, and never give you a passing thought, until my mother calls with another sighting. I look back now and know that the thing that affected me the most was not what was done to my body, but what was done to my self-image by those who let me think I was damaged goods. What you did, well, I hope you can live with that. What the people that were supposed to help me during the aftermath did, well, I hope they can live with that too. What I did, learning to depend on me and only me, I most certainly can live with that.
My father apologized to me, just three years ago. He’s had time to think about how the incident was handled. He’s very sorry, now. I just told him, “No big deal,” and walked away. See, the time to have talked about it passed long ago. The little incident you experienced with my mother the other day, her innuendo in front of your wife and kids that she knew your deepest secrets, the way you flushed white and the joy it gave her – I get no pleasure from that. It makes her feel better to call you out now. I would have preferred she called you out forty-four years ago, when it mattered. You don’t matter at all to me now.
So why am I writing this to you? Because somewhere somebody will read this and think twice before telling a child, “Don’t talk about it.” Maybe they will see that the trauma to the body is a passing thing. The trauma to the mind is not, and that emotional trauma is multiplied when you shame the victim. Maybe someone will step up and be a child’s hero, remind them that they’re worthy of love, and this bad thing that happened, it wasn’t their fault. Maybe someone will realize that being molested as a child can be overcome more readily than the aftermath of accusations and denial.
I’m going to tell my mother to leave you alone. I’m going to tell her that this attempt to blame someone for my sexuality is ludicrous. I will tell her that your demons are yours to deal with, and hers she needs to own. The trip to the woods did not damage me as much as she’d like to think. The shaming in my own home was worse. Have a good rest of your life. I know it’s getting down to the wire for you. Make your peace. I have.
I am not your victim, I am a survivor.
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Duct Tape Can Mend a Broken Heart

Posted by RE Bradshaw
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on Wednesday, 06 February 2013
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I live just off of a major thoroughfare, several actually. Occasionally, one of the homeless people that live under the overpass will stroll through the neighborhood. There is a dead end street, about a block from here, with a few good places to “live,” so we see them often. Never have any trouble and they are rather like neighborhood folk, they just live outdoors. If you live in a city, then you know these people. We do what we can, when we can; give to the soup kitchen, and help out in other ways, but it always tugs at my heart to see someone struggling.
Today, I was writing on my laptop in my warm and cozy home, drinking Starbucks coffee, listening to music, a life is good kind of day. I am jarred from editing the same sentence ten times by the sound of something crashing outside. It wasn’t a loud sound, more like something was dropped on the street beside my house. I live on the corner, so I hear all the street noise. It wasn’t the sound that made me stand up. It was the stream of screamed obscenities that followed it.
My dog jumped up beside me and we both listened, as a man yelled out one expletive after another, raving mad. I slipped to the back door and peeked out. I see an obviously homeless man righting one of the three wagons he has trained together. He is so caught up in his raving that he doesn’t notice when my dog pushes out the door. Buddy, my male dog that would eat someone before he would let them near me, growled low and then pushed back in the house. No barking, just a whine, like, “Mom, that man is all kinds of crazy.” I agreed.
Part of me wanted to ask if he needed help, and before all of you write in about what a heartless person I am for not doing so, this guy was on another planet, completely lost in his rage. I am alone at home with a dog that thinks it’s better if we just let the man be. His ranting went on for fifteen minutes, while he tore through every bag he had neatly packed into his wagons. I know, because I stood in the bedroom and peered through the blinds.
My heart was breaking for this man and I took a step toward the door several times, but his demeanor was quite frankly very scary. I also thought about calling the police, but then he was just in the street, voicing his displeasure loudly. Was that against the law? Hell, I’ve had a bad day and cursed the Gods, so why was he any different. Granted, my outbursts were usually alone in the car, with no one to hear my rant. But then, I had a car to rant in. This guy had three wagons.
When I thought he may have been having a genuine meltdown, and was possibly in need of immediate mental health intervention, he found what he was searching the bags for. He stopped ranting immediately, and then knelt down on the road by the wagon that had fallen over. That’s when I saw the source of his rage and I my heart ached for him.
Ever so gently, he lifted a radio from the street. It was a little red plastic boom box and obviously his most precious possession. It had fallen, breaking the door to the battery enclosure and the casing was cracked off one end. I watched as he tore strips of tape and tenderly repaired his treasure. That radio was his connection to the world and his world was in chaos for the time it was in disrepair, but as he lovingly reassembled it, I saw his demeanor change. When he turned it on and I heard music begin to play, I rejoiced with him, as his shoulders straightened out of their slump and his spine grew erect. A defeated man turned victorious, it was a sight to behold.
I watched as he reloaded his wagons, smiling now, and then moved on his way. I was struck by the magnitude of loss, when it is put in perspective. A devastation to one may be a mere inconvenience to another. A broken radio might not seem like the end of the world to most of us, but to this man, it was his world.  Watching him walk away with a smile on his face and a spring in his step – well, I was smiling too. He was victorious over fate today, and though he lost his mind there for a bit, he recovered and saved his precious possession. Two lessons learned: 1. The loss of something trivial to one could be a life altering devastation to another. Respect that.  2. When things look the bleakest, a little rant may help, but always carry duct tape in your wagon. It can mend a broken heart.
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She knows just what to say.

Posted by RE Bradshaw
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on Tuesday, 22 January 2013
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     My wife sat down with me yesterday to have a talk. Besides the fact that she is my rock, she is also very level headed and stable. She remains calm when all about her are losing their minds, namely me. I am at the other end of the spectrum and ride an emotional roller coaster pretty much every day. Having been around her family, who are all very tight to the vest with feelings and take things in stride, I see where she gets her steadfastness. When faced with breast cancer, she walked in the door, told me she had it, and proceeded to map out where we would go from there. I was a basket-case. She never shed a single tear through the whole ordeal. (Well, she did cry when they knocked both of her front teeth out during the breast surgery, but I couldn’t blame her for that.) I credit her attitude for her complete recovery. She has been cancer free for what will soon be twelve years.
     My wife’s mantra has always been, “Might as well laugh as cry.” She faces adversity with a positive human spirit that I envy. There doesn’t appear to be a mountain she’s not willing to climb, if that is what is called for. I can’t imagine a person I’d rather be stranded with, and not just because I love her. She would never give up, never feel sorry for herself, and she would make sure those with her continued to put one foot in front of the other, because there is always hope in her world. So it was to her I turned, when I hit the wall yesterday afternoon.
     I have been working on the next Rainey Bell thriller since last spring. I stopped to write another book and then picked up where I left off in the Rainey book. I started and stopped several times, and then sat down to write out a complete outline of the story, something I never do. I thought that might be what was holding me up. It wasn’t. The book is completely outlined and should have come easy, as all the others had. It didn’t.
     Things had been going very well for me at the beginning of 2012, better than I could have hoped. Yet, I could not shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen. I often heard my mother’s voice in my head, saying, “You never fly so high that you don’t have to come back down.” That has been my experience throughout life. The more successful I became, the more I feared some other part of my life would crash to the ground.
     On March 10, 2012, that prophecy nearly came true. My wife stopped breathing. While she survived the hypoglycemic episode, I shook for months. I watched her like a hawk. I fretted and fussed over her constantly. I stayed on an unremitting vigil, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Although she was doing better, I could not shake the feeling that soon, I would face an unfathomable loss. In this frame of mind, I could not write a Rainey Bell book. I managed to write Out on the Panhandle, and I'm sure that was because it was about us, fiction, but at the heart those characters are me and my wife. The characters were happy and safe, something I prayed would remain true for their real life counterparts.
     After publishing Out on the Panhandle, I tried to write and I did, but not the Rainey book. I write every day, it isn’t always for a novel, but I do practice the art daily. I made some progress with Rainey, but it was like pulling teeth. Writing has always come very easy to me. Once I know where the story is going, it usually just flows out, a constant stream of scenes playing out in my mind. Not this time. It seemed that every time I would get started, I’d lose the flow and stop. The other shoe was swinging in the wind and about to land hard. I could feel a dark cloud rising on the horizon.
     I had learned over the years to listen to that little voice, warning of impending danger. It has served me well. There have been times when I circled the drain like this, and finally saw the problem before it was too late. My instincts are strong and have often alerted me in time to head off disaster. These feelings are a blessing and a curse, for when they hit, I cannot move forward until I have understood them. They can be paralyzing, and I depend on my wife to remind me that worrying about something before it happens does not make the happening of it easier. Still, I could not move forward. Something was dreadfully wrong.
     With all the worrying about my wife, I am happy to say that the dark cloud did not concern her. Unfortunately, my instincts were correct. In early December, I found out my beloved Dixie, the dog I had loved more than any other, my constant companion, my best friend, had a brain tumor. I had three weeks to tell her goodbye. My heart was broken on December 27th, when I had to hold her for the last time and tell her to “rest now.” The shoe dropped.
     Since then, I have tried to move on. Each day is a struggle. I remind myself of all the blessings I have and that I was so, so blessed to have had Dixie in my life. Still, my heart is broken. I began to write again, but it wasn’t easy. It still isn’t. My wife has been supportive and encouraging, but I can’t find the joy in writing that I once had.
     Yesterday, she found me in tears. I had been standing on the back porch, watching the dogs sniff every square inch of the backyard. Most days now, I can go without tearing up, but yesterday, I just couldn’t hold it together anymore. I sat down on the porch steps and just sobbed. My wife came out of the house and sat down beside me.
     “Honey, are you okay?” She asked.
     “Hell no, I’m not okay. I’m pissed as hell that my dog died.”
     “I know, honey,” she said, patting my back.
     “For the first time in my life,” I said, through the sobs, “I had the money to fix anything that happened to her, but I couldn’t fix this.” Then the floodgates opened, and I began to curse the world. “I knew better than to be this happy. I knew I could never have it all. I can’t write. I can’t think. I’ve tried to move on. I’ve tried to understand. I’ve tried to not worry you, but I am barely functioning here. I can’t pull this load.”
     She let me cry some more and then she said, “When a person loves as hard as you do, you can’t avoid a broken heart, but you are stronger than you think. And I know why you can’t write that Rainey book.”
     I was intrigued and wiped away the tears with my sleeve. “Why?” I asked.
     “Because you embody your characters. I live with them, so I should know. Rainey is happy and you don’t want to let the other shoe drop on her. Rainey is the part of your personality that is a bit paranoid. She is the one that never thinks she can be happy. She hears that same voice in her head, your mother, saying she can’t have it all. Rainey, like you, believes there is a price to pay for contentment.”
     “It appears that there is, or at least that has been my experience,” I said, with a bit of sarcasm.
     She raised one eyebrow, which I cannot do and have always envied that ability. “The joy Dixie brought into your life, you think you paid too high a price for that? You would trade the love you two shared, not to have to feel this pain?”
     “Of course not.”
     She asked, “When you traumatize a character, what is your ultimate goal?” 
     I stared at her. I was too emotionally invested in my meltdown for rational conversation.
     She continued, “You take a character down to watch her rise back up. You break their hearts, you traumatize them, and I watch you fall apart with them.” She paused and smiled, “But then I watch you get them back up off their knees. I see you help them find their footing. You reach down and find the strength of character to push them through whatever life hands them. That’s not fiction, honey. They get that from you.”
     I was still dumbfounded, when she stood and started back in the house. She turned, just before she went in.
     “You don’t want to write this Rainey book, because you don’t think your heart can take it right now. I think you should. Go on, wreak havoc in Rainey’s perfect world. You’ll put it back together again in the end. I think it would do you both good. I think it’s what you need to heal your broken heart. My momma had a saying too. ‘You never get so far down that you can’t get back up.’ You just need to take that first step.”
     Last night, I wrote over five thousand words in The Rainey Season.  
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Steamy Bedroom Windows: Lesbian Fiction and Erotica

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     We have moved into a world where LGBT families often include marriage, children, and the mortgage that comes with it. We move more freely as family units through the everyday activities of life. We attend PTA meetings, ballet classes, soccer games, graduations, weddings, and sadly sometimes funerals. We grocery shop, synchronize schedules, and coordinate pickups like air traffic controllers. We are families doing family things, as we watch our children grow.
     Some of us are growing old together, in longstanding relationships without children. Younger couples are just starting that journey. Others have grieved the loss of a partner and are getting by with a close circle of friends. Some of us are watching the kids we raised move on with their lives, and are now being handed grandchildren to cuddle. We have retired to that time of which we dreamed, just the two of us doing as we please. We old ones are learning to live in this new, more accepting environment. We fought for the rights we sometimes forget we have, when encountering a place outside our still homophobic climate. We have to remind each other that yes, we can hold hands in public for all to see. No one will harm us here.
     While there is plenty of nightlife left out there, if you’re still young enough to survive a night on the town without requiring a three day recovery period, our social gatherings have moved from under the disco lights. We no longer confine our relationships to the back rooms of bars or clandestine affairs. We live openly, when we can, enjoying the first glimpses of what it might be like to be thought of as equal. We look forward to the day that “We the people” actually includes everyone. The times they are a changing, and the modern LGBT community is changing with it.
     One thing has not changed. It may seem trivial to some, but it is indicative of what the world outside of the LGBT community believes about us, that we are addicted to sex. We evidently cannot control our sexual desires and must have either just had sex, are having sex, or are about to have sex, as soon as we can be rid of the minor distraction getting in the way, like the other people in the elevator. Anytime, anywhere, and with anyone, we are not picky, or so they say. So, when I type “lesbian fiction” in the search engine at Amazon, I am not surprised by what pops up. Dismayed by some of the content, but not surprised.
     I just took a gander at the best sellers in lesbian fiction page. (It updates every hour, so by now it has probably changed.) The current top two sellers have crotch shots on the covers. Good for them. I’m sure they deserve their standing among the top selling books. It’s an achievement to be applauded. My argument is not with the covers or subject matter of these books. I don’t know that they are not sweet romances, where sex is a healthy part of a burgeoning romance and an integral part of the plot. The covers and titles would suggest otherwise, but you never know. All I know is, as other authors have stated, I don’t show my mother when I make it to page one of the best sellers list. Any moment of pride would be crushed by the ensuing conversation about all the half-naked women and crotch shots. It just confirms what she thinks. If I write lesbian fiction, it must be a “sex book,” or erotica for those more eloquent than my mother. 
     Also on the list of best sellers are mysteries, thrillers, romances, and historical fiction. Most of these books contain sex, but the plot is not driven by the two main characters’ intimate escapades. When I search those categories without the lesbian qualifier, I am not bombarded with erotica. But add lesbian to the inquiry and the one-handed readers come into play. Why is that? No one is disputing that sex sells, but do plot and character driven books belong in the same genre with erotica just because they have lesbian characters? Where is the line in the sand distinguishing what is erotica, and who is drawing that line? Should erotica be a stand-alone genre with subcategories indicating gay, lesbian, straight, etc., or remain under the all-encompassing gay and lesbian fiction umbrella? Considering the expanding variety of lesbian fiction outside of the romance and erotica categories, is it time to take a look at restructuring the genre itself?
     I’m no prude. Read and write what you want. Sex is great. I'm 51, not dead, and not complaining.  Erotica sells, but is straight erotica included among the mainstream genres? And before the Fifty Shades of "Oh my God, are you kidding me?"argument gets started,  let me point to the debate happening in a much larger venue than my blog. I will simply say, the clamor over Fifty Shades of "Misogynistic Dribble" started when it came out as Twilight fanfic, and was removed from the site after it was deemed too erotic. I can also point to the Fifty Shades Generator | Terrible erotic fiction at the click of a button link.  Seriously, this series is a breakout anomaly that appears from time to time, not the norm, and clearly labeled a best selling "erotic" trilogy. Being a best seller does not change it's erotic genre status in the mainstream publishing world. 
     This is not about censorship or judgment. It’s more about changing the perception of our lives. Amazon’s lumping of erotica into the fiction category is just a symptom of how we are perceived. Our lives are changing. We are out, proud, and taking great strides toward equality. We are asking that people take their noses away from our steamy bedroom windows and look at us in our living rooms, where we are just people living very ordinary lives, where we have something to say other than the whispered desires of breathless passions. That request seems impractical, when one look at an Amazon search result reveals, we don’t seem able to pry our noses from the windows either. 

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The Telephone Game and Jodie Foster

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on Monday, 14 January 2013
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     We all played the telephone game as kids. The kid at the end of the line would whisper into the next one’s ear, and by the time it reached the end of the line the message had been mangled beyond recognition. Like many children’s games, we were supposed to learn something from it. It was a lesson about whispering rumors, about listening carefully, about questioning the authenticity of messages passed from one person to another. It was an illustration of how our brains work, how we play an active role in the interpretation of what we hear.
     Since Jodie Foster’s Golden Globes speech last night, her words have been examined, analyzed, criticized, cheered, misunderstood, misinterpreted, and applauded. It seems everyone heard something different. I watched the speech and then watched it again after the Internet blew up with “Did she or didn’t she just say…” propaganda. At times, I wondered if some people really saw the speech and if they did, were they listening.
     I’m going to preface all of this by confessing that I am a huge Jodie Foster fan. I’ve been infatuated with her since the very first time I saw her on “Mayberry RFD.” I resembled her enough to be asked for autographs as a child. Unfortunately, this resemblance did not follow me out of my early twenties. Jodie is seventeen months younger than me, and I can assure you the years were much kinder to Ms. Foster. Didn’t she look fabulous?
     I followed her career, like most of the lesbians I know. It seems that many of us adopted Jodie into our families, before we ever knew “our family” would not be the one formed by blood relations. We all “knew,” if not what exactly it meant, that Jodie was one of us. She never let me down. While I did not like every movie she made, I have immense respect for Jodie’s acting abilities. In my opinion, “Nell” was one of her finest performances and she did it without the crutch of language. Looking back at those first appearances she made, from the Coppertone ads through her incredibly mature performance in Taxi Driver, it is plain to see that even as a child she was an extremely gifted actress. The camera loved Jodie, and so did we.
     Jodie grew up with me, in a time where being an out lesbian was a career killer. Be it teacher, soldier, or actress, an out woman could find her career at an end with one whispered word, “lesbian.” In my former profession, teacher, I would have been fired on the spot with absolutely no recourse. That “moral turpitude” clause meant my employer got to decide what acceptable morals were. I stopped being a teacher in 2010, but that stigma is still alive 'n well out here in the Heartland. Once out of that world, I blew the closet doors off. While I was out to my family and friends, I had never, and I mean never, acknowledged rumors or “knowing” looks. My job depended on it. So, while many people I worked with, including my principal, “knew” and said nothing, it would have taken only one whispered word to end my career. When Jodie raised her hands last night and crowed, “I’m fifty,” I understood the smile on her face. It said so much more than how old she was. It said to me, “I’m fifty. I made it this far, and by God, the rest of this ride is going to be on my terms.”
     That’s where the telephone game analogy comes in. People heard what they wanted. I heard a declaration of freedom. When Jodie said she had an admission to make, teasing us to edges of our couches, her “I’m single” declaration sent me into peels of laughter. I got it. I understood that she knew we were all waiting with bated breath and then dropped the punch line with perfect timing. She followed it up by very eloquently saying that her sexuality was not a secret to her family and close friends. I understood the line about coming to terms with her sexuality as a young girl. I saw a hint of pain there, and remembered the confusion and longing that accompanied that same time in my life. She said enough, issue over, at least for me. Not so much for others.
     I’ve read that people are disappointed that she didn’t stand up for all those little girls out there, waiting for a role model to look up to. Hey, most of those little girls don’t even know who Jodie Foster is and their role models are not fifty-year-old actresses, gay or straight. If Jodie is someone a little girl looks up to, I think she is a fine example to aspire to. She has admitted she’s gay. How many times does she have to say it? Does she really need to say “I am a Lesbian,” using those exact words? The role model I saw last night gave us a glimpse of her family, her loves, and her passions. I know that she supports The Trevor Project and other organizations benefitting the LGBT community. She is a successful businesswoman, a loving mother and daughter, and a loyal friend who reaches out to those she cares about in their darkest times. Role model? You bet!
     Interpreting her speech as a retirement declaration just baffled me. What I heard is that she is moving away from the big box office world of Hollywood. She seemed to be saying that she was going to be doing what she wanted, telling the stories she wants to tell, and the hell with the critics and other people’s expectations of her. Welcome to the world of self-publishing Ms. Foster.  In front of or behind the camera, I’ll follow you. I can’t wait to see what Jodie wants to tell us, without the censorship of Hollywood studios.
     She was criticized for “rambling” and “appearing nervous.” There are other parallels with my life and Jodie’s. I was also an actress. I say “was,” but once you are, you never really aren’t. Despite what people think, most actors are very shy and private people outside of the public’s eye. That nervous laughter Jodie is so famous for, that’s a self defense mechanism. Every word she has uttered in public for forty-seven years has been scrutinized. The telephone game mangling of her intentions has happened time and time again. Jodie was being herself and that is oh so much more frightening than playing a character. I remember the first reading I was about to do. I was nervous, really nervous. My wife asked me why, after all the performances I had participated in, would I fear a public appearance. I told her it was because I was going to have to be me. I fully understand Jodie’s nervousness, the adrenaline that was blasting through her veins. Thirty years in the theatre business and my voice shook through that first reading, as if I had never stepped foot on a stage.
     I could keep going, address all the things people are saying, but what would be the point. Like the accusation that she did not address her career, the reason for the award. If all that was seen was the speech, then the viewer missed her life go by on the screen prior to her taking the podium. What more could she say? “Look, look what I did. Aren’t I fabulous.” People saw and heard what they wanted. It’s just more telephone games. I can only know what I heard, what I saw. I heard a woman I greatly admire talk about her life, her loves, her sorrows, her joys, and her impending loss. She grew up in front of us, her life’s work recorded on film. I am proud of the woman she became. I respect her right to privacy and believe many more people would, if they knew just how terrifying her life has been at times. Jodie Foster owes me no explanations, no declarations, no glimpses into her bedroom. I think she’s given us more of herself than we ever deserved.
     The bill is paid in full, Ms. Foster. Now, go live your life. Do as you please. Pay no attention to the clamor. And thank you for being my sister, even if you didn’t know it. I “knew” and it was all that mattered. 
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Closing Doors

Posted by RE Bradshaw
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on Sunday, 13 January 2013
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     The news of yet another lesbian publisher closing its doors is not something I like to see. I don’t know the reasons for the closing. Sometimes the reasons are tied to the health of the person who keeps things rolling. That is always sad and unfortunate for everyone concerned. But more often, it is because the business has ceased to thrive. Can’t keep the doors open, if you can’t pay the bills.
     Some people might think that as a self-published author, I’m over here with a self-satisfied smirk, mumbling under my breath, “I told you so.” I’m not. Well, not smirking anyway. I don’t want to see publishers going under. It isn’t good for lesbian fiction and it certainly isn’t good for the authors that signed with them. Despite my success as a self-published author, I would sign with a publisher if – and that is a big if – I saw an advantage to doing so. So far, I see an industry that needs to make some changes, and those slow to do so will be the next to bow out.
     What would make me sign with a publisher? What would prompt me to give up the 70-30 split I have with Amazon? What would entice me to give up the complete control self-publishing affords me? Why the publisher of my dreams, of course. And what would that look like, you may ask? I’ll tell you. I’m sure publishers do provide many of the things of which I dream, but I want it all in one bundle. Too selfish? Too self absorbed? Maybe, but if I’m giving up some of my pie, I’m of the mind that I should get some whip cream to go with my remaining share in return. My speaking openly about the business side of writing may take some of the romance out of the profession, but the sad truth is, publishing is a business. Gone are the days of the starving writer, while the publisher eats most of the pie. We're pulling up to the table, ladies. Pass the whip cream. 
     The publisher of my dreams would give me the time to write, taking care of all the things that distract from that. They would manage my website, custom made for me, not a cookie cutter template used for all the authors under their wing. They would handle publicity, and that doesn’t mean a generic announcement on Facebook and other social media sites. It means sending well-written press releases to all the major outlets serving the lesbian community. It means following up those releases, arranging interviews, book reviews, award entries, and public appearances. It means networking and championing the authors in their flock, and finding a way to make each one feel important, worthy of their time. I realize a certain amount of self-promotion falls on every author, but I see my author friends, who have signed with publishers, still doing all the things I do and for a much smaller piece of pie.
     I mentioned control earlier. That’s a biggie. Right now, I write what I want, when I want, and publish on my own schedule. I see no reason to hold a book ready for production, just to fit into somebody else’s idea of a publishing schedule. What, are they afraid there will be too many books to choose from? As Duck Dynasty’s Uncle Si would say, “Hey, wake up, Jack.” Has the explosion of titles in recent years not taught the publishers anything? These readers are voracious. There aren’t enough books to satisfy them. No way in hell you’re going to flood the engine and stall the car. So what, if you have a writer that produces a book every two years and one that writes three in twelve months. Forcing that prolific writer to wait in line certainly makes self-publishing more attractive.
     The publisher provides the author with an editor in most contracts. I think every author’s dream is an editor they can trust wholeheartedly, an editor that understands their style, their voice, and wants nothing more than to help tell the story the best way possible. They are the shoulder needed on some occasions and the voice of reason on others. They help hone and sharpen the author’s tools. They hold up the mirror every author needs to look into from time to time. Now, this editor is not one that is so swamped by other people’s manuscripts that they have no time to really work individually with any of them. This dream editor is paid well to handle a few authors and keep them all working and happy. An overworked, underpaid editor can’t be good for business. Again, as a self-published writer, I don’t wait in line. To be completely above board here, the editor I have been using has now taken a position with a publisher. It hasn’t been a problem, but should it be, we’ll part ways amicably and I’ll go find one willing to work on my schedule. Good editors are in demand, and I realize they must have steady work to make a living, but turn around time is something I would consider before hiring anyone. I’m not asking that an editor drop everything for me. Waiting weeks is doable. Waiting extended months between editing passes, not so much. I pay well and pay often, and am willing to pay more for speed and efficiency. The faster we work together the more books we produce and the more money there is to be made. Happy readers, happy author, happy editor, happy, happy, happy. (I confess, I love Duck Dynasty.)
     I would never sign with a publisher that held the e-book release back, while trying to make money off readers with over-priced print books. Print books are expensive to produce and distribute. The old warehouse model of printing books is a dead issue. It’s an expense that is neither necessary nor profitable. Print-on-demand alleviates the cost of printing books that end up taking up space in a warehouse, while the author makes no money and the publisher is out the expense. In the modern world, a person pushes a button on the Internet, pays for the book, a machine prints it, and it gets put in a box and shipped. It’s not rocket science folks. It’s progress. Holding off on e-book releases strikes me as counter productive. While I do have readers who prefer print, far more often, people who purchase my print books have read them as e-books first. Because print books cost more to produce and I don’t like charging out the ass for a paperback, I set my prices as low as my print-on-demand distributor will allow. I understand that printing in bulk is less expensive per copy, but weigh that against the cost of letting them sit on shelves or in boxes unsold. I make pennies on print books and offer them only as a service to readers who want them. Print makes up less than 3% of my total sales. I don’t seek out print outlets, because, let’s face the reality here, they aren’t lining up outside the bookstore for my new release. They are downloading off the Internet and getting it much faster. The e-book market is more fluid, easier to manage, and meets the demands of the instant gratification world we live in. The publishers are in this to make money. I get that, but playing games with the readers is going to backfire on them. You can already hear the rumblings of revolt.
     If I sign with a publisher, I lose control of pricing. That would be a big consideration as well. I charge less for my e-books than most of the “publishers,” not because I don’t think people would pay more for my novels or that my self-published work is any less valuable than that of a “published” author. I still have the same expenses they do for producing a book. I pay for an editor, cover art, publicity, formatting, distribution, etc., and the more mundane utilities and such. I produce a product that is obviously in demand. (Don’t believe it when they say you can’t make a living selling lesbian fiction. If you write books people want to read, you can. It’s as simple as that.) The reason I don’t charge as much is a personal one. My newest e-books are not the cheapest out there, but they are still a dollar less than what I could charge. My older books are less expensive and I’ve started dropping the prices on them as they age. I remember having no money and what a luxury it was to buy a newly released favorite author’s book. It’s the same reason I get pissed at the gas pump, when the prices rise and fall at some corporate whim. How much profit is too much? Publishers scream about Amazon keeping the prices too low with their $9.99 ceiling on e-books. (These are the same people that want you to go to their website and pay much more for their product than they can charge on Amazon, supposedly because the author gets more money. That may be true, but I'm not paying nearly $20 for a paper back book, not even my own. This practice smacks of manipulation and mendacity toward the hand that feeds them.) I’m doing just fine. Maybe publishers need to look at how they do business if they are losing money on at Amazon, and pay special attention to that chapter on supply, demand, and how they are affected by pricing. Selling more at a cheaper price usually makes a higher profit margin in the long run. I didn’t make that up. I actually paid attention in that class. I think the guy at Amazon probably read that chapter too. So, why should I gouge the readers because I can? It’s not that I devalue what I do. I make a very comfortable living as it is. I feel no need to take more than what I consider my fair share. Sure, I’d love to be wealthy beyond my dreams. I’d like to win the lottery too, but then maybe I have. I am fortunate to be able to do what I love. I owe something back. That may sound like socialism to some. I call it karma.
     I just have to stop here and say, “BUNK” to those that buy only from “publishers,” because of the perceived notion that if the book was any good it would have been “published.” There are some pretty big names out there in the self-published world these days. If things don’t change, which is the point of this blog, there will be a whole lot more self-published success stories. There is a new breed of author and editor team out there. Technology is making the ability to self-publish easier every day. True, that makes it convenient for people to slap a cover on some blank, or what should be blank, pages and sell them. Be a smart shopper. Download the samples and see what is between the covers. If an author won’t show you a sample of their work, move on, nothing to see here. Simply dismissing someone because they chose to self-publish is as much a head in the sand stance as pretending the e-book is not here to stay. Maybe they are digging in the sand for those 8-track tapes they had back in the day.
     So, my dream publisher would make my life easier, provide me with support, a good editor, a publishing schedule I could live with, and catch up to the changing world of technology. I would never feel as though I was one among many, waiting on hold, while my muse runs off with another woman, because I couldn’t get the help I needed in a timely fashion. My royalty checks would arrive on time with a complete accounting. I understand that is a big issue with the “published” crowd. Not a problem I deal with. I can see my sales by the hour. I know exactly how much my check will be every month. There is real security in that. And if Amazon shut down tomorrow, the technology exists to sell from my own website, keeping all the royalties. I choose to let Amazon sell my books and not have to deal with it. That is worth 30% to me. I’d be handing that over to my dream publisher gladly, maybe more. After all, if I’m happy, I’m writing, and that makes me happy. See how that works?
     I’d like to see the publishers take a good hard look at how they do business. What are you doing to help your authors be happy? Are you keeping up with technology? Are you doing all you can? Are you reaping the benefits of that prolific writer, or making them wait in line, losing money because of it? Have you grown too big to give the attention necessary to each author’s work, become an assembly line of carbon copy covers and editorial decisions? Do your editors have the time to spend with the author needed to produce the best novel possible? Are you listening to the readers and taking notes? Or are you scrambling to find out why your authors are turning to self-publishing, because after all, what have you done for them lately? My hat is off to any writer and publisher that have found this utopia together. But to those who still insist on keeping the lion’s share of the pie, without sweetening the pot with some tender loving care and nurturing of their authors – don’t look now, the doors are closing.

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Caffeinated Ramblings and an Aspen Tree Grove

Posted by RE Bradshaw
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on Friday, 04 January 2013
in lesbian fiction


     I'm up, caffeinated, and not wanting to write, but to talk about writing. It's a curse of authors. We do love to chat about our books, ideas, and inspirations. So, let's chat, shall we. A while back, I read an author’s comment that she never read her own books after they went to print. I don't sit down and read them front to back, but I do visit my books often. (Well, most of them. I have no desire to read Before It Stains again. That was painful to write and I'd just as soon let it lie.) My characters are so attached to this web of stories I've told, it's really hard to keep up with all the different voices. The last thing I want to do is have a bunch of women, all with the same voice and opinions. Just like in any social circle, in Molly's world all of the participants are unique and bring their own insights. I look at Molly as the mother Aspen tree, simply because she is connected to all of the main characters. Like an Aspen grove, my fictional world is one organism tied together by its roots, but each character has her own tree.
     There are tiny saplings like Mo, Steph, Jamie, and Sandy, pretty much the size and shape they will always be. I don’t have any intention of visiting them again, but there is no need to cull them out. You never know when a growth spurt will hit. Over there, that patch of young trees grouped together, that’s Harper, Lauren, and the Tar Bar girls. I do hope to see them again. I think there is more to that story. There are giant trees, like Molly’s. She offers so many possibilities, there’s no telling how tall and spread out she will become. Rainey’s tree is pretty solid too. She hovers over Katie and stands at Molly’s back, away from the others, watching and growing. Gray and Lizbeth are the two on the edge of the grove, their full limbs turned toward the sun. Decky and Charlie, well, they are the two kind of bent ones near the stream, their upper branches entwined. They grow stronger together. Under the larger trees are the characters that sprout from each story, the friends and family on which the main characters depend.
     Scattered around on open patches of ground are the seedlings, characters that have sprung up independently, but always attached to Molly somehow. Sometimes I don’t see how Molly could be remotely involved with a story, until she walks into the room or answers the phone. Hell, I didn’t know she was Stephanie’s old girlfriend, until she just was. Who knew she would end up being Rainey’s best friend, attorney, and ass saver on occasion? When Lizbeth dialed the phone to talk to her oldest friend about her recent discover that yes, women could be very attractive, I had no idea Molly was going to answer. Molly just seems to find a way onto the page. I’m glad the readers like Molly. She is bound and determined to be part of the show.
     So, I visit my grove quite often. I prune, water, and remove the dried up sprigs that didn’t receive enough sunlight, withered, and died. I tend to the young seedlings, assuring them that one day they will grow into big trees, just like the others. Give it time, I say. I watch to make sure the mature trees continue to grow straight and true, retaining their individual characteristics, while keeping a strong connection to the roots from which they sprung. Sometimes, I’ll rest in a particular tree’s shadow, visiting. It’s very much like sitting down at the kitchen table sharing a cup of coffee with an old friend, reliving shared memories of tears and laughter. It may sound crazy, but I like these women. I enjoy their company. I wait for them to tell me more, so that our adventures can continue.
     Yes, I re-read my books. I like them. If I didn’t like them, there really would have been no point to publishing them. They are my children and I am responsible for them, warts and all. I may favor one from time to time, but they all have a special place in my fictional world, my Aspen grove of imaginary friends. I hope my grove continues to thrive and spread with new ideas. You never know. An Aspen tree grove in Utah is the largest living organism in the world.

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Steubenville, Ohio: It's not just their problem, it's ours.

Posted by RE Bradshaw
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on Thursday, 03 January 2013
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     For years, I taught high school theatre. While I had many students who were part of the “in” crowd, I also had a collection of “misfits,” “outsiders,” “loners,” kids who just didn’t fit the mold of the “in” crowd. Often troubled, because of the shunning and bullying received at the hands of the “in” crowd, they carried heavy burdens. Adolescence is difficult enough, without piling on the social stigma of being different. Add to that the malodorous modern culture of athletics that dominates schools like mine  and it gets exponentially worse to be one on the outside looking in.
     The prevailing attitude is that these “misfits” are the problem, the ones grabbing guns and shooting up schools and theatres. Part of this statement is true. The shooters are usually found to be “troubled students,” “loners,” “different.” It did not escape my attention that the Columbine shooters were theatre students. But, and that’s a big but, I am of the opinion that the root of the “problem” is not the kids on the outside looking in. The seed from which every one of these horrific tragedies began was planted within the social structure of the “in” crowd.
     My kids, and I call them that because I did consider each and every one of them my children, were the most loving, accepting group of human beings I’ve ever been associated with. They genuinely cared deeply for each other, rejoiced in their individual idiosyncrasies, and showed immense respect for one another. Yes, there were leaders and followers, but everyone’s voice mattered. They instinctively knew how to row the boat together, taking turns sighting the course, and above all getting to their destination with all hands safely onboard.
     I was also witness to the inner workings of the “in” crowd, which at my school revolved around the athletics department. (Don’t forget to include the cheer, pom, and dance teams here, a major component of high school hierarchy.) Full disclosure, I was voted female athlete of the year when I was a senior in high school. I’m not down on athletics. I am a livelong sports fan and wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of athletic participation. Being an athlete gave me self-confidence, taught me discipline, and the value of teamwork, not to mention rockin’ muscles I miss in my waning years. I was part of the “in” crowd, voted Student Government President, and had a blast all four years high school. So, my argument is not a deep seeded reaction to past hurts. What I do not support is the tendency to allow the athletic abilities of an individual to negate the requirement of basic human decency. 
     My perspective changed after becoming a teacher. Observing the culture of athletics from the point of view of my “outsider” students, I could empathize with their frustration. One of my students doodled a drawing in class, years ago. I saw it and asked if I could have it. It hung on my office wall from that moment on, until I retired from teaching. It depicted a herd of sheep with monkey faces, slowly moving along the hallway of the school. The caption read, “Sheep monkeys.” That’s how she saw the “in” crowd and I had to agree with her. I witnessed the social games, the “mean girls,” the hormone infused bullying, the weak and unique weeded out like ugly ducks, the pressure to fit in and blindly follow the leader permeating the air. Sometimes I wondered if my “misfit” students weren’t better off. After all, they did not spend their days trying not to be kicked out of the herd; they were already making their own way.
     This morning, I read the article and watched the video concerning the rape of a young woman by a group of athletes in Steubenville, Ohio. (Linked at the bottom of this post.) In it, I saw members of the Steubenville “in” crowd laughing and joking about raping a young woman, who by their own admission was unconscious, “dead” drunk. In the background, a few voices can be heard objecting to the rape and the callous way the main speaker is portraying the events. Why were the objections not louder? Why were more of these young men not appalled by this behavior? Why didn’t someone intervene on behalf of the young woman? I’m quite sure fear of standing alone outside of the “sheep monkey” herd had a lot to do with it.
     The crime itself was horrendous. The behavior of the witnesses was atrocious. Steubenville has to be asking itself why not one of their young men and women came to the aid of the victim? They all had cellphones. Why didn’t one single person call 911? What kind of culture have they created, where no one had the strength of character to go against the “in” crowd? And above all, when the crime was uncovered, backed up by videos and pictures of the event, how in the hell did the victim become ostracized while the perpetrators were turned into martyrs. When did being a part of the ‘in” crowd become more significant than basic human values? Steubenville should not be the only town asking those questions.
     The same “go along to get along” mentality is at the root of the bullying, shunning, and yes, criminal behavior that goes on in schools across this country every day. Children are not the only victims of this attitude. Adults are equally guilty of suppressing their moral character in order to remain within the status quo. Quite frankly, I have more respect and admiration for “outsiders,” those that dare to be different, standing up for what is right against a sea of “sheep monkeys.”
     I think it is time to look long and hard at the “in” crowd. Stop placing all the blame on the “outsiders” and “loners” for the violence. I am not absolving mass murderers for their crimes. What I am saying is this; I have observed firsthand the healing powers of acceptance and belonging. I have also witnessed the empowerment of an entire group, when all the voices are heard and given value, when differences are embraced, and mutual respect is a given. Had any of those qualities been present the night of this tragic event, a young woman may have been spared such a vile assault. Basic human decency was nowhere to be found that night.
     Wake up America. The moral character of the “in” crowd is diseased. The term “moral majority” is an oxymoron. When our children don’t have the courage or decency to stand up for what is right, we have done them a great disservice. They must be taught that to stand by idly while bullying, hate, and yes, rape is taking place is immoral. They must be empowered to speak up, to be the voice of dissension, when no one else is brave enough to say it. I think this Edmond Burke quote should be in every classroom in the country and recited every morning: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The perpetrators of this crime should be punished to the full extent of the law. The witnesses who stood by and did nothing should suffer the same fate. Maybe the next time, being in the “in” crowd will be less important than displaying a little moral backbone. 
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A letter to my heart.

Posted by RE Bradshaw
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on Wednesday, 02 January 2013
in lesbian fiction

Dear Mom,
I came to you in a dream last night. You were so happy to see me that it woke you up. You looked for me and then you were sad because the dream wasn’t real. But it was real. I was there with you when you slept. I will always be there.
I watched you crawl out of bed, make coffee, take the dogs out, and stop by my spot under the desk by yours to say “Good Morning.” I smiled at you, but you couldn’t see me because of your tears. It will get easier and time will heal your heart. I will be there with you every step of the way. I will always be there.
I listened to you curse the universe for taking me from you too soon. But would there ever have been a time when your heart didn’t break? Be happy for the time we had together. You rescued me from a puppy mill at five weeks old. You saved me. I had the best life ever because you loved me and I loved you. I will always love you. I will always be in your heart and by your side.
I felt your heart breaking as you pulled on your clothes, preparing for this last thing you had to do for me. I followed you to the car, climbed in, and rested my head on your shoulder, as I always did. We drove together, listening to James Taylor sing “Fire and Rain,” and I saw you smile, remembering how we listened to James on our trips to the beach. I kissed your cheek before you got out of the car and took those long slow steps into the building. I didn’t wait in the car, but followed you, knowing you would need me there. I stood by your side, when the vet handed you the pretty wooden box. You tried so hard not to cry, but sadness overwhelmed you. We walked back to the car, and the whole time I was telling you, “I’m not in that box. I’m right here with you, where I will always be.”
We went to the pet store, where I laughed as I watched you overcompensate for your sadness by purchasing too much stuff for the kids still at home. I’m sure they will appreciate the thought, but don’t spoil them too much. I did notice that you avoided the treats that I loved. Buddy likes them too, so the next trip, go ahead and buy them. In time, being reminded of me will bring laughter and not tears, as long as you remember I am always with you.
When we came home, I saw your reaction, when Freddie saw the wooden box on your desk. He sat down beside it and you wondered if he knew the ashes were my earthly body. He’s a cat. He saw a box. Not sure it goes any deeper than his love for all things box shaped. He did linger, even after you shook his food bag. So, maybe he already knows what I’m trying to tell you. I am here with you and will be always.
I saw you reach for the bag of my hair you saved. I saw you open it and smell my scent. I saw you breakdown for a moment, before you closed the bag and slipped it inside the wooden box. Leave it there, until the day you can open it and smile. Believe me, I know scent is a strong emotional trigger. I could track you to the end of the world, but I don’t have to look for you, because I’m right here.
I just have a few more things to say to you. I know you are feeling guilty for hurting so much, when so many others have sorrows you deem to be more worthy of grief. Grief is not measured in how other people perceive loss. Your loss is your own. You need not qualify your sorrow or compare your loss with others. I was such a big part of your life; it is understandable that you are devastated. Give it time. You will heal and I’ll be there every step of the way.
Now, about this pain you have for putting me to sleep. Honestly, I was so ready to rest. I held on for you, but I really needed a nap. The vet was telling you the truth, when she said that I went easier than she had ever seen one go. I knew you were holding me. I felt you, heard you, and if I could talk, I would have told you thank you for letting me go. I’m free of pain now. I can run and jump again. I can go anywhere I want, but I choose to stay with you. I’ll see you through this, just like I saw you through the last twelve years.
I heard you say that you loved me too much, that you would never love another like that because it was too painful to lose me. Hey, I loved you more than chicken, and that is saying a lot. Dry your eyes, silly woman. You could never lose me. Simply say my name and I’ll be there. As long as you keep me in your heart, I will be with you always. You just have to believe.
Now, go write another book.
Love always,
Dixie
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Happy Holidays from R. E. Bradshaw Books

Posted by RE Bradshaw
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on Wednesday, 19 December 2012
in lesbian fiction

Dear Readers,

     I have begun and stopped a Christmas story several times. I wanted to give you all a little something, like I did with "Rainey’s Christmas Miracle" last year. Alas, with a sick dog and the tragedy of Sandy Hook School, I haven’t been in the holiday spirit. Then I remembered a manuscript I started and stopped last year, entitled “Sand Letters.” I intend to finish this novel at some point, but thought I’d share with you this little tidbit.
     The main characters are Margie and Ruth Ann. Margie is a fifteen-year-old girl, living on Hatteras Island. She is wrestling with her sexuality when she finds a book written by twenty-six-year-old Ruth Ann, a southern belle coming out story called “The Belle Cracked.” After reading the book, which answers so many questions for her, Margie meets Ruth Ann in person. Ruth Ann vacations on Hatteras Island every year and the two strike up a friendship. They write letters back and forth over the years, as Margie grows to adulthood. Ruth Ann serves as a mentor and a kind older friend, who understands the angst of a young lesbian growing up in the less than accepting environment of the seventies.
     The other characters are: Ida, Margie’s mother, who desperately wanted a debutante and instead has a basketball playing tomboy in Margie. Amy, Margie’s first real girlfriend, whom she met when Amy moved to the island during the current school year. Debbie, Margie’s best friend for years and the girl she had “experimented” with, while exploring her attraction to girls. She becomes very jealous of the new girl, Amy, even though Debbie has a boyfriend and only kisses Margie when she feels like it.
     The following letter from Margie explains what happened during preparation for the Christmas pageant and the aftermath. Enjoy, and happy holidays to you all. May the New Year bring you peace and joy.
R. E. Bradshaw

Excerpt from "Sand Letters"
by R. E. Bradshaw 

January 2, 1977
Dear Ruth Ann,
     You are never going to believe what happened. We got out of school on Dec. 17th. (I made all A’s, by the way.) We had a game that night and then I went home with Amy. Her parents were gone for the weekend. I convinced Ida that we were making homemade tree ornaments and wouldn’t she rather me mess up someone else’s kitchen, so she let me go. I’m not going into detail here, but I got my Christmas present from Amy that weekend. Wow!
     We did make the plaster ornaments, but mostly we just, well, you know. Anyway, we had to go to church on Sunday and I was sure I would burst into flames when I went in the door, but nothing happened. Then we had Christmas Pageant practice that afternoon. Amy, Debbie, and me were the oldest girls in the pageant. We have to move to the junior choir next year. We were changing into our costumes in this little room. Two other girls, freshmen, were in there, too.
     Suddenly, Debbie screams, “What’s that?” and points at my neck.
     I have no idea what she’s talking about. I thought a spider or something was on me, so I started jumping around, swatting my neck.
     Then she says, “It’s not a bug. You have a hickey on your neck.”
     I tried to remain as calm as possible, but I really wanted to run. I looked over at Amy. She was studying her costume, as if it was some kind of puzzle, and pretending she hadn’t heard a word of what Debbie said.
     I said, “It can’t be a hickey. I must have rubbed on a branch in the woods.”
     “That’s a hickey, Margie, and I bet I know who gave it to you!”
     Debbie screamed that so loud, I thought someone would come bursting through the door any minute. Then totally out of the blue she charged at Amy and pushed her down. By now, Debbie was crying and any attempt I made to get her quiet just made her louder.
     She yelled at Amy, “Why did you have to come here? Everything was fine before you came.”
     Now, you have to know Amy knew nothing about Debbie, other than she’d been a bitch to her. She thought it was because I was Debbie’s friend before, and nothing else. Well, she knows everything now, because Debbie turned on me after she got done with Amy, and said, “I’m going to tell your mother.”
     I forgot about the other two girls in the room. I also forgot that Amy didn’t know about Debbie and me. I shot my mouth off, “Yeah, well if you tell about me and Amy, then I’m telling about you and me.”
     The next thing I knew, they were both trying to kill me. Amy broke the shepherd’s staff over my head and Debbie tried to beat me to death with the Baby Jesus. They didn’t stop whacking me until they realized the two freshmen girls were trying to escape. They let me go and tackled the other two. After some serious threatening, we let the other girls go. I think we scared them really bad. Debbie told them we’d sneak in their rooms at night and cut off their hair, if they told. If they’ve spoken a word of what was said in that room, I haven’t heard it. If those girls ever wise up and realize they can blackmail us, we’re in deep shit.
     After pageant practice, Amy wouldn’t speak to me and neither would Debbie. I was so mad at Debbie. She ruined everything. I tried to talk to Amy on Monday, but her mom said she was sick and couldn’t come to the door. I went home and stole Ida’s green food coloring. I snuck into Debbie’s house and put the dye in her favorite green apple shampoo. Her brothers would have had to take the blame, if Ida hadn’t decided to make Christmas tree cookies and couldn’t find the green food coloring. She put two and two together after talking to Debbie’s mom at the store.
     So, to make a long story short, Amy quit talking to me, Debbie was a bitch with green hair, and I had blue hair, because that’s the food coloring Ida had in her hand when she attacked me in the shower, after she got back from her little chat with Debbie’s mom. Thank god, she didn’t see the hickey. It’s gone now.
     We all appeared in the pageant together, after a talking to by the preacher about forgiveness. I think Debbie’s green hair contrasted very nicely with her all white angel costume, but her wings were still bent from the fight the week before. Both Baby Jesus and my shepherd’s staff benefitted from the healing powers of Duct tape. Ida didn’t manage to get all my hair, but the bright blue stripe down the middle of my scalp was less than appealing. The dye has faded some now, but you can still see it.
     Amy finally started speaking to me again a few days after Christmas. I told her I was sorry that I didn’t tell her about Debbie and I think she understood. We talked about what people would say if they found out. We decided to head off the rumors by sleeping with our boyfriends. We didn’t go all the way, but just enough to give them something to talk about. I endured a night of groping and pawing. Boys are not very good at that sort of thing in my opinion, but it worked. We’re now sluts. I can’t win for losing, but at least they don’t tar and feather the sluts. We’re more popular than ever.
     School starts back tomorrow. I read Hemingway and Steinbeck over the holiday. They wrote so much; I think I’ll switch to someone else for a while. I also read, “The Children’s Hour,” by Lillian Hellman. Were you saving that for later? I wanted to strangle that little girl. I loved it, but why are the lesbians always so sad? Oh, by the way, we won the holiday tournament and I played in it with blue hair. I didn’t mind. Debbie had to cheer with her green hair. Her skin was kind of green too and since our school colors are green and gold, she looked like Gumby with pompons.
     Happy New Year!
Your friend,
Margie

 Happy Holidays, y'all!
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Shame of Them

Posted by RE Bradshaw
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on Sunday, 16 December 2012
in lesbian fiction

     I have passed into the angry portion of the stages of grief. I’m angry that some kid who obviously needed help took so many innocent lives. I’m angry that a gun owner took no measures to secure her guns from this obviously disturbed young man. I’m angry that assault weapons are sold over the counter to anyone that wants one. I’m angry that Autistic kids around the world are being looked at differently today because of ignorance and misinformation. That leads me to why I am most livid – THE NEWS MEDIA. Shame on them.
     What happened to checking facts before reporting them? There was too much misinformation during the coverage of this tragedy. I’d like to shake every one of those jackasses who sat in front of a camera and spouted one untruth after another. They mislead the public time and time again. Most of what they reported was totally bogus and to what end? Rushing to get the next tidbit of information out, in order to be the first with “Breaking News,” just infuriates me. Then, even after some of the “facts” they reported were proven to be untrue, they continued to repeat the falsehoods. The police spokesman would say the stories they were reporting had no basis in fact, but even that didn’t stop them. Shame on them.
     There was a lot of misinformation, but what absolutely tipped the scale for me was the claim the shooter was Autistic. Would it have been too much to ask for someone to contact an Autism specialist, before they set an already maligned group of kids up to be bullied and feared? If you don’t think that was the reaction, call a school administrator and find out how many calls they fielded this weekend, asking that Autistic kids be separated from the “normal” kids. I’m not making that up. It is happening all over the country. Worse though is the fact that they reported it in the first place. They ran with an unverified story, and then after the fact asked the experts who told them in no uncertain terms, preplanned acts like this are not symptomatic of Autism. Yet, they continue to say, “We understand he may have been Autistic.” Shame on them.
     Accountability went out the window. Where is the apology from the news outlets? When are they going to say, we’re sorry we put ratings above truth? When are they going to start reporting the facts and not making them up as they go? I thought the election coverage was bad enough, but this - this makes me sick. The behavior of the news networks during this tragedy has been disgusting. This wasn’t journalism. This was downright gossip mongering. Shame on them.  
     Get out of that town and let these people mourn. Leave law enforcement alone and let them do their jobs. Stop making up the news. I, for one, would rather wait and hear the truth than wade through all the bullshit the media has been throwing at us. Lord, help us if we ever need the truth from these clowns to survive a catastrophe. I don’t believe a word they say anymore, none of it. I thought the purpose of the fourth estate was to make sure the truth prevailed. Shame on them, all of them.

“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful. It is as simple as that.” — Edward R. Murrow
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