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1. The Imitation Game and how far we’ve come

THE IMITATION GAME

SPOILERS: If you don’t know the story of Alan Turing and want to remain completely in the dark in regards to the plot of The Imitation Game, probably don’t read this.

As a dedicated Cumberbitch, of course I had to see The Imitation Game, in which my boyfriend Benedict Cumberbatch portrays genius and father of the modern computer Alan Turing.

Turing was a British mathematician, cryptographer, and marathon runner who helped break the Nazi Enigma code to bring an early cessation to World War II. The machine he used to break the code, “Christopher,” is the precursor to technology we use everyday, whether it be a computer or smart phone.

Post-war, Turing was found guilty of gross indecency, due to his homosexuality (a crime at the time) and sentenced to two years chemical castration through oestrogen injections in order to dissolve his libido. Due perhaps to the effects of the oestrogen, he killed himself at the age of forty-one.

Turing was never ashamed of his sexuality. He died a genius and a homosexual who has since been recognized for his accomplishments and for the unfortunate turn his life took as a gay male in the super paranoid 1950s.

The film, Imitation Game, follows Turing’s entire life through flashes into his past at boarding school, his present at Bletchley Park during World War II, and into his sad, horrible future, during the process of his chemical castration when he seemed ready to lose his mind.

Cumberbatch was ideally cast in the role of this awkward genius. He brings comedy, heart, and charisma to a man whose own mother called him “an odd duck.” The supporting cast is similarly enthralling, led by Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode (and a truly heart-wrenching portrayal by lesser-known Matthew Beard).

Screenwriter Graham Moore deserves every award possible for his flawless movement through time, choosing the moments in Alan’s life that shaped him the most. And I’d be remiss to not mention director Morten Tyldum, who guided and shaped the film into an emotional rollercoaster of joy, tragedy, and rage.

Cumberbatch has admitted he did not leave filming unscathed. During one scene, for instance, he had to portray Turing having an emotional breakdown. Surprise, surprise, Cumberbatch actually had a breakdown and couldn’t finish the scene.

director-morten-tyldum-narrates-620x400He told the Los Angeles Daily News, “I just got completely lost in his tragedy. I tried to pace myself for the scene, but I could not stop crying. I could not stop keening for this guy who was wronged. It disgusted and profoundly upset me.” As an audience member, I felt the same about Turing’s fate.

The film is brilliant in execution. The performances are spot-on. More than that, though, The Imitation Game informs people of what happened to Alan Turing and what happened to so many men like him in the first half of the twentieth century.

Gay men were once the drug dealers of today. They were persecuted and imprisoned for their “crime” (sexual preference). Can you image that happening now? No, but that doesn’t mean we’re in any way out of the woods where gay rights are concerned.

A dear friend of mine was recently attacked via an online discussion board at her college. Fellow students found out she was gay and offered to help her. They wanted to take her someplace where she could be “healed.” They wanted her to know she could be fixed, but as I told her, “Honey, you can’t fix stupid.” We still live surrounded by ignorance, and no matter how well intentioned, my friend’s fellow students really hurt her feelings.

Steps have been taken to stop discrimination against gays. Gay marriage is being allowed in more and more states around the country. We’re certainly not putting people away for sodomy anymore. (Half the straight population would probably be behind bars, too.) But there is still a long way to go for more than just gays—for the rights of all races, sexes, and creeds.

The Imitation Game is really about choices: choose who you love, choose who you save, and choose who you want to be. Finally, choose to accept the way you were born.


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2. Wow, some stuff happened this year!

I don’t believe in the whole new year, fresh slate shenanigans. I don’t do resolutions. January is another month. It marks nothing but another month. Despite this, I guess a new year number is a nice way to mark accomplishments. In homage, I spent this morning thinking back over 2014, professionally, and well, shit, a lot of stuff happened.

1. Short stories
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“Don’t Ball the Boss” in Stoneslide Corrective
Most read story of 2014 on the Stoneslide site
Nominated for a Pushcart Prize
“Just one more look, I tell myself. One more glance, and I’m back to my room down the hall, door locked, and hidden under the bed. But, for shit’s sake, he’s standing there, his shirt destroyed, his hair a mutinous rat’s nest, and his hot mouth swollen like he’s been punched. I’m proud that I did all this, but I can’t move.”

“The Youngest Brother” in Solarcide
“His chest rose and fell much too fast, and she watched his alcohol-soaked gaze jump back and forth over pavement. ‘I never wanted this. God, I never did.’ His voice cracked, but he kept the gun pointed at her chest. ‘What did they hire you to do? Kill me?'”

“How It Died” in Blank Fiction Magazine
“By the time I returned, the children were being ushered from the room, all of them sobbing except for the little boy with the dark hair and eyes. The drunken uncle had thrown up on the floor. The cat no longer moved. I stood above its corpse as the blood soaked the floor. I saw bone and soft tissue. Its green eyes stared up at me like marbles. She had literally eaten herself to death.”

“You Need My Shit” in The Molotov Cocktail
“My husband suggested I keep my revolver in a little box during our garage sale just in case. It never occurred to me to be worried about people robbing my African statue that looks like it’s taking a shit.”

“Map of Memories:” to be published in 2015 by Under the Gum Tree
“No Smoking:” to be published in 2015 by Akashic Books: Thursdaze

2. Novel
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Bite Somebody: A Bloodsucker’s Diary was completed in 41 days and is currently being shopped to literary agents nationwide.

“I’m a vampire, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. You know in movies how vampires are all super good-looking and confident and mysterious? I saw Interview with the Vampire. I’ve seen all the vampire movies made, like, ever. I thought maybe if I studied Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, I would wake up one night looking like Catherine Zeta Jones. Instead, I wake up with bed head and dry drool on the outside of my mouth and wonder what went wrong?

“Deciding to become a vampire was like deciding on a last minute tattoo. Walk into a tattoo parlor, half-tipsy, and say, ‘I want that one.’

“I thought becoming a vampire would fix everything and make me better. That’s what Danny said. Instead, it’s been three months, I haven’t bitten anyone, and I spend all my time drinking lukewarm blood from hospital donation bags when I’m not working the night shift at Happy Gas down the street from my crappy Florida apartment. And I have a crush on the smell of my neighbor.”

Read more at Wattpad.

3. Mental Health
I was very open about my own mental health this year (or lack thereof), through work and on my own personal blog. My favorites?
Let’s Talk About Cutting
I’m a depressive cutter, don’t let my sense of humor fool you

4. Photo shoots
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I did two this year, which is plenty, since hey, photo shoots can be a lot of work! One was in homage to Fight Club anti-hero Marla Singer (photographs by Chris Loomis) and the other was for my friend, Sara Santiago’s, “Myth of Modesty” series (photographs by Devon Adams).

5. Books read: 66.

6. Interviews
I had the chance to talk to several icons this year, including Amanda Palmer, Cary Elwes, Caitlin Moran, Gregory Maguire, Evangeline Lilly, and The Minimalists. I learned something special from each of them, and I feel blessed to have a job at SheKnows.com that allows me such access.

7. Book clubs
Thanks to Gina’s Team, the Perryville Prison women’s book club is still going strong, once a month. As of December, we’ve started two more at Skelley House women’s shelters in downtown Phoenix and at Mingus Mountain Academy (for troubled teens) in Prescott.

8. Benedict Cumberbatch
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How could I not include this beautiful man on the 2014 list? He’s made me plenty of money through work, and he’s built me an unexpected internet fanbase. Cumberbitches, unite!
How Benedict Cumberbatch helped my career
SK Confessional: I’m obsessed with Benedict Cumberbatch, and here’s why (This article earned me #1 on Google search, thank you.)
22 Things you don’t understand about the Benedict Cumberbatch obsession
11 Times Benedict Cumberbatch stood up for gay rights

Phew, I’m tired just looking at all this. I could get into the personal life changes, but well, that would be another thousand words. For now, join me in a slow clap of admiration over the passing of a successful 2014 and toast to more great things to come!


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3. 7 Best moments in Christmas movie history

1. Linus explains the reason for the season.

2. George Bailey is a man with many friends.

3. Bill Murray learns a couple things.

4. Clark freaks out.

5. Harry tells the truth.

6. Colin Firth falls in love.

7. I double dog dare you.


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4. Let’s go to Costco with an anxiety disorder!

zoolander

When my husband asks me to go to Costco, I feel like I’m being punished for doing something terrible. Not terrible as in I shrunk his favorite shirt in the washer. Terrible as in, “Wench, you burnt my chest hair with a blowtorch! Now, get ye to Costco!”

I was hellbent against joining the place, despite several of our friends’ insistence that Costco is “The Happiest Place on Earth” (which is actually Disneyland, but I’ve never had the heart to tell them). Jake talked me into it, but even walking in to get our membership cards, I remember thinking, “Oh, so this is what evil looks like.”

See, there’s this famous story in my family about my mom at Christmas time at Meijer, a superstore in my hometown. She was overstimulated by the lights and the crowds and she couldn’t find my dad, so they had to call his name over the loudspeaker: “Dave Dobie, paging Dave Dobie; please come collect your crazy wife in produce.”

The lesson learned? Stay away from superstores, especially if, like me, you suffer from an anxiety disorder.

Costco wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for EVERYTHING ABOUT IT. I headed there today, post-workout, so I felt all limber and jovial until I reached obstacle one: The Parking Lot of Death. I don’t know if my fellow consumers are literally trying to kill me or if their cell phones are so far up their asses that they’re uncomfortable and can’t reach the brakes because they’re too busy screaming, “Please, get this cell phone out of my ass.”

Then, in order to enter the members-only champagne room (there isn’t really champagne; there should be champagne), you have to show your members-only card, which I’m sure makes other people feel really special but just makes me feel like I’m about to enter Auschwitz.

You have to get a cart, because everything at Costco is in bulk, because Jake and I obviously require 30 ROLLS OF TOILET PAPER AT ALL TIMES. The shoppers at Costco move like sea turtles following city lights. They’re slow, vacant, and probably, someday, a huge bird will swoop down and bite their heads off. (I bet Costco owns huge birds! They probably stock the huge palates of 30-roll TP!) It’s impossible to be efficient, because everyone moves around the floor-to-ceiling aisles, mystified by the free food samples that probably cause cancer.

birdcage

 

Now, picture me: medium height, skinny, post-workout bandana, haunted look, and sallow cheeks. Picture me curling into a smaller and smaller ball on the top of my cart. I chew my lips. I stutter-step and try to breathe, but they apparently suck all the air out of Costco, and I CAN’T BREATHE! I have to hurry because if I don’t hurry I’ll die of asphyxiation, but I can’t hurry because the lady in size 20 jeans in front of me won’t decide if she wants fifty or one hundred pounds worth of hot dogs.

If you’re lucky enough to make it to the register, everything is almost all right. You pay, you smile, you run like hell for the door with all your toilet paper, but then, you have to pass the exit test where nice-looking ladies (who are probably vengeful dragons) check your tab and make sure you aren’t stealing anything. And then to The Parking Lot of Death!

By the time I’m back in my driver’s seat, my head is spinning and I’m thinking, “Why don’t I keep bourbon in my purse? I should totally keep bourbon in my purse.”

Costco is like hell with fluorescent lights and the smell of microwaveable food where the majority of its inhabitants are chubby and slow-moving. Maybe, just maybe, some of the customers never leave. They circle the aisles on auto-pilot. They forget their families, their names. They stay forever. They become Costco employees.


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5. Dear writers: How to be funny

Funky Tee / Flickr

Funky Tee / Flickr

If there’s one thing most writers agree on, it’s that comedy is hard. As I enjoy being contrary, I disagree. I think comedy is easy, if only you look to the greats and map out their devices. You’ll find most great comic writers use similar tools. I took recent cues from David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day) and Jenny Lawson (Let’s Pretend This Never Happened). In order to extrapolate what makes each of them “funny,” let’s take a look at the repeated techniques recognized in the works of each.

1. There’s a fine line between two much and just enough, but if you can walk that line, you’ve struck comic gold. Sedaris is a perfect example of this as he goes from totally over the top disgusting to (as Goldilocks would say) just right. For example, when describing his childhood language coach, he claims in her free time she “… devoted herself to yanking healthy molars or performing unwanted clitoridectomies on the schoolgirls of Africa.” Out in space? Most certainly. Then, he brings us back to Earth: “When asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, we hid the truth and listed who we wanted to sleep with when we grew up” and goes on to list manly men like policemen and firemen. This balances too much with something utterly relatable, which keeps his comedy from being grotesque parody and instead makes the shocking lines all the more funny because they stick out. It’s sort of like me saying “sad as a quadriplegic looking at monkey bars” and then pulling back to reiterate “or like an ex-smoker walking into Rick’s Café Americain and taking a seat next to Humphrey Bogart.”

2. Personal embarrassment is an immediate way to connect with the reader. Sedaris, of course, is the king of poking fun at himself. Despite his sometimes-derogatory study of others, he is cruelest to himself: “The only crimp in my plan was that I seemed to have no talent whatsoever.” This works, because if all Sedaris did was make fun of other people, the reader would tire of his judgments and Sedaris would lose his credibility. Jenny Lawson is the queen of self-degradation. Between segments of endless fun poked at her taxidermist father, she makes her own psychological illnesses into jokes. First, we are introduced to her hypochondria: “Sometime during the night I had been struck down with a case of lethal finger cancer.” Later, she dedicates an entire chapter to her anxiety disorder. She’s not afraid to embarrass herself, and again, this makes her laughable because she is not afraid to laugh at herself, just like the time I was really nervous at an art showing and told a group of men I barely knew I looked tired because “my husband and I just had sex in our kitchen, but don’t worry: I showered after.”

3. Perhaps my favorite tool is the art of exaggeration. This is a sneaky technique, one that creeps up on you. You’re reading along, enjoying the realistic ride of non-fiction essay, when all of a sudden, boom, Sedaris: “My fingernails had grown a good three inches by the time he struck his final note.” Lawson uses the tool on several different occasions. First, she writes her book might be too much for some readers, so she suggests, calmly, “getting another book that’s less disturbing than this one. Like one about kittens. Or genocide.” Exaggeration takes comedy and then takes it a step further … and further. It’s sort of like if I was to tell you I never open mysterious boxes delivered to my front door until I first check for any sign of Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, and/or Gwenyth Paltrow in my backyard without a head. Dead giveaway. I also pause March of the Penguins, which I listen to on repeat just so I can pretend Morgan Freeman is narrating my life.

4. Strong openings: they catch the reader off guard, set up the rest of the story, and often get a good chortle because who knew comedy could just jump on you like that? Having a strong comedic opening is like slapping your reader in the face with a funny club. Sedaris starts his essay “Big Boy” with a cheerful description of an Easter Sunday until he heads to the bathroom where he discovers “the absolute biggest turd I have ever seen in my life—no toilet paper or anything, just this long and coiled specimen, as thick as a burrito.” Lawson uses a similar technique with “I always assumed that the day I got engaged I’d be naked, covered in rose petals, and sleeping with the brother of the man who’d kidnapped me. And also he’d be a duke. And possibly my stepbrother.” Again, she uses a number of comic devices: strong opening and exaggeration (maybe; you never know if Lawson is actually exaggerating). Strong openings are crucial in all writing, but with comedy, getting a reader to laugh at line one is priceless. In fact, I probably should have opened this paragraph with “Holy shit, I just tripped over a three-legged dog.”

Okay, so maybe comedy isn’t that easy, but upon close study, it’s easy to identify techniques used by comic masters. When striving to amuse your reader, it’s important to walk the line between appropriate and could-land-you-in-prison. An author must learn to laugh at him or herself in order to be given full allowance to laugh at others. Exaggeration is your friend. Finally, open strong and stay strong. Now that the techniques have been recognized, the hard part will be adding such jewels into my own work. In this world filled with people who take themselves too seriously, being a comic is just as important as being a garbage man, doctor, or swanky salesman at a marijuana dispensary. Now, if I could only figure out where this three-legged dog in my living room came from.

(And hey, if you want some of my fictional comedy, read the first two chapters of Bite Somebody on Wattpad. Cheers.)


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6. I’m obviously going quite mad

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In the past week, my grandmother died, a friend of mine tried to commit suicide, I haven’t been sleeping, and eating is something forced upon me by my lovely husband. My neighbors already have Christmas decorations up, and radio stations are playing “Silver Bells” seemingly on repeat. I haven’t … no, I can’t write fiction. I’ve tried. I’m constantly on the verge of complete panic, and I’m beyond crying, the necessary water and salt expunged each night during my cold sweats. What does this mean?

I’m obviously going quite mad.

Madness is when even watching Doctor Who doesn’t make me happy. Madness is watching The IT Crowd on repeat. Madness is caring about nothing, not my work, not my housecleaning, not makeup or clean clothes. Madness is the inability to write and anger at books as a whole because books … I don’t even know! Books are even making me mad. MAD-NESS.

So what do we do, folks, what do we do?

Step 1: Admit you have a problem.
Step 2: Turn off the TV.
Step 3: Brush your teeth.
Step 4: That’s as far as I’ve gotten.

I feel like there are tiny gremlins in my stomach. They’re clawing to get out. I can see them: little green critters with fangs and wings who will eventually break free and go flitting about my house, their flapping wings casting blood spatter all over our rental property and everyone knows: blood is impossible to get out!

My dogs seem to sense something, because whenever I sit down, they sit on top of me, and my dogs each weigh about sixty pounds. They curl into little balls on my lap and lick my face, perhaps using doggie powers to exorcise the madness? They’re too close, suffocating if they weren’t so cute.

Jake, poor Jake, just holds me and makes sure I eat and tells me he loves me, he loves me, he loves me. I imagine, to him, my state of bonkers looks sort of like that scene in Pulp Fiction (“You shot Marvin in the face!”) which leaves my poor husband wondering how he’s going to get all the brain matter out of the upholstery.

Crazy. Looped. Nutso. Think Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.

If I look closely at the past week, I realize I have a pass. I can understand that a little madness is totally acceptable, especially since I don’t think I’ve even grieved the loss of my grandmother yet, so busy am I trying to keep my brain inside my skull. Grieving will come, when I’m back home, back in Ohio for the funeral in December. Until then, I’ve got to find a way to keep myself together and keep my jobs, because I LOVE MY WORK so why the hell have I been sucking so badly?

Says the Cheshire Cat: “We’re all mad here.” I should get a sign that says that to hang on my front door, some kind of warning for the wayward traveler like words on old sea maps: “There be monsters.”

Fact is I’m losing my damn mind (and/or it was lost a long time ago, depending on who you ask). This is the worst time of year to do so, with Thanksgiving and then the commercial explosion of Christmas. Even sane people go crazy this time of year. You gotta start December with your shit together! So what do we do, folks? WHAT DO WE DO?

Step 1: Admit you have a problem.
Step 2: Turn off the TV.
Step 3: Brush your teeth.
Step 4: Step out of the woods and desperately try to retrace your steps back to the path your life was on before this week so you don’t become the unwashed, stinky girl on the corner screaming about how the end is near while waving rubber chickens.


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7. Grandma Goes Home

grandma1

What do you do the morning after you lose someone you love? Even if that death was for the best, following months (years) of illness, suffering, and grief? We lost Grandma Schwind last night: the last remaining grandparent in my family, the matriarch. She left us at 7 PM. She navigated her way past the pain, the hospital bed, and all the other old, sick, and suffering at her nursing home to see Heaven and Papa and her beloved son, lost much too soon, Barney. Last night, Grandma went home.

It’s a relief really. Ten minutes prior to The Call from Ohio, I was having trouble eating. I was telling my husband how the wait was killing me. My chest ached with tears that would not fall, not until I felt Grandma’s absence. I’d been holding onto phantom pain for two days, ever since Grandma’s breathing changed, ever since she stopped eating. I hadn’t cried. The tears wouldn’t come. The saltwater simmered in my chest but would not boil, not until my mom called sobbing at 7 PM to say, “She’s gone.”

With those two words, tears came in earnest—sobs that shook my body as Jake held me until even the dogs came and wrapped us in their tail-wagging embrace. Jake said, “Some dogs can smell cancer. What makes you think they can’t smell when you’re upset?”

0011Leonilda Schwind was once a Macy’s sales clerk in New York City. Of Italian descent, she had that wicked foreign appeal; plus, she was gorgeous. I think my grandfather fell for her immediately when they met at that picnic in Central Park. They were married for sixty-six years before Papa died last October. They had four children, three grandchildren, and lots of great-grand dogs.

By the time Papa passed, he was one of the last of his friends still standing. Same with Grandma, and if the clouds rumble today, it’s because there is a huge party happening right now, above our heads. You might hear Frank Sinatra on a chilly breeze or maybe smell gin.

I don’t feel sad this morning. I’m sure, over the course of the day, there will be bouts of stark reality—the reality of death. It’s difficult, living so far away, when someone you love dies. It’s easy to pretend it isn’t real. A few months ago, even, there was a moment when I was on the phone with my mother, and I almost asked her to put Papa on the phone. I didn’t say the words, thank God; I hung up and stood there, shaking. And even years after my Uncle Barney’s death, I still have those moments when I think, “Oh, my GOD, he has to hear this …”

I know death is real. I know Grandma has gone home to her Lord, her family, her friends. I mourn the loss of the stubborn, funny, beautiful woman she was, not the bedridden sick person she became. There are so many memories, so many stories (too many to tell here). It’s a relief to know Grandma isn’t sick anymore. She’s probably in Heaven, her twenty-five-year-old New York self, glitzed up in the latest fashion (I picture a big hat) with her curly, black hair; big, shining eyes; and a smile that could light up all of Times Square. Papa is there, too, in his sailor uniform, his ears a little too big for his head. And Barney: thin and smoking cigarettes and laughing, laughing …

The older we get, the more people we know on the other side. Grandma might have had us here on Earth, but she had a crowd of revelers waiting for her arrival last night in Heaven. And of course, a kiss from Papa, and perhaps a quick, “What took you so long, Lee? I missed you.”

grandma


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8. Quotes from a Matt Haig alien: Remember how to live

I love British author Matt Haig for The Radleys, Dead Father’s Club, and now, The Humans, perhaps my favorite of his books—which is saying something. The Humans is about an alien who comes down to earth in the body of Professor Andrew Martin to erase the solving of a mathematical equation that could alter the course of human history.

However, the more time the alien spends among “the humans,” the more he becomes human. Instead of a book review, here are favorite quotes that trace the alien as he becomes more human but also quotes that speak to us as humans.

PS: Buy the damn book.

16130537“The manners and social customs too are a baffling enigma at first. The conversation topics are very rarely the things they want to be talking about, and I could write ninety-seven books on body shame and clothing etiquette before you would get even close to understanding them. Oh, and let’s not forget the Things They Do to Make Themselves Happy That Actually Make Them Miserable. This is an infinite list. It includes shopping, watching TV, taking the better job, getting the bigger house, writing a semiautobiographical novel, educating their young, making their skin look mildly less old, and harboring a vague desire to believe there might be meaning to it all.” (1)

“Everything in human life was a test. That was why they all looked so stressed out.” (33)

“I had read a lot of Isobel’s work and so I knew that the whole of human history was full of people who tried against the odds. Some succeeded, most failed, but that hadn’t stopped them. Whatever else you could say about these particular primates, they could be determined. And they could hope. Oh yes, they could hope.” (164)

“But what happened in Heaven? What did you do there? After a while, didn’t you crave flaws? Love and lust and misunderstandings, and maybe even a little violence to liven things up? Didn’t light need shade? Didn’t it?” (167)

“Love is scary because it pulls you in with an intense force, a supermassive black hole, which looks like nothing from the outside but from the inside challenges every reasonable thing you know. You lose yourself, like I lost myself, in the warmest of annihilations.” (187)

“In every human life there is a moment. A crisis. One that says, what I believe is wrong. It happens to everyone, the only difference being how that knowledge changes them. In most cases, it is simply a case of burying that knowledge and pretending it isn’t there. That is how humans grow old. That is ultimately what creases their faces and curves their backs and shrinks their mouths and ambitions. The weight of that denial. The stress of it. The single biggest act of bravery or madness anyone can do is the act of change.” (249)

“Happiness is possible for me now. It exists on the other side of hurt.” (250)

From the chapter “Advice for a Human:”

  • Don’t worry about your abilities. You have the ability to love. That is enough.
  • Sometimes, to be yourself you will have to forget yourself and become something else. Your character is not a fixed thing. You will sometimes have to move to keep up with it.
  • Tragedy is just comedy that hasn’t come to fruition. One day we will laught at this. We will laugh at everything.
  • Happiness is not out here. It is in there.
  • Don’t aim for perfection. Evolution, and life, only happen through mistakes.
  • Failure is a trick of the light.
  • A paradox: The things you don’t need to live—books, art, cinema, wine, and so on—are the thing you need to live.
  • You are lucky to be alive. Inhale and take in life’s wonders. Never take so much as a single petal of a single flower for granted.
  • You don’t have to be an academic. You don’t have to be anything. Don’t force it. Feel your way, and don’t stop feeling your way until something fits. Maybe nothing will. Maybe you are a road, not a destination.

“To experience beauty on Earth, you needed to experience pain and to know mortality. That is why so much that is beautiful on this planet has to do with time passing and the Earth turning. Which might also explain why to look at such natural beauty was to also feel sadness and a craving for a life unlived.” (271)

“If you came to Earth looking for logical sense, you were missing the point. You were missing a lot of things.” (278)

An endnote from Matt Haig:
“This is why I became a writer. I discovered that words and stories provided maps of sorts, ways of finding your way back to yourself. I truly believe in the power of fiction to save lives and minds.” (281)

Also, please watch this video Matt made entitled “How To Be A Writer,” because you’ll laugh until you cry. Especially if you’re a writer. Cheers.


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9. Halloween Horror Story: How It Died

In honor of Halloween, I offer you my newly released horror story, “How It Died,” published by Blank Fiction Magazine.

I hope everyone had a night of horrors. Maybe ghosts followed you home and dark creatures lingered in the corner of your eye. I hope you kept the pumpkin lit and danced around the fire. Halloween is the night when the dead come to visit. Were you ready to say hello?

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How It Died
by Sara Dobie Bauer
Published by Blank Fiction Magazine

My first and last November in Boston, I attended what Americans call Thanksgiving. My attendance was due to my romantic affiliation with Amy. I met her at the university where I was a graduate student and TA. She was also a graduate student, although of a different program. We met at one of those student mixers forced upon me by my advisor who insisted I “meet people.” Amy was the only woman present interested in mythology, and due to her high intelligence, we hit it off. I rarely hit if off with anyone.

I stood with a whiskey along the back wall of a living room crowded by family photos and semi-overweight family members. The men of Amy’s family sat in a half circle around the TV with a large tray between them, covered in salami-wrapped pretzels, potato chips and dip, and square-shaped orange crackers. Children ran in and out of the room, in and out, except one small, quiet little boy who knelt on the floor and pet the cat.

“John?” Amy arrived at my side. She was the only woman in my entire life that had ever called me John. Everyone else the world over called me Jonathan. However, due to her usage, the name spread. Her entire family called me John already, along with one drunken uncle who used the foul Johnny. “You doing okay?”

I nodded and looked cheerful.

She leaned up on her toes and whispered, “My sister thinks you’re a dream.”

I put my arm around her shoulders and kissed the side of her head. Amy was brilliant and petite. In heels, her blond head fit comfortingly beneath my chin. She had one of those short haircuts that made her look like a fairy and small hands that searched for me beneath bed sheets.

“Have you eaten?”

“I thought we were supposed to wait for the turkey.”

“Amy, sweetie.” We heard her mother’s voice from the kitchen. “Could you do the mashed potatoes? No lumps. You know the kids hate lumps.”

“Yeah, mom.” She kissed the side of my jaw and winked before leaving me once again alone to consider the fat men in uniforms on the TV screen. I decided instead to watch the quiet child who toyed with the family cat.

The little boy had dark hair and brown eyes, the opposite of Amy. He resembled my own childhood photos. He wore a little red shirt and jeans with stocking feet. I marveled at his smallness. I was never around children anymore—easy to forget they existed at all. This boy was very small, skinny, with a large head, and he used his soft, child’s hands to pet the cat and whisper in its ear.

The cat was another story. She was massive, fat, and awful, with long, white fur and wicked green eyes. Cats always made me uncomfortable. I suspected they were forever planning something, murder perhaps. How easy it would be for them to scratch out my throat as I slept. To think the foul creatures were once worshipped as gods, but they were a bit like God: feared and impossible to understand.

I watched the little boy coddle the cat. I listened to the sound of an electric beater in the kitchen, where Amy prepared lump-less mashed potatoes. The TV grew louder as cooking noise increased. Men yelled when a referee made an announcement inaudible over the sound of their outraged screams. I could hear my pulse beating in my brain. My head began to ache, so I focused on the child with the cat to stay calm. Amy had already told me cigarettes were forbidden at Thanksgiving; her mother would have cast me out like a leper.

The child stretched out on his stomach in front of the fat cat and rolled his little fingers into a tight fist. His mouth moved in soft whispers, and when he opened his hand, a shadow of darkness filled the cup of his open palm. He whispered some more and leaned closer to the cat until the cat opened its sharp-toothed mouth. They existed like that, together, perfectly still, until the shadow in the boy’s palm moved like a cloud of smoke toward the cat’s mouth and down its throat. Then, the boy touched the cat’s head happily and looked at me.

I almost dropped my drink when Amy touched my arm. “Dinner’s ready.”

(Things take a decidedly gruesome turn from here. Read the rest for a dollar at Blank Fiction Magazine. This issue also features a story from my spooky pal Tiffany Brown, so read, read … and scream! Happy Halloween!)

I don't like clowns.

I don’t like clowns.

Evil cat photo credit: Angels Dropping / Tumblr


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10. Gina’s Team gives me reason to hope (and live)

1459760_10151834598166033_1596191839_n
I’ve thought about giving up. No longer creating. No longer caring. It’s on these, the darkest days, that I end up at Perryville Prison or on a road trip to Prescott or, say, to a sober-living halfway house in downtown Phoenix. It’s on these darkest days that Gina’s Team has saved my life.

Gina’s Team was named for Gina Panetta, a young mother who died while serving time in an Arizona prison. In her memory, we actively promote education and self-sufficiency for incarcerated women and men in Arizona at no cost to the prisons.

My title at work is “Book Nerd,” and this title has perpetuated through my time with Gina’s Team. At first, it was a monthly book club at Perryville Prison. I am now expanding to start a book club for former inmates and recovering addicts in downtown Phoenix and also at Mingus Mountain Academy—a safe haven for troubled teenage girls.

One of my dark days occurred last Wednesday, when I woke at 6 AM and knew I had to head to Prescott to judge a poetry slam at Mingus. My anxiety was off the charts, and I had trouble remembering how to dress myself. Then, we—Gina’s Team—arrived at Mingus, and the slam began.

One girl’s name was called (coincidentally, Sarah), and she covered her face. She ran up to us and said she couldn’t do it, couldn’t read in front of a hundred of her peers. She looked to me for some nod that would allow her to sit down and give up. Instead, I pulled her aside and said, “I’m terrified to be here today. I’d much rather be under my bed, but I got up on that stage earlier. You can, too. Now, go read.”

skype-stay-together-ad-two-girls-huggingShe did. An excerpt from Sarah’s piece, written for the founders of Mingus, Bill and Pauline: “I didn’t care about my life, and I wanted to die. I fought every day and held in my pain. I was stuck on alcohol and self harm habits. I hit rock bottom, then one day, a staff sat me down to tell me the story of Bill and Pauline. I didn’t want to accept that someone once cared about girls lonely and scared.”

Sarah won third place. I have her judging numbers on the wall in my office as a reminder of that day, and I like to think Sarah looks at her third place certificate and thinks of Gina’s Team. I hope we did something for her that day.

Gina’s Team has had a huge effect on my life. I’ve met beautiful, broken women who I have helped to heal—at least a wound or two. Now, we’re expanding, reaching out to more women, more volunteers. So now, I need something from you.

Behind the scenes is a team of web masters, volunteer accountants, organizers … you name it, someone is doing it. The bad news: one of our computers just died. We are in desperate need of a new Mac, so we’ve started a GoFundMe campaign. In order to continue serving women at Perryville and young girls like Sarah at Mingus, we need efficient access to technology. Please consider giving just five bucks, ten bucks, something.

When I have my darkest days, Gina’s Team pulls me from my shell and shoves me into situations that should be scary. Instead, my experiences with Gina’s Team have left me enlivened and hopeful for the future. I will not give up, no matter my personal darkness, because there are women who need me. Gina’s Team won’t give up either. Please help us in our continued mission to change lives for the better.

Head to GoFundMe now and donate, and please spread the need to your friends, family, and social media circle. Thank you!


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11. Gina’s Team gives me reason to hope (and live)

1459760_10151834598166033_1596191839_n
I’ve thought about giving up. No longer creating. No longer caring. It’s on these, the darkest days, that I end up at Perryville Prison or on a road trip to Prescott or, say, to a sober-living halfway house in downtown Phoenix. It’s on these darkest days that Gina’s Team has saved my life.

Gina’s Team was named for Gina Panetta, a young mother who died while serving time in an Arizona prison. In her memory, we actively promote education and self-sufficiency for incarcerated women and men in Arizona at no cost to the prisons.

My title at work is “Book Nerd,” and this title has perpetuated through my time with Gina’s Team. At first, it was a monthly book club at Perryville Prison. I am now expanding to start a book club for former inmates and recovering addicts in downtown Phoenix and also at Mingus Mountain Academy—a safe haven for troubled teenage girls.

One of my dark days occurred last Wednesday, when I woke at 6 AM and knew I had to head to Prescott to judge a poetry slam at Mingus. My anxiety was off the charts, and I had trouble remembering how to dress myself. Then, we—Gina’s Team—arrived at Mingus, and the slam began.

One girl’s name was called (coincidentally, Sarah), and she covered her face. She ran up to us and said she couldn’t do it, couldn’t read in front of a hundred of her peers. She looked to me for some nod that would allow her to sit down and give up. Instead, I pulled her aside and said, “I’m terrified to be here today. I’d much rather be under my bed, but I got up on that stage earlier. You can, too. Now, go read.”

skype-stay-together-ad-two-girls-huggingShe did. An excerpt from Sarah’s piece, written for the founders of Mingus, Bill and Pauline: “I didn’t care about my life, and I wanted to die. I fought every day and held in my pain. I was stuck on alcohol and self harm habits. I hit rock bottom, then one day, a staff sat me down to tell me the story of Bill and Pauline. I didn’t want to accept that someone once cared about girls lonely and scared.”

Sarah won third place. I have her judging numbers on the wall in my office as a reminder of that day, and I like to think Sarah looks at her third place certificate and thinks of Gina’s Team. I hope we did something for her that day.

Gina’s Team has had a huge effect on my life. I’ve met beautiful, broken women who I have helped to heal—at least a wound or two. Now, we’re expanding, reaching out to more women, more volunteers. So now, I need something from you.

Behind the scenes is a team of web masters, volunteer accountants, organizers … you name it, someone is doing it. The bad news: one of our computers just died. We are in desperate need of a new Mac, so we’ve started a GoFundMe campaign. In order to continue serving women at Perryville and young girls like Sarah at Mingus, we need efficient access to technology. Please consider giving just five bucks, ten bucks, something.

When I have my darkest days, Gina’s Team pulls me from my shell and shoves me into situations that should be scary. Instead, my experiences with Gina’s Team have left me enlivened and hopeful for the future. I will not give up, no matter my personal darkness, because there are women who need me. Gina’s Team won’t give up either. Please help us in our continued mission to change lives for the better.

Head to GoFundMe now and donate, and please spread the need to your friends, family, and social media circle. Thank you!


0 Comments on Gina’s Team gives me reason to hope (and live) as of 10/22/2014 11:12:00 AM
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12. Urban Midnight: Embrace your inner psychopath

A chat with the director.

A chat with the director.


There’s a secret I hide. Few people know this secret, and they have kept quiet for the past twelve years. They can now break their silence, as I make this astounding announcement: I used to be an actress.

When writer pal Rasheda Poe asked me to be in her short film, I hedged. I was vague. I told her I wasn’t “actually an actress.” This is untrue. In high school, I was Theater Student of the Year as a senior. I earned my varsity letter as a thespian. In college, I minored in acting. My last stage show was in 2002, and I haven’t acted since.

Historically, I was cast as the bitch. I don’t know why. I’m not a bitch. I’m actually quite nice, but perhaps my snark comes across as bitchy. Perhaps men see me as bitchy (since I was always cast by men).

Rasheda saw the bitch in me, too. Well, the bitch and the psychopath. Her short film, entitled “Urban Midnight,” is about a seductive murderess. Rasheda wrote the role of Fiona with me in mind. It’s highly complimentary when one of your best friends thinks you’d make a perfect murderer, right? I think so.

Monday night, we spent five hours filming. I have a semi-photographic memory, which makes me super annoying to other actors. (I’m always correcting people.) I knew I could memorize the lines, but could I deliver them?

I arrived to the “set” (an extended stay hotel) and found myself surrounded by about ten film geek dudes. Yeah, Rasheda and I were the only girls, and I was in nothing but a robe. We joked about how the hotel probably thought we were filming porn, and yeah, I may have busted out the Old School line, “I’m here for the gang bang.”

Blood is so hard to wash off.

Blood is so hard to wash off.

Playing Fiona was like playing Hannibal Lecter: a lot of stillness with very little facial expression. My favorite part was when the boys covered me in chocolate syrup for fake blood (it’s what Hitchcock used for Psycho). Since the film was in black and white, this worked perfectly.

How did it feel to have the acting boots on again? I guess we should take a quick trip back to 2002 first.

In 2002, I was a sophomore at Ohio University, an acting major. I’d just been cast as the overbearing, bitchy older sister in a dark comedy about one man returning home for his father’s funeral. I had one scene in particular where it was just me in the center of the stage, giving my father’s eulogy, and finally breaking down. I physically ached after every performance.

It was reminiscent of when I starred in “To Absent Friends” in high school: a short play in which the viewer realizes, only at the end, that all the characters are dead. My friend, Emily, had to be escorted out of the theater by her boyfriend because she was so distraught by the shocking conclusion.

During my “actor days,” I understood the power of theater. I’m a movie buff to this day. In fact, I’m a movie snob and trivia expert. But in 2002, I realized I loved what actors did … but I hated acting. I switched to creative writing. Haven’t looked back since.

That said, since I’m a huge proponent of doing things that scare the shit out of me, I agreed to act in Rasheda’s short film, and I did have fun. I liked playing a sociopath, and the process was interesting: all the camera angles, the sound stuff, and “getting into character” with the help of my awesome costars. I slid back into it like a hand in a glove.

So shall I announce my victorious return to acting? Um, no. Making “Urban Midnight” was fun, but acting (although once my thing) is a very small part of my introverted, writer brain. Just like singing (something I can do but don’t really enjoy), acting will be one of those skills I keep in my back pocket in case Ben Cumberbatch calls and wants me to play his romantic lead.

Until then, I’ll tuck Fiona away but thank her (and Rasheda) for reminding me how fun it is to step outside my comfort zone for a couple hours and do something truly unique.


2 Comments on Urban Midnight: Embrace your inner psychopath, last added: 10/19/2014
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13. Urban Midnight: Embrace your inner psychopath

A chat with the director.

A chat with the director.


There’s a secret I hide. Few people know this secret, and they have kept quiet for the past twelve years. They can now break their silence, as I make this astounding announcement: I used to be an actress.

When writer pal Rasheda Poe asked me to be in her short film, I hedged. I was vague. I told her I wasn’t “actually an actress.” This is untrue. In high school, I was Theater Student of the Year as a senior. I earned my varsity letter as a thespian. In college, I minored in acting. My last stage show was in 2002, and I haven’t acted since.

Historically, I was cast as the bitch. I don’t know why. I’m not a bitch. I’m actually quite nice, but perhaps my snark comes across as bitchy. Perhaps men see me as bitchy (since I was always cast by men).

Rasheda saw the bitch in me, too. Well, the bitch and the psychopath. Her short film, entitled “Urban Midnight,” is about a seductive murderess. Rasheda wrote the role of Fiona with me in mind. It’s highly complimentary when one of your best friends thinks you’d make a perfect murderer, right? I think so.

Monday night, we spent five hours filming. I have a semi-photographic memory, which makes me super annoying to other actors. (I’m always correcting people.) I knew I could memorize the lines, but could I deliver them?

I arrived to the “set” (an extended stay hotel) and found myself surrounded by about ten film geek dudes. Yeah, Rasheda and I were the only girls, and I was in nothing but a robe. We joked about how the hotel probably thought we were filming porn, and yeah, I may have busted out the Old School line, “I’m here for the gang bang.”

Blood is so hard to wash off.

Blood is so hard to wash off.

Playing Fiona was like playing Hannibal Lecter: a lot of stillness with very little facial expression. My favorite part was when the boys covered me in chocolate syrup for fake blood (it’s what Hitchcock used for Psycho). Since the film was in black and white, this worked perfectly.

How did it feel to have the acting boots on again? I guess we should take a quick trip back to 2002 first.

In 2002, I was a sophomore at Ohio University, an acting major. I’d just been cast as the overbearing, bitchy older sister in a dark comedy about one man returning home for his father’s funeral. I had one scene in particular where it was just me in the center of the stage, giving my father’s eulogy, and finally breaking down. I physically ached after every performance.

It was reminiscent of when I starred in “To Absent Friends” in high school: a short play in which the viewer realizes, only at the end, that all the characters are dead. My friend, Emily, had to be escorted out of the theater by her boyfriend because she was so distraught by the shocking conclusion.

During my “actor days,” I understood the power of theater. I’m a movie buff to this day. In fact, I’m a movie snob and trivia expert. But in 2002, I realized I loved what actors did … but I hated acting. I switched to creative writing. Haven’t looked back since.

That said, since I’m a huge proponent of doing things that scare the shit out of me, I agreed to act in Rasheda’s short film, and I did have fun. I liked playing a sociopath, and the process was interesting: all the camera angles, the sound stuff, and “getting into character” with the help of my awesome costars. I slid back into it like a hand in a glove.

So shall I announce my victorious return to acting? Um, no. Making “Urban Midnight” was fun, but acting (although once my thing) is a very small part of my introverted, writer brain. Just like singing (something I can do but don’t really enjoy), acting will be one of those skills I keep in my back pocket in case Ben Cumberbatch calls and wants me to play his romantic lead.

Until then, I’ll tuck Fiona away but thank her (and Rasheda) for reminding me how fun it is to step outside my comfort zone for a couple hours and do something truly unique.


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14. Lesson Learned

935764_30449266
A week ago today, my short story, “Don’t Ball the Boss,” was published in one of my favorite literary magazines, Stoneslide Corrective. I’d been waiting months for the big unveiling, and when I saw my story (mine) flash across the homepage, I was thrilled. Then, something unexpected happened.

Well. I mean, nothing happened.

I don’t know if I expected a call from Stephen Colbert, inviting me to be on his show. Maybe a couple literary agents on my front stoop, begging to sign me? Helicopters circling my house?

Nope. Nothing. Radio silence.

I thought publishing was supposed to make me happy. Getting my work out there was supposed to make me complete. Instead, despite the honor of publication, I felt empty.

The next morning, my Aunt Susie and I headed to Prescott, where we wandered the streets and ate too much food. As we passed through the center square, a young woman in a woolen cap asked me if I had any cash. I lied and said “No, sorry,” but I did give her a cigarette, which made her smile.

Susie headed back to our hotel for a nap, and I made a sudden decision. I found the young homeless girl (along with her husband) and said, “Can I buy you guys a beer?” They wouldn’t have been more shocked if I’d offered them a mansion in the Hollywood Hills.

Beverly and Josh took me to the Whiskey Row Pub: a great dive with tons of TVs and pool tables. Once there, I bought us a round of PBRs. Beverly and Josh explained that they’d both lost their jobs as bartenders and were currently sleeping behind a dumpster—hiding as best they could to avoid a police fine (because it makes so much sense to fine people who can’t afford to sleep indoors).

Nightlife_0000_Whiskey-Row-PubWith wet eyes, Josh kept saying, “You’re so cool.” I slipped Beverly as much cash as I could afford, and even though she refused a couple times, she eventually accepted when I told her, “You have to eat.” Last I saw them, we were hugging on the street, and they were headed to Vegas to seek greener pastures. I wish I had taken their picture.

I haven’t stopped thinking about Beverly and Josh. I gave her one of my business cards, but did I do enough? They reminded me of the hitchhiker I picked up weeks ago who couldn’t afford a ride to Perryville Prison to see her incarcerated daughter for her thirtieth birthday. That woman, Karen, got in my car and couldn’t stop crying, saying, “Thank you, thank you,” until I thought her vocal chords might give out. I had to calm her down before she could go into the prison, because the officers aren’t really fans of hysterics.

In church yesterday, my pastor talked about the story in Luke of the four friends who carried their paralyzed buddy to the roof and lowered him into a crowded room just so Jesus could touch the guy—which sent me into a complete panic because again, I thought of Beverly and Josh: Did I do enough? Did I do enough? God, I didn’t do enough.

I’m sorry to say work has taken a back seat the past couple days. Although I’m still thrilled to see my name on the Stoneslide Corrective website, the past week has made me rethink what matters. Do I want to be interviewed by Stephen Colbert due to my obvious literary genius? Of course. But as I’ve learned, the buzz of celebrity lasts about as long as a mug of PBR.

The ache in my chest for Beverly, Josh, and Karen has lasted for days and shows no sign of ceasing. I might pick up hitchhikers. I might hang out with the homeless. I might run a book club at Perryville Prison. But I’m not doing enough, not enough lasting good. Not yet.

I will seek ways to serve people and not my ego, because serving my ego makes me feel nothing but a short-lived bump. Our egos cannot be filled. Our egos are bottomless pits that consume and consume. But doing something for someone in need? That feeds the divinity in all of us, and if we do enough, maybe the hunger—the constant striving—will cease. Maybe we will feel whole.

For now, my thoughts are with Beverly and Josh as they travel north. I know they got to take a shower Friday, and this thrilled them when we spoke Tuesday afternoon. I hope they’re all right. God, please let them be all right. I’m sorry I didn’t do more.


9 Comments on Lesson Learned, last added: 10/8/2014
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15. Lesson Learned

935764_30449266
A week ago today, my short story, “Don’t Ball the Boss,” was published in one of my favorite literary magazines, Stoneslide Corrective. I’d been waiting months for the big unveiling, and when I saw my story (mine) flash across the homepage, I was thrilled. Then, something unexpected happened.

Well. I mean, nothing happened.

I don’t know if I expected a call from Stephen Colbert, inviting me to be on his show. Maybe a couple literary agents on my front stoop, begging to sign me? Helicopters circling my house?

Nope. Nothing. Radio silence.

I thought publishing was supposed to make me happy. Getting my work out there was supposed to make me complete. Instead, despite the honor of publication, I felt empty.

The next morning, my Aunt Susie and I headed to Prescott, where we wandered the streets and ate too much food. As we passed through the center square, a young woman in a woolen cap asked me if I had any cash. I lied and said “No, sorry,” but I did give her a cigarette, which made her smile.

Susie headed back to our hotel for a nap, and I made a sudden decision. I found the young homeless girl (along with her husband) and said, “Can I buy you guys a beer?” They wouldn’t have been more shocked if I’d offered them a mansion in the Hollywood Hills.

Beverly and Josh took me to the Whiskey Row Pub: a great dive with tons of TVs and pool tables. Once there, I bought us a round of PBRs. Beverly and Josh explained that they’d both lost their jobs as bartenders and were currently sleeping behind a dumpster—hiding as best they could to avoid a police fine (because it makes so much sense to fine people who can’t afford to sleep indoors).

Nightlife_0000_Whiskey-Row-PubWith wet eyes, Josh kept saying, “You’re so cool.” I slipped Beverly as much cash as I could afford, and even though she refused a couple times, she eventually accepted when I told her, “You have to eat.” Last I saw them, we were hugging on the street, and they were headed to Vegas to seek greener pastures. I wish I had taken their picture.

I haven’t stopped thinking about Beverly and Josh. I gave her one of my business cards, but did I do enough? They reminded me of the hitchhiker I picked up weeks ago who couldn’t afford a ride to Perryville Prison to see her incarcerated daughter for her thirtieth birthday. That woman, Karen, got in my car and couldn’t stop crying, saying, “Thank you, thank you,” until I thought her vocal chords might give out. I had to calm her down before she could go into the prison, because the officers aren’t really fans of hysterics.

In church yesterday, my pastor talked about the story in Luke of the four friends who carried their paralyzed buddy to the roof and lowered him into a crowded room just so Jesus could touch the guy—which sent me into a complete panic because again, I thought of Beverly and Josh: Did I do enough? Did I do enough? God, I didn’t do enough.

I’m sorry to say work has taken a back seat the past couple days. Although I’m still thrilled to see my name on the Stoneslide Corrective website, the past week has made me rethink what matters. Do I want to be interviewed by Stephen Colbert due to my obvious literary genius? Of course. But as I’ve learned, the buzz of celebrity lasts about as long as a mug of PBR.

The ache in my chest for Beverly, Josh, and Karen has lasted for days and shows no sign of ceasing. I might pick up hitchhikers. I might hang out with the homeless. I might run a book club at Perryville Prison. But I’m not doing enough, not enough lasting good. Not yet.

I will seek ways to serve people and not my ego, because serving my ego makes me feel nothing but a short-lived bump. Our egos cannot be filled. Our egos are bottomless pits that consume and consume. But doing something for someone in need? That feeds the divinity in all of us, and if we do enough, maybe the hunger—the constant striving—will cease. Maybe we will feel whole.

For now, my thoughts are with Beverly and Josh as they travel north. I know they got to take a shower Friday, and this thrilled them when we spoke Tuesday afternoon. I hope they’re all right. God, please let them be all right. I’m sorry I didn’t do more.


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16. “Don’t Ball the Boss” featured in Stoneslide Corrective and playful smut ensues

“Don’t Ball the Boss” is a whopper of a good time. If you’re offended by homosexuality, cussing, or super hot British actors, do not read. This hilarious and irreverent short story is featured in The Stoneslide Corrective today, and I dedicate every word to the adoring Cumber Collective and/or my Cumberbitches (depending on how you identify). Definitely rated R.

Don’t Ball the Boss
by Sara Dobie Bauer

Rule number one: don’t fuck the boss. Even if he is doing that thing he does when he’s nervous. He pulls on the cuffs of his dress shirt. I don’t think he even knows he does it, and the movement makes me want to rip that Dolce and Gabbana shirt right off. I pretend not to watch.

There are five of us in his hotel room. His driver is in the restroom; then, there’s his tailor and me. His blond agent sits on the edge of his bed with her smart phone. She’s talking to someone and says, “Not her. Don’t make him sit next to her at the premiere.” I can tell she’s eating this up, the way America is eating him up, the way I would love—Jesus, I’m fucking starving.

a1e18c7cbcc4fa18cec0a9520b8444e2“David?”

I give myself permission to look at him when he addresses me.

The tailor, an old dude with glasses like Olivier in Marathon Man, drapes a tuxedo coat over his shoulders.

“How’s the fit?”

I casually address six feet of British politeness and fold my hands over my crotch. “Perfect, sir.”

“I keep telling you not to call me sir. Call me Nicholas.”

Not Nick. I’ve noticed no one calls him Nick. And tonight is his night.

***

A friend called a week ago and asked if I was looking for work. In Hollywood, shit, we’re always looking for work. I’m a personal assistant to the stars, and I’m real good—like Meryl Streep at Oscar time good. They say I’m discreet and subservient; stars like that.

So my pal calls up and tells me there’s this up and coming British star on his way over for a movie premiere. The film is huge, the kind that makes back its budget in a night, and this Brit plays the bad guy. He’s never been to Hollywood. He needs someone who knows the right barbers, tailors, call girls …

That’s where I come in: David Baron, assistant to the stars. And I’m not given to flights of fancy.

I’ve assisted maybe a hundred newbie celebs over the years and felt not a twitch in my pants. I took one look at Nicholas Pike and thought about quitting because PA’s don’t fuck the client. In the business, we tell stories about PA’s who did. They end up as homeless hookers.

***

We’re standing around, waiting to leave for his big movie premiere, and his agent won’t shut up. God, I hate her, been listening to her ever since Nicholas got here. She’s too blond, fake blond, and her British accent isn’t like his. Nicholas is all Oxford-sounding; she’s like the wenches in Oliver Twist. She has terrible style, too—wears pink lipstick, and nobody outside 1985 wears pink lipstick.

She’s giving Nicholas the time breakdown for tonight’s movie premiere, and he’s rubbing the space between his neck and shoulder. He’s been doing that a lot, but unlike the cuff pulling, this isn’t a nervous twitch. He injured his neck doing a stunt for a film he’s making in England. I know this because he told me. He tells me a lot of things.

For instance:
He’s never once in his life considered smoking a bad habit.
Without a stylist, he would have no idea how to dress himself.
Finally, he believes his sudden and newly realized status as a sex symbol makes no sense. (Quote: “I’ve had the same face since I was twenty!”)

I explained to him days ago it’s all about the role. A role can make somebody, and although I haven’t seen him play the villain, I have no doubt: he’s made it. He’s been doing appearances all week, me at his side, and when we step outside the limo, it’s mania. Women are everywhere, screaming his name, waving pictures for him to sign, and he does sign them. We’ve been late to every single appearance this week, because he loves signing things, having his picture taken. He loves his fans, and I wonder if this is a British thing. He has more manners than an auditorium full of nuns.

I’m his assistant, yet he makes sure I order first at restaurants. He holds the door—for me. He smiles at me in crowds, apparently to make sure I’m all right, and it’s his manners that do it. The manners make me want to fuck him, just shove him against a wall somewhere and swallow his protests with hot, sloppy kisses.

How do things end up for David and Nicholas?

FIND OUT AT STONESLIDE CORRECTIVE!


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17. “Don’t Ball the Boss” featured in Stoneslide Corrective and playful smut ensues

“Don’t Ball the Boss” is a whopper of a good time. If you’re offended by homosexuality, cussing, or super hot British actors, do not read. This hilarious and irreverent short story is featured in The Stoneslide Corrective today, and I dedicate every word to the adoring Cumber Collective and/or my Cumberbitches (depending on how you identify). Definitely rated R.

Don’t Ball the Boss
by Sara Dobie Bauer

Rule number one: don’t fuck the boss. Even if he is doing that thing he does when he’s nervous. He pulls on the cuffs of his dress shirt. I don’t think he even knows he does it, and the movement makes me want to rip that Dolce and Gabbana shirt right off. I pretend not to watch.

There are five of us in his hotel room. His driver is in the restroom; then, there’s his tailor and me. His blond agent sits on the edge of his bed with her smart phone. She’s talking to someone and says, “Not her. Don’t make him sit next to her at the premiere.” I can tell she’s eating this up, the way America is eating him up, the way I would love—Jesus, I’m fucking starving.

a1e18c7cbcc4fa18cec0a9520b8444e2“David?”

I give myself permission to look at him when he addresses me.

The tailor, an old dude with glasses like Olivier in Marathon Man, drapes a tuxedo coat over his shoulders.

“How’s the fit?”

I casually address six feet of British politeness and fold my hands over my crotch. “Perfect, sir.”

“I keep telling you not to call me sir. Call me Nicholas.”

Not Nick. I’ve noticed no one calls him Nick. And tonight is his night.

***

A friend called a week ago and asked if I was looking for work. In Hollywood, shit, we’re always looking for work. I’m a personal assistant to the stars, and I’m real good—like Meryl Streep at Oscar time good. They say I’m discreet and subservient; stars like that.

So my pal calls up and tells me there’s this up and coming British star on his way over for a movie premiere. The film is huge, the kind that makes back its budget in a night, and this Brit plays the bad guy. He’s never been to Hollywood. He needs someone who knows the right barbers, tailors, call girls …

That’s where I come in: David Baron, assistant to the stars. And I’m not given to flights of fancy.

I’ve assisted maybe a hundred newbie celebs over the years and felt not a twitch in my pants. I took one look at Nicholas Pike and thought about quitting because PA’s don’t fuck the client. In the business, we tell stories about PA’s who did. They end up as homeless hookers.

***

We’re standing around, waiting to leave for his big movie premiere, and his agent won’t shut up. God, I hate her, been listening to her ever since Nicholas got here. She’s too blond, fake blond, and her British accent isn’t like his. Nicholas is all Oxford-sounding; she’s like the wenches in Oliver Twist. She has terrible style, too—wears pink lipstick, and nobody outside 1985 wears pink lipstick.

She’s giving Nicholas the time breakdown for tonight’s movie premiere, and he’s rubbing the space between his neck and shoulder. He’s been doing that a lot, but unlike the cuff pulling, this isn’t a nervous twitch. He injured his neck doing a stunt for a film he’s making in England. I know this because he told me. He tells me a lot of things.

For instance:
He’s never once in his life considered smoking a bad habit.
Without a stylist, he would have no idea how to dress himself.
Finally, he believes his sudden and newly realized status as a sex symbol makes no sense. (Quote: “I’ve had the same face since I was twenty!”)

I explained to him days ago it’s all about the role. A role can make somebody, and although I haven’t seen him play the villain, I have no doubt: he’s made it. He’s been doing appearances all week, me at his side, and when we step outside the limo, it’s mania. Women are everywhere, screaming his name, waving pictures for him to sign, and he does sign them. We’ve been late to every single appearance this week, because he loves signing things, having his picture taken. He loves his fans, and I wonder if this is a British thing. He has more manners than an auditorium full of nuns.

I’m his assistant, yet he makes sure I order first at restaurants. He holds the door—for me. He smiles at me in crowds, apparently to make sure I’m all right, and it’s his manners that do it. The manners make me want to fuck him, just shove him against a wall somewhere and swallow his protests with hot, sloppy kisses.

How do things end up for David and Nicholas?

FIND OUT AT STONESLIDE CORRECTIVE!


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18. BOOK REVIEW: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Five months ago, Valerie’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire in their high school cafeteria. He targeted people who made their “Hate List:” a collection of people who harassed them, picked on them, and made their lives at Garvin High a living hell. Valerie had no idea he was going to go this far, but in his way, Nick did it for her. To stop the bloodshed, Valerie ended up getting shot before Nick took his own life.

Now, Valerie must return to her high school with an injured leg and face the consequences of Nick’s actions and their shared Hate List—which of course made the news. People aren’t sure if she’s a victim, a hero, or an accomplice, and many students are shocked Valerie even returned. How dare she show her face after the pain she and her boyfriend caused?

6316171Hate List is author Jennifer Brown’s debut, and what a way to arrive on the literary scene. Hate List is very dark, but interestingly, Brown is a two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award. Obviously, she’s multi-talented.

As you may expect, Hate List is not—not—an easy read. Despite beautiful flowing prose and a likeable protagonist in Valerie, I spent most of my reading time in tears. This book is considered YA fiction, but for me, it read like a ghost story.

Valerie is haunted by the memory of Nick, the boy she loved. The intimate flashbacks of how they met and fell in love make his ultimate murder spree all the more painful. Nick and Valerie were happy together. They acted like teens in love, stealing kisses, laughing, chasing each other around kitchen counters over the sound of Valerie’s giggles. The memory of Nick haunts her, and she still can’t believe what he did. When they talked about their Hate List, suicide, and murder, how did she not see that he was serious?

Valerie is the town villain when she returns to school, and she’s surrounded by a cast of characters you either like or thoroughly dislike. Her parents are an absolute mess and blame her for the shooting (as do many of her fellow students). She finds solace in her supportive therapist, Dr. Hieler; in unlikely classmate Jessica; and in crazy painter lady, Bea. Still, Valerie’s healing has nothing to do with them—not really. On her own, she needs to say goodbye to the past and forgive Nick. Forgive herself.

This book made me rethink so much of my own high school experience. How many people did I wrong? How many mean things did I say? Since my friends and I were nerds, we had a nickname for the popular girls: Snob Squad. I channeled my hate into cutting myself, but what would I have done, pushed to the edge like Nick?

stop-bullying-sourceNick the shooter is one of the most sympathetic characters in Hate List. We see him through Valerie’s flashbacks, and he was charming, sweet, and abused by his fellow classmates. Even though the cafeteria shooting scene is horrific, I couldn’t help but feel attached to the ghost of this young man. If only someone had saved him before it was too late. He haunts the pages of Jennifer’s Brown’s debut. He haunts me now.

I wish this book could be required reading in junior highs across America, but Lord knows, it would get banned. Much like the idiotic principal at Garvin High who wants the media to believe the students have recovered from the massacre and that they’re all lovey-dovey after the fact, the world wants us to believe “the kids are all right.”

The kids aren’t all right. We never were. How many of us suffered through depression and thoughts of suicide in high school? How many of us had friends who actually went through with it—ended up hanging from their parents’ chandelier in Small Town, Ohio? I did. Although I did not have a Hate List, I hated people. And hate leads to nothing good.

I suggest Jennifer Brown’s debut to teens and adults alike (especially adults with children). There is a lot to learn here about love, forgiveness, and the poison of bullying turned to anger and violence. How do good kids become monsters? The step by step process is there if we’re willing to look. Instead, we turn a blind eye.

Well, open your eyes. Hate is real, and its consequences are devastating. Buy the book HERE.


1 Comments on BOOK REVIEW: Hate List by Jennifer Brown, last added: 9/25/2014
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19. How to Lose Your Virginity

In 2013, director/writer Therese Shechter released the shocking documentary How to Lose Your Virginity. I wasn’t shocked by words like “hymen” or “penis.” I was shocked by our country’s ignorance.

Therese waited longer than most to have sex. When she finally decided to “do it,” she said, “It wasn’t so much because I had found Mr. Right but because I had grown tired of waiting for him.” It was in that moment, in a basement apartment, that Therese realized all the hype about losing her virginity really was just hype. There was no earth shattering before and after. She was still Therese, but she was Therese who’d once had a penis inside her.

The hype surrounding virginity is really a problem. I’m not saying losing your virginity is something to rush into. I waited until I was twenty-seven, and thank God, because I was finally mature enough by then to deal with sex’s ramifications. Thanks to How to Lose Your Virginity, though, I see how insane America is about purity and the unfortunately clichéd theory of “saving yourself.”

How_to_Lose_Your_Virginity,_Official_DOC_NYC_Poster,_Nov_2013Did you know there are “Purity Balls?” In these ceremonies, seven- and eight-year-old girls metaphorically hand their virginity off to their fathers who will then someday hand that gift off to the girl’s husband. Antiquated (and frankly, creepy) practices like this are the reason girls get married so young: so they can finally have sex.

According to the film, one in six American girls take purity pledges. There’s even a Purity Pledge Facebook page. States are financially rewarded for teaching abstinence-only sex education, the product of which seems to be more teens having sex but being stupid about it. I’m all for waiting, but the way we’re educating teens about sex is just making things worse. Abstinence-only education is the sexual equivalent of Hitler burning books.

In How to Lose Your Virginity, Therese does an amazing job of interviewing varied and well-informed sources. She talks to magazine editors, sex educators, and a man on his way to becoming a woman. I was really impressed, honestly, with the creator of the porn series Barely Legal: a woman who had a horrible first sexual experience at the age of thirteen who now uses Barely Legal to rescript a woman’s first time into something sexy and passionate instead of awkward and uncomfortable.

Therese addresses the idea of virgin versus slut. She also questions what defines “virgin” anyway? She looks at the development of history and how patriarchal motifs have made women into objects to own, just as our virginity is something we “give away” like a birthday gift.

How to Lose Your Virginity is not blatantly sexual. It is not offensive. It is true and powerful. At certain points, I was laughing. At other points, I was wrathful. For instance, one abstinence avowing psychopath said she did support gays being abstinent, as well, until marriage … but since her organization did not believe in gay marriage, gay people have to be celibate their entire lives. One young man was asked the reasonable number of sexual partners to have in a lifetime. According to him, men could have as many as they wanted, while women could only have five.

This documentary will rile you up as well as inform you. I suggest it to anyone—women and men alike—who believe in sexual freedom. As Therese says, instead of “giving up” our virginity, let’s give up our myths about virginity. Preach, sister.

For more info, visit http://www.virginitymovie.com. Also, please check out this amazingly informative website for youth: http://www.scarleteen.com.


2 Comments on How to Lose Your Virginity, last added: 9/11/2014
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20. Skydiving and/or “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?”

skydiving
A friend of mine was a pilot who served his country well. Due to his experience, he never understood why someone would pay to go skydiving. In his words: “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?”

My tandem mate Tod asked me this same question last week at Skydive Phoenix as I prepared to do just that. Why? Why would I choose to jump out of a plane at eight thousand feet? I wish I had a good answer, but as I told Tod’s nifty video camera, “I was bored.”

Now, I realize most so-called “normal human beings” wouldn’t get bored and decide to plummet toward Earth with a bag on their back, but you know me: I’m the girl who swam with sharks in Belize; who loves haunted houses and cemeteries at night. I’m the girl who likes to be scared.

When I arrived at Skydive Phoenix Thursday morning, I felt immediately at home. I was surrounded by people younger than me who seemed to be having a damn fine time just hangin’ together. I met Tod, who reminded me of a rock band roadie mixed with a Southern Florida surfer dude. Turns out he was from Ohio. As I chose my Ohio University “House Beer” t-shirt for my jump, we hit it off immediately.

There was little prep work. Sure, I signed all the paperwork that said Jake couldn’t sue anyone if I ended up a pancake. Then, I put on a harness, and we walked to a plane the size of an SUV. The video camera (strapped to Tod’s wrist) came along, and Tod kept asking, “Nervous yet?” Should I be concerned that I wasn’t?

The itty-bitty plane climbed to eight thousand feet. Tod and I were strapped together as we slid to the open door. My last moment of clarity: With my left foot outside the plane, I stared down at the desert below. Then, we jumped.

I can’t say the free fall is clear. I don’t exactly remember the way my body felt, and my mind was blown blank by adrenaline. I think I was screaming (we’ll see once I get the video tape back). What I can say with assurance: the free fall was over much too fast.

As we swung above the earth, tethered to our parachute, the first thing that came to mind: “I need to do this again.”

I had a perfect landing (thank you very much), and I felt like my spirit was still eight thousand feet high. The cool chick at the Skydive Phoenix office confirmed my belief that after skydiving, there are two things that should happen: a cigarette and sex.

I have to thank the team at Skydive Phoenix for making my experience so easy, enjoyable, and fun (including the guy who said he was going to undertake his hundredth jump nude. Now, that would be something to see!). Tod was the perfect crazy person to be tied to, and I already have intentions to do a thirteen thousand-foot jump in the near future.

There’s something about doing irresponsible things that makes me feel alive. Since my jump, all sorts of people have called me crazy for doing it, but I think they’re just jealous they don’t have the balls to let go. Do something that scares you. Do something that makes you freak. Stop working and wake up for a second. Find your own “plane,” and make the jump.


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21. Need feedback: BITE SOMEBODY query letter

205d7b0535b92381bbc264a5adca7bdc

Query letters are supposed to be catchy, succinct, and intriguing. They’re also a pain in the ass to write. As I prepare to sell my manuscript, Bite Somebody, I must first prepare a dreaded query letter. That’s where you come in.

Kindly read the following query letter and tell me if it a) makes you wanna read my book and b) flows and/or makes sense. If all goes well, maybe I’ll mention you in the Acknowledgments.

Bite Somebody Query Letter: First Draft

All Celia wanted was her first bite and a cute boyfriend.

She expected her life to change when she became a vampire, but she’s the same chubby, awkward Pretty Woman-loving girl she’s always been. Abandoned by her maker, the opportunity for change arrives in the form of Ian, her new neighbor at Florida’s Sleeping Gull Apartments.

Ian is a goofy ex-surfer who likes Jeopardy and, to her surprise, Celia. Despite the nagging of Imogene, her only vampire friend, Celia can’t get her fangs to go “boing” at the right time, and her first bite seems less and less attainable.

When Ian makes his romantic move, Danny, Celia’s jerk of a creator, returns for a favor. He wants to harvest Ian’s human blood, because Ian’s blood smells like Christmas wrapped in bacon and they could make a fortune. But the last thing Celia wants is her cute boyfriend dead.

Bite Somebody: A Bloodsucker’s Diary is a 75,000 word YA paranormal romance parody set at the beach, and nothing and nobody are what they seem.

My name is Sara Dobie Bauer. I’m a vampire enthusiast and fan of Christopher Moore and Gregory Maguire. I earned my creative writing degree from Ohio University and am the official book nerd at SheKnows.com. My short fiction has appeared in The Molotov Cocktail, Stoneslide Corrective, and Solarcide.

A full synopsis and manuscript are available upon request. Intelligent vampire fans who don’t take themselves at all seriously thank you.


5 Comments on Need feedback: BITE SOMEBODY query letter, last added: 9/19/2014
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22. BOOK REVIEW: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Five months ago, Valerie’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire in their high school cafeteria. He targeted people who made their “Hate List:” a collection of people who harassed them, picked on them, and made their lives at Garvin High a living hell. Valerie had no idea he was going to go this far, but in his way, Nick did it for her. To stop the bloodshed, Valerie ended up getting shot before Nick took his own life.

Now, Valerie must return to her high school with an injured leg and face the consequences of Nick’s actions and their shared Hate List—which of course made the news. People aren’t sure if she’s a victim, a hero, or an accomplice, and many students are shocked Valerie even returned. How dare she show her face after the pain she and her boyfriend caused?

6316171Hate List is author Jennifer Brown’s debut, and what a way to arrive on the literary scene. Hate List is very dark, but interestingly, Brown is a two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award. Obviously, she’s multi-talented.

As you may expect, Hate List is not—not—an easy read. Despite beautiful flowing prose and a likeable protagonist in Valerie, I spent most of my reading time in tears. This book is considered YA fiction, but for me, it read like a ghost story.

Valerie is haunted by the memory of Nick, the boy she loved. The intimate flashbacks of how they met and fell in love make his ultimate murder spree all the more painful. Nick and Valerie were happy together. They acted like teens in love, stealing kisses, laughing, chasing each other around kitchen counters over the sound of Valerie’s giggles. The memory of Nick haunts her, and she still can’t believe what he did. When they talked about their Hate List, suicide, and murder, how did she not see that he was serious?

Valerie is the town villain when she returns to school, and she’s surrounded by a cast of characters you either like or thoroughly dislike. Her parents are an absolute mess and blame her for the shooting (as do many of her fellow students). She finds solace in her supportive therapist, Dr. Hieler; in unlikely classmate Jessica; and in crazy painter lady, Bea. Still, Valerie’s healing has nothing to do with them—not really. On her own, she needs to say goodbye to the past and forgive Nick. Forgive herself.

This book made me rethink so much of my own high school experience. How many people did I wrong? How many mean things did I say? Since my friends and I were nerds, we had a nickname for the popular girls: Snob Squad. I channeled my hate into cutting myself, but what would I have done, pushed to the edge like Nick?

stop-bullying-sourceNick the shooter is one of the most sympathetic characters in Hate List. We see him through Valerie’s flashbacks, and he was charming, sweet, and abused by his fellow classmates. Even though the cafeteria shooting scene is horrific, I couldn’t help but feel attached to the ghost of this young man. If only someone had saved him before it was too late. He haunts the pages of Jennifer’s Brown’s debut. He haunts me now.

I wish this book could be required reading in junior highs across America, but Lord knows, it would get banned. Much like the idiotic principal at Garvin High who wants the media to believe the students have recovered from the massacre and that they’re all lovey-dovey after the fact, the world wants us to believe “the kids are all right.”

The kids aren’t all right. We never were. How many of us suffered through depression and thoughts of suicide in high school? How many of us had friends who actually went through with it—ended up hanging from their parents’ chandelier in Small Town, Ohio? I did. Although I did not have a Hate List, I hated people. And hate leads to nothing good.

I suggest Jennifer Brown’s debut to teens and adults alike (especially adults with children). There is a lot to learn here about love, forgiveness, and the poison of bullying turned to anger and violence. How do good kids become monsters? The step by step process is there if we’re willing to look. Instead, we turn a blind eye.

Well, open your eyes. Hate is real, and its consequences are devastating. Buy the book HERE.


0 Comments on BOOK REVIEW: Hate List by Jennifer Brown as of 1/1/1900
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23. Need feedback: BITE SOMEBODY query letter

205d7b0535b92381bbc264a5adca7bdc

Query letters are supposed to be catchy, succinct, and intriguing. They’re also a pain in the ass to write. As I prepare to sell my manuscript, Bite Somebody, I must first prepare a dreaded query letter. That’s where you come in.

Kindly read the following query letter and tell me if it a) makes you wanna read my book and b) flows and/or makes sense. If all goes well, maybe I’ll mention you in the Acknowledgments.

Bite Somebody Query Letter: First Draft

All Celia wanted was her first bite and a cute boyfriend.

She expected her life to change when she became a vampire, but she’s the same chubby, awkward Pretty Woman-loving girl she’s always been. Abandoned by her maker, the opportunity for change arrives in the form of Ian, her new neighbor at Florida’s Sleeping Gull Apartments.

Ian is a goofy ex-surfer who likes Jeopardy and, to her surprise, Celia. Despite the nagging of Imogene, her only vampire friend, Celia can’t get her fangs to go “boing” at the right time, and her first bite seems less and less attainable.

When Ian makes his romantic move, Danny, Celia’s jerk of a creator, returns for a favor. He wants to harvest Ian’s human blood, because Ian’s blood smells like Christmas wrapped in bacon and they could make a fortune. But the last thing Celia wants is her cute boyfriend dead.

Bite Somebody: A Bloodsucker’s Diary is a 75,000 word YA paranormal romance parody set at the beach, and nothing and nobody are what they seem.

My name is Sara Dobie Bauer. I’m a vampire enthusiast and fan of Christopher Moore and Gregory Maguire. I earned my creative writing degree from Ohio University and am the official book nerd at SheKnows.com. My short fiction has appeared in The Molotov Cocktail, Stoneslide Corrective, and Solarcide.

A full synopsis and manuscript are available upon request. Intelligent vampire fans who don’t take themselves at all seriously thank you.


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24. Skydiving and/or “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?”

skydiving
A friend of mine was a pilot who served his country well. Due to his experience, he never understood why someone would pay to go skydiving. In his words: “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?”

My tandem mate Tod asked me this same question last week at Skydive Phoenix as I prepared to do just that. Why? Why would I choose to jump out of a plane at eight thousand feet? I wish I had a good answer, but as I told Tod’s nifty video camera, “I was bored.”

Now, I realize most so-called “normal human beings” wouldn’t get bored and decide to plummet toward Earth with a bag on their back, but you know me: I’m the girl who swam with sharks in Belize; who loves haunted houses and cemeteries at night. I’m the girl who likes to be scared.

When I arrived at Skydive Phoenix Thursday morning, I felt immediately at home. I was surrounded by people younger than me who seemed to be having a damn fine time just hangin’ together. I met Tod, who reminded me of a rock band roadie mixed with a Southern Florida surfer dude. Turns out he was from Ohio. As I chose my Ohio University “House Beer” t-shirt for my jump, we hit it off immediately.

There was little prep work. Sure, I signed all the paperwork that said Jake couldn’t sue anyone if I ended up a pancake. Then, I put on a harness, and we walked to a plane the size of an SUV. The video camera (strapped to Tod’s wrist) came along, and Tod kept asking, “Nervous yet?” Should I be concerned that I wasn’t?

The itty-bitty plane climbed to eight thousand feet. Tod and I were strapped together as we slid to the open door. My last moment of clarity: With my left foot outside the plane, I stared down at the desert below. Then, we jumped.

I can’t say the free fall is clear. I don’t exactly remember the way my body felt, and my mind was blown blank by adrenaline. I think I was screaming (we’ll see once I get the video tape back). What I can say with assurance: the free fall was over much too fast.

As we swung above the earth, tethered to our parachute, the first thing that came to mind: “I need to do this again.”

I had a perfect landing (thank you very much), and I felt like my spirit was still eight thousand feet high. The cool chick at the Skydive Phoenix office confirmed my belief that after skydiving, there are two things that should happen: a cigarette and sex.

I have to thank the team at Skydive Phoenix for making my experience so easy, enjoyable, and fun (including the guy who said he was going to undertake his hundredth jump nude. Now, that would be something to see!). Tod was the perfect crazy person to be tied to, and I already have intentions to do a thirteen thousand-foot jump in the near future.

There’s something about doing irresponsible things that makes me feel alive. Since my jump, all sorts of people have called me crazy for doing it, but I think they’re just jealous they don’t have the balls to let go. Do something that scares you. Do something that makes you freak. Stop working and wake up for a second. Find your own “plane,” and make the jump.


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25. How to Lose Your Virginity

In 2013, director/writer Therese Shechter released the shocking documentary How to Lose Your Virginity. I wasn’t shocked by words like “hymen” or “penis.” I was shocked by our country’s ignorance.

Therese waited longer than most to have sex. When she finally decided to “do it,” she said, “It wasn’t so much because I had found Mr. Right but because I had grown tired of waiting for him.” It was in that moment, in a basement apartment, that Therese realized all the hype about losing her virginity really was just hype. There was no earth shattering before and after. She was still Therese, but she was Therese who’d once had a penis inside her.

The hype surrounding virginity is really a problem. I’m not saying losing your virginity is something to rush into. I waited until I was twenty-seven, and thank God, because I was finally mature enough by then to deal with sex’s ramifications. Thanks to How to Lose Your Virginity, though, I see how insane America is about purity and the unfortunately clichéd theory of “saving yourself.”

How_to_Lose_Your_Virginity,_Official_DOC_NYC_Poster,_Nov_2013Did you know there are “Purity Balls?” In these ceremonies, seven- and eight-year-old girls metaphorically hand their virginity off to their fathers who will then someday hand that gift off to the girl’s husband. Antiquated (and frankly, creepy) practices like this are the reason girls get married so young: so they can finally have sex.

According to the film, one in six American girls take purity pledges. There’s even a Purity Pledge Facebook page. States are financially rewarded for teaching abstinence-only sex education, the product of which seems to be more teens having sex but being stupid about it. I’m all for waiting, but the way we’re educating teens about sex is just making things worse. Abstinence-only education is the sexual equivalent of Hitler burning books.

In How to Lose Your Virginity, Therese does an amazing job of interviewing varied and well-informed sources. She talks to magazine editors, sex educators, and a man on his way to becoming a woman. I was really impressed, honestly, with the creator of the porn series Barely Legal: a woman who had a horrible first sexual experience at the age of thirteen who now uses Barely Legal to rescript a woman’s first time into something sexy and passionate instead of awkward and uncomfortable.

Therese addresses the idea of virgin versus slut. She also questions what defines “virgin” anyway? She looks at the development of history and how patriarchal motifs have made women into objects to own, just as our virginity is something we “give away” like a birthday gift.

How to Lose Your Virginity is not blatantly sexual. It is not offensive. It is true and powerful. At certain points, I was laughing. At other points, I was wrathful. For instance, one abstinence avowing psychopath said she did support gays being abstinent, as well, until marriage … but since her organization did not believe in gay marriage, gay people have to be celibate their entire lives. One young man was asked the reasonable number of sexual partners to have in a lifetime. According to him, men could have as many as they wanted, while women could only have five.

This documentary will rile you up as well as inform you. I suggest it to anyone—women and men alike—who believe in sexual freedom. As Therese says, instead of “giving up” our virginity, let’s give up our myths about virginity. Preach, sister.

For more info, visit http://www.virginitymovie.com. Also, please check out this amazingly informative website for youth: http://www.scarleteen.com.


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