Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Raven Ladies on Hold

The Raven Ladies on Hold

The Raven Ladies series includes The Gunfighter and the Gear-head, The Steam-Powered Sniper in the City of Broken Bridges, The Gunfighter's Gambit, and book one of the Ravens from the Ashes prequel trilogy all based on a short story in the Astral Liaisons short story collection. As of now, I'm sad to say the series is on hiatus for the foreseeable future.

I love Fiona, Gieo, Veronica, Ramen, Tabitha and all the other characters of the post apocalyptic old west, which makes this decision exceedingly difficult. The fact that the series is by far my best selling series and The Gunfighter and the Gear-head is arguably the only hit book I've written only makes the hiatus more difficult, but I feel it is necessary, essential really.

When I began writing the books back in 2010, I didn't really like guns. My wife (then girlfriend) was from a gun-loving family, but even though my family has a history of military service and hers doesn't, I wasn't raised with or around guns the way she was. She took me shooting at a range in Brea before we moved across country to Florida to try to get me used to the idea of the gun her parents wanted us to have for protection. I hated it. I hated shooting, I hated the gun, I hated the idea of having it anywhere near me. Since she was largely indifferent and doing it only to make her parents happy, we skipped the gun and I'm glad every day that we don't have a gun in the house.

To write these books accurately, which I desperately cared about, I had to spend an enormous amount of time looking up information about guns on the internet, talking to my in-laws, and consulting with the members of the military in my family. I didn't like doing any of this either, but it was far enough from holding and shooting an actual gun that I made my peace with the process required to depict a gunfighter like Fiona even though I'm way more like Gieo who barely touches a gun in the first book and only reluctantly when she finally does.

I could list all the school shootings, mass shootings, and individual acts of police brutality that resulted in people being shot, but I couldn't point to an individual event that has broken me. It's a combined weight and I can't breathe under it, or, more specifically, I can't write under it. I can't look up gun information on the internet. I can't talk to my in-laws about guns. I can't ask questions of military members in my family. I can't write about bullet holes, gunshot victims, or the death and destruction firearms inflict. I've spent months trying to figure this out, trying to divine a way to continue the books without guns, and I couldn't come up with anything. Guns are essential to the series in a way I deeply regret.

This wasn't a publisher's call. No editor decided this for me. No public outcry forced my hand. I made the decision to discontinue the series on my own, knowing full well it'll probably hurt my brand, my sales, and disappoint my most loyal readers. All I can say is, I'm sorry. I wish I was stronger to overcome this crushed feeling, or a more devoted artist to persevere through my discomfort for the sake of the work, or a better writer to be able to write my way out of the mess I created. But I'm not.

I'm stepping away from the series not simply out of principle, although that's certainly a more noble reason and part of what motivated me, but mostly because I can't do it anymore. I can't see what guns are doing to children and innocent people all over our country every day and then sit down to write about how they're saving the fictional world I created and the characters in it.

I'll be focusing on other projects for the foreseeable future and I can only hope people enjoy them as much as the Raven Ladies. Again, I apologize to fans of the series for this unceremonious halting mid-story, and I hope you can understand my reasons.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Pintor Noche

Pintor Noche

Alternate History / Women Sleuths / Steampunk / Mystery
Available through Amazon - Barnes&Noble - Kobo

I started this book long before all the political strife in Catalonia. If you haven't followed that situation, the basic summary is a region in northeastern Spain called Catalonia, where Barcelona is, has declared independence from Spain and the Spanish government came down on them hard. So I dedicated my book about Barcelona to the people of Catalonia as a sign of solidarity with their struggle for self-determination even as the situation continues to evolve.

For whatever reason, lesbians love mystery novels. I have a few theories as to why, but they're kind of stupid and silly and probably not at all right, so I'll skip going into any of them. The fact remains: lesbians love mystery novels. Why haven't I written one before Pintor Noche if I'm aware of this fact? Because I don't actually read mystery novels. Yep, I am one of a tiny handful of lesbians roaming the literary landscape with no mystery novels in my reading diet. Then I read a few steampunk mystery novels and realized the genre could include the tech stuff I like and often have elements of romance. Romance is my jam.

Pintor Noche is the culmination of a ton of research and talking to painters, Spaniards, detectives, and engineers. What I came up with is probably less accurate than most alternate history writing, but perhaps more historical than many mysteries...or maybe that's just what I'm telling myself. Whatever was sacrificed in accuracy was done in the name of fun, adventure, and a good story. And I'll stick by that even under intense interrogation by a Spanish Inspector.

Barcelona is burning!
The police are powerless to discover the identity of the Pintor Noche, the Night Painter, who has turned the summer of 1905 into an arsonist’s masterpiece. In desperation Inspector Esperanza seeks out Desdemona, the daughter of his legendary former mentor and predecessor Inspector Amina. Implementing the latest in forensic science, Desdemona teams up with the Inspector to hunt down the Pintor Noche before one of his fiery works of art consumes the entire city. With the help of her painter paramour, Santene, and a roguish French journalist, Yvette, Desdemona struggles to navigate the perilous worlds of the aristocracy, Sephardic gangsters, and secret societies to chase the ghost of a man who paints with fire.

Sample Chapter:

Chapter 1

Sun from the trio of skylights in the studio warmed Desdemona Amina’s skin, telling her it was getting on toward noon. The task of an artist’s model was to maintain stillness in the face of crushing boredom. It wasn’t Desdemona’s preferred work, but she could not deny Santene anything. She watched her lover paint, focusing closest on Santene’s caramel-colored eyes as they wandered from her form, to the palette, and finally to the canvas. Desdemona believed she could tell which part of her Santene was painting based on the micro reactions of her face. A blush to the cheek, faint smile, light sweat on her upper lip, slightly arched eyebrow, all hinted at the different areas of the painter’s focus and the affects Desdemona’s nude form was having on the artist. Santene’s messy, brown curls falling free of the loose bun she always placed her hair in while painting, the fullness of her pursed lips when she concentrated, and the voluminous cleavage created by her corseted dress all served to arouse similar reactions in the model as she watched the artist engrossed in her process. It was only a matter of time, probably even before the sun reached it zenith, when Santene would abandon her paints to join Desdemona on the litter of pillows and sheets. Morning light in the workshop was best for painting while afternoon sun in Barcelona was meant for drinking wine, napping, and making love.
The tension building between them even as the sun warmed the little studio to an uncomfortable level was shattered by a terse knock upon the peeling white door. Desdemona let out a sigh and flopped, face down, onto the blue, satin pillow she’d formerly reclined on. Santene set aside her palette and brush on a nearby stool and rose to answer the door. Before Santene could even fully open the door, the feminine, artistic energy of the room was shattered. Inspector Esperanza charged into the studio, remembering only manners enough to snatch the bowler hat from his head within a few steps. He was a tall, slender man, dressed smartly in a pale, gray suit with gleaming copper buttons. His black hair was mussed every so slightly and a dappling of sweat clung to his immaculately tended moustache indicating he’d been walking briskly in the morning heat.
Señorita Amina, at last I’ve found you,” Inspector Esperanza said, averting his eyes quickly from her nude form.
“At last I am found,” Desdemona muttered. She slipped from the pillows to retrieve her robe. “I wasn’t aware I was sought.”
Inspector Esperanza shifted his focus from one of the many cracks in the plaster on the far wall to look instead at Santene’s work in progress. He cocked his head to one side and then the other in much the same way a chicken might study a particularly puzzling kernel of corn.
“Why is there so much purple to the front edge of her skin?” Inspector Esperanza asked.
“It is an undertone in the process of drying,” Santene explained. “Skin has many shades to it that are built in layers. Señorita Amina has lovely violet hints to her skin in the right light.”
“She looks brown to me,” Inspector Esperanza said, “a pleasant shade of brown to be sure, but brown nevertheless.”
“Certainly you didn’t come all this way to discuss color layering in skin and paint,” Desdemona said, eager to be rid of the Inspector.
“In a manner of speaking, I did,” the Inspector said. “There was a fire last night that I believe was the most recent arson committed by the Pintor Noche. The night’s victims reside in the Moro district…” The Inspector worried the rim of his hat in his hands, trying to avoid the indelicacy of what came next.
“…and they won’t talk to you,” Desdemona surmised.
“Only enough to tell me the quickest way out of their district,” the Inspector said, forcing a chuckle. “Jests aside, I can pay you for your time. I don’t know how lucrative modeling for painters is…”
“You’re supposed to be paying me?” Desdemona asked of Santene with a flirty smirk.
“Only if I plan to sell the work, but I was going to hang this particular painting in my bedroom,” Santene said, “for personal use, you understand.”
“I believe I know the wall you mean.” Desdemona returned her attention to the Inspector, who had grown a few shades redder from the coquettish banter passing between the two women. He was a good Catholic man with a thunderous boring streak who eschewed the houses of burlesque and drinking of absinthe. Desdemona suspected she could send him into an apoplectic fit if she kissed Santene in his presence. Entertaining though that might be, she decided it also might spoil her chance at gainful employment. “Very well, Inspector, I’ll look into the matter.”
“Excellent, here is the address.” The Inspector produced a slip of paper from the front pocket of his suit vest and handed it to her. “I shall meet you at the crime scene within the hour if you are able.”
Desdemona took the paper, scanned the address, and glumly deduced she would not have time to enjoy any carnal delights with Santene if she expected to meet the Inspector’s timeframe. “Barely enough time to lace a boot,” she murmured, “but I’ll manage.”
The Inspector bowed to each of them in turn and then hurriedly exited the studio. Immediately upon his departure, Desdemona let her robe drop and began searching amid the painting supplies, canvases, and set props for her clothing. She could feel Santene’s eyes upon her the entire time, which only served to make the room feel warmer and her imminent departure more loathsome.
“I suppose I’ll head down to the docks to sketch sea birds if you’re going to be occupied this afternoon,” Santene grumbled.
“If you buy clams and wine, I can cook them for you,” Desdemona said.
“If you make me dinner, you will have to stay the night,” Santene countered.
“If I stay the night, you will have to provide breakfast in the morning.”
“Your terms are acceptable Señorita Amina.” Santene stood from her painting stool, crossed to Desdemona, and gave her a light kiss on the shoulder before collecting her sketching implements. “Until this evening.”
Desdemona dressed quickly in her yellow, corseted dress, at least as quickly as the cumbersome garment would allow, and drew up her hair into a bun to hold it beneath the matching, wide-brimmed hat. In bohemian districts she could get away with more sensible attire, but she had to cross several posh streets to get to Santene’s studio, and her skin color was already a source of sideways glances depending on the hues of each neighborhood.
She stepped from the subdued studio into the bustle and life of the city. The smell of roasting lamb floated on the air amid the dust of the ancient streets. She turned down the handle on the side of her Penny-Farthing bicycle’s rear wheel. The motor was of her own design, working in much the same way as a pocket watch to spin the small, rear wheel of the bicycle rather than forcing her to peddle the much larger front wheel. It worked marvelously well around the flatter parts of the city, especially when she was wearing a dress that required her to ride sidesaddle. With the mechanism wound, she rolled the bike forward enough to get it going, stepped onto the peg along the back frame, and swung herself up into the saddle atop the four foot tall front wheel. She flicked the drive release on the moustache handlebars and set off at a clicking, jaunty pace over the cobblestone streets. Certainly she could have purchased one of the new Rover Safety Bicycles that had the lowered frame for ladies to still peddle while wearing a dress, but she rather enjoyed the view from the top of her Penny-Farthing and the nearly unstoppable gait provided by the large front wheel.
The bike ticked like a Swiss pocket watch through the city, over the bridges, across the dusty bits of road in the unpaved sections, and around the busy corner at the La Pedrera. The rich scent of pipe and cigar smoke sat heavy atop French perfumes and colognes amid the gentlemen and women walking leisurely down the thoroughfare. The vibe and pace of Barcelona was slow and sumptuous in comparison to Paris or Berlin, but no less taken with the bohemian revolutions in art, literature, and intellectualism. A strange bit of nationalism for her city arose in Desdemona during the ride, and she found herself a little cross that someone was burning down parts of it. By the time she arrived in the Moorish district she’d come to the conclusion she would locate the vandal regardless of what the constabulary might pay her.
The Moors of Spain, especially on the Mediterranean coast, were a diverse lot inside of the larger Islamic community, although the rest of Spain saw them as one darkened group with inconsequentially different shades. Desdemona was of Moroccan descent, mixing Arab blood with African for a thousand years before her ancestors came to Spain where the blending continued until she only thought of herself as Spanish and her Muslim roots were completely lost to the modernizing influences of Europe. In the neighborhoods set aside for the Moors, who had once conquered and ruled the entirety of the Iberian peninsula, there were proper Arabs, a few Turks, countless Libyans, and Africans from beneath the Sahara—all of which had dealings with Moroccans and all of which would see her as a go-between for the Muslims and the Catholics even though she wasn’t particularly fond of either group despite being an amalgamation of both.
She could smell the lingering smoke of the doused fire long before she saw the burned timbers of the scorched section of the district. Inspector Esperanza was already at the scene with his carriage waiting across the litter-strewn street from the burned out husks of buildings that constituted the scene of the crime. The owners of the five burned buildings were already gathered around the Inspector to voice their complaints while refusing to answer any of his questions. As luck would have it, they were also Moroccan Moors.
Desdemona goosed the spoon brake on her bike to slow it and slid off the back. She tapped her foot on the motor’s release along the way and grabbed the frame of the bike to walk it to a stop so she might lean it against the side of the Inspector’s carriage. She may as well have arrived with a platoon of soldiers, waving the Spanish flag above her head for the immense relief her entrance instilled in Inspector Esperanza.
“Excellent, Señorita Amina, if you’d be so kind,” the Inspector stepped boldly behind her, armed with his little notepad and scrap of a pencil to record what information she might draw from the increasingly agitated Moros.
“Which shop did the fire originate in?” Desdemona asked.
A haberdasher, with his sleeves rolled up and suspenders bedecked in sewing pins stepped forward. “That would be mine,” he said, curtly nodding to her with his head of perfectly shellacked black hair.
“And do you have any reason to believe you were the target of the arson for malicious purposes?” Desdemona asked. “Any enemies? Recent threats made against you? Disgruntled former employees? Unsatisfied customers? Anxious lovers or an enraged wife?”
The other men chuckled behind the haberdasher’s back. He proudly titled his head back and grunted his disdain at the question. “I am a tailor of fine suits and coats for gentlemen of discerning taste but modest means. I have always worked alone, I am well-liked by my customers, respected by my competitors, and live a celibate life with my extremely devout wife.”
She was all too familiar with the haberdasher’s type since his description fit nicely many of the married couples she’d known of both Muslim and Catholic persuasions. The haberdasher’s shop may have been where the fire started, but she did not believe he was the true target for the flames. Response times for Spanish fire departments were slow and their capabilities upon arrival were haphazard; a fire in one shop would almost certainly consume several other surrounding structures before the blaze could be contained and a clever, increasingly experienced arsonist likely knew these things all too well.
She took similar statements of incredulity from a pawn broker, an art dealer, a type-setter, and an unfortunate man whose house happen to partially burn down and was then knocked completely over by the firemen attempting to stop the flames from spreading. If there was a motive to be found in the bunch, it was known only to the Pintor Noche.
“Splendid work, I suppose,” Inspector Esperanza said when Desdemona was done ascertaining that the victims were as they appeared: humdrum citizenry with unfortunate luck. “You’ve uncovered a witness description of a man in a top hat with a cane fleeing the scene at a brisk walk. This would describe every man of even moderate means within the whole of Europe and much of America.”
“Perhaps, but not many within the Moro neighborhood,” Desdemona said.
“So our suspect is Blanco,” Inspector Esperanza said. “We already believed this.”
“Of the other fires, how many struck similar businesses to these?” Desdemona asked, ignoring the Inspector’s petulance for the moment.
“Almost all of them have involved a haberdasher. Perhaps the Pintor Noche detests finely attired gentlemen or he had an unsatisfactory suit alteration that drove him to revenge,” the Inspector offered.
“How many other suit-makers are there in Barcelona?” Desdemona wondered.
“Not counting the people who do a bit of sewing and alterations out of their homes, perhaps a couple dozen or more,” the Inspector said. “We are a fashionable city, after all.”
At the very least, it seemed farfetched to her that the arsonist was targeting tailors over a matter of billing or style. No doubt the records of customers at each establishment were consumed in the flames, paperwork being entirely flammable and all. Still, there had to be more to the fire-bug’s elusiveness than simply choosing a plentiful target in a seemingly random pattern.
“I will need the addresses of all the other fires and a street map current enough to list the businesses that stood near the fires in the last year or so,” she said.
“I’ve looked over all these materials and more already,” the Inspector said, “besides, you were hired to take statements at this location and you’ve done so. The constabulary has things well in hand.”
“If the constabulary did indeed have a satisfactorily progressing investigation, I imagine the Moro district fire would have been largely ignored,” Desdemona said. “Instead you hired an outside agent to take statements in hopes of finding a lead regardless of the disinterest in the particular victims of the latest vandalism. No, no, no Señor Esperanza, you do not have things well in hand.”
The collected victims of the arson, along with several other curious denizens of the neighborhood who had congregated around the investigation to eavesdrop on a scrap of news or gossip, broke into subdued, yet sincere, clapping for Señorita Amina’s cutting oration. Inspector Esperanza harrumphed, waggled his moustache, and straightened his bowler from the fashionable tilt he’d formerly worn it in to a sterner slant. The posturing of his authority evaporated almost as quickly as he’d bedecked himself in it. She was right and he knew it.
“Your contract will be with me, Señorita Amina, and not the constabulary.” He smoothed his moustache with two fingers before producing a pad of paper from the breast pocket of his suit. “You are an outside consultant only, not a deputized or temporarily sanctioned agent of the city. This appointment most certainly does not allow you to carry a firearm or represent yourself as a figure of authority to any Blanco citizens.”
“And would they believe me even if I did,” Desdemona said.
“Let us hope not.” The Inspector scribbled out a contract on his pad of paper, signed it tersely, and handed it to Desdemona. Within moments he was back in his carriage, banging on the outside of the door with the flat of his palm to indicate to the driver he was ready to depart. “I will have the pertinent materials brought to your apartment as soon as they are ready for transport,” the Inspector said as a parting comment.
Desdemona walked the crime scene for another hour after the Inspector departed. She spoke at length with the witnesses she believed might reveal more after the Blanco authority was gone. They did reveal more, if only in placing blame on the police and the dominant culture as a whole for cultivating an arsonist they seemed incapable of capturing. Eventually, after she began wholly ignoring their gripes, the crowd dispersed to return to whatever business was left to them after the fire. She sketched the paths she believed the fire followed based on concentration of ash. Santene would have done a far more artistic job of rendering the scene, although aesthetics were not required for accuracy and she didn’t feel like bringing her Blanca paramour to the Moro district just yet, especially not when it was so justifiably riled by nocturnal arson.
When she’d finally walked and sketched the entirety of the crime scene, successfully staining the bottom hem of her skirt and her boots black in the process, she deduced that the fire appeared to follow prescribed paths through the buildings. Whether or not this was a product of fire’s natural proclivities or something the arsonist planned, she could not say. She purchased from a nearby shop a number of small glass jars and then collected ash samples from multiple locations within the scene to compare at a later date. Research and testing would be required to learn the true nature of fire; an arsonist knew the flame like a lover and so she would need to follow suit to find him.
Even a clever man would have to abide by the laws of nature that dictated fire’s behavior—in that, she believed she could find a pattern and hopefully a clue as to his motive.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Your Hottest Video Game Girlfriends


Let's talk ladies, specifically digital ladies. This is one of those lists that wouldn't even be possible when I first got into video games, even 10 years ago it would have been incredibly short. We've come a ways, I'm not willing to say a long ways just yet because there's this huge road ahead even if the distance traveled so far seems long because there's all this other...yanno what enough waxing poetic. This is about awesome digital ladies you can hang with in video game land and right now, the world needs escapism. Seriously, reality has gone nucking futs--go play some games.

Liara T'Soni -- Mass Effect

Like the picture? It's a desktop wallpaper--just sayin'
That's Doctor Liara T'Soni, hunnie! Okay, she's not that kind of doctor, but she is the doctorate holding kind. I think it's something to do with ancient archeology or communications since she goes full Shadowbroker in Mass Effect 2. She evolves from being an unsure academic to a confident, galaxy saving badass in the course of three games and a couple DLCs. There are other ladies in the Mass Effect series that can make space seem not so vast and cold (Specialist Traynor and Kelly Chambers) but they're light years behind Liara. Aside from being one of the most powerful biotic squad members, she's integral to the story and Commander Shepard's character development. There's also a very real possibility she's the smartest person in the game by a wide margin and she'll explain so many things in a velvety voice that gives silk over glass competition in smoothness.

Rating -- total wife material (even though she's going to live 900 more years after you die)

Piper Wright -- Fallout 4

Did I mention girl's got style?
Bethesda did a lot of fun, creative things in Fallout 4 that they'd hinted at doing in Fallout New Vegas and Skyrim. One of the fun things was making one-size-fits-all romances by utilizing nicknames and easy pronoun swapping in the scripts. That means every romance option is available to both genders and it'll be seamless every time! Everyone knows, when it comes to girlfriends, there's like and there's love. I like Curie and Cait, but I love Piper. She's a reporter, a big sister raising a kid sister after they were orphaned, and she has a beautiful mix of self-deprecating humor, ego, and altruism. She's kind of goofy in vulnerable moments in the most endearing way possible, and how refreshing is that in a game that takes place after nuclear Armageddon? She also has her own thing going on, mostly looking into the mayor of Diamond City as being a possible Institute collaborator and while she's helping you on your journey to find your missing son, she does continue her own work as a reporter, which sets her above most NPCs in complexity of character. Speaking of her newspaper, she's a talented writer. There are several issues of Publick Occurrences to collect throughout the game, and I suggest you actually read them.

Rating -- total wife material (especially if you could get her to quitting smoking...not that everything in the Commonwealth isn't a carcinogen)

Chloe Price -- Life is Strange

Probably not going to prom
Life is Strange is a departure from the big guns, big cars, big explosions, big swords games in every sense. No space marines here, just high school, a photography hobby, and time alteration super powers...okay, so that ones a big deal. There's a mystery, time travel, survival (both high school drama and literal life/death kinds) all while Max is trying to figure out who she even is and what is going on with her teenage angst. Enter Chloe Price. Do you remember that first time you met someone as a young queerling girl and she's the coolest fucking person and you can't tell if she's actually into girls or if you want her to be so badly that your mind convinces you she must be because that would be the only explanation for why she's so freaking cool? That's Chloe and it turns out she's into Max, but in that laid back, older girl, dyed blue hair, wild child sort of way. She comes with a slew of her own problems, an old truck, an over developed sense of adventure, and energy, lots and lots of energy. Yes, I'm describing a manic pixie dream girl, but why shouldn't lesbians get one too? If you missed out on the teenage smitten stage of pining for a cool older girl, here's your chance to find out what it feels like to be a sidekick wishing to be a love interest for a punk rock princess.

Rating -- first love (...and second and third and really as many times as you want since you can turn back time at will)

Sera -- Dragon Age: Inquisition

She's full of these technically-true-isms
There's a hole in the sky. Demons are attacking peasants and livestock. Mages and Templars refuse to get along. An ancient evil is trying to remake the world. What you need is a crazy girlfriend that has next to no clue what's actually going on! So maybe she's never getting a Fulbright, or graduating college, or...okay, she's probably going to be a huge liability on your bar trivia team, but that's not why you love her! Sera's strength isn't in her brains, it's in her sense of humor, straightforward approach to everything, and bizarre, but defined, moral code. Sera is afraid of magic, likes tall women, solves most of her problems with arrows, and creates chaos for shits and giggles, making her a wild ride, in more ways than one if you play your cards right. It's hard to figure how she would fit in with something called the Inquisition and someone called the Inquisitor, but maybe that's a good thing. A girlfriend that likes pranks, jokes, and a clear, if someone basic, grasp of the situation can be helpful for a woman trying her best to save the world. There's nothing quite like the crazy ones, am I right?

Rating -- long term girlfriend or wild fling (that depends on your capacity for shenanigans)

Honorable Mentions

Not every game builds a full romance for you, but there are several games that offer at least some kind of girlfriend option if you're willing to do some of the work yourself or don't mind brevity.

Your Sims Girlfriend -- The Sims

Come on, we all did it. The Sims is basically an elaborate dollhouse and for little gay girls, that's going to mean little Sim girlfriends getting together and doing a lot of interior decorating, pet collecting, and eating grilled cheese sandwiches. The quality of your Sim girlfriends may have varied and some may have died in cooking fires or drowned in swimming pools.

Random Villager -- Fable 2 and/or 3

Want to marry a random village woman? What about a noblewoman? A shopkeeper? A prostitute? Knock yourself out! Want them to be in any way discriminate from other random NPCs? Tough luck. Most of their personalities will be broken down into a two to five word description, but you can date, marry, and get lucky in Albion in the most technical senses. Skyrim offers the same experience with better graphics, if the visual quality of your random NPC wife important to you.

Shaundi -- Saints Row 4

Mostly, the "romance" in Saints Row 4 is done directly to make fun of Mass Effect. The whole game is designed to lampoon basically every video game franchise, popular movie, and TV show they can get their hands on. The strange little blip of a thing with Shaundi on the ship (not fun Shaundi obviously since she only exists in the simulation and our memories) is surprisingly sweet in comparison to the obvious joke "romances" with the other gang members. There's a single cute conversation, implied sex, and a ton of hanging out and blowing stuff up together and that's a kind of relationship, isn't it?

Bioware must have a whole "rendering hot butts" development team
There are a ton of Bioware in game girlfriends I could have written up: Silk Fox, Juhani, Leliana, Merrill, Isabela, Peebee, Samantha Traynor, Kelly Chambers, Vetra, Suvi, Avela, Lembda Avesta, and Lana Beniko. But honestly, it'd get repetitive for some of them and time consuming for the SWTOR ones. Feel free to mention anything I missed in the comments or give love to your favorite digital paramour!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Primary Day

Starting to feel a little like this.
Primary season finally made it to Florida and the race is looking...gross. Let's face it, this presidential season is a little like House of Cards if it was written and directed by NASCAR. I'm always excited to vote in a primary since, being from California, that was the only time my presidential race vote went anywhere. Florida is a swing state, though, so I've had some meaningful votes since moving here. Kinda, anyway. Today was a biggie, and before you get excited, I won't tell you how I voted today. I'm pretty sure it's like birthday wishes--won't come true if you tell. I will walk you through my thoughts, however, because it wasn't an easy decision.

For Republicans you can pick a sociopath or an idiot...usually their candidates are both

I'm a Millennial, so I should be all for Bernie, right? But I'm one of the least Millennial Millennials I know. I don't like taking pictures of everything I see, eat, or drive past, which is a shame, because I drive past some really crazy stuff living in central Florida. I also like breakfast cereal, which my generation apparently might be the death of. I'm also a die hard feminist, which would make me a Hillary supporter. Not so fast or simple (this isn't NASCAR).

Florida is a closed primary system, which means, as a lifelong Democrat, I can only vote for blue candidates. That's actually really helpful since the other side seems to have a really bad game of "death isn't an option" going on with their shit-show candidates. Let's talk about the real issue: who is going to be the next president? Let's face it, the Democratic primary really is the presidential race this cycle.

Bernie Sanders - Back when I graduated high school I actually thought about going to a Vermont college so he could be my senator. No joke. I even applied to Goddard and got in. Then I realized I hated cold weather, didn't care enough about ice cream to be a true Vermonter, and could go to crazy good schools in California without graduating with crippling debt. Bernie reminds me of the grandfather I wish I had (I never really knew mine--thanks a lot cancer and heart disease). He's pro education, pro universal health care, pro union, anti income gap, and pro guns....shit. I forgot about that last one. He's kinda sorta pivoted on that, because you can't really win a Democratic primary anymore with the "from my cold dead hands" group's endorsement. I adore his idealism and most of his ideals match up almost perfectly with my own. He's also a steady, measured voice of anger talking about things Americans should actually be angry about (sorry, Trump supporters, you're mad at all the wrong things). He's refusing to participate in the dark money, super pac bullshit that even Obama couldn't avoid. His stance on the importance of climate change is clear, vocal, and right on point. My congressman, Grayson, a brash firebrand that I proudly voted for, is throwing his super delegate vote Bernie's way, so he's in good company. I have a sneaking suspicion he'd pick Elizabeth Warren as his running mate and I have a huuuuuuge crush on her both political and otherwise. He'd also be the first openly non-Christian president (even though I think more than a few were secretly atheists/agnostic). He's 99% of the way there, but he's still another old white guy in government, even if he's on the atheist side of Jewish and progressive as hell. Any other cycle, he'd have my vote the second the polls opened, but his opponent is...

Hillary Clinton - A bad bitch icon for all bad bitches. If you've read any of my books you've probably noticed I have a deep, abiding respect for tough, power-hungry women with flaws. I'll let you in on a little secret, mostly that's come from growing up in the Post-Bill era of Clinton. I think Veronica is about 25% Hillary in the Gunfighter series: a southern girl who grew up sick of the status quo and set out to change things come hell or high water. Let's be clear here, I don't give a single, solitary fuck about Bill Clinton, where his penis has been, or what kind of president he was. I also don't give a single, solitary fuck about internal martial dynamics of other people. My marriage is none of Bill's business so I'll extend him the same courtesy. With that out of the way...HOW FUCKING CRAZY AMAZING WOULD IT BE TO HAVE THE FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT! We're so far behind the rest of the world on this one. Wanna know when Israel broke the glass ceiling for its highest office? 1969. Golda Meier died more than a decade before I was born because she was the 4th prime minister of Israel. We're picking our 45th president right now. James Madison was our 4th president for a reference on how far behind America is on the Israel standard. She's pro reproductive rights, pro telling Republicans to fuck the fuck off, strong on defense, pro racial equality, and pro evolving. Pro evolution, sure, but also pro evolving. Intransigence on positions is for some insane reason viewed as a good thing in American politics. Bush 43 was famous for refusing to change his mind no matter what new information came to light (he said this repeatedly in a bunch of ways). How fucking stupid is that? Charlie Brown keeps trying to kick the football and Lucy keeps pulling it away at the last minute...who is the idiot in that situation? Hillary learns, moves, changes, and evolves as things change. That's a good thing. Past positions are nice, but future plans based on current information are more important. Of the two options, she's the one that evolves and that's important.

Let's be clear. Regardless of who I voted for today, the other will get my vote in November if they win. The stakes are too high to stay home because my first choice wasn't the winner. It's one of the two Democrats at the top, a thousand miles of shit, and then any Republican...then a thousand more miles of shit before you get to Ted Cruz. I voted today in the primary and I encourage you to do the same if you haven't already. I'm voting for Bernie or Hillary come November regardless of who I voted for in the primary because that's what both of them promised to do no matter how this race shakes out. This election is too important to skip.

Sorry NASCAR fans for the two jokes. Gotta love a race that only turns left.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Bathrooms...are you fucking kidding me, South Dakota?

Sooooo I'm not used to having things work this well or this fast in the realm of LGBTQ+ rights. After writing this 11th hour plea to motivate a final push of public outcry for Governor Daugaard to veto the bill, he did. Read the impassioned post if you'd like. There's a couple sexy pictures of Buck Angel and Bailey Jay, a metaphor about house spiders I'm pretty proud of, and the usual number of jokes. Or just read it to enjoy a battle we won!

Bathrooms...are you fucking kidding me, South Dakota?

And really high waisted shorts apparently
 I don't think much of South Dakota, which is a change for me since I used to not think much about South Dakota. But then they decided to do something really stupid, regressive, and bigoted. Before we get into that, I need to kick myself in text form because I got all excited last July (newly wed buzzed maybe?) and declared the next big fight for LGBTQ+ was going to be adoption laws! Yay! We'd moved on from...wait, what? Bathrooms? We're going to have to have a big fucking fight over bathrooms now? Oh, come on, America.

Add "get arrested" to either side in South Dakota
 South Dakota, under the despicable "we're using our children as weapons" heading of dickhead things to do, decided they were going to pass a law forcing trans children to use the bathroom of their birth gender regardless of how much transition they may have done or how negatively doing so might impact them. And then, get this, they blamed Obama. I'm not kidding. The arguments for why they had to pass this disgusting law included blaming Obama for changing the Title IX requirements to be more trans friendly. So, since Obama did something nice for trans kids, it was up to the fuckwit Republicans in the South Dakota legislature to pass a state law to make sure trans kids never felt safe in bathrooms again...thanks, Obama.

Welcome to the ladies room, Buck.
 It's no secret, I had a pretty shitty high school experience being a weird, Buddhist lesbian girl in a conservative school in a conservative town in a super evangelical Christian county. But, as much as it sucked and it did suck, nobody ever passed laws about where I could pee to make things even more difficult just for me. And certainly nobody in the state legislature vilified me (that I know of) as being far more dangerous than I actually am, which is to say not very. That's what South Dakota is doing to trans kids, though. Passing laws to make sure they don' stuff in the wrong bathroom? That's where their "argument" really falls apart--even the people who made up the regressive, bullshit law can't really explain what might happen if a transgendered person goes into a different bathroom than the toilet assigned at birth. This is because trans people are like house spiders. Let me explain....

I have a feeling the real plan was to get Bailey Jay into the men's room.
 No matter how you feel, no matter how deep your phobias go, you are always going to be more dangerous to house spiders than they are to you. This is coming from a deeply arachnophobic lady. The worst thing that happens to you if you see a house spider is that it might touch you*. The worst thing that might happen to the spider if you see it? It gets killed. That's the reality for transgendered people. They are far more afraid of you than you are of them because, just like with house spiders, one side has all the power and the other side gets stepped on, but you'd never know which is which based on how people (talking to you here South Dakota) behave. The similarities go on and on. The violence tends to be extremely lopsided about who actually hurts who. You're around far more of them than you're ever going to be aware of (see the two examples above if you think you can spot trans people). They're doing helpful stuff for you that you don't even know about. They tend to mind their own business better than just about anyone else, probably because people pass despicable laws about their business whenever someone hears about it. Um...they both like hats? Okay, that one might be a stretch, but you get the point--a lot of irrational fear over a group that is in far more danger than it is dangerous.

*This probably isn't true in Australia--I've seen scary videos of their house spiders

It's wearing a water drop hat and looking at butterflies! Ruuuuuuuun!!!
 This is one of the things that bugs me most about South Dakota and their fear-mongering law. A version of it happened in California during the Prop 8 battle too. Using kids as a weapon as if transgendered kids, lesbian kids, and gay kids don't exist or their lives don't matter. So, ostensibly, this law will protect cis gender kids from having to pee next to transgendered kids'll somehow harm them to pee next to a trans person? During the Prop 8 thing, there was actually several commercials saying "You don't want to have to explain to your kids why two princesses can get married, do you?" What about the little girl who wants to marry a princess? Fuck her, right? Her feelings don't matter as much as those shitty parents who would have to have a five second conversation with their kids about the existence of homosexuals! Can you imagine the horrific damage a girl might undergo if she had to sit, and pee, in a stall, next to another little girl, who changed her name!? The horror!

The South Dakota dipshits...I mean, lawmakers, argue that it's a sex crimes thing, right? Someone is going to pretend to be transgendered to go into a bathroom and molest people. Okay, if the laws against molesting strangers don't stop someone, a ban on them using the other bathroom will? Also, if South Dakota was actually interested in fighting sex crimes, why are they among the worst offenders when it comes to allowing sex offenders to use reservations to cover their crimes? Imaginary sex crimes perpetrated by people pretending to be trans, they need laws for that. But actual sex crimes against indigenous people....meh, let the feds handle that. Also, in the fucked up, completely insane scenario they used to justify their bigoted law, they're punishing transgendered kids for hypothetical behavior carried out by cis-kids. "A cis boy might pretend to be trans to carry out sex crimes, so we made a law endangering trans girls!" Also, PE class and showering at school fears? What the fuck decade do these lawmakers think it is? May as well pass laws for zeppelin crash safety courses and do some duck and cover drills just to be sure.

On a statewide level in South Dakota

There's not many Ts in the LGBTQ+ nation, mostly because they're a naturally small part of the population as a whole, but also because it is extremely difficult, extremely dangerous, and they have a frighteningly high rate of suicide attempts (somewhere around 41%). But when you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us, and our kids are precious to us. We've all had a hard road growing up because some frightened bigot decided our childhood needed to be harder for their comfort and insecurities and we don't want future LGBTQ+ kids to have to endure the same. Flood Governor Daugaard's office with calls, messages, emails, and tweets demanding he veto the bill (if you're reading this on leap day). If tomorrow he signs the bill, we can still flood the legislature with demands for the law to be repealed and petition the ACLU to take up the cause.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

How Sex Isn't the Only Form of Infidelity in Relationships These Days (the funny version)

How Sex Isn't the Only Form of Infidelity in Relationships These Days 
(the funny version)

Another blog elsewhere has a post with nearly the same title talking about time infidelity being a problem in modern culture, which is true, but it wasn't as tongue in cheek as it might have been and time infidelity isn't the only kind beyond sexual facing couples in the information age.

Breaking News - Your significant other, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, husband, accomplice in the crime called life finds out that they are the newly appointed Czar of Awesome and the first person they call...better fucking be you! Their mom, their bestie, their dog, their third grade teacher can fall into whatever order as long as they all come after YOU. None of those other people will have nearly the investment in the success or failure of whatever the big news is. Maybe the second call too, several seconds later, to share the news again and see if it still thrills.

Have you seen...? - It's the Game of Thrones song, it's time for the Game of Thrones show...those are the words I made up to go with the Game of Thrones opening sequence. Go ahead, sing them along, they fit pretty well. You're at home while your significant other is away being the Czar of Awesome, and you've DVRed Game of Thrones or some equally significant piece of pop culture. Sure you always watch it together and then talk about it, drink wine maybe, comment on how great it would be to own dragons until they ate a kid or something. They'd want you to watch it without them, right? WRONG! You've just cheated on your spouse with your DVR. When you realize this, you can either pretend like you didn't watch it and watch it again with them, but they'll see the "restart from beginning" or "resume playing" option since you know you didn't watch all the credits. Then the red wedding happens and you don't blink--they know you cheated because what sort of psycho doesn't drop a tear at that. Or you'll be on Google, desperately asking "how do I make my DVR look like I didn't watch something?" Go ahead, Google it now, cheater, it won't help you. Or you go full nuclear option, by accident or intentionally, and delete the episode and pretend like it didn't record. But your DVR knows what you did.

Binged and Splurged - Netflix, HBO Go, Showtime on Demand, Hulu, Amazon TV, whatever Starz is doing these days all allow you to race through a show like you've got nothing to do and a comfy couch, which is exactly your situation so the show you promised to watch together, you watched on Sunday, all of it, three season, by yourself...woops. Netflix is a sexy mistress, just like your DVR, and she knows you're going to watch the next episode even if you're not sure yet. She'll even count it down: next episode starts in 19, 18, 17, you naughty thing you. Don't Trust the B and Better Off Ted didn't last long for me, but I came clean, I swear! ...after I was almost done with season 2...of both. Not my fault, they were canceled too soon. If there were more seasons...I probably would have binged those too. Or, again, you can try to lie, watch and pretend like you don't know what's going to happen. Your significant other doesn't know the difference between your real laugh and a fake laugh, right? Guess you'll find out after your Neflix adultery.

Do we have any more...? - What are the rules for the last delicious whatever in the kitchen when it comes to you and your significant other? My wife and I do a dance, an avoi-dance if you will, where we both try to out polite each other in insisting the other person takes the last Oreo or shandy or whatever incredible thing we only have one left of even though we secretly both want to swipe it and run away laughing at the amazinginess we will enjoy all by ourselves. But what if your significant other isn't looking and doesn't know there's only one left? What if you just pop it in your mouth, turn quickly and walk to a private corner of the house to chew, savor, and make mmmmmmm noises? Surely that's not cheating, right? You wouldn't cheat with food, would you? Even though food is sexy sometimes, tasty, doesn't judge, and...of course you'd cheat with food! Food is fucking amazing! You'd cheat with food, walk back into the room with Oreo crumbs still in your teeth and tell your partner, "No, I think you finished those last night."

Can't even tell...from behind.'re good - But she's not good, is she? She's got kale in her teeth and that shirt is horrible and really, crocs? Is she going to work in a kitchen later? But you're already late and it'd be awkward, and you just want to get going already.'re good, let's go. We trust our partners to have our backs when it comes to not looking like dumb asses. Your significant other can brush stuff off your face without being socially unacceptable about it (try it with strangers, it isn't appreciated). And they can also gently remind you harem pants and a cowl neck sweater wasn't even that good of an idea when it was a thing other people were doing. But if you don't tell them, if you let them walk out into the world of judging eyes and acute fashion senses, you leave them open to typically silent ridicule and disgust from people who aren't in a position to tell them they still have the better part of a salad flapping between their incisors.

Under the bus you go - There are a lot of ways you can throw your partner under the bus. Last Halloween you were going to go as Batman and Robin. Weird. Okay, but whatever. She went along with it. Then you change your mind and show up to the party dressed as a classy spy, and she's there dressed as boy wonder, which wasn't going to make a whole lot of sense in the first place, but makes NO sense without Batman. Glad she looks good in those short shorts.

You realized:  Oh, yeah, Batman has muscles and I don't
Or you don't want to go to Janice's thing on Saturday. It's going to be boring and Todd will be there. Fucking Todd with his jokes about digital cameras that nobody gets. So your partner has cramps. Those mega cramps from the worst day and heavy flow. Or she's got a thing, and you'd totally like to bail on her boring thing, but you're in a relationship. What can you do but follow your significant other to whatever lame-o thing she's got on Saturday. Sorry, Janice, you know how it is with those art/music/funeral/etc things.

Then you share, or over share maybe, an embarrassing moment. But not YOUR embarrassing moment, that'd suck. You share HER embarrassing moment. You were kayaking on vacation in Hawaii, she started getting sea sick, and you turn around just in time to see her feed the fishes with that morning's breakfast. People on the beach gasp, a few kids sprint out of the water, and since it was kind of a small resort, she's known as the chunk blowing kayaker for the rest of the vacation by everyone you see. It was funny when you two were reminiscing about it last night while looking through pictures, just the two of you, so why not share the story at the art/music/funeral/etc? Because your significant other doesn't belong under a bus, that's why.

At the heart of infidelity is a breach of trust. Trust in a modern relationship covers a lot of ground. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to figure out a way to hide the fact that I accidentally (on purpose) lost my wife's horrible old running shoes in the neighbor's garbage can.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Crushing It

Damn right, Amy
I had a post in mind for this month. It was going to start out all cutesy about how we won on marriage equality and now we can all relax, and then I was going to launch into a rallying cry to get back on the legislative firing line and push for equal employment protection for LGBTQ+ across all 50 states...and then the EEOC did that already. Thanks for sucking the wind out of my sales Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That's fine. I'll shake it off. We've got other stuff to work on. Let me look down the increasingly checked off list for equal rights...

We're not done, but we're quickly coming to the end of the equality that can be accomplished through the legal and legislative processes. As any other minority group can tell you, that's not nearly the end of it in this country--see the disrespect for America's first black President for notes on how the cultural side can lag behind the legal. The cultural discriminatory bullshit facing the LGBTQ+ community is far from settled, even though Caitlyn Jenner won an ESPY, which is a cool step in the right direction. Big congratulations to her.

Marriage equality across all 50 states in one step is amazing. No longer do we have to worry if a slightly higher court than the last one will take the right away in your state (or the voters in some cases), or if you get married in one state you might not be married in the state you actually live, and what if you travel to another married are you there? Better look that up before you book the flight. By the way, all of these were actual concerns for Nikki and I because of when we lived in California, how long we've lived in Florida, and the various places around the country we've traveled as of late. It just didn't feel like marriage before. We couldn't get married in California when we were in college because we missed the window. A few years after that we could in California, but we'd moved to Florida by then, and Florida wasn't going to uphold a California marriage unless it fit Florida's version of one man and one woman. Then Florida said we could get married, but hold on, our very conservative governor and state attorney general were fighting that ruling tooth and nail, so if we did get married, who knows if it even would have stayed legal. But that's not the worst of it because any state we have to drive through to get out of Florida wouldn't recognize the marriage, and that was true for about two thousand miles in any direction--hope there's no car accidents along the way that would require hospital visitation rights because you're not going to have those in Alabama!

Now that it's real, can't be taken away, and isn't dependent on what state you're in or driving through, Nikki and I have been married, which is good, because we we're bordering on common law at this point anyway. Based on certain family complications and some of our personal history, we did it in our own way, on our own time table, and we did it entirely for us--so don't expect a Kardashian-esque E! special on our big day. Then we went on a cruise and it all felt suddenly very real.

I tried to talk her into the two Corpse Brides topper, but she wasn't going for it.
When we got back from the cruise, we still had to worry about when and where she wore her wedding ring, who we told, and how much exposure she personally had since she still has a job with a boss who didn't seem all that happy about the marriage equality ruling.

Why should that matter? Well, up until Wednesday, it would have been legal for Nikki's boss to see the wedding ring, ask her husband's name (my wife's name is Cassandra, thank you very much), ah, well, you're fired, ya big lesbo! And that would have been completely legal in Florida. Being a freelance writer, and one that writes almost exclusively for lesbian publications, that was never a concern for me--I'm pretty sure all my editors and publishers know I'm super-duper, rainbows flying out my eyes and ears kind of gay, and it doesn't bother them. Nikki didn't have that luxury. No wedding photos on her desk, no conversations about her honeymoon at the workplace, just silence, lots and lots of silence because we live in a state where firing someone for being gay is completely legal. At least, it was. Then Wednesday happened and the EEOC didn't just say LGBTQ+ had federal protections, we'd ALWAYS had them. So now, if Nikki's boss fires her for having an adorable wife instead of a strapping husband, we can literally make a federal fucking case of it.

Let's just go ahead and bring those 29 states into the modern era.
I can hear what you're saying, even through the internet and miles of distance, but hold onto your epic happy dances for the moment, because we're not done yet. Culturally, who knows how long it'll take us to reach some semblance of equality and respect. Ask any black, Hispanic, Asian, female, or other cultural minority of any kind how long it took them to reach equal cultural relevance and they'll tell you, "Not sure, but we'll let you know if it ever happens for us." What can we do to keep moving that forward? Pretty much what we've been doing. Support LGBTQ+ cultural contributions:  TV shows, movies, books, comics, magazines, etc. to keep the voices relevant and contributing. Vote for allies at all levels of government. Come out. Speak up. Be heard.

Or for our generation, continue to fight!
What's left legally, though? Not a whole lot, but what's left is important. The next big fight, the next hurdle to true equality that needs to take place, the next victory we have to win is getting rid of the adoption discrimination laws. You can check out this website for the specifics on which states ban same sex couples from adopting. Suffice it to say, the map looks very similar to the maps of other LGBTQ+ discrimination laws for marriage, hate crimes, and employment protections. Specifically Michigan very recently added new discrimination laws to ban LGBTQ+ couples from adopting or fostering.

Many lesbian couples have the option to have biological children fairly easily--all we need is a male friend with functional sperm and a willingness to sign a contract even though there were hitches for Bette and Tina and the Fosters. Or we can just google "nearest sperm bank" if we don't feel like having that awkward conversation with a close friend. Not all women have that kind of fertility, though, and it gets significantly more difficult and expensive for our gay brothers in this fight who often have to come up with eggs and surrogates and what not (enough to buy a new house kind of expensive sometimes). More to the point, there are plenty of people in the LGBTQ+ community who could have biological children but they're more interested in providing good homes and loving parents to children who need them and would rather adopt or foster children because they're fantastically giving people.

Full disclosure, I have no idea if this is how donating sperm actually works, but it seems wrong.

Next fight up on the block--equal protections for adoption and foster care for LGBTQ+ individuals and couples. You can learn more about what can be done from Human Rights Campaign and what states need the most work. I caught flack for this on my last blog, and to be honest, I don't give a tenpenny fuck if I insulted then or continue to insult now conservatives and Republicans within our community or at large. We need to vote in allies at all levels of government and those allies are almost always going to be from liberal parties like Democratic or Green. Legislatures make laws at the state levels and governors sign them, so it's pretty obvious why the states that discriminate are the states run by Republicans. Vote against them, tell them your rights and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community are a top voting issue for you, and more of them will back away from the topic or switch sides on the issue entirely. It has happened and we can continue to make it happen but only if we apply pressure.

There are children that need homes, LGBTQ+ people wanting to adopt, and the only thing standing between them in many cases are bigots in state houses who think their bigoted base is more important than equality. The best way to prove them wrong is to vote them out.

Stand up and continue to fight!