2016 Reading Challenge

I have always wanted to do one of the reading challenges that are posted all over the internet. I follow people on youtube who shove their books in my face and sulk over my one unfinished book that I started three months earlier on January first.

I’ll admit it: I’m not a fast reader. I plug along dutifully and enjoy myself immensely but am not Speedy Gonzales. I also work a full-time job and have a needy husband and a messy house that requires keeping.

All of this complaining and excuse making is my long way of saying: I cannot read 52 books in a year. I literally cannot even. (bahahahahaha!)

So, for everyone who has kids or a full-time job, a not entirely self-sufficient partner or a goldfish who’s allergic to water, this is a list for you!

There are thirty books on my list, compiled from some of the lists I found online and from a friend. I also have two possible ways to play. The first is one book for each requirement on the list resulting in thirty books in the year. The second way, which I am adding for the poor souls with a small brood of children or a business to run, is to select books that fulfill more than one requirement and call it good (resulting in less than thirty).

So, without further ado and in no particular order, the list:

  • A book with nonhuman characters
  • A book with a one-word title
  • A book of short stories (either all by the same writer or an anthology of different writers)
  • A book set in a different country
  • A book a friend recommended
  • A book based on a true story
  • A book based entirely on its cover
  • A book by a female author
  • A book which is a popular author’s first book
  • A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t (or a classic if you actually read what you were supposed to)
  • A book you can finish in one day
  • A book from your childhood
  • A book with magic
  • A book you own but haven’t read
  • A book originally written in a language other than your first or a book written in a language that isn’t your first
  • A book written by an author with the same initials as you
  • A banned book
  • A book published by an indie press
  • A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQA et al
  • A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native American, Aborigines, ect)
  • A young adult book
  • An award winning book
  • A book that is a retelling of a classic story or fairytale
  • A book that is a guilty pleasure
  • A book based on or made into a movie or TV show
  • A book where the main character is a person of color
  • A book chosen completely at random or blind choice (you could use a friend)
  • A book from a genre you wouldn’t normally read from
  • A book from a famous or influential author in a culture other than your own
  • A book that you have been meaning to read but haven’t gotten around to yet

There you have it! I will be posting throughout the year about what I’m reading and the different requirements and if I’m lucky, have a guest or two.

 

Second Chances

Life is a funny thing. We try to steer it in the direction we think we should be going. Follow the guiding light that lives in our hearts, a seemingly palpable force that moves us based on the things we know to be true and the instincts we have honed. It’s so easy to look from the outside with a different perspective and see where one might have done things differently or even to look back and make the proper mental adjustments after the fact. The truth is though, that when you’re down in the trenches, it’s easy to be blindsided and in the heat of the moment you make a gut call and then you’ve got to deal with the aftermath.

I broke a friendship that was poisonous to me. One that seeped into all facets of my life and turned things sour, turned me sour. I needed to see if I could survive the hurt of losing someone I loved in order to get back the good part of myself. I felt like I had lost her already so it was simply the untying of a knot, right?

Years passed after its breaking, a friendship forged out of love, longing, secrets and unlikely circumstances, lost to the trial of time and distance. I don’t know where the breaking point was or how long I had brooded about the end but even afterward, the healing didn’t begin. The mourning process didn’t proceed so I could patch up the wound I had made by cutting her from my life. I got stuck. Stuck in a depression that consumed me. Dreams became a way for my subconscious to mock the choice I had made and the waking hours were nothing short of torture.

Do not take this to mean I didn’t still live my life, I did. Happy moments abound, but I was no longer content in the quiet time I had by myself. I began to fill my days with a lot of noise. I didn’t have down time because I didn’t want to have to think. I made backup plans for my plans so I would always have something. It worked for a while, but when it didn’t work, it really didn’t. There are posts here to attest to those nights.

Recently, I received an email that made up for the previous email I had received from my friend in every way. It was thoughtful and honest. Contained truths I know were hard to write as they were hard to read and for the first time in three years the silence in the room wasn’t so painful.

The email was a shout into the dark and a whisper of a hope to try again. I felt hopeful before I opened it and knew before I finished reading it that I would respond. I may be stubborn but I try very hard not to be stupid. It would have been stupid to think I could continue my life the way it had been going. Stupid to fight the hope screaming inside me that things could finally be different. So I’m taking the chance.

This is a first for me, to let someone back in after they’ve hurt me. It’s entirely new territory and I’m scared. I can feel the old attachment lurking under every action I take. The old relationship in the background, saying you can just continue to build where we left off but no amount of water slides or tire swings can make up for the catastrophe that happened there. We need to make something new. I may never be able to forget that she loves chocolate chip-less chocolate chip cookies or that she shares my love of all things zombie but she’s not the same person I held in my head for so longconfined by the chains of my understanding of her.

John Green said, “imagine me complexly” and not that I feel I owe her anything but I feel I owe us the opportunity to be re-imagined with the difficulties we experienced adding to our complexity but not defining us.

Now, if I can only manage not to screw something up…

False Advertising

When I was younger I thought by the time I was thirty I would have my shit together. I don’t know why but it seemed the magical number when the thirty-somethings I knew had houses and stable jobs and things. For those of you out there who look at thirty year olds and see the same thing let me let you in on a little secret:

They don’t.

Now that we’ve cleared that up let’s moved on to how I’m almost thirty and am floundering in the Pacific ocean, no life raft, no inner tubehell, I don’t even have one of those life vests you have to inflate yourself, just sayin’. I would like to rewrite the brochure on “Adulting” and correct a few errors I have discovered along my journey.

Adulting: The truth behind the gimmick

Scenario: Child – “Mom, will you buy me some makeup? All the girls at school are starting to wear it.”

Mother – “When you get a job then you can buy your own makeup with your own money.”

Simple example of a conversation we have all had over the course of our lives for one thing or another.

Expectation: When you get older, you’ll be able to get everything you want because you’ll have a job.

Reality: You can have makeup from the dollar store because after you pay your bills you can’t afford anything else, or you work two jobs so that you can afford it but you’re so tired you can’t be bothered to wear makeup anyway.

Scenario: Parent – “College degrees are the key to success. Without them you’ll be flipping burgers for the rest of your life.”

Expectation: I’ll be able to pay off my student loans once I graduate. I’ll get a job in my chosen field and my life will begin.

Reality: The cost of college is so high now, that while a summer and weekend job used to be able to pay for it, now almost no one escapes without student loans and even if you do somehow manage to get a job right out of school using the degree you earned, you probably still won’t make enough to pay all your bills and the monthly payments these vultures ask for.

Scenario: Parent – “While you live under my roof, you’ll obey my rules.”

Expectation: When you finally have your own place it will be amazing and you can do whatever you want!

Reality: When you first move out you’re probably going to have a roommate and they’re going to annoy you and their idea of amazing living and your idea of amazing living are going to barely overlap at best and when you go to visit your parents you still have to abide by their rules while you’re there and then work is going to have a-whole-nother set of rules for you.

In short, I would like my money back on Adulting 1.0. I will try again when they have come out with a better version…maybe.

Ooooooo, look. How to get your life together: the interactive couch to 5k app. Only six easy payments of 10,000 dollars! Want!

On Pain and Longing

It’s been over two years since we’ve spoken. Over a year since I told you why I had turned away. A mark of self preservation I didn’t know would run the length of my life from that point forward. A scar to traverse the years connecting my heart to yours through the end of time. Sometimes I do not know if I did the right thing, on nights like tonight I can’t see the point anymore.

I used to cry and I still cry. I used to long for you and I still do. Where does the gain come from stopping you from hurting me if I took up the knife myself. Every dream of you is a nightmare and a punch in the face. Every thought of you is a burn on my flesh. Every time I think to tell you of my life since you left is a cut. I am bruised and bloody of my own volition and the worst part is that I don’t think you even care.

You cannot hurt as I do or you would try to contact me. You do not wake with your arm aching to hold me. Of course you do not, our relationship was always one sided. You told me not to hold you so people wouldn’t assume. You kept me at a distance unless there was no one else. I know all this and I know it’s not right but how do I convince my heart that you’re not worth the pain?

Beginnings and Endings

There’s something archetypal about the very words: beginning, ending. Every day is a new beginning, and in the end, everything passes away. Nothing about the human condition is ever forever. But how does this translate for a writer? The question is how to set up your beginning, how to present striking ideas, images and also, incidentally, a hook that leads the reader into the story between, plus leaves them thinking about meanings at the end. Looking at these specifications, what comes to mind? Apparently the word “sex.”

Okay, now that the big one is out of the way, what else? It’s not that hard to come up with tragic and dramatic topics: illness, the failure of a marriage, the death of a child, the end of dreams. Once we’ve got this beginning, we only have to follow through. We have to create believable characters and a storyline that can carry these beginnings out to a meaningful end. Let the drama drive the plot. How will the conflict move from your beginning through the story to the end? Then wrap it up. Look back at it later when it’s cold to make sure you made it satisfying. If you didn’t, then revise and adjust. Make it work for you!

Website: http://lelaebuis.wordpress.com/
Blog: http://lelaebuis.wordpress.com/blog/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lela.buis
Twitter: @LelaEBuis
Lela E Buis has also written a short in: Competitive Fauna Collection Short Stories

Young Love, Old Hearts
A Supposed Crimes Anthology
Editor: C. E. Case

Stories by: A. M. Leibowitz, Adrian J. Smith, Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese, Geonn Cannon, Helena Maeve, Kassandra Lea, Lela E. Buis, Ralph Greco Jr., & Stacy O’Steen

Everyone hears “He’s too young for you.” “She’s too old for you.” Not between these pages. This anthology crosses the age gap with nine enchanting stories of cross-generational relationships. Some are sweet, some are sexy, some are heartbreaking. One is downright murderous. The protagonists are gay men or women searching for true love or trying out what’s right in front of them.

Lesbian

Verso and Recto by Geonn Cannon

Discovering their mutual love of reading leads a literature student and her professor to take a step neither of them expected.

A Blizzard’s Blow by Adrian J. Smith

Lollie dashes from the house in the middle of a blizzard in search of something she’s not sure she’ll find, but she hopes to never again see the same cold, blank stare Kimberley gave her.

Slice by Ralph Greco Jr.

When Germane relinquishes her more-than-slight kinky relationship with Lila to begin a new one with younger A.J., she finds a flirty, fun and wholly different “Slice” of life opening up for her.

That December by Lela E. Buis

Celia finds that older women and the politics of genetic engineering aren’t what they seem.

Gay

The Arrangement by Helena Maeve

When he is summoned into his Dom’s study after a mutually satisfying scene, Cyril knows he’s in for something worse than the play they normally get up to.

New York Minute by Stacy O’Steen

Stuck in his depressing hometown for far too long, Colton jumps at the chance to return to his beloved New York City. But when some odd coincidences click into place, he needs to find the truth hidden in the lies.

The Artist as an Old Man by A. M. Leibowitz

1985 is a big year for Kenny Anderson. Sent to interview artist Aaron Rubenstein, making a grand reappearance after a three-year absence, Kenny digs beneath the surface to understand Aaron’s life—and maybe his own.

Adjunct Hell by Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese

Phil may be in his 50s, but he’s still a student, and the fact that Carl—who’s barely 30—is dating him would bad enough even if Carl wasn’t waiting for good news from the tenure committee.

Say You Do by Kassandra Lea

Keegan Bancroft is hoping to avoid a complete meltdown before his date. But there’s something he really wants to ask Richard.

Buy Links:
|| Amazon USA || Amazon CA || Amazon UK || Kobo || Smashwords || Barnes & Noble ||

Add to Goodreads

About the Publisher
Supposed Crimes, LLC publishes fiction and poetry primarily featuring lesbian characters and themes. The focus is on genre fiction–Westerns, Science Fiction, Horror, Action–rather than just romance. That’s how we set ourselves apart from our competitors. Our characters happen to love women and kick ass.

“Supposed crimes” refers to the idea that homosexuality is outlawed, and that our authors are being subversive by writing. As times change this becomes more tongue-in-cheek, but can still apply broadly to our culture. Christians writing lesbians and men writing lesbians are also subversive ideas in this industry, and we promote people bending the rules.

|| Website || Facebook || Twitter ||

Young Love, Old Hearts: Writing Outside the Lines

Young Love, Old Hearts: Writing Outside the Lines, by A. M. Leibowitz

When people say they want to be “edgy” or “subversive,” they often mean breaking a sexual or societal taboo. What appeals to me about queer lit is that just about everything we write undermines some code of mainstream culture.

There’s some talk about whether lgbtq books focus too much on romance, sensuality, and eroticism. That’s a fair criticism, and I agree that we need to see lgbtq characters outside of relationships and sex. However, I think love and sex have a unique place in our books, and I hope I never see it fade away.

Queer sexuality is highly subversive in and of itself, and I love celebrating it. Making love—and writing about it—can be an act of defiance against a world that says what we do in the bedroom is unacceptable, sinful, and dirty.

I don’t believe this is true only of queer lit, by the way. As maligned as heterosexual romance novels are, they have always provided a way for women to explore sexuality in ways that give the finger to dominant culture’s expectations. Romance tropes were born out of a need for that outlet under the guise of something socially acceptable, whether in lgbtq or straight stories.

In my own writing, I prefer to have relationships and sex be only one aspect of the story. That’s what I like to read as well. At the same time, I love that my fellow authors are finding creative ways to tell romantic, sensual, and erotic tales featuring lgbtqia characters. Just because a story emphasizes relationships and sex does not mean it’s necessarily written for the entertainment of straight people. It also doesn’t mean that people reading it are only doing so because they view us like exotic pet fish. In many ways, people are looking for affirmation that they, too, are allowed to be themselves and express their love without shame and regardless of whether it meets society’s expectations.

The whole concept of Young Love, Old Hearts is a tribute to that kind of courage, told with a uniquely queer flair. Whether the stories end happily or not, they’ve given us another reminder that the world does not belong exclusively to one kind of person or couple.

Excerpt:

The negotiation had been scheduled for three p.m. on Wednesday. Mr. Rubenstein’s neighborhood was a bit challenging to navigate, and Kenny arrived at two minutes past the hour. He knocked on Mr. Rubenstein’s door, his stomach in knots at meeting the artist himself.

When the door opened, Kenny was met by a short, muscular man with dark hair, graying at the temples. He looked far younger than his fifty-three years. He had a long, sloping nose and John Lennon-style glasses. His face dissolved into a deep scowl, and Kenny sucked in his breath, stepping back a few paces.

“You’re late,” Mr. Rubenstein snarled. “Come back tomorrow, and if you show up on time, I’ll consider letting you in.”

He slammed the door, leaving Kenny standing on the stoop, staring. Malcolm was going to kill him, and then he was going to fire him. He might bring him back from the dead just to do it all over again. Kenny gripped his hair in his hands. Nothing for it but to go home and call Malcolm. At least Mr. Rubenstein had left room for him to try again.

Which ended up being exactly what Malcolm told Kenny to do, right after he threatened to not only fire him but put him on the three a.m. trucker shift. Malcolm didn’t explain how Kenny could do that if he were fired. Not in the mood for either outcome, Kenny promised to be on time the next afternoon.

Author bio:
A. M. Leibowitz is a spouse, parent, feminist, and book-lover falling somewhere on the Geek-Nerd Spectrum. Ze keeps warm through the long, cold western New York winters by writing romantic plot twists and happy-for-now endings. Hir published fiction includes hir first novel, Lower Education, as well as a number of short works, and hir stories have been included in several anthologies. In between noveling and editing, ze blogs coffee-fueled, quirky commentary on faith, culture, writing, and hir family at amleibowitz.com.

Find me on the Internet:
Web site: http://amleibowitz.com
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00OIC158W (A. M. Leibowitz)
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/AMLeibowitz
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amymitchell29 (personal profile);
https://www.facebook.com/UnchainedFaith (author page)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amyunchained  (@amyunchained)
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/amyunchained/

Young Love, Old Hearts
A Supposed Crimes Anthology
Editor: C. E. Case

Stories by: A. M. Leibowitz, Adrian J. Smith, Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese, Geonn Cannon, Helena Maeve, Kassandra Lea, Lela E. Buis, Ralph Greco Jr., & Stacy O’Steen

Everyone hears “He’s too young for you.” “She’s too old for you.” Not between these pages. This anthology crosses the age gap with nine enchanting stories of cross-generational relationships. Some are sweet, some are sexy, some are heartbreaking. One is downright murderous. The protagonists are gay men or women searching for true love or trying out what’s right in front of them.

Lesbian

Verso and Recto by Geonn Cannon

Discovering their mutual love of reading leads a literature student and her professor to take a step neither of them expected.

A Blizzard’s Blow by Adrian J. Smith

Lollie dashes from the house in the middle of a blizzard in search of something she’s not sure she’ll find, but she hopes to never again see the same cold, blank stare Kimberley gave her.

Slice by Ralph Greco Jr.

When Germane relinquishes her more-than-slight kinky relationship with Lila to begin a new one with younger A.J., she finds a flirty, fun and wholly different “Slice” of life opening up for her.

That December by Lela E. Buis

Celia finds that older women and the politics of genetic engineering aren’t what they seem.

Gay

The Arrangement by Helena Maeve

When he is summoned into his Dom’s study after a mutually satisfying scene, Cyril knows he’s in for something worse than the play they normally get up to.

New York Minute by Stacy O’Steen

Stuck in his depressing hometown for far too long, Colton jumps at the chance to return to his beloved New York City. But when some odd coincidences click into place, he needs to find the truth hidden in the lies.

The Artist as an Old Man by A. M. Leibowitz

1985 is a big year for Kenny Anderson. Sent to interview artist Aaron Rubenstein, making a grand reappearance after a three-year absence, Kenny digs beneath the surface to understand Aaron’s life—and maybe his own.

Adjunct Hell by Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese

Phil may be in his 50s, but he’s still a student, and the fact that Carl—who’s barely 30—is dating him would bad enough even if Carl wasn’t waiting for good news from the tenure committee.

Say You Do by Kassandra Lea

Keegan Bancroft is hoping to avoid a complete meltdown before his date. But there’s something he really wants to ask Richard.

 

Buy Links:

|| Amazon USA || Amazon CA || Amazon UK || Kobo || Smashwords || Barnes & Noble ||

Add to Goodreads

 

About the Publisher

Supposed Crimes, LLC publishes fiction and poetry primarily featuring lesbian characters and themes. The focus is on genre fiction–Westerns, Science Fiction, Horror, Action–rather than just romance. That’s how we set ourselves apart from our competitors. Our characters happen to love women and kick ass.

“Supposed crimes” refers to the idea that homosexuality is outlawed, and that our authors are being subversive by writing. As times change this becomes more tongue-in-cheek, but can still apply broadly to our culture. Christians writing lesbians and men writing lesbians are also subversive ideas in this industry, and we promote people bending the rules.

|| Website || Facebook || Twitter ||

I Don’t Want to be Your Obligation

I am among many when I tell you that much of my time gets sucked up by watching pointless things on Youtube or scrolling through Facebook. I love to follow a new music artist down the rabbit hole and see what great tunes I end up with after my 14 hour marathon but there is someone who has moved beyond just being an ear-gasm for me. She’s influenced me in ways she will never know and cannot know.

I find Youtube to be such a mythical beast. I can know (seemingly) so much about someone but they do not even know I exist. It’s a paradox and at times can be a dangerous one. Fan girls, you know I’m talking about you. Mobbing people isn’t nice even if you think you might get to touch them as they walk by. Anyway, this woman’s name is Meghan Tonjes and she preaches what lives in my soul and fuels my brain. (Casually and not fan-girling at all!)

She’s said this a few times before and I’ve know it to be fact but I was recently helping someone deal with their life when her words slapped me with their truth. Here’s the light for those of you stuck in the dark: “If someone wants to spend time with you, they will. If someone wants to be with you, they will.”

I have spent so much of my life making excuses for the people who weren’t there, lovers and friends. I questioned my thoughts and my judgement in favor of someone who had tossed me aside without some much as a wave. I would make excuses for their behavior like applying a relationship band-aid. Eventually though I had to stop. It’s hard, I know. But if they wanted to make time for me they would. I wouldn’t be thinking about how I would like to spend time with them because I would be with them.

My least favorite part of relationships like this is the other person usually gets defensive. “Well, you never contacted me.” I hate this for two reasons. One, in the age of technology I can pull up on my phone exactly how many unanswered texts there were. Two, “Bitch the phone works both ways.” Despite the fact that I did call them seven times in the past two months, most of which went unanswered or resulted in a two minute conversazione of them saying, “I’ll call you later.”, it’s not solely my responsibility to be the communicator in this relationship.

It sucks to realize I’ve put effort into a relationship that I now feel alone in. The more effort I put in, the more pain. I would begin to wonder what I did wrong and how to fix it. Or I would think of all the other relationships that have ended and wonder if it’s more than that. I would wonder if it was less about this one relationship and more about my love-ability as it were.

But I learned somewhat along the way to stop doing this to myself. I am proud of who I am and sometimes people just grow apart and even more often people either aren’t who you thought they were or they grow into someone you don’t know anymore. It’s not fair and it’s not right but it’s my truth.

It’s time to let go of the ships that we’re sailing alone. Let them sink on their own and grieve them as the weight tugs at you but release it to the watery depths. Someone who once meant a great deal to you, the person you knew when the relationship was good, would never want you to feel the way you do now. Imagine they weren’t the one letting go. Pretend to tell them about this failing relationship. What would they tell you to do about your sinking ship?

And finally, love yourself like you loved them. Don’t mistreat yourself and don’t second guess yourself. Give yourself the confidence you need to stand up and fight for your feelings. But mostly give yourself the room to feel sad before turning your face to the sun and trying again.