I’ve Been Chasing this Feeling My Whole Life

Remember when you were in elementary school, and the teacher would tell you to close your eyes while she read a story to you? I say “she” because I only had women teachers until I reached middle school which is a story for another day.

If I could, I would tell you to close your eyes just the way your teacher did so long ago. Close your eyes and imagine the scene and the story I’m going to tell you.

I was in the first grade when my paternal grandfather, whose health and mind had begun to fail him, was placed in a nursing home. He would be there until he passed away when I was sixteen years old. My Memaw was, to say the least, not accustomed to living on her own.

She worked in nursing homes, herself, when I was a child, sweating her days away in the kitchens. She knew how my grandfather would be spending his day to day life once he was checked into Cherry Street Manor in Paris, Texas.

That thought only just occurred to me as I was writing. She knew.

Anyway. though I cannot remember why the decision was made, Memaw moved from the home she’d lived in with my Papa to a house in the country. She was closer to my aunt who could carry her to see Papa regularly so that might have played into the decision.

The house she lived in was situated just off an oil-top road. Across that road lived a couple, Russell and Rebecca, the mother and father of my cousin Joe’s wife.

Russell drove a big-rig cattle truck for a living, and their house was surrounded by livestock. Chickens and guinea fowl ran through the yard alongside their four or five dogs. They kept cattle in the fields next to my memaw’s home, and there were hog pens that stunk to high heaven under the hot Texas sun in the summer.

Many a night was spent with our noses covered as we tried to fall asleep with the smell of the hogs, somehow sickly sweet and foul at once, obliterating every other scent as it wafted through the open windows.

I remember a lot of things about those years.

I remember cold winters sitting as close as we dared to Memaw’s wood-burning stove. That is a scent that I’ll never forget. It never fails that the smell of a wood-smoke in the winter takes me back to that kitchen with its uneven floors. It was perfect.

I remember the green of summer. The grass was so thick it felt like carpet between your toes, though you had to be careful to avoid the “stickers,” a catchall name for anything that grew wild that would scratch your feet if you weren’t careful. Some weren’t so bad, but that occasional “goat’s head” would stop you in your tracks.

I remember days on the porch shucking corn, shelling peas, and talking with my cousins. Several of us would inevitably end up spending a week at Memaw’s every year when when it was time for those particular chores.

Coincidence? I think not.

The driveway at Memaw’s house was a strange one. It was a sort of circular drive designed so you could drive up to the house and make the circle over to the gates to the cow pasture and back down a rather steep, gravel and dirt hill to the oil top.

If you turned left, you were headed back toward her house. If you made a right turn, you would find yourself traveling down yet another somewhat more gradual descent, but it still seemed like an enormous drop as an eleven or twelve year old boy.

Of course, as kids with bicycles, the draw of that hill was too powerful to resist.

Many a day was passed regardless of the season, sitting at the top of that hill, rocking the bike back and forth preparing for the ride down. You didn’t even have to pedal. All you needed to do was push off from the top and hold the handlebars steady as you quickly picked up speed toward its base.

The real trick was to know which direction you would turn at the bottom of the hill. Trust me when I say, you didn’t want to make that decision at the last moment! My brothers, cousins, and I all had our share of skinned knees and ankles making that mistake.

Now, the left was obviously the safer choice. You could ride right back around and to the top of the hill again, or you could keep riding down a relatively safe, straight path on the oil-top road lined with trees.

OR

You could take the right-hand path, navigate over the dried ruts in the road, take a sharp left turn, and keep your momentum going down that second hill into a dip at its base. This path was also tree-lined, but they went by much faster in a blur of varied colors depending on the season.

The left path promised the same thrill all over again; the right, an extended thrill…something more. There was this feeling that would take you over between clearing that first hill, coming out of the dip, and up onto the oil-top to begin the second descent.

My stomach dropped and my head felt light as if–for one perfect moment–the unknowable something or someone that had always held me in its iron fist, close to the ground and afraid, lost its grip and I touched something more, something beyond.

I loved that second hill. I loved that feeling, because when that thing let go of me so did the near-constant anxiety that I had lived with since I was about six years old. I couldn’t have put that feeling into words then, and honestly, I still have trouble describing it.

I am forty-four years old, now. Memaw has been gone almost twenty years. My days of riding a bicycle down a hill so fast that I could outrun my anxiety are long gone. I have been to counseling, taken the doctor-prescribed pills, and self-medicated more than I would care to admit.

Nothing has ever kept my unwanted companion entirely at bay, but I have found that on certain special occasions, I can experience that thrilling sensation again.

No, I didn’t become a sky-diving, bungee-jumping, mountain-climbing adrenaline-junkie. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not for me.

But:

Connecting with an audience while singing will do it. When they’re giving back every ounce of energy that I’m giving them, it completely erases the near-debilitating stage fright that plagues me before a performance begins.

Sharing ideas and stories with other creatives is another. Is there anything more exciting?

Receiving an email or a DM from a reader telling me that something I wrote made a difference in their lives, gave them a connection, made them realize something they’d never considered before they read an article or story I’d written. That will actually curb the imposter syndrome for at least an hour or two.

There are other examples, of course, but these are the most potent that come to mind in this moment. They are my oases in the Great Anxiety Desert, and they are almost as good as Memaw’s homemade biscuits and gravy.

I’ve been chasing this feeling my whole life. On the good days, I catch it.

Okay, you can open your eyes, now.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I am Not Required to Capitalize on Homophobia as a Gay Author

So, much like the rest of the iPhone-using world, I have jumped aboard the Clubhouse trend. I just love a good bandwagon, don’t you? Anyway, I’ve been using my time on the platform to connect with and chat with other writers, and for the most part, it’s been an amazing experience!

Today, however, I found myself in the midst of a conversation, and there is something that I just really feel like I need to get off my chest.

The topic was all over the place, but at one point in the discussion, I said something to the effect of, “I am, among other things, a fantasy author. I have an entirely different world I’ve created, and in that world, things like racism and homophobia do not exist. My thought here, being, if I’m going to create a world that is not our own, why would I fill it with Earth’s problems?”

Another author jumped in to respond–bear in mind, this is why I love this forum–and said something to the effect of, “Well, that sound like you’re trying to create a Utopia and it’s just not very realistic to have no conflict. Utopias inevitably become dystopian society.”

To which this particular room’s creator chimed in with, “Well, I mean there’s nothing wrong with writing escapist, fun fantasy stories. I mean, they’re probably not going to win any Hugo Awards or anything, but there’s an audience for them.”

What the actual hell??

I’ll tell you, I was really quite stunned with this response, especially as the first person to respond is a person of color.

I’ll give you the TL;DR here if you’re so inclined to stop reading:

There is more than one type of conflict that a member of the LGBTQ+ community encounters. Every problem we face is not borne from our identities, and quite frankly, I’m tired of every single story involving LGBTQ+ characters being framed that way.

Now, before I dig too much further into this discussion, I would like for you to take a moment and really think back on the portrayals you’ve seen of LGBTQ+ characters in film, television, and books.

Got them in your mind?

Okay, now how many of those characters weren’t coming to terms with their identity, dealing with homophobic relatives and friends, being constantly bullied, trying not to die of complications of HIV/AIDS, or weren’t in some way, the most thinly painted stereotypes you’ve ever seen?

How many do you have? I can think of maybe five, and that is depressing as hell.

This is largely because we have been written time and again by straight people who think these are the qualities that define us. To say that this is, in and of itself, homophobic, is putting it mildly. This further teaches young LGBTQ+ people that this is their life. This is what they have to look forward to from the world. This is who and what we expect you to be.

To that, I call bullshit.

Homophobia comes from many places, but media plays a massive role. It leaps at us from big silver screens and on smaller screens at home. It creeps from the pages of books. It instructs us that being queer is wrapped in constant pain solely because we are queer.

As an activist who has spent my adult life working toward equity for the LGBTQ+ community, I know that the road is rough. I know that there are countless hurdles, but I also know that we are so much more.

I also know that this type of media is one way of keeping us “in our place.” You see, if they can convince us and the rest of the world that this is the life we live and in many cases, the life that we deserve, then they don’t have to do much more to us. It’s a tried and true method that has been used against marginalized communities for, well, forever.

What boggles my mind most is the general feeling that though there are countless types of conflict that exist in the world of the written word, this should be required for me to use to “make my story more believable.”

You know what my biggest conflict was, yesterday? Trying again to get on a waiting list for the Covid-19 vaccine. Doesn’t have a thing to do with my being gay at all. The day before that, it was making sure my bills got paid, which again, had nothing to do with being gay.

“But you’re talking about writing fantasy!!”

Yes, yes, I am. My two central characters, both male and in a romantic relationship with each other, have a kingdom to rule, assassination attempts to deal with, rogue bandits, long-ago buried secrets from their collective history to make right, and a threat from an interloper from another world who is trying to take over theirs.

Damn, you know what I forgot?

I forgot to throw a ton of homophobia from their own world on them to make it realistic and give people something to connect to in the narrative!! It would be so much better if their parents didn’t want them marrying someone of the same gender, and if they had to prove to everyone that their relationship was just as valid as anyone else’s in the book. Oh, and maybe a good gay bashing while we’re at it. Yeah, that would really sell it to readers.

Oh, and by the way, that interloper brings some of his homophobic ideas with him, but that’s not the crux of why he’s attacking their world. I don’t spend a lot of time on those ideas because he has a larger agenda than just being a homophobe.

When I pointed this out to my fellow author, they didn’t respond at all.

Okay, let me breathe for a second.

Now, as to the second point that was made, it might be hard to believe for some writers but winning awards is not why I’m writing. I have stories that I want to share that I hope people connect with, and if someone were to decide to give me an award for that at some point down the road, no one would be more surprised than I am. It’s not why I’m doing this. That’s about all I have to say on that particular subject.

Look, if you are an LGBTQ+ author and you write stories that dig deep into homophobia, transphobia, racism, and other topics, I applaud you. They’re tough stories to write. I know because I have ideas for some of them, myself.

I do not think, however, that because I am a gay author, I should have to include that in every story I tell in order to be taken seriously. I do not want to be mired in trauma porn for the entirety of my career.

I do not owe my readers homophobia to prove that I am a gay author. I do not owe straight readers homophobia so they understand my characters and their lives. If that makes my work fluffy escapism, so be it.

Quite frankly, if that’s what you require to read my work, then I do not owe you anything at all.

Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

I’m Mad at a Book I Read and I Need to Talk about It

Sooo, to quote Steel Magnolias aka one of my favorite movies of all time, “You know I’d rather walk on my own lips than to criticize anyone, but” I read something earlier today that I just can’t get off my mind. The only thing I know to do when I read something like that is to write about it so here we are.

**Note: I know that I do not speak for ALL gay men. So please, don’t read this as me trying to put words in anyone else’s mouth. I’m trying to get some things off my chest here about how I’VE been feeling. So, yeah, let’s get into it.

I was reading an author’s bio. So far as I know and have been able to find, this is a cis-het woman. I might be wrong, but I literally can’t find anything that says anything other than that and from the quote you’re about to read, well, you decide.

“I love writing gay romance because I’m a sap for a happy ending, and I believe everyone—regardless of orientation—should be able to find books that have them.”

On the surface, there’s nothing really harmful about this statement. Yes, I as a gay man deserve to read books about my community that include happy endings. I deserve to see myself in all genres. I deserve to have a place just like any other member of a marginalized community.

Here’s my sticking point.

I read one of this author’s books this last weekend. In it, there are two main characters, because of course, we’re going for romance. I’m going to refer to them as Guy 1 and Guy 2.

This is a high-fantasy world with sort of real world jobs as a matter of course. Guy 1 is a private investigator. Guy 2 is an “indentured servant” aka slave. Guy 1 is hired by the person who holds Guy 2’s contract to do some detective work. In lieu of up front payment, the contract holder signs over Guy 2’s contract for the duration of the case implying that Guy 1 can do anything he wants to Guy 2 while he holds the contract because after all, he’s only a slave so why not?!

Guy 1, against his better judgement, ends up bringing Guy 2 along on the case he’s working. Throughout this story, Guy 2 is repeatedly threatened by various individuals with being “loaned out to a whore house” and various other things to correct his behavior, not so much by Guy 1, but the contract holder and others. The implication being maybe if you’re raped a few times, you’ll fall back in line.

Meanwhile, Guy 1 vacillates between “I think you’re adorable” and “you’re just a sex slave so do what you’re told.”

Now again, this is a romance. This is leading up to Guy 1 and Guy 2 falling in love, BUT we’re not done, yet. See, before it’s all over, Guy 2, who is really upset about being a slave and who can blame him, ends up enacting a magic that basically binds Guy 1 to him, thus taking away a large portion of his free will in the process.

Guy 1 literally can’t be too far away from Guy 2 without it causing him emotional distress and if Guy 2 is feeling somewhat upset and orders Guy 1 to do something, he’s compelled to do it.

Now, throughout this entire thing, Guy 1 has been fighting his own “nature” which is compelling him to mark Guy 2 as his mate but he won’t because he doesn’t want to take away Guy 2’s free will. He figures Guy 2 has had enough of that in his life.

Of course, they go through some stuff and ultimately end up loving one another in their own way ONLY FOR GUY 1 TO DISCOVER THAT GUY 2 COULD HAVE REMOVED THE MAGIC AT ANY TIME BUT HE DIDN’T BECAUSE REASONS.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…breathe…

By the end, of course they decide that it’s okay that Guy 2 still has the upper hand on Guy 1 and maybe Guy 1 will mark Guy 2 so he get some of his power back but that’s up in the air.

So, my question for this author is, “What do you actually know about relationships between two men and why do you think this is the happy ending we deserve?”

I mean honestly, that’s a pretty shitty ending. In fact, the whole thing was pretty shitty, and what pisses me off the most is that despite the shittiness of the subject matter, it’s actually written pretty well. So, you have the ability to write well and the story you crafted is about an abusive relationship where everyone ends up semi-happy in the end.

Now, I’m not going to put all the blame on the author. To be quite honest, that’s the narrative of about three quarters of the fairy tales about cis-het couples so I don’t know, maybe she thought she was gifting gay men with our own version of that. Maybe that’s what she thinks it’s supposed to be.

It’s no secret that M/M (male/male) romance has a huge straight female readership and is written largely by straight women.

This can be done well. One of my favorite examples is Point Pleasant by Jen Archer Wood. She crafts a truly compelling story that never feels like it’s exploiting the central characters. They feel like real people even when things are going on around them that are dark and fantastic.

Sadly, however, many of the books in this category are not done so well. They relegate gay men to two-dimensional sex objects that really don’t seem to have a reason to exist beyond titillating the reader. The most egregious examples often include sex scenes that quite frankly are biologically impossible no matter how long a man’s dick is and no matter how flexible he is.

Now, yes, a romance is often heightened and fantastic and all of those things, but still, if I’m reading a story and it’s just getting sexy and then a guy does something that I know he would not be able to do in a sexy situation it knocks me right out of the story.

Want to know why that’s not a problem for authors like the one I’m talking about in this post?

Because despite what she says about writing happy endings for gay men, she’s not writing for us at all. If you were to look at her five-star reviews they are written almost entirely by women. Want to know who follows her on social media? You guessed it! Women!

When straight men write women this way they get called out for it, but those rules don’t seem to apply to women writing about gay men. And here’s my question. If you don’t like the way men write women, why not turn it around and write stories about straight men that way?

I’m not saying that no gay man has ever done it, and I’m not saying that this is some turnabout, getting back at men for the way they write women. I’m saying that it looks and reads that way.

Now, as an author myself, I don’t want anyone telling me what I can and cannot write. I know how that feels, and I’m not trying to void your creative license.

What I’m saying is that perhaps you should ask yourself why you write what you do. Why do you feel compelled to tell these stories?

If you’re going to write about a group of marginalized people to give them happy endings, perhaps you should…I don’t know…talk to that group of people and ask them what they think about what you’re writing and if your ending is happy for them. And for God’s say, watch some porn or something to see what two men can and cannot do together while you’re at it.

A funny aside to this: in book two of my trilogy, I had a sex scene that one of my beta readers didn’t know was possible and she went and looked up some videos to confirm for herself that it could be done. If my beta reader can do it, then you as an author writing a gay sex scene can do it, too. I promise.

All right. I’m getting off my soapbox. Just had to get that off my chest.

**Additional note because I’ve had people ask and I want to clarify. Again, I’m not trying to tell this author what they should or should not write. What I resent is the sentiment that the author is doing a favor for gay men by writing us a happy ending while simultaneously crafting a story that reads, for me, like an insult.

Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay

Fantasy Casting a Film Version of ‘The Lotus and the Gathering Storm’ Part Three

Welcome back to my little fantasy casting for a film version of The Lotus and the Gathering Storm. To clarify, no one is actually making a film version of my debut novel. I just find it kind of fun to dream!

In part one, I hashed out a cast for the central characters and the nobles of Avalon. In part two, I dug into some of my favorite secondary characters who nonetheless play important roles in the story.

Today, I want to dig into a specific group of characters. The Night Elders of Avalon are the oldest living Elves in their world. They carry the memory of Avalon within them and spend their time in a dream state except when they’re called upon to advise the High King or Queen of Avalon.

I thought long and hard about this. The Night Elders are indeed ancient, but almost appear like younglings with semi-ageless faces. So, did I want to cast older actors or younger actors? I’m going to go for a controversial decision, I think.

I want older actors with some of the de-aging technology that we’ve seen in recent films specifically because I think that uncanny valley look to the “de-aged” faces would work well with the way that I describe them in the novel.

I’m also going to throw in a casting choice for Dabon, the ancient Centaur who guards the Night Elder Chamber.

Dabon–Idris Elba

I so want Idris Elba to take on this role. It’s a small one, and really would only be a couple of days work, but he can convey the simultaneous menace and mystique of Dabon, the Centaur guard of the Night Elders perfectly. AND, he would be sexy as hell doing it.

Baldor, the Night Elf: Ben Kingsley

Boldar is the High Prince Altair’s Great Grandfather, and was once the High King of Avalon himself. He ruled until he reached 800 Suns at which time he abdicated to his eldest daughter, Carmen. Almost 100 Suns later, he became a part of the Night Elders.

Madding, the Forest Elf: Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton is one of those actors that I’m convinced can do anything, and I think he has just the right energy top step into Madding, who is a somewhat boisterous Elder who looks a bit like a brawler. Madding, interestingly was not supposed to become the new Night Elder from the forest realm. He took on the responsibility when his twin brother, Perrin was killed in an accident after a tree fell on him deep in the forest.

Petraub, the Plains Elf: Antonio Banderas

Petraub has a sense of playfulness to him, a mischievous twinkle in his eye and I would love to see Antonio Banderas step into the role. Before ascending to the Night Elders, Petraub was a master horse trainer. He had two wives and one husband and they produced a family of more than 15 younglings!

Shava, the Fire Elf: Julie Christie

I love Julie Christie, and I would love to see her as the former warrior of the Fire Elves who led the entirety of the Fire Elf forces before she became a part of the Night Elders.

Tamarra, the Water Elf: Helen Mirren

Tamarra is an Elf that is not only wise but has a wicked sense of humor. She is the newest of the Night Elders. She spent a great deal of her life working with the Merfolk. She especially enjoyed their freedom which is astonishing because she is the least likely to break from the rigid traditions of the Night Elders now that she has embraced her role there.

Tekar, the Blood Elf: Billy Porter

Gah, Billy Porter. I just need all of the Billy Porter in my life and I think Billy would be incredible as the former Canwr Enaid of the Blood Elves. Unlike others of their clan, the Canwr Enaid is born to heal souls rather than the mind or body and only one is born in every generation.

Tovash, the Dark Elf: Sir Patrick Stewart

Look, I love Patrick Stewart and I would LOVE to hear him narrate the story of how the Dark Elves were banished from Avalon. That voice. He’d just be perfect! Tovash, funnily enough, was thought by his fellow Elves to have been lost at sea when he was chosen as the new Dark Elf Night Elder. He was staring down into the sea and saw the chamber open to him at which point, he immediately leaped overboard. There was only one witness to this event: Great Captain Zephyra’s grandfather.

Fantasy Casting a Film Version of ‘The Lotus and the Gathering Storm’ Part Two

Welcome back for part two of my fantasy cast for The Lotus and the Gathering Storm. This has actually become a really fun and interesting exercise for me, thinking of who I would love to see bring my novel to life.

In part one, I picked my cast for the novel’s central couple and the ruling nobles of Avalon. In part two, I want to move out to some of the secondary characters that are nonetheless important in their own ways to the story. I may do one more for a specific set of characters, but I haven’t made up my mind just yet. So, let’s get down to business!

Captain Blackwood–Benicio Del Toro

Captain Blackwood has been a part of High Prince Altair’s life for as long as he’s been alive. The head of the Gardoíche, the armies of the Realm of Night, is a grizzled military man with a boisterous sense of humor and is one of the few Elves who Altair would trust with his life.

Lobos (voice)–James Earl Jones

Okay, yeah, I’m really dreaming big. Shoot me. Lobos is a giant wolf who guards the forests near the Peaceful Cove, but he has an even more important role in this story which I won’t reveal in case you haven’t read it, yet. So, deep, commanding voice? You’re damn right I want James Earl Jones.

Prince Titan–Nicholas Hoult

Nicholas Hoult is older than Ben Platt, who I chose to play Whelan, but in some ways Titan definitely looks older than his brother. Though he’s younger, he’s taller, more muscularly built, and has a warrior’s edge to him. He will definitely pick up a sword long before he considers using magic. In my mind, that makes Hoult the perfect actor for this role. I think he’d absolutely kill it! Titan doesn’t have a huge part in book one but he has much more to do in book two and of course, I’d want Hoult on for the whole series.

Medwyn–Tom Hiddleston

Ah yes, our villain. It may be a bit of type-casting, but at this point, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather see take on the role of the “big bad” in The Lotus and the Gathering Storm than Hiddleston. He could definitely bring some of the Loki energy to the role and it would be perfect!

Princess Sofia of the Realm of Night–Isabella Gomez

Colombian-American actress Isabella Gomez is a perfect fit for Altair’s sister, Sofia. The character is not only a capable diplomat, but she’s also quite the warrior. I’d love to see this actress take on this role.

Princess Maria of the Realm of Night–Sofia Carson

Princess Maria is currently the next in line after Altair for the Throne of Night, something she absolutely does not want. Like her sister, Sofia, she’s a capable warrior with a penchant for intrigue as well as diplomacy. I think Sofia Carson has the right energy for the role and it would certainly let her stretch some of her capable acting muscles.

Marchan–Dev Patel

I love Dev Patel and I think he’d be great for this role as Altair’s cousin who attempts to assassinate him. I mean, it’s kind of a small part, but important…maybe more important than you know.

Daffyd the Robber King–Jason Momoa

This is one of those roles that’s on the small side but Momoa could bring exactly the right kind of energy needed for this big brute of an Elf who’s running a gang of thieves out of the Forest Realm. Also, you know, Mr. Momoa, if you just wanted to come hang out on set…that’d be cool too.

Carlotta Bloodstone–Sophie Turner

Another one shot character. I don’t think Sophie would do it, but I think she’d be perfect for this social climber!

Fantasy Casting a Film Version of ‘The Lotus and the Gathering Storm’ Part One

Ever since I published The Lotus and the Gathering Storm, the first novel in The Eagle and Heart Trilogy and my debut as a novelist, friends and readers have asked me who I would cast in a film version.

To be honest, this was something I never considered while I was writing the novel. I didn’t want a face attached to the characters in my mind nor did I want a particular actor’s voice taking over the voice of my characters in my head.

However, with book two written and book three underway, I feel like at this point, my character voices and personalities are solidified enough that a little fantasy casting wouldn’t hurt. In fact, it might be fun. So, for those of you who have wondered, here’s part one of a proposed cast-list for The Lotus and the Gathering Storm: The Movie. In this article I’ll be focused on the central couple and the nobles of Avalon.

The Lovers

High Prince Altair–Avan Jogia

Okay, this one is really tough for me and for my central pairing of Altair and Whelan, what I’d really love to see are actual members of the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, as I was thumbing through and looking at the careers of out actors, I didn’t find anyone who really jumped out at me to play this role.

What I do know about Avan Jogia is that he is an immense ally to the LGBTQ community and that is a good start.

The biggest thing outside of being on the queer spectrum is that Altair is meant to be darker skinned. His golden-brown skin is a hot topic throughout the novels–I imagined Altair as either Latinx or Indian–and I think Avan, who is half Indian, could be a good choice for that, though I’d love to find a young queer actor of color to play the role. Anyone have suggestions? Please tell me!

Prince Consort Whelan–Ben Platt

Okay, hear me out. Ben Platt might not be the romantic lead that first pops into your mind, but he’s a talented actor with a beautiful singing voice and he could totally pull off the role of the Water Elf prince.

Like Whelan, he’s all soft edges and not the “warrior” type, but I think he’s got the chops to pull off not only the romance but also the magic-wielding bad ass that Whelan must be from time to time.

What I love most about Ben, however, is his sense of humor. He’s got that twinkle in his eye that just works for Whelan.

The Nobles

High King Nocto–Naveen Andrews

He has the poise, the bearing, and the brilliant smile of the High King of Avalon who stepped aside to make way for his son to ascend to the Throne of Night. Naveen is everything!

High Queen Niera–Rachel True

Rachel True is a magnetic actress with the bearing of a queen. I would love her as the High Queen of Avalon. I also think she’d make a great counterpart to Naveen.

King Alain of the Water Realm–Colin Farrell

Ugh, I just love Colin Farrell, and I think he’s got the proper bearing and sense of humor to play Whelan’s father. Furthermore, and not for nothing, he’d look fabulous in a loincloth while racing the current. LOL

Queen Aquatta of the Water Realm–Kate Winslet

So, here’s the thing, does she look old enough to be Ben Platt’s mom? No. But listen, Elves age differently and I think she’s got the chops to do it. I also think she’d be great as an Elf. She has that ethereal quality that works for fantasy.

Great Healer Magala–Janelle Monae

There is simply no other choice for me. This beautiful, gender-queer musician and actor is Magala, Great Healer of the Blood Elf clan.

Timai, Heart-Mate of Magala–Angel Haze

Pansexual, agender Angel Haze has exactly the kind of energy for Timai, and I honestly think they’d be wonderful in this role.

King Albara of the Forest–Sean Bean

Let’s face it, the man was born to play kings…and he would even get to live this time!

Queen She’an of the Forest–Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer would be the perfect counterbalance to Sean Bean’s energy. I would love to see these two work together and she has that noble, earthy energy that I love so much about She’an.

King Heller of the Fire Realm–Jason Isaacs

Mr. Isaacs doesn’t get nearly enough opportunities to flex his warrior king muscles and I think he’d be brilliant in this role!

Queen Daimona of the Fire Realm–Julianne Moore

I just really need Julianne as my Fire Queen. Don’t ask me why. It just works for me.

Queen Alhambra of the Plains–Eva Longoria

The Plains Elves are the only clan of Elves that are solely matriarchal. In my mind, that makes Eva Longoria perfect. She has the bearing, the know-how, and she’s proven herself as an activist and leader. I think she’d be amazing in this role.

Great Captain Zephyra of the Dark Elves–Kate McKinnon

Some of you might be scratching your heads, but I love Kate for this role. Zephyra is one of my favorite characters to write mostly because of her irreverence and her wickedly dry sense of humor. Plus, this would give McKinnon a chance to stretch some of her drama muscles, as well. I’d love to see her take on the leader of the Dark Elves.

Caledonia, First-Mate of the Dark Elves–Cara Delevingne

I absolutely loved Cara in Carnival Row and I think she has exactly the right energy to bring Caledonia to life. Vulnerable, funny, and a total badass when she needs to be–wait until you see her in book 2!

That’s it for part one of fantasy-casting The Lotus and the Gathering Storm. Have suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

Letter Twenty-Three: Altair to Whelan

Whelan,

I am sorry it has been so long since I wrote to you. I could tell you that there have been things I must take care of from the Throne of Night. I could tell you that I have not had time to sit and write anything that is not official correspondence.

I could make up any number of excuses, but the truth is I was afraid. Your last letter frightened me. I did not know what to say. I did not know how to respond.

I hope you can forgive me. You did not deserve that.

I do love you. I don’t know when I fell in love with you, but it happened, and I have never loved another Elf before. I never even had lovers in my youth as so many of my fellows had.

I hope that I did not make you wait too long. I know that loving you will be complicated, but I know that you loving me might be even more so. I wish there was a simple answer.

Write to me if you are not too angry. I have missed you…

Yours,

Altair

Image by Monsterkoi from Pixabay

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has Died and I’m Pissed Off

Yesterday was just another normal day. I was doing what I normally do. Writing, working, getting things done. Then, in the early evening, a friend sent me a message on Facebook. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died and my whole world tilted on its side.

As my head began to spin and my mind reeled, I was overcome by a multitude of emotions. Grief, sadness, fear, heartache, but most of all, and somewhat surprising at first, rage.

I was angry. So angry that I could not find the words to express my anger.

For 27 years, Ginsburg served on the Court. She was only the second woman in the history of this country to do so, following Sandra Day O’Connor. In that time, she became the face of women’s rights as well as the rights of other marginalized communities in the Supreme Courth.

She famously authored the Court’s decision in the 1996 case United States v. Virginia in which the Virginia Military Institute was being sued for their discriminatory male-only admittance policies.

During the case, Virginia proposed starting a parallel program called the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership for women at Mary Baldwin College, but Ginsburg struck down that notion, noting that–as we’ve seen in every other case of separate but equal policies–this new program would undoubtedly fail to offer equal training to women who joined the program.

She wrote: The VWIL program is a pale shadow of VMI in terms of the range of curricular choices and faculty stature, funding, prestige, alumni support and influence.

Then there was Olmstead v. L.C., a case which dealt with the employment rights of those deemed mentally ill in which she upheld that mental illness was protected under the umbrella of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

And of course, there was her support of the LGBTQ+ community when she voted in favor of marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges. It was a landmark decision.

Now it goes without saying, other Justices stood with these decisions, but Ginsburg was notably consistent and often let her displeasure in majority decisions be known by reading her dissenting opinions aloud from the Bench. It is a rare practice and undoubtedly a power move that was wholly effective on her part.

But all of this is academic. These are sterile facts, and while they played into my emotional upheaval, they were not entirely the reason why I was so angry.

You see, for myself and so many Americans, Ginsburg had somehow transcended her position as a Supreme Court Justice. She had become a symbol, a guardian, a protector of rights, and a force to be reckoned with when equality was threatened. She was not perfect, but damn it, she was on our side.

Her lace collars became her superhero’s cowl and her gavel, Mjolnir, and for the last four years, it seemed she stood at the gates of the Hall of Justice, daring the current administration’s regime to pick a fight with her.

It is no wonder she looked so frail. She was fighting two cancers simultaneously. One attacked her body; the other attacked her country. I’m sure there were days when she wanted to simply sit down and rest, but she seemed to not have that in her. She had grown up a fighter and she continued to fight until her final breath.

So why am I angry?

I’m angry that she had to do it.

I’m angry that we live in a country where women like RBG had to stand up and repeatedly say, “No, this is not right. You are corrupt, and this will not stand in this republic.”

I’m angry that in 2020, the equal rights of so many hang in the balance.

I’m angry that we live in a world where science and reason are pushed aside by self-righteous politicians and their agendas.

I’m angry that the world is dying around us while corporations and lobbyists look at massive fires, unprecedented hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and disease ravaging the population and choose to shrug their shoulders and look the other way because it doesn’t fit into their narrative and isn’t profitable.

I’m angry that, even now, there are conservative politicians wringing their hands with glee at the thought of her death and who will try to push through yet another far-right lapdog like Kavanaugh onto the Bench which will influence court decisions for decades to come.

I’m angry at American apathy in the face of a fascist regime.

I’m angry that many of those Americans will make countless insipid Facebook posts about wanting equality and equity in this country but won’t get off their damned couches to show up to vote against the people who are steadily stripping their rights away.

I’M ANGRY THAT THERE ARE COUNTLESS PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY WHO ARE NOT FUCKING ANGRY.

I’m angry at so many things, and while I can normally keep my anger in check in favor of reasoned arguments, the death of Justice Ginsburg brought all of that rage to the surface and I cannot seem to tamp it back down to be “reasonable.”

The last four years have been one turning point after another, and this country obviously has the wrong map.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died, and my heart goes out to her family, her friends, and the people she held dear. We may never see another like her on the Supreme Court in our lifetime, and that is yet another reason to be angry.

J.K. Rowling, Self-Absorbed White Gays, and Other Reasons I want to Bash my Head Against a Wall This Week

The world has tilted in the last couple of weeks.

Peaceful protesters took to the streets to voice their outrage over the death of George Floyd and countless other black citizens of our country at the hands of police officers only to have their protests stolen by white supremacists and other “anarchist” groups–none of which are labeled as terrorist organizations, I might add–intent on causing as much damage as possible.

The blame, of course, was laid firmly on the heads of the protesters despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary and we saw the police rise up and become a force of evil straight out of an Orwellian nightmare.

Meanwhile, the supposed leader of our country tear-gassed peaceful protesters in order to stage a photo-op in front of a church and threatened to unleash soldiers to use deadly force against anyone and everyone.

In the wake of all this, I confess I have found myself at a loss for words more than once, and as anyone who knows me will tell you, that is unusual indeed.

Subtle racists have outed themselves crying #AllLivesMatter every time anyone dares mention #BlackLivesMatter. Meanwhile, people who only a couple of weeks ago stormed government buildings while fully armed to protest that their rights were being stepped on because T.G.I. Friday’s wasn’t open and they couldn’t get a haircut, have climbed firmly onto their high horses to tell people if they’d just listen to the police and do what the government said, they would be all right.

Coronavirus: Armed protesters enter Michigan statehouse - BBC News
White protesters in Michigan screamed in the faces of police officers and walked away without a scratch.

It is important to note that not a single one of those heavily-armed men left those buildings with a scratch on them. Meanwhile, police have intentionally targeted the media, shot rubber bullets at and tear-gassed unarmed peaceful protesters at the George Floyd and BLM marches, and destroyed medical supplies and arrested anyone attempting to offer medical aid to their victims.

I took part in a live broadcast to discuss recent events on Facebook a couple of nights ago and one our panelists said it feels like the entire country has become JoBeth Williams in Poltergeist, constantly flailing about as more and more bodies surface in the backyard, and honestly, it’s the best analogy I’ve heard so far.

In the midst of all of this, I thought for sure that my own community would show up en masse to show support for protesters.

Well, I hoped anyway…

Honestly there were groups from the LGBTQ community who took part in the protests including one group that was attacked by the police right outside the Stonewall Inn just a couple of days ago.

But, there’s one group that has been more silent than others which has spotlighted a problem that doesn’t get talked about enough within the LGBTQ community: Racism and narcissism are rampant among white gay men.

Quite frankly, that enrages me. Take this dude for example:

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“I so wish I could attend your protest but I just haven’t been feeling up to it…also look at my ass while I pretend I’m being reflective and confronting my own inadequacies.”

Seriously, dude?

I wish I could say this kind of thing was an anomaly, but sadly it is not. One only really has to spend a few minutes on any of our “dating” apps to see rampant racism and fetishism for people of color.

“No Blacks. No Asians. No Latinos. Sorry, it’s just my preference.”
“Gimme that dark chocolate.”
“I love Asian men. They’re so exotic!”

No, sorry, you’re a racist.

This is to say nothing of the internalized homophobia that has created statements like “No fats. No fems. Masc4Masc.”

These folks have forgotten where our fight for civil rights began. They have forgotten trans women of color like Marsha P. Johnson who picked up a brick and demanded that the cops leave them alone. They have forgotten, in their privilege, that they too are marginalized.

A long time ago, the powerful in this country figured out a very simple formula that has been highly successful. It goes something like this:

“You’re gay, but at least you’re not black.”
“You’re black, but at least you’re not gay.”
“You’re gay, but at least you’re not trans.”

They’ve used this effectively to keep marginalized groups focused on hating and dismissing other marginalized groups with the result that we do not unite to overthrow the power hierarchy. Thus far, it is working like a charm.

As a white gay man, I believe I can say without fear of successful contradiction that there are few groups on this planet so judgmental and mired in privilege as white gay men and quite frankly, it makes me sick.

Take for instance groups like Twinks for Trump and don’t even get me started on the Log Cabin Republicans. Deluded that they’ll find some sort of acceptance, they throw their support behind politicians who want nothing less than our destruction and pretend they’re some sort of martyrs when they can’t get a date on Saturday night because no one wants to kiss anyone whose lips are otherwise firmly attached to the ass of the man currently residing in the White House.

What I’m saying is it’s not surprising that so many white gay men have been silent throughout these protests. Yes, it is angering. Yes, some of us are doing our best to be of help, but that must include calling out the silence of others.

Then, just when I thought I was out of angry for the week, everyone’s favorite fantasy author turned TERF decided to open her mouth on Twitter yet again today.

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I’m not sure what she’s thinking. I’m not sure she is thinking. One thing is certain. A woman worth billions of dollars should be able to afford a little education.

Rowling has become more and more vocal about her exclusion of the trans community. Her prejudice not only extends to trans women, who she does not recognize as women, but now she’s thrown her hat in the ring denying that trans men are actually men.

News flash, Jo: I know several men who menstruate. They are men. They are valid.

In fact, the only thing invalid is the opinion of a straight woman who has turned her back on the lessons she appeared to be teaching throughout her own book series. You hide behind the mantle of feminism in an attempt to camouflage your own prejudices, but we see you. We’ve seen who you are for a while now, and it’s an ugly, disgusting thing.

The world is a terrifying place. It has been for a long time. Some people are finally waking up to that point, but others keep their heads buried in the sand.

I only hope that they will finally face facts, wake up and decide to be the allies they should be.

Oh, and Jo? Shut up and read a book. Thanks…

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Letter Twenty-Two: Altair to Whelan

From: High Prince Altair
To: Prince Whelan of the Realm of Waters

Whelan,

Thank you for your honesty and your openness.

I care for you deeply. I may even love you, as well. I don’t know. I have not been in love before.

I need time to think. I’m sorry. I know this may not be the answer you wanted, but I just need a little time.

Please understand,

Altair

Image by Martyn Cook from Pixabay