Adopting Yourself – By: Jason C. Cushman

A powerful and deeply personal post from Jason Cushman

HarsH ReaLiTy

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The ironic part about being an adoptee is that the first and final steps of our lives are the same. Just as we must accept being adopted in the first place, we must also accept ourselves for who we are in the end. That acceptance, that journey, can take a lifetime to occur and not all adoptees ever fully accept who they are. Those people caught between the want of “what ifs” and the “hard place of reality” never fully live life as they should because they are stuck living half their life with regret. I have known that place myself and can recount times in my childhood when I wished for anything but what was real. I wished to be someone else.

Adopting yourself is a lot easier when you know where you came from. You have a starting point and regardless whether that position in life is a…

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February’s Featured Blogger: Teagan’s Books

I was unwell for most of December and January and did not find a featured
blogger for February so am re-posting my feature of friend and sometimes collaborator, Teagan Geneviene.

Since the first publican of this interview, Teagan released Atonement in Bloom.

Lilith and the Blue Rose of the Impossible

The quaint town was stranger than Ralda Lawton could have imagined.  The local population included supernatural beings.  Yet only she and a few others knew about that.

Although she didn’t know the details, in a past life, Ralda ― Esmeralda had been involved in something with those supernaturals and it had carried into her present life.  In Atonement, Tennessee, that almost got her killed.  Now she has new problems, and new supes to complicate matters.

Atonement in Bloom continues the misadventures of Ralda, her friends, and neighbors in the small (but far from peaceful) town of Atonement, Tennessee.  Her old house and cemetery are still there, along with Lilith the cat, quirky townsfolk, and assorted supernaturals.

Now Lilith the calico sniffs out a strange beast.

Fae foolery backfires.

A friend is abducted.

On a cold December day, Atonement, Tennessee comes into bloom.
Atonement in Bloom.

This month I’m honored to feature Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene of
Teagan’s Books.

Marketing Graphic for Thisledown
Thisledow

When did you start writing?

My seventh-grade teacher gave us an assignment that truly inspired my young mind — Write a story.  However, we only had two options about the story 1) Write it from the point of view (POV) of a cartoon character, or 2) from the POV of the shoes of a famous person.  Well, 12-year-old me watched talk shows after school, not cartoons.  So, I saw plenty of “famous people” and “used to be famous” ones too, on Merv Griffin’s TV show.  I liked the ones who talked about their pets.  So, I wrote my story as a pair of red pumps belonging to actress Doris Day.  (Back then I don’t think she was still making movies, but she was known for all her dogs.)  I had so much fun that I also gave half the class verbal outlines for their stories.

In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I did a few stories on my own.  My teacher wanted to see them.  She said good things about the one for the assignment so (not that I thought I had any choice) I let her have the stories.  They were Twilight Zone-ish stories and one was about child abuse.  They got a lot of attention…

My teacher spoke to my parents. 

My parents told me very sternly to never do that again!

That said, I guess I started writing in my late thirties.  Throughout my life novels were my only escape from the personal difficulties (yes, abuse too) that I faced each day.  I had read a couple of interviews with writers, and decided to write a fantasy novel.  I did a lot of research and work, read more interviews, and then I dove into it.  With that start, I never stopped.

Marketing Graphic for Teagan's Books
Teagan’s books

You started your blog as an adjunct to self-publishing, how do you define your blog now?

I’m sure you’ve seen the same advice I always see for us Indies – You must have a blog to promote your work!  Well, I couldn’t bear the thought of droning on about my novel with every post.  Instead, I modified a writing exercise I created for myself long ago.  I brought that exercise to my blog (Teagan’s Books).  I had the readers send me three random things.  I let the random things drive every detail of a serial story, setting, plot, and characters.  That resulted in  The Three Things Serial Story, which gave birth to my current release, a culinary mystery.  However, this time the “things” are food related — or ingredients.  So that one is Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I.  I’ve published both of those serials in book form.

That “pantser” style of writing, combined with engaging my audience (having them send “things” or otherwise promoting them) seems to have defined my blog.

I also mean for my blog to be a sanctuary for everyone.  I keep it free from religion and politics, even though there are issues about which I feel strongly.

Where were you raised and how does that affect your style?

I’m a southerner by birth, but I was “enchanted” by the desert southwest of the USA when I moved to New Mexico.  Like the old John Denver song, I had come home to a place I’d never been before.  The truth is, I wish every day that I had never left.  However, many things about the southeast – the deep south made an impact that remains with me.  Following the advice, “Write what you know,” many of my stories have a southern setting.

What writers give you inspiration?

Robert Jordan (the Wheel of Time series) inspired me with his detailed world-building.  Charlaine Harris influenced me with writing in first-person.  That was something I never cared to do until I did my first National Novel Writing Month and created my début novel, Atonement, Tennessee.  To my surprise, all the serial stories at my blog turned out to be written in first person as well. David Eddings influenced me with the way he showed his sense of humor, particularly in the Belariad series.

What are your top 3 tips for new bloggers?

Reciprocate.  Answer every comment, and try to do so with more than just “Thank you.”

Don’t “act/look like an expert” if you are not.  If you have credentials then say so – and make that information something the reader can find without digging.  If you found useful information, and you just want to share it, then say so.

Make it easy to read.  Light colored (or splotchy, speckled) backgrounds with medium colored text are hard to read, no matter how good your content.  Also, those horrid pop-ups, soliciting subscriptions.  If I’ve barely started reading and one of those things blocks me from that read, I don’t care to continue.

Thank you Teagan! A short section from one of your books would be great way to close the interview.

Marketing Graphic for Teagan's Books on Amazon
Teagan’s Books Header Image

Since I’ve been promoting the release of Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I,  I want to share a short story.  It is not in the book, but it’s still from that “universe,” and features the heroine of that 1920s series.

Here goes:

Pip’s a Chicken

“Bock, bock-bock.  Bock!  Baaawk!

Of all the nerve!  My mouth dropped open.  I was speechless.  Granny Phanny bocked at me like a chicken.  She bocked.  She put her fists under her armpits and flapped her boney elbows — and she bocked at me!

Then, to make matters worse, she laughed.

Why that banty little old woman.  Of all the self-important, cockalorem…

“Oh Pip, if you could see the look on your face,” she said, still chuckling.  “It’s not like you to chicken out.  Now tie on your apron and we’ll look at this recipe together.

Granny hung an apron around my neck, and then put her hands on my shoulders to forcibly turn me around.  She tied a bow in back that I knew without looking was perfectly symmetrical.

“But Granny, I nearly set the kitchen on fire last time,” I complained, sincerely afraid of what damage I might cause.

“Hush that nonsense right now, Sweetpea.  We’ll not be having any fires.  Just because your fried chicken turned out as tough as an old rooster doesn’t mean you can quit.”

“An old rooster?” I exclaimed, mortified.

I looked at the recipe card.  “Chicken Fricassee…” I read aloud.  “Dredge chicken pieces in the flour mixture; coat well.  Oh Granny, this sounds pos-i-lutely like a repeat of the fried chicken disaster.  Granny?”

Phanny Ilene Peabody was gone.  Her purse was missing from the corner table.  I called out again and she hollered from the living room.

My eyes fell on the calendar that hung on the wall.  Wong’s Chinese Restaurant made one annually for Chinese New Year.  Granny was going to an early dinner with friends.

“No wonder she wasn’t worried about me ruining dinner again,” I grumbled.  “Granny!” I yelled.

“I’ll be back this evening, Pip.  Just keep the stove set to low while you fry that chicken, and follow the instructions for the fricassee.”

I blew a raspberry as the front door closed with a thud.  My hand plopped down on the plump poultry with a smacking sound.

“Old rooster, huh?  I’ll show her,” I muttered and went back to the recipe card.

***

Copyright © 2017 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

The Three Things Serial Story

Amazon USA, Paperback and Kindle

Murder at the Bijou

Amazon USA Paperback  and Kindle

Atonement, Tennessee Amazon Kindle and Paperback

You can also connect with Teagan at:

Amazon:    https://www.amazon.com/Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene/e/B00HHDXHVM
Twitter:     https://twitter.com/teagangeneviene
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TeagansBooks
Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/teagangeneviene/
YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoM-z7_iH5t2_7aNpy3vG-Q
LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/teagangeneviene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Featured Blogger: Jan Sikes

The most beautiful thing in Life is that our souls remain hovering over the place where we once enjoyed ourselves. I am one of those who remembers such places regardless of distance or time. Let not your worrying about the future interfere with your tranquility.
— RICK SIKES

A portrait of Rick and Jan Sikes on their wedding day.
A portrait of Rick and Jan Sikes on their wedding day.

You write songs, poetry, short stories, screenplays, and novels. How do you choose a form?  

I started out with a screenwriting class when I decided I had to tell the story, as I was thinking movie. (I still am, by the way.) I quickly concluded that the story was way too big to tell in one short movie. So, I branched out and took novel-writing classes not realizing at the time it would take four books for me to tell the story from beginning to end. I was originally thinking trilogy, but the last book got way too lengthy and I had to find a way to divide it. When writing fiction, I tend to gravitate toward short stories. However, I am on the second book in a series of full-length fiction novels now. I suppose the answer to the question would be, whatever direction the story pulls me. Sometimes it’s no more than a short poem and other times a 90,000 word novel.

How did you realize you have a story to tell, what drives you to continue?

In all honesty, Rob, I thought someone else would come along and write our story. So many people passed through our doors over the years, and they would say, “Someone needs to write y’all’s story.” I agreed, but never in a million years thought it would have to be me. I thought my NY Times and USA Today Bestselling author sister would tell it, but she put it back in my lap giving me lots of support to tackle it.  It was about two years after Rick died that I woke up one morning to the realization that my sister was right. I had to be the one to tell the story as I was the only one there. And, that I had to get busy and learn how to do this. So, I started taking creative writing classes and learning the craft. When I started trying to put the story together, I was telling it in first person. But, I found that it was way too personal to continue it that way. I was stumped and didn’t exactly know what to do. So, I was sitting around one day talking to two of my girlfriends and one of them suggested I create characters to tell the story through. That was the lightbulb moment. It was exactly what I needed to move forward. I created Darlina Flowers and Luke Stone to tell the story through. That allowed me to back away and let the characters tell it. Rick died in 2009, and I published the first segment of the story in 2013 with “Flowers and Stone.” 

What drives me to continue with this story is the message that each segment carries. If my story can touch one life, I am happy, and I’ve done my job.

In your synopsis of, Flowers and Stone, you write, “Darlina embraces the lifestyle, traveling with him and his band up and down the many roads of Texas playing their music. Luke decides to make her a part of his show bringing go-go girls to country music crowds. She is ecstatic to be included.”  Is Darlina you or did she change as a character as you wrote her?

Based on my answer above, I think you already know I am Darlina and she is me. Honestly, I think I wrote Darlina as a much stronger woman than I was at the time. I truly didn’t know anything about life and was so unprepared to jump into it with both feet. Like Darlina, I wanted to try everything that had been forbidden by the strict religion I was raised in and didn’t give much thought to consequences. Darlina trusted Luke completely, with her body, her mind and her heart, as did I.

 

The Convict and the Rose

How does music affect your writing. Does it affect the way you pace the line?

The way music affects my writing is that it permeates almost every single thing I write whether it be a short story or novel. In the true story of mine and Rick’s lives, music was such a huge part of it that there was no way not to include it.  And, that included releasing a music CD of original music with each segment of the story.

I can’t say that music affects the way I pace a line. However, that being said, I do believe that a story needs its own rhythm. For me, finding that rhythm usually comes through the dialogue.

What is Outlaw Music?

That is such a great question. Contrary to what most folks believe, the Outlaw Music movement wasn’t a bunch of law-breaking musicians. It was writers and musicians that dared to break away from the strict “Nashville” way of making music and become true Indie artists blazing new trails. They dared to do things the way that felt right to them rather than following the status-quo.

 

 

Would you describe yourself as an Outlaw writer?

Based on the definition I just gave above for Outlaw music, I suppose I am an Outlaw writer.  I’m an Indie author, so far in my writing career. That means I’ve self-published all my books. That being said, I am trying hard to get a publisher for the new fiction series I’m working on.

Would you describe yourself as spiritual? (I ask because I have a sense of the spiritual when I read about your relationship with Rick)

I tell people that I am probably the most anti-religious person you will ever meet. I see so much horror that has been inflicted on humans throughout history in the name of the ‘church.’ But, that being said, I am very ‘spiritual.’ As my journey took me from the holy-roller church to following a Guru, I have quite a varied spiritual spectrum. At this point in life, I’m tuned into the Angels, my spiritual guides and teachers. I do meditation and have a deep indescribable love for the Creator that is the essence of everything. I also love working with gemstones, and have taken psychic development classes. I suppose I am a mixture of a lot of different aspects of spirituality. Rick practiced the American Indian spiritual beliefs. One time a Baptist preacher came to our house to invite us to church. In conversation, he asked Rick if he gave thanks for food before he ate. Rick’s answer left the man speechless. He said, “Why would I give thanks for the food I eat without taking time to give thanks for each breath that I breathe? For without the breath, I need no food.” That said it all!

The cover and description of Flowers and Stone by Jan Sikes
Blood and Stone

What advice do you have for people who think they may have a story to tell?

Oh, my goodness! If you think you have a story to tell, don’t ignore it. I think we are channels and if an idea comes to you, there is a reason. So what if you don’t know how to craft a story? Get busy and learn! I want to read your story.

That’s great advice Jan!

Will you share a few paragraphs from one of your novels? (perhaps Flowers and Stone)

Excerpt 1 from “Flowers and Stone”

Darlina stood where she could watch this group. It appeared that Luke Stone was the man in charge and everyone around him either seemed to respect and love him or fear him. She couldn’t tell which, and maybe it was a little of both.

The attractive dark-haired lady to the left of him must be his wife, she concluded. Many of the customers approached his table, and he seemed to know them all personally.

Sherry joined her. “Whatcha’ lookin’ at, sweetie?”

She quickly looked away. “Just watchin’ the show.”

“Let me give you a little advice. Luke Stone is bad news. And besides that, he’s way too old for you.”

“I have no intention of getting any closer to him than to take his order and serve his food.”

She knew in her heart the words that came out of her mouth weren’t true. He fascinated her.

Excerpt 2 from “Flowers and Stone”

Luke Stone couldn’t remember the last time he’d bought a piece of jewelry for a lady, although lots of ladies had bought jewelry for him. He wondered how in the hell this sweet young girl with sparkling blue eyes had gotten under his skin so quickly. He imagined what it would feel like to run his fingers through her long auburn hair and speculated that it must smell like sweet blooming flowers.

As he stood at the counter in one of the finest jewelry stores in Abilene, he asked the clerk, “What would you suggest for a very sweet young lady that I just met?”

The clerk immediately brought out a tray of necklaces. “These are all very nice, Mr. Stone.”

He looked them over and spotted a small gold heart on a delicate chain with a tiny diamond set in the middle of the heart. “This one oughta’ do.”

The clerk placed it in a black velvet box, and Luke paid for it. He blinked and reached for his sunglasses when he walked outside into the bright sunshine. He wasn’t accustomed to being out of bed at ten a.m., much less cleaned up and purchasing jewelry.

Excerpt 3 “Flowers and Stone”

Before long, Luke was back. He escorted the girls to the area behind the stage where they would wait for their cue to go on. Darlina’s heart began to race, and her breath came in short gasps. She reached out for the drink in Sherry’s hand and took a big swig, as she made a conscious effort to calm the nerves. She wanted tonight to be perfect.

Luke squeezed her hand reassuringly. “Okay baby, I’ve gotta go back, so you girls just hang tight, and we’ll get you up soon.”

It sounded as if the place was full, and Darlina peeked out to find a standing room only crowd.

Sherry moved close beside her. “Look at all those men in uniforms!”

Darlina nodded. “I see them. There must be 500 or more, and now I’m more nervous than ever.”

The girls shared the rest of the drink and soon Luke announced them to the audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Rebel Rousers have a real treat for you tonight. All the way from Abilene, Texas; we bring to you the Rebel Rouser Go-Go Girls!”

As they burst onto the stage, cheers, whistles, and hollers echoed from all around.

The band played Mustang Sally, and the noise from the crowd rose to a crescendo. The excitement was like electricity in the air, and the girls danced exactly as Marketa had taught them, bringing round after round of applause and cheers from the soldiers.

Darlina glanced at Luke and saw him beaming. He winked and blew her a kiss.

The four-hour show ended, and Luke and Darlina went back to their dressing room to change into street clothes. A knock on the door startled them both. Luke opened it to find a uniformed officer standing there.

“Luke, that was the best show you’ve ever brought us. I can assure you that you’ll be booked back here again soon. The soldiers need entertainment, and that’s what you gave ‘em tonight. I just wanted to let you know how pleased we are.”

“Thank you, Commander. We enjoyed entertaining y’all. I’ll be in touch about another booking.”

The man handed Luke a large amount of cash and left after shaking his hand.

Thank you Jan!

 

A https://twitter.com/rijanjks
Jan and Rick Sikes on their Wedding Day (Luke and Darlina)

 

Rick Sikes and the Rhythm Rebels

Home at Last

 

Follow Jan’s Blog: https://rijanjks.wordpress.com/

Find and buy Jan’s Books on Amazon

To connect with Jan use the following links:

http://www.ricksikes.com
http://www.facebook.com/AuthorJanSikesBooks
http://www.facebook.com/RickSikesMusic
http://www.twitter.com/rijanjks

RG 2018

All images by Jan Sikes

 

 

National Coming Out Day: The Stardust

Gay men are telling their stories for National Coming Out Day.

This is mine

Some context

I was born in South Carolina.

My family lived in a housing project in downtown Charleston.

My Mother was a night shift waitress at a local greasy
spoon: The Coffee Cup.

Unknown to me, she was a ‘Mother’ figure to some of the
younger gay boys who hung out at the gay bar.

In 1967, when I came out at the age of 16, my Mother took me
dancing at the Stardust Lounge, Charleston’s only gay bar.

In writing The Stardust, I’ve used the accent I had at the time.

Geechee, an African-American dialect spoken on John’s Island,
South Carolina influenced my accent.

I wrote ‘The Stardust’ in 1984 as theatrical piece and used poetic
form to shape the lines.

My goal was for the piece to work as performance on the page.

The Stardust is an excerpt from a monologue named,’ Bobby’.

Portrait of an avatar posed to illustrate a dissociative alternate named Bobby

‘The Stardust’

***

There was only one queer bar in Charleston.

It was off on a musty alley behind the Old Slave Market.

You had to kiss the doorman the first time you went in to prove you
was queer.

There was this narrow strip of stage of stage behind the bar where the boys would dance when the drag queens wasn’t doing a show.

The first time I went to the Stardust Momma brought me so I didn’t have
to kiss no one.

Momma lent me some creamy Peach Cover Girl and a hot pink blouse.

I sipped my Pepsi and watched the queers gawk.

Aretha Franklin was on the jukebox wailing Respect and I
said: “Hey Momma. Let’s dance!”

Well she hauled me up on that stage and we did the dirty dawg.

There was this one dyke named Roxie.

She sometimes worked the door.

She was so butch she could give the kiss test.

When I went to the bar alone she’d let me in; if the cops came I’d have
to hide in the lady’s room or get “discovered” and get throwed
out.

Sometimes the cops came and didn’t do a bar check.

Sometimes the cops came and took money and left;

Sometimes the cops came to watch the ‘dirty little faggots’ play: three
straight white dudes with mean little smiles on their faces.

One night I was cruising the Battery when this cop stopped me and
ordered me into his car.

“Whatcha doin’ out all gussied up?” he asked, “solicitin’?”

“What does that word mean, solicitin’’?” I said. I had just finished
reading
The Little Prince.

“Sellin’ yer ass to the fags!” he replied.

“Oh that ain’t what I’m doin’” I said. “I gotta little Sister at home and Momma
says I gotta set a good example by screwin’ every girl I see!”

Well, he drove me around, tryina get me to say I pushed drugs.

“I bet you’re gonna turn that little Sister of yours into an addict!”

“Oh I wouldn’t do that at all sir! I warn her every day against such wickedness!

God strike me dead if I don’t!”

I guess we wore each other out.

The cop took me home to the projects. “Keep up the good work with yo’ Sistuh!” he sneered.

Illustration for Bobby and Miss Queen of Hearts
Bobby and The Queen of Hearts

At the Stardust a drunk ex‑priest named Mother Rachel did the weddings.

 One guy dressed like the bride and the other wore a tuxedo.

 At the Stardust the Queen of Hearts drag show was the major event.

The drag queens wrecked every dress shop on King Street.

On the big night the butch dykes wore three-piece suits and their women wore gowns.

Mother Rachel was emcee and he’d open every show with a report on how safe the Greyhound Bus Station was to cruise.

“The place is jus’ hoppin’ with Vice!  He said, “So ya’all be careful. OK?”

There was one drag queen named Miss Tillie who always did My Life.

At the end of the song where Shirley Bassey screams,’ This is myyyy liiiiife,’ Miss Tillie ripped off his wig and thew it at the crowd.

Then at the close of the show, everyone in the Stardust joined hands and sang There’s a Place for Us.

Street graffiti that reads 'There should be a Place for us
Street Art by Eclair Bandersnatch

The Stardust and all other artwork (c) Rob Goldstein 2017 – 2018 All Rights Reserved
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