Oh My Heck! Episode 2-Mormon Origin Stories: Mine, Theirs… and the Truth.

This week is all about “What the heck?” When did your family become Mormon? What’s with the no swearing? Are you saying Mormons are the originators of Fake News? Are you just disgruntled? Whoa, you great-great-grandfather had how many dead wives? Do you honestly have a recipe for pancakes with 7-Up as an ingredient?

…I hate that I do, you guys. I hate that I do. Listen and find out “What the heck?”

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Mormon Mondays: Unrealistic standards set by the elaborate dating rituals of Mormon youth

One of the drawbacks of Mormon Culture—a term by which I mean the culture that Mormons and Mormon-adjacent folks who live in Utah and surrounding Mormon-concentrated areas like Idaho and Arizona engage in—drawbacks of this is the expectation for a life that isn’t really based on reality. It’s an idea that if you live life like a character in a ’50’s television show, that “Aww shucks, I’m meeting Penny and Skip at the Frosty’s for a malted!” lifestyle, everything is going to turn out perfectly.

Your fellow citizens provide your laugh track, which means you need to up the hijinks every week. At first you think this Leave it to Beaver episode is going to be fun, but when you look at it through the lens of reality, you start to wonder where Mrs. Cleaver hides the hard liquor to cope. It’s only through thinking back on those formative years where I developed my tastes and preferences in dating that I can see how it really set me up to fail in finding my Perfect Mormon Husband. (Spoiler alert: I never did.)

This week’s podcast is all about the dumb, unnecessarily huge gestures that I made to woo boys, how this sets up expectations for romance that’s almost impossible to achieve, and the ultimate way for a Mormon girl to ask a boy named Joseph Smith to a dance, based off a true and amazing story. This week is brought to you by a flood of shameful and hilarious memories that I had from listening to This American Life‘s podcast about grand gestures (and if you haven’t read Elna Baker’s book, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, you should! AND SEE? I wasn’t lying about all the dances!!)

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New Release on May 18th, AND IT CAME TO PASS

My third novel. I’m so proud of this one–it’s based off a short story of mine from almost ten years ago. I wrote it for a family member who is deeply closeted with no sign of coming out, and honestly, for myself and for other LGBT Mormons I knew. Over the next few months, I’ll have a lot to say about how the LDS church treats its LGBTQ members (short story: it’s not good) and how I tried to walk the line between being respectful of the members of a religion who are just doing their best and openly criticising rules and mindsets that are doing real damage to a significant number of people.

For the record, Utah is leading the nation in teen suicide, and the vast majority of those teens are LGBTQ. It’s a horrific statistic. I feel like now more than ever a book that depicts the reality of life as a devout Mormon and how challenging coming out can be (with both positive and negative outcomes), this book needs to be. And it is!

May 18th. You can currently pre-order AND IT CAME TO PASS at Target, as they’re using our publishing house, Interlude Press, to “test” the market for literature featuring LGBTQ protagonists. And even better, they’re offering it at a massive discount off the cover price as a pre-order (with no detriment to me or my publisher!).

Stay tuned, and in particular look for “Mormon Mondays” with upcoming podcasts, interviews, and more.LGBT Mormons,November Policy,gay mormons,gay LDS

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Reader’s Question: no guns?

From Perryavenue on Tumblr:

Why didn’t Renaldo and Hank carry guns with them for protection? Eduardo had a gun when he was at his parents’ home, wouldn’t Renaldo and Hank carry guns when they’re traveling along open and rough terrain with potential predators (both animal and human)?

Fun (and probably shocking) fact, most cowboys didn’t carry guns! Turns out that’s a Hollywood fabrication. Guns were expensive, hard to maintain, and cumbersome as a guy on a horse. Six shooters? Super pricey. You had a rifle if you were a frontiersman (bear, wolves), and you had a handgun if you were a man of the law, but cowboys? They were the bottom of the barrel.

I cannot stress enough how low on the totem pole cowboys were at this time.  Cowboy = guy who literally rode next to or behind a herd of cattle on a cattle drive for very little pay.  They didn’t have the funds or need for such hardware. It was considered a dangerous practice to carry a pistol, and wasn’t something that was looked upon with positivity. (Not to mention that handguns were considered a luxury item.)

A dispatch from the Texas Live Stock Journal dated June 5, 1884, 14 years after Bitter Springs is set:

The six-shooter loaded with deadly cartridges is a dangerous companion for any man, especially if he should unfortunately be primed with whiskey. Cattlemen should unite in aiding the enforcement of the law against carrying of deadly weapons.” 

Continue reading

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Romantic Times Con: Las Vegas

VEGAS, BABY, my home away from home.  Well, for the week at least.

RTCon 2016 romantic times

WHERE: Rio Hotel and Casino, on Flamingo RD

WHAT: The biggest party in the world of Romance Writing. Agents, authors, publishers, bloggers, and more importantly: READERS all converge in a week long fest of good times.

ME: I’ll be signing books, attending events, drinking cocktails, and (most definitely) hitting the craps tables at some point, and I would love nothing more than to see YOU.

Book signings: Wednesday, 3:15pm (I’m with Tessa Dare, ahh!) in room AMAZON G.  I’ll also be at the Giant Book Fair on Saturday signing (I’m next to Damon Suede!) in the RIO PAVILION, and this starts at 10:30am and goes until 2:30pm on Saturday.

I’ll also have bookplates if you have a book you weren’t able to bring and still want my John Hancock. <3

There are so many great sessions this week, so the best way to find me (and please do!) is via my Twitter.  I would love, love, love to meet you guys, talk about the things we love and have the best time ever. Last year was a blast, and this year promises to be even better.

And guys? Guys?  I’m such a good luck charm at the table. No, really. You’re so money and you don’t even know it, baby. Let’s do this!

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Proper Nana Puddin’ with Bonus Elvis Style Twist

So those of you who follow my Twitter and Facebook [see the sidebar] know I’d been yapping about proper old school banana pudding. When I say proper and old school, I mean basically one thing: no damn pudding mix.

banana pudding nutter butter

Nutter Butter Nana Puddin’ like the good lord (Elvis) intended

Look. Shortcuts exist for good reasons.  You want to make pudding fast? Knock your socks off! Goodness knows I’ve used shortcuts in my kitchen. But you know what I don’t  do?  Say my recipe is “homemade” or “old school” if I used a pudding mix. Charlene, my sassy-ass grandmother who didn’t put up with nonsense unless it was from her own mouth, did not make her Nana Pudding with Jell-O pudding mix.  Not company pudding, any way.

[Dibs on new band name: Company Pudding]

And neither will I.

I had a mighty need recently for my Nana’s Nana Pudding and finally found her original recipe, the one that used to be on the box of Nilla Wafers, like back in the 1940s.  CLICK ON FOR THE RECIPE! Continue reading

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The One with the No-Tell Motel (aka Pimps up, Oh my god, child get down)

This heart-felt tale is about the time when my family was almost shot up Southland-style on the highway of life because of my son disrespecting an Alabama pimp. You know, your typical family summer vacation.

Lampoons Vacation station wagon

Every summer the kids and I would go on a road trip across the south to visit friends in Florida and Alabama. The kids are seasoned road trippers. They have their books and snacks and travel games. There was plenty of space in my Mom Ride for everyone to stretch out and not argue. But 13 hours in a car is a long time for anyone, so on this particular trip, I used my points to book us a room in Birmingham at a cheap-o family-friendly hotel I’ve stayed at before: The Hampton Inn. It’s your basic road-trip joint with a Continental Breakfast, something that for whatever reason kids think is amazing. 

(Literally my children. This is literally how my children view a continental breakfast.)

The problem is that I evidently didn’t book at the Hampton Inn north of the city, but at a Days Inn on the same highway but an exit off. Eh, they both have the word “Inn.” Should be fine.  Right?

Wrong. 

Oh, what a difference that one word (and that 1.2 miles) made. Continue reading

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Meet the characters of Bitter Springs: Renaldo Valle Santos

vaquero cowboy gay Mexican

This dashing gent (this is done in pencil, can you stand it?) is Renaldo Valle Santos, youngest son of Estebán Santos.  Like most kids who come tail end in a large family, he hasn’t had expectations put on his shoulders aside from watching out for his twin sister Canadarí­a and doing what his brothers tell him.

Life is pretty easy when that’s all you have to think about. And given the isolated nature of the family’s ranch out in San Felipe Del Rio, Texas, he doesn’t have to worry much about things like finding himself a wife. (Which is good, because that’s the last thing he wants.)

A wrench gets tossed in the works in the form of that handsome fellow in the bottom left corner, Henry “Hank” Burnett.

Turns out there’s a reason why Renaldo didn’t want a wife: He’d much rather have a husband. But seeing as this is a much different time than today, (1870, to be exact) how would that even work? Continue reading

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Fun With Fictional To-Do Lists

When Bitter Springs was first released and I was on a “virtual book tour,” I was asked a really fun question that gave me a little more time to play with one of my favorite characters, Hank Burnett.

Warning! If you haven’t read the book, spoilers abound.

Give us a to-do list for one of your characters.

Well, Hank is the sort of man who appreciates order, but also has a rather droll sense of humor.  Now that he and Renaldo have gotten to a place of ease out at Bitter Springs, I like to think his “to-do list” would go a little something like this… 

Continue reading

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Indulgent personal post

The great thing about having my own website is that I get to put what I want here.  My beautiful daughter is an adult now, half-way across the country in college (and on the Dean’s list, thank you so much).  Those of you with children who are teens or older might remember those tumultuous years of eye rolling, arguing and defiance, wondering if you’re ever going to get that little body who curled up in your lap while you read their favorite book to them again.

(And you might also wonder if they’ll ever really appreciate the sacrifices, the hard work, the heartache involved in raising them.)

Yes. It all comes back.

I had a pretty nasty divorce (they’re all nasty, that’s just how it is), and one thing that I gave up to move on to a better place was our house, the house with the garden I’d carefully tended for 11 years.

roses gardening garden

Julia Child roses in bloom, and holy smokes, do these smell divine

(I’m a Master Gardener, so it was no small thing. Heirloom plants that you can’t get anymore, carefully sculpted ornamental trees, every single living plant, rock and structural support placed by my own hands.)

bluebonnets

The bluebonnets were the first sign of spring–and heralded the return of the bees

Most of the garden was ripped out as soon as I vacated the premises, and what’s left quickly fell into ruin, the trees are dying, the roses diseased, weeds where once were creeping phlox, toad lilies (much prettier than their name suggest), bluebells and ajuga and germander and the weeping Japanese maples and…

I can’t bear to see it when I go pick up my other child, but it’s what it is, as the saying goes. It seemed like the only person who actually cared about it was me. Turns out that wasn’t the case. My lovely, marvelous, magnificent girl sent me this, written for one of her Lit classes at her university.


For my mother

I used to have a big window that overlooked the street
And the lampposts that loomed beyond cars and bushes
Underneath was my mother’s garden
That’s now brown and dying
Because my father doesn’t look after it
And doesn’t care for that sort of thing anyway
I pushed my bed into the room down the hall
Where the garden can’t be seen
A year later I moved away
3000 miles where the green of leaves
Matches a puffy magic marker
If you go to a park diagonal from my school
I have a small window now
That is one two three four five stories up and above
A tennis court
It smells like burning food every morning
Because I’m technically one two three four five six stories up
If you count the restaurant my building is built on
I miss blue squared wood shutters
And cliche pots of tiny dancing flowers
On windowsills
And a pink skyline
That was so Picture Perfect it was boring after eighteen years
I guess I appreciate it now
I walked outdoors yesterday
And it smelled like it used to smell
I hope my mother
Opens her own windows sometimes
And remembers the way the birds would sing
As she dug up roots in the garden
Below my
Window

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