Target, Transgender People, and Public Restrooms

There’s a lot of upheaval over which bathroom should allow a transgender person. Some people want to base it on gender at birth while others are okay with basing it on the gender the person best associates with at the present time.

A lot of my Facebook friends who agree with things like North Carolina House Bill 2 (HB2) are of the Christian faith. This bill, as CNN describes:

The law…put in place a statewide policy that bans individuals from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex. It also stopped cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances to protect gay and transgender people.

Here’s what I think.

  1. No transgender person has ever caused harm to myself, my husband, or our children. Does that mean they can’t or they won’t? Nope. It means there’s the same for them as there is for anyone else to cause emotional or physical trauma to another human person.
  2. Jesus said to love everyone. He didn’t say, “Only love the heterosexual people” or “Only love the people who are born comfortable in their own skin”. Part of loving someone is accepting who they are.
  3. Most of my shopping takes place on Amazon. If I have to shop local retail, then I’ll happily drive over to the next town so i can shop at Target. As another blogger mentioned, their Dollar Spot is pretty fabulous. And bonus – they also have a built-in Starbucks with a Pizza Hut.

It’s okay if you disagree with me on this. I just ask that we disagree in a respectful, grown-up manner.

One of the characters in my Treasure Pines cozy mystery series, which coincidentally takes place in North Carolina, reveals his transgender side in the second book. As I finish writing the first book and wrap up final edits on HAUNTED WOMEN OF THE APPALACHIANS, it will be interesting to see how real life pans out.

Guess What I Did with Gene Simmons Last Night

Last week a family emergency found me spending several nights at a hospital in a neighboring town. The room had a recliner that, while certainly better than the Flintstones-era char found in rooms at the hospital in town, was no sleep number mattress.

Sleeping in strange places is a good way to have strange dreams, especially when you’re already sleep-deprived, forget to eat dinner, and people are in and out of the room at all hours. This unexpected adventure did not disappoint.

The dream started out fairly normal, with my husband and I arriving at the home of one of my clients. The Christmas holiday was in full swing and twinkling fairy lights lit up a large stone patio that greeted us at the end of the driveway. 

Our host and my husband found common ground quickly and began discussing guns. Had my husband ever tried the newly modified gun from the NES game, Duck Hunt? My husband had not! Our host immediately invited him to come into the backyard to try it out on his skeet shooting equipment.

I was invited to join other guests in the basement rec room, where our teenage sons had retired to play authentic 1980s arcade games. Upon entering the rec room I was impressed to see it looked more like a hotel lounge with white leather sofas and light fixtures of shiny brass and sparkling crystal.

And who was sitting on the sofa with a glass of bourbon? Gene Simmons! I wasted no time striking up a conversation about an interview of his I’d recently watched, in which he discussed his mother, a holocaust survivor. 

Gene Simmons then invited me to play foosball. Every time he got a point, he’d stick out his tongue and wiggled it like a worm. I could feel my cheeks blush as I laughed.
“That’s what I do when I get a point,” he explained. “You want me to do it again? I need to get another point.” 

When I let him get another point he continued, “This is how I win. I seduce women into letting me win.”

Then I woke up.

As the day went on I realized the dream’s message. If I want my books to be popular and “win”, then I’m going to have to seduce my readers with a fabulous plot, interesting characters, and creative conflicts that will keep them glued to the page.

So tell me what you like in a book and, more importantly, what you don’t like. Let’s talk about it in the comments section!

Naked and Afraid from an Author’s Point of View

Have you seen Naked and Afraid? It’s a reality show on the Discovery Channel where two people (one male, one female) strip down to their birthday suits for a three week adventure in the forest.

If you know me outside of the internet, then you know I’m not the type of person who would take part in this type of show. That’s exactly how I feel, however, every time I put my writing out there for someone else to read. I click the “submit” button and suddenly my ego is fragile as an egg sitting within a nest built high in the treetops.

I feel both naked and afraid.

I’m not sure how better or worse that would be than cavorting about the woods for three weeks wearing nothing but my birthday suit accessorized with a canvas messenger bag. I can’t imagine the awkwardness of that situation.

And yet, I can clearly imagine it for my characters. Here’s an overview of how I think the main four characters of my Treasure Pines series might fare on Naked and Afraid:

  • Sam – He would do fine once he got past the lack of technology. All his Boy Scout training would come right back. Because he’s a single dad to a teenage son, he has a bit more modesty than his childhood friend, Ben. I could see him using the canvas sack like a kilt.
  • Maggie – She has a few pounds to lose and is extremely conscious about her appearance. While she could survive on grubs and plants for three weeks, her self-consciousness would be her downfall.
  • Ben – Maggie’s brother has no inhibitions. He’s a man’s man and has no problem killing animals to survive, cooking them in the wild, or making a salad of edible flowers. His only complaint would be that having to spend three weeks with another person would just slow him down.
  • Nell – Maggie’s best friend, she’s got the body of a personal trainer and the flawless skin of a model. She is very outdoorsy and loves sports. Her downfall would be her taste for fine dining and that bugs make her squeamish.

In the meantime, I won’t apply for Naked and Afraid any time soon. I’ll be in my home office where I’m happily Clothed and Comfortable.

Would you ever try out for the reality show? Or do you prefer to keep your wobbly bits safely hidden from inquiring minds? Let me know in the comments section!

While you think about it, here’s an SNL skit parodying the show which features Peter Dinklage who looks more ‘naked and annoyed’ than naked and afraid.

Chopped – It’s What’s for Dinner!

When my husband retired, we went from two paychecks per month to one retirement check per month. Although it’s about the same amount of money, paying all our bills in one shot really puts in perspective how much we splurged on frivolous things, like fast food, restaurant meals, junk food, and the like.

What were we thinking?

A fast food meal for a family of four costs about $8 per person, or $32 total. For just a couple of dollars more we could have bought enough groceries to last the entire day.

  • Milk – $2
  • Eggs – $1
  • Pancake mix – $2
  • Bacon – $4
  • Lunch meat – $3
  • Cheese – $3
  • Loaf of bread – $2
  • Apples – $3
  • Peanut butter – $3
  • Hamburger – $5
  • Spaghetti noodles – $2
  • Sauce – $2
  • Garlic bread – $2

Wow, right?

The rigid structure of our incoming finances has not only made us more responsible, but it also holds us more accountable for our choices. Sure we can splurge on Bojangles Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and a trip to a restaurant during the first week of the month. We might, however, regret it during those last few days when the finances are scant and the start of the next month seems light years away.

This new budget not only affects how we shop for food, but also how we prepare it. Toward the end of the month every mealtime feels a little like an episode of chopped. I could probably host an episode right now.

  • a can of chicken, animal crackers, and mandarin oranges
  • ham slices, Italian dressing, and puffed rice cereal
  • pizza bagels, microwave popcorn, and two apples that are starting to wither 

So what’s the point?

The point is sometimes life throws us a curve ball. How we decide to handle it determines what happens next. It’s not so different than the plot of a book.

For example, Maggie Sawyer planned to marry a lawyer and spend the rest of her life raising a family in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Before the family was ever started, life threw her a curve ball when her fiance decided to dally with his cougar of a boss.

She high tailed it home to North Carolina to emotionally recuperate for a few months. Life throws her another curve ball when the local postman winds up murdered and she inherits his golden retriever.

How do you handle curve balls?

Do you catch them? Swing and a miss? If you’re an author, how do your characters handle them? Let me know in the comments section!

Spinning Characters from Real People – My Husband

A few days before Valentine’s Day, 2016 my husband asked me to take him to the doctor for what he thought was an incurable gas pain. I snickered and agreed, despite the early hour and my not yet having any coffee. Speaking of coffee, I’ll be right back.

Mmm, caffeine. Now where was I?

Oh yeah, gas pains. In my defense, late one night a few years ago my husband had me take him to the emergency room. He was sure his appendix was on the verge of rupturing. The attending physician prescribed him a heavy-duty painkiller, he passed gas (my husband, not the doctor), and we went home. Needless to say, I’ve had more than a little fun at his expense in the time since.

So imagine my surprise when this time the doctor sent us to the emergency room. The attending physician confirmed what the primary care doctor suspected. That afternoon, they removed his appendix.

You can bet your sea-salted, caramel ribbon Frappuccino this will make its way into a book.

Did you ever write a character based on someone in real life? Psst. Tell about it in the comments. Your secret’s safe with me!

In the meantime, check out this video. I’m not sure what’s more disturbing, the review or the game. Either way, it’s a real gas–pun intended!

Six Terrifying Things I’ll Try in 2016

After reaching a certain milestone birthday, I decided to start giving myself a present. This present went beyond new yarn that may never unravel from its skein, or boots that I may only wear a handful of times before donating to charity.

One year I decided to be less judgmental. Another year I decided to focus on avoiding gossip. As I get a handle on one thing, I add something else. I never master it completely, because all humans are imperfect, created with an array of flaws which makes them susceptible to free will. I can keep trying, and for the most part I do.

For 2016 I decided I would take on six things that terrify me. (If I’m being perfectly honest, the thought of making this list alone takes me to the outskirts of Anxiety Attack Land.)

  1. Use a chop saw (aka miter saw).
  2. Cook without setting anything on fire.
  3. Attend Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans.
  4. Read something I wrote to a crowd.
  5. Write and mail a query letter to an agent.
  6. Set up the Amazon store for our family’s business, Hammerhead Woodcrafts.

Some of these might not seem that scary on the surface. Consider however that with each birthday that creeps up on me, I experience a little more social anxiety. Things that never bothered me before are suddenly problems of epic proportion.

Speaking of terrifying…let me introduce you to my favorite Doctor Who villain, the weeping angels.

What terrifies you? Will you challenge yourself to try something terrifying in 2016? Let’s talk about it in the comments section below.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Today is Dr. Seuss’s birthday. How are you celebrating? Are you reading a great book? More importantly, are you writing something fabulous?

I’ve got a stack of books waiting to be read and I’m polishing up the last of the HAUNTED WOMEN OF THE APPALACHIANS stories. Will the edits never end? Maybe the Hemmingway method wasn’t such a great idea after all. (I jest.)

Let me know your plans in the comments section, and check in next week when I share my birthday gift to myself: Six Terrifying Things I’ll Try in 2016.