Monday, October 5, 2015

The Importance of Being Important

Sacchi Green

Long, long ago in what seems sometimes like a galaxy far, far away—the 1950s—I became aware, as kids do eventually, of the concept of mortality. I don’t say that I entirely believed in it, but if I’d asked myself what was most important to me back then, I might have skipped over the things that really mattered—family, community, social justice (not that I’d heard such a term yet) and said that if you only had one finite life to live, as apparently we did, the most important thing to do with it was to make a difference, be noticed, have a lasting effect, and best of all, be remembered. There was also, of course, an element of “showing them!” with “them” being my supposed peers who despised geeks (although they didn’t have that word back then) and had even less respect for unattractive girls. I was both, as well as awkward, which definitely put me on the outside of the “in crowds.” Not that I even wanted to be “in”, which was part of the problem.

The above is how I planned to begin my musings on what’s the most important, but recent events are nudging me toward going off briefly on a tangent. Making a difference, being noticed, being remembered, “showing them!” How many millions of us have thought that way, especially in adolescence? Very few of us go over the edge of sanity and choose one brutal moment of violence over a life of perceived failure, but any are too many, and all the media coverage and online interaction among others with similarly warped minds seems to be making things worse and worse. I don’t have any answers, just observations, one of which is that more is still expected of males in our culture than of females, so it’s not surprising that young males are more likely to feel that being important, no matter how, is the most important thing. Females aren’t supposed to be important, or noticed for anything beyond their sexual appeal to men. (This is an overstatement, I hope, but not that far off in much of our society.)            

Getting back to my own situation, I wanted to some day be important in some way, and I wanted that way to be writing. Books were a huge part of my world, and taught me a great deal about the world, much of it wrong, of course, and some of it even harmful—no, life doesn’t always follow a rational plot or have happy endings--but that’s beside the point. I wanted to be immortal like—well, I didn’t aspire to rival Shakespeare, but how about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Or an updated Louisa May Alcott? Or Agatha Christie?

My role-models changed over the years, of course, and so did my personal roles. I had a family to raise, and even more responsibilities as my parents aged. I eventually got serious about writing, but not about serious writing, and I enjoy it that way.

Family is definitely the most important thing now, from my granddaughter to my elderly father. What I want now is to do everything I possibly can, meet the challenges, be there when I’m needed no matter what. I can’t help wondering whether I could have done more to help my son with Asperger’s syndrome adjust to life, if more had been known about that sort of thing when he was younger; should I have pushed him more? Could either of us have survived that? I’ll never know, and we get by now. Sometimes you just can’t tell what are the best, the kindest, things to do. As my father slows more and more in his mid-nineties, is it kinder to do whatever I can, traveling back and forth, to let him stay in the home he shared with my mother for so many years before her death three years ago, or to insist that he come to live with me, or near me in assisted living? We’re teetering on an edge, all the more so as we approach more tests to see whether the lung cancer he probably has is progressing much.

I don’t say that I’m entirely resigned to my limitations, but I have a different perspective on mortality now. Everything we do has some effect, for better or worse. We all make a difference. I think of all the good things my father did in his life, people he helped. Some of these things he doesn’t remember himself, which is sad, but he’ s still pretty sharp for his age. It’s impossible to know how we may have affected other people, or our corners of the world.

I don’t deny, though, that the transitory place I’ve made in my very small corner of the writing world is important to me, especially because of the friends I’ve made. Not THE most important thing, but really, why rank the importance of things? Maybe it’s just as well not to get too obsessed with the importance of being important.



Saturday, October 3, 2015

What's Important To Me

My apologies for being late posting my blog this time around. Yet my very lateness ties so strongly into the current topic.
It’s been a pretty full-on week here in the Rowe household. It was the second week of September school holidays, which automatically makes it pretty loud and busy. I work from home, my wife is a teacher and both my sons are at school. So holiday time means we’re all bound together as though we have an elastic band around us.
More on all of that in a moment…
For me, as an author and cover artist (and when applicable, a musician), what’s important to me is to produce the best work I can and be as versatile as possible. Those elements are not always interchangeable, since we each have strengths and weaknesses. And as anyone in a creative field will know, external forces can play an enormous part in our ability to create.
This brings me back around to the earlier discussion about what truly is important [WARNING, WARNING…cliché alert!].
In the last week, my wife had to go in for an operation. It wasn’t enormous, but it had her worried for a few days beforehand, and understandably, out of action for a few days afterwards. Long term, it will yield an excellent result, but of course, in the short term, these things have quite an impact on a family.
The last week also yielded another important milestone. My 12-year-old son (let’s just call him Monkey Buttocks, since that’s what I call him), had his first date. We realise it’s a young age for that kind of thing, but I was truly impressed. He doesn’t even organise to get together with his mates, so for him to organise a get-together with a girl he really likes is almost incredible to me. Also, given he’s as shy as I am (when not behind a keyboard), it’s an even bigger deal.
The final factor in making my blog late was the fact we attended the Monster Jam event here in Brisbane last night. That was around the time I should have been posting this blog.
Now, I’m not a rev-head at all. I don’t enjoy car racing of any kind really. The Monster Jam events seem, to me, to be the motor racing equivalent of the WWE. And I do not mean that in any kind of disparaging way. It’s a slick and well-marketed event, with drivers of great skill and insane bravery. It’s just highly contrived (and LOUD!)
So why were we there? Well, our elder son (Tall Man or Mister Special) is intellectually-impaired, to the point he’ll never be an independent dude. He’s in his second-last year of school now, and Variety offered his school some free tickets. Now, Tall Man is utterly besotted by cars. Every time we go for a drive he’s constantly prattling in the back seat, telling us what make of car it is, and whether it’s going to work or home. Going for a drive (heck, walking through a car park!) would actually be the perfect entertainment for him. His teachers even use “looking at the road running past the school time” as a motivational tool to keep him on track!
So when the offer came through for Monster Jam tickets, we jumped on board. The show was spectacular, but the best part of the evening was watching Tall Man’s face, and how he loved it.

I’m now even further behind in my work because of all those factors. And I wouldn’t change any of it. If I lose some cover art clients I’ll be unhappy, of course. But it would still pale in comparison to losing those family moments. Because as with nearly everyone, that is what is most important to me.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

True, Heartfelt, Loving Kindness

by Giselle Renarde

My mother recently told me about something that happened when I was a child. There was some kind of workshop for parents at my school. The leader asked everybody to write down five things they enjoyed doing, but none of those items could be family-related.

While everybody else wrote their lists, my mom sat staring at a blank piece of paper.

The workshop leader came over and asked what was wrong.

My mother said, "I can't think of anything to write. Everything I do is for my kids."

"Well, what do you do for fun?" the leader asked.

"I spend time with my kids."

"But non-kid things," the leader said.  "Do you take time just for you?"

My mom didn't understand that question. She didn't understand the concept of ME TIME.

"What about reading?" the leader asked.  "Do you ever read a book to relax?"


"What about friends?  Do you go out for drinks?  Have a girls' night?"

My mom didn't have friends, aside from other parents at my school. And everything they did together involved us.

The workshop went on, but all my mother remembers was the fact that she had no interests.  Twenty-something years later, she told me she felt like a non-person, in that moment.  "What kind of a person doesn't have even ONE thing that they enjoy in life?"

I actually think it's sweet that my mom's joy came from us, her children.  It showed.  She never told us to quiet down or give Mommy a moment.  I don't remember ever feeling like our mother resented us being around. That must have been because there was nothing else in the world she wanted to be doing. She just wanted to be around us, because we were the most important thing in her life.

Is there anything in my life that I would call THE MOST IMPORTANT?

The usual, I guess: my family, my girlfriend, my cats, my career.

But that one THE MOST IMPORTANT thing is rather more nebulous. It isn't a person or a thing.  It's more like a feeling. It's kindness--which probably sounds weird, coming from someone who regularly swears at strangers (but, honestly, why do so many people try to run me over? and if a jogger shoves me into a mud puddle, oh yes, that jogger WILL be called an asshole)...

What was I saying?

Right. Kindness.

I don't always live up to my own ideals, but when I do, I make a conscious effort to treat everyone I encounter with the same big love I feel for my family. I see no reason not to. Sometimes it's really easy, but often it's a challenge. Many humans are not friendly. That's when I need to redouble my efforts, because the people who are meanest to me are probably the ones most in need of kindness.

True, heartfelt, loving kindness is important.

That's not a bad answer, eh? 

On that note, I've got a new anthology on the market and I'm giving ALL my royalties away. I'd love it if you could help me spread the word about LGBT Love:

10 Queer, Trans, Bi, Lesbian and Gay Romance Stories
by Giselle Renarde

***All royalties from the sale of this anthology will be donated to charitable organizations supporting LGBT individuals and communities.***

All Romance Ebooks:
Amazon UK:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Musicians know the groove.  The feeling you have when you are lost in the music and the world goes away. Musicians see the man in the groove and they say “He’s gone.”  And he is.  For a writer the groove is that special and meditative place where the world goes away, that place where the voices are and the voices move the story and you mutter to yourself and space-time quietly goes adrift.  The groove is bliss.  The groove is better than being published, its the real zen.  Its the writers dope.  You have to love the groove.  You have to earn the groove by paying your dues at the keyboard, even on dry days.  The groove is your real reward.  You get the groove by paying your dues.  By courting the madness, by walking in the inner moonlight, hoping for teeth and claws to sprout, by spreading your blanket in the dark for a picnic or a midnight tryst in the light of your personal bloodmoon.

The price for the groove is madness.  You have to live close to your unconscious.  You have to open that cellar door and step through into the dark and the strange smells.  Most of us have a lot of noisy things  with dark wings in that darkness that fly in your face and climb on your skin.  If you walk or finally crawl far enough the lights go out and you know you’re in the presence of demons.  If you stay, you may make friends with them.  They don’t mind that you’re scared, it amuses them.  They won’t take you seriously if you’re not a little scared.  It means you have soul.  If you run, they’ll bring you down like a lion on a gazelle. Or maybe if, whimpering, you try to crawl for the door you’ll morph into some cosmic horror as in a Lovecraft story. Mary Oliver knows that place.  I used to know that place, though my cellar is a little cleaner now than is really good for me.  You have to love the dusty cellar.  You have to love the darkness at least a little.  You have to make friends with the madness and learn to listen with caution to the whispers in your head.

You can look at a painting and know almost nothing about the artist who made it.  Listen to music and know nothing about the composer - unless there are lyrics to go with it.  Ah - the lyrics!  The words.  The lyrics tell you of the artist, not the music.  The language arts are like that.  You get away with less, have to expose your heart more and maybe wring it out in public once in awhile.  Narrative fiction and poetry craft are so much about observation and empathy mixed with your interior world of experience.  You can’t pass judgment on people, especially people who hurt you, because your job is to observe and when possible listen. Losing your temper at someone closes that door and you’ve lost the chance to learn a little more.  So to be a language artist demands some humility.

Absolute and unmixed attention, whether down in the groove or directed to a human being is an act of devotion.  It is prayer.  Prayer and the groove are the same.  Anything might become sacred if you pray to it enough.  This is why the groove is sacred.  This is why we want to court the groove.

You can’t be lucky.  You do not have to be good. But with patience you can prepare yourself to be lucky. You do this by showing up, somewhere at some time during the day or early morning and stepping down into the cellar.  Most days you come up with nothing.  But you show up. That shows character. The groove respects character. You have to know what your problem is and what your problem isn’t.  Your problem is to show up. You do this by carrying a notebook with you in your pocket everywhere you go.  This battered notebook, squashed a little flatter by your ass every time you sit on it, becomes something like a sacred talisman.  A lantern held out to your particular madness, an image of devotion to your particular faith, your membership in the Church of the Holy Groove.  The notebook is your prayer and your key to the cellar door that you are willing to be inspired and more important willing to work faithfully in unrequited dryness and desiccation, like a forgotten houseplant in a window, until inspiration arrives, waters you and finds your blooms fragrant.  It is an act of faith.  So much of creative work is an act of faith believing in the future the way a farmer does under the white nets of winter or the watery dark of spring.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Importance of Being... J.P. Bowie

Family... I haven't had a family in close to forty years. I lost my parents and both my sisters in a seven year span. You don't really know how important they are until there are no longer there. Yet, their importance lingers. Everywhere I look I see signs that tell me nothing is more important... some people even have it tattooed on their skin... Family First etc.I get a good laugh when I see porn stars with that inked on their chests... Hey Mom, lookit! Thinking of you while I fuck this uh, person.

This is my last post for OGG, so I don't want to get maudlin. And really when I think about it, I have been a lucky so and so for most of my life. Like most gay men and women, through the years, I have found myself surrounded by people I can honestly call friends, good friends, a surrogate family if you will. Forget the old cliche... you can choose your friends, your family is thrust upon you... sometimes your friends choose you, and your family thrusts you away. My family didn't do that, so they live in my memory with love. Again I was fortunate.

The wonderful man I am married to doesn't have such loving memories of his family, yet he remains true to the idea of a warm and caring circle of friends he can call family. It always amazes me that even out of the most repressive upbringings a soul can emerge, eager to forgive those who tried to smother the goodness within, and belittle the kindnesses so willingly given.

That does sound a little maudlin, so I will close with the wish that all of you have found love in some form or another... that there is someone close, friend or family member, you can share your hopes and dreams and troubles with. It's important.

Monday, September 28, 2015


By Lisabet Sarai

Uh—oh—oh—uh—uh—uh, uh, uh—ah—yes, oh, yes, uh—aaah!”

You all right, honey?”

Oh...oh, yeah, I’m fantastic. Just need a bit of time to recover. Thanks, Miriam. That was sensational—as always. You’re still the best, after all this time.”

That’s sweet of you, Sh’muel. We each serve according to our separate gifts.”

He say that?”

More or less.”

You knew him, didn’t you.”

Very well. Intimately, you might say.”

So...what was he like? Putting aside the hype and all? How did it feel when you were with him?”

Cherished. Beloved. Enveloped in warm, nurturing light.”

You were special to him.”

Everyone felt that way, Sh'muel. That was his gift. Total, unconditional love. Perfect compassion. It didn’t matter who you were, what you did for a living, what country you came from or what gods you worshiped. What so-called sins you had committed. He loved us all. We couldn’t help loving him back.”

Even Judas Iscariot?”

Of course. Poor Judas might have loved him more than anyone. Most of us were too selfish to fulfill the master’s will. We wanted to keep him alive, with us, so we could continue to bask in his incredible light. Even if that undermined his ultimate purpose.” 
It must have been hard to let him go.”

Torture. I wept non-stop for two weeks. It felt like my heart had been torn from my body, leaving nothing but a vacant, echoing gap. I wanted to kill myself, to tell you the truth, but I knew he wouldn’t approve. It took a long time before I understood that he really wasn’t gone at all. That his light could never be extinguished—unless I allowed it to be.”

I’m—um—kind of surprised you went back to your old profession. Afterwards, I mean.”

His mother never liked me. She never felt I was good enough for her precious Yeshua. I don’t blame her. We all have our flaws, our blind spots. Anyway, I didn’t feel comfortable with the direction the disciples were taking. Celibacy just doesn’t suit me.”

I’m grateful for that!”

I’ll bet you are, you old goat!”

So, tell me Miriam—what about the sex? Was it different? Better than with an ordinary man?”

You want me to kiss and tell? Naughty boy! I keep your secrets—I’ll certainly keep his. But I will say this—he was as lusty and eager as anyone else. Not the pale, emasculated, passionless figure that some of the communities worship these days. He was flesh and blood, full of juice and joy.”

What do you think? Was he really the Messiah?”

You know, Sh'muel, I don’t really care. All I know is that everyone he touched was changed for the better. His love kindled ours. We wanted to please him, honor him, and so we tried, in our own poor imperfect way, to be like him. Each according to our gifts. Speaking of which...”

Mmm—oh, that feels so good!”

Looks like you’re ready for another round, honey.”

Oh—ah—oh, God, I’d love to, but until next month’s harvest, I don’t have the shekels to spare.”

It’s on the house, honey. Because you’re such a loyal customer and such a sweet guy.”

Ooh—oh, Miriam! You’re a saint... What can I do in return? Can I give one of next spring’s lambs?”

Just feel my love, Sh'muel. Feel it, and pass it on.”

Friday, September 25, 2015

Demons in White Coats

by Jean Roberta

It’s a vicious cycle: I’m still afraid of being diagnosed with a mental illness, as I was at age 19, after I had been raped. (Supposedly, I was a “borderline schizophrenic,” which seemed to mean that what I told the male doctors after my attempt at suicide was unbelievable to them.) If I still haven’t learned to “trust men,” as I was encouraged to do, and have even less faith in the “mental health” establishment, this must mean I’m still paranoid.

My nightmares about men in white coats are slightly worse than my nightmares about men in uniforms. At least if members of some police or military organization came to haul me off to prison, it would be clear that I was being charged with a crime. And if there was no objective evidence that I had done the deed, I would have at least a slim chance of getting acquitted.

On the other hand, if someone representing “health” and “sanity” came to take me away to get “therapy” or "help," who would support my protests that I like my life the way it is, and would rather go on doing the things I do?

I know what the “experts” would say. If I claim I’m not hurting anyone, they would point out that I’m a danger to myself because I’m out of touch with “reality” as the mind doctors see it. They would claim to be acting in my own best interests. I could explain that I’ve taught English in a university for over a quarter-century, and have had glowing reviews from students who find me knowledgeable, logical and helpful, but none of this would prove beyond a doubt that I’m not crazy. Students as witnesses don’t have a lot of credibility themselves. And mind doctors don’t like to be contradicted. The more I would protest my innocence, the more obvious it would seem to them that my rebellious attitude is a dire symptom.

Over a year ago, I wrote the following short piece and sent it to Alexandra Wolfe, a sci-fi writer who runs a site, The Spec-Fiction Hub. She seemed to accept it for posting on the site (as far as I could tell), but I don’t really understand how or when that was to happen. So this piece is still unpublished.

After the Cure

In 1961, the Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights of the Committee of the Judiciary of the U.S. Senate conducted hearings on “The Constitutional Rights of the Mentally Ill.” Francis J. Braceland testified: “It is a feature of some illnesses that people do not have insight into the fact that they are sick. In short, sometimes it is necessary to protect them for awhile from themselves”
(an actual passage from Constitutional Rights of the Mentally Ill, quoted by Thomas Szasz in The Manufacture of Madness, 1970.)

How far medical science has progressed in less than two centuries. Now, in 2065, “we the people” have outgrown the awkward process of electing a government, supposedly so characteristic of an adolescent state of development. The disease of free will has almost been eradicated.

In my youth, I had a favourite T-shirt that said: “I’d rather wallow in my pathology.” I would venture outdoors with this slogan spread proudly across my breasts. Of course, they took it from me when I was committed.

I hope this message reaches you. I don’t have much time left. I learned that I am scheduled to be euthanized in thirty days. I was diagnosed with Feminine Senescence (being an old woman) years ago, and now it’s been determined that my condition is terminal. There is no point, according to the Director of the Clinic, in forcing me to suffer until I die of natural causes.

What they don’t say is that the government can’t find a use for me, since I can’t have babies who would raise the declining birthrate. No new fruit of my womb will be socialized according to the principles of Mental Health or report all signs of illness in their mother to the proper authorities. I won’t be missed by anyone who counts.

So many of those I loved have gone. Most didn’t go willingly. Some were diagnosed with Feminine Juvescence (being young, immature women), some with hyper-pigmentation of the skin. Most of those I miss were found guilty of sexual perversions, including a desire for sex without a corresponding desire for pregnancy. Those diagnosed with Masturbatory Insanity were euthanized first. Last year, the World Health Organization announced that thanks to an effective educational campaign, masturbation has been wiped out.

I fervently hope I get to see my loved ones again, somewhere beyond the physical world. I don’t really know if there is an afterlife. My willingness to consider the possibility has been written up as a sign of Senescent Heuristic Impairment.

If, against the odds, this reaches someone who has not yet been brought in for diagnosis and treatment, here is my advice and my blessing: believe your own senses, and cherish your feelings. Don’t let them tell you what to think, and what your experience really means. Cling to hope, even when all the evidence is discouraging, and your closest companions tell you (for your own good, of course) how neurotic you are.

As they said in the Dark Ages of universal madness: Where there’s life, there’s hope.

Rereading this, I realize that it's not exactly about "personal demons," but about the impersonal demons of enforced mainstream values and social control. However, it's hard for me to separate those things. Moral panics can force any handy scapegoat onto the defensive, and it's really impossible to prove that one ISN'T a psychopath or a terrorist. In a society in which teenage girls can be harassed to the point of suicide simply because they've committed sex (which was debatably consensual), who would defend a much older woman who has done much more? These questions keep me awake at night.