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THE GOOD OLD DAYS

Last night, I walked out of my watercolor class to find six young men shaking the soda machine trying to dislodge the can that was stuck. They were big guys. They glanced at me briefly. I put my head down and slunk by, not walking fast but trying to be as invisible as possible.

The six big guys followed me out the door. My heart raced. I tried to walk normally when I wanted to run. I waited at the crosswalk. They went down the sidewalk completely unaware of me or my fear. I chastised myself for my over-reaction. Then I read and see photos of gay people getting beaten up—a seventy-five year old gay man assaulted in his front yard. Who does that?

It reminded me of the days that I didn’t want to look too “dykey” because people would scream out car windows at me or women in restrooms would tell me I didn’t belong in there because they thought I was a boy.  There were hate crimes as my baby dyke self grew up.  Someone put sugar in my gas tank and ruined my truck. The worst part was that the guys I worked with knew who did it but never said. Then there was always the graffiti on the restroom walls of at work—like “Whose tit you gotta suck to get promoted around here?” because I was the lesbian assistant manager.

Our daughter carries pepper spray now. I ask her every time she leaves the house if she has her spray. We live in a small town which is fairly progressive and we’re worried. I can’t imagine what people in big cities do and feel in this new climate of hate and fear.

I don’t understand this culture of persecution. Why can’t straight people just leave us alone? What does how we live and who we love have to do with them?

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But this is our new life now. People tell us not to worry and give our orange Hitler a chance. A chance to do what?

LEAVE IT TO BEAVER

“We can’t go that way,” I told Emma. We were walking home after the belly dancing show in the park.

“Why not? It’s shorter,” Emma said.

“Because of the beaver.  I can’t deal with it. I tried to call the city to pick it for two days now.”

“Is it dead?” Emma asked.

“As a door nail.”

beaver

“Remember when you used to keep track of the dead animals we’d see on our road trips?” Emma asked.

“I had to stop doing that. It was too traumatic and I was concerned I’d start stopping to bury them.”

“Didn’t you have a character in one of your books that did that?” Emma asked.

“It was in my Family Affair trilogy. Chase did it. She couldn’t  bear to watch a beaver or any other animals get squished and taken to parts unknown in the tire treads of all the cars that will run the poor things over. And neither can I. If your mother hadn’t had stellar reflexes we would’ve high-centered the Jeep going over it,” I said. I was so busy worrying about the beaver that I didn’t realize we’d arrived at our street.

“Come on, you can do it,” Emma said.

“I can’t look.”

“Just pull your shirt over your head like you do when you watch scary movies.”

“I only do it when there’s a lot of blood, or needles, or dark hallways leading up to closed doors or…” I stopped. Evidently, I did wear my shirt over my head a lot. “Oh, all right. You’ll have to lead me past the beaver because I won’t be able see.” I pulled my shirt up over my eyes.

We got past the beaver without incident. At the top of the hill, Em told me it was safe to come out. I pulled my head out of my shirt. “What did the beaver look like now? Was it smooshed, dismembered, and lying there as a reminder of the complete disregard for the sanctity of a dignified death?”

“I don’t know.”

“How can you not know?”

“Because it wasn’t there.”

“Then why didn’t you tell me? It’s hot under my shirt.”

Emma just smiled.

“Does this have anything to do with my comment on your room?”

“You mean the one where you called it a cesspool of teenage funk and disarray?”

“Sounds familiar,” I said.

“Then, yes.” She looked at me and grinned.”Paybacks are hell.”

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THE IMPORTANCE OF TEETH

“I know how important they are,” I told Layce. I slurped coffee through a straw. I couldn’t feel my lips and my tongue felt like it was two sizes larger than normal. I had just spent two hours at the dentist. Being the multi-tasker that I am, I got a crown followed by a teeth cleaning.

crown

I wouldn’t recommend doing this to anyone including people I find annoying.  I realize going to the dentist is a first world problem but it is still torture.  I do want nice teeth but the mental, physical and fiscal toll is a bit much.  Dentists must rank up there with IRS officials. We don’t like them but they are necessary evils. If we didn’t pay taxes we couldn’t flush our toilets or drive to the store on roads.

“How much was it?” Layce asked as she pulled a can of soup out of the cupboard.  Whatever we were going to have for dinner it wasn’t happening now.

“Eight hundred and sixty five dollars,” I replied. “Which included the cleaning.”

“A veritable steal,” she replied. I was pretty sure that was a facetious comment.

“Except I’d rather buy a new winter wardrobe, a flat screen TV for Emma, take a weekend vacation or just about any other fun thing I can think of,” I said. “Why is that? I mean I chew a lot so you’d think that I’d be ecstatic about crowns, fillings, cleanings and a complimentary toothbrush, floss and toothpaste but I’m not. I feel abused.” I slurped more coffee. My lips still had difficulty wrapping around a straw.

I thought back to the fun and games I had at the dentist’s office. Like being asked questions that I can’t answer with my mouth pried open without sounding like a gorilla communicating with the rest of her tribe. Why do they do that? Is it amusing to ask someone what they’re having for Thanksgiving dinner?  The answer sounds like “uh, goo ha herky aaa ah potaaathohs.” Do the techs and the dentist take a linguistic class in patient-with-mouth-full-of-equipment speak?

Next was the “Tell me if this hurts,” or the “How are you doing?” questions. Well, first off how am I going to do that when you’re drilling which sounds like the noise torture in the Clockwork Orange movie? Next question—how am I doing? I am having so much fun I can hardly stand it. Can’t you see my clenched fists and white knuckles?

Then there’s the quandary of whether I should close my eyes or keep them open? Am I being rude for closing them? Does that indicate I don’t want to see the dentist’s pores, moles or nose hairs up close and personal?

And finally the what-do-you-do-with-your tongue conundrum. I evidently have a very curious tongue. It wants to be wherever the action is. I try to tell her this is dangerous but she won’t listen. It’s amazing to me that after a dentist appointment I still have a tongue. Evidently dentists also take a class in how to deal with tongues.

The best part of a dentist appointment is leaving—except that I have to have another dentist appointment. I sigh and resolve myself to future torture. When I get home I know I’ll admire my new crown—not.  The silver lining is that I don’t have to have a root canal because I’m being proactive. Somehow that doesn’t sound like a consolation.

Okay, when I think of it at least I’m not teething, having regular visits from the tooth fairy and looking like a vampire because I’m missing my front teeth.

 false teeth cartoon

TO STRAIGHTEN OR NOT TO STRAIGHTEN

I glanced at the pile of books on the end table. They weren’t doing anything other than being books but they were askew. I contemplated my next move. I wanted to straighten them so bad. My hand inched in their direction.

The books taunted me saying, “I bet you want to line us up, corners to corners, all tidy like. Do it, you know you want to.”

Then the coasters started in. They weren’t sitting right next to each other. One was on one side of the end table and the other was diagonal to it. The coasters should either be stacked or lined up even with each other.

“Come on, just straighten the books and the coasters, it’ll make you feel better. You’ll sleep better. You’ll be in a good mood in the morning when you come downstairs and all is as it should be,” my brain said.

“This is your fault,” I told my brain. “You are turning me into an OCD person. Is that what you want?” I said, straightening the books and the coasters.

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“There is nothing wrong with being neat,” my brain said.

“This isn’t about being neat—this is an ever increasing obsessive behavior hence the Obsessive in the acronym OCD. I was putting the throw pillows on the couch in order of height and slanted at a 45 degree angle. I stepped back to check my work. Perfect.

“Are you coming to bed?” Layce called out from the bedroom.

“Yes, I’ll be right there,” I told her.

I’d moved onto the kitchen. I couldn’t possibly leave those dishes in the drying rack.

“See, now I can’t go to bed without tidying up the already clean kitchen.” I put the dishes away and got the dish cloth out and wiped the counters down again. “We’re moving into the Compulsive part of OCD. I can’t go to bed without doing this or I’ll lay awake berating myself for not doing it,” I told my brain.

“Who are you talking to?” Layce called down.

“My brain. It’s acting up again,” I said.

“Well, tell it that the Disorder part is now affecting my sleep patterns.”

“Oh, my God, she knows,” I told my brain. “See, it’s become more than apparent. People are noticing it.”

“Just come to bed,” Layce said. “Even OCD deserves some rest.”

“I do not have OCD,” I lied. Then to prove my brain wrong I walked over to the books and messed them up. I flicked one of the coasters so it was uneven. “Hah, take that,” I told my brain.

I climbed into bed and kissed Layce good night. I laid there. For exactly three minutes. I sat up. “I’ll be right back,” I told her.

To straighten or not to straighten, that is the question, and I know the answer.

OPPOSABLE THUMBS

What if dogs and cats had opposable thumbs? I spent one whole day researching opposable thumbs. No one in my family found this odd. God bless them.

I will begin with the cynical side of having of dogs and cats having opposable thumbs. Would we turn them into serfs and house slaves? With thumbs dogs could vacuum, dust, and mop. Would this be their permanent lot in life? Would their only allowable career be as a Merry Maid?

dog-vacuum

And what about cats? Would they permanently be cleaning bathrooms now that with thumbs they could hold a sponge? Getting down and scrubbing the tub because their height would be perfect for removing the ring of god-knows-what that every bath tub has. Bathroom mirrors and vanities would prove no problem. Pulling the Windex trigger would pose no trouble with a thumb.

How about laundry? Nobody likes doing the laundry. Just because cats have thumbs and they can fold underpants and t-shirts doesn’t mean they should have to. Or how about the cruelest thing of all— cleaning out the microwave? Would we give them protective eyewear? Would OSHA care? I can see an industrial accident in the making. Would they be protected by a union?

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Now in a Panglossian world, the lives of dogs and cats with opposable thumbs would be radically improved—beginning with civil rights. This might take a while, as history has shown, but it is possible. What if the human race recognized the beautiful souls of dogs and cats? What if they had souls capable of writing great literature now that they could hold a pen or use the space bar on a computer?

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Or creating lithographs of cans of cat food or paintings of gardens filled with squirrels waiting to be chased. Perhaps Martha Stewart line of 1000 thread count dog beds or a Patagonian line of outerwear.

cat art

Dogs would come up with time saving inventions now that they could use power tools that would free humans from banal chores and provide more time for long walks on the beach. Would the Patent Office recognize their applications for these inventions?

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What if they could hold political office now that they could shake hands? I’m certain they would eradicate homelessness—human and animals. No dog, cat or human would live a lonely life. They would be social workers and care givers and even therapists as they have long been good listeners with a built in sense of empathy.

They could be financial wizards who believed in profit sharing and fiscal ethics now that they could use an Excel program. Or how about Nascar drivers now that their thumbs allowed them to grip a steering wheel? Have we ever considered why dogs sit in the driver’s seats when forced to sit in the car, except on hot days, because the world does not allow cats or dogs in businesses and restaurants. How would we feel?

They would change discriminatory semantics like “It’s just a dog or cat.” Really, would they ever say “It’s just a human?” Would they ever be that inhumane? Or how about being called a “beast?” clumped in with “beastly” behavior? I know they would put a stop to beast-aphobia. What about the sexism of females dogs being called “bitches?” What about that injustice? Have humans ever thought about how powerful derogatory language can be?

And lastly, bad behavior? Really a dog can’t jump or lick your face? It’s called dog love. After all, don’t we show them that we do that? Do as I say not as I do? I mean those slobbery kisses from relatives and teenagers just learning to kiss, isn’t that the same thing? How messed up is that? Separation anxiety? Peeing inside, don’t we do that?

So here’s to the dogs and cats in our lives. Maybe someday they will have thumbs and shouldn’t we embrace that? Let’s find our better nature.


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Pond Adventures

The first time I saw the pond I fell in love with it. Layce and I weren’t living together yet. She told me she had a pond in the backyard and sent me a photo. It looked gorgeous.

pond

The following summer she gladly handed over the care and feeding of the pond. I felt special. I thought this was such a loving sacrifice. Here was this beautiful pond and she was essentially giving it to me. I had always wanted a pond.

I drained the winter sludge out. It wasn’t fun but in the summer I would hear the water tinkling over the rocks and it would all be worth it. I repainted it, sealed up the cracks, and installed the pump. Voila! My dream was complete.

Then during a deluge I discovered that all the worms in the yard somehow ended up in the pond. Next came the frog eggs. Emma cried as I committed tadpole genocide and screamed that I was a murderer. Then came the mosquito larvae-no tears were shed about that.

Year two-I ordered plants online and snails to go eco-friendly. We couldn’t use chlorine to keep it clean but the snails were supposed to do that job. No one told me about the prolific reproductive abilities of snails. So I figured we had a lot of snails so that meant the pond should be sparkling.

Some of the online plants grew but not like the photo on the internet showed. To add further indignation the snails were lazy. Every week the pond got browner and by the end of summer it stank like a septic tank. Then the pump failed. Luckily, it was September so I drained the pond and ordered a new pump for next year.

Year three-drain, repaint, chlorine and f—the plants. I stood out there glaring at the pond. Layce came out to help me put in new tubing. I attached the tubing to the pump only to discover it was too long. In the process of removing it from the pump I broke the attachment.

“I hate this pond. Did you build this pond? Why is it even here?” I glared at her.

“It came with the house, I swear,” Layce said as she gazed at the strewn pump parts, tubing and her red-faced spouse.

We found more tubing that proved an okay substitute. She fed it through the holes drilled in the rocks. Things went smoother except the pump basket with the filter in it kept floating.

“This pond is the bane of my existence. Ponds are nothing but work and they’re stupid. We should fill it in.”

“It would take tons of dirt,” Layce said.

She was right of course. We were stuck with the wretched thing. “In our next house we will not have a pond.”

I glared at the floating pump basket.

“Just put rocks around it and wedge it against the side. That’s what I used to do.”

I narrowed my eyes at her. “I thought you were being so nice me when you let me have the pond. You KNEW what a pain in the ass it was.”

“I just thought it was time to spread the joy,” she said.

I picked up a rock. She backed away. I’ll admit it crossed my mind but instead I got down on the ledge of the pond and wedged the pump instead.

And then I slipped and fell in the pond. I stood there fully clothed including shoes in a freezing cold pond up to my knees. I used a string of obscenities that will not be repeated here to protect the innocent.

Layce looked at me with big eyes. And to give her credit she did control herself until I laughed and then we both laughed.

I stood there ruminating on the circumstances that had brought me to this moment in time. What could I have done differently? How could this have been prevented? “I cannot believe this just happened. I have never even come close to falling in the pond. I hate this pond.”

Layce broke the spell. “Do you need help getting out?”

“Yes, please. I think the pond gods may have taken offense at my behavior.”

“Perhaps,” she said as I dripped and squeaked all the way to the back door.


 

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How Much Money Does a Novelist Make?

HOW MUCH MONEY DOES A NOVELIST MAKE?

By Layce Gardner & Saxon Bennett

As Indie authors who have had three best-selling novels in the past twelve months AND who have also had eighteen novels published with a small lesbian publisher, we are often asked this question. We don’t normally talk about finances and how much money we make but in this case we want to make an exception.

MYTH: Authors make more money if you buy their book directly from the publisher’s website.

TRUTH: Authors do not make more money. The PUBLISHER makes more money if you buy directly from their website.

That is why publishers hold on to a book at their website for a month or more before putting it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or other platforms. They make more money at their website. But they still pay the author the same amount regardless.

Here’s a typical breakdown of monies the author sees from sales on different platforms: (some authors may make more or less than others.)

PRINT BOOKS

With a publisher an author makes up to 8 percent on the cover price. If you buy a print book for $16, the author makes $1.28. Regardless of where the book is bought, the author makes $1.28 per book. That means if 100 books are sold the author makes $128.

By the same token, the publisher makes $1,472 per every 100 print books sold. Unless it’s at Amazon. Amazon only gives the publisher 70 percent of every book sold. That is why publishers hold their books on their website and urge readers to buy from their website. Because the PUBLISHER makes less money at Amazon.

To put this in perspective, imagine that you are working for a company that pays you a salary of $50,000 per year. But they take 92 percent of your salary and put it back in their own pocket, giving you only $4,000 for the year. And you still have to pay taxes on that 4 grand! That means you bring home $76 a week before taxes.

Indie authors vary on how much they make with a print book. It depends on the cover price they set, how big the book is and who they use to print the book. Saxon and I use Create Space and their print on demand services. Create Space then offers the book for sale everywhere, including bookstores, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

For our latest book, Kiss & Tell, we set the cover price at $12.99. That means for each book sold (70,000 words) we make approximately $4. For every 100 print books sold we make $400.

For Indie authors, print books are only a drop in the bucket of total sales. Print amounts to a mere 1-2 percent of our sales. We do it mainly to have books to autograph and hand out.

eBOOKS

Publishers typically pay an author 15 to 25 percent per ebook. Again, some authors make more and some make less, but this seems to be industry standard. If an ebook is for sale on the publisher’s website for $10 then the author (at 25 percent) makes $2.50. If the ebook is bought on Amazon for $10 then the author makes $2.50. The author makes the same no matter where the book is purchased.

Indie authors make considerably more money from their ebooks. If an Indie author has a book for sale on Amazon for $10, they will make $7.00 from that sale. (Give or take a few pennies that Amazon takes for downloading fees.) If the Indie author sells 100 copies they make $700.

MYTH: The Amazon top 100 doesn’t help book sales.

TRUTH: The Amazon top 100 means A HELLUVA LOT more book sales.

I have had three books in the Amazon top 100 of Lesbian Romance in the past year and have pieced together the following information on have many sales it takes to reach a spot in the top 100.

Amazon ranking (Lesbian Romance)                                        How many sales per day

50 – 100                                                                                                         10-15

30-50                                                                                                              15-20

10-30                                                                                                              20- 50

6-10                                                                                                                50-100

1-5                                                                                                                  100 or more

Our book More Than a Kiss was Number One in Lesbian Romance for six months. Each day we sold between 100-175 ebooks per day. We made $8,000 in the first month of sales. To date we have sold over 6,000 copies and are still selling.

To make matters more clear about the difference between authors with publishers and Indie authors: One year with her publisher Layce made $252 total. In our first year as an Indie author we made $28,500. And we are in no way exceptional. We have talked with other Lesfic Indie authors who have made much, much more.

All the figures discussed in this blog come from our own experience and from talking to authors who are with publishers. It has also been brought to my attention that Sapphire Books pays their authors considerably more than most other Lesfic publishers.

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