It's December?!

The sound of an alarm is shrill and sharp, and most people can't sleep through one. I don't have  that problem—never have. Needless to say, I seem to have missed the switch from November to December. Even work was able to surprise me with things I hadn't yet done. (And work is one of the things I generally do impeccably.)

I've gone ahead and removed the NaNoWriMo update thing from the site since November is over. I didn't win, but I'm okay with it. The month of November was less productive than I wanted it to be, but it got me back on track. I'm more productive now than I've been in months. I've completed two short stories, started a novel that I'm flooded with inspiration for, and I've written a lot of non-fiction stuff.

Moreover, as January approaches, I'm going to be submitting a bunch of stuff to the OWFI Writing Contest. It's gonna make the convention this spring more fun. Honestly, if you're a writer in Oklahoma, and you don't go to the OWFI Conference, you're missing out.

A Murder of Storytellers is coming out with one anthology in January that I'm helping to edit! It's called Theater B. I want to get you excited about it, so I'll repost the blurb from the back of the book, which I wrote. Enjoy...and anticipate!

Evil Dead. Grindhouse. Brain Damage. Motel Hell. Night of the Comet. There are no conventions that the vanguard writers of these films wouldn't eschew. There are no rules that they wouldn't break. These maestros of the macabre took everything we know about horror and set it on its head, all for fancy's thrill. For them, there is no caprice too bizarre to indulge. No limits. No precautions. Just you, a story, and the wind rushing past you with the ground fast approaching. Oh, and your bungie cord isn't attached to your harness. Your evil hand must have loosened it.

Maybe the voice living in the zit on the left side of your nose can help. Why don't you ask her? Oh, yes—your zit is a chick. The incarnate ghost of your dead great-aunt.

Theater B is a collection of short stories written in the same vein as the classic B movies that we fell in love with for their utter lack of shame. They are orgasms of creativity, sluicing imagination from every orifice. They are monuments to the raw idea, bereft of filter, spawned to electrify, to terrify, and to nauseate.

Last thing. Look up! It's a new logo! It doesn't look very different, but you get special bonus points if you notice the sleek differences. 😉

Happy Holidays, Bitch

Have you ever wanted to say “Happy Holidays” to someone, but you actually did want it to come across as an insult?

I was at the allergy clinic earlier this week, and a woman who is sitting nearby is watching the news. I am not watching the news—one, it's Fox News, so I'm aware that pulling out my phone and watching My Little Pony on Netflix is likely to be more edifying; second, they're talking about the War on Christmas. So I'm extremely disinterested in the TV. This woman, on the other hand, she is enthralled by it.

On the War on Christmas: if there were one, it'd be like the war on zombies. You're part of your own little, barbed-wire-enclosed compound. You watch as the other compounds—first Thanksgiving, now Halloween—are consumed by the Christmas horde. You can fight back against Christmas, but its onslaught is unstoppable, backed by billions upon billions of dollars in holiday sales and end-of-the-year dividends. Christmas has been taking over every winter holiday since it killed all the non-Christian winter rebirth celebrations and wove them its growing, mutated, Frankenstein's monster body.

I'm pretty sure that Christmas starts in September now. And if the neighborhoods I frequent are any indication, it ends sometime in March. There is no War on Christmas. If there is, Christmas is the undisputed winner. Christmas is fighting with Hellfire-missile-raining drones, and we've got a few sticks and a potato gun.

So this woman turns back to me and says, “Isn't that horrible? They keep taking Christ out of Christmas, there's gonna be nothing left.”

“What?” I say. I'm distracted by my phone, but I'm also dumbfounded by her comment.

She looks back at the TV and says, dramatically, “It's Christmas. Not just any holiday.

I can't respond. I'm wondering if I've stepped into an Onion editorial column.

She gets up to leave. “Merry Christmas,” she says.

I frown internally, but I tell her, “Happy Holidays.” I could've said “Merry Christmas,” but I didn't want to. She doesn't deserve Christmas. In her own worldview, Christmas means something. At its most secular, it's a celebration of giving. Sticking to “Merry Christmas” like it's a cudgel with which to beat back non-Christians is an intensely selfish behavior. It says, “This area of the calendar is mine. MINE!” That's neither Christian, nor is it Christmas-y.

Really, if you have a problem with people wishing you happiness of any kind, then you're the problem. A flowchart posted online by my former community counseling professor at Oklahoma State University does a great job of tapering down the point to a sharp end. Enjoy and share this holiday season:

Religious Freedom or Bigotry?

Beware. This post contains many pictures. Videos too!

As you might have heard, Indiana's governor Mike Pence recently passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The law states precisely this:

Religious freedom restoration. Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest. Provides a procedure for remedying a violation. Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer.
— https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2015/bills/senate/101#digest-heading

On its face, the law appears to protect the rights of business owners to defer to their religious preferences when deciding how to engage in business (e.g., who they will or will not serve). Seems nice, right? Except that no. It's not. Although the law itself does not specifically mention same-sex customers, that's precisely who the law is intended to discriminate against. Governor Pence, in the face of the backlash against the law, is trying to "clarify the intent of the law."

This makes Governor Pence a liar. Let's consider this for a moment. Here's Governor Pence passionately supporting Eric Miller and his lobby group Advance America:

To Governor Pence, Eric Miller is an inspiration. To anyone with any sense, he's a bigot. While Governor Pence seeks to sugercoat the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, here's Eric Miller's revelation about its true intent.

Churches, Christian businesses and individuals deserve protection from those who support homosexual marriages and those who support government recognition and approval of gender identity (men who dress as women). SB 101 will help provide the protection!
— http://www.advanceamerica.com/pdf/Religious-Freedom.pdf

Thanks for the clarification, Mr. Miller. He makes the intent of the law abundantly clear. It's not to protect religious freedoms; it's to protect the rights of religious people to blatantly discriminate against the LGBT community. So far, I haven't linked to a single liberal outlet, which I'm pretty happy about. It's best to hear what people believe from their own bigoted mouths.

But maybe Governor Pence got confused, supporting Eric Miller despite his beliefs about LGBT couples. Nah. Here's Governor Pence being asked about marriage. Pay particular attention to the question he's asked at the one-minute mark:

And then there's what he said to the House of Representatives at a hearing at the 108th Congress:

Mr. Speaker, after weeks of legal and moral confusion, from Massachusetts to California, today President George W. Bush called on this Congress to adopt a constitutional amendment defining marriage historically and culturally as it has ever been, as the union between a man and a woman. In so doing, President George W. Bush brought moral clarity to the debate by calling for this amendment banning gay marriage, in his words, preventing courts from changing that most enduring of human institutions.
— http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r108:H24FE4-0011:/

His intent is clear. From his own mouth. Not from anyone trying to disparage him by claiming that the intent of the law is anything but what it is. He says it himself.

Twenty states—most recently Arkansas—have passed similar laws allowing for businesses to discriminate against LGBT couples and individuals. This is unfortunate because this issue was already decided upon. As the meme below states, "We've already had this conversation."

wevealreadyhadthisdiscussion

Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that...

All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.
— http://library.clerk.house.gov/reference-files/PPL_CivilRightsAct_1964.pdf

So what's a "place of public accommodation," you ask? Well, the law does a good job of defining it:

Each of the following establishments which serves the public is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of this title if its operations affect commerce, or if discrimination or segregation by it is supported by State action:

(1) any inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment which provides lodging to transient guests, other than an establishment located within a building which contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and which is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as his residence;

(2) any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, or other facility principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises, including, but not limited to, any such facility located on the premises of any retail establishment; or any gasoline station;

(3) any motion picture house, theater, concert hall, sports arena, stadium or other place of exhibition or entertainment; and

(4) any establishment (A)(i) which is physically located within the premises of any establishment otherwise covered by this subsection, or (ii) within the premises of which is physically located any such covered establishment, and (B) which holds itself out as serving patrons of such covered establishment.
— http://library.clerk.house.gov/reference-files/PPL_CivilRightsAct_1964.pdf

Yes, that includes bakeries and florists and any other place that is run by racists, sexists, people who'd love to discriminate against members of other religions and nationalities. Why doesn't it include homophobes? Because that's the civil rights issue of our time. If you're a business owner whose spiritual beliefs include the belief that the sons of Ham and the sons of Seth shouldn't mix, you can't use your religious beliefs to discriminate against that interracial couple.

Now, if you agree with the Indiana law, you might be thinking, This law isn't about race or any of that! It's about protecting the institution of marriage! Yeah, well, you're not the only one in American history who's tried to "protect the institution of marriage" by discriminating against those who fly in the face of what you believe. Laws protecting the rights of interracial couples didn't used to exist. Here's the story of the Lovings:

The parallels between the struggles that the Lovings faced and the struggles that LGBT couples face may not be immediately apparent to the homophobes in the Indiana state legislature, but I hope they are to you, dear Reader. Because I'm a writer. And I write gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters. I intend to continue to do so. If that's not your cup of tea, you might not want to read my stories. And that's totally fine with me.

I'm not alone. But if you do happen to disagree with me, here's a great video inviting you to visit the lovely state of Indiana:

I'm proud to see that Oklahoma didn't go the way of Indiana. Don't get me wrong. Oklahoma tried. Our 55th legislature introduced House Bill 1371 in February of this year. It was penned by Representative Chuck Strohm and had a very similar wording as the Indiana law:

In any action brought under the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, neither the State of Oklahoma nor any subdivision thereof shall be
entitled to claim a governmental interest which purports to require any person to participate in any marriage ceremony, celebration, or other related activity or to provide items or services for such purposes against the person’s religious beliefs.
— http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2015-16%20INT/hB/HB1371%20INT.PDF

Then there's the genius of Representative Emily Virgin, who added a tiny amendment to the bill this month:

Any person not wanting to participate in any of the activities set forth in subsection A of this section based on sexual orientation, gender identity or race of either party to the marriage shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites. The notice may refer to the person’s religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which couples the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or race.
— http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2015-16%20FLOOR%20AMENDMENTS/House/HB1371%20FA1%20VIRGINEM-AM.PDF

And...that killed the bill. The House leadership pulled it from the floor, and Virgin's amendment wasn't even debated. I guess they were afraid that extreme conservative representatives might actually vote for the amendment, and the House leadership realized that it would adversely affect business interests in the state of Oklahoma. Smart move.

Now there's Josh Driver, the mind behind the Open For Service campaign. It allows businesses, individuals, and religious organizations to express their support for equality by posting stickers on their entrances or anywhere else. You can get your own, and all profits will go to SCORE, which supports small businesses throughout the country by offering assistance in management, organization, and marketing.

I'm getting one, the publishing company I work for is getting one, and you should get one too. It's a good cause, and you can support equality and small business all at the same time.