You’ve Got to be Kidding, AZ

As many of you are doubtlessly aware, the Arizona State House has recently passed a new law which, simply put, legalizes discrimination against LGTB citizens by anyone who runs a business serving the public. The bill awaits Governor Jan Brewer’s signature before it becomes law, but the fact that it passed with solid majorities, in 2014, is a deplorable situation that must not be allowed to pass without comment.

The simple fact is, no matter what Gov Brewer decided to do, this law will be short lived. Not because those people who passed it will suddenly have a change of heart and become reasonable and tolerant human beings, but because the law itself is OUTRAGEOUSLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL. It violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause in about a hundred different ways, and won’t survive five minutes of judicial review, even in today’s right-leaning Supreme Court.

So, what we’re talking about here isn’t so much a step backwards for equality, but a histrionic fit from the extreme rightwing of our polity, a death spasm coming from the still-warm body of bigotry and discrimination that has already been largely vanquished. These folks look around today and see that over the last ten years, the ground has simply disappeared from under their feet. From the death of DADT, DOMA, the shocking speed at which same-sex marriage has spread among the states, the complete flip of national polling on the issue, to the reality of a gay athlete in the manliest of sports, they simply weren’t prepared for the speed and scope of their total failure. Things are moving too fast for them, they’ve barely been able to process one defeat before five more have piled up on top of them. The rate of change is just too much for them to handle, so they’re fighting back like a cornered animal; no strategy, no skill, just pure, unadulterated violence.

What’s being revealed here is very telling, at least to me. The AZ bill, very similar to one that failed to pass in Kansas, (seriously, Arizona, Kansas knew better than to walk over this cliff, anti-evolution, butt-of-all-jokes KANSAS!) was written to hide its discrimination under a veil of religious protection. You see, these poor Christian business-owners were being persecuted by being forced to provide services to  those queers, who kept getting their sin juices all over everything. And everyone knows queer sin juice doesn’t wash out, leaving a stain of immorality on whatever they touch. Sure, the disguise was about as convincing as an NBA Center in a Sailor Moon outfit, but that was the justification it passed under.

But what does that tell us about the “Christians” who would choose to refuse service to homosexuals on religious grounds? Well, here’s what it tells me: They aren’t Christians at all. The story of Jesus, whether you believe him to be a real historical figure or not, is one of tolerance and acceptance. The people he broke bread with were lepers, prostitutes, the hungry, the poor, the people society had rejected as unclean. His story and message was one of universal love.

Let me ask you a simple question: Who Would Jesus Deny Service? If you actually read the fucking Bible, the answer is pretty clear. Jesus would deny service to NO ONE, (well, maybe money changers).

Anyone who would deny service to the LGTB community on religious grounds may indeed be religious, but they are anything but Christian. They are not following the clear and unequivocal example set by their founder. The irony here is the very bill that was passed under the guise of protecting Christians is perhaps the most anti-Christian bill imaginable. It codifies discrimination, something that Jesus fought against his entire life. Many of the same people here in the U.S.A. who are so terrified of Sharia Law coming to our shores have embraced a bill that the Imams in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt would support whole-heartedly. That’s pathetic.

The modern rightwing obsession with homosexuality is simply baffling to me. Why is this the one group that a certain group of Christians care about discriminating against? Why gays and not divorcees? Why are “Christian” bakers not fighting for the right to refuse service to gluttons? Would that eat into profits too much? Why not fight for the right to deny services to couples who had premarital sex? I just can’t understand what the big fucking deal is if two gay people want to use their bodies in many of the exact same ways straight couples do.

And what happens the first time a Jewish deli in Scottsdale denies a Lutheran their morning bagel on Saturday? Or a Muslim denies a Catholic a humus tray during Ramadan? Can you just imaging the fucking shit-storm that would come about if these same people faced ACTUAL discrimination because of the law they passed? Usually, I have very little patience for discussions of ‘privilege’, ‘micro-aggressions’, or a dozen other liberal buzz-words, but in this case they are exactly appropriate. The people who designed this law intend to use the overwhelming majority position of their beliefs in society to allow them to discriminate against a disadvantaged minority group with very little risk of the same thing happening to them. They are trying to codify their privileged position into law.

Not only is that anti-Christian, but it’s anti-American, and real American Christians must fight it if the label is to have any meaning whatsoever.

After the Draft: Episode X, M. Todd Gallowglas

Hello everyone. Continuing in my series of guest posts today is my good friend M. Todd Gallowglas. His story comes from a slightly different perspective than my previous guests, because Mr. Gallowglas is one of those self-publishing vandals. Enjoy!

M. Todd Gallowglas:

A couple of weeks ago, I put out the word that I was looking for stops on a blog tour to promote the release of the first installment of my serialized novel: DEAD WEIGHT. Patrick asked me if I’d stop by his little corner of the interwebz and talk about how I got my first book into print. He’s asked several writers to talk about this, just so people can get some other perspectives from different writers. With me, I think you’re going to get a very different perspective, as I’m the first self-published writer he’s asked to write about the experience of producing a first book. However, I’m going to talk about my entire career, because for me, each new project is kind of the same.

 The overall theme of my self-published writing career has been experimentation. Everything I’ve done has started as me getting an idea and saying, “Huh, I wonder if this will work out. Lemme give it a try.”

 Let’s head back to 2009. I had just received my BA in Creative Writing from SFSU.

 I’ll say two things in defense of a creative writing degree. 1) You’ll generate a crapton of material that you can later go back and rework to make publishable. (The entire DEAD WEIGHT project came out of work I did for three or four classes.) 2) You’ll get over that whole writers block myth. You’d be amazed how few instructors accept “But I had writers block” as an excuse when you don’t complete your coursework.

 Alright, so there I was, degree in hand, ready to work on being a high school English teacher while I wait for some publisher to realize my genius. We’ll ignore that I didn’t have anything ready to go. I was, however getting up at 5 am every morning and writing for two hours before schlepping the kids to school. Long and short of that teaching thing: it didn’t work out. Thankfully, I had my storytelling show and a gig moderating on-line games to fall back on. In fact, the storytelling show is responsible for my first foray into self-publishing.

 I received my first paid writing gig from Fantasy Flight Games in December of 2010: a series of flash fiction pieces from their Call of Chthulu card game line. GO ME! I worked on the Chthulu stories during early 2011 (no pressure, you only have to pretend to be HP Lovecraft for your first writing gig) my wife and several close friends who knew I had aspirations of authorship sent me a series of articles about self-publishing success stories John Locke and Amanda Hocking. At the time, I thought it was cool, but I still bought into the stigma of self-publishing. It still had yet to make its big boom.

 A buddy of mine from Renaissance Faires shared a story with me that he’d written titled, “Knight of the Living Dead.” In it, zombies invade the Yuma Renaissance Faire. He knew it had problems, and he asked if I would help clean it up. He’d originally posted it in episodic form to MySpace (remember that?). We talked about it, and decide to try publishing it to Kindle. I’d clean it up, and put it out, we’d split the money. That’s where I decided to go with the M Todd Gallowglas, rather than use my actual first name, just so I’d have a little buffer when I sent my manuscripts and queries out to really get published. So, May 1st 2011, my first ebook went live on Amazon. Due to the popularity of my “Bard’s Cloak of Tales” show, and Steve Moore’s “Myth and Magic” show at ren faires, “Knight of the Living Dead” hit the top #10,000 paid in its first week of publication.

 Which made me think, “Huh. Maybe there’s something to this self-publishing thing after all.” Two weeks later, I published a novella I’ve been fiddling with for over a decade called, “The Dragon Bone Flute.” That did pretty well too, even though each was only $.99. “Huh,” I thought. “Maybe I should put out something a little longer…and charge a little more.” So a month after that, I put out First Chosen the first book in my Tears of Rage series.

 Now, I’d originally intended Tears of Rage to be more of a serialized story. The first was about 60,000 words, pretty short for epic fantasy these days. I imagined that each volume would be between 50-60k words. Heh…riiiiiiight. Book two turned out to be 80K, book three 120K, and book four 140k. I’m really, really going to try and put book five at the 100K mark. Heh…riiiiiiiight.

 But I’m getting ahead of myself. In between book one and two of Tears of Rage I got this awesome idea of having a book to tie directly into my storytelling show. Thus Halloween Jack and the Devil’s Gate was born. It’s a steampunk historical fantasy that’s the continuation of an Irish legend about Halloween. Hit #4 in Amazon’s historical fantasy list in the first month of publication, it helped that I published it in October of 2011.

 So…here’s the kicker kids. When people talk to me about self-publishing a book, I’ll say, “Just because you can self-publish a book doesn’t mean you should self-publish a book. Not only do you have to do the writer thing, you have to do the editor, artist, marketing, publisher thing too. I am extremely lucky that I had my storytelling show as a platform to launch my career, elsewise, I wouldn’t have made as much of an impact out of the gate as I did.

 My initial readers were very forgiving of the amateurish errors I committed. I didn’t have a real editor, just a collection of beta readers. It showed in the typos in the early drafts I loaded to Amazon. It took me three tries to find an editor that not only catches my errors, but also seems to grok the artistic vision I have for all my various projects and is working to help me become a better writer over all. Thankfully, I seem to have enough talent and skill as a natural storyteller for my readers to stick with me long enough to find an editor I clicked with. Aside from Tears of Rage the covers for my first couple of books were pretty bad. They have been fixed. The Halloween Jack books have been through three iterations, and now I’m pretty happy with how they look and that finally, they hit the steampunk YA-ish fantasy thing I’m going for.

 The self-publishing thing is a learn as you screw up thing and fix it before too many people notice. I never dreamed I’d get as big as I did as fast as I did. It was one experiment after another as a way to get a little extra money out of my storytelling show. Each new book is a new publishing experience. I experiment with new promotions, and new formats. Partially because I can, partially because it’s exciting, and mostly because the publishing industry (especially in self-publishing) is changing so rapidly, what worked last your, or even a few months ago, doesn’t work now. With my latest first publication, DEAD WEIGHT: The Tombs, I’m pushing all kinds of boundaries. I’m breaking it into serialized novellas, crossing all sorts of genres: It’s a meta-fiction, near-future, urban-fantasy, noir, war-thriller, with a dash of epic fantasy, and did a massive pre-launch release to generate reviews and buzz. Okay, so I’ll be honest…it’s mostly because it’s exciting.

 Here’s the big thing though, no matter what crazy thing I experiment with, one thing holds true in self-publishing as in traditional publishing: I strive to make every single book I publish outshine everything I’ve done before. That’s the bottom line. No matter how you’re publishing, be better and be different. Strive for excellence at both.