Monthly Archives: June 2016

Pride, Dammit!

This Pride weekend (and every day!) I salute and embrace my lesbian, trans, asexual, and queer brothers and sisters.

We all fight for the right to just live our damn lives with the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as everyone else.

Too bad some can’t quite figure this out, and see rights as a non-renewable resource.

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Book Review: Axton & Leander series, by S. P. Wayne

Axton is a man of secrets. He lives the life of a hermit deep in the forest, and is quite content with his lot. As a werewolf, this gives him the space to roam, game to hunt, and no prying eyes from which he must hide. His world is upset by the arrival of Leander, a big-city lawyer who buys a cabin nearby. Axton find him attractive and is drawn to him, but not only is Leander not gay, he is very definitely human and therefore cannot know of the existence of werewolves, who exist on the fringes of human society.

Thus begins a saga that starts small and expands to a grand scale as Axton and Leander find love but must fight to find their place between the human and werewolf worlds.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

This is what occurred to me as I tried to consolidate my reviews of the individual books of this series into a single review. The Axton & Leander series by S. P. Wayne is comprised of three books: Winter Wolf, City Wolf, and Everything Carries Me To You. The series is self-published, and according to all evidence that I can find these are Wayne’s first books. It shows, but this is not a deal-killer. There are some copyediting errors, though they diminish as the series proceeds and it is all good enough to forgive the minor errors.

What you get to see here is the development of an author into an outstanding talent. This means each book gets progressively better – better characterization, better secondary cast, better plotting. As Ms. Wayne’s world-building increases in scope, there is a delightful push back against the usual tropes of werewolf fiction, and against taking “the easy way out” in plotting. Every time I stopped reading and tried to predict where the story was going and how it would end, I was wrong. I really loved this, and it made the book so much more rewarding for me!

Both Axton and Leander are relatable, complex characters who develop and show us more of their personalities as we go. Sure, Axton starts off a reclusive hermit and Leander appears to be an obnoxious douchebro, but by the middle of the second book you’re cheering for them both and learning more and more about their motivations. I found the banter in the books particularly charming, not just between the two main characters but with and between the secondary characters that join the story in City Wolf. Throughout the books the dialogue stays consistent with what we know about the characters and how they would speak. Wayne also excels in setting a scene; one of the stars of Winter Wolf is the mountain wilderness itself, snowy and unforgiving.

The bedroom door is wide-open in these books, which is to say that if explicit descriptions of two guys getting hot and steamy are not your thing then you may not find these books to your liking. That said, if you like a good werewolf book (and not just a romance book – there’s so much more happening here than just romance!) or a good urban fantasy, I can strongly recommend this series.

Winter Wolf – 3.5 out of 5
City Wolf – 4.5 out of 5
Everything Carries Me Back to You – 5 out of 5
Axton and Leander series – 5 out of 5, carried by the strong finish of the last book
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“Out for you”

I was listening to an interview with Jay of Joyfully Jay (”M/M reviews and more”) on the podcast Smart Bitches Trashy Reads  and she mentioned a wonderful alternative to the phrase “gay for you” which is popular in m/m romance circles to describe a situation where a straight man falls for another man. I find this phrase offensive since it implies that one might just become gay, and ignores the possibility of bisexuality and that there are shades of gray in terms of sexual orientation. Jay instead proposed “Out for You” which I really like. The “straight” guy may have had feelings toward men in the past but this person makes him willing to out himself (at least to himself) to act on it.

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June Dinner Party Recipes!

For those who have asked, and for those who might be interested, here are the links to the recipes I used for this month’s dinner party.

  • Sicilian Eggplant-Pine Nut Caponata
    • Quite delicious, though a bit sweeter than I would have expected. Also, next time I’ll try to remember the extra green pepper that I accidentally put the gazpacho instead!
  • Pretzel Bites
    • The recipe calls for pretzel rods but we cut them up into bite-size pieces. They came out more chewy than crisp – clearly we need to work on technique.
  • Grilled Gazpacho
    • This was a really great recipe. The grilling is a bit of a pain, but really adds to the flavor. Also, if you double the recipe it will take three rounds of processing the a large blender.
  • Baked Eggs
    • I made the recipe as stated, but also made a filling with potato, bacon, and thyme. Make sure to watch these closely and pull them out on the early side because it’s easy to cook the eggs to a hard-set yolk.
  • Fancy Salad
    • Simply delicious. I would absolutely make this again!
  • Asian Crispy Caramel Skewers
    • Yum. Just yum.
  • Grilled Curry Chicken Kebabs
    • Ditto!
  • Chicken Skewers with Penzey’s Ozark Chicken Seasoning
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies with PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter
    • Dan modified this recipe to use a little less chocolate chips, substituting in some additional PB2 chocolate-peanut butter powder.

As I noted earlier, while I wish we could throw the big blow-out parties we used to, smaller recurring dinner parties are much more manageable and will go a long way in allowing us to welcome our friends into our home without stressing me out too much. If we missed you this month, we’ll be doing may more dinners like these, for sure!

“How come there’s no straight pride?”


When I was a kid around 10 years old, I had a brace on my leg a-la Forrest Gump… I wore it for about two years to correct a hip disorder called Perthes disease. I spent those two years either hobbling around in a prototype brace (which I was lucky to be in the test group for), on crutches, or in a wheelchair. I wasn’t able to play much outdoors, not able to run around and be a kid, and not able to walk faster than an uncomfortable waddle. I was really lucky, but honestly – from a kid’s perspective? it sucked. A lot.

During this time, there were a handful of kids – not a lot, but five or six out of the thirty or so in my class – who were actually shitty to me about my situation. Seriously – they actually teased and bullied the kid in the leg brace like the antagonists in a bad 80′s coming-of-age movie. They were mad because I “got to be” pushed around in a wheelchair all the time. They were pissed that I got “preferred” seating near the restroom so I could manage more effectively. They were frustrated because I got attention that they perceived as something they deserved. They viewed the elements of my medical care as a “privilege” that they were being denied. They were actually jealous that I was stuck in a goddamned leg brace.

The point of all this back story is this: every time I see people moaning and whining about the lack of “straight pride”, this is the part of my life that provided my understanding of why. These kids were so jealous and shitty and selfish that they could completely overlook the discomfort and struggle (and outright misery, at times) of my situation because they wanted the attention I was getting. They took their health and their freedom completely for granted because they valued attention and privilege above all else, and had a complete inability to look any deeper at the consequences of the situation. If the attention wasn’t on them for one second, they did whatever it took to get it back.

I suspect that these kids grew up to become the jealous douchenozzles who write the posts bemoaning the lack of “straight pride” celebrations that show up everywhere around this time every year.

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I understand that when scrolling through Tumblr it’s easy to glance at a wall of text and skip…

I understand that when scrolling through Tumblr it’s easy to glance at a wall of text and skip past. This post was important enough and sparked enough conversation on Twitter that I wanted to emphasize it again.

Imagine that you and your significant other are out for dinner. You want to lean together closely and talk. Hold hands across the table. Maybe exchange a tender kiss.

Now imagine that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Before you lean together you glance at the table next to you – are they staring? You go to hold hands but make sure the waiter doesn’t give you a sneer. You kiss them and worry that someone may be waiting for you outside to jump you.

This sounds extreme, but this is everyday life for GLBTQA people around the world, even in the US, and even here in Illinois. This is life in fear, and it’s horrible. Things like the tragedy in Orlando bring these fears home, and every GLBTQA person thinks, “That could have been me.”

We need all the allies we can get. We need safe spaces. We need the love of our families and friends. And we need to change this, because living in fear is no way to live.

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alexdarke: Earlier today, a friend remarked: “I don’t understand. The way you are reacting, it’s…


Earlier today, a friend remarked: “I don’t understand. The way you are reacting, it’s almost like you knew someone in the club.”

Here’s the thing you need to understand about every LGBT person in your family, your work, and your circle of friends:

We’ve spent most of our lives being aware that we are at risk.

When you hear interviewers talking to LGBT folks and they say “It could have been here. It could have been me,” they aren’t exaggerating. I don’t care how long you’ve been out, how far down your road to self acceptance and love you’ve traveled, we are always aware that we are at some level of risk.

I’m about as “don’t give a shit what ANYONE thinks” as anyone you’ll ever meet… and when I reach to hold Matt’s hand in the car? I still do the mental calculation of “ok, that car is just slightly behind us so they can’t see, but that truck to my left can see right inside the car”. If I kiss Matt in public, like he leaned in for on the bike trail the other day, I’m never fully in the moment. I’m always parsing who is around us and paying attention to us. There’s a tension that comes with that… a literal tensing of the muscles as you brace for potential danger. For a lot of us, it’s become such an automatic reaction that we don’t even think about it directly any more. We just do it.

And then… over the last few years, it started to fade a little. It started to feel like maybe things were getting better. A string of Supreme Court decisions. Public opinion shifting to the side of LGBT rights. Life was getting better. You could breathe a little bit.

What happened with this event is dramatically demonstrated by how Matt and I are reacting to it. Matt came out fairly late, during the golden glow of the changing tide. He’s never dealt with something like this. It’s literally turned him inside out emotionally because all that stuff he read about that was just “then” became very much “NOW”. For me, I’ve had some time to adjust to the idea that people hate us enough to kill us. Matthew Shephard was my first real lesson in that. So this weekend was a sudden slap in the face, a reminder that I should never have let my guard down, should never have gotten complacent… because it could have been US.

Every LGBT person you know knows what I’m talking about. Those tiny little mental calculations we do over the course of our life add up… and we just got hit with a stark reminder that those simmering concerns, those fears… they probably won’t ever go away. We’ll never be free of them. Additionally, now we just got a lesson that expressing our love could result in the deaths of *others* completely unrelated to us. It’s easy to take risks when it’s just you and you’ve made that choice. Now there’s this subtext that you could set off someone who kills other people who weren’t even involved. And that’s just a lot.

That’s why I’m personally a bit off balance even though (or because, depending on how you look at it) I live in Texas and was not personally effected by this tragedy. Don’t get me wrong: nothing will change. I will still hold my husband’s hand in public. I will still kiss him in public. We’ll still go out and attend functions and hold our heads high.

But we will be doing those mental calculations for the rest of our lives. Those little PDAs you take for granted with your spouse. They come with huge baggage for us. Every single one is an act of defiance, with all that entails.

So do me a favor. Reach out to that LGBT person in your life. Friend, co-worker, or family. Just let them know you are thinking of them and you love them. That will mean the world to them right now. I promise you.

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“My wife’s the reason anything gets done She nudges me towards promise by degrees She is a perfect…”

“My wife’s the reason anything gets done
She nudges me towards promise by degrees
She is a perfect symphony of one
Our son is her most beautiful reprise
We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they’re finished songs and start to play
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day.
This show is proof that history remembers
We lived through times when
hate and fear seemed stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers
remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love
is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
I sing Vanessa’s symphony , Eliza tells her story
Now fill the world with music, love and pride.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda, 2016 Tony Awards

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Yet More Observations on M/M Romances

(I’m sure nobody really cares about this stuff, but it’s bouncing around in my brain and I like to put it into words somewhere.)

  • I’m usually a pretty upbeat guy and I love a good happy story. Yet looking back at the last dozen books I’ve read, it’s what other readers call “angst-y” books that I enjoyed the most. I’m not quite sure what to make of this. I guess it’s more interesting for me to read of characters overcoming obstacles to get what they want?
  • Speaking of angst, there is a surprising trend in many books where at least one of the main characters is damaged (for want of a better word) in some way. Thinking of past books, we have war injuries, car accident injuries, suffering from aphasia, suffering from acute ADHD, inconvenient lycanthropy (!), and the ever-popular emotionally-scarred-from-previous-relationships. There’s probably some interesting sociological and psychological observations to be drawn from this (power balances in relationships, masculine and feminine roles, caregiver/patient roles, etc.). I’m an engineer not a sociologist or psychologist, though. I have a sneaking suspicion it has something to do with the fact that the target demographic for these books is straight women, and the character of the relationships are being squeezed to fit what is considered current heterosexual norms.
  • I am amused that every blurb for every M/M romance can be summarized with “X is a guy who <problem>. Y is a guy who <role tangential to problem>. Can X and Y <resolve problem>?”
  • I have come to the conclusion that the only thing worse that M/M romance covers is M/M romance titles. Wow, there’s some tortured puns in some of those.

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Results after four months on a medically-supervised weight loss…

Results after four months on a medically-supervised weight loss program (Centegra Hospital System’s Optifast program). I posted more info about the program at

We’re off the Optifast-assisted meals now and on our own. The trick is maintaining a healthy diet and continuing to exercise. The rapid weight loss has ended (alas!) and now the focus is on something more gradual – 1 to 2 lbs per week. Ideally, 200 lbs would be amazing but 225 would make me pretty happy too!

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toggle-woggs: cloperella: I was thrilled to pieces when I saw…



I was thrilled to pieces when I saw this scene. Disney could have written Gideon off like some bully character who never really amounted to anything, or got what was coming to him like a lot of those characters do in their movies. 
Gideon made something of himself. He’s a pastry chef, something that’s not traditionally a job for men in media. And as soon as Judy speaks to him, he immediately apologizes to her. He doesn’t try to shrug it off as no big deal, or say that it was just boys being boys or whatever; he knows he hurt her, and he owns up to it. And Judy immediately forgives him. 

Well done, Disney. 

Also the language that he used is not something that he would have most likely grown up hearing/using. Describing his failings as self-doubt that manifested into “unchecked rage and aggression” sounds SO MUCH like therapy speak. So he’s either gotten counseling to help him with some of his problems, or sought out literature to help himself. A++ disney 🙂

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