Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

Over a year ago, my mom said, “I’d like to hike somewhere with you before I’m too old.”

I semi-jokingly replied, “You find the budget, I’ll find the time!” Cause let’s be realistic, broke writer here.

Tonight we get on a plane on fly to Dublin.

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The trip has changed a little in that time. The original plan was for the two of us to hike across the country from Dublin to the West coast. A stress fracture in my mom’s foot derailed that plan fairly quickly, and we decided it would be nicer if we didn’t leave my dad at home.

But we’re still going from Dublin to the West coast (albeit in a car, and along the coast). There will be shorter day hikes and lots of time to explore the countryside.

And after three weeks, they’ll drop me off at Helena Stone’s house and I’ll stay with her and her husband for another two and a half weeks.  There will be writing of course, and day trips into Dublin to see places I’ve heard her talk about but barely imagined I’d visit.

I have a date with a very cool Irish guy I’ve been talking to for a few months. Long story, but suffice it to say when you post on an Irish message board you’ll find the Irish are a VERY friendly bunch.

The whole thing will be a working vacation—because I definitely can’t just take five and a half weeks off from writing—but I am so excited it’s ridiculous. I’ll definitely be on social media less, but I WILL take a ton of pictures.

It’s still a little surreal. I’m not sure it’s really sunk in that I’ll be staying in Ireland for almost six weeks. But my packed suitcase says otherwise and in a little over twelve hours, I’ll be leaving Toronto airport and heading straight for Dublin.

The real question is, am I ever going to want to come home?

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Why I March

I haven’t come out of my writing cave a whole lot lately.

What I AM coming out for is the Women’s March this weekend. My best friend and I took a road trip to Washington D.C.. Tomorrow, on January 21, 2017, we’ll join hundreds of thousands of people there, and more across the world, to say that we don’t agree with the current direction our country is heading.

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You can call it a protest against Trump if you want but it’s about a lot more than just him. It’s a message to everyone, across every political party. It’s about standing up for what I believe in. Letting my voice be heard.

This isn’t sour grapes about an election. It’s an opportunity to unequivocally say that I don’t support the leaders who are trying to dismantle the policies that protect people’s health and safety.

For women.

For LGBTQ people.

For minorities.

For the disabled.

For anyone who has been marginalized or made vulnerable.

This is for the people who can’t speak for themselves.

I have a voice and I need to use it.

So tomorrow I will march. Going forward, I will hold our legislators accountable. I will not sit idly by.

I will not be silenced.


If you want to learn more about the mission and values of the march as a whole, please click here.  https://www.womensmarch.com/mission/

If you want to join us, there are sister marches happening across the world please click here. https://www.womensmarch.com/sisters

Don’t Tell Me It’ll Be Fine – Pt. 2: The Plan

To see Pt. 1: The Rant, click here.

Last night, I got a message from a friend who lives out of state. He was in the area and asked if I was free and wanted to grab dinner. I’d actually canceled a date (the guy turned out to be racist and xenophobic, ugh) so I met my friend in Ann Arbor instead.  Although we touched briefly on the election and the consequences, our conversation primarily covered everything else.

We stayed at the restaurant until they kicked us out and it was a massive relief to laugh and joke and just enjoy a good meal. I drove home with a smile on my face, singing along to show tunes. It was glorious.

For a few minutes, I felt guilty. But I realized that I needed that break. It didn’t make me any less determined to make changes in my life or fight for myself and the people I care about. On the contrary, it allowed me to do that better.

I fell asleep easily and woke up feeling more rested than I have since Tuesday.

Today I feel mentally equipped to sit down and make a plan.

Here it is.

The Plan:

  • Set up a recurring monthly donation to the ACLU. (Already done)
  • Donate to other groups like Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center as my budget allows.
  • Find organizations and groups that are educational and help me connect with others who want to make change happen. (Ongoing, but I’ve already started)
  • Attend local events where my voice can be heard.
  • Contact my legislators through petitions/letter writing campaigns/calls. (Ongoing, but I’ve already started)
  • Seek out the voices of people who are marginalized and listen to what they have to say. (Ongoing, but I’ve already started)
  • Contact the Ruth Ellis Center about volunteering my time. It’s a wonderful organization in the Metro Detroit area that helps:LGBTQ youth. I donate to them around the holidays every year, but I need to do more.
  • Be scrupulously careful about only sharing verified news and information about what’s happening. There will be plenty of horrible results of this. There’s no reason to spread false information. It only hurts us. (Ongoing, but I’ve already started)
  • Vote with my dollar. Support ethical companies and actively avoid supporting companies that are contributing to the problem.
  • Stop tolerating minor comments against women/minorities/LGBTQ people. I know there are times I could have spoken up and haven’t, and that has to stop. (Ongoing, but I’ve already started)
  • Attend the Million Women March in D.C. in January to show that my voice won’t be silenced.
  • Work on learning the difference between preaching and educating people.
  • Come out to my former coworkers. If I lose them as friends that will break my heart, but I will not hide who I am anymore, just because it’s going to be difficult.
  • Allow myself  to take a break for my own mental health. (Ongoing, but I’ve already started)

Quick note: Here’s a great resource for self-care specifically for bisexual people: https://bisexual.org/self-care-for-bi-people-election-edition/

Please, please, feel free to comment with other constructive suggestions. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Don’t Tell Me It’ll Be Fine – Pt. 1: The Rant

The Rant:

You tell me to calm down. You tell me it’ll be fine.

First of all, you don’t get to tell me how I feel.

I am a bisexual woman. I have family and friends who are LGBTQ and minorities.

I am scared. I am sad. I am angry.

And I have every right to be.

Because it’s not going to be fine. It already isn’t fine.

Not when a man who ran on a platform of hate got elected to the presidency. Not when his vice president actively supports conversion therapy and stripping away the rights of women and minorities. Not when the world has seen the worst behavior not only condoned, but rewarded. Not when an Anti-LGBT hate group is running the domestic policy transition. Not when the architect of one of the most racist laws in modern US history and a man who wants to bring back McCarthy era witch hunts are being considered for prominent positions.

You tell me that there are checks and balances in the government. Yes, there are. One of those is US Senator Harry Reid who is speaking out about Trump. But with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, and the potential for Supreme Court Justice nominations those checks and balances can be eroded.

You tell me that Trump will back down and that he won’t accomplish everything he’s promised. That’s possible. But what if he accomplishes 10% of those things? Doesn’t sound like much, does it?

But what if I lose my health insurance?

What if I fall in love with a woman and no longer have the civil right to marry her?

What if my Hispanic friend’s kids are tormented and frightened and told to go back to Mexico?

What if my cousins are beaten to death because they’re black?

What if I’m raped or assaulted?

What if these things are done because of his policies or because of his hate speech?

If you voted for Trump or didn’t vote at all, can you look me in the eye and justify your choices?

Can you tell me that your beliefs are more important than my health and safety and that of everyone I care about?

I don’t hate Trump voters and the people who didn’t vote. But I do feel betrayed. You were given a chance to stand up for me, to support me, and you chose not to. If I know you personally, that cuts me deep. And the closer we are, the deeper that cut goes.

You gutted me.

Yes, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. To vote as his or her beliefs and values dictate. You say you had a right to not vote at all. That’s true.

But there are consequences. And one of those consequences may be losing my trust and respect.

I am not someone to whom anger comes naturally. Extreme emotional stress typically makes me cry. But this week, in between the tears, there has been red-hot fury like I’ve never felt before.

On Thursday, a friend said, “They woke the dragon.” And maybe that’s true. But it doesn’t feel like red-hot anger anymore. It’s still anger, but it’s something cooler. Something infinitely sharper and more effective. It’s determination.

This has been building for a long time.

To whatever degree I have kept silent when I could have spoken up, that is over now.

To whatever degree I’ve hidden my identity, that is over now.

To whatever degree I have allowed people to slide or given them the benefit of the doubt, that is over now.

I am done.

Tomorrow, I’ll finish putting together an action plan for how I am going keep these things from happening to myself and my loved ones. To all of you.

I will take some deep breaths and try to let go of the anger. I will mend fences with people I got angry with. I will try to listen to their concerns and their reasoning for their choices. I will try to reach across the divide.

But today I am angry.  And that is okay.

Wish I Was There Giveaway

I’m dealing with a serious case of GRL envy right now. I went in 2014 as a reader and had such a wonderful time meeting people and spending a weekend thinking about books.

I swore I’d go in 2015, but life didn’t cooperate. And 2016 hasn’t been any better.

I am, needless to say, hoping 2017 will be the year!

Honestly, this past year hasn’t gone the way I’ve planned at all. I am struggling to figure out how to get books finished and out faster. I think I actually did better with it when I had the full-time job (although my health really suffered).  I haven’t quite found that balance yet.

I’m earning enough as a writer to pay my bills, but not enough to move out of my parents’ house yet. *sighs*

It’s frustrating. I feel like I’m very close to things coming together but I am not quite sure what I need to do to make that happen.

But, many, many good things are happening so I’m trying to focus on that.

This past week, my co-writer and I submitted a novel to a publisher that we’ve been working on for three years! Technically, we’ve been working on two novels (with a combined word count of nearly 200k) for three years, but we submitted the first one and are very excited about it. We should hear back in about six weeks. Eep!

I am also working on an expansion of “Pain Management”. It was the short story that was part of the “Dr. Feelgood” anthology through Dreamspinner Press. The rights have reverted back to me so I am going to expand the 10k short into a novella. I hope to release that in November.

And I am 60k words into a novel that is coming together very well. It’s in the hands of one of my betas at the moment and I am hoping that have that out by January!

In non-writing related news, my annual Stratford, Ontario weekend vacation starts tomorrow. So I’ll be going to see “Macbeth” and “As You Like It”. I’ll spend the rest of the time wandering around a pretty little town, eating delicious food, and taking photos. It’s always a lovely, relaxing time.

My Kindle app is loaded with books and I am going to do my best to do a minimum of work. Ideally none, but I’m not always very good at that.

Taking the trip the same weekend as GRL wasn’t planned, but it did work nicely. I am glad I won’t be at home moping about not getting to hang out with my favorite authors and readers!

So I thought I’d do something to make life a little more fun for those of us who can’t be at GRL.

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I’m offering a giveaway of one of my eBook titles to anyone who comments with what you would enjoy most about going to a writing convention! You can answer as either a reader or a writer (or both!).

BUT, there’s a little catch. If you see this posted on my blog, go to my FB fan group (Brigham’s Book Nerds) and comment there. If you see this in the Book Nerds group, comment on my blog.

And if you are an amazing fan who already has all of my eBooks, leave a comment anyway and we’ll figure out something else for your prize. 🙂

I will pick the winner tomorrow morning, so don’t wait to enter!

Real Life

I posted the following on my personal Facebook page today.


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The attack in Orlando left me gutted.

I’ve spoken a lot about it with friends and have been trying to figure out what I can do. I’ve signed petitions, I’ve written to various members of the government, and I’m going to donate a short story to a charity anthology that will benefit the injured and families of those who died.

It’s not much, but it’s something.

A comment someone made on Facebook made me think though. She has multiple Facebook accounts (as do I) and she mentioned how silent her “real life” account has been. How no one is talking about what happened. How no one is coming together to grieve or console each other. How different it was from the one she uses for her writing. I checked here to see if that was the case. If my “real life” account was as silent. It wasn’t. And I’m glad. But it made me think even more. It made me think about the fact that I’ve been silent about what I do for a living.

So I guess this is my coming out of sorts.

Most of you know I’m bisexual. Many of you know that I write. A good number of you know that I write LGBTQ romance. And yet, I’ve had the privilege of keeping them separate. I used a pen name. I didn’t announce what I wrote to the world.

At first, it was because I was working at the hospital. After all, in Michigan, I could have been fired for who I am. I could have been fired for being bi. I could have been fired for my writing. If you think that sounds far-fetched, truth is indeed stranger than fiction. I know writers it has happened to.

By the time I quit to write full-time I was so immersed in the LGBTQ writing community that I was almost never on my “real life” account. It seemed pointless to make a big deal about it.  Most of the people I am close to already knew.

But part of a part of my hesitation was because I was scared. Afraid of rejection. Afraid of the consequences. And, to be frank, afraid of the hatred.

If I didn’t tell you before now, I’m sorry.

My silence has never been because I’m ashamed of who I am and what I do. I am proud of what I write. I am proud of my community.

It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t have a plan for my life until I realized I could write. Writing has anchored me and shaped me in ways I can’t begin to put into words. Every time I say I am a writer I say it with a sense of wonder.

But I know I have been very privileged to be able to pick and choose who I am out to.

I used quotation marks around the phrase “real life” because my writing IS my real life. My sexual identity is my real life. In the past few years, the lines between my birth name and my pen name have blurred. A few months ago I tried to sign in to a yoga class and couldn’t figure out why it couldn’t find that name in the system. I’d used my pen name. I answer to either. I am both.

I have deep respect and understanding for the people who stay hidden. Many times, there is no other choice. As we saw this past weekend, hatred runs deep. There are grave consequences for being out and proud. Until the world changes and everyone is safe, each person deserves to make that decision for themselves. In their own time.

This is my time to stand up and say: my name is Brigham Vaughn. I write LGBTQ romance. I am bisexual.

There may be little I can do about what happened in Orlando. But I have a voice. And I am tired of being silent.

Bourbon Slush

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It’s been beastly hot lately (at least by my standards) and I’m always looking for a way to cool off. With holiday parties approaching, I figured I’d share one of my favorite recipes. The recipe originally came from my aunt but has since been modified. I cut back on the sugar and upped the amount of liquor. It’s definitely potent, but goes down easy, so be warned.

I made it for a Memorial Day party I went to last night and to my surprise people I hadn’t seen in a couple of years remembered the bourbon slush and were thrilled that I brought it.

You can definitely scale the recipe up or down and tweak it to your taste since it’s pretty forgiving, but this is roughly what I did for the party which made a large pitcher.


Bourbon Slush

8 tea bags
2 cups water, boiling
3/4 cup sugar
4 cups water
1 (12 oz.) can orange juice concentrate
1 (750ml) bottle of bourbon (I used Evan Williams)
1 (12 oz.) can frozen lemonade

Steep tea bags in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Add sugar, additional water, orange juice, bourbon, and lemonade.

Pour into container and freeze.

Remove from freezer and stir. Allow to sit at room temperature 10 minutes before serving if needed.

Motherhood

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I can’t tell you the exact moment when I knew being a mother wasn’t right for me.   Sure, I talked about my future children in an abstract way and had baby dolls growing up. My Cabbage Patch doll, April-May, was a faithful companion for many years of my childhood.  I also left her in the window of a hot car on a scorching summer day at the zoo and melted her little plastic head, so I think it’s rather clear the nurturing instinct can be a bit hit or miss for me.

But dolls and imagining the future children I might have with a boy I had a crush on doesn’t really mean much. At various points throughout my childhood, I wanted to be a dump truck driver, The Pope, and an astronaut. Plans change.

In elementary school, I remember being fascinated by two teachers at my school who were a married couple.  Mr. and Mrs. S adored the kids they taught and invited those kids and their parents to their beautiful restored Victorian home for an incredible holiday party every year.   One of my good friends and I even spent the night there a few times.  I doubt teachers could get away with having students stay at their house these days, but I went to a Montessori school and things were a little more laid back in the 80’s.

I have distinct memories of Mrs. S doing laundry and whispering that she couldn’t use the name of the pre-treater or Mr. S would make a big ruckus.  He must have had a six sense about it because he came racing in from the other room yelling “Shout! You’re using Shout! It’s time to shouuuuuuuuuuuut!”  We giggled at him and thought he was the most ridiculous, wonderful adult we’d ever met.  They were both fantastic with kids and I cherish those memories.

I asked my mom once why they didn’t have kids and she answered, “I don’t know. It’s not really any of our business unless they decide to tell us.”  But she did explain that some people had trouble having babies and some people simply didn’t want them.

I was astonished by this concept.  “You can do that?” I asked, unaware that choosing to not have kids was a valid option.  “But, Mr. and Mrs. S love kids! Why wouldn’t they want any of their own?”  I don’t remember exactly what she said, but the gist of it stuck with me. There were people who loved kids who didn’t necessarily want any of their own.

It was a revelation.

Once I was old enough to begin to grasp what raising a child entailed, which was maybe fourteen or fifteen, I realized I didn’t actually want kids.  It wasn’t some thunderbolt moment, just a dawning realization that it wasn’t something I felt any urge for.  People told me “oh, you’ll change your mind.”  I didn’t really argue because it’s the kind of argument that can’t be won.

But I’m 34 and I still haven’t changed my mind.

I spend one day a week with my best friend, Eden, and her family. I love them all.  Her boys are spectacular little human beings and she’s doing a damn good job raising them.  And no, I’m not just saying that because I know she’s reading this. *waves at Eden*

They have bad days and tantrums and meltdowns, of course. They’re six and three so it comes with the territory. But they’re sweet and funny and turning into such interesting people. I am thoroughly enjoying being “Aunt Wagon” to them.

The more time I spend with them, the happier I am with my choice, however.

Motherhood isn’t for me, but I appreciate the women who work so hard at it. I appreciate my friends and cousins who are raising great kids. I appreciate my mom. I appreciate them more for doing something I never could.

Happy Mother’s Day. I hope it’s a good one.

 

 

May Day

Family traditions are big in my family. I’m still mourning all of the traditions we lost when my grandma died, but there are a few we’ve managed to keep intact with some modifications.

Every year when I was growing up, my grandma, mom, and I would go to a local greenhouse that opens on May 1st and closes whenever they run out of plants. I missed the trip on the years when May 1st fell on a weekday. But once I was done with school I took the day off work to go. Now that grandma is gone, mom and I go. Sometimes we invite my dad.

This year was one of the cooler days for the greenhouse trip. As someone who hates hot weather, I was very happy. When it’s already 75 degrees out, it becomes unbearable inside the greenhouse.

We actually visited three different greenhouses and a couple of markets. It was a long but really enjoyable day and a great way to celebrate May Day!

This year I decided to take some photos of the plants that caught my eye. I didn’t bring my big digitals SLR and lenses, but I am quite pleased with the photos I took with my Nexus 5 and I think it did quite well for a phone camera.

You can click on each photo to make it larger and see more detail.

My parents got some flowers to give as gifts, other to keep, and some vegetables for the garden. I helped pick out some herbs. I already used some of the herbs to make lamb patties with a cucumber salad and mint sauce (SO GOOD). And I am looking forward to making mojitos this summer.

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I also picked up a succulent for myself. They’re trendy right now, but I’m not complaining. I’ve always found them interesting and it’s nice to see a bigger selection available. This one is a bit of a mystery. It was in with the jade plants and looks very similar to them. Unlike a jade, it is fuzzy. I checked with the people at the greenhouse and they didn’t have an exact variety name for me. It’s in the Crassula family (Jades are too) but there are over 1400 varieties of Crassula so I’ll probably never figure out exactly what type it is. I’m going to treat it like a jade and hope for the best!

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Banana Shortcake

I sometimes feel like I’m not paying enough attention to my blog. And when I do, it’s all totally writing related and, frankly, boring. I have every intention of continuing to post flash fics and review books, but I thought rather than struggle to find more writing related topics, I’d include some posts about what I do when I’m not writing or reading.

As I’m sure a lot of you know, I really enjoy cooking. So today I thought I’d share a recipe that I made recently that has some great memories associated with it.

I spent a lot of time at my grandma’s house when I was growing up. She was a good cook and I hung out with her in the kitchen often. I watched her cook  and, as I got older, helped her. When I think of my grandma, the recipes that come to mind first are cherry cobbler, German potato salad, and doughnuts from scratch. She used boxed mixes occasionally and I have vivid memories of making chocolate pudding from a box using her old metal hand-cranked beaters. But the majority of her recipes were homemade, written down on recipe cards (or scraps of paper) and covered with splotches from drips and dollops of food.

After she died, I ended up with all of those recipes. I had ambitious plans to scan them all, type them up, and create a recipe book for the family. The recipe book never happened, but I have been trying to organize and save as many family recipes as possible lately.

Unfortunately, there were some recipes that never made it onto a card or even a scrap of paper. One of those recipes was her banana cake. I think the simplicity of the recipe is why she never felt like it needed to be put in writing. But as my dad and I tried to recreate it, it would have been helpful to have as we realized our memories were a little shaky. Did grandma cut her cake in two layers? Or three? We went with three.

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The cake is actually more of a shortcake than a cake. It’s quick to make and quite rustic. My grandma used Bisquick, but I find it nearly as easy to mix up a quick shortcake from scratch (it took maybe ten minutes at most). The shortcake recipe is one she and my mom used for strawberry shortcake, but made in a single, giant cake instead of individual ones.

After I baked the shortcake, I layered it with banana, milk, sugar, and nutmeg.  Simple, but surprisingly delicious. And it’s even better the second day!


Grandma Brigham’s Banana Shortcake

2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter
1 cup milk

2 very ripe bananas, sliced
Sugar
Milk
Nutmeg

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Cut in chilled butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk just until blended. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pat into a roughly 8-inch circle.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to rest for a few minutes.

Split shortcake into three layers while still warm.

Sprinkle bottom layer lightly with milk and sugar. Top with sliced banana, then sprinkle with nutmeg. Repeat with middle layer. Top with final layer of shortcake and serve.


 

I searched around online for this recipe but didn’t find anything similar. Is anyone else familiar with a dessert like this? Or was it a recipe my grandma threw together herself when she had too many bananas? I’d be really curious to find out.

Oh, and if you make this, let me know how it turns out! I’d love to know what you think.