Category Archives: Words in Print

In a Lightning Storm, Sheep Run through Barbed Wire

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I used to fear things. The lonesome wind come through the clapboards. Dry hillsides rustling. My own skin in the summer heat. Rattlers. Lurking. Abandoned coal pits.

Pa said I was afraid of desolation, but I didn’t know what he meant by that. How can you be afraid of something all around you been there since the day you were born?

I used to fear. Hard. But hard is what we had … and the stink of sheep, goats, some cattle and horses. I’ve seen my sister kicked, bucked, and bloodied more often than I care to remember. Mud in her hair. Booze on her breath. Blue-blackened skin. Used. Useless. Pa used to do the castrations himself. He learned the old-time way and used to use these fucking rubber bands, but he eventually said that the old-time way wasn’t the right way anymore, that it took too long, would oftentimes get infected. He feared infections, like the one he said my sister had, so he set about teaching me the right way.

I didn’t understand why we had to do it at all. It was bloody, and sometimes, the gonads were small, slippery like marbles, and you had to dig around in the sack with your fingers until you found the sinewy cord. Pa would say, “Keep digging,” and I’d cry and cry and cry because there was so much blood and I was afraid I’d never get it out from under my fingernails, but Pa would shush me and tell me that it’s good for them, and I’d ask why through a dirty fistful of tears while waiting for him to spit into the chicory and rub his chin for a spell before explaining, the way he does, that boys need it, makes them more polite. Something about hormones, he said. Maybe I was afraid of them, so I asked Ma about it while she was fixing the fried gonads for my supper plate, but she just shushed me too, wiped the grease on her apron, and said I was too young for talk about such things.

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I’m not too young. My breasts are coming in and I feel all funny. My sister said it’s normal. I’d get used to it. I go to high school next year. My sister talks about it all the time. Says high school boys have the hormones too. I asked my sister if boys were like the horses and the cattle. She said no. That they were like the mules, and I wondered if they stunk like them. She just smiled at me and scratched at her crotch, so I told her I was afraid of getting kicked, like she always did, but she shushed me too and said not to worry …

Told me that Pa was teaching me the right way.

Originally Published at Revolution John, December 18, 2014

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OMG! A 4 Star Review from Mrs. Giggles

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Mrs. Giggles is a notoriously hard-assed reviewer, and that’s why I love her: Her honesty. She’s reviewed two of my books prior to Knowing Joe. She loved The Kissing Room, and felt a bit Meh on Splendor of Antiquity, but even though she is mostly a romance genre reviewer, she adores honest and snarky characters, so I asked her if she’d be interested in Knowing Joe even though it’s Satire and not Romance.

She agreed, and I am having the best day ever as a writer today.

[…] there is a story here, and it’s actually a very romantic one in a raw, down to earth way. Matt is quite a dreamy hero, if you ask me, although I suspect that it isn’t the author’s intention to make him that way, heh.

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Knowing Joe works like a charm – the author has this apparently effortless knack to draw me right into her characters’ heads and get me to understand what they feel and what makes them tick, even if I personally don’t relate to these characters much. This is a fine kind of vicarious head trip, and the deceptively rambling narrative is actually tightly constructed to enhance the whole “Wow, I’m really inside that woman’s head… and you know, it’s actually quite a nice place to be!” feel of the novella. Remarkably, the author does all this without making the whole story feel pretentious or deliberately opaque.

The author doesn’t dabble in the romance genre, and I suspect she doesn’t want to be, but after reading Knowing Joe, I suspect that she can easily serve up some sweet romantic stories on a good day. After all, this one is one of the cutest, quirkiest, and sweetest romantic tales I’ve read in a while.

You can read the rest of the review here at Hot Sauce Reviews.

To say that I am thrilled is putting it mildly. Mostly because it seems that Romance Readers, who won the book through Goodreads, hate it, and that’s probably because it isn’t romance in the traditional “naked man on the cover” definition of the genre. It isn’t romance at all in a Literary Fiction: Satire way, even though there are romantic elements at the heart of the story, so I am always thrilled when a genre reader is willing to take a chance on my work, and gets it in the end.

Stop Ticking the Sex Boxes: Everything is on a Spectrum.

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A lot of asexual people start questioning themselves because they feel like they don’t fit in. But, those feelings aren’t the only way someone realizes they’re asexual, Doré says. Some asexual people do have sex and don’t totally hate it. But, often, they don’t feel connected to sex, would be just as happy not having sex, don’t care if they have sex or not, or might just be having sex to appease a partner. Then there are people who want nothing to do with sex at all.

All of these people could consider themselves asexual.

Asexuality is a spectrum, it’s not black and white,” Doré says. Just like there are many steps between straight and gay, there’s a whole spectrum of identities between asexual and sexual. Some asexual people call themselves “gray ace ” or “demisexual, ” because they feel that they’re in an in-between space. People who identify as gray asexual might have a very low libido, or only feel sexual attraction toward someone in special circumstances, like when they’ve formed an emotional bond with someone or are in a relationship.

 

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Knowing Joe, a Contemporary Romantic Comedy and Dating Satire

It’s pride month, and our Girl is loud and proud, but that doesn’t mean there’s no struggle. Attraction is more fluid than it seems, so come take a walk with her as she explores our very public obsession with sex via the often scathing and cynical monologue of a Girl, who could be any girl, struggling to understand how her own sexuality fits in a world that seems absurdly tormented by it.  It’s a new kind of sexual revolution, and through fits and fumbles, our Girl finally discovers that love isn’t a checkbox. Love is what you make of it.

And seriously, it should be Pride month every month. No one should have to struggle with their sexuality, or suffer Society’s prejudices and expectations. Different is beautiful; Different allows for perspective; and that’s why different is possible.

Knowing Joe: Reviews

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It’s been slow going since I gave away over 100 copies of this book in March, but I recently got a couple of nice reviews over on Goodreads. It’s a niche read for sure, a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown replete with scathing sexual satire, but there is a contemporary romance story muddled up in there somewhere, with a happy ending no less.

Interesting experimental stream-of-consciousness blend of hipster slice-of-life/satire that strikes me […] as a probably accurate portrayal of not-quite-thirtysomething life in the city in this age of social media and instant communication. Do not skip the flash fiction at the end, at least some of which ties back into the story from the perspective of tangential characters in a way that I found oddly satisfying. — Amazon Review

 

Wow. This isn’t just a book; it’s an experience. Experimental, avant-garde, intelligent, whatever you choose to call it … this book is smoothly written and designed to make you think. Maybe to feel and laugh a little, albeit uncomfortably. — Goodreads Review

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I’d forgotten how satisfying a happy ending can be. Maybe because happy endings so often feel contrived, devised. But not here. This one has real people walking — and feeling and thinking — all over its pages, so when the end comes, it doesn’t actually feel like one. it feels like it so often does in real life, like the beginning of something new. — Goodreads Review

Knowing Joe: Some Nice Reviews

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There were two readers so far who didn’t find the stream of consciousness, introspective monologue to their taste, but those readers who are used to this sort of satirical style had some nice things to say about our Girl and her quest for clarity. It’s the most a writer can hope for, especially an independent writer. My thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to read the book and leave their thoughts.

“Touching, funny, grittily true, and sweet. A refreshing and unique exploration of romantic love.” – Kristen Tsetsi, Author of The Age of the Child and The Year of Dan Palace.

“A psychological observation of modern day romance in a bare, raw sense. Thank goodness for Cheryl Anne Gardner, giving us real romance to read as an alternative to Harlequin hell.” Amazon Review, Breeni Books

“This novella is beautifully ambiguous, in a way that gives it a universal appeal. Through Girl’s inner monologue, Gardner explores societal norms, issues, and expectations surrounding relationships. It explores the complicated nature of women, of sex, relationships, and of friendship. In a way, it is a mirror aimed at ourselves – one that shows that we do not have to lose a part of who we are just because it is expected.” Amazon Review, Henry Martin, Author of The Mad Days of Me

“One of the most irreverently introspective narrators I’ve come across in quite a while. […] a young woman with her own specific angst plus an unflagging imagination and delivery. Amazon Review, Susan Tepper, Author of Monte Carlo Days and Nights

Knowing Joe: A Sexual Identity Crisis

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Sure, Knowing Joe is a satire. It pokes fun at society and all its sexual stigmas and stereotypes. Sex is absurd when you get right down to it, but at the heart of Knowing Joe is an Identity Crisis, which is far from absurd.

Our Girl isn’t a young girl. She isn’t trying to find herself. At 27, she knows who she is, and she knows who she wants to be, until she is confronted with something that makes her second guess her resolve on the issue of her own sexual identity.

Everyone second guesses themselves from time to time. It’s healthy to question your principles and beliefs every now and again. It’s healthy to question “normal.” It’s part of the growth process to ask, “Can I do something?” “Should I be doing something else?” When we question, we open our minds up to other possibilities. That might include the possibility to change or not to change.

I recently read an article on “The Midlife Crisis,” and an author quoted in the article had an interesting take on the subject matter: one that applies here to the Identity Crisis Girl experiences in Knowing Joe. The Author states:

41MS5O8NxVL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_The midlife crisis is created from addiction. Without addiction, it cannot exist.

Dr. Joe Dispenza, a neuroscientist and author of several books, including Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself and You Are The Placebo, gives convincing evidence of the three addictions we all develop early in life long before we’re introduced to any harmful substances.

• Addiction to our bodies
• Addiction to our environment
• Addiction to the concept of time

In Knowing Joe, Girl has understood her identity as an a-sexual since she was a very young girl. She begins to question it at 27 years old when she stumbles upon a book she considers to be full of secrets. The idea that she might not have had all the knowledge she needed to fully analyze the issue at hand (sex) sends her into a full-blown panic attack, in which she fixates on an invented love interest in order to ground herself.

So how could such a confident, enlightened person lose their sense of self? Well, I think it goes straight back to the addictions listed above:

  1. Addiction to our bodies: The idea that our bodies are the foundation of our identity and the vehicle for the satisfaction we seek in life.
  2. Addiction to our environment: That being Society’s definition of normal and all the expectations that come with it.
  3. Addiction to the concept of time: The fallacy that old age strips us of our sexual identity and therefore diminishes the love we can feel, for ourselves and for others.

Of course, these concepts are all horse shit: Our bodies are not who we are. Satisfaction comes from doing not being. Society doesn’t have a backwards-assed clue about normal, and old age only increases the love we can give and receive because we have a better understanding of what love actually is after decades of struggling with it. Sex isn’t love. Inherently we know all this, but the need to feel “normal” is a powerful addiction that can send even the most enlightened person into a pit of despair. That’s where our Girl finds herself in Knowing Joe, so when I was trying to figure out how to approach telling the story, I felt that it was best to use a first person, stream of consciousness point of view so that her confusion, her struggle to validate her convictions, would be palpable on the page. She’s manic, rambling. Her thoughts are disjointed, and yet, there is a logical process as she plots her way through from point A to point B.

Anyone who has had an emotional crisis of any sort will understand that feeling: the wave of adrenalin that washes over you, the nausea, the sinking despair that feels like it’s pulling your stomach through your intestines. The racing heart and the racing mind as we fight to course correct. As we fight for the confidence to be able to say, “I Know Who I Am.”

When we attach our identities to temporary things, our identities, too, are temporary — and we find ourselves in a constant chase to reinvent ourselves.

In Knowing Joe, it takes an intervention to help Girl confront the addictions that sent her spiraling into an inner world of what-if fantasies. It takes true love and acceptance to help her understand that attraction is more fluid than it seems; that normal is subjective; that she is part of a new kind of sexual revolution, and that it’s ok to not want sex, in the moment or ever. Love and sex are not mutually exclusive, and through fits and fumbles, our Girl finally discovers that love is what you make of it.

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Teaser Tuesday: Knowing Joe

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41A2dm0BImL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_“Cadavers,” she said to the leather-clad mountain next to her in a gruff old-lady smoker rasp. The other turned to reply with a, “Totally predictable. Emaciated. Tweeks and Twinkies,” and I was stuck between them and their snarky banter, a hairy, peck-stuffed, and bedazzled brassiere pressing into my face hard enough for me to smell the Old Spice in her tit-hair. I thought I was going to lose consciousness, but at the onset of total cologne asphyxiation, one of them spoke to me, “So what do you think, hon? Is there anything even remotely fuckable in this joint tonight?” as if I would know, being an actual expert and all that.

Gardner, Cheryl Anne. Knowing Joe (p. 40). Twisted Knickers Publications. Kindle Edition.

Teaser Tuesday

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41A2dm0BImL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Most days I just slouch down in my cubicle trying to blend in with the mazy sea of grey walls, grey carpeting, and framed inspirational art. Making yourself invisible is skillage a level above meth making and light wizardry.

Gardner, Cheryl Anne. Knowing Joe (p. 42). Twisted Knickers Publications. Kindle Edition.