Sorry this is a little late, but I spent the day with friends and family and that’s very important to me. Jackson’s Big Papi flew in to spend some holiday time with us. Then our friends Lynda and Niner joined us for dinner. It was just a boi, her wife and son, their baby daddy, and my editors/queer neighbors: we might not be a traditional family but we are a family nonetheless. Having a house full of loved ones finally started to feel like Christmas to me. So, here you go, my first traditional Christmas Carol of the season:
The Christmas season is just getting rolling, but Hanukkah is already rocking this year. And here’s something that’s not so much a secret, but I love Hanukkah too!
Sure I’m a Christian, but I love how this time of year so many people of faith are celebrating light in the darkness. Jesus’s birth signified a light in the dark for Christians. Solstice celebrates a return of the light to the natural world. Hanukkah is the festival of lights. Too many times people talk about the things that separate people of faith, but I think we should celebrate the things we all share.
Also, I really love Hanukkah food!
Here’s a fun one to get your blood pumping this Monday morning. I usually go with classic renditions/artists, but I think it’s also important to support new(er) artists. I’ve just been introduced to this talented group of young people, and their entire Christmas CD is worth a listen/share/buy this holiday season.
It’s time for my annual holiday song blog series. This is one of my favorite things I get to do all year long. I look forward to this project so much I actually had the first song picked out for this year by the end of last year, but upon realizing it was almost time to start posting the blogs, my first thought was, “oh crap, I’d better add that to my to do list.”
You see, I make lists. Every day there’s a list (as those of you on my facebook page know). This time of year there are chore lists, shopping lists, travel list, baking lists, and holiday song blog lists. While they help me stay organized, quite frankly it’s getting to be a bit much. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. There are so many things I can’t control. I cannot force my relatives to send me their Christmas lists. I cannot force the children in my Sunday school to show up for Christmas play rehearsal. I cannot prevent every organization in town from planning their holiday events at the same time on the same day. Does that stop me from being frustrated about any of those things? Of course not. I’ve even felt myself getting angry about Thanksgiving coming so late this year. As if the calendar itself tried to screw me by cutting a weekend out of my work schedule.
The last two nights I’ve had Christmas nightmares. Seriously, I woke up sweating from dreams about the happiest season of all. Then, this morning as I rolled over in bed, slowing awaking, a solution came to mind. In that haze between sleep and awareness, I decided to just skip church all together so I would have an extra morning to shop and put up Christmas lights. That was it, my answer, just cut church out of Christmas.
Does anyone else hear the screeching sound of brakes being slammed? Yeah, full stop. I hope I don’t have to tell any of you how upsetting that logic is to me. The thought of cutting out one part of this holiday that holds peace and joy and meaning without asking for anything in return to spend more time on the parts of Christmas that drain and overwhelm me is the opposite of how I should handle my stress. So I threw on a pair of wrinkled khakis and made it to church this morning, but to be honest, my reasons for being there were still largely intellectual or at best hopeful. I hoped to find something to settle me down, to soothe me, to connect me to something better.
I didn’t want to ask for too much, but I really needed the pastor to bring the “Peace on Earth, Good Will To All,” but when I got there, I realized I had nursery duty. I would not sing hymns, I would not hear the sermon, I would not sit quietly holding my wife’s hand. My sanctuary would not be…well, a sanctuary.
I’m not going to lie. At that point I relapsed into my holiday panic. If I couldn’t be in the service, maybe I could use that time to work on my to-do list. But I had only one child in the nursery, a little boy who’d just turned one. He was into everything, and with no one to play with, he required my full attention. Resigning myself to an hour of hyper vigilance, I took up residence on the floor. We rolled a ball a bit before he yawned. We built block towers as he rubbed his eyes. Then after we knocked down the towers, he crawled onto my lap and fell asleep with his head against my chest.
I could have laid him down and gotten some rest myself. I could have sneaked in some work time. I could have opened the nursery door and listened to the sermon. Instead, I set the worry and the stress and the frustration aside and listened to him breathe. This wasn’t the type of Christmas preparation I’d hoped to do today. I didn’t get any work done. I got a great lesson on faith. There was no magical revelation. At the end of the service I had nothing tangible to show. All I know is that for one hour amid the nose and the stress and the rushing, I sat quietly, rocking a sleeping child. For that hour, I felt peace and joy and warmth.
Church ended, the child awoke, meetings resumed, and house chores called. I can’t ignore everything else that comes with Christmas, and honestly I wouldn’t want to, but for that brief respite, I heard the still, small voice that calls to each of us. I don’t know, maybe that’s what Christmas means to me now, a sliver of something more amid my too-full life. My prayer for myself and for each of you is that somewhere in the hustle and bustle of this season we all remember to take a few minutes even at unexpected times and in unexpected places to connect with the Divine, however it may appear.
With that in mind for the next 25 days, I will post one song a day on this blog in the hopes that no matter what else is happening in your life, you can find something here to make you smile or sing along or just give a few minutes to breathe. It’s not as special as a sleeping baby, but I do hope these song provide you with a bit of peace and joy this holiday season.
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
Announcement: I have published my first erotica short story, Safe Word, and it’s a pretty graphic first attempt.
If your reaction to that news is: WhooHoo! What took you so long, Spangler? Then please, go read it right now!
If, however, you reacted to that announcement by scratching your head in confusion, don’t feel bad. This might not seem very consistent with the image I project as a writer or a person, not at first glance anyway, but I’m asking you to hang with me. You’ve all come to know me (I hope) as sweet romance writer, a family person, an all -around good boi, and it’s ok if the idea of my writing some major adult content takes some getting used to. It took some getting used to for me, too. Years of getting used to.
I started writing erotica as a way to hone my craft. Sex scenes are always the most challenging part of my novels. Every word matters in a way it doesn’t in other areas. For instance, no one freaks out when I say “cabinet” instead of “cupboard,” but the difference between “butt” and “ass” can completely pull a reader out of the story. There’s also the added challenge of balancing the physical with the emotional. All good fiction is character driven, so it’s important to keep the readers in the characters’ minds, but if you’re too cerebral, the reader will get bored. Then again if you’re not in your head enough, they might as well be reading an anatomy textbook. Some people say good writing is all about making choices, and erotica taught me to make those choices more purposefully and more quickly.
Writing short erotic pieces also helped me to practice basic writerly tasks like developing conflict and characters very quickly. The more erotica I wrote, the more I appreciated the genre, not just as tool to teach writing, but as a place to test boundaries, power dynamics, the nature of relationships. Sometimes I explored big issues at a micro level. Other times, I examined ideas that didn’t have enough substance to carry an entire novel but had no less ability to reveal a person’s character. Sex is a time when we as humans bring as much baggage to the table as possible, then expose it all. Issues that may lie dormant for months in polite company come roaring to the surface when people let down their guard, and sex makes people vulnerable in ways few other acts can. The way people react to that vulnerability tells you a great deal about who they are and how they relate to the world. I found myself understanding and expressing more about my erotica characters in a short amount of page space than I ever had about the romantic leads in my novels.
So if writing erotica was good for my craft and for my understanding of character and produced work I was technically very proud of, why didn’t I share any of that with any of you? This is the question I wrestled with for years. The impulse to write drives me. It defines me. I don’t know who I’d be with out it, but the impulse to publish is a different animal entirely, and the impulse to publish about sex carries almost as much baggage as the act of having sex. Sure there has been sex in my books, but it’s been part of larger romantic arcs. We have names in our culture for people who just have sex without the romantic build up. They aren’t nice names. They aren’t names I think any of you would dare level at me up until now, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry about you thinking them after you read some of these stories. I’ve worked hard to give you my best both as a person and as a writer, but what if my best as a writer didn’t always look like me at my best as a person?
The most common comment I got from friends and fellow authors who helped me along the way was, “Damn, Rach, I didn’t know you had this in you,” usually accompanied by a look of glee. For a while that made me nervous. So I tried to forget about the story. But the people who’d read it kept bringing it up. They asked questions and made suggestions, they wanted to talk about the issues raised, they wanted to share experiences, and somehow, these erotic pieces gave them the freedom to do so. It turns out we all had these questions, these feelings, these fears, and fantasies inside of us. We had some of the most revealing, enlightening, and purely fun conversations I’ve ever had. Throughout the months and years that followed, I came to realize being interested in sex and all the emotional and physical complexities that come with it didn’t make us bad people, and admitting that might even have made us more complete versions of ourselves.
You see, I can’t promise you this story will be your thing, and it’s okay if it isn’t, but I can promise you it is some of my very best writing. I can promise you real characters I worked hard to paint with full brushes. I can promise you a tight balance between the emotional and the physical. Oh, and by the way, I can promise some pretty hot sex along the way.
This story might not be the Rachel Spangler you’re used to, but if you give it a shot, I think this more complete version of me and my work will still offer you a Rachel Spangler you identify with.
There’s a new trend on Facebook where people give you a number, and you’re supposed to list that number of random facts about yourself, things most people won’t know. I have been tagged too many times to count, and in too many places to list, so I decided to make this a on stop response. Here are 11 random things about me:
1. I was scared of everything for most of my youth. I didn’t ride a rollercoaster until I was 16. I hated missing out on so many experiences that one day I just decided I wouldn’t do it any more. I still hate roller coasters, but I ride them all the time just to prove myself that I won’t let fear keep me from doing cool shit.
2. Most people gain weight after having a baby, I did it the other way around. I was overweight through college, but grew increasingly embarrassed of pictures taken right after Jackson was born. Then as he became mobile I worried I’d miss out on his life if I couldn’t keep up. I became relentless about getting in shape and dropped 1/5th of my body weight. I don’t like exercising or eating right but being active part of his life is worth the effort.
3. I’m extremely sensitive to physical or emotional pain in others. I have to guard myself against violent images. I never watch horror movies because once I see something it never goes away. I still have nightmares about cartoons I saw as a child. Things other people don’t even notice will bother me for years.
4. I was born prematurely and too small so I spent the first weeks of my life in an incubator. I think this is the reason I have such a weakened immune system. I can go from completely healthy to dangerously sick in an hour. I’m a bleeder, a bruiser, and I will throw up for virtually no reason.
5. I also credit the time in the incubator as part of the reason touch is my love language. I crave physical contact. I’m a hugger, a hand shaker, a lap sitter, and most of my close friends have been asked to play with my hair on more than one occasion.
6. I almost never drink alcohol, and when I do it’s never more than one drink. Addiction runs in my bloodline, and I refuse to put my wife and son through that. My obsessive streak does manifest itself in a myriad of other ways though.
7. My gender identity is beyond complicated, and I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that it might never be “resolved.” In a perfect world I’d have top surgery tomorrow, but I’ve already pushed my friends and family, and community further than anyone has a right to, so while they’ve all been awesome I feel guilty asking for more.
8. I crush on a variety of women very easily. Smart girls beat hot girls any day, but if you can combine them both I’m a gonner. Thankfully, no one has ever tripped those triggers for me better than my wife.
9. I met my wife at 17, started dating her at 19, and married at 21. I consider this the greatest of my many good fortunes. I joke I made one really good decision at a very young age and haven’t had to make another one since then, but honestly every good thing in my life from that day forward can be tied back to moment I said, “I do.”
10. Being a parent is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done. It’s also the hardest. I feel like I’m constantly messing him up, but he remains resiliently amazing. I want to take credit for his good qualities, but I suspect he’s just a miracle. Either way, I love that kid so much it hurts my chest sometimes.
11. I’m a Christian. Every good thing I ever do is guided by the principle that I have been blessed with love in abundance, given freely and without an ounce of deserving on my part. When you think that way, it’s impossible to deny the same to others. That belief alone is responsible for the majority of my worldview.
I’ve been sitting on some fun news for awhile. I wanted to wait for the right moment. I wanted the perfect amount of time before my next book would be released before I let you in on it. This is not the right time. It’s not the right day of the week. It’s not even the right time of day, but you know what? Time is a fickle, fickle thing (hint, hint: story theme), so I’m going to just blow timing out of the water and give you what I’ve been wanting to give you for weeks now.
Here’s your first official look at the cover of my next release!
What do you think? What does the image evoke for you? I hope it piques your interest because there’s so much more where this came from.
Eventually I will tease you with the blurb and introduce you to the characters, but , well, that’s for another time.
I’m back from Ptown and will give you a more in-depth update here soon, but first I wanted to tell you about this great chat I had with Andy and The Rev over at Cocktail Hour. This is always such a fun show to do, and as usual we had a ton of laughs while we talked about Does She Love You? and anything else that came up. Due to technical difficulties we even got to talk about a few things twice. Usually, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than talk about my writing, but Cheri and Andy gave me an even better treat by surprising me with a birthday compilation of call-ins from some of the most special people in my life, from best friends to family members. They even got ahold of my pastor. I got pretty choked up. I am going to play it whenever I have a rough day.
The entire experience was pretty special for me. I hope you’ll take a chance to listen to the show. It’s spoiler free, so you’ve got nothing to worry about there. If you do listen, you’ll even have a chance to win a free copy of one of my ebooks.
Here’s the link: http://cocktailhour.us/archives/590
As I prepare to head out to Ptown next week, I’m really looking forward to meeting some of you. I hope those of you in town will check out the schedule I posted last week and come introduce yourselves. However, I also know that many of you can’t make Women’s Week this year. I feel for you. I really do, which is why I’m so happy to report that you can hear some readings, too!
You see, I recently got together with Liz McMullen of the Liz McMullen Show to do an episode of Lizzie’s Bedtime Stories. I read two selections, one from Spanish Heart and one from Does She Love You?, and we got to chat a little bit about each one.
I hope you’ll take the time to listen here: http://www.thelizmcmullenshow.com/lbs_episode27/. While you’re at it, be sure to check out some of the other episodes because Liz has had some awesome guests!
It’s October, and you know what that means: Women’s Week!
I am so excited for my annual pilgrimage to Provincetown. There is just something about that town that has drawn artists of every kind for over 100 years, and I am far from immune to that pull. I love to roll in through the dunes, take a lap down Commercial street, feel the buzz of my people living and loving freely. There’s something for everyone from shoppers to nature lovers to foodies, and of course, the lesfic devotees.
I have a full slate of author events this year, and I will be running all over with my fellow authors reading and chatting and signing books and laughing and hugging and loving life in Ptown.
You can see the full Bold Strokes Books schedule right here: http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/PressReleases/BSB-WW-2013.pdf
Trust me: You are going to want to print that out and carry it with you.
If want to find me specifically, here’s my itinerary:
Wednesday October 16
4:00 – Wiffle Ball In the Grassy Area by Gabriel’s Guest House (102 Bradford Street)
This is becoming a Ptown tradition, and everyone is welcome to play or cheer.
5:30 – GCLS Meet and Greet at the Sage (336 Commercial)
Come mix and mingle with authors and readers. Cash Bar and light snacks.
Thursday October 17
9:30 – Breakfast Club Reading at Napi’s (Upstairs 7 Freeman Street #3)
I’ll be reading with Lynn Ames, Marianne K. Martin, Sally Bellerose, Melissa Brayden, Laurie Salzler. Bring your own breakfast or coffee, and we’ll get your day started off right.
11:45 – 12:30 – GCLS Author Chat at the Sage (336 Commercial)
I’m going to sit down with Sally Bellerose, Sophia Kell Hagin, Karin Badger, and Laurie Salzler to talk writing and take questions.
1:00 – The Erotic Mind at Gabriel’s (102 Bradford Street)
I’ll be joined by Radclyffe, Melissa Brayden, Andrea Bramhall, D. Jackson Leigh, and VK Powell, moderated by Justine Saracen as we all read something a little spicy.
3:15 – Signing at Recovering Hearts (4 Standish Street)
Stop buy to get a book signed!
5:00 – 7:00 – Bold Strokes Books Meet and Greet at the Harbor Lounge (359 Commercial Street)
All the BSB authors will be there to chat and take pictures with readers. Please don’t be shy!
Friday October 18
1:00 – Edge of You Seat Reading at the Provincetown Library (356 Commercial)
I’ll be reading with Carsen Taite, Sophia Kell Hagin, VK Powell, Noral Olsen, and Elizabeth Wheeler and moderated by Melissa Brayden. We’ll do our best to keep you gripping your seat, and we’ll also give away some free books.
2:00 – Author Favorites Reading at the Provincetown Library (356 Commercial Street)
I’ll be moderating a panel with Radclyffe, Ali Vali , I. Beacham, Justine Saracen, Shelley Thrasher, and Melissa Brayden while they read to you from some of their favorite scenes. We’ll also be giving away some free books.
3:15 – Signing at Recovering Hearts (4 Standish Street)
Saturday October 19
2:00 – Sparks Fly Reading at Provincetown Library (356 Commercial Street)
I’ll be reading with Jennifer Lavoie, Nora Olsen, Elizabeth Wheeler, Andrea Bramhall, and Jamie Maddox, and we’ll be moderated by Shelley Thrasher. We’re going to have a good time showcasing attraction.
4:05 – Signing at Recovering Hearts
This is your last chance to get a book signed. Don’t miss it!
I hope all of you are lucky enough to visit Ptown this year and that you’ll stop by for some of these great events. If you are in the area, please, please, please, come introduce yourself!