Men: Stop Being Sorry, and Stand Up with Women

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash

The first time I was sexually harassed, I was six years old. Six. I was a little girl. A boy in my class, whose desk was paired with mine, exposed himself to me and tried to get me to touch him. He actually grabbed my hand.

I fought back.

I wrenched my hand away and told him no. I froze with panic, terrified that I would get in trouble. Eventually, we were moved around. (My teacher paired students with someone new every so often.) I never told a soul, until now.

I’m telling this story because ever since that first time, it’s happened so many more times, I can’t count. Boys and men touching me, making jokes and comments, catcalling. Then there are the two boyfriends who sexually assaulted me. Raped me. Violated me with acts of violence that I will never forget. Men who I trusted with my body and heart, yet they only wanted to control and possess me. To hurt me. I went years without telling anyone, and it almost killed me. This story has a happy ending: I did the work, and I healed. I grew strong. I got my voice back, and a confidence I’ve never known before. But.

But.

I’m tired.

I’m worn down to the bones, sick in my soul every time another story hits the news or blogosphere about men who hurt women. I’m tired of the violence, the victim blaming, and the bystander effect. All three contribute to rape culture, and these three seemingly small things—men who turn away when they overhear other men make a sexual joke, for example—are the reason why women stay silent. Only when others come forward do we feel protected enough to raise our voices, too; there is safety in numbers.

I’m tired of men making excuses or saying they’re sorry. Instead of being sorry, stop being a piss poor excuse for a man. Don’t justify your past actions or write apologies to the women you’ve hurt. Start being a better person. Stand with us when we’re accused of trying to ruin a man’s career. Speak with us when we tell a man to leave us alone. Stop automatically siding with your bros, and start being a brother to the women in your life—both friends and strangers.

And for fuck’s sake, quit it with the “not all men” line. When you’re whining, you’re centering yourself in a story that isn’t yours. Your selfishness is complacence, and your hands are around her neck, too.

Back to School

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

I love the newness of this time of year. Maybe it’s because it’s almost my birthday, marking the beginning of another year of life. Or maybe it’s because, all throughout childhood, this is always the time I’d be getting ready to start a new year of school. Whatever it is, the end of summer and early fall—this in between time—have always brimmed with possibility.

This is usually when my writing is most productive. Last year around this time, I wrote a 60K-word novel in two weeks. This year, I’ll be doing something a bit different.

I’m going back to school.

Throughout the past six years, I’ve learned a lot about publishing. I’ve released 11 novels (plus some now out of print short stories and novellas). I’m damn proud of all I’ve accomplished—especially recently making the bestseller list in three Amazon categories—and I’m looking forward to a lifelong career.

I’ve also long felt like I’ve been missing some valuable piece, though.

Whether I’ve been with a publisher or independent, I’ve been responsible for the majority of my marketing. While I can do things like write a marketing plan and create an email sequence, there’s a lot more I need to learn.

So I’ve decided to go back to school.

Right now.

I thought about it all summer, and then two weeks ago I applied to a program before I could change my mind. I start my B.S. in marketing on Monday.

I’m hoping that it won’t affect my production schedule too much, but since it’s an accelerated program, I know I’m going to have to make some sacrifices. I can’t do it all.

  • For the next eight weeks, I won’t be blogging much.
  • Aside from scheduled Facebook posts, I likely won’t be on social media often, either. I’ll do my best to reply to comments, but please know that studying will have taken over my life.
  • I will continue monthly email newsletters. You can expect them on Friday, September 8th and Friday, October 6th. (If you’re not already on my email list, sign up here.)
  • I’ve started working on a new novel. It’s a standalone second chance romance. I don’t have a release date for it yet, and likely won’t for a while. I do hope to continue publishing regularly, though.

What can I say? I like living on the edge.

Introducing Blurb Writing Services for Authors

Blurb Writing Services

I’m so excited to announce that I’m hanging up a shingle for blurb writing services. Writing the blurb—or product description—can be the hardest part of the publication process for authors. I have to admit that I actually enjoy writing blurbs; sometimes I even write them before I’ve written the book!

If you’d like me to help you make your blurb awesome, take a look through my books to get an idea of my style. Then check out my services page for my rates and more details!

You can also email me directly at elizabethbaronebooks@gmail.com.

A Family Tradition

"A Family Tradition," by Elizabeth Barone

I wish there was a way to photograph those moments in life where you truly feel alive, perfect. Capture that feeling, forever preserved. There’s no way to actually save a memory, so I try to remember. I tell myself I’m going to write it down, and then I forget.

There’s a ducky bowl that’s been banging around since I was little. It’s a bit faded at this point, but otherwise in decent condition. When I was a kid, it was the coveted cereal bowl in the house.

I will fight to the death for this. It's a family tradition. 🥄

A post shared by Elizabeth Barone (@elizabethbarone) on

I liked it because when you finished the cereal, the ducky “swam” in the remaining milk. My dad liked it because it was bigger than the other bowls, and the man loves his cereal fixes.

We fought over it, a lighthearted war. It became a race—who would get the clean ducky bowl first. For years this went on, victory cries ringing through the house every time one of us claimed it: “My ducky bowl!”

It became a running joke that, at some point, became a ritual. Ducky bowl was serious business. It traveled with us from apartment to apartment, finally ending up at my grandparents’ when we moved in during my senior year of high school. I poured snacks into it while I wrote my first novel, while I worked on homework during college, while I wrote code for clients’ websites—if Dad didn’t get to it first.

I kept threatening to take it with me when I moved out into my own place. Dad kept threatening to hide it.

I introduced my husband to it like he was meeting family: “This is ducky bowl.” When we got married and began packing to move into our first apartment, I grabbed ducky bowl from the rack of clean dishes and wrapped it in newspaper before Dad could see.

I smuggled ducky bowl out of my parents’ place like a thief.

During that first Christmas after or some other holiday, I confessed my crime to Dad. He feigned wounded outrage, and I tried to make it up to him. “You can have it on weekends,” I offered.

“You can keep it,” he told me, as if passing on a family heirloom.

For the first time in two decades—maybe longer—I had ducky bowl all to myself. Even though I bought a set of dishes with bowls twice as deep, it was still my favorite. I happily munched cereal, marveling at how the thing had managed to stick around. Some things I lose, others hover about me like ghosts.

And then Mike stole it.

“No!” I protested, reaching out for it as Mike poured cereal into it or ate cheesecake out of it. At first I thought he was just messing with me. Slowly I realized I was wrong.

I had a rival.

Again.

The race began anew: secret washing of dishes, stacking it beneath the other bowls in the rack so he wouldn’t see it; playful shock when he got to it first; considering hiding it in an unlikely place. It was these moments that I most missed my dad. (He’s still alive, don’t worry.) I missed the game, the shared running joke. All children grow up and out of their parents’ homes, but I think some small part of us stays behind.

Tonight I caught Mike reaching for ducky bowl in the rack.

“Damn it,” I muttered, feigning offense. I reached for it.

Mike grabbed a spoon. Gently he tapped me on the forehead with it. “Back, demon.”

I gaped at him in mock outrage. My grip tightened.

He tapped me again. “Banish your evil.”

“Unhand it or I’ll bite you.” I leaned down, jaw open, white teeth flashing.

“Banish your evil!” He bopped me on my topknot.

My teeth neared, Mike fending me off with the spoon, my eyes filling with tears of mirth, jaw straining from laughing while pretending to bite. Just as I grazed flesh, he released it, bringing his hand to safety.

“My ducky bowl,” I told him.

He reached for another bowl.

“Here.” I sighed and held out ducky bowl. “You can use it.” For now, I added silently.

Looking at the proffered bowl, he shook his head at me. “Demon.”

I will fight to the death for ducky bowl. It’s a family tradition.

An Indefinite Hiatus from Twitter

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Almost a week ago, I decided to take an indefinite hiatus from Twitter. I haven’t looked back since.

For many reasons, I just don’t feel comfortable using Twitter anymore. It’s definitely not the same place it was back when I first joined. And, to be completely honest, I made myself a promise back when I started my career as an author.

I decided that, if any part of this ever stopped feeling good, I’d stop immediately.

Twitter hasn’t felt good for me in a long time. I straight up get nauseous when it’s time to check my timeline or mentions, wondering Now what? Wondering who’s going to be stomping on #OwnVoices authors while demanding more diversity, or who’s going to be telling me I’m not queer enough or disabled enough. Wondering who’s going to wander into my mentions without actually reading my tweets and start ranting at me. I’ve witnessed authors drag other authors or even bloggers and readers, encouraging their thousands of followers to pile on.

If you stand up and say “This isn’t right,” if you don’t instantly block the “trash” people, you’re out, too. Twitter feels like the digital version of high school: “You can’t sit with us, especially if we see you sitting with her.”

I’m almost 29. I am far too old for these kinds of games. I’ve got lots of books I’d rather focus my energy on writing. Not to mention my energy is already lacking, thanks to a current flare.

I’ve tried taking regular Twitter breaks. I’ve tried paring down the number of people I follow. These things helped a little, but they weren’t enough in the long-term.

So I’ve decided I’m done.

I’d already decided to focus my time and money on Facebook. Now that I’ve connected my Facebook page to my reader group, it’s so much easier for me to manage everything. Through research, I know that Facebook is where I need to be if I want to connect with readers. Plus, I’ve made some lasting connections with other authors there.

Authors who are professional and courteous, even when they feel passionately about something.

From here on, my Twitter page will serve as an outpost. I will not be checking mentions or DMs. I have, however, unlocked my account again; I will be tweeting only when I have news to share, and it will usually be an auto-shared link to my blog.

I’m still on Facebook—and have a reader group—as well as Instagram. You can also join my email list.

In the words of the wise Steve Jobs:

Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

It feels so good and quiet now, I can hear myself again.

Dispelling Welfare Myths

Photo by Xavier Sotomayor on Unsplash

Back in February, I did a Facebook thread on common misconceptions about people who receive social services such as cash assistance and food stamps (also known as SNAP). I did this because I’m constantly seeing uninformed posts on Facebook bashing people who receive these services, and honestly… I just got tired of it. I shared statistics and links to sources.

Facebook’s search function is a nightmare, though, so I decided to gather everything here, that way I can link to this post in the future without having to hunt through my Facebook profile. Please feel free to share this post to help inform people!


I’ve been a recipient of SNAP—also known as food stamps—for the last two years, and I’m intimately familiar with the system.

To begin with, not everyone can just go online or march into a DSS office and walk out with cash assistance and food stamps. There’s an application process with multiple points of vetting—meaning there are several ways they prevent anyone from lying and taking advantage of the system.

You must provide your social security number, your address, proof of income (including pay stubs, tax forms, 1099s, etc), proof of living expenses such as rent and utilities. By the way, you can only claim rent and electricity as utilities.

It’s actually quite a lengthy process and a total pain in the ass. Not fun for someone with arthritis who can’t sit for more than an hour, whose stiff fingers don’t like typing, scrolling, etc.

You have to meet a LONG list of eligibility qualifications, too. For example, if you don’t have a good reason for being unable to keep a job, such as disability, you don’t qualify. Here’s the list of criteria. You don’t even want to read it, it’s so damned long.

You also have to regularly submit proof of income and other documentation. So, if you somehow lied your way through the initial process, there are checks and balances. Your ass will get caught, and bye-bye benefits.

The number of people cheating the system is actually extremely low. Offhand, I don’t have statistics, but each state regularly weeds out the bottomfeeders by enforcing this vetting process. And it’s a pain in the ass for those of us who are legit, so most scammers aren’t going to waste their time trying to forge or bypass it. Trust me.

Update: Based on the statistics of people who legitimately need SNAP, I’ve determined that less than three percent of people receiving SNAP may be scamming the system.

Further, SNAP does not cover non-food items. It doesn’t cover diamond rings or sneakers or purses or getting your nails done. If you try to add non-food items to your order, the system will automatically weed them out and force you to pay cash for them. Hell, it doesn’t even cover my Emergen-C, which is a vitamin-rich drink mix. There’s literally no way to get around this, either.

Now, let’s talk about the benefits themselves. The amount is so small, it’s hardly even worth it if you don’t really need it. Mike and I get $108 each month. Do you know what that covers? Not much. We can’t afford groceries out of pocket, so I’ve had to get really savvy. For example, I rarely buy things like mac ‘n’ cheese or those quick pasta or rice sides; they’re too expensive, so I just make them from scratch with seasonings and chicken broth. Now, remember that I have arthritis. Quick sides are my best damned friends. But I can’t afford them, nor can I afford freezer meals for those bad pain days when I can barely stand, never mind cook. People on food stamps are not buying steak and lobster, people. We can hardly afford pasta and chicken.

That said, it’s none of your god damned business what I feed my body. Many SNAP recipients are cancer patients or people with chronic illnesses; foods that are rich in iron, like steak, are extremely beneficial to our health. The SNAP program was created to make sure that people receive proper nutrition—yes, even us disgusting poor people.

Now, it is true that the more family members in your household, the more benefits you receive. However, I can’t just claim my Aunt Bob Who Doesn’t Exist lives with me; these have to be dependents, like children, or spouses or parents that you care for. You have to prove that they’re actual dependents, using tax return information, driver’s licenses or state IDs, etc. It’s another lengthy process that most career scammers aren’t going to bother with.

People who hate welfare—you know, the ones who claim that everyone who’s on welfare is taking advantage of the system, is lazy, doesn’t have a job, etc—are usually uninformed. They claim that people on welfare are all illegal Mexicans or some other racist crap. The truth? Brace yourselves! 39.8% of SNAP recipients are white people.

I’ll say it louder for those in the back of the room: THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE RECEIVING SNAP BENEFITS ARE WHITE PEOPLE.

So, when your white uncle starts bitching about all the people sucking off the state, he’s really just bitching about other white people.

Your racist uncle insists Puerto Ricans are popping out kids so they can get food stamps. It’s not true, friend. Not true.

Only 10.9% of SNAP recipients are Latinx.

25.5% of SNAP recipients are black.

Do the math. That’s 36.5%. Your racist uncle claims that the majority of people on SNAP are black or brown people leaching off the system, but the truth is that 39.8% of SNAP recipients are white people. 39.8 is bigger than 36.5, racist uncle.

In total, 76% of SNAP benefits go towards households with children, 11.9% go to households with disabled persons, and 10% go to households with senior citizens.

Update: See my notes above; these statistics are where I got my numbers for percentage of people potentially abusing the system.

For those in the back of the room, THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE ON SNAP ARE PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY NEED IT. Mic drop. Auntie Liz out.

Just a clarification: I’m not saying the 36.5% people of color who are on SNAP don’t need it. I’m saying the majority of people of all ethnicities who are on SNAP have serious reasons for needing it.

So next time your racist dad or uncle or friend starts with that “people living off the state” crap, drop these facts for them and tell them to go stuff some steak in their face.


If you appreciate the time it took for me to put this together, please consider supporting me!

How I Know I’m Bisexual

via Mary (Flickr)

Everyone’s experience is different, but I knew I was bisexual from an early age. I just didn’t have the vocabulary to explain the identity.

I was kind of a boy-chasing little kid. I ran after them on the playground, I got in trouble for kissing them, and crushed hard. People would ask me which boys I liked and I always had a running list. It was different with girls, though.

No one ever asked me which girls I liked. It probably never even crossed their minds. With girls, I was more shy. These crushes manifested as close friendships. I didn’t really know how to explain my feelings. The people I knew were in m/f marriages or relationships. I didn’t know there was any other way.

In middle school, I started to realize there was something different about me. On the bus, I couldn’t help but stare at certain girls as they moved past me. I knew what a lesbian was but I also knew that didn’t quite fit me. That didn’t stop other kids from calling me Lesbo or twisting my nickname (Liz, which they made sound like “Les”). They knew I was different, too, and they punished me for it.

It wasn’t until high school that I found my people and my identity. Two friends of mine came out. They announced that they were bisexual and dating, and it kicked off a whole LGBT+ movement in my school. Suddenly there was a word to describe a part of who I was, and I had a safe place where it was okay to be me.

I’ve been bi my whole life. I’ll always be bi. Whether I’m in a relationship with another woman, single, or married to a guy with a lot of facial hair… I’ll still be bisexual.

I’m proud of all of the parts that make up who I am. It hasn’t been easy, being queer—or me in general, to be honest—but I now have a pride that no one can take from me.


Speaking of pride, my #OwnVoices f/f romance Any Other Love comes out August 21st, 2017! Pre-order your copy now for only $0.99, or read the first chapter.

They Came for the Muslims, and We Said No

Friday morning, a friend texted me: “Anti-Muslim hate group is holding a rally in Waterbury tomorrow. Call me!” I was barely awake but I was pissed. I spent the rest of the day getting ready to protest the rally.

Until this weekend, I’d never been to a protest. I’ve wanted to go, but distance and/or chronic illness usually prevent me. Even Saturday was difficult, standing on my bad hip for two hours straight. But it was worth it.

The Southern Poverty Law Center recognizes ACT for America as a hate group. They’ve long spread anti-Muslim propaganda, but on Saturday they held rallies nationwide in protest of Sharia Law.

Post 9/11, I started studying Islam thanks to my 8th grade teacher, Mrs. Barra. I’m no expert, and I’m sure an actual Muslim can explain it better, but ACT—and many others—are twisting Shari’a to further their anti-Muslim agenda.

Shari’a is the act of following your divine path, or God’s will. At its core, Islam is made up of five pillars, or guidelines for living:

  • faith
  • prayer
  • fasting
  • pilgrimage
  • charity

Shari’a is open to interpretation. So yeah, some people do use Shari’a to do terrible things. Those people aren’t true Muslims, though… and no one is trying to impose anything called Sharia Law in the U.S., anyway.

via Connecticut Representative Elizabeth Esty

The hate group discusses things like female gender mutilation and oppression of women—which Muslims already condemn. I mean, if you’re really concerned about women’s rights, you should probably focus your energy on assisting Planned Parenthood and keeping the ACA. Usually, though, people railing against “Sharia Law” are just using it as a thinly veiled excuse to abuse Muslims.

Unfortunately, people want to stay angry and ignorant. They want someone to blame for horrible things that happen, and they’ve made Muslims their scapegoat. It takes two seconds to Google the basics of Islam or—gasp—ask an actual Muslim.

On Saturday, several groups in my home city came out to support Muslims, including the ACLU. I wasn’t happy that we had to be there in the first place, but it was truly heartening to see so many different people standing with our Muslim sisters and brothers. It gave me hope.

One man invited people to attend one of the mosques, and another woman told the crowd that her organization will gladly come talk to groups about Islam. Muslims weren’t the only speakers, though. Leaders from local temples, churches, and other places of worship spoke about unity. Several people also implored non-Muslims to speak up if they ever see or hear something wrong. Too many people talked about being afraid to go out in public, but one woman said that, looking at the people who came out, she wasn’t scared.

The protest went well, even with the teachers’ 5K literally running through the rally and protest. Though a couple people walked by and yelled stupid shit at us, everyone was safe. Like my father-in-law said, it was too bad that the people supporting ACT wouldn’t just walk across the street and listen.

Though I walked away with sunburn, I also walked away with hope. I saw a couple people I know there, supporting Muslims in our community. I saw a little boy bravely lead a chant. I saw people in my city—a city that can too often keep its head down and ignore what’s happening—come together.

This weekend they came for the Muslims, and the people of my city said fuck that.

 

Baby’s First Gray

It’s really more of a reddish blonde gray.

Today I hit two milestones: I reached 55K words for my work in progress (Any Other Love), and I yanked out my first gray hair.

I’m not proud to admit that I cried. My thick, very dark, 3B curls are my favorite feature. My hair has been relatively unscathed by my UCTD (aside from some thinning along my temples); with Plaquenil, it’s grown back in just as thick as it used to be. So yeah, I’m a little vain about my hair.

I did some whining and pouting, endured some of Mike’s jokes, then went to do the dishes.

“Hey,” he called. “Do you have any ink?”

“Fuck off!”

“I’m serious. I need to print a label.”

I’m going gray, but life goes on.

In an ironic twist, I was just talking about gray hairs last weekend with my Nana. She was saying how hers grow in a reddish blonde gray and we got to talking about dye. I said I’ve always planned on dying my hair a fun color when it goes gray, because for the first time in my life I won’t have to bleach it to death to get it to take the color.

Sigh.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t immediately start researching what happens when curly hair goes gray. Sometimes its curl type changes, but it almost always gets more coarse. So I’ll really have to baby it and moisturize it.

I may be going gray, but at least I wrote 5,000 words today.

#FridayReads: “Knit One, Girl Two,” by Shira Glassman

Shira Glassman is one of those cool people I’ve been following on Twitter for a while but hadn’t read any of their work because I’m a bad colleague. So when she released “Knit One, Girl Two” this week, I one-clicked that bad girl because I can always use more f/f romance in my life and I really want to support my fellow indies.

“Knit One, Girl Two” is a short story. It’s 68 pages long according to Amazon’s Kindle page count thing, so you can definitely read it in one sitting. Me? I savored it over a couple days.

The best word to describe Glassman’s writing is “real.” Her dialogue, especially, is delicious. Each and every exchange felt familiar, like I was hanging out with good friends. The banter between characters often had me laughing out loud, but aside from being funny, it flowed well. This is a story you’ll want to curl up with, a hot cup of tea at your side. Just settle in because it’s warm and inviting—just two queer girls being together and living their lives.

Both of them are artists, too, which makes my heart sing. Clara is a small-batch yarn dyer, and Danielle is a painter. When they cross paths to collaborate on a project, their worlds become so much more vivid. And speaking of worlds, this is set in south Florida, which is one of my favorite places. (Shout out to my real one true love, Deerfield Beach!)

I’m dying for more of Clara and Danielle, and hope to see them in more adventures or even in cameos in other Glassman stories.

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