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If you happen to be curious: THIS for the record, is PRIDE

If you haven’t had a chance to adopt your new Queer Queen, this is your chance. Lzzy Hale of Halestorm, who penned what, in my not so humble opinion, SHOULD be the anthem that all Pride Festivals are singing. I’ve been trying for weeks to pen a commentary of the song that offers her the respect she is due, but after attending the show tonight, after seeing Halestorm perform it, I realized that as in all things, Mz Hale speaks only for herself.

So, in honor of Pride, of the bullshit and the crazy, I give you what it really boils down to:


“New Modern Love”
I’ve got a forbidden love

I’m not giving it up
Not giving it up
I’ve got a new modern love
I’m not giving it up
Not giving it up

I won’t pretend that I don’t feel
The way I feel
I can’t forget the taste of something hat’s real
Step into my closet and maybe you’ll find
Something that’ll scare you
Something that you like
Your old familiar logic is poison on your lips
It’s nothing in the water
That’s just the way it is

I’ve got a forbidden love
I’m not giving it up
Not giving it up
I’ve got an uncommon love
I’m not giving it up
Not giving it up
I don’t care if you don’t want it
‘Cause I, I got it
I don’t care if you don’t get it
‘Cause I, I still want it
I’ve got a new modern love
I’m not giving it up
Not giving it up, no

You can’t rewire these circuits any other way
Yeah, you can twist the signal
The message is the same
Step out of your bubble and
Maybe you will find
Something that’ll save you
Something that you like
Your old familiar logic is poison on your lips
There’s nothing in the water
That’s just the way it is


Step into my closet and maybe you will find
Something that’ll scare you
Something that you like
There’s something that you like
There’s something that you like

I don’t care if you don’t want it
‘Cause I, I got it
I don’t care if you don’t get it
‘Cause I, I still want it
I’ve got a new modern love
I’m not giving it up
Not giving it up, no

Not giving it up
Not giving it up, no
I’m not giving it up
Not giving it up, no

Thank you, Lzzy. Thank you.
New Modern Love can be found on Halestorm’s most recent release, Into the Wildlife.

Lies my blog tells me

I was screwing around on twitter the other day (because when you should be writing, nothing is better than twitter, right?) and caught this headline, tag line, something about how us writers shouldn’t be worrying about our blogs so much. Now, I didn’t actually read the article because why should I? (That would be logical.) But the headline did give me a moment of relief because I mean … think about it. This thing never gets updated.

I think it doesn’t get updated because I always want to say something deep and sensitive and all “writer like” and really, let’s face it, usually I’m just rocking out to Halestorm or Sick Puppies and trying to make sense of whatever character is loudest in my head at the time. So I go post my ramblings in LiveJournal because, you know, that’s cool right? And leave this to languish because I’m not cool enough to be awesome all the time.


Anyway, I’m not sure what I’m saying tonight other than I felt the urge to come over here and ramble about the writer life rather than, you know, write. I did write tonight. 737 words of pure crap, but it was words at least. I’m in that horrible place where the draft is trying to figure itself out so I’m just writing and hoping it sorts itself out in the end.

I’m also waiting to hear back from a publisher, so it isn’t like my brain can focus on anything other than that chance that the unread email in my inbox won’t be from MoveOn but instead, you know, the publisher.

It’s funny. I have so many big ideas for this blog. A new short story posted every week. Rambling thought processes on everything from music to writing groups to what it’s like to be a queer writer in Salt Lake. And then reality hits me and I’m reminded there are only 24 hours in a day and I try to devote at least 4 of them to writing.

This reminds me – I did get to see Neil Gaiman in person last week. This is definitely worthy of a rambling blog post because he was absolutely amazing. Absolutely. See, again, lies my blog tells me: I will write amazing things to share with the people who follow me and then, you know, it all crashes up against the brick wall of things like sleep.

I’m so interesting.

Anyway, I felt the urge to get back to this, so here I am. Trying. We’ll see if it lasts. 😉

LiveJournal Q&A, December Edition Question #1: How Does Music Influence Your Writing?

A meme went around LiveJournal (yes I still use it! it’s awesome!). The meme was a challenge, asking for blog posts to be done for each day in the month of December. I didn’t get 31 questions, but the questions I did get were awesome. So, I’m answering them here.

It’s funny you ask this because often, writing influences my music. I have discovered over the years that while I have a core set of music styles that I like, it’s often my characters who direct certain musical choices. I’ve discovered artists and genres because a character likes a certain style of music. I’ve become obsessive over some bands because the character identifies so strongly with them that it literally changes how I think and react to it. (Current example: Sick Puppies.)

Outside of the people in my head who direct everything from music to book to clothing choices, I am personally drawn to more hard rock and heavy metal elements which means that it is more likely for my characters to listen to those genres and bands. But the biggest example of how music influences my writing is in my chosen genre, which is Rock Fiction.

It’s true that my writing is peppered with queer characters and could be labeled Queer Fiction, but in the end, my genre is rock fiction. There isn’t a book or a story that doesn’t have that hard rock element as a central part to at least one character, if not the entire plot. That musical element is what drives me as I seek to find the answers in the shadows beyond the spotlights on stage. (See what I did there?) The soaring guitar riffs tell my soul the story while the bass line fills in the gaps and the drums bind it all together. Outside of Tori Amos, I almost never write with singer/songwriters on repeat. Instead it’s Sick Puppies, All That Remains, Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown, Queensryche, Halestorm, Royal Bliss, Nine Inch Nails, Rob Zombie, Ill Nino, Stabbing Westward, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine … they are the ones who are put on repeat as the characters run away with my soul. I fall into their music, their lyrics, their stories while the universe in my head unfolds to tell me about the guitarist who is dying of AIDS, the basketball player who is in love with the rock star, the runaway who is saved by the timeless band, the actress who finds peace in the silence of her guitarist boyfriend, the suicidal bass player who would be dead if not for the instrument in her hands, the young father who reconnects to his Spokane heritage through his lyrics.

So for me, it’s a cycle. I wouldn’t be writing at all without the inspiration I find in the music I am already drawn to, but my characters definitely expand my fascination with music because they take me on their journeys, teaching me what they like and what inspires them, which in turn, inspires me.

“Discussions” with my brain at 6 AM …

I think every writer out there can relate to this …

Me: *stretches and wakes up a bit*
Brain: Hey! Let’s have a conversation.
Me: It’s too early and I haven’t had any coffee yet.
Brain: So what! I’m up. You’re up. Let’s talk.
Me: It’s six in the morning and I’m hot and tired. Can this wait?
Brain: So here’s what I’m thinking. You know that whole “follow your bliss” thing?
Me: It’s six in the morning. My bliss is going back to sleep.
Brain: Okay, I can’t argue with that logic. But, seriously, we gotta talk.
Me: What did I say?
Brain: Come on, you’re up and arguing with me. So, what I was thinking was this …
Me: I’m not going to win this one am I?
Brain: So what I was thinking was this – you are really ready to take your writing to the next level, right?
Me: Yeeeahhhh …
Brain: So maybe you need to quit your job and just do the freelance thing.
Me: Or I can build up a freelance reputation and then quit my job.
Brain: But … bliss …
Me: But … bills.
Brain: You know, those words are almost identical.
Me: But not.
Brain: Kind of.
Me: No, really. Not. I appreciate this pep talk but it’s now 6:15 and I have to get up in a bit and I’d like to get some sleep.
Brain: *sends pain to nerves* You still want to sleep?
Me: YES! You made it so I can’t.
Brain: Sorry about that. But I’m following my bliss here.
Me: So what did you want again?
Brain: Bliss.
Me: Look, yes, I would love to drop my job and hit the road as a merch girl or writer A-La-Almost-Famous or something. But I’m in a good place right now too.
Brain: Because 8-5 is really your style? When was the last time you actually got to work on time?
Me: That isn’t the point and you know it.
Brain: What is the point?
Me: …. can we do this later?
Brain: *grumbles* Fine. But, hey, listen to this –
Me: What?
Brain: You write rock fiction for a reason you know.
Me: Yeah, because I love the themes and the characters are fucking sexy.
Brain: Well, maybe there’s a lesson there. I mean, the real rock stars, they give up everything and take that risk. Maybe it’s time you thought about that too. Not saying you have to take off on the road or anything but it might be good if you changed things up.
Me: You’ve been saying this for a while.
Brain: Yeah, but not at 6:45 in the morning.
Me: I love my day job though. If I leave it and have to get a day job I hate I won’t be writing as much.
Brain: Life is risk.
Me: I’m going back to sleep.
Brain: Now you’re being logical.
Me: On a couple of levels.
Brain: I know, I’ll create some dreams for you about what it’ll be like if you are able to follow your bliss.
Me: Whatever. But if you do, create a savings account I can live off of so I can in fact follow that bliss.
Brain: Oh …yeah.
Me: This was funnier an hour ago.
Brain: It wasn’t meant to be funny.
Me: I know.
Brain: We’ll get there, right?
Me: Yeah.
Brain: Sleep doesn’t matter, right?
Me: You’re the one keeping me awake right now.
Brain: Oh yeah.
Me: Mind releasing those pain receptors?
Brain: Hmmmmmmm. Nah. I think I’ll leave them.
Me: Jerk.
Brain: Last I checked, we were connected, Sweetheart.
Me: Don’t call me sweetheart.

The Truth Is …

This week, I lost the second of my cats. The first died just about a month ago. She was 23 and we’d had her for 22 of those years and out of nowhere we realized that she was sick. It took a week and she was gone, but we had her in our arms until the end. The second was our sweet baby who was 15. And he’d been with our family since he was born and now … isn’t. Morph, the one who died this week, was my little writing buddy. He drove me crazy sometimes, don’t get me wrong. But he’d sit on my shoulder and on my papers and purr at me and encourage me. And now it’s just quiet. And no, I don’t need him here to write, but more and more, I’m missing his presence when I curl up and start to let the words flow.


Rest in peace, buddy. It’s too quiet without you.

Truth is …

After election night inspired a couple of hours worth of ranting on my twitter feed about how the GOP is anti-science, anti-earth, anti-woman, anti-life, anti-God (because let’s face it, how anyone could sanction what they sanction and still call themselves “Christian” is hypocritical), anti-American, anti-Peace, in favor of dropping bombs on children (all of which is searchable through voting records, by the way), anti-poor people (and middle class too), anti-child, and of course, anti-health care I found myself needing to actually write. See, twitter is AWESOME for a good political rant and for retweeting dumb things and of course, for stalking your favorite celebs, but it really isn’t that good for writing. So, I did what any logical writer would do: I sat down with two of my favorite characters, two characters that of course, the GOP would hate. They’re non-religious, hard rocker types who advocate for things like actual liberty and non-conformity, and who both live and struggle with mental illness. Mental illness that is managed by the healthcare plans they can afford through … wait for it … the ACA. Because their plans can be subsidized, they can afford things like mental health care! And medication! Which keeps them from killing themselves. Oh, and of course, one of them is … shhhhhh …. Chicana. (See: things the GOP hates.) And the funny thing is, the piece I wrote tonight wasn’t even about any of that. It was about her reaction to her dumbass ex-boyfriend. But still, these are two people the GOP just wishes wouldn’t, you know, vote.

This is what we writers do, right? We write about the world, holding up that mirror, hoping that someday … people listen. Sad thing is, they usually do, but only after we’re dead.

Also, yes, as a sports fan, can we stop with the national anthem before games?

Also, my district is now represented by Mia Love. *weeps*

Truth is … I’m excited for music over the next couple of years. You kidding? Times like this is when the metal world SHINES.

Over Coffee …

It isn’t that I haven’t been updating, it’s that I’ve been adding reviews and content to the sidebars. Check out my short stories and pop culture commentaries! (Shameless plug.)

But honestly … I’m sitting here over my coffee (with my coffee?) thinking about the real reasons I write, and how I can’t imagine anything in my life that doesn’t involve these characters, and I’m so flipping tired (Utah Swear Alert) that I’m honestly not doing a lot to move things forward. And it’s not even physical tired, but emotional tired. It’s that moment when you sit there and go “Fuck. I’m 35. I have novels under my belt. I’m an active writer. I’ve worked and (not been paid) as a writer. And why didn’t I move to LA when I was 20? Why didn’t I turn left instead of right?”

And the depression comes not from the lack of being published but wondering where the direction goes because you know, writing is like that. And depression is so easy to push through, right?

I find myself wondering about being on the outside looking in though. Knowing writers, knowing musicians, knowing people who are working in the field where I’ve always dreamed of working and wondering … what the hell I’m not doing. Other than, of course, keeping pushing forward and demanding an audience and doing my best to drown out that voice that echoes, telling me I’m not any good. Because let me tell you, there are a lot of publishers and agents out there who are happy to say over and over again that people aren’t any good.

This is the problem with being one of those writerly types. We think too much.

I dunno. I know I need to actively start music blogging again because I loved, loved, loved doing it. And of course there is the writing that needs to happen on the novel. But right now … it just feels overwhelming.

So I am going to drink my coffee. And make plans. And you know, get to work because I do have a day job.

This has been your whiny writerly post for the week. I promise not to give you another one until December. 😉


I used to dance.

I was never very good. Not really. I mean, I can shake my hips and count to four, but dancing really wasn’t my strong suit. But I love it. I love falling into the music, moving this way and that, spinning and leaping, while being caught by invisible hands of rhythm and blues. I’d dance to everything, from Disney musical numbers to the hardest rocking metal songs. The world was my stage, my arena, my stripper pole. Despite my short legs and skill in tripping over the balls of my feet, I danced. I danced and danced and I didn’t care who saw or who laughed because I danced.

When I was five, I had a bunch of those skater skirts that twirled up around my waist when I spun around and my mother was always begging me to wear white underwear with my white tights because the world could see the cartoon drawings and polka dots when I started to spin. I didn’t care. In my scuffed Mary Janes and my second-hand dresses, I climbed trees and raced my bike and swirled in circles until I fell, dizzy, and the sky spun counterclockwise above me.

I was Jennifer Beals in Flashdance and Paula Abdul in Cold Hearted. I was Roxie Hart, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Debbie Gibson, Janet Jackson, and every girl in every Warrant and Motley Crue video. In my basement, I won Gold Medals in dancing and practiced my kicks and ballet positions. I made freshman dance team and pep club in the 10th grade and it was then I noticed just how different I was from all the other girls. With my thick thighs, rounder hips, hour-glass figure with the boobs to match. When I tried on my first D-cup bra, I wept in the dressing room. I already knew I was different in ways beyond the shape that promised, more than my lack of talent, that I’d never be a professional dancer. Already I was being defined not by who I was or my talents but the boobs I carried around.

Worse, I knew I was different and I didn’t know how to voice it, I didn’t know what to say and somehow that fucking bra set it all off.

See. I knew gay. Gay was okay. I knew because my best friend from childhood had come out to me and my parents had spent most of my childhood making sure I understood that it was okay to be who I was, no matter what. It was okay if two boys loved each other or two girls loved each other as long as no one was hurt in the process. I knew gay.

But see.

That was the problem.

Just like my big thighs didn’t fit the cheerleader look and my big boobs didn’t make for a dancing career, I didn’t fit into the gay thing either.

I remember sitting in history my junior year of high school, listening to the gay students stage their walk out as they protested the shutdown of even the idea of the Gay/Straight alliances. And I sat still, ashamed to join them. I, a daughter born into the activism of the Americans with Disabilities Act, was ashamed to join them. Because I wasn’t gay. I wasn’t like them so I didn’t have a right to join in their fight. Who I was, it wasn’t included in their dance.

So I sat and supported in silence.

Two years later, walking across the campus in Austin, days before my first class would start, my eyes landed on a bright pink flier and a two-letter word that saved my life.


Consciously, I know it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it but it was the first time I remember seeing it in a positive context. The first time it had ever settled in my mind as something real. Something … me.

My first support group meeting, I danced with the building, trying to find the open door. I found the bathroom, ducked inside, met the eyes of someone who looked as petrified as me. We didn’t speak. She was sitting at the table when I scurried inside. She smiled when I took a seat. These weren’t just college students. I was in a room with people my age and people older than me and people who became the ones I turned to as I came to realize that there wasn’t anything wrong with me.

There was the dance when I came out to my parents. When my mother – who thought I was lesbian – came out to me as bi and I remember wondering why she couldn’t have just said the word to me when I was growing up. Why she couldn’t have just said that whatever I was feeling, it was okay, and given me my word. There was my father dancing with traffic on I-15 on the way into town and how glad he was when I told him I was bi because he was so fucking worried I’d come home from college to ask for money.

In Austin, I found family. We went to coffee shops and listened to local bands and went to clubs and sat out in parked cars, talking until the sun came up again. Everyone was welcome. Swingers and doms and subs and transmen and transwomen and gender queer and cis and nonbinary and we held hands and fought against Governor Bush together and we held hands while waiting on results from Lawrence V Texas and no one was turned away.

No one.

All that mattered was that you didn’t have a problem with people who were bi. That you didn’t talk over us. That you let us have our safe space.

Arms open. Everyone danced together. And sometimes it was only the women and sometimes it was only the men but we were there. For each other. And I knew that outside of my circle, outside the world, there was judgment. I was warned by my elders to watch for catch phrases and words that would make me question myself.

Bi now! Gay later!



You don’t belong here.


Maybe we just shouldn’t be grouped together under this umbrella.

Is it nice to pass?


You’re a disgrace to us. Why can’t you just look normal?

I was taught to listen for what they would say. I was warned because it had happened over and over again. Our history had been erased, folded over into something else, forgotten. And those with more experience voiced their worries because they knew that I would be more likely to commit suicide or to be harmed by my partners and to be ignored by police and counseling agencies because even those devoted to the Gay cause would shut the door to me. Because outside of my world, there was one that didn’t invite girls like me to the dance.

I believed them. Right up until I met her. They just didn’t understand. Times had totally changed.


She was so funny. And we could talk about everything. Up all night talking about writing and Star Trek and annoying exes. We talked about the burgeoning marriage conversation. And even though she hated to dance, she thought it was cute that I did. She sent me roses. Despite my bi family in Austin, I was lonely and the first girl I’d fallen for hadn’t fallen for me and I needed to escape and despite everything in the world telling me not to leave, I got on a plane.

This time, when I started spinning, it was in reverse.

Because it started as slowly as it did quickly. I didn’t believe what they’d warned me about could come true. That it was there in front of me.

I don’t like that you’re bi, she said.

Are you sure you aren’t a lesbian? You’ve never been with a man, she said.

I can’t trust you, she said. Because the ones before, they all left me for men.

I can’t trust you, she said.

Faker, she said.

Why can’t you just be normal, she said.

While more and more I became isolated, solitary. More and more, I defended her.

And I don’t know why I didn’t leave except you see I did know because despite my bi family in Austin I’d been single and here was someone who loved me, right? So even though I didn’t fit into her boxes, I stooped and squirmed and folded and bent myself in her shapes and if she sat on the lid, we could tape it shut. I learned not to dance, because it attracted attention to the fact that I was different. I stopped correcting people who assumed I was like her. I retreated inside myself. The men I found handsome were my secrets alone. She could point out women but when I did, I was reminded that because of who I was, I’d leave her.
I told myself that as we settled into what had once been her grandmother’s house, that we shared her tiny room and bed because she wasn’t ready to expand the landscape of her world to include mine. I discovered every excuse imaginable as I kept my clothes in a different space, that as we never went to Austin to get my things, that it wasn’t that she didn’t trust me to be in her life, it was just who she was. We liked the same things, after all. Her world and mine could be shared without any part of me, right?


The day I quit acting was a dance audition.

The audition before, she’d sat in the hallway outside and told me she didn’t like that I was going for things because it made her feel like she couldn’t do things even though I could. She didn’t like the people I met. The men I met.

Then came the dance. And I walked out halfway through, in tears, and she hugged me and told me I’d made the right decision. It wasn’t like I’d been practicing anyway. I sat in the car and remembered the call from the casting director in Austin and wondered what would have happened if I’d gone to that movie callback in Houston. The one that came for me while I was packing my bedroom to move.

The day we cleaned out what had been her grandmother’s bedroom, I expected us to move our lives into the space. It was full of light and white walls. A new space. We boxed things for her family and closed the door but she allowed me skirts that had been her grandmother’s and I donned them, twirling like I had when I was five. The fabric didn’t fly up to my waist, and with each wearing, each spin, I found holes to mend and the need to patch unpatchable fabric. Small stiches of the finest thread still created runs. Seams weakened by dust and age split and split and split again.

Still. When I left, I packed them. After the fights, the bruises, the lock over my heart and the seventy pounds that stopped what little dancing skill I carried, I packed them, hauling them back across country, taking space away from the stuff I finally picked up in Austin.

They hung in my closet.

Gathering dust.

Weakening at the seams.

One by one, they were turned into rags and cat blankets. Some were given away.

To friends, to family who didn’t mind the rips or the runs.

I trust less. I listen more. I warn those coming after me that while times are changing, there are still words to look for and I talk to them about the history of our movement that has been erased. I warn them, but tell them to love. And I cry when over and over and over again they tell me that they were so sure something was wrong with them because no one believed them. No one. I tell them to be proud and never let anyone tell them differently.

Because, you know what, I still have my dancing shoes.

On Writer Insecurities …

There comes a point for me, usually between the second and third draft (which is realistically where I am in this novel) where every insecurity I have as a writer emerges.

It always starts with a small nibble at the back of my mind. You suck, it says to me. And, like when my cat wants my dinner, I push it away. But see, just like when my cat wants my dinner, there are claws involved. The claws dig in, scratching, poking, and finally I have no choice but to acknowledge the sucking.

I dare to suck! I scream back at the nibble.

No one cares the nibble responds.

In that moment, the nibble outgrows the metaphor. It becomes a wave inside my head, inching ever closer toward high tide. I analyze eveything from the color of a character’s hair to the direction of the story to whether or not what I’m doing makes any sense. I pour endless time into character journals and scenarios that will never happen, all in the name of development. Side characters get tons of attention. Side characters to the side characters get developed. All because I am wallowing in the biggest worry of all:

What if no one reads this?

Every writer will say: I write for myself!

We do! We really do! But you know what, when no one reads what we’ve written, that eats away at us. So, there comes a point when my little insecurity bug bites and I scratch and scratch and scratch until I’m bleeding.

As a queer writer of queer characters, I find myself even more worried about that whole “what if no one reads it.” I live in a world where the bisexual community is still misunderstood and erased and while I hope to only be telling a story that is authentic … what if no one actually cares about being authentic in the story? What if the gaystream (and mainstream) media win the day?

What if the stories I am trying so hard to tell just don’t matter?

Truth be told, the only way out of this is to write. To just keep writing. To write and write and write and write and write and hope that  in the end, the insecurity road has given me a better draft than the one I started with. But until the writing really begins in earnest, all there is to really do is to keep itching and scratching out ideas and hope that in the end, they all make sense.

But sometimes, one also needs to just vent. Just a little bit.

Take Your Characters Out For Coffee

I am lucky enough to be the moderator of a couple of writing communities. One is the Salt Lake City Writer’s Group and the other Open Vein Writing at Livejournal (yes we had this conversation in the last entry, it still exists, don’t knock it).


One of the primary questions that I ask other people is “how do you get to know your characters?”

Sometimes, the answers are awesome. Sometimes, people look at me like I’ve grown a second head. “What do you mean get to know the character? Won’t they tell me about themselves as I write the story?”

Every character is different. I think every writer knows that. Sometimes you go in knowing everything from favorite color to when they lost their virginity to when they’re going to die. And sometimes, they are a blank slate that you color on. But either way, I think it is so important to get to know your characters.

But why, you ask, is favorite color so important? Because colors are symbols. Because colors give us meaning. Is red a favorite color because your character likes power or because as a child, their favorite fruit was red apples? Why does it matter if your character likes sports? Because it changes the people they hang with, the way they talk. And yes, it matters what sports they like. If you have a character who likes football … it matters what kind of football they like.

What about how your character feels about infedelity? Teen pregnancy? Dogs vs. Cats? Divorce? All of these things matter to how a character is presented, how your character thinks about certain things.

Yes. Characters will surprise us. Yes, we’ll write entire drafts of novels before realizing that a character is say, bisexual instead of a lesbian and going to end up with someone completely different than initially assumed (I’m looking at you, Gina Case.) But characters and stories come alive when we get to know who they are as people. When we get to know who we are as people interacting with them. Because yes, as writers, we are having a relationship with these characters.

Weird, I know. But it’s true. So let me say it again.

We are in a relationship with our characters.

We fall in love, in lust. We hate and scorn and cry. We lecture. We listen. And if that’s not a relationship, I don’t know what is.

So do yourself a favor if you’re stuck. Take your character out for coffee. And by that, I mean a number of things. Take a journal, go sit and write from their persepctive. Have a conversation with them in a coffee shop. Write a short story. Pick a prompt off the internet and give them 500 words on the topic.

Get to know them. Over coffee, tea, wine, whatever.

It helps.

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