Monday, December 29, 2008

The New Year - So much in store

I cannot believe how much is on my plate for the first quarter of 2009.
First, I'm part of a wonderful anthology, "I Do" in support of marriage equality, to raise funds for the Lambda Legal Fund. All the proceeds will go toward the organization. My story "Finally Forever" is very brief, but continues my goal to write about identifiable Jewish gays, this time in a contemporary setting. MLR Press has graciously and generously offered to provide the publishing and editing for this effort.
Speaking of MLR Press, my single author anthology, "Bend in the Road", will be out hopefully the end of February or early March. Along those lines, I'll be posting regularly during January and February, a guide to the world in BITR.
Also coming out in March, most likely, "A Perfect Symmetry", my sequel to "The Shimmering Flame" will be released by Liquid Silver Books. Several of the characters in this book are gay or bisexual and menages - perfect or imperfect play an integral part in the story. I'm very excited about this one since it continues the story of Brigid, Ethan and Gabe and introduces a new cast of Terrans.

That's just the the first part of the year. In the works are more historical gay fiction, some paranormal, m/f (or m/f/m), a sequel to
"The Sweet Flag" and as much as my little fingers can write.

Stay tuned for regular monthly visits from MLR Press authors on the blog!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And the Winner is

I'd like to thank all the authors and readers who participated in the Contest. I hope that you discovered some wonderful authors and stories and had some fun along the way.
May all of you have a Happy Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza, Soltice and just a good Winter!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Glowing Hanukah Lights Contest

Hanukah begins Sunday evening the 21st when we light the first of eight candles. In my story The Game, we meet Dave Harris during a very special Hanukah weekend visit.
The Game will be available on the 19th from Aspen Mountain Press at this
Here's the blurb:
Dave Harris is a NYPD vice detective. Single, handsome and straight, with a brand new sexy girlfriend, he shares an apartment with Frank Paterno, his best friend from High School, unaware of Frankie's feelings for him.

Shari Nelson, a freelance reporter is madly in love with Dave, her new boyfriend, but has some secrets that are driving her crazy. Only Marcie Kaplan, her roommate and a lady with a few secrets of her own, knows just how much Shari's little vices are eating at her.

When Dave invites Shari to share his grandfather's cabin in upstate New York for a Hanukah weekend, she spontaneously invites Marcie along for moral support forcing Dave to invite Frankie along as Marcie's date.

Snowbound in the cabin, with no way of getting help and a cupboard more empty than Old Mother Hubbard's, they divert the time playing "Strip Dreidle", a game that will force them to reveal their hidden secrets and desires.

If they're rescued, will they still feel the same?
Dave Harris had pulled more than a couple of strings to get off time from work to take this little four-day excursion. The Holiday season was always busy for the police, but somehow he’d managed to get that four-day back-vacation owed him.
He looked down at Shari’s sleeping form sitting in the front seat next to him. A strand of vivid auburn hair screened her face from view. His shoulder ached from keeping still for the past three hours so he wouldn’t wake her.

He sighed.

He’d planned on some alone time with Shari. After a month together, he still knew next to nothing about her other than that she was a reporter for the Brooklyn Bridge newspaper, a weekly rag that focused on news and human interest stories that affected the borough.

They’d met at a crime scene at a club in the Park Slope area. She’d been hanging around looking for a story and Dave had been instantly drawn to her flame-colored hair. He’d always been a sucker for redheads.

When she saw him eying her she boldly walked up to him, handed over her business card and simply said, “Call me”.

He had.

And for the past four weeks they’d gotten together whenever they had free time -- night or day. He smiled. ‘Get together’ was a pretty pallid way to describe what happened whenever they were in the same space.

Sex. Pure, hot, wet, quick, furious, sweaty fucking.

He met her once a week for lunch at Angelo’s, an Italian joint near the precinct. He’d never taken Angelo up on his offer to use the back room whenever he wanted, until Shari. The nooners had become a weekly ritual. His lips twitched as he realized that now whenever he smelled Italian food he got a hard on.

He’d taken her once, standing up against the wall in an alley in back of a snitch’s apartment near where she worked. On the spur of the moment, he’d text messaged her with the address and just one word -- “now”.

Ten minutes later, her skirt was up to her waist, her thong was down to her ankles and his cock was deep in her pussy. She’d come twice with his hand and once with his prick.

When they finished, she kicked off the thong and handed it to him.

“Think of me.”

And she walked back to work leaving him standing in the alley holding the scrap of black lace, her scent wafting from it, his cock hard and aching again.

The rest of his shift had been shot. His hand kept drifting to his pocket, fondling her gift and his mind kept drifting to the image of her walking around the rest of the day bare-assed. Finally, he’d gone into the men’s room and, locking the door behind him, jacked off.

He couldn’t remember the last time they’d had a full conversation. Hell, why talk? She was always wet and ready when he wanted her, no matter when he got off work. After the second week, she’d given him a key to her first floor apartment of the two-story brownstone she shared with her friend, Marcie. He’d crawl into her bed and she’d wake up instantly. They’d make love without saying a word, then fall asleep after. The next morning he’d leave after setting up coffee for her, a little thing that, but it was his way of making a connection outside of the bedroom.

He’d been like a kid given permission to indulge in his favorite wet dream.

But he wasn’t a kid and now he wanted more. More of the kind of relationship that comforted you when people got killed and you came home pissed and frustrated because you couldn’t do anything enough about it. He wanted more than just someone to go to bed with. Yeah, he wanted more.

But more Shari, not more people!

* * * *

Frank Paterno stared at the back of Dave’s neck and indulged in his favorite fantasy.

He was in the shower in the apartment he shared with him. The hot water pounded down on his aching muscles. Steam swirled around his body and his hair fell into his eyes as he rinsed off the shampoo. He squeezed his eyes shut to keep the lather from stinging, and when he opened them Dave stood there, naked, his cock hard and erect.

“Need some help washing your back?”

In his fantasy, he couldn’t speak, didn’t need to speak. He just nodded and Dave stepped inside the stall and shut the door.

He smiled, his hazel eyes crinkling at the corners. He wore his curly, dark brown hair short and it stood up in little swirls around his ears.

Frank wanted to caress those curls, nip his strong neck and feel Dave’s cock deep in his ass.

And in his dreams, he did.

“Turn around, Frankie. Let me get that spot you always miss.”

It was his dream and so he could observe the scene as though watching a movie. He saw himself turn around facing the tile wall, bracing himself for what he knew would come next.

Dave lathered up his hands and sank one lean finger deep inside his anus. Frank swore he could really feel it move within him, driving him straight over the edge.

He watched as he slid down to the slick, ceramic floor and heard Dave’s forceful command.

“Get on your knees and suck me. Now.”

He rushed to comply. Dave was so much more powerful than him. Even in high school, Dave was the one who earned a letter in basketball while he was the math whiz.

Dave’s folks loved to tease him.

“Maybe the stork figured wrong and left the athlete here with us by mistake. Duhvidle could use a little of your brains, boychik.”

Everyone would laugh and Dave’s mother would put another piece of noodle pudding on his plate.

God, he loved Dave’s family.

After high school, it seemed natural for them to share an apartment. Their natures balanced each other’s.

Dave never knew how much he’d agonized over being close to him on a daily basis and not being able to tell him how much he wanted him. He compensated by making sure to pick up Dave’s cleaning and keep the apartment neat. And he fantasized every time Dave shared the highlights of his latest female conquest. Dave had always kept his love affairs sweet and short, but even though he had only been with Shari a month, it was different this time. Dave had never stayed over night at a woman’s home. He had never wanted to get too close because of his job, but now things had changed. He agonized over how long it would be before Dave moved out completely.

He never brought over any of his gay friends, at least not the ones he was fucking. He had female friends who thought it a riot to cover for him. He’d actually once convinced Dave that he was engaged. When the so-called engagement ended, Dave consoled him with beer and pizza and season tickets to the Knicks. They’d sit next to each other at the games and each time Dave would grab him and scream in his face when the Knicks scored, he’d dream that the screams were ones of ecstasy.

He’d milked his broken heart for over a year so he didn’t need to bring home any females. But he’d finally run out of excuses.

He wondered though if he might have guessed how he felt. Every now and then he’d catch Dave eying him, especially after his so-called break-up. Probably not or he wouldn’t be sitting in the back seat of Dave’s car next to Shari’s friend, Marcie.

Time to get back to his dream and Dave’s hard cock waiting for him...

* * * *
And please check out my paranormal story, The Sweet Flag, an m/m historical paranormal romance with unique Jewish characters from Loose Id. And coming early in 2009 from ManLoveRomance Press, A Bend in the Road
, about four Jewish gay men in 1880's Europe.

Remember to send an email to with the name of my two Jewish characters to be part of a drawing to win a selection of holiday gifts! Your next stop on the Hanukah trail is EM Ben Shaul at this link.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Guest Blogger - Victor J. Banis

Victor J. Banis has found a happy, new home with ManLoveRomance Press and currently has several wonderful books out with them, including Lola Dances, but his latest release, Angel Land, is so timely, that I asked him to share his writing process with us relating to this story. Angel Land will be published soon in e-book format by MLR Press.
Here is the blurb for Angel Land:
Late in the 21st Century: ravaged by the deadly Sept virus, the one time United States has disintegrated into The Fundamental Christian Territories, where Catholics, Baptists and Jews are registered as heretics, and gays are herded into walled ghettos: The Zones of Perversion.
Harvey Milk Walton, a runner, finds his way to the ghetto in Angel Land, oldest of the territories, where a legend says that his long ago martyred namesake will return one day to lead his people to freedom—but even to speak of freedom, of leaving the FTC, is punishable by death.
In a crumbling totalitarian society, where evil masquerades as piety, two men fall in love, and begin to dream of escape from
Angel Land

When I first committed to writing this blog, I intended to write about writing, a subject about which, after all these years and all these books, I might be expected to have learned at least a little something, and I thought it might be worthwhile to share some of what I have learned with others.

When the suggestion was made that I write instead about my latest novel, Angel Land, I was not only surprised, but, frankly, it gave me pause. First, because this was intended to be a blogging opportunity for MLR authors, and although I am a happy member of the MLR family, as I like to think of us, Angel Land was contracted for before I joined the family and so is published elsewhere (although happily the upcoming e-version will be released by MLR.)

Second, and this gave me the most pause, I am not very good nor very enthusiastic about tooting my own horn. I have always subscribed to the philosophy that it is better to tell people about your shanty in the country and let them discover for themselves that it is really a palace, than to describe your palace, and have them discover that it is only a shanty. I am always fearful that when I steer others to my writing, they may discover that it is only a shanty. So to devote this column to my own work seemed to me like dbsp—that is to say, disgustingly blatant self promotion.

On the other hand, not since The Man From C.A.M.P., published in 1966, have I had a novel that created so much buzz. Certainly the reviews have been raves; Robert Buck, on the GWR review site, says, "I recommend Angel Land as highly as I have ever recommended a book." AJ Llewelyn, at Dark Diva Reviews, calls it "the work of a master artist." And reviewing the book on Amazon, Bethann Korsmit says, "I give Angel Land my highest recommendation, and I think it should be read by everyone."

Nor is it only reviewers either who have expressed their enthusiasm. In the short time since its introduction, I have already received enthusiastic fan letters, and both readers and those simply contemplating reading the book have flooded me with questions about its creation, its plot, the characters, and the like.

Something about the book, then, has captured the attention of people. Of course, it is not difficult to see why this should be so. First, the movie, Milk, a biopic about the martyred Harvey Milk, has just opened to its own rave reviews, and Harvey Milk, or at least his name and his legend, play an integral part in Angel Land. Indeed, my protagonist's name is Harvey Milk Walton, a fact of considerable consequence in the story.

Moreover, the villains in the piece are religious fundamentalists—Fundies, in the book's parlance. In the wake of recent election results in which gay marriage was outlawed in California and gay adoption in Arkansas, both events largely backed by religious groups, the suggestion of religious persecution of gays and lesbians must certainly seem timely. It is hardly surprising that these unplanned coincidences have touched common chords through the glbt and the writing communities.

In the end, however, I decided to go with the suggestion of writing about Angel Land for the simplest and, yes, vainest of reasons: I like the book.

I like it, in fact, very much; but the truth is, I like most of what I write, or it does not see print. Angel Land, however, is, I think, somewhat unique. Certainly it is not like anything else I have written, but I cannot think of a book by anyone else which it altogether resembles either. Perhaps it is only vanity, but I think it is an important book—not, I hasten to add, a piece of great literature destined to become a classic as time goes along, nor better written than a dozen or so of MLR's writers could deliver, and almost certainly less entertaining than much of what you would find in that publisher's catalog.

It is, however, a thought provoking book. It has much to say that is cautionary, and it is ultimately a celebration of human spirit. It touches upon spiritual issues that I think are important to many homosexuals; and, almost from beginning to end, it is about love, in its many, often contradictory facets. It is, in fact, a book I should like everyone to read, and not simply because I want the sales or the money (though neither is to be scorned); and not just those in the glbt community, either. I think it is a timely book.

But, ever mindful of that shanty in the country, I did not set out to deliver a sales pitch. I will content myself instead with sharing some of the questions that I have been asked, and my answers. I will let them deliver the pitch for me, if one is needed.

Q: Was there any reason for your choice of including Baptists with Catholics and Jews in the ghettos?

A: Actually, none of the above live in the ghettos. The ghettos were created for the sexually deviant, as explained in these excerpts from different parts of the book (and, it should be explained, the POVs of several different characters):

The creation of the Zones:

Harvey Milk Walton: A Reverend Elihu Gaston founded The Fundamental Christian Church early in the century. Fueled to a great extent by the eruption of Sept, the FCC began to gobble up the other churches. Overnight, it seemed, the Church of God went, and the Church of Christ, the Methodists. One by one the lesser fishies succumbed to the great black shark in the sea of religion…
* * *
The Manager: Of course, originally the ghettos had not been intended solely for the gay population. Zones of Perversion they were called, and the statutes were written to include almost any non-marital, non-procreative activity. Some—the rapists, the child molesters, the incestuous—were sent straight off to the camps or, in the extreme cases, to their rewards, but the Zone was the prescribed punishment for any sex outside of marriage. In the early years a few young men had found themselves transported to the Zone for the sin of masturbation, but legend had it that one or two of them grew too fond of the punishment, and after a while, it was decided that a day or two in the public stocks was sufficient for all but the most incorrigible.
Like the heretically religious, the Tribes—the Afros, the Asiatics, the Latins and others—enjoyed what was termed “restricted freedom,” whatever that might mean. It was a crime, however, to “make a perversion of one’s racial or ethnic status.” “Too black,” as Chip put it, and sometimes one of them landed in the Zone as well, sexual orientation notwithstanding.
Not many years passed, however, before the Zones had become de facto ghettos for the territories’ gay populations. And not all of them complained.
From the Nineties of the Twentieth Century through the Teen years of the Twenty-first, the various mutations of the AIDS virus had ravaged the world. With the coming of Sept, however, gays suddenly had more to fear from their neighbors and fellow citizens than from the disease.
He’d heard the tales of mobs rampaging throughout the newly created territories, of sobbing gays dragged from their homes, chased screaming through the streets, beaten, lynched, sometimes burned alive mid-street.
For the gays, the ghetto walls had meant sanctuary from unrelenting terror, and the Fundies were true to their word on that score: the guards at the gates kept the gays in, but they kept violence out too. Perhaps not entirely: gay-bashings weren’t all that unusual, but at least there were no lynch mobs.

Catholics, and Jews are required to be registered as heretics.
Harvey: I said, quickly, firmly, “I’m not Catholic.” Ostensibly, the heretical religious—Catholics, Jews, Baptists et al—were free, but everyone knew that was a crock of butter. In actual practice, they too were registered, their religious services restricted, travel within the territories restricted, travel outside the territories forbidden under pain of death. And everyone knew that Catholic and Queer was a one-way ticket to slave labor. “No religion at all.”
That wasn’t exactly true: I was a devout believer in the religion of Look-Out-For-Number-One, but that wasn’t going to buy me a prayer of a chance.

Initially, Baptists were spared, but in time they too fell afoul of the FCC:
Aram: He was astonished by himself, by the things he had done then, things he had never in his wildest fantasies imagined himself doing—things that had given him pleasure he’d never dreamed existed, had never imagined could be found in the heretofore unexalted act of sex.
He wondered what that said about the state of his Christian soul? He and Elam had been raised in Christian homes. Their parents had been Baptists. Although the Baptist Church had remained independent when the FCC had gobbled up its sister religions, the two churches had remained closely allied for years.
Eventually, though, differences had sprung up. “Mostly,” his mother told him once, “if you can believe it, over music. Baptists love to sing. Fundie music is pious but there’s no passion.”
In time the Baptists had joined the list of heretics…

Q: What research, if any, did you do before and during the writing of the story?

A: Hmm. You know, most of the research I did was Biblical – I did a lot of scriptural reading, and I read a number of books on the question of homosexuality vis-à-vis Christianity; but, in fact, I did most of that research when I was writing my memoirs, Spine Intact, Some Creases, and I expand on the subject a bit more fully there. So, when I came to write Angel Land, it was more a matter of refreshing my memory. I lived in San Francisco (which becomes Angel Land) for many years, so I hardly needed to research the terrain; and most of the rest came from imagination.

Q: Besides the somewhat obvious name choice of Harvey Milk Walton for one of your characters, did you select names with relation to what feelings/reactions that name might evoke? Although I sometimes consciously select names for specific reasons involving my stories, I find that often a name will pop into my mind and I later discover my subconscious has been at work behind my back to pick the perfect name.

A: I think my choices were, like yours, more subconscious. The names just popped into my head, and then when I investigated, I found obvious connections that my writing mind had made. Aram, as an example, is one of Noah's offspring, the clan given charge of recreating the world after the flood; and, there's an obvious symbolism there in the book's end, but I wasn't conscious of it when I was writing.

Q: When you started this story, was the anniversary of Harvey Milk's murder in the back of your mind?

A: No, but like many gays, especially those of us who lived through that time, that is a name very prominent in our thinking; and, of course, the gay liberation movement, from the sixties through Harvey's assassination, was my era, that was my fight as well, so of course, his death had a great significance for me.

Q: How long did the writing of this story take?

A: Forever, it sometimes seemed. I often write very quickly. My novel, Longhorns, for instance, I did in two weeks, though I did spend subsequent time polishing it up. But Angel Land, gosh, I started it, I think, in 2003, so there were five years there before the book was finished. Now, I didn't work on it non stop over all that time, but I did come back to it repeatedly. It was a very complex story, with many characters and many themes running through it. The initial manuscript was something more than 300,000 words, so it required lots of pruning, editing, polishing up. And, I was very fortunate in having Lori Lake for my editor. She's a friend and a fine writer herself, and, let me say, a formidable taskmistress. She worked very hard at making me work very hard, but I am truly grateful to her. She deserves a lot of credit for the final product.

Q: Did you always have this ending in mind as you wrote?

A: Yes, absolutely. The first things I wrote were that travel brochure that opens the novel, and the final scene and epilogue—and, I confess, those last two never fail to bring tears to my eyes, and I hope my readers share that experience. I think that, really, there is the heart of the book, in those last few pages, what it's all about. Hope and Courage and Love.

Q: Obviously, you created a sort of alternative world for this novel. Were there other elements of this future world that do not appear in Angel Land?

A: Goodness, yes. There were those 200,000 some pages that I trimmed. I named and described all nine of the FCT, for example, and even wrote travel brochures for them: Beulah Land (formerly Old South); Eden; Canaan, Jubilee, Jordan, Gilead, The Apostles and Ararat. And not all of the USA became the FCT; there remained the free states—Seattle Free State, DC Free, the Conch Republic, et al. I could fill an entire book with the material I didn't use. But, having written it, it gave me a great sense of the time and place, made Angel Land really come to life for me. I always felt as if I were there.

Q: Various readers have described Angel Land in different terms. Robert Buck, in his review on the GWR blog site, calls it "a crackling good, edge-of-the-seat adventure;"
Rick R. Reed will shortly review it on, a site devoted primarily to horror. Elisa Rolle calls it "apocalyptic" and "a love story." AJ Llewelyn likens it to "Huxley’s Brave New World. There’s tinges of that. There’s Blade Runner and without giving away too much, shades of Planet of the Apes." These people might almost be describing different books. How do you personally define Angel Land?

A: Oh, you know, with all that it has to say and everything it contains, for me, this still boils down to a love story:

Aram: What he couldn't ignore were his feelings for Harvey, feelings that seemed to grow with each moment, feelings that were both a joy and a torment. He had always thought himself a good Christian, even, smugly, a model one. He tithed and prayed and obeyed the letter of the law. He’d had sexual orgasms before of course, mostly alone and once he had mounted a woman, entered and dutifully gave her his tribute, and he had taken a perverse sort of pride in the fact that it had left him so little moved. Surely, he had reasoned, that was proof of his purity, wasn’t it?
Or so he had thought, until that night with Harvey. There had been nothing pure about him then. He had been white hot, wanton, insatiable. His erection would not soften; he could not leave Harvey’s penis alone.
Not a “penis,” he told himself—a cock, a word that he had never spoken aloud, was sure that he had never even consciously thought. Even now, even alone, he blushed when it came into his mind, but once entered, it would not be evicted.
Simply remembering—the intensity, the fervor, that breathless desire that drove him, the pleasure so keen it was painful, the pain so sharp it was pleasurable—just remembering it, he felt a stirring in his trousers. That, too, was new to him. He had lived most of his life with his sexuality carefully tamped, held in rigid check, and now he had to fight to hold those memories at bay.
Despite his efforts, his memory of the passion Harvey had aroused in him would not be denied. And Harvey, too, had been insatiable. Was it always like this when two men made such a connection? Was this why the Church was so adamantly opposed to men with men? How could he know?
All he did know was that it consumed him. It was not so much that the passion was within him, it was more as if he was within it. His desire was like a hot summer haze that enveloped him.
All he really knew for certain was that he was in love.

I couldn't say it better myself.

I want to thank Victor so much for being with us today. I hope you'll visit him at his site where you can learn more about him and his work.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Guest Blogger - Tina Burns, Liquid Silver Books

I'd like to welcome Tina Burns, Liquid Silver Books publisher.

Please tell us a bit about LSB and your position with the publisher.

Atlantic Bridge Publishing was founded in early '99 by Raven and Mike as an Internet Marketing company, Raven went the pub route soon after with ABP which pubbed its first book in Jan 2000, while Mike stayed in marketing until LSB got busy.
In 2002, they branched off AB and founded Liquid Silver Books, the erotic romance imprint of AB. LSB pubbed its first book Jan 2003. Until mid 2004, LSB pubbed one book a week when we moved to two a week since--450 books published so far. We’ve enjoyed steady stable progress mainly due to excellent staff who have been with us since they joined, guided by Raven and Mike's decades of corporate and small business experience.
LSB is all about quality and long-term viability for everyone involved readers, authors and staff. From start-up to the consolidation business phases, LSB has been successful and is now embarking on an expansion phase over the next few years.
My role as Publisher is to “spread-the-good-LSB-word”. My goal is to increase sales, widen our reader base, author retention, and getting LSB to the next phase of ePublishing.
It seems that more and more epublishers are acquiring GLBT titles, specifically M/M stories. What makes an LSB gay title different from the rest of the pack?

While it does seem M/M titles are becoming a dime a dozen, I think there is still room for more. We have a few books with F/F elements in them, but only one dedicated F/F romance book and I'd like to see more. What sets us apart are our high standards, every book we accept is exceptional in its own way, then goes through rigorous editing, polishing it even more. Our books are relationship focused stories that will melt your socks off. :~D
Could you tell us how many titles are specifically M/M?
Whew, you made me count. Looks like we've got about 35+ M/M dedicated books and/or books with M/M elements.
What subgenres appear to be the most popular?
There’s actually a pretty even mix of Contemporary and Paranormal/Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Are there plans for further defining your Molten Silver line to indicate LGBT titles, making it easier for readers to find particular genres?
We are currently building a new shopping cart which will allow us to better designate the elements in our books. I’m hoping to see that up and running for the public by March of 2010.
Are there any themed submissions calls coming out that you feel authors of GLBT stories will find particularly attractive?
I do have some themed submissions coming out for 2010, but I’m not quite ready to reveal them. ;) I do have spots left for our Firemen series, Hearts Afire, which is a pretty popular M/M genre. Here’s the link to the Phase Two submissions call. Please read the submissions guidelines and note that Phase Two is still open.
Any comments you'd like to share with our readers?
I’d love to see more GLBT stories submitted to Liquid Silver Books, and am open to suggestions for themes that cater to GLBT stories as well. My inbox is always open so feel free to email me anytime!
Thanks so much for joining me here today, Tina.
Thanks for having me!