Monday, July 30, 2012

Let's Get Political...

With so much going on in the world, I'm not sure what to blog about. The Olympics? Too boring. NFL training camp? Now there's some real sports, but it's pretty quiet in Giants world. Michelle Bachman? Sure, if I were writing a comedy routine, I'd start right there, but she's quickly proving her irrelevance. Revisions on my book? That's going smoothly, so not much to tell there. I only write about my writing when I'm whining about something. I've got an agent meeting on Friday with an agent that seems perfect for everything I'm trying to do in my first book, but I've gotten excited about those before, and here I sit unpublished. So we'll just let go and let God on that one.

So what to write about?

I think I won't be timely. Let's look 100 days in the future, as all those emails from every Democrat in America are asking me to do. Election 2012! I was doing some research around the web, looking at poles, maps, reading articles, even checking out data on Tweets and followers for both candidates. The fact of the matter is, as much as the media is trying to make a story out of every little thing on the campaign, it's not much of a story at all. This is looking like another incumbent cruises to victory kind of election, and the media must hate that. Well, unless you Keith Olbermann, and then you're ecstatic. Your guy wins.

I imagine it's time for the FOX News crew to start manufacturing things to bring Obama down, never mind the fact that all past attempts have failed. Let's face it, Hillary Clinton did a better job of vetting Obama than any Republican could. And MSNBC will get in on it too, focusing more on where Obama is vulnerable, they'll probably call it white-voters-buyers-remorse or something like that. Anything to scare liberals into thinking Romney has a chance in order to help Obama gain votes and keep people interested in their news coverage. Maybe they'll highlight voter suppression or something like that.

I think back to 2008 when Keith Olbermann did the basic math about half way through the night and was all like, "With California certain to go to Obama, hasn't he already won?" and Chuck Todd chastising him with something like, "Shut up Olbermann, we still have two hours left of coverage!" These are paraphrases, of course. Don't quote me on this (or anything ever).

Either way,, my favorite source for election hanky panky, has Obama as a 94% chance of winning, and there's nearly as good a chance of a freakish tie as there is of Romney winning. Basically, if you really focus on the maps, all Obama has to do is win Virginia OR Ohio OR Florida OR Iowa (Iowa, for crying out loud!). Obama is polling well in Ohio, close in VA, and has a shot in Florida and Iowa. I think the key to the new electoral reality we're facing is Pennsylvania. I remember during the Bush elections we used to call PA a swing state as much as Ohio and Florida, a key chunk of electoral votes. Now it is solid blue, probably with the help of Joey-B.

The website runs 10,000 simulated elections daily based on crunching state-by-state polling numbers and other trends, and Obama wins 91% of the time. The mean, median, and mode for his electoral votes in those simulations is 303, a number I'm comfortable with and expect may be the count, unless Romney makes even more "gaffes" before election day and Obama takes North Carolina and Florida too. Right now I have the most Obama could take up in the 340's, with the absolute most Romney could take at 276. That means that even with Romney taking the popular vote and winning all the states that even Obama has a slight lead in right now, he would just barely make the 270 necessary to be president.

Other sites seem to agree. I've seen projections of 290, 303, and 274 safe for Obama at various polling sites across the internet. That's the safe number with the possibility for more. So while the national polls are showing a close race, with quite a few undecided, we don't elect presidents nationally. A candidate could have a national lead by winning by large margins in states he was going to win anyway, but losing very close elections in the states he loses, but if he loses those close battles in key states and enough of them, he loses the electoral college. Ask Al Gore all about that.

So, unless something drastic comes out on Obama or happens in the next 98 days, the 98% are going to be celebrating four more years of Barack-n-roll in the White House. And truthfully, with all that Obama has weathered, and all the attempts at using his past and his various connections to bring him down, if a surprise is coming our way, it's coming from Mittens, not Obama. Just think about those tax returns that must be so damaging that taking the hit for not bringing them out is less of a political setback than letting us see them.

The good news is that if the political nonsense of false promises that can't possibly be followed through on has got you down, you now have my permission to quit watching. No matter how much the cable news networks try to hype the race, it's a foregone conclusion the incumbent is going to win yet again. If you want political drama, watch the race for the House and Senate. Most have the Senate at a tie, with VP Biden breaking the tie, and I've seen equally reliable predictions for both the Dems taking back Congress and the GOP making major gains on their majority. And let's face it, there's a lot more at stake with who is making the laws than who is signing them. We've seen already that no matter what progressive agendas the President wants to push, it doesn't matter with a block-and-blame Congress.

If the Democrats take back the law-making body of government, and have Obama in the White House to put the stamp of approval on their legislation, we could see some of the most innovating, controversial, and history-making legislation of all time. We are ripe with debate in this country, and a sweep of the Presidency, the Senate, and the House could mean single-payer health care, gay marriage, legalized pot, a new immigration policy based on compassion, and the 1990s tax codes sweeping the nation. (Ahhh...Clinton-era budget reduction gets me all wispy in the morning.)

If you're a Democrat and all of that excites you, get campaigning, donating, and voting. Strike hard and fight. If you're a Republican and that scares you, stop being crazy. Stop showing the nation daily that you're more concerned with hate and childish squabbling than with helping the people of this country. In fact, I even know a way you could possibly turn the Presidential race on its head. Should I tell?

The fact is, nobody is excited about 2012. Obama would be winning by a bigger landslide if liberals were still excited about him, and conservatives hate their candidate. Not much excitement there or a struggling economy could guarantee Obama doesn't get a second term. So how does the GOP excite their base when all the candidates that get tea-party folks and hard-line cultural conservatives frothing at the mouth make independent voters sick to their stomachs?

Condi. She's tough. She stood up to Bush and Cheney at times. She's a woman, a real woman, not a woman that sends womanhood back to the 1800's. African-American voters might give her a look, and on every controversial issue her stances wiggle right down the middle. Abortion is bad, but the family should decide. We need to be tough on immigration law enforcement while realizing we are a country of immigrants. And I love this quote, ‘“Let me be clear. I’m evangelical and I’m proud of it. I consider an evangelical to be someone who professes faith in a way that draws others to it.” (As oppose to scaring the living shit out of others.)

Source: The Politico

Not only do I think Condoleeza Rice could shake up this election, though probably not win it, I think she has what it takes to be the first woman president in 2016. Tell me Hillary vs. Condi wouldn't be the greatest presidential campaign story in the history of our nation. I think Rice actually brings some honesty to the table, will stand up for what she believes in even if I don't agree with her on some things, and could take the GOP in a direction it hasn't gone recently with fiscal conservatism and social sanity. What a great alternative to the Michelle Bachmans of the party. She also handles herself in an interview in such a way I think she'd be a master debater (see what I did there?), so no Sarah Palin "I can see Russia from my house" jokes on SNL

Well, the veepstakes should come to a close shortly after Romney returns from his international dating game, a game he is losing, so probably in a week or two we'll know for sure. I predict he'll pick another white, male stuffed-suit that does nothing to excite and everything to simply "do no harm," ushering in another four years of Obama. The only question left to answer is what type of four years will it be. Four years of Congressional cooperation in changing the world as we know it, or four more years of block-and-blame campaigning for the 2016 presidency.

I'm thinking, sadly, we're looking at the latter.

Get it?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


This week's YA Highway: Road Trip Wednesday asks if I could be reincarnating into any fictional character, who would I chose? And I'm not at all afraid to answer truthfully, I don't know.

I always laugh at these kinds of questions. Why would anyone ever want to be anyone else? Sure you might want their money, or their lovers, or their station in life. Maybe they have opportunities you don't have, or maybe they're more attractive than you. But have you ever really tried to imagine what it would be like to be someone else. I just did, and it wasn't pretty.

I mean, you're so used to being you. I don't want to deal with the way another person's mind works. Chances are he or she would be dumber than me, anyway. I don't want to deal with liking the kinds of foods that person likes or getting used to that person's bowel regularity or irregularity. What if the character likes sardines or mushrooms. Yuck! Maybe the person you admire gets a nasty boil on his or her inner thigh every summer or has relatively harmless kidney stones that cause a pain in his or her side when he or she is stressed. I know what my body and my life brings on a daily basis. I'm too old and set in my ways to get used to a knew existence.

Furthermore, what comes with reincarnation (which I don't believe in, by the way) is a complete rebirth. I wouldn't know I was me being someone else. I'd just be the someone else, a fictitious character with enough conflict and inner turmoil to keep readers interested, and have no idea that this was novel or exciting. I would just be conflicted and full of inner turmoil. Isn't it hard enough to deal with conflict and turmoil knowing yourself like you do, let alone being a whole new somebody with all those problems.

Think about it. At first glance, Franklin the turtle sounds good. I mean, he's got it pretty easy. He lives an old-school life when things were much simpler and all of your friends played nice, and even if they didn't, the learned their lessons in about 12 minutes. But he's just so darn neurotic. I couldn't imagine running around all day thinking just because some animal played with someone else that he doesn't like me anymore or not being able to sleep without my favorite stuffed animal. Wait? But I am an animal. That's just weird.

What about Harry Potter? Magic powers. Admirers all through the wizard kingdom. A cute ginger girl friend. Hogwarts seems like the perfect home. But really think about it. The first time I got anywhere near Volda...oops...he who shall not be named, I would shit my pants ten times. I'm not cut out for wizard duels and confronting certain death at every turn. I can barely handle when a co-worker is mad at me. Nope. Not going to be a wizard.

Even Super Man has kryptonite and a whole slew of villains who want him dead. I'm pretty sure right now there's no one lurking out there, believe it or not, who wants me, specifically, dead. I'm cool that way.

No, I kind of like the gig I got going on for myself. I'd miss my kids too much if I changed into someone else--my biological children and the ones at school--and I'd miss my mind. I'd miss my strengths and my weaknesses. I'd miss knowing just when I was going to have to go to the bathroom each day, and I'd miss the way I could gobble as much pizza I want without feeling full but eat only a little bit of salad and get stomach cramps. I'd miss the way I can make people laugh when they're happy and make them feel like things will be okay when they're upset. I don't know. I'd just miss me.

And who knows. Maybe that character--or person if you want to extend this to real life--that you wish you could be is deep down full of sorrow. Hell, who knows, maybe that nice guy is really a douche bag down deep, and you won't quite be ready to deal with that negative inner monologue. So why envy? Why not just be you?

But if the question were phrased differently, if it read "if you had to be reincarnated into a fictional character, who would it be, then how would I answer?

Mario of course! He's got princesses all over him, relatively innocuous enemies, unlimited lives for the most part, and if things start going wrong, you just press reset. You get impatient--warp zone, and who wouldn't want to have just one day where you could spit fire or ice, double your height with one mushroom, and even fly with one of those cool propellers on your head.

Oh, and that Wild Wing kart is pretty badass. Just sayin.'

 This is self-explanatory.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lighting the Dark Night

I'm not sure I know what to say about the tragedy in Aurora, but I also know I don't want to stay silent on the matter. There's just so much upsetting about it that I don't know where to begin.

I teach my writing students that when they are attempting the horror genre, the best thing they can do is find a situation that should be safe and comforting and make it the source of the horror. That's why we fear what's in the closet or under the bed. That's our bedroom, our sanctuary, and you're making it the source of fear. It creeps us out. The same goes for creepy children, clowns, or a murderous mother.

Well, what's more comforting than buying a large popcorn, dowsing it with movie theater butter, and watching the third installment of your favorite super hero movie with friends and family? The thought that even a public space set up for entertainment and release from our problems could be that dangerous really freaks us out.

That's almost certainly the reason for the desire we have to blame everyone we can pick out as an easy target. It's much more palatable to point to this institution or that legislation when things like this happen than to admit that we live in a dangerous world and these things happen. At least if there's someone to point your finger at, you can be sure you aren't blaming yourself. At least you can pretend it's all somehow logical, somehow makes sense.

Some are targeting gun laws, which may have made a difference in the amount of carnage, but who is to say the suspect wouldn't have found another way--bombs, chemicals, or even illegally obtained firearms. Some are targeting violent movies, but most of us have watched our share of super hero movies and have never harmed a soul. I just watched Star Wars Episode III last night, and I have no desire to go all Anakin Skywalker on a school of younglings. Some of the articles I've read even sound strangely skeptical about the University of Colorado where the suspect was a PhD candidate.

But you can't blame the schools on this one. This wasn't some homeless castoff that the system failed. He was a straight A student who excelled in high school and at the University of California, Riverside, and was attending an intensive PhD program with 34 other students. He had friends. He had a church. He wasn't a freak in a cave.

It's almost certain that it will come out that this man was mentally ill. Like the Greyhound cannibal a few years ago, he was probably schizophrenic and had no idea what he was really doing to people and families in that theater, all around Colorado, and all around the world. The Greyhound cannibal is on medication now and going on supervised trips into the city. People are protesting and upset. They can't imagine that someone who did something so newsworthy and horrific is now just a normal guy with the help of time and medication.

The same could happen with the Aurora shooter. The truth is there are very few individuals, if any at all, that do something using logical thought that can be considered pure evil. Either they are mentally ill or they think what they are doing is the right thing to do, or both. Even Hitler believed he was saving the world, not destroying it. As misguided as people can be sometimes, they usually aren't hell-bent on evil. There's a chance that one person asking this shooter if something was wrong, or noticing that something was wrong at all prompting him or her to even ask, could have prevented a tragedy. Or maybe not. Life's not that simple.

So what do we do with this information? How do we live in a world where a top student in a PhD program guns down innocent movie-goers on a fun summer night out? How do we live in a world where innocent Greyhound passengers can be stabbed to death and cannibalized in their sleep? How do we live in a world of 9/11 terrorists, Oklahoma City Bombers, and Son of Sam killers?

I think the first part of the answer to those questions is simply to realize we live in that world. To realize we've always lived in that world. We like to think there were some good old days, and I've discussed this before on this blog, but I'd like someone to tell me when they were. In the eighties, we were pumped so full of good touch/bad touch lessons and fear of kidnappers that decapitated and raped kids that most of the people my age can actually remember their code word they were to give strangers who claimed to be picking them up for their parents. The sixties and seventies were ripe with glamorized serial killers. Brutal killing only increases as you go back through time. Think Vlad the Impaler, the murderer released to the people instead of Jesus, or Elizabeth Bathory, the Hungarian Blood Countess of the 16th century who allegedly bathed in the blood of her victims way back then.

Once we except that nobody is to blame. Once we realize that life has always been dangerous and the one thing we are guaranteed is death, we can accept the inevitable truth that our lives are the most fragile possessions we have...and the most precious. Yet living in fear and trying to protect those lives by living in crippling fear just devalues them. Like an antique vase that you pack away for no one to see, there is very little value in a life merely based on existing and not living.

So in the end, in my opinion, we just need to live our lives. Mourn the victims, of course. Look for justice for those families, of course. But looking to blame isn't going to help. Unless you find a way to cure humanity of itself, these kinds of incidents are going to happen. Be open to the idea that the murderer might just be a victim in his own right--plagued by his own mind--that needs help not death. If not, if he was simply a cold-blooded, evil-doer, then punish him to the full extent of the law.

Look out for each other. If something seems off, ask if everything's okay. If something seems way off, ask how you can help. Care. But most of all, remember that we're not promised anything in this world, not even tomorrow.

Realize that every moment with friends and family could be the last. Make the most out of life because you don't know when it's going to end. It may sound cliche, but that's because the same dangers we think modern society should be immune from, or that some think are a creation of our modern society, have been lurking for as long as man has walked this Earth. Cane killed Abel. The first born child on Earth was a cold-blooded killer. We have to come to grips with that.

While we should never get used to this kind of thing, I would hope that we could learn from it. Go see Batman if you were planning on it anyway. Don't live in fear. Instead, live each moment of your life to the fullest and love and care for your fellow man. Don't let this rip us apart--there's enough of that going on today in our politics--but do your part to help it bring us together. Don't let this one man--whether he was evil or ill--make our lives into one, long, dark night.

"Not Promised Tomorrow" by Stuck Mojo

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hollywood Calling...

It seems lately that the only true measure of literary success is getting your book adapted to the big screen. It also seems that the only good movies are the ones based on books. And we've all heard the whining complaints about how the movie ruined this or that from the book. The issue is that basically we've already directed, acted, and edited the movie version of the book in our minds as we read it, and obviously our movie version is better than theirs.

I do this assignment after reading The Crucible with my high school juniors. They cast the movie, pick some songs for the soundtrack, come up with a tag line, and then make a movie poster to advertise for their movie. This leads to some strange results. Think Bill Clinton as John Proctor with Hillary as Elizabeth and Monica Lewinsky as Abigail Williams. You have to admire the extent of their historical knowledge. But no matter how terrible their versions of the movie are, once I show them the film version, other than their relief that they're watching a movie in school that's in color, they all think their versions were better. Of course Will Smith makes a better John Proctor than that goofy old what's-his-name.

So, when YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday asks our favorite movie that was better than the book, they're asking a nearly impossible question to answer. But alas, I can think of two. And I might get blasted for both.

The first is kind of obvious--The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Those who watch the movies and complain about them being too long and drawn out have obviously never read the books. Sure, they're classics and must reads, and I don't think I'd want to change a word, but...let's just say Tolkien is a bit long-winded. Was he being paid by the word? And that whole thing with the weird guy that lived in a tree that just slows down the whole exciting journey? I'm glad Peter Jackson cut him out.

I have a strong imagination, but somehow while reading the books I found myself picturing a childish cartoon of a war in comic book color with the hobbits played by Jim Henson puppets. I think The Dark Crystal overly influenced my reading.  Creepy. Seeing the epic battles and scenery in live action with great acting, amazing effects, and unbelievably dramatic timing brought the world of Middle Earth alive much more than my imagination could. Fo sho!

The second is The Shining. Sure Kubrick's film was far different than King's novel (in fact, I've heard some say they really aren't much of the same thing at all.), but I kind of liked that. Kubrick was creepier. He realized that with a movie you have the advantage of visuals, of imagery through the eyes, not the mind. You watch that movie, and there are so many images that are left frozen in your mind forever: the blood river in the elevator, the creepy twin girls, "Redrum" in the mirror, the corpse-like woman in the bath tub, the little boy peddling down the hall. It's amazing how well Kubrick used the medium of film to take what King did so well in print and reinvent it. Both are terrifying. Both are memorable. But they both were able to do what they did in the perfect way for the medium both were using. Quite remarkable. I know I've been scarred for life.

As a writer, though, I've heard authors talking about being sellouts for letting Hollywood corrupt their masterpieces. Not I. Sure I've yet to have a novel even published, but I can't think of a better tribute to me, my story, and my characters than to see them on the big screen. I'll be at the opening, tears in my eyes...

Criticizing every single change, of course.

Sweet, innocent...nightmares

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dickens, Poe and Dickinson Walk into a Bar...

It's that question that kids have been asking for centuries, the one every adult fears. Daddy, where do stories come from? Okay, so it's not the type of question that makes you cringe, but it's just as difficult a question to answer.

It wasn't my kid that asked me this recently but my baptism sponsor. We were hanging out at Starbucks, me with my manly, no-nonsense strawberries and creme frappabingosomethingorother, she with her girlie, way-too-hipster black coffee. We were talking about organ donation and how one person can save so many lives, when an idea occurred to me--one that I'm not even sure is original. I asked her, what if you wrote a novel and it followed this group of separate characters, and you didn't know why they were all connected, but then, near the end, they all end up needed transplants and get them from the same person, another character you'd been following?

She wondered aloud if that's how I lived my life. As a writer, was I always searching for a story? I didn't think so. It sounds too pretentious and writery to say (in an over-dramatic, pretentious voice), "Everything is a story to me. I comb every interaction in my life to find that *gasp* one...great...story!"

I was pretty sure that wasn't me.

After further review, though, maybe it is. I always attributed the stories I come up with to a creative mind--they just pop in there. But, alas, an examination of the facts proves that this just ain't true. So where do they come from? If you look at the novels I've written, well, I steal them.

My first novel started brewing in a Brit Lit seminar on how British Colonialism influenced British novels. A discussion spawned, one day, from Great Expectations about the nature of crime--about how Pip identified with the prisoners in London--and driving home that day, before I even was an MFA student or graduate, before I ever was a writer, I decided it would be cool to write a novel that examined the nature of crime, that there were things we do as humans that are perfectly legal but somehow were worse crimes than those that get us locked up.

Fast-forward a few months (maybe longer?). I'm driving in my car listening to Green Day's American Idiot, an album with such a distinct storyline that it was adapted into a Broadway show. The idea of a suburban kid running off to the city and watching his whole life crash down around him, forcing him to run home with his tail between his legs (at least that's how I interpreted the album) stuck with me. In the car that day, Truman Armstrong was born--a boy that runs away from home for an unknown reason, and once you really start to like him and feel bad for him, you learn his crime--he ran away because he got his girlfriend pregnant. Dirt bag, right? Criminal, right? He makes amends in the end and suffers for it, but I guess I have to thank Billie Joe Armstrong and Charles Dickens for that one. Two of my all-time favs.

Novel number two? Well, the credit for that one kind of goes to Edgar Allan Poe. It was the (possibly) incestuous twins of The House of Usher that spawned that naughty little novel. The House on Bittersweet Trail, for which the novel is named, even falls in the end like Usher's abode. I'm glad to credit Poe with this idea, though, as many who were at my reading at WestConn probably assumed I was some kind of psycho perve. Nope. Sorry. Poe had twins doing the nasty almost 200 years ago. I was just inspired by them. The rest of the story did come from my own life, traumatic childhood moments and such, but mostly it was Poe's fault. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

As for the novel I'm currently working on, the idea really spawned from a combination of my conversion to Christianity and writing the blog post about it. When I wrote that post, I quoted the poem about hope by Emily Dickinson. Well, thinking about her made me think of another poem she wrote, a poem about losing those close to you that starts, "My life closed twice before its close" and ends "Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need of hell." So the novel All We Know of Heaven was born. It follows a young lady through two near-death experiences, but also the two deaths of loved ones--the true meaning of the poem. In the end, a young man she fancies helps her to find God with many of my own personal experiences finding Him woven into the end of the book. Thank you Emily Dickinson.

So, if you're keeping score, which I wasn't until just now, I got my ideas from combining the classic literature I studied and now teach with my own person issues and interests. Every time, same combination. How boring. But if I weren't paying attention, and looking for a story, I wouldn't have found them in those pages, on that CD, or in my life. So perhaps I am always looking. Dreams. Daydreams. Television. Books. Conversations.

I guess I'm more pretentious and writery than I thought.

Basket Case by Green Day
Music video inspired by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Prom Dresses and Menstrual Cycles

All We Know of Heaven, A Wordle by
We've all been there. You're taking on your first novel on your own since graduating from an MFA program where professional writers served as mentors helping you complete two novels. So what do you do? Run for the comfort a a familiar voice or style of character. No, you get a sex change.

In writing the first draft for my latest novel "All We Know of Heaven," which I completed in a record fifteen days, I chose to write from the point-of-view of a female protagonist, a seventeen year-old girl named Tia. My former students know this isn't much of a stretch for me. I mean, as the adviser of a high school newspaper and yearbook, there's no demographic I've spent more time with in the past two years than teenage girls.

Why, you ask, did I attempt to narrate from a female's perspective? Well, simply put, that's the story that came to me. I wasn't trying to stretch my horizons or anything like that. It wasn't an experiment in narrative technique or breaking out of my past habits. I simply became obsessed with the story of a girl and her struggles, so I wrote it.

I may be wrong, but I think Tia sounds like a girl. In fact, she probably sounds more like a girl than some of my past characters sounded like boys. Actually, some of my old characters have been criticized as whiny or overly sensitive. Now, with Tia, I don't think that criticism will come. Which says more about gender stereotypes than it does my narration. Perhaps I've always been writing like a girl.

Which brings up an interesting question. What's the difference? The only time I felt uncomfortable and actually consulted a real, live teenage girl (thanks Taylor!) was navigating the equally complex world of prom dresses and menstrual cycles.

When I really think about it, there's one thing I've learned about teenage girls--they are all supremely insecure...and they all find completely different ways to try and compensate for it.

But isn't that the same about teenage boys? And when you get down to it, that's pretty much true about adults, too. What became the essence of capturing a teenage girl was really pinpointing Tia's insecurities and developing how she compensates for them. When you're really afraid of losing those close to you, how do you best prevent being crippled by that fear? If you're insecure about your own sanity, how do make sure everyone knows you're sane?

I think this is the psychological drama at the heart of every great piece of writing. What are our characters' hangups that they let screw up their entire lives, and how do they come to terms with them to live relatively normal lives in the end? With that as the basic question, there doesn't seem to be much difference between a male protagonist and a female one. We're all whack.

Besides proms and periods, there doesn't seem to be much difference.

Grow a pair!