Disasterina and Sleazy Manzini: Tomma’s Real Life Drag Parents

Let’s just call this “the big reveal!” I’ve been holding onto this news for a few months, but now that The Dire Deeds is published at last, I can finally make this announcement. You see, in my “Acknowlegments” I have thanked Disasterina and Sleazy Manzini for agreeing to become Tomma Bedlam’s Drag Parents.

L to R: Disasterina as a Rock Goddess, Sleazy Manzini, and Tomma Bedlam. Rendered via HeroForge.

So how did this happen? And why? It’s a long story, my Droogies, so settle in.

It starts with one of my Guild of Ornamental Hermits characters, Tomma Bedlam. Ze entered the first book, The Dire Deeds, as a wisecracking, kind-hearted, red-headed performance artist and flashy dresser, best friend to Babe Bump and Oyster Olson. This trio performs most of the first person narration in this urban fantasy series. In Tomma’s very first scene in the book, as a mock disaster victim during a “community emergency response team” drill, ze displays zir large personality even while pretending to be mostly unconscious (with a “fractured umbilicus”) while carried on a surfboard to the medical triage tarp (Chapter Two: The Drill in Hermitville).

In the beginning, I described Tomma’s background as a performance artist and ‘zine writer. In the book, Tomma and Babe (who is a neo-burlesque artiste) often perform together as dancers. They are frequently campy and funny. Even so, I missed something about Tomma’s creative life that should have been very obvious.

Drag Muses for an ornamental Hermit

While writing The Guild of Ornamental Hermits books, I’ve had a variety of muses who have inspired me. Puddles, the Sad Clown with a Golden Voice, was a major inspiration for my elf, Parsifal. Angela Mae, a bellydancing clown with the S.F. Bay Area band, Gooferman, was an inspiration for Parsifal’s daughter, Breadcrumb. Transgender actor, Will Krisanda, had an impact on Oyster Olson’s personality development. And so on. There were even times when I “cast” the “movie” of The Dire Deeds with existing actors and performers as the “faces” of my characters. (Now I make HeroForge portraits of them.)

Sometime during the pandemic lockdown, and while I was finishing the third book (The Queerest Quest), I became a fan of Dragula, the Boulet Brothers’ wonderfully twisted reality drag competition. And that’s when it dawned on me. OF COURSE Tomma is not just a simple punk rock performance artist. So much about Tomma simply screams “drag”–both onstage and off. Drag was definitely part of Tomma’s identity.

Naturally, while watching Dragula–and living in near total isolation to avoid contagion from a disease that was killing a lot of people in my age bracket (at least at first)–I got a little obsessed. I began to have my favorites: Vander von Odd in Season One; Disasterina, (The) Dahli, Victoria Black, and Biqtch Puddin’ in Season Two (okay, I liked Erika Klash and James Majesty too); Landon Cider, Louisianna Purchase, Evah Destruction, St. Lucia (Saint), and Maxi Glamour in Season Three; and Dahli, Saint, Sigourney Beaver, and HoSo Terra Toma in Season Four. But one person stood out for me even among all these talented people: Disasterina. And it wasn’t just because of what she brought to Dragula in terms of talent, wackiness, kindness, and class–no, there was so much more!

Disasterina’s YouTube channel impressed me, for one thing. She created My Drag is Valid, a YouTube show that featured other drag artists talking about their work, thereby boosting other performers and uplifting the community in general. Then there was her pre-pandemic AIDS Lifecycle video (public spirit!), the Dubious Dance Duel videos, the Cybernetic Circus videos, Sado Trash Tales and of course the series, Sado Psychiatrist (which made me break down and get Amazon Prime so I could watch it). Disasterina’s podcast, Tasty Earbits, is over-the-top wacky and riveting, and also features other drag artists and creators!

I haven’t even gotten to Disasterina’s numerous hilarious and raunchy music videos yet. Some of my personal faves: Why Won’t You, a cover of I’m NOT in Love (featuring a bare-chested photo of The Witcher), and a bewitching cover of Look Back in Anger which makes me feel confused, but in a very interesting way. Then there’s her CD with songs like Sometimes You Feel Like a Bitch, Treat Me Like Trash, and Very Boy Theme (obtainable through her Cold Sluts on Fire Etsy Store). I can’t tell you how many times I sped along the curving road next to the shores and cliffs of Clear Lake, heading to the grocery store sixteen miles away, blasting Sometimes You Feel Like a Bitch. It was one of my few pandemic thrills… (Yes, your options for fun do shrink during a pandemic in a place like Lake County, CA.)

Thanks to Disasterina’s channel, I also discovered the work of her wife, Ave Rose, creator of Sleazy Manzini, who is…well, let’s just say, if you’ve ever been identified as female at any stage of your incarnation, you’ve undoubtedly met someone like him, in personality if not in garb. Aside from her comedic artistry as Sleazy, Ave Rose is also an immensely talented singer, performer, actor, artist, poet, and writer. Go to her website, please. You will be staggered at the beauty of what she creates. And her book, Will Not R.I.P., is horrific and heartbreaking. She’s a fine writer.

In addition to having created Disasterina, her boy self Treiops Treyfid is an artist, musician, and writer. I am the happy owner of one of his Shadow Puffs paintings (below).

In other words, the two of them–together and individually–have produced so much that I’ve enjoyed in the last few years and brought joy and curiosity to me at a time that was indeed most dire!

As you can imagine, it was a great thrill to have them as guests on my own Love’s Outer Limits podcast (with co-host M. Christian), Oct. 6, 2020. Honestly, it was amazing.

The Impact on Tomma

Once I had this revelation about Tomma’s background, it was obvious to me that ze needed a drag geneology, a set of drag parents. It’s not enough for zir to channel a cover of Jayne County’s cover of Night Time while on stage with The Incredible Unstrung Band (The Perilous Past, 4th book in progress). Did I want to make up a drag mama and/or drag papa for zir? I could have done that easily! I certainly have no problem with creating characters! However, I began to fantasize about how Disasterina and Sleazy Manzini would be the perfect drag parents for Tomma. Admittedly, that kind of fantasizing takes a certain amount of nerve. It’s even kind of embarrassing. But what the fuck.

Plus the idea of real life people “adopting” characters as if they are real, is kind of cool, doncha think? As a writer, I am already sitting here, deeply involved with all my Hermits and Elves, and with Lucky LaFey and his brood, and with Vesta the giant kundalini-generating Salamander, and everybody else, as if these were real people (and a Salamander) in my life. (So the pandemic had an impact, okay? Don’t be judgy.) Why wouldn’t I wish this joy onto someone else? Plus, Disasterina and Sleazy Manzini are just too brilliant! Why wouldn’t I wish that kind of joy on Tomma?

Jump forward in time a bit, and yes, Disasterina and Sleazy Manzini have agreed to adopt Tomma as Drag Spawn. In addition, they are kindly offering to do a bit of book promotion as well. I am extremely grateful and so glad they like The Dire Deeds!

So, life is beautiful. Reality is enhanced by fiction! And sometimes they do schmoosh together in the strangest ways. Yesterday, a man at a Lughnasadh celebration in Eugene told me I had six dragons, and a baby griffin, hovering around me. I wanted so badly to ask, “Is one of them a salamander?” but I thought it best to not encourage him.

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My First Book Reviews

I’m thrilled to have my first two Amazon reviews for The Dire Deeds, both are five stars.

And yesterday a friend wrote to me privately:

“However, it’s all I can do to not sit down with my morning pot of tea and finish the book. I’m around pg. 154 and you, my dear, have written a page-turner with so much humor and wit and interesting characters, ideas, love and compassion, intelligence and endless imagination that I’m out of words.”

Aug. 30 Update: A third review.

My first paperback copies.

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The Paperback Copies Arrived

My very own copies of my first published fantasy novel just arrived (Aug. 15). I am ecstatic! (Can’t wait to see the second book, The Witching Work, in print too!)

FYI – Other readers who have received the paperback edition already mention that they are quite happy with the book quality (cover, paper) and somewhat larger print. You can order it here.

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Updated: Reading The Dire Deeds at Eugene Pagan Pride

This blog post is updated after having read excerpts of The Dire Deeds on Aug. 7th at Eugene Pagan Pride in Oregon. This was my first gig as a writer of fantasy fiction! I want to share what I learned from my first public reading–and there’s so much more to learn!

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It was a truly sweet occasion — a smallish community gathering with vendors, food trucks, workshops, and entertainment. I was on the entertainment roster. I followed a dance class given by the Two Rivers Morris dancers (a tough act to follow) and served as “warm-up” for a comedy show.

I began my reading at noon, as temperatures were rising, and though shaded in the pavillion, I found certain aspects of the situation personally challenging. For one thing, I am recovering from major surgery and it had been over a month since I’d been on my feet for such a long time (about 45 minutes). I forgot to bring a chair!

Lesson Learned: Bring a chair even if you don’t think you’ll need it!

There was also the background noise of a food truck generator. I have a difficult time with machine noises in any setting. They cause me to lose focus and sometimes even create anxiety. I hadn’t even thought about noise, or the distraction of people talking through my reading. Some people actually did that, but fortunately a friend of mine got up and asked them to please move their conversation. That was helpful.

Lesson Learned: Be prepared for noise. And prepare to ask people to please take their conversations to another area of the event during my reading.

I had a nice, smallish group of people sitting around on lunch tables under the pavilion. Some left in the middle, some came in the middle. This did not worry me. I was there to do the job. However I realized later that I needed to do a much better job of introducing myself and describing the context of the book, before launching into reading.

Lesson Learned: Do a better job. Realize that people attending a reading have not been steeped in the world of my characters for over six years, as I have been. This is crucial. And when I read during my online Book Release Party today, I am going to remember to provide this context first.

The one thing I am glad about was that I said a land acknowledgment before beginning. I could have done a better job of that too, but including a list of the native peoples whose lands I’ve occupied from childhood on is something I’ll keep.

Lesson Learned: Prior to planning the reading, I realized that it’s not enough to simply acknowledge the people and land of the present moment, but to understand my own lifetime of occupation and bring that into any statement of acknowledgment that I do. Here is where I have lived and grown:

• the lands of the Kumeyaay (San Diego);

• the ‘aina of Kanaka ‘Oiwi known as Waikiki Ahupua’a, Moku o O’ahu (Waikiki, O’ahu). I lived on Lipe’e’pe’e Street near the Alawai Canal.

• the lands of the Ramaytush, Ohlone, and Muwekma (San Francisco Bay Area);

• the ‘aina of Kanaka ‘Oiwi known as Waiakahiula Ahupua’a, Moku o Keawe (Hawaiian Beaches/Hawaiian Shores subdivision, Pahoa, Puna District, Hawai’i Island);

• the lands of the Southeastern Pomo (Glenhaven, north shore of Clear Lake, Clearlake County, CA);

• the lands of the Kalapuya and Confederated Tribes of the Grand Rond (Eugene and Springfield, Willamette Valley, Oregon).

All in all, this was a great experience and a good way to learn and become more skillful in presenting my books and characters to readers. I congratulate the organizers and volunteers of Eugene Pagan Pride for a very lovely event. I am glad they asked me to participate!

Blessed be!

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