Writing Dangerously Holiday Special: The Dead Bird Derby ~ Outside the Margins with Christopher Koehler

Please welcome back and familiar face to those who follow Outside the Margins! Join Prism Book Alliance® welcoming, back, Christopher Koehler to Outside the Margins.


Well, here we are, boys and girls and decline-to-states, another Thanksgiving is upon us. I’ve come to the conclusion that I dislike Thanksgiving and almost all it stands for.

For starters, why do we have to have a special day to be grateful for ourImage-1 blessings? Is that not artificial? Okay, cool, here we are, fat, rich, and happy. Let’s drop a box of mac & cheese in a cardboard barrel or maybe participate in a turkey trot to feel good about ourselves and re-enforce our positions in life. Perhaps we’ll even remember the French and the Syrians in our prayers on Thursday. Or the Native Americans. Then we’ll go spend money at the mall the next day.

Speaking of Native Americans, I don’t really hold with the whole Native American genocide meme at Thanksgiving. Save that for Columbus Day, unless you’re a college student, in which case you need to object as loudly as possible in order to annoy and discomfit your family. The so-called Pilgrims were a ragtag bunch, but so were the Wampanoags who took pity on them that November. Both groups pulled each other through a brutal winter. The breakdown the two communities happened later.Image-2

But the diseases? They’d already done their damage, brought to the shores of what would come to be British North America by others. We now know, of course and contra what we may have been taught, that the Pilgrims were far from the first Europeans to reach what came to be called Cape Cod, that European fisherman had plied the shores for some time, they and their illnesses. Apparently the coastal waters of New England were thick with European boats and had been since the Vikings had discovered the New World. Who knew?

For the three years the Pilgrims had been scuttling back and forth England and the Netherlands, what may have been the plague had depopulated the region New England. Before 1616, the sachem Massasoit had been able to field thousands of fighters. After 1619, he could barely must a few hundred. So the Pilgrims who dropped into his lap that November 1620, Europeans with their superior technology? By allying with them, Massasoit kept his plague-ravaged people from being swallowed up by the Narragensett and the Massachuscett.

And genocide in November of 1620? Like so many things in history, it’s more and less than fits on a meme.

Why do I bother, it’s not like anyone listens. Gratitude is like New Year’s resolutions. If it’s that important, you shouldn’t wait. Be grateful for something every day. Now, then…

The holiday might allegedly commemorate the dinner party the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags threw, but its modern observation is laughably young when compared to the not quite 400 year-old incident it purports to remember—do you realize that it’s been 395 years? Anyway, Lincoln instituted a day of thanksgiving in 1863 while the United States was trying to snuff itself, and wasn’t a federal holiday until 1941. So much for the Pilgrims. Or Lincoln. But then, I suppose all holidays are pretty much schmoozed together, like the timing of Christmas “mysteriously” coinciding with the Saturnalia. Or Festivus, which as we all know came from “Seinfeld.”

There’s also something about the food that disturbs me. Let’s start with the main course, the turkey. There’s nothing natural about it. Those poor birds are pumped full of chemicals, and are so overbred they can’t even reproduce without human intervention. I’m not making this up. My godson’s late great-grandfather founded the poultry science department at UC Davis and invented the technique by which those large-breasted white turkeys are inseminated.

I don’t know why poultry that can’t fuck bothers me, but it does.

Maybe it was the time I walked into the kitchen to see my mother fisting the turkey, or perhaps it came from watching Dad carve the thing up with some hedge-trimmer of an electric knife. I swear I saw a cloud of meat in the air around the carcass. I’d resumed carnivory by this time I witnessed this, so that eliminated the ick factor of the fact I’d soon be eating a dead bird.

Mom makes my late grandmother’s stuffing every year, the kind with corn beard and a stick of butter (the recipe or spell or whatever it is starts out with, “Make a pan of corn bread and then eat half.” Dig it). It’s bound together with eggs. I can’t bear to watch it being made. It’s mixed by hand, you see, so it hits a lot of my buttons. Gloppy stuff on my hand? Check. Gloppy stuff on someone else’s hand, even though I’m supposed to eat it? Check and mate.

Image-3 But my vegan husband? We all pretend there’s no butter in it. He pretends not to know. No one ever said too much truth and the holidays went hand in hand. You have sat through a family dinner, haven’t you? A friend of mine was outted during his family’s Thanksgiving dinner. I’d have paid good money to see that.

Maybe I just don’t like turkey, a sauce made of innards, and stuffing, which I pray isn’t cooked inside the bird because it won’t get hot enough in the body cavity to kill whatever lurks in the eggs binding the whole mess together. Hmmm, now that I think about it, perhaps this is the way the chickens strike a blow for their cousins, the turkeys.

You want a piece of them? they say. Fine. But the eggs? Those’ll kill you.

But if it’s not used to “stuff” the turkey corpse, can we still call it stuffing? What else would we call it? It’s not a casserole, not really. It’s unsightly but delicious. As long as I don’t think about how it was made.

But what about food for our herbivorous friends, you say. Whatever will they eat on this, another holiday devoted meat? Think about it. Aren’t most holiday meals centered around meat?

Let’s talk tofurky. I guess I should capitalize it, Tofurky! It’s trademarked. It’s aImage-4 blend of wheat protein and tofu, and the stuffing’s sealed right in. Doesn’t that sound dreamy? Or vicious. Whichever. You’ll take out the celiacs, which is just mean. And contemptible. I suppose you could serve something called a “field roast.” Have ever seen one? It’s got something like a week’s worth of sodium and is more dense than spent uranium.

I think we’d all be better off if we reread the “tofurky scene” in Z.A. Maxfield’s Crossing Borders. You certainly wouldn’t want to get any of the artificial meat in your mouth. Better to serve inventive and flavorful side dishes for the herbivores. Fake meat’s a joke. Take that as you will.

This is what the richest society on earth has been reduced to eating? We don’t live the way the Puritans did, the nasty little bigots, so why must we pretend to eat like them? That would involve grave-robbing. Let’s not follow this historical memory bit off a cliff, m’kay?

I suppose the real reason I dislike Thanksgiving is because it’s one of the fewImage-5 family gatherings I’ve not managed to weasel out of. It can be downright depressing to see just how enfeebled my genetic stock really is. Nature or nurture, can there be anything more damning than seeing everyone at one time? Take, for example, my grandparents, who think a jar of “pickled buns” (a jar of full of tiny butts made of panty hose and cotton balls) is the pinnacle of humor.

Or great grandma. Sure, she’s right that most things are, in fact, better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but it’d be a whole lot easier to communicate with her if she’d stop mixing the new and the depleted batteries for her hearing aids in the same basket. Pounding on the table to get her attention is upsetting to the wine.

Of course there are the dead-behind-the-eyes cousins who, in the amount of time I’ve earned finished undergrad and graduate education, and gotten a good running start on a family, haven’t quite manage to graduate from a two-year college. The smart cousin? He’s getting a technical education and will work on HVAC systems. I know he’ll always be able to provide for himself.

Or what of the mysterious relatives—no one’s really sure how exactly they’re related—who always manage to find their way to the buffet table, but can’t figure out how to prepare anything to contribute and vanish when it’s time to clean up?

And why have these people not yet figured out that I will one day write about them all? There’s a reason Christopher Isherwood called his book I Am A Camera, after all.

But this is the United States, and that means sportsball. Look at them sports! So…late fall. That means football? I think? If I’m going to watch TV all day, football is not what I’d choose. I think I’d have to be tied down, to be honest, although I’ve heard good things about this “Firefly” show everyone’s going on about. So maybe I’d watch that all day. Get myself caught up.

Puzzles? Cards? Board—or is that bored—games? Save them for the retirement home. It call comes down to the people, and Mom and Dad, if you’d wanted me to spend time with these, we should’ve seen them more than once or twice a year.

I suppose it could be worse. It could be the time a much older relative of my husband hit on him at Thanksgiving dinner. That was just creepy. I’m not making that up, either.

So let’s see, I’m thankful I don’t get my food from a barrel and that I don’t run; I’m thankful that I can tend to my own amours, that I’m not vegan, and that I don’t rob graves; I’m thankful I’m not any of my relatives and that I don’t play or watch sportsball.

There must be more to it than this.

Pass the pie, dammit.

~Christopher Koehler


Title: Poz
Author: Christopher Koehler
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publication Date: 01/08/2015
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Genre: Young Adult


Remy Babcock and Mikey Castelreigh are stalwart members of the Capital City Rowing Club’s junior crew, pulling their hardest to earn scholarships to rowing powerhouses like California Pacific. Just a couple of all-American boys, they face the usual pressures of life in an academic hothouse and playing a varsity sport. Add to that the stifling confines of the closet, and sometimes life isn’t always easy, even in the golden bubble of their accepting community. Because Remy and Mikey have a secret: they’re both gay. While Mikey has never hidden it, Remy is a parka and a pair of mittens away from Narnia.

Mikey has always been open about wanting more than friendship, but Remy is as uncomfortable in his own skin as he is a demon on the water. After their signals cross, and a man mistakes Remy for a college student, Remy takes the plunge and hooks up with him. After a furious Mikey cuts Remy off, Remy falls to the pressure of teenage life, wanting to be more and needing it now. In his innocence and naiveté, Remy makes mistakes that have life-long consequences. When Remy falls in the midst of the most important regatta of his life, he can only hope Mikey will be there to catch him when he needs it most.


Poz on Goodreads
Dreamspinner Press
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
All Romance eBooks

About Christopher Koehler

Christopher Koehler learned to read late (or so his teachers thought) but never looked back. It was not, however, until he was nearly done with grad school in the history of science that he realized that he needed to spend his life writing and not on the publish-or-perish treadmill. At risk of being thought frivolous, he found that academic writing sucked all the fun out of putting pen to paper.

Christopher is also something of a hothouse flower. Inside of almost unreal conditions he thrives to set the results of his imagination free, and for most of his life he has been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who encouraged both that tendency and the writing. Chief among them is his long-suffering husband of twenty-two years and counting.

When it comes to writing, Christopher follows Anne Lamott’s advice: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” So while he writes fiction, at times he ruthlessly mines his past for character traits and situations. Reality is far stranger than fiction.

Christopher loves many genres of fiction and nonfiction, but he’s especially fond of romances, because it is in them that human emotions and relations, at least most of the ones fit to be discussed publicly, are laid bare.

Writing is his passion and his life, but when Christopher is not doing that, he’s an at-home dad and oarsman with a slightly disturbing interest in manners and other ways people behave badly.

Visit him at http://christopherkoehler.net/blog or follow him on Twitter @christopherink.


Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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