What’s in a name?

BY C.A. Popovich

 

I started my first serious venture into writing romantic lesbian fiction with short stories, and I wrote them as Carol P. When I finished writing my first novel, Edge of Awareness, Edge of Awareness 300 DPII pondered the author name I would use. It would be, after all, forever and always on the cover of this and subsequent books.

I made up different pseudonyms and asked other authors why they chose the name they did. I contemplated using a fictitious name with two syllables. Then I came up with one with three syllables and one with four. I thought of the names of all the talented Bold Strokes Books authors, and I fretted. I searched the BSB Website for any that had five syllables and determined I might be all right.

I decided that I would just use my real name. It has been my name since I was a year and a half old. My last name came from my now deceased, father, whom I loved and respected. My parents were Jugoslavian immigrants after World War II and became citizens shortly after settling in Michigan. Their story is one of courage and perseverance, and I’m proud to be their daughter.

My first name came with me when I was adopted, and my parents chose not to change it. I considered using my birth name to write under, which would have been only four syllables. It’s pretty much all I know of my birth parents, other than that they were married, and my birth father died before I was born. I also know that they had other children. I had two male siblings and one female sibling. I don’t know their names, but I know mine.

I have yet to set up a a website, but you can contact me at capopovichfiction@aol.com and on facebook at CA Popovich.

Twitter: C.A. Popovich

BSB Author Interview with Emily Smith

By Connie Ward

EmilySmithLg

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

 

I guess I’ve always been a fiction writer, or something like it. I remember being as young as eight or nine and writing short stories I’d loosely base on things that happened to me (a childhood illness, a new pet, a crush), and then changing the names and places. For a long time, that was “fiction writing” to me. In college, I took a couple of great creative-writing courses, where I finally learned how to actually create characters and situations that weren’t necessarily true to my life. I loved the sense of escape I got from building these characters and these story lines. It’s addicting. I don’t think I’ll ever stop.

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

 

Since coming out, I’ve found that most (okay, all) of my fiction pieces are lesbian romance. I started reading Rad’s books years ago and loved finding a place in the print world where I could go and see myself represented. It’s so important to me to both read and write stories that represent lesbian relationships, where those who don’t usually see themselves in mainstream culture can do so. I also have a soft spot for medical drama. Because I’m in school to become a physician assistant, and have been working in healthcare for a long time, a lot of what I know of the world is the ER and the hospital. I think a lot of people are really interested in the lives of doctors, first responders, etc. and it can add to the book’s appeal.

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

This one is tough. My mom is incredibly supportive. She’s been my biggest fan both in life and in my various careers for as long as I can remember. For just about a decade now she’s been pressuring me to try to get published, so she was obviously thrilled when I was taken in by the BSB family. She’s not a lesbian… But she reads all of my work and always offers encouragement and feedback. My partner is also incredibly supportive. She jokes that she’s my “hype man” because she’s always talking me up to strangers we meet—“This is Emily. She just wrote a book. It’s being published by Bold Strokes Books.” I honestly wasn’t sure how she would take it when she found out I was writing lesbian romance novels that aren’t without their steamy scenes in them. But she’s been amazing. Most of my friends and family are great about it, although I think my Evangelical father would have a difficult time if he knew the theme of Searching For Forever!

 

 

Where do you get your ideas?

 

It depends. The idea for Searching For ForeverSearching for Forever came years ago, when I was working in the ER and had a sort of ridiculous crush on a much-older, straight doctor I worked with. It was just enough to plant a seed in my head, and these fictional characters were born from it. Most of the medical scenes in the book are taken from real life—either things I lived personally or stories from my coworkers. I think this makes the medicine more authentic. The more I’ve continued writing (I’ve recently submitted my second book with BSB), the more my ideas are hatching out of sheer imagination. I do like to take situations and challenges I’ve faced and try to let them transform into something unique. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

 

 

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

 

Searching For Forever came slowly. I was twenty-five when I started it and twenty-eight when it was finally submitted. I never intended for it to get published. It was just something fun to do that helped me escape from some difficult personal relationships I was dealing with. It took years, because I’d go six months at a time without touching it while I was taking all of my pre-med classes. Then, I’d pick it up again and work on it for a while. My second book, Same Time Next Week, took about two months to write. I didn’t know where it was going or how it was going to end. I just kept writing. I find it easier to just let the scenes and storyline move themselves along instead of outlining everything, although I always have a rough sketch in mind.

 

 

What makes Searching for Forever special to you?

 

For starters, it’s my first book. What’s not special about that? There’s no feeling that can compare to opening that box with your first advance copies in it and seeing your work printed! But aside from that, I’m really attached to these characters. Especially Charlie. They became extensions of me over time. I wrote Searching For Forever, at least in the beginning, as a way to lose myself in this fantasy world where I could have my dream job, my dream partner… It was intoxicating. And I wrote it at a very pivotal time in my life. Your early twenties are full of change and self-actualization, and this book sort of represents all of that to me.

 

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

 

I always say that Charlie is everything I wished I were at twenty-five. She’s brilliant, attractive, charming, tough, and, of course, able to win over every woman who comes her way. I certainly wouldn’t be bold enough to say I think of myself as Charlie! But I would say she was exactly who I wanted to be when I was younger—sort of an idealized version of myself. Charlie is a paramedic trying to go to medical school. I was an EMT trying to go to medical school. I also tend to use people I know as outlines for my characters, although over time, they definitely morph into something else.

 

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?

 

I swear I’m not saying this because she’s my “boss.” But when I first came out, one of my older lesbian friends suggested I read one of Radclyffe’s books that was based in Provincetown. Because I’d just been to P-Town for the first time, I figured why not. I actually bought the first book in Rad’s P-Town series at Womencrafts right on Commercial while I was there that summer. I read it the entire three-hour ride home. Since then, I’ve read dozens of Rad’s books. She is definitely the one who inspired me to write Searching For Forever. And I was pretty thrilled that I ended up published by BSB.

 

 

Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?

 

So much of the LGBT work published by BSB is incredible. I also really got into the Best Lesbian Romance series. However, most of what I read these days comes in the form of a heavy textbook or medical journal!

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

Don’t sell yourself short. I never believed my mom when she told me I could get published one day. And submitting to BSB was a complete crapshoot. Write what you know, write what you love, and the story will unfold on its own. Also, don’t be afraid to put something away when you’re having writer’s block. I’ve been working on my third novel for months now and just can’t seem to get past a certain point. I find that when I force it, there’s a very obvious lack of both flow and quality. Come back to it at another time. It will still be there.

 

 

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

 

Well, “fun” might not be the right word! No, really. I spend most of my time these days studying medicine. To me, that is fun, but probably not what you mean in this context! Writing is my hobby. But when I’m done with school, I’d like to get a motorcycle again. I’ve also been known to dabble in guitar, and I play a (very) little hockey in the winter in an all-women’s league (where I’m the youngest by about ten years).

WHY EVERY STORY HAS A SEQUEL

(Whether we write it or not)

by Juliann Rich

 

I lay on the floor with a throbbing knee and two still-squealing dogs and blinked into the darkness.

 

How the heck had a simple trip to the bathroom gone so wrong?

 

I replayed the events in my mind, delaying the inevitability of moving for a few more necessary seconds. The awakening to the awareness of need. The throwing off of covers in the past-midnight darkness. The swinging of one leg and then the next over the side of the bed. The standing. The first squeal as one foot landed on fur. The instinctive jerking away. Ah, yes, that’s where things began to go awry. The stumbling. The second squeal after another brush with fur. The spinning. The collision with the small staircase that allows the littlest of the fur-babies to access the bed. The tangling of feet and legs in stairs.

 

The slow fall, all the while praying not to land on the four-legged bodies darting in and out beneath me.photo

 

The crash. Knee on carpet. Shoulder on floor. Head into the closet door.

 

Sigh. I didn’t even need to go to the bathroom anymore.

 

End of story.

 

Or…was it?

 

I settled back into bed at two am on a Sunday night in August. My knee still throbbed beneath the Bandaid, but the damage was relatively minimal. The pups were scattered around the floor like little landmines waiting to explode while I eased into the cocoon of sleep.

 

Then, my cellphone rang. I may have answered it swearing. I can’t be sure.

 

“Mom?” My favorite voice shattered the darkness and all hopes for sleep. “I need help. I think I’m in trouble over here.”

 

My pulse didn’t trip or flare or surge. It froze as it translated my son’s words. Over here was China where he had flown days before to begin his job as a professor of English at a university. Trouble could be a million horrible things, but in this case it was pressure to accept a different job (without being able to review a contract first) since his job had “suddenly” become unavailable. My son was caught in a classic bait and switch scam and nearly seven thousand miles separated us.

 

Project Get The Kid Out of China began immediately and two nights later, I held him in my arms. It was a prayer and not a swear that sprang from my lips on the night when the sequel to Sunday night finally ended.

 

Sequels. They’re damn hard to write. They’re even harder to live. But such was the dilemma I faced when my first book, Caught in the Crossfire,Caught in the Crossfire 300 DPI concluded. I had brought Jonathan on such a difficult journey as he moved from repression to acceptance of his sexuality. Like me, he’d landed on the ground in a heap (more than once!) and taken a few moments to try to make sense of things before he needed to move on. Now here’s the truth. It would have been easy to leave Jonathan in the car, driving home with his mom whose silence stretched further than the horizon of Lake Superior. We could have believed that they would find their way to each other through the love they shared. We could have dreamed about Ian visiting Jonathan in Minneapolis, strolling hand-in-hand through bookstores and sharing a strawberry rhubarb pie at a little café. On days of extreme optimism, we could have even imagined the guys sitting around Jonathan’s house while Ian and Jonathan’s mother got to know each other.

 

But dreams (and sleep) often elude us when the story continues. Such was the case with Searching for Grace. Searching For Grace 300 DPITo all who had hopes for good times and easy transitions for Jonathan Cooper, I apologize, but sequels—like real life—are infinitely capable of tripping us up when we least expect it.

 

Juliann Rich’s second novel, Searching for Grace, came out with Bold Strokes Books on September 1st, 2014. The prequel, Caught in the Crossfire, released in June 2014. The final installment in the Crossfire Trilogy, Taking the Stand, releases in April of 2015.

 

Juliann lives with her husband and two chronically disobedient dogs in rural Minnesota. Her son is now grown and recently returned from a turbulent but short trip to China! Juliann is a PFLAG Mom who writes affirming young adult fiction and is particularly drawn to stories that shed light on the conflicts that arise when sexual orientation, spirituality, family dynamics, and peer relationships collide. You can read more about Juliann on her website at http://www.juliannrich.com.

BSB AUTHOR INTERVIEW with DENA HANKINS

By Connie Ward

DenaHankinsLg

 

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

Stories are a constant part of my life. I love to find new and creative ways to interpret the behavior I see around me. Sometimes, those small stories catch fire in my imagination and I build entire worlds around them.

I’ve known some amazing people, folks who would be suspect in non-fiction because they’re so fabulous.  I read a lot of romance, much of it mainstream because that’s the bulk of what’s published, and I rarely saw my friends and lovers represented.

I write because I love stories. I write romance and erotica about queer and trans* people because I want us to see ourselves in loving, sexy stories set in a world just a little bit better than the one we live in.

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I started getting published with short-story erotica. The anthologies out there come to being through calls for submissions, which are wonderful writing prompts. The process of completing a story, polishing it, and submitting it was good practice for dusting off an old manuscript and giving it a new look.

I’d written the first draft of Blue Water Dreams a few years before as a proof of concept. Could I finish an entire manuscript? I chose romance because it comforted me to know how the book would end – with the happily ever after! I also value love stories, the exploration of how people will respond to their own emotions and those of other people. I find it rewarding to put together a couple of people I love (because I do fall in love with them) and helping them find their own ways over their hurdles.

So yes, I could finish a manuscript. Could I sell the book?

The first draft of Blue Water Dreams BSB-BlueWaterDreamswas going to be a book about two straight people. I was thinking of the big romance publishers at that time. And then one of them became queer. And then they both surrounded themselves with queer and trans* folk who wouldn’t be rewritten! The book was static, stale, and confused in that draft, because I was forcing myself to write for the greatest commercial appeal and failing.

The short stories I’ve had published have been about my communities, and Blue Water Dreams didn’t take flight until I let the characters become the people I wanted them to be. Making Oly a trans man blew away all the compromises I’d made in writing the first draft. The sex scenes got hotter and more fun, the community scenes made more sense, and the entire book got real.

I write queer and trans* folk because I love our stories. I love how we navigate the world, work together, support each other, and put together lives we find fulfilling. Even though we don’t manage all these things all the time, the queer and trans* communities inspire me to tell stories of joy and growth and power and love.

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

My life has been a series of never-ending coming-outs. Queer, kinky, poly, and so much more, and in every stage and phase, my parents have been staunch supporters. When I told them about my writing, they encouraged me to dedicate myself to it strongly, sure that I could succeed if I put my heart into it.

My primary and long-term partner, James, has been with me since 1996. He’s done more to encourage my writing than anyone else, bringing it up when I let it slide, praising my work and my potential to write great things.

Many of my friends come from the sex positive, feminist sex toy world. I sold sex toys for eight years at Babeland, and I learned so much about the breadth of human sexuality there. Even those friends who aren’t tied to sex toys or my social justice circles know that sex is one of my favorite subjects. Many of them are charmed that I’ve gone the romance route rather than something raunchier, but they’ll see when the book comes out. Love and romance don’t preclude major heat!

Where do you get your ideas?

Some real-world thing will catch my attention – a challenge or opportunity, a machine or organization, a rule that seems hard to follow. Then I imagine the people who would be faced with the situation and how different people would respond. I make note of the most interesting scenarios and what kinds of characters would be strongly affected by them. My book ideas list is long!

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

An outline helps me get a grip on the rhythm and pace of a story. I will usually know the main beats of what will happen, but I don’t let a plan get in the way of inspiration.  My first drafts aren’t so great, though, and I make detailed plot summaries to help me rewrite a more purposeful, deeper, and effective second draft. I’m not the writer who wants feedback right away, either. No one sees the first two or three drafts. I need to create, then shape, then polish before I’m ready for a reader.

What makes Blue Water Dreams special to you?

Blue Water Dreams rose from the dead. It was not good enough – not for me or for anyone else. This book taught me what it means to write honestly and from the gut, without consideration for commercial appeal or social acceptance, and succeed.

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

Tons! People who know me are sometimes jarred by the aspects of Lania that are unlike me, because she cares about all the same things I do. She has her own worries and concerns, her own path, but she is motivated by things that also motivate me. Oly and the other characters all have aspects of real-world friends, right down to stealing cool names. (Even Lania’s last name, Marchiol, came from a Babeland customer who said I could use her name.) Where I started with a real person, though, each character grew into their own being during the writing and rewriting. I don’t think anyone will recognize themselves.

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite

of this author(s)?

My life, my desires and hopes and dreams and needs, made more sense to me after reading the early works of Patrick Califia. In the late 1990’s, I was shaping my life to provide the most fulfillment possible, and his works like Macho Sluts and Public Sex were huge for me.

Lately, I’ve devoured Sheree Greer, V.K. Powell, and Clifford Henderson. I’m a fan of erotica, and especially anthologies edited by our very own Radclyffe, Rachel Kramer Bussel, and Sacchi Green.

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Write all you can and read ten times as much as you write. Write to the gaps in what’s out there – if you want to read sweet romance featuring thrash metal band members and can’t find any, write that.  Keep criticism in mind, but take praise to heart.

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

I’m a real-life sailor. I’ve lived aboard boats since 1999 in Seattle, and have made my way through some of the planet’s most beautiful waters. Living aboard means working on the boat, but I consider that fun too. What’s life without a couple paint splatters?

Reading is a passion for me, and I love romance, science fiction/speculative fiction, and any stories that are windows in to world-views I enjoy sharing.

I am a cycle-commuter and love to explore new towns by bike.

I move often and getting to know the restaurant options has gone beyond hobby into art. I also tend to find the kinky community wherever I go for some sense of togetherness.

Last but not least, I spend time with James. Anything we do is elevated by how we love and enjoy each other. It’s a good life.

 

The Amazon Trail

By Lee Lynch

Fort Stage Park

Fort Stage Park

 

The Last Holiday

 

Why are we celebrating the obligation to toil most of our lives? Seriously, why is Labor Day an American holiday? Is it an excuse for one last blowout before – before what?

I’m tempted to research the origins of Labor Day, though I have no doubt that I learned all about it back in fourth grade. It’s never made sense to me to get a day off to celebrate work. Of course it’s never made sense to me that we have to expend so much of our energy to make money so we can spend money on such things as celebrating something with which most of us have a love/hate relationship: our jobs.

Even as a kid, Labor Day was no picnic for me. My parents might travel from Queens to see family in Boston, and we might fill a carload or two with parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws. In the trunks would be coolers of iced liquids, sun tan lotion, towels, pails, shovels, diapers, beach balls, inflatable swimming gear, flippers, masks, snorkels, lawn chairs, and the rest of the paraphernalia required to have a few hours of fun, in our case, at sunny Stage Fort Park in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The ocean always turned out to be too cold for swimming, and the site was too windy for sunning, but there were some climbing rocks and a small playground, an ice cream stand and, for me, activities to help me forget I had to go back to dreaded school.

Today, I live in a seaside tourist town. Here, we celebrate Labor Day for a unique reason: the tourists go home. In season we can barely break into the thick traveling traffic to leave the house. Once headed toward town, the out of state and inland drivers are completely bonkers. It’s like bumper cars in an amusement park. They speed through congested areas, dodge in front of other cars to gain an inch, text and smoke with their windows open, rev diesel engines, and cause collisions off and on all day. I know: I have a police scanner. There is something desperate in these visitors who come at the end of summer.

I understand. I dreaded every day I ever worked. That’s no way to spend one’s existence, but given that my life’s work is writing (and much needed gay-centric writing at that), leaving my home to earn money made me furious. Work was nothing to celebrate, but retirement is! Finally I am free to write my little heart out. But, oh, how hard it is to watch my sweetheart rejoin the labor market.

It’s been a treat having her at home with me, in the next room while I write, beside me when I take a break, and spending time together whenever we want. We walk on the beaches weekdays when they’re empty. We go for rides to explore back roads. We’ve had time to travel a bit of America. My sweetheart unpacked almost all of our too many household goods, arranged the furniture, filled the cabinets, hung the pictures while I finished up at my job and wrote. And she’s been perfectly content being a homemaker.

But she’ll need to retire someday, and our plans are bigger than our wallets. She’s been applying for jobs and getting interviews, networking and disseminating resumes. I try to help with my 30 odd years of experience as a vocational counselor. After all, I lured her out West.

My sweetheart looks like a power femme all dressed up for the job hunt. She charms and impresses interviewers. Yet small town hiring is kind of quirky. Everyone who is already working knows everybody from high school or church or the bowling club. When openings come up, it’s usually someone with deep roots in the community who is hired. My sweetheart in many instances clearly has more to offer an employer than some fledgling, but the known quantity may seem the safer bet or the hiring manager may have some tie that binds. There are not a whole lot of employers here, especially understaffed employers. Worse, maturity is not the selling point it should be.

Fortunately, we have lots of support through the hunt. When our friend HML saw a picture of my sweetheart all gussied up, HML joshed her about the dressy little purse she carries to interviews and promptly named it Beulah. Now my sweetheart never has to attend a Chamber of Commerce meeting, drop off resumes, or endure interviews alone. She has Beulah with her.

Maybe we’ll go to a secret local beach for a picnic on Labor Day to create good magic. The water will be too cold to swim and the winds too strong to sun. The tourists will be racing back to work after partying with desperation. Beulah can stay home to guard the resumes. She likes her job.

 

Copyright Lee Lynch 2014

8/14

 

 

An American Queer cover 3 14 Lee Lynch’s most recent novels, The Raid and Beggar of Love, are published by Bold Strokes Books. She is the namesake and first recipient of The Lee Lynch Classic Award for The Swashbuckler.  She’s been honored with the Golden Crown Literary Society Trailblazer Award, the Alice B. Reader Award, induction into the Saints and Sinners Literary Hall of Fame, the James Duggins Mid-Career Award, and, for Beggar of Love, the Lesbian Fiction Readers Choice Award, the Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award, and Book of the Year Award from ForeWord Reviews.

Only the Most Refined Dust

By Shea Godfrey

Blackstone

 

I remember the first book I ever read on my own. My mother gave it to me and I sat and looked at the cover for a very long time. We were going out to dinner or meeting family friends, I can’t remember exactly. I believe I was four years old. Right before we were about to walk out the door, I announced that I was going to read it for her. I think she had a look of frustration, but then she smiled and sat me on her lap.

 

I remember running my hands back and forth over the cover and feeling so excited I could barely sit still. And then I opened it, and found the first page. It was filled with color and action, and I was filled with a curious joy. I had no idea what was going to happen. I had no idea what the words would say. I took a deep breath, and then I began to read it aloud.

 

“A little red hen had a seed…”

 

There was a rat involved and a lazy dog, and a cat that could not be bothered. There was a succulent ear of corn and a story I had never heard before. I don’t remember what the pages smelled like then, though I remember my mother holding the book up and smelling them, her eyes big and laughing as she looked over the edge.

The Little Red Hen

 

Straight cut pages. Hard cover. Soft cover. Small enough to fit in your pocket or so thick it weighs your backpack down and puts a crimp in your neck. Uneven page edges with a rough texture or smooth edges with gilt. Leather bound. Soft and seductive vellum covers. High gloss or matte, though the cover art explodes into your imagination from either one. This one smells like a bible. This one smells like the library. This one smells like oranges, though how is that possible? This font reminds me of my leather bound edition of Tom Sawyer. This font belongs to Jane Austen.

The pages of my Bram Stoker’s Dracula were actually cold, and so was the book itself when I held it in my hands. I wore soft knit gloves when I read it and a blanket draped over my shoulders. It smelled like the earth from our neighbor’s garden after it had been tilled and turned. I noted this before I even began reading it, and I found it somewhat disturbing. I still have the copy, never returned to my high school lit class. It is held together with a single, heavy rubber band.

 

I understand the lure of the eBook. I understand the necessity when you’re in school. Every bit of reading required is at your fingertips, weighing just under a pound. Much different than the complete works of Shakespeare I bought for a quarter from the university bookstore, much used and abused after twenty years had come and gone. Two strips of grey duct tape on the binding were all it needed. But I wouldn’t want to carry that bastard around all day. I know it. I see it, the eBook logic.

 

But there is a romance that comes with an actual book. There is the soft turn of the pages as your mind either sinks in deep with every line, or races ahead because you can’t stop it. Your fingers toy with the corners of the pages yet to come. Sometimes you give in and turn just a few, and perhaps you even read a sentence or two. Usually you regret it, though sometimes it makes you curse and smile and you force yourself to go back so you might get there honestly. Your legs tucked beneath you on your favorite chair, all the while knowing that an entire world waits just for you. It is singular and contains but one miracle all its own, deserving of a proper home on a crowded shelf among other miracles. And if it smells like oranges? Even better.

“All books wait… They sit patiently on their respective shelves, gathering only the most refined dust, until the day their covers are opened and their pages turned by the proper person.”

~ Robert John Guttke


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