Posts Tagged 'Bold Strokes Books'

Ashes to Ashes


My grandmother, one of my earliest muses, died when she was ninety-five. She slipped away in her sleep late one December night in 2013.

My family doesn’t believe in cremation, so, long before she passed, my grandmother had made it known she wanted to be buried next to her brothers and sisters in the family plot behind her church. (One of two family plots, I might add. Since my father’s side of the family belongs to a different church than my mother’s, all my relatives on his side of the family are interred in a different cemetery. But that’s a story in itself).

Years ago, my grandmother helped instill in me my inveterate love of travel.

When I finished college, my high school English teacher gave me a graduation gift: a plane ticket to the destination of my choice. I was young and (secretly) gay, so I naturally picked San Francisco, a magical city that was worlds away from my tiny hometown of Sardis, Georgia.

When the plane ticket to San Francisco arrived in the mail, I immediately booked a room at a B&B in the Castro and counted down the days until I would be able to walk the streets of a town I had seen only in the movies and a neighborhood I had visualized only in my dreams.

The very idea of the trip nearly scared my parents to death because 1) I was their only child, 2) I had never been on a plane before, and 3) I had never ventured so far from home. (I was also the first person in my family to attend college, let alone graduate, but that’s also a story in itself). Despite my parents’ misgivings, my grandmother was elated.

“Go while you’re young and able,” she said. “See everything you can. And if your mother and father ever have a problem with you wanting to venture somewhere, just go. You can tell them about it when you get back.”

Like they say, it’s always easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

San Francisco was my first vacation destination. But thanks to my grandmother’s advice, it hasn’t been the last. I’ve visited fifteen states and five countries since my first wide-eyed trip to California twenty-three years ago. Hopefully, I’m not done yet. There’s a book called 1,001 Places to See Before You Die and my wish list of places to see might be even longer than that.

When she was younger, my grandmother moved more times than I can count, shuttling between rural towns in south Georgia and larger ones in central Florida as she tried to find the best place to settle her family of six kids. If given her druthers, however, she would have chosen New York. She moved there for several months when she was in her early twenties and would have loved to stay there permanently, but she was the oldest of her nine siblings and her mother had begged her to come home and help take care of the household. My grandmother followed her head and dutifully made the return trip down south, but she always regretted not following her heart, which gave me added incentive to follow mine.

When we shuffle off this mortal coil, my partner and I want to be cremated and have our ashes spread in the cities we considered our favorite vacation destinations. Dita has chosen Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. We’ve been twice and have had an incredibly relaxing time on both occasions.

As for my final resting place, I’m still undecided. Probably because I have yet to see Paris, a city that, thanks to my minor in French, has always been my dream destination. Until I lay eyes on the Eiffel Tower or stand beneath the Arc de Triomphe, Key West will have to do.

A road trip to Key West was the first vacation Dita and I took as a couple. We’ve returned to the tropical paradise several times in the thirteen years since then and I’m getting the itch to go again. To have a drink at Sloppy Joe’s, pet a descendant of one of Ernest Hemingway’s six-toed cats, and take part in the Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square. Perhaps next year Dita and I will pick a long weekend, hit the open road, and make the twelve-hour drive from Savannah to Margaritaville.

I would love to take my grandmother with me on my travels—to sprinkle her ashes in some of the many cities she never got to see when she was alive. Instead, she’ll have to see them through my eyes. Because, no matter where I go, she’ll always be in my heart.

The War Within 300 DPI  Charm City 300 DPI

Caught in the Crossfire- A Guest Review

Alright, I’m just gonna start off by saying until recently I have not read many LGBT YA books. I am not sure why, but it was just something I never got around to doing. Well my aunt had given me a couple books and I am now in love with the genre and I can’t wait to read the next one.


One of the books I read and will be reviewing is called; Caught In The Crossfire it is written by Juliann Rich.


Caught in the Crossfire 300 DPI



The book is about two boys who meet at Spirit Lake Bible Camp. The first boy is Jonathan Cooper, a firm believer in God who had come from a military household. The second boy is Ian McGuire who is a new face at bible camp. Ian is open about his sexuality and argues openly about it to those who believe otherwise. Jonathan keeps information about his sexuality more closed off, not sure exactly how he feels, and scared to how others would react to it. Ian knows what could happen between the two of them if only Jonathan admitted his feelings. However, Jonathan is in the middle of a battle between his belief in God and how he feels about Ian. When an actual disaster happens and Ian is in danger, Jonathan is forced to make a decision that could change his life.


What I Dislike About The Book:


Honestly, I can’t put too much in this space because I really loved the book. However I guess if I have to the things I dislike about the book are;The ending. I know it makes room for other books to come out, but I’m a person who JUST HAS to know what’s going to happen next. Now that I’m left in the dark in this one I can only guess what’s going to happen between Jonathan and Ian! All we know is that a friend request from Jonathan to Ian has been made! Do we know if Ian accepts? No! Do we know if they still talk to each other? No! What about that book? Zip. Do we know if they ride off in the sunset together? Okay well obviously not, but still! This is still a good job on the author’s part though because now once that next book comes out, I’m snatching it up as soon as possible.

I wish we could have gotten a bit more information about Jonathan’s relationship with his mother after she found out he was gay. We know she made an effort to try and talk to him on the way back from Bible Camp but he refused and that was that. All we get is a couple of sentences from her and that she is driving him home. But how does she really feel about him being gay? How does she feel about Ian? Does she still accept him? We don’t really know.

Finally in this category, is Ian’s overall relationship with his foster family. He speaks about them briefly but we don’t get too much information about how they feel about him or vice versa. We don’t even get time to meet them when Ian is taken home from Bible Camp.

What I Like About The Book:

Different types of Christians. Love it. Love it. Love it. We get to see Christians of all different types! There’s Paul, who is a great leader, but more or less stuck in his ways. He is a bit critical of things that are against “what the bible says” and tries to “fix” people. He obviously doesn’t mean to hurt people, but his ways are a bit offensive. There’s Simon. He is in my opinion someone who you could see running a Youth Church. He is knowledgeable in this bible but is not boastful about it. His relationship with God is strong, but he does not criticize or judge others. He’s very understanding. Then there’s Dawn. Her family does not understand God and hates that she is apart of the church. You don’t often see this situation happening as it is sometimes the other way around. You have Jonathan, he is still what we call a baby Christian. He’s learning about God and he still has so much to learn. He is also now apart of the small yet growing, LGBT Christian community. Ian isn’t exactly a Christian but it’s quite obvious that he’s a bit curious. He told Jonathan, he’s not a Christian, but he’s not an Atheist either. He has a feeling about God but I don’t think he quite understands Christianity yet.

I love that Jonathan was not forced to choose between Christianity and being gay. I see a lot of members of the LGBT community who think they have to choose, that they can’t be both. But you can! This book just goes to show it! On this topic I would like to refer to one of my favorite lines from this book, “Thank you God for loving me just as I am.”

I love the character development. I have always been a sucker for good character development. Obviously, if you have been through everything these characters have been through, you would not stay the same. Your personality is bound to change somehow. For example, in the beginning of the book, Jonathan is a firm Christian, firm in his beliefs, knows who he is. When he meets Ian, this starts to change. His beliefs falter and he isn’t sure of who he is anymore. We see a good example of this in chapter eleven; “Light glinted off the gold cross that hung from my neck. One hard yank and the chain broke. The cross landed on the grimy floor. The boy in the mirror was still a stranger. But at least he isn’t a liar.” Because he is scared to admit how he feels about Ian, he loses sight of who he is. As we get to the ending, he realizes his feelings for Ian and we see him getting more confident in himself again.

I put this in the dislike category, but I’m going to put it here for the exact same reason. Although I hate not knowing what’s going to happen next, it stuck in my head (I dreamed about the night after I finished the book!) and made it hard to forget. Because the book didn’t have a solid ending, there is room to add another book and it also leaves the reader guessing the possibilities.




I really loved this book. I would read it over again if I could and I would definitely tell others to read it as well. So I give this book 5 stars, two thumbs up, and all my tears that were shed reading it. I am so glad I got the opportunity to read this. Now go little jedis and find yourself a copy so you can see what I’m talking about!



Look Into the Wound

By Ruth Sternglantz

This past May, I had the pleasure of team-teaching a master class on self-editing at Saints and Sinners with John Morgan Wilson. John and I wanted to give the writers in the class more than a to-do list—not that a to-do list isn’t important, because it definitely is. But we both knew from experience that a to-do list wasn’t sufficient, and our goal was to teach writers how to get past all the mental and environmental stuff that makes self-editing a challenge. So part of my job was to describe how I see a manuscript as I edit it.


I used an image from Radclyffe’s Taking Fire, Taking Fire 300 DPIher just-released First Responders romance, as a metaphor to describe my editing philosophy. When Andrew Holleran stopped me on the street the next day to compliment the metaphor, I realized I should probably blog about it.




One of the greatest bars to self-editing is the terror almost every writer feels of actually looking at their completed manuscript. You know what I’m talking about: you type the last few words, hit save, and breathe a deep sigh of relief because your masterpiece is complete. And then all you want to do is submit it to your editor or professor or publisher. Reopening the file and looking at the words on the page is like tempting fate. What if everything you’ve written is awful? What if your masterpiece falls apart and crumbles into dust? As long as the file is closed, as long as you don’t look at your words, they remain pristine, perfect, a masterpiece, at least in your mind. I say: hold that thought. It’s the key to self-editing.


Of course writers are terrified to self-edit. Some editors construct editing as an act of looking at a manuscript to find all the mistakes, as a process of showing an author why their writing sucks. Why would any writer want to be complicit in that and do it to themselves? Why would any writer want to take a second look at their manuscript to polish, revise, self-edit when it means focusing on the damage?


That is not how I look at a manuscript when I edit, and Radclyffe gave me the perfect metaphor to describe my process in Taking Fire. Here’s the blurb:


After two years and too many lost troops, Navy medic Max de Milles is ready to go home. Her last tour is up in four days and she will soon be catching a transport to the States. Life is looking good until she gets detailed to evacuate a humanitarian group in south Somalia. Rachel Winslow and her Red Cross team are caught in the crossfire during a vicious civil uprising, but she refuses to abandon her team members as the rebels close in on their camp. By the time Max and the Black Hawk arrive, it may already be too late. Hunted by extremists, Max and Rachel are forced to work together if they are to survive, and in the process, discover something far more lasting.


Because this is a Radclyffe romance featuring a medic, there is surgery. And here’s how Max looks at a wound:


“The key to finding a bleeder in the midst of a pool of blood and shredded muscle was to look—to see, to distinguish the border between the damaged and the undamaged. There, at the edge of destruction, the natural planes of the body remained, even in the worst trauma, pristine layers radiating out from the injury.” (emphasis added)


That’s my metaphor.


Editing—whether it’s self-editing or editing another writer’s work—starts with a way of looking. If you think of editing primarily as looking for the bad stuff—for the damage—it colors your entire process. Of course no writer in their right mind would voluntarily reopen that saved file to self-edit.


Instead, think of editing as looking for what’s wonderful and repairing the rest. Start with the “pristine layers,” and let them drive the revision. You can’t fix what’s broken if you can’t see what works. And you can’t see what works until you open the file and look at your words.


That’s how I edit.


My process isn’t about pretending every word is perfect or that nothing needs cutting or more development. It’s not about giving everyone a gold star for doing well. After all, the pristine layers are found at the edge of destruction. And part of being a good editor is the ability to talk about what doesn’t work.


But my process begins with an orientation. I need to assess the damage, but I can’t edit until I see the healthy structure.


If opening that file to self-edit makes you want to cry, just think of Dr. Max de Milles (trust me, read Taking Fire and you’ll absolutely want to think about Max and Rachel!). Open your document, look into the metaphorical wound, and find that border, that edge. See the healthy structure of your story, and start to repair and revise from that starting point.











What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

Ever since I was a small child, I have had many different stories running around in my head.  It’s like a catharsis to get them down on paper so they aren’t taking all my attention.  I enjoy looking at the world around me and converting others’ personal experiences into fictional stories.


What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I enjoy writing a wide variety of stories.  I have written horror, suspense, paranormal, comedy, and drama, but I most enjoy stories with heavy emotional and romantic overtones. I feel those types of stories speak personally to the reader.


What do your family/friends think about your writing?

My family is very supportive of my writing.  They are my best critics!


Where do you get your ideas?

I am inspired by the people and situations around me.  The stories I create usually have some basis in my real life.


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

It’s kind of a variety of both.  I sometimes have a story planned out from beginning to end, and other times, I just put my fingers to the keyboard and allow the story to take its own path.


What makes The Black Orchid  special to you?

Black Orchid BSB-BlackOrchidwas challenging to write due the historical element and my desire to make my depictions of what life was like in that time and place as accurate as possible.  A lot of research went into the story before I could ever begin writing.  During the creative phase, I was inspired by art, music, and history as well as an appreciation of the local culture, both British and Venezuelan.


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

I think that many times the characters’ reactions to the situations I present them with echo how I myself would react.  I try to bring an element of realism to each one of my characters by drawing on the personalities of those around me.


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

of this author(s)?

I have to say that it’s a tie between A.J. Rose and Lynn Kelling.  Lynn’s characters are so strong that even in their most desperate moments they reach out to the reader.  A.J.’s writing has always spoken to me in a personal way.  Both he and Lynn are excellent writers in this genre.


Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Don’t be afraid to put your story out there.  It’s daunting to submit for publishing the first time.  It’s like the world can now read and critique your personal thoughts.  Your story is your work of art and some people won’t get it, but you may inspire and touch the hearts of others.  Never be afraid to share your gift.


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

Actually, writing is what I do for fun!  I like to spend time with my family, travel, listen to music, garden, and practice sustainable living.

The Rear


When I was young, much younger than I am now, guys would habitually make unsolicited, albeit most satisfying, compliments about my posterior (admittedly shapely and well-honed in those days). “You have beautiful buns, man,” a passing Jim, Ricardo, Mikhail, or Abdul would say as I strolled through a park, down a sidewalk, or along a beach.

While attending college, I worked a variety of jobs, usually behind the desk of a hotel, and it was no unusual occurrence to feel an exploring hand on the curves of my rump. Then the male switchboard operator named Garcia or the bellboy named Stein would flatter me with “nice ass.”

These compliments and random gropings happened in other places besides the workplace, most commonly in the grocery store. Of course, the grocery butt gropers were more often the female of the species. Nice to hear the compliment, but the gender role was not to my taste.

Lest any reader think I’m bragging, let me own up, with a sad heart, that the days when men would worship my rump are behind me (pathetic pun intended). In the absence of compliments on my butt curves, I compensate by turning pen to paper (a metaphor for pounding finger pads upon a keyboard). I attract not, so now I write.

However, the human gluteal region—especially the bum of the male of the species—provides particular problems for the gay author: what to call it, and how to make it sound enticing.

Some of the names for the rear end are depressingly technical: gluteal region, glutes, buttocks, gluteus maximus. In these words, the thrill is lacking.

Some have a crude sound, as if this delightful body part were unattractive. No sane author is going to write “your tuchas drives me wild with lust,” because the Yiddish word tuchas implies “ever widening,” which is perhaps not the intended compliment. Can, keister or keester, nates, hams, bum, and wazoo just don’t sound enticing. An author writing, “I was hot for his wazoo” or “I want to get into your keister” is more likely to provoke a laugh than an arousal.

Other names are cutesy, but not erotic, such as haunches, hunkies, hunkers, prat, heiney or heinie. Some words are neutral in themselves; nonetheless, fundament, posterior, backside, behind, hind end, tail end, rear end, hind part, and hinder part, can be made more erotic with adjectives.

“Nice posterior, guy.”

“I love your sexy rear end.”

“Provocative backside.”

The alternatives bootie or booty, buns, and cheeks aren’t so bad.

“Nice booty.”

“Cute buns.”

“Hot looking cheeks.”

Neither are seat, seater, stern, hips, curves, breech, tush or tooshie, breech, caboose, cheeks, duff, fanny.

Ass, butt, rump, rear, bottom are okay but not so erotic. Ass is an Americanism for the British arse and generally works well. For example, in my novel The Moon’s Deep Circle, bsb_the_moons_deep_circle_small__26137my character Tip is aroused sexually by a mere glance at his teammate’s ass: “The curves of Jeep’s ass were enticing, and my cock was soaring.” In another passage in The Moon’s Deep Circle, I write, “Lyle’s eyes were transfixed on Tizzy’s curvy buttocks,” evoking the power of the human posterior to hold another person in thrall.

From my novel The Raptures of Time:The Raptures of Time 300 DPI “He caressed my ass as if he were worshiping it. His hands massaged my buttocks gently, sliding slowly into the crack.” I have to believe that the description works.

Butts are nice to ogle, but difficult to write about. In the end, call this divine form what you will, its delightful curves and sweet invitations deserve a comfortable seat in gay fiction.


Every Vote Matters




About a week ago, Maryland held its gubernatorial primary election. Kathi and I had voted early because we worked as judges for the board of elections that day. We take voting seriously, even though Maryland is a blue state and the county we live in is especially blue. However, prior to our current governor, Maryland had a Republican in office (the first since Spiro Agnew), so it is still possible for Maryland to go in either direction.

It was disheartening then, to say the least, to witness the extremely low voter turnout – 22% of eligible voters showed up to cast their ballots. I was at our voting location from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm and was able to read most of a more than 400 page book on the Civil War. According to the Washington Post, Maryland had a 40% turnout for its primary in 1994 (still incredibly low) but the numbers have been declining since. And it’s not just Maryland. California had less than 24% turnout on June 3rd; in March, Texas had less than 10% Republicans and 4% Democrats show up; and fewer than 1 in 6 registered voters went to the polls in Indiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina (Washington Post, June 25).

Granted, it’s not a Presidential election year, and it’s only a primary, not the general election. But 22% – seriously? No one is certain what the reasons are, but most experts cite voter ennui, a complete lack of engagement. Perhaps they’ve had their fill of national partisan politics. Increasingly we see more finger pointing and less substantial discussion about the issues, and gridlock everywhere. The Republican Party suffers internally from determining whether they’re just plain conservative or extremely conservative. And Democrats have their own issues with those who want to see the party move away from the center and more to the left.

The other night, Kathi and I watched a documentary about the 50th anniversary of the murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Their killers: members of the Ku Klux Klan, the county sheriff’s office, and the local police department. Their crime: attempting to register African Americans to vote.

I don’t want to be melodramatic here, but the documentary reminds us that people have died for our right to vote. For more than 200 years, whether it was our founding fathers who fought for representation, the 15th Amendment to the Constitution that prohibits government from denying a citizen the right to vote based on race, the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, or the Voting Rights Act of 1965, people fought, suffered physical and mental distress, and died for something we don’t even care about, but should.

Today, July 4th, %22Oh Say Can You See%22immigrants from all over the world will become citizens of the United States, some taking their oath in historic locations such as Williamsburg, Virginia, Monticello, Mount Vernon, even our National Parks, while others will take it in an innocuous auditorium in Anywhere USA. Most of these immigrants have waited years for this moment. Many come from countries where they have no rights at all and even face death for speaking out. But in America they will have a voice in the government who serves them.

So the next time there’s an election, be sure and vote. Those that have fought and died before you will thank you.

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