Confession: An UnCatholic Rite

By Stevie Mikayne

In another life I might have been a priest.

In the kind of life where a woman—a lesbian, specifically—could be a priest in the Catholic Church.

Let me rephrase that—in a future life, perhaps I’ll be a priest. Because I like to believe the world will evolve and that I’ll get to see it again in a different incarnation. Something about the professional confessor has always appealed to me, perhaps because as a lapsed Catholic, I don’t go to confession myself…

My godmother taught me that the best confessors are mirrors as well as vaults—reflecting the intention of the person speaking while guarding their secrets religiously—so I treat all confessions like they’re sacred. Even the UnCatholic kind. The everyday purging of the soul that happens spontaneously over tea, or while standing in the street as children run around the cul-de-sac, is just as holy.

The loaded concept of sin aside, there is something healing in being able to verbalise the darkest thoughts in your head. Out loud. And have someone acknowledge them. Whether or not you perform an act of contrition; whether or not you believe God has forgiven you, confession—Catholic or UnCatholic— provides a necessary absolution.

Uncatholic ConductBeing Catholic has always been a paradox in my life: something I simultaneously allowed to shape me, and fought against with an almost teenage rebellion. When I began writing UnCatholic Conduct, I knew that the main character Jil would face internal conflicts where religion and lesbianism clashed in the same manner that I did while working in the Catholic school board—and trying to come to terms with all the cognitive dissonance that entailed.

I expected that Jil would fight against dogmatic views with a ferocity and a passion—and stroppiness—that nothing but this topic could elicit, because of course in my 20s, this is how I felt too. I rejected the church before it could reject me, finding it easier than seeking out the grey areas where we could blend.

Many people assume that the main character in a novel is written about the author. It’s often the case. But when I look at UnCatholic Conduct and Illicit Artifacts (forthcoming), I realise that the person who received more of my personal infusion was Jessica Blake—the Catholic school principal Jil falls for. I imbued Jess with my own experiences—struggling to learn that religion is only one vehicle to faith; that withdrawing from a set of rituals doesn’t have to clip your spiritual wings; that you can feel connected to the universe without feeling connected to a certain book…

For Jess, the Catholic life provides a necessary structure and set of rules, but she experiences a real problem when she finds herself attracted to Jil.

There’s something confessional about the act of writing these characters, and I am enjoying the process—at the same time that I continue to receive everyday confessions.

I think of my godmother often when people seek me out—her deep-seated spirituality and staggering empathy for others; her broad-minded ability to distill all the ritual into one universal message of acceptance and love. She’s achieved the type of spirituality I hope to understand myself one day: the compassionate kind that defies barriers of human construct.

Ultimately, this is what I want for Jess too, and for everyone, really, who feels at odds with their faith.

I hope we all find it…

 

Xo Stevie

 

The Amazon Trail

Helicopter Wife

By Lee Lynch

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My sweetheart called herself a helicopter wife and I laughed. Not long ago we couldn’t even marry. Now we get to legally hover.

I begged to differ. She is no such thing.

She offered an example: the multiple times she asks when my medical, dental, whatever appointments are scheduled.

That’s helping, I protested.

Maybe the first three times, she responded. By the fifth or sixth time it gets annoying.

One of my standard responses: If you say so. Another: We’ll see. I think I was meant to be a spouse along the lines of my nearly silent father.

Then I started thinking. What is a helicopter wife/husband, really?

Is s/he the person who sleeps in a hospital chair all night after you have surgery?

Is she the one who digs holes for you when you have a bad back/shoulder/knee or all of the above, even though you’re the one who ordered native plants and trees months ago from the Conservation District?

Does the helicopter husband always check to see if your dinner is hot enough? Seasoned right? Pleasing?

Does she serve as your alarm clock?

He always listens to the emergency scanner when you’re out and about, right? And checks before you leave to be sure your cells are both on with the volume high?

Is that what helicopter spouses do?

And the straight, god-fearing neighbors, do they tell you you’re the cutest couple they’ve ever seen? Always out walking together, deep in conversation, making each other laugh, a pleasant greeting for everyone? Rotors spinning all the while.

Do you keep her enthralled with poetry and does she email you romantic Fred Astaire clips?

You seldom see a doctor alone, share test results, build duplicate med lists. She makes certain you have time to write, protects you from interruptions, apologises with urgent questions.

Every little outing is a vacation, a sunny adventure even in the rain.

Does he insist on walking the suspension bridge before you to make certain it’s safe? Do you always walk on the outside to protect her? Does each of you grab the other’s sleeve before you cross the street and look both ways?

The orange Coast Guard helicopters often rumble overhead here. Our community is fighting to keep one stationed at this port although Homeland Security has siphoned off the funds. Our fishing boats count on that copter. It rescues disabled crab crafts, surfers caught in rip tides, panicked captains of recreational boats and tourists with no sense of rising tides and rough surf. Also, people lost in the county and Coast Range, motorists who plummet down beach cliffs. Come the tsunami, it’ll probably drop food and water to our hilltop neighborhood.

Helicopters can be loud and scary, human helicopters can suffocate and irritate. Yet she reserves the flights, gets us from point A to point B, drives frequently wet streets in the dark, while I can’t see the white line. I’d fight to keep my helicopter wife and the Coast Guard flying rescue machine.

Just three minutes ago she knew, just walking in the door, that I’m having a health issue. I get to apply Band aids to her owies and remind her to take her vitamins. One or the other of us would forever be leaving the house without a Fitbit if no copter hovered, orange or not.

We might never again eat a vegetable (aren’t Cheetos vegetables?). Helicopter partner wants one around for a long time and sadly that involves mandatory vegetables—at least one gets the option of stir-fry or salad. If only there was a good commercial Russian dressing with which to smother the raw greens.

We also might never renew our prescriptions on time. Or take a walk or get to sleep before 4:00 AM. Or stop working on our various projects long enough to stretch and breathe.

When we go out, no instructions are given about how to dress. That’s not to say there isn’t an  inspection awaiting with a yea or a nay or back to the drawing board. I pack my own suitcase for travel while she sets up a spreadsheet. She color codes my activities so I show up  where I should and when.

Has your husband ever bought a computer? Much easier to monitor his choice by gifting him with laptops and tablets you love. Does she ask you where to hang the philodendron, then decide on the correct placement?

I’m telling you, helicopter partners are a blessing to us all. I never wanted to be a wife, much less marry a helicopter. If I’d known there was such a being, I would have run like Cary Grant in the cornfields of “North By Northwest.” I had enough of fluttering wings as an overprotected kid. My sweetheart is a partner, not a parent.

Yet, when I look at a list of loving, helicoptery nags—urging her to schedule medical appointments for her health, to see the dentist, to get out of the house before, not after, an event, to send out the taxes, to find her job openings—I have to admit it: I’m a helicopter wife too!

 

Copyright 2015 Lee Lynch

BSB AUTHOR INTERVIEW with PATRICK ROSCOE

By Connie Ward

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1) What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I began to write fiction at age sixteen, when I ended my career as a piano prodigy. The immediate success I enjoyed as a writer is likely due to the fact that I was able to transfer all I’d learned about music (harmony and counterpoint, shape and form, rhythm and tone) to the service of words. For me, the keyboard of a piano and the keyboard of a laptop have the same function. Each type of fiction is composed in a major or minor key, with its own time signature, toward an aim of realizing my particular purpose. I’ve never studied fiction writing on a formal basis. My apprenticeship as a writer occurred publicly, and my development can be traced through the course of my published books. Recently, I’ve come full circle and begun to compose music as a soundtrack to my fiction. Extracts from these early compositions can be found on my Youtube channel.

 

2) What kind of stories do you write? And why?

BSB-IndivisibleHeart My books are sometimes quite different one from the other; often readers have difficulty comprehending that the same author could have created any pair of given books. Some of my fiction, like The Indivisible Heart and the book that preceded it (The Laboratory of Love), is dark and disturbing. Other books are filled with symbols and fantasy and dream; others explore the richness of the human comedy in a more realistic, earthbound way. However different individual books might appear from each other, they share in common a search for the beauty that lies in both darkness and light, and they are all driven in one way or another by the forces of hunger and longing, and are fueled by a desire for love.

 

3) What do your family and friends think about your writing?

I have neither family nor friends. My books and music are the only children I create. My readers are all the friends I have, and I’m devoted wholly to them. They are enough; they are everything. I am continually strengthened and sustained by letters and email I receive from people who wish to express how much my books mean to them. It’s a constant surprise to discover how varied my audience is. It seems that younger people, at the stage of life when the world can appear confusing and troubling, are especially drawn to my work. Battle-scarred survivors of long, hard-fought campaigns waged in the service of love appear to be equally engaged by my imaginative world. My answer to all readers is: hold on, don’t give up, you’re not alone. The struggle for love is always worth it, even when every sign suggests that you have lost.

 

4) Where do you get your ideas?

   The source of my fiction is the universal human experience. What does it mean to be alive in this world? How can we grapple with the mystery of our time on this planet? What keeps us apart and what connects us? These are some of the questions that concern me.

 

5) How do you write; do you plan everything out, or just write?

I work on several levels simultaneously. Part of the process involves tapping into and connecting with the subconscious; at the same time, I am highly alert to what I’m doing technically. I hover at an objective distance above my writing even while I’m immersed in its depths. I feel it’s important to remain suspended between these two states all the while. Go deep into darkness and dream yet also keep myself above and apart from it.

 

6) What makes The Indivisible Heart special to you?

Each of my books is important to me for itself. The particular significance of The Indivisible Heart lies in the way it completes an exploration of the darker aspects of love that was begun in previous books such as Birthmarks and The Laboratory of Love. With The Indivisible Heart, this exploration has perhaps been taken as far as it can, at least for now. I delayed writing the novel for quite a few years because I was frightened of what it suggested and because I realized I wasn’t ready to confront that fear or to explore it coherently. The implications of the finished book have been quite difficult for me to accept. It is my own violent death that’s recorded in these pages. The two years that followed completing the book are more or less lost to me, on a personal level, although I continued to write all the while. Possibly, I’m now writing fiction that brims with comedy in a reaction to the disturbing ramifications of The Indivisible Heart.  

 

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

I am in each of my characters, however unlike myself they might seem. I am an eighty-year-old woman and a child of ten. I’m a tattoo artist practicing his art deep within the souk, and I’m a boy selling his boys on Santa Monica Boulevard. When imagination is powered by emotion, it leads to empathy. We all have the same longings and fears, although each of us expresses those emotions in a unique way.

 

8) Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?

I’m quite unconcerned (and often unaware) whether an author is gay/lesbian or not. Brilliant writing transcends such definitions and refuses to be limited by them. In any case, I find that I read very little while I’m writing (which is constantly) because that experience satisfies my need for written language. I am inspired by silence and desert and the call of the imam from the mosque. I am empowered by the voice of the sea and by the voice of Maria Dolores Pradera. One writer whose work has impressed me is Patricia Highsmith.

 

9) Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

My advice would be to avoid creative-writing classes and writing groups. Learn by writing, not by talking about it. Spend three months at a time in a small, bare room far from home, preferably in a country where you know no one and where you don’t speak the language. Liberate yourself from Internet access; free yourself from all distractions; allow nothing to interfere with an extended experience of listening intently to the voice inside you. Your seemingly empty, confining cell will soon brim with riches and teem with treasure. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes or of taking chances. Risk everything on each page.

 

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

I am always writing, whether it’s fiction or music. The creation of art isn’t a draining act that requires me to seek diversion or replenishment. The act of creation is life-giving. The more I give of myself, the more I am renewed. I take superb care of the instrument that is my body in order to maximize the power of the spirit it contains. In every way, my physical self is a work of art whose creation has the same importance as any words, any music. Although I’m currently at work on my tenth book, it’s clear to me that I’m just beginning. I hope the Bold Strokes Books audience will follow my journey forward.

Playing With Some Familiar Faces

By Lesley Davis

 

In March I picked up a new game to play. I had been waiting for it since they announced the release of the PS4 console and it was top of my list of games I had to have. When it was finally released I immediately got my copy, sat down and began to play. It looked great, had a fantastic story set in Victorian England with gruesome monsters and awesome weapons but the game play was awful and the characters were incredibly boring. I was taking them through the levels but I wasn’t really invested in their lives. They just didn’t make me care enough what happened to them. I completed it but now it’s back in the box never to be returned to. That’s so disappointing because I invested time into the story but it gave me nothing back in return. Yet there’s another game I have played and completed ages ago, and I can’t stop keep going back into it because it means something to me. I love the game play, I love the locations, (nothing beats climbing the Space Needle and then wrecking it with your superpowers!) and I am invested in the characters, each and every one of them, good guy or bad. They keep me returning to play with them again and again because the time I spend with them in that world is fascinating and time well spent. I love them, I love their story, and I can lose myself in their world.

Reading is like that for me too. There are characters that I like to go back to and re-read their story to experience all the highs and lows they went through to reach their happy ending. Writing my own stories, there are some characters that once I have finished their story I can sit back and bid them farewell for a while, knowing that their story has been told. Then there are others that, as soon as I am done, they are already telling me what they want to do next. When I finished “Playing Passion’s Game”BSB_Playing_Passions_Game_3ds Trent was already whispering in my ear that the nursery needed an occupant so I knew these characters would be back sooner, rather than later. And the amazing feedback I received from my readers only added to that knowledge. They wanted to go back to that world as much as I did.

 

Playing in Shadow 300 DPI“Playing In Shadow”, published by Bold Strokes and out this April, tells the story of Bryce who is the only survivor of a terrible car crash. She bears the scars of that trauma both inside and out. She meets Scarlet who has her own problems. Should she follow in her father’s footsteps as he expects her to or step away and follow her own path? What was fun for me about bringing this story to life was knowing that these two new characters were going to interact with a few familiar faces. Trent and Juliet are back, Elton and Monica, and young Kayleigh. I loved weaving these known characters into the lives of the new ladies whose story is being revealed. As someone who writes the kind of stories I want to read myself, I love Trent to pieces. She’s one of my favourite characters I have created and I have so much more to share about her. So while romance weaves it spell around Bryce and Scarlet, Trent and Juliet will be preparing for motherhood. And as you can imagine, with these characters, it’s not going to be all boring bibs and baby grows! Being someone who personally has never, EVER, wanted children of her own, I have had the most fun writing the experience for Trent. And now Bryce, being new to the fold, is going to see what kind of awesome family this group of gamers and Goths can be.

For Trent’s loyal fans, she and her family will be back in future tales. Their story is nowhere near finished because I’m invested in these characters, their stories, and their world. They keep drawing me back to play. As for Scarlet and Bryce, in “Playing In Shadow”, their story is just beginning! I hope you all enjoy it.

BSB AUTHOR INTERVIEW with JEAN COPELAND

by Connie Ward

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What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

 

I’ve had stories going on inside my head for as long as I can remember. As a kid, they were mainly what-would-happen vignettes exploring what life would be like if I were a boy. As a young girl, I didn’t know what a lesbian was, so I would get lost in elaborate daydreams about being a boy to try to reconcile why I felt different from other girls. Years later, in my late teens and early twenties, I dabbled at writing screenplays, but it wasn’t until I went back for my B.S. in English Education in 2003 that I started taking short-fiction writing seriously. The drafting and revising process was magical to me—to take a raw idea and cultivate it, step by step, into something cohesive and meaningful is the ultimate form of expression. After my first publication in Folio, SCSU’s undergrad literary journal, I was hooked.

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

 

I mainly write lesbian romance, often interweaving identity and how the lesbian facet of a woman’s identity influences her life. The romance factor is easy to explain. I’m a romantic at heart, a sucker for a good love story, especially one I can relate to. Growing up, I found virtually no story-telling mediums that featured lesbian characters, so I experienced that part of adolescent development feeling like an outsider. Yes, I had a big crush on Rob Lowe in the ’80s, but I’d often wondered what it would like to be Rob Lowe and share an on-screen kiss with one of his beautiful female co-stars. When I began taking writing seriously, I became empowered to create the stories and characters I’d always wanted to see. The publication of my first lesbian-themed story, “Andy’s Riddle,” in the The First Line, was a profound experience. From that moment on, my writing had a genre. And let’s face it—once I’d discovered Doris Day movies and music in my teens, the romance thing was a lock!

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

 My family and friends have been wonderfully supportive. Although most of my friends are straight (not that there’s anything wrong with it), they are all so encouraging and excited about every new writing milestone I reach. My parents have also been wonderfully supportive, even though my mother, bless her heart, has asked on several occasions, “Are you ever going to write any stories that aren’t about gay people?” My response is always something like, “Why on earth would I want to do that?”

 

Where do you get your ideas?

 

That’s a question for the ages. I wish I knew where. Then I could go there like it’s a Costco and stockpile a whole bunch of ideas in anticipation of that next, inevitable dry spell. Seriously, most of my stories start out as conversations in my head about various topics that I’ve seen or heard or mused about. If they’re interesting ones, I’ll pay closer attention and then decide if I can do something with the characters. Other times, situations that I’ve experienced will inspire the premise of a draft.

 

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

 

I haven’t a tried-and-true system for writing, but I often wish I did. Maybe the task of beginning something new wouldn’t feel as daunting. For short stories, I’ll sometimes start by writing down a scene of dialogue between characters and see where it goes. If I like the characters, their stories will unfold on their own, if I’m patient and disciplined enough to facilitate them with a dedicated block of time in front of my laptop. Like most writers, I struggle to balance real-life obligations with giving my mind a chance to go idle long enough to be imaginative. When I’m working on a novel manuscript, it’s chaos in the beginning. I’m all over creation until I get enough of the plot down to make an organized timeline and chapter breakdown.  

 

What makes The Revelation of Beatrice Darby special to you?

 

BSB-RevelationBeatriceDarbyIt’s special, first and foremost, because it’s my debut novel. It’s like my firstborn, and it’s finally coming into the world on April 21st! Finishing the manuscript and getting it published was indeed a labor of love, and a long one. Beatrice’s fictional journey began almost ten years ago as a short story, then became my master’s thesis novella, then a 330-page manuscript, and finally arrived at the pared-down 230-page novel that BSB chose to publish. The novel is also special because it represents the silent struggles that I and so many gays and lesbians endured until 2013 A.E., or “After Edith,” as I like to call this new era of LGBT equality that began when the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, thanks to one of my heroes, Edith Windsor, a little old lesbian with a great big lawsuit.

 

During the two decades I spent in the closet, I had no voice, so it was both freeing and validating to write Beatrice’s story and see it through to publication. I like to think of this novel as my homage to the previous generations of brave women who were forced to make impossible decisions and face harsh consequences just so they could be themselves. This last notion was recently validated by a 73-year-old woman, Anita, who read an advance e-copy of my novel and then emailed me to thank me for writing what she had lived through a half century ago.

 

 

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

 

A lot. While my characters’ lives are much more interesting than mine, their minds, hearts and souls are often composites of me and people I know. I round them out with about a third of pure imagination. Beatrice Darby is a lot like me, but she’s an idealized version. She has a stronger sense of self and is more determined and indignant than I ever was. The wicked side of me enjoys teasing my friends with the threat that if they’re not careful around me, they may end up recognizing themselves in a future story.

 

 

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?

 

Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet. It was the first lesbian novel I read, and I devoured it! In a weird way it gave me license to start moving my writing fully into the genre of lesbian fiction. It was a wonderfully liberating experience, knowing there’s a big, beautiful market out there for our stories. I hadn’t felt that free since I’d discovered women can still have careers even if they refuse to wear pantyhose. Patricia Cornwell is another of my favorites. She’s fiercely brilliant and knows her crime fiction. Although the Kay Scarpetta character isn’t a lesbian, she’s got a bomb niece Lucy that is. I’ve read a lot of the Scarpetta novels, and it’s hard to pick a favorite.

 

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

Yes, two. First, be fearless. Write what burns inside you, without fear of judgment. Self-censoring is the most effective way not to be all that you can be as a writer. I learned this immediately as a new writer years ago when I intentionally avoided writing lesbian fiction thinking it wasn’t “publishable enough.” You know what’s not publishable? Half-hearted stories written by someone afraid of her own truth. Tell your story like it should be told. Ultimately, it’s your name on the piece. Secondly, listen to constructive criticism. I’ve found it invaluable to my growth as a writer. Don’t let the mistaken belief that “my work is perfect just way it is” prevent you from reaching your writing goals. BSB rejected my original manuscript for Beatrice, suggesting I make major revisions from the middle on. If I hadn’t been open to the editor’s spot-on critique, my novel would still be just a Word file on my computer instead of a novel I can be proud of from cover to cover. Oh, and go ahead and “like” The Writer’s Circle page on Facebook. Everyday you’ll crack up at quotes about the joys and frustrations of writing.

 

 

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

 

Watch cat videos on Facebook, fantasize about meeting Doris Day, or brainstorm ways to repair America’s faulty political process with friends over grogs of craft beer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out these links!

From time to time, the BSB authors blog will bring you extras about our authors. Today Victoria Brownworth is featured.

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A review on Ordinary Mayhem here.

A column Victoria wrote on the recent Indiana law

Another Curve column you should read.


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