Who Am I?

By Heather Blackmore

Well I’m not Jean Valjean, 24601. (Sorry, bad Broadway reference.)

But I have heard that some readers like knowing more about authors and what led them to write their books, so I jotted down a few things about me and my latest romance, For Money or Love.

I’m a CPA but have never been good at math.

I did pass all parts of the CPA exam on my first attempt (fewer than 1 in 5 did this back then).

The first time I rode a motorcycle, aside from a test ride through a parking lot, I drove it from Orange County, California to Santa Cruz, about 400 miles. I can be stubborn when I set my mind to something.

That reminds me that I once rode my bicycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles over 570 miles in the 7-day California AIDS ride, which supports people living with HIV and AIDS. Yes, I used to be in shape. I can just hear Archie and Edith Bunker now…“Those Were the Days.” (80% of you are thinking, “Who?”)

I’m not a fan of mushrooms or olives. But I can be bribed with Thin Mints.

I haven’t watched a single episode of Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Empire, House of Cards, or The Big Bang Theory.

I haven’t gotten a moving violation in 20 years, but all priors were for speeding. When I got pulled over for my last ticket, I’d been listening to a relaxation CD. It helped.

When I was 11 or so, I made it all the way to the state championships in the Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship for my age group but lost at the state level. It’s been downhill ever since.

I’m not much of a shopper, unless you drop me off at a sporting goods store or REI.

I have an older brother. When we were young, he was my best playmate and biggest bully. We played and fought daily. Over the years, thanks to him, I got a broken finger, 5 stitches in my head, and a knife wound to the knee.

When Mom took me to have that broken finger looked at, the doctor said he needed to reset the bone. I was 13. He said he could put me under, or he could give me a local anesthetic but it would be painful. Mom offered, “She can take the pain.” After he injected my hand with a drug, he placed a Bic ballpoint pen at the base (webbing) between my fingers and wrapped his hand around my two fingers on either side. Then he abruptly squeezed them together. True story.

During my initial weeks as a college freshman, I was in the shower, shampooing my hair, when we had our first fire drill…

I’m a morning person. I can’t snooze.

As an undergraduate, I took a playwriting class from the late, great Philip Slater (The Pursuit of Loneliness), and he selected my play for a staged reading at the local theatre. After two nights of watching the actors and listening to the audience’s laughter or silence in all the right places, I was hooked. I decided then that I’d have to find a way to continue writing.

I love animals. I grew up with a dog and cat and have had cats throughout most of my life. Rather, cats have had me. These days a black rescue named Pepper allows me to do her bidding.

I fell in love for the first time as a senior in college. After dating some pretty great guys until then, the fact that I fell for a vertically-challenged, muscular-yet-feminine, wickedly intelligent Jewish woman wasn’t a huge hit with my conservative Catholic and Protestant parents.

The second time I fell in love, I married the woman. Friends who’ve met my wife know I got the better end of the deal. And I’m more than okay with that.

[One of the earliest photos ever taken of my wife and me, when we were dating. I’m the one in jeans.]2000_shelly-and-heather-taken-by-susan_laughing

I slept with an old teddy bear named Patrick until I got married. He was named after Patrick Swayze. (You can’t make this stuff up, folks.) And I can’t believe I’m publicly admitting this.

I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years, primarily vegan over the past couple years, in protest against factory farms—cruel aspects of modern-day society we needn’t sustain. A pig, for example, has the intelligence of a 3-year old child! We wouldn’t confine our dogs to life—let alone a day—in a tiny crate without sunlight, fresh air, or the ability to turn around. I decided that for me, the few moments I might enjoy that bite of bacon wasn’t worth sentencing a sentient being to a lifetime of torture.

Bernie Madoff, of all people, inspired a part of my latest romance, For Money or Love. I wanted to explore the very real question Mr. Madoff’s actions led me to ask: What if the parent you love and admire has engaged in such deceit that your entire world—your career, your home, your family, your social life, your fledgling relationship—will be destroyed if you turn your parent in? Do you do it? Or do you continue enjoying your life of privilege?

For Money or Love 300 DPIA part of me always wanted a sister, so in For Money or Love, I include a relationship between two sisters. My brother, however, is probably happy he only had to deal with one sister. I’m sure I gave him two sisters’ worth of lip.

Speaking of lip, as a teenager, I once pissed off my father so badly that when I refused to open my locked bedroom door, he busted through and splintered the door frame. Filled with adrenaline, I said something like, “Do you feel like a man now? You’re the one who’s going to have to fix that. Good job!” Teenage girls. Oy.

I dedicated FMOL to my late mother. I’d give anything to discuss that choice with her.

 

 

 

Two Books in One

By VK Powell

 

For the first time as a published author, I’ll have two books out in one year! (Exclamation mark because I never imagined it.) I have plenty of ideas in the queue and more than enough time to whip them into a story. The truth is I’m a travel slut, so one book a year helps feed my travel jones and writing remains a true joy instead of a j-o-b.

 

Anyway…here’s how this unexpected two-book feat occurred. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a very organized person and twice a year I purge unwanted or unused items and donate to charities (or friends who ask for advance notice). During one of these expunging adventures, I found a file on my computer marked On Hold Projects. Inside were two manuscripts written ten years ago that I’d completely forgotten. (Several of my writer buddies couldn’t believe this.)

 

The next decision seemed like a no-brainer – dust off one of those puppies, bring it up to snuff, and dash it over to my publisher. Right? Easier said than done. I found revamping an old manuscript much more difficult than starting from scratch. I was surprised how much I didn’t know about writing when I started (and believe me, I still have much to learn), but obviously I’m not a substantive editor. Tearing the story apart and putting it back together with the things I’ve learned along the way was not as easy as I’d hoped. My hat is off to the talented editors who work with newbies and make it look effortless. The experience has convinced me of one thing: the second found project will probably never grace my editor’s inbox.

 

Here’s what’s on offer this year from yours truly:

 

deceptionDeception, my August 2016 release is now available. Colby Vincent, a DEA agent undercover in the homeless community, and Adena Weber, administrator of a day center for the homeless, butt heads as Colby investigates a drug diversion program being operated from the center.

 

In November, Lone Ranger, will be out. In this story, freelance reporter, Emma Ferguson, tries to uncover the truth behind a thirty-seven year old disappearance while park ranger, Carter West, struggles to keep the details secret.

 

I’ll let you decide which is the lost and found project. Please share your guesses on my website, Facebook, or in an email.Lone Ranger

 

As always, thank you for reading.

 

VK Powell

vk@vkpowellauthor.com

www.vkpowellauthor.com

 

The Adventures of Peanut and Bunny Breath…

By Erin Dutton

My dog’s name is not Peanut. His name is Kenai (pronounced Keen-Eye). But my neighbor thinks his name is Peanut. I don’t know why, unless somehow those two words sound the same when I’m yelling them out the backdoor of my house because my stubborn boy is more interested in said neighbor’s dog through the fence than coming in the house. Whatever the reason, I’ve corrected my neighbor on the name discrepancy more than once, but he still refers to my dog as Peanut. And I’m so anti-confrontation, that I’m considering changing his name. After twelve years. I don’t think he’ll mind. Doesn’t he look like a Peanut?

 

erin-d

Like any other author, pieces of my life find their way into my books. But curiously, as my wife points out, I’ve never included a dog in any of my books. Which, I will admit, is a bit strange since we’re both dog people. So much so, that when we first got together, we ended up with five dogs. Now five dogs is a lot. I don’t recommend being out-numbered by your pets. I had Peanut and a cocker spaniel named Woodstock, who has since passed away. He was a wealth of stories on his own. That dog would eat anything. More than once, I had to make emergency calls to my vet, the emergency clinic, even poison control.

 

My wife had a Chihuahua and a shepherd mix, who have both passed as well. Her other dog, Leroy, is the son of the shepherd mix. Both were acquired when she, a stray, decided that underneath the shed was a good place to start her new family. Leroy has recently undergone a name change as well. I now call him Bunny Breath. You have to know this dog. He’s the most skittish…he actually smells everything for a full minute before eating it, even dog treats. It’s as if he’s afraid we’re trying to sneak something by him that looks like a treat, but somehow isn’t.

 

So, why, you ask, is he called Bunny Breath? Okay, I imagine you’ve already guessed. Recently, a mama bunny decided to make her nest in our backyard while we were having a fence rebuilt and the dogs weren’t currently using that part of the yard. Pity we no longer have a shed for her to have gone under instead. Then the fence went up and the dogs were once again given free reign. My wife was out cutting the grass, and looked over to see Leroy—er, Bunny Breath—with something in his mouth. She yelled at him and he dropped a poor baby bunny and it scampered away. We searched the yard and found a nest and three scattered babies hiding in the grass. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of him with it in his mouth, and my wife wasn’t too keen on my idea to scoop up a baby and re-enact it with him. Just kidding, I wouldn’t do that. But here’s a picture of the nest with the bunnies safely returned. We cordoned off the area until the babies left the nest for good.

ein-d2

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, Bunny Breath isn’t a monster. He’s actually a sweet, gentle boy who was probably more traumatized by the whole thing than the poor (wet) little bunny we rescued him from. See for yourself, does this dog look like he could hurt a bunny?

 

dog-dutton

 

Someday I’ll write a character who is as entertained, loved, and charmed by her dog(s) as we are by ours. And maybe one of her dogs has a penchant for pulling the stuffing out of dog beds. Or one of them insists on getting in between her and her romantic interest if they so much as share an embrace. Maybe there will even be a bunny cameo. And when you read that book, no matter what that dog’s name is, I hope you think about Peanut and Bunny Breath.

 

Until that day, you can pick up my latest release, Capturing Forever. There aren’t any dogs in it. But there are plenty of other pieces of my life hidden away in those pages.

 

capturing-foreverCheck it out and read an excerpt, at https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/capturing-forever-by-erin-dutton-1803-b

 

 

 

 

Because Mom

By Heather Blackmore

For Money or Love 300 DPI

If you had to describe what a romance novel is about using only one word, what would you use?

Love.

Easy answer. And in the context of romance, it’s a certain kind of love: intimate, sexual, consensual, chivalrous, grand, consuming.

But who taught you to love so fiercely?

I don’t want to get into anything Freudian, but I’d argue that your mother may have had something to do with it.

Maybe it’s odd that I dedicated my second romance, For Money or Love, to my mom. But when I think of the love I’ve experienced, she stands front and center.

In my early 20s, I fell in love with a woman, which didn’t go over well with Mom. It caused significant strain between us, which I’ve blogged about: http://www.heatherblackmore.com/blog/category/love-conquers-all. And since Mom died unexpectedly, we never got a chance to completely mend together. I believe without question that we would have, especially given the parallels between her and my mother-in-law and the latter’s shift over time to acceptance and inclusion because of her unyielding love for her daughter.

But I’ve never once doubted that my mom loved me. She was the quintessential mama bear, defending my brother and me unreservedly, teaching us right from wrong, being there for us every single day. Her laugh was full and infectious, her temper fiery, her work ethic strong.

Mom with new lamp

[Here’s Mom celebrating a new bedside reading lamp. She was a voracious reader. Mysteries were her favorite.]

An extrovert, Mom always conversed easily with strangers, never embarrassed to ask for a recipe or offer an opinion. She was a loyal friend and had so many that the church liaison had to accommodate the number somehow when scheduling her memorial service, though I don’t remember the details.

The worst day of my life—12 years ago yet I cannot write this without tearing up—was the day we decided to halt Mom’s life support machines.

I’m not a tremendously visual person, but the last image I have of my mom—the one that’s indelibly carved into my memory and I see frequently in my mind’s eye—isn’t a happy one. I see her through a large window to a separate room where, alone, she lies on a gurney on her back under a white sheet, only her head showing. When the crematorium’s representative asked Dad and me who would make this final identification, I volunteered. To this day I’m not sure whether I regret it, but I hadn’t wanted my father to have to see Mom like that again. Part of me also wanted to say a final goodbye.

The thing is, you really can’t say goodbye to your mom. At least not one like mine.

 

Dumb and dumber[Me with my Dumb and Dumber bangs looking at Mom as if she were the most amazing person on the planet. She’s doing a crossword puzzle—something she always loved—and while she was probably wishing I’d let her get back to it, she always made time for me.]

In my new romance, For Money or Love, both main characters have lost their mothers. Jessica Spaulding’s mother died when she was young, and her stepmother leaves much to be desired. TJ Blake’s mother lost her husband and subsequently her will to live, leaving behind two daughters.

And while there is so much more going on in the book than these women dealing with life without mom, it’s a subject I know all too well, one that I’d much rather have written purely from imagination.

In For Money or Love, each woman’s loss is not in the foreground of her life. But every single day, their lives are impacted by their mother’s death. Jessica sacrifices part of who she is in order to placate her stepmom; TJ sacrifices what might otherwise be carefree college years in order to rear her much younger sister, Kara. I go through days without thinking of Mom, but then sometimes I miss her so severely that I nearly break down.

Mom is forever with me. I don’t know what it is about a mother-daughter bond, but it’s strong. For me, unbreakable.

If I have any strength, I got it from my mom. If I have any courage, I got it from my mom. If I have anything to give, I am able to give it because of my mom.

So it stands to reason that if I’m going to write about love, I’m going to do it well. And if I’m going to dedicate a novel to her, it’s going to be a damn good one. Because Mom.

***

For Money or Love is now available at Bold Strokes Books in paperback and eBook formats, as is a free excerpt: https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/for-money-or-love-by-heather-blackmore-1870-b

Heather Blackmore works in finance for SF Bay Area technology startups. In a seemingly counterintuitive move, she got her MSA and CPA with the goal of one day being able to work part-time so she could write. The right and left sides of her brain have been at war ever since.

Heather was a debut author finalist for the Goldie and Rainbow awards and contemporary lesbian fiction finalist for the Rainbow awards for Like Jazz.

Leave a comment for Heather or drop her a line at heather@heatherblackmore.com or visit http://www.heatherblackmore.com. She’d love to hear from you.

Let’s Get Stuck Together

By Barbara Ann Wright

BarbaraAnnWright (459x640)

 

As I get older, I’ve discovered that ruts are more frequent than they used to be. Don’t get me wrong, I loved a good routine when I was a kid. I adored schedules. I like to plan ahead, and I shudder a bit when plans change at the last minute, but as I’ve gotten older and acquired some long-term illnesses, the ruts have a tendency to pile up.

Medication tapering off? Let’s wait a little while to change it, give the old one a chance to work again. (Like that makes sense!) Want to go out for a special dinner? Maybe next week. Tonight I have laundry to do. Routines are comfortable, even if that comfort turns into boring. It’s easy and safe.

Lately, though, I’ve been trying to break out of my ruts, to try new paths. After all, there will always be more work to do. My fresh perspective prompted me to write Coils. Well, that and my love of all things mythology. (My favorite classes in college.) Cressida is a mortal girl who has little in her life but study. Her aunt June is a world traveler, an adventurer, and her disappearance shakes Cressida out of her routine and leads her to the mystical Underworld. In the Underworld, Medusa has also been stuck in a cycle, a millennia long slog of revenge and hatred. Together, they can make each other’s dreams come true, just probably not in the way they think.Coils 300 DPI

I’ve long wanted to tackle the Medusa myth. She and her two sisters, the infamous Gorgons, were demigoddesses long before the story that had Medusa cursed by Athena. They were fearsome, snake-haired, winged women, and their faces still adorn some ruins as protective symbols, a threat for anyone who entered with ill intent. Then, when later religions took over—like those that favored the Olympians—Medusa was demoted to a monster, a prize for the hero Perseus to slay. I wanted to take her back to that earlier form, still slain by Perseus, but a powerful figure in her own right.

Cressida is my everywoman. We’ve all been her, so stuck in our ruts that we don’t see how unhappy they’re making us. And what better way to shake her up than a sexy, snake-haired demigoddess? I think she would give all of us a wake-up call.

Even though my illnesses will be with me the rest of my life, I’m grateful I’ll always have my books to help me out of my ruts. They take me new places, from fantasy cities to the depths of space to the magic and mystery of the Greek Underworld. And I’m always happy to have company. Anytime you need a lift out of your routine, we’ll go together. You never know what monsters and magic await you. There could be a goddess in your future. Or something you least expect.

 

Th Pyramid Waltz 300 DPI 1Barbara Ann Wright writes fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories when not ranting on her blog. The Pyramid Waltz was one of Tor.com’s Reviewer’s Choice books of 2012, was a Foreword Review BOTYA Finalist, a Goldie finalist, and won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Fantasy. It also made Book Riot’s 100 Must-Read Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels By Female Authors. A Kingdom Lost was a Goldie finalist and won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Fantasy Romance.A Kingdom Lost 300 DPI

 

The Amazon Trail

Game of Throne

By Lee Lynch

Lee Lynch by Sue Hardesty

Game of Throne is what my sweetheart calls the nightly battle between our cat and me over Big Blue.
Bolo is our gray, fourteen year old, lesbian-required cat. Sadly, we’re down to just one kitty and no dogs. We can’t add either to our household because Bolo has diabetes. Her symptoms are triggered by, among other factors, stress. An addition to the family could kill her.
The Throne is Big Blue, a recliner we bought for my rotator cuff and bicep surgery. In recovery, it’s too painful to lie flat and I only had use of one arm for 2 months, so we needed a power recliner. I added the stipulation that it fit both Bolo and me.Bolo and Me On Big Blue
Once my shoulder healed enough, I was able to return to my sweetheart’s side and the cat, a heavy sleeper and loud snorer, to her place on us, between us, or as a lump on our feet.
When my sweetheart first mentioned Game of Thrones, I thought she was talking about the current presidential race. Neither of us follow the HBO series. Without that frame of reference, it made sense to me that she would be talking about Clinton vs. Trump, a nightmare that should not be happening. No one in the U.S. has ever worked harder to prepare for the presidency than Hillary Clinton. Never mind what a complete (insert bad word here) Trump is, Clinton has been in government for so long, the (new bad word) opposition uses her suitability against her.
I pictured he-who-would-be-king attempting to de-throne she-who-qualifies-for-coronation.
There was our blonde equivalent of Kim Jong Un in all his immaturity, surrounded by the likes of supporters Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Tyson and Sarah Palin, headed for the throne as if entitled. And there was Secretary Clinton, followed by a train of millions of women—suffragist foremothers to expectant little girls to underemployed lesbians—carefully navigating the broken glass of a ceiling never before penetrated.
That this should be a contest at all is beyond my comprehension. People say they don’t trust Clinton. And they trust Trump? People believe the muck that’s flung at Clinton. And they don’t see that their god of business is covered in slime? People say they want the country run like a business? Well, finally, after decades of big business corrupting our government, capitalism may trump democracy.
To call a powerful woman names and to otherwise disparage her—come on, America, we’re better than this old-fashioned misogyny.
Oh, America, where has your soul gone? It used to be said that our streets were lined with gold. Now they are, but not the narrow streets filled with people of color and immigrants, not the dirt roads into rural poverty, not the intersections crowded with protesters, not the crosswalks which the old and/or disabled enter with trepidation as drivers speed through, oblivious.
Hillary Clinton has always shown that she cared for all Americans. From her first universal healthcare attempt to advocating for women employees on Wall Street, she has proven her bonafides, while her challenger has left service workers in the dust, business people unpaid for their labor, and financial failures of colossal size.
But that wasn’t what my sweetheart meant at all. Not the Game, not politics, but our delight in Bolo and Big Blue.
It doesn’t take much to make this marriage gay. We laugh when Bolo’s all snuggled in beside me and I dare to absent myself for some necessity or other. Say, heating up my green tea, refilling my sweetheart’s Diet Coke, giving Bolo her insulin shot, or, goddess forbid, visiting the restroom. When I carefully lower the footrest, our little one glares at me sidelong, perturbed, and moves not a squinch to let me up.
I wriggle out slowly, slowly, making myself as small as humanly possible to avoid further disturbing Her Highness. As soon as my back is turned, my sweetheart tells me with a laugh, Bolo takes over the entire built-for-two seat to soak up whatever warmth I’ve left. We live with an energy-efficient cat.
On my return, the true tussle begins. Logically, I should be able to retake my fraction of the Throne. As any cat person knows, cat bodies are subject to thermal expansion. The body heat I leave causes Bolo’s furry fourteen pound self to gain mass and spill from her original boundaries. There is probably a mathematical formula for this.
In a gentle voice, I suggest that Bolo make room for me. My sweetheart laughs more as this method is guaranteed to fail.
I begin slowly, slowly, to sit, while extending my hand and arm to reverse the kitty’s diffusion. Again I get the annoyed glare, her eyes mere slits. I wriggle all the way onto Big Blue, petting the kitty, scritching her favorite spots. Finally, I raise the footrest.
This is not nearly as hard as walking the tightrope of public opinion in sexist America. Or as dangerous as being point woman in the gender war.
Miffed, Bolo gets up and, to underscore her disgust, licks her fur where I’ve touched it. With deliberate dignity, Bolo daintily steps over me and leaves to flaunt her magnificent silver grayness on my sweetheart’s couch.
I have, to my bitter disappointment, won our Game of Throne. I beg Bolo to return, I offer kibble, I debase myself by crawling after her. To no avail. I know how President Obama must feel facing our obstructive congress. I know the stakes are high for gays in this election.
I re-reheat my tea, re-return to the Throne, try to remember what I was working on, focus, and—Bolo’s back, demanding to be petted in apology. By the time she finishes rearranging herself I remember what I was doing: sending a donation to Hillary Clinton, the next president of the United States of America.
Copyright Lee Lynch 2016


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