Archive for September, 2010

Introducing “The Perfect Family”

Dear Bold Strokes Books readers, Thanks so much for allowing me to blog on this site. I appreciate the opportunity. First, let me introduce myself and my new book. I’m Kathryn Shay and I’ve been published by Harlequin and The Berkley Publishing Group for the last fifteen years. The Perfect Family, released from Bold Strokes Books, is my thirty-seventh book. My work has been characterized by reviewers and readers as highly emotional, poignant and heart wrenching.

The Perfect Family follows the Davidsons, an average American family with a good life and they consider themselves lucky to have each other. Then their seventeen year old son tells them he’s gay and their world shifts. They have no idea what they will go through after Jamie’s disclosure: Jamie’s father Mike can’t reconcile his religious beliefs with his son’s sexuality. His brother Brian is harassed by his jock buddies and angry at Jamie for complicating all their lives. Maggie, his mother, fears being able to protect her son while struggling to save her crumbling marriage. And Jamie feels guilty for the unhappiness his disclosure has caused. Their story is full of both conflict and love, ending on a redeeming note.

I’m often asked why I wrote this book. I think I’ve been preparing to write it for a long time. When I first started out with Harlequin, I wrote a story about a suicidal teenager who needed the help of adults to get through a very tough time in her life. I’ve written books about getting girls out of gangs, about adults resolving potentially violent situations in schools by working with the kids, and also one novel about adults who were troubled teens in their youth and now help kids like the ones they used to be.

I like to write about adults helping kids. I think it’s because I know from personal experience how much a troubled youth can benefit from an adult’s interest. From a pretty dysfunctional childhood myself, I had two teachers in my life who showed me I was worth something, I was smart and I was deserving of their attention. They both helped me to become the person I am.

I’ve also seen the other side of it where, as a high school teacher, I was able to help many kids by giving them support, guidance and caring outside of the classroom. I’ve dealt with suicidal students, students who were raped, students who wanted to run away because of problems at home. As a matter of fact, one of those students, one I taught decades ago, recently read about The Perfect Family on a Facebook page and contacted me to say how much I affected her life.

 A major reason I wrote this book is because of the personal experience of having my own son come out gay. THE PERFECT FAMILY is fiction, but touches on some of the things my family went through during this process. Truthfully, I’d wished I had a book like this to help me understand what I would be dealing with. Everything hit us at once. Having grown up in a conservative small town, there had been prejudices ingrained in me. How was I to deal with them? How do I tell neighbors, friends, family? Will the school discriminate? There are horror stories about this. And, most of all, is he safe? Eight years later, I’m happy to report that these issues are resolved, except for the last one, which I don’t any parent ever gets over.

 Also, I wanted to portray the opposite of something I think is way overdone in coming out literature: a child coming out gay and his parents abandoning him. Instead, I wanted to show not all parents reject gay kids, but even the most loving ones have many difficult things to deal with.

And finally, I wanted to write a book is about acceptance. Most people want to be accepted. We join churches, community groups and partake in common activities to be with people who are like us and who share the same interests. We play on sports teams and become fans of athletes, TV shows and music stars. Participating with others makes us feel included, like our friends and neighbors, in sync. There’s nothing wrong with this at all. It’s how we manage to stay sane in a pretty alienated world.

What is wrong is when we’re not accepted for who we are, when people isolate us because of our religion, skin color, nationality, belief system or a sexual orientation. This happens in The Perfect Family. Jamie faces many rejections for who he is. But his biggest fear is rejection by his family. He has the most problems with his dad, and although they come through this process closer than ever, it’s a tough experience for them. Each learns to be more tolerant and understanding of the other.

 Jamie also has to deal with other people who are unable to accept him. His best friend from childhood tells him God doesn’t want her to associate with a gay person; his neighbor un-invites him to a pre-prom party because he’s going with a boy; even his brother has difficulty with Jamie’s sexual orientation.

 My wish for this book is that people read it and understand the need for tolerance, acceptance and unconditional love for those who are different from us. Overall, I hope my readers see an interesting family, a different kind of plot and some important messages about life.

You can contact me at Live Journal, Twitter and MySpace.

Kathryn Shay

 P.S. My son Ben and I have a gift for my readers. Ben is a singer/songwriter and made a CD in high school about “loving a boy” and other adolescent issues. We’re offering it free at this very website when you order a book from them at boldstrokesbooks.com.

Keepin’ It Real

Greetings BSB fans!  In the vlog below, I’m broadcasting outside a restaurant in Dallas, Texas. One that’s not in any of my books. The topic of discussion is the use of real locations in novels. I tend to use a lot of actual locations in my novels because I think it adds an authentic feel to the setting. But sometimes real places are too restrictive or, in the case of this particular place, too unbelievable. Check out the vlog and then chime in with your thoughts on this subject. Thanks for watching!

Q&A with Lesléa Newman

 

      Many LGBTQ authors have an ambivalence towards religion which is why readers see it often in their books. Your books often focus on your own Jewishness especially as it relates to your family. What are your reasons for making this a major theme throughout your books?

My Jewish identity is as important to me as my lesbian identity. In fact, when I came out (at age 27) I returned to my Jewish roots and culture (which I had turned away from). When I came out as a lesbian, I realized I would never “fit in” so I might as well embrace all of who I was, which included being Jewish. And I write about Jewish lesbians because I want to read about Jewish lesbians! The Jewish community and the LGBT community have a lot in common. Both groups believe passionately in social justice, not just for themselves but for everyone. Both groups know the importance of community. And both groups are full of powerful, outspoken women!

    Heather has Two Mommies is a widely successful children’s book, one of many you have written. Please tell us how you can effectively write in two different genres? What does this entail for you?

I actually write in many different genres: novels, short stories, poetry, books for teens, books for children. I also combine forms, and write novels in verse, for example. To me, it’s all writing. I get bored easily, so I like to try different things. And there are different things I like about different forms. A novel is a great pleasure to work on, because I know for at least a year, what I am going to face every morning. On the other hand, a children’s book is a great pleasure, because I know that I’ll have finished piece in a shorter period of time. I think because I am a poet, my fiction is filled with images and I pay particular attention to how I use language. As a fiction writer, I often tell stories in verse. Each form informs the other.

      What are you working on now?

I’m working on a bunch of different things: a poetry manuscript called OCTOBER MOURNING: A SONG FOR MATTHEW SHEPARD, which tells the story of the murder of Matthew Shepard and the aftermath of this horrible hate crime in 68 poems. I’m also working on a bunch of children’s books. I’m very proud that my picture book, DONOVAN’S BIG DAY, which takes place on the day Donovan’s two moms get married, will be published next spring.

Jackson, Larkin and BSB take S.C. like a Hurricane

Co-posted by the D.Jackson Leigh and Larkin Rose

S.C. Pride was a great success!

The event was held in a great venue: a beautiful downtown park with a huge lawn, reflecting pool and outdoor stage. Taylor Dayne was the MC of the parade and the headliner for a free show held on the outdoor stage toward the end of the day.

Jackson: We were “booth virgins,” so it was a bit of a scramble and took several trips to WalMart by Larkin’s very patient and helpful partner, Rose, to get our booth squared away. The only thing we lacked was a professional-looking banner or sign that advertised Bold Strokes Books.

We decorated the booth, however, with some Bold Strokes tote bags Rad sent for us to give away and everything was good. We stuffed the bags with promo material a lot of you authors sent to Larkin and gave them away to anyone who bought a book. We also had a stack of “hurt books” and had a “buy one of ours, get a hurt book free” special that was a huge selling point.  The anthologies were particularly popular. Also, giving away a hurt book by an author with multiple titles also puts your work in the hands of a reader who will buy more if they like your story. 

I sold three-quarters of my titles I took, and Larkin, who had more, sold 50 percent of her stock. The fact that Call Me Softly, coming out next April, is set in Aiken, S.C., was a good selling point for me. I gave them a promo sheet I put together with the book cover and an excerpt, and that usually got them to pause long enough to examine and buy one of my current books. I needed that because people were instantly drawn to Larkin’s sexy titles and red book covers. I would point to my books and say “hot romances.” Then I would point to Larkin’s books and say, “red-hot.” (grin)

The icing on the cake were several people who already had bought and read one — or in Larkin’s case several — of our titles and were excited to buy more. Larkin had one lady say, “I’ve already got all your books.”

What more could an author hope for?  SQUEALERS!

Larkin: At the very end of the day, I had a group of college girls stop by the booth.

They inquired about one of my books (I was chatting with another lady at the time) and Rose pointed toward me…”Larkin’s right there.”

They SQUEALED!!!…like, OUT LOUD!!!

It was the coolest thing ever…especially considering the younger market we’re all trying to reach. It was refreshing to see the young crowd grabbing books (and yes, I DID make sure they were legal…lol…which is how I found out they were in college)…as well as them wanting more books, more authors, more of BSB!!!

They bought a book, happily picked out the freebie, then let me take their picture to share with you guys.

Jackson: LOL. The best I got was a middle-aged woman who pointed to Long Shot and said, “That’s you? I loved that book.” Then she bought a copy of Bareback.

Even better, we chatted up a lot of people about Bold Strokes Books. If they stuck their noses up at romances, I usually found they would read alternative fiction, action-adventure or mysteries. So, we told them about the BSB titles that fit those categories.  Many who didn’t have cash with them to buy books gladly grabbed a BSB promo card that listed some of our titles and our website addy.

Our only regret was that we didn’t have one of our Bold Strokes brothers with us, or a selection of our gay titles. We could have sold them. (Larkin thinks I missed my calling as a sales person.) To make up for it, I gave the guys my pitch about how many gay authors Bold Strokes has been adding recently and directed them to our website. They were truly delighted to hear that.

Larkin: We’ll definately be back next year…this time, with a professional banner…*grin*

Yay for BSB!!!

Jackson:  We are so pleased with the results that we’re hustling to get a spot at the Blue Ridge Pride in Asheville on Oct. 2.  A beautiful mountain town, Asheville has a large lesbian community. Hopefully, they like to sit indoors and read when the winter snows hit.

E-mmediate Gratification

by Radclyffe

 

I’ve become a firm devotee of e-books and e-book readers, mostly because I like to read in bed or have options while I’m traveling. Holding a print book while laying down, frequently with a portable light source attached to the book, is awkward. Plus, packing several print books in a computer bag or carry-on gets to be unwieldy and I often end up not having the book that I want when I want it. Finally, I love to look at all the covers of the books in my “virtual library” while traveling and picking out an old favorite to read or a new one that I’ve been waiting to savor.

Does that mean I don’t care about print books anymore? No, not at all. I still purchase copies of all the print books I want to keep in my “real” LGBTQ library because I know that someday they won’t be available any more. Just yesterday, I was shelving an old pulp fiction work that a reader sent me (you know who you are and thank you very much :-)). While in the process I pulled out the first edition copy I have of Claire Morgan’s (aka Patricia Highsmith) The Price of Salt, 1952. I hunted this down on the Internet and it’s clear that this copy has never been read. The cover is pristine and the spine has never been creased. I very gingerly opened the cover (the edges are discolored from age and time and having been stored somewhere in the light). I just looked at the title page and then carefully put it back on the shelf along with perhaps five dozen other pulp fiction works from the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s, some of them in very bad shape. Still every single one is precious to me. So, no, I haven’t forsaken reading (or publishing) print books.

But back to e-books. The other big advantage of e-books is immediate gratification. I’ve always been a quick decision maker. I study the pros and cons of a particular purchase (or course of action, like starting a publishing company or opening the belly of a trauma patient), and if I am able to, I act. This is certainly true for my reading habits. If I want to read something, I don’t want wait. In the days before e-books, I have been known to drive around the county from one Borders or Barnes & Noble after another looking for a book that I just must read right now.

E-books not only save me a little bit of money, they save me a lot of time and gas. Occasionally, however, they also create quite a bit of frustration. Case in point.

Just yesterday I had the must exasperating experience. You’re supposed to be able to get an e-book when you want it, right? So, the huge monster retailer in the sky that shall go unnamed sent out an e-mail notice that an e-book of a particular paranormal author I absolutely love was available. The book was Sin Undone by Larissa Ilone (it’s a demon a series with lots of sexy female and male demons, demon hunters, soldiers—some human, some not) and lots of hot sex. So with great excitement I grabbed my iPad to purchase the book and lo and behold discovered that it wasn’t going to be available for a week. I was greatly disappointed, but I get what marketing is all about and that anticipation sometimes creates more sales. However, I discovered upon further investigation that the print book was actually available a week before the e-book. It was out already!

Now I wasn’t excited, I was pissed off. Why was the e-book release being delayed? Granted, some mainstream publishers delay the release of their e-books (called windowing), hoping to up the sales of their print books, but most have gotten away from that. BSB stopped doing that about a year and a half ago (and we didn’t delay the e-book release initially to push print sales, anyhow, but because we didn’t have the support structures in place to release our e-books simultaneously. We have consequently corrected that with a fabulous digital technician who stays on top of all our e-book needs 24 hours a day. And thank you, you know who you are too 🙂

So just how important is E-mmediate gratification in terms of buying habits (to say nothing of reader satisfaction)? I recently heard someone say that when she went to buy an e-book, if it wasn’t available she just bought something else and moved on. Is this what we do in the age of E-mmediate gratification? Do we search out a title only to find that it isn’t available and then buy something else in its place, forgetting about the first title, never to return? Or, if it’s not available at the particular online retail store where we go to purchase it, will we seek it out somewhere else?

Should we as publishers be anticipating this kind of “get it now or forget about it” buying pattern? If it’s not there when a reader wants it, they’ll never come back? Do we need to have our books available “everywhere,” as a publisher recently told me at a meeting, or can we count on our readers to search out the titles that they want and buy them where and when they’re available? These are not idle questions for a publisher. As a reader, I will go just about anywhere to get a book I want when I want it. How about the rest of you? What will you do when you want a book and you want it now? An interested publisher would like to know. Thanks! Radclyffe


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