Archive for April, 2011

Birth of a Story

My new title, “Call Me Softly” came out this month and I’m
pleased that it already has generated a handful of emails from readers. Hey
Mikey, they like it!

One email also contained a question. “…loved the story line.
How’d that come to you?” That’s often asked of writers, and, as usual, there’s
a story behind the story. My answer is: bits and pieces.

My trademark is that I write about the two big loves of my
life—women and horses. My first book, “Bareback” revolved around Olympic
Equestrian Eventing. My second, “Long Shot” visited the annual Chincoteague
pony swim.

“Call Me Softly” started with my long-standing notion that
polo players look powerfully sexy in their uniforms, dashing about on their
ponies. I’m also attracted to the fast pace of the game, sort of like my
infatuation with basketball. I began to research the game in the United States and was surprised to find that a
hotbed of polo was Aiken, S.C.,
only thirty minutes from where I grew up in Augusta, Ga.
I was familiar with Aiken’s reputation as a Thoroughbred wintering ground, but
had no idea about the polo community there. I had my setting.

While I was brooding over what to write next, I reconnected
with a cousin who owns a beautiful cabin in the North
Georgia mountains. She offered it to me and my partner for a week
of vacation, and we gladly accepted. She and her husband brought my uncle with
them when they met us there to give us the keys to the place. I hadn’t seen
them since childhood.

Uncle Willis is a crusty old retired county agent for the
Agriculture Department and still lives in the rural peach-growing area of Georgia. As a
child, I was a little scared of him because he was very tall and a bit gruff.
As an adult, I discovered that he is an adept story-teller. He drawled out a
delightful tale for us of how he and his cronies meet once a month at an old
gas station, raise the grease rack and throw a sheet of plywood over it to make
a dining table and fry fish for dinner. I knew that had to be a scene in one of
my books.

Uncle Willis is sadly widowed now and seeing him again
brought to mind my Aunt Lila Claire. I was a barefooted little tomboy, who
thought she was exotically beautiful with the regal bearing of a queen. The
reverence in which my uncle still spoke her name both warmed and broke my
heart. From my reminiscing, the character of Lillie Wetherington was born.

Having spent the week at the cabin, we drove to the North Carolina mountains
for a night at the casino in Cherokee. On the way, I looked up to see a sign
announcing that we were entering Swain
County. That’s when the
dashing polo player Swain Butler clicked into place as Lillie’s date to the
romance dance.

All that was left to decide were the dance moves that would
bring the two characters together. While flipping through TV channels in our
Cherokee hotel room, I hit on an old re-run of “Dallas” and started thinking
about the episode where Ray showed up at the Ewing mansion and family matriarch
Miss Ellie opened her arms to the bastard her late husband had sired. That
started me thinking.

Writing “Call Me
Softly”
was a really fun ride for me through the rich tapestry that is the
South. So, grab a copy, mount up and let me now how you enjoy ride.

D.Jackson Leigh

www.djacksonleigh.com

author@djacksonleigh.com

Clifford Talks about her “Special Problem”

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Riding Roller Coasters, and Other Life Lessons

By Robin Summers

I am not the most patient person in the world. Anyone who knows me would tell you that. Actually, they would tell you that I’m about as patient as a four-year old trying to get her mother’s attention, yanking on her sleeve like a German Shepherd with a chew toy, screaming, “Mom! Mom! Mom!” in a rapidly escalating wail when all Mom wants to do is talk to that nice old lady from down the street whose cat just died.

Seriously.

So you can imagine that this whole waiting-for-my-first-book-to-hit-store-shelves thing has been… difficult. My first novel, After the Fall, comes out on July 19, 2011. Three months may not seem all that long to wait, but I got the glorious news that Bold Strokes Books would be publishing my novel waaaaaay back in June 2010. So for the past 9 months I’ve been waiting. And waiting. Then giving my input on the novel’s cover. And waiting. Then editing. Then more editing. And more waiting. And tracking my book’s status on Amazon every five seconds to see if maybe, just maybe, by some miracle, someone pre-ordered a copy.

Let’s be clear. Yes, I’m a freak. And pseudo-real-time, inaccurate publishing “data” is a bad, evil thing to know exists—it means nothing and yet it’s like a train wreck. You just can’t look away.

Having my first book published is a bit like riding the scariest, most thrilling roller coaster around. When I was growing up, it was the “Eagle” (at least that’s what I called it) at what was then called Great America, outside of Chicago. Sure there were other roller coasters at the park that were taller or faster, or that had loops that would make you lose your lunch, but nothing could beat the Eagle.

It was this old, rickety scrap of a thing that you weren’t entirely sure was going to survive the few minutes you’d be on it. Yet everyone—including me, dragging my poor mother behind me—flocked to the Eagle. Why? Because the entire ride was about the first, gut-punching drop, and there was nothing else like it. It seemed to take forever to get to the top, the “clank, clank, clank” of the chain straining to pull us up the long, steep track.

If you were lucky (or unlucky, in my mother’s opinion), you were sitting in the first car. When you reached the top, time slowed. You could see the entire amusement park from up there, like you’d ascended Mount Everest. Then you’d start to crawl over the apex of the first hill, and you’d just hang there. You knew the cars were still moving, but you’d be hanging there staring down the drop, the terror of it making your stomach clench and your teeth ache. And then you were flying, racing down the track so fast you could swear you’d hear a sonic boom any second. It was the closest thing to space flight most mere mortals will ever experience, a few seconds of perfect, exhilarating weightlessness followed by a rather unpleasant and bone-jarring crash back to earth as your stomach slammed back into your body.

As soon as the ride was over, I’d beg my Mom to line up and do it all over again. Because even though it was the most terrifying thing I’d ever done—and even though I absolutely hated waiting for anything, let alone standing in an hour-plus line—all that fear and, yes, even the waiting, made the ride all the more satisfying.

So I remind myself that even as I want my book to be out NOW (insert whiny, temper-tantrum foot stomp here), I am lucky to be having my book published at all. I am grateful to those who have helped me get here, who supported me and took a chance and keep encouraging me every day. And I will happily stand in line, waiting semi-patiently for July to come, and fighting the ever-present urge to keep from clicking the refresh button on Amazon.

The Heart of the Story

 by Sheri Lewis Wohl

In a week, my latest paranormal thriller/romance comes out. It’s not my first but it is different in a way– the lead character is a five-hundred-year-old lesbian. Crimson Vengeance is the first in a four book series that will feature lesbian romances. I didn’t really think too much about it when I began to write Crimson Vengeance, it was simply a vampire love story that spoke to me and something I wanted to write. As it evolved, I was intrigued by the character of Riah Preston more and more. That the central romance was non-traditional wasn’t really front and center in my mind. It was more about a story I enjoyed writing, and one I was very happy with when it was all done.

In all my books, I like diversity. It probably started when I was about seven and thought I could swim. I couldn’t and I was to find out in an almost tragic way. At a crowded public pool in Ontario, Oregon, I decided that I could not only swim but could dive. So, I climbed up the ladder of the diving platform and proceeded to make my inaugural swan dive. It was my first and very nearly my last. Despite the fact that the pool had two lifeguards, no one seemed to be paying attention to the twig-thin blonde who was now bobbing in the deep end. No one that is, except a young black man who, as I was going down for the third time, dove in and pulled me to safety. Though I never knew his name, I’ll always remember his face and the feel of his arms as he saved my life.

I often think of that moment. Not of the terror of the water trying to claim my life but rather the feeling of being pulled to safety. There was no barrier standing between us, no black vs. white, no boy vs. girl. There was no place for thoughts of race, gender, religion, or sexual preference…it was a moment devoted to the simple act of one person helping another. That’s what I remember. So when I write it’s from that standpoint whether it’s a skinny white Canadian psychic, a tall handsome Spokane Indian shape shifter, a sexy black scientist, or a centuries-old lesbian vampire. All are different, all are special, all bring a beauty to the world that would otherwise be missing.

Thus, the story of Riah Preston begins. She is a vampire, she is a medical examiner, and oh yeah, she’s a lesbian. Most important of all, she’s an interesting character that lives (even though she’s technically one of the undead), loves, and tries to do the right thing. And, isn’t that after all the heart of a good story?

Never Give Up

by PJ Trebelhorn

I started writing “True Confessions” when I was 18 because in 1983 there wasn’t a lot of lesbian fiction out there that I could find, and I wanted to write a story about people I could relate to. Lynn and Jessie became like friends to me, and I spent the next 23 years writing that book, but I never finished it. I would write, and then rewrite, and then rewrite some more, and then I would put it away for a months at a time. And then I would rewrite again. I really wanted to finish it, but I think there was a big part of me that was afraid to type The End on that story, because then I would have to actually do something with it.

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2005, and sitting at home alone during the day was driving me nuts. My partner bought me a new laptop for my birthday the next year, with the expectation that I would write. Not wanting to let her down, I finally finished Lynn and Jessie’s story, which over the years had changed immensely, but I was still afraid of sending it out to a publisher. So over the next year, I wrote three other novels, and began sending them to Bold Strokes Books, but was rejected twice before I finally decided to send in “True Confessions”. I was disappointed when I received the rejection for that one, and I didn’t write at all for a few months after that.

When National Novel Writing Month came along in November of 2008, I sat myself down and started writingFrom This Moment On”. I finished it in 6 weeks, and when Radclyffe accepted that manuscript for publication, I was beyond ecstatic. I’ll never forget the feeling of holding that first book in my hand. It was a lifelong dream come true, because I wrote my first short story when I was 7 years old.

But having “True Confessions” finally published—after spending the past 28 years working on it—is the best feeling in the world. I’m going to miss those characters after spending so many years with them, but their story is finally out there, and I couldn’t be happier. I hope the readers are as happy with it as I am.


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