Archive for December, 2011

The Amazon Trail: All I Want For Christmas

When I was a kid, there was a popular holidaysong called “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” So what does agrown up dyke wish for at Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukah? After all these yearsof accumulating Stuff, I can think of more I’d rather lose than gain. Startingwith pounds. So no sweet potato pie, chocolate coins or marzipan rugelach andcertainly no stealing Santa Claus’ cookies and milk.

This time of year is supposed to be all about peace. I wouldn’t mind a little of that. No, make that a lot. Put a one-wayticket home in every soldier’s stocking. Take all the military funds and purchase ploughshares, not stock market shares. Plough under all the failed strip malls,strip mines and clear-cuts. Reforest our land. The returning troops and the unemployedcould rebuild the United States from potholes to playgrounds to honest politicians.

It’s not that I don’t want a MacBookAir, an iPhone and a sled full of other cool gizmos, but Verizon just sent me afree android phone whose wonders I’ve barely begun to plumb. It’s not that Idon’t want a hand truck or the coffee table book Vivian Maier: StreetPhotographer. On any given day I could add something new to my stuff lust.

The truth is, I have everything Ineed, including a sled full of electronic gizmos. I have my sweetheart and ourcomfy home and our beloved pets. We are healthy and have jobs. We have caringfamily and friends. I have a new mess of books from the library.

I’ll settle for folding down the seats in my car, covering them with the old army blanket and trundling off to get ourtree. We have the worst luck with trees, but we keep trying. This is our fifthholiday season together. We’re kind of a comedy act around the tree though.

The first year went fine. Except it wasn’t Christmas yet. I flew from Oregon to Florida early in December and mysweetheart met me at the airport wearing a Santa hat. That was the zaniest,most festive gesture she could have made. Immediately, it really was theholiday season. We went to an outdoor stand all lit up with colored lights and gota beautiful, fresh tree. We loaded it with a bountiful supply of decorations.

By the second year, we had u-hauled mecross country and were still unpacking.  Wedidn’t have time, energy or space for a tree.

So for our third Christmas together, wewent to a PTA fund raiser and found the most perfect tree I’ve ever seen.Should I mention my sticker shock at the cost of trees? I remember paying $15.00;now you can spend $85.00 on a tree. Yet, while my sweetheart was content with amere six footer, I knew she’d always wanted a big one. She couldn’t stopsmiling at the nine-footer I chose, not knowing what lurked within.

But, okay, my sweetheart is an oldfashioned girl and likes her trees so we brought home this perfect tree, luggedit into the dining room and stood it up. A clump of mud fell to the floor.Except, was that mud? What was that? A cry went up from my ferocious femme. “It’sa mouse!”

It was indeed a mouse. A dead mousethat fell out of our perfect tree. What else were those branches hiding? Yuk! I removed the poor critter, but we were skeeved out. It was like finding a cockroach in your entrée; you lose your appetite.

Then, of course, it didn’t fit in the tree stand.  We bought it a big sturdy stand. Somehow, we managed to control our gag reactions long enough to get itupright. Nevertheless, we had no desire to decorate it. So it stood in the dining room bereft and when the holiday cards arrived we used them as garland until we took it to the recycling center.

In our fourth year we were exhausted from a major surgery and marriage planning. We would be out of town for the holiday. We were a bit leery of the whole live tree experience, but artificia lwouldn’t do. No tree.

This year, I found a Groupon. Forty dollars for an $80.00 Douglas fir. How could we resist? Sure, we’d have to trek forty-five minutes north to get it, but hey, this is the land of Mickey Mouse.The mouse lives, right? We are over the dead mouse.

Last Sunday we trekked.  We scoped out the web site, Google-mapped, GPSed,called ahead. We got up there and couldn’t find the darned place. Turns out, it was so tiny we passed right by. Some u-turning went on and we pulled up to it. Theplace was locked up, shut down, closed despite its Sunday hours.

We called them, left a message, gaveup. We came home determined. My sweetheart went up into the crawl space andslid tote after tote of decorations down the ladder to me. Our home is adornedwith many-hued totes. Will we get to empty them this year?

All I want for Christmas is to see my sweetheart smile when we light up our tree.

Copyright Lee Lynch 2011

Drawn to Disaster

by Kim Baldwin

I’ve always been interested in real life stories of endurance, survival, and resourcefulness, especially when that struggle is tied to nature. My home library contains several hundred volumes of nonfiction shipwreck and lost-at-sea stories, mountain climbing mishaps, polar exploration, plane crashes, epic journeys and quests, held in captivity autobiographies; you get the idea. No surprise I like movies like Castaway, 127 hours, The Edge, Touching the Void, Vertical Limit.

Most of my solo novels reflect these tastes: Hunter’s Pursuit opens during a blizzard, Force of Nature with a tornado, Whitewater Rendezvous had a bear attack, rapids, and other perils, Flight Risk had an air bombing, to name a few. High Impact, my new release, (available now on the BSB Website), has a plane crash, and survival and endurance are major themes explored on several levels. It’s my third book set in Alaska, a majestic canvas that I love for its beauty and broad scope of adventure possibilities. From the email I get, I’d say it’s a milieu that resonates with readers as well.

While I love writing about brushes with death and other calamities, I now approach each new writing project with some measure of caution. The reason? From almost the time I started writing, I’ve had a number of uncanny coincidences where my real life imitated my fiction, and not usually in welcome ways.

Many of you know about the most notorious of these ‘coincidences’, because I’ve blogged and posted pictures of it. In Force of Nature, Erin’s cabin in the Michigan woods (which was based on my own home) is destroyed by a tornado.  After the book had been sent to the printer, just before its release, I had my own tornado—the first ever registered in my county. It only affected my property, downing 200 trees and taking out my power line, propane tank, and denting my metal roof.

There have been many other coincidences as well, too numerous to count. So many, that when I started relaying them to friends, a few suggested I write a book where a character wins the lottery or something, and maybe that would come true, too! Well, I took that suggestion to heart in a way when I wrote Focus of Desire. The main character, Isabel Sterling, wins a trip around the world, money, a makeover, and other great things. Did any of them happen? Nope. What coincidence DID happen after I wrote Focus?  I made Isabel clumsy, so of course as soon as the book came out I started tripping and walking into things in a way I never did before. I’m not joking here—I’ve broken my toes several times and even walked into a plate glass a couple of years ago.

So what effect has writing High Impact had on my real life, you might be wondering about now? I’m blaming my ongoing airline problems with my tendency to write about flying mishaps (Flight Risk, then Breaking the Ice, now High Impact). Ever since Flight Risk came out, I’ve rarely escaped some major drama when I fly, which is a few times a year. Some rare mechanical problem will surface to delay the flight several hours (the exit light won’t turn on, they don’t have the right tool to change the tire, the airport’s only de-icing truck just broke down), or some freak weather problem will happen. I was booked on a flight to Europe to write one of the Elite Operatives books with Xenia (Alexiou) the very same day the volcano in Iceland first erupted, stranding me in Detroit. On another occasion when I was in Europe to write an EOO book, I came home on the very same Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight the ‘underwear bomber’ had flown a week earlier. Security screenings that day took five hours, delaying the departure so long everyone on board missed their connecting flights.

The last few flights I’ve taken as High Impact was written and edited have had fairly monumental issues, forcing rebookings on other airlines, long delays, searches for lost baggage, and similar problems. My most recent mishap was one of the most harried and unusual. I arrived at the airport in Grand Rapids in late October in plenty of time for my late afternoon flight to Detroit, where I had a two-and-a-half-hour layover before my connecting flight to Paris. My traveling companion and I had been planning this two week European trip for many months—the first real vacation I’d had in a very long time. I’d been working all year on two books simultaneously (High Impact and Demons are Forever, out in March) and was finally taking a break from writing.

Things went smoothly until we got to the gate. Not long after we sat down, the board departure time slipped by twenty minutes, then thirty. An announcement was made that our plane hadn’t yet left its previous stop because of weather. I had already kiddingly warned my companion that she risked air woes by traveling with me.

The departure time slipped further, until we now began to worry we wouldn’t make our connection. When the plane finally got in and people began to get off, I overheard one gate agent tell another ‘the crew has timed out’, and my heart sank. Knowing what was coming, we ran back through the terminal to ticketing as they officially cancelled our flight over the loudspeaker and were first to be rebooked.

There were no more planes to Detroit until the next day, which left only one way to get us to Paris as scheduled. (We had prepaid for our stay in a rented apartment.)

We ran to the taxi cab stand in front of the airport with a ticket agent, who handed the driver a voucher and told him to take us to Detroit metro ASAP. I never thought we’d make it—there was a thunderstorm raging, it was already dark, and if you Google the distance, it says it’s a two and a half hour drive, and we had just about exactly that much time before the last Delta flight departed for Europe (heading to Amsterdam, we’d get to our final destination five hours later than expected).

But our Pakistani cabdriver gladly accepted the challenge, and covered the 150 miles at an average 80 miles an hour, often straddling both lanes of traffic as the rain poured down in torrents and lightning flashed all around us. In the back, we murmured ‘we’re going to die’ under our breaths, wondering what kind of omen this was for our trip. He got us there in time, I’ll give him that, and fortunately it was so late there were no lines at either ticketing or security and we made our rebooked flight.

My next trip will be to Palm Springs for the BSB Book Festival next March, an event I always look forward to. If I’m late, I’m probably stranded in some airport somewhere. On the upside, I’ve gotten quite a lot of frequent flier miles added to my account to apologize for all the problems – 5,000 alone for the taxicab-deathtrap diversion.

The eerie coincidences won’t deter me from writing about natural disasters and the like in future books, but they do give me pause sometimes when I thrust my characters into peril.

Squelching the Sophomore Slump

Jerry L. Wheeler

This year has been quite heady for me, but it all really started in September 2010 when my first anthology of erotica, Tented: Gay Erotic Tales from under the Big Top, was published by Lethe Press. It got some great reviews, but gay circus erotica is—to say the least—a niche market, and I was ecstatic to simply get my firstborn out into the world.

And then it became a Lambda Literary Award finalist.

I had put it into nomination with faint hope and $35.00, and I don’t think anyone was more surprised than I was when I checked the website the morning the finalists were announced to find that Tented was among them. Coincidentally, I had been contacted by the judging coordinator of the Lammys to judge another category, so the Lammys loomed large for me. I made reservations and plans to go to NYC.

I lost. Or as my friends say, I didn’t win.

And I was okay with that. As the losers (or not winners) on all awards telecasts say when the cameras are on, “It’s just an honor to be nominated.” And it was—especially for my first book out. My powers of rationalization then took over, and I considered how difficult it would have been for my next project to measure up had I actually tripped my way to the stage and took home an award. Losing (or not winning) never looked better. But Tented had achieved some measure of success, and I had to make sure the next book was up to snuff.

As my introduction to Riding the Rails suggests, a personal experience with sex on trains led me to want to do a whole anthology with that theme. There’s such a wonderful connection to the past with trains, not to mention so many opportunities for sex, that I  knew authors would be intrigued by the concept. And if my authors are intrigued, so are my readers.

With all my anthologies, I strive for themes not normally explored in erotica. Whenever I encounter a list of Calls for Submissions, I’m chagrined by the lack of variety in those calls—it’s all daddies and college boys and twinks. I like something new and different—like circus sex (and yes, there were clowns in that book). And train sex. And restaurant sex (that’s the book after Riding the Rails, called The Dirty Diner, due out July 2012 from the wonderful people at Bold Strokes Books).

And, apparently, authors enjoy writing for those calls. I received some amazing stories for Riding the Rails—historical stories, time travel stories, interplanetary stories, psychological stories, even a story about a sex angel. Of course, it helps if you have a core group of authors to work with. I usually put a closed call for submissions out simply because I like knowing the people I work with. It seriously cuts down on the drama. But again, you have to keep things fresh, so I’m always adding and subtracting names from that list.

And Riding the Rails has some of the best and brightest names working in erotica today, featuring established favorites (Jeff Mann, Dale Chase, William Holden, Gavin Atlas, ‘Nathan Burgoine, Rob Rosen, Hank Edwards, Rick R. Reed, Erastes), up and comers (Joseph Baneth Allen, Jeffrey Ricker, Daniel M. Jaffe, Jay Neal, Dusty Taylor) and first publications (J.D. Barton) with an incredible array of stories—some hilarious, some bittersweet, some romantic, some creepy and some flat-out weird. But all of them have the hottest sex you’ll ever see on trains.

My cure for the sophomore slump? Come up with a creative concept, surround yourself with as much talent as possible, edit with scissors instead of pruning shears, find a supportive publisher and …

… maybe this year I’ll get to use that acceptance speech.

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