Archive for June, 2012

Shower Scenes

by Barbara Ann Wright

One day in the shower, I decided I wanted to write a lesbian fantasy romance. This didn’t have anything to do with the act of showering; it’s just that I get my best ideas in the bathroom. I’m not sure whether shampoo is my muse or if the mundane nature of the activity gives me room to think. It might have something to do with the creativity constriction imposed on me by clothing…

Okay, getting out of the shower now.

Lesbian fantasy romance! I’d tinkered with LGBT characters before. They’d popped up time and again, but even if they were main characters, their romantic endeavors were brushed to the side. Not this time, though. For my lesbian fantasy romance, they’d be front and center, shoulders forward, facing the world. I just had to write it, and in writing it, I had to face the reason why I’d always put my LGBT babies in the corner.

If I wrote lesbian romance like I wanted to write it, I was scared that my friends and family would know I was bi. Even now, that sentence is still hard to write.

It had never come up before. I’m married to a man; there was no reason to discuss my sexual orientation. Why talk about it at all?

Because there are people who are afraid to speak, who don’t feel that they can, or who know they won’t be loved if they do. Those of us who will be loved have to speak for them. I wanted to write for them. I wanted to give them out and proud lesbians who have adventures, who fight evil, and whose love is bright for all to see.

I got some odd looks from those who know me. Even now, when I give people the synopsis of my forthcoming book, The Pyramid Waltz, they look at me quizzically, at the ring on my finger. I smile at them, even after they say, “So…,” and leave a question hanging in the air. I delight in watching people try to figure out what exactly they want to ask.

A few have asked, “Why lesbians?” to which I laugh and say, “Why not?” When the very confused ask, “Couldn’t you just change one to a man?” I giggle uncontrollably and picture one of my two female leads with a penis. I don’t think it’s just that easy to change, man. After my giggle fit is over, I like to lean in close and say, “Tell you what. I’ll write you a story where they’re both men. Better?”

Small towns, secrets, and shaded tobacco

BY D. JACKSON LEIGH

If there’s one thing we Southerners like, it’s secrets.

We like to keep them. We like to sniff them out. We like to whisper about them.

A secret might involve a crazy relative, a criminal act swept under the rug, or an indiscretion that leads to an additional family member. But all Southern families have them.

That’s why it wasn’t hard to write a second Southern romance following the theme of family secrets.

The first, “Call Me Softly,”  involved the concealed parentage of one of the main characters. “Touch Me Gently” is a second completely stand-alone romance that follows the same “Southern Secrets” theme.

Fleeing the secrets and subsequent betrayal of her closeted lover, Salem Lacey flees her urban life in Atlanta, Ga., for new start in a small rural South Georgia town where she meets the beautiful and mysterious KnoxBolander, a woman who has been rarely touched and never loved because she hides the grandaddy of all secrets.

To unfurl this story laced with a hint of the paranormal, I decided to take my readers to where Spanish moss hangs from huge, gnarled oaks and farmers still grow shaded tobacco in the rich bottom land between the Louisiana bayou and Georgia’s swamps – sort of a rural “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” setting.

I learned about shaded tobacco country when my dad served as a minister for a few years in a tiny town on the Gulf side of the Georgia-Florida border.  I was immediately enchanted by the  grand old houses and wrap-around porches.

They were celebrating “Mule Day” during one of my visits with the annual parade led by a matched pair of Percheron mules. They were huge, gorgeous animals and their owner, my parent’s landlord, was more than happy to give me a history lesson on the importance of mules to “shaded tobacco.”

Unlike cigarette tobacco that is wrapped in paper, cigars are wrapped in an unblemished tobacco leaf. The rich soil in that area was perfect for that variety of tobacco, but the plants had to be grown under the shade of thousands of yards of gauzy cheesecloth to produce leaves unblemished by the sun.  So, long after tractors became farmers’ workhorses, mules were still used to cultivate the rows of plants nestled under the arbors draped in cheesecloth.

But as enamored as I was with the mules,  it was the group bringing up the rear of the Mule Day parade that made me gasp.

High-stepping, smooth-gaited and black as a moonless midnight, the cadre of Friesian horses were an exclamation   the end of an impressive processional. While the mules pulled the cultivating equipment, Friesians with long, wavy manes and tails were the farmers’ choice to patrol their thousand-acre plantations.

“Touch Me Gently” was taking shape. I had a secret, two sexy women and the trademark of my novels, beautiful horses.

What more do you need for a good romance? A lesson learned.

The lesson in “Touch Me Gently” was one I personally learned some years back when I bought property for my own horse farm.

The small Georgia town where I spend most of my childhood was a wonderful place when I was very young.  I spent summers shoeless, swimming in farm ponds and riding ponies. But when I began middle school, I was rudely introduced to the fact that you were only somebody in a small town if you could afford the right clothes, your parents had the right jobs and your skin was white. My parents moved to a mid-sized city when I was twelve and I vowed never to live with small town bias again.

However, another small town – this one in North Carolina – changed my mind about that. The farm property my friends and I wanted to split was very cheap, but the family that owned it wanted to meet the buyers before they decided to sell. We were invited to their Labor Day family picnic and decided only two of us would go so that we didn’t give ourselves away as two couples looking to buy and split the land. Shortly after we arrived, we realized we had worried over nothing when one family member showed up with her wife and another showed up with his boyfriend.

The rest of the town was just as welcoming. Instead of being known as “those women without husbands,” we were known as “those women putting up all that board fencing for horses.”

It was a surprise to us, just like Salem Lacey finds more than a few surprises in the fictional town of Oakboro where folks are more open-minded than you’d think and a fresh chance at love awaits.

June 11th

BY KEN O’NEILL

I had been focused on the date June 19, 2012.  The date my novel, THE MARRYING KIND would be available in stores and from the major online sellers. I hadn’t realized that my book would be for sale directly from Bold Strokes Books. And on an earlier date.

Today, June 11th.

The date is not without significance for me.  It is the anniversary of the death of my older brother, Gene. He died of AIDS on June 11, 1996.  I stared at my page on the Bold Strokes Books website and my eyes filled with tears. But even before the tears hit my cheeks I was laughing.   No matter what date my book was released I would think about my brother—that was certain. But falling on this particular day, I imagine I’ll think of little else.

This is so my brother.

I was always the quiet and shy one. My brother was loud and showy and enjoyed being the center of attention. He was Auntie Mame and I was Patrick Dennis.  When I first moved to New York—years after he did—he had me over for dinner every Sunday.  He would have a rotating cast of fascinating characters but I was always the constant. The timid baby brother who mostly observed while the more gregarious guests smoked and entertained me with tales of their exploits.

I loved my brother but he was very guarded.  I didn’t know many of his secrets.  He was HIV positive for nearly 14 years before he told me.  Actually my mother told me on the phone and through tears: “When your brother has dinner with you tonight he’s going to tell you he has AIDS. Act surprised,” she added, like she’d just spilled the beans on the details of a birthday party.

And that is mostly how it was with my brother. I loved him. He loved me. And there was so much I didn’t know about him.

THE MARRYING KIND was actually due to come out two years ago by another publisher. That did not occur because the publisher went out of business before releasing my novel. Still I spent a lot of 2010 thinking about my book and its possible impact on marriage equality.  I also spent a lot of time wondering if my brother would be proud of me.  I wasn’t sure because I had never thought of Gene as a very political person. He was funny and sarcastic and he threw a great party. But he didn’t fight for his rights.

Around the time my book should have come out but did not, I opened up Time Out magazine and was leafing through to find a film to take my mind off the fact that my book was not coming out! But I turned the pages too quickly and sailed by FILM and landed on GAY & LESBIAN.

There was a feature story on the history of the Gay & Lesbian Center.  Accompanying the article was a photo Of Harvey Fierstein and three unidentified volunteers working on the AIDS Memorial Quilt.  I actually wasn’t sure at first. But there he was.  My brother seated to the left of Harvey.  My brother, it turned out, was an activist.  That was a great gift to learn all those years later.  I imagined then that he would be proud of me and of the message of THE MARRYING KIND.

And I’m very proud of him—of the man he was. I don’t know how he managed to get my book released on June 11th.  But I’m so honored that he did.

Oh, and Gene, since you seem to have a lot of clout: bestseller list?

Shouldn’t it feel different?

 by William Masswa

The first discernable gray hair was no big deal. A fluke. Some random sign of days to come. Nothing to sweat, or fret.

That was years ago. There are more gray ones more now. If I look in good light, I can see them everyday.

Here’s something odd about gray hair (or my gray hair): they don’t feel any different than the curly brown ones. They are just there. When I successfully ignore them (and I do), I don’t feel any older. I don’t feel any different.

 

Unlike the grays, I would have thought being published with TOUGHSKINS would make me feel, well, different. Smarter. More hip. More interesting. More intriguing.

With the release of my novel, I imagined I’d be invited to more parties. Posh parties. My social schedule would be full. With the ongoing book tours, I’d dash from one coast to the other. And what’s this? Europe? Signings in Italy, Germany and France? Oui.

 

Yes, I should feel different. I’m published.

I don’t feel different.

I’d like to feel different. I’d like to think John and Bret, the main characters in TOUGHSKINS, make a difference. I’d like to know that their tender sides reach someone. I’d like to know that their broken hearts touch someone. I’d like to know that what they overcome both alone and together teaches someone.

Am I impatient? Are my aspirations are too high?

Just buy the dang book, people, and love me.  No, like really love me.

Is that too much to ask?

I make jokes here, but, bottom line: I wonder who picks up the novel and lives, even for a moment, with the characters. John and Bret, who I once described as golden retriever puppies—one blonde, the other red—hold some of my soul. They always will.

In the cosmos, that should make a difference, shouldn’t it?


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