I’m Out and I’m Proud: Sweet wines and passion

By D. Jackson Leigh

I refuse to stay in the closet. Not the gay one. I came out of that closet years ago.

I’m talking about the lesbian fiction closet. I’m talking about romance. I’m talking about books that some people curl their lip and call “pulp fiction” like it’s a dirty word because they are afraid of passion. They are afraid to admit their baser need for pure pleasure.

I openly confess that I love sweet wines. It isn’t because they’re cheap. It’s because I don’t like the taste of expensive, dry, bitter wines.

Go ahead. I can see you connoisseurs shaking your heads.

Likewise, I love lesbian romance stories. It can be fantasy, scifi, adventure, intrigue, cops and robbers, mystery, or a simple girl-meets-girl. I want a story that makes me feel something. I want to laugh, and maybe cry and, in the end, heave a satisfied sigh. If there’s a romance and a happy ending in it, I’ll read it. That’s why I also write it.

I find that confessing gets easier as I grow older, because I care less and less how other people judge my palate for wines or reading.

I was reflecting on this after a recent Sunday in which I attended two local lesbian book clubs in the same day. I had tried a one of the clubs more than a year ago and thought the experience had cured me.

I went, expecting to meet enthusiastic readers like the ones who come to P-Town for Women’s Week or attend events like Bold Strokes Books’ Lesfic Festival in Palm Springs, the Golden Crown Literary Society Annual Conference and the LoneStar Lesfic Festival in Austin—just to name a few.

I love those events because writers and readers can talk excitedly for hours about lesbian fiction. It’s like living in the closet and then going to P-Town or Key West and finally being able to hold hands in public.

But back to the book club. There was a bare handful of women, half of whom hadn’t read their selection of the month because they really weren’t interested rehashing the subject of religion and the gay community. We struggled for discussion for about thirty minutes before we began to make polite excuses to escape.

So who selected that book? Nobody would admit to it. I offered to suggest a list of titles people may actually enjoy reading and discussing. The one person who had read the book all the way through, gave me a challenging stare and informed me that I could email the moderator of the group who hadn’t bothered to attend herself for the past several months. I did email her. She never replied. I didn’t go back.

That was until recently, when I decided to give it one more try at a different book club.

The subject was again nonfiction, a book that the group decided was likely an academic paper on the history of heterosexuality (not sure why that subject was relevant to a lesbian book club) which the author had attempted to rewrite for general consumption. It was a struggle to get through the first chapters and subsequent chapters were tediously repetitive, several women said.

I wasn’t the only one who either didn’t read it or didn’t finish it, but because the moderator was well prepared, we did manage an interesting discussion on trends in human sexuality. I found that useful because my next project will be set in the future, and I realized that when I begin building my setting, I’ll need to consider how sexuality may have evolved. I was slightly encouraged by this one positive thing I gained, so when the moderator said she was planning to attend the other book club—the one from my bad experience—later that same day, I decided to give them a second chance.

The afternoon club was reading Jane Lynch’s “Happy Accidents.” Since I had to drive back to Raleigh (where I live and the second club met) and put in some time at the gym, I downloaded the audio version into my phone and listened for the next two hours.

The group had a new moderator, who came prepared with questions to stimulate discussion, and at least a dozen women showed up. Still, like the first group, the large majority admitted they didn’t like the book well enough to recommend it to friends and despite the moderator’s valiant efforts, none of the questions sparked lively discussion.

In fact, a spark was exactly what was missing. We were readers. We took time from our day to come to this meeting and talk with others about books. But there was little real enthusiasm. Where was the passion?

When the moderator asked for suggestions of what to read for the next month, the group was silent. I can be silent. But those times are when I have nothing to say. I always have something to say about books. So, after a long pregnant pause, I offered a suggestion. It was met with more silence. I said, okay, tell me what you like to read and I can make a suggestion in that genre. They stared at each other, at their hands, and the table we sat around.

“I read scifi,” one brave soul finally blurted out.

“Can you be more specific?” I asked. “Some purists mean only outer space stories, but others include fantasy when they say scifi.”

Her eyes lit up. Finally, the spark I’d been looking for.

“Paranormal, I’ll read anything about vampires and werewolves that has a romance in it,” she said with enthusiasm.

The admission was a magnificent step out of the literary closet. She wasn’t the only one. Three others stayed after the meeting so they could quiz me on lesbian fiction. And, I’ve been fuming since that they had been cowed into silence by the people who tell us that only books published by mainstream or academic presses are worthy.

Reading—like music and film and theater—should be a passion. It should bring you pleasure.

So for all of you who feel pushed into the closet by haughty book clubs and best seller lists, do what I do when asked that key question: “What do you write?”

I straighten my shoulders and lift my chin to give them a stare that dares them to smirk and I say, “I’m D. Jackson Leigh, and I write lesbian romances in equestrian settings.

Often enough, I get the snobby reply: “I don’t read romances.”

If they only knew. They could be a character in one of my books—the one who needs to let go and find passion.

—-

D. Jackson Leigh is the author of five romances published by Bold Strokes Books. Her newest title, “Every Second Counts,”Every Second Counts 300 DPI is now available in ebook and print at www.boldstrokesbooks.com.

Every Second Counts

Success for Marc Ryder means riding out eight seconds on the back of an angry rodeo bull. She’s exactly the type of wild and reckless person artist Bridgette LeRoy has avoided since the senseless death of her brother. But circumstances throw them together, and Bridgette is drawn into a tumultuous ride of attraction, passion, and denial. When she realizes it’s the only way to protect her battered heart, Bridgette’s desperate mission to stop Marc’s suicidal return to the rodeo becomes a race in which every second counts.

32 Responses to “I’m Out and I’m Proud: Sweet wines and passion”


  1. 1 freckles3 June 19, 2011 at 10:27 AM

    The first time I went to Gay Pride, was in the late 70’s, I was young, naive, and pretty innocent. (or stupid!). And what a shock I was in for! Looking back on it now, I really hate to admit that I was somewhat embarrassed by what I saw.

    Let me stress again I was YOUNG!! I really thought that all involved were making a mockery of everything. The men were dressed in women’s clothes, facial hair and hairy legs be damned. The women were just as scary, looking more masculine then most men I knew.

    I had just turned 19 and was ready to take on the world. I was a lesbian and proud of it, when the gay world smacked me upside the head. I remember thinking to myself ‘is this what I have to become?’ Let me tell you, it scared the hell out of me! All the signs proclaiming We’re here and we’re Queer…I had always thought that as a derogatory term. I was NOT queer, I was a lesbian damn-it!

    Now I know better. I know what it took to do what all those people did 30 some years ago. Today, you are not going to lose your friends and families just because you are gay, or queer. Yes, it might still happen, but nothing like before. At 19, I thought I was proud to be a lesbian, but I had no clue. So I bought a couple vowels, and I finally got it.

    Yes, some still go for the shock factor, there are still a lot of maybians, and gay for the day people around. But now when I see a Pride event, I no longer run away screaming in fear. I really am proud to be a lesbian, and I cannot thank enough those with the foresight and nerve to start something that has turned into a major event in a lot of cities.

    Nanc

    Like

  2. 2 Karen June 19, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    Wonderful post. Good for you guys for some outstanding grass roots marketing. I’ve done shows like you are talking about, and it is exhausting. But you have touched, and communicated, and exposed many more people to these wonderful books. Nothing beats that one on one personable approach. Congratulations on your success and thanks for letting us know about it! Do you have any pictures from the event you can share?

    Like

  3. 3 bookgeek June 19, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    thanks for making us proud!

    Like

  4. 4 Baxter Clare Trautman June 19, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    Well done, ladies. Years ago after watching “Milk” I vowed that Pride had to be an everyday effort. Even after all these years, when meeting someone unknown, or talking to a casual acquaintance, my first instinct is to chicken out and call my wife my partner, or if she’s not there, go gender neutral with my language. But Harvey Milk was killed so I could have the right to call her my wife. Nor is it a euphemism or wishful thinking. We were legally married in California’ s narrow 2008 window. It is a responsibility I owe to his legacy and the sacrifices of all the queers before me. Scary sometimes, yes, but not nearly as scary as being on the business end of a gun.

    Like

  5. 5 Morgayne June 20, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    I was born a poor little lesbian and raised in the backwoods of Indiana. But then I moved to LA in 1971 and found Hollywood and more specifically Lloyd’s. I met a woman there and we became lovers and walked down the streets of West Hollywood holding hands and my chest swelled with pride at the woman on my arm. My pride today is strong and I think our country can take it. Go ahead ladies! Grab your woman by the arm and strut!!!!

    Like

  6. 6 Diane February 5, 2013 at 9:05 AM

    I’m with you DJL. I always pay attention to the books you recommend on FB. I haven’t been able to purchase them all yet, but I have enjoyed the ones you’ve recommended. And, of course, I love your books. They’re showing wear and tear from me reading them! On the sweet wine and passion as well. There is a local book club, but I’ve never had the slightest interest in reading whatever it is that they’ve picked. I’d much rather read authors I love.

    Like

    • 7 D. Jackson Leigh February 5, 2013 at 9:58 AM

      Thanks, Diane. Really, I love talking about other writers’ books as much I do my own books. I consider myself a reader first, then a writer becasue it was my love of reading that lead me to writing my own books.

      Like

  7. 8 S.A. February 5, 2013 at 9:22 AM

    I loved this blog (and your books). Hear, hear!

    Like

  8. 12 Yvonne Heidt February 5, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    I pass out Bold Strokes Books like candy to all my straight girlfriends – and they LOVE to talk about them! The first book club you returned to – is lucky that you did.

    Like

  9. 14 freckles3 February 5, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Totally agree with you DJ. I love to read all kinds of books, but give me a romance any day and I will devour it! Kinda like i did with your latest book.

    It amazes me how many people say they don’t like romances, when in my opinion, it is one of the purest forms of escapism.

    There is nothing like getting involved in the lives of other women, watching their romance blossom, or in some cases scorch across the pages, while all the problems in real life, big or small, fade into the background. Yeah, the problems will still be there when you are done reading the book, but for those few hours, they didn’t exist. It always seems a little easier to tackle problems after reading a good romance.

    As for book clubs, I think too many forgot what they are for. I always thought they were so a bunch of strangers could get together, discuss a book, good or bad, suggest more books to read, and a chance to make new friends. Not rip apart a book for not being ‘real’ enough, that would never happen in real life, who would believe this?…it’s fiction for Pete’s sake!

    Nanc

    Like

  10. 16 jennie February 5, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    what’s the demographic for lesbian romances and do they sell?

    Like

    • 17 djacksonleigh February 5, 2013 at 12:39 PM

      Romance is the largest selling genre among mainstream and among lesbian fiction. I can’t really speak authoritatively to the demographics, only my personal impressions. When I sell at Pride events, there doesn’t seem to be a specific age category. I’ve almost wanted to ask for ID on some book buyers, and have sold to many “mature” fans. the person who could give you actual demographics would be Len Barot, the owner of Bold Strokes Books. She’s answering questions this week over at Radclyffe-writings@yahoogroups.com.

      Like

  11. 18 Anita Bradshaw February 5, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    Great post, D. Jackson! My experience with most lesfic discussion groups has been like your bad ones. Good luck turning the group around. Makes no sense that lesbian women shouldn’t be sharing the books they love and building community while they are at it. Thanks!

    Like

    • 19 D. Jackson Leigh February 5, 2013 at 8:26 PM

      Thanks, Anita. Found out today that this month’s read is RE Bradshaw’s Out on the Sound. Yea! My buddy, Kathy Bunday, who lives in Raleigh and writes lesbian historical novels, has been helping. She got them to read Decky’s book.

      Like

  12. 20 MF Kelly February 5, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    There is a CBC radio program here in CAnada called The Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean and he is a Fabulous storyteller. One of his best stories involved a book club and I can honestly say I never laughed so much as when he described the goings on in it. It is available as a podcast.
    I also love lesbian romance and am not ashamed to admit it. There I said it!

    Like

  13. 22 Kim February 5, 2013 at 7:44 PM

    Just downloaded your latest today. Can’t wait to enjoy it during my two week business trip. Being away from home is a little easier with “approved” passion.

    Like

  14. 24 Erin Saluta February 5, 2013 at 8:29 PM

    This blog was so right on! I love my books and if they have well developed characters, an exciting story line I don’t care if they are considered romance. I truly appreciate the authors like yourself who are willing to put books I can relate to out there for us to read. Thanks for being proud and out of the lesbian fiction closet!!

    Like

  15. 26 D. Jackson Leigh February 5, 2013 at 9:10 PM

    If anybody’s interested I answered 20 questions about Every Second Counts in the Next Big Thing blog tag. You can see who I visualized when I was writing Marc Ryder and Bridgette LeRoy. http://djacksonleigh2.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/the-next-big-thing-blog-hop/

    Like

  16. 27 Devlyn February 5, 2013 at 9:24 PM

    I’m with you D. Jackson, I am addicted to Lesbian romance novels. I cant get enough of them. I have never been to a book club (we dont have them here) but I feel your pain. I often talk to my friends about lesfic and their eyes cloud over and their faces go blank as they search for a new topic. Wont stop me talking about lesfic as I am convinced they are missing out on some real literary treasures.

    Like

    • 28 D. Jackson Leigh February 5, 2013 at 10:00 PM

      Hey Dev! When Larkin Rose and I began selling at Pride events across the Southeast U.S., we could have been discouraged by the hard work of being on your feet all day, talking and talking and talking to people. But I love the chance to talk to people about lesbian fiction. I’m always hoarse at the end of the day.

      Like

  17. 29 Tina February 5, 2013 at 9:35 PM

    I agree, it is hard to find these clubs that read books that I’m interested in. I read so many books, it would be great to have discussions with others who also have theassion. I truly look forward to LoneStar in Austin for this reason. Great post!!!!

    Like

  18. 31 Salem West February 7, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    Deb – truly proud of you for taking your passion to the people! I will confess, that within the welcoming walls of our very own Lesfic Community, though, I sometimes get the “look.” You know it, the same one you get when you tell people that you like romances. Only I get the look because I say that while I like a good ol’ traditional lesbian romance sometimes, other times I crave for a well-written, innovative story about lesbians that isn’t centered around two women falling in love. While it’s been a few days since I’ve heard the word “heretic” whispered in my presence, I know that some lesfic readers really don’t get what I want or why I would even want it. Que sera. The point is, the world of lesbian literature has opened up so much over the last five years, and truly fine lesbian authors are producing an unprecedented volume of books of all shapes and sizes across the entire spectrum of literature. Its no longer “one size fits all,” and we are most fortunate as a reading population that this has come to pass, because the world is finally getting big enough for all of us. That won’t change the perception or focus of some readers or reading groups, but its a windfall for the rest of us. Thanks for putting this topic “out here.”

    Like

    • 32 djacksonleigh February 7, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      I agree, Salem. While my personal tastes lean toward romance, our community is as diverse as the heterosexual community and we need to offer something for everybody. I happen to think we are getting better at that, too.

      Like


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