Archive for April, 2014

The Amazon Trail

Single in the Age of Marriage Equality

BY LEE LYNCH

What good is being gay when you have no one to love? What good is gay marriage when you’re single?

During the periods I was single, I watched a lot of films, at home, alone. The selection process had to be very cautious. Romance was out. Drama too, as my emotions were too raw after breakups. Suspense and mystery were iffy; I’m more easily spooked when I don’t have someone to protect. Sci fi creeped me out. Comedy was about the only choice left.

Silly me: I confused animated films with comedies. Despite Eddie Murphy’s excellent donkey portrayal, “Shrek” was not a good choice. Even a big green ogre with funny ears had someone to love! The poor-me’s took over that night and afterwards I went back to the likes of Jackie Chan and “Men in Black.”

Goddess willing and the creek don’t rise, I won’t ever be single again. I’m not sure I could survive all the great news about winning our rights to marry.

Some of us enjoy the freedom of bachelorhood, others decidedly don’t. Some of us are better off single than attached to the wrong person; others would rather be imperfectly hitched than be Netflix’s best customer.  I thank my very lucky stars for the perfection of and perfect match with, my sweetheart.

Way back when, Robin Tyler titled her comedy album, “Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Groom.” It was just a joke thirty-five years ago, but now it would bother me to be in that situation. Then I think about Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, and veteran gay marriage groundbreaker as far back as the landmark Hawaii marriage case, Baehr v. Miike (1990 to 1999).  The entire time he was pioneering our way to marriage equality, he was single. It was only in 2002 that Wolfson found his mate and 2011 when they legally wed in New York. All those years he worked for a goal that might never have benefitted him.

I’m sure he’s not the only one. The funds required to reach our victories could not possibly come only from gay couples. Butch bachelors and maiden femmes and free-spirited gays have contributed to the miracles of the 21st century. They have not been sitting at home

crying over Shrek’s good fortune. They’ve attended the marriages, stood up for the betrothed, even performed the ceremonies.

So why do I feel guilty? Why do I want to tone down the hoopla just a bit, so those who need to can escape? Why do I feel protective of these masters of their own fates?

I fear my answer lies deep in the cultural imperative to marry. Throughout history the spinsters and old maids, the old bachelors and mama’s boys have been pitied and looked down on for their lack of mates. Young women’s lives were focused on snagging husbands and young men’s careers depended on having wives.

Even deeper are the reproductive mandates. The “poor” couple who can’t have kids. The barren wife and the sterile husband who are somehow less than the robustly fertile breeders who can’t afford to feed their broods. We’re taught early to tiptoe around childless het couples and to be sensitive about their inability to overpopulate the planet.

What arrogance that culture promotes! It may have been important in the beginning of time to mate and populate; there may be biological urges we feel compelled to fulfill. The planet is running out of food and water. We should honor those strong enough to go their own sweet ways, just as we do those who want to live in tandem. We need to cultivate respect for humans who are simply happy to keep their own company.

The fortunate implementation of gay marriage will, I hope, carry over the benefits of the tradition and leave behind the old patriarchal baggage of non-gay marriage. The rules that dictated prohibition of same sex partners on insurance plans, in intensive care units, as foster parents and on and on, were devised out of prejudice and greed. When civilization as we know it was being organized through trial and error, one of the biggest errors was creating a structure based on male inheritance. It forced men to claim as their own women, children, stock, property, currency. Any deviation from that schema was eventually criminalized.

Thus, unmarried people, straight or gay, who for the most part did not reproduce and therefore did not pass on ownership of lands or water rights or coins to their own flesh and blood, became criminal deviants. The ability to marry saved non-gays from that fate. But for us, it all went downhill from there.

Let’s not make marriage the law of our gay land. Now that some of us have the legal right to marry, we are not suddenly superior to those who choose not to. Maybe there are gays among us who envy Shrek’s connubial delight and maybe those are few and far between. Love takes many forms in this world; happiness comes in a million shapes. Every one of them is good. Just being gay, for many of us, is enough cause for celebration.

 

 

Copyright Lee Lynch 2014

April 2014

BOLD STROKES BOOKS INTERVIEW with AUTHOR TANAI WALKER

by Connie Ward

TanaiWalkerLg

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I have wanted to be I writer since I was fifteen. I was always an avid reader, and once I read The Stand by Stephen King, I was so transfixed by the plot and the characters that I wrote my own novel during the summer. It was eighty pages long, and it was about an alien conspiracy in a small desert town that is uncovered by a group of teenaged girls.

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I write a mix of horror, paranormal, spec, and urban fantasy. I have always been attracted to the dark side of existence, the macabre and the grotesque. I grew up watching Alfred Hitchcock and The Twilight Zone with my mother, and horror movies with my dad. My grandmother used to tell me real-life ghost stories of her experiences growing up on old plantation land populated by the spirits of slaves. You could say these stories are in my blood, and in a way I am retelling them to as many people as will listen.

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 My mom and dad are very doting parents. They indulged anything my siblings and I ever showed an interest in. They will never admit it, but my early writing habits worried them, especially my mother. I would lock myself in my room for hours, before school and after, and write these weird stories. My dad was my first editor and actually taught me how to outline. So my dad saved me from being a pantser. I have three sisters and two brothers, who are all very supportive. We are all major fan geeks, and we argue over the plot and the actions of characters all the time. I always have a ton of experts to run ideas by. My little brother Terrence is always trying to force ideas on me.

My partner Janette is the perfect writer’s spouse. She loves all of my stories and my blog and just about anything else I do. Right now, she is my biggest fan.

Where do you get your ideas?

My novelSacred Fire Sacred Fire 300 DPI came to life when I came across a picture on the Internet of an antique erotic postcard. I wondered what would happen if I saw the woman walking around today in regular clothes. The rest of the story sprang from that little seedling-idea. I also like to read true-crime and true-occult books. Colin Wilson’s The Occult, which I read in high school, has probably supplied me with enough spooky material for a lifetime. I am also big on reading mythology. A lot of our stories and modern archetypes of characters are recycled legends and myths that were told over the hearth back when people were afraid to venture outdoors at night. I like to tap in to those old stories. They are so meant for retelling.

 

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

I started off as a pantser, but my dad taught me how to outline. I would use index cards to write down all the scenes that I wanted in my book. I would then spread out all of them on my bedroom floor and group them into chapters. Now I use Scrivener to organize my scenes and chapters.

What makes Sacred Fire special to you?

It took me three years to write this book. It just would not gel right for the longest time. Since I was fifteen I have written a dozen books. Each time I started a new book, I would tell myself: “This is the one that’s going to get published.” It was probably a little foolhardy of me, but I’d been bitten by the bug. Somehow the feeling was strong with Sacred Fire. I think it took so long to write because I wanted it to be just right.

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

My characters tend to be independent and reserved, but that is as far as I go about putting myself in my stories. I am currently working on a series, and I have written in my youngest sister as a conspiracy theorist.

 

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite

of this author(s)?

The lesbian authors that have most inspired me are Jordan Redhawk and Nene Adams. I used to read their online stuff when I was in high school and could not have lesbian literature lying around. I was so thrilled to meet Redhawk at the GCLS con. My life’s dream is to meet Nene Adams.

My favorite authors are Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, and Toni Morrison, to name a few.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Never give up. If you have an idea, write a draft. If you have a draft, get some friends to read it. Write it again until you get it just right. You never know when your break will come. You want to be ready.

 

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

 I have three dogs, and they are always good for a bit of free fun. I’m a bit of a gamer. My console of choice is the Sony Playstation 3, and I am hoping to get the 4 this summer. I play DC Universe and the Elder Scrolls series. My partner and I love going to the movies.

Lost for Words

BY ANDREA BRAMHALL

Andrea Bramhall

Did you know that 20% of the world’s population is illiterate?

No?

Well, did you know that 66% of those illiterate people are women?

No?

Did you know that as a whole the continent of Africa has less than a 60% literacy rate?

 

Did you know that even though 98% of the world’s illiterate people are concentrated in three main area’s – South and West Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Arab states – developed nations are also facing growing literacy issues?

No? I did.

Did you know that in the U.S. more than 93 million people have basic or below basic literacy skills? No? I did. What about the U.K? Did you know that 1 in 5 adults are classed as functionally illiterate?

No? I did.

I read it somewhere. I’d been reading since I was a little tot and I’d read about illiterate people. I lived in South Africa as a child, and I met quite a few people who couldn’t read. Unfortunately, in South Africa in the eighties, they were all black, they worked in the mines, or as garden boys, or as maids. And I understood that part of the fight against apartheid was about the inequality of education. As a child who loved school, it was my only frame of reference and the way it had been explained to me was that they were fighting to have the same education and chances in life that I had…well, that made sense.

Kind of.

But I was born in England. My parents were born in England and tracing back my family tree we’re talking at least eight generations born and raised in England. One of the wealthiest, most educated countries in the world. And when I was twelve I found out something that shocked me about my Granddad Adshead – my mum’s dad. I found out he couldn’t read. He couldn’t write. Not even enough to sign his own name. I saw a copy of his marriage certificate – he marked it with a cross.

Illiteracy was no longer a storyline in a book. No longer a way of keeping the down trodden at heel, or something to be wondered over with sympathy. Pity.

It was a part of my own family. My heritage. My close heritage. A touchable, breathing, part of my lineage. I loved reading, books were my life, and all I wanted to be was a writer. And suddenly I really started to understand the difference education makes-that reading makes-to a person’s life.

My granddad rarely worked, and what work he did get was low paid. When he couldn’t work my grandmother had to go with him to the benefits office to sign on–because he couldn’t read the forms and he didn’t want the employment officers to know he couldn’t read. He was an angry man. Angry at the world and all of us kids. He was difficult to get to know and even more difficult to love. He shied away from people, spent time raising canaries instead. He said he preferred their company. I found out later that this was a defense mechanism because he was ashamed and embarrassed. He didn’t want anyone to know his secret as he’d been bullied and ridiculed when he was young because of it.

When I found out I hoped I’d never see another child bullied or ridiculed because they couldn’t read-because they wanted an education.

That was a hope too much.

Last year I read about a girl who made me cry. A child so desperate for an education that she stood up to a group of bullies and said I refuse to be bowed by you. I deserve better. I deserve more. And I will not let you stop me.

Malala Yousafzai. The 15 year old Pakistani school girl who was shot in the head by a masked gunman from the Taliban because she wanted to learn. She wanted to earn herself a better life, one she hopes to use to bring peace, stability, and equality to her people.

Somehow she survived the gunshot and has gone on to prove what a powerful motivator the desire for education, for learning, for reading can be, when she stood up as a UN special envoy for global education and told the world that she would not be stopped. That her persecutors had only made her stronger and more determined to achieve her goals.

Women like Malala will change the world.

Now, I hope for more like her.

So, you’re probably wondering why I’m banging on about global education and what that has to do with my latest book release, Nightingale. BSB-NightingaleWell, simply put, I’m not spilling the beans. You’re going to have to read it to find out, but it does become clear. I hope you take a look. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

For a chance to win a free paperback copy, email me at andreabramhall@rocketmail.com and the winner will be drawn at random.

BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW with JOVE BELLE

by Connie Ward

JoveBelleLg

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I don’t know that it was a choice. I’ve always wanted to write a novel. Then one day a friend from work told me about her writers’ group and the novels she’d written. That moment was a catalyst for me. I suddenly felt very silly about not writing, like I couldn’t think of a single good reason why I hadn’t already done it. And then I started writing.

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

That seems like it should be such a simple question to answer…

I write lesbian romance. Sometimes suspense. Sometimes erotica. Always lesbian.

Why? Because lesbians kick ass. Clearly.

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

Most of them haven’t read any of my books. Or if they have, I don’t know about it. That’s my doing, not theirs, by the way. I just can’t imagine being able to have a normal conversation with my mother-in-law after she’s read a sex scene that I’ve written.

That said, they all think it’s cool. For sure. How many are lucky enough to write books AND have them published? That’s totally badass. My family and friends are suitably impressed. 🙂

 

Where do you get your ideas?

I have no idea. Everywhere? Life? I think about characters I would like to know, and then it all just sort of goes from there.

 

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

I have a vague idea how it’s supposed to go. I know the beginning and the ending. The stuff in the middle unfolds as I go.

 

What makes Uncommon Romance special to you?

That question makes me laugh. For those who haven’t read Uncommon Romance, BSB-UncommonRomanceor know what it’s about, let me offer a little background. Uncommon Romance is a collection of three erotic novellas. It’s by far the smuttiest thing I’ve written, and it was a blast.

But it still makes me giggle to think of it in the context of why it’s special to me. I’m enough of a prude (my mother’s influence) to turn into a fourteen-year-old, incapable of doing anything but blush when thinking about how incredibly dirty it is.

Is it special to me? Sure. It was empowering to write these incredibly graphic scenes about women claiming their sexual power.

Also, Uncommon Romance was a total experiment for me. It’s my first release that’s straight-up lesbian erotica, not romance with erotic elements. Also, it’s a collection of three novellas, rather than one longer story. If I do another erotica release, I think it’ll follow this format again. I like the tight density of a novella. It packs a really solid punch without getting tedious.

 

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

I don’t model my characters after people I know, for the most part. I do grab certain characteristics that I like and give them to my characters, but I’m not sure that’s the same thing. I don’t have a single character who, as a whole, could be claimed as a tribute to a living person.

Let me explain. My mom was very conservative, yet one of her staple beliefs was that you treat people with love and respect, no matter what. She believed that people have the right to choose their own path. And it wasn’t her job to act as judge for those decisions. So, even though we were at odds about a lot of things, we were also able to maintain a close and loving relationship.

The moms in “Love and Devotion,” “Split the Aces,” and “Chaps” all share that in common. They treat their children with love and deference and don’t try to live their lives for them. But none of those moms would ever be mistaken for my mom. Ever. They share that one characteristic, but everything else is different.

 

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite book of this author(s)?

Wow. So many. Cate Culpepper, Gill McKnight, Yvonne Heidt, Andi Marquette, Lynette Mae, Ashley Bartlett… The list goes on.

The important thing I want to illustrate here is that every one of those women writes in a way that touches me. But more than that, they also have done so much to support me as a writer and to support lesbian fiction as a community.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Find a good writing group. Participate. LISTEN.

 

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

A perfect day involves time on my bike. I’m not in great shape, but riding my bicycle makes me feel like I can do anything.

 

Which is the favorite of the books/stories you’ve written and why?

Wow. That is such a tough question because everything I’ve written was incredibly important and filled a specific need when I wrote it. Objectively, though, Love and Devotion is my favorite right now. I expect that will change in the next ten minutes.

 

I wrote that book after taking a two-year hiatus from writing. I lost my mom, and it took me that long to get to a place where I could even think beyond the grief of that loss. Writing that book meant that I was healing. And I’m really proud of the results. 

Kings of Ruin

by Harmoni

Kings of Ruin

This is the book of my DREAMS because I love cars and awesome supernatural/scifi novels. When you put them together it is an unbelievable story. When I first brought this book home, my father told me he thought the book would be more for boys and not for girls because it has to do with cars and alien-like elements. But I told him it doesn’t matter what gender you are, you can still read the book. And now I want there to be a sequel so that I can continue reading Danny’s adventure.

I can connect to Danny because of his love of cars and going fast, but I will never get my license taken away. I also won’t be reckless. Danny is reckless when he’s about fourteen years old, which is my age right now. He steals a car and drives away from the cops but crashes. As a result, he cannot get his license until he is twenty-one.

When people think of a book with cars, they think male teens should read the book and not female teens. But this is stereotyping because I read the book and loved the book. I love cars because I grew up around cars. It’s not just a “boy” thing. And it’s not just a gay or straight thing. I know how to fix cars, add things to them, and like Danny, I know how to drive even though I’m not sixteen yet. When I’m working on cars, I feel free. Cars are not like people, and they’re not like animals. You have to work on them, and it’s work you can enjoy even though it can take a long time. But in the end it’s a relief because now the car works, and you’re the one that fixed it.

Danny has a sister, and so do I, which is another connection we shared. Rachel reminds me of my sister because she’s really uptight. When she’s talking to Danny, she has that “I’m better than you” status, which is probably normal because she is a step-sister, and her father is Danny’s step-father. I also have a stepfather. This book is filled with connections for me! That could be another reason I connected so strongly to Danny. Danny’s stepfather cares about him and is worried about him, just like my stepfather worries for me. I’m glad the stepfather was portrayed a sympathetic character because it makes it less “Cinderella” like with the “evil” stepmother/father/sibling aspect.

The book is written from Danny and Kevin’s perspective. Kevin is another teen who works to try to find the Kings, which are alien-like substances that take over vehicles to make people crash. The changes in viewpoints give readers a new view on what the characters see and how they feel for events that are happening to them. I connected to Danny more because when he’s doing something, he does it for some specific reason, whether for someone he loves, or because he likes it. Kevin is more “I’m doing this, and I’m doing it without you” because he leaves Danny behind. But Danny keeps pushing and that leads me to think there might be a sequel.

I recommend this novel to teens that like aliens, cars, and romance. There is romance in this book between Danny and Kevin, and Danny is afraid to come out until he’s out of high school. Danny goes to a boarding school and pretends he has a girlfriend, even though he’s gay. I didn’t mind this because it’s what he likes, and it made him more real. And Kevin’s more out in the open about being gay, and he’s more sure that he liked Danny, but he did try to hide it a little.

There NEEDS to be a sequel to this book!

BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW with HEATHER STUYVESANT

by Connie Ward

HeatherStuyvesantLg

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I don’t really remember a time when I did not want to be a writer. My parents were both avid readers, and I was brought up in a house with literally thousands of books. I really cannot imagine life without books, and my favorites have always been fiction, though I read lots of genres.  I have been through several careers, ranging from theater design to engineering, but I always come back to writing as my true love.

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

 

My stories definitely fall into the dark speculative-fiction category. My fascination with the supernatural and the darker sides of the human psyche shaped what I write about. If I watch television, I almost always head straight for the shows about true crimes and psychos on the loose. It probably says something about me.

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

My sister and some of my friends have been very supportive, even if they may think I am out of my mind, but many of my friends and family are either not aware that I write or have expressed limited interest.  The most common reaction to my news that Kryos had been picked up by BSB was “You write?” That was usually followed quickly by a look of terror when they realized I might want them to read it. That is the danger of associating with engineers, I suppose: say fiction novel and they turn off.  My online friends, on the other hand, have been great, very supportive and very helpful, even when I am being even more neurotic than usual. I am lucky to have friends all over that help me get a different perspective on things.

Where do you get your ideas?

 

My ideas come from everywhere. My mind wanders all the time. People think I am just flaky or scatterbrained, but really I am probably torturing some characters in my head instead of paying attention.  I always have a story or character floating around that I like to take out and see if I can break them.  Even if I am not actively working on a project with the characters, I still have a whole cast to play with when I’m supposed to be doing something else.  The upside of that is that I rarely get bored. Silly things, like the unusual way a person moves, or the combination of the song on the radio and the way the sun just came through the clouds might make my muse wake up and start digging around in the virtual trunk to see where it might fit.

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

 

Both. I start with a plan but let it go where it needs to.  This works really well when working with Idun; we try to plot out the major points and then adjust those as we go, though no matter how much planning and plotting we do, the characters sometimes refuse to behave and take things in a different direction. I feel that planning is good, but you have to be open to whatever happens or you’re going to end up with a finished product that doesn’t feel right.

What makes Kyros special to you?

 

KryosBSB-Kryos is very special to me because it is almost like a child.  It was very organic in its development, and the story we ended up with is not the story we originally plotted. We worked and reworked the plot, the main arcs, the characters, everything until they all decided to play nice with each other.  When I work with Idun, we each take a character (or two, or three) and focus on developing them so as we write we can play off each other so the novel can grow more naturally.  There is always an element of surprise when working with another author. You think a scene or story may be going one way, but because it is not just you playing in the sandbox, sometimes something so much better comes out.

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

 

Surprisingly little, actually. I have a project now that is based on a dream a friend told me he had, so the main character does have a bit of him in it, but for the most part, no.  I try not to put too much of myself or the people I know into the characters; they are their own creatures. Also, I am very dull and would make a terrible character.

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite

of this author(s)?

 

My fascination with gay fiction started a long time ago, before I even knew it was something anyone was writing; it was pre-Internet in those days. Then I discovered slash fan-fiction, which led to Yaoi, which led to authors like Sarah Monette, Alyx J. Shaw, Storm Constantine, and Lynn Flewelling.

If I had to pick a favorite from these authors I would have a really hard time because they all fill a different spot in my life. Sarah Monette and her Doctrine of Labyrinths series is an all-time favorite of mine; Felix is delightfully deranged and twisted.  Alyx J. Shaw’s Strange Place in Time series is so fun that I could not put the books down.  Lynn Flewelling’s books are also some of those I go back to like comfort food if I find myself between books and not sure what to pick up next. However, for the author that inspired me the most I will have to go with Storm Constantine and the Wraeththu books. Reading those I realized that I wanted to write something others would want to read. The imperfect characters and their gritty, dark world appealed to me on a level that made it possible for me to quit being afraid that what was in my head was not good enough, or shiny enough, and actually sit down and put it on paper.

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

I still consider myself a new/learning writer, especially going through the publishing process for the first time, so I’m not sure. This process has shown me how much I still have to learn, and it is humbling. I would think the best I could say is to remember to be flexible and patient. I guess I am lucky that my “day job” is in a field that brings a constant stream of criticism and comments on my work. I never thought I would say that, but it has taught me how to not get upset at comments and be able to look at them for what they are—an attempt to make my work better.

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

 

I read.  If I’m not reading or writing, I’m baking.  I can’t say no to a challenge, and my friends and family like to find the most bizarre and unusual desserts to see if I can make them. The pie baked inside a cake has become a hit that they request frequently now.


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