Archive for July, 2014

“In Search of a Good Cup of Coffee”


I’ve been in Texas for eight months now, and I’ve learned quite a lot about the food culture here. If I want good barbecue, the best sour cream enchiladas in town, or an extra-large portion of anything, I know where to go. Every restaurant in town offers chicken-fried steak and tea so sweet that my mouth is puckering right now just thinking about it. Hot and spicy, fried and greasy, served with a smile and a slice of pecan pie. But finding a good cup of coffee? Good luck.


There are two Starbucks in my city. Now, some of you might think that’s a lot in such a wee-bitty town, but others will wonder how I can survive with such paucity—especially since I’m originally from the Seattle-Tacoma area where you can’t drive a half-mile without coming across some sort of espresso stand or café. When I’ve ordered lattes in one of the few non-chain places that offer something besides plain brewed coffee, I’ve had servers say Wow, that’s complicated! and Wait, let me write that down… Such comments don’t inspire much hope that I’ll end up with a great cup of coffee. So, more often than I care to admit, I load my two puppies in the car and we drive the half-hour round trip to the nearest Starbucks where I get my triple venti soy latte and the dogs get their puppuccinos.

On my lap, checking out the menu. He likes the sausage breakfast sandwich best

On my lap, checking out the menu. He likes the sausage breakfast sandwich best


You’re right…I could get a fancy espresso machine and brew my own coffee, but the three of us enjoy our regular outings. Dexter, our Brussels Griffon, will wake out of a sound sleep in his car seat and sit up when I’m about a block from the café (admittedly, he’s just as familiar with several other fast food restaurants in town). Brigh, our new terror-terrier mix, is quickly learning the joys of the drive-thru window.

Dexter at Starbucks

Dexter at Starbucks

After too many years without a dog of my own, I appreciate the companionship these puppies provide. Coffee, a scone, and two furry bodies waiting for their share. What a perfect way to start the day.


I’ve always been a dog lover, and writing Blindsidedblindsided was fun because of the added canine connection. Both of my characters share their lives with dogs. Lenae McIntyre has her service animal, Baxter, and Cara Bradley is puppy walking (reluctantly at first) Pickwick. Lenae relies on Baxter for more than guidance—his genuine friendship is comforting after the betrayal of a less-than-honest girlfriend. Pickwick offers Cara the warmth and company she craves. The uncomplicated, dependable relationships with the animals help Lenae and Cara connect with each other. Slowly, they learn that a human relationship can offer trust as well—and so much more.


I had fun writing about Cara’s frustration as she worked with her energetic puppy, but she’s getting some payback. Now I’m dealing with the reality instead of the fiction of having a puppy in the house. And like Cara, I’m loving every chewed-sneaker, ignored-command-to-sit, trip-to-Starbucks minute of it. Yes, I could roast some beans and brew a gourmet cup at home, but it’s about more than coffee. It’s about a shared ritual, whether with humans or animals. And it’s worth the drive.

Brigh sleeping on the way home

Brigh sleeping on the way home


For a copy of my own fusion chicken-fried steak recipe, check out my story “East Meets West” in the upcoming anthology All You Can Eat from YLVA. For more about my experiences in Texas, visit my blog at

The Amazon Trail


Lesbian Hero: Nancy Garden



People all over the world were heartbroken to hear of Nancy Garden’s death in June. The Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) was only weeks from presenting her an award for her beloved 1982 novel Annie On My Mind. Thousands upon thousands of kids worldwide found understanding of themselves or others by reading the classic young adult romance between two teenage girls. Annie made a difference in adult lives too. I fell in love with the book in my forties; what a comfort it would have been to read it at age 15!


Nancy grew up in New England and New York. She worked in publishing and wrote ten books before Annie, thirty-five in all. Her lifelong partner, Sandra Scott, survives her. Nancy has been honored by numerous awards. According to her website, Annie On My Mind was banned by the Kansas City school system in 1993 and burned in demonstrations. Courageous students brought a First Amendment lawsuit in 1995 and won two years later. Not to be deterred, Nancy began yet another career and became an avid speaker on First Amendment rights.

Members of GCLS were slightly comforted that she knew ahead of time about her award and her work continues to be celebrated, and by lesbians. In her speech of thanks, she wrote about the impact on her of Radclyffe Hall’s 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness. She said, “[ The Well ] ends with an impassioned plea for justice and understanding. That plea made me vow, at 16 or so, to write a book one day for and about my people that told the truth about who we are –and ended happily.”

That was my early story too; I found the same ambition and inspiration from Hall’s book. I had the opportunity to work with Nancy’s GCLS acceptance speech, inserting her handwritten edits. There is no way to express how moved I was to be trusted with the task, to handle her words. What an incredible honor, experience and sad pleasure.

There were no Nancy Garden books when I was 16, but “Annie” has been around for other lesbians for 30 plus years. I wondered what readers might say about the book today and thought I’d let them speak for themselves here. Their Twitter comments over the past few years attest to the amazing longevity and power of Nancy Garden’s enchanting and enlighten storytelling.

>This is so dumb but i found a copy of Annie On My Mind at the library in seventh grade and was horrifascinated by the cover & stole it.

>I see why this book has been so frequently challenged & I adore it all the more!


>Did you discover Annie On My Mind as a teen at the public library, like me? Were you scared to check it out, but did anyway?

>the reaction of Liza’s friends, of her family, or her teachers, of her school to the character being gay …Garden made it so real, and I couldn’t help but cry at how unjust it was. Because even though this is a piece of fiction, it has actually happened to so many people. It was awful, but Garden captured that cruelty and misjudgment perfectly.

>Author Katherine Applegate, winner of the Newbery Medal: “Free to a Good Mind”: Left banned book Annie On My Mind in an airport luggage cart.

>Annie on my Mind was the second LGBTQ book I read & hid under my mattress.

>Author Karin Kallmaker: It’s World Book Day! I recommend a banned book – read something dangerous! Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden comes to mind. Lots of really narrow-minded people have tried for decades to make sure you can’t read it. Screw ’em! Read it!

>I so loved selling Annie on My Mind when I worked at a bookstore.

>Nancy Garden’s Annie On My Mind is One of the Most Important #LGBT Teen Novels Ever Written.

>I read tht buk wn I ws 12- It gave a realty to something I was feeln.

>Author Lesléa Newman tweeted: Paying homage to Nancy Garden by re-reading Annie On My Mind. It’s so good! No wonder it’s a classic.

>Went to check-out Annie on my Mind in celebration of a long lived life. All 3 copies were out and I’m 7th hold. Love it!

>Writer Robin Talley tweeted:  Annie on My Mind, the groundbreaking YA lesbian romance novel published in 1982 that made it possible for me to write the books I do.

>annie on my mind é tão (towe) amorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Last, a reader tweeted:  Annie on My Mind saved a part of my soul.

Thank you, Nancy Garden.



Copyright Lee Lynch 2014


A 20th-Century Life


Originally published by The Huffington Post July 17, 2014. Reprinted by permission from the author

If that early biographer and arch-gossip, Plutarch, were alive in 2014 and writing an updated version of his Lives, he’d do far worse than include in his gallery of contemporaries the singer, dancer, choreographer, filmmaker and entrepreneur, Wakefield Poole. At least, according to Jim Tuskhinksy’s sweeping new documentary movie, I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Pole that premiered at Los Angeles’ Outfest film festival this past weekend.

If Poole’s name isn’t familiar, perhaps you may know one of the films he made, which in 1971 and 1972 helped to alter everyone’s view of what a gay man was and could be — most famously Boys in the Sand. Poole is to gay film and especially gay porn what D.W. Griffith is to the film medium in America: the originator and first master. And unlike Griffith, Poole’s movies can be watched without flinching some 40 odd years later. To my mind Bijou is a classic.

I was at the Poole movie premiere because I’m in the film, one of the “talking heads” who contextualize what we see on screen. Also, because Wakefield Poole touched my life through his art, almost through a career choice — about which later — but mostly through the unique and beautiful men on the scene we knew, now gone, among them the famous Casey Donovan.

It’s several years since I was shot for the movie, and while I’d not exactly forgotten the session, it had been one morning’s labor, superseded by similar work in three films since, so my stake in it was tiny. Luckily, Tushinski caught me on a particularly articulate day and used the footage wisely, so I end up saying nothing stupid — that’s always a relief.

From the opening of the Poole documentary you are immersed in the life of a child for whom talent is abundant, relationships nearly as important, with art and various kinds of fun arriving later. The four year old from Florida singing along to the big console radio became the star of the church choir and school and when his voice changed at puberty, two thoughtful women got him into dance, first tap, and later classical, and they supported his talent. As a high school graduate he was able to leave home and fly to New York to join the Ballets Russes. When young Walter Poole Jr. (Wakefield is his middle name) realized he didn’t want the touring and rigors of classical dance, he switched to popular dance and was soon hoofing it along with major stars on Broadway.

This led to a stint as a choreographer where he worked with people like Richard Rogers, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein and Michael Bennett. He also had the hard luck to work with brilliant if troubled theatre folk like John Dexter and Joe Layton which nearly ended his career. His early marriage to another dancer did end and they divorced. Poole’s involvement in small commercial films decided him — he would become “an experimental filmmaker.”

By then he was involved with a brilliant man — Wakefield has nothing but great things to say about all of his personal relationships. He would fall in love quickly and remained hitched for long periods of time. Somehow everything seemed to come together and for a total of $4800, Poole filmed a two hour 16 millimeter film with a good looking blonde and a bunch of guys he makes love with at a house, pool, deck and upon the sands of Fire Island Pines.

Ironically, Boys in the Sand opened in a little cinema on the same block as The New York City Ballet where he might have been onstage but for his decision. Boys was a smash hit from the first day. Fortified with cash and a new star, Bill Harrison, Poole then made a second feature film, Bijou: urban, gritty and far less sunny than the first and that too struck gold. Which is where I come in. While I was being filmed for this documentary Wakefield said, “I know you. You took your clothes off for me.” He vanished into an office and emerged with a semi-nude photo he’d taken of me from 1972–when I auditioned for Bijou. That came about because I knew Casey and he sent me to Poole. Alas, in the 1970’s one did not become an author and porn star at the same time. So I turned down the part and a porno career and found a low paying bookstore job.

As the movie shows, Poole definitely had major career ups and downs, he moved across country then back again and ended up near where he grew up. He was a San Francisco co-owner of American Hot Flash Emporium which hit just as the Castro was taking off. He made and lost fortunes. He’s totally open about how and why (drugs, sex, men) and unlike a lot of Boomer hypocrites, Poole is completely unapologetic about what he did. He tells us that he had a great time and enjoyed himself immensely. Bravo for him. Add it up and his is a storied life; and the story via the film is worth viewing.

As for those Plutarchian lives: The past century produced an overabundance of accomplished gay people. In 1981, I was composer Ned Rorem’s date at the New York Philharmonic’s memorial concert following the death of Samuel Barber. At the reception and later too, I hobnobbed with Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Barber’s partner, Gian Carlo Menotti, John Corigliano, etc. etc — and Lucas Foss, who introduced himself as “the straight one.” One was right: He was probably the only straight male in the star-filled room. And that would be equally true of gatherings of popular musicians, novelists, playwrights, actors, directors, painters — you name the field–of the time. It almost seems like compensation in advance for the enormous cultural loss to America from the AIDS devastation that followed.

Ashes to Ashes


My grandmother, one of my earliest muses, died when she was ninety-five. She slipped away in her sleep late one December night in 2013.

My family doesn’t believe in cremation, so, long before she passed, my grandmother had made it known she wanted to be buried next to her brothers and sisters in the family plot behind her church. (One of two family plots, I might add. Since my father’s side of the family belongs to a different church than my mother’s, all my relatives on his side of the family are interred in a different cemetery. But that’s a story in itself).

Years ago, my grandmother helped instill in me my inveterate love of travel.

When I finished college, my high school English teacher gave me a graduation gift: a plane ticket to the destination of my choice. I was young and (secretly) gay, so I naturally picked San Francisco, a magical city that was worlds away from my tiny hometown of Sardis, Georgia.

When the plane ticket to San Francisco arrived in the mail, I immediately booked a room at a B&B in the Castro and counted down the days until I would be able to walk the streets of a town I had seen only in the movies and a neighborhood I had visualized only in my dreams.

The very idea of the trip nearly scared my parents to death because 1) I was their only child, 2) I had never been on a plane before, and 3) I had never ventured so far from home. (I was also the first person in my family to attend college, let alone graduate, but that’s also a story in itself). Despite my parents’ misgivings, my grandmother was elated.

“Go while you’re young and able,” she said. “See everything you can. And if your mother and father ever have a problem with you wanting to venture somewhere, just go. You can tell them about it when you get back.”

Like they say, it’s always easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

San Francisco was my first vacation destination. But thanks to my grandmother’s advice, it hasn’t been the last. I’ve visited fifteen states and five countries since my first wide-eyed trip to California twenty-three years ago. Hopefully, I’m not done yet. There’s a book called 1,001 Places to See Before You Die and my wish list of places to see might be even longer than that.

When she was younger, my grandmother moved more times than I can count, shuttling between rural towns in south Georgia and larger ones in central Florida as she tried to find the best place to settle her family of six kids. If given her druthers, however, she would have chosen New York. She moved there for several months when she was in her early twenties and would have loved to stay there permanently, but she was the oldest of her nine siblings and her mother had begged her to come home and help take care of the household. My grandmother followed her head and dutifully made the return trip down south, but she always regretted not following her heart, which gave me added incentive to follow mine.

When we shuffle off this mortal coil, my partner and I want to be cremated and have our ashes spread in the cities we considered our favorite vacation destinations. Dita has chosen Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. We’ve been twice and have had an incredibly relaxing time on both occasions.

As for my final resting place, I’m still undecided. Probably because I have yet to see Paris, a city that, thanks to my minor in French, has always been my dream destination. Until I lay eyes on the Eiffel Tower or stand beneath the Arc de Triomphe, Key West will have to do.

A road trip to Key West was the first vacation Dita and I took as a couple. We’ve returned to the tropical paradise several times in the thirteen years since then and I’m getting the itch to go again. To have a drink at Sloppy Joe’s, pet a descendant of one of Ernest Hemingway’s six-toed cats, and take part in the Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square. Perhaps next year Dita and I will pick a long weekend, hit the open road, and make the twelve-hour drive from Savannah to Margaritaville.

I would love to take my grandmother with me on my travels—to sprinkle her ashes in some of the many cities she never got to see when she was alive. Instead, she’ll have to see them through my eyes. Because, no matter where I go, she’ll always be in my heart.

The War Within 300 DPI  Charm City 300 DPI

Caught in the Crossfire- A Guest Review

Alright, I’m just gonna start off by saying until recently I have not read many LGBT YA books. I am not sure why, but it was just something I never got around to doing. Well my aunt had given me a couple books and I am now in love with the genre and I can’t wait to read the next one.


One of the books I read and will be reviewing is called; Caught In The Crossfire it is written by Juliann Rich.


Caught in the Crossfire 300 DPI



The book is about two boys who meet at Spirit Lake Bible Camp. The first boy is Jonathan Cooper, a firm believer in God who had come from a military household. The second boy is Ian McGuire who is a new face at bible camp. Ian is open about his sexuality and argues openly about it to those who believe otherwise. Jonathan keeps information about his sexuality more closed off, not sure exactly how he feels, and scared to how others would react to it. Ian knows what could happen between the two of them if only Jonathan admitted his feelings. However, Jonathan is in the middle of a battle between his belief in God and how he feels about Ian. When an actual disaster happens and Ian is in danger, Jonathan is forced to make a decision that could change his life.


What I Dislike About The Book:


Honestly, I can’t put too much in this space because I really loved the book. However I guess if I have to the things I dislike about the book are;The ending. I know it makes room for other books to come out, but I’m a person who JUST HAS to know what’s going to happen next. Now that I’m left in the dark in this one I can only guess what’s going to happen between Jonathan and Ian! All we know is that a friend request from Jonathan to Ian has been made! Do we know if Ian accepts? No! Do we know if they still talk to each other? No! What about that book? Zip. Do we know if they ride off in the sunset together? Okay well obviously not, but still! This is still a good job on the author’s part though because now once that next book comes out, I’m snatching it up as soon as possible.

I wish we could have gotten a bit more information about Jonathan’s relationship with his mother after she found out he was gay. We know she made an effort to try and talk to him on the way back from Bible Camp but he refused and that was that. All we get is a couple of sentences from her and that she is driving him home. But how does she really feel about him being gay? How does she feel about Ian? Does she still accept him? We don’t really know.

Finally in this category, is Ian’s overall relationship with his foster family. He speaks about them briefly but we don’t get too much information about how they feel about him or vice versa. We don’t even get time to meet them when Ian is taken home from Bible Camp.

What I Like About The Book:

Different types of Christians. Love it. Love it. Love it. We get to see Christians of all different types! There’s Paul, who is a great leader, but more or less stuck in his ways. He is a bit critical of things that are against “what the bible says” and tries to “fix” people. He obviously doesn’t mean to hurt people, but his ways are a bit offensive. There’s Simon. He is in my opinion someone who you could see running a Youth Church. He is knowledgeable in this bible but is not boastful about it. His relationship with God is strong, but he does not criticize or judge others. He’s very understanding. Then there’s Dawn. Her family does not understand God and hates that she is apart of the church. You don’t often see this situation happening as it is sometimes the other way around. You have Jonathan, he is still what we call a baby Christian. He’s learning about God and he still has so much to learn. He is also now apart of the small yet growing, LGBT Christian community. Ian isn’t exactly a Christian but it’s quite obvious that he’s a bit curious. He told Jonathan, he’s not a Christian, but he’s not an Atheist either. He has a feeling about God but I don’t think he quite understands Christianity yet.

I love that Jonathan was not forced to choose between Christianity and being gay. I see a lot of members of the LGBT community who think they have to choose, that they can’t be both. But you can! This book just goes to show it! On this topic I would like to refer to one of my favorite lines from this book, “Thank you God for loving me just as I am.”

I love the character development. I have always been a sucker for good character development. Obviously, if you have been through everything these characters have been through, you would not stay the same. Your personality is bound to change somehow. For example, in the beginning of the book, Jonathan is a firm Christian, firm in his beliefs, knows who he is. When he meets Ian, this starts to change. His beliefs falter and he isn’t sure of who he is anymore. We see a good example of this in chapter eleven; “Light glinted off the gold cross that hung from my neck. One hard yank and the chain broke. The cross landed on the grimy floor. The boy in the mirror was still a stranger. But at least he isn’t a liar.” Because he is scared to admit how he feels about Ian, he loses sight of who he is. As we get to the ending, he realizes his feelings for Ian and we see him getting more confident in himself again.

I put this in the dislike category, but I’m going to put it here for the exact same reason. Although I hate not knowing what’s going to happen next, it stuck in my head (I dreamed about the night after I finished the book!) and made it hard to forget. Because the book didn’t have a solid ending, there is room to add another book and it also leaves the reader guessing the possibilities.




I really loved this book. I would read it over again if I could and I would definitely tell others to read it as well. So I give this book 5 stars, two thumbs up, and all my tears that were shed reading it. I am so glad I got the opportunity to read this. Now go little jedis and find yourself a copy so you can see what I’m talking about!



Look Into the Wound

By Ruth Sternglantz

This past May, I had the pleasure of team-teaching a master class on self-editing at Saints and Sinners with John Morgan Wilson. John and I wanted to give the writers in the class more than a to-do list—not that a to-do list isn’t important, because it definitely is. But we both knew from experience that a to-do list wasn’t sufficient, and our goal was to teach writers how to get past all the mental and environmental stuff that makes self-editing a challenge. So part of my job was to describe how I see a manuscript as I edit it.


I used an image from Radclyffe’s Taking Fire, Taking Fire 300 DPIher just-released First Responders romance, as a metaphor to describe my editing philosophy. When Andrew Holleran stopped me on the street the next day to compliment the metaphor, I realized I should probably blog about it.




One of the greatest bars to self-editing is the terror almost every writer feels of actually looking at their completed manuscript. You know what I’m talking about: you type the last few words, hit save, and breathe a deep sigh of relief because your masterpiece is complete. And then all you want to do is submit it to your editor or professor or publisher. Reopening the file and looking at the words on the page is like tempting fate. What if everything you’ve written is awful? What if your masterpiece falls apart and crumbles into dust? As long as the file is closed, as long as you don’t look at your words, they remain pristine, perfect, a masterpiece, at least in your mind. I say: hold that thought. It’s the key to self-editing.


Of course writers are terrified to self-edit. Some editors construct editing as an act of looking at a manuscript to find all the mistakes, as a process of showing an author why their writing sucks. Why would any writer want to be complicit in that and do it to themselves? Why would any writer want to take a second look at their manuscript to polish, revise, self-edit when it means focusing on the damage?


That is not how I look at a manuscript when I edit, and Radclyffe gave me the perfect metaphor to describe my process in Taking Fire. Here’s the blurb:


After two years and too many lost troops, Navy medic Max de Milles is ready to go home. Her last tour is up in four days and she will soon be catching a transport to the States. Life is looking good until she gets detailed to evacuate a humanitarian group in south Somalia. Rachel Winslow and her Red Cross team are caught in the crossfire during a vicious civil uprising, but she refuses to abandon her team members as the rebels close in on their camp. By the time Max and the Black Hawk arrive, it may already be too late. Hunted by extremists, Max and Rachel are forced to work together if they are to survive, and in the process, discover something far more lasting.


Because this is a Radclyffe romance featuring a medic, there is surgery. And here’s how Max looks at a wound:


“The key to finding a bleeder in the midst of a pool of blood and shredded muscle was to look—to see, to distinguish the border between the damaged and the undamaged. There, at the edge of destruction, the natural planes of the body remained, even in the worst trauma, pristine layers radiating out from the injury.” (emphasis added)


That’s my metaphor.


Editing—whether it’s self-editing or editing another writer’s work—starts with a way of looking. If you think of editing primarily as looking for the bad stuff—for the damage—it colors your entire process. Of course no writer in their right mind would voluntarily reopen that saved file to self-edit.


Instead, think of editing as looking for what’s wonderful and repairing the rest. Start with the “pristine layers,” and let them drive the revision. You can’t fix what’s broken if you can’t see what works. And you can’t see what works until you open the file and look at your words.


That’s how I edit.


My process isn’t about pretending every word is perfect or that nothing needs cutting or more development. It’s not about giving everyone a gold star for doing well. After all, the pristine layers are found at the edge of destruction. And part of being a good editor is the ability to talk about what doesn’t work.


But my process begins with an orientation. I need to assess the damage, but I can’t edit until I see the healthy structure.


If opening that file to self-edit makes you want to cry, just think of Dr. Max de Milles (trust me, read Taking Fire and you’ll absolutely want to think about Max and Rachel!). Open your document, look into the metaphorical wound, and find that border, that edge. See the healthy structure of your story, and start to repair and revise from that starting point.







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