Archive for August, 2014

Only the Most Refined Dust

By Shea Godfrey



I remember the first book I ever read on my own. My mother gave it to me and I sat and looked at the cover for a very long time. We were going out to dinner or meeting family friends, I can’t remember exactly. I believe I was four years old. Right before we were about to walk out the door, I announced that I was going to read it for her. I think she had a look of frustration, but then she smiled and sat me on her lap.


I remember running my hands back and forth over the cover and feeling so excited I could barely sit still. And then I opened it, and found the first page. It was filled with color and action, and I was filled with a curious joy. I had no idea what was going to happen. I had no idea what the words would say. I took a deep breath, and then I began to read it aloud.


“A little red hen had a seed…”


There was a rat involved and a lazy dog, and a cat that could not be bothered. There was a succulent ear of corn and a story I had never heard before. I don’t remember what the pages smelled like then, though I remember my mother holding the book up and smelling them, her eyes big and laughing as she looked over the edge.

The Little Red Hen


Straight cut pages. Hard cover. Soft cover. Small enough to fit in your pocket or so thick it weighs your backpack down and puts a crimp in your neck. Uneven page edges with a rough texture or smooth edges with gilt. Leather bound. Soft and seductive vellum covers. High gloss or matte, though the cover art explodes into your imagination from either one. This one smells like a bible. This one smells like the library. This one smells like oranges, though how is that possible? This font reminds me of my leather bound edition of Tom Sawyer. This font belongs to Jane Austen.

The pages of my Bram Stoker’s Dracula were actually cold, and so was the book itself when I held it in my hands. I wore soft knit gloves when I read it and a blanket draped over my shoulders. It smelled like the earth from our neighbor’s garden after it had been tilled and turned. I noted this before I even began reading it, and I found it somewhat disturbing. I still have the copy, never returned to my high school lit class. It is held together with a single, heavy rubber band.


I understand the lure of the eBook. I understand the necessity when you’re in school. Every bit of reading required is at your fingertips, weighing just under a pound. Much different than the complete works of Shakespeare I bought for a quarter from the university bookstore, much used and abused after twenty years had come and gone. Two strips of grey duct tape on the binding were all it needed. But I wouldn’t want to carry that bastard around all day. I know it. I see it, the eBook logic.


But there is a romance that comes with an actual book. There is the soft turn of the pages as your mind either sinks in deep with every line, or races ahead because you can’t stop it. Your fingers toy with the corners of the pages yet to come. Sometimes you give in and turn just a few, and perhaps you even read a sentence or two. Usually you regret it, though sometimes it makes you curse and smile and you force yourself to go back so you might get there honestly. Your legs tucked beneath you on your favorite chair, all the while knowing that an entire world waits just for you. It is singular and contains but one miracle all its own, deserving of a proper home on a crowded shelf among other miracles. And if it smells like oranges? Even better.

“All books wait… They sit patiently on their respective shelves, gathering only the most refined dust, until the day their covers are opened and their pages turned by the proper person.”

~ Robert John Guttke

Publishers Weekly. Really?

By VK Powell



Publishers Weekly reviewed my new release, About Face,About Face 300 DPI in their June 16th edition. The review stated in part: “Powell (Exit Wounds) excels at depicting complex, emotionally vulnerable characters who connect in a believable fashion and enjoy some genuinely hot erotic moments.” To say I was surprised and excited would be a gross understatement because About Face was a slight deviation from my normal fare and I was unsure how it would be received.


I write predominately lesbian romantic intrigue and if I had to state my brand, it would be you can have it all—career, love, and happiness. My stories involve law enforcement officers fighting crime while trying to establish or maintain a relationship—no easy task. My second book, Suspect Passions, fell into the pure romance genre, so I decided book seven, About Face, would as well. While there are elements of suspense and/or mystery in both, they are heavy on romance, light on intrigue.


Why the change? I love writing intrigue. Developing characters with grit and drive, putting them into impossible situations, and forcing them to change for the sake of romance are my things, but every now and then a girl just needs to feel the love, plain and simple.


In About Face, reclusive forensic artist, Macy Sheridan, agrees to work one final case she hopes will solve the mystery that’s haunted her for years. The only things blocking her goal are a perfect facial reconstruction and Detective Leigh Monroe, a woman who reminds her of the past and challenges her future.


Leigh Monroe has lost her lover, her livelihood, and her home but she chooses to look on the bright side. What else could go wrong—then she meets rude, solitary Macy Sheridan. But Leigh discovers that Macy’s façade is a mask, yet as real and untouchable as the forensic reconstructions she so meticulously creates.


Macy’s last case brings the two women together in a tango of distrust and desire. When the truth finally comes out, it looks like their chance at love will be lost forever.


I hope you will like reading About Face, my romance-heavy, intrigue-lite offering, as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please let me know. Your feedback is an important part of my process.



VK Powell


American in Amsterdam

By David Swatling



I’d been living in Amsterdam for three years when Sting’s “Englishman in New York” hit the airwaves in 1988. The song made it to #9 on the Dutch Top 40 chart, the highest anywhere in the world. I found it somewhat odd. Most people in the Netherlands had no idea who the song was about, while not only did I know, I’d had a nodding acquaintance with the man. When I lived in New York’s East Village, Quentin Crisp and I were neighbors and often passed each other on the street. Much to my regret, we never spoke, though I like to think if I had invited him for a cup of tea he would have graciously accepted.


To be an alien, even a legal alien, always felt strange – in Dutch, vreemd. In fact, the word for foreigners is vreemdelingen. Literally, strangers. I can’t speak for other foreign nationals (a term I’ve always considered an oxymoron) but although I’ve lived in Amsterdam for almost thirty years I find myself more comfortable around other expats, no matter where they’re originally from. Perhaps because we have that in common. For a variety of reasons, we each chose to leave our native lands and live elsewhere.

Me(C) ART production

Me(C) ART production

There might be more to it, at least in my case. The first people I met in Amsterdam where members of the small English-speaking theater community. Most were expats from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States. We put on productions in off-off-Broadway size venues for tourists and locals alike. And through them I began to work with Radio Netherlands Worldwide, which broadcast news and feature programs in seven different languages. I enjoyed the international flavor of my days at the radio station and my nights at the theater. The sense of being a stranger almost disappeared when everyone around you is in the same boat.

The same was true when I began to frequent the gay bar below the little theater called ART (American Repertory Theater). The owner was American, and the place was popular with tourists and expats. The first language around the pool table was English, the music was British or American pop, and if the porn videos were French, the sound was off anyway. What you rarely heard spoken was Dutch.

The sense of otherness, of being an outsider, returned with a vengeance when I found myself homeless, living in a jeep on the outskirts of Amsterdam with my dog, Calvin. The circumstances are too boring to go into detail. After several friends’ couches, a series of house-sits, and other temporary measures, we spent a few weeks in the jeep during the summer of ‘95. It was an adventure for Calvin. For me, not so much. To be an expat and homeless, having fallen between the cracks of the well-oiled Dutch social system, felt about as low as one could sink. But out of that experience came a story, which became a book: Calvin’s Head. Silver lining?

Calvin and me circa '95

Calvin and me circa ’95

Another group of expats brought me back from the doldrums of homelessness. At about the same time a friend told me about a long-term sublet, which became my longer-term home, another friend invited me to join a spirited band of LGBTQ artists and activists who did a live local radio program called Alien. For two hours every Sunday evening we shared news and personal stories, interviewed local or visiting guests, played great alternative music, and laughed ourselves stupid, sometimes in most politically incorrect fashion. We satirized our outsider status as expats, and as queers. We demanded justice and equal rights. We questioned the existence of lesbian sheep. We called the Vatican and asked to speak with the Pope. We mourned the passing of friends, the death of Princess Diana, the fall of the Twin Towers.

The energy, creativity, and joyfulness of the Alien gang infused my work at Radio Netherlands. A program I made about AIDS and literature with authors Edmund White and David Leavitt won an Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. I was honored again for a feature about the persecution of gay men in Berlin during the Nazi regime. My sense of otherness faded by facing the issue head-on.

In the last ten years, sands have shifted as anti-immigration winds again blow across Europe. To point out a defining moment in the Netherlands, such as the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a young Dutch-Moroccan Muslim extremist in 2004, would be to oversimplify sentiments deeper, broader-based than I’m able to explain. All I can say is the sense of being vreemdeling, a foreigner, returned. But I’ve used it to my advantage. The book I wrote, and the stories yet to be written that swirl around in my head, are about people living on the fringes of society, strangers in strange lands, searching for a place to call home – in every sense of the word.

Amsterdam Noir

Amsterdam Noir

Now that I think about it, Quentin Crisp might have politely declined my cup of tea. Maybe being an Englishman in New York was exactly what he wanted to be. He reportedly joked to Sting that he looked forward to receiving naturalization papers so he could commit a crime and not be deported. Ironically, now that I spend ever longer summers in northern New Hampshire I still feel like an expat, more European than American. Perhaps that’s a story for another time.

Calvin's Head 300 DPI

“Rest Home Runaways” Book Giveaway!

By Clifford Henderson

Three things I want you to walk away with after reading this blog entry.

1.) You could be a winner. Twice!

2.) I am a woman writer who just happens to be named Clifford.

3.) Victory Editions is da bomb.

The first item is pretty straightforward. I’m offering a book giveaway to anyone who comments on this blog before August 26th, the official one week anniversary of “Rest Home Runaways.”Rest Home Runaways 300 DPI (Paperback or e-book, winner’s choice.) That’s right, make any comment and I’ll enter you in the giveaway. Go to my brand spanking new website, enter a comment there, by the same date, under any of the blog entries, and you get a second chance at winning. This is my way of saying thank you to all my readers, because without readers, well, writing would still be fun, but not as fun. So comment away. And, even if you don’t win, know that I, Clifford Henderson, will consider you a winner anyway, because you read fiction, and people who read fiction are, in my book, winners all.

Second thing on my agenda: Yes, I am a woman named Clifford. I submit this photo as proof.



 Some of you may have seen my video rant a few years back concerning some readers’ reluctance to read a lesfic novel they thought was written by a man. (It will also give you the reason for my unusual name.) Apparently, the video didn’t work that well; I’m still getting emails from readers who confess they haven’t read me for years because they thought I was one of them. Which I get. I’ve had my mistrustful moments in regard to men writing about lesbians. Too often (notice I’m not saying always) they get it wrong, writing their own fantasies instead of stories that reflect the real deal. But honestly, with so many writers using nomme de plumes (a.k.a. pen names), unless you’ve done a little research, you can’t really be sure of a writer’s gender. Many publishers actually encourage their writers to write under a pen name of an opposite gender because they feel it will help sales. I tell you, the complexities of gender identification are getting more interesting by the minute. But then, like me, you’ve no doubt noticed that this younger generation doesn’t seem to hold the same biases we did, they don’t seem limited by the same restrictions. Shoot. The other day I was standing in line at our local bagelry and saw, among all the band and theater posters, a taped-up sign proclaiming in bold letters: GENDER IS DEAD! Or maybe you are of that younger generation. In which case I say, “Carry on. This world needs you.”

Now, onto the third thing: Victory Editions. Don’t know what that is? It’s Bold Strokes Books’ General Fiction imprint, or what I like to call their Mainstream Lesbian Fiction imprint. Doesn’t that have a snappy sound? What’s an imprint? Imprints are like categories, and most publishers have them. They help the reader find what they like to read. What you will find in BSB’s Victory Editions are lots of page turning stories about the lives of interesting, fun, troubled, triumphant, kick-ass, tender, thoughtful, old, young, and every kind of lesbian you can think up. Sometimes they feature a little romance, sometimes a little action, but always they always offer up a great read. You can spot them by the little logo on the spine of the book. Victory-Editions-sm? Me, I write what I call “the extraordinary lives of ordinary people” and I hope you will check one out. If you’re lucky, you might even win one.

Rx Love

Author Donna K. Ford talks about using storytelling to show the healing powers of love. If you haven’t already read her work, be sure to check out Healing Hearts and No Boundaries:

No Boundries 300 DPIHealing Hearts 300 DPI

and now for the vlog:


By Connie Ward


What made you decide to become a fiction writer?


I don’t know that I decided to be a fiction writer so much as acknowledged that a fiction writer is what I am, who I am. Writing is something I always did—stories and poems as creative apologies for whatever trouble found me as a child, extra-credit essays and stories for my teachers all through grade and high school, and a literature minor and fiction workshop in college. I wrote a novel out of boredom during a corporate internship and wrote short stories with a good friend early in my business consulting career. When my good friend, Benita Newton, who unfortunately passed on before I truly acknowledged myself as a writer, encouraged me to think about writing as a career, I fought it, thought I could do it as a hobby, but not so. I quit my consulting gig and moved to Chicago to work full-time on my MFA. It was the only way I knew to make the transition, so maybe that was the decision, that was the acknowledgement. I had to go all in. This ain’t no part-time thing. It’s who I am. I was hard-headed about it, but here I am.


What type of stories do you write?  And why?


I write character-driven stories. I love people, meeting people and getting to know people. Characters are people on the page. And I feel like I meet characters the same way I meet people in real life. A character introduces him or herself in a word, a line, a scene, and if I’m open and ready, I get to write it down. I get to know them while I write, and then I look for the opportunity to introduce them to the world.


What do your family/friends think about your writing?


My family and friends love my work, of course! Seriously, I’ve been blessed to have really supportive people in my corner, people who believe in my work and my voice. I consider myself still very early in my career, so I’m just praying that they stay with me and keep supporting me as I push myself to write more challenging, surprising stories.


Where do you get your ideas?


I journal a lot. I write whatever comes to mind, or to heart, and use writing prompts. I’ve recently discovered that being in a new place or an interesting place provides a sort of prompt in itself. Journal prompts while at Saints and Sinners in New Orleans a few years ago is actually where Let the Lover Be Let the Love Be 300 DPIcame from, so I guess it works.


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


Both. In the beginning stages, I just write. I do different prompts, different scenes, different snatches of dialogue. None of it is connected. I just write what I can, when I can, however it comes out. If it’s looking like I might have something, then I start thinking about structure and plans for getting it into novel or story form. After I have a plan, I try to stick to it, at least to get a good first draft down. But I don’t write in blood or chisel anything into a stone tablet, so anything that changes along the way, I don’t hesitate to change it and see where the characters want to take me.


What makes Let the Lover Be special to you?


Let the Lover Be is special because it’s my first published novel. It represents a very special shift in the way I approach my writing. I mostly work on shorter pieces—short stories and sometimes essays—so writing a novel is a different sort of challenge. Yet, when I thought about the work I would like to produce as a novelist, I knew I had to get to the business of writing. Let the Lover Be was about that business. The business of ass in the chair, fingers on the keyboard, go. Writing without flinching and writing without stopping until the work was done. This novel means that I can go where I need to go to get what I need to do done.


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


This is a difficult question to answer because I hate to be clichéd and say, “Oh, the characters are a composite…blah, blah, blah.” A cliché is a cliché for a reason though, right? I don’t know how to measure it, mostly because I never know how much of myself or someone I know is going to show up in a character. It’s never a one-to-one, but I do believe that every character comes from someone or something I know, used to know, or wish I knew, and when it comes down to those three instances, it would be difficult not to see someone or something familiar in any character.


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

of this author(s)?


James Baldwin and Audre Lorde. Both of them wrote about everything at all times. That’s what I love about their work. Politics, relationships, race, tragedy, triumph, sex, and love, always love. I want to write like that. I want to write about everything. And there is an honesty to their work, a brutal, cleansing honesty that cannot be denied. Baldwin and Lorde were always themselves. They always faced the shit, no matter how hard or ugly or uncomfortable. That makes their work beautiful. Honest and beautiful.


Do you have any suggestions for new writers?


As always, write a lot and read even more. Lately, though, I’ve been beating the self-motivation drum like djembe! Writers have got to be proactive in the new world of publishing and marketing. Social media presence, online presence, blogs, reviews, online journals, traditional journals—you’ve got to do it all. Schedule time to write, but also schedule time to manage your career. Put yourself (your work) out there so publishers and readers can see you!


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


I have lots of interests and am always looking to add to the list. Lately, I’ve been traveling, spending time in my portable hammock, going for walks, listening to records, and taste-testing ginger beers.


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


One of my favorite stories is “I Do All My Own Stunts,” which is a short story from my collection, Once and Future Lovers. I like it because it’s a story that follows a character from childhood to adulthood using bicycles as guideposts. The story is like snapshots to me, a different picture marking these moments in the character’s life that all build upon each other, even if the character doesn’t know it. The reader knows it. We know it. And we come to understand something about our experiences and memories, about the objects and things we remember. A bike is not just a bike in that story, and even in writing it, I didn’t know how much was happening in it even though it doesn’t feel like it.

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