Archive for December, 2014

The Amazon Trail

Oh, No! Not the Pradas!

Lee Lynch

 

In the face of the racist, puritanical, self-serving, money-mad, avaricious U.S. citizens and politicians whose votes and campaigns against fairness and reason won out in the recent midterm elections, we need to keep laughing, working to retain what we have gained, and believing in miracles.

This fall, at Women’s Week in Provincetown, Massachusetts, I got my little miracle.

Of course, Tex is taking all the credit. First off, Tex was Best Butch at our wedding four years ago. She had a bad cold at the time and left before the wedding cake was served. We have been hearing about her tragic disappointment ever since. This year, the bakery was open thru Women’s Week. My sweetheart ordered a smaller version of our cake.  In the swirl of lesbian events, socializing—and searching for my lost glasses—I was trying to connect with Tex to get her some cake.

The evening before, I discovered that my glasses were missing. I’ve been wearing glasses, full-time, for over 60 years and my particular visual issues require a very expensive prescription, so this was no small deal. I spent the morning recreating my perambulations of the last 20 hours. I was pretty sure I lost them coming out of a book signing with writer Rachel Spangler because we were chattering with the excitement of the event and the week and reconnecting.

I switched my clear glasses for sunglasses, carefully slipping the case into my brand new Human Rights Campaign (HRC) mini-messenger bag. I suspect that the glasses, in their case, slipped right on through and out the front flap of the unfamiliar bag. A little posse of us searched every inch of the area that night, but no glasses.

My sweetheart posted the loss on Facebook. That didn’t find the glasses, but it did prompt our optician, back in Tampa, to respond, in horror, “Not the Pradas!”

Well, yes, the Pradas. I am not in the habit of buying high-end frames, but I was having a heck of a time finding anything I liked until the other optician in that office, who clearly would understand the tastes of a lesbian butch, quietly left his seat and returned with a pair from the men’s section.

Photo Credit by Sue Fagalde Lick

Photo Credit by Sue Fagalde Lick

Love at first sight. Denim in color. Best. Frames. Ever.

And now, in Ptown, they were lost for eternity.

We had a lunch date with librarian pal M.J. and writers Karin Kallmaker and Pol Robinson. By this time a good percentage of the Women’s Week attendees, shopkeepers, hotel clerks, parking attendants, wait staff and police force were on the lookout for my glasses. Someone at our table suggested we check the Women’s Week info center in the old firehouse on Commercial Street to see if they’d been turned them in.

But first I had to find Tex and get some long-awaited cake to her. We agreed by phone to meet at the Farmers’ Market. My sweetheart, M.J. and Pol headed off to the HRC store and I set out to find Tex. On my way, I passed the firehouse and asked about my glasses. They didn’t have them.  When I found Tex she dragged me back to the firehouse in search of a Women’s Week t-shirt.

Tex was trying on the shirts and choosing colors, and I was advising her, as were all four volunteers, including Massachusetts State Representative Sarah Peake and her wife Lynn Mogell, owners of Heritage House, as well as a woman from another Ptown inn, Ravenwood, and yet another helpful woman.

A woman leaned into the firehouse from the street, held an arm up to display something, and asked, “Has anyone lost this?”

I’m aware that my jaw has dropped. I stare at my glass case, unable to speak, as we have torn apart the town, our luggage, the rental, and the car looking for this. I also scheduled an emergency eye appointment the day we got home—a matter of a 5 hour round trip.

Tex keeps saying, “Lee-ee, are those your glasses?”

Everyone in the firehouse is, by this time, holding her breath. Astonished to the point of paralysis, I manage to yell, “Yes!”

Then the excited women are cheering and hooting and talking all at once and I go down on one knee to thank the woman and thank the goddess and introduce myself and the poor woman, Colleen, seems overwhelmed and flees.

The Ravenswood woman and I talk about the confluence of energies that led to this reunion with my glasses like it was a spiritual thing. If Colleen hadn’t picked the glasses up, if she hadn’t kept them safe, if Tex hadn’t wanted that t-shirt, if my sweetheart hadn’t ordered the cake…. The scene was total revival hall; the music from across the street was “Hallelujah.”

Then Lynn Mogell asked, Did you say you’re Lee Lynch? and fesses up to having been a long-time fan and is thrilled and that’s when everyone introduces themselves and a few minutes later I call my sweetheart to tell her to stop searching and she says, “I know!” because Colleen-the-Finder happened to stop at the HRC store next and knew Karin Kallmaker and announced that she’d just returned Lee Lynch’s lost glasses and the HRC store erupted in excitement and cheers and Karin had the presence of mind to get the woman’s card and wouldn’t you know it, Colleen’s job is very similar to the one I retired from and I will send her my book and there is rejoicing in the world.

Obviously, it all happened because Tex led me back to the firehouse.

The little miracle was getting my glasses back. The big miracle was all the gay people pulling together to make that happen.

Imagine if, next election, all the gay people pulled together to make more miracles, like giving kids safe homes and schools, spending our tax money on health care and good food for everyone. If it can happen for a pair of Pradas, it can happen for politics.

 

Copyright Lee Lynch  2014

Lists, Dashes, Memories and Romance

By Ali Vali

 

Since this is the list making time of year, even for people who detest making lists even when asked to by loving partners who send me to the grocery for two more items than I can remember, I’ll share with you the two items on my list of things I find truly annoying.

 

  1. Repetitive noises – think people clicking their pen over and over, tapping their finger on something or perhaps a car alarm that goes off for an hour. This list is long so I’ll stop there.

 

  1. Christmas music! Don’t get me wrong, and I’ve written about this before, I like Christmas music just not weeks and weeks of it. After hearing Jingle Bells for the two hundredth and ninety-ninth time I could strangle someone with wrapping ribbon.

 

I won’t go into my tirade after going to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra because this was one of the items on C’s list of things she wanted this year, so I got tickets. Note to the Trans Siberian Orchestra people, when you place the word orchestra prominently in your name like that, I’m expecting I don’t know, an orchestra and not six people with stringed instruments, the biggest drum set I’ve ever seen in my life, and five guys with electric guitars.

 

My only question about those three torturous hours I’ll never get back is why the hell didn’t someone tell me these people play really hard rock music? I’m not trying to offend the really hard rock fans our there, but hard core hard rock music isn’t my favorite, so imagine how happy I was hearing the hard rock version of Christmas. Also imagine my surprise when the Christmas Cannon played about a million times on the radio during this time of year sounded more like Black Sabbath does Christmas when performed by these people.

 

The only thing that didn’t happen during this concert was someone biting the head off a gingerbread man and spitting it into the audience. There was a part with a dragon who invited his dragon friends to attack a castle because that of course screams Christmas. I’ll have to ask Ruth and Kathi if there’s perhaps something in Hanukkah that involves lizards that breathe fire.

 

Okay my second thing turned into a tirade so let’s get back to my blog.

 

On the flip-side of the first list are my two things I love about this time of year. The first is remembering all those memories of sharing special times with those you love. The second is shopping for the right thing for the special people in my life, and seeing their expressions when I manage to pull off a surprise.

 

This year, even though I really don’t like making lists, I started on my bucket list and managed to check off a few things. I never thought of myself as the bucket list kind of person, but things happen that changed my perspective of time and what I’m going to do with the amount I’m blessed with. Don’t worry I’m not sick, but we lost a friend this year that was my age from a sudden heart attack and a few other things that made me not want to procrastinate on anything we’d like to do and experience, so we got to see Jeter play in Yankee stadium before he retired, we went to Hawaii for the first time, and tried our best to live up to one of Mama’s last requests.

 

Garth Brooks put it best in the chorus of Pushing Up Daisies. “There’s two dates in time that they’ll carve on your stone and everyone knows what they mean. What’s important is the time that is known as the little dash in between.” Mama told us that you get this one life so make the most out of it and enjoy the hell out of it. All those moments are what make our memories and they ease the pain of loss because even when life gives us situations we don’t particularly ask for, they can’t be taken away.

 

My partner C and I were on our way home from a Christmas shopping trip recently and our conversation centered around all our Christmas memories together and as children. We’ve had some wonderful holiday seasons together, but the one I told her about that night was the first Christmas my family celebrated in the states.

 

As most of you know by now, my family is originally from Cuba, and we arrived in the states in 1968. A month after that I turned five and had no idea what Christmas was about except for the stories my mother told us as children. In Cuba we celebrated the religious aspect of the season since being born into a communist state wasn’t the best for getting gifts simply because there were none to buy. In four years I got one toy on King’s Day, (there’s no Santa in Cuba either – the three wise men bring gifts on King’s Day) so my parents made up for it that first Christmas.

 

Even though I was only five, I still remember waking up and finding all those gifts under our tree. It was all small things considering we were as they say poor as church mice back then, but my mom made the most of the little money we had. The one thing I remember most was this little desk that had a green seat attached to the desk part and the top was a chalk board. When you lifted it up inside were these little pegs and a hammer so you could make designs. I loved that thing, but not as much as the memory of that day.

 

Those memories and all those that followed are what make me smile even though I’ll never see Mama here in one of her tacky Christmas sweaters she loved to wear to embarrass my brother and me. She’s probably laughing her head off in heaven seeing that tacky sweaters are now the in thing and a big business. Since I’m not five anymore I realize those times we shared and the memories I have because of those days are the best gifts of all.

 

By now you probably thing my trip down memory lane is to take my mind off the holiday music streaming out of every speaker on the planet, and you’d be somewhat right, but I’ve got memories on the brain. The reason I started with my parents is because I also remember them together having fun at pretty much everything they did, and how that never really stopped until Mama was gone. That my father misses her is easy to see in his demeanor since he wears his sadness like a winter coat.

 

When I met C, there was plenty about her that grabbed my attention, but the one thing that stood out about her and what I’m most grateful for is the fun she’s brought into my life. At times she makes me laugh when I’d rather not or think I can’t, so I decided to give her one gift she asked me for aside from the concert tickets, and that was a book where no one died some gruesome horrible death. Don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t want me to retire from the gruesome horrible death business at least on the page, but she was ready for a romance.

 

The Romance Vote The Romance Vote 300 DPIis one of C’s Christmas gifts this year and I picked the setting of politics because we met working on a campaign over thirty years ago. Believe me that’s where the similarities with these characters end. Well except for the fact that we’re madly in love too. How’s that for sappy from someone known for the aforementioned gruesome horrible deaths? I may start singing Jingle Bells at any moment but then I’d have to strangle myself and wouldn’t be able to finish this.

 

Our first months together were like a roller coaster ride of fun and getting to know each other like the fact that I hate repetitive noises, and she doesn’t like violent movies, and through it all we managed to build a strong foundation that’s held firm no matter what life’s thrown at us. It was the same feeling I wanted to give the two main characters Chili and Sam – that sense of forever my dad had with my mom and I have with C. So in this book you have politics, humor, romance, heat, and hunting (well sort of hunting.) Sounds disjointed but trust me it’ll come together once you read The Romance Vote.

 

As another year comes to a close we have plenty to celebrate on the romance front as far as Bold Strokes Books is concerned. MJ Williamz and Laydin Michaels got married as did Lisa Girolami and Kari Cranfill. Congratulations to all of you, C and I wish you all a long and happy life together, and as many fun filled times as you can possibly cram into each day. I’ll share with them and all the happy couples out there the last bit of wisdom Mama gave me, which was to enjoy life to the fullest every day and always try your best to show those you love how much they mean to you. It’s what makes life not only worth while, but it’ll be those special things you do for someone, and not so much the things you buy, that they’ll remember always.

 

Unfortunately we lost Cate Culpepper, and her passing silenced a prolific story teller and good friend to many. Thankfully her books will live on to be enjoyed by future generations of readers and fans. She will be truly missed.

 

Memories, like the brightly wrapped gifts you’ve worked hard to get for your loved ones, bring joy when you take the time to unwrap them and enjoy. In our family, thankfully for me, we do that often by recounting the stories that make up our history. This year as we celebrate the holidays, we get to watch the next generation find the wonder of what these days mean to our family since my great niece experiences her first Christmas. I’ve actually missed walking through the toy store searching for the perfect gift like I did for her father and his sister. Of course most of the ones we bought for the baby this year make noise because I’m that kind of aunt. Repetitive noises don’t bother me when I can go home after delivering gifts, one of which plays It’s a Small World when you press any button on the board. My nephew and his wife might disown me after that, but I thought it was cute so the baby’s getting it.

 

We also are conscience of the importance of time since two of our cousins are battling cancer. One of them is really ill, and like with Mama, we’ve been sharing some of our most treasured memories. From experience I’ve found that laughter helps ease some of the pain, so there have been plenty of phone calls back and forth where we talk about those times as children like our epic fireworks battles, and not about the illness. It’s a wonder we survived all those days since we actually shot fireworks at each other, and it makes me feel for Mama and my aunts since we did things like shoot fireworks at each other.

 

Our family isn’t the only one experiencing sad times so please know you and your loved ones are in our prayers. My holiday wish for you is to reminisce about all those treasured times along with the eggnog and presents as we enjoy ours. The top on my treasured times list is meeting the girl who stole my heart and has filled it with love and joy. The Romance Vote is for her, and I’m glad she decided to vote on me.

 

My hope is you enjoy it as much as the holiday season with those you love because, as in all my books, every word is also written with the reader in mind. Thank you all for your kind words you send, and for your continued support, and our wish if for all of you to have a

 

Happy Holiday season and a prosperous New Year.

BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW with STEVIE MIKAYNE

by Connie Ward

StevieMikayneLg

 

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

 

I don’t remember ever deciding to become a writer. It was more of an evolution of something inevitable for me. Fiction, on the other hand, was a choice. I like the process of taking things I’ve learned from life and weaving the details into fictional threads. The benefit, of course, is getting to decide how things turn out.

 

What type of stories do you write? And why?

My first love was literary fiction, and I always find myself straying back to that. But occasionally my brain longs for some order and complexity of plot, and I like to take a break to write mysteries.

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

I think they’ve accepted it as part of my identity, though some are more enthusiastic about it than others. The kids’ picture books are the best received overall (I write the Emlyn and the Gremlin series under Steff F. Kneff). My grandmother has just started reading UnCatholic ConductUncatholic Conduct. I did warn her that parts of the book border on erotica, but she seems unfazed…

Where do you get your ideas?

From asking myself a lot of What If questions. What if this contract was enforceable? What if this character made that choice? What if this happened to that person… and usually the germ of an idea grows and connects with other ideas, and sooner or later I have a viable plot.

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

It depends on the type of story. I learned my lesson with UnCatholic Conduct, because I literally lost the plot for a few years and had to start over to find out whodunit… Now I plot a lot more for mystery novels, even if I continue to pants it for literary fiction and the kids’ books.

What makes UnCatholic Conduct special to you?

It’s my first venture into mystery fiction, and I know that the readers of this genre are pretty loyal and have high expectations for form and content, so that makes me a little nervous. But it also makes this book pretty special.

 

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

I think I’d like to avoid answering this question so I don’t get into trouble. 😉

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

I’ve read more gay and lesbian fiction over the past several years than I ever had access to as a teenager, and I find I really appreciate a lot of the YA books out there, especially those by Malinda Lo and Julie Anne Peters. Of course, I love everything that comes out of Bold Strokes Books, which is why I was very excited when they took on UnCatholic Conduct.

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Be patient. Don’t rush. The writing process takes time, but that’s really the least time-consuming aspect of the job. Take time to research. Take time to edit, and re-edit, and send work out to honest beta readers. Research the publisher you’re approaching and make sure you’re a good fit. A published book is out there FOREVER so make sure it’s your best work, and don’t compromise.

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

What? Writers have free time? Well, in that case, I’m going to take up several new hobbies!

Seriously, most of my non-working time is currently taken up with my toddler, who is a fantastically interesting little creature. It’s amazing the things about life you can rediscover while watching someone else learn them for the first time. Most recently, it’s been snow. “Wow” she tells me with an amazed expression. It’s hilarious.

 

BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW with TINA MICHELE

by Connie Ward

TinaMicheleLg

**What made you decide to become a fiction writer?**
Would it be wrong to say that it just sort of happened? I never planned on becoming a writer. I always find it to be such a pretentious statement, but I’m actually an artist. Since I was able to hold a crayon I’ve been making a constant mess of myself and my surroundings in the name of art. I always figured that’s what I’d be when I grew up in some shape or form. I just never imagined that it would be this form. Years ago, in second or third grade, I tried my hand at storytelling—-a tragic teddy-bear love triangle entitled “The Beauty Bear” and a poem about “grub in a tub.” Needless to say neither won me any awards, and I was much better at my illustrations than the actual wordsmithing. It was an easy choice.
Fast forward through adolescence, early adulthood, college, and career, and it turns out I’m actually not that bad at writing and incredibly long-winded when it comes to telling tales (May I submit Exhibit A: this answer). Up until now they’ve been mostly retellings of situations I’ve gotten myself into and how I got myself, not always easily, out of them. I asked myself how easy it would be to turn all of those experiences and stories into something more believable. (Because it’s actually easier to believe that a fictional person accidentally rammed jalapeno pepper juice up her nose instead a relatively sane real one, right?)
To make this long answer even longer, twenty years after the teddy tragedy I decided to try again. This time I got it right, and without a single illustration. So, why did I become a fiction writer? I don’t honestly know. I guess it’s simply just another canvas for me to express myself on.

**What type of stories do you write? And why?**
I write about art, passion, and love. I’m a daydreamer, an escapist, and a hopeless romantic, and they say to write what you know. I want the reader to take away several things after they turn that last page. I want them to not only have that happy-ending feeling we all wish for, along with a few steamy moments, but I also want them to learn a little along the way. I reference a lot of artwork in my writings—-real pieces from all over the world—-masterpieces that not many have seen, let alone heard of. I love that I have an opportunity to open someone’s eyes to something new and beautiful, things they may never otherwise get to see. This is why the research part is half the fun of writing. I easily get lost looking through a world of beautiful art. You should, too!

**What do your friends/family think about your writing?**
They are ecstatic, and that’s putting it mildly. My father will tell anyone who’ll listen that his daughter writes lesbian romance novels. My mother would too, except that she cries with joy every time she tries and can’t get any words out. My stepmother, big sis, and aunt are a few of my beta readers, so I guess they’re fans. Ha!
My little sister and my friends are surprisingly supportive and charismatic about my accomplishment. I’m not surprised that they’re supportive, after all that’s what friends do, but I’m surprised by how supportive they are. It’s incredibly motivating and humbling when I think about how much love and positive energy they give me. I still haven’t wrapped my head around it all yet, and their pride makes it that much more overwhelming. And they haven’t even read my novel yet!

**Where do you get your ideas?**
I love art, it is my passion. Museums, galleries, art-supply shops, the paint department of Home Depot, I’m at home in any number of them. Venus in LoveBSB-VenusLove_151x234 was born out of a lazy afternoon on my couch as I stared up at my print of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. My other writings were imagined from a handful of experiences and one interesting art magazine article. Art is everywhere and so are my ideas. Sometimes the ideas just hit me; the good ones stick like an al dente noodle, and the others fall back behind the stove, never to be seen again.

**How do you write? Do you plan everything out or just write?**
Ha! Yes.
My plotting is a whirlwind of handwriting. Page after page of scribbles on any paper product I can get my hands on–notebooks, Post-its, index cards, napkins, and copy paper. I once wrote an entire scene on the back of the unused two-foot strip of CVS coupons that the machine spit out at me. Once I gather all of my spinning thoughts onto paper, in their various forms, I create an outline. I keep it with me in print, as well as on my cloud drive. Since I write a majority of my work on my phone (yes, my phone, and thumb cramps are no joke) it makes it easy to access when I need to add a line or two. I find that even a loose outline helps me when I struggle between staying on the path and chasing fluffy bunnies into the underbrush.

**What makes Venus in Love special to you?**
She is my baby so I love her, but this book is my savior. I began writing Venus during a very uncertain point in my life. When things fell apart it was writing that kept my head above water. I didn’t write Venus in Love with the intention of having it published. I wrote it simply because I wanted to see if I could. Did I have the determination and dedication to follow something through to the end? Turns out, for once I did. That’s all I had wanted. Was it perfect? No. Was it good? Well, it was no “Beauty Bear.” Was it mine? Most definitely.
Then I thought, after a couple persistent shoves from my sister, what’s cake without a little icing? Maybe I’ll submit it for publication. The worst they could say was no, but even then it wouldn’t change the fact that I wrote a book. And that was just the beginning! Venus in Love began as a dream, turned into an escape, evolved into a shelter, and bloomed into a wonderful being all its own.

**How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?**
Oh, good question. And I’m almost afraid to answer it honestly. Would anyone believe me if I said all of the good qualities of my characters are 100% factual representations of me? Nah, I didn’t think so either. There are many different traits of my characters that resemble me, and while I’d like to claim otherwise, the two most obvious would probably be sarcasm and clumsiness (the jalapeño joke is a painfully true story).
As for my friends, and enemies of course, they are most definitely sprinkled in. No one is safe from my imagination, especially my enemies. Insert evil laugh here. In Venus in Love, Rita is a perfect example of that, but my friends have gotten much bigger parts in my current works.

**Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite of this author?**
I’ll just say this, when I decided to submit Venus in Love there was only one shot and one publisher, Bold Strokes. And at a risk of sounding like an uber fan-girl, Radclyffe was the reason. I won’t lie. I’ve not read every last one of her books. But Love’s Melody Lost stands out on top of anything else. Sarah Water’s Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, Kim Baldwin’s Whitewater Rendezvous, Gerri Hill’s Behind the Pine Curtain… Now look what you’ve started. This may officially be the hardest question to answer.

**Do you have any suggestions for new writers?**
               For me, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything that is involved with publishing a book. I never in a million years thought I’d be here, and I certainly had no earthly idea what it would take to get from there to here. But I’ve learned so much about the process, the passion, the technique, and the patience it takes to produce something so great! Enjoy it! Put everything you have into it, because what you get out of it is infinitely greater. It seems like a lot, and when it rains it pours, but the payoff when you see all of your hard work combined with everyone else’s is priceless.

**When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?**
I work, since I’ve not yet figured out how to fund my existence on snarky comments or homemade carrot cake. I spend too much time using my annual Disney pass and not enough time kayaking. When I say I love shoes, I’m not kidding, and yes, sometimes I wear them around my house for fun. I like zip-lining, roller coasters, and being scared out of my mind during Halloween. I’d travel more, but they frown on stuffing your pets in the overhead bins. But mostly I daydream. It’s my favorite thing.

 

WHO WERE WE? WHO ARE WE?

By Ann Aptaker

Ann Aptaker photo

 

LGBT people have a glorious history. Colorful. Courageous. We built a creative culture even when the Law had us in its teeth. Yes, we were fearful, but collectively not so fearful that we gave up and disappeared. Yes, we hid from the world, but we hid in plain sight. And at night, when we came out of hiding at our bars, cafes, and other gathering places, we emerged as butterflies of exquisite design. We were damned spiffy.

Those underground years are largely gone. I can almost hear many of us say, “And good riddance!” After all, who wants to be arrested just for dancing with a partner of the same sex? Who wants to be roughed up by the cops in a raid? I know I sure don’t.

But I don’t want to elide that history, either. As we advance in our struggle for our civil and human rights, sometimes that history gets hidden in the attic, like the batty and slightly dangerous maiden aunt whose presence isn’t convenient when the nice neighbors come to call.

The result of these ornery feelings of mine is “Criminal Gold,” BSB-CriminalGoldmy debut novel, recently released by BSB. The story takes place in New York City in 1949, and the projected series will run through the 1950s, when dyke life was hidden, but exciting. Here in New York, dyke culture of that time was rich with style, sensuality, and even romantic intrigue, depending on which nightspots you frequented. Legally, though, those years were not kind to Lesbians. Raids and arrests were rampant. Punishment included not just incarceration but commitment to psycho wards, where attempts to “cure” same-sex attraction included all manner of horrific therapies. So Criminal Gold’s protagonist, Cantor Gold, is risking her life by living as an out and well-tailored butch in 1949. Some people might say she was crazy.

In the real world, Cantor might certainly be crazy to expose herself to such danger. But in the world of fiction, particularly genre fiction, Cantor Gold is able to make her stand, dare the bullies, defy the Law. (I’m sure you’ve noticed that this is the second time I’ve capitalized “Law.” No, it’s not a typo. I think of the Law as a living entity, a body endowed with the authority to do either harm or good. Too often in our LGBT history, it has done harm. The Law with a capital L is not neutral, as a lower case “law” would be. Capitalized, it conveys an oppressive authority.) Cantor, by choosing to make her living as an art smuggler, has made the decision to ignore the Law. She feels no allegiance to an entity which considers her a criminal merely for being alive. She has the courage—the authorities would say she has the unmitigated gall—to recognize the falsehood of “equal protection” and “equal justice.” So despite the risk of arrest, or even death, Cantor lives as she pleases, makes love to whom she pleases. And she triumphs, too, earning fistfuls of cash and living very well, right under the nose of the Law that wants to destroy her.

Writing Cantor’s story in the crime and mystery genre allows great freedom in creating her world. I consider genre fiction—mystery, romance, sci-fi, etc.—as cultural folk tales, mythologies which express our fears, desires and aspirations. And like all mythologies, folk tales serve to celebrate our triumphs, and explain and even justify our defeats. Thus, genre fiction is not always reflective of the real world, but it is often reflective of our dreams, the aspirations of our deepest selves, allowing us to go along for the ride with the heroes we might secretly want to be, or with the lovers we wish we embraced. In its own way, genre fiction is often more “real” than a lot of literary fiction. Genre fiction very quickly gets to the meat of who we are. Or, in the case of the time period of Criminal Gold, who we were, providing modern readers with a way to remember where we came from, how courageous we were, how we triumphed over our challenges.

While writing Criminal Gold and talking with friends and fellow writers about the book and my plans for a Cantor Gold series, I was sometimes asked if a story about a Lesbian in the 1950s would resonate with modern readers, especially now that much of the danger of those underground years has been alleviated and LGBT rights are becoming a reality. But I am convinced that Cantor and her adventures will resonate very deeply indeed. First of all, as a crime and mystery yarn, it’s just a hell of a swell read, a thrilling ride through a dangerous night with very colorful underworld characters: a femme fatale, a couple of sidekicks, gangsters. What fun! And secondly, though the modern LGBT community doesn’t face all the horrors of Cantor’s time, we are still not fully inside the Law’s good graces. Though many states now recognize our marriages and our families, the Federal government does not. So Cantor Gold’s issue remains: if the Law stigmatizes you as “other,” if you are not a full beneficiary of its protection, and if, in fact, the Law continues to deny you the full privileges of citizenship accorded other people, then what allegiance do we owe that Law at all?

In the fiction world, Cantor Gold lives her answer. In our real world, each of us must live our own. Each day, we have to live who we are. And if we look over our shoulders at the courageous dykes who came before us, we can find strength in who we were.

 

 

 

A BSB Author Interview with Julie Blair

By Connie Ward

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1) What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

Fiction writing decided on me and I’m so glad it did. In the wake of being reintroduced to lesbian fiction a few years ago and overdosing on it for months, characters and stories started showing up in my head. I know that sounds crazy so I’m thankful E.L. Doctorow once said, “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” Phew. In the spirit of “I wonder if I can do what my favorite lesfic authors can do,” and in self-defense because characters were waking me up in the middle of the night with snippets of dialogue or ideas for scenes, I started writing them down, longhand at first. It’s the most exhilarating, fun, surprising, at times infuriatingly frustrating thing I’ve done, and I can’t imagine my life without writing.

 

 

2) What type of stories do you write? And why?

 

So far stories choose me as much as I choose them. I write character-driven stories more than plot-driven stories because I love to see a character grow and transform in response to the story events. I write about things or places that interest me or about things I want to research since I’m going to be spending months or years with a story. Never Too Late Never too Lateinvolves chiropractic, softball, and Melissa Etheridge. Making a Comeback is set in Carmel and involves jazz and blindness. I like writing about emotionally wounded characters and chronicling their journey to wholeness. I love writing romance because I’m fascinated with the agony and ecstasy that often accompany falling in love and I believe strongly in the healing and redemptive powers of love.

 

 

3) What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

I wrote in private the first couple of years and only started telling people after I’d submitted my first book. I’m not known for being surprising so it was fun to hear all the “you’re writing??…books??” comments and then to share the excitement of Radclyffe wanting to publish Never Too Late. Without exception my circle of friends and family has been over-the-top supportive and excited for me. Being “public” is hard for me, and several close friends have become trusted advisors on how to handle it. Two friends have become beta and proofreaders. It’s been wonderful to deepen these relationships because of writing.

 

 

4) Where do you get your ideas?

 

So far, the inspiration for all my stories has come from books, movies, music, or life issues I want to explore. Sometimes I get curious about a secondary character or story line in a book or movie and my own characters come to life. Sometimes a single descriptive sentence or line of dialogue sprouts a new story. Sometimes an image or song creates a certain mood and a story develops out of that. A Melissa Etheridge song, The Wanting of You, inspired Never Too Late. It was one of those songs I fell in love with and played obsessively. The song is about a straight woman’s remembrance of a night with a lesbian. It made me want to explore how that night affected her lesbian lover and what the outcome of that night might have been. I combined those questions with circumstances and struggles from my own life and voila…a story. My love of jazz and Carmel, my lifelong interest in blindness, and wanting to look at the intersection of love and grief, an issue from my own life, inspired Making a Comeback.

 

 

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

 

My writing process is constantly evolving as I study the craft. I wrote three novels purely by the seat of my pants before I’d studied anything about writing or even knew what “pantser” meant. That’s still my favorite way to write and how I do first drafts. It makes the rewrite process longer and uglier, but it feeds me in a way I’m not willing to part with. So much of what we do in life is structured or planned or has to be done the right or the way someone else wants it done. Writing from that place of “anything can go on the page” and “I wonder what’s going to happen next” gives me such delicious freedom to play and explore. I love those moments when my characters surprise me or I look back at what I’ve written and wonder, “Where did that come from?” For the first rewrite I’ll take the story apart and rework it into good story structure—plot, conflict, character development, thematic issues. That first rewrite is the hardest. After that I’ll rewrite for clarity, crisper dialogue, deeper characters, better sensory and descriptive detail. I like having a long, intimate relationship with a story and letting it deepen and evolve over time—like the well-aged wines I love.

 

 

6) What makes Never Too Late special to you?

 

It’s my first published book. Do we ever forget our firsts? It’s personal to me because writing it helped me work through midlife issues. It was a way for me to look at my disappointment that where I was in my fifties was not where I thought I’d be. What happened to the dreams of my twenty-year-old self and were new dreams possible at my age? One of the remarkable things that came out of it was that having it accepted for publication by Bold Strokes Books gave me a new dream to pursue. It’s also special because some of my real-life circumstances are in it and it was fun to fictionalize those. I’m a chiropractor, as is Jamie (the story’s protagonist), and it was fun to write Jamie’s practice as the polar-opposite high-volume practice to my small practice. I was a softball pitcher, like Jamie, and graduated from the same chiropractic school, and I really did go to the Southern Women’s Music Festival a year before Jamie, although I did not meet a Carly there or go to a Melissa concert. And yes, my characters do feel like real people to me.

 

 

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

 

There’s a fair amount of me or who I’d like to be in all my main characters. Writing fiction seems to be a cathartic way for me to explore things that have happened or are happening in my life or in the world at large. I think fiction is a powerful way to look at the big questions in life, and I hope my stories have something to say about it. It’s also fun to write characters who are smarter, sexier, braver, or more talented than I am and to live vicariously through them. As for people I know, several have made it into stories as well-disguised villains—a bit of anonymous revenge.

 

 

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

 

I read my first gay-themed book in high school—Patricia Nell Warren’s The Front Runner. Because I was an athlete and already aware I liked girls, it was eye opening. The campus bookstore at Sacramento State had several whole shelves of gay (before we were LGBTQ) books—what a find! Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle was the first lesbian-themed book I read…and reread and reread. Jane Rule’s Desert of the Heart and Isabel Miller’s Patience and Sarah were also early and validating reads. In the eighties I read lesbian fiction voraciously—the whole one or two new books a month we got back then. I read Katherine Forrest’s Curious Wine and Daughters of a Coral Dawn so many times I wore them out. Chiropractic school interrupted all pleasure reading, and I’m not sure why I didn’t get back to reading lesbian fiction until a few years ago, but when I did, the quality and quantity overwhelmed me. I devoured Radclyffe’s entire inventory within a month. Tomorrow’s Promise and the Honor Series are my favorites of hers. I still read as much lesbian fiction as I can, and every single book inspires me. Seeing what lesbian fiction has grown up to be makes me so happy and proud. I’m thrilled to be able to make a tiny contribution.

 

 

9) Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

I could write pages on that question. As a new writer I’m still in the throes of finding my way through trying to get better at the craft and through the world of publishing. Everyone says “write,” and that’s true as far as it goes. You can’t get good at anything without doing the activity. But you also need a way to get better and, even more importantly, find a way to see where you need to get better. In sports I always knew what skills I wanted to improve and how to go about that. With writing I’m often unsure what’s not working or where I need to improve, let alone how to accomplish that. I think you need people outside the writing who can offer effective and tactful commentary and guidance, but those people need to be carefully selected. I was lucky to find a writing coach early on who’s helped me improve quicker than if I’d fumbled along on my own. I was very fortunate to be assigned to Bold Strokes editor Shelley Thrasher—she’s a brilliant and patient teacher. There are so many resources out there for writers, and you have to find what supports your creative spirit and your skill development. I’m not a fan of critique groups, but they work for some writers. I read books on writing all the time, and I read a lot of fiction across all genres. I follow a number of writing-related blogs and take workshops from teachers I respect. Writing is endlessly fascinating, and every day I find something new to learn or discover.

 

 

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

 

I hate this question because to answer it honestly makes me sound dull and boring. Writing is what I do for fun—pure escapism. I live a quiet life by choice, and going out into the world too much is taxing for me. My two Labradors, Magic and Mandy, are a big part of my life, and spending time walking or playing with them is fun. I enjoy dinner out with friends, gardening, cooking, jigsaw puzzles, reading, movies, and music. I love wandering through art galleries. I love going to my friends’ cabin in the Sierras, and I’m having fun learning to fly fish (of course it’s also story research). All in all not a very exciting life by most standards but it works for me.


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