Archive for February, 2015

Never Stop, Never Give Up

          By Sawyer Caine


I have always enjoyed writing as a kind of escapism from the drudgery of reality. No matter how well we cover our bases, the real world easily turns a homerun into a foul. However, writing is not without its risks. I compare writing to art in the sense that the author is an artist putting his or her work out there for the public to judge. It causes some of us to be a bit neurotic but I think that goes with the territory. I felt the urge to begin writing in earnest when I was about twelve. I actually composed a semi-erotic piece of what is now called fanfiction based on the anime Robotech. Yes, I do date myself when I admit that. At any rate, it was my first foray into the amazing world of fiction writing. From that point on out, I was hooked. Though I do blush when I look back at my beginning and how pathetic that first attempt was, I feel an extreme sense of accomplishment at becoming a published author; one of my life’s goals.

I felt compelled to write my first book, when I was studying about the 1930’s. I began to see the characters in my head and to imagine what sort of escapades I could place them in. Drawing from my love of history, I began to research and put it all together. I carry a notepad with me at all times and would stop in the middle of my workday to jot down some little bit of inspiration. I think that I connect most with Lord Alfred in this story. Though he is selfish, greedy, and pushes on with his own desires even though he realizes the consequences, his perseverance to reach his goal inspires me. The strongest character is no doubt his American lover Frederick, who endures a great deal of pain in order to hold onto the man he loves. The story is set in the Amazon jungle, an element rich with scenery that lends itself well to a steamy backdrop. The tale is rich with discovery, adventure, mystery, eroticism, romance, and a hint of the paranormal. The Black Orchid has an Indiana Jones-ish quality that will appeal to readers who love sensual mystery.



The second book I published with Bold Strokes was. I wrote this book over about a six-month period during which I was inspired by New Orleans and the glamor of Hollywood. I wanted to combine then both into a raunchy, yet romantic drama. The main character Ash, is flawed in many ways and he realizes it. He is mysteriously bound to his best friend, a famous movie star. Ash is surprised by the sudden attraction he feels for Gavin, the younger brother of his best friend. As the story unfolds, clues about the bond between Ash and Gavin’s older brother begin to surface. The boys engage in a wild ride of sex, drugs, alcohol and debauchery in the Big Easy before Ash’s secret comes back to haunt them. Life throws many roadblocks in the way of this couple, just as it does for all of us. I wanted to show the gritty reality of Ash’s existence and the choices he’d been forced to make, while also letting his vulnerabilities come through. Gavin, though somewhat bratty and insecure is the exact counterbalance that Ash is looking for in his life; someone he can love and protect. Readers looking for a hot, sexy romance, stepped with a little bit of mystery, will enjoy this book.



I will be back in May to discuss my third book, New York Nights and I’m looking forward to that with much anticipation. Before signing off, I would like to leave a word of encouragement to fledgling writers. Never stop and never give up. Keep striving and perfecting your craft and eventually, someone will notice!

The Amazon Trail

Potato Chip Salad

By Lee Lynch


With the new year comes the new resolve. With the new resolve came the Fitbit.

After knee replacement surgery last year I was given a painkiller that made me constantly nauseous. That took care of the first ten pounds I needed to lose real quick. Since it was awhile before I could swallow anything other than saltines and water, my eating habits changed dramatically. No more night owl snacks. The thought of ice cream became repellent. Fruit pies were the only sweet I could tolerate. Smaller portions were all I could handle.

Then came the lunch when the Fitbit Five sisterhood was launched. The three friends we joined for an uber calorie feast introduced us to their Fitbit Zips, the most irresistible little health gadgets my sweetheart and I had ever seen. One friend described the color of her case as Kermit green. The femme friend had pink. The third friend, a university professor, was still debating about color, which seemed appropriate. I decided I must have the Cookie Monster Blue version. Those are not manufacturer color names, but they should be.

Our Fitbits go everywhere with us—they have to if we want them monitoring our steps. Forgetting to switch a Fitbit from lounge pants to jeans, from jeans to dress pants, can reach the proportions of epic tragedy: lost steps, lost mileage, despair at our human failings. Yes, Fitbit Fanatics Anonymous is inevitable.

Sweetheart (Kermit green) discovered that one of our neighbors, slim as she is, uses a Fitbit (femme pink). You’ll see the three of us huddling on the street, pulling on our pockets, comparing progress. The neighbor always has more steps than we do, as does the Fitbit Five member whose professional life involves near-constant walking and who, strangely, hikes long distances for fun. Which only goes to prove that you can be a writer or you can stay in shape as you age. I have to set an alarm on my computer to remind me to get up and move around.

One of the neat things that can be done with Fitbits—and the dozens of other fitness trackers now out on the market—is connecting with sister Fitbitters on the Fitbit website. I can see all of the Fitbit Five’s daily step totals. (It’s actually the Fitbit Seven now, but #6 and #7 haven’t gone public with their steps.) Our dashboards give us inspiration.

Does it work, this virtual communal exercising? I think using our smart toys creates a kind of mindfulness (fitfulness?) about our bodies.  We’re all busy dykes, but the little thingamajig, and the friends who are in this with me, encourage me to take care myself. I’ve removed another 23 pounds of weight since that initial ten. My outlook on life is sunnier because, to accrue a respectable amount of steps each day, I walk outside at least two miles most days. In gloomy weather I’ll ride the exercycle. Biking, household chores, exercises and yard work are all logged and juggled automatically to provide feedback. So, the Five joke, you can clip the Zip to your sleeve and up your step count while brushing your teeth.

Of course, none of us cheat (intentionally—you know who you are!). Especially not when we log calories. I was shocked, shocked, I tell you, by one Fitbit Five exchange in which there was mention of potato chips served in a salad bowl counting as salad. Especially if the dip is called dressing.

As New York Time tech columnist David Pogue wrote in The Scientific American (Dec 16, 2014), “These devices are succeeding not because of their scientific qualities but because of their motivational ones.” I find it just plain encouraging to sync with a computer and see that I’ve been successful at using more calories than I’ve consumed.

There are disappointing days. The winter holidays are so busy, the dreariness of early darkness so wearing, the wet cold weather creates such physical tension, it’s hard to get up and go. Then there are times like today. My sweetheart and I found ourselves in a nearby town and walked while there. We hadn’t counted on the temptation posed by the restaurants down at the port. We surrendered to the five-table hot dog joint that surprised us with cooked-to-order barbeque with fresh coleslaw and slow-cooked beans and fries that tasted like actual potatoes.  So we ate all the calories we’d walked, but, our electronic calorie stalker kept us in line the rest of the day.

Fitness devices may be as much of a craze as Instagram, Ugg boots, and Gangnam Style, but I am wearing the clothes that have trekked across the country and back, begging me to slim down so they could be worn again. My beloved workshirts! My carpenter cords! My denim shorts!

Today brought an email from Fitbit the company, announcing two new wristbands. The product names are as appealing as their looks, but my little Cookie Monster Blue Zip, the least expensive, least obtrusive, most basic of them all, will remain my constant companion, my guide, my little bit of fun on the road to better health. Oh, and it’ll stomp the brake on my reawakening sweet tooth.


Copyright Lee Lynch 2015

Maxine Wore Black

 By Ifbatmanwereajedi

Maxine Wore Black 300 DPI

“Maxine is the girl of Jayla’s dreams: she’s charming, magnetic, and loves Jayla for her transgender self. There’s only one problem with Maxine—she already has a girlfriend, perfect Becky.

Jayla quickly falls under Maxine’s spell, and she’s willing to do anything to win her. But when Becky turns up dead, Jayla is pulled into a tangle of deceit, lies, and murder. Now Jayla is forced to choose between love and the truth.

Jayla will need all the strength she has to escape the darkness that threatens to take her very life.”

What I Like About This Book:

Alright, so right from the get-go I knew I liked the character Ermin. (Even if they are a small character) First off, I love how Francesca doesn’t even hesitate to ask them what their preferred pronoun was. (Something everyone should get in the habit of doing.) When they answered that they just preferred Ermin, I fell for this character. As a gender fluid individual myself, it’s always nice to have a non-gender conforming character to relate to.

The book always kept you wondering. “Where was Becky’s death going? Why was Maxine so interested in Jayla? Why was Danny so hostile towards them both? Is this a clue? Could this be possible foreshadowing?” These were all questions I found myself asking as I read the book.

The book makes you question what you thought you knew. I knew I liked Maxine and I hated Becky in the beginning of the book. However, towards the end I found myself hating Maxine and feeling more sympathetic towards Becky.

I love how they used transgender characters because I feel like there isn’t enough books that have good, strong transgender characters. I also love how the book combatted the idea that all transgender people were heterosexual. The variety in these characters are perfect!

To me. the length of this book is perfect. It didn’t take too long to finish but it certainly wasn’t a quick read either.

Finally, I love the way Maxine and Jayla’s relationship is portrayed. It shows how dangerous abusive relationships are because in the beginning you don’t even realize it’s abusive. You only realize after it gets gradually worse.

What I Disliked About This Book:

There were certain parts in the book that seemed to drag where others were really fast-paced. While this helps with the tone of the book, personally it left me a bit confused.

I wish we got to know Becky a bit more. All we really know about her is what other people remember, but we never got to interact with her firsthand.



So in conclusion, this has to be one of my favorite books. It has such a wonderful variety of characters and a beautifully developed plot line. I enjoyed trying to figure out how the book would end, and then the book just completely surprising me afterwards! I honestly think if you are a fan of thrillers or mysteries, you should read this book.

I would definitely reread this book and recommend it to others.

5/5 BatSabers from me!

Trigger Warning

by Victoria A. Brownworth


Photo Credit: Maddy Gold

As I write this, America’s most reclusive author is in the news. No, Harper Lee didn’t die, although she is 88. Rather, she found the novel she wrote prior to her iconic “To Kill a Mockingbird.” in a box. Titled “Go Set a Watchman,” the book will be published on July 14–Bastille Day. It is already #1 in books on Amazon, despite not even being published yet. She’s that legendary.

Every author hopes her book will be a best-seller. But not all authors want to be in the public eye. Lee has kept an almost secretive profile in the 55 years since the 1960 publication of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

I’ve been a journalist for 30 years. Journalists are notorious for not being known until something goes wrong–witness New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, The New Republic’s Stephen Glass or currently, Brian Williams, News Anchor and Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News, all caught in lies about their reporting.

Pulitzer Prizes–the top journalism award for reporters–are awarded every April. I have been nominated for the award myself several times, for both reporting and commentary for my work at daily newspapers. It’s an honor–I have also won numerous other journalism awards–but I am very aware that there are few Americans who are not themselves in the newspaper business, who can name any reporter who has won a Pulitzer or one of the other top awards.

Reporters who are focused on doing their jobs like I have done all these years rarely make the news. Our lives are not written about unless we write about them ourselves. You are taught from day one by your editors to keep yourself out of the story, to be objective, to not insert opinions into what you write.

In my new novel, “Ordinary Mayhem,” I wanted to write about the complexity of being a journalist who has reasons–complicated reasons–for being reclusive. I also wanted to write about how stories get told and the impact those stories have on the reporter herself–in this case Faye Blakemore, my main character.

This novel began as a short story in “Night Shadows,” edited by Greg Herren and J.M.Redmann. Some stories take on a life of their own and this one did that for me. The story was a success–it won Honorable Mention in Best Horror 2012, where I was listed right after Stephen King. But I knew when I was writing it that the story wasn’t over. I needed to know more about these characters, especially my central character, Faye, and I needed to know how Faye got to be who she was. I also needed to hear her voice–in the short story she is somewhat distanced from both the reader and me, the writer. In the novel, I can hear her clearly, see her clearly. And I am terrified for her.

We talk a lot about trigger warnings these days–everything seems to come with one, as if we have somehow all become too fragile to live in the world without covering our eyes or ears. Faye’s all about triggering her audience. She wants them to know what she knows–that the world can be a terrible, grim place filled with mayhem. She wants them to know that daily life is often covering up “ordinary” mayhem, notably the violence against women that impacts one in three women worldwide. One in three who will be a victim at some point, of male violence. Wherever Faye goes, that violence is hovering nearby.

That reality is the real trigger warning and the one Faye lives with. It’s one I have lived with myself over my years as a reporter. When you cover stories that touch you deeply or that remind you of your own most terrible experiences, some acutely harrowing, that line of objectivity blurs badly. That’s what happens for Faye, it has at times happened for me.

When you cover stories that are just horrible, they impact you, hard. You can’t explain that to people who aren’t on the front lines–sometimes literally–because they haven’t experienced what you have experienced. And that’s what happens to Faye. She’s on the front lines all the time and there is no respite from the reel in her head. Not just the photographs she’s taken, but everything she’s seen. The pink mist that sprays over everything when a car bomb goes off, for example–that’s the liquifying of human bodies. That mist gets on Faye–literally and metaphorically–and she can’t wash it off.

Ordinary Mayhem 300 DPIThere are horrifying scenes in “Ordinary Mayhem,” but there are no supernatural creatures. Everyone is real–which makes the horror all the more intense. There is nothing in this novel that I didn’t cover myself as a reporter or that I didn’t write about in some way. Conversely, while I feel I know Faye and know her well, she is not me and I am not her.

Which is a good thing, because blur that line too much and, well, ask Brian Williams.

While I was writing this book I would read sections to my fiancée. I write at night. It’s quiet, it’s atmospheric. I love the night and stories come to me then with clarity I don’t get during the day when I am doing journalistic work on deadline. Writing fiction and writing fact are so very different.

My partner would be lying in bed, reading, ready for sleep and I would say, “Let me read you this.” Over the years we have been together I have often read her pieces that are difficult–I want to be sure everything works. But as I read her more and more of “Ordinary Mayhem,” she would say to me, “Should I be worried that you wrote these scenes? That you came up with these ideas?”

After a while, she didn’t want to listen. “I have nightmares about these things, the things you have written, “she told me. “I’ll read it when it’s finished. Maybe.”

It is easier to read about zombies or vampires or the paranormal than it is about what we are capable of doing to each other at any given time. We know those things–zombies, vampires– aren’t real. We know there aren’t revenants. We know we are safe from the undead.

But are we safe from the men who come in the night and break down the door and kill everyone they find, and kill them horribly by torture and inhuman acts? No, we are not. In fact, sometimes those people are members of our very own families.

That is the story I wanted to tell–the story of the trigger warning, the real one, the one our bodies evolved over millennia to include, the one where the hairs go up on our necks and our hearts start to race and our skin flushes and we feel a little sick. I wanted to tell the story of what makes that happen. And I wanted to tell the story of how and why it happened to Faye. I wanted to layer the mayhem she covers for her job with the mayhem that is happening in her personal life. I wanted to show how isolated she was, but also how she reaches out to other women for solace.

As a journalist, I wanted to invite you into the story and how it is told. As a reader, I wanted to know what came next. As a lesbian, I wanted to know how a woman like Faye found someone–anyone–to be close to. And as a novelist I wanted to put those things together and make a story that you could peel back, layer after layer, and still not be certain if what you were reading was true or the hallucinations of a mad woman.

That mad woman might be Faye or it might be me. You will have to read “Ordinary Mayhem” to find out..

Ordinary Mayhem 300 DPI

No Pedals, No Metal

By Jesse Thoma

When I was a kid my dad and I would have “action movie Tuesday”. My mom had board meetings on Tuesday nights, so we would rent movies we knew she would have no interest in. The only criteria was that something had to blow up, it had to take place in outer space, or intrigue, national security and/or espionage was involved in some way. If superhero movies were as big back then as they are now, I would have insisted we watch every Marvel movie on repeat. To this day they are my favorite escape.

When I wrote The Chasebsb_the_chase_small__66063 I used similar criteria insofar as I knew I wanted there to be lots of action and I wanted it to be fun. I also knew I wanted there to be a sequel. Even at the beginning of my storytelling, when I was just meeting Holt Lasher and Isabelle Rochat and the rest of the gang, I knew their story was not one that could be told in a single book. But wanting to write a sequel and having a good plot to fill a second book are entirely different things.

Luckily for me, a few years ago my car was stolen and Pedal to the Metal Pedal to the Metal 300 DPIcame into being. To be clear, I saw nothing lucky about the situation at the time. My wife and I had gotten married less than a week prior, had returned from our honeymoon less than 48 hours earlier, and were up at an ungodly early hour that morning waiting for movers to take all of our earthly possessions off to our new home to enjoy wedded bliss. Instead I resisted the urge to run down our street in my boxers (coffee had been a greater priority than pants that morning) looking for my car, which was long gone, and had a morning date with a Providence police officer (pants were a priority at that point).

Sadly, there was no happy ending for my little Acura Integra. Holt, or Isabelle, did not swoop in to save the day (too bad). Dubs had not taken my car for a joy ride with Max (they would have had fun, it was a great car). The only explosions were me losing my temper a time or two with the insurance company. But, as my wife and I stared at the shell of my poor car after they found it, with no engine or sellable part left, full of beer cans, and inexplicably the creepiest doll I’ve ever seen, she looked at me and said “this would make a great story. You should write about it.” And so I did.


By Connie Ward


What made you decide to become a fiction writer?


As crazy as it sounds, rather than “becoming” a fiction writer, I think fiction writing is sort of my default setting. I always remember writing stories—in third grade I co-wrote a play that my class performed. In junior high I tried my hand at journalism, with mixed results, and in high school I tried (albeit unsuccessfully) to sell a musical comedy I’d written to a local stage company. Really, all that changed was I finally managed to get other people interested in what I wrote. It took awhile…



What type of stories do you write? And why?


Hmm, I’ve never thought much about writing in any specific genre. I tend to get ideas and let them take me where they may. So, I’ve ended up with two quasi-historical westerns, a fantasy, and now a crime noir. As to the why, well, in the latter case (Cheap as Beasts)Cheap as Beasts a lot of the initial impetus was an angry reaction to the first sixty pages of The Big Sleep. Okay, I’m mostly joking, but those early chapters of Marlowe’s premiere adventure tend to rub me the wrong way.



What do your family/friends think about your writing?


Do they? I’m not sure I accept the basic premise of the question. They tell me it’s all sorts of amazing and how happy and excited they are for me, but I’m not entirely convinced they understand what exactly I do. I’m often asked—at weddings, funerals, family picnics, etc—if I’m working yet.



Where do you get your ideas?


I’ve actually stopped that. I’m middle-aged now, and my head is so full of ideas for stories I shall never have the time nor energy to write that I’ve refused to think up any more. Which is sad because I still have chronic insomnia, which is mostly where the early ideas arose and took shape—and now I just lie awake in bed visualizing a blank screen.



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


I’ve found for the mysteries (in addition to Cheap as Beasts, I’ve also written two sequels) that I need to, at the very least, draw a timeline of events. My detective, Declan Colette, who narrates his own adventures, can stubbornly take the story in unforeseen directions, and the timeline proves essential for getting things back on track.



What makes Cheap as Beasts special to you?


I really like the MC. He’s sad and slovenly and sarcastic and wants to think he’s just beyond caring anymore, but, of course, he’s not. I also like the period—what Gore Vidal calls The Golden Age—that brief, heady time between ending WW2 and sending troops to Korea. I’m not sure I’d have fit in, mainly because I can’t really pull off a hat, but Declan allows me to indulge myself, vicariously.



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


Well, to wax Swedenborgian (if for no other reason than it sounds so intellectual), I suppose everything I create is transfused with me. To talk like I do in real life, I’d say no, not really. Certainly, there is an idealized version of myself in Declan, but, much like I don’t have his hairy chest, neither do I have his affinity for alcohol and cigarettes—nor sad, massage-parlor blow jobs (wait, is that a spoiler?). We also share very little (pretty much no) backstory. I’d say the key thing we have in common is we both like to wrestle, only he’s better at it because, come on, it’s idealized! He actually looks (in my head) a lot like a guy I used to date, but the similarities end there.



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


Shall I just list my favorite gay books? Blue Heaven by Joe Keenan. The Boys on the Rock by Jon Fox. The author who inspired me the most, however, was Dashiel Hammet. I’ve read everything of his I could find. As far as I know he wasn’t much into sex with guys, although I’ve seen pics of Lillian Hellman…<rim shot>



Do you have any suggestions for new writers?


First off, write. Write until you write well, and then try to polish it up and sell it. So, basically, I guess my answer is no, I don’t have much advice—at least not much advice that’s worth a damn. I’m still pretty new to this whole idea of getting paid for the things I write. If I had to concentrate I’d probably add: read a lot as well. And really, if you can work in a field where part of the training is nothing but sitting down to read a good book, then jackpot!



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


A better question would be what can I do for fun while I’m writing? Jeez, if I could figure out an answer to that I’d have it made. Writing is hard—I mean the physical act of transferring my thoughts to the page.


But, to answer your question, I play way too many video games (seriously, my 2013 income tax should have listed my residence as Skyrim) and I watch a lot of TV. For many years I wrestled and did MMA, but in 2001 I broke my neck. I know, that sounds bad, but apparently necks break just like arms and are often mended the same way. I was pretty lucky, I guess, because I walked around for two days before even going to the doctor. Wait, did I say lucky? I meant blessed with childlike idiocy. I still wrestle when I can. I also read—a lot!

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