Archive for March, 2015

For Love Of The Love Triangle

When I was in high school, I read three books a day. I would check them out from the school library before the first bell, read during class, between classes, and during lunch, and when the last bell rang I’d go back to the library and return them all. If there was one I hadn’t quite finished, I would read it while walking to my after-school job at the daycare center down the road.

Looking back, I can’t comprehend how I managed to fit that much reading in. But I do remember that the reading kept me on task with everything else. I tore through my homework assignments, got very efficient at picking out the “important” parts of my teachers’ lectures and tuning the rest out, all so I could get to the next precious minute where I could squeeze in another page, even just a paragraph, of the book-of-the-moment.

I devoured books so fast that honestly most are a blur now, but one particular series I remember well. They were called “Sunfire” romances, a series of historical YA romance novels with a very specific formula: Each book’s title was the name of the protagonist, the setting could be any place in the United States with a time period pre-1950’s, and the plot focused on a teenage girl who draws the interest of two different boys and must choose between them by the end of the book. There were thirty-two books in all, and when I’d read everything my school library had, I hopped on the city bus and went downtown to the public library to find the rest.

sunfire

Every book was mostly the same – only the sub-plots and settings differed – but I couldn’t get enough of them. I still remember my favorites: Danielle, who’s courted by a pirate in New Orleans; Caroline, who dresses as a boy and joins a wagon train; Cassie, a white girl raised in a Iroquois family; and Josie, kidnapped by a band of outlaws led by a woman. The love triangle in each book was the primary draw for me – most of the time I could tell from the beginning which of the guys our heroine was going to end up with, but every now and then there would be a plot twist that would surprise me. (Sadly, none ever ended up with another girl, though I thought many had more promising relationships with female side characters than with their male admirers.)

BSB-PrayerHandmaidenWhen I started writing Prayer of the Handmaiden, the second book in the Ithyria series, I knew that it was going to tell the love story that had taken a back seat in Sword of the Guardian . It was going to explore the relationship between Erinda, sassy chambermaid to the royal family, and Kadrian, her childhood sweetheart, who had entered the priestesshood when they were teens. What I had not planned was for the book to turn into a love triangle, much less that the third player would be the Goddess Herself. Yet as the story started to gain momentum, and especially during the scenes when Kade goes through the ceremony to become shaa’din – a holy warrior – it became increasingly clear that this was not just going to be a sweethearts-reunited kind of romance. One of the characters would have to compete with a Goddess for the heart of her beloved.

The world of Ithyria, and in particular, the Ithyrian religion, expands by leaps and bounds over the course of this story. The love between Ithyris and Kade is a very different kind of love than the one between Kade and Erinda, and yet it takes a novel’s worth of adventure and tragedy for Kade to realize which is the kind of love she can’t live without. And like the Sunfire books, readers will likely have a pretty good idea from the outset who Kade is going to choose, even if Kade herself is bumbling through it. But the thrill is never so much about the final choice as it is about the journey it takes to finally get there. And, it’s often the person who has to make the decision who’s most blind to what they really want (even though it’s plain as day to everyone around them.)

I’m really excited to get this new installment of the series out to everyone. And, if you’ve picked up the book already or plan to in the next few weeks, you should head over to my blog and check out the huge swag giveaway for everybody who buys and/or helps get the word out about the new book – there are collectible buttons! And book-themed lockets! Even a one-of-a-kind, handmade set of plushie dolls!

The giveaway’s grand prize pack! All this could be YOURS, dear reader…

As always, thanks for supporting my work and the work of everyone in the Bold Strokes family. ❤

BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH MICHELLE GRUBB

by Connie Ward

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What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

 

There was never a defining moment when I made that decision, but I guess like most other authors, I had a story to tell. Writing was the only hobby I ever took up and stuck with. I think to be a writer you have to be excited by the prospect of writing that very first word, followed enthusiastically by thousands of others. You have to be willing to begin something today that may not be finished for months or, in some cases, years. I think most people would find that prospect daunting or at least a ridiculous waste of time. For me it’s an incredible buzz; I love creating a world for my characters and a place for my readers to escape to.

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

 

My main focus is to try to write stories about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary situations. I’m motivated to write these stories because I enjoy reading them.

I like my characters to be real, and all real people are flawed. I struggle to identify with the perfect characters others perhaps adore.

I like to watch my characters struggle with conflict, mostly internal, because for most people, that’s reality.

 

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

I was rarely enthusiastic about English at school, so initially I think my friends and family were shocked that I could be bothered to write anything at all, let alone full-length novels. Everyone is super supportive, and in the early days, their encouragement made sitting in front of my computer more bearable. First novels are more often than not written with a pie-in-the-sky notion that one day you might secure a publishing deal. There’s no deadline and no guarantee of any reward at the conclusion of the process. Sometimes that encouragement, coupled with your own stubborn will to finish, is all that keeps you going.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

 

Ideas form in the most peculiar ways. Sometimes people I know inspire me, and other times it might be television, film, or literature. However it happens, I’m glad it does. And often it’s just a feeling. You can’t manufacture that; you just have to go with your gut and decide that if something moves you, it might move others.

 

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

 

I used to “just write,” but now I’m a planner through and through. Having said that, I won’t deny the planning stage is painful for me. I’m easily distracted and quite pathetic at this stage also—lots of sighing, lots of swinging on my chair, and lots of coffee because that’s a good excuse to leave the computer. In these moments I’m usually ready to “just” start, but my wife has an uncanny knack of reining this tendency in. (Might have something to do with the lock on the study door).

 

What makes Getting Lost special to you?

 

Getting LostBesides the obvious (first novel and all that) I love traveling. Getting Lost is special because in my twenties I embarked, as a young Australian eager to see the world, on a tour around Europe. All of the countries Phoebe and Stella visit hold a special memory for me, and now my book will hopefully sit on bookshelves all over the world.

It’s also special because of the rather normal things that happened in order for my story to have come so far. I look at the work of other authors and artists with a greater appreciation now. And I can count myself as one of them. The process in itself is special to me (now that I’ve survived it!).

 

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

 

I can’t deny the characters have “me” in them, but it’s often the “me” I wish I were. You know, the cooler me, the trendier me, the more linguistically accomplished me, the levelheaded me. I could go on, but you get the idea.

As for the bad traits of my characters, well, upon reflection, those traits are probably all mine. Okay, that’s not strictly true, but it’s alarmingly easy to randomly select someone you know and come up with a few things that annoy you about them. By the time you embellish that characteristic, you’ve got yourself a character with flaws that everyone can relate to.

 

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

of this author(s)?

 

I think Sarah Waters is brilliant. Fingersmith, Tipping the Velvet, and The Paying Guests are my favorites. I saw her speak at the Cheltenham Literature Festival last year and was suitably inspired. So much so, I spent the next few days locked in the study typing like a writer possessed.

Like most people, I’m drawn to books with great story lines and interesting characters, but the icing on top for me is natural and witty dialogue. Snowbound by Cari Hunter is also one of my favorites, along with Timeless by Rachel Spangler.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

Read as much as you can and not just in the genre you intend to write. And read out loud. It’s a great way to test dialogue and to help with flow and pace. Oh, and if you’re really young and you’re reading this, pay attention in English class. You don’t want to have to learn what a verb is again beyond your thirties! Okay, I know what a verb is, but dangling participles, now they get me every time.

 

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

 

I moved to England last year so besides visiting London, nearly everywhere I go is new and exciting. I brought my dog over with me, so the four of us (my wife has a dog also) trek about the place together on little adventures. I’m writing this wearing an unmentionable quantity of clothing, so I’m looking forward to the weather warming up.

I’m a fair-weather golfer, a happy snapper, and I love cafes and bookshops. In the warmer months there’s nothing better than a cycle in the country with my mate Bill. Not surprisingly, we have coffee afterward.

The Amazon Trail

Staying Home

We are not traveling this year. Definitely, positively, no ifs ands or
buts. No one can make me.

For the last eight years we’ve flown or driven across some or all of
the United States two to six times a year. And moved three times. And
endured three major surgeries between us. We’re tired and we’re taking
an eighteen month break. It didn’t help that the dentist and the
veterinarians ate all our travel money.

It seems as if, for those years, we were continuously either packing
or unpacking. Or both at the same time. My sweetheart enjoys making
reservations, plotting routes, organizing both the luggage and me. I
love the excursions she comes up with: long, narrow roads, high-end
thrift stores, new birding sites. But enough is enough. Even she cried
uncle this year.

We were in such a quandary. How could we bear not to see our friends?
So many of them go to the Golden Crown Literary Conference—and it’s in
New Orleans this year!  Also in NOLA is the Saints and Sinners
Literary Conference which we haven’t been able to attend for a few
years due to creeping exhaustion. Then there is Woman’s Week in
Provincetown.

We won’t get to see our birth families this year either. Will they
ever be able to travel here? We dearly want to show off our little bit
of Oregon. When you grow up on the East Coast, the Pacific Northwest
may as well be a foreign country and anyone who moves here seems to
have dropped off the edge of earth.

I am rubbing my hands with glee, though, because we’re withholding our
funds from the dreaded airlines. Oh, the agony of flying these days.
If not for friends, families and readers, so far away, I’d never get
on a plane again. As if the inhumane overcrowding in the name of
profits were not enough, on our last flight east we were stuffed into
newly designed seats. I didn’t think the travel industry could make
the darned things any more narrow, but they’ve achieved maximum
narrowness and minimum cushioning. Subway seats are more comfortable.

Staying home will make life easier for my sweetheart, of course. I
might finally stop losing my glasses, keys, cash, bookmarks, favorite
pens, pills, to do lists and—the dog! Oh, no, did I leave the dog
outside?

The stress of  travel (or anything else) causes my misplacement
malady. Giving up travel for a good long while may help me stop
forgetting appointments, and chores, and where I parked the car
and—the dog! Oh, no, does the dog need to go out?  She’s sixteen
and—whoops.

Other symptoms of my too-much-travel syndrome include tripping and/or
knocking over one out of every several items in my path. Dropping
small, large and medium items and everything in between. Making plans
and forgetting them. Listening to someone and tuning back in after I
realize I’ve tuned out. Doing everything too fast, as if being pursued
by the monster under my bed. Trying to remember if the cat is still
out on the fenced but roofless catio, exposed to the eagles. Doing
hand-to-hand combat with the book I’m working on to make it reveal
itself.

The house is blanketed with index cards which act like an external
hard drive for my memory. But can I find them when I need them? Why do
I expect to remember that I’ve written down something I was likely to
forget? I’m really looking forward to the peace of stability. It’s
been three months since our last trip, when we finally had time to use
a gift certificate and got a one-night honeymoon at a hotel half an
hour from home. It was a relief to return home the very next day.

Yet I am repeatedly tempted to renege on our vow to stay put.

I was going to take my sweetheart to Pat O’Briens in NOLA for her
first time. I had my inaugural and last mint julep there the year of
Stonewall and never forgot it—obviously.

My friend Carol and I always spend an afternoon buying each other
birthday gifts in Provincetown. I’ll miss that in particular this year
and probably next as we may be limited to one trip a year.

And my new Dunks’ mug? Where can I use that? Dunkin’ Donuts hot tea
and jelly donuts are a New England tradition. As is the first view of
the Atlantic Ocean driving into Provincetown.

There is nothing like spending days with all lesbians all the time.
Last year when we left the Golden Crown conference I felt 20 years old
again. Those amazons, those lesbians, and the gay guys in Ptown and
NOLA, are the essence of why I write The Amazon Trail. I need their
inspiration.

At least I won’t be bereft from missing the cat and dog this year,
although they may be better off with our pet sitter. She’d never
misplace them.

Copyright Lee Lynch  2015

Author’s Note: Lee Lynch will be at GCLS NOLA in 2015 to present Rita Mae Brown with the Lee Lynch Classic Award

BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW with FRANCI MCMAHON

by Connie Ward

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What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

 

There was never a decision about becoming a writer. I just started writing a different reality for myself, a daydream to transport myself from my present intolerable life. I found I really liked this alternate reality, looked forward throughout the day until I could be there again. So, writing became a survival tool that enabled me to change my life into the reality I wanted.

 

What type of stories do you write, and why?

 

An essay by Alice Walker galvanized me. She said something to this effect: “If you can’t find what you want to read, then write it.” I was living in Vermont and longing to be back in the West, where I grew up. I wrote Staying The Distance as a dream to live within, bringing together my love of the West and riding horses long distance, across land with no fences or roads and, of course, peopled with lesbians.

 

I think the key element here is “stories.” I want a story that takes the reader into it, has suspense and depth, with romance that develops from the characters, and has sex that feels real.

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

There’s a strange phenomena about girls who love horses and lesbians. Both are often seen by straights as having arrested development since they haven’t evolved to making men central to their lives. Both of my parents died before I began writing. My sister doesn’t take my writing seriously. My friends are enthusiastic, and I count among them some of my very best manuscript readers and commenters.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

 

Damned if I know. Usually real events are the catalyst.

 

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

 

A story will percolate around in my head until I am ready to sit down with it. I don’t plan everything out because often the characters will take hold of a story and lead it in a new direction, and I like for them to go onto new ground. If I have writer’s block I know it is because I need to work through something in the story, or that I am taking my characters in a direction they don’t want to go. Once a new path is chosen they roar along hell-bent for leather and I’m challenged to keep up with them.

 

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

 

I’d say everything. It is like dreaming; everything in a dream comes out of your depths. For instance when I write about separation of lovers in a story, every breakup I’ve ever experienced comes into play. In a love scene I remember the elements of that time that resonated like a cello.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

Yes, sit down and do it. Many people seem to want to be a writer, but until you type The End and then revise it five times, listen to comments, and then revise again you will be one of the many writers with a manuscript in your drawer. Be cautious about the ease of self-publishing because doing so deprives you of the experience of working with a good editor and the valuable advice of professional publishers.

 

What lesbian and gay authors inspired you most? Do you have a favorite of these author(s).

 

The first book to make me laugh was Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle. June Arnold’s The Cook and the Carpenter and all of Sarah Waters. Nicola Griffith’s The Blue Place. Joan Nestle, Lee Lynch, Lucy Jane Bledsoe’s Working Parts, and Katherine V. Forrest. The poetry of Becky Birtha, Olga Broumas, and Melissa Kwasney. There are so many, I am happy to say, because I remember the first few lesbian feminist books.

 

What is your favorite among the books/stories you’ve written and why?

 

Staying the Distance was my love affair with Montana and my introduction to creative writing. Night Mare and the sequel White Horse in Winter took me in a whole new direction, into suspense, and with both of these I enrolled in graduate studies. I lost count of how many revisions I went through, many of them in-depth. I am aware that I’ve mentioned three books here, but they, and the experiences and learning each gave me, were significant.Night Mare

 

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

 

There is nothing in the world like being on the back of a good horse, moving through the grass and sagebrush with the mountains as a framework. Even the slow, methodical trailing behind cows going to summer pasture, with dust and flies in your face, cannot be duplicated in joy. I also fly-fish the streams in Montana, that quiet meditation between me and the outdoors. I enjoy kayaking on lakes or slow meandering rivers, but not the white-water thrills. Classical music has been central to me since a child. My father was a violinist. And I love Patsy Cline. I tend to my fruit trees, each year an amazing abundance. I gather cut flowers into lovely vases all summer, whether from my tame garden or the wilds. I swim a lot and walk my dog. And, of course, I read. On those cold winter nights I may have a single malt whiskey in my hand.

 

 

 

Writing about Sex, Blogging about Desire

By Franci McMahon

What is often the hardest scene to write? The dreaded sex scene. We all say there doesn’t have to be one, and that it can be a lesbian novel without sex, but, well, it is a lesbian novel. And here is where, right up front, I trot out that wise saying, “Write about what you know.”

 

Are we writing from memory about sex, or is it an active, present part of our lives?

 

Art by Franci McMahon

 

 

 

 

A primary lesbian goal is the myth of happily ever after being realized. There are some rare happily ever afters, which I suspect have taken much awareness, openness, maturity and mutual respect to make happen, and all too often, in the interest of longevity, a shutting down and closing off of sexual awareness. When sex goes out of your life to accommodate to being faithful, it really does leave.

 

I know for me, I’ve stayed in relationships far beyond the ‘use by’ date.

 

Then what happens when you no longer need to tamp yourself down, that your eyes can cruise a room full of women? The awakening aspect of being single is that I’m writing from a state of desire. I haven’t felt this condition in so long I truly had forgotten the whole body experience. You see I met this alluring, sexy woman at, what else, a lesbian potluck. The sum of this budding romance is that we have smiled at each other across a crowded room.

 

From this insignificant exchange my body has catapulted into warm total infusion of desire. Of course, a lot of creativity went into the growth of that awareness. I smile a lot. I imagine her accepting the card with my phone number on it. I place my warm hand over my crotch to hold it in a comforting embrace. Every fiber of my being is charged with energy.

 

Now I read back over the novel I’ve been revising with a new outlook.Night Mare

We all know what body parts we have and use during sex scenes. Let us enter the lush fields of desire, to explore the velvet of a peony, peppery tang of a nasturtium, the heady aroma of a freesia.

 

Everything we write is based on our memories, in some form. The people we’ve known, women we’ve loved, places we’ve traveled, emotions that have both torn and healed us. To give depth to our writing we need to go to our own rich aromatic earth, add horse manure and bright silvering water to our dark small seeds. We need to pull the weeds that sap the strength of our nubile plants, and in the end offer our readers flowers of exquisite beauty.

 

 

Check out Russ’ awesome blog!

Russ Gregory

Dear Teen Me from author Russ Gregory (Honey Agency series)

Teen Russ

Dear Teen Me,

I know you.

Honest.

I know you better than you know yourself. I know you so well right now I can I see you sitting there, shaking your head, smiling in disbelief.

You don’t trust me. You don’t trust anyone. You’re stubborn and determined to find your own way, but please hear me out. Because there are a few things you really need to know, and I’m the only one who will tell you.

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