Archive for May, 2015

The Power of Love in All Things Rise

By Missouri Vaun

All Things Rise 300 DPIThe inspiration for All Things Rise came about a few years ago when talk of the one percent was everywhere. I was walking through a busy New York City neighborhood when the idea for this book hit me. I was struck by the urban bustle around me. The entire city felt like a monument to consumerism. And while I love my time in NYC, it is a huge contrast to where I live in rural California. Cows and organic farms surround me there.

I also imagined how much money someone needed to live well in Manhattan compared to where I grew up in the Deep South. As I walked down the congested sidewalk I tried to visualize what the world would look like if the one percent stayed on course and economic inequity kept expanding, where would we end up? What would that world look like?

For All Things Rise I imagined one possible trajectory: a future where the one percent (ultra rich) separate from the Earth and live high in the sky, insulated from those less wealthy who remain on the ground. Coastal cities lose to the seas and the populations of the Earth suffer famine and large population die-offs due to contaminated water and disease. Oil has also peaked. In the future I envisioned, the electrical grid and oil powered industry and machines are gone for those on the ground. Sounds like an uplifting tale, right? Well, it actually is, because none of this upheaval takes place in All Things Rise. (Although, thanks to a suggestion from one reader – you know who you are – I’m thinking this would be a fun book to write.) All Things Rise takes place 150 years after this new reality has settled. In a time when those who live above the Earth and those who live on the ground have no contact with each other and haven’t for some time.

I’m a little worried this book will get categorized as science fiction when there’s very little science in it. It’s really about relationships. For those of you who aren’t into science fiction or fantasy, I want to assure you that most of this book takes place on the ground, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia. For readers who do like a little sci-fi in their romance novels, I think you’ll be happy, too.

Audrey by Missouri Vaun

Audrey by Missouri Vaun

All Things Rise is about what happens when two people from these different worlds meet, and how everything changes for them. As is often the case in the real world, fundamental change happens in seemingly insignificant ways. Nations, states, and cities rarely deviate from their course collectively. Change comes through the individual, through one person loving another person enough to modify the course of their lives. Whether the issue is sexual identity, race or religion, only through authentic encounters do people really change their perceptions. Eventually, their actions layered upon the actions of others, alter the course of history. In All Things Rise two worlds previously separated begin to overlap, and a great love story unfolds.

Cole by Missouri Vaun

Cole by Missouri Vaun

I think the more personal thread in this story is based on my own experiences. As an adult who grew up in the rural Deep South, I often find myself interacting in business environments with people from mostly urban experiences. Unfortunately, I’ve confronted prejudices in these environments because of my accent or just my general Southern sensibility. Some of these experiences get thrust upon Cole in All Things Rise.

Well, I think I’ll wrap up and let you draw your own conclusions about the book. I hope Cole, Audrey and Ava resonate with readers. I enjoyed getting to know these characters. Now that the book is finished, I find that I miss them greatly.

Ava by Missouri Vaun

Ava by Missouri Vaun

Oh, and one last note, which I also included in the acknowledgements in this first novel. I’d like to send out a special thanks to the original Missouri Vaun, my great-grandmother. I want you to know I have your typewriter and I’m taking good care of it.






Read an excerpt:

Connect with Missouri:

Twitter: @missourivaun




As a Writer

By Sawyer Caine

New York NightsAs a writer, I often take my inspiration from the scenery around me. This is true of my third book, New York Nights. I had the good fortune of spending some time in New York when I was a teenager. A vibrant city, full of life, and adventure, New York is the perfect backdrop for a steamy, erotic tale. I wanted to create a novel with not only an intriguing back story, but characters that, even through their flaws, appealed to the reader. The dark undercurrent that runs throughout the novel draws the reader along to discover the surprise waiting at the end.

The wrongly accused young man, Dante Hughes, finds an ally in Gaige Castile. Mr. Castile, a very ruthless and strictly business attorney, takes on Dante’s case. Gaige sees in Dante, a reflection of his former, undisciplined and indulged self. The two men embark on a journey of self discovery, the revealing of long supressed secrets, and the liberation of caged passions that draw them closer together. As the novel progresses, both men are faced with their weaknesses, and learn to draw on their strengths. However, like many stories, this one won’t end as the reader suspects it will.

Of all the books, short stories, poems and papers I have written through the years of perfecting my craft, New York Nights was one of my favorites. The reader will empathize with both Dante, and Gaige as they struggle through the imperfections common to us all. Each one of us has a skeleton or two hidden in our proverbial closet. When theatened with the exposure of dark desires and sins, most will fight to prevent disclosure of our trangressions. Gaige divulges his dark secrets in small bits and pieces to his new lover, and that opening of the soul is the catalyst that draws them both together.


The story behind the 45th Parallel

By Lisa Girolami

My mother was born in Unalaska during the WWII, ending up in Oregon after her father, a physician and officer in the Navy, finished his service to our country. The Pacific Northwest never left her soul and she spent most of her life living on its westernmost edge.

It was while she lived in Oregon, attending high school in Eugene, that she and a friend pedaled their bicycles to the beach town of Lincoln City one summer. It was 1953 and the two teenagers rode 124 miles to the ocean, throwing their bikes over guardrails when the sun set and sleeping in the soft grass along the highway at night.

It’s amazing to me that my grandparents let her go on this unusual exploit, not because they were afraid that the roads were filled with serial killers and criminals, it was a much different time then, but because it wasn’t standard practice for two girls to ride bikes that far and back, to be solely on their own, and create an adventure that was so independently and uniquely theirs.

My mom told me she fell in love with Lincoln City on that trip and went back, via car, as often as she could. And when she, at the young age of forty-seven and now living in southern California, lost my father to cancer, she took the savings he left and moved her life to that very same town she had sought out in her one big, teen adventure.

I was with her when she first shopped for houses. We flew there from Southern California and met with a realtor that drove us up and down the coast. I was highly protective of her, after losing my dad, and struggled to hide the immense ache in my heart when she’d ask me to teach her how to pump gas or figure out the VCR. She had relied heavily on my father all those years and while her life started out with a shimmering streak of adventurousness, marriage and children certainly dulled the shine, until she found herself living as the housewife she once told me she never envisioned while envying my career and work.

So when she decided to move up north, I knew it was her chance for an adventure all her own and I enthusiastically helped her look for the perfect place to start her new journey.

It came in the form of a piece of land, in the hills overlooking the ocean, in Neskowin, Oregon.Mom Neskowin Oregon

Now that dad was gone and the kids were grown and she didn’t have to tend to anyone else, I wanted to help her find out who she was and what she wanted, just for herself.

With the help of our cousins, she designed and built a beautiful house, standing proud against the Oregon mist, with a 180-degree view up and down the rocky coast.

This was her new quest, to embark on the expedition that would reconnect Kris with the Kris she remembered from her youth.

I visited there often, less to get away from my hectic career and more to check in on her, but I missed her as well. We talked long distance at least three times a week but I would long for the nights at her beach house where we’d stay up late drinking Earl Grey tea, playing cards and laughing about silly things. We loved going to the only movie house in town that showed only one movie, and beachcombing for agates so early in the morning that our windbreakers would be dripping from the ocean’s foggy mist.

So I fell in love with Lincoln City, just as she had, and when, on one of my first trips there, I saw a particular highway sign on the outskirts of town, a seed of a book idea sprouted in my head.

P1060616Lincoln City stands on the 45th parallel. It is woefully neglect in the merits of a landmark when you compare it to a Gettysburg battle or a national park, but it nevertheless intrigued me. The 45th parallel meant that Lincoln City, as well as all the other places that shared the same latitudinal address, was exactly halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. So the frick what? Being halfway between two more notable places didn’t make Lincoln City special. It was just a highway sign that someone in the department of transportation or the local Chamber of Commerce had posted as a place of interest. But someone thought it was interesting enough to boast its existence.

That’s where my author brain kicked in and the two words that always sink into my cerebral matter, like water parasites picked up in river swim while trekking through Zimbabwe, refusing to shake themselves loose, those two words that come to me more often than not, wormed into my head.

What if?

What if the people of this little beach enclave suffered from a small town Napoleon complex? What if a quaint little town, that served saltwater taffy and beach kites and seashell souvenirs to tourists, wasn’t really charming at all and the people were as habitually odd as the ‘small town mentality’ stereotype insinuates? What if a woman returns to the town her recently deceased mother adopted, only to find that things as strange as the town folk she encounters, were happening to her?

That was how my latest novel was born. The bug that was The 45th Parallel, swam around my brain with other “what if” organisms and waited, developing slowly over a number of years, until the idea had fully reached maturity and I was ready to purge myself of the growth.

Coming out this month, the printed offering is my homage to a town that brought my mom, and me, a lot of joy in the last few decades of her life. Parts of the story are similar to a person, or four or five, who my mother would tell me about or a town rumor she’d heard, while other parts are entirely fictionalized.45th Parallel cover

The small town essence thrives in the novel, as well as the real town, though at times I have strengthened its literary concentration. That’s because there’s something so interesting about the dynamics of people who circulate among an American hamlet such as this, listening to gossip, forming polarized opinions, and generally practicing the tradition of highly busy bodied meddling.

It was a joy to write The 45th Parallel because I could revisit the time I spent with my mom and have a little fun with the characters that were from memory as well as imagination.

I can still smell the flowery fragrance of Earl Grey tea and feel the grits of sand in my beachcombing shoes. And I still see her smiling at me from over a hand of Canasta cards.

The 45th Parallel isn’t the kind of tribute one usually makes to their mother or the town she called home, but it represents a unique adventure in a peculiar town – the same town where my mom, having lost my dad, found herself on her own again to create an adventure that was independently and distinctively hers.



Do you get more conservative as you grow older?

By Jenny Frame

A Royal Romance 300 DPIThey say you get more conservative or traditional as you grow older. When I first got the idea for A Royal Romance, this phrase popped into my head, and I thought about how my own viewpoints had evolved over the course of my life.

As a child, I loved history, and history books were my main reading material. Luckily my mum and dad spent any holiday we had, dragging my sister and me around every castle and historical monument in Scotland, and many areas of England. I had enormous fun running around castle battlements, hiding in dungeons, and imagining myself taking part in all sorts of ancient battles. On one such day trip I bought one of my favourite books, Kings and Queens of England and Scotland for children. I poured over that book, fascinated by the tales of good monarchs, treacherous monarchs, and downright dastardly ones. Each King or Queen brought with them an era of history, and as you followed the line of succession, you could follow the evolution of the country, and its people. As a child these historical figures were characters lifted from the pages of a storybook, vivid, colourful and exciting, and a little of that fascination I had as a child, never quite left me.

When I grew up into a teenager, and my political principles started to form, I began to think about the people at the bottom, not at the top, and the injustice of riches being handed to someone by an accident of birth. I wanted to rebel against the establishment, not peer through rose tinted glasses at the history of the past. By the time I got to college and then university, I had very similar opinions to that of my character, Beatrice Elliot. She is a highly principled socialist, an anti-monarchist, and just like her, I would have been in favour of overturning the whole constitution of Great Britain. At university, I remember giving a speech on the merits of a republic, and abolition of the monarchy, but annoyingly at the back of my mind was that little bit of childhood fascination about the institution and age old traditions that go hand in hand with it.

Another thing that fascinated me about monarchy was from a purely anthropological point of view. When you study the way the royals go about their daily lives, you find that some of their family traditions and customs would be totally alien to us, and our families, but to them it’s absolutely normal. In A Royal Romance, I wanted to show Beatrice, who lives a very ordinary life, navigate her way through this strange, ancient monarchical system. Beatrice is a complete contrast to the character of Queen Georgina, who believes in the monarchy absolutely, and takes her role as head of her family and head of the nation deadly seriously.

In the years since my rebellious student days, my opinions have softened somewhat. I wouldn’t say I agree with Queen Georgina’s views, but perhaps they lie in some grey area between the two vastly different viewpoints. So do you get more conservative as you grow older? Speaking only for myself, perhaps, just a little.


by Connie Ward 


What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision to write fiction. As an introverted child with a good imagination, I was always creating worlds, storylines, and characters in my head. This pastime stayed with me throughout my teenage years, but I was never encouraged to write them down and had no outlet for my ideas. About six years ago, after I had to medically retire from work, I was looking for something to keep my mind active, and just by chance I discovered websites that hosted both fan fiction and original stories. After reading everything I could get my hands on, I thought I could have a go myself. As soon as I started writing, I realized that this was what I should have been doing with the characters and worlds that rattled around in my brain, and even if no one ever read my writing, it was something I had to do because I enjoyed it so much.


What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I write lesbian romance, with my main characters tending to identify as either butch or femme. One of the things I wanted to do when I started was to create characters that represented people I knew in my own community and my own life. I also wanted to explore some of the difficulties, judgements, and prejudice people who identify that way face on occasion. Secondly, I am an utterly hopeless romantic, who is known to cry at the drop of a hat over a love song or film. So channeling that into my writing is great for my overemotional sappiness.


What do your family/friends think about your writing?

They were very happy I found something I enjoyed doing. They haven’t read anything of mine yet, so I’ll find out soon.


Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas come from everywhere: TV, films, news stories, and music. Music is a big influence and is a huge part of my writing process. Usually when I hear songs, my imagination creates characters and storylines around them. I try to always take notes wherever I am and come back to them later and see if my ideas are worth developing.


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

I used to just write, with a fair idea of a beginning, middle, and end, but I’m learning to become a planner. A Royal Romance was the first story or book that I planned meticulously, and I think the process helped me and the story. It makes such a big difference to know exactly what you’re doing and where you’re going with the story. I’m totally converted to planning.


What makes A Royal Romance special to you?

A Royal Romance 300 DPIA Royal Romance is not only special because it’s my first published book, but because I always wanted to tell a story that was a modern retelling of a fairy tale. So my knight in shining armor and handsome prince is a handsome butch instead, who falls in love not with a suitable princess, but the village girl who protests outside the palace gates. Fairy tales and happily-ever-afters don’t often happen in real life, but I think they’re still something we all strive for, so I enjoyed getting to write the novel. It also gave me the opportunity to write about history and politics, two subjects I love, but still keep at its heart a sweet romance, with a healthy dose of spice.


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

There are bits and pieces of me and the people I know throughout every character I write. It’s only natural that certain parts of your personality come out in your writing. For example, Beatrice Elliot’s socialist and republican views on the monarchy were very much like my own, when I was younger. Just about every argument she has with her family, friends, and Queen Georgina are ones I have had at university with my friends and teachers. I’m not a card-carrying republican anymore, so that distance helped me present George’s views on the British constitution with a degree of impartiality, I hope!


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

The two lesbian authors who have inspired me the most are Radclyffe and Ali Vali. When I discovered their books I found characters and couples who represented the type of person I am and the way I live my life. When you find yourself represented in print, film, or TV, you understand you are not alone and the way you feel isn’t different or wrong, and that’s really important.


Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Write, write, and write some more. You learn so much with every story you write, especially if you are always open to learning from others and take constructive criticism on your work. Lastly, focus on characters and subjects you’re passionate about. If you do, and it’s an enjoyable process, then you’re halfway there.


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

My partner Lou and I are huge football fans, or soccer as my American friends insist on calling it, so our weekends tend to revolve around watching games and spending time with our families. We have a standard poodle called Barney, who is our big baby, and time spent with Lou and Barney are what make me happy.

The Amazon Trail

DNA: Dyke Now and Always

By Lee Lynch



There are certain memories that glow unexpectedly brighter than the other million moments cataloged in my mind. Their significance demands attention, and for good reason. The accumulation of those quick seconds is the DNA that creates who I am. DNA being the acronym for Dyke Now and Always.

My first memory: I’m two. My father home from work in Manhattan with his newspaper, listening to a radio show while, hidden from view (I thought) by his newspaper, I danced and danced to Nat King Cole, Julie London, Benny Goodman. Thirteen years later, to Little Anthony and the Imperials, Sarah Vaughan, The Fleetwoods, I danced and danced in the hidden back rooms of gay bars.

As a queer child I played on the back lawn with neighbor kids. I was quick and smart, but never chosen for games. Instead I was taunted at any little hint of difference. I still hear the singsong voices shaming me to tears, chasing me across the green grass away from a game of Red Rover. Forty years later, on a hot night in another state, different kids—now adults—crowded in front of a courthouse to taunt grown queers, to shame our rights away from us.

In January, 1960, hidden in the bedroom of her parent’s first floor apartment, amazed, I kissed my first girlfriend, a girl group playing on the radio. Fifty years later, in October, 2010, in the flagrant autumn outdoors, awed, I married my last girlfriend ever, Vivaldi on the boom box.

Huddled in a rattling, rocking, wicker-seated subway car, clasped hands out of sight under winter jackets, smoking cigarettes, so proud, so scared, still girls. Fifty years on, standing high on a mountain over the Pacific Ocean, inhaling the wind between my sweetheart’s kisses, journeying to maturity. So powerful, so fulfilled.

New Haven, Connecticut, Dunkin’ Donuts downtown at the break of day, hot black tea. Buses on the Green puffing exhaust at dirty snow. Hungover after a late night at the Parkway Bar up Chapel Street. Ten years later, San Francisco Sober Fair, a hall filled with people once confined to gay bars. Freedom on the steep hills, passing through fog to sunshine, gathering healthy in broad daylight.

Macy’s escalator, 34th Street, ascending, excited to shop for for college clothes, buying a wardrobe out of an Ann Bannon book. Dyke fashion before it was a fashion. A buffoon in the dorm. The queer one. A photo fifteen years later: shock of recognition. That’s me? That good-looking dyke?

New Hampshire in the spring, climbing rocks over a river a long way down. Suddenly afraid of heights. A few years later, a university in the midwest, my first novel out, on a panel with Jewelle Gomez and other lesbian luminaries. Sick as a dog, shaking like a leaf, scared out of my wits. Suddenly afraid of heights.

A corner spa in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Buying lottery scratch-offs and laughing at losses with my wife-to-be, triumphant at a $2.00 win. Walking the West Coast beaches together, finding a magnificently formed, palm-sized blue agate, the most spectacular prize since cereal box toys.

The gloom of my mother’s church and her faith. The women’s land circles where I felt like a throbbing sore thumb. The sun patterns on a brook that took my breath away. The vastness of Oregon’s Kalmiopsis Wilderness that took my breath away. The books that took my breath away. The first sight of my sweetheart that took my heart away. The masses of deep red flowers on an Azalea bush so abundant I could have melted right into its glory and called it heaven—my nameless spirituality.

The narrow bedroom in my parent’s apartment, the polished mahogany desk, the paper, the pen, where I learned to labor over words. The tiny unfinished pine desk in the corner of our post-college bedroom where I wrote for “The Ladder,” so young, both myself and modern lesbian literature.

They all come together, these brightly burning memories. A main street railroad crossing in a small Western or New England town that evokes all of America for me, both the good and the bad, the bullies and the gays, the heat and the cold, the belonging and the exile.

How to make a dyke. Feed her Cracker Jacks, let her dance, give her some tools to work with. Let her love.


Copyright 2015 Lee Lynch

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