Archive for November, 2015

“Voices in My Head”

By Karis Walsh



  1. X: What seems to be the problem?


ME: (in a shaky, haunted whisper) I see fictional people.


Fourteen of them, to be exact.


Tales From Sea Glass Inn 300 DPII’m going to need intensive psychoanalysis to sort through all the characters who have taken up residence in my head this year. For the anthology Sweet Hearts, I was given the amazing opportunity to work with two wonderful BSB authors, Melissa Brayden and Rachel Spangler, and to revisit two of my favorite characters, Kate and Jamie from Worth the Risk. In the resulting novella, “Risk Factor,” Kate’s friend Myra Owens has a chance to find romance with Ainslee Cooper when Myra starts a riding class for wounded vets. Over the summer, I wrote four novellas for my 2016 release Tales from Sea Glass Inn. So, there are two main characters in each of the five novellas, plus appearances by Mel and Pam (from Sea Glass Inn), and Jamie and Kate…


It’s getting crowded in here.


All of these characters are unique people in my mind, with pasts and talents and secret hopes specific to each of them. But, disconcertingly, they are also fragments of me. There’s always some sliver of connection between me and the people I create, whether it’s a shared hobby, a common fear, or a similar incident from our pasts. Sometimes, all these voices in my head can be overwhelming, but I love them too much to kick any of them out before their stories are told.


Sweet Hearts is about beloved secondary characters and second chances. These women didn’t find love the first time around, instead remaining somewhat in the background, but in this anthology they are faced with the possibility of romance and have to discover whether or not they are brave enough to grab hold of it. As soon as I heard the premise for this collection, I knew I wanted to tell Myra’s story because her voice was still loud in my mind even after I had finished Worth the Risk. She was fun to write as a secondary character because she’s smart, compassionate, and very strong, and she gained depth and texture in my mind as a main character. Like me, she loves horses, but she uses her passion in a wonderful and life-changing way, for both her and her students.


Melissa, Rachel, and I live very different lives, and the characters we’ve created in Sweet Hearts are as diverse as we are, but these three novellas are united by a powerful and enduring Sweet Heartsconcept: the healing power of love.

“You’ll Never Know Unless You Try”


Winters HarborA few years ago, I spent my free time baking instead of writing. I’d gotten a small, modestly profitable cake business off the ground and fantasized about fame, fortune, and Food Network. I even passed an initial screening and had the opportunity to submit an audition video to Cupcake Wars. While freaking out about the potential rejection, as well as the chaos that would ensue if I was chosen, my therapist at the time had some words of wisdom: you risk nothing by trying.


She’s a very smart woman, so I took her advice. Unable to fathom doing it in front of anyone, I set up a tripod in my basement bakery, filmed it, learned iMovie, edited it, and put it out there for the world to see (all over the course of a weekend.) I didn’t make it onto the show, but making the video was a blast. To this day, it’s a great conversation starter and my go-to random interesting fact. Sure, I’m a little bitter every time Cupcake Wars comes on, but I’m still glad I tried.


My first stab at NaNoWriMo was similar. A friend who’d done it the year before inspired me to take on the epic challenge of writing 50,000 words in thirty days. At the end of November, I had 50,279 words of novel that wasn’t terrible. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all that good, either.


Undeterred, I set it aside and gave myself permission to start from scratch. I also gave myself permission to write a book I’d love to read (a romance) and to set it in one of my favorite places (Provincetown). And, well, it worked. The result is my first complete novel and my first work with Bold Strokes Books.


Winter’s Harbor features Lia, science writer, and Alex, a pastry chef. Lia arrives in Provincetown after her ten-year relationship tanks. She’s on her own for the first time since college and is pretty sure a girlfriend is the last thing she needs. Alex lives and works in Provincetown. As far as she’s concerned, Lia might be the perfect distraction for the cold and quiet months of winter.


Like many writers, I wrote a ton of witty dialog and self-indulgent scenes and was pretty happy with myself. My editor, on the other hand, pointed out that I’d neglected to create truly meaningful conflict. I huffed. I put my hands on my hips. I whined. How dare some hot shot editor pick apart my perfect story? After about an hour of this, I admitted she was right.


My premise was that getting involved throws both women out of their comfort zones. They enjoy spending time together (spoiler: there’s a lot of cooking and baking), but neither of them is eager to put her heart on the line. It was only when I started to pick apart what that meant, however, that I got anywhere. When I thought about how much our deeply held insecurities drive us to avoid taking the kinds of chances that make life worthwhile.


Ultimately, that’s what it came down to. Lia and Alex had to grapple with the same little voices we all have. The ones that can make us feel content, but that can also keep us stuck. Clever banter and baked goods notwithstanding, Lia and Alex had to be willing to take a chance—on themselves and each other.


This is all starting to feel like a recurring theme in my life, and a lesson it’s taken me a long time to learn. I’ve still never been brave (or drunk) enough to sing karaoke, but I embrace the belief that the risks pay off. And even if I don’t always get what I want, I learn a lot and mostly manage to enjoy the ride. I think that’s what life is all about.


P.S. If you want to see the gem that didn’t win over the Cupcake Wars people, it’s still on YouTube. I’m still impressed with my editing skills. My fierce competitor face? Not so much.


by Connie Ward


What made you decide to become a fiction writer?


Fiction has always been a big part of my life. I read a lot as a kid, but it didn’t really matter what format the stories took—books, plays, movies, games, etc. I wrote scripts and fan fiction when I was younger, but didn’t really start writing my own prose until my mid-teens. In the end, it was where I felt most comfortable and the most immersed in the story. I also find that intimacy, between you and the reader, to be very satisfying, and it’s kind of lost through the collaborative process that a film or play goes through. One of the characters in Puppet Boy challenges Eric on this point, since Eric, who wants to be a filmmaker, isn’t really the kind of person you’d expect to collaborate well. But Eric is a collaborator in his own unique way, more so than me.


What type of stories do you write?  And why?


“Antihero’s journey” is probably as good a label as any. I like all genres, both for reading and writing. I like urban fantasy and horror. I like psych thrillers and crime. I like some types of romance. I like mixing them. It just depends what’s grabbing me at the time. Puppet Boy is a dark comic satire. Because I do genre-hop, I try to keep a consistent tone, which is dark, surprising, and funny. I’ll take conflicted characters with serious flaws any day over traditional good guys. I find a story much more affecting when it explores the darkness within its leads and forces them to make tough moral choices, rather than surrounding them with external darkness. It gives them clear potential for growth that may or may not be realised. I also enjoy playing the long game and keeping readers guessing. Humour is a must though. No matter how dark or violent the story gets, it has to retain that sense of fun. In the end, people love to laugh, even when the joke is just plain wrong.


What do your family/friends think about your writing?


They’ve been really supportive. My mum is one of my biggest cheerleaders and my friends have been wonderful, particularly with supporting my readings and getting word of mouth out. Most of my friends are culture geeks who aren’t easily impressed, so their endorsement of an individual story means a lot.


Where do you get your ideas?


Everywhere. People I meet, places I visit, news events, other stories…just being curious. A lot of the elements in Puppet Boy were things that intrigued me when I lived in Sydney. The city’s Puppet Boymoneyed elite. The upper-middle-class culture of the North Shore. The insecurity and self-doubt that hangs over Australia and its arts industries. The gay culture. The odd stranglehold the church has over the city and the weird conservatism that creates. Then on top of all that is this obsession with money, property, and status. Most countries have their hyper-competitive “status” city, but in Sydney, it’s up against Australia’s self-professed “laid-back” lifestyle. It was really interesting to explore that area, particularly through the eyes of a seventeen-year-old who already feels he doesn’t fit in.


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

A bit of both. I usually map out about two-thirds of the story with rough scene descriptions, then revise, re-order, and so on. The fantasy stories set in The Arcadia Trust universe are more complicated, because there’s continuity to consider. Building blocks for later books, and that all takes planning. At the same time, each novel needs to stand on its own. How do you work in just enough exposition to catch up new readers without boring your familiar audience? Those questions are important. Puppet Boy was written with its own plan, which covered about three-quarters of the story. It didn’t have an ending I was happy with until about a month or so before submission.


What makes Puppet Boy special to you?


It’s possibly the most fun I’ve had writing a story. I love Sydney, but like everywhere else, it comes with its frustrations. Puppet Boy gave me an outlet to deal with them in a way that amused me, because with a lot of these things, it’s either laugh or go crazy. Movies and Shakespeare both feature prominently, so my inner nerd had a great time dropping subtle winks and nods. You don’t have to know anything about either Shakespeare or movies to get everything you need from the story, but the Easter eggs are there if you’re keen. Besides that, it’s my second book. I’m not sure how many other writers agree, but for me it was a massive progression. Promoting my first novel taught me so much about writing and publishing and introduced me to a whole range of amazing people. Puppet Boy benefitted from all that. So it’s a coming-of-age book for me, in more ways than one.


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


I really, really try not to base characters on people I know. I might take an element here or there, but I try to pre-warn someone if I think they’re going to recognise themselves. Of course I use elements of myself as well, though I wish I’d had half of Eric’s confidence at seventeen. On second thought, maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t.  


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

of this author(s)?


There are two, neither of whom are specifically identified as ‘”ay lit.” Clive Barker, more for the overall aesthetic and the way he treats sexuality and humanity than a specific book or books. The other is Bret Easton Ellis, and again, there’s no single book, though I do find Glamorama particularly scathing, over-the-top, and wonderful. That deadpan, satirical tone he brings to all his work resonates with me. He’s completely apathetic to whether you like his characters or not, and of course, most of his characters are horrible people, so perversely, we do like them, at least enough to keep coming back. Filmmakers inspire me just as much. Gregg Araki’s The Living End completely changed my ideas about what a gay love story could be. Then if you go back to the 30s, James Whale’s horror films have that impish sense of black humour that still holds up so well.


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


Travel! An expensive thing to “do for fun,” I know, but very few things make me happier than immersing myself in a new country, culture, and language. A few days exploring a strange city is my ideal vacation. I’m the same culture nerd I was as a kid, so movies, books, and theatre are still a big part of my life. Cooking relaxes me as well, provided I don’t have to share my kitchen. You might, might persuade me to collaborate on my stories, but in the kitchen? Forget it!


When Murder Falls on the Honeymoon Phase


Illicit ArtifactsI didn’t actually intend to become a romance writer. In fact, I still hotly deny writing romance. Except that really, who are we kidding—relationship tension is at the heart of everything in life, including both my mystery novels: UnCatholic Conduct and Illicit Artifacts.
I love a good mystery, and to me, one of the most complicated mysteries of all is what makes people stay together when their lives pull them in opposite directions.
The inner workings of relationships fascinate me—what attracts people, what distracts them, and what they think is worth sacrificing for love.
In Illicit Artifacts, the door opens on a mysterious death, and a romance that’s recently cooled. Jil, a Private Investigator, and Jess, the high school principal at the heart of Jil’s former investigation, are trying to figure out how they’ll possibly stay together when their priorities are so different.
Jil has just suffered the loss of her foster mother, Elise, which is complicated by the fact that she suspects her death wasn’t an accident. Jess is cleaning up the mess Jil’s investigation made at her school while grappling with her own personal demons: a worsening physical disability and the life-altering realisation that she doesn’t want to be a principal anymore.
As Jil works to come to terms with everything she is learning about Elise’s secret life, Jess is struggling with how to stay in a closet that no longer fits.

It seems to me that all relationships eventually reach a point (or several points over time) when the partners question if separation would be easier than staying and struggling through. I thought it would be interesting to write about one such turning point happening early in a relationship. And thus the romantic subplot to Illicit Artifacts.

So, it seems that I do write romance after all. And I guess that’s fine with me.Uncatholic Conduct

Happy reading.



It’s all about Summer Passion!


Hollywood in the late 1940’s has always held a strong fascination for me. It seemed like such a romantic age. The war was over and people were going back to the movies. The leading ladies were strong, sensual women. We’re talking Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, and Ginger Rogers, just to name a few. And of course, Ava Gardner, Hedy Lamarr and Lana Turner. There were more, but you get the gist.


These women were beautiful, and more than one actress from that era was rumored to be a lesbian. The House Un-American Activities Committee was in the process of rounding up homosexuals and communists in an attempt to keep them out of Hollywood. So, these women had to be doubly careful in hiding their sexuality.


Summer PassionWith this in mind, I wrote Summer Passion. It is a book that takes place in 1946 Hollywood and the main character, Jean Sanders, is America’s Sweetheart. She’s also a lesbian. Now, in the book, I changed the name of Joseph McCarthy, but his character is still there and still hounds Jean about her sexuality.


The man who directs many of Jean’s movies, David Duvall, is a gay man and they are seen as often in public as they can to fuel rumors that they’re together. But each of them is secretly involved with someone else. And they will do anything necessary to keep their private lives private.


Summer Passion is a trek through the scary, dangerous world that was being a lesbian in Hollywood in 1946, but Jean Sanders is nothing if she’s not smart. She figures out a way to be with her true love. If only her true love will go along with it.


Thanks for reading the blog and I hope you’ll enjoy the book!

Writing Up a Storm

Author Kris Bryant’s debut novel, Jolt, was a Lambda Literary award finalist, but she’s not resting on her laurels. She’s already got several more novels in the pipeline, including her February 2016 release, Whirlwind Romance – just in time for Valentine’s Day.

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