Archive for January, 2017

Eyes on the Skies

Eyes on the Skies by Lesley Davis

I love science fiction. I adore anything that deals with other worlds, with aliens, big space panoramas, and of course, heroes. My first love was Star Wars—it caught me at the right time in my tender teenage years that it’s stuck with me for life. Many moons later, I still eat, sleep, and breathe that galaxy far, far away. And I’m so heartbroken that we lost Carrie Fisher before her time, the awesome Princess Leia who became a General and was still at the heart of the battle. That’s my kind of heroine.

I wanted to do my own kind of story using science fiction themes. They say you should write what you know so that’s where the conspiracy theories came into play. Some people can talk for hours about their job, their children, a specific engine capability and how smooth it runs in their fancy car. I can’t tell you what I did yesterday (my brain has a recycle bin installed!) but I have been known for the ability to rattle off facts and figures concerning a wide and varied selection of theories. It’s an enlightening way to find out who else at the table is open to such things or who sees the world through a more selective vision. Conspiracy theories tend to end up being a subject like religion or politics, you just know someone is bound to start an argument sooner or later! So I thought, why not go for one of the biggest questions out there too: Are we really alone in the universe?

Writing Raging at the Stars I wanted to have two main characters who would strike sparks off each other from the very moment they meet. There are two very different and opposing views between Emory Hawkes the conspiracy journalist and Captain Sofia Martinez who works at Area 51. That’s the top secret military base out in the desert that’s not so much of a secret after all. Like any conspiracy theorist worth their salt, Emory believes the truth is out there and she’s determined to find it and expose it. Meanwhile, Sofia is determined that whatever happens on the base stays on the base. Both are going to end up realizing there’s a great deal more going on than either could have imagined.

Raging at the Stars

I was given the most awesome cover for this book. It just takes my breath away. I asked specifically for there to be a saucer on it. There was a part of me that didn’t want to give anything away about what the story would entail, but the other part of me, the science fiction fanatic? She was screaming “Flying saucers!! You’re writing about flying saucers! Wooohooo!!!” and she won out because she’s ten times more geeky and buys me the best films to watch! I just want anyone out there who is in the mood for a different setting for a romance novel to give this a read. Because really, for a science fiction fan (like I am) and those who love romance and adventure (which I do), what’s better than an invasion and a love story all at the same time? And you won’t believe what else happens…but I’d rather you find that out for yourselves.

I had so much fun writing this story. I always talk about how I see my stories as if they play out on a cinema screen in my head. Well, Raging at the Stars was an IMAX, THX sounding, mega monster!

I hope you’ll come along for the ride and remember, truth is always stranger than fiction!

 

BSB Author Interview with Richard Compson Sater

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What made you decide to become a fiction writer? I discovered I had the knack for writing stories as a sophomore in college. I was a theater major concentrating on performance when I took a creative-writing class as an elective. The professor loved my work and encouraged me to continue writing. I dropped the theater studies the next year (too impractical for a guy with my limited acting talent) and switched to an English major with an emphasis on fiction-writing.

 

What type of stories do you write? And why? For a long time, I resisted writing stories with central characters who were gay (like me). My heterosexual couples didn’t quite ring true, but I was afraid to come out as a writer and as a person. Only when I started creating characters with whom I shared an emotional core did my stories begin coming to life.

 

The central characters in my fiction tend to be gay men caught in the complexities—the little and large setbacks and victories—of daily life. I usually place them in a contemporary setting, though I’m working now on a novel set in the 1940s, just to see if I can pull it off.

 

rankWhat do your family/friends think about your writing? I can state with confidence that no one in my immediate family has read any of my fiction, so I can’t really answer that question. They’re uncomfortable with the gay content, even though it isn’t overtly sexual. I’ve given copies of RANK to my dad and one sister as holiday gifts this year, and I hope they will read it, but I don’t know. Another sister has already told me she will not read it or even have it in the house. Several good friends offered to read RANK in its draft form, and they were complimentary and encouraging. Their feedback was invaluable during the revision process.

 

I have a bad habit of writing stories and putting them in the drawer for later…I’ve put little of my fiction on the table until recently. I have posted a couple of brief stories on my website, http://www.richardcompsonsater.com/fiction, if anyone is curious. One of these days, I hope to put out a collection of short stories. I have a dozen or so that will make the cut!

 

Where do you get your ideas? I’ll overhear a conversation. A scene from an old movie will start me wondering “what if?” Once I dreamed a whole perfect story, woke up, and wrote it down. I’ll fall in love with a guy and want to explore a relationship that could not otherwise be, except in fiction. Every story has had different inspiration, a different genesis.

 

How do you write? Do you plan everything out or just write? I carry a small notebook around with me to jot down ideas in. I’ve grown very comfortable sitting with my laptop and just writing. I tend to edit at least a bit as I write. I rarely outline, though I usually have a general idea where the story is heading before I start. When I began working on RANK, I had in mind the story of a lieutenant who fell in love with a general, and I knew it had to have a happy ending. The first scene I wrote was the retirement dinner where General O’Neill dances with Lieutenant Mitchell. The second part I wrote concerned the lieutenant’s misadventures on the softball team because, at the time, I had been recruited to play on my air-force unit’s team with my very limited softball skills. (Much of that section is autobiographical!)

 

What makes Rank special to you? RANK is my first novel. I wrote it over the course of several years, during military deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq and stateside service at Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu. I became so invested in the characters—and I was fighting my own battle to stay in the closet during “don’t ask, don’t tell”—that RANK became very personal. It’s a testament. RANK doesn’t depict the air force as it was during my time in service but an air force I wish had existed then.

 

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters? I wrote RANK from the first-person point of view, because it was easiest for me to put myself in Lieutenant Harris Mitchell’s head. He and I are much alike. I remember being a brand-new officer at twenty-nine and struggling to cope with a deep and serious crush on a senior officer (who was not my boss, incidentally). General O’Neill is unlike any actual general I ever knew, but he contains traits of some senior officers for whom I had great respect. Most of the other characters are composites of friends (and enemies) from my twenty-four years in the service, but no one would ever recognize him/herself.

 

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite work by these authors? I’ve read—and continue to read—a number of gay authors, and I am most inspired by the fact that they tell their (our) stories so bravely. I confess that some of my favorite “gay” writers predate the term and thus never actually “came out”: Herman Melville, Henry James, Oscar Wilde, Thomas Mann, T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), E.M. Forster, Evelyn Waugh, poets Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson—and Abraham Lincoln. Favorites? Lincoln’s collected speeches; Langston Hughes’s collected poems; SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM by T.E. Lawrence; DEATH IN VENICE by Thomas Mann; MOBY DICK and BILLY BUDD, FORETOPMAN by Herman Melville.

 

One key inspiration of mine is playwright Eugene O’Neill, who may or may not have been gay, but he is known to have “experimented,” and thus I am eager to claim him. His plays are full of characters and symbolism that must be read as gay to make sense of the drama. I love his fearlessness and his willingness to write a play about anything that intrigued him, regardless of public opinion. His best gay plays: THE GREAT GOD BROWN, STRANGE INTERLUDE, BOUND EAST FOR CARDIFF, MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN, HUGHIE.

 

More contemporary favorites include John Cheever, Alice Walker, Alison Bechdel, Harper Lee, Chuck Palahniuk, Edward Albee, James Baldwin—and Maurice Sendak! Favorites include Alison Bechdel’s FUN HOME, Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Alice Walker’s THE COLOR PURPLE, and John Cheever’s FALCONER and his collection of brilliant short stories.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers? Read, read, read—EVERYTHING. Listen to what people say and how they say it. Take notes so you remember. Take a class to hone your craft. Join a writing group. Write, write, write. Revise ruthlessly. Write more.

 

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun? I love being outdoors, on or near the water. I love hanging out with my spouse Wayne and our energetic dog, Mark Twain. I love watching old movies. I’m enrolled this year at the University of Washington, a student in the screenwriting program, learning the art and craft of writing the perfect script. My acting career never panned out, but maybe I can still win that Academy Award…

Soul Mates and Butterflies Wishes

 

By: Lisa Moreau

 

butterfly-whispererI’m often asked where I get my story ideas. Sometimes they’re completely made up and other times they’re inspired by true events such as in my newest book, The Butterfly Whisperer.

A few years ago, I had two separate experiences that I tucked away in my mind, knowing that one day I’d incorporate them into a book. The first included encountering a soul mate from long ago, and the other was visiting a monarch butterfly grove. Love and butterflies…two of my favorite things. Hey, I’m a romance writer so what can you expect?

To me, a soul mate is someone you uniquely connect with mind, heart, and soul. In my life, I’ve been lucky enough to encounter several soul mates, which don’t necessarily have to be romantic in nature. Some come in the form of family or friends. I was inspired to write about reunited soul mates after unexpectedly bumping into my first love from eighteen years ago. It was a shock, to say the least, especially since we hadn’t seen each other in over ten years. We’d both moved on from our very special relationship, but it did inspire the idea to create two characters that reunite after ten years for a second chance at love.

Who doesn’t adore butterflies, right? They’re beautiful, extraordinary creatures who symbolize freedom, growth, and change. Monarchs in particular have amazing endurance since―like birds―they’re the only species to migrate thousands of miles. As incredible as that is, my affinity for monarchs really took root one unseasonably warm December day at a grove in Santa Barbara, CA. It’s the norm for monarchs to clump together in eucalyptus trees when it’s cool weather, but on this day I was astonished to see thousands of butterflies flying around, landing on my head, shoulders, and in the palm of my hand. It was like something out of a magical fairytale. That night, I Googled monarchs to learn more about them and in the search results I frequently encountered the Native American Butterfly Wish which states:monarch

 

If anyone desires a wish to come true they must first capture a butterfly and whisper their wish. Since a butterfly can make no sound, it can’t reveal the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit. In gratitude for giving the beautiful butterfly its freedom, the wish is always granted.

 

The two main characters in The Butterfly Whisperer, Jordan and Sophie, are reunited soul mates that must heal the past in order to rediscover their love. They’re also faced with overcoming differing desires and learn firsthand to be careful what you wish for when their respective Native American butterfly wishes come true.

The story takes place in the fictional town of Monarch, along the Central California Coast. It’s loosely based on many ocean side towns which house monarch groves. One thing not many people know about me is that even though I reside in a city of four million, I’m a small town gal at heart. Out of all the places I’ve written about, Monarch is by far my favorite and I’d live there if I could. It’s a quaint town filled with sometimes odd, always caring residents who love butterflies more than anything. Everything in the story and town revolve around monarchs. And in many ways, Sophie and Jordan’s romantic journey mirrors that of the twin caterpillars that they raise from birth, to cocoon, to winged adults.

Writing this story was a joy. Not only did it give me the opportunity to incorporate two meaningful real-life experiences, but I also had the chance to bring more awareness to monarchs and their conservation. In fact, I think Sophie and Jordan would agree that in addition to their romance the butterflies take center stage in the book.

BSB Author Interview with Alexa Black

alexa-black

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

 

I’ve always told stories and always loved words. I’m told I learned to read very early in my life, and I’m pretty sure I started writing soon after that. I’ve always loved imagining other worlds and how the people in them live. So I’ve always been drawn to science fiction, fantasy, or stories with magical elements. If it’s a world different from our own, I’m talking about the people who live there.

 

Steel and PromiseI’d always wanted to write novels but struggled to do it. My mind would wander off to another world before it bothered to finish a story. But with Steel and Promise, I just kept wanting—needing, maybe—to tell the stories of these two characters. Before I knew it, that became an overarching plot. And I went like this: “This is a novel. I can do this. I am doing this.”

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

 

Almost everything I write is speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, or some blend of the two). I love stories that take me to new places, that engage me to imagine what life would be like if the things we take for granted about daily life don’t quite work the way we expect them to.

 

A lot of what I write has a dark tone. There’s a lot of intense stuff in Steel and Promise. That’s always been something I’ve wanted to play around with. We often love stories of monsters: vampires, werewolves, and the like. Love and lust that’s red in tooth and claw.

 

If you look at my character, Teran Nivrai, she has claws, and she likes to use them. She’s a little twist on a vampire story. How can I take a legendary creature, like a vampire, and bring her into a science-fiction story? What’s she like there? How’s she the same, and how’s she different?

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

My family and friends are proud that I write. My family sometimes wonders why I write the things I do, but everyone has been hugely supportive.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

 

Honestly, I often get ideas from things I’ve read. I love to reread my favorite books and stories and find some obscure character or plot point and ask: Is there a story here? What might a very different character make of a plot twist like this? What might a character like this one do and say if I plopped her into a very different setting or situation? Very often when I ponder things like that, a whole universe opens up in my head, one that ends up very different from the one that inspired me originally.

 

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

 

I start off just writing, definitely. Steel and Promise began as a handful of short stories about a courtesan attending a mysterious woman with claws. Before I knew it, the characters grew a history, and a plot connected them. They went from just seeing one another out of mutual attraction to having a whole political and personal connection.

 

What makes Steel and Promise special to you?

 

It’s the first novel I’ve ever finished writing! I’d say that makes it special.

 

I dreamed up Teran many years ago. I always had a strong sense of a character who retreated into herself because of a swirl of rumors about her cruelty and coldness. I felt a deep need to explore that situation: what happens when you really are a little iffy, a little sinister, but aren’t quite the monster everyone makes you out to be?

 

Cailyn was a little more difficult. I knew I needed a partner for Teran who was patient, kind, deeply connected to others–everything Lady Nivrai was not. I also knew I needed to tell the story in her voice, to show why her compassion extended to Ms. Vampire Recluse.

 

But I found that it was very healing to write. All the dark things I wanted to explore with Teran made it into the story, and all the kindness I wanted to show to people who’ve been cast out or rejected by others made it in, too. I was in a bad place when I started writing the stories that became Steel and Promise, and writing it soothed a few of those hurts.

 

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

 

I think there’s a lot of me in some of my characters. I’m not sure about other people I know. I think it goes back to the alternate-world thing. I know what it might be like to drop someone like me into a different world. Or at least I can guess, because I live in my own head. But I don’t know as much about how that would work for someone else.

 

I do notice that many of my characters end up with histories of trauma. That’s from my own life too, I think. I’ve had some rough experiences, and I know firsthand how they change you and the way you look at things. I don’t enjoy writing about horrible things happening to my characters, but I do enjoy writing about how they protect and support each other.

 

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

 

Clive Barker, definitely! Not just because he writes otherworldly stuff, but because he has a gift for making dark stuff beautiful. He’ll be talking about something absolutely disturbing or violent or bizarre, and yet he’ll write about it using this rich, lavish prose that makes it sound attractive. Enthralling even.

 

That’s always fascinated me and inspired me in various ways. My character Teran is almost a vampire, pricking and cutting with her claws. That’s a little dark, a little sinister. What are sex and love like from the point of view of someone deemed a monster and for the woman who falls for her? For me, those kinds of questions make a story. They provoke us to ask what desire and love are, and how they look to people who don’t quite look like us.

 

For a recommendation, I’d have to say Cabal. It’s about an undead monster with mental illness. (He’s straight, but his romance is awesome.) The story focuses on a city of monsters—their culture, their identity, their art. Not only does that remind me of Teran, but I think it also speaks to many LGBT people’s experiences and support networks as well.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

Write! Don’t let anyone tell you that the story you want to tell isn’t the story you should tell. I never imagined that Steel and Promise would be published. I worried it was too niche, too weird, too intense. But all of a sudden my book had a future, and an audience, and a place to live.

 

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

 

Gaming! I play a lot of Magic: the Gathering with family and friends. Once again, it’s fantasy. But it’s also a tool to jog the mind. You can’t play well unless you think, and think a lot.

 

What if?

What If?

by Jeannie Levig

I think the question, What if? is one of an author’s greatest tools. At least it is for me. Many of my story ideas, whether I’ve written them yet or not, have started with those two words.

What if two women meet in the woods, one from present day, the other from a hundred years earlier? Once the initial question is asked, the who, how, and why follow to fill in the story. Who are these women? What makes them interesting? What are their individual stories? How do those stories conflict and threaten to keep them apart?

What if a woman named Jacey has a little girl who uses a purple crayon in her colorings to depict glimpses into the future that announce the love her mother has always dreamed of and warn of impending danger? This is a story, for which I’ve written three chapters, called Purple Crayons Never Lie. As I write this, I’m thinking maybe I should finish it. It sounds like a good book.

What if two women with no interest in romantic entanglements or complications in their lives wake together after a one-night stand to find that one’s son is marrying the other’s niece the next day? Some of you might recognize this one as the inception of my second novel, Embracing the Dawn.

What if a woman’s girlfriend disappears one day, and in the aftermath, the woman discovers she never really knew her girlfriend, falls in love with someone else, and then the girlfriend comes back? This is the What if? that was the seed for my new release, Into Thin Air.

 

o-into-thin-air

 

Into Thin Air is about a number of things, some of which I can’t give away because, after all, it is a romantic intrigue, and the intrigue part should wait to be revealed as you read it. However, one of the ideas this book explores is the question, Can we ever really know anyone, or can we only know someone to the exact degree they reveal themselves to us? In the writing of this book, I’ve looked at my own relationships, specifically what I reveal about myself, very closely. How honest am I? And in the areas I am careful about what I do or don’t reveal, why am I hiding? What do I feel I need to protect?

The characters in Into Thin Air—Hannah, Nikki, and Jordan—are complex. None of them are all good or all bad. They all have their secrets and their reasons for keeping them. Each has that one thing she desires the most that seems unattainable. And each has to face the truth about themselves and one another in order to attain it.

This book deals with the ways people can treat one another to try to make someone be who they want them to be. It has imperfect and flawed characters and is an intense read. It’s a raw and honest story about how we can learn from the ways we’ve lived our lives and make a decision to change, and offers a different way of seeing and understanding how relationships can be completely different than what we think they are.

However it turns out, Into Thin Air was written from my heart as a gift to those it speaks to in some way. There is a lot to it. It was a difficult book for me to write due to the emotional charge of some of the subject matter as well as the intensity of the story, but I’m glad I did. It is a story that needed to be told.

Back to What if?

What if I end this blog, invite you into the world of Hannah, Nikki, and Jordan to form your own conclusions, and get back to writing my next novel? That just might be ideal.

SURVIVAL BY CRAZY

 

by Ann Aptaker

ann-photo-300dpi

 

Okay, I have a few options here. I could cheer my good fortune in the year that just passed (Tarnished Gold, book two in the Cantor Gold crime series, won the Lambda and the Goldie awards, and I was hired to write scripts for a season of the children’s science TV show Space Racers.) Or I could hang my head in misery about events in that same year, which ended with the most nauseating election result in American history (talkin’ to you, Trump voters; I’m a dyke, and you clearly don’t give a fig for my rights, or even my safety). Or I could ignore the world’s crap and just hum my way into a numb nirvana, but a few days of that would probably kill me with boredom. Or I could embrace my most reliable survival skill, the one that writes the books, the one which identifies me as being a little nuts.

Though the first option feeds my ego with the irresistible candy of praise and recognition, I rely on the last one. It’s my “go to” when I need aid and comfort and strength. When I’m in my crazy-empowered state, hallucinations become scenes which become storylines which become books. Being a little nuts thus releases my most productive self; after all, I don’t have an elf crew which writes my books for me in the dead of night while I sleep.

Being a little nuts is also very freeing. I can chalk up my wildest, riskiest thoughts to, well, being a little nuts, and then everything just flows from there. No guilt, no shame, just literary flow. And come to think of it, I have to be a little nuts to write crime and mystery fiction in a Lesfic market which gobbles up romance. But oh well, what can I do? To quote one of the masters, Raymond Chandler, “Danger is my business,” to which I might add, “And dangerous women are my literary pleasure.”

Tarnished Gold 300 DPIWhich brings me to the recent focus of my crazy writer’s life, the outlaw Cantor Gold. She’s dangerous, all right: art thief, smuggler, and confident dyke in 1950s New York, as at home among the gangsters and molls of the criminal underworld as she is sharing cocktails with the upper reaches of New York’s high society snoots. Cantor is dangerous because lives life on her own terms, and no one—not the Law that wants to jail her or kill her, not the rich and powerful who want to use her—will ever take that away from her. She’s prepared to die for her freedom, and kill for it, too.

When I started thinking about the series, started formulating Cantor Gold—that is to say, when I finally allowed my crazy to escape into the world and onto the page—LGBTQ life was getting better. True, George W. Bush was president, and his conservative and religious fundamentalist supporters were waving their bibles in our faces. But inch by inch, court case by court case, they were losing the argument and we were winning our rights. We were pushing America toward that light of equality at the end of the tunnel, we were gaining acceptance—in the larger cities at any rate—and it felt good!

Something didn’t feel good, though, something irritated like a pebble in my shoe, and that something was the threat of forgetfulness. I couldn’t help feeling that in our rush into our bright future, a future of normalcy, the rough edges of the culture that thrived in our earlier, shadowed life would be smoothed away to the point of invisibility. Our colorfully defiant and dangerous past, no longer fashionable as we absorbed into the American mainstream, would be pushed into the closet we ourselves were coming out of. Thus, Cantor Gold, dapper butch in a time when being Lesbian, Gay, Trans, or any other non-hetero definition was punishable by arrest, imprisonment, or commitment to the psycho ward, was my way of keeping that defiant past alive.

And now it’s 2017. That nauseating election result I mentioned earlier has the potential to stop our progress in its tracks, make our way of life illegal again, make us fearful for our very safety. Who knew past would become present? Not I in those politically optimistic early days of Cantor Gold’s creation. Who knew that the release of Cantor’s third adventure, Genuine Gold, would coincide with the installation of a presidential administration and a congress which threatens our hard won rights? Threatens us?genuine-gold-bsb-final

What better time, then, for the defiant Cantor Gold to sing her stubborn insistence on living her life as she sees fit, on claiming her rights to her body and her sexual, emotional, and personal freedom? And as it happens, the crime and murder mystery plot of Genuine Gold takes Cantor back to the neighborhood of her childhood, the place where she grew up, the place which formed her, gave her her strength, her audacity, even her strut and style: Coney Island. Back on that honky tonk isle of fantasies and thrills, Cantor must confront everything she was, everything she is, and everything she insists on being. It all happens in vintage Coney Island, a wild place, a colorful place, where a little craziness, a little danger—then and now—are valued.

So being a little nuts is proving to be my most potent survival skill, fueling my literary ambition, my creative strength, and my defiance in the face of threats thrown at us from the incoming government regime. Cantor Gold, my offspring birthed from the womb of crazy, may be a fictional character from the 1950s but it turns out she’s a hero for our own time, too. She’s brave, she’s dangerous, she’s smart and sexy, and she survives in a world that wants to silence her, imprison her, even kill her. Her best weapon? Defiance.

But to keep her alive, I rely on my best weapon: the strength of being a little nuts.


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