Posts Tagged 'Bold Strokes Books'

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.

 

 

BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW with VICTORIA BROWNWORTH

by Connie Ward

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Photo Credit: Maddy Gold

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I have always been a writer. It’s my profession. My first book, a collection of poetry, was published when I was seventeen and in college. At that time I expected to be a poet because a nationally renowned poet was grooming me for that role. But when I was a senior in college, I became the star witness in a major police-brutality case, and that galvanized me in a different direction as a writer and propelled me into investigative journalism. I continued to write and publish books of poetry and short stories, as well as literary criticism and creative nonfiction, but I was/am a journalist first and foremost. That said, the short story has always been a very important writing form to me—probably my favorite form. Ordinary Mayhem is actually an expansion of a short story I wrote a few years ago for a BSB collection by Greg Herren and Jean Redmann, Night Shadows. The story received a lot of acclaim and was awarded Honorable Mention in Best Horror 2012, where I was in the company of Stephen King as well as other horror writers of note. But I wasn’t done with that story. And I think that’s why I am driven to write fiction: I have stories in my head that I am not finished with, so I have to put them on paper.

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I am, at heart, a writer of what some call “serious literary fiction.” But for me, one of the best ways to frame that is within genre fiction. My stories tend to be dark, so I lean toward mystery, noir, and horror. My work as a journalist has frequently put me in touch with a side of human nature that is not very human—certainly not humane. Those stories have to be told. My last collection of short stories, Day of the Dead, was a finalist for a number of awards, including a Goldie and a Lambda Award, and was an ALA pick for their Rainbow Book List. That collection of stories and a novella utilized mystery and horror to address a series of human-rights issues, from the trafficking of young women from the Eastern bloc to the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the poor of New Orleans.

I also write young adult stories and novels. In writing for young girls, I am trying to give them the stories I didn’t have as a child—stories where the female protagonists are actors, not passive observers. As a child, I loved the Nancy Drew books because Nancy was an actor, not an observer—but those books were really the only ones where a girl had the starring role without ending up being saved by some guy at the end. I want to give girls role models of being agents of their own lives, not having others dictate their lives dictated to them.

Finally, I write erotica under a pseudonym, and as my editor said, “You even make erotica political.” Others have co-opted our lesbian and gay sexuality. This is especially true of lesbians whose sexuality has been appropriated by men for their titillation. There’s rarely any male-driven erotica that doesn’t have the quintessential lesbian scene embedded in it. But then the man comes in and creates the “real” sexuality. No. Just…no. I try to reclaim lesbian sexuality in the erotica I write. I write lesbian sex for lesbians—sex that is all about lesbian desire, the love of the lesbian body, and the tension of having such desire in a world where just being lesbian is increasingly risky. No men are involved in my erotic stories, and they won’t be peeking through the keyhole, either! :)

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

My fiancée, who is a painter and professor at an art college, is a serious reader and, as part of an artistic community, very tuned in to literature. She’s very supportive of my writing. A number of my friends are themselves writers, so I am fortunate to have a coterie of people who read around me. That’s always a good support for a writer. And of course as a journalist, I get a lot of feedback from fans of my work, which is a huge support network and much appreciated.

Where do you get your ideas?

The world around me—both my own lesbian community and the larger society—

provides me with ideas. My fiction is very much driven by current events and the politics that impact lesbians and women, as well as other marginalized groups. I often will see a news story that piques my interest for a fictional interpretation. And of course I am also driven to write about women and women’s lives. So those subjects intersect in my writing. I’m currently writing about a famous lesbian murder that I thought needed to be a novel.

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

I do both, but for the most part I just write. Sometimes I have an idea that I plot out relatively slowly and carefully. But the majority of the time the stories write themselves in the sense that I have a basic idea and start writing and the story propels itself forward. I contribute to a lot of anthologies, so much of the time I am guided by a theme set by the editor. But for me the best way to write is to just sit down and start. A story will always materialize because I always have an idea that needs to take shape.

What makes Ordinary Mayhem special to you?

Ordinary Mayhem 300 DPIThis is the most important piece of fiction I have written, I think. While it is framed as a horror novel, it’s very much a piece of serious literary and political fiction. Ordinary Mayhem builds on journalistic work I have been doing for the past decade or more. The novel gave me the opportunity to interpolate some of those stories—

ones I had actually covered as a reporter—into the novel and then expand on them in a much more personal way than was available to me as a reporter.

There is perhaps no more important issue to me than violence against women, and that is the subject at the core of this novel: How violence against women pervades society, all societies, as the novel takes place in several different countries. The impact of violence on individual women, as well as on us collectively as women, is the theme of the novel. So I wanted to show the array of women’s experiences. There are stories from the Congo where a half million women have been raped and 3 million killed, stories from Afghanistan, and stories from here in the U.S. I wanted to include the range of our experience as women and lesbians on the page. And while a lot of what transpires in Ordinary Mayhem is quite brutal and horrifying, this novel of horror has nothing supernatural about it. Everything is real, which is why it is indeed the most terrifying book you will read this year.

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

Everything in Ordinary Mayhem is taken from real life. I don’t believe any fiction is not, to a greater or lesser degree, autobiographical. We write best when we write what we know. Faye Blakemore, my main character and the narrator of Ordinary Mayhem, is a photojournalist, and her grandfather is a photographer. My grandfather was a photographer and I am a journalist. The young Faye attends a Catholic school and is greatly influenced by the nuns who teach her and inform her love for other women. That was also my experience. And some of the stories Faye covers are stories I covered—several of which got me nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. That said, Faye is not me and all the characters in the book are fictional, even if their circumstances are drawn from real life. And unlike me—spoiler alert!—she is not nominated for a Pulitzer.

I also think places are characters in novels—or should be. The mise-en-scène has to ring true. I hate reading novels where it’s apparent the author has never been to where she/he is writing about. Treat your place like a character, make it believable and realistic for the reader. So yes, you’ll find a lot of myself and a lot of my experience with people and places in the novel. And I think that’s why it rings true to readers. They believe these women exist and they know these places well.

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

I don’t know that lesbian and gay writers inspire me per se, although I read a lot of lesbian and gay writing. Mostly I read books by women writers, though. Women write entirely differently from men, and so I see things in their writing that I do not see in the majority of writing by men. For example, I love the work of Sarah Waters, who is a Welsh lesbian writer who does mostly historical fiction. Her work is simply mesmerizing—smart, acute, readable, engaging. I would recommend her to anyone who wants to read about lesbians in times other than our own. I am also a fan of lesbian mystery writers and read everything Val McDermid, Ellen Hart, and Jean Redmann write.

Two writers who have definitely influenced me, though, are P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, two British mystery writers. James died recently, which was a loss as she was a great writer. What I love about the work of these two women is how they interpolate political issues, class structure, and the impact of misogyny into their stories. James is just a brilliant, brilliant writer. Her work contains layers that I don’t think exist in the work of any other mystery writer—except perhaps Dostoyevsky, whom most people don’t think of as a mystery writer, but Crime and Punishment is perhaps my favorite mystery ever. We sometimes forget that all the best and classic fiction is, at its core, “genre” fiction. And I learned a great deal from reading P.D. James.

I review a lot of books, so I read a wide array of fiction and nonfiction. In January I read and reviewed a fabulous first novel by Katie Gilmartin, Blackmail, My Love, which is set in San Francisco in 1951. It’s a camera obscura view of lesbian and gay life before Stonewall. I really loved it. I also loved African-American lesbian writer Jackie Woodson’s extraordinary memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, for which she won the National Book Award. I have been reading Jackie’s work forever, but this book was just breathtaking. I had written about the racist controversy involving the award but had not yet read the book. When I read it, it just blew me away. And two new books I think every woman should read, lesbian or straight, are Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit, because feminism is still the most important political force in the world today and the only radical political movement that doesn’t kill anyone.


Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Well, I teach writing at the college level and also have a mentoring program with writing for urban middle-school kids, so making suggestions to new writers is part of what I do on a weekly basis. The most important dictates—because suggestion isn’t a strong enough word—for new writers are: write every day, read your work aloud, write what you know, and don’t be lazy about writing..

Writing has to become part of one’s daily routine, like eating and sleeping and brushing your teeth. It’s often a necessary chore, like the tooth brushing, and if you’re lucky, it will be as enjoyable as a good meal. But writing is, fundamentally, work. You have to treat it like a job or you won’t do it. And in my personal experience, the more you write, the better you get at it.

Learning self-editing is difficult, but a good first step is reading your work out loud. It’s much easier to hear clunky dialogue or awkward sentences when you do this.

And of course, write what you know. That’s probably the biggest truism of writing, but it’s one that will never steer you wrong. I am always deciding not to review books because I start to read and realize the writer has no clue about her subject matter. I recently declined to review a novel set in the farmland of Louisiana. I used to live where the book was set. It’s swampland. If you can’t even bother to check Wikipedia (not that this is the best source, but…) to be sure that your facts are correct, why should I read your book?

So, don’t be a lazy writer. Be dedicated to your craft. Even though it’s fiction, you have to respect your readers.

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

 

I have to laugh here, because I am known as a workaholic, and work is fun for me on many levels. But outside of writing, I really enjoy spending time with my partner and my close friends. We don’t do it frequently enough, but when we do we usually focus on a good meal and playing cards. (Yes, we are those lesbians.) I love going to films—films are one of my great loves—and I also really like watching TV, which writers are supposed to sneer at, but TV is better than it has ever been, and the level of storytelling in some series is extraordinary. I also write about TV and film for several major national publications, so while that is fun, it also keys into work.

I love reading—though I never seem to have enough time for that. And I also do handwork—crocheting, quilting, and embroidery, and I make jewelry, too. My guilty pleasure is cooking shows on TV, but I have yet to graduate to Michelin star-chef level in reality. But maybe one of these days. I’d love to do a cookbook for lesbians. Heavy on potluck, beer, and twenty-minute recipes, with a separate section for date nights!

Politics is a great passion of mine, so talking politics with friends is one of the most enjoyable things I can do on any given day. I am looking forward to the 2016 presidential campaign and our first female president. I will be working for that campaign—and it will be fun!

There’s a Writer Inside Me

By Jan Gayle

A year and a half ago I had never even dreamt of writing a fictional story let alone a full length novel. After over twenty years in the military, the only writing I did was brief concise factual reports–boring. Then one day an old friend of mine told me he had written a short story, and would I read it for him. I said sure; I always love a good story, and he’s one of the best story tellers I know. I wanted to see what he had written. As I started reading it, I thought, I could do this. I told him a little about an idea I had. It was nowhere near a real plot. He told me to write it down, and send it to him. I declined at first, then one day I just started typing about a couple of characters I had in my head–I loved it. I’ve discovered some of my best friends are my characters.I desperately wanted to see what would happen to them. In just over a month, I had 60,000 words and a real plot. I had no idea I would enjoy writing. Now, fourteen months later, about ten DIY books on writing, a creative writing course at the community college, three complete manuscripts and a monthly writer’s group meeting, and I think I’m actually getting better at a skill I had no idea I had.

The technical aspect is pretty straightforward, and I feel like I have a good handle on it. It’s the creative part I struggle with. I get a partial idea, and I start thinking I might have something, but then I can’t come up with a complete plot. I go to my muse, my amazing wife, just like I did with the first story. So far she has come through for me every time. We spend a few hours discussing my characters and my lame idea. Over the course of a few Friday-night-date dinners, we’ve figured out a pretty good plot. I haven’t been able to plan out a story start to finish in an outline with well-developed characters. I have to start writing about the people in my head. If I don’t just start nothing ever happens. After reading all the books on writing a novel, the one thing I know for sure is that there is no single right way to write a story. You just have to do it your way. There’s still so much to learn and so many ways to improve. I know I’ll get better as time goes on and as I get closer to my 10,000 hours (“The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell). As long as I love writing as much as I do right now, I’ll keep doing it. I’m a long way from a master piece, but I’m shooting for that and with Jules by my side, maybe one day I’ll get there. In the meantime, the only way to get better is to write, write, write.


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