Posts Tagged 'Bold Strokes Books'

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.

SURVIVAL BY CRAZY

 

by Ann Aptaker

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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.

Words of Advice

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By Jessica L. Webb

There are so many times that advice is offered in life. When someone is embarking on something new, advice can be a grand gesture, often a wish and a hope of good things to come, more than practicality. Advice can be a rallying cry, friends who help shore up our resolve to adjust our aim, be brave, and try again. It can come from a place of regret, our attempts to help others avoid our own past misfortunes, words to steer a loved one around the rocky outcrops of life’s hurts.

Similarly, there are many reasons we choose to take or ignore advice. It may be a life preserver, words we cling to in an effort to keep afloat through storms we’re not certain we can weather. Advice can be unwanted, a knock to our sense of independence or adventure. It can seem like a barrier to our drive to discover and learn from our own mistakes. There are times when advice is just too close to the truth. Sometimes we simply aren’t ready.

In Pathogen, book two in the Dr. Kate Morrison Investigation series, Kate is struggling. Her life has changed dramatically since meeting Sgt. Andy Wyles. She would rather spend her time thinking about the incredible woman she has fallen in love with than the recent life-threatening incident with a deranged, self-proclaimed doctor. Or the fact that it brought up memories of her past and the heartache of losing her sister. When Kate is asked to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak in the wealthy and highly political town of Hidden Valley, British Columbia, Kate ignores Andy’s advice that maybe she should take a moment and think about everything she’s been through. Kate wants to focus on her patients and solve the mystery of a virus that isn’t acting like a virus. Kate wants to work with Andy and the RCMP as they investigate a potential bioterrorism threat. Kate does not want to stop and think about events and memories that hurt.

Like most people in life, there are times I seek out advice and times I am too stubborn or unwilling to accept advice, regardless of how badly I am in need of guidance. Here are just a few pieces of advice that stick with me.

My wife leads by example when it comes to advice, particularly in the area of failure. From Jen’s perspective, to fail is to discover the first attempt in learning. Failure is not something to avoid and it certainly isn’t something to be frightened of. For me, someone who wants to avoid that sinking feeling of failure at all cost, Jen’s continued lived example is a gentle reminder that failure is a first step and it can be as gleeful and magical as success.

A few years ago, my colleague David texted me some advice. He said “Tinker, Jess. Tinker.” Similar to Jen’s view on failure, David’s encouragement was to continue to find moments of exploration and adventure in our everyday lives. It’s a reminder that there is more than one way to solve a problem and sometimes the best solutions come from fiddling and tinkering and playing.

One of the most recent pieces of life advice I received was during this past summer’s Olympic Games. I love watching women’s soccer but I also find it stressful. My friend Katie told me, “Dude, always pre-pay the swear jar.” This advice makes sense to me. It’s a reminder that sometimes, despite our best plans and intentions, the wheels are going to come off and we’re going to struggle. In those moments we can grab a beer, find a friend, and curse to our heart’s content knowing the swear jar has been pre-paid. Tomorrow is always new day.

In Pathogen, there are a lot of reasons Kate is not ready for Andy’s advice. Like any of us, Kate is doing the best she can in a life filled with moments of joy and love as well as pain and heartache. Even as we want to echo Andy’s advice to Kate to simply stop and breathe and take some time to think, we know we cannot make others listen. There are times we cannot make ourselves listen. We carry on, we listen and learn, we watch out for each other, and we try again.

Meet Alexa Black

By Alexa Black

Steel and PromiseHi, I’m Alexa Black. Steel and Promise is my first novel, which began as a series of short stories that just never ended and eventually acquired a plot. I kept writing them as much out of surprise that I had more to say as anything else, and I’m very excited to offer you the characters, world, and relationships that grew out of that experiment.

 

I started writing the stories that became Steel and Promise because I’d just come out of my first relationship with a woman and discovered a great deal about myself. I’d always known that I like both men and women, but there’s a lot of stereotypes in the world that say if you haven’t been with women you don’t know for sure. Well, that relationship made me sure!

 

That relationship wasn’t great, and ended badly, but it taught me a lot about what I wanted and needed from relationships with both women and men. The bad place I was in was a blessing in disguise. I started writing about whatever came into my head, not worrying about whether I was writing something over the top or writing about something silly. That vow to myself to write what I wanted made it possible for me to finish the story.

 

I consciously wanted to mix an erotic story with a more conventional tale with a plot. There’s plenty of that around now if you look, but at the time I started the manuscript many years ago, it seemed like you had to pick whether you wanted something erotic or something more standard. I’m fine with heavy erotica, and I’m fine with stories that have no erotic content at all. I’ve always written both. But for this book, I consciously wanted something that someone who wanted either or both could pick up and enjoy.

 

I’ve also always liked characters that make the reader question things. The character of Teran Nivrai, a reclusive noblewoman with retractable claw implants instead of fingernails, sprang into my head years ago. The rumors about her sexuality and personality came right along with the initial idea. I think a lot of us in the LGBT community can relate to being questioned, or to questioning ourselves. To hearing rumors—or being the subject of them—and having to seek the truth inside us and find ways to reveal it to the world.

 

The character of Cailyn Derys, the courtesan who serves her and draws her out of her seclusion, took a while longer to create. But in the end, I wanted a character who answered rumors and assumptions not just with an open mind, but with kindness. I think a lot of “darker” stories can miss the power of kindness if the writer isn’t careful—and kindness is one of the most powerful forces in any of our lives.

 

Finally, as a bisexual woman, I wanted to create a story that focused on women loving women, but also challenged the stereotype that bisexual women are less serious about women than men. Not only did I learn that in my own life prior to writing Steel and Promise, but I wanted to show other women that they aren’t alone. And in doing so, I hope I’ve created a story that both lesbian and bisexual women (and everyone else!) can enjoy.

Turning up the Heat

By D Jackson Leigh

Heat, cold, rain, drought – weather drives life on a very basic level in all parts of the world.

Aching bones predict a coming cold snap, a herd of cows lying down (not just a few napping) portend impending rain, thunder in winter forecasts snow will follow seven to ten days later, and so forth.

And, any culture born from agricultural roots, like the Midwest and the South, have learned to respond accordingly. If winter’s coming to the Midwest and granny says to go ahead and dig her hole next to grandpa in the family cemetery before the ground freezes, you better do it. Everybody knows the old and infirm seem to drop along with the outdoor temperature every year. Likewise, heat, the most basic measure of Southern weather, generally slows everything down in the sultry states because we’re familiar with the dangers of dehydration and heat stroke.

Writers, however, turn up the heat to bring our stories to a boil rather than slow them. Heat between two characters is the heartbeat of a romance. Heat brings tingle to a sex scene. Heat accelerates the pace of the plot to a breathless ending.

SwelterConsidering that heat was the theme, my timing was a little off when I found my rhythm while writing Swelter.

I had signed a contract with a deadline, then procrastinated getting started.

I always intend to write during the summer months but find it difficult with so many book events during the warm months. I still work a full-time job that pays my mortgage, so my writing time is mainly on weekends. This past summer, I had six weekends in a row booked with travel. So, no writing.

Autumn was rolling in when I whipped out the first chapters to introduce my two characters to the readers and to each other. Then I suddenly had writer’s block over what to do next. I struggled through those fall months, then went to visit a close friend, VK Powell, for one of our frequent brainstorming sessions. She’s a master plotter and lives in an awesome high rise condo where one wall is all glass and looks out over a downtown city park. So, as is our custom, we imbibed – I’m partial to whiskey and she likes vodka – and brainstormed while I paced and stared out at the city lights. She was left with empty liquor bottles, and I went home filled with inspiration.

Only now, it was the dead of winter.

So, I jacked up the furnace and turned on the gas logs in the fireplace until I was sweating and The Terrors, my three rescued terrier mixes, had their tongues hanging out.

The heat building in Swelter is three-pronged: chemistry between August and Teal; temperatures baking the Texas Panhandle; and plot tension as danger escalates.

In a nutshell: Congressional aide Teal Giovanni is fleeing the media and her shattered life after her affair with a married senator makes prime time news. Betrayed by her lover/law partner, August Reese is hiding out at a small cattle ranch to testify against a drug kingpin. Attraction sparks when Teal’s aging Honda blows its engine on a steamy stretch of Texas blacktop, and she’s rescued by August. But just as that spark bursts into flame, their worst nightmare comes calling. Will they survive or swelter as the heat becomes unbearable?

Why the Texas Panhandle? I’ve always been fascinated by places like Caprock Canyon State Park, red rock giants carved out and standing tall against the skyline. Besides, what’s sexier than cowgirls in boots and chaps?

The book’s title? Well, when temperatures become too hot to withstand, it’s not uncommon to hear a Southerner to proclaim: “I’m just about to swelter.”

Since Swelter was written in winter, it only seems appropriate to have it turn up the heat with December release to warm your holiday. Hope you enjoy the ride.

 

Parting note: Leave a comment on the Bold Strokes blog site by 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, and I’ll announce two winners on Sunday, Dec. 11, to receive autographed copies (ebook copies if you live outside the U.S.) of Swelter.


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