Posts Tagged 'lesbian romantic intrigue'

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.

On age and living



ForsakenHappy New Year everyone. I hope this finds you raring to go into a new year of reading. For me, it has been a busy holiday season. December kicked off with the release of my first novel, Forsaken. I wrote about it here last month. It was exciting to finally have my own work out there in the vast world of lesbian fiction. Reality hit home when I realized I had not one, but two deadlines fast approaching as we neared the spin cycle of the year’s end. My second novel, Bitter Root, coming your way this summer, was back to me for the first round of edits, and the first draft of Buried Heart was due to my publisher.

Now I’ve been known to function well under pressure, but that was a bit much for anyone. With hang-dog expression and wringing of hands, I went to my publisher and asked for an extension. I was pleasantly surprised to be granted a nice four month extension on the first draft, yay! This meant I didn’t have to spend every minute at the computer, and was able to really enjoy family time during the holidays.

Our family gathering was smaller than usual for Christmas, but was so much fun. We had our traditional night before dinner of shrimp creole, ham and all the fixings. The grands, both niece and nephew were as cute as could be dressed as elves, handing out gifts. Watching with a smile so big it hurt, it dawned on me that I was now part of the senior generation in my uberfam. This is what I mean, I spent my entire life as “one of the little kids”. We self-divided our sibling herd into bigs and littles at some point. Being third from the end meant the label never disappeared. This was a great asset in helping me live young. My place had always been with my brothers’ and sisters’ children, where I got to be one of the oldest.IMG_8760

Now I looked around at the three brothers and two sisters who were at the festivities and realized they weren’t just the big kids, they were the oldsters. They were, for the most part white haired and frail. They had turned into old aunts and uncles. The shock was palpable. The nieces and nephews I used to run around with were the parents of teenagers and the babies I took care of were parents of babies. Ouch. It happened so suddenly, by my reckoning. I’m still a kid, in my mind. Where did my brothers and sisters go, and who are those old people?

IMG_7320Then I looked at my wife, smiling and laughing at the antics of the kids and I realized that it’s not how old the body is, it’s the age of the spirit and the youth of the heart that matter. Staying young isn’t so much about the body as the mind. My dad, who left us in 2011 at age 87, was never old. His heart was young, his spirit, undaunted by time. He left us a great blueprint to a happy life. Just feel. Live a lot, laugh a lot, love a lot. And that’s what I’m doing. Have a great 2016 and keep on reading. It keeps you young.


Holy Father, Holy Secret


As a child, I remember being intrigued by religion, mostly because it made little sense to me. I remember watching a TV drama in the eighties called Brides of Christ, set in a Sydney Catholic girl’s boarding school in the 1960’s. A very young Naomi Watts was one of the stars. To be honest, the show, as great as it was, left me wondering why so many people followed the church. I was a child in the eighties watching life in the sixties and it simply didn’t make sense. I remember asking my parents if the church had changed. Surely because things were so different in the eighties, the church had to have moved with the times? I was wrong. When I looked into it and as I read more, my opinion of religion sunk to an all-time low. From that time on, I was an Atheist.

M GrubbExcept I wasn’t. I discovered Shirley MacLaine autobiographies (there’s so many of them, I think I gave up after the first half dozen) and then reincarnation began to make sense. Suddenly, the thought of having a higher sense of self-consciousness wasn’t such a daft idea. Why did I have an inkling not to cross the road against the lights just before a car sped through? Why was it that the very first wave that crashed over the rocks after I stepped to the safety of higher ground, was gigantic and would have killed me? Coincidence? Probably, but even now, I like the idea that something bigger than me, and something inside me, is perhaps guiding me. God? A higher self, or just sheer, damn luck?


So, why are we talking about religion? Well mostly it’s because my third book will be released mid-January. The Fifth Gospel has nothing, yet everything, to do with The Fifth Gospel 300 DPIreligion. Is it a love story? Of course. But I hope it also delivers the simple message that love is love. I know it’s a well touted mantra, and I know I’m preaching to the converted (pun intended) but sometimes it is just as simple as it sounds.

Recently, I attempted to explain to a friend about gender, sexuality, and how for some people, their brain identifies as the opposite to the body they were born into. She understood, sort of, but in the end I just shrugged and asked her if it really mattered who people loved, as long as they loved and felt love in return. Ironically, that was the bit she understood perfectly. And while my book touches on another matter that some might find shocking or offensive, please read with an open mind. The message remains the same and always will: Love is love, love for many is fluid, and our sexuality doesn’t define us, inhibit us, or make us any less valuable as a person.

Love does none of those things. Humans do. Some devalue less conventional love in an attempt to add value to more conventional love. But why? We spend our entire lives seeking fulfilment in love. Why devalue it? Let’s celebrate it in all its forms.


by Connie Ward




What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I love to read fiction. I love getting caught up in the stories, the characters, the places. As strange as it sounds, I love that feeling of being genuinely sad once a story ends. I really wanted to write something I would want to read, that I too could get caught up in. I wanted to decide what to do with characters and how their interactions would unfold. I really like the idea of being able to drop readers into the lives of a group of characters when their futures have yet to be determined. I am a huge history buff, and to me, writing fiction gives you the opportunity to create your own kind of history and future.


What type of stories do you write?  And why?

Infiltration is an action story, based on the military and CIA. I am currently working on a different book, Lands End, which is a feel-good romance. I love writing action. It actually comes much easier to me then the classically romantic stories. I enjoy writing story lines that make you a bit anxious and a bit excited to see what will happen next. Action books allow you to bring out the very best and sometimes worst qualities in people. Bravery, heroism, and sacrifice are all entities that live within each of us, and action stories afford me the opportunity to consider those attributes on a grander scale. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a good romance novel just as much as the next person, and I’m truly enjoying exploring the different elements in creating that as well. It has allowed me to highlight a whole different list of human emotions and the internal process that people experience when trying to overcome a different set of obstacles. Bravery, heroism, and sacrifice are still crucial elements, and it’s fun to show how they actually play a role in our everyday lives and are essential in forming lasting relationships.


What do your family/friends think about your writing?

My friends and family are beyond supportive. I am so fortunate to have each of them in my life. They are always offering feedback, posing questions, and giving me ideas. My mom helps me a lot. She has probably read Infiltration nine times. My girlfriend is very invested in the book I am currently writing and always has ideas and other perspectives to consider, which has been incredibly helpful. Then my three best friends are the final sounding board. Sometimes you read something so many times you stop noticing things that fresh eyes catch. Writing is truly a process, and I have a fantastic support system that pushes me at the most important moments.


Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere. Infiltration actually started as a dream that I had, and I decided it needed to be written down. The story and characters grew from there. The idea for BSB-InfiltrationLands End actually came from the city where it takes place, San Francisco. There is a location you can visit out on the tip of the peninsula, named Lands End. The view is incredible. It is serene, full of possibility, almost magical. I had imagined all the different people that had been there for a variety of reasons—their stories, their endings, and beginnings. I wanted to write one of my own. Luckily for me there is an iconic restaurant not far from there, and there the beginning of the story started to unfold in my mind.


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

I try to plan as much as possible. I have a very large white board that hangs in my office where I write down ideas, timelines, and character features. I try to get a good grasp of where I want them to go, important scenes I want to highlight, and then I fill in the blanks from there. I don’t always write in a linear format. Sometimes I will write a chapter or a scene that I really want to take place and work backward. When I first started writing Infiltration, the story in my mind actually started at around chapter two. As you go through the process of creating, many things will change. Characters need to be altered and plot arcs will be tweaked. As you get a better sense of who the characters are and how they would react in certain situations, sometimes what you had originally planned will no longer work. You have to be willing to let certain ideas go and let different elements develop.


What makes Infiltration special to you?

Besides the fact that it is my first book, I am genuinely attached to the characters. Don’t haul me off to a psychiatric ward, but when I was writing this novel, I could actually talk to the characters in my mind. As I was filling in the blanks of their histories and where they came from, they became more real. It becomes easier to say things like, “Tyler would never do that” or “Brooke would react this way.” Being able to do this really helps in developing the story and being able to work on a sequel.


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

There is a little bit of everyone I know in all of the characters. Some of my favorite things about people and my least favorite things are in each of them. I don’t have a single character that is truly based on anyone. Some of them, however, have more similarities than others. You briefly meet Caden Styles toward the end of Infiltration. She will play a large role in the sequel, and her sense of humor resembles my younger sister’s very closely. Also, in Lands End, there is a friendship between Lena and her best friend Chloe, which at moments mimics the relationship between my best friend and me. You write more genuinely when you write what you know, so there are bound to be similarities in characters that are pulled from the people that you encounter and are close to you.


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

of this author(s)?

The lesbian authors who have inspired me are part of a long list. Radclyffe and the Honor series was my initial introduction to lesbian fiction. I also love her work as L.L. Raand and the Midnight Hunters series. Ali Vali and the Cain Casey Devil series are definitely next on the list. I’ve read everything both these authors have written. I am also a huge fan of Carsen Taite and Nell Stark, and I think we can all agree that Melissa Brayden is hilarious. Outside of lesbian fiction, Anne Rice is my favorite author, but I am an absolute sucker for the Twilight series.


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

When the weather is nice, I love to golf. I am not, however, one of those hard-core golfers who will be out there when it is fifty degrees and raining. Luckily, since I live in California, fifty degrees is pretty much the dead of winter. I like spending time with my friends. We enjoy going to the movies, hanging out and drinking wine, or going to a musical in San Francisco. I also love to travel and explore new places. I have been fortunate that this is something I am able to do pretty frequently. My girlfriend lives in Pennsylvania, so we get to do a lot of things on the east coast that I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do, being out here. The majority of my family lives in Colorado, so my mom and stepdad are always willing to show me new things there as well. I love football, more specifically, 49ers football. I watch them religiously, regardless of what else is going on in my life (yes, even when they are having a season like they are this year). There is nothing quite like being at a live football game.



ForsakenIt’s Thanksgiving, a time to reflect on those people and events in our lives that helped create who we are today. Thanksgiving has always been a special holiday for me. Growing up in my family it meant lots of good food, good company and stories. Always stories. To help you understand, I have to share a bit about the family dynamic. My parents were blessed with fifteen natural children and one who joined us at age fifteen. I was the third from the end, so family stories connected me to the life my family lived before my time. I loved hearing all about my brothers and sisters. I knew them, because I heard their stories every Thanksgiving.

We would always have Turkey, with dirty rice and baked spaghetti and cheese, broccoli and baked yams. With full bellies and sleepy smiles we would sit around the family table and listen to everyone reminisce about times gone by. In a family so large, you might think that it would be hard to hear, but that wasn’t the case. When someone was talking, everyone listened, adding a comment or a jibe here and there. Sometimes I’d come to know a story so well, I’d throw out a comment about how last year it had been Mary who did that, or Pete, or Andre. The thread that built the storyteller in me is tied to those times sharing around the table.

As we grew exponentially larger in number, Thanksgiving became conversely smaller. Brothers and sisters started having family Thanksgivings in their homes with their children and their families and I missed the deep connection of our stories. I was a diehard, always coming to my parent’s home for the holiday, cooking with Mom, making Dad his favorite apple pie, until I eventually ended up making the feast for them. I never regretted that. The after dinner stories continued with just the few of us who dined together. Now I learned my parent’s stories, about how they found each other and how they struggled to raise us. The thing they always made sure to tell me was that all they wanted was for all of us to be happy. And for that, I will always be thankful.

When I began my journey as a writer, I started with what I most loved to read. I had always been a fan of mysteries and thrillers, and that’s what I wanted to write. It’s what I always thought of when something weird happened.

Forsaken began with a long walk on a foggy beach back in 2003. I happened upon a suitcase in a trashcan. Why is this suitcase full of medical books and nicely folded clothes lying open in a trash can on the beach? How did it get here and why? I looked at the luggage tag and saw that it had been on a flight from Denver that landed the night before. What happened to the owner? I called the sheriff and reported the bag. They came with a bobcat and pulled the whole can out of the sand (it was on six foot sunken poles). They scraped all of the sand around the can and bagged it up. Then they interviewed me.

I didn’t have much to say, and I never heard what had happened, but my mind couldn’t stop the what ifs, I had to create my own story to fill in the answers. I couldn’t just let it go. It was something that would pop into my head when I was falling asleep, or in a particularly boring conference. What was the story with that suitcase? Finally, I decided to write a story around that moment and Forsaken was born. Now, you won’t find a suitcase in the book, “That’s just not believable” is what I heard. And, yeah, they say truth is stranger than fiction, but fiction is much more fun.

Forsaken grew into so much more than I envisioned, and I’m so happy to finally share it with all of you. I hope you will enjoy Blake and Lindsay’s story. They’re kind of special to me.

In that vein, I’m giving away a copy of Forsaken to one lucky person who comments on this blog. I don’t mind mailing overseas, so let me know if you’ve ever had a moment like mine with the suitcase.

Have a happy Holiday season, and keep on reading.

My First Blog


I’ve never blogged before. This is mostly because I’ve never had much to say, and I don’t want to waste people’s time reading a blog about nothing. Now, though, I’ve finally found a topic that’s worthy of your time. I almost feel it’s fate, because the stars aligned at just the right time.

BSB-DeadlyMedicineI’m hiring a new doctor to work in my medical office, and it just so happens that one of Deadly Medicine’s main characters faces the same challenge. Hospital CEO Abby Rosen has to replace a sick ER director, and the topic is perfect fodder for my first blog.

When I started out in private practice, I needed doctors to work the few hours each week I reserved for my family. I relied on a few old friends to help me out. They were my mentors; I would have trusted them with my life.

How did you choose your family doctor? If you’re like most people, he or she came recommended by someone you trust, someone who had a good experience with them. When you needed your knee surgery, I’m sure you followed the same process, and looked around for someone “good”.

When you go to the ER, there’s no time for background checks . It’s an emergency, right? You’re relying on the reputation of the hospital. They’ve reviewed the doctor’s credentials. They’re properly trained, and a background check would have uncovered any issues, right? In Abby’s case, she’s relying on the company she’s hired to have done all of that. That’s their job.

You would think so, but that’s not necessarily the case.

Are you aware of how many ERs are staffed? Most often, a company bids on the ER contract for a hospital, and supplies doctors to staff it. Some of these companies own many contracts, in multiple states. Doctors don’t even know who their working for. How can companies know the doctors? Most often they rely on a resume. But just because someone looks good on paper, doesn’t mean they are.

And what happens when there aren’t enough qualified, emergency trained and board certified doctors to fill the schedule? Don’t forget, ERs run 24/7/365. They can’t close the ER. They must find someone to work.

So, how do these companies operate?

The turn to staffing companies, like the one Abby used. Or they hire local doctors. Anyone who is willing to try their hand at emergency medicine. Some of them might be competent, even qualified. Some are excellent. Some are not. You may find some family docs who are tired of the grind of private practice. They may be good at managing your blood pressure, but they have no formal training in trauma, and not much in critical care. Internists work the ERs too, but most have zero experience in pediatrics, orthopedics, trauma, and gynecology. Those cases account for about half of ER visits.

Does an Ob-Gyn doctor working weekends in the ER sound crazy to you? It does to me too, but I’ve seen it.

Over time, these doctors may become proficient in the practice of emergency medicine. They take courses on cardiac arrest, and attend trauma conferences. When they’ve been in the ER for a dozen years, they’ve probably picked up the skills they need to do a good job. If not, to their credit, their professional colleagues will probably have them fired…and then, they’ll move on to another hospital.

What about the background check when they get there? It’s only as good as the people who supply the data. In the opening chapter of Deadly Medicine, Dr. Edward Hawk, our psychopathic villain, is terminated from his position. Although he’s suspected of murder, no one calls the police. They simply show him to the door. On his way out, though, he’s given a letter of reference for his next employer.

Sound unbelievable? It’s plausible. A doctor has to do something really awful, and have it witnessed by many people, for his colleagues to report him. Those minor things, we blow off. Give people the benefit of the doubt. After all, we’re all in the same boat. I don’t want someone to report me, right?

I once worked with a family doctor who killed a woman in the ER. He wasn’t a psychopath like my villain Hawk, he was just incompetent. The patient was about thirty years old, and healthy. What could be so bad? When she came to the ER, her complaint was a headache. Not just any headache, though. This was the worst headache of her life.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

The worst headache of your life is without question a subarachnoid hemorrhage until proven otherwise. Every ER doctor knows this. An aneurism in the brain has leaked, and if it isn’t repaired immediately, chances are good the patient will die. The only way to diagnose this condition is by lumbar puncture. Dr. Jessica Benson does an LP in Deadly Medicine, and she does it easily. She is a highly trained, very skilled emergency physician.

Instead of an LP, this patient’s doctor ordered a CT scan of the brain. As is often the case with brain hemorrhage, it was normal, and she was discharged with pain medication. A few days later, the aneurism ruptured, rendering her instantly unconscious. This time, the CT scan was positive. Her brain was flooded with blood. She was placed on a ventilator, but with no evidence of brain activity, her husband pulled the plug.

The doctor who originally treated her had never heard the legend of The Worst Headache of Your Life, even though it’s taught to all ER residents, on or about the first day. His training did not include a basic procedure that would have saved this woman’s life. Yet he was hired to take care of her, and all the other unsuspecting people who ventured into the ER, because the hospital needed someone with a medical license present in the ER.

This story is not fiction. I witnessed it, and too many other incidents to count.

In parting, I will give you a piece of free medical advice, my little thank-you for reading my first blog. When you go into the ER, or the urgent care, or whenever you are under the care of a doctor you’re meeting for the first time, ask a simple question. How long have you been here?

If they’re wearing a diamond chipped watch for ten years of service, you’re probably okay. If they still can’t find the cafeteria, ask a few more questions.

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