Susan Mac Nicol talks “Love and Punishment”, Excerpt & Giveaway!

I’m so pleased to be able to host Susan Mac Nicol here today as part of her Love and Punishment blog tour with Pride Promotions! Join us for her post on finding the time to write in a busy life, as well as a trailer and more about her latest release! Be sure to enter the rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance at one of Susan’s best-selling stories!

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Here’s Susan!

I know this subject is close to Sarah’s heart too. That elusive work/life balance and how to keep the writing mojo going.

The bottom line is that there is no easy answer and what works for one may not work for another.  I started writing my first book in Feb 2012 when I was full time employed and working 14 hour days. I had a two hour commute to work each morning, and the same back. The one saving grace was that I was a fairly senior person in the chain of command and had a team of people working for me who were fairly self sufficient. A good team working with you makes all the difference when it comes to spending your time doing things you’d rather do, such as training,  attending high brow management meetings, and strategising and planning the future of the company. I also found I had time to actually sit back at lunch times and yes, sometimes during working hours, and concentrate on my writing. I didn’t really feel all that guilty doing this. I worked long hours, did more than what was expected of me, and at one time worked three months until 8 pm in the evening to get a big and very important project finished.

Of course I also worked after the day job till one o’clock every morning, worked weekends almost non- stop and totally neglected the family. So I was able to ‘churn’ out books at an alarming rate and wrote six novels in the space of as many months.

Then I left this company to take a position closer to home. The only problem was, I wasn’t really busy here. I looked around for more tasks to take on and when none were forthcoming and the company didn’t really seem to have much more for me to do -I wrote. Again, the evenings too were dedicated to this and weekends. I loved this busy, hectic time, passionate about my writing and enjoying every minute. I did start to slow down though, because as I honed the craft of writing, I took more time to think about what I was putting on paper rather than spewing it out like water from a hose.

I managed to write close to twelve books in less than an eighteen month period. The disaster struck. I was made redundant and was out of work for almost ten months. And the strangest thing happened. I found I could no longer write at the speed I had, that my motivation was low, my desire to write became a chore not a passion out-flowing of words as it had been before. I had to force myself to sit down and put words on the screen. Not only was this demotivating in itself, my heart broke because I thought I wasn’t the person I used to be. The writer who everyone made jokes about, doing fifteen to twenty thousand words a week. I had plenty of time now- why wasn’t I writing? I know times were hard, there were money troubles and the threat of losing my home so depression had well and truly set in. But still in my eyes that was no excuse.

Then a good friend, himself an author, told me what he thought it was. I’ve paraphrased him a little. “Sue,” he said. “It’s like a field – you go out there and you sow the seeds while the weather is good. You sit back, content, then reap what you’ve sown. You enjoy the fruit of your labours and then…then comes the fallow part, when the field needs to rest so it can gain back its energies and replenish itself. That’s where you are now and it’s all good. It needs to happen-that’s nature.’

I felt much better then because I could see that as maybe being the case. So to anyone out there who might be facing the same problem -take these words to heart, hold them close and remember things can only get better if you let them.

Love and Punishment2SMBook Name: Love & Punishment

Author Name: Susan Mac Nicol 

Cover Artist: Boroughs Publishing Group

Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group

Blurb: On the search for a serial killer, Detective Anthony Parglietto and Flynn Parker learn that every man must make a choice: to kill, to live, to love.

FROM DARKNESS AND LIGHT

Someone is leaving a trail of bodies throughout London, and Detective Anthony Parglietto is determined to end the violence. Then he’ll return to the man he loves.

Tough, street-savvy, and used to dealing with lowlifes, Flynn Parker is the last person Anthony thinks he has to protect. Then the Bow-Tie Killer strikes close to home and the world turns upside down. Right is wrong, black is white, and a policeman might become a monster. But in the name of love, justice must be served. In the name of love, pain can be endured. In the name of love, a man can taste the very essence that defines him.

Watch the Love and Punishment Book Trailer here!

Excerpt:

Anthony walked down the hall. He reached the bedroom and gently pushed the door open. He saw Flynn framed in the light of the lamp shining from the lounge. He lay, apparently asleep, on the leather and wood divan Anthony had brought over from Italy. Its dark burgundy colour contrasted with what Flynn wore, which was nothing but a black thong lying stark against his pale skin. The divan was under the window. The bed covers were rumpled, as if Flynn had been sleeping. His robe was draped across the foot of the bed. Anthony moved towards the gleaming body of his supine lover.

Flynn’s face was turned away towards the back of the sofa. His dark hair was tousled and his arms stretched above his head to the right. He wore a blindfold. Anthony felt a stir in his groin seeing those lean, hairy legs stretched out wantonly, inviting him to run his hands up and over his groin. Even appearing asleep, Flynn had the power to excite him, to make Anthony hard and ready. He stepped towards him, watching the rise and fall of Flynn’s chest with their already hardened nubs. Anthony wanted to run his tongue over that chest, with its smattering of fine hair, to take Flynn’s nipples in his mouth and suck them until Flynn groaned in pleasure. As he got closer in the dim light he saw the hands with their bonds of silk. Green bonds lay dark against Flynn’s wrists, fastened to the wooden struts of the upright chair arm. His hands were tight fists. Anthony chuckled softly, a noise that sounded loud in the stillness of the room.

“Been waiting long?’ he whispered as he took off his jacket. ‘I tried to get home as soon as I could.”

Anthony knew the bonds would be loose so Flynn could break free if needed but he also knew he wouldn’t. It was the way the game was played.

Tour Dates/Stops:

8/29: The Hat Party, It’s Raining Men

9/1: My Fiction Nook, Tara Lain

9/2: MM Good Book Reviews, EE Montgomery, Sarah Madison Fiction

9/3: Love Bytes, A_TiffyFit’s Reading Corner

9/4: Parker Williams, Amanda C. Stone

9/5: Full Moon Dreaming

9/8: Hearts on Fire, Rainbow Gold Reviews

9/9: Jade Crystal, Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves

9/10: Prism Book Alliance, Fallen Angel Reviews

9/11: Book Reviews and More by Kathy, Book Suburbia

9/12: Havan Fellows, Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings

9/15: Decadent Delights, 3 Chicks After Dark

9/16: Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Because Two Men Are Better Than One

9/17: Regular Guys, Hot Romance, Joyfully Jay

9/18: Louise Lyons, Gaylist Book Reviews

9/19: Cate Ashwood, Iyana Jenna

9/22: The Novel Approach, Crystal’s Many Reviewers

9/23: Inked Rainbow Reads, Wake Up Your Wild Side

9/24: LeAnn’s Book Reviews, Emotion in Motion

9/25: The Blogger Girls, Velvet Panic 

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Author Bio:

Susan Mac Nicol was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom. At the age of eight, her family moved to Johannesburg, South Africa where she stayed for nearly thirty years before arriving back in the UK in December 2000. Currently, She lives in the rural village of Bocking, in Essex, with her family.

Sue is a PAN (Published Author’s Network) member of Romance Writers of America and a member of the Romantic Novelists Association in the UK. Also, she is a member of a rather unique writing group, called the Talliston Writer’s Circle, which in itself has a story all of its own to tell. She has written nine novels, two novellas and a screenplay since February 2012 and clearly believes in keeping herself busy. She has found herself wanting to stay in the sub-genre that is M/M Romance so more can definitely be expected.

Her plan is to keep writing as long as her muse sits upon her shoulder. Her dream is to make enough money to give up the day job and get that big old house in the English countryside overlooking a river, where she can write all day and continue to indulge her passion for telling stories. 

Author Contact:

website: www.susanmacnicol.com

blog: susanmacnicol.wordpress.com

facebook: www.facebook.com/susiemax77

twitter: www.twitter.com/SusanMacNicol7

pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/susiemax777/pins/

linkedin: http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/susanmacnicol/48/a44/602

tumblr: http://www.susanmacnicol.com/my-tumblr-blog/ 

Rafflecopter Code:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rafflecopter Prize: One copy of each of Double Alchemy and Double Alchemy: Climax.

Sales Links: www.BoroughsPublishingGroup.com

 

 

The Fab Five Redux: Or, What’s Coming Up Next?

Bradford PearsI got tagged by Charlie Cochet as part of the Fabulous Five meme, where authors answer four specific questions about their writing styles and then tag five more people to do the same the following week. Well, I got tagged by Anne Barwell the week before, and my answers haven’t changed since then, so I will link you to that post instead. :-)

In the meantime, what am I up to? Well, I’m still waiting for a cover and a release date for book 2 in The Sixth Sense series. Walk a Mile, the sequel to the FBI paranormal mystery Unspeakable Words, should be released sometime in early October from Dreamspinner Press. As part of the run-up to my own release date, I’m hosting a bunch of authors here: Susan Mac Nicol, Chris T. Kate, Bee Snow, Louise Lyons, Kindle Alexander, and Suki Fleet will all be featured in the coming weeks! Also, starting tomorrow, I’ll be one of over one hundred authors and publishers participating in the Fall Into Love Party on The Romance Reviews website. There are over a hundred prizes to be given away, and the grand prize is a $100 gift card! My Q&A will go up September 5th, and the answer is somewhere on this website–so be sure to take a look around for it!

Look of Eagles_resizedAs for today itself, I’m enjoying the holiday weekend here in the US. We’re having a cookout tonight; this morning I’m headed out for a trail ride. I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend, yourself! Stay tuned for the first author guest post: coming up tomorrow, Susan Mac Nicol will be stopping by as part of her Love and Punishment tour! be sure to check it out!

Let it Go is more than just a Disney song

Spring Kitty_resizedThursdays frequently wind up being frustrating for me. Ostensibly, they are my day off, but I typically have them so carefully orchestrated so that the whole day is spent rushing from one task after the other, for fear of being late and causing the whole house of cards to tumble down.

For the past six months, I’ve been spending a good bit of my Thursdays working off board for my two horses at the ‘retirement’ farm. My Old Man has been there for years now; this past spring, I had to move my no-longer-young mare there for financial reasons. Since caring for a community of horses, many of which are blind, lame, and need medication, is time consuming, I spend about 2 hours in the morning taking care of the herd–only to have to come back in the evening and do it again. My goal has always been to get out there early, hurry through my tasks, and rush home so I can do laundry, get groceries, and try to get some writing done before I have to head back out again. Thursdays are also the only night I can get to my yoga classes, and for the last month I’ve been skipping it. Well, that’s catching up with me, especially since I dropped all the other expensive manage-the-pain therapies I’d been doing for years.

I already had to skip the morning walk with the dog in order to meet a client before doing the first feeding, but today, instead of rushing through the chores, I decided, “Screw it. I’m taking my time.” Why? Well, the biggest problem about Thursdays is not how much I have to do but my attitude toward it. Far better to let go of the expectation of ‘getting something done’ and just be there in the moment doing what I’m actually doing.

BridleSo I took the time to appreciate the choreography of herd interactions–how the horses all know where they are supposed to go, and how doing things out of order upsets them. The last thing you want to do with a herd is let a submissive horse get pinned in a corner by a dominant one, so at feeding time, there is a lot of opening and closing gates so that the right horses end up in the right slots in the right order. It’s kind of beautiful when it all works smoothly. When you make a mistake, however, or one horse slips past you, ears pinned and teeth bared, there is the potential for serious injury (yourself included) if you don’t intervene right away.

I also took the time to appreciate the Old Man. He’s thirty years old now, and he no longer has any front teeth. He’s swaybacked, and despite eating $75 worth of grain every 2 weeks, I can’t keep any weight on him. But he is still happily puttering around the property, gumming grass and eating his mush–as much as I will give him twice a day. He still comes up to me looking for scratches and snuffling my pockets for treats. I’m sure if someone who didn’t know better saw him, they would accuse me of animal neglect, but he’s the equivalent of a 95 year old man and he looks it. I worry about him with the coming winter, but I also know he’s had wonderfully long life. I don’t regret a single moment since the day I bought him as a three year old for 89 cents a pound.

I also came to a decision today about the Mare Who Lived. This weekend, I’m going to bring my tack out to the farm. I’ve received permission to ride the fields out there. There’s no arena–just open fields–and my mare is a bit hot for just a simple trail ride, but I feel like I have to give this a try. If we survive the attempt, I’ll let you know. I’ve just put far too much of my life on hold to let *this* go. I look back at all the things I’ve let slip through my fingers waiting for ‘the right time’ or a better situation and I should have taken them when I could. When I had the chance.

There are other things we need to let go of, however. While I was taking my time at the farm this morning, I got a text from work: could I come in and see a patient that can’t wait until tomorrow? Well, there goes the carefully orchestrated day… but since I had accepted that I wasn’t going to rush around like a chicken with its head cut off, I was able to shrug, pick a time that would fit into the schedule, and say yes.Had the call come in before I’d made the decision not to rush, I probably would have been seething as I hurried through my chores, anxious to get home in order to salvage a little writing time.

All I needed was an attitude adjustment.

I know that attitude is everything, and I wish I could understand how to make that work for you when deep down you don’t believe you have what it is you’re faking. I can’t fake feeling beautiful and sexy when I don’t. I can’t fake confidence in my writing when I don’t have it. But I look at that picture of the cat in the flowers I posted above and recall how this little tomcat could prevent my 95 pound German Shepherd from leaving the house simply by sitting on the porch and staring at him through the door.

My boy would get to the door and back up, saying, “I can’t go out there. Dat bad cat’s out there.” And nothing I could do could persuade my dog it was safe to come out with me. The tom has since tamed down and been neutered and vaccinated. The dog will now walk past him without batting an eye, and occasionally will try to engage in play. The cat runs up to us when we’re outside and shoulders into the dog, taking a swat at his legs as the dog re-enters the house. They’ve reached a level of detente that they are comfortable with. But I am still amazed that a ten pound cat could stare down a dog ten times his size without even hissing.

That’s attitude. Or Catitude, depending on your POV. Because that cat was utterly confident of his ability to take on my dog and win–and my dog knew it. I think I could use a little Catitude. I’m a little too quick to listen to the negative self-talk because it is familiar, something I’ve heard my entire life: from family, from frenemies, but perfected by my self. I’ve been working on it. On dressing up for no particular reason, other than I know it makes me look good. Wearing something I like is empowering to me, be it a favorite necklace or a good pair of boots. That’s why I am so fond of International Walk Like Beckett Day. It’s not about how you look–it’s about how you think you look. And with little feel-good boosters, I can get there sometimes.

Writing is a different story. Or is it? I strongly suspect the only thing holding me back is my own negative self-talk. Chuck Wendig wrote this great blog post the other day about self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy, and it’s simply brilliant. This one line jumped out at me: And suddenly your doubt has the hunger and gravity of a collapsing star. Wow. Yes. Been there, done that, own the T-shirt, sing the song almost every day. Go read the rest of his post, it’s awesome.

But as I’m sitting here, just as earlier I contemplated the stupidity and necessity of trying to ride my horse again, it occurs to me that I’m my biggest roadblock. And I don’t have as much time left as I used to. So it’s kind of now or never, you know? I got an email last night from one of my friends who is an author–a ‘real’ author, someone who got published back when you had to have an agent and legacy publishing was the only way to go, and the walls were steep and topped with guards ready to pour boiling oil down upon your head for daring to approach the gate. I know, I’m a real author with a real press behind me, but there’s that doubt, you know? The one that says if not for the digital revolution, you’d be papering your walls with rejection slips. Anyway, in response to my saying I’m not good enough to write x-y-z, she tells me that I’m capable of writing anything I put my mind to, that is it the voices of little-minded people running down my confidence that’s holding me back. So… what if she’s right? What’s the worst that can happen if I assume she is? I’ve got nothing to lose by trying.

I’ve got two hours before I have to be at the next task on my list of things to do today. I can get a lot done in two hours.

Tennant You Should Be Writing

Fabulous Five Blog Post: What’s Your Writing Style?

I was invited by Anne Barwell to take place in the Fabulous Five Author Blog Hop. The idea is that we answer a specific set of questions and tag five more authors to do the same. The hardest part of the challenge has been finding someone who isn’t already doing this! The best part, however, has been reading what everyone is working on and what their writing process is like. So here I go!

UnspeakableWordscover1. What am I working on?

Hah, this might as well read ‘what should you be working on?’ I’ve just finished the sequel to my FBI/paranormal story Unspeakable Words. Walk a Mile will be coming out with Dreamspinner Press in early October. I’ve started the sequel to that story as well, tentatively titled Truth and Consequences, because I left things on a bit of a cliff-hanger and I didn’t want my audience to suffer too long! I had a good session with my critique group today, and realized that I’m going to have to separate my plot lines and go for a fourth story in the series—there’s just too much going on to wrap it up in three books! I’ve just finished the galley proofs on Walk a Mile, and am anxiously anticipating the cover reveal. You know how it is with covers: it’s like finding out the sex of your unborn baby. You’ll love your child no matter what, but you want to know, right? I’ll be sharing the cover just as soon as I get it, believe me!

I recently had a short story published as part of The Not Quite Shakespeare Anthology, also from Dreamspinner. I also have several WIPs that need some serious attention—the kind where you evaluate the story and decide if it is dead in the water or simply needs more time to simmer. :-) I have a contemporary story that deals with the difficult topic of job burnout and depression, and another that’s a Regency romp. I want to get back to writing some science fiction as well.

I am seriously considering stepping a toe in to the traditional romance market, so I’ve been doing a lot of reading as a result. To be honest, I’m not sure I can write a heroine for a traditional romance story. I suspect when I launch the Madison Dean line of stories, I’ll be writing the same kind of quirky, non-traditional main characters, mixing a little humor, a little drama, some hot, sexy times, and a touch of paranormal activity together into story that’s a little bit out there. I have plans for a new series of stories set in the 1950s, in which my main characters are undercover agents investigating paranormal events in a small Southern town. Think of it as Ward and June Cleaver meets Area 51. :-) I’m excited about the idea of centering a heroine in the post-WW2 era. She’s come back from the war in which she’s done exciting, dangerous things, and is expected just to re-assimilate her life as a 50’s homemaker. Her partner, paired with her because he is the science to her soldier, has secrets of his own, one of which is that he took a pilot as a lover during the war. Writing M/F romance is a big departure for me, as Sarah Madison writes almost exclusively in the M/M romance genre. This is important to me, however. These are stories I want to tell.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The Boys of Summer400x600I frequently describe my stories as being ‘romances with a twist’. I find odd things interesting. I spend most of my time running around thinking, ‘hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…?’ What that means is that you’ll seldom find a straightforward romance among my stories. As you can see from above, I describe Unspeakable Words as a ‘FBI/paranormal story’. The Boys of Summer is a contemporary story, but it has a long historical sequence within it. Crying for the Moon is about a vampire who wants to live a ‘normal’ life. The fun of writing for me is to create a set of characters and put them in a crucible of sorts–to put them in hot water and see how strong they are. It may be an odd confession for a romance writer, but romance in and of itself is not the driving force behind my stories. I’m interested in the characters and how they interact. Falling in love is icing on the cake. I wouldn’t want to eat just the frosting, though, would you? There has to be some tart to balance all the sweet.

3. Why do I write what I do?

108267663_8Whew-boy. That’s a tough one. I wish I knew. I write stories that appeal to me. I’m aware they don’t work for everyone. Sometimes I wish my own thought processes were a little more mainstream.:-) I’m aware that I’m your basic mid-list author and that I will never rise to NYT bestseller status. The idea of writing outside the M/M genre is stemming from a desire to try my hand at something new, but also because I like the idea of challenging myself to create a heroine I can admire. One that goes against some of the common tropes. One of the reasons I enjoying writing M/M romance is because there is something incredibly liberating about writing from a male point of view. I love the fact that when two male characters come together in a romance, they meet on equal terms. No one is dominant or submissive to the needs of the other (unless that is part of the story). They each bring different things to the table. They each take turns rescuing or being the one needing to be rescued. The best part? While I may be called upon to defend my right as a straight woman to write M/M romance, I’ve never been taken to task for the portrayal of the characters themselves.

I *adore* strong female characters. Give me the Zoe from Firefly, or Peggy Carter from Captain America, or Kate Beckett from Castle. Creating a heroine of my own that I like and respect will be tricky, though. Heroines seem to come in for a lot more criticism than heroes. If she stands up for herself, she’s a bitch. If she is vulnerable, she’s weak. If she sleeps with the hero without a major show of reluctance and some resistance that needs to be broken down, she’s a slut. If she doesn’t sleep with the hero at all, she’s a tease. I think it is very difficult to write a three dimensional female character without inviting the world to heap coals of fire on her head for failing to meet the mythical standard of womanly perfection. You know that cell they had you study in biology class? With the nucleolus and the ribosomes and the Golgi bodies? Do you remember that in the fine print, the textbook said that no cell contained all the parts we were studying? They just put them all in this one imaginary cell so that you could learn all the different parts possible in a cell.

That’s how it is with heroines. It is ridiculous to assume they will contain ALL the possible characteristics that go into making the perfect heroine. No matter how you create her, someone’s going to hate what you’ve done. That’s okay. As long as I love her, I won’t mind.

So yeah. There are days when I dream of writing a ridiculously runaway bestseller like 50 Shades of Gray. Sadly, that kind of story doesn’t interest me as a reader or a writer. I’d die happy if I created a series heroine I adored, though.

Black ShoesAnd I love shoes. :-) So, creating my own kick-ass heroine makes sense, right? I can give her the impeccable style I don’t have.

4. How does my writing process work?

Well, it usually starts with a ‘what if’ idea. What if rooftop gargoyles came to life every night? What if they were fascinated by humans, read their books, observed their activities? Or what if a vampire decided to shun his old existence and attempt to live life as a moral? What if a hard-ass FBI agent accidentally touched an artifact and developed paranormal powers? I LOVE ‘what if’ questions. They take my mind on a wild journey where improbable dangers and cheesily romantic things happen. I play around with these ideas for a while, daydreaming over chores or before I drift off to sleep at night. Eventually the characters take form and I tone down the more ludicrous aspects of my fantasy. And lo, a story is born. :-)

So there you have it! Now I’m going to some fabulous authors to answer the same questions next week on their own blogs and tag more authors themselves. And so on, and so on. Sometime during the first week of September, check out the blogs of Raine O’Tierney, Whitley Gray, Elizabeth Noble, and Eden Winters–and find out who they are tagging, too!

Cover Reveal & Giveway: Americana Fairy Tale by Lex Chase

I love cover reveals! I’m anxiously awaiting my own cover for my soon-to-be-released M/M romance, Walk a Mile. Waiting for a cover is like waiting for the doctor to tell you if you’re having a boy or a girl: you’ll love your child no matter what, but the anticipation is killing you! Fortunately, you won’t have to wait for Lex Chase’s latest cover reveal! Better yet, you can pre-order the story AND if any of you are going to Gay Rom Lit,print copies of both Americana Fairy Tales and Chasing Sunrise qualify for free shipping to the convention so you can get Lex to autograph them there. Be sure to check out the rafflecopter giveaway  at the end of the post! AmericanaFairyTaleFS

 

Americana Fairy Tale
by Lex Chase

Genre: M/M Fairy Tale Urban Fantasy
Length: Novel, 340 Pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Blurb

Modern fairy-tale princess Taylor Hatfield has problems. One: He’s a guy. Two: His perfect brother Atticus is the reincarnation of Snow White. Three: Taylor has no idea which princess he is supposed to be. Four: Taylor just left his prince (a girl) at the altar. Despite his enchanted lineage, Taylor is desperate to find his Happily Ever After away from magic, witches, and stuffy traditions. Regrettably, destiny has other plans for him. Dammit.

When word reaches Taylor that Idi the Witchking has captured Atticus, Taylor is determined to save his brother. He enlists the help of rakish and insufferable Corentin Devereaux, likewise of enchanted lineage. A malicious spell sends Taylor and Corentin on a road trip through the kitschy nostalgia of roadside Americana. To save Atticus, they must solve the puzzles put forth by Idi the Witchking. As they struggle, Taylor and Corentin’s volatile partnership sparks a flash of something more. But princesses have many enemies, and Taylor must keep his wits about him because there’s nothing worse than losing your heart… or your head.

 

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Pre-order from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback

Available September 12th, 2014

Paperbacks ordered through Dreamspinner Press qualifies for Free Shipping to GRL for pick-up!

Use code: GRL2014

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Excerpt

 

Still flustered and confused, with no time to contemplate what had just come over him, Corentin tossed out his hand and gestured to the open road. “Do you see signs for I-85 North anywhere, genius?”

“Man, you’re really bitchy,” Ringo said, crossing his arms. “Have enough water today? Hydration is important.”

“Why should I trust you anyway? You could be getting us lost on purpose,” Taylor said. There was a sneer in his tone, and he glared in the rearview. “I’m not counting out we nearly died three seconds ago.”

“I was avoiding a tire in the road,” Corentin lied. “And I am not getting us lost.” His irritation grew as he tried to puzzle through everything that had just transpired. “I’m keeping my promise. You’re useless to me, so we’re going to go save your brother and kill Idi instead.”

“Woooooah,” Ringo said, holding up his hands in surrender. “You didn’t tell me this was Idi we were up against.”

“Someone fill me in,” Taylor said in a demanding tone.

Corentin gritted his teeth. Just like all princesses, Taylor was a pretty spoiled brat. “Idi is the Witchking,” Corentin said simply. He braced himself for the oncoming flurry of questions. Which he wouldn’t know how to answer in the simplest of terms.

“Idi’s bad juju,” Ringo said. “The worst of all witches.”

“And we’re going to kill him?” Taylor asked.

Corentin caught him arching a brow and making a doubtful expression in the rearview. “That’s the plan.”

“And save Atticus,” Taylor said.

That’s the plan,” Corentin repeated tersely.

“What’s in it for you?” Taylor asked. Something in his tone suggested his mistrust had hit its limit.

Before Corentin could come up with an expert lie, he was unfortunately saved by the GPS popping with sizzles and showering sparks over the cabin of the truck. Ringo zipped behind the passenger seat, and Taylor yelped in a half squeal. The truck fishtailed over two lanes and came dangerously close to clipping a car. Corentin acted fast, ripping the melting device from its dash mount and chucking it out the window. Taylor turned to look out the back window, and Corentin caught the bright orange flame as the thing exploded like a grenade.

When the spots cleared from Corentin’s eyes, he muttered a curse under his breath as the truck passed from a clear division of daylight into the dead of night. He clicked the headlights on and waited for his eyes to adjust.

“What the hell is going on?” Taylor asked, leaning up to the back window.

“Idi’s fucking with us,” Corentin said. “It seems like he’s trying to delay us as much as possible.”

“He knows we’re onto him,” Taylor said. “Way to go for discussing the super-secret squirrel plan out loud.”

“You know…,” Corentin said, glaring in the rearview. “You are a lot more pleasant when you’re passed out, snoring.”

Taylor huffed. “I don’t snore.”

“You bleat like a dying hyena,” Ringo said, then spit a giggle.

Taylor’s attention snapped to the pixie. “What is this? Asshole day?”

Corentin caught his eerie pink glare in the rearview.

“Dude, just get off at the nearest exit. We should be near Birmingham by now.”

“All right, all right,” Corentin said, and it was a pleasant reprieve that Taylor kept his mouth shut for more than five minutes. It didn’t last.

“Hey, hey!” Taylor said and pointed at a green-and-white interstate exit sign in the distance. “Talladega! Turn here. I can get us to Atlanta from here. We’re not that far off.”

Corentin guided the truck up the exit ramp and frowned. Something was wrong—flat-topped mesas came into view.

“What the…?” Taylor whispered and watched the rolling dunes of the Painted Desert.

“Uuuh…,” Ringo added and pressed himself to the windshield. The occasional cactus whisked by. “Wow, Talladega’s having a hard time with the drought this season,” Ringo said through their awestruck silence.

“That’s not a drought,” Corentin said softly.

Taylor squinted into the distance. “Does ‘Welcome to Arizona, the Grand Canyon State’ answer your question?”

Ringo pasted his face to the windshield. “How do you even see—” Ringo squeaked when the state sign of Arizona blurred by. “Oh my Storyteller!”

Corentin remained tense, trying to get his thoughts together.

Taylor, however, seemed to not be able to resist blurting out his opinion. “It seems this Eddie guy is doing more than just fucking with us.”

Idi,” Corentin said and realized how terse he sounded. “I think he wants to do more than just delay us.”

Ringo peeled himself from the windshield. He slapped his hands to his cheeks in horror. “He wants us to die out here?” he croaked.

“Panicking is not going to help,” Corentin said firmly.

“Easy for you to say,” Taylor snapped. “We just need to stop somewhere and ask for directions. We’ll get back on the right road in no time.”

Corentin sighed. Taylor’s hope was admirable, but Ringo was only half right. They would die out here, but only one of them. This was Corentin’s first trial. Now he was here, in the middle of nowhere, with Taylor to do with what he will. As soon as that was over, Idi would release him and he’d be on his way, but only until the next time Idi summoned him to do his bidding.

They drove on, again in a long-hanging silence. The interstate lay barren, not a single car or scrap of civilization to be seen. The pavement bore veins of black tar from years of shoddy repair. Corentin caught Taylor’s pink gaze in the rearview, and his feral eyes seemed to gleam in the dark.

The princess shifted from one side of the backseat to the other. He seemed to look for anything that would help. He cupped his hands around the glass and peeked out into the night. “I can’t see anything out there. It’s just desert,” Taylor muttered.

Ringo turned to Corentin, “How are we on ga—”

Don’t say it!” Corentin and Taylor shouted in unison.

Ringo held up his hands and pursed his lips. “Got it…. Uh… why?”

“I assume Eddie is listening in to everything,” Taylor said.

Idi,” Corentin corrected Taylor again. “I think sir princess is right. It seems the second we’ve said anything, something’s gone wrong.”

Ringo fluttered over to the dash and rested his chin in his palm. “You know… it could be all a coincidence….”

Corentin and Taylor glared angrily at Ringo in silence while the hum of the pavement whooshed as Corentin drove.

Ringo waved his hands. “By Titania’s tatas, guys, I was just kidding!”

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Giveaway

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About the author

 

LXC_FlamesLex Chase once heard Stephen King say in a commercial, “We’re all going to die, I’m just trying to make it a little more interesting.” She knew then she wanted to make the world a little more interesting too.

Weaving tales of cinematic, sweeping adventure and epic love—and depending on how she feels that day—Lex sprinkles in high-speed chases, shower scenes, and more explosions than a Hollywood blockbuster. She loves tales of men who kiss as much as they kick ass. She believes if you’re going to going to march into the depths of hell, it better be beside the one you love.

Lex is a pop culture diva and her DVR is constantly backlogged. She wouldn’t last five minutes without technology in the event of the apocalypse and has nightmares about refusing to leave her cats behind. She is incredibly sentimental, to the point that she gets choked up at holiday commercials. But like the lovers driven to extreme measures to get home for the holidays, Lex believes everyone deserves a happy ending.

Lex also has a knack for sarcasm, never takes herself seriously, and has been nicknamed “The Next Alan Moore” by her friends for all the pain and suffering she inflicts on her characters. She is a Damned Yankee hailing from the frozen backwoods of Maine now residing in the burbs of Northwest Florida, where it could be 80F and she’d still be a popsicle.

She is grateful for and humbled by all the readers. She knows very well she wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them and welcomes feedback.

You can find in the Intarwebz here:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LXChase
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lex_Chase
Tumblr: http://lexiconofkittens.tumblr.com
Instagram: http://instagram.com/westbaylen
I love cover reveals! I am anxiously awaiting the cover for my own soon-to-be-released story, Walk a Mile, and I liken it to waiting to find out if you’re having a boy or a girl. You’ll love your child no matter what, but the anticipation is killing you, right?

Fortunately, you won’t have to wait any longer to see the cover for Lex Chase’s new story because here it is!

 

Ramping up for the release of Walk a Mile: Giveaways Galore!

UnspeakableWordscoverToday I got the galley proofs for Walk a Mile, which means I’m in the final stages of the editing process–yay! I am anxiously awaiting my first glimpse at the cover–I know it will be fantastic!  I’ve been fortunate to have the best names in the business create covers for me: Paul Richmond, Reese Dante, Ann Cain… I know that whatever the artist comes up with will be marvelous, but it’s a bit like waiting to find out if your baby will be a boy or a girl. You’ll be thrilled with either, but you want to *know*. :-)

 

Walk a Mile is the second in The Sixth Sense series, and is the sequel to Unspeakable Words. There has been a long delay between the first and second book in the series, so I think reminders are in order! Special Agents John Flynn and Jerry Parker are about as opposite as you can get. Parker is by the book because he can quote the book chapter and verse, while Flynn is the lone wolf who gets the job done by any means necessary. Sparks fly when the two men are assigned to a cold case and their investigative styles clash. Accidental contact with a mysterious artifact in a museum changes everything, forcing Flynn to rely on Parker while he tries to make sense of what’s happened to him. The artifact has bestowed inexplicable powers on Flynn, and now he must live with them.

Walk a Mile picks up six months later. Flynn’s extrasensory abilities are the elephant in the room, straining the relationship between the two men. The discovery of an artifact similar to the first one sends Flynn and Parker back to Flynn’s old stomping grounds in an effort to reverse the terrible ‘gift’ he’s been given. But they aren’t the only ones looking for the artifact, and there are secrets in Flynn’s past best left buried… Walk a Mile will be released in early October 2014 by Dreamspinner Press.

Tomorrow, I’m one of the authors participating in the Reader Appreciation Day over on the Sweet Spot. One lucky winner will receive a copy of Unspeakable Words. Here are the details:

RAD_08_2014_Banner_01When: Saturday, August 16th from 8 am – 8 pm Eastern Time

Where: The Sweet Spot Yahoo Group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheSweetSpotMM)The following authors have generously donated these books or other prizes:
Fall into LoveI’ve also got a blog spot over on Jessica Skye Davies’s  site tomorrow–do drop in and find out why it took me so long to write this sequel, as well as read an excerpt from Unspeakable Words. In the next month, I’ll be hosting authors Susan Mac Nicol, Kindle Alexander, Chris T. Kat, and Bee Snow here on this site, and I’ll be doing spots on Guys Like Romance, Too, Wade Kelly’s site, and Dawn’s Reading Nook, as well. Also in September, I’ll be participating in The Romance Reviews Fall into Love celebration with over 100 participating authors (and prizes to be won)! Grand Prize is a $100 gift card. :-)
I’m sure I’m leaving something out–it’s been that kind of day. But rest assured, I’ll probably be posting about all this again as I get a cover to reveal and a release date. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to an early fall!
BookDonation_DSPsiteAlso, from now until the end of the month, Dreamspinner Press is donating a book to a LGBTQ Youth Center for every $20 spent at DSP! So now’s your chance to stock up on stories from your favorite authors while helping to donate to a worthy cause! What are you waiting for, hmmm?

 

 

The Difference between Being Depressed and Having Depression

Sad Man_flickrLike many people around the world, I was shocked and heartbroken over the news that Robin Williams was found dead in his home yesterday, probably as the result of suicide. It’s well-known that this brilliant actor and comic genius had battled substance abuse problems and severe depression for most of his life, and yet the news still stunned. It was as though someone punched you in the gut and you’re struggling to take the next breath as you process what just happened.

The outpouring of sympathy has been huge. Robin Williams’s work has touched the lives of so many people and nearly everyone I know had something to share about a favorite memory. One of the things many people have said was how sad it was that a man who brought so much laughter to so many people was in such pain he felt he had to end his life. Many people expressed stunned disbelief that a man who had accomplished so much and was beloved by many could take his own life. For many others, this was not as senseless as it would appear, however. Not for anyone who has ever truly suffered from clinical depression.

I make that distinction here because I truly believe there is a world of difference between being depressed and dealing with depression. They are two entirely different beasts. I’ve posted about this before, and discussed it a bit further last night on Facebook, too. For many years, I’ve lived with depressing circumstances, but 99% of the time, I would not consider myself as having depression. Being discouraged, yes. Disheartened, disillusioned, frightened for my future, exhausted by my present–all of these things. But there have been times when I slip into real depression, and believe me, it’s completely different. You can have a fantastic life–a successful career, people who love you, the respect of your peers–but when you are depressed, it is all dust and ashes. Not only does it feel like nothing you do matters, but it feels as though nothing will ever matter again. You look at everything you’ve achieved and think it is utter shit. People tell you otherwise–they tell you how brilliant you are and how much they love your work, and you simply don’t believe them. You don’t believe them because you know your work is crap and that everyone around you is so much better at what you want to do. All you can think of is the times you’ve failed:as a professional in the workplace, as an artist, as a lover, as a human being.

You look at the people who love you and you think they are only there out of pity. You can’t enjoy the things you love–just looking at them brings you to the brink of tears. You mourn the loss of things YEARS before that loss actually occurs. You beat yourself up for every failing, real or imaginary. You truly see no point in continuing to try. You can’t muster the energy to connect with friends who love you no matter what. You know you should get help but you can’t overcome the inertia of your depression. Why?  Because it tells you that nothing will make a difference, and that you will always feel this way, and worse, that you probably *deserve* to feel this way.

But here’s the important thing: DEPRESSION LIES TO YOU. You cannot, must never, ever listen to the lies it tells you when you are in the darkest moments. You aren’t utter shit. The people who love you do so because you are YOU–the person they love. And this black cloud hanging over your head, constantly misting lightly with misery, won’t last forever. Depression is as ephemeral as Marley’s Ghost in A Christmas Carol, and could just as easily be a bit of bad beef or a transitory biochemical imbalance.

For many people it is completely biochemical, for some it is deeply ingrained self-loathing reinforced by negative life experiences; for others it is a combination thereof. I’ve seen it onset as a result of trauma, due to illness or surgery, due to birth control pills, or just simply just because. I lived with people who were depressed and I thought I got it–but I didn’t *really* understand it until one day I slipped off the tightrope myself. The important part is to recognize it for what it is (as J. K. Rowing so aptly depicted them): A Dementor that will suck all the joy right out of you. You need to find your own Patronus spell to combat it–and it’s different for every person.

Many artists struggle with depression, and I think it may be more common in the creative/artistic personalities because the very thing that allows our imagination to take flight in wondrous, marvelous ways is the same that can bind ourselves with chains that drag us down.

Fellow author Elin Gregory had this to say about depression on Facebook (reposted with permission):

I feel it’s like having a broken leg in your brain. If someone put a lovely cuddly puppy in your arms you’d smile sadly and think “best not get too attached, they only live about 12 years” and you feel that’s perfectly reasonable. Then there’s also an internal commentary that’s saying ‘could you be any more pathetic?’ and piling on the guilt and self loathing. But unlike a broken leg with a nice big cast covered in drawings of dicks, if you’ve got the right sort of friends, so nobody will expect you to run upstairs or a marathon or whatever, depression doesn’t show. There’s nothing to indicate that the barista who smiles as she gives you your coffee woke up this morning and thought ‘dammit I didn’t die in my sleep’. The only thing to do with it is to keep on carrying on because one day you hope it will go away and you can start enjoying life again.

Autumn H_resizedI can completely sympathize with her words here. I find myself saying, “This will be my last horse. This will be my last big dog. When the cats go, I won’t get any more.” In part because I’m conscious that I am getting older and I need to be thinking of scaling back but in part because I’m not sure I can take the heartbreak of little losses anymore. Of wasting the years that I have with my beloved pet right there in front of me crying over the losses to come. My dog doesn’t say, “Hey, my muzzle is turning gray and I’ve got cataracts, I’ve only got a short time left with you.” He says, “Can we go on a walk now? It’s stopped raining! Well, okay, maybe it hasn’t stopped raining but we can walk in the rain, so can we go on a walk now? It will be fun!” But that isn’t how I see things sometimes.

I would highly encourage everyone to read The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino. This blog post isn’t about depression per se, but it is about having an invisible illness and having to choose how much energy to expend on specific tasks on any given day. “You don’t look sick” is something many people with depression hear all the time, and I’ve found the post to be an excellent explanation of what living with a chronic illness is like.

My good friend Finn Wightman, the author of such insightful pieces as A Letter To My Son on Consent, had some illuminating things to say on the subject of depression when soccer phenomenon Gary Speed committed suicide in 2011.

I was on twitter when the news broke, and his name became the top trend almost instantly. In the first hour, when no cause of death was known, the tributes were fulsome (as well they should be). Then the confirmation came that he had taken his own life. Tweets took the expected turn: “we saw him yesterday afternoon – he wasn’t depressed!” “He didn’t look ill!” And of course, the perennial favourite, “he had everything, why would he take his own life.”

He did, he had everything you would think a person could want in life. Everything. So if that’s true, how much uncontrolled despair must have overwhelmed his mind that night for him to decide the world would be better off without him?

We think we’ve come so far in the way society understands mental illness, and then we see the open, honest, unfiltered thoughts of individuals and realise we haven’t come far at all. Why can’t we see that something desperate must have been going on in his mind that night? As someone who lives with unipolar disorder, takes medication to control it every day, and has suffered through suicidal thoughts and desires in the past, the comments that failed to understand were deeply upsetting. Then came the abusive, critical comments calling him a coward and a fool. That was the point that I decided it was better if I turned off the tv and got off twitter. I felt triggered, and was shaky and weepy for most of the next 24 hours. In fact, it’s upset me so much that I had to let it out of my head somewhere.

It’s scary enough to see how cruel and quick to judge the public are when they’ve never been there themselves. It’s worrying that there have been a plethora of campaigns, newspaper articles, books and TV programmes aimed at expanding the public’s understanding of mental illness, and yet so many can’t grasp that mental states are still physical states, and that the illness part of mental illness is not something to be shrugged off by an act of will. Asking what a person ‘has to be depressed about’ makes as much sense as asking a diabetic what they have to ‘be diabetic about’. It’s not something we chose; it’s something we manage.

So why did Gary Speed’s tragic death shake me (and a number of fellow sufferers) up so much? It’s because he had ‘everything to live for’. It’s because he smiled and laughed and joked on my TV screen and then went home to his family and their beautiful house – and then the black dog came in the night and not one jot of the everything-he-had-to-live-for could fight it off.

It’s the chill of recognition that shivers across you. You’ve come home at the end of a day that was soft with smiles only to find yourself suddenly in the dark. You’ve sat under the same roof as everyone you love and wondered if the world wouldn’t be better of without you. So far you’ve fought the black dog off by daylight –  although some nights it’s been a close run thing.

Then you wake up one morning, turn on the news,  and you’re confronted with the awful truth of living with a mental illness: a lot of us don’t survive. And you can’t help but wonder what was the final straw? And you can’t help but think ‘will the night come when that voice inside that says, “the world would be a better place without you” will be too loud to ignore’? And most of all, you feel a leaden dread in the pit of your stomach.

Because if it can happen to Gary Speed, with Everything To Live For, then why not you?”

Sad Silouette_pixaby public domainAt the time that she wrote this, I was one of the people shaking my head and saying, “But he had everything to live for!” After I read her post, I got it intellectually, but not emotionally. Not until someone I care deeply about looked at me with all expression removed from his face and said, “You don’t understand. It’s not about what you have. It  doesn’t work like that.”

Even then, I didn’t really get it until I found myself in that dark pit for the first time. I get it now. I wish I didn’t. Moreover, I wish with all my heart that the people I love didn’t have to struggle daily with battle not to give in to the voice that lies to them. I don’t want to lose anyone else.

Comedic TV Characters that Crushed LGBT Stereotypes

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The following is a guest post from the adult store, Adam and Eve.

SPOILER ALERT
The plot of the upcoming series finale of Two and a Half Men has been revealed. Like any long-running series, fans are eager to see how the show is wrapped up. So how are they planning on bringing the story full-circle? With a gay wedding. Walden (Ashton Kutcher) finds that the only way he can adopt a child is if he’s married, so Allen (Jon Cryer) agrees to marry him. The story will end with the two men taking care of another young boy, reaffirming the title of the show once again.

While I love seeing gay marriage further represented on TV, it seems as though Two and Half Men is using it simply as a shock factor to end the show with a bang. The very fact that gay marriage can be played as a joke in a sit-com shows how far we’ve come on the subject, but it seems to me that actors that played actual homosexual and transgender characters have a bigger impact on audiences for their diverse portrayals of members of the LGBT community. And some of them do so in such a powerful way that they’re earning awards as often as their making audiences laugh.

 

Adam_Pally_2010_(cropped)Happy Endings’ Adam Pally as Max Blum

Max was a late twenties character on ABC’s short-lived series Happy Endings. He was the guy that was still trying to figure things out, never wanted to settle down, and was always there with a witty remark or hilarious joke. He also happened to be gay.

Any stereotype someone could possibly think to associate with a homosexual man, Max was the opposite. He was by far the grossest character on the show, so gross that he was the one guy in college that chose to pee in the in-room sink instead walking down the hall to the dorm bathroom. But somehow, it made him even more lovable. He didn’t work out, he gave little thought to his appearance, and couldn’t care less about fashion. Instead, this bearded, beer-drinking sports fan wanted nothing more than to sleep all day, eat a pizza, and hang out with his buddies.

He also regularly used his sexuality as a way of poking fun at himself, leaving nothing for others to ever use against him. Other characters were taken aback, but ultimately laughed when he said lines like, “Even I think rollerblades are gay. And I had sex with a dude last night.” He’s perfectly happy with himself, and doesn’t let anyone make him feel bad about it. As an article on Buzzfeed shows, he’s always good for a laugh.

Laverne_Cox_2014_crop_2Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset

Laverne Cox was a perfect choice to play the transgender character Sophia on Netflix’s hit original show, Orange is the New Black. As a transgender woman herself, Cox knows the hardships that Sophia has had to go through.

The show gave her an amazing back story, complete with the difficulty her character faced within her marriage and with her children when she decided to live life as a woman. And Cox’s close relationship to the character hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Orange is the New Black is currently in its third season and has won a slew of awards, everything form the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series to a Peabody award. But it was Cox who really stolen headlines, being named the first openly trans actress to be nominated for an Emmy. After receiving the news that she was up for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, she told the cast of The View, “I hope people out there now can associate being transgender with being accomplished, being successful and achieving your dreams.”

But of course being on a comedy series means she’s not always so serious. One of the more humorous spots for her character came during season two in an episode titled, “A Whole Other Hole.” In a conversation about female anatomy, Sophia realizes that a lot of the other inmates are woefully unaware of how their bodies work. In an effort to educate her fellow prison mates, Sophia becomes her own version of Adam & Eve’s Doctor Kat—a psychologist who frequently blogs about sex—to the inmates. She answers the inmates questions about sex and explains how each part of their vaginas and sexual organs work.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Andre Braugher as Capt. Ray Holt

andre-braugher-Brooklyn Nine-Nine won the award for “Best Comedy” at the 2014 Golden Globes, and lead actor Andy Samberg walked away with the win for “Best Actor in a Comedy Series,” but it’s Andre Braugher’s character, Capt. Ray Holt, that attracted the attention of the LGBT community. Slate praised the show on a particular episode that involved Holt having a romantic anniversary dinner with his husband. The article said that, “In less than a minute, Brooklyn Nine-Nine managed to make a more thoughtful, heartfelt, and compelling argument for ENDA than any other show on prime-time network television. And it did so without losing its sense of humor, keeping viewers laughing, despite the heavy subject matter.”

A strong and powerful authority figure, Holt is quiet, intense, and at times, difficult to read. Even though the show is a comedy series, they actually take a deep look into the struggles that Holt has had to go through in his career. Being a homosexual in the police force, he’s faced prejudice and discrimination, and his actions are constantly put under a microscope by those who would do anything to see him removed from the department because of his sexuality. But the character never lets that faze him, and continues to plug away at his job.

Braugher did an interview with the LA Times about his recent Emmy nomination for supporting actor in a comedy series. When asked how he feels that Holt would congratulate him on his nomination, Braugher said, “He would make a small pointing gesture with his index finger and say, “Good job.” I mean, that’s the highest praise you can get from Holt.”

It’s the sign of true acting talent. The ability to make you laugh, cry, and feel every bit of pain that they do. Of stepping outside stereotypes when depicting members of the LBGT community and saying, “Hey, we’re more than just our sexual identity.” These comedic stars have a special way of sharing with the audience the deeper challenges of coming out, and presenting them in a manner that makes such challenges understandable to the average viewer. One thing is for certain, their influence in the LGBT community won’t soon be forgotten.

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Tougher Than You Think You Are…

Rosie the RiveterI’m not one typically given to having epiphanies.

My shifts in perspective tend not to come in a sudden toppling of brick and mortar, allowing me to see a path that was previously closed to me. I don’t usually pop up crying ‘Eureka!’ at a radical alteration of thought patterns. Things are more likely to percolate through my subconscious, rising slowly to the surface where they occasionally escape the treacle of my thoughts. When it happens with a story, it’s delightful, and I hurry to grab my notebook and jot the ideas down before I lose my grasp of their ephemeral nature.

But sometimes, my thoughts coalesce into one big bubble that bursts through the surface tension in my brain and I get that bright light bulb moment.

This morning started out in a typical fashion for me. I woke, recognizing that my To-Do list for the day was far too ambitious (as usual) and that I would have to eliminate all but the most important things to accomplish even a tenth of what I had planned. I got my final edits for Walk a Mile in my inbox last night–working on that has to take priority today.

I resisted the urge to sleep in that extra half hour and took the dog for a run in the forest instead. We have to get out early to beat the heat these days. It had rained during the night, and the air was as steamy as a tropical jungle as we left the house this morning. When we reached the top of the mountain, it was shrouded in fog. We were the only ones on the access road as we drove into the National Forest. I let H out of the car and put on my hiking boots. We started walking down the road toward the trails.

Wooden Bridge and HSpending some time outdoors, preferably each day, is absolutely necessary to my mental health. Watching the dog frisk ahead of me on the trail makes me smile, and often my mind is free to brainstorm on my stories. Frequently, I take pictures of wildflowers, the dog, and anything else that I want to capture as a digital memory. It’s all very low key and imminently soothing. I consider trail time vital, in other words.

So here we were, enjoying the summer morning, while I thought about what I was going to do with the rest of my day. Keeping one eye on the dog, I went over my To-Do list, planning the best way to get the most accomplished. I also spent some time thinking about my writing in general, and where I wanted to go with it in the future. Which stories to work on next. What was tugging at my heart to begin and where the path might take me on down the line.

H’s head suddenly came up, and he went very stiff. I tried to make out what caught his attention–a jogger? A deer? Either way, I needed to call him to me before whatever it was made its way around the corner. Normally, H has an excellent recall, and he was on his way back to me when a black bear ambled into view.

black bearI think the bear and I both had an ‘oh shit’ moment at the same instant. It was a young adult, about the size of a large calf. Probably last year’s cub now out on its own, though I couldn’t be sure there wasn’t a Mama Bear somewhere around. No, I didn’t take this picture! But that’s what he looked like! :-)

H glanced back to see the bear standing in the path and took off like an arrow after it. Silently. The silent part is important, because when H chases a deer, he shrieks with excitement the entire time. Not so with the bear. He flew like a guided missile straight at the bear, and the very silence of his movement bore witness to his intensity of purpose. I knew it. The bear knew it, too. He turned tail and ran.

I ran, too, after my dog, bellowing his name and shouting, “Leave it! Leave it!” as I chased him down. All I had to defend him was a dog leash–I snatched it out of my back pocket and folded it so I could leash-whip the bear if needed. Fortunately I didn’t have to pull a bear off my dog–H came trotting back to me with what could only be described as an extremely smug look on his face. The bear had taken to his heels and kept running.

Flat Topped MushroomDeciding to head back to the car in case there were bigger, less cowardly bears out there, I spied a cool mushroom on the side of the trail and stopped to take this picture of it with my cell phone.

Then it hit me. Less than three minutes before, I’d just encountered a bear for the first time in my life. I’d been prepared to beat it with my dog’s leash if necessary to separate it from my dog. And here I was, casually snapping pictures with my cell phone. I recalled last year how I trapped a copperhead that was in the camp and safely transported it to the other side of the river (you try wading in waist-high freezing water with a copperhead in a trash can, it’s not as easy as it sounds). That’s when it dawned on me that I’m a lot tougher than I think I am.

In that moment, I realized that I will always have options because I am a lot tougher than I think I am. I’ve always been brave when it comes to physical things–I’ve always trusted my body to do what I’ve asked of it, which is one reason I’m taking its defection over the last few years kind of hard. Where my courage has been lacking is in all other areas. Believing that there is value in what I bring to to the table, be it in writing, or work, or love. In that moment, however, I went from “You’re tougher than you think you are” to “I’m tough.”

I knew then I could do it. Because not two seconds after the words ‘I’m tough’ hit my brain, I heard myself saying, “You don’t have to life a conventional life.” And you know what? I don’t. Not that I live a conventional life anyway, but hells bells, I might as well go for broke, right?

Micro HouseI can do whatever is necessary. So my crappy little house disintegrates around me because I can’t afford the massive repairs necessary to make it safe? Fine. I have a couple of acres. I can build one of those micro-houses and I’ll be better off than if I pour any more money into the financial black hole that I currently live in. Hell, I could even plant a garden next year. I know the thought of growing and cooking my own food makes those of you who know me well laugh, and yes, I’ll probably suck at it, but if I have to, I know I can.

It’s not the actual circumstances that are as demoralizing as the crushing fear that there will never be any way out of them. I’ve always been the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios, and they’ve had the power to shackle me my entire life. But nothing that I’m going through is as bad as what I imagine it could be. I was ready to take on a bear this morning. I can take on the world.

I can do this. I’ve got it covered. I’m tough.

 

 

The Sound of My People: The Equal Rights Blog Hop

equal_rights_blog_hop_buttonWelcome to the Equal Rights Blog Hop! Each year, members of the the GLBTQ community and their supporters gather to celebrate the battle for equal rights. This year, thirty different authors have joined in the hop, and there are prizes galore! Be sure to check out the entire prize list at Queertown Abbey and see how you can enter to win the rafflecopter–as well as the Master List of Participating Authors.

Last year at my annual weekend gathering of fandom friends, where we meet up to stuff ourselves silly with each others best recipes and stay up until all hours talking about our fandom loves, there was a moment when all of us were busy on our laptops checking our emails, updating our status, or working on stories. The only sound in the room was the clattering of keys. One of my friends looked up and said with a happy sigh, “Ah, the sound of my people.”

We all laughed, and it has become a catch-phrase for us ever since.

You know what she meant, though. It’s true, as a species, we like to say ‘us, not them’ and form communities while at the same time, shutting some people out. The very thing that makes us recognize ‘alike’ makes us suspicious and leery of ‘other’. That need to separate people into tribes, into ‘us vs. them’ can be both a good and a bad thing.

This post was supposed to be about my first experience with the GLBTQ community, and I’d originally planned a nice sweet little blog post about how I did a lot of theater in high school and how my friends were neither my gay nor straight friends but my theater friends. I didn’t identify them as to their sexual orientation. It wasn’t a big deal. Ricky was the one who could hold a note for 16 bars without taking a breath. Amy was the one who made me laugh. Tom was the one I had a mad crush on, despite my friends telling me I couldn’t have a crush on him–and I knew it would never work, but I had a thing for talent, you see. Yeah, short and sweet, that was going to be my original post.

Then the whole thing with SCOTUS and their ruling on the Hobby Lobby case came down, and I have to tell you, I was both stunned and appalled. I’ve spent most of the week being seriously pissed. I’m sure I’ve annoyed and alienated many of my friends (and potential readers, too) with how angry I’ve been. I posted about it yesterday, as a matter of fact, and why I believe that the only thing that scares the GOP more than the mythical ‘gay agenda’ is the single, independent woman.

But here’s the thing. Almost every one of my GLBTQ friends have been just as upset, vocal, and angry by this ruling as I am–and for many of them, it has no direct bearing on them and their lifestyle. They resent it, however, for what it represents: discrimination on the part of one group of people against another group of people based on religious, economic, and political beliefs. They resent it in the same way that I resent seeing states pass laws banning equal marriage rights, or allowing discriminatory hiring/firing practices. Because it is wrong. Because no one group should be able to impose their will on others to this degree. All those times I stood up and cheered for my friends finally getting married, or I voted for someone who vowed to stand up for civil liberties across the board, or I fought to see some measure passed that would protect my friends? Well, yeah, they’ve got my back, too. And that, my friends, is what community is all about. I love you guys. :-)

If you enter the Rafflecopter, you’re entered to win an e-copy of my award-winning novel, The Boys of Summer. I have a short story out in the newly released Not Quite Shakespeare anthology from Dreamspinner Press, and will be releasing Walk a Mile, the sequel to Unspeakable Words, in Sept/Oct 2014. Good luck, and happy hopping!