The End

theend

My wife Evelyn took this picture.

I finished the first draft of the manuscript for Crossing The Wide Forever today. Weighing in at just over 67,000 words it’s the longest story I’ve written to date.

There seems to be a moment about seventy-five percent into every book that I have written thus far where the whole thing stalls and I worry that I’ve gone off the rails and have no idea how it’s all going to come together. I lose sleep, I fret, I drive my wife Evelyn crazy recapping scenes in the story. (She says not, but I’m sure I do.)

With a fourth cup of coffee in hand, my writing playlist piping in through noise-cancelling headphones and the lights in my studio dim… I write the next 1,000 words. Because you just have to. You have to push through to the other side.

Four thousand words later I crawl into bed, exhausted, frustrated, and dream about the book. Scenes flash through my mind like I’m watching a movie. And then it happens. Somewhere between asleep and awake, at about four o’clock in the morning the whole thing comes together in my head. I can see it all the way through.

In the dark I get up and go downstairs to scribble all of it down on a giant yellow legal pad. My cat Otis is happy. He finally has somewhere to sit. (Cats and paper, what is that?)

I’ve also noticed that every time I finish a book, the minute I type the words “The end,” I’m euphoric. My head feels lighter. I can finally stop worrying about these characters that I’ve been living with for weeks. I’ve gotten them through to the end and they’re going to be okay.

Everyone gets what they need in the end, except me, because now I’m feeling sad. I begin missing those characters. They have more stories to tell.

I email the acquisitions editor Sandy at Bold Strokes Books and tell her I have a great idea for a sequel. Sandy is always kind in her correspondence, so she promptly replies and gently reminds me sequels don’t sell as well. Sigh.

#TheWritingLife

Taking a Moment to Say Thanks

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” — Albert Schweitzer

I recently spent nearly a week in upstate New York with a group of my new best friends: writers, editors, proofreaders and even a lawyer or two. This group of women and a few fearless men are part of the Bold Strokes Books pack, of which Radclyffe is the ever-inspiring Alpha.

Radclyffe and Sandy

From left to right: Alpha Publisher, Radclyffe and Senior Editor Extraordinaire, Sandy Lowe.

Two years ago I attended my first Bold Strokes Books retreat as a newbie author. I was nervous about meeting writers I admired. My first lesbian romance, All Things Rise, had yet to be released so I had not even had a chance to really prove myself as a writer. Yet everyone at the retreat was incredibly welcoming and willing to share their experiences in the publishing world. I left that first retreat feeling like I’d just made a group of new pals for life. Since then I have found that this group stays connected, and that’s been just one incredible part of this whole writing experience.

And now, after retreat number two, I feel as if I’ve expanded my friend circle exponentially.

I assume most of us do this writing thing because we have a strong desire to tell stories, to create. We write because we love the craft of writing and we love connecting with other writers and readers. I think very few of us do the things we love for money. The royalty checks are the gravy.

I would like to dedicate this blog post to the community of writers, readers and editors I’ve met since I published my first book with Bold Strokes Books. My world is so much brighter with you in it.

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At the helm, my awesome editor, Cindy Cresap.

As the release date for book number five, Valley of Fire, quickly approaches I want to say thank you. Thank you, Bold Strokes Books family, for the late night encouragement via email and texts, beta reading support (Jenny and Deb!) and most of all, thank you to my editor and publisher for giving this writer a voice.

Oh, and added bonus, I came up with some good ideas for new novels while I was at the retreat. Can’t wait to get started on them!

In a Perfect World

I’ve really struggled this week with my feelings about what happened in Orlando. This whole event felt extra personal because I lived in Orlando during my twenties. Pulse, and other gay clubs, were where I came out. My time in Orlando represents my passage to adulthood in many ways.

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Orlando, circa 1989: At a lakeside picnic with a close friend.

Alexander Chee, writing in the New Republic this week said, “We have always known that the protection we feel in a queer club is illusory.”

That statement finally got to the heart of what I’ve been feeling. When I was twenty-six, gay clubs offered a new world order. I spent all week being closeted for work, family and neighbors. But on Saturday night at the club, finally, freedom. It was as if the community in the club was some utopia where everyone was accepted as fully themselves. To anyone who isn’t gay this probably sounds very strange because you get to be yourself all day every day. But I’m sure those of you who are gay can relate to this. Especially if you came out in the era before Ellen and “Modern Family.” And even still, in some parts of the country where it isn’t safe to be out, gay clubs offer the only respite from the rest of life.

To be victimized, killed, in possibly the one place you feel safe is horrific.

And for those who were wounded, whose families didn’t know until they got a call from the hospital, I feel for them. To be forced out before you’re ready or before you’ve come to terms with it yourself is tough to get through. Not just tough, in some states, impossible. In Florida LGBT citizens don’t have even the most basic protections under the law. You can lose your job just for being gay. The lack of protection leaves LGBT individuals vulnerable. And all these mean-spirited laws camouflaged behind some fear of gender-specific restrooms and who gets to use them are basically throwing gasoline on a smoldering fire of hate targeting the LGBT community.

I’m sick of it. And all the stupid memes about bathrooms and Trump and assault weapons… none of it is funny anymore. If it ever was in the first place.

Democrats, Republicans, even conservatives, have offered prayers to the families of the victims and to the victims themselves. Enough. To the people in positions to actually affect policy changes I say spend a little more time reading the book you’re always hiding behind. Prayer without action is useless.

“Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  — James 2:17

If we as a democratic nation cannot protect those among us who are the most vulnerable minorities, then what does that say about us? We are certainly not the nation we arrogantly profess to be to the rest of the world.

 

The Case of the Mail Order Bride

Today marks the release of a new novel from my alter ego, Paige Braddock. This book is a novelization of the long-running lesbian comic strip, Jane’s World. This is a humor book, so the tone and voice are quite different from Whiskey Sunrise or The Time Before Now.

I hope you enjoy Jane’s antics as much as I do — or come close! Let me know what you think.

It’s hard to believe that today is June 1st, which means the Jane’s World novel is now available from Bold Strokes Books. There are even advance reviews of the book on their site also. …

Source: Jane’s World, the novel! It’s here!

Feeling Good About Letting Go

“Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive.”
— Bryant H. McGill

If any of you follow me on Facebook then you know that I posted earlier in the week about getting stuck on the villain character in my current work in progress. Thanks to everyone who responded and just as an update, in case you were curious, I’m unstuck.

I realized this morning while driving to work that part of getting unstuck was the willingness to let go. The novel that I am currently working on for Bold Strokes Books, Birthright, is a story I first started to think about back in 1997. It’s crazy to think that this concept has been sitting around for that long and I’m just now making it real. Basically, I have this “suitcase of ideas.” And yes, it’s literally a suitcase. In it are story outlines, character drawings, names, imaginary maps and references for all kinds of things. Birthright was in that suitcase. And maybe that’s why I ended up getting stuck.

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My suitcase of ideas.

Sometimes I think if an idea ferments for too long you become too attached to certain aspects of the initial concept. In this case I needed to let some things go. I needed to allow this story to evolve into something new, something better.

Secondary characters are now taking more of a lead role. The villain has a second-in-command. Names have changed and the original intent of the story has expanded. All for the better I think (I hope). I realized that by trying to force the narrative to adhere to my original concept I was holding the story back.

Anyway, I just felt like sharing this. As a writer, and as encouragement for other writers and creators, it feels good to let go. Especially when letting go means allowing the characters to move forward with their story.