Monthly Archives: May 2014

Blogspot – 6 Questions for Salem West

Salem WestSalem West is a corn fed overachiever from the lower Midwest, who studied hard, practiced religiously, spiked her qualifying exams, and earned a graduate degree in Public Policy from Vanderbilt. She spent more than twenty-five years managing environmental, nuclear, process safety, and security groups and contracts for a bevy of Beltway Bandits in Washington, D.C. In 2011, sanity prevailed and she retired from these pursuits to found her breakout blog, The Rainbow Reader. The blog combines homespun essays with queer-centric perspectives in book reviews that cover a wide swath of literature. In 2012, she was invited to write pre-release reviews for award-winning authors, Carol Anshaw and John Irving. Hoosier Daddy: A Heartland Romance is her first novel. At this writing, there are no pending, open, or outstanding warrants against Ms. West—a great relief to her wife, Ann McMan (Famous Author)

Hoosier Daddy, her novel written with wife Ann McMan is a finalist in the Lambda Lesbian Romance category, so i asked both of them our six questions – below are Salem’s answers, Ann’s can be found here.

Breakfast of Champions1) Who/What is your favorite book/author? Why?I love me some Tom Robbins and Christopher Moore, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. It’s a hauntingly hysterical romp that explores classical themes such as sex, race, sex, politics, sex, environmental catastrophe, sex, aliens, sex, robots, sex, god, and sex. It features a feisty appearance by the author within its pages, and as an extra added bonus, it is full of downright naughty little doodles. It’s a gift that just keeps on giving.

2) What has been your most surprising or interesting inspiration for a book?
Driving through a sea of lightning bugs on a hot summer night—the perfect metaphor for finding your soul mate.

3) Writing is emotional and can be isolating. From where do you get your support?
Ann and Salem
Ann McMan and I talk constantly about writing—hers and mine—and pie, we talk a lot about pie. But in all seriousness, Ann is my best friend, confidant, and co-conspirator in all things. But the writing community is also omnipresent in my life. Friends like Barrett, Sandra Moran, Bev Prescott, Lynn Ames, and Baxter Clare Trautman are always in the wings with information, inspiration, and insight. They’re also there with a well-timed bitch slap, when needed. It works out for us.

4) What does it mean to you to see your work in print and then up for an award?
I won’t kid you, it feels great to know that all of
the hard work and sleepless nights resulted in something that someone reads and declares “worthy”. But more than that, in the still of the night, it quietly reminds you how very much more work you have to do to become the writer you know you can be.


5) What is next on your personal bucket list toMandolin accomplish?  

For the literary, whether writing essays or fiction, I want to continue to refine my voice. For the otherwise, I’d like to master the Cm7b5 chord on my mandolin without dislocating a pinky.

 6) What are you working on now and what’s next up for publication?
I’m always working on my review blog, and there is another collaboration potentially in the works that will be more in the pulp fiction genre. I’ve also started toying around with a story set, again, in the lower Midwest—this one will explore the theme of legacy.

 Thanks to Salem for the relatively sane answers – wonderful to have her view of the world. You can read her fuller biog on the Salem West author page.

Blogspot: How “Dick” Inspired a Karin Kallmaker Lesbian Romance

Karin KallmakerWinner of three Lambda Literary Awards with nine shortlist nods, winner of six GCLS Goldie Awards with another six shortlist nods, the Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award and 2011 Trailblazer Award, winner of the Alice B Reader’s Medal, as well as numerous lesbian readers’ awards this year the wonderful Love by the Numbers is nominated as a Lammy Finalist for Lesbian Romance.

So I sent Karin our 6 questions…

Presented with six questions I couldn’t just answer them in order. Yes, my mother once or twice referred to me as “a pill.” I took inspiration where I found it, just as I do for my books. I worked on an oil refinery for six months and wrote Car Pool. My adoration of Pride and Prejudice led to Just Like That. Barbara Stanwyck and Sidney Greenstreet mashed up into Making Up for Lost Time.

But I think the most unusual inspiration comes from a name that isn’t associated with lesbian fiction and will have most readers baring their teeth: Dick Cheney. That’s right, Dick Cheney inspired one of my books.

Substitute for LoveTo be more precise, Dick Cheney inspired the character of Reyna Putnam, and that led to the book Substitute for Love. The flashpoint occurred during a debate when he was a candidate for U.S. Vice President in 1999. The question was about gay rights. It was widely suspected at the time that his daughter, Mary Cheney, was a lesbian. The Republican party and his own voting history opposed all forms of rights for gays. Yet his answer nimbly danced around the issue in such a way as to leave the impression that he never opposed gay rights and Republicans weren’t Big Meanies to gays, no, it never happened.

As I listened to his words I wondered what it would feel like to be his lesbian daughter. To know that in all his political life he had never expended one ounce of energy to help you marry the woman you loved. To hear him lie about his convictions. To know that your happiness would always be second to his ambition. To know that you would be expected in just a few minutes to smile and say how proud you were of him. Wouldn’t she be angry?

Why would a lesbian daughter with complete financial independence—a massive trust fund—support this kind of man? At what point does a grown woman look at her father and realize that he evaded military service but can send hundreds of thousands of other people’s children to war to protect his own fortunes? What coercion must exist for her not to just tolerate, but enthusiastically support a political agenda that chokes her own soul?

I don’t know the answers for Mary Cheney. But I found the answers for Reyna Putnam. In spite of its dark origins in the oppression of a daughter’s spirit by her father’s dark political ambitions, it also ended up being, I think, one of my most hopeful and triumphant stories. Love wins, good women and men win. It was a book that held several more surprises, including the solution that let Reyna out of her trap—I didn’t see it coming until the words were typed on the screen.

Lambda Literary FInalistThose are the magic moments of writing, surprising myself. I have half a hope that if I can achieve that, then I’ll manage it for the reader. Which is admitting, in the end, that surprising and delighting the reader is its own inspiration. Awards and accolades are affirming, but connecting with a reader, my ideas becoming words that fall to the page and then rise to her eyes and become a swell of emotion and ideas in her mind, well, there is simply nothing better.

Many thanks to Karin for this insight into the sorts of things that spark her creativity. You can find her bio and books on the Karin Kallmaker Author Page

That Certain Something – Clare Ashton

That Certain SomethingPia Benitez-Smith is a struggling photojournalist trying to scrape a living between her art and accidental paparazzi shots. When a squirrel chases her out of a tree she falls into the arms of her dream woman and so begins an emotional roller coaster.

Cate is elegant, intriguing, beautiful and way above Pia’s working-class roots. She is clearly supposed to be somewhere but doesn’t seem in any rush to leave. When she insists her dream night would cost a fortune Pia can’t resist proving her wrong, and the pair set of to create an evening they will never forget.

But Cate wants riches and security, while Pia wants to live her life to the full, and thinks love is more important than money. Can these polar opposites ever be more than a dream?

————

Clare Ashton has written another winner. That Certain Something was a joy to read from start to finish. It warms your heart, tickles your fancy and captivates your mind.

Pia is the quintessential youthful idealist. Daughter of dreamers, she is a romantic to the core. But she also has a deeply ingrained integrity that shines through both in her work and her personal choices. Her ability to capture the perfect portrait, her refusal to take advantage and her total honesty make her a woman of character. She has a charisma you cant help but love from the first moment, her clumsiness is endearing, her enthusiasm is jubilant and her family ties refreshing in a world where they frequently mean so little.

Cate appears to be the exact opposite. Refined, restrained, constrained even. She seems to be beautiful but it is only skin deep. Her life experiences have twisted the real Cate into something she doesn’t like but can’t seem to escape. Her evening with Pia wakes the sleeping beauty and challenges Cate to her core. While Pia must learn her true value, Cate’s is a journey to freedom from self imposed golden bars.

Pia and Cate’s story is one of joyful encounters, hilarious accidents, shared secrets and painful growth. From the very first moment you know that the world cannot be right if they aren’t together, and their love shines through, despite the pain of terrible choices and mistaken pride. They captivate us and hold us spellbound throughout.

A wonderful ensemble cast that our most famous actresses would be queuing up to fill supports our heroine’s journey. Pias’s adoring mother, Cate’s grounded Grandmother and Ed, the tough old marshmallow Editor, all play a central role that fills out the pages with the warmth of a summer afternoon. Ms Ashton has a skilled sense of character that brings so many minor players to life; the famous actress, the drunken supermodel, the hotel doorman – even the cabbies get their moment under her spotlight.

As well as a delightful cast Clare Ashton illustrates London in all its glory. With a light, deft, brushstroke she not only paints a beautiful watercolor of some of our most amazing spaces, but evokes the sense, the smell and the emotion that is London. She mixes the old, often hidden, eccentricity of wealth and pomp with the sleaze of the 1970’s tower block, the heart of multicultural Brixton with the overwhelming impersonal opulence of the modern skyscraper. If you haven’t been here there is no better way of seeing London than following Pia’s evening delight and the opposite worlds of Cate’s homes and Pia’s family.

Clare Ashton bioAnd all of this is written with the most exquisite touch. Ms Ashton’s sense of timing, pace and style are elegant and flow across the pages. Her descriptions are unobtrusive but somehow convey depth without overbearing detail. Her comic timing and sense of fun balance effortlessly with a clear sense of the turmoil within – we never doubt for one moment the anguish Cate is suffering, although not one word is spoken or one thought expressed.

This one not only goes on my re-read pile, I am quite tempted to start it over just to experience the pleasure of being swept away again. I don’t often want to give 6 stars but the finesse of Clare Ashton’s writing is breathtaking. Don’t only read it and submerge yourself in the experience, buy your friends a copy and share the joy. You will be captivated, entertained and fall in love, all while belly laughing your way through Pia’s bare-arsed antics.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Breezy Tree Press (May 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00K9TEAFI
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Blogspot – 6 questions for Ann McMan

Ann and Salem

Ann and her wife, reviewer Salem West, live in central North Carolina with their three dogs, two cats, and an exhaustive supply of vacuum cleaner bags. In 2013 they co-authored Hoosier Daddy, a  Lambda Finalist in the Lesbian Romance section, and Ann published the delightful Three which is a Goldie Finalist for Anthology/Collection (Fiction).

As they both deserve a blospot  I asked them both your six questions… and now i am completely smitten as I am also a died in the wool Jane Austen fan.. bliss.

1) Who/What is your favorite book/author? Why?
Pride and PrejudiceSo, I probably become the most boring person in the world at cocktail parties when I get asked this question. I’ll always reply, “Jane Austen,” and watch people yawn and try not to steal glances at their wristwatches. But it’s true. I love her. I read Pride and Prejudice once a year—usually at Christmastime. I love how Austen was able to write about incredibly small things—daily events with next to no action apart from walking or dining—and fill the internal lives of her characters with conflict and contradiction. I aspire to replicate that same thing…to write about simple, everyday people leading simple, everyday lives. I do so with less success, however, so that’s why I keep reading.

2) What has been your most surprising or interesting inspiration for a book?
For me, inspiration comes from odd and unlikely places. I’ll be standing in line behind someone at the post office (they really should serve appetizers and have a cash bar), and I’ll overhear some snippet of conversation that is just riveting…the kind of thing you just couldn’t ever make up. Then I’ll be off and running. Not from the post office, of course—those errands generally take four to six weeks. But my internal scribe will be busy jotting down notes and fitting the new tidbits together with the germ of an idea I already have. Another great place for raw, story material is the frozen food aisle of the grocery store. I love to watch shoppers engage in plenary sessions or breakout conferences as they try to decide which Lean Cuisines they want to buy. You see? Drama and mystery are all around us, all the time. We just need to pay attention. That’s what I always endeavor to do.

3) Writing is emotional and can be isolating. From where do you get your support?
I am blessed to be married to one of the best minds and sweetest dispositions in the business. Plus she has great legs, and that don’t hurt either. But, truthfully, Salem West is my still point of the turning w
Tabascoorld. We share everything…although I do draw the line at the omnipresent Tabasco sauce she dumps in great quantities on virtually every food group. I also have great friends within the writing community who are always a constant source of quiet support—kind of like a self-styled twelve step group. But it’s odd…when I’m writing, I never feel alone. I guess you could say that I have voices in my head, and they keep me company—and I don’t let that worry me too much unless they start telling me to do things like overthrow the French government.

4) What does it mean to you to see your work in print and then up for an award?
I honestly think that anyone who says this doesn’t matter or mean anything is full of hooey. It means a lot. Now, having said that. Does it make your work better? Of course not. Or does not getting an award nod make your work less good? Absolutely not. Still. It does feel gratifying when it happens—like a warm hug from an old friend. You just have to go with it…let it feel nice for a little while, and then let it go, and get back to work. And it puts pressure on you to do better, to be better, and to keep striving for the next, best thing.

5) What is next on your personal bucket list to accomplish?
cherry pieI’d like to learn how to make perfect pie crust…like my grandmother’s. I mean…I think she used lard, so that’s kind of a non-starter—although, ironically, you can still get it at Whole Foods. But, still. If I had to choose between writing a perfect story, like Flannery O’Connor or Ernest Hemingway—or making a perfect cherry pie like my grandmother…I think the pie would win hands down. And sometimes, during those periods when I suffer from a complete lapse of rational thought, I think I’d like to accomplish both. I guess time will tell.

Backcast6) What are you working on now and what’s next up for publication?

I am working feverishly to finish my new novel, Backcast. This is my bass fishing tour de force, and it reunites the CLIT-Con 13 authors from my novella, Bottle Rocket. Think The Big Chill meets Fried Green Tomatoes by way of A River Runs Through It.
Patriarch BW
After that, Patriarch, the next installment in the Jericho series, takes center stage. Meanwhile, Salem, Jeanne Magill and I are working on a series of pulp fiction novels about a nurse iconoclast named June Magee, R.N. Oh, my…she’s going to get into all KINDS of mischief. I’d also like to find some time to sleep…

As always Ann entertains us.. many thanks for your insightful answers. Find out more about Ann – the Accidental Author –  on the Ann McMan author page.

 

Mac vs. PC – Fletcher DeLancey

Mac vs PCAnna Petrowski is senior IT Tech at Oregon State. Her favorite luxury on the weekends is a sinful caramel mocha and a chocolate cherry scone at the Bean Grinder while she dreams of faraway places. When an attractive woman who is hogging her favorite table starts swearing at her laptop Anna’s first instinct is to duck. Elizabeth Markel is clearly tempted to ask for help, but manages to restrain herself – and so begins a new friendship and attraction for both women.

But Anna is stuck on her own past, with a class prejudice she hasn’t recognized and a snobbery she isn’t aware of. When she finds out who Elizabeth really is, and how up the food chain she sits, Ann’s reaction is uncalled for and unkind. As quickly as she realizes he mistake, can she ever put it right?

———-

Fletcher DeLancy’s first Lesfic novella is a delightful read. Light, charming and full of humor.

Anna and Elizabeth are well drawn, multi layered and interesting women. Both are successful, competent and professional. Anna’s assumptions are understandable but based on her own insecurities rather than fact. Her self-discovery is the fuel for the plot development and is a sweet self awakening.

Fletcher DeLancey bioWell plotted and with just that little tingle of suspense we are drawn into the story of a simple attraction which goes wrong because of bad assumptions. The scenes around the Corvallis campus are simply drawn and the university and coffee shop make a pleasant setting for the tale.

An enchanting story and a lovely way to while away the hours. I look forward to more stories from this author who writes with such elegance and a lightness of touch.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 111 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Ylva Publishing (April 14, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00JPFBTN8
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Blogspot – 6 questions for Tracey Richardson

Tracey RIchardsonTracey is the author of several lesbian romance novels published by Bella Books, including the Lambda Literary Award finalists Last Salute and No Rules of Engagement. She is a voracious reader, even more so now that she has retired from a 27-year career as a daily newspaper journalist.

We published a review of Last Salute today as it seemed a fitting title to chose for Memorial Day Weekend,  and at the same time we took the opportunity to ask Tracey your six blogspot questions.

1) Who/What is your favorite book/author? Why?

Hmm, this has to be the hardest question of all! I read probably 30-40 books a year, so my “favourite” book changes from month to month. It’s probably easier for me to tell you who my favourite authors are.

For lesbian fiction, there are many very talented authors…too many to pick just a few, and I don’t want to neglect anyone. But I will say that two authors who inspired me early on (back in the 1990s) were Katherine Forrest and Karin Kallmaker. They were producing quality work early on when there wasn’t a lot around, and they made it look easy (which I know now it is not!).

I read a ton of more mainstream fiction (from both gay and straight authors) and some of my favourites are: Sue Miller, Hilma Wolitzer, Emma Donoghue, Helen Humphreys, Wally Lamb, Charles Baxter.

2) What has been your most surprising or interesting inspiration for a book?

Last SaluteThe War on Terror (Afghanistan, primarily) surprisingly inspired me to write two of my novels (No Rules of Engagement and Last Salute, both Lammy finalists). As a journalist, I was always interested in the war in an academic way. I really didn’t have an opinion about it early on, but as the war dragged on and more people (soldiers, journalists, aide workers) came back and told their truths, I found myself becoming more emotionally involved. I also felt it was my duty as a citizen to find out more about the war and to form an opinion about it. As I embarked on this journey, I decided I wanted to set some of my fiction in the war, and with those two novels, I really tried to unearth how the war might have impacted some people, and the sacrifices people made, and how the experience changed them and their loved ones.

3) Writing is emotional and can be isolating. From where do you get your support?

My fellow lesfic authors have been very supportive over the years. Writing conferences are very inspiring and supportive, and I try to attend at least one a year. Readers have also been very kind in writing to me, and many untold others who appreciate and enjoy what authors do have been supportive in many ways. I also belong to a writers group in my city (Ascribe Writers), about 10 to 12 of us, and we really push each other to grow and get better, and we’ve all become good friends. They inspire me and hopefully I inspire them as well.

Lambda Literary FInalist
4) What does it mean to you to see your work in print and then up for an award?

One word: It’s COOL!

 

5) What is next on your personal bucket list to accomplish? 

On the non-literary side of things, I’m trying really hard to learn to play the guitar right now. I’m enjoying it, but man, there’s a lot to learn!

On the literary end, my next goal is to write a mainstream time travel thriller, set during a very specific historical event. It’s taking a TON of research (which I love), and it’s going to take a huge chunk of time to complete. I don’t see myself ready to shop it around for at least another 18 months. Whether it ever sees the light of day or not, writing that kind of book is simply a way to challenge myself as a writer.

Tracey and friend6) What are you working on now and what’s next up for publication?

I’m busy working on my next Bella Books novel, (You Are) The Song in My Heart. It’s a romance novel involving two musicians… one an up-and-comer, the other a former star who walked out on her career years ago. It’s not going to be a tear-jerker like “Last Salute” however. I can’t afford all the Kleenex I owe my readers after that one! But I’m enjoying writing it, and it’s part of what inspired me to learn how to play guitar.

Huge thanks to Tracey Richardson for taking the time to answer our questions. You can read more about her and see all her books on the Tracey Richardson Author page

 

Last Salute – Tracey Richardson

Last SaluteLambda Literary FInalistPamela Wright already feels alone and slightly lost when a knock at the door signifies the end of her last real connection. Her older sister Laura has died in a helicopter crash on the way to a forward hospital while on tour in Afghanistan. Facing her loss alone seems too much to bear.

Trish Tomlinson notices that the flag has been lowered to half mast at the high school where she teaches and is stunned to find that the alumni they are honoring is her first and only love.

When Pam sees Trish as the funeral cars move through Ann Arbor she realizes there is one person who will share her grief, one person who will understand. As the two women support each other through their pain old feelings surface, new feelings emerge. But will grief and guilt be too big a hurdle for them to overcome?

———

Last Salute is an interesting story with several complex layers of emotion. On the one hand it is about how we become who we are, how some people chose a life others find alien and what motivates those choices. It is also about how we deal with grief, the grief of losing a loved one and the grief of being left behind when relationships don’t work out. At the same time it is a romance, but a romance which has to deal with guilt and bereavement.

Pam has lost her father to a plane crash, her mother to cancer and now her sister. – first to the army, then to the crash. She has fought to create a life for herself but is burdened by never being as good as her big sister. She has never recovered from a teenage crush on her sisters girlfriend and has lived a life following in her sisters footsteps. Now she has to grow into herself, find out what she wants and who she is.

Trish though she has the ideal dream – happy and in love with her high school sweetheart. But Laura chose the army over their dream and Trish has spent 13 years waiting for her to come back. Now she has to chose whether to let her heart die with Laura or face up to the fact that Laura never chose her.

Tracey richardson bioIn amidst all of this is an exploration of how the people who chose to put their lives on the line feel about the risks they take and the legacy they leave. Ms Richardson not only takes us into the heart of a forward hospital and an army base, but to the VA medical center back home. She shows us how the troops try to deal with the fear, how they come to terms with the risk, and by default we see why they find it so very hard to adjust to ‘normality’ when they come home.

Well written and a skillful balance between current growth and old pain, woven around the impact Laura had in life, and the legacy she has left. A gentle romance dealing with some of the hardest issues we all have to face.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 219 pages
  • First published 2013
  • Publisher: Bella Books (November 17, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00HHK8RKG
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Finding the Grain – Wynn Malone

Finding the Grain - Wynn MaloneWhen Augusta “Blue” Riley’s parents are killed by a tornado in her last month of high school, Blue is thrown into a world where nothing is what she expected. She moves from her farm in Alabama to North Carolina to be near her aunt and attend college. Interesting classes and the love of sorority girl Grace Lancaster help Blue let go of her grief. But her world is shattered again when Grace abruptly leaves her.

Blue quits college and hits the road. For nearly twenty years she moves from town to town, job to job, woman to woman—always the first to move on—until Blue comes back to the farming life that shaped her childhood. Mississippi Delta farmer Preacher Rowe and his invalid wife Mary put Blue to work plowing the fields and helping in the house. Eventually, Preacher teaches Blue the art and craft of fine woodworking and for the first time since her parents death Blue takes control of her life.

The pull of the mountains brings Blue back to North Carolina where she opens a woodworking gallery. When her lost love walks in the door the strength and serenity Blue thought she found is put to the ultimate test.

———–

This is Wynn Malone’s first novel and heralds the arrival of a great new addition to the Lesbian Fiction genre.

Finding the Grain is exceptionally well written. The story flows from Ms Malone’s pen with grace and elegance. It is superbly paced, and despite covering more than 20 years, it never drags. We start off with Grace and Blue, we end with Grace and Blue, but between we spend 18 years in the wilderness of Blue’s empty life. Each of her life phases has a descriptive rhythm and a purpose – to build her into the powerful woman she becomes.

Wynn Malone has skillfully created the backdrop for the life of a wanderer. At each early step Blue has an ambition and a target, she feels she is going somewhere, however far away from her original ambitions. We get a complete picture with setting, friends, lovers and a life created. As the years progress, however, the story gets bleaker and we hope for some deliverance from the cold place she ends up inhabiting.

The characters are worthy of note. Not only Blue and Grace but a whole cast from the whimsical author Cecelia,  to the charming Preacher and Mary. Each one is drawn with a level of care and attention to detail that brings them alive on the page. Our key players have a journey to travel. Blue literally, Grace metaphysically. At different times we want to wring both their necks for wasting their lives. Until they can both move forward they are stuck in the prison of the choices they once made.

Wynn Malone biogAt every stage we can empathize with the players involved, Blue’s pain, Aunt Julie’s frustration, even Grace’s cowardice. Finding the Grain is one of those books that makes you want a happy ending so badly you almost can’t bare to keep reading in case it goes wrong, but at the same time you cant possibly stop and not find out.

I read it in one sitting, literally couldn’t put it down. Very high on my favorite new books list and certainly on the re-read shelf, I sincerely hope Wynn Malone has another one in the pipeline.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 397 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bywater Books (February 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00H6UZYIA
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Blogspot – 6 questions for Amy Dunne

Amy and LouAmy lives with her wife, Lou, in Derbyshire, England. She attended Keele University and graduated in 2007 with a BSc in Philosophy and Psychology. After graduating, she worked for a while with vulnerable young people, until she moved on to deliver Adult Training Courses.

Amy is currently in the process of setting up my own business which is an exciting prospect. They have two gorgeous cats and a very naughty puppy. Her first novel, Secret Lies, a young adult story about self harm and abuse, was published in December 2013, and her next is due out in December.

Named as a  Golden Crown finalist in the Young Adult category we asked her our 6 questions…

1) Who/What is your favorite book/author? Why?
Whoa. That’s a tough question. I honestly can’t just choose one author or book. I know it’s cheating a little bit but I’m going to list three authors.

Curious Wine - Katherine V. ForrestAt a particularly difficult stage in my life I found books helped me to accept who I was and gave me the confidence to live the life I wanted. I’d just graduated from university and was living back home with my parents. I first discovered lesfic one night while doing some shopping online and secretly purchased a book. At that point my sexuality was a source of confusion for me and contention for my family. When the book arrived I stowed it safely away in my room. That night I stayed up reading it until the very early hours. I finished it in one sitting. It blew my mind. It was an epiphany and helped shape the person I am today. That book was  Curious Wine by Katherine V. Forrest. I still love that book and have reread it many times.

I also love Gill McKnight’s books. I haven’t read one yet that didn’t make me laugh out loud. Her stories are captivating and always keep me hooked. The humour she injects into her books makes them all the more special. To tell a good story is a gift but to also be able to make people laugh is too, that’s something I aspire to do with my own future books.Last, but certainly not least, I’m an avid fan of Radclyffe’s books. I find it inspiring that she’s prepared to try writing different genres. I appreciate how brave and risky that is for such a well established author. It’s also impossible not to be impressed by Radclyffe’s attitude to writing. She wants to continually improve her writing and works hard to achieve that.

2) What has been your most surprising or interesting inspiration for a book?
Secret LiesThere’s no reason or rhyme to the things that inspire stories. I can get ideas from places, people or just random thoughts. For instance, a thought will pop into my head and it will fester and grow to the point that it hounds me relentlessly until I give in, and write it down.

The inspiration for Secret Lies came from a number of places. My personal teenage thoughts, memories, and angst filled feelings. A short story I wrote for my English GCSE coursework when I was sixteen. The biggest influence came from my experiences working with vulnerable young people in care.

The idea for Season’s Meetings came about last December. My wife and I were decorating our Christmas tree. Kimmy, our little Cairn Terrier took advantage of a fifteen minute window of unsupervised opportunity. She annihilated our Christmas tree and ruined some of the more expensive Christmas tree decorations, purposely choosing to avoid the cheap ones. What can I say, she takes after my wife with her expensive taste. After our clean up and a glass or four of wine, my wife and I saw the funny side. From there the idea of a festive romantic comedy struck and refused to let me ignore it.

The idea behind The Renegade is one I’ve toyed with for many years. Being a fan of Stephen King’s The Stand as a teenager and other speculative fiction, I couldn’t help but question what would happen to the few survivors after a worldwide epidemic. Cheery stuff I know. How would the human race rebuild civilisation? Would a lesbian like myself suddenly be morally obligated to reproduce with a man in order to ensure the future of the human race? Would laws and religion mean anything anymore? Fascinating and complex thought-provoking stuff. Out of the three books, this one had been the most challenging to write.

3) Writing is emotional and can be isolating. From where do you get your support?
Writing can be both emotional and isolating. It’s a deeply solitary experience for the most part. I’m blessed to have a very caring, loving, and understanding wife. Without her I wouldn’t be able to write. It means so much to know that you’ve got that unwavering love and support. She’s also my first beta reader. She patiently reads the initial nonsensical drivel that I type manically onto pages and offers back constructive feedback. She showers me with praise but also isn’t afraid to say when something doesn’t work.

Recently, my self-confidence and belief in my writing abilities has suffered a mini crisis. I’m still not entirely sure why. My wife has persevered with the task of helping me to build it back up. Truth be told, she’s pretty frigging awesome.

With the exception of walking our dog in the evening, I can sometimes go days without seeing and speaking to anyone except my wife. Fortunately, my family all live within close proximity so they like to check up on me and make sure I’ve not turned into a total feral recluse. My friends also keep in touch regularly and have shown infinite patience with my lack of replying to texts and answering calls. My excuse is that I’m a technophobe. I don’t think they’re entirely convinced.

I also absolutely love to hear from readers. I take the good feedback with the not so good, and try to improve my writing. I’m still new to this so there’s a lot I’ve yet to learn. Each learning curve is something I embrace wholeheartedly. I want to improve my writing and don’t believe I’ll ever stop persevering to improve. I never realised before having Secret Lies published how important comments and feedback from readers are to a writer. They can make your whole day and week even. They make all of the hard work, tears, stress, late nights, and cider drinking worth it. Whenever I read a book I enjoy now, I always try to write a review and also let the writer know how much I enjoyed their book.

4) What does it mean to you to see your work in print and then up for an award?
Words cannot do justice to how amazing it feels to see Secret Lies in print. When I first got my author copies I literally spent the whole afternoon carrying a copy around with me. It’s such a buzz to see the end product after all the hard work and sacrifices.

When I have a bad day I go and hold that first copy. I dedicated it to my wife and it’s on our bookshelf. It calms me down. It reminds me that I can do anything I set my mind to… well, almost anything. I’ve begrudgingly come to accept I’m never going to grow taller. I shall forever be a shortarse.

GCLS clean logoFinding out that Secret Lies is a finalist for a Goldie Award is incredible. I swear I never thought in a million years it would happen. It’s an honour and a privilege. The Young Adult finalist category showcases very talented authors. Many of which I’m a huge fan of. I just feel proud to be included, especially for my debut novel.

Without the support, guidance, and hard work of so many people at Bold Strokes Books Secret Lies would never have seen the light of day. My editors, Lynda Sandoval and Sternglantz took my story and helped me to make it into something I’m truly proud of. This award demonstrates their hard work and commitment, as much as it does mine. I hope everyone at BSB knows how much I appreciate their hard work.

5) What is next on your personal bucket list to accomplish?
Everything! There’s so much I want to do.

I’ve got a summer of editing Season’s Meetings ahead in preparation for its December release date. I’m so excited bout this book. Honestly. It’s a huge change from the feel of Secret Lies. It’s sweet, festive, funny, and romantic. Plus it stars Kimmy, our very own little dog on the front cover.

I’m then going to be working on the editing of The Renegade due for provisional release in the Spring of 2015. As this is speculative fiction it’s a little daunting writing a new genre. It’s got a few gritty elements and is significantly more action packed that the previous two books.

On a personal note, I’ve got the same goals that I set for my New Resolutions. Lose weight, get fit, meet Dolly Parton, eat less chocolate, and win the lottery. Nearly six months into 2014 and so far I’ve not really achieved any of them. I’m a fairly positive person (or perhaps just deluded)and so hold out hope that there’s still time for me to achieve them.

6) What are you working on now and what’s next up for publication?
Seasons MeetingsSeason’s Meetings is up next for publication. It’s due to be released this December coming. I can’t wait to share it with everyone. I’m already counting down the weeks and trying not to dwell on the prospect of the hardcore editing that’s fast approaching.

My wife and I are huge fans of Christmas. We love everything about it. As soon as December 1st arrives we’re decorating out house without a hint of hesitation. It’s a time for family, laughter, fun, indulgence, and love. I tried to incorporate all of things we love into the story and I had an absolute blast writing it.

I’m currently finishing writing The Renegade which is my first attempt as speculative fiction. It’s very different from the other two books and has been more challenging to write. It’s provisionally due for release in Spring of 2015. I’m hoping to have a cover release in the not so distant future. So watch this space…

Thanks Amy – great answers and we look forward to Season’s Meetings! Find out more about Amy on her Authors Page

Switchblade – Carsen Taite

Switchblade - Carsen TaiteLuca Bennett’s decision to keep her head down and concentrate on keeping things simple doesn’t last long. As she prepares for her brother’s wedding and her sort of date with Jess, along comes trouble in the shape of her summer fling Ronnie Moreno. At which point her plans for Jess and a quiet life go up in smoke.

On the one hand she keeps trying to stick to being a bounty hunter, on the other her curiosity and loyalty keep on pushing her detective buttons. Luca finds herself on the wrong side of the whole police department for one thing. And with 2 exes hanging around things are getting way too complicated. When Jess gives her an ultimatum Luca’s choices seem very stark, will she chose right or wrong and what will she lose in the balance?

———-

Book 3 of the Luca Bennett series and another great example of the lesbian crime/American PI genre. Luca still has a huge chip on her shoulder, is still a total bad-ass and still wants to go charging off like a bull in the proverbial. But she can no longer deny her feelings and her burgeoning desire for the “happy ever after” everybody else seems to be finding.

In this story we see Luca getting caught up between trying to find out why Ronnie’s brother has been apparently used by a scapegoat, and trying to find a way to make something work between her and Jess. The plot thickens with Ronnie back on the scene, Diamond in the shadows and Nancy asking for more. The only uncomplicated thing in Luca’s world is Cash.

Here we are moving away from the pure American PI as Luca’s emotions get the better of her. Will she fight to hold on to the bad-ass persona, or let her feelings out? Will she have the courage to admit how she feels.. and will Jess reciprocate? As we delve further into the psyche of the proverbially damaged detective we can but wonder how long Jess’s patience will last.

Casen Taite BiogThe plot is fast and furious as always. New baddies, new allies and a great tying together of new plots with old enemies.  Who to trust is always the issue, quite who is telling the truth? Somebody always gets shot.. it’s just a toss up who and how badly.

I think this is my favorite of the three, definitely on my re-read list and here’s hoping Ms Taite keeps them coming.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (May 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00KAHYZB8
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