My Life

Grief and Legacy

Grief is weird, isn’t it? Sometimes it hides and you go days or weeks feeling great. Then it jumps out at you at the strangest times.

A few years ago, I went to the LCLC literary conference held by Sapphire Books. There, I met Amanda Kyle Williams, a lovely, brilliant, introverted author. She gave an incredible keynote speech and later, volunteered to speak to the writing academy students twice.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, my mother knit her a blanket which was promptly taken over by the pets in her home.

I have a few fun and funny memories of Amanda, but my favorite was when I tried to teach her a song to sing to Spike, the neighbor cat.

(To the tune of Let’s All go to the Lobby)

I like singing to kitties,

Cuz kitties like my singing

And humans don’t like my singing

But kitties like it a lot.

There’s another verse, but you get the idea. We sang it together a couple times, then I told her she could sing it as she went to feed all the neighborhood cats. Her response – “Right, because the neighborhood doesn’t already think I’m insane, wandering down the street in pajamas and rain boots with a wagon full of pet food and a herd of animals following me.”

This is only relevant because years later, for some reason, this morning I woke up with that song in my head. And as I was singing it, I was swept with such a huge wave of grief for this lovely woman who fought long and hard and ultimately lost her battle with cancer.

I was thinking about grief and how it attacks when you least expect it when I logged on to my email this morning and saw this blog post by my friend, Carleen. She was reviewing an excellent book by Anna Burke – and in the post, she referenced Sandra Moran, an author who also died way too young because of cancer.

Thinking of Sandra, reading about one of the authors who is succeeding because of her, lifted my grief. These women left a legacy – that of using their talent and their voices to help other writers find ways to bring their own voices to light.

And that’s the legacy I hope to leave. Through my work with the writing academy, through my beta reading for my students, through teaching everything from freshman comp to advanced studies in literature, I am using my voice to help other writers find theirs. Just like Amanda. Just like Sandra.

That’s why I devote so much time to the GCLS Writing Academy. And it’s why I spend time helping my students really understand the concepts we’re addressing in class. It’s important to me and if it’s important to them, I want to be there to give them every chance to succeed, just as others have done for me.

That’s the true circle of life – supporting others so they can go on to do the same.

 

My Life

NaNoWriMo

I can’t believe I’m considering another NaNoWriMo. It’s addictive. Last year, I wrote 51,000 words in a month. Maybe some people do this on a regular basis, but for me, it was a struggle. Yet, I did it. What’s more, I proved to myself that I *can* do it.

So when a friend asked if I was going to do it again this year, I thought, why not?

It’s not as if I have anything else going on.

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Last year, I did Coyote Ate the Stars. This year, I’m going to do a sequel in which Coyote and his sister go back to Adumbrate to rescue the man who was left behind in the pit of souls.

It’s just 1667 words a day for 30 days. I can totally do this.

I hope.

My Life

Cooperation, Unexpected Turn-ons, and One Night Stand.

 

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I’ve recently been thinking a lot about cooperation and connection. I’ve long been a proponent of cooperation in the lesfic community. I often share book links and blogs for other lesbian writers. I believe that the only way we can thrive as a community is for us all to help each other, rather than taking a me and mine attitude. I support women and I try to surround myself with women who support me.

With that in mind, it’s been fun lately to spread that spirit of connection and cooperation beyond the lesfic community. When my friend Elizabeth Anderson insisted I go to the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, I was blessed to meet some incredible male authors. I have a reading event with one of them next weekend.

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And today, I’m featuring the blog of the bitingly brilliant, sarcastically witty, charmingly sexy Lewis DeSimone. His book, Channeling Morgan, can be found here.  (My wife sat on the couch and chortled while reading this book.)

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the musings of Lewis DeSimone:

 

A Nightstand I Never Expected to Be On

By Lewis DeSimone

 

Novelists are like parents: once you send your baby out into the world, you never know where it’s going to end up.

A lesbian couple I knew kept a copy of my first novel, Chemistry, in their guest room, with a bookmark stuck in the middle of the hottest sex scene. They claimed that their guests—mostly other lesbians—loved it. I’ve heard that straight women are often into gay romance, and even gay porn—as a means, I suppose, of enjoying male sexuality without the danger and complications that often come with straight men.

But lesbians? I wondered. Why would they want to read about sex between men? One of my first lesbian friends told me that lesbians have hot sex for one night and herbal tea for nine years. With numbers like that, why on earth would they want to waste an ounce of sexual energy on men?

Before the knives come out, this is all tongue in cheek (so to speak). I long ago learned that lesbian bed death is a myth. A couple of episodes of The L Word were enough to shatter that stereotype.

On the other hand, I won’t deny that Chemistry plays right into stereotypes of my own community. To put it bluntly, my first novel is riddled with sex. But that’s kind of the point. It’s the story of a sexual awakening, focused on a character who heals a broken heart by opening himself up sexually. Sex is one of the ways he discovers who he is, so I wasn’t about to be coy with it and end scenes with a description of waves crashing to shore. Instead, I freely showed bodies crashing into each other.

My subsequent work isn’t all that sexy. I like to joke that my latest novel, Channeling Morgan, is the only one in which nobody dies. But it’s also the only one in which there’s no cameo appearance by a penis.

You could say I’ve matured. Or that my testosterone level—even in fiction—isn’t quite what it used to be.

But maybe it’s just that some books need sex and others don’t.

Sex is messy and confusing and, above all, unpredictable. I googled this question, don’t you worry. But, like a lot sex, none of the hypotheses I found was fully satisfying. There is no unifying theory of everything when it comes to sexuality. Maybe, when it comes right down to it, sex is sex. And, just as you can’t really predict who you’re going to be attracted to, you can’t always be sure which depictions of sex will turn you on, either. That’s why there are so many subgenres of porn: one gay site I know of has dozens of categories, from “Amateurs” to “Voyeur.”

So who knows why a lesbian would get turned on my book? Who knows why I got turned on by seeing Blue Is the Warmest Color? Who knows why I love asparagus but hate artichokes? (I mean that literally, by the way. It wasn’t until I’d already typed out the sentence that I realized the sexual imagery. See what I mean? Sex is everywhere and nowhere at once.)

And that woman with the herbal tea? I met her at an AIDS service organization in Boston in the late 1980s. When I was just coming out, into a community with two kinds of people: the dying and the terrified. And lesbians, with only minimal threat from the epidemic, were at the forefront in fighting it.

In the end, it’s love that turns you on.

 

 

Lewis’ website

(Just in case you want to buy the sex-filled book.) Chemistry 

 

My Life

Ten Things About Me

  1. I just released my sixth book, Coming Around Again, through Sapphire Books Publishing.
  2. I have an old man dog named Brutus. He has diabetes and I give him a shot twice a day to keep him healthy and happy. brutie and gordo
  3. Gordo is the cat. He rules the house. In the mornings, he reminds me to open the blinds by yanking the slats apart with his paw. I have broken blinds, but I don’t sit in darkness all day.
  4. I have depression. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem to affect my life at all. Sometimes, it means I spend the whole day on the verge of tears, trying not to cry, even though there is nothing sad happening at that moment. Sometimes it means my chest hurts and I have anxiety that seems to fill my entire body and I can’t get rid of it no matter what I do.
  5. I married my soulmate. It’s the kind of relationship we’ve both always dreamed of but didn’t think it was possible to have. She never thought she was worth it and I didn’t think it existed. She is and it does.
  6. I’m naturally lazy and completely unmotivated. I am also a grad student getting my second Master’s, an adjunct instructor with three classes, an online instructor of craft of writing for a non-profit writing academy, the Director of Education for Golden Crown Literary Society, an author, and one of three admins of a 15,000 member women’s networking group in Lansing, MI. I could happily sit on my ass all day and do nothing. Instead, I make detailed to-do lists in half-hour blocks and weekly and monthly to-do lists with deadlines, assignments, student grading blocks, answering emails, etc. I even schedule time to clean the kitchen and make meals. I think I’m happier when I’m doing things. (FYI – my lists are ambitious and I rarely finish all of them.)
  7. I have a Patreon page. So far, I have 14 patrons. Some are fans of my work – others are just fans of me. It isn’t a charity thing, though. It’s exchange for exchange. Some of my supporters pay a mere 2 dollars a month and get access to short stories no one else will see, sneak previews of works in progress, rejected book cover ideas, videos of readings, and general writing process stuff. You can look at it here. 
  8. I don’t know how or when, but I really want to get my PhD.
  9. I just started doing P90X3, the workout program and my butt hurts right now.
  10. I believe in community and connection and I think we thrive when we have it. I value the groups to which I belong, especially the Golden Crown Literary Society for helping me to foster those relationships.
My Life

GCLS Conference

joy and beth at con 2018My partner and I got married two days before conference, so the whole thing was kind of like a working honeymoon. Despite that, the Golden Crown Literary Society this year felt like a homecoming. Perhaps that sounds odd, with over 100 new people this year, but it felt intimate, loving, and welcoming.

We had a diverse crowd, different ages, different races. It was wonderful to see so many young people. The board is getting old (I mean that lovingly – I’m part of the board) and we need young, fresh minds to shake things up for us and keep us relevant.

beth readingI read from my soon to be released novel, Coming Around Again. Incidentally, my publisher had copies of the book at the conference as an early bonus and it sold out. I’m sure it had nothing to do with me promising to write naughty things in the books that people bought.

The writing academy was a shining star this year. The whole 2018 graduating class was there and they were amazing. Such a great group of talented and smart women. I was proud of them in every way. The WA also donated a free year’s tuition to the GCLS raffle and it was won by a woman who had been in the writing academy presentation, excitedly asking lots of questions. I have a feeling she is going to do great things.

The GCLS board works tirelessly to put on this event. (Okay, not tirelessly – we are all exhausted.) This is a labor of love as the board is all-volunteer. We all put so much time and effort into bringing the best conference experience to every participant. And our reward, other than the happy faces and awesome hugs, is coming back and doing it all again for next year.

I hope to see a huge crowd in Pittsburgh next year. We just keep getting better every year and I can’t wait to see how incredible the next one will be.

 

 

Fiction Writing

Karelia Stetz-Waters – Guest Post

Karelia is one of my favorite people. She is a brilliant writer, yes – but she also has that incredible ability to teach people how to be brilliant writers. (Or at least, better writers than they were before she taught them.)

I’ve learned a lot every time I have taken a workshop by Karelia and I’m excited that she agreed to guest blog on my page this month. Please take a look at her blog and check out her books. You will not be disappointed. You can find her website here. 

 

A long journey is a million baby steps.

Four Ways to a Good Character

By Karelia Stetz-Waters

My creative writing students were working on character development. They called out ideas. I wrote on the board as fast as I could. Then we stopped and looked at our work.

“These are all traits we don’t like,” one student said.

“It’s harder to write good people, isn’t it?” I said. “Think about someone good. Describe them.”

I immediately thought of Beth Burnett. If you don’t know her, hold out your virtual hand and shake hers because you won’t meet a kinder, cooler member of our community.

And that’s why I’m so honored to write a guest post for her blog.

I write romance novels. Romance novels are all about good people. Write a thriller—I’ve written a few—and you can load up on serial killers like chicken wings at the KFC buffet. And that’s fun, but good people are better. We have to love our protagonists. Then, in my opinion, every protagonist must have at least one good friend. Then you need a place that’s almost a character itself. Someplace beautiful. Someplace your readers want to go. (I nailed it with my Out in Portland series. Apparently Portland is the seventh most moved-to city in American!)

“So how do we write a good character?” another student asked.

I love teaching creative writing because the students ask the questions I want to answer.

I have four traits, that make a character good.

Good characters care. They care about something bigger than themselves. They care about justice or animals or hungry children or the mill workers who got laid off. In my upcoming romance, a closeted TV star worries about coming out, not because she cares about losing her job, but because she’s worried about all the people who have taken comfort in her show. She doesn’t want them to think that all those years were a lie.

Good characters honor their debts. I mean debts with a capital D, debts like the debts in the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not enough just to care. Good characters act with compassion.

Good characters strive. It’s our responsibility to try to reach our full potential. Now some characters’ full potential is like my full potential for going to the gym—I bought a membership in January, and I still haven’t gone, but tomorrow…. As challenging as things are, good characters do everything they can do in this moment. After all, a long journey is a million baby steps.

Good characters see the world in a new way. A likable character shows us the beautiful world in a way we haven’t seen before.

And here’s the thesis, class. The most important character is you.

I hope I’m good. I know I care about you, whoever you are, reading this in your living-room or on your phone on the subway. I’m thinking about where you’re going and what you’ll face today. I’m thinking about how many good people there are in the world and how I’d like to gather you all up in my arms.

Leave a comment and tell us what makes you uniquely good.

 

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Karelia’s next novel, Worth the Wait, comes out June 19th.

For fifteen years, Avery Crown tried to forget her best friend Merritt Lessing. The late nights studying, the whispered confidences, and the little touches that never turned into something more. Unfortunately, her efforts have not been as successful as her TV career as the queen of home renovation. So when she runs into Merritt at their high school reunion, Avery asks for one night with the woman she’s always wanted…

Merritt spent high school pining after Avery, but never made a move—their friendship meant too much. The one time it seemed things might change, Avery chose her budding career. So Merritt did the same, throwing herself into her remodeling business. Now Avery’s back, and while Merritt still hasn’t forgiven her for walking away the first time, they can’t keep their hands off each other. But when their professional paths cross, and it seems like Avery is choosing her career once again, Merritt will have to decide if she’s willing to let go of the past and give herself a second chance with her first love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Life

Writers Supporting Writers

Waters_WorththeWait_CoverI love supporting other writers, especially when I admire their work. I had the great fortune to meet author Desiree Cooper when we both spoke at a library conference a few days ago. I found her brilliant, well-spoken, and quite charming. I just got her book, Know the Mother, and have started reading the incredible pieces in this collection. I highly recommend it and you can get it here. (or at your local small bookstore – just ask them to order it!)

 

I’m also excited because one of my favorite authors, Karelia Stetz-Waters has a new book coming out. Worth the Wait is coming out on June 19th and is available for pre-order here. If you haven’t read anything by Karelia, I suggest you do. I’m not going to say much more about it, though, because next week, Karelia, who is not just an author but a professor and a generally brilliant person, is going to be here on this blog with some writing advice and a bit of info about her new book.

 

Stay tuned.