Saturday, July 6, 2013

What a time....

Phyllis and I returned from Dallas and the Golden Crown Literary Conference around 2:00 AM Monday morning. Our flight was to get in to Indy at 11:00 Sunday evening, but after being delayed in Dallas and later in Kansas City, we didn't drag our bags into the house until the wee small hours. But we still had a fantastic time.

I don't know if you've ever been to the GCLS Con. If you're like me, the Con officially begins with the first sighting of GCLS folk--in this case Mercedes Lewis and Lizz Gibson when we pulled in front of the Double Tree Hotel. Lizz came to our rescue in dealing with the shuttle company. Later, Nelda Ireland reeeeeally got the shuttle stuff straightened out for us so there would be no more questions on our return to Love Field. We were tired and dragging and a little irritable, but then I heard a "CHRIS!" shout-out when we entered the lobby from Jeanine Hoffman. That lifted my spirits. We later came down from our rooms to chat with friends we'd not seen in two years.

We rested up in time for Wednesday when our taskmaster, er-uh, fearless volunteer leader, Pam Sloss, imparted her instructions to us on what was needed. We immediately set about cutting out nametags, and cutting out nametags, and... you get the picture. It was still a lot of fun. That afternoon, we went out with friends to Twisted Root where we were given food tickets with such imaginative names as Chaka Kahn and Annie Oakley, among others, to pick up our food at the counter. I wasn't adventurous and went right along with Phyllis's request of a hamburger of "beef from a COW" for my sandwich (instead of elk, or buffalo, or other more exotic meat).

Thursday, Phyllis and I saw my publisher at Blue Feather Books, Em Reed, for the first time in two years. It was an emotional hug fest. We always love to see her, but a lot had happened in those two years. The Con "officially officially" started with Executive Director's Patty Schramm welcome. Then it was on to a romance coffee chat with Georgia Beers, Rachel Spangler, Mary Griggs, and Lee Lynch. It's interesting to listen to other authors speak about their characters and writing process, and I love interacting with the readers who asked excellent questions. Later that afternoon, I participated on a "Creating Series Characters" panel with Mary Vermillion, J.M. Redmann, and Ali Vali. Linda Kay Silva, our moderator, asked some hard questions. I think I provided semi-intelligent answers.

Friday, I felt like I hit a brick wall of fatigue. I don't know if I'd used up my adrenaline or what, but numerous people said, "wow, you look exhausted." That's not good. lol Carsen Taite did help in pepping us up with her speech that morning. Later that day, I had the pleasure of finally handing over my latest release to good buddy, Rach Spangler, while she handed me hers. We'd started this tradition long ago where we'd send each other our latest release. It was so special to do it in person.

 
 
We then read from our books right after the infamous book exchange. Rach's latest romance sounds like a winner. Can't wait to read it. Friday afternoon was the autograph session where you interact with the readers and your friends. That's always a blast. I had a good time chatting with fellow-Blue Feather authors Bev Prescott and Erica Lawson and with Lynn Ames. Friday night, we sang and boogied at the karaoke festivities. Phyllis and I were in our cowboy and cowgirl get-up. I had never worn cowboy boots in my LIFE, and I think it showed. lol

Saturday, Georgia Beers gave her excellent keynote speech. Her video, "A Day in the Life of a Romance Writer," had us all rolling--especially the authors who saw so much of themselves in the video. I was laughing so hard, I missed some of the best lines and just watched it again to catch them. Very very funny. Visit Georgia's blog to catch the video: http://www.georgiabeers.com/. In the afternoon, I again participated on a panel, this one on marketing, with Georgia Beers, Carsen Taite, and Marianne K. Martin. It was interesting listening to the other authors talking about their methods for reaching readers and when to know "enough is enough." I'm still learning with the help of a very good friend. It's not easy when you're introverted, as many of us authors are.
 
The awards ceremony was Saturday night. I'd already gone through the drill of how to handle the presentation of the Romance/Suspense award with Linda Kay Silva. She read this wonderful description of the category. My contribution was, "I agree." I don't think I could put a coherent sentence together even if I had been reading from a piece of paper. Linda sounded marvelous. She had told me what she was going to do. I think she was ready for me to say, "well, I'll say this and this." Heck no! Hence, "I agree." lol

Later, the final award, the Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award, was announced. When Jessie Chandler announced, "Survived by Her Longtime Companion," and my name, it was so surreal, I stay seated for I think five seconds until Karen Badger urged me to stand up. Then I hugged my wife and couldn't stop kissing her. Phyllis finally got through my fogged-up brain and said, "Honey, you have to go get your award." Since we were the last table in the room, it took me some time to make it to the stage. After Patty hugged me, she said, "don't cry." Which was a useless piece of advice. lol Because of course I did.  Even though I couldn't see her through the glare of the lights, I looked to the back of the room where I knew Phyllis was sitting and I spoke to her. She's the reason I'm writing. She's in every romantic moment I write between my characters. My characters even speak words she's spoken to me. I tried to thank her, but I don't think I can ever thank her enough.  As for my father, I know he was there, too. Good friend Pam Sloss captured the moment on tape.
 

 
The only person I failed to thank, but got too flustered to say more than the words I did speak, was Ann Bannon. She is the inspiration to so many of us authors because if it weren't for her, authors like Lee Lynch, and Trailblazer Award-winner Marijane Meaker and others, organizations like the GCLS would not even exist. I look forward to next year in Portland so I can thank Ms. Bannon in person.
 
It was a magical night and a magical Conference... one I'll never forget.


Monday, June 3, 2013

the city that doesn't sleep,,,,

Phyllis and I arrived in New York City yesterday at noon for the Lambda Literary Awards, held tonight at 7:00. After getting up yesterday morning at 2:30 a.m. to get going and to the airport by 4:00 (our flight was at 5:15... don't ask me what I was thinking when I booked the flight), we came to our room and crashed for about an hour. Then I had the pleasure of finally meeting fellow-Blue Feather Books author and friend, Kelly Sinclair, who is a nominee for In the Now, a finalist in the sci-fi, paranormal, speculative fiction category. We had the additional pleasure of meeting Facebook friends Michelle Brooks and Linda Fleischer at Becco's Italian Restaurant. What a great two hours of sharing a bottle of wine, some fine food, and even more laughs with our friends. We'll be seeing them again tonight at the Lammies.

Then today, Phyllis, Kelly, and I went to Katz's Deli for bagels. Oh... my... God... I don't think I'll ever eat another bagel unless we're in New York. Yum. From there, we went to the West Village and scoped it out. The bookstore, Three Lives and Co., wasn't open yet, so we walked on down to the Stonewall Inn and took pics, plus pics of statues in Christopher Park. We decided to mosey back down to Julius', the oldest gay bar in NYC, and hang out to wait for the store to open. We had THE best burgers, a few drinks, and chatted with the friendly bartender, Tracy as we passed the time. Then it was on to Three Lives to buy some books and head back to our hotel.

Now, we're chillin' until 5:00 when we take a limo for the pre-awards red carpet/cocktails stuff. After the awards, we go on to the after party. Actually, we'll start getting ready at 3:30... I'm wearing my tux and it takes forever to get dressed. lol Phyllis bought a spiffy new outfit but hasn't let me see it. I especially can't wait for us to get ready so I can see my honey all dressed up. I know she'll look beautiful because she is beautiful.

It's been a long journey. We've both been through so much these past sixteen months. Tonight is a night to celebrate, not just being named a finalist for Survived by Her Longtime Companion, but to celebrate Phyllis's battle over cancer. And tonight, I'll say a prayer for my father and for all he meant to me... and still does.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Slowly approaching the release of "And a Time to Dance". . . .

I don't think it will ever grow old--the excitement of a new release. My latest novel, And a Time to Dance, should be out by the beginning of June, if not by the end of this month. I have it back from my editor, Nann Dunne, for the second time (after I made Nann's suggested changes in my rewrite). Now, it's time to make the last changes before it's on to Emily Reed, my publisher.

This book was a journey. All books are, but this one in particular was for me. I wrote it over a course of approximately fourteen months--actually, probably longer, since I started it before the release of  Survived by Her Longtime Companion in January 2012. I was plugging along nicely. But it came to a screeching halt as I was faced with Phyllis's and my father's cancer and treatment. Then, I was in a "start and stop" mode. It was a story I believed in, and it's not that I lost faith in the romance. I simply couldn't focus. What made me finish writing the novel was the gentle prodding of Phyllis: "Honey, please don't stop writing" and my father: "Sis, how's your writing coming along?" Having my father ask me that gentle question while he was dying of terminal lung cancer was the final inspiration I needed. He passed away April 3, but it's a blessing I was able to tell him at the end of March that I'd sent the book to Emily for review and was offered a contract from Blue Feather Books.

I had the pleasure of reading two excerpts from the book on Liz McMullen's "Lizzie's Bedtime Stories" show. Here is the YouTube presentation of that reading. I hope you enjoy listening.




I'll keep you posted the closer we get to release date!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop


Fellow author Syd Parker tagged me in “The Next Big Thing” blog hop… a month ago. The blog hop allows lesbian authors the opportunity to share with readers what they’re currently working on, plus answer some fun questions about their book. One author tags another author, tags another… you get the picture. With everything going on in my life, I’m just now finding the time to write my blog about my work in progress. Thanks, Syd, for tagging me! Please visit Syd’s website, www.sydparkerbooks.com, to find out about her books and link to her blog to read about her work in progress, Someone Like You, which sounds like a great romance.
 
I’m excited to tag new Blue Feather author, Barbara Valletto, whose debut novel, Pulse Points, will be released soon. I’ve had the pleasure to read it. For those who love paranormal romance, you’ll love this book. Although it’s not at all about vampires, the love shared between two of the main characters reminded me of Count Dracula and his love, Lucy. The big difference in Barb’s book is her main character reads like a kick-ass Catherine Zeta-Jones—at least she did for me. J
 
Here is the information for my book to be released by Blue Feather Books this late spring/early summer.
 
Questions & Answers:
 
1. What is the working title of your book?
 
The title is And a Time to Dance. I took it from the Old Testament’s book of Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3:4:

 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance…”
 
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
 
I love Bob Seger, and my favorite song of his is “Roll Me Away.” On a drive one day, I was playing his Greatest Hits. The song came on, and I started thinking about a woman who loses her partner to death. She feels the need to get away from her memories and decides to move to Grand Lake, Colorado, to start her new life. Here is the link to a YouTube performance of the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEBwq4A1wsU. Of course there are many differences, two of which are that my main character isn’t riding a Harley to the Rocky Mountains, and she doesn’t meet up with another woman to take with her. But the song still resonated with me and sparked the idea for the book.
 
3. What genre does your book fall under?
 
Lesbian Romance. This will be my third lesbian romance. My other two releases, Playing for First and Two for the Show, are sports books about a woman breaking through the gender barrier into major league baseball.
 
4. What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
 
Syd said she loved this question and seemed to effortlessly pick the actors to play her characters. I needed to think about it.
 
Corey: Picture Mariska Hargitay in her “short cut” days with premature gray hair: http://tinyurl.com/a3cj77y.
 
Erin:  Hmm… Okay, let’s stick with SVU. Stephanie March. She definitely has the right look and beautiful blue eyes: http://tinyurl.com/bee2g2w 
 
Aunt Tess:  Definitely Frances Sternhagen to play Tess, Erin’s aunt. Here’s Frances if you’re not familiar with the actress: http://tinyurl.com/bjmr9bo.    
 
There are of course other characters, but Corey, Erin, and Aunt Tess represent the core of the story.



5. What is the one-sentence synopsis for your book?
 
In a hope to leave behind the painful memory of her partner’s death, a grieving woman travels west only to rediscover love at a Rocky Mountain lodge.
 
6. Will your book be self-published or released by a publisher?
 
Blue Feather Books will publish And a Time to Dance, as they have my other novels.
 
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
 
This is a tricky question for me. I started this book after I finished Survived by Her Longtime Companion. But I had to step back after dealing with serious health issues with my wife, Phyllis, and with my parents this past year. I’ll finish with the first draft soon and the “final” product will go to Emily Reed, my publisher, by April 1.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
 

There are excellent books out there that deal with a lover's death. One of my favorite romances, Bold Strokes author Ali Vali’s Carly’s Sound, comes to mind, but in And a Time to Dance, there is no ghost of Corey’s partner to guide her along the path to healing. Corey works through her emotions and grows on her own, sometimes stumbling along the way. Meeting the beautiful Erin is the impetus, of course.
 
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
 
As I said earlier, “Roll Me Away” sparked the idea, but as always, the love I share with Phyllis propels the romance in my books. I couldn’t get the storyline out of my head, and when that happens, I simply have to write.
 
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
 
Anyone who’s traveled to the Rocky Mountains, particularly to the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, will appreciate the locale in And a Time to Dance. I had the pleasure of visiting for a week in 1984 and stayed at Grand Lake Lodge, the inspiration for “Rainbow Lodge” in the book: http://tinyurl.com/bfzh7z5. And yes, there truly is a thundershower every afternoon, followed closely by a rainbow. It’s magical. I only hope I convey that in the story.
 
 
As I said at the start, And a Time to Dance will be out in late spring/early summer. As we draw nearer to the final edit, I’ll post and provide a firmer date. Also, in the coming months, I'll post a link to my website where you can find an excerpt.
 
Barbara Valletto, http://www.barbaravalletto.com/, has written well-received short stories in the paranormal, mystery/thriller, and horror genre. Pulse Points is her debut novel. Here is information on the book: http://www.barbaravalletto.com/coming-soon-pulse-points/. Barb, I’ll let you take it from there!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

An anatomy of a last-minute Christmas buy....

I thought I'd finished with my Christmas buys for Phyllis. Then I got the bright idea: Hey! I bought her a stove percolator for her coffee (one of her requests)! I'll go buy her some Dunkin Donuts coffee! Yeah! (because coffee drinkers swear by the stuff, I guess, and I know Phyllis loves it)

What made it even better was that Phyllis was out running last-minute errands. I thought, okay, I'll sneak out and sneak back with Phyllis never knowing. I hurriedly dressed in my sweats (yes, I was lounging in my jammy pants lol) and hustled to the car. Luckily, the grocery store is only a few blocks away. I pull in and am about to get out of the car when I see this other car the next aisle over that looks suspiciously like Phyllis's. I stared a little harder, like if I kept staring it'd change into a Smart car or something. But nooooo, it was still a Hyundai, and YES, it was Phyllis's car. I decide to take the non-busy entrance into the store.

I rush to the coffee section. Each time I pass an aisle, I look to make sure I don't see her. Get to the aisle, grab the Dunkin Donuts coffee (and, oh my God! $17.99 for 24 oz?? but then I know she's worth it, and I frequently bought her Peet's coffee from San Fran that costs more). I hurry up to the "express" lane. Annnnnd... of course, they're changing shifts. The woman who's leaving has her money bags out and is counting out money. I keep watching for Phyllis, thinking, "hurry dammit!" Finally, the woman is done. I have this smile plastered on my face the whole time, mind you. I practically thrust my $20 into the cashier's face and just then, I see Phyllis approaching the checkout about four lanes over. It took all my will power not to scream, "give me my freakin' $2.01!" Finally, I get my change and practically run out of the store. I jump into the car, still keeping a look out for Phyllis. Driving home, like a scene from a crime movie, I keep checking my rear view mirror, but I was free and clear.

I pull into our drive, careful to park in the same place I was before. Bound up the steps to our porch and mess with the keys for two seconds. Then I run back to the wrapping paper, dash into the den where the scissors and tape are, and then hustle to the dining room. I cut the paper... haphazardly... but I still manage to trim it before slapping tape on it. I run to put the wrapping paper, tape, and scissors back where they belong. I place the package behind of all her other packages, so she doesn't notice. Then I hang up my coat, change back into my pajama pants, and attempt to look like I hadn't run a 100-yard dash. Less than five minutes later, I hear her honking outside to let me know she's back. The only boo-boo I made was leaving my keys on the table, but she didn't notice, thank God.

All I have to say is Santa has nothing on me. I'm sure I could do that "wink of an eye" thing... no problem.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

From my loving wife, Phyllis....


Thank you so very much for the continual words of encouragement and concern that each of you have sent us. I know that you are busy with your own lives, but you have stopped to let us know how you much you care. We are both touched and grateful.
 
Chris’s dad is progressing and continues his treatment for lung cancer. Her mom, as you may know, is now in a nursing home. I too am making progress but have been recently diagnosed with MRSA for my long-standing infection. Chris has shared with me how many others that she has chatted with have issues of serious illnesses with their partners in life. We have prayed for God’s intervention in easing the pain and helping cure the illness.
 
I personally want you to know that I am humbled by your gentleness. Words are truly not adequate when one reaches out their hand and their heart to express an act of kindness.
 
I also want to thank my family and especially Chris for being the person she is. She is an incredible human being, just like those of you who are care giving to another. Chris has supported me through my tears, helped me when I was fatigued, changed my dressing on my wound... and the list goes on. I have never heard her complain or say I am too tired. I have way too much time on my hands to think, and perhaps that it where I should be, but the wonder of giving never falls short. You, the caregiver, you the note writer, are amazing in that you are tireless. You look for ways to help and you ask for nothing in return. Blessed be each of you. Thank you again for thinking of us, caring about us, and letting us know that we are okay.
 
Kindest wishes,
Phyllis
 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

And the days roll slowly by...

When I first wrote about Phyllis and my dad's cancer, I thought I'd write about the journey, maybe once a week, once every two weeks. But as the days blurred one into the other, I found less and less time to write and my energy waned. And here I am, more than six months later, finally finding time to post a blog. I should say I made time to post.

Phyllis and my dad are progressing in their treatment. My dad is still receiving chemo. The mass on his lung has gotten smaller, but the chemo leaves him weak. Phyllis is battling an infection, having to undergo surgery to "evacuate" the wound. She did complete her external radiations before the surgery. She'll be moving on to the next stage of her treatment--internal radiation--on Friday. After three of these, she'll progress to the last stage--her final three chemos--and should be completely done in November. In the midst of Phyllis and my dad's treatment, we've also had to deal with my mom's health issues in July. We had planned on starting on a vacation in November. Now, as the month draws nearer and as Phyllis continues on the bumpy road called recovery, we realize the vacation will have to be put on hold.

I had such an out-of-body experience the day of Phyllis's surgery in April. It was when I thought the cancer had spread based on the surgeon's reaction and the "grit" in her lymph nodes that he removed. Thank God that wasn't the case. It was diagnosed as Stage IA uterine cancer. She's had to undergo the treatment because it was also diagnosed as "high grade" and the cells can be aggressive. So, they're treating it aggressively. On the morning of her surgery, though, I was convinced it was the worst-case scenario. I happened to be in the hallway outside the surgery waiting area. I looked down at the huge picture windows they have at the hospital. And I see the sun is shining. I'm thinking, this isn't right. It should be dark and storming with rain pelting the glass relentlessly. In other words, I didn't understand why the world had not just stopped on its axis for everyone else. Because it sure had for me and for Phyllis's family that day.

Since her diagnosis, we've had a lot of "moments." Moments when Phyllis would look at me with tears in her eyes and say that this was too much for me. Every time she has said that, I've told her, "No, I love you and you would be doing the same for me, wouldn't you?" I've also reminded her of the characters of Eleanor and Daphne in my book Survived by Her Longtime Companion. There is a scene in the book where Daphne says, "I don't want to be a burden to you, Ellie. Ever." Eleanor tells her, "I'd never think of you as a burden. You're my heartbeat." I was speaking those words to Phyllis when I wrote that well over a year ago. I just didn't see this in our future. How could I?

Life for us will never be the same. Anyone who's had cancer or is a partner or a loved one of someone with cancer knows what I'm talking about. Little things that meant so much before now seem trivial. We've simplified our lives as much as possible because again, we know what matters and it's not possessions or a bigger house. It's our love. It's not that we didn't know this before. It's that this experience has hammered it home. We've grown even closer, something neither of us thought was possible.

During this journey, of course we've encountered others who are undergoing treatment. We've been amazed at the immediate camaraderie and connection to the point where Phyllis will talk with someone and they instantly share what's going on, what kind of cancer they had, how many radiation treatments they've undergone, how many are remaining. We've also encountered complete strangers stopping us at restaurants to either say that they've battled cancer or someone they love had and "God bless you. You're in my prayers." These are memories that will stay with us forever.

Throughout these six months, my writing has pretty much come to a standstill. It's only been recently that the spark has returned, albeit a little each day. Flashes of scenes and dialogue are popping into my head at unanticipated times... just as they used to. Today, when we were driving to Phyllis's appointment, she asked if I was upset with her. I think it was because I was quiet. I said, "No. Just thinking about my writing." When we were moving to our home from the condo two weeks ago, she threatened to lock me in the den and post Buddy at the door so I'll write. I wouldn't put it past her, and I know Buddy would have her back.

Sometimes, I've not been sure how I'm dealing with everything. Then I think about my faith, my love for Phyllis, and my love of my dad and my mom... of my family. I realize I have two choices: to put one foot in front of the other and keep on walking or to curl up into a fetal position and suck my thumb. I've chosen to keep on walking, but believe me, I've had many moments of allowing myself a good cry.
 
I do know this. With the dawn of each day, when I open my eyes and turn beside me... I say a prayer of thanks to God for blessing my life with Phyllis.