Cast of Characters: The Marneaux Family

The (potentially) final mood board I have for you contains the people that surprised me the most in this book–the story that hadn’t originally factored heavily in my planning of this book. Oh, Lou was a huge portion of the story, and of course Sid is our main protagonist, but the family as a character hadn’t occured to me. They came alive to me on the page, especially Sid’s older sister Anna.

Rimi is, of course, a character in memory, but she is still the matriarch, the guiding force of these passionate, loving people who stumble their way into taking care of one another.

“Okay, what’s the emergency?” [Sid asked.]

“It’s Dad,” she said, as if she had been holding her breath her entire wait.

“Fuck, Anna. Why didn’t you say that?”

“You didn’t answer the phone, asshole. And he’s fine. I mean, he won’t ever be—” She sighed into the phone. Sid heard her screen door close. He arrived at his apartment and sat on the stoop to close the miles between them and stare at the same sky. “It’s me,” she said. “I can’t do this alone anymore. You need to come home.”

“Home” meant Connelly—a lovely college town in central Pennsylvania surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains, its forests, and large expanses of farmland. … Sid hadn’t lived in Connelly since his first day in college, over ten years ago. Connelly was no longer “home.”

“That’s impossible, and you know it,” Sid said. “Where’s Andrew?”

Anna’s silence said plenty about their brother. Andrew was being Andrew: self-involved, self-important, self-immersed, all under the guise of being a family man. His wife and mostly grown kids survived happily without him while he spent his time at the lab researching… well, Sid was convinced he researched ways to shirk his responsibilities. His résumé said something about solar energy.

“He’s immovable.” Anna finally said, “You aren’t; you understand Dad.” At Sid’s continued silence, she added, “And I know you want the best for him.”

… “I signed the lease on my studio this morning.”

… “I need a break.”

“I can come down for a few days in a couple weeks,” Sid said, unsure if it was true. “Can’t you hire a nurse?”

“No. You know he treats them horribly,” she said. “You have to pull some weight, Sid.”

He closed his eyes and tried to explain again. “Anna, when I say I signed the lease, I don’t mean I have a new play space. I mean, I have obligations to people who have invested in this company. I have staff to hire, product to produce, clientele to serve.”

“I don’t see—”

“Orders don’t stop because Dad’s sick and you’re tired.”

“I don’t see how any of this is more important than Dad.”

“Nothing is more important than Dad. That’s not the point.” Sid shed his coat; anxiety warmed him faster than the unseasonable evening. “Look, you’re the one who insisted on moving him into your home against his wishes. Let’s not talk about my and Andrew’s—”

“No, let’s not talk about your and Andrew’s opinions, because you
two have done nothing but voice them.”

This wasn’t altogether false. His sister’s problems were her own, but his dad’s weren’t the kinds of problems anyone asks for. More importantly, Sid’s ability to say no to her request was possible because their dad said yes when Sid wanted to leave home, follow his dreams, and “make Ma proud.”

“I can’t untangle immediately,” Sid finally said. “Give me to the end of the week.”

“Wednesday, Sid. I want an answer by Wednesday.”

Beneath the Stars is available now at Interlude Press and other book retailers.  You can find purchase links on the right sidebar.

Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 Interlude press gift certificate.

You can also win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Still Waiting on that RV

The book tour continues and no one’s brought me the RV for a more leisurely ride. Even still, I’ve stopped at some lovely blogs and shared a variety of thoughts. Some have also been kind enough to leave me a wonderful review as well!

Before I start, my Thursday began with great news! Foreward Reviews, renown for highlighting the best titles from the independent publishing community, posted a raving 5-star review of Beneath the Stars.

Beneath the Stars, Lynn Charles’s wonderful contemporary romance novel, connects the dots between unlikely lovers Sid and Eddie as they try to mesh their lives’ eccentric orbits. Taking on serious subjects such as grief, progressive fashion, and co-parenting, this gay romance is ambitious and satisfying.

I’m simply thrilled.

Moving on, Wednesday, I stopped by Prism Book Alliance. They asked about a television show I’d love to bring back. Without question, I talked about M*A*S*H. In the midst of my reminiscing I said this:

It also taught me to love character, dialogue., and a well-timed comedic note in the midst of drama. And that Charles Emerson Winchester III was not just a stodgy, snobby Boston blue blood, but he was a man of great surgical skill and a deep, compassionate heart. Layers—it taught me layers of character.

Why should it come back? Because honestly, I think the world needs to spend some time with such characters again. With the realities of what our history did in this specific conflict and with the real, diverse, heartfelt and hilarious moments that can happen in the midst of it. We need to laugh and cry and hate and love. M*A*S*H brought it all.

Yesterday, I visited Sinfully MM Reviews where I waxed about Eddie, our fearless, often impulsive firefighter. What was it like the day, as a ten year old child, that his house burned down? Here’s a preview:

He still smelled like smoke. His clothes, his hair, his skin reeked so strongly of the sweet stench of house fire, Eddie wondered if the haze of it was visible.

While the only house he had ever known burned, his temporary home had been decided. He and his mom would stay with Maggie and her mom, Sharon. Mom promised to “be out of their hair” as soon as possible, but secretly Eddie hoped this is where they would live forever.

He was given the choice: stay in the art studio cum guest bedroom with his mom or stay in Maggie’s room. The adults didn’t hide that they preferred he stay with his mother, but he and Maggie decided differently. If given a choice, Eddie would always choose Maggie.

Her room wasn’t bad, really, for a girl’s room. It was a buttery yellow and her bed was covered with a soft green comforter and multi-colored pillows. Her lamps looked like they came from a grandmother’s living room, and the curtains were a dismal brown—they didn’t match anything about Maggie.

“I only have three days of clothes,” he finally said [to Maggie.]

“Mom said maybe we could go to a thrift store. They have all kinds of cool things.”

Eddie nodded. He balanced the bowl [of butterscotch pudding] on his thighs and took Maggie’s warm hand in his. The chain on the swing creaked against the hooks with each sway.

“Are you scared, Eddie?”

“No. I’m mad. I lost my Gameboy. I did dishes for two months to earn that thing.”

“Yeah, that sucks,” Maggie said. “But you’re still here. And we can get you a new Gameboy.”

“No, we can’t. Mom can’t—I’m not stupid. We won’t be able to get another one.”

“We can have a bake sale?”

Today, I’ve had two stops: Making It Happen Book Blog where she left a 5-star review and said, among other things:

I LOVED this book.  This is one of those stories that I can’t wait to tell you I’ve given a 5-star, top recommendation rating to because it just needs to be said right up front.  Sid and Eddie’s story is beautiful-emotional, heartwarming, sad, sweet and was just a joy to read.  The characters are easy to relate to, and in the middle of it all is the incredibly precocious and intelligent Adrian who pretty much steals the show in every scene in which he appears.
And The Novel Approach, where I talked about some of my favorite blogs to visit:

Chookooloonks: Karen Walrond is a former engineer and attorney who now dedicates her life to the creative side. She focuses on thriving, on finding the light, and on shining light on every good thing. She uplifts me, as a reader, and lifts up those in her world. I’d love to have coffee with her, or to sit and watch her create her daily journal entries, or follow her as she walks through her neighborhood—or Africa where she is an active member of the One Campaign—and takes photographs. She is a true beacon of positivity and peace.

Girls Gone Child: Rebecca Woolf is a mother of four (including a set of twins), wife and writer who lives in LA. She started her blog after her son was born because she didn’t know another other women with children. She took to her strengths in writing and began what is probably the most beautiful love letter to her children, to my children, to everyone’s children, and to motherhood in general. She is politically active and teaching her children that the future is female and they are capable leaders of it.

I hope you’ll go visit these sites to see, not only what else I said, but to catch an excerpt of Beneath the Stars and to enter to win an e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to Interlude Press.

Beneath the Stars is available now at Interlude Press and most book retailers. See links on my side bar.

You can also win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

Virtual Book Tour Continues

This long weekend brought a couple of nice reviews and fun tour stops:

Just Love Reviews gave Beneath the Stars a lovely 4-star review:

I guess what I’m trying to get at is, despite the burdens that each man bears, despite the losses in their lives, this book still feels hopeful. The subject matter may be heavy at times, but the author treads lightly and never loses sight of the fact that this is a love story. This is Eddie and Sid against the world, and as far as I’m concerned, their relationship made this book a delight to read.

Publisher’s Weekly had this to say:

Both men find an instant and sweetly rendered connection, and their early courtship is a delight to read.

And today, I was a visiting author at Parker Williams’ site where I answered some fun questions about Sid and Eddie, like:

Your character is doing intense spring cleaning. What is easy for him to throw out? What is difficult for him to part with? Why?

Eddie has no problem throwing out broken things: crayons, toys, ripped books, tools, furniture. Following Maggie’s lead, he saves about 1/3 of Adrian’s drawings in a box in the garage. He needs to buy a new box soon. In the guest room closet, he has saved boxes of paraphernalia from Maggie: incense and burners, a few favorite pieces of clothing, a couple head scarves and some of the pottery pieces she’d made. He can’t bring himself to display them yet, afraid with the craziness of a five-year-old, they might get broken.

Sid files receipts and invoices relating to Bastra and gets them out of his house and back to Bastra. He tosses carry-out menus he’s not used since his last cleaning, and after a few years, he finally tosses his father’s medical bills and informational pamphlets that his sister shoved into his “you take it” box. What he can’t and won’t part with are the broken field glasses his father used, the chest of fabric that still has swatches from his mother, and of course, her mandir that still fills the corner of his sitting room.

Visit Parker’s site for more of the Q&A and get to know a little more about the protagonists of Beneath the Stars.

Beneath the Stars is available now at Interlude Press and most book retailers. See links on my side bar.

Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 Interlude press gift certificate.

You can also win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Today’s the Day!!

What a way to begin release day! My virtual book tour begins at Molly Lolly. In addition to a fantastic 5-star review, Eddie popped in to visit and talk about his favorite day of all–days off from the fire station.

An excerpt from my post there:

Being chief of the fire department means that anything labeled “day off,” can become anything but in the blink of an eye. I’ve learned over the years to take days off by the horns and go at them full throttle—even if “full throttle” means staying in pjs and marathoning Spongebob Squarepants with my kid all day. And typically, that happens for at least a little while on almost every day off. No kid is raised right without a regular dose of Spongebob.

But when I’m not sprawled out on the couch with my kid climbing all over me sharing a bowl of Frosted Flakes and quoting a sea sponge, I can be found in any number of places. Late summer and early fall it’s next to Sid at the soccer field while Adrian and his 20 closest friends beat hell out of each other’s shins—otherwise known as little league soccer. We end up at the unnamed ice cream shop at the edge of the neighborhood fields where you eat milkshakes like a normal person—with a straw.

Read the rest of Eddie’s thoughts, her fabulous review and enter to win a free copy of Beneath the Stars here.

Cast of Characters: Sid and Eddie

It’s hard to believe we’re only two days away from the release of Beneath the Stars. I hope you’ve enjoyed the sneak peek into the characters and their stories through these mood boards. I’ll have one or two more to share with you later, but today, I thought it’d be a good idea to focus on the two men that make this story a love story. (Come to think of it, all the characters make it a love story–familial love, love of friends, parental love, etc. But, you know what I mean.)

So, Happy Valentine’s Day my lovely readers. I hope your life is filled with silly love, romantic love, passionate love… unending love.

“Are you the director here?”

“No, I just help out. You want Dottie Mulligan.” Sid pulled a business card from his desk. “Here’s her contact info. She’s a hard one to pin down.”

“Thank you.” Eddie pocketed the card and grabbed a chocolate. “And you?”

Sid cocked his head, and a curtain of bangs fell over his eyes. “And me what?” He flicked his head to flip the hair out of his face.

Eddie cleared his throat. “Are you hard to pin—” Jesus. “Hard to find?”

The pleasant look on Sid’s face broke into a huge grin as laughter bubbled out of him. Eddie couldn’t stop staring and squeezing the chocolate in his hand. “Are you asking me for my number, Chief?”

“Eddie, please,” he said, shoving the chocolate into his pocket. “I—yes. I am. I want to thank you. You were discreet and made an embarrassing situation somewhat enjoyable.”

“Only somewhat?”

Eddie chuckled. “No offense, but I don’t plan on doing that again.”

“You mentioned that, yes.”

Eddie rubbed his sweaty palms together; his body was a traitor. “Seriously, let me pay you back. I can cook lunch at the station. Dinner. Something.”

“You don’t need to—”

“I want to.” He popped the knuckles on his middle and ring fingers. “You… intrigued me. We’re going to be working together more. It might be nice to get to know you when I’m fully alert.”

Sid grinned more smugly than made Eddie comfortable. “You any


Sid scrunched his nose and smiled.

“Of course, cooking. Yeah, I won a bunch of community cook-off challenges in Wylie,” he said. “Is that a prerequisite for accepting my invitation?”

“I don’t want to embarrass you again.”

[later when that meeting ended without a date… ]

Back in the C-DRT office, Eddie found Sid cleaning manikins. He stood with a plastic lung in his hand and an open-chested infant manikin on the table. His phone was pinned between his ear and his shoulder.

“Yes. Tomorrow. You said the fabric would be in Chicago by—” Sid nodded to Eddie. “Yes, this is why we pay for expedited—I understand. Tomorrow. Thank you.” The phone fell from his shoulder onto the pile of manikins. “Chief?”

“I broke a promise,” Eddie said. Sid smiled, the asshole.“I said I wouldn’t wimp out. I wimped out.” Sid attached the lung to the manikin’s “esophagus” and grinned again. Ravishing asshole. “Tonight,” Eddie said. “It’s my turn to cook tonight. I’d like for you to come.”

“So soon? Afraid you’ll wimp out again?”

“No.” Unrelenting asshole. “Yes.” Eddie popped a knuckle of his
ring finger. “I’m afraid if I blink you’ll be gone.” Eddie closed his eyes
as soon as the words left his lips. He balanced somewhere between
“seize the moment,” and “stick your foot in it.” No doubt, if he kept
talking he’d end up with his entire boot in his mouth.

“Mmm. That sounds loaded,” Sid said. “We should discuss it over

Observant asshole. It was loaded, of course it was. Loaded with the
fact that his life was currently spread between two cities and his heart
was splayed across the sky. Nothing that could be discussed over dinner.

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Today only (2/14) save 30% not only on this pre-order, but on the entire Interlude Press catalog.

Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 Interlude press gift certificate.

You can also win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Take Care

A couple weeks ago, on a phone call with my editor, I expressed my struggle with feeling creative, with wanting to talk about superfluous, creative things (IOW, promote this book) while it felt like the world was burning outside my very own window. Okay, so I leaned on the side of melodrama, but in my defense, it was the first week or so of Trump’s “leadership.” A burning world certainly seemed like a strong possibility.

And, for those of us who are inclined to keep up with current events, who feel like, as a human being, we have a stake in this new war rising against other fellow human beings, the world we’d come to think was actually heading in the right direction has crashed into something we have never seen before.

It’s discouraging. It’s disenfranchising. It’s eye-opening, especially for those of us who have lived in a bubble of privilege and were blind to how bad, how greedy and racist and hateful our neighbors actually are. It’s enough to make you want to pack your bags and move elsewhere, except… maybe we should stay and fight.

So we do, and it’s a lot. It’s constant and downright exhausting. In the midst of my whine, my lovely editor and friend said, “Use that. Talk about escapism. Self-care. How do we refuel?” And anyone here reading this knows, a great way to refuel is art. Books, for example. I have one of those coming out a week from today! How convenient!

So, I’ll start with a question: What do you do when it gets to be too much? How do you escape? How do you stop the circus and put yourself first for a hot second?

In the evenings, I’ve been trying to walk away from my computer and not stare at my phone to watch my twitter feed blow up at the latest cabinet appointment or congress misstep. I’m not succeeding all the time, but I’m trying. I started taking yoga a couple weeks ago and am already so enjoying it that I’m finding videos on amazon and doing yoga here at home a few more times a week. I’m sitting with my daughter–who will most likely lose her job and definitely her short-term disability from a long-term/impossible-to-diagnose arm injury, and thus lose her insurance–and watching ridiculously fun and sweet and weird anime. (It’s weird, right? Anime? Their extreme reactions to things? The jilted animation? Still, I’m addicted–gay ice skaters, man. Who knew it could be so engaging?) I’m shopping. Which… probably should be curtailed a bit. Probably. Maybe.

And then there are the characters I created in Beneath the Stars. While their world is separate from the political climate we’re in now–because for the love of god, I could have never imagined anything like this when I started this thing over five years ago–the characters are mired in stress, both of outside and inside causes.

Sid is my calm in the storm–until his calm snaps and he cries into a bottle of rum and kicks hell out of soccer balls once he’s back home and sober. But normally, he’s a mill pond in a life that is chaotic on good days. How does he keep himself level? He disappears into his studio and creates for himself–not for his business. He beats hell out of soccer balls instead of the person who has upset him. He drinks chai like it’s going out of style, and he sits with someone he loves, looks to the night sky and grabs perspective by the balls and faces a new day. Sid is the king of self-care, of taking a moment, of lighting a stick of incense and finding strength in the scent, the quiet, the memories that buoy him forward.

Even Adrian, at five years old, has methods to find calm, to sort out all of the things that confuse him, that frighten him, that make him question if the adults in his life really know what the hell they’re doing. Spoiler alert: they don’t, but they sure try hard. Adrian pulls out blank paper and crayons and gets to work. He builds on paper, he destroys on paper, and he rearranges good and bad, right and wrong on paper.

Anna, Sid’s sister, goes out with her friends; Lou, even in his dementia-riddled state, sits with Sid out under the stars, and his mind becomes clear; Eddie struggles with quiet, with caring for himself because his whole identity revolves around caring for others, but even he learns to take time, to enjoy movies with his son, to appreciate the succulence of a perfectly ripened peach.

Take time for you. We need to be strong for what’s ahead of us. Read a good book (too heavy-handed?), take a walk, color a page or two of that coloring book you got for the holidays, soak up a story in the music of a new-to-you Broadway musical.

What do you do to take care of yourself? Tweet at me, comment here, talk to me on facebook–let’s strengthen each other.

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to my publisher, Interlude Press.

You can win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cast of Families: James-Garner Family

I wouldn’t typically include peeks into families as part of my introduction to a book, but Beneath the Stars is a little different in that the families themselves are cast members–as a unit.

The James-Garner family, comprised of Maggie James and her mother Sharon, and of course, Eddie and Adrian, was built in Maggie and Eddie’s childhood in the small railroad town of Wylie, Pennsylvania. Eddie didn’t know much about family, and Sharon and Maggie taught him, through their caring nature, how to support, how to uplift, and how to allow each person to become exactly who they were meant to be.

And even once Maggie is gone, Eddie finds it hard to believe he can carry those lessons on without her at his side. But he can. He does. Sharon continues to guide from the sidelines, and he and Adrian are able to build a good life on their own–one that’s even more fulfilling with the addition of one Sid Marneaux.

In Eddie’s thirty-three years, he could not recall a moment he didn’t love Maggie James.

They didn’t share the romantic kind of love that leads to a white dress and an uncomfortable tuxedo, to family gathering to hear promises of ‘til-death-do-us-part. With Maggie and Eddie, promises were understood, unconditional. The sun rose; the sun set. Eddie loved Maggie; Maggie loved Eddie.

In the midst of that love, he agreed to free her from the nonstop heartbreak of finding a man in the dregs of Wylie’s dating pool. She hadn’t been seeking a life partner, but someone to help her become a mother. After Eddie’s donation, Adrian was born. Love led the way, and cancer came—twice—to rearrange the story.

Death would part them soon enough. Eddie would continue to love her. Sunrise; sunset.

Tonight, death was but an onlooker. Maggie took Eddie’s hand in hers. Her fingers were no longer recognizable: they were cold, skeletal, long separated from the art she used to create. “I want to give you something,” she said, turning his palm upright. She reached into the pocket strapped to the side of her wheelchair where she kept treasured items: small pictures drawn by Adrian, petals from gifted flowers, a queen of hearts card her mother had nicked from a casino in Pittsburgh.

“Maggie, no. Don’t start giving things away.”

“Get Nana—hi.” Sharon’s exhausted face filled the screen. The lift to her eyebrow seemed impatient as she waited for more information. “Yes, it’s a date.”

“I can tell. ‘Kissed by the sun?’ Really, Eddie?”

“Leave me alone; I normally date—”


“Did Maggie keep any of my secrets from you?”

“Mmm, no. Probably not.”

Eddie was grateful to have her looking out for him. For Adrian. “I’m not sure what to do with a guy who does more than grunt.”

“It’s good for you—your dating life has always given me stress.”

“You’re welcome. Is Ade sleeping okay?”

“No, he’s waking a few times a night. Screaming.” She pushed her long gray hair behind her ear. And when she looked at the screen with a tilt to her head, he saw Maggie’s face—just as he did with Adrian—only gently aged and radiant. “He doesn’t talk; he cries out, takes some hugs, and goes to sleep.”

“Shit. I haven’t slept this well since… it’s been a while. I feel guilty as hell.”

“Don’t. Get him home with you, and you’ll both settle in. If you’re lucky, this good guy will be a kid whisperer or something.”

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to my publisher, Interlude Press.

You can win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

On Looking Back, Pt. III

For the final installment of this mini-series, I’d like to hold up the mirror, not only to myself, but to you as the reader. Where do you go when you need to pause, look back at a moment, a feeling, a sensation, a decision from your past to help to manage what’s ahead of you?

Beneath the Stars deals with the concept of looking back quite a bit. I covered some of it last week with Eddie and his need to harken back to the lessons Maggie taught him about raising their son. Sid also uses his past to help communicate with his dementia-riddled father by taking him stargazing, he connects with his mother in quiet moments at a sewing machine, or in contemplating the religion that guided her. He also goes to his own personal past and beats internal demons in the form of soccer balls around at his high school field.

And for this author, I have a few tried and true places to revisit. The most common is probably a journey back into my musical life. Black Dust didn’t come simply from a desire to write a book about musicians, but from a desire to revisit that world. If life is wearing me down, I will even go back to the music of my church days, not for religious reasons anymore, but for the connection to my past, to the sounds that used to comfort and still can, even though my faith is in an entirely new place.

Beneath the Stars is a harkening back for me. I wanted to explore the emotions around unexpected death. Around the struggle to pick yourself up and live again when really, you just wanted to have disappeared with the loved one that also left.

I lost my best friend to diabetes complications almost nine years ago. And those first few years after her death were some of the most difficult for me. I’d experienced a death on a professional level a few years prior that I hadn’t completely healed from. She, along with my family, was my constant during that time. We’d been friends for 32 years, and suddenly…

Just like Adrian and Eddie dream about Maggie, I dreamt about Lisa regularly, perplexing dreams that woke me in the middle of the night, that kicked the grief right back into gear after having a few good weeks. Managing those dreams for Adrian helped me manage them for myself. She still appears from time to time, but it’s so much less distressing now.

Photos anchor, like Sid and his father who liked to sit with albums from time to time to remember for their own comfort, and to help Lou’s disappearing memory kick in. When looking for a picture for this post–the one at the end–I found a folder of over 1000 random photos on an old external hard drive. My daughter and I sat and looked through them, finding images of animals that have since passed, loved ones who have passed, old relationships, photos of me making pasticiotti, a favorite of Lisa’s that I prepared and took to her father the first Christmas after her passing. It grounded us to our world in a way we haven’t felt grounded recently.

Not to argue with Puumba from The Lion King–“You’ve got to put your behind… in your past,” but sometimes, you simply do. Our past informs, it educates, it warns and it comforts.

I’ll close with a fun moment in the midst of my grieving process with Lisa. She was Ohio’s own Imelda Marcos when it came to shoes. Oh, she didn’t buy Jimmy Choos or Louboutin, but she had hundreds of pairs, all kept in their original boxes. We shopped for shoes–a lot. It took me a long damned time before I could go shoe shopping after she died, but the day I did, I walked into a DSW and this greeted me.

I bought the shoes. And you should too.

So, I’ll ask again: Where do you go when you need to pause, look back at a moment, a feeling, a sensation, a decision from your past to help to manage what’s ahead of you?

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to my publisher, Interlude Press.

You can win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bastra: A Marneaux Design Company

You don’t need me to tell you that politics is the hot topic. THE current affair. The subject in everyone’s heart and on everyone’s tongue and on everyone’s social media. It’s so prevalent that to continue to call it ‘politics’ is probably a misnomer. We’re all just trying to figure out how to manage this new world. How to be kind and supportive and welcoming in a world where The Big Bad is closing doors at every turn.

I’ve never considered myself much of an activist, although I have very strong opinions. Oh, I’ll share an article and add a comment to them. I’ll stand up from time to time, although that’s happening less and less as I see that arguing via social media rarely changes people’s viewpoints. I’ve been sending money to various organizations like it’s growing on trees. (While they had their biggest donations as of late, it’s never overkill to give to the ACLU. Go on. Every little bit helps.)

And… I write. I have to admit that I never saw writing as a political act. I saw it as an escapism from the politics. Which, it can be, but it’s also political. Fellow author, KJ Charles posted about just this a couple days before the inauguration.

Let’s start with stating the obvious: If you are a novelist you already talk about politics, all the time.

The personal is political. When we write any sort of fiction—medieval historicals, contemporary fluff, dystopian sci-fi, fantasy with cute animals—we write about power, interaction, systems, groups, how people live, who’s in charge. We create worlds and talk about how they might be, could be, should be; what’s fair, what’s wrong. That’s what writing does, and it’s what politics is.

I write queer love stories, and by doing so, I’m making a political statement. To quote KJ again, I’m saying, “that queer people’s stories deserve to be told, and that they deserve to be loved and happy. If those aren’t political statements, I don’t know what is.”

As I’ve been going through my book again to help lure you into the story I’ve told, I realize I’m also writing political characters. They’re political through their art, through their life, by living the fullest of lives even when some in society would tell them that they shouldn’t.

We met Sid Marneaux a couple weeks ago. Bastra, his design company, is an extension of him, and it is one hell of a political statement. I’d imagine him to argue that point with me for a bit until, yes. The truth of it becomes clear.

It’s the business founded by Sid, a queer man, inspired by Dottie, his queer friend and the teachings of Sid’s immigrant mother. (Wouldn’t it piss Trump off!!??) His clients are all over the queer spectrum, all over the racial spectrum and are his clients so they can be quietly (or not so quietly as in Shi’s case) political by simply living their lives in a way that they choose–not in a way that’s chosen by society or by the demands of other people.

As of this morning, it was all his. The lease agreement had Sid’s company name on it: Bastra.

In time, that word—his brand—would be etched into the glass door of his brand new atelier just as it had been etched into his heart since high school when, the night before the spring sports award ceremony, his best friend Dottie had come to him in a state close to tears—the closest to tears he would ever see her.

Everyone was to “dress appropriately” for the ceremony. “Appropriately” translated to dresses or skirts for the girls and anything from khakis and polo shirts to suits and ties for the guys.

“I will not wear a dress,” she had said, locked in a state between anger and fear. “Slacks and blouses don’t fit right.” She picked at the shoulders of her shirt and tugged at the waistband of her jeans. Her upset had no words, but that day had sparked a flame in him. Nothing was wrong with Dottie, her less-than-feminine taste, or her thick, athletic body. The problem rested in the clothes. Clothes he would, over time, design for people like Dottie who slipped into the cracks
of fashion’s persistent binary system.

And now, after a decade—college first, then running the online business out of a spare bedroom and tailoring suits for wealthy businessmen to make ends meet—his loyal clientele contributed to a successful Kickstarter campaign and allowed his vision to blossom on the fifth floor of a historic building north of Lincoln Park.

If you want to understand the cheese ball, you’re going to have to read the book. 🙂

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to my publisher, Interlude Press.

You can win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway