Manuscripting

After some digging around … [Tobias] found what he was looking for: a spiral-bound pad of manuscript paper. Its pages were yellowed and curled at the corners from years of being shoved into backpacks and messenger bags. The metal spine hung loose from nights of raking a pencil up and down its coiled edge in creative contemplation.

Emmett had asked Tobias, “Are you still writing?”

And Tobias had fudged, “I tinker.” …

Tobias sat at his keyboard and propped open the notebook. The pages were covered with faded, penciled staves and jotted musical thought. He found a section of solid score, squinted, and as if sightreading a complicated Rachmaninoff piano concerto, he slowly began, testing it until muscle memory kicked in.

“Ah, yes. Quick. Snappy. Here we go.”

When I was in college, notation programs like Finale and Sibelius didn’t exist. Homework assignments that required writing notes on a staff were done by hand. Composition assignments required hours of hand notation. I was the weirdo that loved it. My script was legible and pretty. My clefs were proper, my flats weren’t tortured lower case ‘b’s,’ but had the proper pointed bottom. My sharps weren’t simply number signs–or today’s hashtags–but slanted appropriately and landing exactly on the line or space to which it had been assigned.

I am not sharing this with you to tell you that with computer software, “kids today” have it easier. (But they do, I mean, come ON–play the piece with the proper equipment and voila, it’s staring at you. Psh. Lightweights.) I am sharing this with you because of a video that surfaced on facebook earlier this week that simply fascinated me. (forgive the link; I am having difficulty getting it to consistently embed, but do check it out. It’s only a minute in length.)

keaton-03I immediately thought of my sweet composer Toby and how tedious a job he would have had in writing even simple melodies, or in arranging vocal parts for a regional theater that simply could not summon enough tenors to make the big finale sound… big.

I went on a short google search and found a very informative series of articles at Music Printing History that explained how this sucker worked. I particularly loved this quote: It is very difficult to judge the commercial success of the Keaton machine. Even if it sold well, the nature of such a product gives it a very limited market. You don’t say. Can you imagine the time and patience? You have to line up the note not only horizontally, but vertically. One note alone could take as many as three or four keystrokes. And knowing me, quite a few swear words.

What was even more interesting than this crazy machine was the timing of it. This past Saturday, my husband and I visited a local antique and consignment furniture store. Sitting on a 1970’s sideboard was this beauty:

You know full well I bought it. Given the cost, I would have been a fool not to. Isn’t it almost a requirement in any writer’s home–a nostalgic piece? I learned to type on a manual. I, like every other user, probably permanently damaged my left pinky slamming down the damned ‘a’ key to get it to show up on the page. My text lines wobbled from weak keystrokes, my kitchen table shook once I got speedier. I raced classmates down the hall in high school to get one of the four electric typewriters in typing class so I wouldn’t be burdened with a manual.

But, we learned how to deal with their shortcomings. And, I’d assume, the users of that music typewriter did the same. I would love to see someone use it with skill, fingers flyingkeaton-16 over the keys and cranking out music almost as quickly as a new user sitting down to Finale.

And even with a computer, I still handwrite. If my brain stalls out with tough dialogue, I splay myself across my bed with a favorite pen and notepad and go the really old school route. If I were still in music, I know I would be handwriting parts, musical thought, still making sure to point the bottom of my flats and flip the curlicue of the treble clef properly around the ‘G.’

Music and writing aren’t just crafts for the creative word and melody. Putting them down, getting them from the creator’s heart and mind, can also be an art. An art that changes with the times, but yet always, stays true to its roots. After all, every printed word and note we have was mimicked from the handwritten form.

What’s your tool of choice? If you’re a writer, do you like to handwrite now and then, or even on a steady diet? As a reader, do you like e-books or a printed book? Cooks–do you like to hand chop or is your food processor always at the ready? Musicians amongst us–are you tied to the ease of digital, or does a pencil and a spiral bound book of lined staves make you sing?

If you want to hear more about Toby and his writing and how it works around his love for Emmett, you can now pre-order Black Dust from Interlude Press. In March only, with a purchase of Black Dust you will receive a copy of my first novel, Chef’s Table for 50% off. You can also enter for a chance to win a copy at goodreads.

Schoenberg & Bad Ring Tones

Atonal music is an acquired taste. One, I admit, I never quite acquired. Even the name of it makes me cock my head in wonder. Music is rhythm, harmony and melody. If you take “tone” out of it… well, you have rhythm. Which, isn’t actually the definition of atonal music, but the lack of audible structure to it never settles in my ear, in my soul.

Back in college (way back, way way back, further than some of you have been tapping your feet to music), I had to write a piece of atonal music for my music theory class. Schoenberg developed the twelve-tone technique, or twelve-tone serialism, or “god, what IS that?” sound. It’s mathematic. Structured. Set up to be an even distribution of all twelve tones in a musical scale–including chromatics.

Like my character Emmett, I am a mathematic type of musician. Give me a piece of music and I’ll make it my own. Toby is the composer, taking notes from the air, from his soul and mixing them together into something beautiful. Emmett prefers a script; Toby likes to improvise. So, I saw this mathematic assignment as something I could tackle since composition in and of itself was not something I excelled at.

I took my rules, my charts, my piano and a notebook of manuscript and got to work. I called it Daddy’s Hands because I have always loved my father’s hands and imagined what they might look like if he were a pianist. It was…. bad. So terrifically bad. And I got an “A” because I followed the rules and the structure and go Lynn!

To my ears, music isn’t math. But some love it. Toby’s friend Malik most definitely does not. And as for Toby, well–he prefers to use it as a ring tone that cannot be ignored.

Cacophonous piano chords clanged through the small space, and Malik groaned. “What the hell is that? I’ve been hearing it all day.”

“My phone.”

“Answer it maybe? Who puts that ugly shit as their ringtone?”

The atonal Schoenberg piano concerto finally stopped, and Tobias shoved a stack of papers into the trash. He looked up at Malik and grinned. “I put that ugly shit as my ringtone so I will answer it and make the ugly shit stop.”

Black Dust is now available for pre-order from Interlude Press. For my readers in US and Canada, if you order before May 7, you will get a free e-book package, using the code BLACKDUST.

Pre-Order Black Dust

I am so excited to be in the final stretch until Black Dust gets into your hands.

“No one calls me Toby now.” Tobias shook his head and hated the worry he saw in Emmett’s eyes. “I’m not that boy anymore… ”

front final“I never expected you to be.” Emmett’s gaze was like fire through Tobias’s skin. “I’m not that boy anymore either.”

Tobias wanted to look away, but was frozen. In spite of the whirr in his ears and the urge to run vibrating in his legs, he was held in Emmett’s gaze.

“Would you prefer I call you ‘Tobias’?”

“No.” It was out before Tobias even considered it. And as he heard it, he meant it. No. This man. This man who knew everything, he had every right to the darkest corners of Tobias’s past. “No. It wouldn’t feel right. Not from you.”

Emmett nodded and grabbed his cane. Tobias winced and looked away from it, his anxiety unreasonable to him in light of Emmett’s calm. But when he dared to look back at Emmett, he saw the mischievous twinkle that he knew well, the one that could quiet the whirr and convince him to stay.

“So… ” Emmett lingered on the vowel and pushed his glasses back on his nose. “If you’re not that Toby anymore, and I’m not that Emmett anymore… who was it that couldn’t resist kissing me?”

Toby closed his eyes and chuckled with pleasure. “Just… me.”

Publication Date: April 7, 2016

US/Canada: Pre-order the print edition of Black Dust from the IP Web Store and receive the multi-format eBook free with the discount code BLACKDUST.*

International: Order the print edition of Black Dust by June 7, 2016 from your favorite book retailer and receive free multi-format eBook by submitting a copy of your receipt to contact@interludepress.com.

Price: $17.99 US print*/ $6.99 US multi-format eBook

*Print editions pre-orders available for US and Canada only. eBook orders available worldwide.

I Belong to You

So often it’s viewed that classically trained musicians only enjoy classical music, and if there is any ‘pop’ at all, it’s relegated to the standards. Musicians love music. And for Toby and Emmett, Lenny Kravitz is a favorite that even survived tragedy:

“They’re on the way, Em. Can you hear the squad?”

Emmett didn’t remember falling asleep. His eyes were too sticky to open, but Toby’s hand covered his own with soft caresses. Emmett tried to focus, to hear the squad, but all he heard was Lenny Kravitz singing away from the car stereo.

I belong to you.

You belong to me.

The Musical Life

If you glance up at my tagline, you will see that I call myself a “rusty musician.” Most days, it’s fair to emphasize on “rusty,” while others, I can still feel the wheels of “musician” churning inside of me.

And it was the latter that made me want Black Dust to exist in the world in which I placed it. They say “write what you know,” and while I believe that is, by far, some of the worst writing advice to ever exist, there is a sliver of truth to it. My rustiness made the concept of knowing more cloudy than I realized, and so it became again, “write what you want to know,” just like it was for Chef’s Table. And that is a piece of advice I can stand by.

record albumsI grew up in a home filled with music. If it wasn’t a record player spinning (oh god, I’m about to age myself) James Taylor and Carole King, The Beatles and Neil Diamond, it was my mother sitting in the back bedroom of our house playing those same songs on the piano. Songs from church, from the radio, from Mom and Dad’s youth, and from Broadway. Dad sang along in his beautiful, rich baritone. I loved singing along, learning the words. When I got older and was left home alone after school, I would make a stage of our eat-in kitchen and its enormous picture window and put on shows with neighbors and babysitters alike. “You be Donny; I’m Marie,” or “You can be Tony; I’m Dawn. Both of them.”

I took piano lessons. I hated them. I picked up the trumpet in fifth grade. That, I loved. I sang in choirs, at church, eventually in community groups and of course, went to college to major in music. Not performance, mind, because that would be irresponsible. “You need to have something to fall back on,” I was told.

Problem was, teaching music didn’t fit for me. Had I been totally honest with myself in college, music as a career wasn’t a good fit. It would have been better left as a hobby. And so, after an attempt at this and that, and up and then a down, I walked away from any sort of music-as-profession. And, outside of glorious shower concerts to an audience of one and passionate performances in my car, my musical life has… well, rusted.

I’m telling you this to say that writing this book, while an absolute bear for reasons that had nothing to do with music, was an utter joy in that I got to play in that world again. I pulled up classical music that I had to listen to in college—and often only moderately enjoyed. But now, without the weight of a massive music history listening exam on my shoulders, I could hear the intricacies of sound, the words that danced upon the notes. I got to dig into old Broadway shows and remember the sounds that preceded today’s Hamilton‘s rap. (Please tell me you are as obsessed with that show as me and my family are.)

And most enjoyable was digging through choral music, the music I sang, the music I taught for a short time, the music that, when performing, made me feel like I could fly. Remembering choral sheet musicthose unexpected intervals that made rehearsals such a drag because my god our ears and voices would not cooperate and make it right. You’ll see those in Black Dust because for this author, they were my favorite times.

I hope my love of music and my reintroduction to the stylings outside of what’s popular today—without forgetting those as well, because even the most trained chef occasionally likes a big old bucket of KFC—connect with you as readers. It was a fond journey, and my playlist has benefitted from it.

Try Me (She Loves Me)

Music feeds the characters in Black Dust. It informs who they are, where they’re from, and paves the path to where they are going. This is the first of numerous posts giving you a glimpse into the sounds of Black Dust. An added bonus: a short excerpt to invite you into the world of Tobias Spence and Emmett Henderson.

Emmett hopped onto the stage, told Toby his selection—”Try Me”—and without any further direction, launched into the complicated, lyric-heavy, comedic song that landed him the role of Arpad… Toby was so taken by the boy—young, confident, handsome and innocent, with a talent that defied his age—that he felt the need to indeed… try him, as the song suggested. Or at least try getting a slice of pizza after rehearsal.

From Chefs to Musicians

It’s a remarkably short journey, going from a story about chefs to a story about musicians. Going from the frenetic, high-pressured world of a professional kitchen during rush in Chef’s Table to the seemingly more laid back, ivory-tinkling life of an itinerant pianist in Black Dust might feel like an odd leap, but let’s look at what makes these types of people tick.

It’s shockingly similar, and I thank a blog post on Harvest America Ventures that helped mesh this idea together better than I am probably capable. Let me take some of their thoughts and put them into play with my books Chef’s Table and Black Dust.

As an easy and obvious start, both professions require some kind of innate ability: the musician requires an ear for harmonic sound and the chef, an acute palate. Both can be honed and perfected, but without those core skills, being successful without them would be virtually impossible.

piano-801707_1280Their dedication to their craft can run along the lines of obsession. In Chef’s Table we often see Evan at home, fussing and stewing (I should apologize for the pun) over old recipes from his youth or new ones he is perfecting. And in Black Dust you will witness our itinerant pianist sitting down to his keyboard at every chance, to deepen a conversation, to manipulate the man he loves, to find the places in his heart that have been hidden away. And all the while, he’s whittling down to the core of the music that is inside of him.

They both rely on the combination of improvisation and organization to make their art sing. A chef must know what ingredients work well together, yet the constant repeat of those well-matched flavors will quickly run stale. So, he must improvise, test out new combinations, and rely on the science of cooking as a foundation to his creative mind. It was all Evan ached to do in Chef’s Table and was blocked at every turn by his closed-minded boss. And music is where we most think of the word improvisation, but without the frestaurant-922878_1280oundations of rhythm, harmony and melody, those improvisational trials would end up in cacophony. Even in his improvisational way of life in Black Dust, Toby has to learn to rely on the realities around him and of his past to improv his way back into Emmett’s life. It’s a theme of the book: Toby prefers to improvise; Emmett needs a script and a score. Emmett is organization of sound and Toby is the creative soar of art and together… well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

And while there are so many other comparisons of these two dynamic personalities that make these professions successful, the most interesting to me is the parallel of rhythm. To prove my point, I actually went through my two manuscripts and found that in Chef’s Table, while speaking of the rhythm of the kitchen, of the sounds therein, of the movements needed to get the job done, I used the word 21 times. And in Black Dust, a book about two musicians finding their way back to one another, where we see performances and rehearsals, we see a man wracked with the need to get the music in his heart out onto the page, a story where the word “rhythm” probably could have worked in the title, I used it 24 times. On a page average, the importance of the word was virtually identical.

Rhythm, harmony and melody—you expect it on the musical stage. You’ll definitely find it in the heart of a good meal.

Chef’s Table is now available for purchase through Interlude Press and wherever books are sold. Black Dust will hit stores on April 7, 2016. Keep an eye out here for pre-sale information.

How does one re-enter a digital space they’ve left unattended for over a year? I suppose I just did. Promises, promises, but I plan to stick around this time.

So, what did I do the last year I was absent from this space? Well, I wrote another book is what I did. And it sort of stymied me at its difficulty in getting written. I can’t go so far as to say I had my first bout of writer’s block—I’m one of those who don’t quite believe that actually exists—but getting the story out was more complicated than I had bargained for.

I also had the privilege to attend a few book fairs and conventions. I went to my first Ohioana Book Festival last year and enjoyed a number of panels from Ohio-based authors. After weather tried to keep me away, I went to Dallas for the Romantic Times Convention where I met with other authors from my publishing company, enjoyed quite a few panels and found out just how passionate romance readers really are. It was my first official book signing and while I signed little—as a newbie author and all—it was an experience to be sure. I also went to Washington DC for the Outwrite LGBT Book Fair, which was a lovely afternoon as well.

Over the holidays, I held a successful fundraiser for The Ali Forney Center, helping fulfill their amazon wishlist for basic necessities for the LGBT youth they serve. I hope to do something like that again at the end of this year.

But mostly, I was writing. Successes and failures and moments I wanted to give up and then moments where nothing was going to stop me. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to my new baby:

front final

 

Fifteen years after a tragic car accident tears them apart, former high school sweethearts are given a second chance to heal and to love.

No matter how busy he keeps himself, successful Broadway musician Tobias Spence can’t outrun the memory of a tragic car crash from his past that claimed a friend’s life and permanently injured his former boyfriend, Emmett.

Even after losing Tobias, Emmett Henderson made peace with that awful night, living in his Indiana hometown where he has become a revered choral director. When his students are asked to perform in New York City, he decides to chance reconnecting with his former love, if for no other reason than to get a proper goodbye.

When Emmett and Tobias finally meet 15 years after parting ways, it is clear to both of them that their feelings for each other have not changed. As they explore their renewed relationship, the two men confront old pains and the new challenges of a long-distance romance. Will Tobias lose his second chance at love to the ghosts he can’t seem to put to rest

Keep an eye out here for pre-sale information, excerpts, character introductions, and more.

 

 

 

Postpartum Blues?

chef's jacket ornamentIf only I could have found a white one…

So, my baby is out in the world, which as a parent, I’ve decided is a weird analogy about “birthing” a book. It’s really nothing at all like birthing a baby, having a baby or taking care of one. Because, at delivery, you pretty much have lost all control of what comes next. Your job, other than saying, “Hey! Here’s my baby! Come look at my baby! Tell others about my baby!” is pretty much over.

But, I will still be here, telling you more about my baby. About the people behind my baby (inside my baby? This is getting weird) and hopefully a little more about me too.

To begin, even though Chef’s Table is somewhat of a foodie book, what this site will never become is a recipe site. But! If you enjoyed some of the food of Chef’s Table, and are curious what I think Evan and Patrick might be doing for the holidays in their personal kitchen, or at The Running Duck, head on over to my Pinterest page. I’ll be updating there with some dishes for the holidays, and as time goes on, other dishes and images that were featured in Chef’s Table.

Also, if I could ask but one favor. If you have read Chef’s Table, head on over to amazon or goodreads, even Barnes and Noble, and post a review. Also, if you’re at goodreads, take a look at some of the reviews there and ‘like’ those you appreciate. The more ‘likes’ a review gets, the more visible it is. And of course, it’s nice if the more positive ones are on top! This doesn’t just stroke my ego–because let’s be honest, it strokes my ego–but it also can help sales which really speaks for all authors and publishers of LGBT stories.

So, thank you for all the excitement surrounding release. For buying it. For reading it. For loving it and letting me know you love it.

I’m working on book #2 now, but I’ll be here talking about Chef’s Table while the next one is cooking!

Book Tour: Final Day

Today, for my final tour stop, I visited The Buttontapper for a little q&a on writing romance. If you’ve been dying to know my favorite nickname for male genitalia, head on over.

Actually, there’s much more exciting info there and of course, your final opportunity to enter to win a $25 gift card and/or a copy of my novel, Chef’s Table.

I just want to take this opportunity to thank Goddess Fish Promotions for setting up the tour, and of course all of you for popping in to see some of my thoughts on the book.

Stick around, sign up for email updates or the rss feed, or come follow me at any other social media outlets for more insider blurbs on the characters, the food, the city that helped build the story. All of those links can be found in the upper right hand corner.

Thanks again and when you read the book, let me know what you think, and of course, let everyone else know at amazon and goodreads.