Crissy M, check your mailbox!
Autism fact: 1 in every 100 people have some form of autism. Add to that their family and friends and everyone knows somebody – diagnosed or not – who is affected by this.
Be aware that routine is very important to people with autism and change can be very disturbing. Take this into account when you interact with them. Take your time to alert them to anything that could change their routine.
- Traffic is causing you to be late for an appointment? Call the person you’re supposed to met, preferably before the time you’re supposed to meet up. This will lessen the anxiety if you’re not at the appointment
- If a child with autism is given a new babysitter, make time to introduce the child to the babysitter, possibly before the actual night you will be leaving. Have this person be part of the night routine a few days before the actual night so the babysitter can get used to the routine
- Make lists and use pictograms, depending on the age of the child, to teach routines. Be prepared to follow them at all times so make them doable on a daily basis! If need be you can have separate routines for weekdays and weekenddays. This will give your child (and sometimes adult) something to hold onto.
I’m sure you can come up with other ways to give your child/friend/acquaintance a safety blanket? Simply being aware of how disturbing a change in routine can be will help you deal with it.
Comment with how you would deal with a change in daily routine and I’ll award a lucky commenter with a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift card to spend on whatever you like at the store!
Christopher Hawthorne Moss is the author of BELOVED PILGRIM, a YA transgender historical adventure/romance.
We have always been here since the dawn of humankind. We may have been fewer as reflected in what is taken as historical record, or we may simply have had to suppress or hide it, but there have always been men and women who knew they were not the same gender in their hearts and minds than their bodies might suggest. How can we know this? Science is daily coming to understand the biological origins of what has variously been called sin, deviance, or delusion. Recent studies of the brain are pointing to how at different stages of gestation an embryo is subjected to a dozen different hormone baths that direct the gender characteristics of the part of the developing body receiving them at the time. The bath at conception directs the body to be male or female, or, to be truthful, dozens of other variations. The bath at the time the brain begins to grow will make that brain have feminine or masculine characteristics. If, as this suggests, transgender is biological, then it stands to reason that every human ever conceived could have the potential to be transgender. We have always been here.
Then where were we? Why is there no record? Well, in fact, there is. It depends on the place, time and culture. Plains Indians reverenced the Two Spirit individual who by having both aspects of the male and female made them more closely modeled on the Great Spirit. The Galli, priests dedicated to the goddess Cybele in Ancient Rome, performed their own sex reassignment surgery and dressed and lived as women. Other examples do exist, including individuals like Billy Tipton and the Chevalier d’Eon, who not only cross-dressed but chose to identify themselves as the binary opposite of the sex they presented. It is a sad fact that not only did religion cast taboos on people who crossed gender lines, we still “kill” these “deviants” by denying they ever existed. Erasure from the historical record is not proof of anything, one way or another, except that for some reason a distinct population was either overlooked or skewed in the record, such as when dubious sources, like the Church’s pronouncements, make women lesser in estimation of worth.
The trick to finding transgender people in history is interpreting why an individual donned the clothing and other characteristics of a different identity than the norm. For instance, a man may dress and behave as a woman for a number of non-inclusive reasons. Female dress can be a sort of costume for performers, from castrati opera singers to drag queens. There have always been prostitutes who attracted men who were aroused by the blend or confusion of the male and female. Some people simply find the look and activities of the “opposite sex” more enjoyable. For that matter what constitutes masculine and feminine is not absolute but interpreted. Therefore to be clear I am talking about people who felt they were born in the wrong body, transgender, I look for historical figures that did not simply dress for the stage but lived as the gender they believed was authentically theirs.
Billy Tipton, jazz pianist (1914-1989)
Billy Tipton began identifying as a man, we are told, in order to be granted access to performing as a jazz pianist. But what makes me call him a transman is the fact that once he began the identification, he never identified as female again. He lived as a man, married a woman, and adopted children, always as a man. It was only when he was about to die that paramedics who arrived to try to keep him alive discovered that under his masculine clothing Billy Tipton had a female body. We can’t know if, as a child he was aware of identification as a boy, but clearly once he began to live as a man, he found all the trappings the choice he would make. This sort of story repeats itself many times over in history.
And, of course, the pattern is not exclusive to women seeking opportunities limited to men. A colleague asked me why any man would want to live as a woman, with all the attendant humiliations and restrictions suffered by women in a patriarchal society. That they did argues at least the suggestion that they truly felt female and could not be happy living as men. An interesting example is the 18th century French diplomat and spy, Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont worked as an undercover spy for King Louis XV of France. In order to maintain his cover d’Eon posed as a woman. Something must have clicked for him, because for the last 33 years of her life, d’Eon insisted she was a biological female. When she died doctors discovered that her body was after all male. Her name became the source of “Eonism”, an early word for transsexuality.
Chevalier d’Eon (1728–1810)
Who knows how many transgender men and women there have been in our history that were permanently closeted, unable to live as openly as the opposite gender of the body in which they were born? I was 60 before I knew it about myself, and clearly I could have lived my whole life not embracing my authentic gender, and this is in a time of relative liberation. Here are just some of the historical figures whose stories are known and who chose to live not just in the clothing of the opposite sex but truly lived as and insisted they were being true to the Inner Man or Woman.
Dr. James Barry, pioneering surgeon in the British military, proponent of sanitary conditions
Albert Cashier, one of 240 women who served as men in the American Civil War
Jennie June, writer on topic of androgens
Nadezhda Durova, Russian soldier in Napoleonic Wars
Catalina de Erauso, Basque soldier of Spain in South America
Dorothy Lawrence, World War I journalist
Lili Elbe, Danish artist
Shi Pei Pu, Chinese opera singer and spy
Roberta Cowell, fighter pilot, prison of war and race car driver
Blurb For BELOVED PILGRIM
At the time of the earliest Crusades, young noblewoman Elisabeth longs to be the person she’s always known is hidden inside. When her twin brother perishes from a fever, Elisabeth takes his identity to live as a man, a knight. As Elias, he travels to the Holy Land, to adventure, passion, death, and a lesson that honor is sometimes found in unexpected places.
Elias must pass among knights and soldiers, survive furious battle, deadly privations, moral uncertainty, and treachery if he’ll have any chance of returning to his new-found love in the magnificent city of Constantinople.
Beloved Pilgrim is available through the Harmony Ink and Dreamspinner Press websites and at all the major retailers.
Christopher Hawthorne Moss
Christopher Hawthorne Moss wrote his first short story when he was seven and has spent some of the happiest hours of his life fully involved with his colorful, passionate and often humorous characters. Moss spent some time away from fiction, writing content for websites before his first book came out under the name Nan Hawthorne in 1991. He has since become a novelist and is a prolific and popular blogger, the historical fiction editor for the GLBT Bookshelf, where you can find his short stories and thoughtful and expert book reviews. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his husband of over thirty years and four doted upon cats. He owns Shield-wall Productions at http://www.shield-wall.com. He welcomes comments from readers sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks, Zahra, for letting me drop in to chat about After Christmas Eve. Meeting you in person at GRL was a real treat! I know Atlanta will never be the same. (Zahra: The pleasure was all mine! My godson now wants to know whether you’re my boyfriend. Guess you made an impact!)
To celebrate the release by MLR Press of my second novel, I’m giving away 10 copies (ebooks) through an 11-stop blog hop. To enter, comment before midnight, October 25, 2013 on any of my posts on the eleven participating blogs. Be sure to include an email address.
After Christmas Eve is set in a time and place I’ve never experienced. Except for Philip, a supporting character in Until Thanksgiving and the protagonist in this novel, nothing is familiar to me. The settings exist only in my imagination. Without any superficial contact to the story, I reached deep inside and tapped into things I know in my gut.
Writing fiction gives me the freedom to embellish the hell out of the truth. I have fun adorning reality with extra details, semi-truths, and pure fabrications to suit my own purposes. Nobody—or very few anyway—knows what parts really happened and which are just made up.
The stories in my novels aren’t true. They’re made up. But I write what I know. Reality creeps into the story in interesting and unexpected ways. I don’t write fantasy. I write reality-based stories—fiction that’s true enough for government work.
As Philip Potter wraps up his last minute shopping on Christmas Eve, 1966, James Walker, his lover of six years, takes his life. Unaware of what waits for him at home, Philip drops off gifts to the homeless shelter, an act of generosity that later makes him a suspect in the murder of a male prostitute.
Two men drive yellow Continentals. One is a killer, with the blood of at least six hustlers on his hands. Both men have secrets. And as Philip is about to discover, James had kept secrets, too. But James wasn’t trying to frame him for murder…
*This is the ninth of eleven stops on the After Christmas Eve Blog Hop. Excerpts appear in serial form along the hop, beginning with my post at Shira Anthony’s.
Excerpt #9 of 11
Philip glanced at his watch and wondered where the time had gone. After dropping the radios off at the shelter, he’d popped into the toy department at the Sears & Roebuck store to see about last minute gifts for Thad. Checking out took longer than he’d expected, but he didn’t want to be rude to the helpful clerk. The glares of the shoppers who waited behind him had no impact on his holiday spirit.
As snow crunched beneath his black rubbers, Philip contemplated what awaited him at home. James was… excitable. No matter how his father had responded, his lover’s reaction would be extreme. If the old man had written James a check, he’d be dancing on the ceiling. If not, well… if not, then Philip would do what he could to cheer him up.
From the day they’d met, Philip had been driven by a desire to guide and protect this rare and beautiful gift to the human race. How someone could cast such an exquisite creature into the streets baffled him. That the boy’s father had been the one to commit such a heinous and disloyal act infuriated him. Philip had been only nine when his own dad had died. He didn’t have many memories of him, but those he had were wonderful—so much so that he wasn’t sure which were real and which were only figments of his imagination.
Besides his dancing ability, James had a superlative gift for embellishment and a raw talent for making ordinary events sound either much better or worse than they were. Although entertaining at parties, living with the drama was sometimes a challenge. Philip knew tomorrow would either be the absolute best Christmas James had ever had…or the worst. If only he could influence the outcome. Knowing it all came down to James’s father—a man not known for doing the right thing—made Philip uneasy.
Streets that had overflowed with traffic and last-minute shoppers earlier were now almost deserted. Progress was slow, thanks to the packed snow that covered the sidewalks. Whether James was jubilant or sorrowful, Philip didn’t want him to be alone on Christmas Eve any longer than he had to be. Solitude and James didn’t mix well.
When Philip got to the apartment, he’d listen to what James had to say about the meeting with his father. He suspected he already knew, but pushed the thought from his mind, hoping he hadn’t nurtured it into being. Think positive.
Continued on 10/24 on H.B. Pattskyn’s blog
Buy link: MLR Press
I don’t know the first thing about baseball. Luckily I have Kate McMurray.
Shae Connor, Kate McMurray, Kerry Freeman, and Marguerite Labbe
Cover by Aaron Anderson
Playing Ball was hatched at the 2012 GayRomLit convention, in a, “Hey, we all love both baseball and gay romance. We should do… something… about that!” conversation. So when it started to become a real anthology and not just an abstract idea, I had to figure out what my contribution would be. I really struggled to come up with an idea. I worried that I’d already used up all of my baseball ideas in Out in the Field.
It was my brother who suggested going historical. I’d been wanting to do a historical baseball story for a while but didn’t have much for it besides a text file on my phone called, “good historical baseball player names,” which I’d been compiling the way some people compile good rock band names. (Top of the list: Skip Littlefield, now star of my novella One Man to Remember.)
I thought about writing a story in the handlebar-mustachioed dead-ball era but wasn’t coming up with anything especially clever. Then one night I went to my brother’s place for dinner, and he was watching the Ken Burns Baseball documentary episode on the 1920s. During a segment about the sports media of the period, I had my epiphany: what if a flamboyant, Damon Runyon-style sports reported falls for a reticent baseball player? And what if it took place during the high-water mark of the Jazz Age, in 1927?
I’ve been fascinated by the Jazz Age for a long time. I could go on about why 1927 was significant: more shows opened on Broadway that year than any year before or since; women had more freedom and shorter skirts; newspaper columnists like Walter Winchell and Lois Long were ushering in the celebrity culture by writing about famous people in new, clever ways. But 1927 was also a crucial year in the history of baseball.
Any baseball fan can tell you, perhaps grudgingly, that the 1927 Yankees were one of—if not the—greatest baseball lineups of all time. Even if you know nothing about baseball, you know at least a couple of the players who were part of the unstoppable Yankee offense known as Murderers’ Row: Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Bob Meusel, Tony Lazzeri, Lou Gehrig, and of course, Babe Ruth. Ruth famously broke his own single-season home-run record, hitting 60 home runs over the course of the season, a feat not repeated until over thirty years later, and even then somewhat controversially (by Roger Maris in 1961). Ruth’s slugging changed the way the game is played—home runs were a rarity before 1920—which was met with both excitement and antipathy. (Home runs thrilled the fans in the stadium, but John McGraw, then the manager of the Giants—he plays a small part in One Man to Remember—thought the home run wrecked the purity of the game.)
I thought this would be a great backdrop for a story about a rookie player who wants no part of the spotlight. The New York of 1927 could accommodate him. Why would reporters care about some rookie for the Giants when there’s Babe Ruth making news all over town? But in the novella, Times sports reporter Walter Selby, an unabashed baseball fan but also a bit of a dandy—he changes the flower on his lapel 3 times a day like clockwork—sees a raw genius in Skip that maybe no one else does. Walt thinks Skip could be the next Babe Ruth, but Skip wants no part of Ruth’s fame.
The reasons why are probably obvious. Skip has been attracted to men his whole life and has somewhat resigned himself to celibacy until he meets Walt. Although there was a thriving gay community in New York at the time—and prior to World War II, urban society was more accepting than you’d think—it becomes clear that Skip’s whole career could end abruptly if he has an affair with Walt and that affair is discovered.
So that’s more than you probably wanted to know about the backdrop of the story. It’s a really fascinating time in baseball history, to me anyway. I wanted to write a sports story that was really different than the other’s you’ve read before, so hopefully I’ve accomplished that. I’ve teamed up with a pretty great team of authors to put this anthology together, and we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it!
Baseball—America’s favorite pastime—provides a field wide open for romance. A Home Field Advantage may not help when Toby must choose between the team he’s loved all his life and the man he could love for the rest of it. In 1927, Skip hides his sexuality to protect his career until he meets One Man to Remember. Ruben and Alan fell victim to a Wild Pitch, leaving them struggling with heartache and guilt, and now they’ve met again. And on One Last Road Trip, Jake retires and leaves baseball behind, hoping to reconnect with Mikko and get a second chance at love.
The anthology contains the following novellas:
Toby MacMillan, grandson of Atlanta Braves owner Ray MacMillan, lives for baseball and loves his team. When he meets new team member Caleb Browning, an innocent welcome-to-the-big-leagues dinner leads to a not-so-innocent night together. Toby quickly calls things off, afraid of the ramifications of their tryst, but the two men develop a friendship that soon becomes more. After Caleb takes a fastball to the head, their budding romance hits the news—and Toby’s grandfather hits the roof. When Ray MacMillan demands Toby deny the relationship, Toby must choose between the team he’s loved all his life and the man he could love for the rest of it.
One Man to Remember by Kate McMurray
It’s 1927, and in New York City, Babe Ruth and the Yankees’ unstoppable batting lineup, Murderers’ Row, is all anyone can talk about. Across town, the Giants’ rookie infielder Skip Littlefield racks up hits, creating a streak to rival the Babe’s. Worried his secrets could get out, he avoids the spotlight, but he catches the attention of lauded sports reporter Walter Selby, a notorious dandy whose sexuality is an open secret. Skip reluctantly agrees to an interview, and mutual attraction is sparked. Skip can only hope the more charismatic stars will draw attention away from his romance with Walt. Otherwise, his career and everything he loves is at stake.
Wild Pitch by Marguerite Labbe
Ruben Martell fell in love with Alan Hartner during their years playing baseball. They stepped over the foul line once, but the encounter left them struggling with heartache and guilt, turning away from each other to focus on their families. Now retired from the majors, they run a batting cage together and coach rival Little League teams as they juggle fatherhood and being single again. Though Ruben has never given up hope that Alan might look at him as more than a friend, Alan seems determined to keep things the way they’ve always been. But long-buried feelings and desires have a way of resurfacing, and Ruben can’t wait forever.
One Last Road Trip by Kerry Freeman
With the last game of his Major League Baseball career behind him, Jake Wilson hits the road. Years have passed, but he never got over the romance he shared with Mikko Niemi back in college. Finally, he’s ready to do something about it. He starts with some crucial visits to his ex-wife in New Mexico, his son in Oklahoma, and his daughter in Tennessee. But his true destination is Mikko’s home in Georgia, where he’s hoping to get a second chance at love.
Still reading? Excellent! Then you’ll want to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway At Kerry Freeman’s Facebook page -> HERE
I’m tickled pink that The Hand-me-down made it into the final of the Rainbow Awards category Gay Contemporary Romance. It’s the most heavily populated category so you can imagine it made me very proud.
So here we are. Moon and Stars sees the light of day today and although this is Novel #7 for me, it doesn’t get old.
I’m still nervous and excited!
- Sept 24th at Layla M. Weir’s website talking about how I chose Idaho as the location of my cowboy stories
- Sept 26th at Charlie Cochet’s Purple Rose Teahouse explaining how bad weather has driven all four of the Clouds and Rain stories
- Also on Sept 26th I have a release party at the Dreampinner Press Blog. Please join me there so I don’t need to party all by myself!
- Sept 29th on Twitter, together with Augusta Li, Anna Martin and Rebecca Cohen
- Oct 2nd at Joyfully Jay for the GRL Blog Hop. This last one has a giveaway!
- Also on Oct 2nd, I’ll be at Coffee and Porn in the Morning with a giveaway on Friday Oct 4th!
Hello, and thank you so much to Zahra for hosting me today! Zahra has the honor of being the first stop on my blog tour for my novella Homespun. During my blog tour, which runs ’til Oct. 8, you can comment on any of the posts in the tour to be entered in a drawing for a rather unusual prize: I’m giving away a handmade scarf, knit or crocheted by me specially for you, in a style and yarn color that you get to pick! (This would also be a great holiday gift for someone else!) More details here
My topic for today’s post is autumn!
As a child of northern climates, my relationship with autumn is necessarily a trifle … shall we say, conflicted. I live in Alaska, and when fall arrives, with its cold rains and straggling lines of migrating geese, it means that seven months of winter (and its attendant -40F cold) is right around the corner.
But in spite of that, I have loved autumn as long as I can remember. I love the sights and sounds and smells of it — the gorgeous colors, the crisp scents, the coolness in the air. I love the food and drink of autumn, the hot cocoa and pumpkin pies. I love harvest time and bonfires and long chilly nights with a sharp tang in the air. I love being able to wear sweaters again; I love making soup and bread, and filling the house with the smell of spices.
Homespun is set in the autumn, in a part of the U.S. that is famous for its beautiful fall colors. Technically central New York (where Homespun is set) is not considered part of New England — you have to go over the border into Vermont for that — but it shares the climate, foliage, and stunning autumn displays that the New England area is known for. So many people come to view the flaming red sugar maples in Vermont, New Hampshire, and the Adirondack Mountains that this fall-foliage tourism is a vital part of the economy. Last year, while I was visiting my sister during October in the general area where the book is set, I discovered there are websites where you can view fall foliage reports (http://www.vermont.com/foliage.cfm) so you can time your visit to coincide with the height of the fall colors! (Sadly we missed the peak colors in Vermont during my trip, but I still got to see the full gamut of colors in central New York. The picture above is from that trip, taken at Bald Mountain in the Adirondacks. This is not terribly far from the fictional location of Owen and Laura’s farm in Homespun — within easy driving distance, certainly. It’s totally mental canon for me that they go hiking there!)
When I made my cover requests, I asked if I could please have a cover that reflects the gorgeous New England fall colors. And the result is beautiful; check out the cover on this page to see for yourself! It’s extra perfect because the book is being released in the fall as well. I couldn’t have asked for a more appropriate release date.
(Well, fall in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway. I know that for many of you it’s actually spring, and the days are growing longer and you have a wonderful 110-degree summer to look forward to. I would like to apologize most sincerely, and hope that dangling this book in front of you isn’t like showing pictures of chocolate layer cakes to a dieter.)
It’s true that we’re not quite to full autumn yet in most of the Northern Hemisphere. Here in Alaska, the trees are already turning bright colors and you can smell winter on the air; we’ll have snow by October. In New York, where Owen and Laura and Kerry live, the most brilliant colors are still weeks away, and the wildflowers are still blooming. But it’s coming. The sheep need their fall shearing, the hay must be taken in, the farmer’s market is wrapping up for the year and the first strands of geese are straggling across the sky.
I hope this will be a good book for curling up in front of a roaring fire, with a cup of hot cocoa at your elbow and the nights growing longer outside. (Or, for those of you in the other half of the world, a book to curl up with in front of the air conditioner, to remind you that the nights WILL get shorter and the heat won’t last forever!) I hope it makes you think of crisp, colorful leaves and clear, sharp sunshine, hot cocoa and fuzzy sweaters. And most of all, I hope it gives you something to warm your heart until warm weather comes around again.
For twenty years, Owen Fortescue, a down-to-earth farmer in upstate New York, has had an on-again, off-again relationship with volatile New York City artist Kerry Ruehling. Now that same-sex marriage is recognized in New York, Owen wants to tie the knot. But Kerry responds to the proposal with instant, angry withdrawal. Owen resolves to prove to Kerry that, regardless of the way his family of origin has treated him, family ties don’t necessarily tie a man down. With help from his grown daughter, Laura, who loves them both, Owen hopes to convince Kerry that his marriage proposal isn’t a trap, but a chance at real love.
Kerry Ruehling came back to Blue Thistle Farm in autumn, a wild upstate autumn, where an invisible painter’s brush had run riot among the maple trees. Vermilion, he thought, naming the colors to himself. Hooker’s green, with a touch of yellow ochre. Viridian and crimson lake….
Farm stands selling apples and grapes, pumpkins and cider and fall mums lined the rural highways of central New York state. The air smelled fresh, with hints of wood smoke and hay. As the sun sank toward the rolling hills, the day’s balmy warmth gave way to a sharp and biting chill, the first breath of oncoming winter. Kerry was a city boy to the core, but he had been coming back to this place for two decades—his entire adult life, give or take a few years—and it surprised him how many of the smells he recognized, how many of the crops in the fields he could name along with the colors he might use to paint them.
He’d taken a Greyhound to Syracuse and then hitched the rest of the way, riding most of the distance in the back of a hay truck, the only vehicle that would stop for him. Before leaving the city, he’d covered his spiked hair with a hoodie and had taken out most of his piercings, but apparently upstate farm wives still didn’t feel comfortable sharing a car with him. Looking down at his fingers, clasped over the torn knee of his jeans, he noticed the black paint on his nails was getting chipped and ragged around the edges.
He would be forty-two in November. The thought opened a hollow in his stomach. Maybe it was time to scrape off the nail polish and let some of the piercings grow over. But he didn’t know what lay at the end of that road. There was no roadmap and he’d learned a long time ago not to think about it.
Then the truck’s old brakes squealed because he’d reached his stop. There was the sign—hand-painted wood mounted on a homemade plinth of mortared fieldstone. He grabbed his backpack and hopped down to the road’s gravel shoulder. The truck pulled out with a heavy grinding of gears, and Kerry dusted hay off his jeans and waved to the driver.
Twenty years ago, he’d climbed off the back of another hay truck on this exact spot. It had been early winter then, and he hadn’t eaten in two days. But he’d been warm enough from the bottle of cheap red wine he’d bought with his last few dollars. He had shared a joint with a fellow traveler at the last gas station, and the high was just starting to fade, leaving the world too bright and moving too fast.
“I paint signs,” he’d said. “I work cheap. You folks need a sign painted?”
He’d been coming back ever since.
Back to Owen and Laura.
Layla M. Wier is the romance pen name of artist and writer Layla Lawlor. She was born in a log cabin in rural Alaska and grew up thirty miles from towns, roads, electricity, and cars. These days, she lives in Fox, a gold-rush mining town on the highway north of Fairbanks, Alaska, with her husband, dogs, and the occasional farm animal. Their house is a log cabin in a birch and aspen forest. Wolves, moose, and foxes wander through the front yard. During the short, bright Arctic summer, Layla enjoys gardening and hiking, and in the winter, she writes, paints, and draws.
Stops and topics on the Homespun blog tour (Sept. 16-Oct. 8):
Monday, Sept. 16: Zahra Owens – autumn
Tuesday, Sept. 17: Tali Spencer – sharing passions
Wednesday, Sept. 18: RELEASE DAY! Party at the Dreamspinner Press blog!
Thursday, Sept. 19: Charley Descoteaux – location scouting in central New York
Friday, Sept. 20: Chris T. Kat – interview
Monday, Sept. 23: Charlie Cochet’s Purple Rose Tea House – doing research
Tuesday, Sept. 24: Helen Pattskyn – bisexuality in Homespun
Wednesday, Sept. 25: Garrett Leigh – interview
Thursday, Sept. 26: Skylar Cates – rural life
Friday, Sept. 27: Madison Parker – interview + review
Monday, Sept. 30: Jessica Davies – learning to spin, part 1
Tuesday, Oct. 1: Anne Barwell – learning to spin, part 2
Thursday, Oct. 3: Michael Rupured – writing respectfully from outside a subculture
Friday, Oct. 4: Jana Denardo – invading characters’ privacy
It’s lovely to have Posy Roberts here today. She’s giving us an insight into the houses her characters dwell in and what it says about them. Does your house speak for you too? I know mine does (chaotic and messy)
Hugo walked into the cabin he’d heard about for years. It smelled of grandparents—a bit musty but not in a bad way, just a comforting way that bespoke of good memories. After all, it had been Summer’s grandparents’ cabin. They’d bought it in the late 1950s, and it appeared as if it hadn’t been redecorated since. A refreshing blue-and-yellow theme traveled around the main room with little sailboats and anchors dotting walls and furniture. A lamp with a sailboat wheel as its base sat on an end table, and shells and driftwood rested on book-filled shelves and atop picture frames. It made Hugo smile. No wonder Summer loved coming here.
The first house I mention in my book Spark is this lake cabin with questionable plumbing. More than telling about the characters, this cabin sets up some of the culture in Minnesota. Hugo Thorson appreciates the place, which almost feels as if it’s been lost in time. I always get excited to read about where a character lives because I find out a lot about who they are without authors having to outright tell me. It’s like a little treasure hunt. Many of my favorite authors create these wonderful settings that I enjoy spending time in, and as a writer, I find it fun to make homes for characters as well.
Last month I was reading a story about a man who was putting on a shiny happy façade, but then I saw his apartment. It was rundown and filthy. Little bells went off in my head, and suddenly I saw how miserable he was. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve read stories about apartment dwellers with lives so messed up you wonder how they can manage anything. Their immaculate house is the one place they feel they have control, so they keep it picture perfect.
I start looking at characters with different eyes when I read things like this. Sometimes the state of a house tells us about the mental state of a character or how busy they are. At other times, it simply tells us about their financial solvency or how far in debt they’ve buried themselves. Perhaps a character lives in a tiny house totally off the grid because of their environmentalism.
Sometimes a house is just a house too.
I was lucky to be able to create several different houses in Spark, the first book in my North Star trilogy. Just a few properties away from the cabin Hugo admires above, is Kevin Magnus’s lake home, which is less cabin and much more house. I also introduce Hugo and Kevin’s homes in their small town where these men met at teens. Then I was able to spy on them again in their mid-thirties after they’d become independent adults and were able to create the spaces they wanted rather than being limited to the one room they called their own as kids. Who they became in their adulthood crept into their homes and it was fun to record, even if a lot of Kevin’s home reflected his ex, Erin’s taste too.
Hugo Thorson is an actor and director with his fingers in many pies. He lives in a section of Minneapolis called Uptown, where hippies, hipsters, artists, and actors feel very at home. Kevin Magnus feels much more at home with the country club set. That’s reflected in the location of his sprawling house in Edina, one of the wealthiest suburbs in the Twin Cities. His house is spacious, neat, mostly beige, and also very private because of all the trees at the back of his property.
Hugo enjoys browsing in second hand shops for household goods while Kevin would more likely call an interior decorator if he were considering something as simple as a new wall color or changing a wall hanging. Hugo feels out of his element when he visit’s Kevin’s home, and he wonders how his crazy, out-there life could possibly fit with Kevin’s. Hugo is obviously insecure and unsure about what Kevin will think of his place, because it’s nothing like the sleek, modern lake house Hugo’s spent time in as he and Kevin got reacquainted.
Spark is about having a second chance at the love, but sometimes there are issues to work though. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 24 of Spark. You can read also Chapter 1 here
“Hmm. Well, take a look around, if you’d like,” Hugo invited as he moved to pull plates down from his cupboard. He opted for the plates with the turquoise-and-yellow atomic starburst pattern rather than the easier to retrieve pink-and-black dishes he often used. Kevin probably wouldn’t appreciate vintage pink dishes, even if they’d been an excellent find at Hugo’s favorite thrift store. “I’ll just unpack the food and set the table.”
Kevin took him up on the offer and went to Hugo’s bookshelf near the television and started scanning the titles of films and literature, picking up various knickknacks to inspect closer as he walked around the room. He neared Hugo’s smaller bedroom where all his drag was—his drag closet—and Kevin rested his hand on the doorknob. The door was locked, but Hugo’s heart still pitter-pattered.
“You have a two-bedroom?” Kevin asked.
Hugo nodded and smiled, hoping his nervousness wouldn’t show through. That room was the last place he wanted Kevin, and he was more than thankful he’d put the wigs away before he’d settled down for his nap. “Storage, mostly. It used to be a home office when Michael lived here.”
Kevin released a meaningful noise and then removed his hand from the door, moving on. He glanced out Hugo’s windows and opened the door to the tiny balcony where Hugo had two chairs and a low table with a pot of herbs growing.
“You’re really close to Lake Calhoun, aren’t you?” Kevin asked when he peeked his head back in.
“Yep.” You could see a sliver of blue water from the balcony beyond the alleyway, and the fact that Kevin had noticed it made Hugo smile.
“Do you want any help?”
“No. I’m good. Actually, why don’t you have a seat?”
Kevin sat at the robin’s-egg-blue Formica table Hugo had found on the side of the road years ago. It had been free, but it was one of Hugo’s favorite finds.
“I like your place,” Kevin said as he took another glance around the apartment. “It feels warm and friendly. Really colorful. I never would’ve thought painting each wall a different color would work so well, but it really does.”
“Thanks. It’s not much, but it’s my own.”
In Chapter 26 Hugo is still nervous as he visits Kevin’s home in Edina for the first time.
He merged onto a smaller highway that took him to the suburb of Edina and then finally turned onto a side street that gave way to curvy roads with idealistic monikers that hinted at secret hiding places nestled in the woods. Sure enough, thick areas of trees sprung up alongside the road, interrupted by expansive green yards and sprawling houses here and there that were pushed far back on the properties with semicircular drives. He was very glad to have GPS in his car because he would have definitely gotten lost without it.
At the end of a long, curving road was a fancy mailbox with the name Magnus cast in what looked like bronze above the shiny house number. Beside it was a low stairway made of rough-hewn timbers lazily making its way to the front door of the two-story brick house. It was a warm color with a mixture of tans and browns, and there were several limestone retaining walls built up along the gently sloping yard, flowers and small trees filling the space. The grass was beautifully manicured and looked perfect for walking barefoot.
Hugo pulled into the drive and parked in front of one of the three garage doors attached to, but placed at an angle from, the house. Not sure exactly where guests should park, he momentarily considered backing up and parking on the street but decided against it in case there was some sort of neighborhood association rule against doing so.
Before he got out of the car, Hugo took a few deep breaths. He was nervous—probably because he felt so out of place in this neighborhood with the huge houses and perfect façades, but also because he knew he’d be seeing Brooke and Finn again. There was a slight possibility he’d be meeting Erin as well.
One more deep breath, and he was opening the car door and braving his way to Kevin’s entrance. A turquoise-painted door with a heavy bronze knocker shaped like a pinecone stood before him. Hugo rang the doorbell instead. It was a few minutes, but soon he could hear Kevin’s footsteps.
In their small-town high school, Hugo and Kevin became closeted lovers who kept their secret even from parents. Hugo didn’t want to disappoint his terminally ill father, and Kevin’s controlling father would never tolerate a bisexual son. When college took them in different directions, they promised to reunite, but that didn’t happen for seventeen years.
By the time they meet again, Hugo has become an out-and-proud actor and director who occasionally performs in drag—a secret that has cost him in past relationships. Kevin, still closeted, has followed his father’s path and now, in the shadow of divorce, is striving to be a better father to his own children.
When Hugo and Kevin meet by chance at a party, the spark of attraction reignites, as does their genuine friendship. Rekindling a romance may mean Hugo must compromise the openness he values, but Kevin will need a patient partner as he adapts to living outside the closet. With such different lifestyles, the odds seem stacked against them, and Hugo fears that if his secret comes to light, it may drive Kevin away completely.
Posy Roberts lives in the land of 10,000 lakes (plus a few thousand more). But even with more shoreline than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined, Minnesota has snow—lots of it—and the six months of winter makes us “hearty folk,” or so the locals say. The rest of the year is heat and humidity with a little bit of cool weather we call spring and autumn, which lasts about a week.
She loves a clean house, even if she can’t keep up with her daughter’s messes, and prefers foods that are enriched with meat, noodles, and cheese, or as we call it in Minnesota, hotdish. She also loves people, even though she has to spend considerable amounts of time away from them after helping to solve their interpersonal problems at her day job.
Posy is married to a wonderful man who makes sure she eats while she documents the lives of her characters. She also has a remarkable daughter who helps her come up with character names. When she’s not writing, she enjoys karaoke, hiking, and singing spontaneously about the mundane, just to make normal seem more interesting.