Thirty years ago, more or less, I decided to rebel. I'd been reading romances intended for teens for a number of years (well before I was a teenager) and I was bored with them. I wanted something else, something more exciting. Of course I knew my mother would hardly approve of my plans so I took advantage of my babysitting money, walked to the Walgreen's at the corner to buy pens for school, and while I was there, I snuck over to the romance book section. I was almost afraid to pick them up, for fear my mother would appear at my shoulder and see what I was doing, but I finally worked up the nerve to read the back cover of a few, and picked one. I hid it in my purse and then hid it between my mattresses, and I devoured it. I absolutely devoured it. I read that book so many times it fell apart, and of course it was only the first.
I haven't thought about that book in years, although I still remember it incredibly vividly. I did mention how many times I read it, right? Well, imagine my surprise and fangirlish glee to walk into the RT club yesterday and see Janelle Taylor, yes, the same Janelle Taylor who wrote the first adult romance I ever read, sitting at a table by herself, looking honestly a little lonely. I couldn't resist. I had to go up, introduce myself, and tell her my story. She was incredibly gracious, offering a hug and a smile and asking about my own writing since my name tag proclaimed me a published author as well.
I told her, completely upfront about the m/m aspect of my writing. And you know what her answer was? She asked if I had one of my books with me. I didn't, but Nessa did, so I gave her a copy of Inherit the Sky, which she insisted I sign for her (I was asked to sign a book for one of the authors who introduced me to romance as a genre! Can I squee for a bit?), we gave her a YA book for her granddaughter, and we spent a good twenty minutes with this bastion of traditional romance discussing how important it was to show that love is love, no matter who was involved, whether that was two people from opposite sides of the Civil War, whether it was a white woman and an Indian man, or whether it was two men.
It was interesting to hear her say that when she first started out, all the publishers told her no one would want to read a romance with Indians in it, and yet I remember that my favorite part of Destiny's Temptress was Shannon's brother (half-brother if you want to get technical, but Shannon never did) Hawke, a half-breed Indian. Finally Kensington took a chance on her, even with the Indians, and her career was born.
I did a little poking around on the Internet last night. Janelle Taylor is a year older than my mother, two years younger than my father. My mother knows what I write. She hasn't read any of it, but that has more to do with the explicit content than with the fact that it's m/m. My father doesn't know at all because I know what his reaction would be. I've been calling him on homophobic comments far longer than I've been writing. Talking with Janelle yesterday reminded me that one's generation does not define one's thoughts, that people of every generation can be open-minded, and that what we do and the ground we're breaking now in the m/m genre was set up by people like Janelle Taylor years ago and that they really are just as happy to see us breaking new ground now as people were to see them breaking ground then.
We get tied up in our insular world of m/m romance, and I've made some of my closest friends in that insular little world, so I will never stop being thankful for it, but I'm starting to wonder if some of that isolation isn't our doing as much as it is theirs.
So I've shared my fangirl moment. If you could pick that seminal author to meet, the one who introduced you to a world you'd never entered before (romance, fantasy, sci-fi m/m romance, or any other genre), who would it be?
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Friday, April 19, 2013
A friend of mine came out to me a month ago. Someone I have known for seventeen years, who has read (and sometimes helped edit) my novels for the past nine years, finally trusted me enough to say the words "I am gay" aloud and in my presence for the first time. Was I surprised? Not particularly. Was I touched beyond words at the trust this man had just placed in me? Absolutely. Because I know where he works. We were colleagues for nine years, and as sorry as it makes me to say it in this day and age, he would probably lose his job if he came out at work. I don't work there anymore (and haven't for eight years), and I'm about as safe a person to come out to as he's likely to find given what I now do for a living, but I've known him for seventeen years and he's known what I now do for a living for the past nine years. So today is for him, and for everyone like him who stands behind a veil of silence for fear of losing a job, who listens to colleagues talk about spouses, family, boyfriends or girlfriends without sharing any part of himself because if he opens his mouth, someone might ask about him, if he has a family, if he is married, if he has kids. The world is changing, albeit more slowly than I would like, but I long for the day when silence will no longer be the only viable choice for some people. I long for the day when our sexuality is as relevant as the color of our hair or the shape of our smiles. I believe that day is coming, but it can't come soon enough for people like my friend.
I'm in Chicago this weekend for the Dreasmpinner Press author workshop, talking with Murray Izenwasser about social media and improving visibility online. Quite a few interesting options, so I'm starting to think about what to do to add new and different content her on my web site. Anybody interested in hearing some readings of some different sections of books? Other things you'd like to see here?
Monday, January 7, 2013
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
The lovely Amber Kell is having a Birthday Bash and I'm participating! She's brought along a story to share with us today as well as this beautiful banner. You can leave her birthday wishes at her blog, https://amberkell.wordpress.com/, or here!
“Shh, it’s all right. It had to die,” Silvan soothed.
“I know.” Cebrus knew the beast had to be destroyed but he hated to kill anything even in self-defense.
Silvan kissed Cebrus’s cheeks, then his mouth. Cebrus sought Silvan’s lips with his until he captured them with a sigh. A moan vibrated his lips. Silvan’s shield dropped to the ground with a thud.
“Oh,” Cebrus sighed as Silvan wrapped his muscular arms around him and pulled him closer. He snuggled into the prince’s embrace until a throat clearing behind him snapped him out of his happy daze.
A soldier stood behind them his hands on his hips and a scowl crossing his handsome features. “Did you want me to take care of the body, your highness?”
“Yes Jerril,” Silvan said.
Cebrus glanced back to see the prince still had his eyes focused on him. He couldn’t stop a smile from crossing his face. Despite Jerril’s annoyance, Cebrus still had Silvan’s complete attention.
“You might want your shield,” Cebrus nodded to the abandoned piece of armor.
“Jerril will bring it.” Silvan held out his arm for Cebrus to take.
Cebrus slid his hand around Silvan’s armored elbow
“Bring my sword too,” he tossed over his shoulder as he led Cebrus away.
Cebrus glanced over his shoulder. If looks could kill Cebrus would’ve burned up quicker than a chimera flame could incinerate him.
“You two are on rat catching duty for the next week,” Silvan told the two knights who were guarding Cebrus.
“Silvan!” Cebrus exclaimed.
“No!” Silvan’s eyes flashed with ire. “You could’ve been killed. They need to learn that when I tell them to watch out for you to not let you almost get killed by a chimera. You are the most important person in the kingdom to me and you could’ve died.”
B-but we just met,” Cebrus protested. A mating took time, days, weeks, occasionally years.
Silvan held up his wand. “And you bonded us. You will be my mate.”
The wand’s handle had a gold emblem on it signifying a fated pairing.
“Oh, blast,” Cebrus said softly. “That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m your other half.” Even as he said the words he knew Silvan wouldn’t accept them.
Silvan’s heated gaze seared Cebrus to his soles. “Trust me, you are mine.”
Cebrus sighed. “This is why I avoid royals. You are all too possessive.”
“That’s a good reason you should avoid all other royals except me,” the prince’s smug expression told Cebrus that Silvan was quite pleased with his reasoning.
“Despite what you might think your highness I am leaving at the end of the week to continue my quest,” Cebrus said. If nothing else this would be an excellent reason to leave the kingdom.
“Good, I’d be happy to help. The sooner you finish your quest the quicker you can come back and take your place by my side.” Silvan nodded as if everything was going exactly how he had planned it.
Cebrus almost hated to ruin the prince’s day.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
In celebration of National Coming Out Day, I'm giving away a copy of Once in a Lifetime and of Stolen Moments, the two books I have that deal with issues of coming to terms with one's sexuality and of revealing that to the people around you. I will give away one copy of each book for every 50 comments I receive on the blog before I leave for GRL on Wednesday, Oct. 17, so that gives everyone almost a week to comment!
Saturday, July 28, 2012
My Love Affair with France
People ask me occasionally where I’m from. They seem to have a hard time believing me when I tell them I was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and lived there until I was eighteen and went off to college (and to see the world). “But your books are all set in France….” It’s not a question, really. More of an observation, but one that subtly requests an explanation.
So I should start by saying that not all my books are set in France. Of my current published or contracted novels, only half of them are set in France. Of course, of the other half, one is set in Spain, one is set in outer space, one is in the Caribbean, two are set in Australia, and one is in a complete alternate universe, so my ratio of France to US in settings isn’t quite as high.
That said, I have eleven current or upcoming books set in various parts of France. That’s enough to merit the observation and an explanation. So why France?
I fell in love with the French language when I was twelve years old. I had an absolutely fabulous French teacher who made learning fun. More than that, speaking French was like remembering something I’d forgotten. (My sisters, in a fit of jealousy, decided I must have been Joan of Arc in a past life because nobody should have been able to learn another language as quickly and easily as I did French.) I decided right then whatever else I did in my life, I was going to speak this language so well no one would even question my nationality when I went to France.
Ten years later, I reached that goal.
I went to France for the first time as a junior in college and had the good fortune to live with an incredible family who welcomed me in and still (20 years later) introduces me as their American daughter when I go back to visit. I also had the good fortune to meet the man I later married. (He’s from India, not France, but that’s a different story.) The combination of the generosity of my adoptive family and the memories of falling in love made that semester the highlight of my college career.
Two years later, I had the opportunity to go back and teach in France for a year. I jumped at the chance, and I swore by the time I left, no one would ever again say to me, “Oh, you speak French so well for an American.” Everyone who said it intended it as a compliment. I always knew that. But if they said it, I’d said something wrong, and that was unacceptable.
I haven’t heard that sentence, except from people who know me and so know I’m American, since halfway through that year, and to this day, I only speak French with my children. They don’t always answer me in French, but they understand me perfectly.
That’s the history, the facts, but I was one of twenty students who went to France that semester, yet I seem to be the only one who fell in love. So the question becomes what is it about France that captivates me so?
I’m not sure there’s an easy answer for that, but the simplest answer is another little anecdote. I went back to France in June 2001 for a wedding after a very stressful school year. Back in Dijon again, I visited old friends and wandered the city where I fell in love with France and with my husband. Despite having moved back to the US six years earlier, I ran into people I knew in stores I had frequented and even on the street. Talk about a small world! In the week I was there, all the stress from the school year disappeared and I went from being miserable to feeling like I was home.
That sums it up for me in a way little else does. France feels like home. I love the café culture. I love the “bises” they give each other when they greet their friends. I love the fact that when I was in a grocery store, I overheard a woman complaining about some fresh produce smelling like it had been refrigerated. She was used to getting things fresh from the farm two or three times a week at the local market. I love the fact that there’s a different kind of cheese for every day of the year. I love the fact that I never needed a car when I lived there because the public transportation was extensive enough and reliable enough that it was a viable option, not just for me but for the French as well. I love the fact that there’s another piece of history around every corner. When I called home the first time after arriving in France, my mother asked me what I thought, and my reaction was that everything was so old. Not run down, but ancient. There are businesses in Dijon that predate Columbus’s discovery of the Americas. Not just buildings. Businesses.
Even more than all of that, though, I love the people. I know the French have the reputation for being snobby or cold or reserved, but I have never been treated that way. 20 years later, I still keep in touch with that first family I lived with and their three daughters. I attended all three of their weddings. I still exchange letters with my former colleagues from when I taught there. I have friends all over the country who open their homes to me any time I come to visit. In every town and city I visited, even Paris, people went out of their way to be helpful to me, whether I was by myself or with my husband and two kids. My son was nine months old the last time we went to France. Americans told us we were crazy. I told them we’d be fine, and we were. Someone grabbed the other end of the stroller every time we encountered steps with no elevator or escalator.
So why are so many of my stories set in France? The answer is really quite simple.
I’m American by birth, but my heart belongs to France.