Lesfic Book Club: Mergers & Acquisitions

For our July meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed AE Radley’s novel, Mergers & Acquisitions. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

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A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc

A.E. Radley

Hi @Reader 1! Hi everyone

Reader 2

welcome!

Reader 1

so excited your here with us!

READER 3

Hey there

A.E. Radley

I’m excited to be here!

Reader 4

hello!!

Reader 5

Welcome!

Reader 1

I love your writing…as we all know. I followed you when you were writing fanfiction. your books are even more enjoyable

A.E. Radley

Aww thanks @Reader 1 I really appreciate you saying that!

Reader 6

Where did you get your inspiration from to enable you to write M & A?

A.E. Radley

M&A was originally a fan fiction piece, I’m sure some of you will recognise some of the characteristics of the characters. I’d previously written some Devil Wears Prada and was then writing Supergirl (Supercat) and thought I’d try my hand at a crossover of the two!

Reader 1

Yes I kinda picked that up…

SuperCat is my favorite along with SuperCorp…obviously

Reader 2

I don’t read fan fiction, so I go into every book as if it’s simply a book.

Ultimately, every story has inspiration from somewhere anyway.

A.E. Radley

I stopped watching once Cat left so I never got to SuperCorp… was too bitter that my fav ice queen had left!

Reader 6

Your books never contain much intimacy and no sex. Is that

a) because you get too embarrassed

b) you don’t think it’s relevant to your stories

c) you’re crap at writing them

Or

d) all of the above?

I love your books, this isn’t a trick question

Reader 1

It kinda dragged after she left but I still watch religiously for I love Katie McGrath she’s my dream ever since Merlin

Reader 7

Did you have to do a lot of research for this book?

A.E. Radley

Great question @Reader 6 I was once told that every single lesbian fiction book, regardless of genre, must have a sex scene or, preferable, several sex scenes… or they’d never sell. I thought that was wrong, I don’t like stories where sex has been crammed in just so the book can be called romance and have a chance of selling more copies. So I didn’t put sex into my first two, and then the third didn’t need it, and by then I’d received messages from people thanking me for not including sex scenes. So I kind of carried on!

Reader 1

Can we please get a sequel. I need more of Kate and her back story. I feel like Georgina kinda monopolized it for a bit.

Reader 6

Thank you

Reader 2

It’s funny, I don’t even notice the lack of sex scenes. I know they aren’t there, but you write so well without them that it works out well.

Reader 1

I like the falling in love part of romance anyway lol

Reader 8

Yes, I hadn’t noticed that there wasn’t one until the question was answered here!

A.E. Radley

@Reader 7 Not too much, I’ve worked in advertising and I’ve worked in London, and I actually worked for an eccentric Greek called Yannis… so luckily it was quite light on research

Reader 1

Nice

A.E. Radley

@Reader 1 I always say never say never when it comes to sequels, I do sometimes revisit certain stories (I’m writing a sequel to Bring Holly Home right now) but nothing is currently in the pipeline with this particular book.

Reader 6

Where oh where did you dream up the barge chase in Huntress from. I laughed so hard and I won it in one of your comps which makes it even more special to me

Reader 1

please please please think about one… lol

Reader 6

Seconded

And another sequel to the big uneasy

Please

Reader 1

I’m in the middle of reading Going Up right now and I really enjoy Selina she’s a hoot

A.E. Radley

@Reader 6 I’d just moved to Stoke-on-Trent which has a lot of canals (pottery was made here so it was shipped in and out by the canals). Literally outside my house is a canal and I went for a walk one day and this woman who must have been a hundred years old was walking along the canal path and she was pacing this beefy looking man on a narrowboat, and it just hit me how ridiculous it was that this feeble old woman was easily matching him for speed. From there it was a simple jump to make it into a “slow speed chase”

Reader 2

I like that your books break the rules. We already discussed the lack of sex scenes, but in this book you broke the ‘rule’ of making it obvious who would end up with who. Working with three main characters made for an interesting read.

Reader 5

Agreed! I’ve never seen DWP (gasp) so I had my guess but wasn’t sure

Reader 6

I love it. Huntress is a fantastic book. The other lol was the visual in my mind of Amy stuck with her feet in the air out of the car boot

A.E. Radley

I’m really lucky because I always get messages from people asking for sequels, but it does mean that every time I release a book… people read it and then want a sequel. So now I wait a while and see which ones still get asked for months later, Bring Holly Home is a frequent one and M&A is quite high up there too so it is on my radar

Reader 6

Huntress and Big Uneasy too please please please

A.E. Radley

@Reader 2 I’m just stubborn, if someone tells me not to do something… I’m quite likely to try and do it. I was told to put sex scenes in or I’d be a failure, so I’ve never written one. I was also told that lesfic readers don’t like hard topics, so Going Up is about homelessness.

Reader 2

Also, I loved that Jessica saved the day in the end. Because I was all, sure, the elevator will totally work. lol

Reader 1

I love the hard topics

Reader 6

That’s rubbish, I enjoy a book that’s well written with great characters and a fantastic story. End. Of.

Reader 9

I’m ace, and finding really good lesfic with a beautiful love story not centered around sex is like finding a priceless gem. And the “hard topics”? Those are the stories that need to be told.

Reader 4

What’s your process like? Did you always know that it would be Kate and Sophie in the end?

A.E. Radley

@Reader 4 Because I was currently writing Supercat, it was always going to be Kate and Sophie because that’s essentially Cat and Kara. But I always plot all of my books out from the start, I don’t start properly writing until I have a full outline. This is my full time job these days so I want to make sure I’m as productive as possible and for me that means scheduling and planning!

Reader 5

Amen!

A.E. Radley

@Reader 6 I agree! I think some people under estimate readers, there doesn’t need to be a formula

Reader 1

exactly. I think that’s why I loved Kate from the get go…I had the Cat vibes the entire time. lol

formula’s are overrated

A.E. Radley

@Reader 5 you have to watch DWP… I’m pretty sure it just became law?

Reader 5

I think so too – and I wouldn’t do well in jail

Reader 2

Looks like I’d join you because I haven’t seen it either.

Reader 6

Make that three of us

Reader 1

blasphemy

Reader 5

Gonna have to have a movie night

A.E. Radley

Shocking.

Reader 10

Book was different. Not better or worse, surprisingly

Reader 2

Time is a thing…

Reader 6

There’s a lot of the same type of books, Eg ice queen and younger woman etc.

I’d love to read one where the ice queen meets/falls for an older woman. I don’t recall any like that out there

A.E. Radley

@Reader 6 I don’t know of any, but then I’m not particularly well read in the genre. I did recently make a note about something similar, a young icy executive falling for someone much older. But I didn’t get that far into plotting it yet… watch this space!

Reader 6

Yeah!!!! I will because as much as I love the others something different is always welcome

Reader 11

Bit late to the party but which of your books do you suggest I read next? This was my first!

A.E. Radley

@Reader 11 head over to my Twitter account and on the pinned post you will see a link to download The Road Ahead for free https://twitter.com/A_E_Radley

Reader 6

Road ahead is fantastic @Reader 11

Reader 2

Huntress is a must.

Reader 6

Seconded @Reader 2

Reader 2

And while it isn’t the book for this club, I really enjoyed Second Chances.

Reader 5

Do you have a lot of plot bunnies lying around or do you prefer to work on one thing at a time?

A.E. Radley

@Reader 5 I have a schedule for the next four/five books I’m going to write, but sometimes something will slip in and move everything back. Whenever I get an idea, I email myself with the subject line “Story Note”. Then every now and then I’ll reply to that email and flesh out the idea a little and by the time I get to that project it’s pretty much complete. But I only actually work on one at a time, writing wise!

Reader 5

Oh interesting, I like the emails to self

Reader 2

It’s old school to me. Definitely handy

Reader 6

Do you and Emma have separate offices? How is she doing now?

A.E. Radley

I travel a lot and you never know when the shadow of an idea will pop up. I was in Paris last week and saw something that triggered an idea and just dropped myself a quick email, when I got back to the hotel I’d forgotten all about it, so was very glad to see the email pop up! Really works well for me

@Reader 6 Emma’s doing well, she had the all clear from her doctor back in April and has her second check up next month and will continue with those for the next four years… but hopefully everything has been resolved. We have separate offices because I love her to bits but she’s bloody noisy and I need silence to write!

Reader 6

Lol, do you have a roster for coffee/tea duties

Glad to hear she’s in rem

Reader 9

And what would she say is the best thing about having separate offices from you?

Reader 6

Ooh love that question Reader 9

A.E. Radley

Emma mainly gets me tea to be honest, but that’s just because I get stuck and then hours go by. If she didn’t feed and water me, I’d be dead

Reader 2

were you both writers when you met?

A.E. Radley

She’d probably say that she doesn’t have to worry about disturbing me… she’s super sweet and aware of everyone else’s needs before her own!

Reader 9

Awwwwww

A.E. Radley

@Reader 2 We’d both written fan fiction casually but we weren’t writers as such

Reader 2

Who took the publishing jump first?

A.E. Radley

That was me, Ylva Publishing contacted me and asked if I wanted to take Flight SQA016 from a fan fiction story into a published novel.

Reader 6

I read recently that you’re bi. Another great bi writer told me she’d received hate mail but it’s gotten better recently. Have you had any issues, hate mail?

A.E. Radley

@Reader 6 loads, it was really bad when I first started because I just strolled into some Facebook groups and mentioned I had this book out and they were currently bashing bisexuals, so I stepped in and said I was one… which didn’t go down too well! I got told to leave “lesfic” and find my own group, blah blah. I just ignored it and got louder. I used to be a quiet, reserved bisexual but now I’m very loud about it

Reader 2

I suspect there’s a lot of overlap between bi bashers and terfs. Glad you didn’t back down.

Reader 6

That’s really sad because the community works hard to be accepted then people start to discriminate who should know better

A.E. Radley

@Reader 2 definitely, there’s a few of the same old names who don’t want bisexuals or men anywhere near their precious books. But when you ask “do you only want murderers to write your crime novels?” they don’t have any answer.

Reader 2

Lol fair question.

Reader 9

There’s a really good lesfic fantasy novel plus sequel that I love that is written by a dude. and it’s great! and I don’t give a f*ck

A.E. Radley

@Reader 6 exactly, I was quite naive at first because I assumed that a minority group would support, welcome and protect a similar minority. It really wasn’t the case… but on the bright side, having the vocal discussions with these people meant I found a huge number of supportive people who stood up for me.

Reader 2

Plus they would be shocked at how many lesfic authors are bi or pan.

Reader 1

right i’ve come to notice that

Reader 10

Sorry to interrupt. I have questions on your writing process.

It seems youre more plotter than pantser. How much of your storylines and individual scenes are plotted in advance, versus written on the fly?

Reader 6

Funnily enough he reminds me of my girl crush Ashlyn Harris

Reader 1

oh my

Reader 10

Not including the waiting time, how long does it take from sitting down to start a novel, to the day you hit publish?

Reader 2

Back on topic… what books are coming next

A.E. Radley

@Reader 10 I plot the entire thing before I start writing, so I’ll have an idea of what is going to happen and then fit that into a narrative. For example, Going Up was going to be about a homeless woman and the ice queen who wants rid of her but will also want to help her. From there I’ll build the setting and then will literally write out each chapter, the POV and what happens. So C1 – Kate POV – Kate introduced in situation outside the office. C2 – Selina POV – Selina on the phone to solicitor, sees Kate in the car park etc… all the way until I have the outline. Then I’ll start writing.

Reader 10

How often do you deviate from outlines?

If you ever do.

A.E. Radley

I schedule myself six weeks to write a novel, I’ll have about three to four days doing that outline, then I’ll start actually writing. I’ll have the odd day off during that six weeks or I’ll break my body. Then my copy editor has it for two weeks, then the proof reader has it for about 3/4 weeks depending how busy she is. I stagger my releases, so I have a book ready to go now and I’m writing the one after it. By the time I release the next one in the queue, the second will be in editing and I’ll be onto the third.

Reader 6

Wow that’s some serious plotting there.

READER 3

Some serious planning, too

Reader 6

I think I meant that

Reader 10

Daaaaamn. That’s intense. And impressive. And. Wow.

How many do you plan on publishing before 2020?

READER 3

Have you always been a plotter, or is it something you picked up along the way? (Sorry if that’s already been answered)

Reader 7

Speaking of plotting, if you were to take over the world how would you go about doing it?

A.E. Radley

@Reader 2 next is Lost at Sea! I went on a cruise recently and I wrote about an identity thieving stowaway and the captain… that will be out in September

Reader 5

Just saw the cover for that on Facebook – gorgeous!

Reader 1

sounds riveting can’t wait for it

Reader 10

Does your wife read your stuff while it’s being written? Or does she wait? (Sorry if it’s been discussed.)

A.E. Radley

@Reader 10 sometimes I do change the story as I’m writing, but it’s rare. And if it ever happens, it’s minor and will just be something in the last third of the book. If I think a scene is redundant; I’ll dump it. That kind of thing!

@Reader 10 I have a super secret project coming out next month, then Lost at Sea will be September, and then Bring Holly Home #2 is out in November. I’m a bit behind this year as Emma was sick last year and I took some time out over Christmas 2018!

Reader 10

Follow-up. Do you see the scenes in your head when youre plotting them?

A.E. Radley

@READER 3 I’ve not always been a plotter, but I wrote a couple of stories I couldn’t finish back in my fan fiction days… or they ran on and on and ended up being 200,000 words… so I realised I needed a strict plan to stick to!

READER 3

I think 200k words would kill me dead

A.E. Radley

@Reader 7 taking over the world would seriously impact my writing schedule, I need a runaway hit to live off and then I’ll start that… I believe it’s done through Facebook advertising so shouldn’t be too hard

Reader 5

Haha yup, just keep feeding Facebook what it likes

Reader 1

does make life easier haha

Reader 6

If you could pick a magical power would it be

a) being invisible

b) being able to fly

c) x-ray vision

d) teleporting?

Reader 1

that’s a hard choice…

can I pick all of the above…lol if not at least 2 of them

A.E. Radley

That is SO hard! I’d have to say a) then I could spy on people or be left alone when I wanted. Unless I can teleport WITH someone, then d and Emma and I would travel more!

Reader 1

love that answer

A.E. Radley

@Reader 10 yes, most of my ideas come from one particular scene in my head and then the novel grows from that. So I do often picture the other scenes as I’m writing!

Reader 6

I would always pick a) so I could earwig, be a fly on the wall and cause maximum mayhem to the people I don’t like

A.E. Radley

@Reader 10 because Emma and I both write so much, it’s hard to keep up with each other’s novels so we don’t really read much of each other’s work!

Reader 10

makes sense. Though I think youre both missing out in that case.

Reader 5

Do you have a favorite part of the writing process?

Reader 6

Writing the words ‘The End’

A.E. Radley

@Reader 5 probably the last third of the story, when everything is getting (hopefully) exciting and we’re getting to the point of the story… and nearly finished… because that’s a pretty great bit as well!

Reader 6

Can you tell us the blurb for Holly bk 2? Please?

Reader 10

Seconded. Please. Pretty please. With cherries on top

A.E. Radley

I haven’t written it! I can tell you the title… it’s Keep Holly Close. I usually write the blurb just before I release the book (a few weeks after the cover and editing has been done) because then I’ve been working on something else and can come up with a short snappy blurb because I’m not too involved with it

Reader 6

Beep, first strike, please try again!

Reader 10

What’s the hardest part of writing a novel?

Reader 1

I’ve noticed you have a thing for the name Johnathon – It’s a very popular name in your books. do you find coming up with names easy or hard?

A.E. Radley

@Reader 10 for me, it’s not taking too long a break because then getting back into the process can be quite difficult. I have a truly terrible memory so I need to have a clear run at a novel with as few breaks as possible. Sometimes life or a broken body makes that hard!

Reader 10

So, it isnt the writing exactly, but the life that tends to interrupt it? Maybe?

A.E. Radley

@Reader 1 I hate coming up with names, Huntress had six… yes, six, David’s in it. Every single man that they came across was called David. My editor caught them and I had to go back and come up with different names! But I’m far worse with male characters because they usually don’t play a very important part in the story… sorry boys!

@Reader 10 yes, and lack of memory skills! Having to keep all the threads going

Reader 6

You could google top 100 boys names?

Reader 2

I had three Jon’s between two books too. 😉

Reader 1

haha totally agree there. boys names are hard. unless your using them as girl names haha

A.E. Radley

@Reader 6 I do that more now… I think it was just as I was writing I came up with a man’s name quickly in order to carry on writing… so they are all Jonathan or David!

Might carry on that trend! A.E. Radley, no sex and everyone is called Jonathan or David

Reader 2

Lol yep

Reader 1

there you go

READER 3

My characters are all named after the people they are 100% NOT based on. Because, you know…it’s fictional.

Reader 6

John Doe, wonder if anyone has used that very much, like ever?

Reader 1

for dead bodies or missing identities lol

Reader 6

So will you never ever write a sex scene,? You came close in the big uneasy almost last page and then ….. nope

Ha ha I’m being pedantic

A.E. Radley

I have a bad guy in a book and I named him after my brother… because he was a brat 25 years ago. Writers always remember

I probably will at some point, something really graphic just so all the proper ladies safely reading my books drop their monocles into their teacups.

Reader 6

Save it for the big uneasy sequel. You could pick it up from where Rebecca’s in the park….

A.E. Radley

And call it “The Moderately Easy”

Reader 6

Or ‘so you think I’m easy?’

Reader 1

yes please let it be M&A sequel when you get around to it!!

A.E. Radley

Okay, I have time for a couple more questions if anyone has any?

Reader 10

Is there any chapter or plot point you would rewrite?

In any of your books.

Reader 1

which book is your favorite so far?

Reader 7

Is there are genre outside of lesbian romance you’ve thought about attempting? And is there a genre you will probably never attempt?

A.E. Radley

@Reader 10 I’d rewrite a lot of Flight and Grounded because I didn’t get to have the final say in those!

@Reader 1 Bring Holly Home is my favourite, I was happy with the storyline coming together the way it did and people seemed to respond well to it so that was nice!

Reader 1

nice.

A.E. Radley

@Reader 7 I have published a crime book, it had been sitting on my hard drive half completed for ten years so I decided to just get it out there in the end! As for genres I’d never attempt, straight romance!

Reader 7

So fantasy with dragons and magic is not on the blacklist?

A.E. Radley

No, although Emma would be much better at that than I would be! I’m not a big fantasy fan, but then it just takes the correct inspiration!

Reader 10

Oooh, making a tinderbox was excellent. Yes.

Thank you so much for taking time out of your Sunday night to answer our questions! I have to put pants on and go grocery shopping.

Thank you!

A.E. Radley

You’re welcome! I better get going as well. Thank you all for coming along, and for reading my books! I really appreciate it

Reader 2

Do you have any questions for us?

We appreciate you writing them

Reader 4

thanks for writing them!

Reader 2

They are always entertaining and different

A.E. Radley

Thank you, @Reader 2!

Have a lovely Sunday everyone!

Sneak Peek: Love Trauma

Krys Stevens is the best trauma doctor at Lakeside Hospital. She runs the ER like a finely choreographed dance, she has coworkers she calls friends, and she’s a superstar at the free clinic where she volunteers. What more could an ambitious young doctor want? One day, a patient arrives in the ER intubated with a ballpoint pen and changes everything – that’s how Krys meets Darcy, a former combat medic and a woman after her own heart.

My latest novel, LOVE TRAUMA, is available now on Amazon. Read the first chapter below.

Graduation day was a warm May afternoon and for about an hour, Krys Stevens was able to ignore the pager clipped to her hip.

That was pretty rare for her. She’d been working in the emergency department of Lakeside Hospital for almost five years and she could count on one hand the number of times she requested a day off. She always jumped to answer every page and took any extra shifts she could because there was nowhere in the world she’d rather be than in the ER, saving lives.

But today the hospital would have to get by without Krys Stevens because she was here to watch her friends become doctors.

She found a seat near the bottom of the bleachers of Northwestern’s stadium, where she might be able to catch the attention of Megan, Ivy and Chloe as they walked across the stage set up in the center of the football field. There were thousands of other people there, proud parents and friends, but Krys wanted the girls to know she’d come to support them. They were an eclectic bunch, worming their way into her life by force at times, but she had grown to love them by now.

Krys was in her seat and ready for the ceremony to start by eleven-fifteen, and she had about forty-five minutes to kill. Fortunately for her, she’d planned to get some work done while she waited. She had a rolled-up medical journal tucked under her arm along with the graduation program she’d been handed at the stadium entrance, but first she had a few emails to catch up on.

That was one thing about the ER that she’d never gotten used to – no matter how efficiently she triaged and treated her patients, the paperwork never stopped piling up. The possibility of coming out to support her friends and then getting some work done while everyone else crossed the stage was appealing in more ways than one.

She was just tapping out a reply on her phone to Russell, her boss at the free clinic where she moonlighted, when she heard someone shout, “Krys! Hey, Krys Stevens!”

She looked up – it might be like finding a needle in a haystack to locate the source of her name in a crowd of thousands. But then a couple of hands went up and she saw some familiar faces. There was Alex – Megan’s fiancée – and Dr. Thomas from the pediatrics department standing up and waving to her from a few rows over.

Krys waved back and Alex cupped her hands around her mouth to shout, “Come sit with us!”

Krys looked longingly down at her medical journal – The Annals of Emergency Medicine, which she’d been intending to read for weeks now – and then tucked it under her arm and picked her way across the rows of bleachers to them.

“Hi,” she said as she slid into a seat at the end of the row.

“We thought you’d be working, or else we would have invited you to come with us,” Dr. Thomas said.

She was wearing a flowing floral dress and she looked exactly the same as she did in the hospital, minus the white coat and stethoscope.

Alex, on the other hand, looked like a whole new woman without her navy paramedic’s uniform. Krys saw her on a daily basis in the ER and she hardly recognized the girl with the carefully curled hair and the feminine-cut blouse sitting in front of her. Then again, Krys didn’t look much like herself today, either.

She’d foregone her usual utilitarian ponytail, for one thing, and she felt out of sorts without her hospital scrubs.

“I’m glad you came,” Alex said. “It’ll mean a lot to the girls. Have you met Megan’s parents?”

She gestured further down the bleachers to a woman who was unmistakably Megan’s mom, complete with fiery red hair and delicate freckles across the bridge of her nose. Beside her sat a man with a warm smile and his arm around his wife’s shoulders. Krys reached down the row to them, shaking their hands over Alex and Lily’s laps.

“Are Ivy and Chloe’s parents here?” she asked.

“Yeah, but they drove separately and we haven’t been able to locate them,” Alex said. “It’s okay – we’ll catch up with them at the reception afterward. Are you sticking around for that?”

She was talking about the cocktail hour that the university was putting on after the graduation was over. Krys was planning to attend it and make an immediate beeline for Ivy, Chloe and Megan so she could congratulate them, then get back into the action for a night shift at the free clinic. Instead of admitting all this, though, she said, “Yeah, for a little while.”

“Good,” Alex said. “You need to get away from the hospital more often.”

Krys rolled her eyes good-naturedly, and when Alex turned her attention back to her future in-laws, she wondered if it would be rude to go back to her emails. Plus there was an intriguing article about cystic fibrosis that she’d been meaning to read…

“Did you bring a medical journal to a graduation ceremony?” Dr. Thomas asked, as if she were reading Krys’s mind. Then she swiped the journal out of Krys’s lap to confirm her suspicions. “Seriously?”

“We’re here to support Chloe Barnes, Megan Callahan, and Ivy Chan,” Krys pointed out. “What are you planning to do while everyone from D through Z walks across the stage, Dr. Thomas?”

“Be supportive,” she said with an amused grin. “And we’re not in the hospital – call me Lily.”

“Only if you give back the journal,” Krys said. The prospect of wasting two whole hours that she could be using for professional development made her want to break out in hives. Dr. Thomas – err, Lily – handed back the journal and Krys flipped it open, finding the article she wanted. Then she passed it back to Lily. “Have you read this? It’s about treating respiratory distress in the ER – I figured it might be useful for the next time Malik comes in.”

A shadow fell briefly over Lily’s face, and then she smiled.

“Let me check it out,” she said. She and Krys had both spent a lot of time with their young CF patient, and he was everyone’s favorite patient when he came in for his breathing treatments. Lily gave Krys a side-eye, then closed the journal and slipped it into her purse, saying, “after the ceremony. You’re here to support your friends, so be present in the moment, hon.”

The idea made Krys feel itchy, but Lily had a point.

After a few minutes, the crowd settled down and the first few bars of Pomp and Circumstance could be heard over the speakers. As the music grew louder, everyone stood and the graduates began filing onto the field, taking seats in the white folding chairs that were set up in front of the stage.

Krys and her group cheered when they saw the girls come out – Megan and Chloe with bejeweled and decorated mortarboards, and Ivy holding her chin high, her posture impeccable. Their backs were to the audience but Krys clapped loudly for them and laughed when Alex let out a whoop for Megan.

“Chloe starts her residency with me next week,” Lily said as they spotted her. “She’s going to make a great pediatrician.”

“They’re all going to be good clinicians,” Krys said. Then she laughed and added, “Ivy practically bullied me into being her mentor, so I guess we don’t have to worry about them taking an active role in their careers.”

The football field slowly transformed into a sea of purple and black robes. Ivy and Megan were two of the most decorated graduates, with multiple honor cords hanging from their necks, and Chloe used her charm to bribe the other graduates to sit down out of order so that she could squeeze Ivy’s hand throughout the ceremony.

It was about two hours long, and Lily had been right about the medical journal. Even though Krys only knew three faces in the crowd, she felt proud and invigorated to watch over a hundred and fifty new doctors receive their diplomas.

Hell, it made her want to race back to the ER as soon as she could to pour out that prideful energy on her patients.

Beside her, Lily clapped for each and every student that walked across the stage, and their whole group stood and cheered loudly as Chloe, then Megan, then Ivy received their diplomas. They were able to locate Ivy’s family sitting at the bottom of the bleachers near the field because while she was shaking the dean’s hand, her brother stood up and screamed, “Congratulations, big sis!”

Ivy scowled at him for embarrassing her and Krys couldn’t help smiling. It must be both a blessing and a curse to have siblings who took pride in humbling you during your most significant moments.

***

After the ceremony was over, Krys went with Lily, Alex and Megan’s parents to the reception. There was an enormous white tent set up on the lawn not far from the stadium, with refreshments stations set up beneath it, along with quite a few tables dressed in fine white linens. The five of them got drinks and then sat down to wait for the graduates to pour in.

Krys checked her pager, more out of habit than for any other reason. She wasn’t on call today and she wasn’t due back at the hospital for another sixteen hours, but she never truly forgot the weight of the little black pager that lived forever on her hip. As she was getting ready for the ceremony this morning, she’d stood in front of the mirror in her bathroom and looked at herself in the navy dress pants and flowing summer blouse she’d chosen, and she felt naked until she clipped the pager to her waistband.

“Didn’t you request the whole day off?” Lily asked when she noticed Krys glancing at her hip.

“I did,” Krys said. “But you know how things can be in an emergency department. They can get overwhelmed easily and sometimes they call me to fill in even when I’m not on call.”

“Do you ever stop working?” Lily asked as she sipped on her glass of chardonnay.

Krys had opted for an iced tea with lemon, just in case. She smiled and said, “Not if I can help it.”

Lily gave her a slightly disappointed look that reminded Krys of her mother, then said, “Don’t burn yourself out, girl.”

Krys was saved from the lecture as the graduates arrived at the reception. A sea of purple robes invaded the tent as everyone spread out, locating their loved ones and enjoying the celebration. Megan made it to the table first, greeting Alex with a kiss and then hugging her parents. Krys spotted Ivy and Chloe entering the tent hand-in-hand, but they went to round up their own parents before joining the group.

“I wish your brother could have been here,” Megan’s mom was saying.

“It’s fine,” Megan said. “He’s in college now – I don’t blame him for not wanting to come home for this.”

“You only graduate from medical school once,” her mom objected, and then she let the subject slide and said, “You looked so beautiful crossing the stage, honey.”

“Thank you, mommy,” Megan said. Then she turned to Krys, pulling her into an unexpected embrace. Krys flushed for a moment – she wasn’t used to being part of a group like this and it always took her off-guard when these girls treated her as more than just a coworker. By the time Megan released her, she’d gotten her color under control again and Megan said, “I’m so glad you came, Krys.”

“I am, too,” she answered. “How does it feel to be a doctor?”

Amazing,” Megan said. She grabbed Alex’s hand and said, “Now I have everything I ever wanted.”

“Barf,” Ivy interjected as she led Chloe and their parents over to join the group. “Get a room.”

Megan laughed and kissed Alex’s hand, where a sparkling diamond ring circled her finger, and then they all pulled a second table over, joining the two so everyone could sit together. Ivy and Chloe introduced their parents to the group and Krys was amused at how much they mirrored the girls.

Ivy’s family – except for her rambunctious brother – was stoic and reserved like Ivy had been when Krys first met her. Meanwhile, Chloe’s mom, dad, and teenage sister were all very expressive, hugging her and jumping right into the conversation with vigor. That was going to make an interesting family dynamic if one day they all became in-laws.

“What do you two think?” Lily asked the new arrivals Krys’s question. “How does it feel?”

“Terrifying,” Chloe said with a nervous laugh. “I’m allowed to practice medicine all by myself now. I can’t believe it.”

“I’ll be right by your side,” Lily said. “You’ll do fine.”

“Of course you will,” Ivy agreed. “And I can’t wait to do some cutting.”

“Surgeons,” Krys said. “You’re all alike. What about you, Megan? Where are you doing your residency?”

“At the coroner’s office,” she said. “I’ve been keeping in touch with Dr. Markovich ever since our medical school rotations and he agreed to mentor me on top of the usual residency. Although that might have to happen in my sleep for the first couple of months because I don’t know when I’ll find the time.” She linked her arm in Alex’s and added, “Wedding planning is way more work than we were expecting.”

“I offered to plan it for you two,” her mother said. “I did warn you.”

“And we appreciate the offer, but we want to have our wedding,” Megan said with a smile. “Not yours.”

“July, right?” Krys asked.

She’d been surprised and honored when she received their Save the Date in her hospital mailbox, and that was another date she’d been happy to request time off work for, although she suddenly realized that her RSVP card had gotten buried under a pile of medical journals in her apartment.

“Yep,” Alex said, giving Megan a quick kiss on the cheek. “And you better not show up stag.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Krys asked. She hadn’t even begun to consider the possibility of bringing a date. The idea seemed preposterous, in fact. When would she have the time to find someone?

Megan put on an act of hardship, ticking off all the reasons why Krys should bring a date. “It throws off the caterers and the seating arrangements will be a mess. Everything we order, from party favors to linens, seems to come in even numbers…”

“You’re just trying to couple everyone up because you’re in love,” Krys said.

“And what’s wrong with that?” Megan asked, putting her arm around Alex. “Everyone should be so lucky.”

“Seriously, you’re nauseating,” Ivy said, but she scooted her chair a little closer to Chloe’s and slid her hand more covertly into her girlfriend’s beneath the table.

The conversation turned to Ivy and Chloe’s plans next. They’d finally decided after half a year of bouncing back and forth between their two apartments that it was time to take the plunge and move in together, and their families were going to help them relocate while they were in town this weekend.

Ivy was just discussing the challenges of moving in together and beginning a rigorous surgical residency all in the same week when Krys felt her phone vibrating in the pocket of her pants.

“I’m sorry,” she said, excusing herself from the table. She didn’t get many phone calls. Her parents called from Denver once a week, but never on a Saturday afternoon, so that meant only one thing – either the hospital or the clinic needed her. She could feel her heart rate increasing already.

It turned out to be Russell, asking if she could come in and cover the free clinic after one of the other doctors got called in to work an extra shift at his day job. Krys said she’d be happy to, and then she went back to the table to say goodbye to the new graduates.

“I’m sorry to bow out, but I’ve got some patients waiting for me at the free clinic,” she said, trying to ignore the disapproving look Lily was giving her. “Congratulations, everyone. It was so good to see you

graduate, and I’m proud of all of you.”

Megan, Ivy and Chloe had come a long way since Krys met them in the early years of their medical education, and she had no doubt they’d go on to become fine doctors. As such, she knew they would understand why she needed to leave.

They all said goodbye, and then Krys headed out of the tent. Behind her, she heard Ivy saying, “It just made sense to move in together, although I do have a study carrel reserved at the library in case I need to get away to catch up on my reading.”

Krys smirked and just before she got out of earshot, she heard Chloe quip, “We haven’t even moved in together yet and she’s already making plans to escape.”

Lesfic Book Club: The Brutal Truth

For our July meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Lee Winter’s novel, The Brutal Truth. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

Want to add a caption to this image? Click the Settings icon.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc

Lee Winter

Hi everyone.

Reader 1

Hello!

Reader 2

Welcome, Lee, thanks for coming!

Reader 5

Hey Lee welcome

Lee Winter

Thanks for asking me

Reader 6

Yay!

Reader 7

Thanks for writing it!

Lee Winter

Lol

Reader 7

That sounded less weird in my head.

Reader 3

Awesome writer person thingy has arrived!

Reader 6

Things always sound less weird in our head @Reader 7

Reader 7

Some of the things in my head sound weird even up there…

Reader 2

So one quick housekeeping note, Lee. We usually end up with a bunch of questions all being asked at once. You can answer them however you want (in the channel or as a thread by hovering over the question and hitting ‘start a thread’) – up to you!

Reader 7

Im gonna stop talking now

Lee Winter

Thanks!

Reader 8

Savage lol

Reader 2

So we can get started whenever you guys are ready. What did you all think of The Brutal Truth?

Reader 6

So damn good

Reader 3

Loved it.

Lee Winter

Meh It was okay

Reader 8

Ridiculously fantastic

Reader 1

Wonderful! I found myself reading longer than I intended, a couple of times, because I was enjoying it and wanting to find out what would happen next!

Reader 3

Didn’t love that I forgot all about it until about 4am though and had to rush to read it all before the club meeting.

Reader 6

Seriously, @Lee Winter do you read your own stuff and still find flaws?

Reader 4

Loved it

Reader 3

For some reason I thought I had another week.

Lee Winter

I tend to toss the match on the pyre and walk away once a book is published. I don’t like reading it again

Reader 2

Did you get through it all, @Reader 3?

Reader 3

I did.

Lee Winter

With one exception

Reader 4

The narrator for the audio version was fantastic as well

Reader 5

Its amazing

Lee Winter

Love Angela Dawe

Reader 6

She’s a master

Reader 9

What’s the exception?

Reader 3

My first question, if Maddie and Elena were mixed drinks, what drinks would they be? And if you want to answer for other characters I would not object.

Lee Winter

Breaking Character. I seem to be in a weird feedback loop on it. Keep rereading it

Reader 8

In a good way?

Lee Winter

Ugh a drinks question for a non drinker. Lol.

Yes in a good way

Maddie would be lemon lime and bitters

I wouldn’t presume to speak for Elena. Hell no

Reader 5

Yum and can totally see that

Probably best not too

Reader 3

I’ll just blame Simon for that question.

Lee Winter

Haha

Reader 6

Maybe you keep re-reading it so you can write a sequel. *crosses fingers*

Lee Winter

I have been writing the spinoff at the moment

Reader 4

Lee, Elena seemed to model Miranda Priestly to some extent. Was that your intention?

Reader 7

What was the hardest part of the book to write?

Lee Winter

It was originally a Mirandy fanfic years ago, so yes, I would hope so.

Reader 4

As a reader, I say well done

Reader 6

And as a person that has no clue about all that stuff, I’ll say it stands very well on it’s own

Reader 5

So three questions from one that can not be here…she wanted to know which character are you most like? Which would you kill? And which would you marry?

Lee Winter

Hardest part… it didn’t really have one. How weird now I think of it

Reader 8

Did you have a favorite line or scene?

Lee Winter

Reader 6 that is awesome to hear. I worked hard to remove its origins from it

Reader 3

What was the hardest part to research?

Lee Winter

Reader 5… most like Maddie, I would kill skeezy Richard, and marry Elena

Favorite scene was in front of the mirror at Australian fashion week when Elena’s gaze is roaming

Reader 8

Yeah…good pick.

Reader 5

Haha agreed

Reader 9

agreed with fav scene

Lee Winter

Hardest parts to research was all things fashion. God I’m useless at it

Reader 6

You faked it well

Lee Winter

Thanks. Lol

Reader 6

Not that I’d know, but they all sounded very fashiony

Lee Winter

I had to learn about things like peplum

Whatevs

Lol

Reader 4

@Reader 6, watch Devil Wears Prada

Reader 5

And another….was the book always meant to have a #metoo aspect to it?

Reader 6

Why, when I have this book? lol

Lee Winter

Metoo… god this is weird. I wrote the book and fanfic of course long before metoo. That hit almost as it was launching

Reader 6

good timing then

Lee Winter

One of the first reviews sneered at that saying well that’s so archaic….and then metoo hit

Lol

Reader 8

I want to say that something I (an ace) appreciate about this book is the emphasis on the “falling,” and not focused on the sex.

Reader 2

Agreed, the character development and the romance both went so much further in depth than you typically get and it was great.

Reader 8

Exactly. I was as pulled to them as they were to each other. Their entire journey was an exReader 7ence I wish I could relive again for the very first time.

Reader 1

I also appreciated that when it came to Elena. Some books, the “mean” partner is so overwhelmingly defined by that trait that I can’t see how the other character actually came to love them in the end. Where in Brutal Truth, even when Elena was being mean, I could see and empathize with her, so it was easy to root for them to come together.

Reader 8

Agreed. Because there is so much depth

Reader 5

Nice

Reader 6

archaic? weird…

Lee Winter

Thank you Reader 8

Not everyone sees what they aren’t affected by, Reader 6. So to her it was archaic…until it wasn’t

Reader 3

What is Maddie’s favorite thing to cook/bake?

Reader 2

Agreed, the character development and the romance both went so much further in depth than you typically get and it was great.

Reader 5

I love the aspect of falling…its always more the journey to the destination that makes my heart skip

Lee Winter

I think she loves apple crumble things…gooey and sweet

I always prefer the journey to the being in love

Reader 7

In books and in movies, that’s what most stories focus on. What made you want to adapt that fanfic into a full novel?

Lee Winter

It had so much love as a fanfic. Like it was my second most popular fic by a long long way. And I couldn’t adapt my most popular (it started with rape ffs), and I really liked Brutal Truth so it just seemed like the thing to do. I wouldn’t do it again though. I hated the people dismissing it because it was a fanfic. May as well just stick to writing other stuff

Reader 4

@Lee Winter, I loved the way you wrote the sex scene.

It felt artful as opposed to slapped on

Reader 8

Do you still write fanfic?

Lee Winter

Thanks Reader 4… I try to have sex scenes as an extension of the story…they tell us more about the people, rather than who is inserting what into whom. 🙂

Just barely, Reader 8. I have one outstanding from a year ago I keep meaning to finish

Reader 2

Do you work on multiple projects at a time?

READER 10

Forgive me for being late to the club, I’m at work. My question would probably be what has been the hardest part about going from fanfic to full blown novels? Or are they each hard in their own way?

Lee Winter

Nah, one project at a time mainly.

Reader 7

What is your writing process? Not in this specific case. But do you start with the characters, or story, or ?

Actually, in this case, too.

Reader 6

and the eternal plotting vs pantsing.

Lee Winter

Great question READER 10. You have to really step up in quality and standards and editing, and be really on the ball or else it reads like fanfiction and that’s not on since people are paying for it

Reader 7, I am a great plotter who won’t write a word till I have the whole story in my head. I will work out characters, twists, all of it before I write a word.

READER 10

My kingdom to be that organized.

Lee Winter

Haha

Reader 7

Do you chart it? Paper, computer, notecards all over. This stuff is so fascinating.

Reader 11

Where do you gain inspiration for characters and plots?

Reader 6

wow

Lee Winter

Scrivener is a godsend. And yes, I have timelines and charts and everything. Looks like CSI

Reader 6

That type of plotting feels like magic to me. lol

Lee Winter

Inspiration often comes from news stories and wondering what if….

Reader 8

Magic!

Reader 4

@Lee Winter, I understand you’re a journalist, or at least was.

What was it like moving to fiction world?

Reader 6

How did you get so damn good at writing? I’ve been binging, a you know, and I’m just in awe.

READER 10

Do you ever listen to a conversation and think, “That’s going in a book.”

Reader 7

Is there something you would change to either the characters or the plot, if you could?

Lee Winter

Reader 4… surreal. It is quite different writing non fiction to flinging myself into a world of fictional lesbians

Reader 6. Journalism. Thirty years of it helps. A lot.

READER 10…more like…that person will be in my book

Reader 6

It’s still a leap to write short journalism pieces vs long novels.

Lee Winter

Reader 6 yes it really is. Quire different writing styles too. Fanfic helped me figure it out

Reader 2

What’s your favorite aspect or part of writing a new book?

Lee Winter

Reader 7… no, I don’t think so. I am in a comfy place about Brutal Truth

Reader 7

How long did it take you get to that point? Did you write it and tada? Or did you go back and change things often?

Reader 11

Are you in the process of writing a new book now?

Lee Winter

Reader 2…the excitement of watching them connect. The chemistry of discovering two new people discovering their interest in someone else. It’s like falling in love for me

Reader 12

How do you, personally, feel about brutal honesty?

Lee Winter

About four drafts to get there, Reader 7

Reader 7

Whoa. 4 distinct drafts? How much time was that?

Lee Winter

Reader 12… I live with a gf who is brutally honest. It can be interesting.

Reader 6

So does she read your books, or is that a no go?

Reader 2

And you’re published through Ylva. Do you work heavily with their editors during that part of

the process?

Lee Winter

New book? Yep am on draft five (one more than normal!) of a Breaking Character spinoff called Changing the Script. It’s about director Alex stuck in NZ making the world’s worst movie, Shezan: Mistress of the Forest … and she keeps thoroughly pissing off the cute local cop

Reader 6

ooooh awesome

Reader 7

Exciting plot!

Lee Winter

Four drafts is about seven months

Reader 11

Can’t wait!

Reader 5

Love the plot!

Reader 7

7 months. Wow. That is incredible.

Lee Winter

Reader 2… Next I will get three Ylva editors go through my book.

Reader 4

I remember buying Requiem for Mortals just because I read you’re Aussie.

But, damn, I got hooked on your writing.

Lee Winter

Reader 4 … maaaate

Reader 6

We have quite a few aussies here

READER 10

do you ever run into…let’s say “creative differences” with your editors?

Reader 2

Oh wow, on top of your 4 drafts? No wonder it’s perfection

Reader 7

Whoa. You write 4 or 5 versions. Then the editors get it?

Lee Winter

Reader 2, glad you think so!

Yes Reader 7

Reader 11

Melbourne represent!

Lee Winter

Good question, READER 10. I had a few discussions over one book but I prevailed. See I could see it playing in my head and knew it had to be that way while the editor couldn’t see it. She finally understood and let me keep what I wanted to do there. But most of the time I change stuff when editors make a good case

READER 10

I can understand that. Has anything they’ve had you change ever drastically altered the course of the book?

Lee Winter

No. Not drastically. Sometimes I’ve been asked to add a scene and usually it value adds to the book

For eg in Requiem I had forgotten to include the exact moment Requiem decides she can’t kill Alison. Kinda important. Editor pointed it out and I added the scene.

READER 10

oh goodness! points for good editor

Reader 6

lol oops

Lee Winter

Yes indeed. The good ones are worth their weight in gold

Reader 2

Do you have a least favorite part of the writing process?

Lee Winter

I hate the editing process. By the time we get there I am SO done with a book I’ve been working on for ages

Reader 3

I am blanking out on the questions today…

READER 10

so you said it usually takes several months to get done with the drafts. Once it finally goes to the editor, how long does it usually take to get to the shelves?

Reader 3

Oh! What is the most exciting part about writing for you?

Or I guess if I rephrased it, what is it about writing that excites you (the most)?

Reader 4

What’s your writing regime?

Set hours? Anytime? Quite place? Music blaring? Etc.

Lee Winter

READER 10 six months. Not because it takes the editors that long but it’s part of a publishing company schedule and lots of other books need attention too, so that’s a rule of thumb

Reader 3…I love it when I fall in love with a protagonist. When I dream about her.

Reader 11

That’s so cute.

Lee Winter

Reader 4… every day at my desk at home by eight am, work through to five. If I’m having a hard time writing I will play music that I link to that particular book.

Reader 11

So disciplined!

Reader 2

Ooh cool, do you share your playlists with your readers?

Lee Winter

Well I have bills. 🙂

I shared the Requiem playlist with readers. It’s on youtube and everything

Reader 2

Nice!

Reader 4

Great list

Reader 3

Who would you say is your favorite protagonist currently?

Lee Winter

Elizabeth Thornton from Breaking Character. Bloody woman got under my skin so bad. I’m trash for her

READER 10

Do particular scenes have particular musical themes, or does an entire book have one set feeling?

Reader 2

And is all of that part of the aforementioned plotting spreadsheets and diagrams?

Lee Winter

The entire book will often have a music vibe. Eg Shattered was Sound of Silence by Disturbed.

Reader 2, no the music either happens or it doesn’t

Reader 9

good song

Reader 4

Back to the 4 drafts, whose input do you use in those? Your only, beta readers, etc.

Lee Winter

Yeah

Me for the first two drafts, beta readers for the third. Sometimes…my brutally honest gf for the fourth, if I’m feeling brave

If you follow me on fb I’ve been posting some of her helpful editing comments. Hilarious and biting

Reader 2

Oh ouch

Lee Winter

I call it the acid and marshmallow edits

Reader 2

Is your girlfriend a creative type (aka do you ever get to serve the acid and marshmallows back the other way)?

Lee Winter

She writes for a hobby, not to share. She’s funny and talented

Reader 2

That reminds me, I was going to ask where you most like to interact with your readers. Facebook then?

Lee Winter

Facebook yes

Reader 4

Better than bad reviews because of bad edits

Lee Winter

Leewinteroz on fb

Reader 6

You are brave.

Lee Winter

Agreed Reader 4

Reader 8

Good question Reader 2.

Lee Winter

Better to be brave than critically panned, Reader 6. 🙂

Reader 6

True

Reader 2

Who are some of your favorite authors, Lee?

Reader 4

I hate FB

Lee Winter

I am mad for fellow Aussie author Jess Lea. Lola Keeley, British author and famous fanficcer also known as fictorium. Roslyn Sinclair (who wrote the greatest fanfic ever as Telanu) and Alex K. Thorne. But the best descriptive writer I’ve ever read is Fiona Zedde

Reader 3

Have you every written something that has surprised you?

READER 10

tried looking on fb, not finding them

Lee Winter

Brutal Truth surprised me. All those blogs Maddie wrote, Aliens of New York, they weren’t in the fanfic. They turned out surprisingly deep and reflective

Reader 6

And, the style was so different from the rest of the story.

Reader 2

Yes, those were my favorite parts

That and how, well, brutal Elena came off in her first scene

Reader 5

I love the blogs. I think they are my favourite parts of the books

Lee Winter

Thanks. In a way they’re mine in that I didn’t know my brain could do that

Reader 5

Well what an even more beautiful brain

READER 10

Where do you come up with the names for your characters?

Lee Winter

They just come to me. I try them on for size and see if they mentally fit

Reader 3

Is there a question that you are hoping that someone will ask but hasn’t been asked yet, and if so then what is it?

Lee Winter

Does this link work? https://www.facebook.com/100010034048069/posts/904191246592002?sfns=mo

facebook.com

Since so many people asked for more of my gf’s acid/marshmallow editing notes on my WIP, I’ve dived into my recycle bin and collected some snark-astic highlights of my book. This also means I get to…

Reader 6

yes

Reader 7

Those are gold.

READER 10

omg those are hilarious

Lee Winter

Back in one minute. Just enjoy the eviscerations of my gf while I’m gone

Reader 2

I imagine having a super snarky editor/beta reader takes some of the sting out of the criticism, that’s great.

Reader 6

these are amazing

Reader 2

Definitely props for letting her do that to a manuscript more than once. I would probably still be crying

READER 10

“You forgot to mention the crows pecked out the other eye” lmao

Reader 7

Some of that snark can’t be fixed with kisses…hm

I love it.

Reader 6

Impressive snark

And now I feel better about editing comments in general. lol

Reader 2

Same!

Lee Winter

Am back. Yes snark on that level requires a thick skin and twenty years together to sail through

Reader 11

Those burns…

Reader 7

Awwww. 20 years?! Congrats. Yea. At that point you know the love is there…regardless

Reader 6

It definitely helps

Lee Winter

It’s true. I don’t recommend this level of scathing for new couples

Reader 2

Haha yeah that could stop a new relationship in its tracks

READER 10

What was your reaction the first time the acid came out?

Lee Winter

She’s always been like this. She believes in the brutal truth in all things. Sound familiar?

Reader 5

No wonder you named a novel that?!

Lee Winter

It seemed apt

Reader 2

Fascinating – I’ve always liked the abstract concept of radical honesty but it seemed like fiction

Reader 12

No wonder you said you’re like Maddie and would marry Elena

Reader 2

I’m sure when she gives you a compliment it’s the best feeling in the world

Lee Winter

True, Elle. And Reader 2 it’s like gold dust. Rare and precious

Reader 7

awwww

Reader 5

Even better!

Reader 4

Do you have “long term” list of books to write?

Lee Winter

I realise now I have always grown up in a blunt family so hearing brutal truths was not unusual for me. It didn’t bother me finding a love like this

Reader 5

Which book is your favorite that you wrote so far?

READER 10

What advice would you give for those of us who are thinking of publishing for the first time?

for the aspiring authors in the group, I should say

Lee Winter

Fave book is a tie … Requiem and Breaking Character

Reader 5

Why those two??

Lee Winter

Reader 4 I have a few ideas longterm bumping around I’d like to get to one day.

READER 10

I swear I know how to type, yall

Lee Winter

Requiem…dark and different, it absorbed me. Breaking Character…structurally it’s my best written book, and Thornton owns my bloody ovaries, damned woman

Reader 6

lol

Lee Winter

Advice for writers…get better with fanfic. If you’re interested in specifics I wrote a blog about this once

Reader 7

Please

Reader 5

Love that! Lol

Reader 2

We are a little past the top of the hour, don’t want to hold Lee up from starting her day so does anyone else have questions they haven’t gotten to ask yet? Speak now or forever hold your peace

Lee Winter

Ylva Publishing

From Fanfic to Lesfic Author—8 Steps to Get You Published – Ylva Publishing

From fanfiction to lesbian fiction author – Lee Winter gives 8 tips and tricks to help fanfiction writers get published.

Sep 10th, 2017

Reader 3

Do you have anything you’d want to tell writers to avoid doing?

Lee Winter

For the love of all things holy avoid head-hopping POVs in the same scene. Just get that right and your writing will be so much better

Reader 11

Yes. Please stop dressing characters in Capri pants.

Lee Winter

That means we aren’t in two people’s thoughts in the same scene

In my getting published blog above there’s a link to pet peeves… funny stuff

Reader 11

Do you have a favourite book overall (not necessarily lesfic)?

Lee Winter

It changes, so I don’t think so. Last year it was A Curious Woman by Jess Lea. But it’ll be different again in another six months

Reader 5

Lol mine changes a lot too, a new one keeps coming out and topping my last favourite book.

Reader 2

Which is a great problem to have haha

Well, thank you so much for joining us, Lee!

Lee Winter

No problem

Reader 2

Your trophy for withstanding the barrage of questions is in the mail

Lee Winter

Woot!

If anyone wants to subscribe to my newsletter I often put out short stories for free and so on. Leewinterauthor.com. Thanks for the great questions

Sneak Peek: Mind Games

My latest novel, MIND GAMES, is available now on Amazon. It’s the first book in my new Fox County Forensics series blending romance with a CSI-style dive into forensic investigation.

Read the first chapter below.

“Today is the day,” Kelsey Granger told herself as she put her hand on the door of the Fox County Coroner’s Office.

She was alone in front of the building, her light brown hair pulled back in a professional ponytail and the top of her head growing warm in the late afternoon sun the longer she stood still.

It had only been a minute or two and she was pretty sure no one had seen her lingering there – inside the glass door there was a small lobby where the day shift receptionist, Reese, sat. She was always gone by the time Kelsey arrived for the night shift, but today she had come in early.

Today was a special day.

Reese’s desk was off to the side of the lobby and she’d have to lean over the counter to see Kelsey standing there like a dork with her hand on the door, doing her little ritual.

Better safe than sorry, though.

Kelsey put her hand back down at her side and took a deep breath, filling her lungs with hot summer air. It was a big day for her and she wanted everything to be perfect. She put her hand on the door one more time and said, “Tonight is the night. You can do this.”

There – that time felt right.

She tilted her chin up and pulled the door open, then went inside. The air conditioning hit her immediately, chilly against her bare arms in a short-sleeved button-up blouse. She smiled toward the desk. “Hi, Reese. Were we busy today?”

“Not particularly,” the girl said with a shrug.

She was in her early twenties like Kelsey, but unlike Kelsey, Reese didn’t seem fazed by anything other than office gossip. There could have been a mass casualty today and she would probably still have answered Kelsey’s small talk question with that nonchalant Not particularly.

Today, though, she gave Kelsey a second glance on her way through the lobby. “Slow days usually mean busy nights. You ready?”

Kelsey clenched her teeth to keep her smile from fading as a ripple of nerves rolled through her midsection, but she kept her chin up. “Sure am – I can’t wait for my first solo case.”

“Give ‘em hell, Kel,” Reese said, smiling back at her even though she was probably more amused by her own rhyme than at Kelsey’s unconvincing answer.

Kelsey went to the door on the back wall of the lobby. It led to the rest of the building and there was a keypad on the handle to keep members of the public – or the media – from wandering into the labs or, God forbid, the morgue.

Kelsey punched in her code, then headed to the forensic investigators’ cubicles.

She’d been working the night shift at the coroner’s office for about six months, shadowing and learning from the veteran investigators. During her job interview, the lead investigator, Maya, told her that most rookies needed about six months of training before they were ready to fly solo on death scenes.

“You’re right where you ought to be,” Maya had reassured her last month when Kelsey asked her about her progress. She’d given the same answer the month before, and the month before that.

Those words were meant to be encouraging, but Kelsey had always been at the top of her class. Sometimes it felt like the word overachiever was a flashing neon sign above her head, and she liked it that way. She didn’t take much comfort in being ‘right where she ought to be’ because her life already hadn’t turned out like it was supposed to.

A year ago, she was on track to go to medical school. She should have been dissecting cadavers in anatomy labs with her roommates right now, not investigating deaths for the Fox County coroner. But here she was, and whether it was med school or death investigation, Kelsey was determined to be the best. She just needed one last reassurance from Maya before she went out on her first death scene, and that was what brought her to the office several hours early for her shift. She had to catch Maya before she clocked out.

“Granger,” one of the other day shift investigators, Tyler, called when he saw her. “Are you pumped or what?”

Kelsey smiled. “I am.”

Tyler came over and clapped her on the back. He was a few years older than her and he’d been the rookie investigator before Kelsey was hired on. He’d only begun solo casework himself a few months ago and he used to work the night shift with Kelsey. They’d quickly become work friends and Tyler was always nice to Kelsey, unlike some of the more senior investigators.

They tended to be matter-of-fact or even blunt when she asked too many questions she already knew the answer to, or asked them to double or triple-check her work.

Tyler had transferred to the day shift last month and Kelsey missed him, but he had a wife and a kid at home so the move made sense. Kelsey had nothing waiting for her but a couple of messy roommates and a never-ending sink full of dirty dishes.

Kelsey set down her work bag at her cubicle. “I re-read my copy of the Death Investigator’s Handbook over the weekend, then I made myself a checklist just in case I forget anything,” she said.

Tyler laughed as she pulled the laminated list out of her bag to show him. “Isn’t that book, like, 500 pages?”

Kelsey shrugged. “I had nothing better to do, unless you count the investigation I conducted in my own kitchen on Sunday night to figure out which one of my roommates keeps leaving empty jars of peanut butter in the pantry.”

Tyler snorted and handed the laminated sheet back to her. “You’re more than ready. Relax – you’ll do fine.”

“I know,” Kelsey said, setting down the checklist and trying to be inconspicuous about lining it up with the edge of the desk.

“So?” Tyler asked. “Don’t leave me hanging. Who was the peanut butter culprit?”

Kelsey laughed. “Who else? Danica – she said it was not empty. According to her, there was at least a tablespoon of peanut butter clinging to the sides of the jar.”

She rolled her eyes – her roommates were both busy and stressed because of school and Kelsey wasn’t even supposed to be living with them in university housing after she dropped out. They were doing her a favor by keeping their mouths shut and letting her squat there while she saved up the money for a security deposit on a place of her own. So she let a lot of their bad roommate behavior slide and took on maid duties because she was the only one who actually cared how much peanut butter was in the jars in the pantry. In the grand scheme of things, she was lucky that was the worst she had to deal with.

She sat down to check her email and Tyler headed back to his cubicle, ready to end his shift. The room held about thirty investigators who, on three different shifts, served Fox County – population two million.

“Are you ready for this, Granger?”

Kelsey looked up from her emails and found Maya walking over to her cubicle. She balanced one arm on top of Kelsey’s cubicle wall, giving her a stern look.

Maya’s long, dark brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail just like Kelsey’s – pretty much the only appropriate hairstyle for a job that involved regularly coming into contact with dead bodies. But that was where Kelsey’s resemblance to Maya ended.

She was about ten years older than Kelsey, without so much as a wrinkle to prove it, and at least forty pounds lighter with prominent muscles beneath her crisp white shirt and black slacks. If she wasn’t investigating a death scene or grudgingly giving Kelsey her monthly pep talk, Maya was lifting weights or running on the treadmill in the gym she and a few of the other investigators set up in the building’s basement.

She was beautiful, strong, intimidating, and if she wasn’t so mean, Kelsey might have had a crush on her. But it would simply be masochism to be attracted to someone who consistently tore her confidence to shreds.

“Do you think I am?” Kelsey asked. “I re-read my handbook-”

“You gotta stop trying to be so damn perfect all the time,” Maya said. “Just relax. You’ve been trained well, lord knows you’ve studied that handbook enough, and if you get in any trouble, you can call one of the other investigators. Aaron’s working tonight – he’ll help you out.” She let out an audible sigh and added, “And if push comes to shove, you’ve got my cell. You can call me if you get in trouble – but try not to get in trouble.”

“Okay,” Kelsey said. She stood up and adjusted her posture, looking Maya in the eyes. “I’m ready to go solo.”

“Attagirl,” Maya said, adjusting the gym bag that Kelsey noticed was slung over her shoulder. She looked impatient to clock out. “Unless you need anything else, I’m heading out for the night.”

“No,” Kelsey said, her hand going reflexively to the laminated checklist on her desk. “I’ll be okay.”

Maya nodded, rapped her knuckles on the top of Kelsey’s cubicle wall, then headed for the time clock near the door. It was a few minutes after five and the day shift was about to clear out – the afternoon shift was already hard at work, and Kelsey planned to spend the next couple of hours mentally preparing herself for when a call came in for her.

It was usually quieter at night, but not always.

Just as Maya reached the time clock, one of the autopsy assistants ran into the room in a blind panic. She nearly knocked Maya off her feet.

“Who’s on shift?” the girl, Jordan, asked loudly, a wild look in her eyes.

Kelsey’s heart skipped a beat and she looked around the room. The two afternoon investigators weren’t at their desks. Kelsey looked to Maya, who was watching quietly – waiting to see if she’d step up.

Tonight’s the night – you can do this. Kelsey repeated her mantra, then stepped into the aisle. “I am. Did a call come in?”

“Yes,” Jordan said. “There’s been a boating accident on the lake – at least a dozen bodies. Should I tell them you’re on your way? You better take the big truck.”

“What?” Kelsey asked, all the courage draining out of her. “A mass casualty? Maya–”

“You told me you were ready,” Maya said. “Are you?”

“Yes,” Kelsey squeaked. “Okay…” She glanced at her checklist, trying to collect her thoughts. “Where’s my handbook?”

She was just reaching for a thick black paperback, praying she could quickly and efficiently refresh her memory on mass disaster protocols, when Jordan sputtered behind her and started to laugh.

Then she heard Maya cracking up, too.

Kelsey turned around, hoping she didn’t look as pale and drained as she felt. “Was that a joke?”

Jordan wore a broad smile, her pearly whites on full display as she cackled, amused at her own sparkling sense of humor. “You should have seen your face! I thought we were going to have to call a hearse for you.

Kelsey scowled, then looked at Maya. She could see from the smirk on her lips that they’d planned this together – a little practical joke to kick off the most important night of Kelsey’s budding career. And she’d fallen for it completely, just like she’d fallen into every other trap that Jordan the jokester had set for her over the last few months.

She was so hilarious.

Kelsey sighed and leaned against her cubicle wall, trying to catch her breath.

“Relax,” Maya said. It sounded like an order, and somehow that did calm Kelsey down a little bit. “We wouldn’t send a rookie to lead a mass casualty investigation – you know that. Now do whatever you gotta do to chill out before you get called out to a scene – nervous investigators make mistakes.”

Kelsey nodded, doing her best to keep her composure while Maya and the other day shift investigators clocked out and left one by one. On her way out the door, Jordan let out another guffaw and said, “That was too easy, Kelsey. Thanks for the laugh.”

Tyler mouthed the word breathe as he passed Kelsey on his way out. She nodded, wondering if he’d known about the prank and didn’t have the decency to warn her.

When she was finally alone in the office, Kelsey sank back down in her chair. She tried to take Tyler’s advice, putting one hand on her stomach and drawing in three long, deep breaths. She closed her eyes and felt the air inflating her belly. It was a strategy Kelsey’s therapist taught her – inhale to a count of four, hold for seven, exhale for eight. Repeat.

It worked little by little, bringing Kelsey’s heart rate down to a reasonable level, but it wasn’t quite enough. She needed to feel in control tonight so she went to the cabinet that held all the investigation kits – large, black plastic briefcases that weighed about twenty pounds each and held all the forensic evidence collection tools an investigator needed at a death scene.

Kelsey grabbed the kit that had her name printed on masking tape across the handle and carried it to a long conference table that doubled as the investigators’ break room. She grabbed a paper towel from the sink nearby and wiped the table down, then carefully lay out every item in her kit.

There were plastic evidence collection bags, swabs and vials, a gunshot residue kit, luminol for blood detection, a digital camera, latex gloves, and dozens of other specialized items. Spreading everything out neatly in front of her, taking inventory and putting it all back exactly as she liked it to be organized always made Kelsey feel better.

She carried out this unpacking and repacking ritual at the beginning of her shift almost every afternoon and sometimes when she had a rough one, she’d do it again before she clocked out. No one in the office knew she had Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and she wanted to keep it that way, so it was lucky that they all just considered this ritual to be further evidence

of her fastidious personality.

She needed all the pieces to be exactly where they should be, packed precisely to make sure that once she got out on the scene, she’d have total control of her investigation. Tonight was more important that all the investigations she’d shadowed before, so Kelsey counted everything in the kit twice.

She retrieved her laminated checklist and added it to the kit, then counted it all one more time just to be safe.

Keep reading – get MIND GAMES on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited now

Lessons from the Coroner’s Office

My latest novel, Mind Games, is available now on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited!

This is the first book in my new Fox County Forensics series and if you enjoy shows like CSI and Rizzoli and Isles, I think you’re gonna love it.

Kelsey is an energetic rookie investigator determined to impress her boss despite struggling with OCD. Zara is the seasoned police officer who reports to Kelsey’s first death scene… and she just so happens to be terrified of dead bodies.

I had a ton of fun researching the forensic side of this romance. I’m lucky enough to have a little bit of personal experience – I interned at my county coroner’s office during high school, worked closely with the chemist and got to watch an autopsy.

But I also relied heavily on my dad for forensic details – he was an investigator for 30 years and he was really enthusiastic about being the ‘subject matter expert’ for Mind Games. I did a formal interview with him to get the basics down, and I thought it would be fun to share his answers!

Check that out below, and check out Mind Games on Amazon today.

What personal protective gear (PPE) do you wear during a standard autopsy?

Normally when doing an autopsy the PPE is linen type gown, plastic apron, gloves, shoe covers, and mask with eye protection. Also, under all of this is scrubs, top and bottom.

How long would it take for the investigation, autopsy and toxicology to be completed?

The autopsy a few hours, investigation at the scene from 1 hour up to 6 or 8 hours depending on complexity of the case. Tox could take a few hours up to a few days depending on what you are looking for. The more common the drug the less time the more exotic the drug the longer it may take. It may be that the drug you are looking for you don’t test in house and you may need to send out a sample for outside testing at a reference lab.

How long for the coroner to make a ruling and close the case?

It could take anywhere from 6 weeks (that’s a short time period), up to months. Again it depends on what you are waiting on. You could be waiting on further drug testing, more investigation, etc. It depends on the answers you get to what info you have requested. For instance you may ask the police to do further investigation depending on what you found at the autopsy. So, if you find blunt trauma on the body and want to know if there is anything at the scene that could have been used to make that mark, you would inform the police and ask them to do more investigation to see if they could find a weapon matching the mark on the body.

Are toxicology reports done for all cases? If not, what prompts the coroner to request it?

Normally tox is not done in all cases as a matter of protocol. But due to the drug epidemic we are in there is more emphasis on tox today than ever before. Tox will always be done in the case where the autopsy does not show a cause of death. Also, tox will be done if the person is a known drug user or there are drugs or drug paraphernalia found at the scene. Or just to rule out a drug overdose. Also, tox may be done as a matter of protocol in homicide cases.

If an investigator got bodily fluids on their clothes at a scene, what would they do?

I don’t think there is any protocol for that (although I may be wrong), but what I would do is to immediately change my clothes upon leaving the scene. And depending on the case, I may destroy the clothing. If the decedent is a high risk of communicable disease I would definitely trash the clothing at the office in a biohazard bag/container.

Can family members request copies of the coroner’s reports?

They can. Reports are public record.

What if the police are still investigating other aspects of the case?

If there is an ongoing investigation the case would not be closed, or signed out. And we would not release anything until it is signed out. We may speak with the family member to try to answer questions. Also, if there is potential litigation, such as in a homicide death we would be very careful in releasing any information including any reports. In that case where a request is made for reports in a homicide case we would confer with the Prosecutors office and let them make the call.

How many officers would respond to a death scene like the one in Mind Games?

Normally you would get the patrol officer responding initially. Then in the case of a death the patrol officer would call the detective bureau and on average 1 or 2 detectives would respond. This would depend on the complexity of the case and size of the police jurisdiction. Larger jurisdictions may have more people on hand to respond.

What about a scene where there’s a home invasion in progress, the suspect is fleeing on foot, there’s one resident injured and another dead? Would the police wait until the suspect was dealt with and the injured resident removed before they called in the death investigator?

Yep, that is usually the way it goes.

What do the police do to assist the investigator at the scene?

Normally the police do a criminal investigation and the ME investigator does a medical legal death investigation. Both sides work together to come to a successful conclusion. The police may answer questions the ME investigator has. For instance, if a gun was involved and it has been moved you may want to know who moved it and why. You may need to know who first found the body and where they are so you can interview them, etc. There are a host of questions you may have for the police regarding the investigation.

Does all evidence go with the investigator to the ME’s office, or does the police take some of it to the station? If it is split up, how do they decide what goes where?

Some goes to the police and some to the ME. This all depends on the jurisdiction. All are different. We usually let the police take any weapon but they are required to bring that weapon to the autopsy. We would take all medications and/or drugs. To decide who takes what that depends on what is going to be done with the evidence. Some evidence will be submitted to the BCI lab, that’s the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation. If it’s going to BCI the police would take it because they would submit it. No sense of us taking it then having to receipt it to the police so they can submit it to BCI.

When does the medical examiner (ME) release their evidence to the police?

That depends. If we do fingerprints, hair samples, nail clippings, body fluid collection that is done at the time of autopsy. When the police attend the autopsy we would release that evidence at the end of the autopsy. If the evidence is bloody clothing it needs to be hung up and dried before it can be bagged. If it is bagged wet it will produce mold. This drying process would take a day or two. Once dry we would contact the policed and let them know it can be picked up.

Under what circumstances does the ME retain evidence indefinitely?

Evidence that is retained is usually evidence that we have collected as a matter of protocol and may not be deemed evidence by the prosecutor. For instance we routinely collect Gun Shot Residue (GSR), this is a kit. We collect it routinely in the case if a suicide in case there is any dispute concerning the manner of death in the future. Fingerprints also fall into this category as well as hair samples, nail clippings and biological swabs.

Do all investigators use a communal set of investigation kits or is each investigator issued their own kit?

Our investigators all have their own investigation kit with standard items included. GSR kits, forms, blood tubes, camera, gloves, plastic apron, syringe, needles, etc. Big thanks to my dad for answering the thousand-and-one questions I had, and to everyone who’s been reading and reviewing Mind Games since its launch!

Grab your copy now

Lesfic Book Club: Strawberry Summer

For our June meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Melissa Brayden’s novel, Strawberry Summer. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc

I saw @Melissa Brayden sign up a little while ago, not sure if she’s back yet but just in case… hi, Melissa, we’re over here

Melissa Brayden

Hi, guys! I’m here!

Super excited to chat with you.

Reader 1

hey @Melissa Brayden good to have you!

Reader 2

Hi

Reader 3

Hi

Reader 4

Hi!

Melissa Brayden

Just finished a birthday party for my sister and snuck away to my childhood bedroom for book club!

Reader 5

Welcome Melissa.Everyone has been so excited to have you here.

Reader 6

Welcome, thanks for joining us!

Reader 7

Welcome @Melissa Brayden !!!!

Reader 1

Awesome lol

Reader 8

Hello and welcome!!

Reader 9

Hey @Melissa Brayden

Reader 5

You have the honour of Strawberry Summer being my first ever lesfic book.

Reader 10

Hello!

Reader 3

Melissa, how hard was it to kill off a popular character in SS?

Reader 11

@Reader 5 wow

Melissa Brayden

Oh yeah? That’s very cool. I still remember my first lesfic book VERY fondly. I was so amazed to have found int.

it*

Reader 3 – great question!

Reader 3

I’m having trouble getting mine to argue

Reader 5

Clay was the lovable big brother everyone wants!

Melissa Brayden

It was a tough decision. I’d been known as an author who was fairly light and fun in her work. So the concept of a death in SS felt like territory I wasn’t allowed to cross into. However, I knew it was the right thing for the story, despite the fact that I was stepping outside of my own comfort zone. I think it was the right decision.

Reader 12

I’m curious as to what inspired you to go with the strawberry theme.

Reader 1

I cried so much when Clay died. It broke me

Reader 6

Which book was it?

Reader 9

Right he was great

Melissa Brayden

Reader 6, the book was Behind the Pine Curtain by Gerri Hill.

Reader 1

I love Gerri Hill

Reader 12

Oooh… that’s a good book.

Melissa Brayden

Reader 12, the strawberry theme was inspired by a convo with my friend, Georgia (Beers). Shall I tell you the convo?

Reader 12

Sure.

Reader 3

Ooh I read that Pine Curtain recently – good book

Reader 9

Yes please

Reader 1

Of course it was haha that’s great ! I love Georgia she’s great!

Melissa Brayden

Georgia was writing a beer book at the time, and needed a title. She asked if we could bounce ideas. So I just started riffing. I do that without thinking, just off the top of my head. I knew that in sampling beer you encounter a lot of different flavors so I was tossing out titles with cinnamon and lemon and strawberry and offered up Strawberry Summer. She didn’t snatch it up by I fell in love with it. From that title, the whole strawberry concept came to life. She wound up calling her book A Little Bit of Spice (twisting my suggestion of A Little Bit of Cinnamon)

Reader 3

We’ve all done Georgia 2 months ago

Melissa Brayden

Oh, good!

Reader 12

Phrasing!

Reader 6

Not sure we should talk about her like that without her here to defend herself

Reader 11

I love it.

Reader 1

That’s awesome! It was a really good book!

Reader 2

That was a wonderful book too!

Reader 13

That’s such a fantastic title inspiration hahaha

Reader 8

That’s so cool!

Melissa Brayden

It was really fortuitous for me.

Reader 6

Do you often start with a title and go from there?

Reader 3

Just read Spice one too (sorry 9pm here can’t type)

Reader 9

That’s great title inspiration

Reader 5

I actually worked on a strawberry farm for 3 consecutive summers when I was at university. It was a much smaller operation than the Beringer farm though!

Melissa Brayden

Not generally, but this one really worked nicely. Titles are generally second to the story for me.

Reader 11

I love how so much of the community is so positive and supportive of each other

Melissa Brayden

But I take inspiration wherever I can get it.

Peri, I love a happy small town!

Reader 8

Yes! Agreed @Reader 11 – I liked that the stereotypical high school popular guy turned into one of the nicest characters

Reader 9

And the mean girl turned into a pretty nice woman

Melissa Brayden

NortherGirl – that’s awesome!!!

Reader 1

Yes loved that too! Even Melanie was spot on

Melissa Brayden

Lilly Craig – I think it’s important to me that my characters feel three dimensional and no one is all good or all bad.

Reader 2

As hard as Clay’s death was, I feel like it was the only way I’d believe them breaking up.

Melissa Brayden

Reader 2, agreed. It was necessary.

Reader 10

I grew up in a small town of 7,000 (though moved away before I came out)… and I felt that your town reminded me of growing up in my hometown. Do you (or have you ever) live(d) in a small town yourself?

Reader 3

I liked how you started the book. Lots of tense drama. Then suddenly we’re into sweet times and you’re thinking eh?

Reader 8

Can ask about your influences as a writer? I think your dialogue feels a lot like Buffy dialogue to me – I love it!

Reader 6

Agreed, the dialog was so fun in this book!

Reader 1

Bully’s are bully’s for underlying problems they themselves internalize so it was great.

Reader 9

I loved the way it was set in the past to reach the present had me on the edge of my seat the whole ride

Reader 1

I caught that too Reader 8

Melissa Brayden

Reader 10, I have’t and maybe that’s one of the reasons I romanticize them so much in my head and love to write them. I just finished a book with a small town and each time I go there with the setting, I just long for that slower paced life a little bit. Where everyone knows everyone .

Reader 4

Since I think I’m the only high schooler here, I’ll have to agree that all the descriptions of high school hierarchies are still spot on. Completely relateable.

Reader 5

Where did you get the idea of the department store? Here in the UK department stores and high streets in general are dying a death.

Reader 3

Does small town = village?

Melissa Brayden

Lilly – My influences are mainly rooted in romance novels themselves. I’ve never seen Buffy but I hear great things! Judith McNaught, Danielle Steele, Reader 10 Higgins, Jill Shalvis, Nora Roberts (specially Nora)

Reader 4, I’m thrilled to hear that!

Reader 1

Love Nora Roberts!

Good influences!

Melissa Brayden

Northergirl – I just love malls and the crisp air you encounter in the pristine department stores. Also one of my favorite romances, Paradise by Judith McNaught, has two feuding department stores so it stuck in my head.

Reader 3 – I think so (village)

Reader 3

My village has 1220 and I know a handful only

Reader 6

Hehe by choice or because everyone just keeps to themselves?

Reader 1

Where’d you get the idea for the House that was built over the lake? That was so cool

Reader 9

Right I was like I need that house hahah

Melissa Brayden

I think mainly I just wanted to live in one like that. I researched what was possible and went with it!

Reader 1

Same!

Reader 9

It was great

Reader 1

That’s awesome!

Reader 3

Although more people know me- are you that fruitloop with the 3 dogs? Er yep

Reader 6

Haha that’s a fun thing to be known for tho

Melissa Brayden

That’s awesome.

Reader 1

Reader 6 is the Bunny Whisper I’m sure!

Reader 10

That is a small town danger: I was a musician, so even if I didn’t know somebody in town, there was a distinct chance they knew who I was!

Reader 1

I feel like everyone knows me for they know my mom (she’s bartended for like 20yrs lol)

Reader 2

Yeah, a lot of people knew me, from all my extracurriculars, but I didn’t know that many people. Now I’ve been gone so long who knows?

Waiting in the Wings was my first lesfic, and also a second chance romance. Do you have a favorite trope, or sets of tropes?

Melissa Brayden

I’m a big fan of friends to lovers and enemies to lovers – and of course, reunion romances. I just finished one of those as well.

Reader 12

Have you ever thought of writing a romance set in a fantasy setting?

Melissa Brayden

I haven’t. I worry I’d be bad at it!

I’m always soooo impressed with those that do. Barbara Ann Wright comes to mind!

Reader 4

Reader 3 – Did you grow up there? If you grow up in a small town, everybody knows everybody. If you move there later, it’s actually pretty easy to remain “the stranger” for quite a while. Little opportunity for social interaction like clubs, etc.

Reader 3

I read the soho lift backwards would you recommend reading them in order. I guess there were spoilers from page 1 of book 3

Melissa Brayden

While I think you can read them in any order, you’ll get more out of the progression and character growth if you read them 1-3.

Reader 1

Which Is why I also read series in order even if they can be standalone lol

Reader 3

I did that with 7 shores. Only just read KTG today then immediately started on JTW because I wanted to follow on properly

Reader 1

Lol

Melissa Brayden

Reader 3, perfect!

Reader 5

I ask this at every book club Melissa but if it was made into a film who would play Courtney and Maggie?

Melissa Brayden

Hmmm….that’s really hard. I think a Reader 16ie Holmes type (but the younger version, maybe Dawsons Creek time period) for young Maggie. There’s sooooo many choices for Courtney, would be hard to pin down a favorite. A young Amanda Peterson, Reader 16e Hudson….Reese Witherspoon…..on and on and on.

Reader 1

I saw Reader 16ie Holmes and Reese Witherspoon for sure lol glad I pegged them right

Reader 13

Wow I would love to see this happen

Melissa, do you think we might see Maggie and Courtney pop up in any of your future work?

Melissa Brayden

I would like for them to! I really do miss those characters. They are on a short list of favorite characters Ive ever written.

Reader 1

I would love a sequel that would be great!

Reader 3

Do you have a dog and which out of the ones in your books is it? If any?

Melissa Brayden

I have two Jack Russell terriers. Apple, a girl, and Ryder, a boy. I don’t think I’ve written them in yet. Someday…..

Reader 5

I loved that you made Maggie’s mum a bodice ripping writer of romance!

Reader 9

Right that was epic

Reader 8

Agreed! And that Maggie cringed about it so much haha

Reader 6

Seconded – her little asides about what her characters were doing were fantastic

Melissa Brayden

Those were such fun scenes to write. It was important to me that she be warm and kind as a mom, but a total romance fanatic about her job. I like the dichotomy.

Reader 1

Loved that! It brought her mom to life for sure!

Reader 5

The characters all felt so rounded with their own quirks, such as Maggie’s Beatles obsession. Are you a Beatles fan?

Melissa Brayden

I am! I love the play, John Lennon and Me, and directed it once. It inspired that little piece of SS.

Reader 6

What’s your favorite part of the romance story to write?

Melissa Brayden

I really love writing the middle 2/3 section because the characters generally already know each other well and are HAPPY. The happy, playful, in love scenes are the reason I get out of a bed. They come to me fast and I end the day with a smile.

Reader 1

Loved those scenes! Makes me want to make out in the strawberry fields

Reader 2

Do you then struggle to write the conflicts, since happy is easy and fun?

Reader 6

You definitely excel at it – Maggie and Courtney’s chemistry was so immediate and intriguing

Reader 1

All because of Abraham Lincoln

Melissa Brayden

Reader 2, I think more so when I was a new writer. I wanted everyone to be happy all of the time. I’ve learned that’s now always the best thing for a romance arc, along with gentle prodding from the editor who worked on my first three books.

Reader 13

You’re sooo good at writing those happy scenes, they always feel warm & fuzzy but also like meaningful moments, beyond just fluffy filler (which is nice sometimes too!)

Reader 12

What were the easiest and the hardest things to research for the book?

Melissa Brayden

The hardest was definitely learning how a strawberry farm worked, because it can work a lot of different ways! The easiest was the department store, because those facts are soooo interesting. The shopping from left to right? Yeah…..

Reader 3

Yeah mollydollys went past me on the soho series but now I’ve read the sweet one I get it

Melissa Brayden

Aha, you caught that, huh? There was another secret How Sweet it Is reference in this book as well, but not many people caught it.

Reader 3

Give me a mo, I remember seeing something. Then of course there was Mal and Hunter (H mentioned) in7 shores.

Reader 2

Where do you fit on the scale of pantsing and plotting?

Melissa Brayden

I know the big plot points only and pants the other 80%. So I would say panther for sure.

For example, I knew Maggie was going to suffer a loss, but as I wrote it, I thought it would probably be Travis. But I pants my way to Clay, because that’s where the story took me.

Reader 2

impressive! I will remember that every time I wish I plotted more. haha

Reader 9

Wow interesting and impressive

Reader 2

Wait, so did you write the back story first and come back with the opening, or start with the present day and fill in the back story?

Melissa Brayden

I wrote this one entirely in order, so I started with the present day scene, then jumped backward – still not totally knowing how we got to that present day anger/angst.

Reader 6

Ooh interesting. That makes me wonder when you knew what Louis was going to do because I was on the edge of my seat about him for a while.

Melissa Brayden

I knew about Louis only as I went!

I didn’t have him planned in advance.

Reader 2

This is so much more impressive now!

Reader 5

Louis kinda made me feel uncomfortable.

Reader 3

It would have been so easy to kill him off instead

Reader 4

aw. Poor nerd.

Reader 2

He was a challenge, but I also liked that arc.

Reader 8

Holy, that’s so impressive!

Reader 6

I agree, @Reader 5 – an unpredictable, unstable person

Reader 1

I got that from Louis too. He was obsessive with Berta something bad had to happen because of him

Melissa Brayden

And killing him off wouldn’t have had the punch packing that a beloved character did. I really needed to upset the balance in place.

Reader 1

I got that too Clay was the right choice for the story.

Reader 2

Wait, so did you write the back story first and come back with the opening, or start with the present day and fill in the back story?

Reader 12

Who would be your favorite authors, both for lesfic and for non-lesfic?

Melissa Brayden

Lesfic would be Ann McMan, Georgia Beers, Robin Alexander. Non lesfic: Chevy Stevens, Nora Roberts, Reader 10 Higgins, Jill Shalvis

Reader 6

Did you befriend Georgia through lesfic or know her from elsewhere?

Reader 1

Robin is my new favorite right now. Working my way through her books about to start Scaredy Cat

Reader 5

Ooh I’m just on with the Jericho books. More small town charm.

Melissa Brayden

We met in 2010 at the GCLS conference. We wound up sitting next to each other for the keynote address and struck up a conversation. Then I saw her at each event that year and we really hit it off as friends. Now she’s my best friend.

Reader 1

That’s awesome!

Melissa Brayden

Northergirl – I love Jericho.

Reader 6

That’s awesome

Reader 12

That’s really awesome.

Reader 2

Now I’m even more curious about your writing process. Do you have anyone reading along or working with you during the process, like your editor? Or do you wait until you have a completed first draft?

Melissa Brayden

I do not let anyone read my manuscripts – only my editor. No beta readers or family or friends. Just me and her.

no one reads it until it’s in proofing.

Reader 8

Can you tell us a little about upcoming projects?

Melissa Brayden

Sure! My next release is another small town romance – Beautiful Dreamer. Similar to Strawberry in some ways and then not at all in others. After that in November, I have Back to September which is a small book shop owner and a famous romance novelist.

Reader 6

Ooh, fun!

Reader 8

Suuuper excited for Back to September

Reader 13

Pre-ordered on Amazon! Counting down the days until July 16th!!

Reader 3

I wondered if the cousin ballerina from KTG is mentioned in your ballet one. That’s one of the only ones I’ve not read yet

Melissa Brayden

Yes. She is.

Reader 3

Ha ha, I love how they all tie up

Reader 5

Could you ever see yourself doing a collaborative book?

Melissa Brayden

I think that might be hard for me. Never say never, but that concept makes me a little nervous. Im a bit of a control freak when it comes to creative endeavors.

I know Kris Bryant, Maggie Cummings, and M Ullrich had success with theirs.

Reader 2

I suspect it’s a lot harder when pantsing too.

Reader 14

I enjoyed the inclusion of the book club scene. Are you, yourself, part of a book club?

Melissa Brayden

No, but I DESPERATELY WANT TO BE. Another thing I romanticize. Sitting around and talking about books with wine. I would join their book club in a heartbeat.

Reader 1

Same

Reader 9

Most definitely seemed like a great book club

Reader 3

I’m in, come to the U.K.?

Reader 6

Agreed, sounds like heaven

Reader 12

Do online book clubs count?

Melissa Brayden

A little! But I do want to sit on the floor, in the evening, and drink wine.

Reader 2

probably wouldn’t hurt to get some adult conversation that doesn’t revolve around a little one too.

Melissa Brayden

EXACTLY

Reader 6

Which one of your books was your favorite to write?

Melissa Brayden

Waiting in the Wings, Kiss the Girl, and Strawberry Summer are tied.

Reader 6

Anything in particular about them that made them faves?

Melissa Brayden

Waiting in the Wings because I’d never written anything and it was so exciting to jump back into a STORY each day. Kiss the Girls because I loved the friends and it was my first time meeting the four of them. And Strawberry because the romance and it’s unravel pulled me in. I liked developing it.

Kiss the Girl***

Can’t typo my own book!

Reader 3

I love the books on the sets of friends. They seem such cool people to know

I even felt like learning to surf

Even my dog can surf

Reader 6

That is adorable!

Melissa Brayden

Yes, writing friends is so much fun. I have a new three book series coming up set on a vineyard.

Reader 3

Ooh if you need someone to taste test brands….

Melissa Brayden

Right? Planning on this being the best research ever? Maybe a wine trip is called for.

Reader 3

I gave you the idea therefore I should be in on this

Reader 15

Did I miss everything?

Reader 3

How hard do you find it to write with a toddler?

Melissa Brayden

It’s impossible! I only write in the first half of the day when he’s at daycare. The afternoons and evenings are reserved for him. If I have any loose ends, I tied them up after he goes to bed for the night. Writing with him present will just not work I’ve learned.

Reader 2

It won’t get better for a while either. But then he’ll go to school.

Has your writing approach or schedule changed since becoming a mom?

(on the same page @Reader 3! lol)

Melissa Brayden

Yes, I used to be able to take all day to hit my word count. I have to be more structured now and have my count hit before 1pm.

Reader 5

Of the other couples you’ve written which is your favourite? I loved Hunter and Samantha.

Melissa Brayden

That tends to change. I do adore Sam and Hunter. Brooklyn and Jessica rank high for me too. As do Maggie and Country and Jenna and Adrienne.

Courtney*

Reader 6

Do you have any particular process for choosing character names?

I liked the Maggie/Margaret duality depending on who she was talking to (and how she felt about them)

Reader 3

Just finished Sam & Hunter, on p203.

Yeah she gets Hunter an awesome name and her siblings are Claire and Kevin ???? WTH

Melissa Brayden

I think they need to fit the character. For example, Courtney. I wanted to find a name that felt softer, and girlish because that’s how the character felt. I have to LIKE the name or I can’t work with it.

HAHA. Yes, Hunter was COOLER than her siblings. That’s why.

Reader 6

Haha sometimes it just works out that way

Meant to be from the time she was named

Reader 5

Hunter was effortlessly cool!

Reader 1

I find it extremely hard to write with a toddler lol

Melissa Brayden

It’s near impossible.

Reader 1

It is. Mine thinks she needs to help with everything I do so… It’s nearly impossible. (I also own my own business and I’ve slacked a bit because of her lol)

Reader 3

Good news, as they grow they bring new challenges. Terrible twos, they seem bliss compared to the answering back, rebellion, slamming doors etc etc and that’s just me

Reader 2

All ages were easier than 4 and a quarter. This one might break us.

Reader 3

Yup, you survive… then hit the next hurdle that flattens you again … and repeat

Reader 1

Pretty much! Potty training is hell

Reader 5

Do you get much of a chance to interact with readers like this? Do you enjoy it?

Melissa Brayden

I do! I do a book club about once a month, it seems. Sometimes in person, sometimes on Skype, or sometimes typing like this. I love it! Beyond that, I do about 4-5 author/reader in person events each year (my favorites being the Golden Crown Literary Conference and Women’s Week in Provincetown each year. I did Clexacon this year, which was new, but. loved it!)

Reader 6

That sounds kind of scary haha Would you consider yourself an extrovert?

Reader 3

Do you do worldwide tours?

Reader 16

Courtney seemed so cosmopolitan and sophisticated and Maggie was always in awe of how our together she was. What was the inspiration behind her character?

Melissa Brayden

I think we always look to the popular girl in high school and wish she noticed us more (Whether romantic or not. I think straight girls do that too). And I wondered, what if she did? What if she were popular, and kind, and NOTICED the other MC who’d never really been noticed before? That got me excited to write.

Reader 1

That’s what I loved the most she was able to be in both worlds and bring them to the other side. And then Melanie became one of Maggie’s best friends it was nice to see. Which is what happens after high school.

Reader 16

*put

Reader 3

Ooh just remembered a question. Back to soho on the KTG cover its Brooks, but which of the two is it meant to be on JTW? I’m thinking Sam but then the tan?

Melissa Brayden

I think you can choose, but for me, it’s Sam.

Reader 3

Yeah Hunter has black hair. I find her the hardest one to imagine. Is she based on anyone I can google

Melissa Brayden

She is not based on anyone in real life, no.

Reader 3

Shame I like to picture everything in my head as I read and I hate not getting a visual of an mc

Reader 2

What got you started with writing?

Melissa Brayden

I’ve always been a storyteller. I worked in educational theatre (directing shows), I ran a small production company (editing stories), and I was a TV news reporter (also constructing stories) – so this was just another extension of that skill. I had a summer off and had never written anything before in my life. I gave it shot with Waiting in the Wings and submitted just for fun. I never thought it would get accepted. After that, I thought it might be some nice vacation money. When my full time job’s salary was overtaken and then doubled, I knew it was my new full time gig.

Reader 2

Impressive debut!

Melissa Brayden

I was very lucky.

I think it’s harder now.

Reader 2

Because of how many books are available? I still think that book would have stood out no matter what.

Melissa Brayden

Yes, even if you write a fantastic book now, the self publishing model Amazon offers has allowed so many titles to flood the genre, that my fear is that good authors are having trouble being seen

Reader 3

I’ll let you know, I’m working on my debut

Reader 2

To some extent. It also is easier to find readers, thanks to twitter and fb groups

Reader 6

Coming up on close to an hour, Melissa I don’t want to keep you too long if you have to get back to the party? Does anyone have any unasked questions?

Reader 5

Thanks for joining us Melissa.

Reader 1

Thanks for talking to us Melissa!!

Reader 13

Thank you so much Melissa!!

Reader 3

Thanks Melissa. I am a true fan and this has made my month/year

Reader 16

Thank you so much Melissa!

Reader 4

ess, Thank you!

Reader 10

Thank you!

Reader 8

Thank you for joining in and answering questions!

Melissa Brayden

I had the BEST TIME!!!

I love talking about books!

Reader 2

Thanks for sharing and giving us panters someone to idolize.

Melissa Brayden

(they say some of the best characterization comes from pantsing)

Reader 2

I shall use this forever hahahaha

Reader 12

Thanks for writing all these awesome books.

Reader 6

Thanks for joining us, Melissa – it was great having you and feel free to pop by the Slack channel if you ever want to chat or promo a new release

Melissa Brayden

I think I will, now that I know where to find it. Have a great Sunday everyone!

I wrote a novel with Anna Cove!

Keep your lover close and your enemy closer… especially if they’re the same person.

Madison Blackstone is a lone wolf thief on a mission to win back the only family she has left. When a rare book surfaces on the black market, it’s just the thing to buy her brother’s love. The only thing is, she has to quit the heist lifestyle to earn his trust. Madison has planned her final job meticulously, but even in her wildest dreams she could never anticipate a rival like Cass.

Cass Hartley is fallen swindler royalty… fallen ever since her foolish heart got her legendary parents caught and jailed. A rare book with a hefty reward to pay back old debts should go a long way to clearing her conscience, and it should be an easy job – if Cass was the only one going after it.

When Cass and Madison meet, it’s inside a bank vault at midnight and they’re both reaching for the same safe deposit locker. Things go sideways fast as crew rivalries, double-crosses and vicious guard poodles foil their plans.

And then there’s the undeniable attraction building between them in tight spaces, dark rooms and adrenaline-fueled adventures. It has Madison questioning her choice to go clean, Cass wondering if she’s falling into the same old traps, and their crews wondering what the heck got into them.

Working together is the only way to get the book, but can they trust each other with the most precious treasure of all – their hearts?

From the bestselling Cara Malone and Anna Cove comes a fun, flirty book heist with twists, turns, and an unexpected romance.

Available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited on March 25th!

Sneak Peek: Fairest

My latest novel, FAIREST, is available now on Amazon. It’s the latest in my contemporary fairy tale series, and while the setting will be familiar if you’ve read Seeing Red and Cinders, it’s a Snow White story that can be read as a standalone novel.

Read the first chapter below.

I can’t believe he took my phone.

That was the detail Luma White was focused on as she sat in the passenger seat of her Audi, hands bound in front of her and a blindfold slipping down around her nose. Her phone – how much of an eighteen-year-old girl could she be? That was what she was most concerned about, but on the other hand, it was easier to fixate on the phone than on everything else.

She’d been in the car for about three hours now. The blindfold – made of some ridiculously silky fabric, definitely not kidnapping-grade – had begun sliding down her nose about an hour into the trip and she was grateful for that. Riding in a car with her eyes shut always made her feel sick, and when her captor noticed that she could see again, she convinced him not to cover her eyes again.

“I’m already lost,” she said. “Isn’t that why you blindfolded me? So I wouldn’t know where we’re going? Mission accomplished.”

The man driving Luma’s car was her stepmother’s bodyguard, Antonio. Slave would have been a more appropriate word for how that woman treated him, but he’d always been nice to Luma.

Well, until today.

At least she was going to get through this without being sick. Silver linings and all that.

They were driving on a narrow, somewhat primitive road with tall, evergreen trees on either side. It was dark thanks to the forest’s dense coverage even though they started driving around noon. Antonio had appeared in the doorway of Luma’s room and told her he needed help running an errand for her father – that was a little unusual, but nothing to raise her suspicions. By the time he was opening the passenger door of Luma’s car for her, telling her they were going to pick up some files at her father’s office, Luma started asking questions.

How did you get my car key? was the first one, but she never got an answer to that.

Once she was in the car, Antonio locked the doors and told her to put the blindfold on. Luma objected, and that’s when things got scary. He’d forced the blindfold over her eyes and she’d spent the first whole hour of the trip frantic.

The errand to her father’s office was a lie and Luma should have seen it coming – Antonio worked for her stepmother, and her father was out of the country. Luma hadn’t even questioned it when Antonio said it was for her father.

If Luma was thinking clearly, she should have been memorizing the turns of the car, paying attention for sounds outside that could help her, and keeping better track of the time. But she’d known Antonio ever since she was a kid – since her stepmother, Tabitha, did her Vogue modeling spread and picked up a stalker in the process. She hired Antonio to keep her safe, and Luma always felt safe around him, too.

Now, she was just scrambling to try and figure out what had changed.

Was he kidnapping her?

“Where are you taking me?” she’d asked before she realized the futility of demanding that sort of information from someone who’d blindfolded her. When she got her wits about her a little more, she asked, “Why do I have to be blindfolded? Did Tabitha ask you to do this? What are you going to do to me?”

Antonio didn’t respond to any of her questions. He was deadly silent from the driver’s seat, and when Luma’s blindfold began slipping down her nose, she could see that his eyes never strayed from the road ahead. Please just look at me, she thought. What are you doing?

Her last-ditch attempt to snap him out of whatever had overcome him was a threat that sounded weak even to Luma’s own ears. “Wait until my father hears about this.”

“Shut up,” Antonio said. “Please, just keep your mouth shut.

It wasn’t a favorable response, but at least he’d said something. His words sounded almost as pleading as Luma’s own questions, like he was frantically trying to find a way to justify all of this. Tabitha had to be behind it. Of course – Tabitha had always hated her.

So Luma shut up, and she waited.

She tried to be patient and wait for Antonio to come to his senses. He’d do the right thing – she just had to give him time to come to his senses. He’d abducted his boss’s stepdaughter while her husband was out of town on business. Antonio was probably just trying to figure out how to take Luma home without letting her father know what he’d done.

Or rather, what Tabitha had ordered him to do.

It had to be the stupid modeling contract, Luma thought while Antonio drove them deeper and deeper into the woods. Damn it. I don’t even want to be a model.

Tabitha had blown up at her yesterday. She’d gone downtown in the morning to get her lips plumped and the aesthetician had used a new type of filler. Tabitha’s lips had blown up like balloons and she came home looking like she had a pair of plump red hotdogs beneath her nose. They looked painful and she was irritable, and then she’d seen the contract that Luma had left on the desk in her father’s study.

Luma wanted him to review it when he came home from his business trip. She’d never imagined herself as a model, never wanted that kind of attention, but people kept saying she was beautiful and it was a natural fit for her. She’d gone to the modeling agency mostly to humor the agent who kept trying to recruit her, and because she was eighteen now and she still didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up.

Why not a model? she thought when they offered her the contract. So she brought it home and promised the agency an answer just as soon as she had a chance to discuss it with her father.

Then Tabitha saw the contract and lost it. Luma had never seen her so angry, actual spittle flying from her over-puffed lips as she slammed the contract down in front of Luma.

“You don’t even want to be a model,” she said, narrowing her eyes at Luma. “You don’t want your trust fund, either. You don’t appreciate anything you’ve got, and it’s all just been handed to you. Ungrateful girl!”

Tabitha hadn’t spoken to Luma since yesterday, but the longer Antonio drove, the more certain she was that this was all Tabitha’s doing. Am I ungrateful? she was wondering for the hundredth time when the car hit a pothole and she could no longer ignore the fullness of her bladder.

“Antonio?” she asked softly.

“Don’t talk,” he said.

“Antonio,” she insisted, trying not to anger him. “I really have to pee. I can’t hold it much longer.”

She looked at him, and for once, he looked back at her. She was begging him, wordlessly. Please. On top of everything else, please don’t put me through the humiliation of wetting myself. He hadn’t listened to anything else she said so far, but the desperation in her eyes was what finally cracked him.

He sniffed, then looked at the clock on the dashboard – probably trying to figure out how far they’d come from the house. Far enough – Luma’s father loved to be in the middle of the action and he’d built his mansion in the center of the city. Luma had never even been this far into the wilderness and it might as well have been a whole other country.

“Fine,” Antonio said. “Hold on a minute.”

“Thank you,” Luma said. “Thank you, Tony.”

He scowled at her. Was that too much, calling him by his nickname? He never minded it before, but he’d never abducted her before, either. Antonio found a dirt road that branched off the two-lane highway and turned onto it. Road was pretty generous, actually – it was barely more than a couple of grooves worn into the dirt. He drove the car just far enough so that it wouldn’t be seen from the road, then turned off the engine.

The passenger door unlocked automatically and Luma reached for the handle, but Antonio locked it again with the push of a button on the driver’s side door. “I’m coming around to get you.”

“Okay,” Luma squeaked. When he opened the door from the outside, he extended his hand to help Luma out – probably more through instinct than anything else. She took his hand, shaking her head so the blindfold fell all the way down to her neck, and she said hopefully, “You know, Tabitha gets in her moods all the time. I bet by the time we drive home, she’ll have forgotten what she was mad about.”

“Do you have to pee or don’t you?” Antonio asked.

“Yeah, I do,” Luma said. “But-”

She wanted to know what he was thinking. There was a wild, cornered look in his eyes that she really didn’t like, and things suddenly felt a whole lot more dire now that the two of them were standing alone in the great silence of the forest.

“Go, then,” he said. “There’s a bush right over there.”

“Okay,” Luma said meekly.

Her bladder really was aching – she’d just finished a pretty big smoothie when Antonio came into her room and she’d been squirming in her seat for quite a while. Trying not to think about how badly she had to go was the only thing that had been distracting her from the awfulness of the situation, but she couldn’t ignore it anymore.

She went behind the bush, the heels of her shoes sinking into the soft earth and pine needles poking her bare legs as she lifted her skirt. Just as she was beginning to feel a bit better – about one thing, at least – she heard the Audi’s engine roar to life.

Oh God, he’s leaving me out here!

Luma rushed to rearrange her skirt and darted out from behind the bush just in time to see Antonio floor the gas pedal. The tires spun in place for a moment, kicking up dirt and moss from the forest floor, and then the car gained traction and Antonio drove it straight into a tree.

“What the hell?” Luma shouted as the hood crumpled slightly and the engine died. A small tendril of steam was rising from the car and Luma ran around to the driver’s side. “Antonio, are you okay?”

She got there just in time for him to open the door – he had to put his shoulder into it since the collision had bent the frame of the car. He got out, unscathed, and Luma looked at him wide-eyed and speechless.

Antonio put his hands on her shoulders, their eyes locking as he said, “Your stepmother ordered me to bring you out here and kill you. I’ve been going over it in my head for the last three hours, trying to imagine a world in which I could do that, and I just can’t.”

Tabitha wants me dead?

A jolt of fear ripped through her, followed by a twinge of relief. Antonio said he couldn’t do it – so where did that leave them? Standing next to the smoking remains of Luma’s car, that was where. No matter what else happened, they weren’t going to be driving out of there.

“Listen carefully,” Antonio said. “You met with the modeling agency yesterday. They sent you on a go-see and that’s where you were going today – you were driving alone, a deer jumped in front of your car and you crashed. You must have been disoriented – maybe you hit your head. You wandered into the woods and no one heard from you again.”

“But Antonio-”

“Tabitha has her eyes on your trust fund,” he continued. “You know that, right?”

“I know she hates getting an allowance from my father,” Luma said, swallowing hard. “But this is about the modeling contract, isn’t it?” He shook his head and Luma had never seen him so serious. “She really wants me dead?”

“I’ve been her right hand for ten years,” Antonio said. “I know her better than anybody and I know when she’s serious about something. Luma, you have to disappear or she will kill you.”

“What about my dad?” she asked. “Let’s call him, or-”

Or the police, she thought.

“I can’t do that,” Antonio said, glancing at the car. “You don’t know what she’s capable of.”

“I think I have some idea,” Luma said, crossing her arms over her chest. She had no phone, no money, and no idea where she was. If she screamed at the top of her lungs right now, no one but the birds and other forest animals would hear her – and Antonio, who’d already made up his mind.

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “You really don’t. Trust me, Luma, for your own safety – and mine – you have to let Tabitha think you’re dead. If you come home, she’ll kill you and then she’ll kill me for not doing the job myself.”

Luma’s mouth dropped open as she attempted to process all of this, trying to formulate a response that never materialized.

“Just disappear, Luma,” he said. A tear ran down his cheek and he added, “I’m sorry.”

He turned and started walking back toward the road, and Luma called after him, “Antonio.”

When he turned around, she asked, “Are you planning to walk home?”

“I’ll figure something out,” he said. “So will you.”

Shit. Antonio turned around and headed back up the dirt path to the highway, and Luma just stood in the forest for a minute, trying to wrap her mind around what just happened.

She tilted her head back, feeling a headache coming on. The forest was actually kind of beautiful, shafts of sunlight breaking through the evergreens and highlighting the pine needle-carpeted forest floor.

A bird chirped, unseen, in a tree somewhere close and Luma thought it sounded like a cuckoo. Her high school biology teacher had been obsessed with birdsong and Luma had a lot of them memorized even though she’d rarely heard them in real life. Cuckoos weren’t city birds.

“What the hell am I supposed to do now?” she asked the forest, and because the trees didn’t talk and birds rarely sang their songs in English, she received no answer.

She went over to the car and tried the key in the ignition, but the engine was shot and it wouldn’t turn over. She went through the glove compartment and the trunk, looking for anything that could help her, but she’d never been more than a phone call away from AAA.

The glove compartment held nothing helpful and Luma was all but useless without her phone, anyway.

She was stranded and she had no choice but to start walking. Her heels kept sinking into the loamy forest floor as she picked her way back up the overgrown dirt path and she was actually relieved when she got to a paved road. Her kitten heels weren’t made for hiking, but at least she could get her footing on the road.

At least I’m alive.

That was not a thought she expected to have that day. She kept walking, trying not to focus on all of the questions stretching out on the road in front of her. Where am I going? What will I do when I get there? Do I go to the cops? Will Tabitha retaliate against Antonio – or even my dad – if I do?

They were all unanswerable, insurmountable problems.

And then Luma started to hear pine needles crunching in the forest beside the road. She turned her head and for a fleeting moment, she wondered if Antonio had a change of heart and was coming back for her.

Or coming back to finish the job. Tabitha always did have an otherworldly ability to know when her demands were not being met. She was a woman of means and beauty – or at least she used to be – and it was pretty rare that anyone dared to disobey her. Did Antonio call her after he crashed Luma’s car? Did he cave already and admit that he hadn’t done what Tabitha asked of him?

Then all of those worries dissipated and Luma’s heart arrested in her chest.

A fat black bear was lumbering toward her out of the forest, no more than thirty feet away. It turned its head sideways at her, wondering how it had gotten so lucky that its next meal had delivered itself to the woods. Its mouth opened, a hint of long, sharp teeth poking out from under its lips, and then Luma was running.

The bear emerged onto the road, looking like it didn’t mind chasing down its dinner. Luma ran as fast as her feet would carry her, and when one of her heels fell off, she barely gave it a thought. She limped a few steps and then kicked off the other shoe, hardly losing speed.

She made it about fifteen yards away and then a second bear emerged from the woods, standing in front of her. If a bear could speak, this one would have said, Gotcha.

Are you freaking kidding me? Luma thought.

When the bear in front of her growled, she ducked off the open road and through a tangle of what turned out to be pricker bushes. They cut into her bare arms and legs, but Luma fought her way through them. Her stepmother put a hit on her, her father was away on business, and Antonio had just smashed her car. She was not about to be eaten by bears on top of everything else.

Luma didn’t turn around to find out if the bears were giving chase. She didn’t acknowledge the pain of each pine needle stabbing into the tender soles of her feet, or the scratches and pinpricks of blood covering her arms and legs. She just ran until her lungs burned and her thighs ached, until she had to stop or else she’d fall down in exhaustion.

When she finally did stop, leaning against a tree and panting to catch her breath, Luma looked back. There was no bear, and there was no visible path back to the road. She couldn’t see the road at all anymore, and she couldn’t even say with any certainty which direction she’d come from.

“I’m lost,” she said to the forest, tears springing to her eyes. “I am lost in the woods.”

She might not have spent much time in the forest before, but Luma knew from her schooling that it went on for hundreds of miles. People got lost in the forest every year, some of them died, and Luma was no Girl Scout.

She sank to the ground, her skirt riding up her thighs as more pine needles jabbed into her skin. She put her head back against the tree and her long black hair snagged against the rough bark. She looked up. The only thing she had going for her was the fact that it was spring, the days were getting longer, and she still had a good five hours of daylight left – not that she had any idea what to do with it.

Then, above the tall trees, she noticed a thin tendril of smoke in the distance.

Luma watched it for a minute or two, expecting it to disappear, but it persisted – it was a sign of life and her best shot at survival. She got up, brushed the pine needles off her skin, where they were stuck to her by a thin sheen of sweat, and started walking.

Limping was more like it, and she winced with every step. Her shoes were lying on the side of the road, or perhaps had become the bear’s new chew toys. She had no choice but to pin all her hopes on that tendril of smoke.

If she was lucky, it was the smoke from someone friendly’s fireplace.

What she found, at least an hour and many, many painful pine needles later, was a cottage in a clearing. It was all by itself in the woods, no sign of civilization nearby, and the smoke trail Luma had followed was coming from a large brick structure outside the cottage. It was about six feet square – a fireplace of some sort, closed on all sides with a large steel plate on the front that looked like a door, plus a chimney on top.

“Hello?” Luma called. Her voice echoed softly against the trees but no one answered.

She left the fireplace and walked around to the cottage door. Someone had swept the dirt around the perimeter of the building, a welcome reprieve from the pine needles that had rendered Luma’s feet numb.

She knocked on the door, waited and listened for a minute, then called, “Hello? Is anyone home?”

No one answered. Luma tried to peek in the windows, but they were covered with a film of dirt and she couldn’t see inside. If it wasn’t for the smoking fireplace, she would have thought the cottage was abandoned.

She knocked again, then tried the doorknob.

It turned easily and the door swung inward. Luma called again, “Hello? I’m sorry to intrude, but I could really use some help.”

There was still no answer, and she glanced back toward the forest, then down at her own scraped and dirty limbs. It was either stay outside and risk another encounter with that bear, or go inside and hope the cottage had a telephone. At the very least, she could get cleaned up and dig the pine needles out of her feet.

Luma inched her way inside.

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Lesfic Book Club: A Knight to Remember

For our April meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Bridget Essex’s novel, A Knight to Remember. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc

Bridget Essex [4:01 PM]

Howdy, lovely folks! :heart: Happy to be here!

Reader 2 [4:01 PM]

Happy to have you!

So let’s kick things off… what’d everybody think of A Knight to Remember?

Reader 1 [4:02 PM]

Loved it!

Reader 3 [4:02 PM]

My first foray into lesbian+scifi/fantasy (les-fi?). Really enjoyed it!

Reader 4 [4:03 PM]

I give it an F for fantastic. And fantasy. And fun.

Bridget Essex [4:03 PM]

Yay! :dancer::dancer::dancer:

Reader 2 [4:03 PM]

Les-fi, nice

Reader 5 [4:04 PM]

Loved it! I want my own Virago!

Bridget Essex [4:04 PM]

Ha, yeah, I like that–and an “f” for all those fantastic words? Pretty much the greatest right there. :slightly_smiling_face:

I’ve been writing my fantasy books since I was a teenager, and I was told *so* many times that no one would want to read fantasy with a lesbian lead. So not true! :heart:

Reader 6 [4:04 PM]

I like the bedroom scene

Reader 5 [4:06 PM]

The bedroom scene was amazing!

Reader 7 [4:05 PM]

Lesbians certainly will 😉

Bridget Essex [4:05 PM]

*sweeping bow* Hooray! Thanks, Reader 6! ;D

Reader 5 [4:05 PM]

Do they not know us! Haha fantasy lesbian is the best way to go!

Bridget Essex [4:05 PM]

Exactly!

Reader 7 [4:05 PM]

I think people also need to learn to separate traditional fantasy like tolkein from other fantasy

This stuff I love! Epic fantasy not so much.

Reader 8 [4:06 PM]

I also think that sometimes genre-labeling gets in the way of me finding good books, because I think I won’t like the genre.

When I actually give them a chance, I find gems I normally wouldn’t pick up

Reader 2 [4:06 PM]

So glad you just wrote them anyway!

Bridget Essex [4:06 PM]

Aw, you folks are slaying me with happiness. :heart: Thank you!

:heart: Thank you so much, Reader 2!

What I wanted to do, when I set out with A KNIGHT TO REMEMBER, is teach folks that fantasy isn’t necessarily scary. I start with something really normal, then gently ease you into it.

Reader 4 [4:07 PM]

I was reading a manga a while back that dealt with a female knight that was transported to another world (part of the isekai or “other world” genre in Japan) and the government there discovered the existence of someone from another world along with the existence of magic. The first thing they did was quarantine her and run all sorts of tests on her, including getting her to demonstrate her magic repeatedly. Do you think something similar would happen to Virago if the government had found out about her existence?

Reader 3 [4:08 PM]

Reader 8 – Agreed. I avoided one of my favorite books just because it sounded like a “lesbian with super powers” book.

Bridget Essex [4:08 PM]

Oh, lordy, probably! Virago would suffer in silence during this for a little while, and then she’d say her mission was too important and break the chains, so to speak! :slightly_smiling_face:

Oh, what’s your favorite book, @Reader 3, that sounds really good!

Reader 3 [4:09 PM]

Colorblind, by Siera Maley. Maybe not “favorite, but really good.

Reader 5 [4:08 PM]

Exactly fantasy doesn’t have to be scary! Which is what is great with yours!

Reader 6 [4:08 PM]

Bridget, you write great shifter stories. I guess those are fantasy, although For some reason I only think princess and knight when I think of fantasy.

Bridget Essex [4:09 PM]

There’s this enormous umbrella, and it’s called Speculative Fiction. Underneath that, you have paranormal, horror, fantasy, science fiction. :slightly_smiling_face: I write spec fic!

Reader 2 [4:09 PM]

I loved how confident and awed Virago was the whole time – if I got transported to another world I’d probably be hiding and crying :joy:

Reader 9 [4:09 PM]

Did you nearly kill off Shelley the dog? My heart was in my mouth

Reader 2 [4:09 PM]

Same! If it had been any other author I would have been afraid to finish the book.

Bridget Essex [4:09 PM]

OH HELL NO! :heart: My solemn promise to all my readers is I will NEVER kill an animal! :heart:

Reader 7 [4:11 PM]

If you did I’d think someone stole your name to publish.

Reader 4 [4:10 PM]

The threat of other world viruses is probably not something that either Holly or Virago were thinking of I am guessing.

Bridget Essex [4:10 PM]

@Reader 4 In my book universe, Agrotera and Earth are sister worlds–there have been constant folks coming back and forth since the beginning of humanity. :heart:

Reader 3 [4:15 PM]

@Reader 4 We read books the same way! “What if…” I kept thinking that Holly should have asked more questions about Virago’s home world. She only sees female knights, the only knight she knows only mentions girlfriends…what if men are kept as slaves and breeding stock on her home world!?

Reader 2 [4:16 PM]

I have not read more in the series yet but I was thinking that too – all-female world, please 🙂

Reader 3 [4:11 PM]

Question – you describe Holly’s “comfort book.” Do you have one, Bridget?

Bridget Essex [4:11 PM]

@Reader 3 Aw, yes, I have lots! Probably my favorite one is written by my wife, Natalie Vivien–DRAWN TO YOU. :heart: I’ve read it a million times!

Reader 7 [4:12 PM]

Oh, I haven’t read that one yet. Will need to.

Bridget Essex [4:12 PM]

It’s just so fun, Reader 7–when I’m sad, it always makes me feel better. :heart:

Reader 7 [4:14 PM]

Random question but do the names ever get confusing when you go out to do a book event, since you both have pen names?

Bridget Essex [4:15 PM]

@Reader 7 I’m not sure if it is for Natalie–I’m in the middle of legally changing my name to Bridget, so everyone calls me that, so for me, it’s easy! :heart:

Reader 1 [4:15 PM]

When you set up the knight’s society, what was your biggest influence?

How did you decide the rules and social order?

Bridget Essex [4:16 PM]

My biggest influence was what I wanted to see in the world! And ha, no, @Reader 3 no slaves! :stuck_out_tongue: There are men in other countries, but I say it in a later book–folks tend to go to places where others like them exist. Arktos is special because a lot of lady loving women got together.

Reader 6 [4:16 PM]

Doesn’t Virago talk about her brother?

Reader 7 [4:17 PM]

Basically, everyone now needs to read Date Knight. You learn all about Arktos

Reader 3 [4:17 PM]

Father, wasn’t it? But she doesn’t get specific.

Reader 7 [4:17 PM]

And meet so many different knights, so if Virago isn’t exactly your type, you’ll likely find one among the group 😉

Bridget Essex [4:17 PM]

There are two versions of my book floating around out there. One of them was when I thought the book *wouldn’t* sell, so I set it up as a one off, and didn’t put my world stuff in it. The other version is the correct one! It slays me that there are still old ones floating around!

Reader 2 [4:18 PM]

When you’re working on something new, do the characters or the world generally come to you first?

Bridget Essex [4:18 PM]

It’s always the characters, first! They appear, fully formed in my head, and I want so badly to tell their stories!

Reader 1 [4:18 PM]

How long did it take to create Arktos?

Bridget Essex [4:19 PM]

I’ve been working on my Agrotera world since I was a teenager! :heart:

It’s been a part of me for so much of my life–it’s my happy place. :heart:

Aw, Reader 6, that makes me so happy! :heart: I’m sure you’d make a great knight!

Reader 5 [4:19 PM]

Im reading date night now I love this world

Reader 6 [4:19 PM]

I want to be a knight on Arktos.

Reader 2 [4:19 PM]

That origin story for the goddesses… :ok_hand: So good!

Reader 5 [4:20 PM]

Yes love the goddess story! So beautifully told

Reader 5 [4:19 PM]

How did you first get the idea of Agrotera??

Bridget Essex [4:20 PM]

I was a very avid fantasy reader when I was a kid. I knew I was a lesbian by the age of fifteen, and I read–voraciously–looking for someone like me in the stories I read. They were never there. It broke my heart. I wanted to read a story about someone like me. So I decided that I was going to create one. :heart:

Reader 10[4:22 PM]

Thanks to all of you authors for doing that

Reader 3 [4:22 PM]

I’m glad so many of you did that, Bridget! It worked. Starting at 14 I was reading tons of lesfic books. None of them from the school library, but it was a start!

Reader 9 [4:22 PM]

Do you and your wife have separate offices so you don’t distract each other from working?

Bridget Essex [4:23 PM]

It’s not so much distraction…I know this is sappy, but we want to be around each other all the time and talk, so we have to shut ourselves up in our separate towers to get stuff done! :stuck_out_tongue: :heart: We also have different collections and want places to display them! :heart:

Reader 4 [4:24 PM]

If you were to make a TReader 10series off of your Knight Legends series would you want it to be live action or animated (2D or 3D)?

Reader 6 [4:24 PM]

Did you name your house or was it already named?

Bridget Essex [4:25 PM]

Live action!!!! I *love* animation, but I think actresses are amazing and I’d be so happy to see it in real life!

We named it, @Reader 6! :heart: We’ve always named every place we’ve lived in, and this beautiful little cottage needed a magical castle-y name. So Lion Hall it was! :heart:

Reader 2 [4:26 PM]

Did you have a particular actress/person in mind when you were writing Virago? We were talking about that earlier in the week 🙂

Bridget Essex [4:26 PM]

No, I didn’t! I hope she exists out there, though, because I want it to become real someday!

Reader 7 [4:26 PM]

It totally does…somewhere. We just need to find a portal

Reader 7 [4:28 PM]

I must find who made the portal and tell them they need a storm to go with it. And probably a full moon. 😉

Reader 11 [4:29 PM]

Hey Bridget. I always wonder how books like yours transfer to the big screen and who would play the lead characters. Any thoughts?

Bridget Essex [4:29 PM]

@Reader 11 I didn’t have any actresses in mind, but I definitely have filming locations in mind!

Reader 2 [4:30 PM]

Ooh, so where on Earth is closest to Agrotera?

Bridget Essex [4:30 PM]

Everywhere, since technically they occupy the same space, just on different dimensions. #Nerd

Reader 3 [4:30 PM]

A couple of lines stuck out to me. I wonder if you knew they stood out when you wrote them? like p141 “We don’t often want what we know we can have.”

Reader 5 [4:31 PM]

Love that line!!

Reader 9 [4:31 PM]

That’s so true

Bridget Essex [4:31 PM]

I was crying when I wrote that line. I remember it very well. :heart:

Reader 1 [4:31 PM]

Can you be a knight and be afraid of horses? Asking for a friend

Reader 3 [4:31 PM]

Reader 1 – Sure, but you have to ride a dragon.

Bridget Essex [4:31 PM]

Of course! In JUST ONE KNIGHT, I explore that. :stuck_out_tongue: :heart: You don’t need horses to kick ass, I promise!

Reader 1 [4:32 PM]

I would totally be OK riding a dragon.

Or, my friend would be

Reader 6 [4:32 PM]

No but you need one to get around – no cars

Reader 2 [4:32 PM]

You could take a small dragon to the grocery store

Bridget Essex [4:33 PM]

It depends on where you want to go! I think your own two feet can get you pretty far.

OMG, @Reader 2 I just did a spittake. :stuck_out_tongue: :heart:

Reader 9 [4:34 PM]

We call nasty people dragons here therefore your comments are amusing

Reader 4 [4:34 PM]

Excuse me sir knight, I would like to report a dragon theft.

Reader 2 [4:34 PM]

I imagine dragons are a lot harder to steal than cars, what with the fire breathing and all

Bridget Essex [4:34 PM]

(Immediately thinking about how dragons breathe fire, so they would probably be theft proof? *again taking notes* )

Reader 1 [4:35 PM]

I guess dragon theft would be dependent on the dragon’s loyalties

Reader 5 [4:35 PM]

I wouldn’t worry about dragons being stolen

Reader 7 [4:35 PM]

I’m thinking about a character using meditation to accidentally stumble on a world…

Reader 2 [4:36 PM]

Oh yeah, I love that. And you apparently have to be pretty powerful to open a portal so it’s probably going to be a monk who’s about to reach nirvana, but falls into Agrotera instead

Reader 7 [4:35 PM]

What if it’s a young dragon and they don’t have control of their fire yet?

Reader 4 [4:35 PM]

Depends on the world. Not all dragons breath fire. Some breath ice. Some breath lightning. Some breath poisonous or corrosive gas or vomit acid. Some don’t breath anything.

Reader 7 [4:36 PM]

Or, an entirely too docile dragon who loves everyone and thinks everyone is it’s new friend?

Reader 9 [4:36 PM]

Do dragons have fuel tanks in their tummies so they can always breath fire

Reader 5 [4:36 PM]

Ice breathing dragon would be nice

Reader 3 [4:36 PM]

I picture getting stuck with an eeyore type of dragon. “Someone’s stealing me. Oh well. Nobody’s gonna miss me anyway.”

Reader 7 [4:36 PM]

I think this shows that @Bridget Essex needs to write a story involving dragons.

Bridget Essex [4:36 PM]

I did, @Reader 7! JUST ONE KNIGHT has a prettttttty sexy dragon lady! :heart:

Reader 11 [4:37 PM]

Who are some of your favourite authors Bridget? And what genres do you enjoy reading?

Bridget Essex [4:38 PM]

Oh, lordy, so many! In lesbian fiction, I’ve read most and love most! :heart: In fantasy, my favorite is Terry Pratchett. :heart: Followed closely by Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce, Andre Norton, Anne Macaffrey, all the greats. :heart:

I had a really rough time growing up. Whenever the world would become unbearable, I’d read a Pratchett and it would always make me feel better. He had the power to make me feel safe. :heart: Magic, right there. :heart:

Reader 11 [4:41 PM]

Literature does have that power to take you somewhere else completely, especially needed in these uncertain times.

Reader 1 [4:39 PM]

What is your favorite Pratchett book?

Bridget Essex [4:40 PM]

My absolute, absolute favorite is A HAT FULL OF SKY. :heart:

Reader 1 [4:40 PM]

50 years from now, please don’t do what Pratchett did; all of your creations need to be published and not destroyed.

Reader 2 [4:40 PM]

Was he the one that burned his unpublished works?

Reader 7 [4:40 PM]

That will be hundreds of stories by then too

Bridget Essex [4:40 PM]

It’s heartbreaking, the reason he did it…most of it was garbled because of his illness. I understand

why, though it breaks my heart. :heart: Hopefully I’ll be all right as I age, but that’s not a guarantee!

Reader 9 [4:41 PM]

Alzheimer’s shows no mercy :pensive:

Reader 7 [4:41 PM]

Did you create at least rough backstories for each knight once you realized it was a series, or did that develop as you wrote more?

Bridget Essex [4:42 PM]

I had a lot of ideas for each one, but things have definitely evolved for each one, too, like Kell! What is going to happen to her wasn’t original, but now it’s exactly what needed to be! :heart:

Reader 1 [4:43 PM]

Of all your series, which took you the longest to come up with?

Reader 7 [4:43 PM]

I love so many of the books, but I felt Charaxis’s story affected me the most. It’s such a powerful book.

Bridget Essex [4:43 PM]

:heart: Charaxis is so special to me. She’s the one character I based on my wife. :heart:

Reader 7 [4:45 PM]

Speaking of names, how do you come up with them?!

Bridget Essex [4:46 PM]

Names are SO IMPORTANT to me! I’m such a nerd–they have to have eighteen different levels of meaning! :heart: I do SO MUCH RESEARCH and then do background research, so the origin of the name would make sense in a place the knights would have visited in our world!

Reader 9 [4:45 PM]

Are the other knight books the ones in the bottom of the portal?

Bridget Essex [4:45 PM]

Yes, several of them!

Reader 7 [4:45 PM]

Wait, which book is Kel’s because she intrigues the hell out of me?

Bridget Essex [4:47 PM]

Kell’s book hasn’t come out yet.

Reader 2 [4:48 PM]

Is this going to be your next release?

Bridget Essex [4:48 PM]

No, it’s somewhere down the line! :heart: I’m not sure what my next release will be right now. :heart:

Reader 6 [4:48 PM]

Your wolves are my favorite. Any of those in the future?

Bridget Essex [4:49 PM]

Aw, thank you so much, Reader 6! I’m working on about five different wolf books right now. :heart: There are definitely some coming soon! :heart:

Reader 2 [4:50 PM]

Haha oh wow, so you are definitely not a one-project-at-a-time kind of author, huh?

Bridget Essex [4:51 PM]

And ha, no, Reader 2, I’m definitely not! :stuck_out_tongue: :heart: I’m like a bunny–I like to nibble on lots of different things at once. :stuck_out_tongue: :heart:

Reader 9 [4:51 PM]

Do you write a bit of one, then a bit of another or just plan them but focus on just one for writing

Bridget Essex [4:51 PM]

I’m planning tons, outlining a lot, then usually concentrating on writing the first draft of one at once.

Reader 3 [4:52 PM]

I have a question – I devoured quite a bit of YA lesfic over the last few years, and it was pretty much exclusively fem/fem. The more “mature” lesfic (you know, with dragons and monsters and stuff!) seems to be skewed butch/fem. Is there a reason for that?

Reader 1 [4:52 PM]

How many do you usually have going on at one time in various stages?

Bridget Essex [4:53 PM]

@Reader 3 I think it’s about author preference! As time goes on, it’s getting more robust with lots of different types of ladies across the spectrum of queer–I’m really noticing an evolution of that. :heart:

SO many, Reader 1! Hard to say how many–I think I’m working on about twenty right now.

Awww, Reader 6, thank you! :heart: I LOVE that one. :heart:

Reader 1 [4:54 PM]

20…..twenty….Wow!! :star-struck: :star-struck:

Reader 9 [4:54 PM]

I wouldn’t be able to remember who was who and what was what if I did that lol (edited)

Reader 2 [4:55 PM]

Well you’re not going to run out of ideas any time soon :joy: Great news

Bridget Essex [4:55 PM]

I don’t really remember once they’re released, which is bad! But when I’m writing I’m so laser focused!

Reader 7 [4:56 PM]

I’m pretty sure I’ve listened to all of the books I’ve read from you, and you’ve done a wonderful job finding narrators. I think a good portion is because your books are well written, making the narrator’s job easier. I’m currently in love with Marina Barrett though!

Reader 4 [4:56 PM]

If you were given the chance to live life on another world and the god or goddess of that world decide to give you a blessing, what kind of blessing would you choose of given the choice? It could be anything. A power or ability, a magic sword, immortality, a companion, or anything else you could think of.

Bridget Essex [4:56 PM]

OH, LORDY, I LOVE HER SO MUCH. :heart: That makes me so happy, @Reader 7! :heart:

Ooh, I love that! I’d want to be able to talk to animals, definitely. :heart:

Reader 7 [4:57 PM]

She’s only done your books (with one exception). Do you hide her in your basement? lol

Bridget Essex [4:57 PM]

*laughing so hard* She’s the nom de vox of Maria Marquis! :heart: She narrates mostly YA and wanted to separate romance from YA.

Reader 11 [4:59 PM]

How much do you enjoy events like this, interacting with readers?

Bridget Essex [5:00 PM]

Aw, I love them so much! :heart: I love talking with folks, and I love your questions so much! :heart:

Reader 1 [5:00 PM]

And we love you and your creations!

Bridget Essex [5:00 PM]

I always talk with my readers and have a really wonderful relationship with them! :heart: If you haven’t already, please friend me on FB to see lots of cute animals! :heart: https://www.facebook.com/bridgetessexauthor

Reader 6 [5:02 PM]

Lots of animals…a bird that bites, a majestic dog, a rabbit that sleeps with the dog

Reader 9 [5:31 PM]

So you have a bird, a bunny, a dog…, what else?

Bridget Essex [5:31 PM]

Lordy…um….

We have three dogs, six cats, four bunnies, one conure, two cockatiels, one parakeet, nine finches, one lovebird, six guinea pigs, two gerbils, one mouse, many fish, lots of shrimp. :heart: They’re all rescues except for Zelda, our sheltie. :heart: :heart: :heart:

Rescue and animal activism are my and my wife’s greatest passions–besides writing. :heart:

Reader 9 [5:32 PM]

And a partridge in a pear tree

Bridget Essex [5:32 PM]

Ha, totally! *peeks at pear tree* :heart:

Reader 1 [5:33 PM]

How do you do all of that, have 20ish books in process, and ….everything else?

Bridget Essex [5:33 PM]

I drink a LOT of coffee. 🙂 :heart:

Reader 6 [5:37 PM]

Bridget Essex, I’m a true blue fan and Patreon. I love your books and your spirit. Don’t be sad if you can help it. Thanks for the hours of escapism you have given me. Thanks for coming to talk to us.

Reader 2 [5:38 PM]

Thank you so much for joining us, Bridget!

Bridget Essex [5:38 PM]

You have all been a dream, and I adore you. Thank you for the laughter and lovely welcome–it was wonderful. :heart:

Reader 1 [5:39 PM]

Thank you for…being you!!! :star-struck:

Whoot. I didn’t faint.

Lesfic Book Club: Blend

For our March meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Georgia Beers’s novel, Blend. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://tinyurl.com/lesficlove (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc

Reader 1

Hello, thanks for joining us!

Georgia

Thanks for the invite!

Reader 1 So, what did everyone think of Blend?

Reader 2

I loved it.

Reader 3

It was very warm and soothing

Reader 5

I love it… It went together like a nice rose sweet n sassy

Georgia Thanks for all the kind words

Reader 4

Its very warm and soothing and they gradually grow together which is hard to do so gradually as you’ve done it.

Reader 5

So I got a question…. Why kayaking?

Georgia

I needed something solitary, yet soothing. A workout, but something that would allow for deep thought.

Plus, it didn’t seem to fit Piper and I liked that

Reader 3

If Piper and Lindsay were wines, what would they be?

Georgia

Hmmm……good question. What do YOU think they’d be?

Reader 3

haha oh no, I don’t know enough about wine to answer that!

Reader 1

hehe and are you asking for the traditional or the celebrity descriptors?

Georgia

Lindsay would be a rosé, kind of light, maybe a little fruity and playful. Piper would be a Zinfandel…deep and complex and robust and hard to figure out

Reader 1

Perfect answer – did you already think about that or was that off the top of your head? I’m impressed either way

Georgia

I did not think of it. LOL. It stumped me for a second there

Reader 5

You sure know a ton about wine n had me on a wine kick for a good minute so far lol

Reader 7

Did you have to drink a lot of bottles to research your book properly?

Georgia

I absolutely did.

Still am.

Reader 8

How did this story come about? What inspired you?

Georgia

I’ve always been a fan of wine and I’ve always been interested in learning about it. I found a local wine bar that had a great atmosphere with sort of an idea that I might want to do a wine book. Turns out the owner and I became fast friends and after that, it just seemed inevitable

Reader 1

Were you Mr. Can I Taste That while you were researching?

Georgia

Ha! No, I’m much too polite to be him

Reader 4

That guy irks me how does Lindsay stay so calm lol

Georgia

She’s a better person than you or I.

Reader 1

Anyone else get thrown off the ending because of Mr. Can I Taste That? I thought he was up to something.

Reader 3

Totally – like he was very important in reviewing or something

Georgia

Nope. He’s just a guy without manners

And an actual customer at the wine bar here

Reader 2

I’m curious as to how Edgar and Rocket might have got along if things got to the point that Lindsay and Piper moved in together.

Georgia

Reader 2 – they’d have come to an understanding. Eventually…

Reader 6

Oh! So, question. The characters both ask this question in some way, but I wonder if there’s an answer. Was the friction because of the underlying chemistry or was the chemistry enhanced by the initial friction?

Georgia

Reader 6 – yes

Reader 6

Hahaha dammit

Reader 8

If you could change one part of the novel, what would you change?

Georgia

It’s too recent to want to change it. Ask me again in a year or two!

Reader 8

But that makes me want to ask you things about older books….I will refrain.

Reader 1

Also, you better expect her to come knocking in a year or two now that you said so

Georgia

I’d better start rereading my older stuff then!

My memory ain’t what it used to be!

Reader 2

I’m also curious as to what happened to Zack.

Georgia

He got fired

Reader 6

I wanted them to sue his ass

Georgia

Piper tells Lindsay that she saved his firing for her

He didn’t do anything illegal, though. Just uncool

Reader 6

True. Then blast his ass on social media

Reader 1

Very uncool, Zack.

Reader 3

I was wondering what his motivations were… money?

Georgia

Greed, sure. He probably would’ve gotten a better position at the other restaurant

Reader 10

Hey Georgia. Did you mean to make Piper such a bitch or is she just misunderstood?

Georgia

Haha! Don’t sugarcoat it for me, Reader 10

I didn’t think she was a bitch. I thought she was a control freak who had issues she couldn’t deal with properly and that had her out of control.

Reader 10

That’s fair. I am a bit blunt

Reader 6

I was glad that Piper’s mom and sister owned up to the setup in the end. I kept thinking that Ellen had to plan this from the beginning

Reader 2

I thought it was quite obvious what Piper’s mom was up to from the beginning.

Reader 4

Control freak covers her perfectly they tend to be on the bitchy side lol

Reader 9

Yeah, I found with Piper that I could understand _why_ she acted the way she did, but… I found it difficult to find any reason to care about a character that reacted in the way she did. I finally became comfortable with Piper about the time Lindsey did.

Georgia

It’s a fine line to walk when writing an ice queen.

Reader 6

I feel like, because we saw glimpses of her humanity, I would absolutely give her leeway

Georgia

That’s always what I shoot for, Reader 6. I’m glad you felt that. It doesn’t always work, unfortunately

Reader 1

I think she definitely comes off as cold in the beginning, but I understood her throughout. Then again I think I’m more of a Piper than a Lindsay so it’s probably all perspective

She’s one of those people who you can count on to make the right decision eventually, even if it takes her a while to come around, like with the layoffs storyline

Reader 5

I loved the protectiveness at the graduation party piper showed

Georgia

I was hoping that the party would get people to connect with Piper a bit more

Reader 2

There were still a few times I wanted to slap Piper though.

Reader 9

And… I don’t like _everybody_ I meet in real life; so it isn’t a surprise when some characters aren’t quite right for me

Reader 6

It’s hard. And I’m sure there are people that would have cut her off. But that’s why Lindsay is who she is. Or you don’t have a book

Reader 3

I actually thought Piper and Lindsay would have clashed more than they did

All things considered, they weren’t too mean to each other

Georgia

Truthfully? I have trouble with conflict. I don’t like to make people clash. It’s a problem. LOL

Reader 6

I totally get that. I am way too kind to my characters sometimes.

But I liked the balance in this book

Georgia

Right? We’re supposed to put them through the wringer. And I’m always all, “But I LIKE them!”

Reader 3

oh, it’s so lovely in the story though! don’t get me wrong, I love some fiery enemies to lovers, but this book was charming!

Reader 1

Haha yes, killing your darlings is so hard

Reader 4

I have the opposite lol i like the conflict the bleeding heart i guess you can say

Reader 6

And at the same time, when it’s the right person, how can you not forgive when the other is genuine?

Reader 8

I was about to ask if you enjoy writing “enemies to lovers” into your novels.

Georgia

I do like enemies to lovers, yes. I like to write office romances and more often than not, they start as enemies

Reader 5

I loved the turmoil piper had to face within her in order to open her dang eyes n see she messed up

Reader 1

So speaking of redeeming Piper, I loved her grand gesture, signing Lindsay up for sommelier classes.

Grand gestures have come up in previous book clubs and it seems like there’s a wide range of author feelings on them. Georgia, do you like writing them? Do they come easy to you?

Georgia

I love writing them (because I am a romantic and *I* would make a grand gesture). But they’re hard because what *I* consider a grand gesture might be totally lame to you. You know?

Reader 4

A grand gesture is supposed to show you listen and know the person you nailed it!

Georgia

It also has to reflect the character. It can’t be totally out of left field. Or if it is, it needs to be discussed that it is so it’s not completely out of character

Reader 8

I think big gestures are in the eye of the beholder. Not to be too predictable, but How I Met Your Mother (the tv show) said it best. Gestures are defined by those receiving them. Something could be wonderful to one person, yet creepy to another.

Reader 3

Yes – and I loved the grand gesture of the sommelier classes, too, because they were something Lindsay hadn’t even thought of doing for herself

So it’s Piper knowing and seeing her

Reader 9

Right. That felt so Piper and so much the best proof she could offer Lindsey in that moment of her recognition.

Reader 10

I think it was a moment that showed that Piper understood what was important to Lindsay and therefore a perfect gesture.

Reader 8

What was the hardest part of writing this particular book? Aside from the research you had to do on wines.

Georgia

I think it was making Piper icy, but not totally unlikeable. I always have trouble with that

Reader 4

I love piper! Her icyness is justified

Georgia

Thank you, Reader 4! I glad you thought so

Reader 8

I think you always humanize the “ice queens” in such a way that we can see beyond the stereotype.

Georgia

Thank you. That’s the goal, always

Reader 4

She was always the control freak and her father her sounding board with him gone it makes sense she would retreat a bit

Reader 10

Blend was my first GB book. What should I read next?

Reader 8

ALL OF THEM.

Reader 8

Too Close To Touch was the first I read, but that was…a long time ago. Lol

Reader 6

I really appreciated starting from scratch. Lesfic has relatively few moms and kids, especially believable ones. There are times when I know an author has never had a kid. Lol that wasn’t a problem with your books

Reader 5

shape of you had me trying cycling…

Georgia

Good for you! Spin is HARD

Reader 8

Of your collected works, What is the one you’re most proud of? ( you can say you’re proud of all of them…)

Georgia

That’s a tough one, but I’m going to go with Starting from Scratch

Reader 1

What’s your favorite part of a romance to write?

Georgia

The first kiss

Reader 8

Not the first…time?

Georgia

Nope. The first kiss

Writing the first sex scene is HARD

Reader 4

Why the first kiss?

Georgia

Because to me, all the tension/flirting/arguing has built up to that moment, that first physical, sexual contact

Reader 7

Do you have to do research for the sex scenes like you do for the wine?

Georgia

Haha! I’ve been around a while. I think I have the hang of it…

I mean, I *think*…

Reader 10

Research is important lol!

Reader 2

If you have a chance to make one of your books into a movie which book would you most want to see become a movie?

Reader 4

Blend!!! Hands down is my favorite type of love story lol

Reader 4

I loive hallmark just needs to be more lesfic love then hetro

Georgia

I watch a lot of Hallmark, too

Reader 10

Do you enjoy this type of interaction with your readers?

Georgia

I do. I’m always a little nervous, but yes, I enjoy it

Reader 11

Do you ever worry you’ll run out of stories? I’m impressed how you keep coming up with new ideas.

Georgia

Every single day, yes.

But I have learned to remind myself that an idea always comes along eventually. And that’s been true so far.

Reader 6

With so many books, how do you come up with character names?

Georgia

I have a list of names that I keep on my phone. Whenever I hear one I like, I jot it down.

I have used some over again, but not for main characters.

I also tend to decide what year my character was born, then check “most popular baby names” for that year

And I have a name book

Reader 6

Not a question, but an observation. I think of you as a writer that never has an awkward sentence.

It just blows me away.

Reader 1

Agreed – definitely a wordsmith!

Georgia

Thank you for that, Reader 6!

And Reader 1! I really, really appreciate that!

I do love words. Numbers? They hate me. But words and I are pretty good friends

Reader 3

Thank you for joining us!

Reader 1

Yes, thank you Georgia! We appreciate you chatting with us

Georgia

No problem at all! I’m so honored you asked me

Reader 8

I cannot believe we just chatted with Georgia Beers. THANK YOU!!!

Georgia

Hahahaha! You flatter me. Thank YOU

This was a lot of fun.