Inspiration post #3: The rodeo

In my new novel Buried Bones, an important scene occurs at a rodeo. That scene was inspired by my first visit to a rodeo.

Last July, I got to go to the St. Paul Rodeo. It’s a really big one, and it occurs on the 4th of July.

I’ve lived most of my life in suburbs and small cities. Like Dylan, I experienced a bit of culture shock at the rodeo. But it was a lot of fun.

Here’s our view from the grandstands. I was really impressed by what amazing athletes the contestants are. Those guys (and gals) really get thrown around.

Aside from the competitions, the rodeo also has carnival rides and games, vendor booths, and various fried foods. This was a deep-fried Oreo. If you read Buried Bones, you might notice that this kid makes a cameo appearance.

Unlike Chris, I did not encounter any surprises from my past at the rodeo. I did, however, enjoy the cute guys in chaps!

Next week: Doughnuts!

HAHAT Winners

Congratulations to KimberlyFDR and Sherry, who were randomly chosen as winners in my HAHAT giveaway! I’ve email you both, but please contact me if you didn’t receive the email.

And thanks to all of you for stopping by and commenting!!

Inspiration Post #2: Dylan’s farm

My newest novel Buried Bones releases today! It’s the sequel to Good Bones, and as in the first book, much of the action takes place on a farm in Oregon.

Dylan’s farm is imaginary. But it was inspired by a very real place: the farm my brother and sister-in-law own in Oregon.

The real place doesn’t have a big old house that needs renovation, and instead of a pond it has a creek. The real farm isn’t as isolated as the fictional one–there are a handful of neighbors nearby (none of whom are snarky, sexy handymen) and the property’s backed by a big wheat field instead of state forest.

But there are also similarities between the real and imaginary farms. Both have Christmas trees gone feral and abundant blackberries. Both are frequently visited by wildlife, although to the best of my knowledge, there are no werewolves on my relatives’ farm.

Above, that’s the creek. It’s pretty shallow in the summer but becomes a river during winter rains. During one visit an otter swam over to check us out.

Dylan’s farm doesn’t have  big barn, just a sort of storage building. The real farm boasts a huge barn that was once used for drying hops. Nowadays bats roost under the roof.

Due to Dylan’s monthly proclivities, keeping livestock is not a good idea. On the real farm, my family keeps various birds. My daughter loves collecting the eggs, which are so much tastier than store-bought.

The duck eggs aren’t always easy to find. This duck made her nest in a blackberry bramble.

And there are slugs. I suspect that even on the real farm, some of them may be supernatural creatures. They are very large slugs.

Next inspiration post: The rodeo!

PS–I’ve posted another student bloopers video. Check it out! http://youtu.be/6ugjsSTK_38

Inspiration post #1: Where do ideas come from?

I think the moment when I first felt like a Genuine Author was the first time someone asked me, “Where do you get your ideas?”

From what I gather, authors get asked this a lot. It’s kind of a strange question from my viewpoint, because the truth is I get ideas from everywhere. Might be something I catch a glimpse of, an overheard conversation, a snippet from the radio, a place I visit, an event that happens to me or someone I know. I’ve even had ideas come to me in dreams. These ideas gather in my mind the same way shiny pebbles gather in my daughter’s pockets and backpack. And then my muse picks up a few of them and begins to play… and a story is born.

Of course, just as when human beings are born, there’s a lot of painful labor involved in the delivery. And lord knows they don’t make epidurals for writers.

But in the end you get a brand-new creation, and that’s a beautiful thing.

Every Wednesday over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing with you some of the specific things that inspired parts of some of my stories. Because Buried Bones releases May 22, I’ll begin on that date with a post on the farm that inspired Dylan’s.

Do you wonder about the inspiration behind something in one of my stories? Leave me a comment about what you’d like to know and I’ll let you in on the secret. 🙂

Hop against Homophobia and Transphobia

Today is the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, and I’m participating in this blog hop.

You know the It Gets Better campaign? Well, it does. It has. In the past years, attitudes towards LGBT people have made enormous improvements. We can see this in legislation. More states now include sexual orientation and gender identity in their hate crime laws. More states now allow same sex marriages. DADT is DOA.

We can see the change in how people act too. For nearly 20 years I’ve been teaching a university class that deals with homophobia–among other biases. I always ask the straight guys to imagine they’re in a bar and a girl who’s totally not their type hits on them. What’s their reaction? No big deal, they say. They’d politely tell her no thanks. Then I ask them to imagine it’s a guy who hits on them. It used to be that my students would react with laughter, with hoots of derision, with pained faces, with promises that they’d hit the guy. But reactions have changed. Nowadays the students shrug. “I’d be flattered,” some of them say. “I’d let him buy me a free drink,” others say. No big deal. They’d politely tell him no thanks.

This is progress.

But we still have so far to go. My gay friends still can’t get married here in California or in most other states. In some states, people can be fired or denied housing because they’re gay. People with same sex partners still have to think about whether it’s safe to show affection in public. Just the other day, two young men were attacked outside Madison Square Garden because they were holding hands.Transgender people are still attacked merely for being, even in San Francisco.

I’ve had students show up in my classes with black eyes from getting bashed, with police reports from when their homes were vandalized. I’ve had students tell me their family no longer speaks to them. I’ve seen my friends and colleagues deal with hassles related to taxes, insurance, adoption, health care directives. I’m hoping that soon the day will arrive when I never see these things again.

___

I’m giving away two prizes: an e-copy of my new novel Buried Bones and a $10 donation in your name to the Human Rights Campaign or the LGBT organization of your choice. I’ll randomly choose the two winners from the comments on this post. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment with your email before noon PDT May 28 .

Artist help needed!

I am a terrible artist.

If you’ve watched the student bloopers movie I posted recently, you saw some drawings done by my daughters. My 10-year-old does a much better job than I could.

But now I need something that’s a bit too mature for her, and I’m calling on you for help.

I need someone to draw my muse. I have a specific project planned for her, plus I might like to use her on some promo material. So I’ll need an original color drawing, not something that’s Photoshopped.

What’s in it for you? If you draw my muse and I select your drawing, you get my undying gratitude, a print copy of Buried Bones, an e-copy of Night Shift, and a cameo appearance in the next novel I write. Of course, I’ll give you credit for the art when I post it too.

I’ll need the art by May 20; a high-quality image file is fine. I’d prefer just my muse against a blank white background. You can hand-draw her or use a computer program, whichever you prefer.

Here’s what she looks like:
My muse is middle-aged and plump. She resembles a cross between Cathy Bates and Meryl Streep. She has shoulder-length, iron-gray curls. She wears dominatrix gear and always carries a whip.

If you have any questions, you can comment here or email me at dephalqu@yahoo.com. That’s the address where you’ll send the image file as well.

Thank you!

Please welcome Shira Anthony!

Series-ly? Shira Anthony’s Take on Writing the Blue Notes Series
Thanks, Kim, for letting me take over your blog today! Even better, thanks for letting me share a bit about the fourth book in my Blue Notes Series of classical music themed gay romances, Prelude, just released by Dreamspinner Press on May 6th.  Preludeis Book 4 in the Blue Notes Series.  Each book is a standalone story and the series books can be read in any order.  Preludeis chronologically the first, even though it’s the fourth book in the series.
Which brings me, in a roundabout sort of way, to my topic du jour for today’s blog stop:  series.  I just came back from the Dreamspinner Press Author’s Workshop in Chicago last month, and one of the topics that came up was how series sell with readers (the answer is, “it depends”).  But it got me thinking about why I chose to write a series.
First, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the Blue Notes Series, it’s what the publishing biz calls a “spinoff” series.  Standalone books that have some interrelated characters, but are not sequels and do not need to be read in any particular order.  The alternative?  Sequel type series (self-explanatory).  I’ve read both types of series and have loved them both.
I fully admit that when I wrote the original “Blue Notes” book, I had no intention of creating a series.  But then I had these two other characters in my head (David and Alex from “Prelude”, in an earlier incarnation) who I wrote into the story, and then this cool secondary character popped up at the end of the book (Sam Ryan from “Aria”), and I started to think: “I want to write about them, too.”  That was the genesis of the series.
The best part of writing a spinoff series like Blue Notes for me?  I can fall in love with a secondary character and write his story in a later book.  Not surprisingly, sometimes what I feel about a secondary character can totally change as I write.  Case in point:  Cameron, the cheating ex in “Aria.”  I hated him when I began to write him.  He breaks opera singer Aiden Lind’s heart and sends Aiden into a tailspin.  But somewhere along the way to a final draft of the book, I started to see Cam differently.  His backstory became clear to me and, bingo, I totally fell for him.  (I know, those of you who have read “Aria” may be shouting at your screen now!)  All I can tell you is, “Just wait and see.  There’s more to Cam than meets the eye.”
Another wonderful benefit of series writing?  Overlapping stories.   Take “Prelude,” for example.  There’s a flashback scene near the beginning of the book where Alex’s violin teacher, Roger Nelson, gives Alex a new violin.  The scene in “Prelude” is written from Alex’s point of view.  In the next book, “Encore,” the same scene appears toward the end of the book and now it’s from a different character’s perspective.  In “Encore,” the scene takes on an entirely new meaning.  I won’t spoil it, but suffice it to say it’s one of the pivotal scenes in “Encore.”  Perhaps the most pivotal.
I hope you join me as I explore my classical music universe and the characters who populate it.  Don’t forget, any of the Blue Notes books is a good entry into the series.  Read a blurb that interests you?  Start with that story.  Then as you read other books in the series, you’ll probably have a few “a-ha” moments, where you see these intersections of people and ideas.  I hope you’ll enjoy those moments as much as I did writing them! 
Want to read an excerpt from “Prelude”? Click on this link (my website) and scroll down to the excerpt tab.  -Shira
PS:  Want to win some Blue Notes swag?  I’ll be giving away winner’s choice of a paperback or ebook of one of the Blue Notes novels as well as a Blue Notes Series t-shirt (winner’s choice of cover) at the end of the Blue Notes blog tour.  To enter, comment on this post and the other blog posts to win!

****************************

Summary:  World-renowned conductor David Somers never wanted the investment firm he inherited from his domineering grandfather. He only wanted to be a composer. But no matter how he struggles, David can’t translate the music in his head into notes on paper.

When a guest violinist at the Chicago Symphony falls ill, David meets Alex Bishop, a last-minute substitute. Alex’s fame and outrageous tattoos fail to move David. Then Alex puts bow to string, and David hears the brilliance of Alex’s soul.

David has sworn off relationships, believing he will eventually drive away those he loves, or that he’ll lose them as he lost his wife and parents. But Alex is outgoing, relaxed, and congenial—everything David is not—and soon makes dents in the armor around David’s heart. David begins to dream of Alex, wonderful dreams full of music. Becoming a composer suddenly feels attainable.

David’s fragile ego, worn away by years of his grandfather’s disdain, makes losing control difficult. When David’s structured world comes crashing down, his fledgling relationship with Alex is the first casualty. Still, David hears Alex’s music, haunting and beautiful. David wants to love Alex, but first he must find the strength to acknowledge himself.

NOTE: Each Blue Notes novel is a standalone story and books in the series can be read in any order.

Want to buy the Blue Notes Series books? You can find them all here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=54_673  
**************************
In her last incarnation, Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.

Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 35’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel. 
Shira can be found on:
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/shira.anthony
Goodreads:
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4641776.Shira_Anthony
Twitter: @WriterShira
Website:
http://www.shiraanthony.com
E-mail:
shiraanthony@hotmail.com

Please welcome Jamie Fessenden!

My occult mystery novel, Murderous Requiem, features many different types of magick and divination, so I thought I’d talk briefly today about one that has some grounding in medical science—herbalism. 
Jeremy and Boywn’s friend Alex is an herbalist who keeps them all supplied with herbal teas and tinctures.   
She was based upon several people I’ve known over the course of my life, including women who owned “New Age” stores specializing in herbs.  For much of my time in college, I studied herbalism myself.
One of the big misconceptions about herbs is that, because they’re natural, they’re safe.  They aren’t necessarily.  Many are, in fact, quite dangerous. The pennyroyaltea/tincture that appears in Murderous Requiem is traditionally used as an abortifacient and has been responsible for killing women who take too much.  Herbs like Foxglove are extremely potent and can be dangerous if handled without gloves. Less dire, but still a concern, are possible allergies.  Chamomile, for example, causes an allergic reaction in some people, though it’s perfectly safe for most of us.
Still for anyone interested in herbal remedies, here are some simple ones that I’ve used over the years and can recommend as both effective (as in, they actually have a noticeable effect) and safe.  Remember that everybody is different, so if a particular herb doesn’t sit well with you, discontinue its use.  All of these herbs can be found in herbal supply shops. 

  • Peppermint and other mints, such as Spearmint and Catnip, are generally good for the digestion.  A tea brewed with a teaspoon or two of the dried leaves can be used to settle the stomach and relieve indigestion.  Mints are also great as flavoring agents in other herbal infusions, since they are strong enough to mask the unpleasant tastes of other herbs.

  • Clove, especially Clove Oil, is a wonderful local anesthetic.  I use just a dab on my finger or a Q-tip to relieve the pain of a toothache or a canker sore.  Don’t swallow a lot of Clove, because it can also be used to induce vomiting, when taken in large amounts (although I’ve never had a problem).  Some people may also be allergic to Clove.

  • Nutmeg works well for relieving gas and bloating.  I just sprinkle a little in a glass of milk—maybe half a teaspoon.  This isn’t good for people who are lactose intolerant, of course.  But it can be sprinkled in other drinks, if you don’t mind the taste.  In extremely large doses, Nutmeg is purportedly hallucinogenic, but from everything I’ve heard, it will make you seriously ill long before the hallucinogenic properties kick in.  Needless to say, I haven’t bothered to experiment with that.

  • White Willow Bark contains salicylic acid, which is the active ingredient in aspirin.  A tea made with one or two teaspoons of White Willow Bark is a good mild pain killer.  However, the same warnings apply to this that also apply to aspirin:  it may cause stomach upset and should be avoided with children and young people suffering from viral infections, due to the risk of Reyes syndrome. 

  • Dandelion Leaf tea is a great diuretic.  This may not sound particularly useful, but it’s been found to be effective in lowering blood pressure.  Some people can have an allergic reaction to Dandelion, but that’s generally from eating the flowers and pollen. 

  • Valerian Root tea is an effective sedative, good for relaxation and for curing insomnia.  I also find it effective against a headache—even a mild migraine (i.e., in which the headache is focused on one side of the head or around one eye, a classic migraine, but not necessarily so strong I can’t function)—though it only kills the pain for an hour or so.  I probably wouldn’t recommend drinking more than two or three cups in a day, and like any other sedative, it’s probably unwise to drink it on top of alcohol, strong painkillers or sleeping pills.  Personally, I think Valerian smells like old socks doesn’t taste much better, so I generally mix with a teaspoon or so of mint.

  • Jewelweed (aka Touch-Me-Not) is a plant with orange and red flowers and seed pods that children always find entertaining, because they explode upon contact, tossing the seeds in all directions.  More useful are the translucent stems, which can be crushed and applied to rashes on the skin caused by poison ivy or stinging nettle.  The juice is immediately soothing and has antihistamine properties.

About the Author:
Jamie Fessenden set out to be a writer in junior high school. He published a couple short pieces in his high school’s literary magazine and had another story place in the top 100 in a national contest, but it wasn’t until he met his partner, Erich, almost twenty years later, that he began writing again in earnest. With Erich alternately inspiring and goading him, Jamie wrote several screenplays and directed a few of them as micro-budget independent films. His latest completed work premiered at the Indie Fest 2009 in Los Angeles and also played at the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival two weeks later.
After nine years together, Jamie and Erich have married and purchased a house together in the wilds of Raymond, New Hampshire, where there are no street lights, turkeys and deer wander through their yard, and coyotes serenade them on a nightly basis. Jamie currently works as technical support for a computer company in Portsmouth, NH, but fantasizes about someday quitting his day job to be a full-time writer.
Buy Link:
Blurb:
Jeremy Spencer never imagined the occult order he and his boyfriend, Bowyn, started as a joke in college would become an international organization with hundreds of followers. Now a professor with expertise in Renaissance music, Jeremy finds himself drawn back into the world of free love and ceremonial magick he’d left behind, and the old jealousies and hurt that separated him from Bowyn eight years ago seem almost insignificant. 
Then Jeremy begins to wonder if the centuries-old score he’s been asked to transcribe hides something sinister. With each stanza, local birds flock to the old mansion, a mysterious fog descends upon the grounds, and bats swarm the temple dome. During a séance, the group receives a cryptic warning from the spirit realm. And as the music’s performance draws nearer, Jeremy realizes it may hold the key to incredible power—power somebody is willing to kill for.

Preorder now

May 22 is the day! Buried Bones releases then. You can preorder it now: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3817

You can also preorder The Gig, which will released–for FREE!–the same day: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3871