Wooden Spoon Writing Challenge & New Year’s Eve Updates

wooden-spoon challenge

Writing has been erratic lately. I can whip off a freebie in an hour or two, but I stare at Indigo for hours to write a few hundred words.

I started a Wooden Spoon Challenge a few days ago to encourage Stephanie Beck to write. She wrote an amazing story with a hint of kink, posted here. Then Olivia Starke joined with a sweet-as-sugar story here. Mm. I want some chocolate now. Next, Dominique Eastwick introduced her Wiccan Haus series with this shifter story. Anyone feeling a bit paranormal yet? Dominique challenged none other than our beloved Evil Mistress Kate, aka Kate Richards. Kate put up her story today, a scrumptious sneak peek of her next cookie club story.

Who’s next? We wait with bated breath.

These were my original terms:

 

I wrote a freebie story for readers, my first Christmas menage featuring Mira and Hana from Desire in Any Language and Mira’s Miracle. I’m passing on the challenge to Stephanie Beck. Stephanie, you have 24 hours to produce a 2K freebie story (using one idea, theme, sentence, or image from my story for inspiration) or face the penalty. What penalty?

–Public admission of your naughtiness!
–Listening to “Let it Go” on endless repeat
–Forfeiting your knitting needles, wild rice, and jello!
–Having to compose a public ode to wooden spoons!
–and more! Depends on my mood!

What is the reward for successfully completing the challenge?

–Public adulation as a Freebie Girl!
–A hand-engraved Anastasia Vitsky wooden spoon!
–Your choice of an Anastasia Vitsky book!
–and one entry on either Mrs. Claus’ nice or naughty list for 2015, your choice

See? It pays to behave! Now sit your bottom on a chair and get writing, missy! Mrs. Claus will know if you’ve been bad or good. Get cracking! The clock starts NOW.

When you finish, post your freebie story link and tag me. Challenge one or two author friends to do the same thing. And go!

Everyone’s tweaked the rules as we go along. It’s been fun to see the excitement. We even had T-shirts made! Want to see? Thanks to Dominique for making the logo.

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 11.13.56 PM

I can’t wait to see who’s next for the Wooden Spoon Challenge.

wpid-wp-1420043989674.jpeg

The Advent Calendar cards are headed toward a post office near you! Finally!

wpid-wp-1420044011988.jpeg

Eight new Kindles are in various stages of preparation to be shipped to Ali Forney, Outside In, and Trinity Place. Yay!!

wpid-wp-1420043969449.jpeg

Tonya Ridener gave me this lovely Secret Santa surprise in an event organized by the wonderful Sara Gomez. It was an unexpected and sweet way to brighten the holiday. THANK YOU!

Curious why I’m learning Hindi? Find out in this post from the Advent Calendar, Choosing to Believe.

And finally:

wpid-wp-1420044005448.jpeg

Sanitizer with glitter. Because sparkly vampires aren’t enough.

You heard me.

 

—–

 

 

In other news, THANK YOU for your sweet thoughts yesterday. Boy, you are all smart cookies. Smart, I tell you. Maybe smart and need to be smart…ING. Hehe. It reminded me of a post I wrote a long time ago about letting myself sink emotionally into my writing. I hate it sometimes. I love the fun and games, and I love the freedom of a spur-of-the-moment story, but Indigo is serious business.

To write Indigo, I have to respect her.

To respect Indigo, I have to know her.

To know Indigo, I have to love her.

As I wrote over two years ago:

I realized why Kat and Natalie have been fighting me so much and why I’ve hated Kat 2 for the past month.  I wasn’t willing to cry for them.  I wasn’t willing to cry with them.  I wasn’t willing to be Kat and to be Natalie.  I wanted to write about them without becoming them.

Yeah.

Kat gripped me by the collar today, and she yanked me to sit down next to her.

Listen to me, she demanded.  If you’re going to write my story, you have to know me first.

The thing about someone quiet like Kat?  If she decides to stick to her guns, well…it’s a lost battle.  I listened.  I wrote.  I cried.

And then she let me tell her story.

Dear Katling?  I’m sorry for holding you at a distance.  I’ll listen better from now on.  You have a right to have your story told in a way that honors you, not in a way that is fun and easy.

Indi, you suck. I hate the devastation you will wreak on my heart and soul. I hate the tears I will shed as I write your story. I hate the pain you will endure before finding your happily ever after.

Because, after all, a happy ending means nothing unless it’s earned.

Indi, you did things that make us both ashamed. You made bad decisions, you put yourself in danger, and you believed someone you shouldn’t.

Guess what? So have all of my other main characters, and I still love them.

Come here, Indi. I’ll listen to you this time. I’ll listen without the judgment, and I will love you.

Ana’s Advent Calendar, Day 14: Creating Something Good, Part 3

FB-CoverPic(1)

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to read the first two parts of this series.

Creating Something Good, Part 1

Creating Something Good, Part 2

Before I go any further with my story, I’d like to give a shout-out to those who helped create Something Good:

Less Than Three Press: Megan Derr, Samantha Derr, and Sasha Miller donated money for Kindles, sponsored my travel to Atlanta, and donated their entire catalog (minus erotic books). Less Than Three has been part of Something Good from the beginning, and they have been huge supporters.

Harmony Ink (Dreamspinner Press): Unbeknownst to me, Elizabeth North had already sent six Kindles filled with books to the residents at LNF last year. Because of that, she jumped at the chance to support a second year’s incarnation. Nessa Warin, the head of Harmony Ink, donated their entire catalog of YA LGBT stories. Plus, Elizabeth sent an additional financial contribution to buy more Kindles.

Ylva Publishing: Ylva was the only lesbian publisher to respond to Something Good’s invitation to participate. Astrid Ohletz and Nikki Busch donated eight of their lesbian books to the project and expressed excitement to support LGBT homeless youth.

We can always use more lesfic! If you are an author of lesbian fiction, please contact Something Good and/or your publisher to make inquiries.

Decadent Bono: The mainstream/YA imprint of Decadent Publishing donated eight of their books toward the project.

Witty Bard Press: Anna Victoria Jones donated all of her anthologies.

Dark Hollows Press: Michelle Williams provided financial support to buy Kindles and accessories.

Damnation Press: Kim Richards provided financial support to buy Kindles and accessories.

Vagabondia Creations: Jay Odon provided eighteen sets of earphones for the first shipment of Kindles.

Carina Press donated copies of Cathy Pegau’s book.

Countless authors donated copies of their books from small and independent publishers. I was particularly excited to receive the When Women Were Warriors trilogy from Catherine M. Wilson.

We also had donations from individuals and other groups:

  • Sarah Bennett
  • In honor of Lambda Legal (donor wishes to remain anonymous)
  • Joanna Jasmin Darrell
  • Jeff Adams (JMS Books)
  • Renee Meyer
  • Patricia Denke
  • Maggie Worth
  • Kelly Adams
  • Ruth Shulman
  • Pao
  • Kelly Jensen
  • Laurel Lasky
  • Sheri Spell
  • S.J. Maylee
  • Kate Richards
  • Prism Book Alliance
  • Tina Clark Simas
  • V.s. Morgan
  • Anonymous, not specified

In addition, I received administration help from Myra Swintz, Sarah Bennett, Cat Hopkins, and Anne Ferrer Odom. I also received countless hours of support from Amazon as well as our sales representative. When a person buys 26 Kindles, she receives outstanding customer service. 🙂 Thank you to Ashley of Best Buy who matched Amazon’s charitable discount pricing and the countless other people who cheered, supported, and gave much-needed advice. Thank you to Renee M. for her suggestions on forming a non-profit organization (our hope is to do so next summer, assuming that the project is still sustainable). We are in need of legal advice/expertise in doing so. If you either have the expertise or know someone who does, please get in touch with me.

If you have contributed to Something Good, please find me on Facebook. You will be added to the business group so you can receive all of the updates in real time. I do ask that you keep the updates, especially financial information, confidential.

FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS

Do you remember my original goals for this project? I hoped to raise $69 to buy one basic Kindle and have each author donate a book or two. Instead, I went to LNF equipped with 18 Kindles, 18 screen protectors, 18 cases, 18 sets of earphones, and approximately 7560 books. (Not to mention the mountain of baked goods and the sackful of gifts for Heidi, the girl in rehab.) All told, the donations added up nearly $40,000.

One idea.

Six weeks.

30-45 supporters.

$4,000 in cash.

$40,000 total donation to LNF.

Did I mention that this took six weeks? As I checked and re-checked every detail of the Kindles (I had the supreme pleasure of installing software updates. Eighteen times.) and prepared for the staff training, shock reverberated through my sleep-deprived body. We’d done it. After six weeks of worry, preparation, organization, and mind-numbing tedious work, the Kindles were ready.

GLITTER AND BE GAY

At the Friday evening holiday party, I met “Sister Glitter and Be Gay,” a novice in the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. It is an organization founded in California that has worked for HIV and AIDS awareness and activism. When a runaway teenage boy found refuge with the sisters only for his homophobic parents to legally compel his return, he committed suicide. The sisters sainted him as Saint Lost and Found, and LNF carries his name.

IMG_20141205_203913(1)

The sisters continue supporting LGBT homeless youth. (“They are our future,” said one gentleman.) I also met Mark, a guard who is part of the organization but serves as backup. He provides physical protection (“We attract attention,” said Sister Glitter and Be Gay. “We attract all kinds of attention.”), assists with photos, and helps with crowd control.

IMG_20141205_173411

Rick Westbrook, the director of LNF, also is a sister. We had a few minutes to chat, in which he emphasized the need for people to care about the kids.

10565045_10205253710892623_4481428979847658790_n

I also met Angelica D’Paige, one of the nicest employees I’ve ever met. I bought a few items at the LNF thrift shop, and she showed me the hilarious sides of the sign. “One is for regular,” she said. “The other is for when the drama queens come in.”

1908208_10205253711372635_1557884194901804742_n

“Tell us about your books,” said people throughout the day.

“Well, my newest book, Taliasman, is about a queen,” I began.

“Do you mean a drag queen or a real queen?” came the answer.

MEETING HEIDI

“Just to give you a heads up,” Sue told me the next day as we prepared to enter the rehab center. “This is where people in poverty go. It’s a sad place.”

“Do you think she would like some soda?” I asked. “Kleenex, apples, vegetables..?”

“I think she’d love it,” Sue said. She’d already packed a few treats that I’d brought to the center the day before.

As we walked in and met Heidi, Sue expressed surprise at seeing her in a wheelchair. “You made it!” she exclaimed.

“I’m going to get out of this,” Heidi promised. “I’m working hard in physical therapy.”

Sue bent down and rested a hand on Heidi’s shoulder. “Do you know why we’re here?”

“To give me a Kindle.”

Sue’s shoulders lowered ever so slightly. “How did you know that?”

“Kim snitched,” Heidi admitted. “She blew the secret.”

“I thought it would be nice to be a surprise,” Sue said, disappointed. “This is Ana. She’s an author, and…”

“There are as many lesbian books as I could get,” I said, holding out the purple tote bag.

“Purple!” exclaimed Heidi. “My favorite color. People keep giving me pink, and I don’t like pink…”

Sue and I exchanged rueful glances. So much for the pink Kindle, pen, scarf, earphones, and other gifts.

“Er. Everything’s pink,” I said.

“No, no, what I meant is that everyone keeps giving me pink, so it grows on me.” Heidi grinned, taking out her gifts. “Smarties. My favorite candy!” She popped one into her mouth.

“I didn’t know that,” Sue said.

“A scarf!”

“Ana made it,” Sue explained, drawing up a chair for me and sitting on Heidi’s bed.

“Here’s the Kindle,” I said, too excited to wait. “If some jerk tries to steal your Kindle again, we can deactivate it.”

Sue, Heidi, and I visited for over three hours. Afterward, Sue and I chatted for an hour in the parking lot. “Do you see why everyone loves her?” she asked.

“Yes,” I answered. To have been through so much and to remain so positive…it’s a lesson we should all learn.

“Sue has told me so much about you,” I’d told Heidi. “She speaks of you as if you were her own daughter.”

I’d glanced at Sue. Her eyes brimmed with tears, and she couldn’t say a word.

ONWARD AND UPWARD

As I prepared for my trip to Atlanta, something unexpected happened.

Amazon dropped the price of Kindles by 20% for Black Friday. In a mad scramble, I contacted all of the donors who had wanted to contribute after we reached the goal of 18 Kindles plus accessories. I had told everyone to wait, but the price reduction changed everything.

Overnight, I received enough money to buy 8 more Kindles. Plus the promise of additional funds at a later point.

I contacted a few other LGBT homeless shelters/youth centers to see if they were interested. Here are the preliminary results:

Lucie’s Place in Arkansas offers counseling and help, and they are raising money to build a residential shelter in the next year or two. While they couldn’t use a Kindle now, they were interested in one for the future.

Trinity Place Shelter in New York City offers shelter and support for LGBT youth who are predominantly ethnic minorities. They will receive two Kindles (for now) and will also appear on Governing Ana next year for an interview. To make Trinity even more special, I was able to meet a former member of their board who has now relocated to Atlanta.

Ali Forney Center in New York City is the oldest and most well-known organization that supports LGBT homeless. They will receive at least two Kindles within the next few weeks, possibly more. They will use the Kindles in their career and educational program which includes instruction in reading and reading comprehension. Also, they will make the Kindles available for pleasure reading during drop-in hours.

Outside In in Portland, Oregon serves all homeless youth but has a special Queerzone for LGBT youth. They have a number of different programs and are debating where best to make use of donated Kindles.

The San Diego LGBT Community Center provides help for all LGBT. We are in conversation whether the Kindles would be an appropriate fit for their programs.

If you would like to nominate your local/favorite LGBT homeless youth organization, please let me know! At the moment (due to Amazon restrictions), we need to stay within the US. We would like to include international sites, but country-specific technical support along with exorbitant shipping costs are a steep impediment for now.

TO SLEEP, PERCHANCE TO DREAM

Jared, whom you met in Part 2, touched me so much that I spoke with the staff afterward. “I’d like him to have a Kindle, if you don’t think it will cause problems for others in the center,” I said. “Use it as positive reinforcement for achieving a goal he sets for himself, so it feels like an earned reward rather than charity.”

I heard later that Jared liked the blue Kindles, and he and the staff will work out the details on their own. I also went home to find 57 books that contained plays and essays by and about Shakespeare, as well as Sophocles and a few other classics. I’m not sure if I’ll see Jared or hear from him again, but he will always hold a special place in my heart.

Not everything about my trip went as planned. There were unexpected hiccups along the way, and communication did not always flow as it should have. However, as we move forward, I will remember Jared.

Supporting an individual organization is nice, but human beings don’t support businesses (even if the Supreme Court has decreed their personhood). We support individual people, and for me it will be Jared. All of the rest is noise; getting to meet Jared made everything worthwhile.

For you, Jared. May your life be a string of better tomorrows. Dream your dreams. We’re dreaming them right with you.

And for us, may we continue to create Something Good.

 

 

For more information, visit the following:

Something Good blog

Something Good Facebook page

For donations of books, cash, or in-kind support, please read the FAQ before emailing Ana at ana_stasia2007@yahoo.com. Subject line “Something Good” plus your specific donation (books, money, etc.).

 

Ana’s Advent Calendar Day 9: Holiday carol sing-a-long

 

FB-CoverPic(1)

The post about my recent trip delivering Kindles to Lost-N-Found for Something Good has been postponed due to some unexpected personal difficulties. I hope to have it ready for you by tomorrow or Friday at the latest. Instead, I’ve moved a perennial favorite forward a few days.

 

One of my favorite events for last year’s Advent Calendar was the Christmas Carol Sing-a-long. Take a look, but be prepared to wait several minutes for the links to load. It’s a HUGE post with massive comments. We will follow (or flout) the same rules as last year. If you know songs for Hanukkah, Solstice, or other December holidays, please include those.

A repeat of the rules, with a few slight modifications:

PLEASE ONLY POST ONE LINK PER COMMENT. Otherwise, WordPress flags your comment as spam. If you want to put up multiple songs/lyrics/translations, post multiple comments. (You can comment as many times as you want.)

 

  1. Post a song title, a lyric, or translation of a holiday carol. (Translation must be a REAL one, not fed through Google translator.)
  2. Look at the previous song titles, lyrics, or translations. Guess the title, add to the lyrics, or guess the language (by replying to the comment).
  3. Get confused.
  4. Ask other people for help who are just as confused as you are.
  5. Have fun!

Example A:

Nantes per nives
in aperta traha
trans agros imus
omnes ridentes.
Tintinna tintinnant
animose sic,
laetissimi nos canimus
canticum hac nocte.

Tinnitus, tinnitus,
semper tinnitus!
O tantum est gaudium
Dum vehimur in traha! Ha!

(The next person should guess the language or the English title of the song.)

Example B:

Come, they told me pa-rum-bum-bum-bum.

(The next person should guess the title of the song or give the next line.)

Example C:

Silent Night

(The next person should give the first line or a translation in a different language.)

If you have a blog, feel free to add to the fun! Put up:

  • lyrics
  • a link or embedded video clip
  • translations in languages whose alphabets are not supported by the wordpress comment box
  • additional information about your favorite song
  • anything related to Christmas carols!Be sure to give us the link so we can go and check it out.

Challenge: How many languages can we represent in today’s sing-a-long?

 

 

Ana’s Advent Calendar Day 8: Beginners’ Guide to Lesfic

FB-CoverPic(1)

Today I have a special treat for you! Everyone who has visited Governing Ana before knows I write stories about women who love women. At first, I felt as if I were the only person who read and wrote these stories. Fortunately, I’ve been proven wrong on numerous occasions. Nancy Heredia introduced me to Sandra Moran’s wonderful book, Letters Never Sent. She gave me enough recommendations to make my head spin, so I immediately asked her to write a post for you today. I’m often asked to point people to new lesfic, but I’m surrounded by a lot of m/f and m/m authors. If you ever asked for a new author to read, Nancy’s the resource for you.

P.S. Can we all take a moment to appreciate Nancy’s bibliography written in MLA style? 😀

Beginners Guide to Lesfic

Like many of you I am a beginner when it comes to reading contemporary lesbian fiction, which I have been reading more or less exclusively since the spring of 2013. I don’t specifically recall the circumstances but I believe it had something to do with some love letters I found during spring cleaning. They were the most ardent and romantic love letters any woman could write to another woman and it called to mind the past when written letters were the main form of communication. The romantic letters exchanged between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West are legendary. But it was these letters I had in my possession from a long lost lover that made me want to read more romance between women, something I had abandoned years earlier. For some reason I chose a collection of love letters written by Radclyffe Hall, the author of The Well of Loneliness, a novel many of us love to hate but nevertheless is an immensely important book in the culture of lesbian fiction.

 

The journey that brought me to this point though really began when I was a teenager…Let’s set the scene…

I’m a native New Yorker, born and raised in NYC in a small Hispanic and very Catholic family. It was the 1960’s and my parents had separated. My mother, older sister and I went to live with my mother’s brother Ramon and his wife my aunt Georgina and their 2 children, my cousins Jose and Jenny. It was a grand time, the best time of my childhood. I was about 13 years old and I loved being the youngest of the kids. Even then I loved books and reading was my favorite pastime. I read everything I could and loved stories about myths and heroes, about Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses. I was also very aware by this time that I was different, I knew in what way I was different, I knew what it meant, the word lesbian. I knew I was one and I understood instinctively why I had to hide it. I will never know what direction my life would have taken if this one singular thing had not occurred. It was only this; One day I was looking through the dresser drawers in my aunt’s bedroom, with the curiosity of a child, not looking for anything in particular when I found it. In the bottom of a drawer, a paperback book, the cover a silhouette of 2 girls I think but it was the title that arrested my attention. The Evil Friendship by Vin Packer. Without thinking why, I took it and hid it in my book bag and began reading it surreptitiously any chance I had. It was a terrible story but I didn’t care about that. All I cared about was the few scenes where the teenage girls kiss and express their love for each other. I just didn’t care that their mothers took a dim view of their friendship and planned to separate them by sending them away to a different school. I didn’t care that the girls reacted by planning to murder their mothers.

 

I kept this book in my possession for a long time and when my mom found us another apt. we left the extended family and then it was just the 3 of us. I was 14 and old enough to work part time after school and I got my first job in a little neighborhood secondhand book and magazine store. I loved being in that store! And now I could buy the books I wanted to read like Dashiell Hammet, Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I loved the movie magazines and was forever gazing at pictures of glamourous movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner. My duties in the store included unpacking boxes of donations that arrived frequently. It was during this process that I came across a copy of The Well Of Loneliness and soon after encountered for the first time what we now call lesbian paperback pulp fiction.

 

 

Naturally I was not supposed to see these let alone buy them with the money I was making working in the store but I was clever and from time to time would make several purchases hoping the store keeper would not look too closely at them. I tried to mix them up with comic books, magazines and the like. Only once did he look at a book for a long time and looked at me for a long time before slipping the book in the bag with the others. I didn’t think I could pull that off too many times so I had to think of another way. In the mean time I was stashing these books in my room and it helped that my mother was indifferent and uninterested in what I was doing. I seemed very much to be a good Catholic girl, went to school, and did my homework and chores without complaining. I went to church when I was supposed to. I never talked back. I quickly had a collection that included Ann Bannon’s books like Beebo Brinker, and Odd Girl Out. Once again I didn’t especially care about anything but the love scenes which I read over and over and over again. I could not get enough. I felt almost compelled to acquire them. I would have been happy to buy them outright and while I was mature for my age, it was obvious I was a kid. There was a drug store in the neighborhood that had books similar to these but again I had little hope of buying them. What else could I do? I had no choice. I began to steal them. First from the drug store and then from that other store in the Port Authority bus terminal for I was loathe to steal from my employer. Ultimately I did steal from the store where I worked and in very little time had amassed a collection of around 30 of these pulp fiction novels. I hid them in a large suitcase under my bed and as long as I kept my room clean, my mother had no reason to examine the contents of the suitcase.

 

Then one day she did. I was sitting on my bed reading and she came in to vacuum. Before I could do anything she had pulled the suitcase from under the bed and opened it. The covers gave me away of course but the titles were hard to miss. Spring Fire, Women’s Barracks, We Walk Alone, I Prefer Girls… Without saying one word to me and with a look I still cannot describe, she hauled the suitcase out of my room and threw it all away. I was powerless to stop her. I was 15 and she was not someone to argue with. I was afraid then, afraid what she would do to me. She had already thrown my sister out of the house for being pregnant her last year in high school so what could I expect? But she neither said nor did anything. I sat there, shocked knowing I could not do anything to get those books back. I sat there; rather numb I think and thought to myself ‘I can’t stay here…” I knew I would not be able to leave until I was 18 and would have to wait. It was as close as I ever came to hating her. She never really spoke to me again. I left upon graduating high school and didn’t see or speak to my mother again for years.

 

 

So when the spring of 2013 came around I realized I had no idea where to begin or what I should read first if I wanted to read a lesbian novel. What to read first seemed rather important to me and I organized a list on Amazon. This was after finding a list on GoodReads of the best lesbian novels-over 500 books long! In first place was Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters which I hadn’t read along with dozens of others I had read like Patience & Sarah by Isabel Miller. Since I love romance I aimed for romantic themes and here the book’s blurbs became my guide. I organized my list alphabetically by author and so by that scheme Lynn Ames should have been first but I chose a novel by Kiki Archer called But She Is My Student. I was curious to see how a lesbian affair between a teacher and her student would be handled and so I began….I now have 100 books on my wish list and I buy as many books as I can as often as I can with the limited means I have. Since then I have acquired 100 books in paperback and do you know why? Can you understand why I am buying print when ebooks are less expensive? Can you guess? I am making it up to myself as best I can for the loss of my paperback collection in the only way that is left to me. What is gone is gone and can never be replaced but I’m trying. I’m trying very hard to make it up to that 15 year old girl which in many ways I still am.

We loved our aunt Georgina, my sister and I and years later, when the time came to have that conversation about how we were treated growing up, we both said it. How we wished Georgina had been our mother. You may wonder now why she had The Evil Friendship hidden away. To this day I do not know how it was discovered but when my mom and sister and I left, my uncle also departed because it became known that Georgina was having an affair with another woman, a friend of the family who I always thought of as a distant cousin. Her name was Naomi and she lived in the same building as we, and spent a lot of time with us. She was great with us kids and totally got who we each were. I remember she gave me a portable record player because I loved music so much and I could spin my Beatles 45’s. I never saw them kiss, embrace or do anything that might indicate an intimate relationship. I guess everybody thought they were best friends. Only once did I see them exchange a look I could not at the time interpret. We were setting the table for dinner-I remember that. Their eyes met and held each other’s gaze for what seemed like a long time to me. I don’t know why I noticed this but I could not look away. There was something being communicated in that look they shared. I would not know what it was until I was an adult woman but it was chemistry. And love.

After the discovery, we left and Georgina was banned from our lives. I learned years later that after a time both Georgina and Naomi left NYC for Puerto Rico and shared a home for the rest of their lives. But I never saw Georgina again.

Here are some links you may find useful as you begin your journey to lesfic.

http://www.indielesfic.com/ a good compilation of indie authors.

http://www.goldencrown.org/ an excellent source for books which have been nominated for the Goldie award.

http://www.autostraddle.com/lesbian-authors-in-the-80s-139495/ lesfic has a long and rich past. Find out about it here.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/229491.Chloe_Plus_Olivia a wonderful anthology of lesbian literature from the 17th century to the 20th Century.

I love romance, historical fiction and mysteries and I’ve read quite a bit in these areas however I have not read speculative fiction, paranormal or anything zombie related so I don’t have recommendations at this time.

Some contemporary romantic fiction I’ve read recently and highly recommend:

Ames, Lynn. Eyes on the Stars. Phoenix: Phoenix Rising, 2010. Print.

Beers, Georgia. 96 Hours. New York: Bywater, 2011. Print.

Brayden, Melissa. Heart Block. Valley Falls, NY: Bold Strokes, 2012. Print.

Kallmaker, Karin. Love by the Numbers. Tallahassee, FL: Bella, 2013. Print.

Rizzo, Cindy. Exception to the Rule. N.Y. Self-published. 2013. Print.

Rizzo, Cindy. Love Is Enough. N.Y. Self-published. 2014. Print.

Spangler, Rachel. Does She Love You? Tallahassee, FL: Bold Strokes Books, 2013. Print.

Winters, Jade. Faking It. 2014. Print.

For historical/romance I recommend:

Henderson, Patty G. Passion For Vengeance. Blanca Rosa Publishing. 2013. Print.

North, Linda. Wind And Dreams. Salinas, California. Sapphire Books Publishing. 2013. Print.

Saracen, Justine. Waiting for the Violins. Print.

Thomas, TT. A Delicate Refusal. Bon View Publishing. 2013. Print.

 

For thrillers, mysteries these are excellent reads:

Aptaker, Ann. Criminal Gold. Tallahassee, FL: Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Print.

Bradshaw, R. E. The Rainey Season: A Rainey Bell Thriller. Print.

Powell, V.K. Haunting Whispers. Tallahassee, FL: Bold Strokes Books, 2012. Print.

For literary/dramatic fiction:

Martin, Marianne K. Tangled Roots. Bywater Books, 2014. Print.

Moran, Sandra. Letters Never Sent. Fairfield, CA: Bink, 2013. Print.

Samuel, RJ. A Place Somewhere. Createspace. Independent Publishing Platform. 2014. Print.

Here are a few publishers for a comprehensive look at what is available:

http://affinityebooks.com/

http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/

http://www.bywaterbooks.com/

http://www.sapphirebooks.com/

http://www.ylva-publishing.com/

 

Above all, read what YOU want to read. Follow your heart’s desire and read the stories you want to immerse yourself in. Happy Reading!

 

–Nancy Heredia

 

 

 

 

Ana’s Advent Calendar Day 6: 2nd Annual St. Knickerless Day

FB-CoverPic(1)

Ami Starsong. Oh, yes. That Ami Starsong, she of the knicker fetish. She won’t admit how many pairs she owns, but she will admit that she loves to shop for them. Last year, amidst much hilarity, she offered to donate a pair of knickers as an Advent Calendar prize. (Oh, all right. I suggested it.) After discussing possible titles, she came up with the idea of St. Knickerless day as a pun on St. Nicholas Day (which is today, December 6). You can read all about the hilarity here.

Remember, everything is Ami’s fault and she deserves what she gets. 😀

 

 

ST KNICKERLESS DAY!

 

I’m very pleased to be asked to join in with the fun of Ana’s Advent Calendar again this year. A great deal of planning, preparation and hard work go into this event, and with the huge variety of different contributions there is plenty to interest everyone.

 

All this and mega prizes too!

 

So I put on my ‘Elf hat’ and my woolly socks, together with the little red shoes with jingly bells on the toes, and went shopping for my St Knickerless Day Prize. The people on the bus cast me sideways glances, but I didn’t care. I was intently perusing what type of knickers to purchase for this year’s lucky winner.

 

I had flagged my intention with Dan. “Oh, not again!” was his reply. Luckily he knows by now that once I have my mind set on something there is very little that will deter me.

 

You would suppose that an Elf on an English High Street would cause at least a few titters, but the English are so stolid and stalwart. I stood in the Knicker Shop for ages, rifling amongst the high-legs, thongs, shorts and tangas without raising a single eyebrow.

 

All I can tell you is that the lucky winner is in for a treat this year! And I’m not even telling Ana what the prize will be!

 

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

 

This Advent I am not asking quiz questions. I don’t think I could better last year – both the participation and comments were brilliant!

 

So in order to contribute to the atmosphere leading up to Christmas, I hope you will enjoy to reading a short excerpt from my book in progress – raw first draft. The title is Walking with Shadows.

 

People mostly like a good ghost story – some of the ghosts in this story are real!

 

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

 

 

 

He stood watching down the lane, the night had no hint of rain or dreariness. The air was frosty; the heavens clear and spangled with stars.

 

The diamond glittered on the first finger of his right hand.

 

He had waited such a very long time.

 

She was coming. He knew it. He could feel her nearby.

 

 

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

 

 

The Landrover hit a patch of ice, spun round facing the way we had come, hit the opposite verge, bounced in a water runnel and wedged itself between a large oak tree and a fence post.

 

“Fuck!” Hal slammed both fists down on the steering wheel.

 

I tried to extricate myself from my seat belt which had pulled tight on impact and now threatened to cut off circulation to my right boob.

 

“Fucking black ice!”

 

“That’s country life for you.”

 

“Give it a rest.” Hal was wearing his mulish look. He opened the door and gingerly climbed out, managed to avoid the ditch but snagged his coat on an enterprising bramble.

 

I heard him stumbling around the back of the car, then felt the entire vehicle shudder as he gave one of the back tyres an almighty kick.

 

He wrenched my door open.

 

“Back nearside’s flat as a pancake. I’ll have to phone David to come with the tractor and pull me out before I can change it.”

 

His festive bow tie with the holly design was up round his left ear, his shoes looked squelchy and there was mud on his evening trousers.

 

“Are you okay, Issy?”

 

“Bit late to ask me that.” I hitched up my long skirt, grabbed my clutch bag from the foot well where it had fallen, and scrambled down into the long wet grass.

 

My strappy shoes were about the most unsuitable I could have worn for such circumstances, but then, I hadn’t known the quick detour to the candlelit midnight service would take such an unfortunate turn.

 

Literally.

 

I stood on the roadside looking first at the stuck Landie, and then at my brother. He was busy on his mobile phone, fingers raking nervously through his hair, his clipped sentences cutting through the icy air.

 

I pulled my wrap more closely around my shoulders and shivered. I couldn’t see what time it was; the dial of my watch was far too small. I had so wanted to attend the midnight service. I had dragged Hal away from the Holton-Smythes’ party, much to the annoyance of Felicity Holton-Smythe who was draped all over him at the time.

 

My first Christmas in the depths of the English countryside was set on reinforcing the sagacity of the Chaos Theory.

 

Hal had warned me about the dangers of hiding myself away in such a rural area, but the first time I had seen ‘Bays’ I was lost. Within two months I had sold my flat in Islington, and relocated to the old timber-framed farmhouse nestled amongst the green swathes of meadowland rimmed in oak and field maple.

 

Bays had sat there for centuries, roots firmly entrenched in the clay soil of an England that the centuries had left undisturbed. Even though the chimney smoked when the wind was in the north, bindweed grew in the downstairs shower room, and the draughts whistled through the old mullions requiring extra thick curtains, I loved it.

 

I even loved the ghosts.

 

Yes, even the distant sound of music when you were very quiet and stood listening at the bottom of the old oak staircase that curved round the inglenook. Even when you went to pick up a book you had dropped on the floor at the bedside before dropping off to sleep, and found it across the room placed carefully on top of the chest of drawers. Even when you were making the bed and heard someone in the room along the landing, yet you knew you were the only one in the house.

 

Even then.

 

“Look, Hal. I’ll walk. It’s not far. I’ve got an old pair of flatties in the back I keep for driving in.” I tugged open the back door of the Landrover and leaning against the bumper undid the clasps on my sandals and pushed my feet into the comfortable old shoes that had been hurled up against the back seats when we slithered off the road.

 

It was a beautiful night, the sky full of stars; the sliver of a new moon had just climbed above the horizon, and a severe hoar frost had decorated everything in glistening, frilly white.

 

Hal knew better than to argue. Sometimes being the elder sister has its positives. At least I would feel warmer walking than standing still, and heaven only knew how long David would take to arrive with his tractor on a Christmas Eve.

 

“You’ve got your mobile?”

 

“Yes.” I checked it was switched on and popped it back in my bag.

 

“You be careful. I hope this service will be worth it.” Hal plainly wasn’t convinced. “Ring me when you get there.”

 

“It’s only half a mile along the lane. Give me some credit.”

 

“Ring me. Okay?”

 

I nodded.

 

“As soon as I get towed out and we’ve changed the tyre I will join you. Stay in the church and wait for me if the service finishes and I have not arrived. I don’t know what kind of signal you will get there, but give me a ring if you get any bars.”

 

I huffed, turned on my heel and marched off into the relative darkness of the tree-lined lane.

 

In flat shoes the going wasn’t too bad, but I did have to hold up my skirt and it kept getting clogged round my ankles. I slipped once or twice, but managed to keep my feet. My breath came out in fluffy clouds, and once or twice I heard owls calling in the trees ahead.

 

The air smelt so crisp and clean I felt quite enervated as I approached the small dark outline of the medieval church. Stepped back off the lane it was reached by a small wooden bridge that led over a drainage ditch.

 

There were, however, no cars outside. Everywhere was in complete darkness; just the flickering of candlelight through one or two of the south-facing windows. I just hoped the door had been left unlocked so that I could wait in relative warmth instead of having to sit and wait in the porch. If that were the case then I would have to retrace my steps – that or freeze.

 

I padded quietly over the little wooden bridge and slipped through the lychgate. The night was silent, even the owls had disappeared. I turned the large iron ring in the ancient oak door and felt relief as it swung inwards. I glanced back and the shadows seemed to gather behind me causing me to catch my breath. I moved forwards.

 

The church was warm from the candles and smelled redolently of beeswax, winter jasmine, arum lilies and incense. I closed the door behind me to keep the warmth in and the shadows out.

 

Fat, creamy white, church candles sat in their sconces to hold back the darkness and the shadows. More were perched along the deep stone windowsills and there were two in large brass candleholders on the altar itself. But only three were still alight, and they were considerably burned down.

 

The church was ancient and very small. Simple wooden pews extended towards the altar rail on both sides, a curved wooden door led to a small vestry tall men would have had difficulty with. Immediately in front of the main door, across the chancel, an intricately carved oak chest stood. On top hymn books and service sheets had been piled neatly together with some printed booklets detailing the history of the church, and a small empty box with a slit in the lid for payment or donations.

 

I wandered over to the booklets and browsed through one. They not only detailed the church history, but also the history of the family who had lived for generations in the great house next to the church. However, the house had burned down in the fifteen century under suspicious circumstances. It appeared that the Master of Horse to his Majesty King Richard III had once lived there.

 

The hairs stood up along the back of my neck. Richard III? Didn’t he kill the princes in the Tower? I put my head on one side, deep in thought. Didn’t Richard get his Master of Horse to do the deed for him?

 

I went and sat quietly in one of the pews in the second row from the front of the altar. I checked my watch. This time I could see the hands. 12.45. Christmas morning. I looked up quickly. The shadows danced around the walls, the stained glass dark, the air stuffy and oppressive.

 

Goosepimples had risen along my arms and my wrap had come loose. I snatched it around me once again and stood up, making my way to the altar, the candles flickering, the shadows alive, following me.

 

I put my hand out stroking the stone, touching the lace of the altar cloth. The air full of static. The shadows waiting.

 

The door to the church creaked.

 

I couldn’t turn round. Daren’t. I stood still as a statue, trying to breath, trying to inhale and exhale. Heart hammering.

 

“Hal?” My voice came out as a squeak. “Hal? Is that you?”

 

Silence greeted me as I had known it would.

 

Compelled to turn round, I hesitated.

The shadows drew back.

 

“Isabel?”

 

The voice did not belong to my brother.

 

“Isabel?”

 

It was a voice I knew. A voice I loved.

 

At least so it seemed to me. I couldn’t recall where from, but icy tremors ran up my spine.

 

The man was tall. His eyes dark. His nose long. His cheekbones high. Glossy dark chestnut hair. Arched brows.

 

“Isabel? Is it really you?” His voice cracked with emotion.

 

The shadows hummed around us. I put out my right hand and clasped the velvet of his shoulder. My eyes met with his. He took my left hand and held it to his heart, pulling me close so his chin rested gently upon my hair. I could see him, touch him, feel him. The pain was exquisite.

 

“Oh, Isabel.” His arms were tight around me. “You’ve made me wait so long.”

 

I bit my lip and leaned into his chest. The shadows pushed forward again, crowding, pressing. It was difficult to breathe. I raised my head and gazed into the face of the man I loved.

 

The man I love.

 

“Richard,” I said.

 

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

 

Hal’s voice came from a distance.

 

“Issy, Issy?” Then to someone else, “I think she’s coming round.”

 

My eyelids were lead weights. I forced them up and stared blearily at the sea of faces looking down at me where I lay slumped on the cold stone floor. With Hal’s help I struggled into a sitting position. My head hurt where I had bumped it on my way down.

 

“Hal? I thought…”

 

“Come on, let’s get you to your feet. What the hell happened? I was only about ten minutes behind you. David decided we should abandon the Landrover till after Christmas. It’s his hedge it’s in after all. He dropped me off at the church. Everyone else followed hot on my heels. We haven’t missed the service after all. Did you feel faint? Did you trip on your bloody skirt?”

 

My head felt full of cotton wool or sawdust, or both, but I could focus better now.

 

I frowned. As soon as they had seen I was still in the land of the living, and totally uninjured, the people who had turned up for the midnight service had begun to fill the pews. Hymn books and service sheets had been handed out, and a subtle smell of mulled wine and mince pies had invaded the atmosphere.

 

“I’m fine, Hal. Really I am.” I studied my watch. 11.25. Christmas Eve.

 

“Funny. I thought…” My voice trailed away. “I thought I had arrived after the service had finished. The pews were empty. There was no-one here.”

 

“Were the candles lit?” Hal looked resigned to having an idiot for a sister.

 

“Yes, but only three, the rest were burned down. The church was empty, Hal. It was nearly one in the morning.”

 

He dragged me to the back pew and thrust me in ahead of him, fencing me in at the end. He checked his watch again.

 

“Issy, you must’ve hurt your head more than I thought. I’ll take a look at it when we get home. The Tates said they would give us a lift on their way past, so if you can manage to cope with the service?”

 

His voice trailed off. He looked anxious, but I had recovered sufficiently to stand and join in with the first hymn, which was the carol “Once in Royal.” By the end of the service I had improved sufficiently not to need the help of his hand on my elbow, though I didn’t shake it off.

 

We stayed for a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine (transported in thermos flasks) before following the Tates out into the frozen air, Christmas greetings and good wishes pressed upon us.

 

At the lychgate I paused. The church was quiet once again, nestled in the shadows of the trees. Someone inside was extinguishing the candles.

 

I turned slightly to the left, my eyes going to the north door. A shadow had detached itself from the rest. I caught the flash of a diamond and my heart jumped.

 

“For goodness sake, come on, Issy!” Hal was getting impatient. He held the gate open for me.

 

I started to follow him through, then stopped. The flash came again as if a hand was lifted in farewell.

 

All went quiet.

 

The shadows had gone.

 

I smiled into the darkness and lifted my own hand.

 

‘Not farewell’, I thought.

 

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

 

 

 

I do hope you enjoyed this. I was inspired to write this story not only due to certain ‘factual evidence’ where I live, but because in our ancient, simple, stone church, there is a small but elaborate tomb with the words “To the woman I love, until we meet again” inscribed on it. No-one knows who is buried there, but underneath the words is the Rose of York.

 

All who read the story and comment will have their names written down in a piece of paper and put in a large pudding basin. Dan will draw the winning name.

 

If the winner is willing to let me have their initials and address, I will post the St Knickerless prize to them as soon as they let me know their size.

 

I can be contacted at amistarsong@live.co.uk

 

Many thanks to Ana for all her hard work and for making our lead up to Christmas so enjoyable.

 

Ana’s Advent Calendar Day 4: Hating the Elf on the Shelf

FB-CoverPic(1)

Tracey is one of the funniest people I’ve met, and (with the company I keep) that’s saying something. When I first got to know her, I posted a cute picture of Elf on the Shelf. She proceeded to give me ideas how to bake poor Elfie in the oven. On a cookie sheet. At 400 degrees, for 30 minutes. When I protested, she asked, “Too much? Too crispy?”

When I threatened to spank her, she dismissed said threat. “Promises, promises.”

What could I do? I invited Tracey here to share her vendetta against the poor, defenseless Elf. Please torment her for me. I mean please enjoy her post and…oh, I give up. Just remember: No elves were harmed in the writing of this post. I hope. Tracey…Tracey!!

Elf Haters

Elf Hate: The Hate which Dares not Speak its Name

There are two good reasons to hate The Elf on the Shelf.

The reason should be obvious:

  1. Ana loves him and
  2. My mission in life is to irk the Wooden Spoon Goddess.

 

Antagonizing Ana is a calling I answer. We can’t choose who we are, but we may choose to follow through—or not—with our instincts.

And right now my instinct says: Corner, Missy!

Oh wait, that’s the lovely Ana.

Infesto ergo sum.

I antagonize therefore I am.

In brief, I hate the Elf because it’s my nature. I could control my loathing, but I would have to deny myself my authenticity.

 

And besides, irking Ana is fun.

Loving Elf

Another reason I hate the Elf isn’t quite so clear, but my reason must be glossed a tad with the following (although following from Roland Barthes and his essay The Death of the Author, I know I can only control this discourse so much {ok, I pulled that out of hammerspace and my authorship of this blog, my hatred, and my “knowing” of the Elf are limited by the following}):

  • I haven’t seen the film.
  • I have no intention of seeing the film.

 

My Elf is different than yours. Mine is no more or less real than yours. My Elf is not mine as such. But he dogs me at every turn. Like his faux-capricious fictional-fictional counterpart whom I’ve never seen in film, only on FB pages, my Elf like my hatred of him is unique to me, and never leaves. EVER. Lurking little piece of…

Sorry, I was swept away by my bad rhetoric. Let me gloss again.

The Elf and I crossed paths years ago, quite innocently, or it seemed to the untrained eye. My Momfia friends (my birth club) were discussing the ugly beast (aka The Elf) and wanted to know who was going to use him to surprise and delight their innocent children (and one apparently sentient pot-bellied pig named Sit—no, I didn’t ask).

Now I’m a good 15-20 years older than many in this group (surprise baby at 45) so I’m a bit out of touch with this Elf on the Shelf thing.

Elf ballad

I had to consult Brother Google. Always an odious task because I know I’m doomed to Elf on the Shelf ads for the next six months.

What greeted me has haunted me till this day. Evil grinning little “googly” eyed (yeah, think about it) intrusive snitch feeding on the souls and slight misdeeds of sweet children. Hovering about their day-to-day spying and ratting them out to the Fat Man himself.

Wherefore forgiveness?

Alright. Three reasons.

Another reason to hate the Elf: I hate snitches. Remember, I haven’t seen the film, so The Elf may be a benign snitch, like your SuperEgo just doing its job. In the film he may be delightful and friendly, helping the wayward and knitting fashionable hoodies for puppies and kittens. There to protect you by keeping you in line from the Dark Forces of your Id.

Ok, I’ve slipped from Semiotics to Freudian. Sorry. I just want to appeal to Ana’s fabulous lit crit erudition (spoons scare me).

It’s reward-based, penalty-focused, like most good things in life.

Be good, you get treats. Be naughty, you do not.

Now for Ana, either way one wins. Be good, you get a spanking (maintenance perhaps?), be naughty, get a spanking.

Or give spankings. I don’t judge. Always better to give than receive, unless you have bilateral carpal tunnel as I do. Either way, I lose.

Maybe this is why Ana and I don’t get along so perfectly. Like tree bark and Nerf balls. Chalk and laminate flooring.

It’s the snitchery. Sneaky snitchery. Mistrust. You think Elfie is all lollipops and unicorn laughter. Well here’s my thoughtful reply:

We thought that about Google too. Remember ye the innocence of 1998 when we ran to Google, offering flowers, peace and grooviness, our full names, colour choices, shoe size, and ultimately marketing demographic information?

But Elfie’s not. He’s prying and sticking his nose in where it doesn’t belong. Being whimsical with his hanging-from-the-kitchen-light antics.

Ok, four things.

The Elf scares me.

The Elf reminds me of Chucky, and that psycho clown from Poltergeist. Who likes clowns, I ask rhetorically (not counting Steve-O who is a different sort of clown whom I kinda like). I don’t think I need to gloss Chucky.

Elf on a Shelf

The Chucky Elf is what happens when Santa eventually downsizes. Elves go Chucky. And they know where you live and what you bought online from Walmart this festive season.

I think the last thing I or my wee’uns need is some SuperEgo manifest floating about the house strategically placed to surprise and delight, or instill fear and paranoia.

I don’t need Big Brother or little Elf reporting my misdeeds or good conduct to the Powers. I do my good deeds quietly and expect no reward (except self-administered).

I do my naughty things equally quietly, and pray for forgiveness, assuming I remember the misdeed (I am menopausal and suffer from Menopausal Moments).

Some Snitch ratting me out kinda goes against all that I work towards: self-restraint, impulse control, random bursts of Nutella, order and discipline.

He is creepy, as most mannequins are. He snitches, looks like Chucky, has no feet, and sports the eyes of a crazy horse. He reminds of the other darker nature of Brother Google, always watching distracting us from our suspicious minds with his adorable, sharable antics while he makes notes and reports them to unverifiable sources of power.

The lighter side are the Google doodles. Those, I like.

Is that 5 things? I forgot. But the most important:

Ana loves him. Therefore I must give in to my nature and antagonize the Mistress of the Spoon. I am an Elf Hater. I sing it loud and proud.

 

I know I know. From the corner. Yes Ma’am. I will sing it from the corner.

 

About Tracey Gee

Aside from my coveted role as a thorn in Ana’s side, I’m the “editor” (code for owner/operator/chief bottle washer) of LOVExtra.com. I love cats, the Oxford comma, and zombie-killin’.

And Ana. I love Ana, even if she does love the Elf.