I recently attended a conference of the Golden Crown Literary Society in Northern Virginia. It was my first time at the Con and I came as an author and a fan.
I credit the outstanding team at Bywater Books, who have published my mystery/P.I. novel, Bury Me When I’m Dead, and my friend, author Renée Bess (Breaking Jaie, Butterfly Moments, Re:Building Sasha) for nudging me to get to the GCLS annual event. They were absolutely right, it’s an amazing four-day gathering.
The first thing I was aware of was the sense of community. The Con overflowed with the good energies of Lesfic writers, and the readers who support the genre, and there’s no arms-length distance between authors, aspiring writers and fans at this ‘Respectfest’. Attendees rubbed elbows in the meeting rooms, the dining tables, the vendor area, the night-time activities (e.g. Karaoke) and the awards presentation. Authors signed autographs with gratitude and grace, and discerning readers provided insights and motivation to the writers whose characters bring them affirmation and joy.
The theme at this year’s GCLS conference was Cultivating Our Diversity. San Francisco speaker and trainer, DeAngela Cooks and I presented to an attentive and engaged audience about the ‘sense and sensibility’ of creating diverse characters in Lesfic. The main goal: to have our books reflect the world we live in and, thus, invite new audiences to our work.
Yet, there was much diversity in the room. I met women from a dozen states and several countries. Those who had been writing professionally for decades and others who were taking the first steps toward getting their works published. Science fiction/Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mystery and Romance writers read from their works. I discussed politics with a reader from Minneapolis and poetry with an established author from the northeast and shared laughs with attendees from San Francisco.
Did I Say, I’m a Fan?
I shared Hershey Kisses with fans lined up to meet trailblazer, Jewelle Gomez, and lined up myself for an autograph from Katherine V. Forrest, the 2016 recipient of the Lee Lynch Classic Award for Curious Wine. From my own bookshelf, I brought Ms. Forrest’s second book, science fiction classic, Daughters of A Coral Dawn, and she noted as she wrote her name in a beautiful, cursive that my cover-worn book was a Naiad Press first edition, with cover design by Tee Corinne. At the con were: Lee Lynch, Marianne K. Martin, Karin Kallmaker, Radclyffe, Georgia Beers, Rachel Spangler, KD MacGregor, Ann McMan, Nell Stark, Lynn Ames, Barbara Clanton, Dillon Watson, Carol Rosenfeld, RJ Samuel and many, many, many others.
That Toddling Town.
Tip of the hat to the GCLS Board for the success of this conference. Next Year’s Con will be in Chicago. Deep-dish pizza, jazz, improv, Obama-land, Wrigley Field, Magnificent Mile and, in July 2017 Lesbian writers. I’ll be there and I hope you can find a way to be there too.
Thank you, Rachel Spangler, my new colleague at Bywater Books. Anyone who knows or has read anything by Rachel knows she has a way of getting to the heart of a matter. I think, because she has a big heart. Oh, and a sexy brain. I’m turned on by brains. This Ylva Publishing and Bywater Books Blog Hop is a fun thing….hope you’ll take the full ride.
So, first off, I’m new to writing. I spent a lot of years working in public media where my storytelling orientation was in pictures and sound. Now, I’m learning to let the words speak for themselves and sentences paint images for the reader.
I self-published my first novel, Long Way Home: A World War II Novel. It’s an historical fiction work exploring the lives of two Black soldiers: Georgette Newton and Leroy Dowdell who persevere despite the segregation and race prejudice in America’s 1940’s military service. The book was honored with two, finalist nominations from the Next Generation Indie Awards. One for historical fiction, the second in the African American category. The link to the book on Amazon is here.
My first book for Bywater will be an installment in a mystery/crime series. I’m enthralled with the genre because I love stories about strong, quirky, female sleuths. I could list dozens of my favorites—old and new. From Barbara Neely’s smart-as-a-whip, maid/housekeeper Blanche White, to Kerry Greenwood’s iconoclastic, Phryne Fisher. From Sara Paretsky’s kick-ass, V.I. Warshawski to Alexander McCall Smith’s introspective, Precious Ramotswe proprietor of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.
Of course some male investigators also intrigue me. Especially if they’ve been softened by a woman’s love or a child’s vulnerability, or they possess an understanding of the human spirit. That’s the case with the street-wise, Easy Rawlins of the Walter Mosley novels; James Lee Burke’s Cajun detective, Dave Robicheaux; and Tony Hillerman’s Navaho police investigators, Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee.
Maybe you already see the common denominator: racially, ethnically or culturally-diverse protagonists with a strong balance between cunning and compassion.
When I read a mystery, I don’t really care if the sleuth/detective/PI has flaws or issues—although I’m told it makes for a more captivating character. But I do prefer them with well-practiced idiosyncrasies. I’m a kindred spirit, for instance, of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone who is prone to sarcasm, introversion, and tidiness.
Of course, a mystery has to have a compelling case, a slew of colorful characters who could have “done it”, the seduction of a world I wouldn’t normally inhabit, and a set of clues—usually circuitous, often cerebral and sometimes entertaining—that lead to a satisfying end.
I’m writing the Charlie Mack Motown Mystery series. Charlie is a modern woman with a black belt in Take Kwon Do, a law degree and Homeland Security training. She’s recently launched her own private investigation firm and says to her disapproving mother: “Black women have been solving complex problems all their lives. We know how to put two and two together, see past the BS, cut through red tape, and get things done.”
It turns out, P.I. Charlene Mack has maybe more flaws than most. She applies Type-A tactics to most situations, is prone to one-night stands with men and women, and is quick to anger. She does, however, have a strong sense of right and wrong–albeit not a traditional sense.
Bury Me When I’m Dead is set in the mid-1990’s in the early turmoil of the motor city’s slide to demise, but Detroit is like the phoenix, rising from political, racial and economic ashes with some regularity–and Charlie is a native daughter. She’s resilient, innovative, proud, but willing to re-invent herself—and part of that reinvention is coming to terms with her sexuality and orientation.
Charlie falls in love, perhaps for the first time, with the beautiful, green-eyed Mandy Porter, a proud lesbian who is also a police officer in a neighboring jurisdiction. The affair between these new lovers is but one of the secrets Charlie reveals as her search for a missing person leads her and her two partners to Birmingham, Alabama and then back to Detroit in a deadly cat-and-mouse chase.
I’m extremely proud Bywater Books is publishing Book One of the Charlie Mack Mysteries and I’m grateful for their support— a special tip-of-the hat to Salem and Marlo. In fact, Kelly Smith, my editor at Bywater, could be a sleuth herself. She’s probing, direct, attentive to details, and has a dry sense of humor. Her life experiences give her a connection to the ins-and-outs of my book in so many ways that it feels like kismet.
I hope you’ll seek out, and read Bury Me When I’m Dead. Look for it later this year.
Finally, It’s my pleasure to introduce you to the next writer in the February blog hop, Gill McKnight. I wish I could write paranormal fiction–I don’t have the talent for it. But Gill does. She also lives on Lesbos. I’m J-E-A-L-O-U-S. My favorite review of one of the books in her Garoul series notes: “I could feel the weather and smell the forest.” A writer can’t do better than that. You’ll find Gill’s blog, here.