Questions #2

I love the questions you’re asking, so keep them coming! Today we have two questions from ‘Nathan, who asks:

Okay, I have a two-part question: Have you bumped into much negative feedback for writing LGBTQ characters? (and, the second part, to make it a less negative topic) What have been the best moments of having written LGBTQ characters?

Writing LGBTQ characters has been fantastic. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve honestly not had much negative feedback from the writing portion. I did have some issues with starting a GSA at the first school I worked at, but it was concerns on the part of an administration that wasn’t sure just how the GSA would benefit the school or students.

My biggest concern was with how my family–mostly my grandparents–would react. They come from a generation where being gay is just unheard of. Growing up, I found myself butting heads with my grandfather on many issues…a lot. It’s just who I am and it’s how he was raised. But even my grandfather has done me proud.

Book signing other viewWhen Andy Squared first came out, I had to explain what it was about. Of course my grandparents wanted to read it, but I did worry. I didn’t know how they would take it. I didn’t write it for them, obviously, but as my grandparents, I still wanted their approval. But I wasn’t sure if it would happen. When I had my book release party at the Bristol Public Library, they came. I couldn’t have been more nervous when I was standing at the podium reading from the book. At my feet I had my former students, and my grandfather sat right in front of me. When I opened the floor to questions and his hand went up, I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide. But he surprised me. Rather than asking about Ryder and Andy’s sexuality and some, ahem, scenes, he commented on the style of writing and how he could picture being with the boys as they rode horses.

Book Singing with students at my feetAfterwards, he admitted he hadn’t finished the book yet, but that he was enjoying it. And when he finally did finish it, he told me how it had changed his mind on LGBT people.

I cried.

Then he surprised me again. He and my grandmother read the newspaper, and they enjoy columns like Ask Amy and such. In one, a mother had asked about her teenager being gay, and what books to read to help her understand, etc.

My grandfather wrote to the columnist and explained how his opinion had changed after reading Andy Squared, and how he realized how difficult LGBT teens have it when their family doesn’t accept them. I still have the email he sent me somewhere.

I cried again.

I guess you could say that was also one of the best moments of having written LGBTQ characters. Even though my books are primarily for teens, having a 70+ year old man read the book and change his opinion was pretty spectacular.

Readers have also contacted me from all over. My first ever reader email was from a young man in Costa Rica who had to order the book from the US and have it shipped to him. Another was from a young fan who reached out to me on Facebook, telling me he was going to come out to his family. I kept in touch with him for several months after that, checking in to see how he was doing. I also recently had a reader FROM upstate New York contact me, thrilled to see his part of the state represented with gay teens!

So the best moments are definitely when readers reach out to me to talk. I love that. I will always respond to readers, so please, don’t be afraid to reach out!

Boston Pride 2015

Until yesterday, I had never been to a Pride event. I had always wanted to go, but they were either too far away from me, or I forgot about it/didn’t know about it until it was too late. This year I had the opportunity not only to go to Boston Pride, but to help represent my publisher and sell copies of my YA titles.

WHAT A BLAST!

Boston is only about an hour and half from where I live right now, so it was really exciting to be able to make the trip for the day. I left early in the morning, had a heart attack navigating the tunnels into the city, but found a parking garage close to where I needed to be.

Just some of the books we had to offer. And me posing in the background.

Just some of the books we had to offer. And me posing in the background.

I was early. But it was still nice to see everything as it was being set up with so few people around. Because when eleven o’clock hit, it started to get busier. And when the parade reached us at around one, oh my GOD it was wall-to-wall bodies.

Since Boston is the home of my favorite drag queen, JuJubee, I had been hoping to meet her. She responded to my facebook post about being there, but sadly that wasn’t the case. However I sold out of all my YA titles, and fast! By an hour into the festival I was worried I wouldn’t have any left! With a little over three hours to go, I did sell out, but that just meant helping the other authors!

I was happy to have been able to bring Julie Blair and ‘Nathan Burgoine’s books as well. It was nice to have a good selection for festival goers!

I got to hang out with great authors from my group. I knew Cathy Frizzell from the Rainbow Book Fair in NYC, and Dena Hankins from the retreat last summer, but I also got to meet Jean Copeland and Holly Stratimore and their respective partners. Fun times!

Jennifer Lavoie, Jean Copeland, Holly Stratimore, CF Frizzell, and Dena Hankins

Jennifer Lavoie, Jean Copeland, Holly Stratimore, CF Frizzell, and Dena Hankins

But what was even better was the opportunity to connect with the readers. That was amazing. There were a lot of young adults there, and I had a blast talking with them. Some readers had no idea we existed and eagerly snatched up books. Some didn’t realize we were the authors until we asked if they wanted the books signed. Some readers were young – like one girl who bought Meeting Chance with her two dads and her little sister near – or older who had read a lost of LGBT fiction in their lives. Either way, I appreciated them all.

Dena looks on while Jean signs her novel and I...stare at something.

Dena looks on while Jean signs her novel and I…stare at something.

I can’t wait to do it again. I know all of us want to go back next year, and I hope I get to do more Pride events. I was originally going to do Providence Pride next weekend, but that had to be cancelled since no other authors were interested. And it’s a bit late for NYC Pride. But hey, maybe next year?

What do you think? Would you like to see Bold Strokes Books and NYC Pride next year? If you would, leave a message here! I’ll let my publisher know you want to see us! Any other Pride suggestions or events? Let me know! I’ll pass it along!

 

Rainbow Book Fair – April 18, 2015

Hi everyone!

It’s that time of year again! Next Saturday, April 18, I will be at the Rainbow Book Fair in NYC, helping promote and sell books for my publisher, Bold Strokes Books. But the most exciting part? I’ll be selling copies of The First Twenty almost a month early! You can buy the book at any time of the day, but if you want to chat or have it signed, I will officially be at the table from 5-6 with YA author Jeremy Jordan King, author of the Immortal Testimonies series! It’s going to be a great event! If you’re in the area, please stop by and say hello! We’d love to meet you! RBF banner

The First Twenty – are you ready for it?

The First Twenty coverIt’s just about a month for the release of The First Twenty and I’m getting excited! The author copies came in and they are BEAUTIFUL! I mean really, look at that cover! Stunning.

This book is my longest at 233 pages, and it looks great! I can’t wait to see what readers think!

If you read it, be sure to let me know what you think! I love getting feedback from my readers, and I would love to link to your review on my page.

Tristant and Elijah – OFFICIALLY RELEASED!

So excited! Tristant and Elijah has officially been released everywhere and so far the reviews are great! Head on over to the reviews section of the page to see more, but here’s a few excerpts!

I truly loved the supportive role that Tristant played for Elijah in his journey. Elijah’s anguish, and Tristant’s empathy and kindness are palpable. These two are really tender boys–and I’m glad that they found each other. – Veronica from V’s Reads

 

I found the story to be relevant and one we can all relate to. Many of us have had the experience of having a crush on someone we cannot have. – Amos Lassen

 

Have you read Tristant and Elijah? Let me know what you think! I’d love to hear from you!

 

YA Recommendations hosted on Women and Words

The other day – Tuesday really – I was approached by Jove Belle over at Women and Words to for a blog post on young adult fiction for middle school age girls coming out.

Now, I’ve read a lot of LGBT fiction, but it’s actually hard to find age appropriate lesbian fiction for middle school! I mean, there are tons of books out there, but so many have mature themes that not all readers are ready for.

But, thankfully I do have some books that fit the bill, and I was happy to provide a short list of six books for the website. And now I’m on the hunt for more books! I’d love to do a follow up guest blog!

You can read my recommendations over at Women and Words.

Book Review: Night Creatures by Jeremy Jordan King

It’s 1981, and Bryant thinks his move to New York will be the beginning of a new life. But the men he meets are being threatened by a mysterious illness. Could transforming into a Night Creature save him and his loved ones from certain death? Book Two of The Immortal Testimonies travels back in time to the gay community’s darkest days.

 

Since I finished the first book in this series, In Stone, I have been dying to get my hands on the sequel/prequel, especially when I found out the main character was going to be Bryant, my favorite side character in the first book.

In this book, readers meet Bryant before he’s been turned into a vampire. The time is the 1980s, right at the start of the AIDs crisis, and Bryant has just moved to New York City. He enjoys his life, but when an encounter with a mysterious man in a bath house leaves him sick, he freaks out. First he thinks it’s the flu, and then, when his lover and other friends start dying, he realizes it’s much worse.

Except, he’s not affected.

In comes Jonathan, the man from the bath house. One of the Immortals. What follows is an adventure as Bryant learns to adjust to his new life as he erases his old identity and tries desperately to stop AIDs from taking more lives.

This book was amazing. I mean, seriously. It really packs a hard punch, especially with the descriptions of the beginning of the AIDs crisis when doctors didn’t know what they were dealing with. Told from Bryant, it was so realistic I felt like I was living through it with him. What made it more chilling was the way the author didn’t just immediately say what was happening. Because no one did know at the time. We know now, and reading it, knowing what’s happening and what’s going to happen to everyone who gets sick… well, it was heartbreaking. I think this book is incredibly important for young adults because so many don’t understand the AIDs crisis and what it really meant to everyone. It’s been so many years that most – if not all – of those first impacted have died, and these young adults are seeing a world where AIDs may not have a cure yet, but has treatments, and being told you have it is not an immediate death sentence like it was in the 80s.

I cannot wait for the next book in the series. You do not need to read In Stone first in order to enjoy this book, but I would anyway.

This book is available for purchase from Bold Strokes Books.

Book Review: Asher’s Fault by Elizabeth Wheeler

The day fourteen-year-old Asher receives a Minolta camera from his aunt Sharon, he buys the last roll of black-and-white film and takes his first photograph—a picture of a twisted pine tree. He’s so preoccupied with his new hobby he fails to notice his dad’s plan to move out, his increasing alienation from his testosterone-ridden best friend, Levi, and his own budding sexuality. When his little brother drowns at the same moment Asher experiences his first same-sex kiss, he can no longer hide behind the lens of his camera. Asher thinks it’s his fault, but after his brother dies, his father resurfaces along with clues challenging Asher’s black-and-white view of the world. The truth is as twisted as the pine tree in his first photograph.

I loved this book. So much so that, despite having to work the next morning I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it. Teens everywhere, gay or straight, will relate to Asher, Garrett, Levi, Jennifer, and Kayla. There are so many different personalities in this book, each one so realistic I felt as if I knew them personally.

Asher is struggling to accept his parents divorce, especially when his father leaves his mother for another woman. His younger brother, Travis, annoys him, but as you find out from the blurb alone, his brother dies right at the same moment he has his first kiss with another boy. And I mean literally right at that moment.

What follows is a beautiful story about truths and lies. What is the truth? How do we know who is telling the truth and who isn’t? Asher’s friendship with Levi starts to fade when his friend becomes a member of the football team, and though Kayla is so different from him and doesn’t want to fit any mold, she appears to be the one person who understands him the most.

I love that Asher uses an old camera to capture his photos rather than a digital camera. There’s just something so much more special about taking a photo that way. His care in taking the photos is shown very carefully on the page.

I’m very happy that there will be a sequel because I want more of everyone. I want to know what happens between Asher and Garrett, and if Asher ever confronts his mother and father with the truth about Travis. Needless to say I was shocked when at the VERY end you find out a secret.

And reader’s are left with the biggest question of all. When it comes to Travis’s death, whose fault was it really?

You can purchase Asher’s Fault from Bold Strokes Books here.

Book Review: Lake Thirteen by Greg Herren

It seemed like a good idea at the time….

Every summer three families take a trip together—this year it’s to a remote resort in the mountains of upstate New York. Scotty, a teenager who’s just come out, is nervous about how his friends will react to him. A late night visit to an old nearby cemetery seems like a great idea to the bored teens, but the old cemetery holds dark secrets hidden for almost a century—secrets that might have been better left undisturbed.

And what originally seemed like a boring week in the mountains gradually becomes a nightmare of terror for the teens and their families.

Yet another great young adult book by Greg Herren. This mystery follows Scotty and his friends on a vacation to a mountain lodge that’s more popular in the winter. As such, they are the only guests there. After visiting a cemetery on the road, the five teens start to experience paranormal activities around the lodge. And Scotty can’t help but feel a connection to deceased Albert Tyler, whose grave he found.

The story that follows brings the kids on a frightening journey, which might put them and their loved ones in danger.

The book does has its scary moments, especially when the author moves into the stream-of-consciousness style. With the lack of punctuation, you can’t help but read it faster and faster, which puts you on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next. The scenes also shift from present to the past very rapidly. For the reader it can be disorienting, which is exactly how Scotty feels when it happens to him.

Despite it being a mystery and horror, there are some tender, romantic moments, and also some rather heavy sadness concerning Albert. I felt what Scotty felt, both the terror, the heartbreak, and the joy.

The only gripe I had was how abrupt it ended. I really wanted Scotty to get home to Marc and see the two of them interact outside of Scotty’s mind. But at the same time, the final line was perfect, and any more may have taken away from the bittersweet ending. I just wish Scotty and Marc got a moment together like the other two lovers in the story.

You can purchase this book from Bold Strokes Books.