Picture iconic FBI Agent Clarice Starling. Add a sense of humor and box of Krispy Kreme Donuts, make her part-Chinese plus a hard decade older, and you have Keye Street, the heroine of Amanda Kyle Williams’ Stranger series.
Williams is the author of two novels featuring Keye Street (The Stranger You Seek, Stranger in the Room), as well as the four-volume Madison McGuire series published by Naiad Press in the early 1990s.
If you haven’t yet met author Amanda Kyle Williams stop by Women and Words and introduce yourself. You won’t be sorry you did.
Come chill with me and the ab-fab Liz McMullen on The Liz McMullen Show. We yakked about The River Within, writing, and even snuck in a wicked preview of Hold of the Bone, the sixth in the L.A. Franco series. Good times!
Winter ended with whirlwinds that tossed my life around but spring is bringing a return to calm. I haven’t posted here that my last novel, the independently published The River Within, was picked up by Bedazzled Ink. All thanks to my Number 1 Fan Barrett, who plugged me relentlessly to the good folks at Bedazzled. Here’s the new cover. Look for it in June 2013.
When 36-year old Emily’s abusive husband walked towards her, she stabbed him with a pair of scissors, locked herself in the bathroom, and listened to him wander around their home for an hour before he died. Despite little supporting evidence Rachel’s job is to convince twelve good men and women that Emily’s overreaction was a result of battered women’s syndrome. In chasing the high of saving Emily, Rachel compromises her physical and mental health, eventually prompting a leave of absence to volunteer with Sandanistas in the deadly Nicaraguan tropics. Confronted with life on its simplest, most fundamental terms, Rachel must examine herself inside and out, to indeed walk to the “furthest city light” and see if she has what it takes to survive.
Winer’s title is derived from the Robert Frost poem, “Acquainted With The Night”. Like the great American poet, Winer is spare and unsentimental. There is no grandstanding in her novel or hammering of messages, merely the unflinching tale of a woman working hard to find herself before she loses everything dear. Like a Frost poem, her story is complicated yet told with deceptive skill and simplicity.
Thanks to Barrett (aka #1 Fan) for tagging me in her post, which you will find here – http://wordsofbarrett.wordpress.com/
What is the working title of your book? During most of the writing it was Entangled, a nod to quantum physics, but then, and I can’t remember how, it mysteriously became Hold of the Bone.
What genre does your book fall under? Lesbian mystery.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? On the verge of retirement, veteran LAPD Lieutenant Franco discovers a skeleton that leads not only to her truest calling but to the darkest mystery of all.
What is the longer synopsis of the book? In Hold of the Bone, number six in the L.A. Franco series, Frank uncovers a skeleton that leads from her predictable beat in south-central Los Angeles to the wild Santa Lucia mountains overlooking Big Sur. Years ago in a case involving a homicidal Santeria priestess, Frank had been warned that she possessed powerful psychic abilities, a warning Frank quickly dismissed. But the unearthing of the skeleton coincides with a frightening recurrence of dark visions, each stronger than the last. As Frank follows the case into the rugged wilderness of the Santa Lucia Range, she is forced to choose again and again between her heart and protocol. With the unlikely aid of the dead man’s daughter, Frank confronts her own wild nature and must ultimately choose to either fully embrace her dubious gifts or live a shell of a life without them.
Where did the idea come from for the book? Damned if I know! I’m sure it’s been percolating since the inception of the Franco series. Frank mirrors my own life, albeit she usually knows what’s going on before I do, and I’ve had so many other worldly experiences in my life that it seems natural for them to have bleed over on to her. I’m fascinated by our cultural mania for the supernatural. I think it belies an unfulfilled craving for a connection to alternate realities. Humans evolved with those connections. We are hard-wired for relationships with “other worlds”. Our ancestors were as intimately connected to those alternate realities as we are to Ipods and televisions, and the connections are still there. They lurk in our DNA, in “the hold of the bone”, just waiting to be plugged in. Hold of the Bone outlines one woman’s attempt, to rephrase Timothy Leary, to turn off, tune out, and drop in to the much larger world around us.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? That’s a great question because so often when I write characters they are based on actors I like, so I picture that actor in my head the whole time I’m writing the book. Franco still remains faceless to me, but thanks to a fan I finally figured who would make a great Franco. You can see who she is at my Pinterest page – http://pinterest.com/baxterclare/who-will-play-my-characters/
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Bella Books has the right of first refusal for the Franco series. If they don’t want it I might shop it around or go indie again – I did that with my last novel and loved the autonomy of being my own publisher.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I started Hold after wrapping up publication of The River Within, so that must have been in the spring of 2012, and I hope to be done with the draft by January or February. I only have about fifteen hours a week to write so on average I’d say it takes about two years for me to finish a book. I’m a literary turtle, slow but steady!
Who or What inspired you to write this book? I think really bad writers inspire me. I remember sitting in my tub with a very popular crime novel, one of many by a prolific author, and thinking, “My God, this is awful. I can write better than this!” That’s what pushed me to write the first Franco novel. Hold of the Bone was in part spurred by the overwhelming glut of supernatural dreck in popular fiction. All those horrifically bad vampire/zombie/werewolf novels encouraged me to straighten the record a bit by approaching the supernatural from a more valid, and for many “other-gifted” people, more realistic point of view. Granted, Frank’s psychic adventures are more extreme than mine, but as always, she is more evolved than me!
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Besides coming to grips with her unwanted psychic abilities, Frank has had quite a few adventures between her last book and this one. Followers of the series might be curious to see what those were, but for new readers Hold of the Bone is a stand-alone read. It’s not necessary to read the first five in the series, although I love following characters chronologically.
Next Wednesday hop over to these fab authors for a peek at their Next Big Things.
Kate Genet - http://themisbehavingmind.com/
Anne Lauglin at http://www.annelaughlinwriter.com/
Alexandra Wolfe at http://wrywriter.com/
Neil Gaiman is starting a new tradition of giving away a scary book on October 29th. http://www.allhallowsread.com/ I love it as reading and Halloween are such underated pleasures. I’m celebrating by giving away a print copy of the very creepy Cry Havoc. Just respond to this blog and I’ll throw your name in my witch’s hat! Happy Haunting!
Sometimes a wild god comes to the table.
He is awkward and does not know the ways
Of porcelain, of fork and mustard and silver.
His voice makes vinegar from wine.
When the wild god arrives at the door,
You will probably fear him.
He reminds you of something dark
That you might have dreamt,
Or the secret you do not wish to be shared.
He will not ring the doorbell;
Instead he scrapes with his fingers
Leaving blood on the paintwork,
Though primroses grow
In circles round his feet.
You do not want to let him in.
You are very busy.
It is late, or early, and besides…
You cannot look at him straight
Because he makes you want to cry.
The dog barks.
The wild god smiles,
Holds out his hand.
The dog licks his wounds
And leads him inside.
The wild god stands in your kitchen.
Ivy is taking over your sideboard;
Mistletoe has moved into the lampshades
And wrens have begun to sing
An old song in the mouth of your kettle.
‘I haven’t much,’ you say
And give him the worst of your food.
He sits at the table, bleeding.
He coughs up foxes.
There are otters in his eyes.
When your wife calls down,
You close the door and
Tell her it’s fine.
You will not let her see
The strange guest at your table.
The wild god asks for whiskey
And you pour a glass for him,
Then a glass for yourself.
Three snakes are beginning to nest
In your voicebox. You cough.
Oh, limitless space.
Oh, eternal mystery.
Oh, endless cycles of death and birth.
Oh, miracle of life.
Oh, the wondrous dance of it all.
You cough again,
Expectorate the snakes and
Water down the whiskey,
Wondering how you got so old
And where your passion went.
The wild god reaches into a bag
Made of moles and nightingale-skin.
He pulls out a two-reeded pipe,
Raises an eyebrow
And all the birds begin to sing.
The fox leaps into your eyes.
Otters rush from the darkness.
The snakes pour through your body.
Your dog howls and upstairs
Your wife both exhalts and weeps at once.
The wild god dances with your dog.
You dance with the sparrows.
A white stag pulls up a stool
And bellows hymns to enchantments.
A pelican leaps from chair to chair.
In the distance, warriors pour from their tombs.
Ancient gold grows like grass in the fields.
Everyone dreams the words to long-forgotten songs.
The hills echo and the grey stones ring
With laughter and madness and pain.
In the middle of the dance,
The house takes off from the ground.
Clouds climb through the windows;
Lightning pounds its fists on the table.
The moon leans in through the window.
The wild god points to your side.
You are bleeding heavily.
You have been bleeding for a long time,
Possibly since you were born.
There is a bear in the wound.
‘Why did you leave me to die?’
Asks the wild god and you say:
‘I was busy surviving.
The shops were all closed;
I didn’t know how. I’m sorry.’
Listen to them:
The fox in your neck and
The snakes in your arms and
The wren and the sparrow and the deer…
The great un-nameable beasts
In your liver and your kidneys and your heart…
There is a symphony of howling.
A cacophony of dissent.
The wild god nods his head and
You wake on the floor holding a knife,
A bottle and a handful of black fur.
Your dog is asleep on the table.
Your wife is stirring, far above.
Your cheeks are wet with tears;
Your mouth aches from laughter or shouting.
A black bear is sitting by the fire.
Sometimes a wild god comes to the table.
He is awkward and does not know the ways
Of porcelain, of fork and mustard and silver.
His voice makes vinegar from wine
And brings the dead to life.
The Mary-El deck had been on my Wish List for quite a while. A few months ago, I had to have it. Since then the deck sat unopened, its beautifully designed box propped in front of the cabinet with all my other cards. Today I finally opened the box. Not much takes my breath away but as I laid out each card, I honestly forgot to breathe. It’s a disturbing deck. Combine Meinrad Craighead, Charles Vess in Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust”, add a sprinkle of the Thoth Deck, and you begin to get an idea of the Mary-El’s dark complexity. The words that came to mind as I turned each card were “stunning, shocking, visceral, vivid detail”. I’m not even sure how to use these cards other than as 78 pieces of art. They don’t seem to consistently follow conventional tarot themes or design, so I wouldn’t recommend this as a beginner’s deck. They are profoundly, frighteningly powerful – this is a deck for those ready to delve deep into the real work of their lives, with nothing held back, no secrets, no holds barred. The Mary-El takes no prisoners. Each card is graphic and immediate; more than with any of my other decks, I had an instant, physical reaction to each card, with no time for a cooler, more objective mental interpretation. There is nothing light and fluffy here. You might even be hard-pressed to find friendly, yet there is an odd comfort in the deck’s brutal honesty. Every card is unflinching, unforgiving. Each will pull a little piece of truth from you.
I know, I know. I’m probably the only lesbian in America that doesn’t like lesbian romances. Makes for quite a dearth of fiction with lesbian characters. Imagine my delight when romance writer Gerri Hill announced she had written a new book that was a little different than her normal fare. I bought it straight away,
The story starts with four FBI partners. Girl CJ is pared with boy Billy, and girl Paige with boy Ice. CJ is an out dyke and Paige, well, Billy and Ice aren’t really sure about Paige. But CJ knows. They spent a wild night together a couple months back and haven’t talked about it since. Then the boss tells CJ and Paige they have an assignment at a spooky girls school where people keep disappearing, and that CJ and Paige are to pose as undercover teachers at this school. So far, so good. Then the boss says they have to pretend to be a couple.
EEEERK – (screeching of brakes) not only for CJ and Paige but the reader, too. Hill casually explains that because its a girls school most of the teachers there are coupled lesbians. What? Where was this extraordinarily liberal school when I was growing up? Growing up, hell, I’ll go there now and teach. That’s the only explanation we get for this scenario, one so implausible that I had a much easier time believing in the unearthly “he” that lived in the cave than a girls schools where they welcomed lesbian teaching couples.
For the next 150 pages we are tortured by the unrequited passion CJ and Paige still feel for each other, which would be fine if there were an explanation for it other than they are not each others type. Ladies, if you’re in that hot a lather for someone, who cares about type? While the sexual tension was exquisitely drawn out it was more titillating than central to the plot, which of course makes Keepers of the Cave your standard lesbian romance.
That being said, about halfway through I got bored with the unrequited passion (oh, for God’s sake, just do it!) and skimmed through to the horror scenes. A couple dozen pages later I was rewarded; Hill began to concentrate more on the sinister goings on at the school than she did yet another explanation that Paige/CJ couldn’t possibly sleep with CJ/Paige because she wasn’t her type. From there the action took off like Lucifer being drop-kicked from the pearly gates.
Being a fan of good police procedurals I was immediately drawn in by the rapport and humor between the four partners, and although they were quickly split up Hill kept the boys engaged in the story. Unfortunately, the case they were working sat pretty much in the backseat for the first half of the book, acting more as a vehicle for the tortured romance than it’s own story. Although the flirting between CJ and Paige was cute and playful, their agonizing refusal to sleep with each other grew tedious by mid-book. As I had been hoping for more than a romance I was disappointed in the novel, but Ms. Hill need not worry about putting off any of her fans. While the implications of the horror story are indeed disturbing Hill never goes into explicit details, so I’m sure all but her most squeamish of followers will be perfectly delighted with Keepers of the Cave.
I was moved to tears yesterday when I heard at the end of Sally Ride’s obit on NPR that she was survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy. I am moved almost to tears again today when I hear there is backlash that she didn’t come out sooner. Sally Ride’s passion, from all accounts, was being an astronaut. She wasn’t an LGBT activist. Not all of us are. Some of us are deeply locked in closets, for whatever reason. Ought we be pilloried? I think not. Let us remember her first and foremost as a woman with the courage to strap herself into a rocket and shoot into deep space. I sure as hell couldn’t do that. But that was her passion. We change the world by following our hearts. For some us that might mean staying in closets. For some it might mean being loud and proud. Whatever method we choose to express, or not express our sexuality it is our right. No one should shame us into doing it any other way. She’s out now. She will go down in history, and herstory, as a lesbian. Everyday there are more and more role models for young, and not so young, LGBTs to look to. Now, there is one more.