Guest Post: Paris is for Romance…and Rippers
By Katherine Ramsland
You’d think that a novel featuring Jack the Ripper would be set in London, right? This still-unknown serial killer from 1888 with the salacious moniker killed between five and 11 women in and around the Whitechapel slums, especially in the Wicked Quarter Mile.
However, Ripper lore also makes some obscure references to Paris. I exploited them when I wrote the sequel to my paranormal crime mystery, The Ripper Letter. Since Track the Ripper had Parisian settings, I went to the City of Light to get them right.
In The Ripper Letter, I’d used the report of a missing letter that many experts believe the killer actually wrote. Only a facsimile remained in police files. I invented a code based on angel script that turned this letter into a dire warning. This thrust my protagonist, NYPD detective Dianysus Brentano, into a spiritual battle.
Track the Ripper takes Dianysus to London, Glastonbury and Paris as she chases a man posing as the Ripper and discovers an Internet-based contagion that turns his followers into killers. For the Paris connection, I used the frame of an actual Ripper suspect who’d been involved with member of Aleister Crowley’s occult circle. Dr. Roslyn “D’Onston” Stephenson was a former military surgeon who’d studied magic in Africa and Paris. So that was one connection. In addition, Mary Kelly, a Ripper victim, had briefly gone to Paris. One story holds that some mysterious experience there sent her back to London, where she met her terrible fate. I linked these two stories.
With D’Onston’s occult connections, I knew of Eliphas Levi, a priest who’d trained at the church of Saint-Sulpice and who’d practiced ritual magic in pagan spots, such as the current location of la Basilique du Sacré Coeur. So, this gave me two cavernous spaces in which to set some significant action.
Arriving in Paris, I headed for Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where 1940s-era intellectuals had met in cafes and salons to discuss literature and philosophy. Dianysus would discover she owned one of the amazing six-story buildings along the boulevard there, so I had to see what I could (and couldn’t) do with them.
Nearby, on the Rue Palatine, was Saint-Sulpice.
Crossing the Seine and hopping onto the Metro, I went up to the city’s highest point, Montmartre, to see if a helicopter could land in the cemetery there (I figured out how to make it work), and to find the type of mausoleum that I’d envisioned. I found several that would make my fictional one believable.
In addition, the cemetery gave me a spooky tone.
Each cemetery in Paris has its own personality, and Montmartre is a “city cemetery” in that life is busy all around it, a major road runs above it, and yet it remains dark and serene (if crowded).
Then, there was Sainte-Chapelle, a magnificent structure created to house Christ’s crown of thorns. The second-floor room is ethereal, with light coming in from 15 different tall and ornate stained glass windows, under an intricately arched ceiling. The windows showed hundreds of biblical scenes, but what had enchanted me was the interplay of soft red, blue and yellow light. It was simultaneously warm and cold, the perfect place for a supernatural confrontation.
In the end, I chose la Basilique du Sacré Coeur for the first battle, due in part to all the impressive angel imagery inside.
Situated on Montmartre, the basilica’s terrace offers a panoramic view of Paris and the vault underneath suggests numerous secret underground passageways.
Of course, there was romance as well. Cut throughout the scenes of danger and suspense in pursuit of the murder-mad Ripper were lusty, intimate moments for Dianysus for which the City of Light is celebrated.
Today, Katherine Ramsland is speaking at the Ripper Convention in London. To celebrate, Riverdale Avenue Books is offering her book FREE on their website ONLY with the code Rippercon2018.
Riverdale Avenue Books Publishes An Anthology of Evil Men in Wake of Kavanaugh Hearing
By Lori Perkins
In the wake of the latest wave of #MeToo allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as well as the conviction and sentencing of Bill Cosby and ouster of CBS honcho Leslie Moonves, Esme Oliver, author of the groundbreaking Smoke, Drink, F@#k, has written a collection of short stories about interactions with men that takes on a new dimension in the glare of today’s headlines.
What inspired you to write the stories in An Anthology of Evil Men?
I wrote the stories based on my own experiences with a litany of some pretty crappy men -- both in my personal and professional life.
My girlfriends' stories also inspired me -- many of which have told me they too could add a chapter to this book!
Have you ever read anything like this before?
I have not, and I do read a lot of memoirs as well as female authors.
We understand you've been working on this collection for a number of years?
Yes. I actually started writing this book in 2008. I thought then that this story needed to be told, but then I got distracted with work and life and ended up writing a love story that took place in Italy instead. I didn't know then that the #MeToo movement would ever occur in my lifetime and that my book would be released during this critical time in history.
How has the #MeToo Movement tied in to this anthology?
As I stated, I wrote the vast majority of this book a decade ago. I didn't know about the #MeToo movement then obviously. But I do think the time is ripe for this type of book. And I do think the environment is more supportive now, and women's voices are finally being heard and taken seriously. So I think the #MeToo movement has, in fact, tied into this and in a good way.
Do you think we are at a pivotal moment in time for American women?
I absolutely do. I do not think women's voices have ever been heard on many issues particularly on sexual harassment. No one ever wanted to hear it, so women just didn't come forward. I think now (hopefully) we are moving to a culture of zero tolerance. I am actually very hopeful that my nieces never go through a lot of the stuff I went through.
Do you think we will see a new kind of female literature as a result of these cultural changes?
I hope so, and I do think so. There are such incredibly big changes going on now in our culture that I can't believe more women writers won't release fictional and nonfictional work.
What are you working on next?
A crime drama.
Steve Perry Gets His Groove Back To
Honor the Woman He Loved
By Lori Perkins
Steve Perry of Journey is getting back into music, but it’s not for the reason you think.
In 2011, Perry was doing a show on Lifetime Network called Five, about cancer patients and survivors. Perry was there because members of his family had died of the disease. He looked across the room while standing in the editing deck with his close friend Patty and saw Kellie Nash, a Ph.D. and breast cancer survivor. Then Perry did something out of character--he asked for Nash’s email.
While Patty was taken aback at first, she had something to tell Perry and it wasn’t good. While Nash had beaten cancer once before, it wasn’t done with her yet. She had cancer in her bones and lungs, and was likely just fighting the clock for time. That didn’t deter Perry--he had good intentions in mind and just wanted to see how things might pan out. So, he asked Patty out via email and he waited, not too patiently, for two weeks for a response. After sending a few emails, the pair started to talk on the phone for hours, before spiraling into dates that lasted hours.
After the third or fourth date, when Perry was driving home, he turned around and drove back to Nash’s. He called her and asked her to meet him out front. She got in the car and asked him what was wrong. Perry broke down and told Nash just how much she meant to him, proclaiming his love. Yet, the two knew that their time was limited and tried to make the most of it. In Nash’s final days she asked him not to go back into isolation, so that their relationship where she drew him back out of his shell was not for nothing. And so, while Nash died in December of 2012, her memory lives in through Steve Perry’s music. His new album, Traces, is inspired by her.
Quadriplegic Bride Walks Down the Aisle
By Lori Perkins
In the April of 2013, Amanda Flores and Frank Bordoy met and instantly knew they were attracted to each other. By Christmas Eve of 2014, the pair were living together with Flores’ sons.
Unfortunately for the happy couple, tragedy hit when Flores fell into a coma due to a dangerously low blood oxygen count. She had been fighting strep throat that had developed into sepsis and eventually, renal failure. Things were bad. Blood had stopped moving to her limbs and doctors believe she would be dead if they didn’t amputate all of her arms and legs. The surgery left Flores a quadriplegic, one of the few women in the world with every limb amputated.
Yet, this didn’t deter Bordoy’s love for Flores. When Flores mom and sister sat down with him to talk about what had happened, he said his feelings had not changed. He said that while legally, on paper, they were not married, she was his wife and he was staying with her.
Two months after the amputation, Flores woke up from her coma and was told she was an amputee. Her reaction was to go back to sleep. Bordoy took it differently, he was determined to make her his wife. So, a few days after Flores awoke, Bordoy made good on his word, and proposed!
While Flores was unsure of the marriage, due to all of the possible complications, she said yes. Flores might have said yes, but she had one condition--she had to walk down the aisle.
After months of rehab, the pair finally married on August 11th, 2018. When asked about the wedding, Flores said the best part was not tripping on her way down the aisle.
This story originally appeared in https://womenintheworld.com/2018/08/16/quadruple-amputee-goes-through-hell-to-walk-down-the-aisle-and-marry-the-love-of-her-life/
A Congress of Nicoles: Man Searching for “Nicole from Last Night’ Brings Women
Named Nicole Together
By Lori Perkins
After Carlos Zetina took Nicole and her friends home for the night, she gave him her number and Carlos thought the rest would be up to his witty texts. Horrifyingly enough, when Carlos went to text Nicole, he found that it was not her actual number. Yet, Carlos was not dismayed or disheartened. Instead of calling it quits with Nicole, Carlos was determined to find her, thinking she had made a mistake with her number.
After remembering that she attended the University of Calgary, Carlos decided that he would use this tidbit of information to find her, and so he set out to email every ‘Nicole’ and variation of ‘Nicole ’ in the University directory. So, Carlos emailed a total of 246 women with a name similar to ‘Nicole’ with this message:
“Hi, this is a mass email to all Nicole’s [sic], If you don’t fit this description then ignore and if you are the one and just don’t want to talk to me that’s ok as well. If you [sic] name is Nicole and you’re from Holland and you think Nietzsche is depressing then text me … I’m Carlos btw I’m the guy who took you and your friend home last night.”
Students, faculty, and even some deans got the message. The herd of ‘Nicoles’ contacted by Zetina’s email has actually spawned a great gathering of ‘Nicoles’ within the U of C community. Some of the women have been meeting up and have started a Facebook group called “Nicole from Last Night.”
That’s not even the best part of the story. It turns out Nicole did not actually receive the email about “Nicole from Last Night,” because she was new and did not have a school email yet. But, the news about the “Nicole’s from Last Night” spread like wildfire throughout the community and eventually the right Nicole found out. It turns out she really did give Zetina the wrong phone number, as it is her new Canadian line. The pair have been texting and have plans to hang out.
#TimesUp Calls for National Walkout on 9/24 in Protest of Dr. Blasey Ford’s Treatment
By Lori Perkins
#TimesUp, the organization of powerful Hollywood women that was created in the wake of the #MeToo Movement, has called for a National Walkout on Monday, September 24th in Solidarity with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teenagers three decades ago.
The organization urges anyone who believes Dr. Ford to wear black that day and to leave their home, office, classroom or wherever they may be to protest the treatment that Dr. Ford has received at 1:00 ET, and 10:00 a.m. PT. They state that if you are unable to walk out of where you are, take a selfie of yourself or your group in support and post it on social media. Protesters are encouraged to use the hashtag #BelieveSurvivors.
In addition, The Planned Parenthood Action Fund supported the call for a national walkout and detailed plans for a gathering in Washington DC at the same time. Their statement read in part, "women’s groups and ally organizations will join advocates and survivors in a national #BelieveSurvivors walk out to support Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez and call for the cancellation of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process."
Time's Up defended Dr. Ford last week with a statement that read, in part: "We demand that the U.S. Senate postpone any vote on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination until a thorough and complete examination has been completed. Listen to Christina Blasey Ford. A woman's experience should never be valued less than a man's career."
The tagline for tomorrow’s protest is “Survivors Must be Heard.”
Nicki Minaj’s New Man?
By Lillie McHale
Nicki Minaj has been in the news recently for an on-going fight with fellow female rapper Cardi B, but somehow the papers have forgotten to mention her newest companion, British race car driver Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton dated lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls, Nicole Scherzinger, in an on again-off-again relationship until February 2015.
After dating rapper Meek Mill for over two years, Nicki has been on somewhat of a dating hiatus since their break-up in January of 2017.
The rapper was seen with Hamilton at the TommyXLewis Launch Party with the Formula 1 Racer. While it has yet been confirmed that the pair are in a relationship, Nicki did hint at the possibility of a new man on a recent The Ellen DeGeneres Show appearance. Earlier in the week Minaj spent time with her mom, Carol Maraj, by taking her to a Fashion Week Party.
Meghan Markle Writes Foreword to Charity Cookbook for Grenfell Tower Survivors
By Lillie McHale
The Duchess of Sussex has put her stamp of approval on a new charity cookbook for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire titled, Together: Our Community Cookbook. The Duchess’s support means a lot coming from her old blog, The Tig, taken down since her induction into the royal family.
The Kensington Palace says of the book on their Instagram: “The Hubb Community Kitchen is a place for women to laugh, grieve, cry and cook together. Melding cultural identifies under a shared roof, it creates a space to feel a sense of normalcy.”
The cookbook contains 50 Eastern Mediterranean-European recipes from women within the community affected by the Grenfell Tower fire along with a foreword by The Duchess herself. The proceeds will support a gathering place, The Hubb Community Kitchen, for survivors of the fire. With the cookbook sales, the kitchen will hopefully be able to remain open seven days a week with the support of The Royal Foundation.
The Palace’s Instagram shows videos of Meghan’s voiceover about the importance of the work with footage of her visit to the kitchen. The Duchess was previously reported that The Duchess had made secret visits to the fire victims in February. it is now speculated that she was there working on the creation of this project. The Duchess hosted a celebratory event, with the support of Prince Harry, in Kensington Palace, on the 20th of September.
Married Men at the Top of the
Wage Ladder in America
By Lillie McHale
Source: Guillaume Vandenbroucke, St. Louis Federal Reserve
According to an article in Bloomberg News, married men in America make a lot more money than anyone else.
Married women come out on the bottom. Single men and women earn more than married women.
The only good news here is that single men and women are more or less equal in earnings according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis study that looked at wages in 2016 for people with at least a high school diploma. Married women are the lowest wage earners for whom “working life still presents a seemingly inevitable loss of parity,” according to Bloomberg News.”
Note: Wage and salary income of workers with at least a high school diploma by age, gender, and marital status
The chart above shows that married men make significantly more than others, almost twice as much as married women.
The research officer Guillaume Vandenbroucke proposed that the data doesn’t necessarily mean that being married increases a man’s wages. He supposes that it may be that men earning higher wages are more likely to marry then lower-income men. Also, married and single women make similar wages, which is "not consistent with the view that the gender wage gap results from women having children earlier in life and losing ground in human capital accumulation relative to men."
"The gender wage gap remains a complicated topic," Vandenbroucke wrote in the summary. "But progress may come from asking different questions: not just why women earn less than men (although not compared with single men), but also why married men earn so much more than everyone else."
The story originally appeared in https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-19/u-s-married-men-earn-much-more-than-others-demographics-trends?srnd=premium
The Mary Poppins Trailer is Here!
By Lori Perkins
Emily Blunt is well known as playing bitchy characters in roles such as Emily in The Devil Wears Prada and Queen Catherine in Henry VII. This December, Blunt will be staring in the role of a lifetime as Mary Poppins, the sweet and just a little bit bitchy nanny we all loved as kids. After Julie Andrews starred in the iconic role in 1964 (and won the Best Actress Oscar for it), Walt Disney Studios decided to make Mary Poppins Returns with Blunt taking over the leading role. Other cast members include: Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury, Julie Walters and Meryl Streep. Mary Poppins alum Dick Van Dyke, at 92, also makes a reappearance. Music is being written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton and Moana fame) and he plays a role in the film as well.
Rob Marshall directs the movie based off of the screenplay Mary Poppins Stories by David Magee. Sandy Powell designed costumes that attempt to pay homage to Julie Andrews film while still trying to stay loyal to the books.
Blunt has put her stamp of approval on the costumes calling them “stunning,” while describing the characters style as “Vain and … into herself,” during an interview with E! News.
While an initial teaser trailer was debuted in March, Walt Disney released the full-length trailer for the magical movie on ABC’s Good Morning America.
Did They or Didn’t They? The Justin Bieber/Haley Baldwin Marriage
By Lillian McHale
There is officially “One Less Lonely Girl” as Justin Bieber, 24, and fiancée Haley Baldwin, 21, have supposedly tied the knot! This past Thursday the pair entered a New York City Court House as a recently engaged couple and left with a marriage license, and are now officially Mr. & Mrs. Bieber!
Bieber’s mom, Pattie Mallette, displayed her affection for the couple by tweeting: “Love is unconditional” and “Haters gonna hate. #LoveWins.”
While the couple is officially married, the pair still plan on holding a wedding with family and friends. The couple sees the civil ceremony and the ‘actual’ wedding as two different things.
Haley has stated that she wants her older sister Alaia to be a bridesmaid and Justin’s younger sister, Jazmyn, can be the flower girl. Haley wants a woodsy backdrop with lights everywhere and has reportedly selected a designer for her wedding dress already.
Award-Winner Director Proposes to Girlfriend
on Screen at Emmys
By Lillian McHale
In the first time in Awards Show history, someone was proposed to on national TV. Glenn Weiss, who won the award for outstanding directing for a variety special (the Oscar Awards ceremony) got up on the stage and proposed to his girlfriend, Jan Svendsen yesterday evening.
After the usual thanking of family and friends who made the award possible, Weiss started to speak about his mother, who he told the audience had died just two weeks before. “Part of my heart is broken. I don’t think it will ever be repaired. But she’s in me and she always will be.”
Weiss went on to explain that his mother always believed in “finding the sunshine,” leading him to call Svendsen “the sunshine in my life. And Mom was right, don’t ever let go of your sunshine. You wonder why I don’t like to call you my girlfriend? Because I want to call you my wife.”
As the crowd heard the word “wife” leave Weiss’ mouth, cheers erupted.
Svendsen shouted “yes” from her seat and was ushered up to the stage. Once she was on the stage with him, Weiss presented her with the ring “that my dad put on my mom’s finger 67 years ago.”
Weiss then got down on his knee and asked, “Jan, I want to put this ring that my mom wore on your finger in front of all these people and in front of my mom and your parents watching from above. Will you marry me?”
Svendsen didn’t hesitate when she said “yes.”
Speaking to reporters after the proposal, the couple explained that they had met in 2001 and have worked together for 10 years on various awards shows. Svendsen worked on the Broadway League and was Chief Marketing Officer for the Tony Awards, while Weiss has worked on shows from the Oscars to the Tonys.
The new bride-to-be said that she “had no suspicions whatsoever, I had no idea.” She added, “I really hoped he was going to dedicate the award to his mother, and he did, and then some.”
With a proposal like that, we can only imagine what this award-winning couple is going to produce for their wedding?
Brett Kavanaugh’s Confirmation and
the Romance Community
By Lillian McHale
You might think that this headline is a stretch, but anyone who follows best-selling historical romance author Courtney Milan on Twitter knows that she was a clerk for a judge in the aughts who suddenly resigned recently due to post #MeToo testimony of how inappropriate he had been to his female clerks (and that Courtney had been one of those clerks). Since then, she has really taken up the Twitter baton to explain and give insight to the inner workings of D.C.’s judicial realm in this time of Trump, so I expected to find some perspective from Courtney. I found more.
Today’s news that the formerly anonymous woman who had gone to Senator Feinstein with her account of being sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh when they were both teens had decided to go public and gave an interview to the Washington Post, really made it clear that this assault has stayed with her for more than 30 years. The part that really grabbed me was the line “I thought he might inadvertently kill me.” No, you don’t forget something like that.
So I went looking to see if Courtney Milan had any Tweets, and I was surprised to see a thread that read:
“The reason I’m rage-tweeting over this guy is because I want it to be perfectly clear that what this argument is, is that women are not people the way men are.”
I then went on to follow the tweet thread and came across: “ALL I WANT is for sexual assault charges to be handled like EVERY OTHER crime.”
Next tweet “We don’t say “he was asking to be robbed.” We don’t say “he shouldn’t have been drinking if he didn’t want his wallet taken.” We don’t say, “Well, he can’t identify his robber in a lineup because that’s not evidence.”
That really hit home.
Twenty-seven years after the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearing that showed the world that American men have no regard for women unless they follow their rules, and a year after #MeToo has brought the spotlight to the pervasive inequality and daily aggressions toward women in all walks of life, a Professor felt so fearful to come forward against a powerful connected man because she was afraid that we would do the same thing to her that we have done to so many others. And we might, but she still had the courage to come forward putting civic duty before personal safety and pride. That’s a heroine!
The part two to this story belongs to Tessa Dare, another best-selling romance author, who kind of startled me with a her own tale of sexual assault at a young age and how it still resonates in her life. Like Courtney, she had a tweet that really drew my attention:
“The first time you realize sex can be weaponized against you is like a disgusting rite of passage for women. It’s something you don’t forget because you *can’t*, for survival’s sake. Your mind preserves every detail, keeps reminding you—bc your brain’s there to keep you alive.”
When I looked to see exactly what she was writing about, I was stunned to read the following thread (which I reprint here, so as not to dull her words).
Things need to change, and we, as romance writers who are privledged to have voices that others listen to, must be part of that change. Like Courtney and Tessa, we need to tell our truths. Even in our fiction these stories of our truth must make their way into our contempory romances. We must tell the stories of repression and assault in our historical romances too. The only way for us to have real HEAs is to take off the rose-colored glasses and write the future we want, not the past or present we wish we lived in.
What was the Wedding Song of the Year
the year You Got Married?
By Lillian McHale
Somehow I missed the concept that there even was a “wedding song of the year,” although that should not surprise me as I am always keenly aware of the three-month long airplay competition for the annual title of “song of the summer.”
So I am pleasantly surprised that someone at Good Housekeeping Magazine took the time to assemble this list of the songs mostly likely to have been played at a wedding by year. I share them here with you because I assume that RDN readers will be as fascinated as I was by this stroll down memory lane (did anyone really play “Get Jiggy Wit It” at their wedding?) but it might also make some interesting detail in a novel one of us is writing.
Below are the wedding songs of the year from 1971 until 2017. I guess we’ll have to wait with bated breath for the 2018 winner, although Cardi B’s “I Like It” looks like a contender to me.
1971 "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)” by Stevie Wonder
1972 "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green
1973 "Crocodile Rock” by Elton John
1974: "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
1975 “The Hustle” Van McCoy
1976 “Dancing Queen” By Abba
1977 “How Deep is our Love” by The Bee Gees from The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack
1978 “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton
1979 “What I Like About You” by The Romantics
1980 “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross
1981 “Endless Love: by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
1982 “Open Arms” by Journey
1983 Girls Just Wanna’ Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper
1984 “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins e (no wonder we used the old classic “As Time Goes By” at my wedding)
1985 “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon
1986 “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel from the Say Anything soundtrack
1987 “The Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing
1988 “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston
1989 “Have I Told You Lately” by Van Morrison
1990 “You Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer
1991 “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Michael Bolton
1992 “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
1993 “I Swear” by John Michael Montgomery (probably because of the actual wedding vows in the song)
1994 “Kiss From a Rose” by Seal
1995 “La Macarena” by Los Del Rio
1996 “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion (a big favorite for the father/daughter dance)
1997 “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden
1998 “Getting’ Jiggy Wit It” by Will Smith
1999 “Living La Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin
2000 “This I Promise You” by NYSNC
2001 “I Could Not Ask for More” by Sara Evans
2002 “A Moment Like This” by Kelly Clarkson
2003 “Hey Ya!” by Outkast
2004 “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts
2005 “Better Together” by Jack Johnson
2006 “Sexy Back” by Justin Timberlake
2007 “Everything” by Michael Buble
2008 “Single Ladies” Beyoncé
2009 “I Gotta’ Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas
2010 “Marry Me” by Train
2011 “Firework” by Katy Perry
2012 “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz
2013 “All of Me” by John Legend
2014 “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
2015 “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars
2016 “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin
2017 “Thinkin’ Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran
Missing Pair of Dorothy’s Ruby Red Slippers Found
By Lillian McHale
Since 2005, one pair of the four total iconic red slippers that Judy Garland wore in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz have been missing. The pair were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in her hometown of Grand Rapids, MN.
Memorabilia collector Michael Shaw had loaned the slippers to the Judy Garland Museum for their annual “Wizard of Oz” festival during the fateful August the shoes were stolen. He had told the museum they didn’t need to store the shoes in their security vault every night as he didn’t want people to be handling the shoes and moving them daily. He emphasized that he was told that the museum had ample security.
According to the Grand Rapid’s Police Department, the thief broke in via a back door before smashing the museum’s glass case holding the $1 million-dollar valued slippers. There were no fingerprints left and the alarm did not sound. There was no evidence besides a single stray sequin. It was speculated that the heist was an inside job.
Finally, after 13 years, someone came forward to the company that insured the slippers claiming to have information on how to get the shoes back. The company quickly concluded that the person was trying to extort the owners. After years of rumors and dead ends, an anonymous tip last summer led law enforcement outside Minnesota, before the FBI finally got involved. This summer the shoes were finally recovered through a seize-undercover mission in Minneapolis.
The long-lost slippers were shown to reporters last week at the FBI's Minneapolis headquarters in a news conference conducted in reverential tones, with repeated references to rainbows and the memorable quote "there's no place like home."
"They're more than just a pair of shoes, the slippers. They're an enduring symbol of the power of belief," Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson said.
The Princess of 42nd Street Pubs
at NYC’s Museum of Sex
By Lori Perkins
Romola Hodas, author of the just-published memoir, The Princess of 42nd Street: How I Survived My Childhood as the Daughter of Times Square’s King of Porn, held her publication party for her tell-all book in the appropriately named “Disco Room” in New York City’s Museum of Sex last night. To a crowded audience of press and fans, she read from the book where she tells what it was like to be the teen-aged daughter of the man who invented the peep show machine in the 1970s.
The publication of the book ties-in to the airing of the second season of HBO’s The Deuce, which focuses on the lives of prostitutes, porn stars, cops and pimps who worked the Times Square district a the time that Romola’s father was opening up enough businesses along the strip to be nicknamed The Lord of the Loops and eventually be featured in every major NYC newspaper for a trial on his business.
The character of Romola’s father, Marty, is played by the actor Saul Stein, who read her book and called it, “A testament to the awakening and reclamation of self, Romola Hodas [is] such a courageous voice and blessed to be given the opportunity to listen and learn. [The Princess of 42nd Street is ] a most welcome book.”
Polish WWII Hero Dies Two days After Walking Granddaughter Down the Aisle
By Lilli McHale
Polish war-hero Brionslaw Karwowski proudly escorted his granddaughter Joanna into the church on her wedding day this summer while wearing his entire WWII military regalia, adorned with his many medals.
Karwowski was one of the most decorated Polish veterans of World War II. After fighting with the Polish resistance, against the rule of the Nazis, and participating in the Warsaw uprising, he was captured before escaping from Gestapo headquarters. Karwowski was then arrested and was sentenced to ten years in prison for his resistance efforts towards the communist government following World War II. One of his medals was the Knight’s Cross of the Order of the Rebirth of Poland given for his resistance for the good of the Polish nation.
At the altar, the groom was fighting back tears at the sight of his bride walking with her grandfather. The couple’s ceremony took place in Bialystok, Poland. Two days after the wedding, Karwowski died at 94. While it is noticeable Karwowski was ill while walking Joanna down the aisle, he did not falter and performed his duties one final time.
The Polish National Armed Forces acknowledged his passing with a released statement on social media. "We regret to announce that today, on 1st September 2018, on the 79th anniversary of Germany's assault on Poland, the national hero and insurgent of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, Major Bronislaw Karwowski retired to the eternal guard. He was 94 years old.”
How Much Would You Spend
to Tell Someone You Loved Them?
By Lilli McHale
When you love someone, how far are you willing to go to show them your declaration of your love?
A property developer from Dubai didn’t want to just demonstrate how much he loved his girlfriend, so he showed her just how much she meant to him, with a 220,000-euro proposal (about $255,000).
The pair started the day on a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea and then segwayed to a helicopter, which left them at a hotel overlooking the cliffs of Monaco. They moved onto an Oaktree oasis covered in lights and filled with notes jam-packed with reasons why he loved her and illustrations of the couple. The woodland canopy lead to a terrace with drinks and a band, where there was a “marry me” sign, which was the man’s cue to proposal.
To continue the nearly quarter-million-euro proposal, the couple walked to a cave filled with retro cinema memorabilia. Once there, they sat in old-fashioned movie seats and watched a celebrity and family video about the pair’s love, that cost a mere 70,000 euros. To finalize the event, the cave opened up to a panoramic view. Here there was another band playing for the newly-engaged couple to have a dinner to, while surrounded by 20,000 euro’s worth of flowers.
Romance Novelist Charged with Murdering her Husband
By Lilli McHale
No, this is not a missing plot line from Murder, She Wrote.
Romance suspense author Nancy Crampton-Brophy (who writes under the name Nancy Brophy) was well-known for her novels such as The Wrong Husband, Hell on the Heart and The Girl Most Likely To. Yet, this summer Nancy was in the headlines for something other than her titles; she has been accused of murdering her husband, Oregon Culinary Institute’s Daniel C. Brophy. It is alleged that the 68-year-old Nancy shot and killed her 63-year-old chef-husband in June.
On Saturday, June 2nd around 8:30 a.m., police officers were called to a shooting at the Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland where Daniel was a teacher. Emergency personal, once on scene, were too late to revive him.
After her husband’s death, Nancy expressed her sadness and struggle to make sense of the tragic events on Facebook. Nancy turned to her website to talk about their marriage of 27 years in a positive light.
This September, Nancy was charged with murder and unlawful use of a weapon. She is due to appear in court again on September 17th.
Friends of the couple were shocked by the entire series of events and are hopeful the police are wrong to charge Nancy with his murder.
Nominee for the Most Tone-Deaf Bride of 2018
the Saga of the Bridemaid and The Plantation Wedding
By Lilli McHale
We thought bride wanna-be Susan of the “I can’t believe my guests won’t pony up a mere $1,500 each for my dream wedding” was bridezilla of the millennium, but we have a close runner-up here. Wait until you read this story about a Reddit post from a bride who wanted advice on how to convince her bridesmaid “close friend” that her wedding was more important than her principles.
Even after her bridesmaid wrote a very kind and thoughtful letter explaining that she just could not bring herself to attend the plantation wedding (and had told her friend this from the first time it was mentioned) and offered to pay for the dress to give to someone else, the bride thought her “problems” with slavery were “ridiculous” since it was something that “happened such a long time ago.”
Oh, and her bridesmaid worked in a field where she felt that public photos from a plantation wedding would be detrimental to her career.
But here’s the Reddit post in all its glory. Make sure you read the comments too!
Adopted Son Finds Birth Parents After 36 Years and They Re-Fall in Love
By Lilli McHale
Martin Schmidt always knew that he was adopted by his parents William and Cynthia Schmidt. At 18 they gave him the paperwork he needed in order to find his biological parents but he didn’t push the envelope until he and his wife, Carin, were having a baby of their own and decided it was time to meet the rest of the family that he didn’t know.
To start the process, Schmidt contacted the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families to first get in touch with his biological mother, Michele Newman. Ms. Newman was on her lunch break at her job in Hawaii when she got the call. She immediately broke out into tears and left for the day after the phone call.
A few days later Newman and Schmidt talked on the phone for the first time. She talked about his birth and told stories about her and his father, her former high school boyfriend. The two parted amicably after their break-up, which happened before she found out she was pregnant. Once she told her ex-boyfriend about the child, they had no further contact, but she knew that he had also consented to opening their adoption file upon Martin’s request.
Michele was still curious, so she shot Dave Lindgren a text, which he ignored at first due to its strange area code. He eventually answered the text and the two called to talk about their lives, revealing Dave had been married three times and had four kids while Michele had been married twice but had no other children beside Martin. The two talked frequently and had much to discuss, as Dave was going through a divorcee. He said he always wanted to visit Hawaii, where Michele was living, and she offered to show him around if he wanted to come down. He got a ticket for himself and his nephew, who could act as a buffer and travel companion for the trip. When the pair met in person for the first time since they were teens, they felt a connection. When the vacation ended, the pair continued to talk to each other every day, and they also spoke to their son more often as well.
Schmidt found out about the romance that was unfolding between his biological parents and got excited. Michele moved back to Wisconsin and the pair eventually moved in together. One year after the first text message, Dave proposed. Michele said she they already had each done the marriage thing many times and didn’t have to get married again, but Dave said he wanted to marry his high school sweetheart, so on the first Saturday of August, the two were married in the couples’ backyard. Their son happily officiated the ceremony between his father and mother.
This story originally appeared in https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/31/fashion/weddings/son-given-up-for-adoption-leads-birth-parents-to-altar-36-years-later.html
Sex and the City: A Frickin SAGA
By Lilli McHale
When I first took a job at Romance Daily News, I knew I needed to get my cynical self some romance STAT. So, I did what any 21-year-old with some free time and no relationship experience should do; I subscribed to Amazon Prime and watched my very first episode of Sex and the City, and binge-watched the entire six-season show. I should preface this by saying I knew who Carrie Bradshaw was, but I didn’t know the nuances of the ladies’ stories. And now, being a 21-year-old living in NYC, I have so much to thank them for, but also much to scream at them for.
First off, I am a good looking 21-year-old. I have no birth defects or physical deformities, so I think that should count for something, yet despite this fact, men do not swoon over me or ask me out, or my friends for that matter, at the high speed that the women on the show do. Now maybe this is just me, because I am attracting college-aged boys, but somehow, I do not think so. I think the idealized nature of the show simply feeds into viewer’s own Charlotte-like frenzy for romance. I, just like Miranda in early seasons, think that we pine for it, and that is why romance is the way it is. (i.e. only when Carrie finally stops yearning for Big does he come back around for her). Charlotte, the quintessential queen of romance, is convinced she won’t find love again because she’s already had her one big love (Trey). Then she falls into the arms of her true(r) love, her divorce attorney (Harry). So, you could say I have some issues with the way the show paints romance for (New York) women.
Yet, the show does something so much bigger than dangle romance in front of its millions of viewers--it depicts progression. To me, this show demonstrates feminism in its most pure form; four women building each other up. It is so rare to see a set of women who are empowering each other. While most women use men as a way to justify themselves amongst other women, these women have overcome that archaic notion and are using romance as a way to further and better themselves. They do not seek their value in men, so they are not in competition with each other. The women do not belittle each other’s sexual failings, relationship failures, and/or personal faults. Instead these women show us how to embrace ourselves at our purest, most concentrated self. There are few people, if any, that I feel comfortable enough in our relationship that I can talk about masturbation, sex positions, and sex toys with, like the women in the show do.
Furthermore, Sex and the City does something else. It shows four women in their prime childbearing years as single women who are productive members of society. Honestly, how many women do you, yes you reader, know that are, or have passed, their “child-bearing years” and have been asked why they aren’t married, don’t have kids, don’t settle down. Well Samantha Jones is a big FUCK YOU to the stereotypical woman, and frankly I hope to be like her someday. Samantha Jones, a 40-something year old PR mogul, is what every man dreams to be like: rich, happy, successful, self-assured, sexy, and gets around. She is the exact opposite of what womanhood is “supposed” to be. (This is furthered by her foil character Charlotte who is written to be the “ideally proper” women.) The characters Carrie and Miranda have a special bond throughout the story, as they too act as less dramatic foils for each other during the series. Each of the women fits into, and attempts to break, stereotypical female categories. Charlotte is the idealist, Samantha is the predator (a role she fills with her relationship as a cougar with Smith), Miranda is the cynical woman who has been snubbed by love, and Carrie is the breezy girl next door.
So, as a 21-year-old woman living in NYC, thank you Sex and the City. Thank you for diversifying the accepted lifestyle for women; Charlotte showed it is ok to have lunch by yourself. Carrie showed us that you don’t have to buy gifts for all your friends’ bridal/birth events, because you may never get any back! Samantha showed us you don’t need to stay with a guy because he was nice to you during chemo; you stay with a guy because you love him and want to be there. And Miranda taught us that when someone tells you that they love you, you don’t have to say anything back. In fact, you can get back with your ex the very next day if you want to!
Because if the ladies from Sex and the City taught us anything, it’s that there are no rules for romance, so why do we choose to play within the lines?
By Lilli McHale
This month, Bluestocking Banter sails into your inbox with best-selling author and pirate queen of romance, Katherine Bone. Among the many sailing themed quotes on her website, this one (by esteemed poet Roselle Mercier Montgomery, circa 1920s) struck me as especially apropos for Katherine:
“Never a ship sails out of the bay, but carries my heart as a stowaway!”
Besides Katherine’s love of all things pirate, her books take you along as a stowaway on adventure, where you’ll find tons of romance and excitement but without the awkward seasickness!
Welcome, Katherine. Your Nelson’s Tea Series takes place in Cornwall and London between 1801-1806, and my first question is what is it about that era that speaks to you?
Katherine: Instead of writing about the Golden Age of Piracy, I chose the Napoleonic War Era because of the perfect opportunities for smugglers and pirates, and privateers and naval officers. What better motivation can there be for men challenged by love of country and the need to protect England at a time when invasion was a very real possibility? Vice-Admiral Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar prevented Napoleon’s fleet from gathering en mass to attack the English coast. Had the British fleet failed to defeat Admiral Villeneuve off the coast of Cadiz, things might have been very different today. Another reason I enjoy writing about the Napoleonic War Era is the length of time the war lasted in its many coalitions. Young people living in England at that time never knew anything but war and deprivation. I find that so relevant to today, don’t you?
Yes, we’ve been at war in this country for 16 years now, and I know many military families are deeply affected by that. To set your series in such a specific and short period, you must do a lot of research. What is the longest that you’ve ever researched a book before writing it and how did you know it was time to start writing?
West Point Founder’s Day Event with guest speaker and historical reenactor Thomas Jefferson from Colonial Williamsburg
Katherine: This is a great question! I do extensive research for my books. I spent ten years researching a western series that I started before turning to my first love: pirates. Over the past 12 years, I’ve collected so many research books on the Regency Era, England, Cornwall, the Royal Navy, ships in the age of sailing, and pirates, that now my rogue says I need to get rid of books because we’re running out of shelf space. Horrors! (I’m sure you understand why that’s an impossibility.) I finally start writing once I’ve researched a place or event, and my characters start speaking to me. Sometimes it only takes a historical tidbit to get that process started. Other times, it takes a few weeks. ;)
From all your books, who is your favorite hero, a gent you’d like to meet in person or revisit in another story?
Katherine: I adore Percival Avery, the Duke of Blendingham from Duke by Day, Rogue by Night, Nelson’s Tea Book #2. He’s so much fun! At a time when Beau Brummel is beginning to redefine men’s fashion, Percy dresses with 18th century flair. He’s got ulterior motives, of course. Who would suspect a fop to be a spy? (Think Master and Commander meets The Scarlet Pimpernel.) What better way to be ignored. Be loud and be proud! The more he discusses French fashion, flaunts his embroidered waistcoats and frippery anon, and continues to wear outdated wigs when powder is highly taxed, the less anyone will believe him capable of being a ruthless pirate in search of his sister’s killers. Le sigh . . .
Your latest release just came out on August 28th? What excites you about this story?
Katherine: The Rogue’s Prize is one of my favorite books because it features a female pirate! Lady Adele Seaton is an opportunist with a big heart. The only daughter among her six burly brothers, she’s been trained in the protective arts, especially sword-fighting. (Think Cutthroat Island meets Captain Horatio Hornblower and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.) Basically she’s doing all of the things my alter-ego Cap’n would do. She’s impetuous, courageous, and stanchly protects the ones she loves, a truly modern woman bucking against her family’s expectations. Huzzah!
I know that you’re joining me at the Historical Romance Retreat next week in Riverside, CA and the FREE and open to the public book signing Saturday, September 15th 1-3:30 pm. Do you have anything to say to your SoCal fans?
Taken captive by a pirate from the Jolly Roger Pirate Show in Cancun, Mexico
Katherine: This is my second appearance at the Historical Romance Retreat and I’m so excited to meet readers in the LA area! I’ve only been to LA once before. It’ll be such a thrill to meet California readers in person, to hear their stories, and how much they enjoy meeting authors and reading their books. Several authors at the Great Book Exposition dress in the time period their books are set in. If you come looking for me, I’ll be dressed as my alter ego: Cap’n. Woot! Want a picture with a pirate author? Come see me! Huzzah!!!
Thank you for joining us today, Katherine. And thank you for offering to give away an ebook copy of The Rogue’s Prize. To enter click here. An, look for Bluestocking Banter the first Friday of every month, and in October we’ll welcome the NY Times best-selling author Lorraine Heath. ~ Sonja
An unlikely alliance may be the key to the ultimate prize...
Captain Henry Guffald is no ordinary sea captain. As a member of Nelson’s Tea, he regularly takes on dangerous missions under the guise of a British naval officer in an effort to stop Napoleon’s reign of terror, domestically and abroad. And this time, he’s been ordered to sail to Spain and rescue a comrade who was captured by one of Napoleon's strongest allies. Not only does his friend’s life hang in the balance but he is carrying crucial intel that cannot fall into enemy hands. Failing is not an option, and after a recently botched mission, it’s also Henry’s last chance to prove himself to Admiral Nelson. But succeeding is not such an easy task, especially when his plan is foiled by a beautiful female pirate. Lady Adele Seaton would no sooner give up the sea’s call to rove than sit at home like a proper woman of the ton. So when news arrives that her brother has been imprisoned in Spain, she quickly develops a strategy to rescue him and sets sail to intercept the first Royal Navy ship she encounters. Ready to put her plan in motion, Adele is a brilliant tactician, but not everything can be predicted. She certainly doesn’t expect to meet her match in a navy captain determined to outwit her at every turn.
Now, Henry and Adele must join forces to save her brother and keep the secrets of the Crown just that—secret. But sparks fly between more than just their swords, and their passion might very well be their undoing.
Wearing my Pirate Fascinator to the Titanic Tea commemorating the 106th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, April 14, 1912
Historical romance author Katherine Bone has been passionate about history since she had the opportunity to travel to various Army bases, castles, battlegrounds, and cathedrals as an Army brat turned officer’s wife. Who knew that an Army wife’s passion for romance novels would lead to pirates? Certainly not her rogue, whose Alma Mater’s adage is “Go Army. Beat Navy!” Now enjoying the best of both worlds, Katherine lives with her rogue in the south where she writes about rogues, rebels, and rakes-aka pirates, lords, captains, duty, honor, and country-and the happily-ever-afters that every alpha male and damsel deserve. For more information on Katherine, please visit www.katherinebone.com and Amazon author pages, and you can follow her at Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Google+.
Man-gagement Rings Anyone?
By Lilli McHale
Mangagement rings are now a thing and it’s not what you think. Mangagement rings are being billed as the male equivalent to engagement rings.
Instead of having only the woman wearing a ring that symbolizes that they are taken, males and females have gotten into the idea that everyone should demonstrate that they are engaged.
Additionally, this provides a way for women to reciprocate the act and buy rings for their partners as well. The jeweler H. Samuel created the Tioro ring, which is a male engagement ring. It was so popular that the brand expanded the line to contain eight different low-cost rings from 50-129 euros.
According to a recent study by The Knot’s parent company, five percent of men currently wear engagement rings, but the number is projected to go up due to the number of progressive women who believe that their significant other should be subjected to the same rituals that project that they are no longer available.
Additionally, a lot of couples feel that the mangagement rings are inclusive, as they serve as a way to showcase that the members of the couple are taken by someone else.
This article originally appeared in https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/mangagement-rings-engagement-rings-men-women-weddings-proposal-a7913041.html
How Gay Romance Novels Have Evolved Since
I Started Writing Them
By Ryan Field
When writing gay romance novels, I’ve always found it important to be focused on the reader, the reader’s overall experience, and the reader’s feelings. I’m not talking about on a surface level as entertainment. Of course it’s also important to entertain readers, but as a reader I learned a long time ago that any novel I read over the course of a lifetime is going to remain with me for the rest of my life. The story will remain with me and so will all the characters. I will carry them with me as if they are friends or family members. I can’t forget or just dismiss them, not even if I try. I think this is why I’ve always loved the gay romance genre so much, and also why I’ve never written anything that didn’t have a happy ending.
I didn’t know the fundamentals of writing romance when I first started to get published by Gay/Lesbian presses back in the 1990s. There were no “LGBT” presses back then. The genre was classified as Gay/Lesbian and this included everything else that may or may not have fallen under that wide umbrella. There weren’t that many Gay/Lesbian presses either. So I focused on answering random calls for submission that requested gay erotica and gay romance stories. Gay romance wasn’t even a sub-genre. If you could find it in a bookstore, gay romance was something on the fringes of what was considered Gay Literature. It was all very general. Most gay fiction didn’t have happy endings, with good reason. So I wrote about…and embellished…what I knew as a gay man. Sometimes it came from personal experience, and sometimes it didn’t. But it was always about romance, or erotic romance, and I tended to exaggerate the erotica most of the time because that’s what publishers wanted.
For the most part, I simply assumed the majority of my readers 20 years ago were gay men who couldn’t find any gay content anywhere in the mainstream. I’m not the only one who made that assumption, so did my editors and publishers. And back then all my editors were gay men. Like a submissive actor who totally depends on the guidance of a good director, I’ve always been the kind of writer who totally depends on my editors.
Editing and framing romance is not just about spelling and grammar. I once worked with an editor at a gay press who was putting together a gay love story anthology and he considered himself an “anthologist.” That’s the exact word he used. I submitted a 5,000 word love story about two gay men who meet through personal blogging…personal blogging as social media back in the day was like Facebook is now…and their story was far more emotional than it was sexual. Of course I added too much erotica because that’s what I thought he expected, but I wound up going back and forth with the editor for over one month to get the right balance between the romance and the erotica. At the time, I had no idea that I was learning a few valuable writing lessons that I would use in the future.
I would be highly remiss if I didn’t mention that back in the 1990s, and prior to that, the majority of gay erotic romance published was usually more erotic than romantic. And I think that’s partly because there was such a stigma attached to writing and reading gay romance. Back then, when people thought about gay men, they didn’t think about two young men falling in love, getting engaged, and planning a wedding. They didn’t think of gay men raising a family. I didn’t think of it that way. We thought about the sexuality more than the romance because everything had to be discreet and hidden. Everything with gay content that came through the post office to readers was concealed with a plain wrapper so no one could see that it was gay content, and it didn’t have to be erotic gay content. Just gay content in general was hidden from view. In other words, if someone was going to read a book with gay content, they didn’t do it in public. They didn’t share their books with other readers and they didn’t put it out on their coffee tables.
I think it’s also interesting to mention that very few in the publishing industry thought there was a market for more gay content in the mainstream. Of course those of us writing in the genre didn’t believe that. As readers and writers we wanted more mainstream gay stories and characters. But we had no control over what publishers or agents wanted, or what they thought they could sell. I think the only author who could get away with writing mainstream homoerotic content was Ann Rice. In fact, I remember the first time I read Interview with the Vampire and I was amazed that someone had actually written gay characters who were even slightly romantic. Unfortunately, as a reader I didn’t see that kind of mainstream gay content again for a long time, and even when I did see it, I was disappointed.
When I was approached by a startup e-publisher in 2008 and asked to do something different with gay romance, I jumped at the opportunity. Without even fully realizing what I was about to do, I told the publisher I would do whatever they wanted. I had the background in gay publishing but this was something I’d never thought I’d be allowed to do, and at the same time it was something I’d always wanted to do. I knew it would be one of the biggest challenges I might ever face as a writer. And that’s because, as far as I knew, no one had ever done anything like this before. It was almost completely unheard of to give gay characters a happy ending.
In short, the e-publisher contracted me to write several books with gay characters and a gay storyline that were loosely based on classic heteronormative romance tropes. They were storylines that had been done in the past many times with straight characters in books, plays, and in films. But no one had ever reworked them with gay male characters. No one had ever given readers gay male characters who found their happy endings, too. I knew the only way I could pull something like that off was to think of them as parodies, and I did that mostly by adding a good deal of erotica. I also had to change the dynamics a little. What works for straight characters doesn’t always work for gay characters. Though it’s not always the case, the gender politics is a little different sometimes. However, as a gay man I know how that works and reworking the storylines proved to be more of a minor challenge than impossibility. Besides, I was writing exactly what I’d always craved as a reader. That was all the motivation I needed.
After my first two gay romance novels based on heteronormative love stories were released, I discovered something interesting. My stories with gay characters based on straight love stories didn’t resonate with everyone. I was accused of promoting the “gay agenda,” I was accused of pretending to be a woman writing as a gay man, and I was even accused of being a college student joking around with my gay love stories. And I think that’s because no one thought it was possible for gay men to meet and fall in love like straight people. But I honestly don’t know for sure why some people expressed such resentment, and I didn’t spend too much time trying to figure it out because I also discovered there were…and still are…many women out there who crave reading gay content as much as there are gay men.
I think that’s the most interesting thing I discovered when I started working with the e-publisher. I didn’t know there were that many women reading…craving…gay romance novels. I started hearing from them through emails and DMs on social media, and I discovered these women were truly the most voracious readers I’d ever come across. They not only welcomed e-books, they basked in them. And their passion and love for the gay romance genre didn’t stop with just one book or author. It evolved into an online community of readers interacting with authors, both men and women, who only wanted to read gay romance. I actually found all this so interesting and liberating that I edited and indie published an anthology of my own titled, The Women Who Love to Love Gay Romance. I put out a call for submissions and I was inundated with responses from women who love to read and write about gay romance. The stories they sent me were so wonderful, it was difficult to choose which ones I would use in the anthology. It was another learning experience for me as a writer, editor, and as an indie publisher. I also helped a few new authors get their first start in the gay romance genre. Some of these women have moved forward to write full-length novels with excellent publishers.
When I was asked to write this article, they wanted to know how I frame my gay romance novels for a female audience. That one stumped me a little because the truth is I have never consciously framed any novel or story I’ve written strictly for any specific gender. I never thought there was a need to do that, and I never wanted to insult my readers by trying too hard to do that. I’ve found through the years that my female audience doesn’t want anything that different from my gay male readers. I do frame my work in a general sense so that I follow certain rules of the romance genre because that’s what romance readers want and expect. And I don’t think it’s possible for me to know exactly what my female audience wants. The best I can hope for is that what I write resonates with readers, it entertains them, and it gives them an escape with a happy ending.
No matter how hard a writer tries to frame and predict what readers want, there’s no way they are ever going to please everyone. There are no set answers. The truth is that all readers are different, and fiction can be highly subjective. Some readers…male and female…want gay love stories with less sex, and some want more sex. I do think everyone craves emotion in romance, but that’s not always the case either. Lately, I’ve been focusing more on gender neutral aspects with respect to characterization as well as trying to break some of the old masculine stereotypes gay and straight men deal with constantly. It’s impossible to figure out what every reader wants, but it’s still nice to know the gay romance genre is moving forward and that it continues to evolve in positive ways that I couldn’t have predicted 20 years ago. The mainstream doesn’t always understand this, but the people in the gay romance genre do. And frankly, that’s one aspect of gay romance I love the most: it keeps changing with the times.
Ryan Field is a gay fiction writer who has worked in many areas of publishing for the past 20 years. He's the author of the bestselling "Virgin Billionaire" series and the short story, "Down the Basement," which was included in the Lambda Award winning anthology titled "Best Gay Erotica 2009." Though not always, he sometimes writes gay parodies of *straight* mainstream fiction/films in the same way straight fiction and Hollywood has been parodying gay men for years, without apology.
Life Saving First Kiss
By Lilli McHale
Max Montgomery and Dr. Andi Traynor had been friends for some time before Max worked up the courage to tell her he had a crush on her. When Andi realized she might have feelings for him too, the pair planned a surfing date for a few days later.
Yet, the date didn’t go exactly as planned.
After the pair got out of the water, Max started to have a heart attack. When Traynor couldn’t find his pulse, she got down and started to perform CPR, alongside another woman who was passing by and happened to be a registered nurse. What a happy coincidence!
Once Montgomery got loaded into an ambulance and resuscitated, he immediately contacted Traynor and said he understood if she didn’t want to see him again. Traynor felt the exact opposite, she was upset that she had just met someone she really liked and might possibly lose him, as she didn’t know whether he would make it when he got taken to the hospital.
Instead, over the last ten-months the relationship had blossomed over the near-death experience. The couple jokes that Traynor giving Montgomery mouth to mouth was one of the most bizarre first-kisses of all time.
First Edition of Pride and Prejudice Up for Auction
By Lori Perkins
A rare first edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s second published novel, is up for auction by Bonham’s in London on November 27th. The book, published in three volumes, is expected to sell for between $17,000 and $23,000.
Matthew Haley, head of Bonham’s fine books division, said “Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen’s best known novel, and one of the most popular books in the English language.”
He added, “First editions rarely come to auction and this copy is especially appealing because it is in an original binding from the period and has never been rebound. I expect a lot of interest from collectors.”
When New York auction house Christie’s had a first edition of the book to sell in 2008, it went for $47,500.
According to the Christie’s catalog copy, the book was originally titled First Impressions, Pride and Prejudice and was written between October 1796 and August 1797 when Jane Austen was not yet 21, the same age, in fact, as her fictional heroine Elizabeth Bennet. After an early rejection by the publisher Cadell, Austen's novel was finally bought by Egerton in 1812 for £110. It was published in late January 1813 in a small edition of approximately 1500 copies and sold for 18 shillings in boards.
Wigstock is Back!
By Lori Perkins
Wigstock is back! After a long 17 year break, Wigstock is back! It was held in NYC on September 1st at the South Street Seaport Pier with a star-studded cast and lasted five hours.
This time around drag icon host Lady Bunny was joined by co-executive producers Neil Patrick Harris and husband David Burtka, alongside producer Bruce Cohen and NYC based production company Matador Content. The entirety of the revival is because of Burkta; he was determined to show Harris the good time that is Wigstock. Harris lived in L.A. during the original events and never get to see it.
The original Wigstock ran in the East Village from 1985-2001 and was as an-end-of-the-summer extravaganza for the LGBTQ community. The idea stemmed from a group of drunken drag queens who were wondering around the East Village before finding themselves at Tompkins Square Park, where they spontaneously performed for the homeless before donning it “Wigfest.” After outgrowing their old location, the queens moved to the piers along the West Side Highway for a decade. Then something horrible happened; it rained for two years straight. The queens were annoyed that their extravagant get-ups were getting ruined in the rain and ticket buyers simply didn’t come.
Yet the event didn’t die out completely, people still craved an event that provides an open forum for those to enter the circuit, even if they wouldn’t usually engage in drag culture. Tompkins Square Park held mini-Wigstocks along with evening cruises in the New York Harbor. People got their fix with RuPaul’s Drag Race but it didn’t fill the void that Wigstock left; thank God for revivals. It’s great to see Wigstock getting the revival it deserves!
A British Dating App for a Wingman/woman
By Lilli McHale
Everyone out there is aware of dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble and Hinge, alongside service-based money-making apps such as Care, Wag, and Uber. Well now there’s a British app that mixes both called Bark. The app’s service is looking to hire people who want to become “professional wingmen and wing women.” Those who describe themselves as romantic should apply and will be earning at least 30 euros an hour. Additionally, those hired will be expected to introduce their clients to anyone who could be a potential date, if the client decides they like what they see.
Apparently, the job is more complicated then it initially seems: you must be 18, so you can go into any bars or clubs the client might potentially want to enter. Applicants must have strong enough personalities that they can create conversations between strangers and facilitate introductions between possible dates. Additionally, you can’t steal dates from the clients, regardless of how good-looking they might be!
The dating app adds that they came up with this idea as dating apps seem to be failing as clients need help creating initial conversations with minimal awkwardness, or don’t have single friends to play the wing-person party.
You’ll be Glad You’re Not Danish When You Read This Odd Birthday Tradition for Singles
By Lilli McHale
If you live in Denmark and are single at 25, it is customary for your friends and family to shower you with cinnamon. The Danes don’t mess around either, often showering the singleton with water before throwing the cinnamon powder on you so it sticks better.
The 25th birthday tradition dates back hundreds of years to when single spice salesman would frequently travel and thus would remain single due to their inability to form romantic relationships. The single salesmen are called “Pebersvends,” or “Pepper Dudes,” while a single woman is called a “Pebermø,” or “pepper maiden.”
On a singleton’s 30th birthday, the Danes will upgrade the cinnamon to pepper, and, if they are feeling particularly impish, they will add eggs to the mix to make it stick better. It’s supposed to be a fun gag, not a mean thing because the average marriage age in Denmark is in the 30’s.
What a way to celebrate a milestone birthday!