Two great new reviews of The Tattered Lands!

Hey everyone, just a quick pit stop to tell you of two great reviews for The Tattered Lands:

From Tor.com:

In Barbara Ann Wright’s The Tattered Lands, young alchemist Vandra is not living up to her potential. An expert on syndrium, the magical substance that powers the ring of pylons that keep back the threat of the tattered lands and their form-twisting mists and contamination from the last of the human-inhabited world, her first experiment to transmute other substances into syndrium worked. But none of her subsequent experiments have worked since. When one of the pylons fails—a failure that puts her entire society at risk—Vandra is sent by a politician acquaintance to investigate in secret. Accompanied by her younger siblings, twins Fieta and Pietyr, she sets out… and on the way her path crosses with the seelie (for which we may as well read “elf”) Lilani, daughter of the last seelie queen, and youngest of her race. Lilani is fascinated both with humans and with the pylons, believing that the future of her people is linked to them both, and she finds it easy to become fascinated with Vandra as well—a fascination that’s soon reciprocated. But furthering their acquaintance is complicated by politics, intrigue, and a conspiracy that spans both their peoples: a conspiracy that wants to bring down all the pylons and let the tattered lands have full reign.

This is a fun, entertaining novel. The characters are interesting and appealing, and Wright deploys plain, unadorned prose to good effect. I enjoyed it, and if you’re looking for light and fun, this is definitely a good bet.

 

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Wright’s postapocalyptic romance is a fast-paced journey through devastation. In an ambiguously described world that may be ours or another, most of which has been taken over by a dangerous mist, humans and the magical folk called seelie are forced to come together to save what little land is left. Ten magical pylons protect humans from the mist-covered “tattered lands.” When one pylon stops working, the humans fear the mists will kill them or turn them into dangerous monsters. Alchemist Vandra is sent to find out whether it can be fixed. The situation’s worse than she thought, and she encounters seelie princess Lilani, who wants to convince her own people to help fix the pylon. As they try to broker peace, threatened by those who fear human-seelie collaboration even more than they fear the mist, the two women slowly fall for each other. Plenty of action, surprises, and magic will keep readers turning the pages.

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Release Day and a Sale!

Hi, everyone! Boy, it’s been a while. Things have been hectic as hell around here lately, but today is cause for celebration. Happy release day to Children of the Healer, the third book in the Godfall series:

With the Storm Lord dead, Cordelia Ross and Simon Lazlo return to Gale, to normality, but when they find the populace poisoned by the drushka, it’s clear the aliens must be dealt with before life can be anything near normal. In the north, Patricia Dué takes control of Gale’s mine with Jonah, the servant she created in Dillon Tracey’s old body. She thinks controlling the humans’ only source of metal will bring her power, but her past won’t be banished so easily.

Amidst the chaos and conflict, a prophet predicts that true calamity is still to come, and the only way to stop it may be a murderous widow looking for revenge. As factions splinter and reconnect, the fate of Calamity lies uncertain, and even the prophets can’t see every ripple on the horizon.

And if that’s not enough, there’s a flash sale over at Bold Strokes Books! You can catch up on all my titles, including the Godfall series, for a limited time!

There’s no trailer yet. (I know, I know.) One of the reasons why is because I’m moving, I’m branching out into freelance copywriting and editing work, and I’m getting divorced. So, you have to forgive my lateness because if you don’t, you’re a monster.

Also also also, I’ll be at ConDFW the weekend of February 16, 17, and 18. I’ll post the final schedule as soon as I have it. Feel free to come see me there and buy me several hundred drinks. Thanks.

I hope you enjoy Children of the Healer. If you don’t, you’re also a monster.
j/k

Cast lists and a near miss

It’s been an odd couple of weeks here at my house. I’m struggling with joint pain, but luckily, my doctor thinks it’s viral arthritis instead of rheumatoid which is a very lucky thing. I know people who live with RA, and while I feel greatly for them, I don’t want to join their ranks.

In fits and starts, I’ve been working on cast lists for all my books, updating each one so that it reflects the characters at the start of that particular book. I’ve got The Pyramid Waltz and For Want of a Fiend done. Those tabs are at the top of this page. Now when people are lost about who a particular person is, they can just come to my page and have a look-see. Do check them out and let me know if I’ve missed anyone. Accidents happen. I’ll have tabs for A Kingdom Lost and The Fiend Queen up soon.

I hope everyone can come see me at ArmadilloCon on July 25-27. Here’s where to find me at the con:

Protecting the Indigenous Tribes Fri 8:00 PM-9:00 PM Room E Maresca*, Compton, Wright Indigenous peoples confront a diverse range of concerns. What should be done to ensure their existence?

40 Years of D&D Fri 9:00 PM-10:00 PM Room F Benjamin*, Finn, Maresca, Marmell, Sarath, Wright How did D&D inspire authors?

Build the Perfect Thief Sat 11:00 AM-Noon Room E Finn*, de Orive, Foster, Sheridan Rose, Sullivan, Wright Thieves can make delightful characters, but what does it take to create a great thief? Brad Foster will make an accompanying drawing to be sold for charity.

Gothic Novels of the 1800s Sat Noon-1:00 PM Room F Sarath*, Cheney, Jones, Swendson, Wright Discussion of how gothic novels came to be and which stories can still hold up today.

Reading Sat 2:00 PM-3:00 PM Southpark A Wright

Evil Characters Sat 10:00 PM-11:00 PM Room D Denton*, Acevedo, Marmell, Rountree, Stufflebeam, Wright Discussing the best evil characters in history.

Are You My Mummy? Sat 11:00 PM-Midnight Room D Webb*, McDonald, Waldrop, Wright I want more mummy stories! Why aren’t they being written? Are there any good ones out there?

I hope you can make it out to this great event. These panels are bound to be very entertaining. And don’t worry about that reading hour. I plan to do a humorous talk about dealing with rejection and probably how to sell books with Barbies. And I will have new swag to give away.

Anyone else planning to go to an event? Anyone else heard of cast lists on websites? I hear that’s the new thing, and you know how I like to jump on a bandwagon.

Pics of Saints and Sinners in New Orleans

First, some pics!

 John Morgan Wilson, Michael Thomas Ford, me, David Holly and Rob Byrnes

John Morgan Wilson, Michael Thomas Ford, me, David Holly and Rob Byrnes

Here’s me doing the genre panel. We lamented the closing of bookstores as a way to get the word out about new LGBT fiction. The moderator asked if we described our books using genre terms. Some opposed the idea of genres altogether. Some said they never tried to pitch to anyone outside of the LGBT community. I said that I pitch my book to anyone I think might read it but that I describe it differently to different groups of people. If I know my potential audience is gay, I throw the lesbians right out there. If I suspect they aren’t, I start with the idea that it’s fantasy and add the lesbians in slowly, like flour to homemade frosting.

Here’s me reading:

I had the only lesbian fantasy there

I had the only lesbian fantasy there

I read the pirate fight scene from A Kingdom Lost. I don’t know if anyone was moved.

Here are some New Orleans pics. If you’ve never been there and are thinking of going, just remember that the French Quarter is noisy at all times of the year. Bourbon Street is party central, as we heard clearly from our 15th floor hotel room, one whole street away.

The beautiful (if very noisy) Hotel Monteleone.

The beautiful (if very noisy) Hotel Monteleone.

The bar (also noisy) inside of Monteleone

The bar (also noisy) inside of Monteleone

Bourbon Street, where the noise comes from

Bourbon Street, where the noise comes from

Bourbon is full of bachelor and bachelorette parties, frats of dude-bros, and flocks of woo-girls. Not my scene.

What was my scene was my fab birthday party complete with dogs in party hats:

IMG_20140522_172954798

IMG_20140522_172840175

As you can see, they needed a little cajoling. Thanks to everyone who sent me birthday wishes. You guys are the best.

What has everyone else been up to? Any New Orleans stories you care to share?

p.s. I added some Horsestrong sayings to the Worlds tab at the top of this page, just in case you were curious.

New York City

Here are some of my New York photos:

The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty

Grand Central and the Chrysler Building

Grand Central and the Chrysler Building

UN Plaza

UN Plaza

Central Park

Central Park

Rockefeller Plaza

Rockefeller Plaza

I’ve got a ton more, but I don’t want to bore you. 😉 Had a great trip and was just there to sight-see. Maybe someday New York will invite me up for something to do with books.

Now I’ve gotten back to work on my post-Katya and Starbride project, which I’m very excited about and hope you will be, too. Other than that, not much going on. I’ve got a birthday coming up. Fingers crossed for a Barbie-sized kitchen. I’ve got plans.

How is everyone else doing? We never talk these days…

Just in case you missed it last week, here’s my Saints and Sinners schedule, coming up May 15th-18th in New Orleans.

Saturday, May 17
1 PM
WHEN GENRES COLLIDE: THE PROS AND CONS OF QUEER CATEGORY LABELS
A label like “gay writer” or “LGBT fiction” can be both a blessing and a curse — vital in promoting our work and reaching a core LGBT readership, but also classifying and possibly confining us by our sexuality. Genres and sub-genres like lesbian romance, gay men’s mystery, and LGBT horror can further narrow how our fiction is publicly presented and perceived. In a time of increasing assimilation, audience fragmentation, and expanding publishing formats, are these labels helpful or harmful? Do they damage a queer author trying to tap a broader reader base? Are these niche categories outdated, or more important than ever to our literary survival? And what are the options?
Panelists: Rob Byrnes, Michael Thomas Ford, S. Chris Shirley, and Barbara Ann Wright.
Moderator: John Morgan Wilson.
Hotel Monteleone, Royal Salon B

Sunday, May 18
11:30 AM
SAINTS AND SINNERS READING SERIES: WRITERS READ
Festival authors debut their latest works in our annual reading series. Expect to be entertained, engaged and thrilled by the written word read out loud by authors Mary A. Celeste, Kevin Klehr, Jeff Mann, Ron J. Suresha, Shawn Syms, Jerry Wheeler, and Barbara Ann Wright.
Sponsored by The John Burton Harter Charitable Trust.
Hotel Monteleone, Cabildo Room

Over at Women and Words

You’ll find me blogging about swag. Come on over and leave a comment. It’s the very last day to enter my contest!

To enter my ongoing giveaway, leave a comment on any of my own blog posts, on my guest blog at Bold Strokes’s. Or leave a comment on my guest blog at Women And Words.

OR you can retweet any of my book-related tweets or share any of my book-related facebook announcements. Each book-related tweet and announcement will be marked with #bookrelease.

Every blog comment gets your name entered twice, every share or retweet gets it entered once, so you can enter multiple times. Only one entry per post or tweet or announcement, though. You CANNOT share the same post five times and get entered five times. This will only get you hated by your followers. Contest ends April 9th at noon CST. I’ll announce the winner here. Good luck!

Special guest Post: Andi Marquette’s Book Blitz From the Boots Up

From the Boots Up

Book Blitz

From the Boots Up FINAL 300 dpi

Book Title: From the Boots Up
Author: Andi Marquette
Genre: F/F Romance
From the Boots Up is a runner-up in the 2013 Rainbow Awards for best contemporary lesbian romance and best lesbian novel.
Hosted by:Book Enthusiast Promotions

Synopsis

Meg Tallmadge has more than enough on her plate. She’s finishing up a college degree, getting ready to apply to vet school, and working another summer with her dad, Stan, on the family ranch in southern Wyoming. He’s managed to get the Los Angeles Times to send a reporter out to do a story on the Diamond Rock, which doubles as a dude ranch. Meg knows the ranch needs all the publicity it can get to bring in more customers, but she’s not looking forward to babysitting a reporter for a week. When the originally scheduled reporter can’t make it, Meg worries that they won’t get a story at all, which is worse than dealing with a city slicker for a few days. Fortunately for Stan and the ranch, the Times finds a replacement, and Meg prepares to be under scrutiny, under the gun, and the perfect hostess. She knows what this opportunity means to her father, and she’s hoping that if it goes well, it’ll ease some of the distance between them that resulted when she came out a few months earlier.

What Meg’s not prepared for — and never expected — is the reporter herself and the effect she has on her. In spite of what she feels, Meg can’t risk the fallout that could result from overstepping a professional boundary. But as the week draws to a close, it becomes clear that not taking a chance could be the biggest risk of all.

NOTE: Contains F/F mature situations.

Meet the Author

me n hat

Andi Marquette was born in New Mexico and grew up in Colorado. She completed a couple of academic degrees in anthropology and returned to New Mexico, where she decided a doctorate in history was somehow a good idea. She completed it before realizing that maybe she should have joined the circus, or at least a traveling Gypsy troupe. Oh, well. She fell into editing sometime around 1993 and has been obsessed with words ever since, which may or may not be a good thing. She currently resides in Colorado, where she edits, writes, and cultivates a strange obsession with New Mexico chile.

excerpt

May 1999

My weekend with Tex Hollis began when I pulled into the driveway of the Lazy T-Bar Ranch west of San Antonio. I knew this wouldn’t be an ordinary weekend when Tex cast a critical eye over my shorts, t-shirt, and tennis shoes. Two days later, I was as comfortable in jeans and boots as any of the buckaroos who spent their days in the saddle—

Meg laughed and tossed the magazine back onto her dad’s huge oak desk. She leaned back in her chair and braced one booted foot on the desk’s edge. “Tex Hollis,” she said, sarcastic. “Sounds like somebody out of a Longarm book.”

Stan looked at her over the top of his reading glasses. “And since when did you start reading that?”

She rolled her eyes at him. “Davey keeps a stash. He gave me one to read one night, thinking I’d like the ‘plot’.” She grinned wickedly. “The plot was way better than the sex.”

His eyes widened and she laughed.

“I told Davey that, and he never loaned me another one. I think I ruined one of his fantasies.” She pushed back farther, regarding him mischievously.

He cleared his throat. “Fantasy?”

“Please, Dad. You’re a guy. You were Davey’s age. You know what guys think about.”

His cheeks reddened and he started moving papers around on his desk. “If your mom heard that. . .” he said with exaggerated sternness.

“She’d lose her religion because I know about sex. It’d burst her bubble.” Meg moved her foot and let her chair legs fall to the floor with a thump. And then her mom would haul out her Bible and start talking about chastity.

“Well, moms were young women, too, and they don’t like to think about their daughters running wild with young guys.”

“You mean like Mom did with you?” She asked innocently.

The phone rang and he shot her a mock disapproving glare that dissolved into a smile before he answered. “Diamond Rock Ranch. This is Stan Tallmadge.” He clicked the mouse on the computer as he talked.

Meg reached across the desk for the magazine and flipped idly through it again before studying the cover. A copy of Spirit, from Southwest Airlines. A pair of worn cowboy boots with spurs stood on a workbench against a log cabin wall. A nice photo, for a stereotype.

She glanced up at him. From the conversation he was having, it sounded like the call was another reservation. They still had two spaces available for guests this month and she hoped the spots filled. This sounded like it would drop their space to one. Good.

She studied him then, noting the fine lines that spiderwebbed from the corners of his eyes and the deepening creases around his mouth. His hair, once as dark as a crow’s wing, had lightened to gray at his temples, though she often thought about him without the gray, her attempt to prevent him from aging.

The magazine cover advertised a story about Montana, and how people could get an “Old West” experience at a couple of dude ranches up there. She’d heard of them, and she wondered how the ranch owners had managed to get covered in Spirit. The Diamond Rock needed more coverage like that. Even more than what they’d get from the reporter who was coming out to bother them next week. She turned the page and a photo of a couple of men on horseback herding a few cattle caught her eye. One of the men looked like her dad. She glanced at him again as he continued to talk, doing the Diamond Rock spiel to the person on the other end.

Ranching was in his blood, just like it had been in his father’s and in his grandfather’s before him. No other place on earth would fire his spirit like Wyoming’s Medicine Bow Mountains. Meg knew that, and she knew that if he ever left, it would kill him, just as staying was slowly leaching the years from his bones as it got harder and harder to make ends meet, to get enough paying customers for the dude ranch experience even while he tried to work the ranch with fewer staff.

He looked at her, eyes the color of a summer thundercloud, like hers, she’d been told, and gave her a thumbs-up. She smiled and returned to her magazine, but she wasn’t really thinking about the article. She took after her father in demeanor and physical appearance, she knew, and it was a point of contention when her mother had lived there. But it was Stan who had made Irene “pert near crazy” with his stubborn streak and independent nature. Loyal to a fault, but unreachable in the deep down parts of his heart, he’d driven Irene right back to Kentucky nine years ago, when Meg was sixteen.

“All right,” he said. “Thanks for calling. We’ll see you next week.” He hung up, satisfied. “Full up.”

She grinned at him and placed the magazine back on his desk, relieved. “So when’s that reporter coming in?”

He leaned back in his chair and stroked his mustache thoughtfully. He looked like an old-style cowboy with it, especially when he wore his hat and duster. She thought he resembled Wyatt Earp.

“Hopefully next Friday, still. I got a call from the editor out there this morning and the writer she wanted broke her leg. So she’s trying to rustle someone else up on short notice.”

Meg hid her concern. It was already Wednesday. Next Friday was just over a week away. “Will she be able to get somebody else to come instead?” A story in the Los Angeles Times was too important. They needed the publicity.

“She’s working on it.” He tried to hide his own concern, too, but she read it in his eyes. “Might have to delay the story a little bit, if she can’t find anybody on short notice.”

“How long?”

He gave a little shrug. “She said maybe a couple extra weeks. Then there’s another window of opportunity in July. Which won’t be too bad.”

The dude ranching season pretty much ended here by mid-August as fall started creeping in over the mountains. Stan needed this publicity, because it wouldn’t only serve for this summer. It would continue for the next season, and the article would be on the Internet, so they could use it in more of their promo.

“Did she say who the reporter might be?” The one that had been scheduled was originally from Idaho, and Meg had talked to her briefly on the phone. She sounded nice, and she’d grown up in a ranching town, so Meg figured she’d “get” the Diamond Rock, and she’d be able to really nail that in her story.

“Nope.” He shrugged again. “I’m sure she’ll find someone who’ll do a fine job on the story. It’ll work out.”

“Hope so.”

He narrowed his eyes then. “And you’ll be damn hospitable. I don’t want to have to be telling your mom why the story that gets published in the Los Angeles Times is about somebody’s bad experience at the Diamond Rock.”

“Why would you even think that?” She looked at him, hurt.

“I know how you get,” he said, more gently. “You don’t suffer fools and, unfortunately, you’ve got some of your mom’s temper. But in this case, I need you to suffer.” He smiled at her. “No practical jokes on the greenhorn.”

Her mother’s voice echoed through her mind. “Damn it, Stan! Would you get that girl in hand?” She sighed. “I’m not sixteen anymore.”

“No, but twenty-four ain’t that far off.”

“Twenty-five.”

“Not yet, missy. Next week. And I can still turn you over my knee. So no bullshit. We need this publicity.” He tried to look forbidding but a twinkle danced in his eyes and she relaxed.

“Well, since I’m such a loose cannon, can I not be in charge of the reporter?” She didn’t mind playing babysitter, but if she didn’t have to, that was fine with her. She hoped whoever the Times lined up had at least a little outdoor experience.

“The way I see it, whoever they send will be here for a week and they’ll want a ‘full range’ of ranching experience, and they’ll observe and ask questions. They might or might not want a tour guide. And you’ll be an official Diamond Rock liaison, so every day, I expect you to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with the reporter. Just treat whoever it is like a regular registered guest. You’re good with that, hon. They really do like you. Don’t think of it as being under the microscope or something.”

“Great,” she said with a sigh. She imagined them all dressed up like on the set of Bonanza and she groaned softly.

“I know. It’s kind of a pain in the ass, because we do have to mind our manners even more, and you don’t know for sure what’s going to end up in print. We’ve got to make it so this reporter can’t resist writing a great story about the DR. In fact, we want this reporter to come back every chance he gets. Or she,” he corrected himself.

“I know. Don’t worry.” She reached over to the neighboring chair to retrieve her hat. “You don’t think whoever it is will be like the writer of this story”—she gestured at the magazine, “and change your name to something like ‘Slim Thompson’?” She was only half-teasing.

He pursed his lips, pretending to think. “I’m hoping for something like ‘Dutch Walters’. And maybe you’ll get to be ‘Cherry Goodnight’.”

Meg grabbed the Spirit magazine off the stack of papers and threw it playfully at him.

He caught it and tossed it onto the desk, chuckling. “You could change your middle name to Cherry before the reporter gets here. So there’d be some veracity there.”

She gave him a look and started to get up.

“Your mom called this morning,” he said, as he leaned back in his beat-up office chair. He folded his arms and regarded her with an expression that was a mixture of concerned dad but acceptance for whatever decision she might make.

She settled in her seat again, her Stetson in her lap. She rubbed her fingertips over the black felt, waiting. She got her stubborn streak from him, but hers was more pronounced. He’d told her she could outwait a rock.

“You need to talk to your mom more,” he said after a while. “She misses you.”

She didn’t answer. Instead, she studied the knotted pine wood on the walls behind his head. He waited a few more moments then leaned forward and picked up the copy of Spirit. He flipped through it as she had done earlier.

“She’s your mom,” he said, without looking up from the pages.

“She’s not really thrilled with me right now, as you know.” She watched for his reaction, but his expression didn’t change.

“So don’t talk about that.”

“That’s all she wants to talk about. It’s not like I make it a point to advertise my personal life.”

“Well.” He set the magazine aside and tugged at the hair above his right ear, something he did when he was really uncomfortable.

Meg wished she hadn’t told him, either. Wished she’d never said that the painful break-up she’d endured last fall was with a woman. Since then, he’d struggled with it, and some of their interactions were tinged with an unfamiliar stiffness.

“I’ll call her,” Meg relented.

“That’s my girl.” He said with obvious relief.

“But I drive her crazy. Even on the phone.” Her mom always asked whether Meg was seeing any nice young men at school and Meg would have to deflect those statements or tell her she was still getting over someone. Irene knew it had been a woman because Meg had told her, around the same time she’d told her dad. But since Irene had gone back to Kentucky, she’d found the Lord, and this particular Lord didn’t care much for gay people. Even those in your own family.

“She’s still your mom,” he said, tugging on his hair. “Find something you’re both interested in and keep the conversation there.”

“Yeah,” she said doubtfully. She stood up and put her hat on. “See you around, Dutchie.” She grinned at him and was out the door before he could toss the magazine after her.

She decided to put off the dreaded phone call and walked instead across the swath of hard-packed earth between Stan’s office and living space and the lodge, which had been the main ranch house before her grandfather had converted it in the fifties to accommodate space for kitchen and dining facilities that could have passed muster in a big-city restaurant. Stan had upgraded it two years ago. New appliances, better shelving, new pots and pans, new dishes. They’d even added a walk-in cooler. Alice, the chef and “Kitchen Queen,” as she called herself, more than approved of the changes. She’d been at the ranch since just before Meg’s mom had left, and she thought of her as family, now, like a favorite aunt.

She went in through the front, and the rich, heavy odor of cowboy chili greeted her, along with voices from the kitchen and the sound of a knife chopping something. She blinked in the dim dining room, after being out in the midday sun. Three long tables, decorated with blue-and-white checkered tablecloths, stood parallel to each other in the center of the big room. Each could seat fifteen on the benches, and some summers, they did. On rare occasions, they had to add another table. Meg hoped it was that kind of summer. The more paying guests, the happier her dad was.

She wiped her hands on her jeans and checked through the stack of mail on the closest table then went into the kitchen, through the swinging door that separated it from the dining room and entered Alice’s domain, which could rival something in one of those high-end cooking magazines.

“Hey, Meg,” said Anna, Alice’s prep cook, as she looked up from the cutting board on the island where she was chopping carrots.

“Hey.”

Alice emerged from the walk-in. “Hi, sweetie,” she said with a smile that, in conjunction with her swept-up hair, made her look like a glamorous 1940s actress, even when she had her cowboy duds on, as her dad called them. Jane Russell, Meg thought. That’s who Alice looked like, though her hair was a lighter color. She was in her late forties, now, but she was just as pretty as when she’d started working at the ranch. Alice always turned guys’ heads, but she was so down-to-earth that she didn’t seem to notice.

“Would you like a sandwich? You missed lunch.” She closed the walk-in door.

“Is the chili ready?” she asked hopefully.

“Not yet. Let me make you a sandwich.”

“Are you sure? I can just—”

She raised an eyebrow imperiously. “I am the Kitchen Queen. I have spoken. Go sit down.” She gestured at the counter by the back door.

“Yes, your majesty.” She walked around the island and hung her hat on one of the pegs by the door then sat down on one of the stools, her back to the counter so she could watch Alice and Anna. “We got another reservation.”

“Oh, good. I know your dad was worried about filling up,” Alice said as she sliced bread.

“He said that the reporter that was supposed to come broke her leg.”

She stopped slicing bread and looked over at her, concern written in the lines across her brow.

“The editor is trying to find another reporter who can come out on short notice.”

She went back to her sandwich making. “Well, that’s how journalists operate. They’re used to changes in plans.” Alice finished with the bread and started slicing part of a turkey breast. “How soon can the new one come?”

“They don’t know. I guess they’re trying to keep the same schedule, if they can find someone. But they might not be able to. So maybe the next couple of weeks or July.”

“Too bad. From what your dad said, the first one sounded like a good match for an assignment like this.” She spread deli mustard on one slice of bread and mayonnaise on the other then placed the slices of meat on the mayo piece and lettuce and tomato on the mustard piece. She’d add her “secret spices” next.

“Oh, and I’m not supposed to be an asshole.”

Anna snickered and Alice looked over at her, her lips twitching with a smile. She returned her gaze to Meg. “You’re hardly that.”

“Dad seems to think I am. He kind of makes me feel like I’m a teenager, still.”

“That’s his job as a parent. To make you feel like a teenager the rest of your life. And if it’s any consolation, you’re far from being a teenager. You’re your own woman. Just remember that to your dad, you’ll always be his little girl.”

“Then why is he freaking out that I’ll be an asshole to the reporter?”

“He’s just stressed, hon. He wants to make a good impression so the story gets a lot of attention.” She went over to one of the refrigerators and took out a jar of dill pickles.

“He thinks I have Mom’s temper and he thinks I don’t suffer fools. I guess he thinks if the reporter’s an idiot, I’ll let him or her know.”

She laughed. “Nothing wrong with pointing something out, and nothing wrong with a woman having a temper. You just need to learn how to direct it appropriately. And maybe soften the blow.” She retrieved a plate from under the stainless steel counter along the back wall. “Diplomacy, love.” she said. “The art of telling people they’re idiots without making them feel too bad about it.”

Anna giggled as she reached for another carrot.

Meg grinned. “I guess I might need to work on that a little bit.”

“Don’t hurt yourself,” Alice said with a smile.

Anna finished with the carrots and put them in a plastic tub that she carried into the walk-in. She had to duck her head, since she was pushing six feet tall. She’d never played team sports, for which her height probably would have served well. She was, however, an excellent barrel racer.

“I’m not going to screw this up,” Meg said. It still stung a little, that her dad thought she might.

“No, you’re not.” Alice brought the plate over to her. It looked like something out of a food magazine, with the pickle and chips arranged artfully around the sandwich halves.

Meg smiled. “Thanks. I love your sandwiches.”

She squeezed her shoulder. “Iced tea?”

“Yes, please.” She turned so she faced the counter and bit into the sandwich. Alice made the best. “How is it that your sandwiches always taste so good?” She said after she’d swallowed.

“Made with love.” Alice winked as she put a glass of tea and a napkin on the counter next to Meg’s plate.

“You’re the best-kept secret in the West. Please don’t ever leave us. But if you do, mention the Diamond Rock on your cooking show.”

She laughed and went to clean up. “You’re your father’s daughter.”

Meg continued to eat, Anna and Alice chatting amiably behind her. When she finished, she took the plate into the dishwashing room then went back into the kitchen where Alice was checking the chili. Anna must have gone into the dining room, because one of the swinging doors was moving.

Alice handed her a spoon. “One taste. No double-dipping.”

She laughed and took a spoonful, holding it over her cupped left hand so none would spill. She blew on it and tasted it. “Oh, my God. Best. Chili. Ever.” She finished the spoonful and Alice took the utensil from her.

“Make sure you tell the reporter that.”

“I won’t have to. One taste will prove it.”

Alice set the spoon aside and continued to stir one of the big pots on the stove.

“He’s still acting weird,” Meg said after a few more moments.

She stopped stirring and gave Meg her full attention. “About your break-up with Amanda?”

She nodded.

“He’ll come around.”

“I think he’s hoping that I was just experimenting, and now I’ll go find a boyfriend.”

“He also just wants to make sure you’re happy.” She reached up and brushed Meg’s hair out of her face, like a mom might. “Sweetie, your dad loves you more than life itself. But he’s a little traditional in some ways, and it’ll just take him a little bit to get used to the idea. Parents always have expectations for their children, and he’s having to revise some about you.”

“I feel like I screwed up. Maybe I shouldn’t have told him.” A knot tightened in her chest, and she hated this wedge that seemed to have come between her dad and her.

Alice pulled her into a hug. “You had to. Because this is part of you, and it’s not healthy to keep that all bottled up inside. I’m proud of you, for telling not only your dad but your mom.”

Meg groaned as Alice released her. “I’m supposed to call her.”

She gave her a sympathetic smile. “You are who you are, and you’re choosing to live your life on your terms.”

“She doesn’t like my terms.”

Well, it’s not for her to decide, is it?”

“She makes it seem that way.”

“You’ll get through.” She pecked her on the cheek. “Come and talk to me later tonight if you want.”

Meg nodded. “Thanks.”

Anna came back into the kitchen and Meg waved at her before she moved to the back door, where she retrieved her hat before she went outside. Across from the dining room and kitchen about thirty yards away stood the two-story structure dubbed “the motel,” modeled after a Northwoods hunting lodge for the guests, its rooms accessible from the outside. Covered verandas sheltered the walkways. Her father lived in quarters just off the office building, also across from the motel, and the hands lived in bunkhouses. All the structures surrounded a large packed-dirt parking area, like wagons circling a campsite.

She took the outside steps of the lodge to the second floor, where she lived. She alone occupied this level, unless they had extra guests. Otherwise, she kept the extra rooms closed up. Maybe the reporter’s story would bring them enough business that they’d be able to open these extra rooms. Her bootheels made hollow sounds on the wood and the metal roof of the veranda creaked and popped in the sun. She sighed as she opened the heavy wooden door into her foyer, hung her hat on one of the pegs near the entrance, and walked down the hallway toward her bedroom, where she kept a phone.

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Small press vs. large press, a question for the ages

ConDFW went off without a hitch last weekend. A modestly attended con, but still an attentive one, it left me with ample opportunity to talk with readers and other writers. Most of my panels were well attended, and I picked up several new blog and twitter followers.

All in all, a big hooray.

Except…

There were lots of small presses in attendance as well as authors (like yours truly) that publish through other small presses. There were some indie authors as well, and quite a few set up tables in the dealer’s room alongside bookstores selling the wares of larger presses. I did not join them as I hate sitting still for hours, and for someone who only has two books available, I don’t think I’d see the sales needed to justify the cost. Some of those who had several published books seemed quite busy.

Except…

Even to someone like me who loves my small press and has had a wonderful experience, there is a whiff of legitimacy about books from large presses. Their authors don’t have to hawk their own books. (But they do have to do all their own marketing online.) To a lot of people, this makes them seem more…real.

Never mind the fact that I know for certain that my books are sold at major bookstores around the country. They’re just not sold at those stores in the south, where LGBT prejudice is still very easy to stumble upon. But it was because my books weren’t available at the con that I think many people automatically equated me with “not as good.”

We all know this is shit. As the big houses continue to coalesce and falter, small houses rise. And you can get stories from the small houses that you can’t get from the large ones. (Like lesbian princesses, for example. As a side note, there are definitely other gay fantasy main characters, but their stories are usually tragic in some way because of their gayness. Finding a no-big-deal tale like mine is a little harder. Just throwing that out there. ^_^)

Many small presses continually put out quality work, and people know this, they acknowledge it, and still that legitimacy stench comes creeping out. One person at the con (who I know is in favor of small press) expressed the opinion that small houses must be easier to “get into” than larger presses, like they’ll take anything that comes along. When is the last time you ever heard of a publisher being desperate for things to publish? Yet small presses seem a healthy target.

I fell into the trap myself, watching people pass over small press tables in order to spend their hard-earned cash at the bookstores. People had told me many times over the weekend how entertaining I am. They loved my buttons and my cover postcards. I can hope they’ll buy the ebook or order the paperback online. But they ambled right up to the stores and handed over their money.

I suppose some of it could be subject matter. Though my books aren’t graphic sex-wise, some people get weird about two women falling in love. But I have to wonder how much is that legit-vibe. I even thought, Gee, I have to try and sell something else (something non-LGBT) to a major publisher again, which means trying to get an agent, which means boarding the rejection train, a pit of despair from which many writers never escape.

It would mean throwing all my hopes and dreams and hard work at the feet of a crumbling industry, all for the hope that a bookseller in Texas would deign to carry me at SF cons.

Well, when I put it like that…

Writers, if you’re published through a small press or if you publish your own work, do you ever feel this way? Readers, do you pass over indie or small press books because you assume the quality is lower, despite what your own experiences might be?

As another aside, my time with Bold Strokes is and has been fabulous, and I hope to keep publishing with them for a long time to come as I have many many LGBT stories to tell. And they are one of the largest LGBT presses and one of the largest small presses there is. I guess I’ll just have to form a thicker skin when it comes to comments thrown around at a con. 😉 And I’ll have to turn more people on to LGBT fantasy stories, one reader at a time.

Another another aside, this was one of the first times at a SF con (as opposed to a lesfic con) that someone showed up to see me. Thanks @shadowriver, you made my day. ^_^