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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Voices from the Rainbow, by Traci Leigh Taylor

Traci Leigh Taylor is another member of NIWA, and my final Boosting the Signal feature today is her non-fiction work Voices from the Rainbow: a collection of letters and interviews from over fifty LGBTQ individuals who have spoken with Traci about their life experiences. I don’t normally feature non-fiction on Boosting the Signal, but obviously, this is a topic near and dear to my own heart. And I daresay any of my regular readers will realize that the struggle to gain acceptance in their lives is a goal pretty much all LGBTQ persons fight for. Traci has sent me a couple of letters from her work, under the title “So Many Lost Years”.

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Voices from the Rainbow

Voices from the Rainbow

Dear Momma Traci,

I just came out last January. So at 58, I’m starting my life again. I wish that I could say I was one of those people who had family support while coming out, but I wasn’t. I knew I was gay in high school, but my best friend—who I was in love with—didn’t really accept gays and never knew how I felt. He kept pushing me to be straight.

Mom and Dad silently knew about me but we didn’t speak of such things out loud. Later, when I lived with my brother for a year, I knew they knew because they went through all my stuff including gay magazines I had. They still didn’t want to talk about it, but at least the jokes and comments about gays stopped. I was always taught that family came first, never say I don’t like it until I’ve tried it, always be a gentleman, and no matter what happens, never quit or give up. Dad and particularly Mom taught me to be very strong. With the family problems we have had, being strong has been very useful.

My mom and I grew very close when Dad died in 2005. She started opening up to me about some of the hell she had gone through with Dad and his family. I put my life on hold until July 2009, when I lost Mom. My mom was always my best friend, and there isn’t a day goes by that I don’t miss her. In fact, I think I miss her more everyday than I did before.

I came out this January to my family and friends. My friends were great but my sister told me it was okay as long as I didn’t talk about it or do anything about it. I’ve stopped going to dinner at my sister’s for things like Thanksgiving and Christmas because I might say something in front of her friends that she would not approve of. I am being told that I’m not worth it by my family, that I’m not to look for love let alone sex or companionship. I wish my sister could be a quarter of whom and what you are. Then maybe my life wouldn’t have crumbled in some of the places it did.

So here I am 58 and alone. I wish I could have come out when I was young, and I could have been loved and accepted for who I am. Perhaps my life could have been different. I have never had a relationship. It is getting harder all the time physically and emotionally, and I am running out of strength.

I am working hard to make myself a better person, emotionally and physically. I joined a gym club and I’m currently working with a trainer three times a week as well as going there on days in between my booked sessions. Hopefully it will make me better, so that somebody will take notice of me. I would like to meet a good person to share my life with.

Respectfully,
Keith

Dear Mom and Dad:

Well, another year has just about passed, and once again I sit alone in the dark trying to make sense of my life, or lack thereof. I wonder if this hole in my heart and darkness in my soul will ever be cured.

I needed for you guys to know who I was, but I was afraid to tell you. I gave you ample opportunity to learn about me by telling you that you could ask me anything about my life and that I would give you an honest answer. There was a most pressing question which you should have asked me but you didn’t. Since you didn’t ask when you could have heard the answer, I will tell you now: Mom and Dad, I am gay.

Yes, you heard right—your youngest son is gay. I know you must have known. When I came home from Calgary you had been through my room, straightened it up, and put all of my gay magazines in a box in my nightstand. Why couldn’t you have asked me instead of leaving me to live in a quiet torture of not knowing what was going to happen if it just happened to stumble out and had not really been addressed? If you were afraid that, like my older brother and sister, I wouldn’t stay and love you and take care of you two when you were old and sick, then you never really knew me. I was there because I loved both of you more than my own life.

It would have been wonderful if I could have found someone to love me. If they ever turned their back on you two then I wouldn’t have wanted them in my life. Now it’s too late for me. I’m 58, and nobody out there wants me and my dog. You don’t know how many times I wanted to be hugged and kissed and made to feel that I’m not just taking up space and air.

Being gay isn’t just about sex—it’s about someone to share your world with. So here we go towards another new year, and I’m still waiting for my life to start which it should have done forty years ago. I am now so old that no one wants me. I have to sit and watch the world pass me by and wonder what it might have been like.

Your gay son still loves you with all of his heart.

I love you and miss you,

Keith

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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Foul is Fair, by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins

Today’s second Boosting the Signal feature is ALSO YA, this time an urban fantasy by the team of Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins. Jeffrey’s a fellow member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association, with whom I’ll be working at Worldcon this year and cons to come on the effort to sell NIWA books! Jeffrey and Katherine have a bit of a glimpse into the head of Lani, one of their characters who has the pressing problem before her of how to get her friend Megan acclimated–as fast as possible–to the fey world around her. And you gotta bet, urban fantasy involving the fey, set in Seattle, is HIGHLY RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS. The authors have kindly provided me a copy of this book. I will be reviewing it.

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Foul is Fair

Foul is Fair

Lani was curled up on a satyress’s loveseat in a trendy Fremont apartment. She knew it was important to get to sleep, and she soon would, but she had to give her mind at least a few minutes to race around the matters at hand.

The day’s objective was complete, at least. Lani had gotten Megan clear-headed enough and told her everything she could. She’d never thought that she’d be able to, back when she thought Megan was all human. There were Restrictions (that was the best way to explain it to non-Hawaiians), after all. You can’t just out yourself as menehune (or, in Lani’s case, half-menehune) to a civilian. But that was before Lani had discovered her ‘human’ BFF’s estranged father was the Unseelie King.

“So…” Megan had said. “My dad is what, ’80s David Bowie? Glammed up, stealing babies, turning into owls?”

Lani had let the focus go to her people’s perfectly rational objection to owls for a moment before moving on to business, because being teased was better than explaining why she wasn’t laughing at the ‘stealing babies’ line. Megan didn’t have a little brother to think of, and she didn’t know what the Unseelie sidhe were like. There was a reason the menehune had allied centuries ago with the brownies: both were hardworking, orderly folk dealing with a lot of things that weren’t. They made good partners.

Megan didn’t know what anything was like, in Faerie terms, so Lani was grateful this was going as well as it did. Here they were, after all, on a satyress’s couch after being chased by a redcap, and yet no one had been eaten or sexually harassed. Lani could finally introduce Megan to her non-human friends. Kerr was already working Kerr’s brownie magic to keep Megan’s mom from worrying, and while Lani could tell Megan had been confused by Kerr, there’d been no gender-essentialist nonsense said that could embarrass anyone. Megan was really handling it all well for someone who’d claimed pixies didn’t exist this morning.

The question was whether she could handle the task at hand. Much to every engineer’s regret, people indeed did not come with breaking-strain calculations. And they were facing a huge problem.

The Unseelie King had gone missing, probably been imprisoned. This was bad. The Seelie were her people’s allies, but the Unseelie were just as necessary. They just didn’t fulfill needs that were easy to understand or that Lani necessarily wanted to think about much. Of these necessities, the Unseelie King was the most obvious. Without his presence in the right place at the right time, the seasons couldn’t change on the Faerie level. There would be no Autumn, not really. And if Lani had learned anything from Neil deGrasse Tyson, it was that without the balance that the breakdowns of Autumn restored to the atmosphere, the world would eventually freeze.

Most in the Faerie court (Seelie and Unseelie) and its allies didn’t know what was going on. All sides were keeping it quiet. Of those who knew about the problem, most were either reacting emotionally, trying to twist it to their advantages, or citing the need for the involvement of human blood. Well, Lani and Megan brought a human’s worth of blood to the table. Lani was more of an aspiring engineer than an adventurer, and Megan was still adjusting to everything. Additionally, of course, people were already trying to kill them. Lani just had to keep it together. She would help Megan navigate the fields of inhuman social landmines and less figurative dangers. She would help Megan find her father. She would help bring him back. And through it all, Lani would have to be the one to remember that just because someone is important—and just because what’s currently being done to them is wrong and dangerous—does not mean that person is safe. Lani had a little brother to think of, after all.

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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Through Fire and Sea, by Nicole Luiken

Nicole Luiken is one of my fellow Carina authors who actually writes fantasy, and so I’m quite happy to feature her on Boosting the Signal today for her latest YA release. Nicole’s here to tell you about the difficulties her characters face surviving in a volcanic landscape.

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Through Fire and Sea

Through Fire and Sea

For my fantasy series, Otherselves, I created the True World and four Mirror Worlds. Each Mirror World is named after an element: Water, Fire, Air and Stone. (BTW, the True World isn’t our world (Earth). Our world is Water because we have so much ocean.) I had a lot of fun designing the four worlds and their magic.

Book one, Through Fire & Sea, features two worlds in detail: Water and Fire. It also features two girls. Holly is from our world, Leah is from Fire World. Although the girls are otherselves (mirror twins) of each other, they’ve each been shaped by the world they grew up in.

Imagine a landscape with a blood-red sky, dominated by volcanoes. That’s Fire World. Leah grew up in a castle in the shadow of a volcano named Grumbling Man. The Volcano Lords are quarrelsome Fire elementals and have ominous names like Grumbling Man, Thunderhead, Poison Cloud and Cinders. People scratch out a precarious existence in the valleys between the volcanoes because there is no other habitable land. How do they survive? The hot-blooded nobility have a magical talent that allows them to speak to the Volcano Lords. The Volcano Lords become quite attached to their dukes and the dukes are the only ones who can soothe them when they grow angry and tremble on the edge of eruption.

Early in the novel, Leah is forced to leave the castle and travel to the home of the sorceress Qeturah. I based Qeturah’s Tower on the weird volcanic rock formations found in Cappadocia, Turkey. Hundreds of years ago these were hollowed out and inhabited.

At a later point in the story, Leah has to pick her way across a cooling lava field, using her hot-blooded senses to tell her where it’s safe to step and where molten lava flows beneath a seemingly solid thin black crust.

When researching, I discovered that other signs of volcanic activity include hot springs, geysers and mudpots—areas of boiling mud, such as can be seen in places like Yellowstone Park or Iceland. I found the mudpots so cool, I had to use them in the story. Two characters have a dangerous duel on the narrow path between two mudpots, where any misstep will mean an ugly death.

I also populated Fire World with some exotic critters. I invented some nasty insects called fire wasps which spawn in mudpots and can set things on fire, and oh, yes, dragons. You knew there had to be dragons, right? Dragons are the off-spring of Volcano Lords and humans and are very rare. When a black dragon appears, it upsets the precarious balance of Fire World and sets the whole story into motion.

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Blurb

Mirror mirror, hear my call…

In the Fire world, seventeen-year-old Leah is the illegitimate daughter of one of the realm’s most powerful lords, able to communicate with the tempestuous volcano gods that either bless a civilization or destroy it. But then Leah discovers she’s a Caller, gifted with the unique—and dangerous—ability to “call” her Otherselves in mirror worlds. And her father will do anything to use her powers for his own purposes.

In the Water world, Holly nearly drowns when she sees Leah, a mirror image of herself. She’s rescued by a boy from school with a secret he’d die to protect. Little do they know, his Otherself is the son of a powerful volcano god at war in the Fire world…and he’s about to fall.

As Leah and Holly’s lives intersect, the Fire and Water worlds descend into darkness. The only way to protect the mirror worlds is to break every rule they’ve ever known. If they don’t, the evil seeping through the mirrors will destroy everything—and everyone—they love…

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