Following the rules

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t always follow the rules.  It has gotten me in a fair amount of trouble over the years but also gotten me to places I wouldn’t otherwise go, because I didn’t know there were rules in some cases. 

When I started the Lesfic Bard Awards, I probably wasn’t aware that I’d broken some unwritten rules.  You see, those are the ones that get us every time, the unwritten ones.  We come into a new situation and break them, and someone gets their feelings hurt.

As I worked with my friends to create the awards, we went over the website, the rules, and later, added more as problems arose that we hadn’t even thought of.  The rules are there to protect us, to enlighten the person entering the awards, and to put our intentions out there, so there shouldn’t be any surprises. 

From due dates to formatting, etc. there are always those who make mistakes, breaking the rules.  We try to help when we can but when does personal responsibility enter into it?  We can’t follow up on every mistake, we can’t do more than we are doing, because then we have to do it for everyone and we simply can’t. 

I know those who are thinking, well, did I format it wrong, is that why I didn’t win?  My book was excellent, everyone said so, did I leave my name in the book somewhere and it was disqualified?  I can’t answer that for anyone, once your book is submitted, it’s up to the judges to judge it, even disqualify it for cause in some cases.  But it goes on from me, the administrator as a pivot point, to the judges and they do their job, returning their judges sheets with the scores for those whose books qualified.

Then there are those who didn’t get the email or didn’t respond when we sent one because there are going to be mistakes with technology.  It’s why we put the disclaimers on the website, because we can’t predict what will happen.  For all we know, the author has passed away, their life got complicated, or they decided to not proceed with their entry.  We don’t know, but we process the order when it comes in accordingly, and wait for the book(s) to come in.  Because, our job has started when you pay for your entry or enter the book through our website.  We might have to contact you because you did one but not the other, but we shouldn’t have to follow up as we are all adults (we do not allow anyone under 18 to enter).

When you enter our awards, we enter into a contract with you.  You are paying to have your book(s) judged on our site.  If you don’t send on the book, you don’t follow up in a timely manner, or you just don’t do what your side of the contract is, we can only do so much to help.  Again, we are adults here and try to remain professional in handling all of these wonderful entries.  I know, I know, your book(s) are your babies, we do handle them with care.  We fulfill our contract with you and if the rules are broken, must act accordingly.

If your book is lucky enough to be a finalist or even win, we promote it, we shout it from the social media rafters, because you paid to enter, our judges found it worthy, and you deserve that acclamation.  It’s what we agreed to in our contract with you.  If you lose, I know it’s a bummer, but you paid to have it judged and they may not have found it worthy of being a finalist or winner.  That’s part of the deal as well.

I hope you all are having a wonderful beginning to the new year.  We look forward to your entries coming in this year.  As always, we are looking for more judges as our competition continues to grow.

Thank you,

K’Anne Meinel

Awards Administrator

I Heart SapphFic

Celebrate love with this collection of delightfully lighthearted romances from some of the most popular authors of sapphic fiction today!

These eight standalone Pride-themed novels have been carefully selected by I Heart SapphFic to give readers a taste of the very best modern sapphic fiction has to offer. Each women loving women story promises to bring all the feels. June is the perfect time to remember that love is love, and everyone deserves a happily ever after!

Meet Karen Badger, 2021 Lesfic Bard Award Winner for Science Fiction and Drama

Where were you born? – Burlington, Vermont

Where did you grow up? – Burlington, Vermont

Do you have any siblings? – 4.5 siblings.  I am the 2nd born.  My older brother passed away 8 years ago, but I have two younger brothers, one younger sister and a younger half-brother.

What were your parent’s professions? – My dad was a meat cutter, my mom was a secretary.

Why do you write? – I have these people running around inside my head who are anxious to come out to play, and to tell their stories.

What do you think makes good writing? – The ability to make readers ‘see’ what you are writing.  I have been told I am a very visual writer.

How do you choose the names for your characters? – The characters’ last names are usually based on people I know (some from work, some from personal encounters).  The first names sometimes don’t happen until I am well into the story…or sometimes their names change as the story progresses.  I like unusual names (in real life and in my writing).  I named my two sons with unusual names (Heath and Dane).

What is the first piece you ever wrote? – The first lesbian story I every wrote was “On A Wing And A Prayer.”  It was written in the 2000 time frame, but I published it in 2005.

When you are writing each novel. Are the experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? –   In order to make my writing more realistic, I tend to write what I know.  Sometimes the actual events in my books have happened to me…and sometimes they have happened to someone close to me.  I have written several speculative, historical and SiFi books, so obviously I haven’t been on an alien spaceship, nor have I traveled through time, but the events that have happened while in the spaceship, or while backward/forward in time, have happened to be, or someone close to me.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? – I’m actually quite pleased with the way my published books have turned out.  I just reread “A Shadow in Love” in order to choose a reading for it for an upcoming conference, and several times, I was so engrossed in the story that I had to remind myself that I wrote it.  When an author can impress themself when rereading a book they have written, you know it’s perfect!  I am five chapters into my next novel, which is extremely research-intensive, and totally beyond my knowledge comfort zone, so I will be constantly modifying that one until it feels right.

What is the hardest part of writing a book? – Two things…finding the time to write… and research.  I am itching to move on with writing on my current WIP, but I’m at a stage where research is critical, so, have to wait.  This is compounded by my extremely hectic life outside of writing.

What is the easiest part of writing a book? – Letting the characters take over…in fact, I insist on it.  When I stop trying to control them and give them free rein to tell me what they are all about, the story takes off and writes itself.

Do you think a book can have too much detail it?  Do you think it can detract from the story? – It depends on what type of detail you are providing.  If information is key to the story, and if a detailed explanation of that information is vital for the readers to understand, then, yes–I think it is necessary (as long as it’s not all dumped on them at once).  If the information itself is interesting, but the details behind it are not, then it can get in the way of the story.  For example, in my speculative book, “Yesterday Once More,” the main character is a scientist who specializes in spinal implant development.  During a test with rats that had be fitted with spinal implants, she notices that one walked with a gait.  I proceeded to fall into a two-page of why the number of significant digits in the computer algorithm controlling the implant could be what was causing the gait.  Being a mathematician, and self-proclaimed geek, I was fascinated by this explanation, but when I reread it, I quickly realized that it would most likely be boring for readers, so I cut the two pages down to one paragraph.

Do you have any writing rituals? And can you tell us about your writing discipline? – I am a total pantser…I wing it, nearly 100%.  I don’t outline, and I don’t do character sketches.  The story and the characters reveal themselves as I write.  I feel giving my characters the freedom to write the story for me, puts less restrictions on where the story goes.  I have a general idea of what I want the story to be about when I begin…and a general idea of how I would like it to end, but often times, the characters have other intentions that veer off the loosely-defined path I put them on when I first sat down to write.

What is your greatest fear as an author? – I have three…that readers will hate what I write…that my writing will sound like someone else wrote it…and that no one will know who I am.  So far, the first fear has not come true.  I have had mediocre reviews, but by far, most of my reviews are glowing.  Relative to the second fear, I seldom read other lesbian authors works–primarily because I don’t want to subliminally pick something up from their writing and include it in my own writing.  I’m not talking about plagiarism here (I would never do that), but I am talking about picking up their ‘voice’.  Unfortunately, the last fear is more of a reality.  I have a group of loyal readers, and I try to keep a presence on social media to make myself known, but there are tens of thousands of readers out there who have no idea who Karen D. Badger is, and what she writes.  Marketing is definitely the weakest link in my writing career.

Who do you have fans compare you to (other authors)? – I have never had a fan compare me to another author.  I work hard to make my writing unique (see fear #2 above).

What are you working on now? – I am working on a new novel about a same-sex couple who are both POC, who purchase a large Georgian house that is located in upper state New York.  They discover something about the house that drives them to learn more, and as an effect, it has a profound impact on their perception of life.  This is an historical novel and is extremely research-intensive.  I am also a bit wary about writing it from the point of view of a POC, since I do not have that perspective.  Like the characters in the story, I am driven to learn more and to write this book.  I hope it does not disappoint.

How do you keep your different characters separate in your mind? – The only thing my characters have in common is that they are strong-willed and capable women.  Other than that, they are very different physically, and in personality. They are also on different career paths.  I generally don’t have an issue keeping them separate in my mind.

Do you write full-time or part-time? – My life is insane.  I wish I had time to write full time, but I don’t.  I write when I can fit it in.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? – I retired in March, 2022 from a 43-year semiconductor engineering job, with the intention of having loads of time to write and travel.  In reality, I am busier than I have ever been in my life.  Between family issues, doing projects that my wife has been waiting for me to retire to do, doing research on my current book, and starting a new career as a consultant, I haven’t written a word in the past six months.  I will say…my life is anything but boring, but I do need to bring some sort of structure into my day-to-day routine so that what I LOVE to do at least gets equal priority to what I HAVE to do.

Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when? – I write when I can find the time to do it. 

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day? – No.  I stop writing when I have closure on a particular scene or arc.  Sometimes that means a couple of hours…and sometimes that means writing into the wee hours of the morning.

Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand? – Computer

Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers? – I have not.

Where do your ideas come from? – Most of my ideas come from everyday experiences.  For example, A Shadow in Love is set in Sedona, Arizona.  The idea for that novel came during a hike my wife and I were taking on Little Horse Trail in Sedona.  I had noticed that our shadows were reflected on a gulley below us while we were admiring the Cathedral Rock formation, so I took a picture of it.  That picture ended up being used on the book cover, and the story grew out of some research I did on the vortexes in Sedona.  I am all about using free-flowing ideas for stories.  They can come from anywhere or any situation.  You just need to think out of the box and be open to recognizing a free gift when it falls in your lap.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you? – I am a total pantser.  No outlines, no character profiles.  I totally wing it.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? – I originally wanted to be a physical therapist, but when I got to college, I discovered that I really didn’t enjoy the physical sciences that went along with it, so I entered the Fine Arts course of study and earned two degrees…one in theater and a second in education.  With no jobs to be found when I graduated from college, I went to work in a semiconductor facility, and then went back to school to earn a BS degree in mathematics, which led me to the 43-year Engineering career

What genres do you normally write in? – Several…General drama, speculative, paranormal, comedy, historical, occult, Science Fiction, action/adventure, young adult.  I have won awards in Drama, Speculative, Paranormal, Historical, Science Fiction and Action/Adventure categories.  I do not write straight-up (girl-meets-girl) romance, however, all of my book feature romantic girl-girl relationships).

What genres do you typically read? – I don’t read a lot (who has time?).  My wife and I enjoy listening to police procedural audiobooks while we are traveling.

Is there a genre you haven’t written in that one day you’d like to tackle? – I have yet to write a mystery or detective novel.  That might be fun to do.

Are there any authors who have influenced your work? – I specifically don’t read other lesbian authors because I don’t want their style to influence my work, but I do enjoy books by Judy Picoult.

What was the first book you ever published? – On A Wing and a Prayer (published by Blue Feather Books in 2005)

When did you first sign with (your current publisher)? – I self-publish under the Badger Bliss Books publishing house (www.badgerblissbooks.com).  I established Badger Bliss Books in 2014 when my publisher at the time (Blue Feather Books), closed its doors.

How did you celebrate your signing? – I went to dinner with my wife (her treat!)

What was the craziest thing you’ve ever done when it came to a storyline in your book? – The speculative books are fun to write because your reader needs to suspend disbelief.  In the award-winning Yesterday Once More, I created a black-hole phenomenon inside a barn.  Totally NOT possible – but fun nonetheless!

Do you have any specific things (or rituals) that help you to write or that inspire you? – No rituals.  Total pantser!

Is there a certain time of day you prefer to write?  I would like to write when the urge strikes, but in reality, the evenings are when I have the most free time.

What is your writing day like? – At the end of the workday, after dinner is out of the way, and when the urge strikes to write, I sit down in front of the computer and reread the last chapter I wrote.  That will generally get the ideas flowing, and then I begin to write.  Depending on whether I have to work the next day, I either stop after a few hours, or I write until that particular story arc is complete.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? – I’ve always liked to write.  I can remember writing stories and poetry as a child.  It has definitely migrated into my adulthood through my novels, and through dozens of technical papers that I have written and published/presented for work-related conferences.

Do you hear from your readers much?  What kinds of things do they say? – I am friends with a large number of readers on social media.  They are very kind in their appraisal of my work, and the reviews that have been left have, for the most part, been stellar.

Tell us about your new release. – I had three new releases in 2021.  “Udder Nonsense” was book 10 in the Billie/Cat Commitment Series.  As the name implies, it is a comedy and it puts the characters in a totally uncharacteristic setting.  “The Fifty and One” is the continuation of the award-winning, “1140 Rue Royale” (paranormal).  The Fifty and One won a LesFic Bard award in the Drama category and it centers around the Voodo/Occult scene in New Orleans.  It also brings closure to the characters first introduced in 1140 Rue Royale.  Finally, “A Shadow in Love” was my first attempt at Sci-Fi, and it won a LesFic Bard award in the Sci-Fi category.  A Shadow in Love is about aliens searching for a new homeland to escape their own dying world, and what happens when one of them encounters an earthling on the hiking paths of Sedona, Arizona.

What kind of heroine is in your current book? – The heroines in the book I am currently writing are two professional women.  One of them is a cardiac nurse and the other is a political science college professor.  Being POC, they are passionate about civil rights and the BLM movement…especially the political science college professor.

Is there someone famous she resembled when you wrote her? Or is she based off someone you personally know? – Neither.  She is a conglomerate of the courageous women who have come before her in the fight for civil rights.

What are your favorite character traits that you cannot resist? – Outspokenness.  My characters tend to speak their minds, and they are very protective of each other. They love fiercely.

What part of the female physique captures your attention? – Physically…the eyes, but what I find most attractive is a person’s brain and personality.  Looks are skin-deep, but personality permeates the entire being.

As an author and essentially the “creator” of your character, do you find yourself attached to her in a personal way? – I find myself developing a ‘chemistry’ with my characters.  I believe every author writes themselves into their characters, and as such, yes—there is a relationship there that does not usually happen between casual acquaintances.

If you could actually meet the character of one of your books, the exact woman you’ve conjured up in both looks and personality, which one would it be and why? – Probably Lia Purvis from 1140 Rue Royale.  Her appearance and attitude are modeled after Sheri Saum – the actress who portrayed Lena Foster on The Fosters.  She is absolutely gorgeous and she is outspoken and fiercely protective of her tribe.  I admire what her character goes through in the books, and how strong and loving she remains throughout the entire ordeal.  Here is a picture of her:

Sherri Saum 2014.jpg

Tell us what kind of heroes/heroines you prefer to write about. – Characters who are kind, loving, generous, flawed, protective of those they love and openly affectionate with the people in their lives.  For me, these traits are important for both the primary and secondary characters (usually the best friends of the primary characters).

Does your heroine, take after you? Or is she someone you wish you could be? – Like I have said, I believe every author writes themselves into their characters.  All of my characters have some of my traits and some of my characters have all of my traits.  Sometimes I am obvious in the primary characters, and sometimes in the secondary ones.

Out of all your books, do you have a favorite? – That’s a hard question.  I think the best book I have written so far, is 1140 Rue Royale, followed by Yesterday Once More, A Shadow in Love, Over the Crescent Moon, The Blue Feather and The Fifty and One, but I will always hold a very special place in my heart for the entire 10-book Billie/Cat Commitment Series.  Those characters have been with me for more than 20 years, and I love them as much as the others I have written.

What is your biggest distraction when you write? – After working all day, either on my day job or on projects around the house, I sometimes feel bad that I am writing instead of spending time with my wife.  She constantly encourages me to write, but I feel like I’m neglecting her as well.

What are your major sources for research?  Do you use books or google?  Even movies? – Google, research books, YouTube, movies, field trips, discussions with ‘people-in-the-know’

Which grammar rule is your favorite to break? Which one do you never break? – I try not to break any of them.  The ones I try never to break include dangling participles (it feels like putting the cart before the hose when this one is broken), and head-hopping (POV changes within the same scene).

If you could do a DREAM job (other than writing) what would it be and why? Have you used it in any of your stories?  I would love to be an airline pilot.  It would be amazing to have the freedom of flight.  I used that as an occupation in my first published novel, On a Wing and a Prayer.

What kind of jobs have you have in the ‘real’ world? – I worked as a waitress/dishwasher in a nursing home between the ages of 12 and 17…then moved on to short-order cook in the corner store snack bar for 4 years…then moved to IBM where I was a technician for 15 years…then promoted to engineer for another 28 years…then retired, and finally, to my ‘new’, current career in consulting work (based on my engineering experience).

Some quickies (pardon the pun—pick twelve):

Satin or Lace? – Satin

Hot or Cold? – Hot

Camera or Canvas? – Camera 

Denim or Leather? – Leather

Talking or Texting? – Texting

Irish or Italian? – Irish

Thunder or Lightning? – Both 

The sound of a heartbeat or a crackling fire? – Cracking fire

Holding hands or Holding her attention? – Holding hands

Crayons or Paint? – Crayons

Mountains or Beach? – Mountains

Rain or Sunshine? – Sunshine

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members that ‘surprised’ you? – All my neighbors.  Full acceptance by all!

If you could meet anyone famous, PAST or PRESENT who would it be, and why? – Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  I loved her convictions, persistence and tenacity.

Is there anything in your life you would delete?  Anything you would replay? – I believe that everything you have experienced in your life contributes to who you are today.  I kind of like who I am, so I don’t think I would change anything.  Maybe I would have come out of the closet sooner, but I don’t regret having been married to a man…and I don’t regret having my children.

What were you like at school? – I was a nerd.  I ran with the brainiacs and was not very popular with the ‘in-crowd.’  I was in the band (drums and other percussions) and chorus, and I participated in a yearly drama event called ‘stunt night’, where each grade level put on a big production number for the public.  The event was judged and my class won every time.  It was probably one of the things that influenced me to study theater.

Were you good at English? – Yes…especially creative writing classes.

Do you speak any foreign languages? Which ones? What, if any, would you like to learn? – I took French classes throughout all of elementary school (it was a Catholic school…and French was mandatory), and I took Latin in high school.  I also took a class in American Sign Language while employed at IBM, but I’ve lost all of it.  I’d like to learn Spanish.

What are your ambitions for your writing career? – I don’t need to earn a living wage from my writing, but I’d like to become more widely read.  There are a lot of readers out there who have never heard of me! 

If you could have anyone play the main character of one of your books, any actress, who would you choose and why?  I’d like to see Kate Moenning (Shane from The L Word) play Jordan’s character in Yesterday Once More, and maybe Jessica Chastain in the role of Maggie.  On the other hand, I’d like to see Sheri Saum play Lia in 1140 Rue Royale with Terry Polo as Elliot.  In both cases, they are who I pictured in my mind when I wrote those books.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?  That depends on a few things…first, how much ‘free’ time do I have to write.  Second, is the book research-intensive?  If yes, I spend almost as much time on research as I do on writing.  Third, at what point in the story do the characters begin driving the plot versus me forcing them into a storyline.  Once they take over, things move much quicker.  On average, it takes around four months for me to write a book.

Do you ever get writer’s block? Sometimes, but not often.

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?  Writer’s block happens when I run out of ideas of where to go next and I am resisting the characters taking me down a path I didn’t intend to go.  When that happens, I will walk away from it for a week or two and then reread everything I have written from page one.  Usually, by then, my frame of mind has changed and rereading the entire story from the beginning almost always gets the ideas flowing again.  If I am being honest, when the ideas begin to flow again, more often than not, it was what the characters wanted to do in the first place when I was fighting against them.  Go figure!

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?  My writing has matured.  My knowledge of grammar and proper writing form has greatly improved over the years, and I’m not breaking all the rules I didn’t realize I was breaking in the beginning.  I owe this education to some very good editors!

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?  I don’t read much at all…especially when I am writing. I am afraid of intentionally picking up another writer’s voice when I’m in the middle of writing a book, so I avoid reading.  My wife and I are enjoying a 53-book (so far) series of audiobooks written by JD Robb (Nora Roberts pseudonym) right now.  It passes the time as we travel.  Interestingly enough, I have a hard time paying attention while listening to audiobooks, but JD Robb is one of the few that I enjoy listening to.

For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hardback books? There is nothing like being able to hold a book in your hands.  I definitely prefer paperback or hardback books.

Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you? I have a group of very loyal and very thorough beta readers who do an amazing job, not just letting me know what they think of the story, but one in particular (Carol Poynor, aka, Chief Eagle Eye) should be a professional editor, she is so good at finding errors and questioning oddities she may find.  Once the beta readers are finished and I make the appropriate modifications, my wife does the final read-through and then the book then goes to an editor before it is published.

Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?  No – it goes into the hands of my trust beta readers as soon as I finish writing it.  That doesn’t mean I don’t do a bunch of editing during the writing process.  I will generally read and reread the book several times, and during those reads, I never fail to makes changes and find typos or grammar errors that I correct along the way.

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.  Most of the time I design my covers based on some aspect of the story, but occasionally, I will write the story around a picture I have chosen for the cover.  That happened in A Shadow in Love.  The cover picture is one I took of myself and my wife while on a hike in Sedona, Arizona.  Given the spiritual vortex situation in Sedona, the story naturally evolved…with the cover picture playing a pivotal role in the story.

Who designed your book covers?  I do them myself.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?  I think the cover is the ‘first look’ at a book for most readers.  Yes, the cover is important, but I think the back cover blurb plays an even bigger role in the purchasing decision.  Also, it helps if you are already an established author.  If you are really good at your craft and you have a certain level of popularity, I think your cover could be crap and still sell.  If you are a new author, or relatively unknown, a good cover helps convince the reader to purchase your book, but the teasers in the back cover synopsis are just as important.

How do you market your books?  Not well, unfortunately (LOL!)  I use Facebook (my own site, my publishing house site and about three dozen group sites), Facebook ads, word of mouth, attendance at conferences, giveaways on my own site as well as group sites I am a member of.  I am looking into Amazon ads as well as establishing a mailing list.

Why did you choose this route?  Honestly?…time and know-how.  Right up until the end of March, 2022, I was still working full time, and I am now doing consulting work.  Add family responsibilities as well as maintaining two households, and free time is pretty scarce.  I also must admit that knowing how to better market myself is something I need help at.

Would you or do you use a PR agency? Not currently, but I would be open to learning more about that.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books? I don’t think I’m in the position to give advice.  I have a lot to learn about it myself.

What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?  I spend the most amount of time in the first month after its release.  After that, just a few hours a month…and mostly on Facebook.

What do you do to get book reviews?  I belong to an ARC group that receives advanced copies in exchange for honest reviews.  I also ask for reviews in exchange for free books in the giveaways I enter into.

How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?  Mediocre.  If I get 20-30 reviews, that is a lot.  I could use advice on how to increase the number of reviews I get.

Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?  ARC clubs, giveaways, offers on Facebook

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?  Obviously, good reviews are fantastic, and it’s what authors strives for, but I think every author can learn from mediocre reviews.  Constructive criticism is always good in my opinion.  Scathingly bad reviews on the other hand are uncalled for…especially if the person leaving the review does not give reasons for their dissatisfaction.  Leaving a review that just says, for example…this is the worst book I have ever read…does not help the writing improve their skills, nor does it help other readers who are considering buying it.

Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?  I was at a conference immediately following the release of Yesterday Once More and I was hyping the book to a very skeptical reader.  They were skeptical because one of the two main characters in this lesbian love story book had been dead for 80+ years before they even meet.  I could understand her reluctance to buy the book, but I gave her my business card and promised to buy the book back from her if she hated it.  She bought the book…and I never heard from her again.  The moral of the story – have faith in your own product!

What are your views on social media for marketing?  At this point, it is what I know how to do most, so I depend on it.  Again, I am open to new ways to market.

Which social network worked best for you?  Facebook

Any tips on what to do and what not to do?  If you are going to market your book on group sites, be sure their bylaws allow it before you post.  You can get a bad reputation for trying to force your product on people who are not open to it, and the administrator could remove you or block you from the site.

Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch, or anything else to promote your work, and did it work?  I have not yet taken those approaches to marketing.

Did you get interviewed by local press/radio for your book launch?  I have not.  I didn’t realize that was an option.  Like I said, I have a lot to learn.  I am waiting for someone to put together a book of successful marketing approaches for lesbian authors.  That would be a HUGE help and I would definitely buy it!

Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?  I have participated in several marketing campaigns run by other groups where you put a “theme” book on sale for a set amount of time and it is advertised as such by the group. The last one I did was for books with handicapped main characters.  That almost always results in additional book sales.

Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?  I’d say my biggest mistake is not marketing more than I do.  I just need to earn how to do it!

Why do you think that other well-written books just don’t sell?  I have discovered that a lot of readers shy away from Paranormal books.  My novel, 1140 Rue Royale, is in my opinion, the best of all the novels I have written thus far, and it won an award for best paranormal novel, but it is not one of my best sellers.  When I have asked readers why they are reluctant to read paranormal, the most frequent answer I get is that it creeps them out, or they don’t like being scared.  On the other hand, Romance novels in general well exceptionally well – even if they are all formula and fluff.  I for one, include same-sex romance in all my novels, but I would not categorize any of them as Romance novels.

What do you think of “trailers” for books?  Trailers are great if they grab the reader’s attention and if you can get them in front of an audience, and can find someone who can create a trailer for you for a reasonable price.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?  I do think it works, but I think it is fair to ask for a review in exchange for the free book.  I have found most recipients of free books are happy to post a review.

Did you format your own book?  Yes

In what formats is your book available?  Paperback, Epub, Mobi, PDF, and any other requested format that is available through the Calibre software.  We are just now researching audiobooks.

How do you relax?  My wife and I relax in the evenings by binge-watching series on Netflix, Hulu, Paramount or Amazon Prime.

What is your favorite positive saying?  Don’t sweat the small stuff….and most of it is small.

What is your favorite book and why?  Of the books I have written – 1140 Rue Royale.  The storyline deals with how the mistreatment of slaves by an evil aristocrat in a Royale Street mansion in New Orleans has had rippling effects on the modern-day heroines who purchase the mansion and live with the horrid after effects of the torture the slaves endured at their mistress’ hand. It is a story of love and redemption, and one in which the ghosts are the good guys.  This book gives me chills and sends me on a rollercoaster of emotion every time I read it.

What is your favorite quote?  “It is what it is!”  AKA, don’t fret over what you can’t change.

Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?  Hopefully traveling around the country and visiting National Parks, and writing stories along the way.

What is your favorite movie and why?  Burlesque.  This is a movie about a young woman who had all the faith and confidence in herself but struggled to make others see it.  The music in this movie is amazing, and it stars Cher and Christina Aguilera.  Cher was one of my teenage crushes…I have loved her forever!

What advice would you give to your younger self?  Be there for your friends and family as much as you can, but you can’t be everything to everyone.  The world is extremely heavy when you try to carry it on your shoulders, and if you carry it long enough, you’ll end up hurting yourself and spend the rest of your life stooped over instead of standing tall and proud.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?  I don’t know how to answer this one, as I don’t read much.

‘Borrowed’ permanently from James Lipton on The Actor’s Studio:

What is your favorite word?  Love
What is your least favorite word?  Hate
What turns you on?  Honesty, truthfulness, kindness

What turns you off?  Being distrustful, putting yourself before others
What sound or noise do you love?  The sound of my grandchildren laughing
What sound or noise do you hate?  Heartbreak
What is your favorite curse word?  Damn it!
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?  I’d like to learn how to fly a plane
What profession would you not like to do?  Anything in the medical field.  It would break my heart.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?  Your mom has been waiting for you!

Did you have a good childhood? Were you a wild child? Are you the ‘odd’ one out in your family? – I had a great childhood.  We had very little money, but we had what we needed, and there was more than enough love to go around.  My mom was fierce in her love and protection and in her efforts to give us all a good foundation to build our lives upon. I was not the wild child (that was my sister and one of my brothers).  I was the ‘good girl’.  I was a major tomboy (big surprise there!) and hard-working (I have had a job since I was 12 years old). 

If you had to use THREE words to DESCRIBE yourself and you were looking from the outside, how would you describe yourself? – Loyal, Kind, Smart

What are your thoughts on Porn (visual) vs Erotica (written) and do you think authors can creatively bring some aspects of both into their writing, making it sensual and beautiful instead of raw and vulgar? – I write graphic love scenes in my novels, but I would not classify them as porn or erotica.  For me personally…porn and erotica is just of sex for the purpose of having sex…or for entertaining/stimulating others.  Raw and vulgar are good descriptions for those genres.  I like to think that the love scenes I write are an expression of love between two people…and not on display to make someone else all hot and bothered.

If you could have one and only one super-power, what would it be and why?  I’d like to be able to blink myself placed like I Dream of Jeannie did.  It would be awesome not to have to travel to places by car or plane.  Think of the time it would save!

Have you ever Googled yourself? If you did, what did you find out about yourself?  Google searches on me turn up a variety of things…mostly, technical papers I have presented at conferences through work, technical patents I have been awarded, books I have written…stuff like that, but occasionally, it will turn up information about other people named Karen Badger…like one who was murdered!  Yikes!

Pen name vs no pen name? What was your rationale?  When I first began writing, I wrote under the name kd bard (all lower case like kd lang).  I did this because at that time, I was not out, and still married to my sons’ father.  When my first novel was published in 2005 (On a Wing and a Prayer), I published it under my real name, and it’s been that way ever since.

Besides writing THE END, how do you KNOW a story is over and you should conclude it?  The story is over when it feels like it’s over.  When I wrote “Over The Crescent Moon”, I wrote “The End” at the end of the final chapter, but I had this nagging feeling that there were so many open loopholes and unanswered questions left behind, so I reread the entire book once more and ended up adding an epilogue that completely changed the character of the whole book. THAT was when I knew the story was complete.

What do you think of the ‘explosion’ of available titles for the Lesfic Reader that have come onto the market vs say 5-10-20 years ago? Is this a good thing or bad?  I personally believe there is enough readership out there to support all of us.  What I question, however, is that with the increase in the number of self-published authors…and especially with the high cost of editing…how many of these newly self-published authors are skipping the traditional editing step?  Editing is by far the most expensive part of publishing, and without a larger publishing house behind you, it is sometimes difficult to realize a return on investment with sales.  I understand why someone might skip the editing step…but it does nothing toward improving the credibility of indie or self-published authors when errors are not corrected prior to publishing.  There has been a lot of hype out there about how self-published books are of lower quality that those put out by the bigger publishers.  I can’t help but think that might be why.

Are you a quiet person or verbose in person?  I’m not quiet…but I don’t think I’m ‘in-your-face’ verbose either.  I’m somewhere in between.  I try to be pleasant and kind to everyone.  I love meeting new people and I make a point of dragging ‘rookies’ into the mix to help them get their feet wet.

Is there something in life you wish you had been braver about? I sometimes wish I had realized sooner that I was gay (I came out at 40).  I think I might have subconsciously realized it, but I didn’t acknowledge it until Xena came on the scene.  But if I am being honest with myself, if I had come out sooner in life, I would have not had my two sons and grandchildren (who I love and adore), and I would not have met my wife (who I also love and adore).  I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, so my lack of bravery was meant to be.

If you were stuck on an island with only three books, which three would you like them to be?  A book on how to survive on an island, a picture book with my family and friends in it, and a book on how to cook fish so it doesn’t make you vomit (I hate fish).  LOL!

If you were stuck in an elevator with three people, who would you like them to be?  Rachel Maddow (my secret girlfriend #1), Sandra Bullock (my secret girlfriend #2), and my wife (my not-so-secret, real-life girlfriend).

20 years from now your books are assigned to a women’s studies class. What would you want them to say about your body of work?  That I wrote about strong, loving women who did not shy away from challenges in their lives. 

Do you consider yourself successful at this thing called writing? What makes you think that?  I feel successful because I love what I do and it makes me…and others, happy.  I have 18 books currently published (10 of which are part of a series).  Of the 8 stand-alone books I have written, five of them have won six awards among them.  That is nearly a 63% success rate.  To me, that is success.

Were there any teachers that stood out through school?  Anyone that made it bearable and that you remember fondly?  I grew up in Catholic schools, so I had mostly nuns for teachers, and for the life of me, I don’t know why they were so mean all the time   They truly scared the bejesus out of most students.  I did have one lay teacher named Beatrice Lafayette.  She was my sixth-grade teacher.  She was married, and she was strict, but kind.  She was such a departure from the nuns that I could help but like her.  There was also a teacher I had in high school named Mrs. MacDonald, who was my first straight-girl crush.  She was my typing teacher and I adored her.

Do you enjoy debates?  Any particular subjects?  I am a passionate liberal and I will happily get into political debates with anyone…at the displeasure of my wife, who is left of center, but not as far left as I am. 

If you had a time machine would you go forward or back in time and why?  I think I would go back in time to do anything possible to stop the world from becoming the polarized and dangerous place it is today. The first thing I would do is to convince Donald Trump’s and Mitch McConnell’s parents to use better birth control…or at the very least, I would figure out why these two individuals…among others (some on both sides of the aisle), feel their own personal interests are more important than the interests of the country.  I would also do what I could to prevent the invention of assault weapons of any kind…even those used in wars.  I think things are so broken today that going forward in time would only allow you to pick up the broken pieces and try to put them back together again.  Going backward in time might give you the opportunity to prevent them from breaking in the first place.

Do you believe in astrological signs and what they mean? Do you think you follow your own and are stereotypical of what it says about your birthday/year?  Astrology is only as good as what you read into it.  If you read your horoscope in the morning, you can subconsciously make some of the predictions come true.  If you read your horoscope in the evening, you can vaguely equate something that happened in your day to the horoscope prediction.  I am a Sagittarian and my wife is a Cancer.  In astrology, we are supposed to be totally incompatible, but in the Chinese Horoscope, me as a Monkey and she as a Dragon are a match made in heaven…so I guess it’s up to you to decide which one applies.  I do think it is uncanny that the personality and behavior traits of a Sag or Monkey match me pretty closely!

Toe ring or belly button ring if you HAD to have one?  Toe ring – no way.  Belly button ring – I had one for about 20 years, but it rubbed on my waistband and became infected, so I took it out.

If you were the love child of two great authors who would they be and why?  I have no clue!

What is the scariest thing you have ever attempted in your life?  Sky diving. It was terrifying but amazing!  I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Have you ever stolen anything?  No – not even as a child.

If you could make out with one character from a movie, who would it be and why?  Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) in Miss Congeniality.  Why?…Why the hell not!  It’s Sandra Bullock!  I mean…she could use those handcuffs on me any time!

Is there one scene from your book that is the most memorable?  In my latest book, A Shadow in Love, the first time Zan and Kenzie spend the night together.  Zan is a total novice, having been raised in an alien society where love and affection were signs of weakness.  The multiple times they make love throughout that first night are life-changing for Zan.  You can feel the passion and emotion jump off the page.

What is the one thing that surprised you about becoming a published author?  The first time I attended a writer’s convention was two years after my first novel was published.  I was awestruck, to say the least.  I was almost completely unknown at the time, but there were several readers who approached me to say how much they enjoyed On A Wing and A Prayer.  It was very humbling.

What a year!

For those of you who don’t follow me personally, you may not know that I was suffering from fog-brain the last two years due to covid that I got in January 2020.  In December 2021 I went to get my 3rd booster because I was under the impression that I was immunocompromised from having cancer/chemo/radiation in 2001 (I’m not I learned later).  I did however have a reaction to the shot which made my doctor order an MRI.  They found a growth in my brain that they wanted to biopsy…immediately.  In January I found out a grade school friend, a college friend, and a fan of my books all died, the same weekend I found out about the surgery.  So, I cried, a LOT!  This strangely seemed to have lifted my covid fog-brain.  Maybe it was a coincidence of timing, it had, after all, been two years, I don’t know.

Surgery and its recovery took a while and I was impatient.  For the first time in two years, I could think again!  Fortunately, the tumor was benign.  I’m a little slower than I used to be and some of that could be attributed to age. 

When we got the awards announced and ordered we never considered that weather would be a factor.  Covid, yes, there are fewer people out there producing orders, taking them, shipping them, etc.  As a result, it was with some alarm that 60% of the awards that came in, were damaged.  I was not happy.  We inspect each and every award for spelling, chips, and the usual damages you would expect but this was unanticipated and with so high an amount.  Now, waiting on the reorder of awards, is frustrating. 

I pride myself on being conscientious, efficient, and thorough, but there is no planning for others’ mistakes or the weather.  These are factors we have no control over.  We appreciate those who enter our awards and we hope the winners will be patient as we slowly, and surely, get the awards out and to you.  Please contact us directly if you have any questions.

K’Anne Meinel

Awards Coordinator

Meet TJ Dallas 2021 Lesfic Bard Award Winner for Anthology with A Shot of AbSINthe

Why do you write? I enjoy escaping from reality; the world is on fire at the moment, so to escape, even for a short period of time, is very comforting. Also with erotica, it’s an excellent chance to try out all sorts of fun fantasies!

What is the first piece you ever wrote? It was awful! Well, it was sort of a first chapter of a paranormal/crime thing, you know how every crime show starts with the police turning up at the scene of the crime? It was kinda’ like that, but it didn’t go very far.

What is the hardest part of writing a book? Getting started! For me, coming up with the actual story is always quite difficult. I’m a pantser, so when I’m first trying to come up with a new book, I have no idea where to start, what’s going to happen, and whether it’s going to be any good. I sometimes wish I had a bit more of a clear idea before I start writing as that would make things easier, but this probably isn’t something that most people struggle with, lol.

Do you have any writing rituals? And can you tell us about your writing discipline. No, I don’t think I have any particular rituals. I’m purposefully grateful that I’m an indie author, so I don’t have any deadlines. If I have any sort of deadline, my creativity goes out the window and my writer’s block hits with full force. I don’t give myself any challenges either, like a certain amount of words each day or anything like that. I always write in silence on my desktop computer, but nothing too exciting.

Who do you have fans compare you to (other authors)? I’ve been compared to a couple of my favourite authors, which is AMAZING! Lexa Luthor and Meghan O’Brien.

What are you working on now? The final book in the Cardinal series (The Day of Wrath) is with the editor at the moment, so the newest thing I’m writing is something completely different. It’s the first thing I’ve written with different characters, and I’m also writing in 3rd person POV at the moment, which is different for me. It’s an erotic f/f romance inspired by a Scottish legend and involves a sexy butch Fae Queen! It’s in the very early stages at this point, so who knows where it’ll end up.

What genres do you normally write in? I normally write in erotica and erotic romance.

What was the first book you ever published? The Bartender’s Pride (book 1 in the Pride trilogy)

What are your favorite character traits that you cannot resist? Submissive butch characters are a particular favourite, but I also like fearless, courageous, and sarcastic/witty.

What kind of jobs have you have in the ‘real’ world? Tanning salon assistant, waitress, bartender, pub/nightclub manager, and mortgage and protection advisor.

Were you good at English? Not bad, but not the best, lol. I actually think I got a grade C in my Higher exam. I’ve always been quite an avid reader though.

Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you? I do as much as I possibly can, but then I pass it through to a professional editor and an awesome proofreader. Shoutouts to Lara and Janice! Thank you for all your help! 🙂

What do you think of “trailers” for books? I think they’re great! I’m quite rubbish when it comes to any sort of video and video editing though, so if someone would like to offer their services to make one for me, I’d be very grateful, lol! I’d love to get more into TikTok but I’m not very savvy with it.

Did you format your own book? For the first two books, I had the help of a vanity press, Lulu. They’ve stopped offering the service now though, so I had to learn to do it on my own. I do format them myself using my word software (LibreOffice). I still do my paperbacks via Lulu, and I do my eBooks via Kindle Create on Amazon.

In what formats is your book available? All of my books are available in eBook and paperback, and the first three (The Pride Trilogy) are all available in audiobook too, narrated by the amazing Scottish narrator Scarlett Rose.

How do you relax? Reading, napping, writing, or watching TV.

What is your favorite positive saying? “Good enough is good enough.” It’s a reminder that perfection is impossible, and no matter how perfect you think it is, there’s going to be someone that doesn’t like it anyway. Which reminds me of another two favourite quotes; “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world and there’ll still be someone that doesn’t like peaches,” and “You can’t please everyone.”

Are you a quiet person or verbose in person? Quite quiet, I’m a total introvert in real life.

Toe ring or belly button ring if you HAD to have one? Toe ring.

Meet Author Sue Graham, 2021 Lesfic Bard Award Winner for Romance with Playing with Fire

Where were you born?

Harare, Zimbabwe.

Where did you grow up?

Mainly in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe – a small town full of colourful characters and the source of many distant, happy memories.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I started reading and writing later than most kids. I owe a great deal to the headmaster of a school to which I transferred at the age of 9. He realized that I have dyslexia and I began to work with a specialist. Before that, I used to sit in the back of the classroom and daydream, having been written off by my teachers. When I began to find reading and writing easier, suddenly a new world opened up for me as I realised that other people imagined stories just as I did and wrote them down to share them. I wanted to do the same.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Above all, to be true to the telling of the story and be authentic to my own voice. I want to look back and say that my words tell a story that has value, that has a message, and which transports the reader into another realm where they experience something new that enthralls them and makes them think and feel.

When you are writing each novel. Are the experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Playing with Fire must have drawn from experiences in my own life, yet it was entirely unconscious. The characters are not based on any specific people, but a collage of observations of people, known and unknown to me, my understanding of human nature and undoubtedly some part of myself.

My recent novel, For the Love of Life, is set in an African wildlife reserve and draws on my experience in the African bush as an ex-honorary ranger and as an amateur game photographer. Although fictionalised, many personal experiences underly this story.

Do you have any writing rituals? And can you tell us about your writing discipline.

I don’t and I’m probably the most undisciplined writer there is. I don’t have set times to write, and I’ll regularly wander off to let the story simmer if I feel it’s not flowing. However, once the story is there like a movie in my head, I become a slave to it and I will spend long hours writing. I’m also known to stagger out of bed at ridiculous hours in the night to get something written before it disappears from my consciousness.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I always have an outline in my head to start with, a beginning and an end, and a path between the two. However, as I write I often see a better avenue to take and so will swerve off the outline before returning to it. I love the aspect of discovery that makes the journey that much more enthralling and the characters more authentic.

Do you think a book can have too much detail it?  Do you think it can detract from the story?

Settings are important in my stories, because they take place in Southern Africa and not many people can relate to that unless they have lived or visited here. I try to be careful in building the setting and provide details along the way without impeding the flow of the story. As a reader, I’ll skip long paragraphs of superfluous detail.

What are your major sources for research?  Do you use books or google?  Even movies?

I read extensively and will devour tons of non-fiction that relates to a story I have brewing. I love maps and have a few framed maps decorating the walls around the house. I’ll Google for snippets of information, but I’m careful about sources and fact checking. I also interview experts and people who have first-hand experience of what I’m researching.

What is the easiest part of writing a book?

Once the story is clear in my mind, sitting for hours and writing is the part I love most.

What is the hardest part of writing a book?

Marketing! I’m such an introvert that putting myself out there is completely out of my comfort zone. I suck at marketing but it’s so important if the words you’ve laboured over for months are to find readers. Marketing takes a great deal of time and effort and I find this even more onerous as I would much prefer to be writing the next book.

How do you market your books?

Only on social media currently, through Lesfic Facebook groups and on my Twitter account. That is about to change as I’m looking to broaden the scope of my online marketing. Being in South Africa, I can’t attend conferences and book-related events as many US and UK authors do. We just don’t have enough sapphic fiction happening here for these sort of events to be feasible. I’m setting up a blog as well so please keep an eye open for it!

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

After I have the story arc clear in mind, it takes about 4 to 6 months to write, and then there’s the editing and proofreading which can take at least another two months. Editing and proofreading can take longer as I am fastidious about word choice and flow of each sentence.

Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?

I used a proofreader for Playing with Fire which was helpful, but found I’m so obsessed with finding the right word for the moment in the text, that I’m my own line editor and proofreader. My second book, For the Love of Life, was completely edited and proofread by me.

Did you format your own book?

I do everything myself, from the first word on the page to the final publishing, so I do my own formatting as well. The only thing I don’t do is the book cover design.

In what formats is your book available?

My books are on Amazon in ebook and paperback formats.

What genres do you normally write in?

I’ve written romance with Playing with Fire, and just recently published a mystery/suspense called For the Love of Life. I intend to experiment across genres and have an historical novel (the backstory of Sophie from Playing with Fire) also in the works.

What genres do you typically read?

I read very broadly and if a book is well-written with well-developed characters and a relatable plot, I’ll be happily immersed in it regardless of the genre.

What do you do to get book reviews?

I rely on readers to review my books, for they are the most important people in the whole writing process. For my debut, Playing with Fire, I approached a few “official” reviewers without any success. I don’t do that now. I also don’t send out Advanced Copy Reviews (ARCs). All the reviews for my books on Goodreads and Amazon are from readers who have taken the time to rate the book or write something about it. I am extremely grateful to all of them.

How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?

It is a slow process to build up reader reviews, especially given that I do not actively seek them through “official” reviewers or ARCs. I’m going to have to do something about this, aren’t I? Don’t get me started on my lack of marketing skills again!

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

I’ve only had one bad review for Playing with Fire and at first, as a debut author, I was shaken. I soon realized that this is healthy as you can’t please everyone all the time. I also realized that once you put your book out into the public sphere, it’s a product, and it must stand on its own merits. Readers have the right to say what they want to say. All we can hope is that they are fair and kind.

Pen name vs no pen name? What was your rationale?

I don’t use a pen name. I did think that perhaps I should, but then I accepted that I wanted to own my work, its story, characters and how it reflects on me. I was naïve.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

Having done that with Playing with Fire, I don’t think it works. It didn’t raise the profile of the book and didn’t lead to reviews. I think that perhaps there’s a lot of long TBR lists that grew by one! Perhaps, they will get around to reading it sometime in the future.

Tell us about your new release.

My latest is the first book in a series, a mystery/suspense with a slow burn love story, called For the Love of Life. It’s set in a South African wildlife reserve and tells the story of two determined and courageous women who come together to fight in the war against wildlife poaching, using their skills in Hi-Technology. When the conflict escalates leading to heartbreaking loses, they begin to realize just how dangerous it is to take on the international criminal syndicate behind the slaughtering of endangered wildlife.

For the Love of Life takes you on a safari, but with a difference. It reveals the fragile and contradictory magnificence of the African wilderness but also takes you beyond the wonder and awe of experiencing such a bounty of life to what it takes to protect it and preserve it.

This book was written to entertain and to transport you to my world, but also to raise awareness of the devastation of wildlife poaching in Africa, today, now. All royalties after covering costs are to be donated to rhino protection. It’s getting rave reviews so please give it a go and know that you’re contributing to an important cause by doing so.

What kind of heroine is in your current book?

Danny is an IT expert who has dedicated herself to using her skills to study and preserve the wildlife in the reserve. She’s stubborn to the point of obsessive in her search for a hi-tech solution to the scourge of wildlife poaching. As the poaching war escalates, the last thing she needs is an attractive and imposing tourist showing interest in her and her work. Danny is intelligent, independent and can be surprisingly impulsive. She’s difficult to fathom, until that is, you get passed the shields.

What are you working on now?

I have two calling to me now: the next in the series following For the Love of Life, and an historical novel that goes back in time to tell the story of Sophie, a character from Playing with Fire. Which one will win out, I have no idea!

Do you hear from your readers much?  What kinds of things do they say?

I have readers contacting me through email and direct messaging. Some say I need to tell Sophie’s story after Playing with Fire, while other more recent ones are asking when the follow up to For the Love of Life will be ready. I love hearing from readers and deeply appreciate the time they take in contacting me. It’s very special hearing from people far away who’ve read my book.

How do you relax?

I’ve just taken the dogs for a walk, but I also take a day off every so often and head into the Cape Point Nature Reserve which is a short drive from where I live. I take my camera and can spend hours watching a troupe of baboon or a herd of antelope. I also garden and bribe birds to visit by keeping the bird feeders full.

Meet Benna Boss, 2021 Lesfic Bard Award Winner for Mystery with Investigating Helen

Where were you born? California

Where did you grow up? Michigan

Do you have any siblings? Yes. Three!

What were your parent’s professions? Mom was a teacher. Dad was an engineer.

Why do you write? It makes me happy!

What do you think makes good writing? Anything that connects to people. It is that string between writer and reader that—when thick and strong—is the sign of good writing.

When you are writing each novel. Are the experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? The situations are mostly pure imagination, but the characters and their interactions come from observation or personal knowledge.

What is the hardest part of writing a book? Finishing the first draft!

What is the easiest part of writing a book? Starting the first draft!

What are you working on now? I am working on a cozy mystery with a dog walker as the amateur sleuth.

Do you write full-time or part-time? Unfortunately, I have a couple of other jobs, so I do it part-time.

Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when? I try to.

Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand? My trusty laptop!

Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers? I am part of an anthology of short stories being released on June 1 with other writers in the Rainbow Romance Writers group. It is called “Pride and Passion”.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you? I used to be a punster when I was writing contemporary romance. But now that I write romantic suspense and mystery, I have to do a little planning. But I still tend to keep it to a minimum. I love seeing where the story takes me!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A firefighter. Then I got diagnosed with asthma and ended up with an Anthropology degree. So that didn’t work out J

What genres do you normally write in? Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense, Cozy Mystery

What was the first book you ever published? It’s called “Love on the Rocks” and I published it under the pen name “Kay Harris”

When did you first sign with (your current publisher)? Investigating Helen is my first book with Flashpoint Publications!!!

How did you celebrate your signing? There was wine involved.

What was the craziest thing you’ve ever done when it came to a storyline in your book? My first book “Love on the Rocks” had a hitchhiking park ranger end up on a rock star’s tour bus.

Tell us about your new release. Investigating Helen is a mystery and romantic suspense jammed together in a short, fast-paced story starring a surgeon and a true crime podcaster. In this story whodunit is less important than how the heroines will prove to the SFPD it was the real murderer who did the deed and not Dr. Helen Nims herself.

What kind of heroine is in your current book? Both heroines are strong but in different ways. Helen is quiet and appears to have little confidence. But that is deceptive. A competent surgeon with a surprising propensity to take control in the bedroom, she proves that there is more to the doctor than meets the eye. Agnes Coates is the powerhouse she appears to be, using her place behind the microphone to find the truth.

What are your favorite character traits that you cannot resist? The inability to take sh$t from anybody. That is very fun to write!

What part of the female physique captures your attention? Definitely the neck.

As an author and essentially the “creator” of your character, do you find yourself attached to her in a personal way? All the time. Sometimes as a friend. Sometimes as a person I desire.

If you could actually meet the character of one of your books, the exact woman you’ve conjured up in both looks and personality, which one would it be and why? The heroine of my new cozy mystery series. Flashpoint will be publishing the first one later this year. Her name is Lemon Lister, and I think we’d be best friends.

If you could do a DREAM job (other than writing) what would it be and why? Have you used it in any of your stories? I had my dream job once – Park Ranger at Yellowstone – and yes, I have used it in a story.

What kind of jobs have you have in the ‘real’ world? In addition to Park Ranger, I have worked in a number of roles in a number of non-profits, taught community college, and once gave tours at Hoover Dam.

If you could rewrite a CLASSIC novel as a lesfic novel, which would you choose and why? I apologize if I am the gazillionth person to pick this – but it’s the truth. Pride and Prejudice.

Some quickies (pardon the pun—pick twelve):

Satin or Lace?  Satin

Hot or Cold? Hot

Camera or Canvas? Canvas

Denim or Leather?  Denim

Talking or Texting? Talking

Irish or Italian? Irish

Thunder or Lightning? Lightening

The sound of a heartbeat or a crackling fire? Fire

Holding hands or Holding her attention? Hands

Crayons or Paint? Paint

Mountains or Beach?  Mountains

Rain or Sunshine? Sunshine

If you could meet anyone famous, PAST or PRESENT who would it be, and why? Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I don’t feel like that needs any explanation.

If you could have anyone play the main character of one of your books, any actress, who would you choose and why? Jodi Foster because she can play literally anyone and pull it off. She’s a genius.

How long on average does it take you to write a book? Depends on how stuck I get. On a good run, three months.

Do you ever get writer’s block? Ugh. Yes.

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block? I got nothing….

Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you? I do think that is one of the advantages of traditional publishing, having an editor. I have self-published a few books as well and contracted people to edit. Honestly, it is a lot of work to find the right person, and I much prefer getting assigned an editor by my publisher.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process? I do! I think the cover is very important. That is also an advantage of traditionally publishing. They get you a cover designer and deal with all those details themselves. If you don’t mind letting go of the control, it is a good way to go. However, if you like being in complete control of that, self-publishing is a great option. There are a lot of really good cover designers out there.

How do you relax? I walk my dog!