30 Days of Secrets: Amy Jo Fleming

Secrets – A Lawyer’s Tale

I keep secrets for a living. It’s been 10 years since I practiced law and now I do legal writing and research but I still remember many of those secrets. As a lawyer, you have to ask the relevant questions, and then you have to keep it all a secret. You learn the unpleasant family secrets for divorce clients, and the strategic, financial, and even trade secrets for your business clients. In almost every case, you learn what kind of a person your client really is.

Ironically, over the years some of the women whose divorces I did became good friends. They were grateful that I asked the questions that I needed to, but didn’t pry for more details about their secrets. They were grateful that I was non-judgmental and just focussed on what needed to be done to untangle a failed marriage.

Keeping client secrets is not hard as a professional. The penalties are so great if you screw up. You will be disciplined by the Law Society; you will lose your job and your reputation. But keeping all those secrets has changed me as a person. I got in the habit of not talking about my work, which is often the most important part of my day, to anyone – my family or my friends. Even a few details can reveal a client’s identity and I became very closed and careful about what I had to say.

Keeping secrets started with my clients and then extended to my whole life. Because I was a good listener and didn’t repeat confidences, people started to confide in me, even strangers. I have no duty to keep their secrets, but I do. Just because that’s who I’ve become.

Living with the secrets is a little harder. Who abused their children? Who used their children to get back at their partner? Whose parents are losing money they loaned to a child? Who is the secret shareholder in a business?

I‘ve lost friends because I knew too much information. People just assume that you are judging them. I know that it’s about them, and not about me, but the loss of the friend is still the same.

Once I did an adoption for a teenage mom who had carried her baby to term and selected parents to adopt the child. The mom was strikingly tall and very beautiful. The next time I saw her she was striding towards me in a shopping center. She took a quick look at me, turned on her heel and went off in another direction. I reminded her of her secret.

Sometimes clients keep secrets from their lawyers. I don’t think of this as lying, but simply as clients wanting to keep their secrets safe. If we want to keep a secret, we need to be prepared to tell a lie and then sometimes more lies. Once I had a client lie to me about her grandson. She said the boy was her own son. She was dying of cancer and I was drawing up her will. After she died, I learned that the boy wasn’t hers. She never adopted him, she just raised him as her own. I still give my head a shake when I think about it. Truth be told, she had no authority to appoint a guardian for him.

A few weeks ago, a very young doctor asked me if I had ever done illegal drugs. I was surprised by the question and caught myself automatically evaluating the potential implications of an answer. I am a lawyer, after all.

Secrets are a common theme in fiction. In Death at Bandit Creek, the heroine, Charlotte Fraser, has secrets – innocent secrets that she keeps to maintain her position as a schoolteacher in Bandit Creek. The soiled dove, Annie Hamilton has a secret as well, a secret that is used to manipulate her into doing things she hates. The biggest secret of all is what happened to Eileen MacArthur, the previous teacher.

All of these secrets and all of the lies told to protect them join together to create the mystery behind Death at Bandit Creek.

Amy Jo will be giving away a copy of her novella, Death at Bandit Creek, to a lucky commenter!

* The draw has been made. The winner is Mary Preston! *

30 Days of Secrets: Stephanie Queen

Do You Want to Know a Secret?

My upcoming novel is about a superstar basketball player who gets taken down a peg by a woman in the habit of taking men down a peg. She’s been accused of murder because of her habit.  But I digress, because my secret is not about the story. It’s about how I did my research.

Long, long ago, back in the Larry Bird and Michael Jordan era of NBA basketball, I was a fan and I thought about how single-minded an athlete had to be to achieve world championship status.  So I did some research that would later go into my soon to be released novel Playing the Game.

Research you say? What need I do besides go to a few basketball games, read a few books and follow the sports page?  Oh no, I did so much more. The revelation is about what I had the nerve to do for research.

I didn’t tell anyone I was going to do it because I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. But I figured what the heck. So I called the Boston Celtics office and told them I was writing a book.

They did the following for me: gave me a tour of the garden including the locker rooms and all the behind the scenes facilities (no big deal you say—you’ve seen it all on TV); next, they invited me to attend a practice, but not just to watch—I had access to all the players and coach for interviews, which I took advantage of (well, that’s something…); AND finally, they gave me a media pass to attend a game which meant I entered through the secret back door, sat at a courtside table, hung out in the media room at half time with all the sports guys and gals and after the game I hung out by the locker rooms for post-game interviews. Talk about soaking up atmosphere.  The one thing they did NOT let me do: go inside the team locker room after the game. Working media with deadlines only were allowed inside. Shucks.

Anyway, that’s my secret Boston Celtics adventure and how I did research for my upcoming novel Playing the Game. And it all began with that hush-hush bold telephone call.

Stephanie is giving away a copy of her recent novel, The Throwbacks, to a lucky commenter!

Stephanie Queen’s Short Bio aka Personal Tid-bits:

I have a cat named Kitty  (don’t criticize).
My writing has been called quirky. (whatever that means).
Dr. Seuss often inspires my writing (see quirky).
I’m in a Master’s degree program in Literature & Creative Writing at Harvard University (no, I’m not kidding)
My next novel, Playing the Game, is not as lighthearted as I generally write—it’s a departure. But it’s about one of my other (than writing) passions – sports.
I’m a jockette (see above passions – sports).
If Pollyanna had a twitter handle, I’d follow her (she’s a fictional character right?)
I have a hard time taking bios seriously.

If you really want to know more, visit my website at www.StephanieQueen.com, follow me on twitter #StephanieQueen, or catch up with me on facebook.

* The draw has been made. The winner is Anne! *

30 Days of Secrets: Alyssa Linn Palmer

What kind of secrets do I keep?

Things that people tell me. Sometimes they’re little things, passing comments. Other times, they’re big.

To someone else, the biggest secret might seem small, but to the teller, it could be the most immense, life-changing fact of all time.  A secret shame, of not being able to resist temptation. A secret love, of the woman she’s always fancied, though she can hardly dare to let anyone think she’s not straight. A secret fear, of failing at a new job.

Being someone’s confidante can be a tenuous balance, knowing when to give advice, and when to just listen. A confidante doesn’t judge the teller’s actions unless those actions hurt someone else. A confidante provides reassurance. A confidante gives advice if it’s asked for.

Do you have a confidante?

I read an article recently that spoke of a study that discovered the number of confidantes a person has – on average – has decreased from 3 to 2. Two people to tell personal things to. Only two.

Think of how many friends you have. Think of your entire circle of friends: in the flesh and online. How many of those people are you comfortable with telling absolutely anything about your life, no holds barred? …. Not many, I’m betting.

If you only have one, or two, why is that?

I know I tend to compartmentalize my friends. I have friends from work, friends from school, friends from growing up, friends with similar movie and music tastes… and it’s not often that those mixes meet. However, I am fortunate in having 3 or 4 people with whom I can talk about anything. They aren’t all ‘real life’ friends, but the beauty of online friends is that if you click with someone half a world away, you aren’t reduced to waiting for snail mail.

Prohibited PassionIt’s difficult to be isolated, as Ruth finds out in PROHIBITED PASSION. There is no one in town that is a good friend, someone she can confide in. Her deepest secrets eat away at her. It isn’t until she finds a friend that she’s able to come into her own.

Take time to cultivate good friends. Even if you don’t think you need someone to confide in right now, there will be a time when you’ll wish you had a close friend to tell all your secrets.

Alyssa is giving away a copy of her novella PROHIBITED PASSION to a lucky commenter!

* The draw has been made. The winner is bn100! *

30 Days of Secrets: Steena Holmes

Secrets. There’s something so simple and yet sinister about that one single word. It sparks our imagination. It fills us with fear. One word that holds the power to destroy lives, fulfill desires and literally change destinies.

No wonder so many writers are enthralled.

Writing a post for the 30 Days of Secrets hasn’t been easy. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a more honest blog tour as this one. I am honored to be a part of it!

Okay, secrets. I have my share of them. Most of the time I’m a pretty open book. I don’t hold much back and I am a firm believer in living a life to the fullest – especially when it comes to being ‘real’. And I can’t be real if I’m hiding things. Except – sometimes having secrets is necessary. Sometimes being an open book isn’t always the best way to live life. Sometimes it’s okay to keep secrets. Maybe you’re not ready to deal with the consequences. Maybe someone else isn’t ready. Maybe sharing a secret would be too harmful to yourself or others. Or maybe – just maybe – you’re not quite ready. It could be as simple as that.

For ten years of my married life, I held a secret close. So close, that I didn’t even recognize it.

I was a pastor for ten years with my husband. I was an open book to everyone I met. Just to give you an example of how open I am – I had been raped in bible college, had an eating disorder, at times hated the life I was living…you know, the basics – but I was always open about that stuff in the church. I didn’t want a youth in our church, or a newly married woman or even a new mother to experience the nightmares that I had. If I could be open about what I went through and how it changed me – and if that openness could help someone – then I was all for it. Open book right?

No. It took me ten years to realize something deep inside of myself. It took me telling my husband I couldn’t handle being a pastor or being married to a pastor anymore. It took me being willing to walk away from my marriage for me to face the truth. To face a secret I had buried deep inside.

I was mad at God. Mad. Not just angry. Not sad. Not even questioning who He was/is in my life. I was mad. I had 10 years of deep deep anger built inside of me that finally came out. It was ugly. I was ugly. Oh – I was ugly, ouch.

There you have it – my deep, dark secret. It’s not much. But it was life altering. Destiny changing. A pastor being mad at God and openly admitting it. You don’t hear that too often. You probably should.

In my Bandit Creek novella – Devil Unknown – my main character is a pastor who walked away from God. He was angry. At God. At life. Angry for giving up everything, sacrificing everything that was precious to him – all in the name of God. He couldn’t live the lie anymore, so he walked away. But there was a secret about Nathan that even he didn’t know about. A secret that literally cost people their lives.

I loved creating Nathan. I think it was his vulnerability that drew me to him. He was able to do what I wished I could have done years ago. Be honest. It’s sad, but it took me over ten years to realize that it’s okay to be mad at God. I thought it was something I could never admit. A shameful secret that could never be acknowledged. Wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being mad at God. Nothing. Sometimes the things life throws our way is awful. And it’s okay to blame God for it. The key however, is being able to move past that anger. If I had been smart, I would have been honest in blaming God for my rape. I would have been honest in blaming God for destroying the girl that I was inside and for creating a woman I grew to hate. Was it really God’s fault. No. But it’s okay to blame him. To have a pity party or even a temper tantrum. He has big shoulders. He can handle it.

It took me a few years to actually work through my anger. I accepted my secret anger against God and took my time dealing with it. I didn’t want or even need a quick fix. It was as if I had turned the page and opened a new chapter in my own story. A chapter that took forever to write and even to end. But that’s okay. I refused to open another page in my story until I was ready. If I had been smart, I would have started the process years ago. I would be a different woman than I am now. Maybe not so cynical and selfish. A little more happier. Giving. But…would I change the life I’ve lived? No. It made me into who I am today. I can use that to create my stories. To help my girls steer away from poor decisions. Living a life as an open book has a lot to say about itself. Especially if the one living it can realize that some pages don’t always need to be turned.

Steena is giving away a copy of DEVIL UNKNOWN to one lucky commenter!

* The draw has been made. The winner is books4me! *

Carla Interviews Kymber Morgan About ‘Shafted’

Hi, I’m Carla Roma and welcome to Bandit Creek, a small town with a mountain of secrets. And I’ll bet Kymber doesn’t want me to tell one of hers, but since it’s pivotal to how we met, I’m going to anyway. There I was blasting along, enjoying the scenery you can only find on the back-country trails of Southern Alberta, when I glanced to my right and saw the front tire of a motor cross bike, same make as my own, spinning in the air. Curious I turned off the trail and that’s when I first saw Kymber flat on her back having dumped her bike.

Kymber: Oh sure you had to go there, didn’t you? Okay, but let’s make sure all the facts are out then. You forgot to mention it was the first time I ever rode one solo – and before you say a word – yes, I was trying to impress a man.

Carla: I wasn’t going to say a word about tall, dark and…

Kymber: Sure you weren’t, anyway I’d gotten all suited up, dug deep for the courage I’d had in spades the night before around the campfire – when it seemed like such a good idea – but only found enough to get myself in trouble.

Carla: How so?

Kymber: Well, I found enough to fire up the bike but not enough to think clearly when I popped the clutch and the thing took off like some kind of motorized bucking bronco – which wasn’t the worst part. You see, I’d started out in a large meadow with only one solitary tree in the middle, and yup you guessed it, not only did I run smack dab into it, I did it in front of the aforementioned man and his best friend. Next thing I knew I was lying in the grass with the bike on top of me still running and a good helping of egg on my face.

Carla: I’m thinking that’s about where I come in right?

Kymber: Sure is. So there I am staring up at the sky, hoping my goggles are big enough to hide my beet red face, when all of a sudden this neon pink helmet comes into my line of vision.

Carla: I loved that helmet.

Kymber: Yeah and the pink motor cross boots that matched were quite the thing too.

Carla: Still have those you know.

Kymber: And I still have the sign you made up for the back of my helmet that day. The one that read: ‘Danger Student Biker’.

Carla: (giggles) I forgot about that. Hey, so what ever happened to the guy?

Kymber: (winks) I married him.

Carla: No kidding, that’s awesome and if I remember right, he’s a bit of a handsome alpha type. Is he a source of inspiration for your stories?

Kymber: (smiles)

Carla: Okay I get it. No kiss and tell. So on another note then, as with many of the authors I’ve had the privilege of working with on the Bandit Creek project, your story isn’t just fun it’s unique. Where did the idea come from?

Kymber: Thanks, Carla, I take that as huge compliment and am very proud to be a part of this project. As for the idea, given the release date schedule, there’s a bit of a Valentine’s Day connection, so it started with ‘what if Cupid got out of control?

Carla:  You do have a tendency to go toward the more obscure mythological beings for your main characters, like Anteros in this one. Why is that?

Kymber: When it comes to mythology and legends, I prefer to borrow characters people don’t necessarily have preconceived notions about, particularly for a hero or heroine. I can have a lot of fun taking them places it would be hard to go with the more famous ones. This way the characters are free to develop as the story flows without being hemmed in.

Carla:  I also loved what you did with the supporting characters. I see Cupid and company in whole new light, especially the men, whew, and thanks for that by the way.

Kymber: (laughing) You’re welcome. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

Carla: I did, and it’s been fun reminiscing about how we met. We had a lot of fun on the trail that day, well, once you got your bike back up on its wheels that is.

Kymber: (laughing harder) Yes, it has, and thanks to the warning on my helmet, at least the other riders out that day knew to keep their distance until I had a better handle on things.

Carla:  Happy to help anytime. Now before we end up too far down memory lane, I want to thank you for coming by, Kymber. It’s been great talking about both our ‘mudder’ days and your book SHAFTED which is coming out February 1, 2012 on Amazon.com and Smashwords.com. You can find out more about Kymber and her writing at www.kymbermorgan.com and if you have any questions for either us, please feel free to ask here. We’d be more than happy to answer.

30 Days of Secrets: JL Langley

I have to admit I don’t have many secrets. One that may or may not come as a surprise is that the only gay romances I read are works by my critique partners. Obviously I love gay romance or I wouldn’t write it, but I’ve very picky about my reading. I mostly read historical romance specifically in the regency era.

My newest secret? I’m a chocolate hoarder. Let me give you some background. I’m a chocoholic. I once got my sister in trouble for stealing her Halloween candy.  Yes you read that right. I ate her candy and she got in trouble. The situation went like this:

My sister: “Mooooooommmm… She ate my chocolate!”

Mom: “What? Are you really bothering me with this? You know she can’t help herself. If you wanted it that bad you’d hide it better now get out of here and stop whining.”

Me: <big smile and a wave to my glaring sister>

Now, in an effort to buff up and get healthier,  I’ve cut way back on my chocolate intake. I used to go through a bag of York Mints a day.  My husband got up at three in the morning the last time I “quit” chocolate and brought two grocery sacks home full of it, because I was  “being such a b$#%@.” Now, I hoard chocolate. I buy some at every store visit and stash it in my nightstand drawer. I can’t explain it but for some odd reason it makes me feel better to know it’s there, even when I’m not eating it.

While my secrets are small ones, the ones in my story With Abandon are not. Some secrets like Aubrey’s are kept to protect oneself and those we love. Does that make the secret a bad one? I think it’s a matter of opinion. I think Aubrey’s reasons are noble and made out of love. Aubrey sacrifices his own happiness, and keeps secrets that would make his life more of a joy for those he loves, it’s what makes Aubrey one of my very favorite characters.

As heir to an old and proud heritage, Aubrey Reynolds works and lives for his family, his employees and his pack. Agreeing to watch after a visiting werewolf is no big deal—until he discovers the newcomer is his mate. His very male mate…which is a very big deal, indeed. Revealing his sexuality was never part of Aubrey’s well-ordered life plan.

Much as he loved caring for his eight younger brothers, Matt Mahihkan knows it’s time to grab the opportunity to attend college in Atlanta. Realizing Aubrey is his mate should have been a delightful experience…except Aubrey treats him more like a dirty little secret than a lover. Yet Matt is a patient man. Aubrey can’t stay in the closet forever. Can he?

In time, they settle into a comfortable, if complicated, routine. Until a rogue werewolf with an axe to grind forces Aubrey to add to the wedge of secrets driving him and Matt apart, leaving Matt exposed to danger…and Aubrey forced to choose between love and duty.

Product Warnings
Contains color abuse with a really bad sense of fashion, a southern accent from hell, sex on antique furniture, a pouncing playful werewolf, obnoxious siblings, liberal use of a color identifier and impatient sex. No lightning bugs were harmed in the making of this book.

JL will be giving away a copy of With Abandon. Commenters choice of formats.

* The draw has been made. The winner is StacieD! *

30 Days of Secrets: Jade Buchanan

When it comes to secrets, I’ll admit I have a few. Everyone has them, after all, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think the biggest thing that comes to me when I think about secrets, though, is the way that we disclose them. I like to think of myself as having circles of networks. I have my immediate family, my extended family, my writing group, my school buddies, my critique partners, my work acquaintances, and the list goes on and on. As much as my sister tells me I can’t keep a secret, there are definitely things I’ll tell one individual/group that I won’t tell others. Naturally, right?

My writing is the perfect example of when that happens.  When I first joined my writing chapter, I never fully came out and admitted what genre I wrote in. Not because I was embarrassed or ashamed of writing about gay, lesbian and bisexual characters, but because I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. It was my open-book secret. After all, anyone in the chapter could go to my website and find out exactly what I wrote. But, even sitting on author panels I never could quite come out and say it. I would talk around it using sentences like “in my genre” without coming right out and saying what genre that was. Most of it was because of the way I was brought up to be polite and to try and make everyone around me comfortable, even if it made me uncomfortable in the process. Or, probably closer to the truth, I didn’t want anyone to know about (and possibly judge me) for being gay myself.

And then I hit an epiphany. By not mentioning specifics, by not being open about it – even if I had the best of intentions – I was treating it not like an open-book secret, but a dirty secret. The even bigger epiphany was that when I finally did start giving more details about my stories, LGBT romance and my own sexuality, nobody cared. Or, at the very least, if my frankness made them uncomfortable they were polite enough not to show it.

My contributions to Bandit Creek were a set of parallel tales, Penny Candy and Hard Candy, that explored the idea that the choices we make can influence who we become and who we fall in love with. There’s a decade old mystery that threads through both parallel tales, but Hard Candy, in particular, has a specific secret that I’d like to explore today.

Penny, Craig and Mack are all dealing with the revelations of their romantic feelings, and whether they can be honest with each other. Society as a whole isn’t 100% supportive of gay or ménage relationships. Sometimes it’s easier to keep that love a secret, to protect it instead of risking public censure.

I truly believe it takes a strong person to open themselves up and be honest with who they are and who they love. Penny, Craig and Mack all have to be honest about their feelings, and take the risk that their love may not be returned. Take the risk that their love may be seen as wrong, by the very people they surround themselves with.

Love is a universal concept, whether we’re experiencing it ourselves or just writing about it. I’m proud that I can openly say that I write about love in all sorts of combinations. I write about gay characters not just because I am gay, but because I believe everyone deserves to be loved and everyone deserves a voice within this crazy world of fiction we all live and breathe in.

A lucky commenter will win copies of Penny Candy and Hard Candy from Jade!

* The draw has been made. The winner is Jen B.! *

30 Days of Secrets: Myla Jackson

I thought secrets would be a difficult subject for me to blog about. I use secrets in my books a lot, from secret babies, to secrets about past lives and fantasies and fetishes. Secrets can be mysterious and alluring or potentially destructive to a relationship.

I have a secret that most people don’t know. You can’t tell my just looking at me that I have severe scarring on almost one third of my body. At three years old, my dress caught fire (while snitching a cookie from a cookie jar next to the gas stove). I spent two months in a hospital, undergoing multiple surgeries and skin grafting. I turned four in the hospital and spent Halloween in the burn ward. I survived, but was severely scarred—the price I paid for that darned cookie.

As a child, playing in the summertime, I was teased by cruel kids who picked on me for being different. They called me alligator skin, burnt cookie and a monster. Their taunts were hurtful and could have scarred me inside as well as outside. Many times I thought no one would ever love me for the person I was inside, because of the horrible scars on the outside.

As one of four children in my family, I don’t think I would have turned out as well-adjusted as I did, if not for my parents. They were told by the doctors not to treat me any differently than my siblings. I didn’t get preferential treatment, babied or coddled because of the terrible scarring. I learned to ignore the teasing and get on with life. I became a really good swimmer, wearing a bathing suit in public, despite my deformities. In effect, I didn’t let my physical appearance slow me down. I consider myself strong, but empathetic to others. I’ve been fortunate to fall in love and have children. My life could have turned out a whole lot different had I chosen to retreat inside myself at every hurtful word. But I didn’t. I don’t hide my scars because I want people to love me for who I am, not a person hiding behind the curtain. Yet, I’m still vulnerable inside, still afraid people will be repulsed and won’t love me, scars and all.

Now I like to write about strong women, who know what they want and aren’t afraid to go after it no matter how difficult it might seem or what obstacles get in the way.

In my recent release BOOTS AND CHAPS. My heroine, Audrey Anderson, is the owner of the Ugly Stick Saloon, a place she scrimped and saved to purchase. When she hides behind a wig to fill in for an overbooked stripper gig, she attracts the attention of the man she’s been secretly dreaming about. She’s afraid he’ll love the dancer better than the real woman behind the wig, the woman who loves him with all her heart. Audrey is a strong woman—she wouldn’t be the owner of the Ugly Stick Saloon if she wasn’t. But deep inside, she’s afraid she won’t be loved for the saloon owner, when the beautiful erotic dancer is much more appealing.

Prize Alert: Leave a comment today for a chance to win a box of books and swag.

Boots and Chaps
By Myla Jackson

Blurb:
She gave up stripping to go legit…until three Kiowa cowboys bring on the down-and-dirty.

Jackson Gray Wolf is turning thirty, and what does he have to show for it? A ranch. No wife, no kids, no dates. He’s had his eye on the pretty owner of the Ugly Stick Saloon, but their one accidental encounter was interrupted before he could get her out of her take-me-now red cowboy boots.

Audrey Anderson isn’t in the market for a man. Been there, done that, has the scars to prove it. She retired her pole-dancing boots after purchasing the Ugly Stick Saloon, and now manages a stable of strippers. When she winds up one stripper short for a private party, she’s forced to slip on a mask and into the role of the mysterious Kiki.

Jackson didn’t want the birthday bash his twin brothers are throwing him, but his vow to ignore the rented stripper goes awry when she shows him exactly how far she’s willing to go—for all three of them.

Audrey can’t forget the sizzling heat between her and one sexy Kiowa in particular. Jackson. Trouble is, she’s not sure if he wants the bold, brassy Kiki, or if he’s ready for the wounded woman underneath.

Books visiting the Ugly Stick Saloon:
Sex Ed

Boots and Chaps
Dirty Tricks: One Up On You
Dirty Tricks: Two Can Play That Game
Dirty Tricks: Three’s a Charm
Dirty Tricks: Four Play
Dirty Tricks: Five-Second Seduction

About the Author:
Myla Jackson pens wildly sexy adventures of all genres including historical westerns, medieval tales, romantic suspense, contemporary romance and paranormals with beasties of all shapes and sizes. When not wrangling words from her computer with the help of her canine muses, she’s snow-skiing, boating or riding her ATV.

To learn more about Myla Jackson and her stories visit her website at http://www.mylajackson.com.

* The draw has been made. The winner is Julianne! *

30 Days of Secrets: Ally Blue

Secrets are powerful things. As others have already pointed out during the 30 Days of Secrets here at the Bandit Creek Blog, we all carry them. Big ones. Little ones. Some that wouldn’t matter to anyone but the secret keeper, and others that could change the world.

I thought for a long time about what sort of secret I might reveal for my blog post here. The thing is, I’m terrible with secrets. TERRIBLE. It’s just way too much trouble to have to remember who you told what, and when, etc etc. Being “out” about everything is so much less work, and I’m all about making less work for myself. Therefore, at this point in my life almost everyone knows almost everything about me. Certainly, I keep back certain details of my “real life” from the reading public (sorry guys!), but to me that isn’t truly keeping secrets. Hiding things from my family and others in my day-to-day life, though? Now that’s what keeping secrets is all about.

And that, good people, is where my big, major, ginormous secret-keeping comes in. Yes, most everyone knows most everything about me. But there is one huge thing that some very important people in my life do not know.

Not everyone knows I’m a writer.

My dad doesn’t know. My sister doesn’t know. That Woman my dad married doesn’t know, and never will if I can help it. No one at the Evil Day Job knows. My husband and my children know all about my writing career and are one hundred percent supportive. They are my biggest cheerleaders. If they weren’t, I don’t think I could make it. Many of my real-life friends outside of work know and are either supportive or simply ignore it, which is okay with me.  But the majority of the people with whom I interact daily have no idea that I go home from work, open my laptop and produce romance novels as a second career.

It’s difficult to hide such an integral part of who I am from so many people who are close to me, but I have my reasons, both personal and professional. I’m actually more of an open book (so to speak) to all of you out there than I am to some of my own family and the people I work with on a day to day basis, because all of you reading this right now know that I’m a writer. That’s huge. Being a writer—especially a writer of gay romance—is a tremendous, vital part of who I am as a human being. It connects me to other people out there who are like me in important ways, such as believing in the power of love, and in the equal rights of all persons regardless of sex or sexuality. That human connection is essential to me, and writing provides that connection for me with the outside world.

I think that as fiction writers, we all tend to identify with our characters at least a little bit. I know I do, even if the part of them with which I identify is sometimes buried pretty deep. One character to whom I felt a strong connection as I was writing him, though, was Adrian Broussard in Love, Like Ghosts. Adrian is so much like me in lots of ways. One of the main reasons I identified so strongly with him was because he’s a young man who wants to be honest with himself and everyone else, who hates keeping secrets, but who ends up hiding a huge part of himself from the world—and from someone he loves—out of insecurity and fear.

Let’s face it, those two reasons are the most common ones for any of us to keep our secrets. I don’t kid myself that my reasons are any better than that, when it comes right down to it. Which isn’t to say that my fears are groundless, because they aren’t. Adrian’s fears aren’t entirely groundless either, as the reader learns. But in the end, he and his man, Greg, both realize that if they want to stay together, they have to overcome their fears and be honest with one another, no matter how painful that might be.

Barring the more saintly among us (not yours truly, in other words, ha) if we live long enough, I think we all come across this sort of situation at some point in our lives. Take the risk, tell the truth and accept what comes with a clear conscience? Or bury the secret deep and let it lead you through the rest of your life like a puppet? We all know what the easy decision is, and we all know that the easy decision doesn’t always lead to happily ever after. Even when it gives us a Happily, it’s usually a happily-until-it-comes-back-to-bite-you-on-the-ass. We all know this, yet we take the easy way out anyway, because we’re scared.

That’s why we read romance, though, isn’t it? Because it gives us hope that, like Adrian and Greg, we can make the right decision, and get our Happily Ever After too :)

Ally Blue is acknowledged by the world at large (or at least by her heroes, who tend to suffer a lot) as the Popess of Gay Angst. She has a great big suggestively-shaped hat and rides in a bullet-proof Plexiglas bubble in Christmas parades. Her harem of manwhores does double duty as bodyguards and inspirational entertainment. Her favorite band is Radiohead, her favorite color is lime green and her favorite way to waste a perfectly good Saturday is to watch all three extended version LOTR movies in a row. Her ultimate dream is to one day ditch the evil day job and support the family on manlove alone. She is not a hippie or a brain surgeon, no matter what her kids’ friends say.

Ally will be giving away a copy of Love, Like Ghosts in any ebook format.

* The draw has been made. The winner is Katie B.! *

30 Days of Secrets: DL Snow

UNLOCKING THE STORY OF A SECRET

Ahh, secrets. We all have them, don’t we? They are those little (and sometimes not-so-little) tarnished nuggets we keep close to our chest. Sometimes we hold onto them to protect others from pain. Much of the time, however, secrets are leaden weights, a burden heaped with shame, guilt and remorse. Secrets can be lonely and, if kept too long, have a habit of becoming corrosive and gaining a certain power over the psyche.

In my story, Siren’s Song, the heroine Joss Jones, has a secret. She believes she is responsible for her mother’s tragic death. Her burden is so great, she gives up fame and deprives herself of the one thing she loves most–performing. It is necessity (and a trip back in time to Bandit Creek, 1899) that forces her to confront her secret and to let go of the guilt, allowing her to be the person she’s meant to be. In the end, this opens up the possibility for greater things; in Joss’s case…love.

When I first started thinking about this blog post, I was stumped about what I should ‘reveal’ as my secret. I tried desperately to come up with something that was compelling enough to encourage people to read the post while somehow ensuring it related to my writing and my characters. Nothing came to mind. That all changed after reading Roxy Boroughs’ blog post on January 15th.  Roxy revealed a secret–a biggie–and after reading it, I sat in front of the computer, stunned, not only by the content of Roxy’s post, but because the subject for my blog post suddenly came to me (slapped me upside the head, actually). I wrestled with the idea all day and well into the night, finally committing to the brainwave somewhere around two in the morning.

Like any story, my secret has three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. But before I start, I have to explain how my secret relates to writing. I’ve dreamt of being a writer since I was a child. However, I never seriously considered writing as a career until I was at home with my two infant daughters. Every day during nap time, I would sit at my computer and write. Six months later, my first novel was complete. It is the story of a woman (an author) who, after losing her husband to cancer, shares one night of passion with the unlikeliest of bedfellows. Of course she ends up pregnant and the story goes from there. It is the classic ‘secret baby’ storyline. It’s both wonderful and terrible. Wonderful because I realized I could actually finish a novel, something that had previously seemed impossible. Terrible because…well, let’s face it, it’s my first novel and it’s terrible!

What finally struck me last night, as I considered my blog post, was the blatant connection between my first completed manuscript and my life.

You see, I was a secret baby. Not only was I adopted, but my adoption was kept a secret. The strange thing is, even though it was a secret, I always knew. At sixteen, when I secretly found my adoption papers, it simply confirmed my suspicions. My adoption secret blew wide open at a family reunion when I was eighteen. This secret was so well guarded that even one of my three older brothers (all born to my parents) didn’t know I wasn’t his biological sister until that day. Man, did he feel terrible for all the times he’d teased me about being adopted while we were growing up, never knowing I really was. What a relief it was for me to know he said those things, not because he resented me–his non-natural sister–but because he was simply teasing me as older brothers do.

My ‘secret baby’ story does not end there. Two years after that fateful family reunion, I discovered I was pregnant. I received this unexpected and rather dreadful news a month before I was to embark on a year-long tour with an international performing group. I will never judge anyone for the decision they might have made if faced with a similar situation. We all have our own journeys. For me, as a child who was given a chance at life (thanks to my birthmother–a wonderful woman I’ve since met and consider to be a kindred spirit) I could not deny another human being the same chance. Adoption was my only option.

It was the worst year of my life. Not knowing what else to do, I went away on my trip, keeping my pregnancy a secret for as long as possible. In the last few months, when I could no longer hide my growing belly, I left the performing group and went to stay with a dear friend who was attending university in the South. It was the week before my son was born that I finally told my parents. My brothers didn’t learn of his birth until years later. The day I left the hospital without my child was the worst of my life. Yet, because I was adopted myself, because I knew what it was like to be a ‘secret baby’ and to grow up in a stable, loving (albeit secret-keeping) family, I knew I was doing the right thing.

That is not the final chapter in my story. Fourteen years later, after years of unexplained infertility, my husband and I adopted two gorgeous little girls. They are the light of my life…as I write this sentence I am overcome with a strange choking emotion that hits me so suddenly it makes me gasp. I now know our inability to conceive naturally was not an accident but a form of destiny.

It is because of my beautiful daughters that I have understood three things about myself. First, I understand why my parents kept my adoption a secret. It wasn’t out of shame, as I’d previously thought. It was because (as they’d tried to explain to me) they didn’t think of me as adopted. Now I understand. My daughters are mine as surely as if I gave birth to them and although their adoption is anything but secret in our household, I don’t always share the story with people I meet. Sometimes I allow others to believe they are my natural-born children simply because the origin of their birth makes no difference.

Secondly, it is because of my girls that I am living my heart’s desire. That precious hour of writing during naptime, while I was on parental leave with two newly adopted daughters, taught me that I can be a writer if I set my mind to the task. Whenever I get frustrated because there’s noise in the house just when I’m fully enmeshed in the middle of a scene, I try to remind myself of this fact–I owe my dedication to writing to my family.

Finally, and most importantly, I now realize what a gift it is to be chosen to be a parent of a ‘secret baby’. The girls came to live with us just after Christmas 2004, and I can tell you that although there have been struggles (as any parent will admit) there is no gift that compares. I love my daughters more than I could possibly imagine and I thank their birthmother in my prayers for the choice she made, the gift she gave.

Now the story of my secret is complete. I share this, not to be shocking, but because I am finally ready to let it go. During the last 24 hours, after reading Ms. Boroughs’ post, my whole being has been screaming at me that it is time. There is no more shame, no blame, no guilt or remorse. I have been a gift, given a gift and received a gift. Beginning, middle…the end.

By clearing the space these secrets have held in my heart, like my heroine, Joss Jones in Siren’s Song, I believe I am making room for greater things.

To learn more about DL Snow check out her website at www.dlsnow.ca.

Leave a comment and your name will be entered into a contest to win all three of DL Snow’s books: Siren’s Song, Slayer and an advance copy of Thief of Hearts Part I: Wanted.

* The draw has been made. The winner is Sue! *