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Poetry Slams, Not Body Slams

Sometimes, I style myself an intrepid explorer, an adventurer who boldly goes where no queer reader has gone before. Sometimes... I even download books from authors unknown to me. 
Case in point: I recently finished a straight paranormal romance and started another, both by authors unknown to me. Woot! I want to impress you with my bravery and perseverance, but, well, I’m not sure I’m going to move beyond 14% of the second novel. After abstaining from straight romances for a while, I found myself startled to remember some straight paranormal romance sheroes find it perfectly acceptable for their manly love interests to perpetrate against their womanly selves kidnapping, sneering, condescension, and, my personal favorite, body slams against otherwise-innocuous walls.
The worst part? Despite being (taking a deep breath) kidnapped, sneered at, condescended to, and slammed against walls, these sheroes just can’t help but notice how tautly their kidnappers’ pants hug their muscular thighs a…
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Letting Characters Speak

Imagine a scene in a book in which an inspector asks three different characters the same question: “Were you there last night?”

As authors, our job is to make each character’s voice distinctive enough that adding “Jose said” or “Jae Lin replied” becomes all but redundant. Not just with words that reflect our characters’ personalities, education levels, ages, and regions, but with, to name a very few, some of their preferred clich├ęs, consistent emotional timbres, and verbal rhythms. 

I’m still, ahem, attempting to hone this authorial skill. I’m currently reading a book by an author who plumps out all his characters and manages, despite juggling a half-dozen protagonists, antagonists, and bit players, to give each one a rich enough personality to render them technicolor, relatable human beings. Damn him. 

Not for the first time, it occurs to me to create a kind of character bank in which I list not only the usual traits like appearance and background but also some verbal quirks: overused t…

Becoming "Famus"

I wrote my first novel at age thirteen. Afterward, poring over my 400-plus-pages of loose leaf and notebook scribblings, I just knew a literary star has ignited its nuclear engines.
The only question, of course, was which nom de plume to adopt.
In true teenaged fashion, I devoted days to this Very Serious Investment in My Future™. I consulted the local library, super-supportive junior high besties, and at least 2/3 of my sisters before finally landing on a surefire formula.
My first two legal initials are “L. J.”* World weary, thirteen-year-old me apparently knew far too well the patriarchal lay of the land, because I felt certain obscuring my sex would mean better sales. Obviously, I could outsmart this gender-unequal system by switching my first two initials, from “L. J.” to “J. L.” Ha ha! Take that, sexists!
But, what to do for a last name? Worry not, friends! (Then-)ultra-Christian, nascent-feminist, barely-teenaged Holly simply cobbled together a portmanteau from the two mostimport…

Holly's Marriage Manifesta

I asked my online, Sociology of Family students to discuss divorce rates in personal terms. Below is my example, which also happens to serve as my Marriage Manifesta.

In 2016, my wife and I got married in a small ceremony in a fancy-shmance hotel. My wife is Jewish, and I’m an Atheist, so we compromised and had a rabbi officiate in a secular setting.

I’m well-educated. I’ve read the statistics that say Atheists, liberal folks, and some groups (including two-women couples) who have cohabitated before marriage have higher rates of divorce. Frankly, those stats kind of shock me, since I would think liberal Atheists would be less wedded (ha ha!) to traditional forms of marriage and emphasize egalitarian relationships, but what do I know?

Plus, there’s the queer factor. Minority stress, which is the strain of being members of a marginalized group, tends to shorten relationships among LGBT couples. This makes sense to me, especially for lesbians, who (spoiler alert) are t…

Account of a 1920s "Spinster"

In my online Sociology of the Family course, I am mak-- er, encouraging my students to do a bit of research into the laws and social customs that would have defined their dating lives in one of the following years/eras: 1780, 1880, 1920, and 1970. As I wrote in our discussion prompt, "Just like real life, if you’re non-straight, trans, non-White, or so on, this will be especially challenging for you."
I got so excited by my own assignment prompt, I did the assignment, too. (Yeah, I just admitted that.) Anyway, below is my queer, White exploration of dating in the 1920s.

I was born around the turn of the 20th century. Exciting times! Tons of White folks are moving to the city to pursue careers in factories and in the service industries. My farming family is very poor, and my mother nudged me to move to the city and work in a department store in order to snag a rich husband. 

While working at the department store, I met another young woman, and we became fast friends. One day at …

The Terrible Titler: Birth of a Superhero

I recently discovered I possess a heretofore unacknowledged talent: devising truly awful book titles. I don’t want to brag or anything, but I came up two, maybe three dozen atrocious titles for the book I submitted to a publishing house.
Naming novels is super hard. I haven’t had any children, but I’m pretty sure naming books is way harder than naming something as uncomplicated as a human. I mean, you already have their last name, parents. How challenging could the rest be?*
But I digress.   
To name my novel, I first freewrote a brief description of its essence. Unfortunately, I waxed a bit too poetic and ended up with an unfortunate dearth of keywords. Behold:
This story is about walls. It’s about how the walls in which we seek shelter can also become our prisons.It’s about choices. If someone offered you the chance to face your past traumas and finally heal, would you take it?It’s about animals and how we humans have forgotten that we are apes with tolerance museums and nuclear arsenal…

Black Cats, Panties... and Hi!

Greetings, hordes of raving fans. Or sisters and bestie who plan to print out my blog posts and put them on the fridge. You know, whatever.
Let’s just get this out of the way right now. Admit it—you’re grateful I didn’t name this blog something like 300 Shades of Gray. Yeah, don’t think I didn’t consider it, but I still have a little bit of pride left.
Please let me introduce me. I’m Holly Gray, sociology professor by day, writer and volunteer by night, and current resident of the gorgeous Black Hills of South Dakota. My academic work focuses on social inequalities, which just happens to be the single most depressing thing ever. I mention this to explain: 1. My commitment to volunteering and social justice, 2. My obsession with animals as a psychic palate cleanser.
Plus, you know, I write lesbian paranormal romances. And lots of poetry.
I wish I could dazzle you all with a list of my sparkling achievements. I mean, there was that one time I ran into Diedrich Bader in a bookstore in San…