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Exclusive Cover+Excerpt Reveal: Dead Letters from Paradise by Ann McMan

Today is a bit of a starry-eyed moment for me, because I get to reveal the cover for the newest book by Ann McMan, author of my very first lesfic read, the fantastic Dust! This new book is a historical mystery set in the south called Dead Letters from Paradise, and it releases from Bywater Books on June 28, 2022! Here’s the story:

The year is 1960, and Gunsmoke is the most popular show on TV. Elvis Presley tops the Billboard charts, and a charismatic young senator named John F. Kennedy is running for president. And in North Carolina, four young Black men sit down at a Woolworth’s lunch counter and demand service. Enter Esther Jane (EJ) Cloud, a forty-something spinster who manages the Dead Letter Office at the Winston-Salem post office. EJ leads a quiet life in her Old Salem ancestral home and spends her free time volunteering in the town’s 18th-century hortus medicus garden.

One sunny Spring morning, EJ’s simple life is turned upside down when the town’s master gardener unceremoniously hands her a stack of handwritten letters that have all been addressed to a nonexistent person in the garden. This simple act sets in motion a chain of events that will lead EJ on a life-altering quest to uncover the identity of the mysterious letter writer―and into a surprising head-on confrontation with the harsh realities of the racial injustice that is as deeply rooted in the life of her community as the ancient herbs cultivated in the Moravian garden.

When EJ is forced to read the letters to look for clues about the anonymous sender, what she discovers are lyrical tales of a forbidden passion that threaten to unravel the simple contours of her unexamined life. EJ’s official quest soon morphs into a journey of self-discovery as she becomes more deeply enmeshed in the fate of the mysterious letter writer, “Dorothea.” Her surprising accomplice in solving the mystery of the letters becomes one, Harrie Hart: a savvy, street smart ten-year-old, wielding an eye patch and a limitless supply of aphorisms. Together, Harrie and EJ make seminal pilgrimages to the tiny town of Paradise to try and uncover the identity of the mercurial sender and, ultimately, learn a better way to navigate the changing world around them.

And here’s the cover striking cover, designed by TreeHouse Studio!

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

But wait, there’s more! Read on for your first glimpse inside Dead Letters from Paradise by Ann McMan…

After walking Harrie back to Fay Marian’s, I resolved to make it an early night. I changed into my nightgown and robe and sat down in Daddy’s chair with my book. I had only a few chapters left to read, and I was determined to finish it this evening. But I was finding it hard to concentrate. Every time Della Street appeared in a scene, I thought about Fay Marian’s “sultry” comment. And that naturally led me to recall the passage of the letter I’d read earlier.

Her intimate touch was like the first bright bloom of Angelica . . .

It was uncanny. Angelica was one of the herbs we cultivated in the hortus medicus. The Moravians had revered the plant for its numerous healing properties. According to Evelyn Haas, its uses went beyond compounds that treated typical maladies like catarrh, dyspepsia, and insomnia. In his vast colonial-era compendium, Philadelphia apothecary Johann Sauer had noted the herb’s special ability to “bring down the menses” for distressed women facing problem—or unwanted—pregnancies. Evelyn once winked and confided in me that Angelica was also compounded into a topical cream that proved efficacious for treating premature ejaculation.

“So, one can say the early Moravians had everything covered—coming and going.”

Evelyn had an almost preternatural fascination with rumors and legends that hinted at a few more lurid aspects to early Moravian communal life—including veneration of homoerotic worship and obsession with the wounds of Christ. And she loved to draw parallels between those whispered stories and the eclectic healing properties of some of the herbs cultivated in the hortus medicus.

Angelica, with its explosive globe-like clusters of flowers, was no exception.

Of course, Angelica had also been used to ward off witches. In my mind, that attribute went hand in hand with Evelyn’s colorful description of the herb’s more prurient uses.

I forced my attention back to the novel. Della Street was busily engaged using her . . . charms . . . to wrangle information out of a distracted travel agent.

Its slender tendrils reached deep inside and laid claim to all my hidden longing.

In frustration, I put the book aside. It was ridiculous. I drummed my fingers against the big, rolled arm of Daddy’s chair. Reading the rest of the letter would accomplish nothing. And bringing it home with me, even unwittingly, was a serious breach of protocol. And even if that hadn’t been true, giving in to an unseemly impulse would make me no better than . . . than a child, blowing a tin whistle to torment a neighbor’s dog.

And yet . . .

Before I could talk myself out of it, I got to my feet and strode across the room to retrieve the letter from my bag. I stood there in the near dark, tapping it against my hand as I deliberated.

Trust me, Lottie had said. You need to read this. Twice. Maybe more.

Even though I feigned offense, I knew exactly what Lottie had referred to. I did withhold myself from the realm of sensual experience. It wasn’t something I intended to suppress—it just seemed to happen naturally. I wasn’t a prude. Not really, I thought. I’d had many friends during my years at Salem College. And I’d learned firsthand about the carnal exploits of some of my female classmates—including the lonely aftermath of nonconsensual sexual encounters, panic-inducing pregnancy scares, and even tales of their occasional Sapphic experimentations with other girls. The more I learned, the less engaged I became. For me, it was tied more to a loss of control than it was to any innate fear of the experience. It wasn’t that I was unaware of how vast and prevalent the forbidden realm of sensual experience was: it was more that I passively chose to ignore it.

But now I was finding it impossible to ignore the letter I held in the dim light of my small foyer.

I had two choices. I could return the letter to its resting place inside my bag and go watch Adventures in Paradise. Or I could give in to yet another impulse and read the rest of the letter.

It was the irony of the TV show Adventures in Paradise that finally tipped the scales for me. I carried the letter back into the living room and sat down to read it. Only this time, I didn’t sit in Daddy’s chair. That felt vaguely . . . unseemly.

I unfolded the pages and resumed reading from where I’d left off earlier.

Its slender tendrils reached deep inside and laid claim to all my hidden longing. Together we became one with the garden. Our fresh young bodies twined together amidst the rows of young plants, feeling the warmth of the early summer sun on our backs and inhaling the sweet, intoxicating fragrance of the White Rose of York—the sacred smell of heaven. We surrendered the first fruits of our youth, vitality, and promise to each other. And as I tasted her freshness, laid bare before me in perfect harmony with all of nature, I imagined I was at last seeing the face of God. 

Why, Mary Ann, would you allow me to know such completeness—such blissful perfection—only to deny me its fruition? What possible good can now be served by the fate you have prescribed for me? Why withhold all meaning, possibility, and happiness from me, Mary Ann? Why?

Sorrowfully,

Dorothea

I carefully refolded the pages and returned them to the envelope before realizing that my hands were shaking. I sat still for the next half hour, waiting for my head to clear and my agitation to subside.

Who was Dorothea? And what power over her did this mysterious Mary Ann have?

None of it made the least bit of sense. The only possible connection between the letter and the garden appeared to be the plants where the two women had . . .

Had what?

I could scarcely allow myself to name what Dorothea had described.

Had had whatever kind of encounter the writer was describing.

Clearly, Dorothea had some kind of unfinished business with the woman named Mary Ann—and with the other, unnamed woman who’d been her participant in those passionate encounters.

But Evelyn insisted there had never been a Mary Ann affiliated with the gardens. So why did Dorothea send her letter there?

The clock on the mantel chimed. It was a quarter past 10 p.m. I’d been sitting in the living room for more than an hour. And tomorrow was a workday—a workday in which I’d have to confront more of Lottie’s shrewd scrutiny. She’d know I’d read the letter. And now it seemed inevitable that we’d have to read them all. Just the thought of that filled me with an emotion I couldn’t identify. But it certainly wasn’t anything approximating ease.

I returned the letter to my bag and turned off the lights before heading to bed.

In the midst of so much confusion, the only thing I was sure about was that sleep would not come easily.

***

(c) Erica Lawson

Ann McMan is the two-time Lambda Literary Award-winning author of twelve novels and two short story collections. She is a four-time Independent Publisher (IPPY) medalist, a Foreword Reviews INDIES medalist, a nine-time recipient of Golden Crown Literary Society Awards, and a laureate of the Alice B. Foundation for her outstanding body of work. She lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Cover and Excerpt Reveal: Dear Miss Cushman by Paula Martinac

Paula Martinac is back on the site today to reveal a new cover, this one for Dear Miss Cushman, a New Adult historical romance set in mid-19th century NYC, releasing from Bywater Books on December 7th! Here’s the story:

In 1850s Manhattan, 18-year-old Georgiana Cartwright witnesses the downfall of her father, a renowned actor who disgraces himself performing under the influence. When he deserts the family, Georgie is expected to save the day by marrying well. But she aspires to the stage, hoping to earn an independent living like her idol, the great actress Charlotte Cushman.

Hired as a supporting actress for a prominent theater company, Georgie launches her career with the help of a trio of young friends, including Clementine, a budding scribe determined to make her mark on the literary landscape—and to win Georgie’s heart. Early reviews garner Georgie the promise of a bright future, but then unwanted sexual advances from within the company threaten to derail her career.

Following Cushman’s lead, Georgie regains her footing in “breeches roles,” parts written for men but performed by women. A thrilling gender-bending turn in a Shakespearean role boosts her confidence—until her harasser renews his efforts. Will she be able to vanquish him and find success and love on her own terms?

And here’s the striking cover, designed by TreeHouse Studios!


Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | Bywater Books

But wait, there’s more! Here’s an excerpt for your reading pleasure…

New York City, 1852

Chapter 1

When the audience began hissing, I knew Othello wasn’t going to end well. Their response jolted me. We weren’t at the Bowery Theatre, where the audience in the pit tossed apples and vegetables onto the stage if a performance didn’t please them. The Prince Theatre was one of New York City’s finest establishments, catering to the upper ten.

Worse, the actor they hissed at was my father.

I was attending my first theatrical performance ever. Incredible, given that my father was a renowned leading actor, but Mama maintained that theater wasn’t a place for young ladies. For my eighteenth birthday, she gave in to my pleading and permitted Uncle James to accompany me to my father’s performance of the Moor, one of his most acclaimed roles. Mama insisted I have a new dress, and my sister Maude oohed and aahed over the sky blue taffeta until I wanted to take it off and give it to her. I myself put little stock in puffy lady things, especially in pastel hues. Plus, the heavy horsehair crinoline the skirt required for shape made beads of sweat trickle down my stomach.

Still, I could abide these discomforts if it meant I got to sit beside my dapper uncle in his lushly adorned box, draped with red and gold silk, and marvel at the glistening gas-jet chandelier that lit the space. Best of all, I got to watch my father tread the boards as I’d imagined him doing, in full costume and makeup for the Moor and sporting his prize sword.

We were barely one act in when Pa dropped a few lines. Then more—even the ones I ran with him that morning “for good measure,” as he’d urged. He’d appeared in Othello dozens of times, but now the role appeared to baffle him. Although the movement made my stays pinch, I leaned forward, mouthing the words, willing them into his memory.

Taunts rose slowly through the cavernous parquet. Pa squinted toward the footlights in bewilderment, but then the leading gentleman and star in him recovered and soldiered on as if he hadn’t missed a cue. The drop came down on Act One, and Uncle James and I both exhaled relieved breaths.

In the second act, Pa missed more lines. The second gentleman playing Cassio attempted to cover the flubs and cue Pa again, but my father fled downstage as if trying to escape. Turning too quickly, he slid first to one knee, then to both, and ended up crouching on all fours staring down at the boards. A shocked “Oh!” rippled through the audience in the parquet seats. Cassio tried to lift my father, improvising a line the Bard never wrote—“Come, on your feet, general!” But the actor couldn’t manage it alone, and my father remained hunched like an animal frozen in fear of slaughter until the drop came down again.

“Is that the end?” a lady in the box next to ours said.

“This isn’t the way it goes,” her gentleman escort complained. “The Moor doesn’t die this soon!”

The audience response crescendoed into boos. Uncle James colored crimson. “We’re leaving,” he announced, spittle collecting at the corners of his lips. He tugged me to my feet. “Now, Georgiana.”

I badly wanted to stay and support Pa after this debacle, but my youth and sex meant I didn’t get a say in the matter. We exited my uncle’s box and the theater to his brougham, waiting in a tidy line of carriages on Broadway.

“Bond Street, Louis,” my uncle directed his driver.

Pa used to be able to handle the drink and still speak his lines beautifully. He bragged about having a hollow leg, that he never felt the impact of whiskey no matter how much he imbibed. In the past year or two, though, his memory had pickled. When I ran through his prompt books with him to refresh his recall, he sometimes dropped whole pages, skipping ahead without realizing what he’d missed.

Mama didn’t speak of Pa’s mounting difficulties around me and Maude. For us, she put on a bright face, but it was hard to miss the growing chasm between them, as wide as an orchestra pit, their overheard exchanges sharp and brittle.

Uncle James confronted Pa openly, without caring who heard. As a theater investor, he was a regular at the Prince, and he warned my father, “He’ll let you go, Will. Worth was hired to whip the company into shape after Bumby drove it into the ground. Your contract will be worthless paper if you continue to perform badly.” He pointed out a clause in the Prince’s official rules, instituted by the new manager, stipulating that any actor “unable from the effects of stimulants to perform” would be docked a week’s salary on first offense and thereafter subject to discharge.

My father’s response had sounded characteristically haughty—that the Prince couldn’t afford to lose William Cartwright, who had drawn crowds to match all the luminaries of the day, like Edwin Forrest and Charlotte Cushman. “That theater would collapse without me. Who would play my roles?”

“Worth’s a fine leading actor himself,” my uncle had noted.

Now, as our carriage clattered toward my home on Bond Street, Uncle James shook his head sadly. “I’m sorry you had to witness that, Georgie.”

My stomach twisted this way and that, and not from our jostling over the cobblestones or the stench of horse dung wafting into the carriage. If Mr. Worth sacked my father, how would he earn a living? He’d never done anything but act. Maybe he would get a place at the Bowery or Barnum’s—lower rungs on the theater ladder, but at least he’d have an income. On the short trip up Broadway, my emotions ricocheted from anxiety to rage. If the head of our family tumbled, we were doomed to go right along with him.

“What will happen to him?” I asked. What I really meant was, what will happen to us?

“I can’t say,” Uncle James replied. “But you’re a smart girl, Georgie. You know the situation isn’t good. All we can do is hope Worth gives him another chance.” He saw me to our front door but declined to come in when Aggie, our cook and housekeeper, answered with a surprised “Mr. Clifford! You’re back so early!” I assumed he wanted to dodge telling my mother, his older sister, why he’d brought me home from my special evening two hours too soon.

That unpleasantness fell to me.

***

(c) Nancy Pierce

Paula Martinac is the author of seven novels—Dear Miss Cushman (forthcoming, 2021); Testimony (2021); Clio Rising (2019), Gold Medal Winner, Northeast Region, Independent Publishers Book Awards 2020; The Ada Decades (2017), finalist for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction; the Lambda Literary Award-winning Out of Time (1990; 2012 e-book); the Lammy-nominated Home Movies (1993); and Chicken (1997; 2001 reprint). She teaches creative writing at University of North Carolina at Charlotte and at Charlotte Center for the Literary Arts. Sign up for her mailing list at paulamartinac.com.

Introducing Amble Press, an LGBTQ Imprint of Bywater Books!

Last week, we revealed the cover of Michael Nava’s newest Henry Rios book, Lies With Man, and today, he’s back to talk about the imprint publishing that book, Amble Press! Amble Press is a new LGBTQ imprint of Bywater Books, noted lesbian publisher of such titles as Jericho by Ann McMan, I Can’t Think Straight by Shamim Sarif, Compass Rose by Anna Burke, and Bury Me When I’m Dead by Cheryl A. Head. Now they’re going beyond the L, and as Managing Editor, Michael Nava’s here to talk about how it began, what’s coming up, and what they’re looking for!

***

Michael Nava

Independent presses have been the life-blood of LGBTQ literary culture for decades. Scrappy small presses in the 70’s and 80’s published the first works of Rita Mae Brown, Dorothy Allison and Alison Bechdel, as well as trailblazing Black and Latinx writers like Larry Duplechan, James Earl Hardy, Jewelle Gomez, Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua. Firebrand Books published Stone Butch Blues, a pioneering work of work of trans literature and Alyson Publications dared to publish gay and lesbian childrens’ books – most notably Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman – at a time when gay people were demonized a pedophiles who recruited children into their ranks.

These presses existed because, by and large, New York publishers were hostile to queer writers even though it was an open secret that there were gay and lesbian editors at those big publishing houses. My own experience is instructive: in 1986, I submitted my first novel, a mystery featuring a gay, Mexican-American criminal defense lawyer named Henry Rios, to 13 New York publishers. It was rejected by every one of them. The editors who responded with more than a form letter rejection said essentially the same thing: this is a well-written book, but there’s no market for it. I found a home at Alyson Publications, which was then the preeminent small gay publisher. (Eventually, I would be published first by HarperCollins and then by Putnam until, in 2000, I began a fifteen-year break from writing and publishing.)

Small queer presses continue to be an essential part of our literary landscape because they remain necessary. Although the Big Publishers roll out the occasional LGBTQ book, queer writers, like writers from other traditionally marginalized still have a harder time getting their books published by an the increasing cautious and profit-driven mainstream publishing industry. A quick Google search reveals there are many small queer presses and to those already existing ones I want to introduce Amble Press, an imprint of Bywater Books, where I serve as managing editor.

Bywater Books is a respected lesbian press founded in 2004 that boasts among its award-winning roster of writers Cheryl Head, Ann McMan, Paula Martinac, Penny Micklebury and many more. In 2018, the Bywater’s leadership, publisher Salem West and director of operations, Marianne K. Martin, decided they wanted to start a new imprint that would expand their reach behind the lesbian community to other queer writers, and especially writers of color. They named the imprint Amble Press and their first acquisition was Alan E. Rose’s novel As If Death Summoned, a moving novel set in the last days of the worst of AIDS epidemic which reviewer Grady Harp calls “a beautiful, involving novel,” and about which Jerry Wheeler says in Out In Print “I couldn’t put it down.”

I was tapped as Amble’s managing editor last spring because of my interest in giving back to the queer literary community the same boost I had received when I was a young, emerging writer. Part of the agreement was that Amble would publish the next Henry Rios novel, Lies With Man, which appears in April. My first acquisitions will be published in the summer of 2021; Matthew Clark Davison’s debut novel Doubting Thomas in June, 2021 and Joe Okonkwo’s collection of short stories, Kiss the Scar on the Back of My Neck in August.

These books illustrate the great range of excellent queer writing out in the world that is not finding homes in the risk-averse culture of Big Publishing. Neither Davison nor Okonkwo are first-time, inexperienced writers. Davison teaches in the creative writing department of San Francisco State University, has published widely in places like Guernica and The Atlantic and anthologies like Empty the Pews and is the recipient of a number of literary awards and grants. But even with this pedigree and a literary agent, he struggled to find a publisher for his first novel about a gay teacher at an elite, private school falsely accused of inappropriately touching one of his students and its aftermath. Okonkwo’s first novel Jazz Moon, won the Publishing Triangle’s Edmund White Award for outstanding first novel and he too was represented by a distinguished literary agent for his superb collection of short stories.

Thirty years ago, both these writers may well have found homes with one of the big publishers. Of course, big publishing’s loss in Amble’s gain and, ultimately, also benefits queer readers who might otherwise be deprived of the work of these brilliant writers.

Amble Press is currently accepting submissions and is, as I said, particularly interested in queer writers of color. You can see our submissions information at https://www.bywaterbooks.com/amble_press_submissions/

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Clio Rising by Paula Martinac

Today on the site  we’re revealing the cover for Clio Rising by Paula Martinac, historical fiction about a lesbian woman who embarks on a job as companion to a literary giant of the Paris expatriate generation—an octogenarian recluse who accomplished just one great novel. We also have an excerpt, so let’s get to it! Here’s the info on the book:

clio-rising.jpg

In 1983, Livvie Bliss leaves western North Carolina for New York City, armed with a degree in English and a small cushion of cash from a favorite aunt. Her goal is to launch a career in publishing, but also to live openly as a lesbian. A rough start makes Livvie think she should give up and head home, but then a new friend helps her land a job at a literary agency run by the formidable Bea Winston.

Bea hopes Livvie’s Southern charm and boyish good looks will help her bond with one of the agency’s most illustrious clients–the cranky Modernist writer Clio Hartt, an octogenarian recluse who accomplished just one great novel. When Livvie becomes Clio’s girl Friday and companion, the plan looks like it’s working: The two connect around their shared western North Carolina heritage, and their rapport gives Clio support and inspiration to think about publishing again.

But something isn’t quite right with Clio’s writing. And as Livvie learns more about Clio’s romantic relationship with playwright Flora Haynes, uncomfortable parallels emerge between Livvie’s own circle of friends and the drama-filled world of expatriate artists in Paris in the 1920s. In Clio’s final days, the writer shares a secret that could upend Livvie’s life–and the literary establishment.

And here’s the cover, designed by Ann McMan of Treehouse Studio! 

Clio Rising comes out April 23, 2019 from Bywater Books!

Preorder: B&N | AmazonIndieBound

***

Voila, the excerpt!

On the phone, Bea Winston had a smoky voice, and before I met her I pictured someone who sipped martinis in a sleek black cocktail dress, her hair impeccably coiffed—Marlene Dietrich maybe. In person, Bea resembled someone’s middle-aged mom, a leftover hippie-type, with shoulder-length salt-and-pepper hair falling loose over a slightly wrinkled plum silk tunic. She came only to my shoulder, but when we shook hands, her grip belonged to a much taller woman.

Bea ran her finger down the single page of my accomplishments as if she were interested. Nothing really translated to this job, aside from a BA in English from UNC Asheville and an internship at the local newspaper, where I’d basically been a go-fer. She peered at me over her wire-frame aviator glasses and across the vast expanse of her oak desk. “‘Oh, lost!’” she quoted, out of nowhere.

Another applicant might have been puzzled by the line from Look Homeward, Angel, but I jumped at the bait. “Yes, ma’am, Asheville’s claim to fame.” Native son Thomas Wolfe had immortalized Asheville and its environs in his first novel.

“And you’ve read his work.”

“In my twentieth-century lit class, yes.” I was hedging, nervous that she’d ask me specifics I couldn’t dredge up. The two years between that class and the interview in Bea’s office were a gaping hole of vanished knowledge.

“An overrated writer, if you ask me,” she said, setting my resume aside in a way that suggested our interview was over and that I’d failed the test. But then she added, “I’m from Georgia myself, home to the great Flannery O’Connor. You wouldn’t know it because I divested myself of my accent in 1950. I stood in front of a mirror every evening and forced myself to form words differently.”

Bea leaned back in her chair, farther than seemed possible without toppling over. But she knew the limits of that chair—and just about everything else. “What are you doing here?” she asked.

I stammered for a few minutes about what a giant she was in publishing, how I admired her founding the first-ever woman-run agency—facts that Gerri had fed to me.

“No, what are you doing in New York? Good girls from Asheville get married and stay put. Especially girls named Olive Bliss.”

Her question seemed vaguely illegal, but I very much wanted to be myself everywhere. In particular, I wanted my first real job to let me be me, and Gerri had said she didn’t think Bea was homophobic.

“I’m gay,” I blurted out. “My family actually lives in Weaverville, which is even more small-town than Asheville. My folks don’t know about me.” I omitted the part about leaving because I was heartbroken, too.

“Did you dress that way back home?”

I glanced down at my outfit: khaki pants, navy blazer, and light-blue button-down shirt were my idea of business attire.

“Because if you did, they all know,” she observed.

My mother didn’t like the way I dressed, but she’d given up objecting to it when I went to college. My sisters didn’t try to set me up with men anymore. If they knew what to call me, none of them would ever use the word.

“Maybe,” I allowed with a shrug. “But New York seemed like the best place for me. And no, ma’am, I can’t change my name. But just so you know, everybody calls me Livvie.”

Bea moistened her lips, and I waited for a curt “Thank you, we’ll let you know” that didn’t come. As it turned out, I was just what she needed, in ways she didn’t divulge at the time.

“Well, I can see why you’d want to move,” she said. “So, Livvie.” I’d never heard my name sound so smooth or rich, like top-shelf bourbon. Livvie on the rocks, please. “I need you to start tomorrow. The place is in chaos. The kind you get when your last two assistants have been incompetent. So, if you can start tomorrow and handle enormous stress, the job is yours.” She said it paid twelve thousand a year, a princely sum when many advertised publishing jobs started at ten-five.

From a public phone on the corner I called my mother collect and told her I’d landed a good job with benefits in a nice clean office near Washington Square. Clean was very important to my mother; Washington Square meant nothing to her, but I threw it in because it sounded ritzy. I didn’t expect the audible whoosh from the other end of the line, as if she’d been holding her breath since I’d moved away, waiting for the call about her youngest daughter being mugged, or homeless, or anything else bad that could happen to a girl in New York City.

PaulaMartinac-web

Paula Martinac is the author of a book of short stories and five novels, including The Ada Decades, a finalist for the 2018 Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction. Her debut novel, Out of Time, won the Lambda Literary Award and was a finalist for the American Library Association’s Gay and Lesbian Book Award. Her short stories have appeared in Raleigh Review, Main Street Rag, Minerva Rising, Bloom, A&E, and many others. She has also published three nonfiction books on LGBT themes, including The Queerest Places: A Guide to Gay and Lesbian Historic Sites, and authored plays that were produced in Pittsburgh, New York, Washington, DC, and elsewhere. She is a lecturer in the undergraduate creative writing program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a writing coach with Charlotte Center for the Literary Arts. Read more at paulamartinac.com.