Tag Archives: Coming out

Never Too Late: a Guest Post by Out on the Ice Author Kelly Farmer

Caro Cassidy used to be a legend.

During her career, Caro was one of the best defense players in women’s hockey. These days, she keeps to herself. Her all-girls hockey camp is her life, and she hopes it’ll be her legacy. Sure, her new summer hire is charming and magnetic, but Caro keeps her work and personal life strictly separate.

Amy Schwarzbach lives life out loud.

Amy’s as bright and cheerful as her lavender hair, and she uses her high-profile position in women’s hockey to advocate for the things she believes in. Ten weeks in Chicago coaching a girls’ training camp is the perfect opportunity to mentor the next generation before she goes back to Boston.

Letting love in means putting yourself out there.

When the reticent head coach offers to help Amy get in shape for next season, her starstruck crush on Caro quickly blossoms into real chemistry. As summer comes to an end, neither of them can quite let go of this fling—but Amy can’t afford a distraction, and Caro can’t risk her relationship becoming public and jeopardizing the one thing that’s really hers.

Buy it: Amazon | Apple Books | B&N | Kobo | Google Play

Here’s the post, compliments of Kelly Farmer!

Hi there! I’m Kelly, and I’m bisexual.

Not so long ago, I wouldn’t have said that. Because I didn’t know. See, I discovered this in my early forties. Part of what helped me come to terms with this was writing my debut novel, Out on the Ice. There was some serious life imitating art going on.

I’d been a strong LGBTQIA+ ally forever. Positive representation in media and human rights have always mattered. I cheered on marriage equality with gusto for my friends and loved ones. But never, not once, did I feel anything close to identifying as a member of the community. Never had one of those “experimental phases” in college. So I went along as a straight girl up until 2018.

And then… I watched the United States Women’s National Hockey Team win that nail-biter Olympic gold medal game against Team Canada. It reminded me of the book I wrote years ago that featured a female goaltender. How much I enjoyed being immersed in that world. How I missed writing hockey stories (I was known as the girl who wrote “hockey books” long before it was popular). Sweet news bits came out about U.S. and Canadian female hockey players who, despite the fierce on-ice rivalry, had found love off the ice.

The story seeds started to get planted. Playing the “What if…” game is my favorite part of being a writer. I knew I wanted a story between a retired women’s hockey legend (Caro) and someone out and proud (Amy) to shake up the other’s quiet life. Sort of a melding of my old hockey stories and what I wanted to write about now. Amy declared she was bisexual because there wasn’t a lot of representation out there.

So the story percolated in my head, and something strange happened. I was thinking an awful lot about female/female romances. Reading stories about women athletes falling in love. Googling information about bisexuality. It felt so warm and fuzzy. It felt…right. Little flashes of ideas started coming to life. Not for my book—for myself. I was out for a sunny afternoon walk one day when a single thought popped into my head: What if I’m bisexual?

I remember smiling to myself. And then laughing, Oh my God, it figures. I don’t live life by “ordinary” conventions. Of course I’d fall under the greatly misunderstood bisexual umbrella. I chewed on this for weeks. Months. Did more Googling. More soul-searching. It made a lot of sense. I found guys attractive—that hadn’t changed. But there were some behaviors I’d never thought much about. I’ve always “admired” athletic women. (Haha—I sure admired Megan Rapinoe a lot.) I can’t sit in a chair like a normal person. (What, one leg flung over the side isn’t normal?) I’m always pointing and shooting finger guns at people. And really, Rachel Weisz in The Mummy is so adorable…

It sunk in, and I finally said it out loud to myself: “I’m bisexual.” I was 42. Never too late to live an authentic life! I really dug into book research that doubled as personal research. Learned about bi-erasure that bothered me so much, it became an important topic in Out on the Ice. Going on this journey with Caro and Amy helped me become more comfortable with the idea of finding love with another woman. Why not?

By the time I typed The End, I was really freaking proud. Proud of this book. Proud that I’d come to terms with who I am. And nervous but proud that when I was ready, I’d be able to join the community. It started slow and quiet, a little at a time. Privately to my parents and brother, then in little bits here and there. When I sold Out on the Ice this past February, I knew I wanted to make it known before my book launched. So I did, rather gloriously in social media posts this spring.

I am so, so lucky to be surrounded by fantastically supportive friends and family. I was anxious about coming out, but the one thing that gave me strength was knowing it wouldn’t be a big deal. That’s another thing that got incorporated into my manuscript: coming out stories are so varied. They can be simple, or beautiful, or painful, or just plain awful. I could really tap into the nervousness, the uncertainty, the feeling like you have a big secret, the huge relief once it’s out.

This book will forever hold a special place in my heart. Not only because it’s my debut novel, but it’s also the debut of me in all my bisexual glory. That’s a pretty terrific combination.

* * *

Kelly Farmer (she/her) has been writing romance novels since junior high. In those days, they featured high school quarterbacks named Brad who drove Corvettes and gals with names like Desireé because her own name was rather plain. Her stories since then have ranged from historical and contemporary male/female romances to light women’s fiction to LGBTQ+ romance. One theme remains the same: everyone deserves to have a happy ending.

Kelly was a 2015 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® Finalist in the Contemporary Romance category. She is past president of the Chicago-North Romance Writers and is also a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

When not writing, she enjoys being outside in nature, quoting from 80’s movies, listening to all kinds of music, and petting every dog she comes in contact with. All of these show up in her books. She also watches a lot of documentaries to satisfy her hunger for random bits of trivia. Kelly lives in the Chicago suburbs, where she swears every winter is her last one there.

To connect with Kelly, talk about Schitt’s Creek and RuPaul’s Drag Race, and share photos of your adorable pets, please head over to:

Backlist Book of the Month: Casting Lacey by Elle Spencer

Is banter the #1 thing you crave in romance novels? Was Kalinda Sharma being bi one of the highlights of your TV-watching experience? Is slow-burn with fiery chemistry one of your favorite things on the planet? Do you appreciate Romance novels where a character still has to deal with coming out for the first time as an adult? Are Hollywood Romances your jam? Honestly, the answer is a resounding “Yes” for me for every one of these questions, but if it’s a “Yes” for even one of them for you, Casting Lacey is an A+ choice for your next f/f Romance read! I’m often asked for my favorite adult f/f Romance, and, well, here’s the answer, so I hope you love it as much as I do!

Coming out is easier when you’ve got someone by your side. At least that’s how the hyper-private Quinn Kincaid sees it. When her publicist suggests a good old-fashioned sham of a Hollywood relationship, Quinn reluctantly agrees. And that’s how the star of Jordan’s Appeal, TV’s highest rated legal drama, ends up with a fake girlfriend—the very real, very sexy, and very gay soap star, Lacey Matthews.

The two clash immediately, and often hilariously, as they figure out how to fake a budding romance. And of course, things are never as simple as they seem. A freak accident, some reluctant caregiving, and a chance to work together on Jordan’s Appeal force Quinn and Lacey closer together—for better or worse.

In Casting Lacey, Elle Spencer gives us a funny new take on a classic storyline, complete with nosy mothers, fawning assistants, and two beautiful actresses who might learn about true love. If they don’t kill each other first.

Buy it: Amazon | Kobo | Audible

 

Writing My Way Out of the Closet: A Guest Post by These Witches Don’t Burn Author Isabel Sterling

I have so much love for These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling, a debut contemporary f/f YA fantasy out today, and while you can find some of that love expressed on the back cover in blurb form, I’m extra excited to help celebrate its entrance into the world by hosting this guest post! But first, here’s some more info on the book:

36484081Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.

But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.

While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

And here’s the post by author Isabel Sterling!

It’s 2015.

I’ve been writing for three years with three completed novels under my belt. The first was a fantasy novel about a girl with two dads and a bisexual best friend. The second was about a closeted lesbian princess. The most recent story followed a young man who was desperately in love with an accused witch, a girl his sister was also falling for.

Close friends, many queer themselves, asked me with knowing expressions, “What’s your deal?”

“I’m very straight,” I’d say, emphasis included. “I’m just a really strong ally for the LGBTQ community.”

They’d shake their heads and ask if I was sure. I insisted there was no hidden reason for my choice of protagonists, but their question planted a seed of doubt in my mind, so small it was almost impossible to see. I convinced myself I couldn’t possibly be queer. I was in my mid-20s. I should know by now, right?

And then in the early part of 2015, the character of Hannah Walsh walked into my life loud, proud, and unabashedly queer. She was already out and in the midst of a painful breakup when she marched into my head, but as I set out to write, I questioned whether I was the right person to tell her story.

Starting in 2014, with the launch of We Need Diverse Books, conversations about diversity in KidLit were becoming more widely discussed in the online book community, spearheaded by writers of color (for whom this was not a new conversation). Reading those discussions forced me to examine why I was writing this particular story and what it meant for me to write a queer point of view character as a straight ally.

I considered reimaging Hannah and making her straight. I was no stranger to rewriting books–it’s a common part of my process, even now–but something in me rebelled against the idea. The prospect of making Hannah straight, of stripping away her queerness, was painful in a way that was terrifying to look at too closely.

Near the midpoint of drafting that novel, I had my first crush on another woman.

It was an intense and sudden crush, but one that I still tried to explain away. These feelings didn’t mean anything, I reasoned, because I liked men. And though I understood the concept of bisexuality, I didn’t feel like it could apply to me. Without realizing it, I had internalized so many biphobic stereotypes that I couldn’t see myself in that identity. I was too boring. Too plain. I didn’t grow up having crushes on my female friends, and I certainly wasn’t the kind of “cool” I associated with the queer women I’d met in college.

And even if I did–maybe, possibly, probably–have a crush on a woman, it was too late. I’d invested too many years proclaiming loudly that I was straight. It seemed impossible to be anything else.

As my first draft of Hannah’s story neared its end, still in the throes of that first crush and in complete denial, I made Hannah fall in love with a boy.

The choice didn’t make sense for her character, but I couldn’t write the ending any other way. Without realizing just how autobiographical the words would become, I poured every bit of the confusion and embarrassment that was swirling inside of me into Hannah. She had been so vocal about being a lesbian, how could anyone possibly understand that something had changed? She was afraid of having her queerness erased. She was afraid of people claiming her relationship with her ex-girlfriend had been a phase.

She was afraid, because I was afraid.

The characters around Hannah reminded her that being bi didn’t mean you liked different genders equally, that it was perfectly valid to like girls way more often than she liked boys. As I wrote, a tiny voice inside whispered that maybe the reverse was true, too. That maybe it’d be okay if I mostly liked guys and only sometimes liked girls. But my fear was louder than that voice, and I pushed it down where I couldn’t hear it anymore. That truth was for other people. Advice I might give to one of my students. It didn’t belong to me.

I finished the draft. I went on with my life. I started reading essays written by bisexual women about their experiences. Until finally, finally, something clicked. Suddenly, I could see all the ways I had written Hannah’s experience as a fun house mirror of my own. I recognized her loud proclamations of her identity. Her reluctance to let that go in the face of attraction to a gender she claimed to have no interest in. The embarrassment I felt so keenly that it physically hurt to realize I had been so wrong for so many years.

When I finally came out to myself, when I finally admitted that I was bisexual and said the words out loud, my entire world shifted. When I stopped fighting the attraction, I was shocked to find how intense those feelings were. Over time, I realized I actually gravitate toward women more than any other gender.

The Hannah you’ll meet in These Witches Don’t Burn is not bisexual (though her love interest is). That particular character arc was more personal confession than anything else, and Hannah remained the out and proud lesbian who first walked into my head in 2015.

Hannah’s identity may have stayed the same, but writing her story changed everything for me.

Isabel Sterling was born and raised in Central NY, surrounded by cornfields. When she wasn’t mixing potions in her backyard, she was lost in a book. Isabel lives with her wife and their furry children, still searching for magic around every corner. These Witches Don’t Burn is her debut novel.

 

Art Imitates Life in Hurricane Season: a Guest Post by Nicole Melleby

I am so psyched to welcome the delightful Nicole Melleby to the site today to talk a little bit about the inspiration for her Middle Grade debut, Hurricane Season, which releases today from Algonquin Young Readers! Before she begins, here’s a little more about the book:

40591956Fig, a sixth grader, wants more than anything to see the world as her father does. The once-renowned pianist, who hasn’t composed a song in years and has unpredictable good and bad days, is something of a mystery to Fig. Though she’s a science and math nerd, she tries taking an art class just to be closer to him, to experience life the way an artist does. But then Fig’s dad shows up at school, disoriented and desperately searching for Fig. Not only has the class not brought Fig closer to understanding him, it has brought social services to their door.

Diving into books about Van Gogh to understand the madness of artists, calling on her best friend for advice, and turning to a new neighbor for support, Fig continues to try everything she can think of to understand her father, to save him from himself, and to find space in her life to discover who she is even as the walls are falling down around her.

Nicole Melleby’s Hurricane Season is a stunning novel about a girl struggling to be a kid as pressing adult concerns weigh on her. It’s also about taking risks and facing danger, about love and art, and about coming of age and coming out. And more than anything else, it is a story of the healing power of love—and the limits of that power.

Buy it: AmazonB&N | IndieBound

And here’s the post! Take it away, Nicole!

***

Last summer, my dad called up their cable service after he had been yelling all day about the Weather Channel not being part of their package anymore to yell some more.

My dad loves the Weather Channel.

For the Christmas after Hurricane Sandy, my brother and I put together a “Hurricane Survival Box” that included cans of soaps, extra batteries, flashlights, and other necessities.

He loved it. He also loved the little portable weather station I gave him for Father’s Day last year. It sits in the living room near the window, and he checks it every morning to see what the temperature is, how fast the wind speeds are.

My dad, for reasons we never quite figured out, loves the weather, and he especially loves Hurricanes.

*

My parents’ house had the best basement when I was growing up. It was finished with carpet and couches, had a bar (not stocked, but that didn’t ruin the novelty) and a TV and a fooseball table. It also was pretty sound proof, so that’s where we spent most of our weekends in high school.

My dad was the parent who, while he respected our privacy, would always poke his head into the basement, “You guys good down there? You need anything?”

A friend of mine once joked, “What would your dad do if I asked for something ridiculous? Like a pie?”

Well, he probably would have asked what kind of pie and then gone out to get it.

*

I grew up in a suburban New Jersey beach town and went to Catholic school and being gay wasn’t something I even had the words to explore, let alone the freedom to. I was in my twenties by the time I was able to come out to myself. I came out to my parents much later.

For me, when I finally came out to my parents, it wasn’t a choice. It was a necessity. I was suffocating in having to hide this part of my life (this huge part of my life—I was seeing someone, and I was neck deep in an MFA program where all my writing was LGBTQ focused) and it reached a point where I didn’t think I could go on much longer in the closet.

It was a Tuesday I finally did it.

I was living at home with my parents still, and both of them were working. I woke up, got dressed, packed a bag, left a handwritten letter (in which I rambled so much I ended up talking about Caitlyn Jenner, because my mom is a Kardashian fan and I thought it would help) and got the heck out of there.

I drove to a friend’s place who lived an hour and a half away. They bought me ice cream and beer.

My mom called later that day. I ignored the call. (And then immediately called back because I knew I had to.) For her part, it was complicated, but she loved me. It took some time, but we’re okay.

As for my dad, I received these texts: 

When I sat down to write Hurricane Season, the one thing I knew going in was that I wanted to capture the feeling that I had reading that text for a middle grade audience. I wanted to have the heart of the story be about a father and daughter, and when the daughter came out to her dad, I wanted it to be a non-issue. He loves her, full stop.

I wrote the entire book around that moment, that feeling.

So, thank you, Dad. For those text messages, and for all of it.

Melleby_Author_Photo.jpgNicole Melleby is a born-and-bred Jersey girl with a passion for storytelling. She studied creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and currently teaches creative writing and literature courses with a handful of local universities. When she’s not writing, she can be found browsing the shelves at her local comic shop or watching soap operas with a cup of tea. HURRICANE SEASON (Algonquin Young Readers) is her debut novel.