Laura Stone

Writer, Fangirl, Nacho Lover

Tag: news (page 1 of 2)

Representation Matters

[Edited to add new data]: It pains me to have to repost this article given new statistics, but a part of our country is in crisis. It’s so important to add positivity, to add love and kindness and understanding to the world. If you’re new to the world of LGBT literature, I hope you’ll come to learn how important it is for our queer brothers and sisters to just be given the space to be, the space to breathe and live and hope and dream. Denying them this space is literally killing them. We can do better.

As I have loved you, love one another.”

LGBT LDS Mormon Temple

 

A stranger I met at the airport insisted her husband drive me to my hotel instead of catching a cab. If this had happened anywhere but in Utah, that would be the start of a horror movie. But in Utah, smiles and help are freely given. These new friends were excited to hear about my purpose for traveling: I was a panelist at Salt Lake City Comic Con, the second largest of its kind in the country. They were particularly excited by the subject matter of my panel: On-the-page queer representation in literature.

Oh, I should probably mention they weren’t Mormon, or rather members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were Mormon-adjacent.

For all the good that the Mormon Church does, and they truly do some outstanding service work and foster a mindset of helping one another, for all those smiles and wholesome pictures of family togetherness that they love to put on billboards and into TV commercials, there’s a dark underbelly that’s of the Church’s own making.

The leading cause of death among Utah teens is suicide.

Not cancer, heart disease, car wrecks or anything else. In fact, Utah teens kill themselves at a rate of four times the national average as of this printing. It’s estimated that forty percent of them are known to be LGBTQ youth, but that number is likely much higher due to a real fear of “coming out” and parents erasing their child’s orientation post-mortem to save face.

In November of 2015, the Mormon Church delivered a Proclamation, an act akin to an Amendment of the Constitution in that the statement becomes Doctrinal Law. They stated that LGB members either cannot ever act on their orientation or they cannot be members. (They completely denounce transgender persons and forbid gender-confirmation surgery. They also use the term “same-sex attracted”, or SSA to replace LGBTQ.) If the LGB/SSA person has already acted on that “feeling” by entering into a committed queer relationship, their children will be denied baptism (membership) until they in turn become adults and renounce their parents. For some folks, this became a non-issue. They simply wouldn’t be members.

But Mormonism isn’t just about where you go on Sunday. Mormonism is a culture, particularly in Utah. Mormonism influences everything from who your children play with, who you do business with, and all of your social activities. It’s a 24/7 lifestyle. Sunday is the breather! There’s even a hymn taught to kids, “Saturday is a special day/it’s the day we get ready for Sunday” and then it lists all the tasks you must do to be prepared for Sunday’s three-hour meeting.

Everything about Mormonism centers on the family. You pray together, you play together, you live for ever and ever together. Well, unless you’re an active queer person; then you don’t get to be with your family for ever and ever. (For some of us, that might be a blessing!) But for a devout Mormon, queer or otherwise, that’s a terrifying, isolating thought. Your family is your world. And then they’re gone. And it’s all your fault.

After this Proclamation, there was a horrifying rash of suicide, both amongst teen Mormons and adults. The despair was real. The hurt and rejection palpable. Those numbers aren’t going down.

The world may have moved on to at least recognize same-sex marriage, but in Utah, time seems to stand still. It’s only been a few decades since there were electro-shock treatments at BYU to “cure” people of their “homosexual-tendencies”. The Church pressures its members to utilize Church-owned or Church-approved materials. They create their own magazines, publish books, create movies, and provide family entertainment, so why look elsewhere? And it’s not always easy to find materials outside these religion-sanctioned sources for “prayerful study” to understand why you might feel the way you do about yourself.

teen LGBT worry anxiety

Imagine being a kid, around 14 or 15, and you’re questioning either your sexuality or gender. Perhaps you have a “family computer” in the main room, a tactic recommended for morality-policing, so it’s not like you can just Google, “Am I gay?” You can’t drive, so you’re reliant on your parents or a family member to get you places. If you’re in Salt Lake, maybe you go to the mall, but the good mall is owned by the LDS Church—a building where visible tattoos mean you’re escorted from the premises. The bookstores aren’t going to have anything that contradicts the Church’s teachings, so that’s out. Maybe you go to the library. Do you dare venture into the LGBTQ section (that is, if that library has such a thing) to look for information? Do you ask the librarian? What if she goes to your same church and knows your family? You’ve just outed yourself before you even started understanding who you are.

This past June I attended the American Library Association’s convention, and this was a real issue for many librarians, who are often the forerunners of connecting queer youth with materials to help educate. Add in religious control, be it direct or perceived, and you have a potentially dangerous situation.

In Utah, this is just what it’s become.

I settled into my seat on the dais at SLCC and looked out on a decently-sized room, roughly a third of the way filled. This is a Comic Con, so a lot of people were in costumes. There were also folks in work-day clothes, nervously taking seats in the back. As the panel began, more people slipped inside, forced to move closer to the front for available seats. Then it was time to introduce myself.

“Hi! I’m Laura Stone, I’m from Lehi with family all over the Valley, and I couldn’t come out as queer until my late 30s. I’m no longer an active Mormon, and all three of my kids are LGBT.” (I know. I’m really lucky.)

The gasp and delighted shock on people’s faces is something I’ll never forget. That was also the first time I’ve ever outed myself to a group of people, and it was the first time I felt safe to do so, which is ironic, given my living experiences up to that point kept me in the closet.

The panel was a huge success, very interactive, and later, I must have stood outside the room for a half hour just witnessing other people’s joy as they told me their stories. All weekend I manned my publisher’s booth, a publishing house that specializes in high-quality queer literature with queer protagonists. If I was still Mormon, I would have called this experience Testimony Meeting.

A darling girl, around twenty, came by nervously asking me what our books were about. After giving her the rundown on a few genres, she stopped me with tears welling up in her eyes. “You mean no one dies in these books?” I threw my arms around her as she started crying, rocking her side to side and rubbing her back. “No. No, everyone lives. They get to just live.

She confessed to me in a broken whisper that she’d wanted to die. I held her tighter and made sure she knew that if she ever felt that way again, she better call me, that we’d talk on the phone until she didn’t feel that way anymore.

I met former missionaries, former temple workers, all who had either tentatively put a foot out of the closet, or had stomped out in a fabulous pair of shoes, daring anyone to challenge them. There was the gay couple who were married in spirit and the lesbian couple who had it legitimized in a court of law. There were lots of happy-faced lesbians and bi-sexuals who had their family’s support (or who didn’t care if they had it), and nervous gay and trans boys who couldn’t bring themselves to tell their parents. I heard all of these stories, and this was just on the first day of a three day convention.

Two other girls, dressed like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, stopped by several times throughout the Con for hugs and more book recommendations. One great kid with a camera and a manuscript stopped by every morning to be reassured that even though he was straight, it was okay for him to write books that feature queer people. One of our authors is a transman. A blue-haired boy I remembered from the panel’s audience visited him every day, eyes bright and happy to see someone who was just like him. They talked about top-surgery, coming out to parents, and life in general. This boy got to see that not only are there others just like him, but they’re living and thriving. They’re writing stories about characters who live and thrive, too.

Interlude Press LGBT publishing

 

Our booth became a safe space for a severely marginalized group of people. The teens and early twenty-somethings who visited us daily needed to see that there are books about them in the world, positive stories that aren’t necessarily about coming out or the trauma of being queer. With Interlude Press, my publisher, there are action-adventure stories that just happen to feature a bi-sexual Chinese-American. We have an historical western with a gay Mexican rancher. We have romance, historical, science fiction, high fantasy and literary fiction, and they all have positive queer role models.

My latest novel was titled specifically to signal to queer Mormons: And It Came To Pass. The cover features two obvious LDS missionaries with their hands surreptitiously linked. It follows Adam Young, a devout Mormon on his mission as he realizes that he’s gay. While there is a romantic element to the book, it’s more about a person discovering themselves and what they really believe and how that aligns with a faith that doesn’t accept them. Devout Mormons who happen to be queer have been left by the wayside. I wanted to write a story for them. For us, really, although I no longer actively participate in the Church.

I initially wrote the book for a beloved cousin, who did not get a happy ending and quite frankly, whose overbearing, devoutly Mormon father was quoted almost word-for-word in the book. I wrote the happy ending I wished for him. As I’m writing this, I’ve just learned of another suicide, another queer teen who felt hopeless and abandoned. It breaks my heart. I want all of these beautiful, loving, big-hearted people I met to have a happy, or least a hopeful story.

And of my darling, special girl who, with lip trembling and gorgeous, tear-filled doe-eyes whispered that she’d wanted to die? She came to see me every day, too, and got a hug from me every single time. By the third day, she was visibly stronger. She didn’t creep up to the booth, worried she’d interrupt us. I got an excited wave and a bone-squeezing hug, although that may have been from my end. I beamed as she told me about telling her Mormon dad she was a lesbian and how he took it in stride. More importantly, he told her he still loved her and would choose her, always.

One week out from the convention, she sent me a private message through social media. She came out to her whole family. In her words, she was having the most “queer and wonderful” week of her life, and it was just time. Emboldened by visibility and empowered by acceptance, she made the leap out of the closet. The sheer relief and joy she felt as a result came through her rapid-fire messages detailing the experience.

There has to be visibility. There has to be a point where the literary world embraces stories with queer protagonists, and not only the story of trauma and suffering that allows straight people to empathize with us. We need the story where the detective solves the crime, and she happens to be a lesbian with a wife waiting for her at home. We need a story where the adventurer is trans and defeats the evil corporation robbing crypts of their spoils. We need a gay boxer and lesbian scientist and bisexual grocery store clerks who can also see the supernatural. People need to see themselves in media or they buy into the idea that they’re disposable.

LGBT families youth suicide

These kids, young adults, and disaffected adults matter. These stories matter. Our presence in the world of literature matters. We can do better. We must. Lives are on the line.

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New Release on May 18th, AND IT CAME TO PASS

My third novel. I’m so proud of this one–it’s based off a short story of mine from almost ten years ago. I wrote it for a family member who is deeply closeted with no sign of coming out, and honestly, for myself and for other LGBT Mormons I knew. Over the next few months, I’ll have a lot to say about how the LDS church treats its LGBTQ members (short story: it’s not good) and how I tried to walk the line between being respectful of the members of a religion who are just doing their best and openly criticising rules and mindsets that are doing real damage to a significant number of people.

For the record, Utah is leading the nation in teen suicide, and the vast majority of those teens are LGBTQ. It’s a horrific statistic. I feel like now more than ever a book that depicts the reality of life as a devout Mormon and how challenging coming out can be (with both positive and negative outcomes), this book needs to be. And it is!

May 18th. You can currently pre-order AND IT CAME TO PASS at Target, as they’re using our publishing house, Interlude Press, to “test” the market for literature featuring LGBTQ protagonists. And even better, they’re offering it at a massive discount off the cover price as a pre-order (with no detriment to me or my publisher!).

Stay tuned, and in particular look for “Mormon Mondays” with upcoming podcasts, interviews, and more.LGBT Mormons,November Policy,gay mormons,gay LDS

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Romantic Times Con: Las Vegas

VEGAS, BABY, my home away from home.  Well, for the week at least.

RTCon 2016 romantic times

WHERE: Rio Hotel and Casino, on Flamingo RD

WHAT: The biggest party in the world of Romance Writing. Agents, authors, publishers, bloggers, and more importantly: READERS all converge in a week long fest of good times.

ME: I’ll be signing books, attending events, drinking cocktails, and (most definitely) hitting the craps tables at some point, and I would love nothing more than to see YOU.

Book signings: Wednesday, 3:15pm (I’m with Tessa Dare, ahh!) in room AMAZON G.  I’ll also be at the Giant Book Fair on Saturday signing (I’m next to Damon Suede!) in the RIO PAVILION, and this starts at 10:30am and goes until 2:30pm on Saturday.

I’ll also have bookplates if you have a book you weren’t able to bring and still want my John Hancock. <3

There are so many great sessions this week, so the best way to find me (and please do!) is via my Twitter.  I would love, love, love to meet you guys, talk about the things we love and have the best time ever. Last year was a blast, and this year promises to be even better.

And guys? Guys?  I’m such a good luck charm at the table. No, really. You’re so money and you don’t even know it, baby. Let’s do this!

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Meet the characters of Bitter Springs: Tsá-cho

As they crested a small butte, Renaldo could see another stream below, the ground fecund with growth and trees. Up here, they were at the edge of the tablelands, near where the land drove up sharply into the mountains of New Mexico. As they carefully picked their way down the side, the horses managing to avoid the scree and slippery portions with grace, Renaldo could see a solitary figure below. He looked to Hank to see what he made of this and made himself relax at the sight of the huge smile blooming on his companion’s face.

“Didn’t think he’d…” Hank cut himself off, shaking his head in what looked to be happy disbelief.

“Do you know him?” Renaldo asked.

“Very well,”Hank replied, his face splitting with a wide grin. He put his fingers to his mouth and gave three sharp whistles. The man in the distance replied with a high-pitched cry.

Meet Tsá-Cho, a.k.a. The Wrench in the Love Works. (Not what the name means.)

Native American LGBT History

Mescalero Apache actor/model Rick Mora, aka my choice in casting for Tsa-Cho, should HBO come knocking. 😉

You simply can’t tell a story about Texas in the 19th Century without Native Americans (or N’Dee, Nde, or The People as they would refer to themselves) in the story. Unfortunately, Native Americans have often been cast as savages, as dutiful side-kicks, or as set dressing. The European immigrants almost destroyed them and the Nde are still feeling the devastating effects, part of which is the consistent “othering” and dehumanizing Hollywood continues with respect to these people. They’re either your spiritual guide–an object to help the white person “learn something about themselves”–or they’re illiterate, ignorant simpletons, all of which is grossly insulting. Their rich history, their massive contributions to the Americas, and their incredibly diverse and accepting cultures are often left by the wayside, or worse, aren’t even known by the general public. Continue reading

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Bitter Springs: Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway

It’s time! Release Day! To go along with Bitter Springs hitting bookshelves around the globe, I’ll be traveling along this series of tubes and cat memes we call the “inter-net” at various book blogs to talk about the book, the proper way to make nachos, why Haas avocados are essential for the very best guacamole, and why dudes on horseback are basically the best dudes.

THIS IS GREAT FOR YOU, AND I’LL TELL YOU WHY: every blog stop on my tour means a chance for you to laugh (I seriously try to make it as fun and entertaining as possible) and every comment left at every stop is automatically entered to win a copy of my book!

Bitter Springs gay cowboys

Multiple stops every day. MULTIPLE CHANCES TO WIN. EVERY DAY. ALL DAY ERR-DAY. Okay, until the 16th, when my stops end, but YOU can keep on entering if you missed a stop until the 23rd of December. PRETTY COOL.

I’ll keep the schedule updated as the stops happen, so bookmark this post and check back daily for where cool people are talking about books (mine in particular). You can also track where I am at my official Tumblr. Just look for Paloma-she’ll keep us on the trail. (Oh god, I am sorry. But not?)

Virtual Book Tour Stops:

Dec 3:

Dec. 4

  • Divine Magazine – chance to enter and win!
  • Gay Books – link to a thoughtful 4 star review, too (aww! THANK YOU!)
  • Books 4 Ever – Fun interview where you might learn some new things about me 😉

Dec. 7

  • Bayou Book Junkie, where they very thoughtfully gave me a 4.5 Star review! <3
  • Reviews and Ramblings, where I talk about former (and present) pets on top of other things
  • Unquietly Me, where I give some writing advice
  • And the wonderfully named, Two Chicks Obsessed, where there’s a fun, lengthy interview and I have to say that I love their blog layout a LOT. (That’s a thing for me.)

Dec. 8

  • Book Reviews Rants And Raves, where I talk about this book being a way to show my dad that yeah, Badger Clark DID have gay cowboy poems, because he’s of the generation where if something is in print, it’s Truth. (omg. I mean, it is true, but you feel me.)
  • My Fiction Nook, and this is the one with the To Do List. 😀 (I liked that so much that I’ll add it to my Official Site soon with the other short story tie-ins that are going up this month.)
  • Not officially on my tour, but Jude Sierra shared such a lovely review, and I was so touched that I’m linking it here. When a wonderful writer pays you a compliment, it’s just freaking awesome.

Dec. 9

  • The very delightful Elin Gregory, where she and I gushed over pretty book cover art in comments (it’s like old school days of LJ where the best things happen in comments! /nostalgia)
  • And Books and More, where I was asked about the inspiration for the book (it’s a good story) and if I write while naked.  And I answered. [kitten purr while stroking my throat]

(Apparently I want to be Madame. Someone bring me my diamond choker and bejeweled turban. WOW I JUST DATED MYSELF THERE.)

Dec. 10

Dec. 11

Dec. 14

  • Dawn’s Reading Nook There’s a nice interview here that ends in me sharing recipes for the best pizza toppings (after talking about how fun conventions are!)
  • Happily Ever After (FB page) with a SURPRISE excerpt from my next book, And It Came To Pass
  • QUEERcentric Books Where during the course of the interview I reiterate how awesome supportive friends can be, as well as a book recommendation. (Spoiler alert: Something Like A Love Song. Good lord, I can’t recommend that enough. GO GET IT.)

Dec. 15

  • CheekyPee BooksandReviews where I’m interviewed after the blurb, and it contains nuggets like who I love to write with and some word association.
  • And Elizabeth Noble, a fellow M/M writer kind enough to host a Raffle Widget ALL FOR YOU. SHE IS DOING IT FOR YOU.  (And you get 20 chances to enter!!)

Dec. 16

  • BFD Books and Reviews, which I assumed meant “Big F*cking Deal” because they have the best banner and lots of awesome books, but apparently stands for Books, Friends and Drinks, which happen to be three things I love more than anything else. Yeah, they went with the right one there.
  • And last but certainly not least, the Mack Daddy of book blogs, Prism Book Alliance, and here I got to relive the glory days of the @okaybutlistenpodcast and talk about the TV show I’d love to bring back and why.

You have 20 chances to enter to win, so stop at each place and get your entry in!

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Meet the characters of Bitter Springs: Abuelita

Introducing Abuelita, a gentle Tobiano with pretty rounded white splotches and a tender heart. But more importantly, I want y’all to meet Doc, the Wonderhorse on whom she’s based.

Horses cowboys vintage LGBT

           Artwork by Colleen M. Good

“Abuelita is a good choice,”Francisco said to Burnett, nodding toward the horse. “Gentle, good instincts.”

“Abuelita?” Burnett asked, looking between the two brothers.

“Little grandmother,”Renaldo said, grinning and running his hand along Abuelita’s copper flank. “She mothers the other horses and watches out for the foals. Gracias, Francisco.”

Francisco nodded and gave his brother’s shoulder a squeeze.

“That’s good thinking,” Burnett said. “Could help us out there. Gracias.”

The brothers looked at each other, amused at Burnett’s American-South accent as he attempted to pronounce Spanish. Burnett caught that, rolled his eyes and took the lead, walking Abuelita to where she could join his horses in one of the corrals.

“Be good, eh?” Francisco said quietly, ruffling Renaldo’s hair.

 

Under the cut is Real Life Abuelito, aka, Doc, the best quarter horse ever.
Continue reading

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And that’s a GO

I had a fantastically productive meeting with my editor/publisher today.  My story about two LDS missionaries who discover their feelings for one another while serving, a story that has languished on my computer for years and went through a few rounds in my writing group back in 2009 [yeesh, I’m getting old!], is moving along at a faster clip to get published.  I’ll have some ARCs/Galleys for April’s RTConvention in Vegas, 2016, and we should be set to get it widely available come Summer, 2016. I love this story so much, and can’t wait to share it.

I also got the green light for a FREE story, a sort of spin-off about one character in BITTER SPRINGS.  I’ve been really worried about this one for a multitude of reasons.  It’s about Two Spirits, it’s about Mescalero Apaches, and I’m a white woman. I have to be 1000% certain to be respectful of other cultures here, because goodness knows Native Americans haven’t been treated with much respect, let alone Two Spirits.  Understand that the term “Two Spirit” is the adopted modern term, as it wasn’t called that in the time that BITTER SPRINGS is set, but for modern talking with you purposes, that’s what I’m referring to.

(If you’re interested, according to my Mescalero Apache resource, Tsá-Cho, our protagonist, would have been referred to as nde’isdzan.  The Navajo (a sort of sister language) would have called him nádleehé.  There’s your fun, informative trivia for the day.

Now [cracks knuckles], time to get to work.

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It’s ARC season!

Not Ark, even though I would love 40 days and nights of rain.  ARC, or Advanced Reader’s Copy, is the mostly-edited-but-there-still-might-be-a-few-tweaks-left version of a book that is sent out to review houses, book bloggers, and so forth so they have enough time to read and write a review by the time the book is released.

If you think about it, if you’re, say, USA Today or Foreward Reviews‘ book reviewer, you’ve got a lot of material coming at you.  To have the time to read critically and write up your thoughts requires some breathing room. So these copies get sent out a few months in advance.  (I’ll say this though: there aren’t going to be many tweaks between this and the Final Copy, maybe two or three typesetter issues.  I have amazing editors with eagle eyes.)

I got an early morning call that my ARCs went out and a surprise knock at the door was a copy for me to hold, too! (I cannot stress enough that I have literally rolled out of bed here.  I’m in my Oak Cliff Film Festival sleepshirt, for crying out loud.)

LGBT literature,LGBT lit,gay lit,gay cowboys,vintage cowboys

I am so proud of this book, of all the research I did while writing it, the eye-opening experiences from researching a time that has been Anglicized to the point of absolutely washing away important people in our nation’s history.  And beyond that, I really, really love these characters.

I hope that come December 3 (release day!) you will, too.

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Sneak Peek of Bitter Springs

From my Publisher: “In 1870s Texas, Renaldo Valle Santos, the youngest son of a large and traditional family, has been sent to train with Henry “Hank” Burnett, a freed slave and talented mesteñero—or horse-catcher—so he may continue the family horse trade.”

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Meet Henry Burnett.

“Bitter Springs is a sweeping epic that takes themes from traditional Mexican literature and Old Westerns to tell the story of a man coming into his own and realizing his destiny lies in the wild open spaces with the man who loves him, far from expectations of society.”

I’m happy to announce that Bitter Springs will be available on December 3rd.

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Big Sale Going On!

My publisher, Interlude Press, is officially a year old today, and to celebrate, they’re offering 20% off of ALL BOOKS, past published, eBooks, and pre-sales, through the month of July!

Just for examples, the eBook of The Bones Of You is currently 7.99, USD, but with the discount, that… carry the one… radican of X, A LOT LESS. Like, 5 bucks.  A cup of over-priced coffee, is what i’m saying. PRACTICALLY BOOK THEFT, except not because of that whole five dollars thing.  There are some terrific books in the store, so check them out, load up, and be sure to use code ONEYEAR to get your discount.

interlude press LGBT books,queer lit,gay literature,lesbian literature,bi-sexual literature,transgender literature

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