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Interview with New York Time Best Selling Author Mackenzi Lee

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LGBT novels are a tricky nut to crack. They are either a tragedy, a coming out story, or both. And bisexuality or asexuality? Well, you’re better off looking for the entrance to Hogwarts than finding a story that isn’t littered with the words “I don’t believe in labels” or “confused.”

Maybe that’s why Mackenzi Lee’s newest novel A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is like a breath of fresh air for an audience desperate for diversity away from tragedy. A Gentleman’s Guide is set in the 1700’s and stars Henry “Monty” Montague, professional family disappointment and first-class rake, who goes on a Grand Tour of Europe with his biracial best friend and not-so-secret crush, Percy, as one last blowout before Monty is subjected to a closeted life running his strict father’s estate. Tagging along with them is Monty’s smart but sour-puss sister, Felicity. Shenanigans ensue.

This book is equal parts light YA romp and a deep, heartbreaking book that leaves the reader laughing on one page and crying on the next. Beneath the cheesy surface lies a hidden depth of a multitude of issues not covered by most YA novels. It deals with topics such as bisexuality, race issues, feminism, chronic illness/loving someone who is chronically ill, and just how hard it is to make good when you feel like you’ve screwed up your whole life. In a book that’s marketed as a tropey novel, it actually breaks all the tropes of the stereotypical YA novel, creating something both beautiful and real.

I had the absolute honor and privilege to be able to interview New York Times Best Selling author and Bad Ass Babe Mackenzi Lee about A Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue, as well as her upcoming book Bygone Badass Broads coming out in March. She is also currently working on a follow up to GGTVV called A Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy.

Your book is a beautiful blend of a light YA romance and deeply felt heart-tugging novel; did you have a certain tone you were trying to hit when writing or did you simply let your book guide you?

The seriousness of it really caught me off guard—it kind of snuck up while I was writing my fun adventure novel, but felt so organic to the story that I ended up making room for it. I always wanted the novel to be fun and light and tropey and have a no-holds-barred happy ending for the queer characters, but the undercurrents of pain started to rise to the surface the deeper I dove into the characters and that fun plot. Leaning into that really made the book what it is.

GGTVV has a lot of a representation from LGBT, biracial, and mentally ill characters, and now an asexual character. Because your book is so diverse do you think a book like this would have been published ten or twenty years ago?

Heck no. I didn’t think it would be published four years ago, when I started working on it, and all jacket copy for queer books was still using coded language, “But then he develops a special bond with a special friend….” So much foundation has been laid by amazing queer writers in the last ten years who I owe the success of this book to.

You said in the past that this book was inspired by your own grand trip through Europe. What was your favorite part of the trip, and did any aspect of your trip make it into your book?

The itinerary in the book is based around my favorite places I went in Europe, so none of my tour stories are in there, but the places they visit are very much from my tour. I have a lot of memories from traveling—a lot of bad decisions you can only make when you’re broke and nineteen and living out of a backpack. But it was an amazing experience. My favorite part of the trip was getting outside the small community I had grown up in and being exposed to so many different people and places. It’s cheesy, but oh man were my horizons broadened.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Balancing historical details, attitudes, and context with a storyline and characters that would be relatable to modern readers.

What character in GGTVV are you most similar to you, and what character do you relate to the most in any media?

Oh man, it’s not very flattering, but Monty and I are very, very similar. We’re both super insecure narcissists who don’t always feel like we are enough for the people we love, make bad decisions, and use humor to avoid dealing with conflict. We are also both bisexual, late sleepers and have a tendency toward the dramatic (and little sisters who are much smarter than us). Though our vices are very different—he has his booze, I have my Diet Coke.

In general, I’m a pretty solid amalgamation of Liz Lemon from 30 Rock, Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Oliver Wood from Harry Potter.

October is LGBTQ History month. As a former history major and the author of the upcoming Bygone Badass Broad book, tell us your favorite LGBTQ history fun fact.

In the 1700s, the English were exporting female prostitutes to the pirate islands in the Caribbean to attempt to get the male pirates to stop getting it on with and marrying each other.

Will some of the characters from GGTVV appear in a Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy?

Yes! Monty and Percy will be making out in the background of every scene.

   If the Characters from GGTVV lived in the Harry Potter-verse, what would their Hogwarts houses be (also what’s your Hogwarts house)?

I’m a Ravenclaw! And so is Felicity. Percy is definitely a Hufflepuff, and I think Monty, much like Harry, could do well in Gryffindor or Slytherin. Depends on what part of the book we’re at when he’s sorted.

What is your favorite line from GGTVV?

“If the good lord didn’t want men to play with themselves, we’d have hooks for hands.”

Still not sure how no one made me cut that.

Bisexuality is an often underrepresented sexuality both in the media and in the LGBTQ community. What kinds of responses have you gotten from the community about Monty’s bi-ness and what advice to do have for other authors writing bisexual or asexual characters?

It’s been an incredible response—so many people have reached out to tell me how amazing it is not just to see their underrepresented sexualities on the page, but also in a historical adventure novel, where most plotlines about queer people are tragic and minor. I’d tell other authors to not shy away from writing characters on the LGBTQIA spectrum, but make sure you’re doing your homework and learning all you can and listening to the community.

You can buy a signed copy of A Gentleman Guide to Vice and Virtue here and follow her twitter here.

Originally posted 2017-10-19 16:13:08.

Ellen Ricks is a word-for-hire, fashion blogger, and bibliophile living in upstate New York. She has a BFA in Creative Writing from SUNY Potsdam and has been published in a number of literary magazines, both in print and online. She runs the fashion blog Sarcasm in Heels.  When not writing, Ellen enjoys frolicking in fancy dresses, consuming pumpkin spice everything, and dismantling the patriarchy.

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The Best LGBTQ+ Podcasts to Keep You Entertained While Travelling

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Unpopular Opinion: Travelling is hella boring.

Wait, don’t click away so fast. I don’t mean the actual being away- where you dip your feet in the Pacific Ocean or stroll across a piazza in Rome . I mean the physical act of travelling to a place, which can mean hours- and sometimes days- of waiting for your holiday to start.

Basically, the thrill of planes, trains, and automobiles was lost on me from a very early age making me a terrible choice for your Route 66 road trip (but thanks for asking).

Now, you’re probably wondering why I wouldn’t just enjoy the extra time with my travel companion. Well sometimes, especially if I’m travelling for work or to visit someone, I’m on my own. Occasionally, even if I have a kickass travel buddy, it’s hard to keep the enthusiasm up over a long period of time when you’re just waiting.

As a result, I turn to podcasts to keep me occupied; there are shorter pop culture ones to keep me alert while waiting for my flight in the early hours of the morning or longer fictional stories to keep me entertained on seven-hour coach rides.

Here are some of my personal recommendations for those of you who want some LGBTQ+ hosted podcasts to keep you busy during your next trip.

Looking for laughs: Nancy

Kathy Tu and Tobin Low; courtesy of New York Public Radio

With most podcasts coming in at around 30 minutes, this is the perfect peppy companion to keep you entertained (and most importantly, awake) while waiting at an airport gate before 6 am.

Best friends Kathy Tu and Tobin Low discuss issues affecting the LGBTQ community from sex-ed to politics to pop culture, while sharing their personal stories about being queer and Asian- and encouraging their guests and listeners to do the same.

Previous guests include “Master of None” star Lena Waithe, musician Rufus Wainright, and nonbinary actor Asia Kate Dillon.

Recommended Episode: There Are No Gay Wizards- It’s no secret that I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and this podcast explores the absolute queerness of the series…I mean Harry literally lived in a closet ya’ll.

Looking for debate: Umbrella

Hosts (clockwise from top left): Kate, Taylor, Dawson, Olivia, Glynn, Riley, Kayla, Layne.
Collage created by Emma Murphy; photos reproduced with permission from hosts.

If you’re looking for intelligent, informed debate to break up a train journey, then check out Umbrella. This monthly panel-style podcast brings together a diverse group of the LGBTQ+ community to discuss issues that impact upon our community.

Sometimes the subject matter is heavier, as in the case of their intersectionality show, but all of the podcasts are kept light by the interactions between the hosts.

Beware: You may find yourself interjecting your own opinion into the debate and the other people on the train may look at you strangely…

Recommended Episode: (106) LGBTQ+ Fandom – Canon, Non-Canon, Ships and All- For all fangirls and boys who want more representation in their fave media, this is the podcast for you. IMO Criminal Minds needs to feature some queer characters who are neither victims nor criminals.

Looking for a story: Alice Isn’t Dead

Actors Jasika Nicole and Joseph Fink. Credit: Nina Subin

Last month, I made a 14-hour return coach trip for my five-year uni reunion and I wanted something to keep me distracted enough that I wouldn’t have to use the bathroom (because ever since a horrible trip to Miami in 2011, I never use coach bathrooms).

That’s how I found the Alice Isn’t Dead Podcast, a serial fictional drama about a long-haul truck driver (played by Jasika Nicole) searching for her missing wife. Will she find her? What happened to her?

I am the worst person for accidentally blurting out spoilers- and I’ve listened to the entire podcast- so I won’t go into detail but oh my god, this is incredible. It kept me hooked from the beginning and when I met up with my friend at the end of my coach journey, I might have asked if I could just finish the episode before we started our catch up.

Recommended Episode: Part 1, Chapter 1- Omelet- As this is a fictional story, it’s best to begin at the beginning but don’t worry, the tension is high from the offset.

Looking for sassy politics: Throwing Shade

Via goo.gl/vFQZFp

 

If you’ve been sitting in the airport bar, staring at cable news on mute, and wishing it was socially acceptable to cuss out the Fox News hosts in public, then do me a favor; walk out of the bar, find somewhere to sit and play an episode of Throwing Shade.

Hosts Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi are not afraid to talk about the important issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and women in the 21st Century, with the exact right amount of sarcasm and skepticism. Honestly, it’s like listening to good friends calling out politicians, institutions, and the general public for failing to achieve justice for marginalized groups.

They may bill themselves as “a weekly podcast taking all the issues important to ladies and gays and treating them with much less respect than they deserve,” but they still do a much better job than certain politicians and journalists.

Recommended Episode: TS284: Dog Songs, FGM, Trump and LGBTQ issues- How does Donald Trump fair on a podcast called Throwing Shade? Not too well surprisingly, but it sure is fun to hear him being dragged through the mud.

Looking for music: Homoground

The Homoground Team. Photos taken by Moon Cloud.

Travelling is tiring and sometimes you just need to stick in your headphones and let the music take you away, but what if you could discover new music by LGBTQ+ artists at the same time?

That’s where Homoground comes in.

I listen to Homoground whenever I need a break from the outside world; whether that’s sitting on the floor of a bus station waiting to be picked up after a full day of travelling, leaning against the wall while waiting for my suitcase to appear on the luggage carousel, or when I just don’t want to hear the opinions of my fellow coach travelers.

Tune in, turn up, chill out.

Recommended Episode: #MIXTAPE126 – Gender is Over! If You Want It- If the gender police are getting you down, then play this punk-filled podcast loud and proud.

Originally posted 2017-08-23 11:24:30.

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Gay Relationship Timeline

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Friends, allies and other distinguished readers, there is an inherent truth to some particular types of relationships. Specifically, the idea that there will be confusion over the timeline in general and, in particular, the transitional period from being lovers to partners. Normally this would be the stuff of romcoms, but we all know how Hollywood can stuff it when it comes to understanding certain types of relationships.

And by “certain types”, it is “all of them.”

So as a public service, TravelPride will set out a timeline for how the transitional period ought to be mapped out. Keep in mind that every relationship is different, so these guidelines are meant to be taken with a grain of salt. Also, it should be understood that the marker for Day 1 is the day where there is the love confession and acceptance. With that in mind, here is the timeline:

  • Day 30: This the beginning stage of being a full-time lover, not a Stevie Wonder song. Do something nice on this day, like maybe go see a movie or take in a local baseball game/soccer match. During this time, look for some subtle hints from your boyfriend about the possibility of something that is more long-term. This sometimes comes in the form of the occasional staring off into the distance, as if he was doing method acting for an obscure indie film. Make note of it, in accordance with your own good judgment.
  • Day 60: At this point, the prospects of you two becoming partners should be considered as a possibility in the near future. If he wants to have a discussion about such a thing, do so in a way that ensures a more-or-less neutral disposition. This is not to say that you should be oblique; if there are issues, do not be afraid to speak your mind about them. Whatever conclusions are reached, keep them in mind as your relationship moves forward.
  • Day 90: If you believe it to be worthwhile, feel free to introduce your boyfriend to your family. Depending on the circumstances, this may require a certain kind of diplomatic language when it comes to your older relatives. Unless you have a drunk uncle (which all families have, to be honest), then all bets are off. And while TravelPride does not wish to support or even condone physical violence, sharp-witted insults are encouraged. Here are some links to a few collections in order to gel both of your imaginations.
  • Day 180: As you post the six months’ anniversary collage on Facebook, ask yourselves these questions: “Do I truly want a long-term commitment? Does he want to be seen as a partner instead of a boyfriend? And what coffee shop are we going to for breakfast on Saturday?” If your answers to the first two questions are Yes, then you should consider your boyfriend as a full-fledged partner and tell him as such. And while you’re at it, use Yelp to ask the third.
  • Day 365: At this point, he is a partner of yours. If you can, invite him to move into your place. If he accepts your proposition, it means that he has also acknowledged the maturation and progress of the relationship. Then again, the two of you will probably have to split the money spent on moving fees, because that ain’t cheap.
  • Day 730: For God’s sake, just go ahead and propose already! Unless you have serious reservations about the relationship, however. In that case, seek the advice of professional help as soon as reasonably possible. You can’t be too careful about this sort of thing.

Originally posted 2017-08-02 17:45:10.


Also published on Medium.

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For the Love of House Music

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House Music is uplifting, joyous, and free. Queer and like to dance? You will find a dance/music community in place no matter where you are in the world. Grooving to House Music is my thing. I enter the sanctuary of House to re-energize. It’s been that way since we were introduced in 1979. She’s carried me over some rough patches, times when I felt like I was losing the ground underneath my feet.  

House Has Carried Me Through

In 2005, while ‘‘Cool Cat’ my daddy was in the Burn Unit of Detroit Receiving hospital, I’d go to Agave on Sunday’s after visiting hours to build up my faith. Even though Cool Cat didn’t make it out of Receiving alive, I danced for him to be at peace and out of unimaginable pain experienced through a comatose state. He left the day after my 41st birthday.House music and vibing with community helped me to make it through.

My love affair with alcohol ended, I would carry two bottles of ice-water in my backpack to avoid losing my space by one of the speakers, wasting time to go to the bar. I didn’t want to miss a minute of dancing. Agave, never disappointed, I’d dance for Cool Cat while sending up prayers.   

Dance Away The Stress

House spells relief for many people after a hard week on the grind. People who love good music come out to dance their cares away. House is as freeing as it is healing. House is a connector of people. At any spot where House runs deep, you will find a mixed crowd. House Music pulls diverse crowds. You’ll find an eclectic mix of queer and str8, along with various races and ethnicities jamming together.  They will be vibing and getting high from the beats banging through the speakers and the poetry flowing from tracks.

House is for beating back the blues, through verse that grabs your spirit reminding you that you’re worthy. Finding self and self-love are frequent in the songs that dare you not to feel empowered and encouraged. House is also fluid.  When master mixologists house cuts use tribal beats and anything 1970s, I go on a spiritual journey.  

Sunday Tea Parties

One criticism I have of the Queer community is that we don’t hang out enough. Sunday Tea Parties were prevalent in the 1970s and in some places they’re making a comeback. Tea Parties worked because they were open and welcoming to the queer community and allies. In Detroit, Michigan from 2000-2006  as a member of Sistas Providing Intelligence and Creativity (S.P.I.C.E.), I helped throw some stellar afternoon events. Mimosas flowed and the food was good. In between eating, laughing, and catching up we gathered on the dance floor to throw down to House music.

Giving It All Up To The Feeling

An extensive list of Detroit deejays has held my heart since 9th grade.  Growing up with music pioneers. and being exposed to alternative music stores shaped my music tastes. It opened me up to the Worldwide House Movement. House music keeps this “Queer Diva”, moving to the beat. House is cool for a plethora of reasons. If you can keep the beat, you’re good. Go where the music takes you without fear of judgment. You don’t need a dance partner. I’m far from shy and when a good song comes up, I’m on the floor. House allows that. Dance by yourself, in the mirror or next to a speaker to take in more bass (if you’re like me), whatevs — do you. You can dance alone without worrying about someone inviting themselves into your personal space. You can feel the love of community when a dope song drops. If it’s a throwback song, House lovers make eye contact with knowing glances and head nods.  A complete blast.

House is happy it’s liberating and it’s needed in the world we live in. House Music makes things a little better.

 

Originally posted 2017-07-30 18:00:18.

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