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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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#FiveFilms4Freedom LGBT+ Film Festival

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The #FiveFilms4Freedom 2017 film festival is travelling across the pond this November. Originally hosted in Britain this past March, it is the first and largest LGBT+ film festival, and has featured independent LGBT+ short films from around the globe.

The film festival began in 2014 in Britain, sponsored by the British Council and the British Film Institute. It is a part of the larger BFI Flare film festival, which began in 1986, and is sponsored by the Love is GREAT Britain Campaign. .

This year’s #FiveFilms4Freedom festival marked 50 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain. As such, all five films were created by UK filmmakers.

After the films premiered in the UK in March, they were brought to Washington, D.C. on November 1, and will be shown in Los Angeles on November 13 and in New York City on November 16. The festival will also feature a panel of prominent LGBT+  rights advocates from the US and the UK, as well as two participating directors.  

The films focus on a range of LGBT+ relationships and issues. The majority of them are love stories; Crush tells the story of a young girl who finds herself smitten with another girl she sees at a train station, Heavy Weight deals with a young male boxer and his reaction to the arrival of a new fighter, and Jamie is a very modern story about a man who bravely decides to meet with the man he has been talking to on a dating site. The other two films explore very different experiences in the LGBT+ community. Still Burning is about a young migrant living in Paris who shows his brother the exciting and freeing voguing movement. The title is taken from the film Paris is Burning, a documentary about the voguing movement in New York City and its effect on the African American, Latino, gay and transgender communities. The final film is a documentary set in Scotland, entitled Where We Are Now, and focuses on a transgender parent and her bisexual daughter.

The BFI Flare festival as well as #FiveFilms4Freedom have given the LGBT+ community an excellent place for celebration and representation, especially in the UK. With the decriminalization of homosexuality 31 years ago, British LGBT+ representation is extremely important because it has only been able to exist for a short amount of time. The festival allows filmmakers to make LGBT+ people and relationships extremely public, and continues to encourage and support the idea that LGBT+ people can make and star in incredible pieces of media. The move from showing the films in Britain alone to showing them in the US will hopefully continue to encourage the rise of LGBT+ relationships in mainstream media as well as in independent media.

Tickets for the festival in New York City are still available for reservation here. The festival is on November 16 from 6 – 9 PM at the Barclays-ASK Auditorium on Seventh Avenue. The festival is also currently accepting submissions for next year’s festival here.

Originally posted 2017-11-13 21:00:23.

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That Looks Like A…: Provocative Holiday Foods

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(*Article contains mature themes.*)

 

Have you ever looked at a food or read its name and instinctively turned into a tomato?  (Or better still, maybe you and your freaky self were actually turned on by it!)  Well, you don’t have to be depraved or even gay to enjoy these three provocative foods, but you’ll have more fun with them if you are.

 

SPOTTED DICK

 

While this dessert has a wonderfully raunchy name, it is sadly tame in appearance.  It hails from Britain (go figure), and does unnatural things with currants or raisins.  It is typically categorized as a pudding, but looks more like an odd-shaped muffin, to be honest.  Here’s just one recipe:  https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/spotted-dick-103210

 

The best way to pervert this dish is to shape it, but I won’t be graphic in my description of the ways you can do that.  If you’re not handy in the kitchen, just go to a naughty bakery!  However, you should always be a good (or slutty) host and serve this dish with vanilla custard, as is tradition…

 

HIDE THE SAUSAGE

 

Another British treat, this spongy, sausage infested con-cock-tion is little more than cheap meat in dough.  To the bane of the straight community, it is still a popular dish to serve to a large dinner party because it is not difficult to make.  (Note:  It’s also called “Toad in the Hole” because heterosexuals are often uptight about where they hide their sausages.)

 

In my opinion, this dish looks less sexual and more like something the cast of Duck Dynasty would serve to their guests.  If you like odd tasting desserts, though, this recipe could be just what you’re looking for.  https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/5822/toad-in-the-hole-in-4-easy-steps

 

AN INSTANT CLASSIC:  THE BANANA SPLIT

 

Ok, so I’m gonna catch hell for throwing this popular dessert into the mix, but I do so by request.  We all know how to make it; two scoops of vanilla or chocolate ice cream, one banana, some hot fudge sauce, and a cherry.

 

There are so many jokes I could make out of this, but I will simply describe something I saw at a holiday party that will forever change the way you look at this ice cream treat.  The banana sat in the center, two gobs of chocolate ice cream, one on each side… Need I go on?  I’ve never seen more suggestively placed hot fudge syrup, all of it lying at one end of the plate.  Even the cherry looked like it was blushing, sitting daintily on the banana’s tip with its vein, er… vine facing backwards.  It was quite a sight – I only wish I had quit laughing long enough to snap a picture.

 

If you’re a fan of the more traditional approach, just be sure you combine the standard ingredients in equal proportions around the plate.

 

So, there you have it ladies and gents, three foods that you imagination can run wild with. Other top contenders were the meatball grinder (also the name of a sex act), beef jerky (just because it sounds funny), and the buttery nipple cupcake (for obvious reasons).  

 

Feel free to leave your comments and recipes for more depraved sexual foods for all of us at TravelPride to investigate.  

 

Have a happy holiday season!

Originally posted 2017-11-13 16:20:13.

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Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People-Review and Interview

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I want to start off by saying that I’ve never been much of a believer in self-help books. Born with a hyper-sensitive BS detector, a practical mind, and color-coordinated set of lifelong baggage of major depression and physical and emotional trauma, I’m a pretty hard sell. I scoff at books that say I can “breathe and believe” my way into lifelong happiness. That the only reason I was depressed was that I didn’t believe hard enough. Give me a break.

Then I read Will Donnelly’s Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People, and it rocked my world.

What makes Will’s book different from your average run-of-the-mill yogi self-help book is that he’s not trying to sell you a better life, but asking you to look at your life at a different angle with relatable and simple messages with quotes at the beginning of each essay. The essays in the book are only a few pages long, giving you “bite-size” wisdom, separated into easy-to-find categories; if you’re looking for advice on personal responsibility or love and relationships, it’s easy to find what essays to read. While most self-help books act like a preacher on a pulpit, Will’s book speaks more like a friend giving you a little life advice, making him relatable to his reader. He knows love and grief and loss because he’s been there. After the death of his life partner Jeff to Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS, in 2010, Will was at a loss with his grief. He went on a long road of mourning and depression and found healing in both yoga and writing. Will knows what it means to struggle and come back.

Will Donnelly is a nationally recognized, certified yoga teacher and writer. He has been a pioneer in the field of yoga, developing Practical Yoga, and co-creating/co-hosting a yoga–reality series for fitTV (Guru2Go, Discovery Communications, 2004). As a writer and teacher (and gay man), Will encourages all students to trust their impulses and find their true voice.  While Will has been teaching yoga for 17 years and practicing it for much longer, you don’t have to be a yogi to get the full benefits of this book. You just have to be a person. There are so many wonderful lessons to take away from this book, from essays on doubt to trust, his words stay with you long after you close the book.

I had the absolute privilege to “virtually” sit down with Will and have an enlightening conversation about his book.

How did the process of this book get started? 

I was processing grief during that time and I had a voice for yoga and wellness so I put the two together, journaling about life issues, about loss, about doubt, all sorts of things you’ll find in the book that I talk about in my yoga classes. My students would often say to me “Whatever you said at the beginning of class was really incredible, do you have that written down?” and I always say I actually don’t, so over the years I’ve been chronicling each of my thoughts that I would bring up in class that were relevant to personal growth and tried to write an essay about it and how it could help. These lessons I talk about saved me from the depression I was living with for the last eight years.

I ended up writing 70 or 80 essays through the blog “Confessions of an Accidental Yogi” and I decided that some of the essays I was very happy with and wanted to have them out in the world. So I grouped together the top 50 essays and put them in categories, such Trust & Faith, Personal Responsibility, and Love & Relationships, so it was easy reading. We’re all here to help each other, and as soon as we recognize that, then both our beauty and natural radiance, as well as our pain that we suffer through, can help others, just by saying “you’re not alone.” Life is a very weird and strange place to land in and I think by sharing stories and offering them gently, a lot of people can resonate with them as they deal with the journey of life.

What was the writing process like? How did you come up with ideas for essays? 

All of them are individual creations. Many come from my own personal experience dealing with my own fears, like traveling by myself after having been so fortunate to have had a travel companion most of my adult life (through my life partner). Some stories were triggered by quotes or passages read in books. A lot of blog posts were born in the writing group I teach in Hawaii (Writing from the Core with Will) and through meditations and conversations.

What of your own advice was the hardest to follow? 

The piece about doubt, I have to come back to that over and over again, to have faith because doubt is a part of faith. I am filled with doubt. When I think “Oh, I can’t do it,” or “I’m scared, I don’t know what to do next,” I have to recognize that that’s the beginning step of a very powerful journey in life and to have faith that it’s all going to work out.  The beauty of getting older, which is not prized in the gay male community, is that you can look back on your life and see your choices and it makes it easier to make them again if they’re positive choices. You can look back and say “I had doubt when I moved to LA and 3 years later I had my own TV show.” My favorite quote I use often on social media is by Fran Lebowitz: “Every Intention, every achievement has come out of dissatisfaction, not serenity. No one ever said ‘Things are perfect, let’s invent fire’”

What lesson or mantra do you follow everyday? 

It’s really profound to watch someone you love and adore get sick and during that time, I would think “I can’t do this, I can’t physically do this” and the mantra that stuck with me is a Stephen Hawking quote, “It matters if you just don’t give up.” If we’re not taking care of each other if we’re just here to be greedy, then what’s the point? It’s really easy to fall into despair about what humanity is doing right now, but then I realize it doesn’t matter what humanity is doing, it matters what I am doing and if I’m creating a joyful life. To go back to the Aquarian Age mantra in yoga: “Keep up and you’ll be kept up.” If you can find a way to keep going in a difficult 11-minute yoga pose, you can do that in every part of your life.

What was the easiest and what was the hardest part of writing this book?

The easiest part was going back and re-editing everything because it had all been written for the blog. The hardest part was wondering if this book was worth it because I didn’t want to end up putting more garbage out there. I wondered “Will people enjoy this? Is it pretentious or is it the real deal?” So I think the biggest challenge was having faith that my voice was worthy to be heard. It was an incredible feeling to be on the other side of that.

What is one piece of advice you want our readers to hear? 

I think the reality is that it’s our goal, perhaps especially in the LGBTQ communities, to appreciate the diversity of life and to dive into it and not feel like such an outsider or feel so threatened by it. So it’s about learning to open our minds up to a bigger picture of what life is really about. So dive in, dive into all of it, don’t miss it. Whatever our dreams are, it’s important to do it and to do some form of service to humanity, some way of giving out to the world other than taking.

Will currently lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, where he leads yoga and therapeutic writing classes at Kalani. He also leads several popular Practical Yoga adventure and healing retreats throughout the year, including the annual Holiday Yoga Retreat. His book, “Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People: Essays & Inspiration for Life” is available here. Information on retreats, audio clips from his book, his newsletter, and access to his popular yoga & meditation workout video (now available for streaming, first of the three workouts is free) can be found at WillsPracticalYoga.com.

I’ll leave you with one last word of wisdom from Will Donnelly:

“Your struggles don’t define you. We’re all struggling through life and it’s important not to get caught up in the struggle because so many do and become defined by their issues or their past. You get to reinvent yourself every day and you can use your past, no matter how damaged, as a bouncing point to go somewhere deeper and have a richer life because of it.”

Originally posted 2017-11-09 18:01:50.

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