Members of writer's group gather at Ferndale Pride. BTL photo: Crystal Proxmire

Michigan LGBT Romance Writers Group Seeks Happily Ever After

By Crystal A. Proxmire

A good romance novel can carry the reader away from their own day-to-day worries and let their imaginations get a nice workout - a hot, steamy workout without the bother of real-life drama or worry over dating. For those in a relationship, a little romantic reading can be a good warm up for some real-life smooching, and what could be better than enjoying a good book together?

Writer Hank Edwards knows the power of his pen, and as the market grows for LGBT romance novels, so has his love for the work.

"The LGBT romance genre is growing fast. I've been writing gay erotic fiction for more than a decade now, first writing short stories for magazines and then moving on to novels. The introduction of e-publishing has really helped the market explode. The most popular stories seem to be contemporary romances, but I've also noticed a lot of interest in paranormal and sci-fi stories. The story and characters are key," he said.

Though Edwards writes from his home in Ferndale, he connects with LGBT romance writers from all over the state thanks to the Michigan LGBT Romance Writers Group. With over a dozen members, the group provides opportunities for support, talking about shared interests, and even making time to get together.

"We try to meet once a quarter for lunch to catch up, including a meet-up in Frankenmuth last year. We've also started an email newsletter and rented a table at Motor City Pride and at Toledo Pride later this month, to spread the word about our group. We also have a private Facebook group where we chat about plans for newsletters and things like that," Edwards said. While there are many more writers connected, the group's website http://www.milgbtromanceauthors.blogspot.com serves as place to promote the most active of the group.

"The romance writers group all have a common belief that everyone should have a happily ever after. We actually all started out as a group of writing friends who had lunch, then it grew into something more," said Oakland Township-based Jackie Nacht.

Nacht writes books that are more "sweet" than romantic, with high hopes for the reader's enjoyment.

"Thinking back to my own book addiction, where there were many nights I stayed up way too late so I could read just one more chapter -- yeah, right -- I decided to write short romances for young adults as well as adults. Hopefully, they will give high school and college students, or working men and women something they can read during their lunch hour, in between classes or just when they want to briefly get away from the daily stresses of everyday life," said Nacht.

Here are a few of the Michigan authors who have found support and community through the Michigan LGBT Romance Writers Group:

Ava March, Livonia, MI

http://www.AvaMarch.com

I write historical gay romances set during the Regency period in England, with my books usually set around 1820. My books are sexy, emotionally intense erotic romances with a touch of sweetness. I love writing in the Regency time period, where proper decorum is of the utmost importance, but where anything can happen behind closed doors.

Highlights of my career thus far include being a finalist in the historical fiction category of the Rainbow Awards, selling foreign rights to two of my books (Bound by Deception and Bound to Him) to a Japanese publisher, and having one of my books (Brook Street: Thief) reviewed by Publishers Weekly. Career accomplishments aside, the biggest highlight of my day is whenever I receive a note from a reader informing me that one of my books was their first gay romance read and they enjoyed it so much they are now seeking out more gay romances.

Writing can be such a solitary activity, and it's wonderful to be a part of a group of romance writers who understand the ups and downs of being an author.

Deanna Wadsworth, Grand Rapids, OH

http://deannawadsworth.blogspot.com

I am a hairdresser by day and lead a pretty ordinary life. Hitting the Amazon bestseller lists is pretty cool. But the best part has been when a stranger tells me that they loved my book. To me, that means more than awards.

The camaraderie of being with other writers is irreplaceable. I believe Motor City Pride was one of our first activities, at least that I have participated in. There is a huge demand. Actually gay romance, also called m/m is one of the fastest growing genres out there. Readers, both men and women, can't seem to get enough.

Hank Edwards,Ferndale, MI

http://hankedwardsbooks.com

I write gay erotic romance, but the sub-genres I find myself returning to time and again are suspense/thriller, paranormal, and romantic comedy. Relationships are key in my writing, and I have a tendency to include some fun and zany secondary characters which I use to bring out the quirks of my main characters.

I have over a dozen books published now, and have managed to create three series: the Charlie Heggensford stories, the Up to Trouble series, and the Venom Valley series. I am most proud of the variety I've written - comedy, suspense, paranormal/horror and contemporary.

I am a fan of absurd comedy, and have incorporated this in the sizzling and hilarious Charlie Heggensford Fluffers, Inc. series, available from Lethe Press, as well as Plus Ones, a wacky rom-com available from Loose Id. I also love a good mystery and suspense story, which inspired the Up to Trouble series from Loose Id, featuring FBI Agent Aaron Pearce and his lover Mark Beecher who met during one case and have gone on to solve others together. My love of chills and thrills prompted me to create the Venom Valley series, which combines vampires and zombies with Old West cowboys, now available from Wilde City Press.

No matter what genre I am dabbling in, however, I try to keep things steamy and heartfelt.

Jackie Nacht, Oakland Township, MI

http://www.jackienacht.com

Most of my adult romance books lean to be more on the sweet side of romance. My Young Adult books are sweet, but deal with real life issues that many teens face on a daily basis like bullying, acceptance and helping teens realize they aren't alone. I love having readers email me and say one of my books made a positive impact on them.

The romance writers group all have a common belief that everyone should have a happily ever after. We actually all started out as a group of writing friends who had lunch then it grew into something more.

I was introduced to M/M Romance through my sister, Stephani, and read it for years. Then, I thought it was time to put my own stories on paper. I began writing short and sweet stories that ended with a happily ever after...and sometimes more than one, in the case of my YA Fork in the Road series, which has interactive endings.

Thinking back to my own book addiction, where there were many nights I stayed up way too late so I could read just one more chapter--yeah, right -- I decided to write short romances for young adults as well as adults. Hopefully, they will give high school and college students, or working men and women something they can read during their lunch hour, in between classes or just when they want to briefly get away from the daily stresses of everyday life.

Jessica Freely, Royal Oak, MI

http://jessicafreely.com

I love to start with a male character who is flawed, who doubts himself and wonders if he's worthy of love, and then introduce him to another man who can see his real value. Through that relationship, both characters grow and develop, finding love and redemption together. To me, emotional vulnerability and intimacy between men is beautiful. I think the world needs more of it.

"A lot of people wonder why a woman would write about gay men falling in love. For me, the short answer is that I love romance, but I hate heterosexual power dynamics. The longer answer is that I have never been comfortable with the hetero-normative expectation that a woman waits to be approached. That never worked for me and I always felt alienated from the romance stories that are all about a woman surrendering to a dominant man. But I love the emotional intensity of romance. For me, writing about men was the perfect solution. I get two equal partners, both with sexual agency, sharing their strengths and their weaknesses. It's awesome!

"I started out in mainstream science fiction, and around about 2003 or so, I wrote a young adult science fiction book with a gay male romance as a central element. At that time it was not welcomed by my editor and agent, and it soon became clear that if I wanted to pursue gay romance, I would not be doing it with them. But I loved writing that book so much there was just no going back. So, I had to strike out on my own in search of a market that would accept gay romance authored by a woman. It took some time but I did it and now I'm publishing regularly and have quite a nice following.

SA McAuley, Waterford, MI

http://authorsamcauley.wordpress.com

It's been just over a year since I published my first book and my greatest accomplishment is still every time I actually finish something and send it off to a publisher. Seeing a project to its end is always more difficult than starting one.

I love writing about places where many of my readers probably haven't been before. I enjoy setting characters in professions and journeys that are outside the norm. And I have a tendency to break my characters down to their lowest point and see how they emerge, how they survive and thrive. My tag line is "finding hope in the darkest of nights" and I think that describes my work as a whole better than any synopsis or blurb could.

This genre is full of engaging, loving, fun, and welcoming authors. There's a steadily growing market for LGBT romance. Most readers don't know it's a genre that exists. So as the knowledge about this genre increases, so will the readership. I think we're at a crossroads for LGBT literature in general. It's an exciting time to be a part of it.

We love to talk to readers! Don't be afraid to reach out to us - email, Facebook, twitter, tumblr - we're all over the web. And we're also probably hanging out in coffee shops and bars around you, working on our next plot bunnies!

Stephani Hecht, Holly, MI

http://www.stephanihecht.com

I am more than just a reader or a writer, I am a mother of a gay son. So, I know how hard it is some days to fight the struggles that the LGBT community face. But, know this....I will not give up, nor will I rest until all the civilians of America have the same civil rights and liberties as everybody else. And once they do, you're all invited to my son's wedding.

I like to describe my work as light and fluffy, with always a HEA (Happily Ever After). It's what I want my own son to find in the world.

All love is equal and deserves to be told.

There are some things about being an author that only another author will get. Be it a receiving a bad review, having a stalker like email, or just balancing reality with the fake world in your head.

My biggest accomplishment is finally being able to quit the day job and work full-time as a writer. Now when people ask me what I do for a living, I can honestly say, I'm an author.


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