Chatting with Charlotte about Royal Quarry

Royal Quarry is ready for release! Cover art by Anne Cain.

So, tomorrow is the release day for Charlotte Rahn-Lee’s novella, Royal Quarry, and to get you ready for the release, Charlotte and I managed to collaborate on an exclusive interview.  You may be wondering how this worked– we were wondering how it was going to work too!  Basically, I pretended I didn’t know anything about the book, and wrote down my questions in a notebook.  Then, Charlotte wrote down her answers.  Now, I am going to type them up here and ask her follow-up questions when they occur to me!  It’s a little silly, perhaps,  as a procedure, but I think you will find the content interesting.

RLF (that’s me!): Give a little intro about yourself and your background as a writer.

CRL (that’s Charlotte!): I am an inveterate creator of stories– my sister Lilah and I invented all sorts of characters, plots, and happenings for as long as I can remember.  I think I began thinking of myself as a writer in 6th grade. My writing training is all in playwriting– I have an MFA from the New School for Drama.

RLF: What happened in 6th grade?

CRL: I was in a different school district in 6th grade, in Cambridge, MA, and there was more emphasis on writing in this new school.

RLF: Is there anything in particular you want to convey to potential readers of Royal Quarry that isn’t mentioned in the blurb?

CRL: Royal Quarry was a lot of fun to write, and I hope it will be a lot of fun to read, too.  I did my best to impart this sense of fun while I was condensing the plot into blurb-form.

RLF: What prompted you to write this story?  Tell us something about how it took shape in your head.

CRL: This story had an unusual beginning.  Albert and Manning existed as characters in an epistolary game that you and I were playing.  Because of this, their relationship really had a chance to develop and grow in a satisfying way.  This story is a retelling–a reboot, I guess you might call it– of how they met.  I wrote it because you were planning on submitting to the “men in uniform” call for Dreamspinner, and I kept urging you, “Manning wears a uniform!  Write about Albert and Manning!”  You had other ideas, however, which eventually became The Clown and the Magician, so you convinced me to write it instead.  It was fun to write something for which I knew the characters so well but could dream up a new plot, choosing elements of the original version and inventing my own as it suited the story.  That’s the joy of a reboot, I suppose.

RLF: As I remember it, you had a whole bunch of ideas for the men in uniform thing, including a story about Manning and Albert, and kept pitching them until I was finally like, well, you should write one yourself!  I’m glad you did. 🙂  Since you most frequently write plays, I’m wondering how this experience related to your other writing.  Were there any interesting differences in the writing process for this prose piece?

CRL: Yes!  Prose is very different from drama, a medium I’m more comfortable in.  You have a lot more control over how your audience experiences your story in prose than you do in drama.  [In prose], you can draw the reader’s figurative eye to specific details in a way that reminds me of screenwriting.  You can describe your characters’ thought processes, even!  I was conscious with writing this story of not wanting to go crazy with my new-found powers of prose and explain or describe too much of what people were thinking.  You still do want your characters to show you what’s happening with them after all.  But it was a lot of fun to work in prose for a change.

RLF: What was your favorite part about writing these characters and their relationship?

CRL: I love how Albert’s (over)reactions always surprise, and I am very fond of Manning’s continuous struggle to maintain his professional composure.

RLF: Did you encounter any surprises while writing?

CRL: Of course!

RLF: How did you like writing a story that is centered around a romance?  Was it similar to or different from other kinds of relationship-based writing you’ve done?

CRL: The most unexpectedly tricky thing was the pronouns.  When two men relate to each other–sexually, romantically, or otherwise–in prose, your sentences become tangled knots of “him”s, “he”s, and “his”es.  It took some clever editing to make clear who was doing what to whom.

RLF: Did you learn anything new (in research or otherwise) while writing Royal Quarry?

CRL: I learned more than I will ever need to know about deer hunting.

RLF: Do you want to write more stories about these characters or this world?

CRL: I sure do!  Albert and Manning go on to have many exciting adventures together.  It would be a lot of fun to write down some more of them.  It would be really great to see them in a graphic novel– I’ve always wanted to try writing one of those.  Anybody know any sequential artists?

So there you have the interview!  Do you know any sequential artists?  Do you have more questions for Charlotte?  Let us know in the comments!  Are you ready to buy this fantastic book?  Here’s where you can find it, starting in about ten minutes:



The Clown and the Magician- Another Great Review!

Well, today is my first day of orientation for the PhD program in English that I am about to start.  So, naturally, I was relieving my nerves by seeing if anyone else had reviewed The Clown and the Magician.

And someone had!  Here, and glowingly:  Thanks, Portia!  I am delighted to learn that there are gems falling from my literary tree.  I’ll try to keep ’em coming.

Also, I know everyone is eagerly awaiting the exclusive interview with Charlotte Rahn-Lee about her upcoming release (upcoming as in tomorrow!), Royal Quarry.  Fear not!  The interview is progressing apace, and shall be posted here just as soon as we both have a minute to breathe.

Actually, taking a minute to breathe sounds like a good idea.  Want to join me?   I’m gonna close my eyes… breathe in deeply… and let it out.

There.  We’re conspiring.

(I got to explain conspiracy to my Upper Elementary school students on our last class day.  I talked about how if you’re working on a secret plot you have to lean in so closely that you’re breathing the same air.)

The Clown and the Magician- News and Reviews!

Just in case you forgot what the cover art looks like!

Well, as with the similarly named post about “The Hanukkah Surprise,” I don’t know if there’s really news about The Clown and the Magician, but there are reviews!  Two from Amazon reader reviewers, one of whom is a friend and fellow writer, Jeffrey McGraw (, and one from the M/M romance review site, Reviews by Jessawave.  All three reviews were kind and insightful, and my thanks to all the reviewers!  I’m especially grateful to Jessawave’s site for featuring my book in this review, and also for having a giveaway of it earlier.  I was particularly pleased by all the details LadyM picked up on in her review, since the questions she was asking about Jake and various other aspects of the story are questions I’ve been kicking around in my own head as well.  I certainly haven’t committed to a sequel, but when I play with the concept, those are definitely the directions I see myself going in.

So, without further ado, here are the reviews!

The Amazon reviews:

The Jessawave Review:

Oh, and in case all that’s convinced you to buy the book, here’s that link as well:

Charlotte’s Novella, Royal Quarry, is Coming!

Charlotte just got word that her Dreamspinner novella, Royal Quarry, will be released on August 17th!  Check out the cover art and blurb and buy link:

Royal Quarry cover art, again by Anne Cain

Hopeless at hunting, Prince Albert has been sent into the woods by his impulsively cruel father, required to kill a stag before he can return. Luckily he has Manning, a quiet and overly competent bodyguard, to rely on.  But the familiarity and evident desire growing between prince and bodyguard shame Manning into revealing a secret: the king is using Albert as bait in a political game with a neighboring power, and it’s Manning’s job to lead him into danger.

Angry and betrayed, but unwilling to endanger Manning, Albert insists that his bodyguard go through with the plan. To save Albert and win back his trust, Manning will have to disobey two sets of orders and prove he has the canniness to survive in the royal court.

I’m super-excited about this novella, and I think the cover art is amazing!  I like mine for The Clown and the Magician a lot, too, but I like this art even more.  There are lots of other reasons I’m excited about this story, and I’ll tell you about them as we get closer to release.  I have also been lucky enough to get an exclusive interview with Charlotte!  So you can hear it all from the horse’s mouth pretty soon.


Word Up Bookstore

When I first moved to New York City, and specifically here to Washington Heights, I was nervous. I was nervous for a lot of reasons, mostly because I was doing a Big New Thing with my life. After 4 years out of college and 4 years in college in the more-or-less constant company of my beloved bosom friend, Rachel, I was moving in with my girlfriend, Charlotte. I also didn’t have a job, exactly, or much of a plan aside from getting a job somewhere and writing more and maybe applying to PhD programs someday. I was nervous about leaving Boston, leaving the friends I had there. I was nervous about not being in school again for awhile. And I was nervous, especially, deep-down, seriously nervous, because my new neighborhood didn’t seem to have a bookstore.

I hoped, of course, that Charlotte’s and my relationship would grow deeper and stronger without my losing the deep, daily friendship I had with Rachel. I hoped that I wouldn’t discover that Charlotte and I worked great long- distance, and not so great no-distance. I hoped that I would like New York. I hoped that I would find ways to work and play and live and connect and love my new situation, while staying in touch with my friends scattered in their various haunts. And I hoped I would find great bookstores close to home.

So far, most of my hopes have been fulfilled in various, lovely ways. These weekend, Charlotte and I are celebrating our five-year anniversary (the actual date of our anniversary is rather vague: we were doing a theater workshop when we actually got together and everyone in the workshop was pretty much living in the same apartment, and well… we just can’t remember the date, so we celebrate sometime in July.) Turns out we work even better no-distance than long. I still talk to Rachel every day, and to several of my other beloved bosom friends weekly or so, though there are also many of you with whom I would love to be in better touch. I’m hoping this blog, while boosting interest in and sales of my writing to sky-rocketing levels, will also provide a means of in-touch-ness with those I have not spoken to in awhile. New York has gone from overwhelming to friendly, in a strange transition I don’t know how to describe. I’ve written more (did you catch the 500 posts about The Clown and the Magician?), and I’m starting a PhD program in English at CUNY in the fall.

But… But. No bookstores close to home. Until about a month ago, when we heard about this pop-up bookstore that is so very, very close to where we live. What, you ask, is a pop-up bookstore? It is a bookstore that springs up with little warning, that is perhaps temporary, and that, in this case, is designed to provide literary and musical and performative community space, along with lots of interesting books to buy.

Word Up Bookstore is housed in a former pharmacy, with the pharmacy awning still out front. It is small-ish, but has lots of open space, especially at the back, where there is a lovely small stage and performance area. There are bookshelves filled with books, many by local authors, many strange, beautiful, random, political, quirky books. There is a terrific sale on books by Seven Stories Press, so there are lots of books available for $3 or $5, and there’s even a table of books for free. Word Up has lots of art on the walls, paintings and all kinds of decoration done by local artists, and, in one especially decorated corner with lots of yellow and pink, you can find out what your sign is on the vegetable zodiac (determined by birth year), and, if so inclined, buy a packet of seeds of your zodiac vegetable. I am a chili pepper. Charlotte is a tomato.

There are readings and/or concerts and/or comic book workshops, self-defense classes, and other things harder to classify almost every night. The space is hot, and there are a few places where the walls and ceilings are a bit holey (mostly cleverly hidden with art), but it is the one place I voluntarily go where I know it will probably be ten degrees hotter than the outside, and sometimes even than my home.

The first or second time I went in, I learned that Word Up is entirely staffed by volunteers, and I started volunteering shortly thereafter. Initially, Word Up was supposed to only exist for one month. They planned to close it down last night. The space, in a long saga I don’t fully understand, has been donated by its owner, a New York realty company called Vantage, through a Community Outreach program they have. Looking up the company online makes for some interesting reading. Anyway, the overall response to the bookstore has been incredibly positive, and so Vantage and the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance and Seven Stories Institute worked out a plan to keep it open at least through the end of September, perhaps longer.

Last night we had a volunteer meeting, and it was really great to meet a motley assortment of people in my neighborhood who all love the bookstore. I don’t know where it’s all going, but I’m loving it so far, and I wanted to tell you all about my literary-community-volunteer experiences. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by Word Up and check it out. And whether you are or not, here’s the link to their blog:

Happy Release Day to the Clown and the Magician!

It’s been released!!! 😀

The Clown and the Magician is now on the virtual shelves! That reminds me of a technical note I don’t think I mentioned before: the novella is being released as an ebook only, so if you’re not sure how to work that or what to do with that, let me know and I’ll help you out. Probably that’s not the case if you’re reading this blog, but just in case there’s any confusion.

But anyway, the book is out! It has moved from the “Coming Soon” to the “New Releases” section of Dreamspinner Press’ website, it has appeared on my bookshelf there, and, most importantly, it is now available to be YOURS for only $3.99. (Cheap price made possible by its ebook-ness, which I do appreciate, despite my very strong love of physical, graspable books and desire to see my name on the cover of one of those).

This also means that now the book is not just mine to talk and think about, but also anyone else’s who buys it and reads it and cares to say something about it. Exciting and scary stuff again! But great, in a way, because I’m definitely ready to stop having a monologue about this thing and start having a conversation.

If you do buy the book, and you wouldn’t mind leaving me a note to that effect, you will receive in return lovely vibes of authorial relief and gratitude.

Welcome to the world-at-large, book! With a clown and a magician in you, you ought to throw one heck of a birthday party. I hope your guests have a fantastic time.

Here's the cover art again, still by the talented Anne Cain

Look! Today I’m on the front of Dreamspinner’s website as a new release!

And here’s the normal buy link for those who like less fuss.

Love and Fear on Book Release Eve

Hello, faithful readers. I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with what to write about today, something interesting about The Clown and the Magician on the eve of its release, something that isn’t boring or repetitive (since most of my posts so far have revolved around this book), something that maybe is basically a disguise for how scared and excited I am about the whole thing.

But to hell with that. I write to tell the truth, so I’ll tell you the truth. I’m scared. And excited. Like so many things in life, it’s all love and fear, fear and love. Perhaps uncoincidentally (is that not a word? The text editor here thinks not-a-word, but has nothing to offer me instead), love and fear pretty much describes how I feel about writing. And relating to other people. And making business phone calls. And doing the dishes, at least in this 100ish degree weather.

Thankfully, the love wins at least a little more than half of the time, except perhaps in the case of the dishes, which makes sense, because the love doesn’t really exist in the case of the dishes, except maybe in love for Charlotte, and not wanting her to have to do dishes all the time by herself forever, and love for not having really moldy dishes all around and love for drinking things out of clean glasses.

I guess these two things really are everywhere.

So, because confession is good for the soul (remember that part where I write about Catholicism and stuff? I was such a religious & spiritual kid, but I NEVER liked Confession. Resented the whole idea and was freaked out about it. I have been to Confession exactly twice in my life– but I do think telling the truth is good for the soul), here is my confession. These are the things I fear about my book that’s coming out tomorrow, and these are the things I love about it.

Fear 1. I’m scared that no one will buy it.

Fear 2. I’m scared that everyone will hate it.

(I’m pretty sure that Fear 1 and Fear 2 are the standard fears that every writer has about every piece of writing put before the public in any way ever… but there you go.)

Fear 3. I’m scared that people will think the book is silly or weird because it’s a romance or won’t pay attention to the story for that reason. And that I’m being foolish by putting my real, honest-to-God, one-shot-only name on it, because when I write a picture book or something, someone, somewhere will freak out.

Fear 4. Here’s where we get serious. I’m scared because I am writing a character of a different racial background than mine– and his race matters at some points in the story. I feel really strongly about doing this. There are way too many books with only white people in them. But I also feel like I’m gonna screw it up. Funny, isn’t it? I am not worried about screwing up writing men or gay men or gay men having sex–the only kind of sex I cannot conceivably experience in my own body at all–or people substantially older than me, or people in professions I know nothing about, but race… yes. Race scares me. And I also get that that’s my racial crap inheritance. I don’t get most of the racial crap that the world has to give, but this, this fear of trying, this fear of what others might see or say in or about what I write, or of hurting someone with it… it’s got the sharp, nasty, double-edged sword end of white-girl-ness written all over it. Not that it’s wrong to be afraid, but the way I’m afraid– it carries a temptation to back out and leave race alone. And that’s just what I shouldn’t do, whether this little book works on these grounds or not. I think.

Ok, there’s the fear. Now to the love.

Love 1. I love the parents we see in this story. I love May, Jake’s stepmother. I love having a butch woman of color in the background of a male-male romance. Butch women belong in more stories! I love Bernard’s father… I feel like saying that gives too much away, maybe, but I do. I just love his absolute emotional clumsiness, and the fact that he totally messes up most of the times he opens his mouth, but that’s not the end of his story or his efforts.

Love 2. I love the themes of connection and integrity running through this story. I love the connection thing because that’s really what a good romance should be about, but it happens in so many interesting places in this story. I love the bitchy, dying woman in the nursing home who connects with Comet and the deer in the zoo that Bernard and Jake connect with for a moment. I love that this theme emerged on its own terms, because I think its really the flip side of the problem with Send in the Clowns and its stifling of individuality. It’s not just individual uniqueness that is taken away in a situation like that, it’s the potential to connect, and I think most of the characters we meet in this story, on or off stage, are trying so hard to connect in all these different, small ways, with Bernard and Jake’s struggle for connection right in the center.

Love 3. I love the weird, playful sex they have. I don’t want to give anything away, but… I love the whimsical sex.

Love 4. This is probably a predictable love, or one you would hope a writer of a romance would have, but I love Bernard and Jake. I love how real and present they became in this story, to me and to each other. I love how they are both amazingly graceful, in very different ways. I love, love, love Bernard’s commitment to clowning and his relationship to his clown character and the memory of his mentor. I love how sexy and physically precise Jake is–makes him a good magician, and also is a very fun thing to see through Bernard’s eyes. I love Jake’s dignity and refusal to be condescended to (I totally feel the same way whenever someone condescends to me, so that’s a me thing in him). I love the way they talk to each other.

So there you have it. My true confessions, mostly-hopefully lacking bravado on the one hand or false modesty on the other. My cards are on the table, but I can still do a trick with them… Wanna see?

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