I’ve had that “Dark Night of the Soul” moment that writers get sometimes.
That moment when we question our abilities—our very right to call ourselves writers—when we catch a review, read it the wrong (or right!) way and are sent spinning down the rabbit hole of self-loathing and insecurity, only to find ourselves stuck there.
I think it’s one of those hazards of a job that keeps us locked in our heads if we’re doing it right.
And unless you’re one of the lucky ones, most of us lack the gift of true perspective to keep us out of trouble when it comes to our own work. It’s the most difficult attribute to develop as a writer, and the most critical one to have. For me, it takes approximately six months before I can read anything I’ve written and not immediately want to run to the nearest restroom and hurl.
When Lisa Horan kindly fed me topic questions for this blog post, the one that jumped out was the question of what keeps me coming back to GRL year after year? And if you asked me that question a couple of months ago I might have answered differently.
I was struggling with my own bout of “Dark Nightism” and it had me questioning the wisdom of attending this year. But at the end of the day, Lisa’s question is its own answer—It’s the retreat itself that calls to me. I come back to come back.
There has always been powerful magic in assembling together.
I find the support, encouragement, and especially an outside and trustworthy perspective found in conversation with the other writers who participate at GRL (and similar events) to be both empowering and reassuring. I suspect I’m not an outlier in this regard and that most of us share this trait to some degree.
And what I discovered it in Albuquerque at my first GRL it was a revelation—to turn my back on it now would be unthinkable.
GRL was the first place since becoming an adult, where I felt totally accepted without judgment or precondition. Within short order I found I could drop all my filters and engage with (initially) total strangers in an open and brutally honest way, without fear of censure.
And once I re-experienced that feeling of lightness and peace that comes with that level of acceptance, it was impossible to return to the limitations my life had settled on me like a cloak of. The lessons from Albuquerque followed me back home.
GRL did that for me. Gave me a community and a group of friends and colleagues that I cherish and who cherish me back. GRL gives us all a place to congregate, to connect, to socialize, and network. It is the family we claim, a gift that is priceless.
And yes, the underpinnings of commerce underscore every corner of this retreat – but I embrace that as well–I’m celebrating all the writing partnerships, contracts, and plot bunnies that spring forth every time we’re together. I’m even embracing the family spats.
I hope I see you there. Just know I don’t need you to be anything other than who you already are. I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t extend you the same courtesy I’ve always received.
Blurb and Excerpt from the Rainbow Award Finalist, Can This Be Real:
Chef Christian De Guisse can’t trust a man who doesn’t love his food, Detective Andrew Simmons won’t let any man close who thinks he’s broken—somewhere between these two points, love is possible, but only if they get real.
When Chef Christian De Guisse accidently outs Celebrity Chef Jordan Slayer during a fight in front of The Times entertainment reporter—it only gets Christian ex-boyfriend status and a one-way plane ticket to culinary exile in Oregon. But a fortuitous meeting with Detective Andrew Simmons at the Portland airport keeps De Guisse and his collection of exotic herbs out of the hands of homeland security, starting the chemistry simmering between them. Andy isn’t much of a foodie and for a chef who communicates love through his cooking this may be one hurdle too high.
“You fucking bastard!” Christian slammed through the door to Jordan’s office without knocking. The executive suite was built on a mezzanine overlooking the dining room and faced with an entire wall of glass that revealed a private chef’s table at one end and Jordan’s desk at the other. From the dining room floor the executive suite always reminded Christian of a giant aquarium; Jordan’s relentless pacing mimicking the school of piranha circling their tank at the NY Aquarium.
“Chris, what the hell? I’m in a meeting with the network, this is completely inappropriate!” Christian barely spared a glance at the room full of suits before blasting back.
“You want to know what’s fucking inappropriate? It’s cheating on me with some twat while I run your goddamned restaurant making you look good to all these pretentious assholes!” Christian swept a hand out, gesturing to those seated behind him with the paper still clutched in his hand.
Jordan lost all color in his face as Christian slapped the newspaper down in front of him. The pages were folded back to reveal a cozy photograph of Jordan, arms wrapped around a statuesque blonde in a tiny silver micro dress as they left a trendy SoHo eatery.
Page Six had spent several column inches speculating that perhaps Jordan had met the future Mrs. Happy Monkey, given the number of times he’d been seen escorting her around town over the last six months.
“Christian, you’re overreacting—”
“Fuck you, Jordan. If anything I’m underreacting here. How long have you been sneaking around?”
Jordan froze and then seemed to pull himself together after a quick glance at the startled faces around them. For the first time Christian focused on the other occupants in the room. Among the seven suits seated, Christian recognized Mickey Nichols, Executive Producer for Jordan’s shows, along with Melissa Halprin, entertainment reporter for The Times. While the others were studiously trying to avoid eye contact, Melissa had the glazed look of someone witnessing a car wreck as she clutched her recorder in one hand.
“Back off, Chris!” Jordan snapped, every inch of him channeling his “Jordan Slayer, TV star” persona. “I don’t know what the hell you think you’re doing but this is none of your business, and for the record I’m not gay.”
“Not gay? I find that incredibly unlikely since you had your tongue shoved up my asshole not three hours ago. In my experience, that’s usually a line a straight man won’t cross!” Christian would have been more satisfied by the horror on Jordan’s face if the view weren’t ruined by a sucker punch to his jaw.
The blow knocked him backwards into the glass wall, panels shuddering and pinging. Mickey jumped up to grab Jordan, pulling the cheating bastard out of harm’s way, while the sting of his mouth dissolved the last bit of Christian’s self-control.
“You can deny it all you want but there’s also the fact you’ve been inserting your cock into every orifice of sufficient size on my body since I was seventeen—you’re just one blowjob away from winning the award for World’s Most Prolific Cocksucker, Jordan!”
The mention of underage sex and blowjobs seemed to light a fire under Mickey. He shoved Jordan into a chair and started hustling everyone else out of the room. Melissa was no longer being shy about her interest and was furiously jotting notes into a small notebook—lingering as long as she could—Mickey finally shut the door in her face and turned the panels to opaque before making his own escape.
“Seventeen?” Jordan spluttered, shock ripping away his façade. “I thought you had to be eighteen to apply to the CIA?”
Jordan was probably thinking back to all the times he’d dragged Christian into an empty supply closet or the guest quarters at the venerable cooking institution during that long weekend eight years ago.
“Yeah, Jordan. You were so hot to get in my whites that you never slowed down long enough to ask, not that it took very long as I recall. You know, I never could tell if it was my tight ass you loved more or my perfect sauces. I guess it’s a moot point now.”
Christian couldn’t stop the memories from surfacing, overwhelming his pain. As an undergraduate attending the Culinary Institute of America, Christian had been assigned to help Jordan prep for a cooking demonstration; to say they’d hit it off would’ve been an understatement. In fact, upon graduation Jordan came calling, luring Christian into hitching his professional career to Jordan’s star. Bile rose in Christian’s throat at the choices he’d made.
“Christian?” Jordan broke into Christian’s reverie.
Staring at him, Christian barely recognized the man he’d thought he’d spend the rest of his life with. For Christian, their early professional partnership had quickly become personal— in Jordan he’d found not only a mentor but also a partner and friend.
They’d done everything together. And even though Christian spent all his nights at the loft with Jordan, except for the late weekend shifts, Jordan had always resisted Christian’s overtures to make it official by moving in together. Now he knew the reason why. Just the thought of it made a red tide of rage rise once more.
“I can’t believe I never recognized what a low-life, no-talent, has-been, cheating scum you really are…” Christian shook with emotion, the words snarled, hands clenched at his sides and jaw throbbing.
Jordan appeared tired and defeated sitting with his head in his hands, but the look he gave Christian as he rolled his head to the side was mostly pissed.
“You’re fired, Chris. Get the fuck out of my restaurant.”
Author Bio: LE Franks walked away from writing at 17. Real life and travelling the world seemed fair compensation until the characters in her head demanded their turn. Now, living in the SF Bay Area, surrounded by inspiration everywhere, LE is finally taking off the filters and giving the stories free rein. These days, LE can be found frequently writing about sexy men who desperately need a happily ever.
LE writes M/M Romance in a unique mix of humor and drama with enough suspense to produce fast paced stories filled with emotion and passion and featuring characters that are quirky and complicated. Don’t expect the typical rugged hero or sophisticated businessman with the world at their feet; LE’s men are living in the margins–they’re in the middle of their journey, doing the best they can while searching for a connection to something bigger than themselves. With a little effort and a lot of luck they may actually find their happily-ever-afters.
When not writing, LE wrangles an odd assortment of jobs (six – at last count), houseguests (including pro baseball players), family, and friends. Manifesting an odd combination of contradictory talents and traits, LE is tragically honest and personally deceptive, and makes the best piecrust – ever.