Archive | May, 2013

News Roundup: Devon Marshall & Nicola Griffith interviews, BSB UK Blog updates, Freebies, VG Lee & Emma Donoghue

30 May

It’s raining, so I made cake. Let’s settle down with a nice cup of tea, a big piece of raspberry oaty-niceness cake and the news, shall we?

15723746Devon Marshall has been interviewed over at The Modern L, which has also posted a rave review of her novel Voodoo Woman. Check out her answers to vital questions such as “Do you believe in the Loch Ness Monster?” and “Do Scottish dykes wear kilts?”, as well as much less serious matters such as self-publishing and dealing with criticism, here.

(The answers, by the way, are “Yes” and “It’s what they wear UNDERNEATH their kilts that matters.” Hmm…)

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After her recent honour from the Lambda Literary Foundation and with the release of Hild drawing ever closer, Nicola Griffith has been busy fielding interviews this past week. An interesting and revealing chat with Seattle newsite Crosscut has just been published, and on her publisher’s website Nicola discusses the origins of Hild with editor Sean McDonald.

NicolaGriffith“In the writing of it, I knew I really wanted Hild to measure up to Mantel’s Cromwell: that sense of an extraordinary mind breasting the waves of competing political agendas. Beneath that I hope the reader will feel the same wild magic of the landscape evoked by Mary Stewart in The Crystal Cave. And if I could give readers the sheer exhilaration in Hild’s company that Patrick O’Brian gave me with Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin I’d know I was finally getting it right…”

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astrayProving that even award-winning, seasoned writers like Emma Donoghue get nervous when submitting new works for consideration, she recently posted this little teaser on her blog:

Just sold my new novel. Phew! (It’s nerve-wracking every time… no guarantees that publishers will like the next just because they liked the last.) Out next spring, details to follow.”

We’ll pass on more news as soon as we hear any!

Also, her short story collection Astray is newly out in paperback. She says: “Picador’s just brought out a lovely paperback of ASTRAY in the UK. So many of my books feature either a headless or a back-to-the-viewer woman…

And it would seem that this latest version is no exception to that rule. It is pretty, though.

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The UK authors of Bold Strokes Books are gearing up for their Nottingham Fest with a two week blog extravaganza which will feature posts from each of the attending authors. First up are Lesley Davies answering some prompts from readers, and Jane Fletcher, who has been pondering that age-old question What Is Lesbian Fiction? The blogs will run on a daily basis up to and including Friday 7th June, so keep checking them out!

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imagesYou  know how much we like free stuff over here on UK LesFic. We don’t actually get any of it, but we like it all the same. But there is free stuff up for grabs over on Goodreads, where Sky Croft is running a giveaway for her new novel, Mountain Rescue: The Ascent. There are two copies in the draw and entrants will be accepted until the 26th June. Good luck.

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Lastly, a date for your diary: VG Lee will be performing the Lady of the Wild West Hill! on Friday 20th September, 7.30pm at Birmingham LGBT Health & Well Being Centre, 38-40 Holloway Head, Birmingham, B1 1EQ. For details try phoning: 0121 643 0821 or keep an eye on VG’s own website.

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Editor’s note: Despite an unpromising, purpley appearance, the cake was actually quite tasty. Huzzah!

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Guest Blog by Ke Payne

28 May

Another365DaysBold Strokes writer Ke Payne is the author of 365 Days, Another 365 Days and me@you.com. Here she talks of her fondness for malapropisms and her loveable and error-prone heroine Clemmie.

Malapropisms. While it might not be the easiest word to say in the whole world, these unintentionally funny quirks of the English language never fail to make me laugh, and many of them find their way into my writing – in particular my current novel, Another 365 Days.

A recent four-hour wait at my local A&E department brought a few malapropisms to my ear, and got me thinking about what it is about them that are so funny. A perfectly innocent conversation between a pair of elderly ladies talking, in thick Worcestershire accents, about a local production of The Sound of Music, turned into a classic comedy moment that had me wishing I’d been with them at the theatre to hear it for myself. The conversation went something like this:

Lady One: And the girl that played Maria – you know, the one played by Julie Walters in the film…
Lady Two: Julie Andrews, you mean.
Lady One: That’s her. Marvellous she was. Got a standing ovulation at the end.
Lady Two: She must have been good.
Lady One: She was. Knocked spots off Christopher Plummer…

Now, had it not been for the fact I was in pain, and needed to see a doctor, I would have happily allowed myself to be led, crying with laughter, from the waiting room. As it was, I had to try and maintain a poker face whilst doing everything I could to avoid making eye contact with them, because I knew that would set me off again. Shoulders would heave, cheeks would redden alarmingly, and snot would suddenly appear, as if by magic and drip from my nose.

This is what malapropisms do to me.

I just love them. Thanks to Mrs. Malaprop, humour can be found in the most unexpected of places, and the simplest of statements can be instantly turned into something extremely funny. That’s why I’m constantly listening out for them, so that I can thread them into my novels and, hopefully, make people laugh along with them too.

Is there a verb “To Malaprop”? If there isn’t there should be, because the main character in Another 365 Days, Clemmie Atkins, is the queen of them, and has a habit of “malapropping” at the most inconvenient moments. Clemmie is a bit of a chump, but she’s a loveable chump. My debut novel, 365 Days first introduced her and her daft ways via her daily diary entries, in which she told how she struggled to come to terms with her sexuality, and how she’d fallen in love with a girl at school, who she’d only talk about as “J”.

Clemmie’s scared that sh365Dayse has feelings for J. She tries to convince herself that she’d “just be happy to be her friend”, and tells herself she only likes J and thinks about her constantly because she seems like she’d be a cool friend to have, and nothing more.

Boy, haven’t we all been there?!

So, in an effort to assure herself she’s not gay, and encouraged by her mates, Clemmie dates a boy called Ben. Of course, Ben doesn’t make Clemmie’s feelings for J go away. Instead, all he does is kiss her (badly) with lettuce on his shoes outside McDonalds, which makes her feelings for the lovely J all the more intense.

What—or rather, who—does finally change everything is the arrival of a new girl at school called Han, who comes into Clemmie’s life just when she really needs it. Another 365 Days”picks up immediately where 365 Days left off, and, just as in that book, Clemmie deals with her angst in the only way she knows how: with humour. And Han loves her for it.

Han falls for her exactly because of her witticisms and funny little quirks; okay, Clemmie can be immature, naive and gauche, but underneath all that she has a heart of gold. Han knows that’s what makes Clemmie special – and she’s very special indeed to her.

Clemmie’s daily musings take the reader on a journey from longing and despair, to love and happiness. It’s sprinkled with bloopers, malapropisms, and the awkward situations Clemmie finds herself in will make you facepalm at her stupidity. There will be times when you’ll love Clemmie; there will be times when you’ll possibly dislike her. But underneath all the humour and silliness, she has a heart of gold, and an overwhelming desire to be loved.

So we can excuse her a few malapropisms if it means she finds true love. Can’t we?

Kiki Archer answers your questions on video

24 May

Kiki-ArcherWe had a great response to this and some excellent serious and cheeky questions. There were too many to fit into the slot in the end, so I’m sorry if your question didn’t make it through.

Thanks very much Kiki for doing this Q&A and to everyone who sent questions in. It was a blast!

Let’s see how she did with those questions…

UKLesFic wishes that it had known Kiki was always up for a challenge. There could have been even more excrutiating questions. Next time Kiki Archer… 🙂

News Roundup: Loads of bits and pieces!

22 May

Whew, been a busy old week on here but we just have space to squeeze in some news, so I’ll stop blathering and get on with it, shall I?

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Following on from last Friday’s conversation piece between Jane Fletcher and Nora Olsen, the concluding part of their blog-hopping chat has been posted at Women & Words. Be sure to get over there before May 24th to be in with a shot at winning a signed (or e-book) copy of Nora’s new novel Swans & Klons.

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UKmeetSquare_zpsb289200bSticking with Women & Words for a moment, Stevie Carroll – a veteran of all four UK GLBTQ Fiction Meets – has been blogging over on W&W about why this summer’s Manchester event (12-14th July) will be absolutely splendid. With tickets selling fast and the date approaching at a rate of knots, now is a good time to find out why you should be signing up for the weekend. Here are three reasons just to kick off with:

  • Thoroughly British organisers, who’ve put together an appropriately British programme in a northern city with a thriving (and world-famous) gay village (aka Canal Street)
  • A small and intimate-feeling event, due to the organisers keeping attendee numbers within limits they are comfortable with
  • Social, workshop, discussion panel and speaker-based elements spread across two rooms to provide a range of ways for readers, reviewers and writers to learn more about their favourite brands of fiction.

I’ll be there with bells on** – will you?

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bold books logoSpeaking of Fests, the UK BSB website recently published the programme for their upcoming Nottingham festival (8-9th June.) You can find details of all the panels and panellists, timings, and event locations over at this link.

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For any prospective authors thinking about publishing their work online but floundering a little when confronted by the numerous available platforms, Niamh Murphy has been weighing their pros and cons over on her blog. If, like me, you are someone who gets confused by all kinds of technology (including the telly remote control), having Niamh do the hard work for you can only be a good thing.

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vgleeVG Lee’s one woman play, The Lady of the Wild West Hill seems to have gone down a storm in Brighton this last week. If you missed the play this time around, she will be performing it again at L-Fest on Friday 19th July. For more information on the festival’s arts line up, head here.

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Over on her personal blog, Stella Duffy has been ruminating on the joys of writing a book (her Stella Duffy, writer, actor14th!) with no contract attached:

This has been sold to no-one and promised to no-one, I hope they’ll all like it. I’m really excited by it and have been since the idea first started bubbling up about 8 years ago. But I didn’t start writing it until last year because there wasn’t time and it wasn’t the right book. The Theodora books were the right books for the last 6 years. This is the right book for now.

Ahh, writing for the love of it; Stella, you are a woman after my own heart.

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Rounding up the news this week with a bit of international flavour for any of our readers who might live Stateside. Nicola Griffith‘s first public reading of Hild will be taking place at McNally Jackson Books in New York city, May 30th at 7pm. For more details, hit this link.

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** It is actually unlikely that I will be wearing bells. I’m taking part in a panel and they would be far too bloody distracting.

Send us your questions for a video Q&A with Kiki Archer!

21 May

Kiki-264

For a bit of fun, Kiki Archer is going to do a video Q&A. Send us your questions for Kiki, be as cheeky as you like, and she’ll read them out and answer them on video.

Kiki stormed on to the LesFic scene last year with her debut novel But She is My Student, a funny chicklit romance about a high-school student and teacher who fall in love, a scenario and bog-standard school setting that many could relate to. Readers have loved her light funny romances for lesbians and her follow up novels Instigations and Binding Devotion also hit number one on the Amazon LesFic charts.

Here’s a taster of Kiki’s videos – this is a short one that she did as artist of the week for L Fest:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MRQrnIY3zQc

NOTE: we’ve had a great response to this and have stopped taking questions so Kiki can get on with answering them all!

A Plague Upon All Your Genres – guest post by Suzanne Egerton

20 May

Today’s guest post comes from new author Suzanne Egerton whose  début novel Out Late with Friends and Regrets was published this month by Paddy’s Daddy’s Publishing.

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SuzanneEgertonStanding up in that large gathering of women, when the nice lady from BSB had been assuring aspiring writers that their editors were happy to provide feedback and advice with their rejections, and hearing myself saying, sorry, but you didn’t give me any… was hard.

“Oh. What’s your name?”
(Gulp) “Suzanne Egerton.”
“Erm… oh yes, I remember. I’m afraid it… just wasn’t romance.”

Dear friends, never underestimate the importance of research. I knew that romance figured large in their titles of course, but the thought that a big, nurturing company was actively seeking lesbian writers had focused my eyes on the pages of the website that spoke most eloquently to my ambitions. I never tumbled that they were a genre publisher. Duh!

Many rewritten words ago, when my book was still called “My Proper Place” (ugh, but there was a good, lyric-based reason for it – though not everyone is into the Velvet Underground, granted), I spent over a year painstakingly crafting submissions to the exact requirements of agents and publishers various, logging every one and later inserting the rejection date against each. I’ve just looked in that small red notebook; twenty-four polite rejections or time-outs in all. Of these, only one very sweet Irish agent took the trouble to give me the invaluable information that, though she really did like the sample, she just wouldn’t know where or to whom to market it.

Everyone knows that you shouldn’t write to a formula; it should come from the heart. But it sure helps if your story happens to fit comfortably into one of the popular genres. I was in the position of having edured a long, elephantine gestation, only to find that my baby would have to struggle through much hostile terrain before finding an environment capable of sustaining life.

I always wanted “Out Late with Friends and Regrets” to be a crossover book, not a novel aimed exclusively at lesbians. But Contemporary Women’s Fiction is a vast, amorphous  genre, and is heavily populated by that upmarket sub-genre, the Literary Book. Nothing against literary; I have enjoyed many literary books. But then scan the remaining available boxes, and tick them off on your fingers: Romance. Crime (God, I wish I could write crime!). Thriller. Historical. Family Saga. YA. Children’s. Sci-Fi (let’s include Specfic and Steampunk, shall we?) Fantasy. Erotica. Memoir. Biography. Autobiography. Political. Hey! Humour! Yes well, mine’s got plenty of humour, but also sorrow, difficult stuff about relationships and family, lust, food, friendship, getting drunk…you know, real stuff. And yes, the main character does discover that she’s gay, after being in an abusive heterosexual marriage from far too young an age. (No, she isn’t stupid; read up the psychology – these charismatic controlling men are typically attracted to bright girls and women, and unpick their personalities over the years until every last thread of the woman’s confidence and independence is shredded. And then there’s the complication of children…)

This scenario seemed to me to offer a wealth of potential for dramatic tension: when Fiona finds herself alone and long separated from friends and family, she has the struggle of relearning social skills as well as coming to terms with her previously unsuspected sexuality. She never had the chance to learn the rules of the dating game first time around, so imagine how scary her first night out with another woman feels! Oh yes, and I’ve made her a convent-educated Catholic as well, just for good measure. Authors can be so cruel…

So there they are, a hundred and eleven thousand words shuffling around in a phalanx, muttering under their combined breath and wondering which way is home – which genre will have them? My wonderful mentor, Helen Sedgwick of Wildland Editors, who read the ms and told me bluntly which parts weren’t working and had to go (twelve thousand words slain at a stroke! Never fear, they’ve been cryogenically preserved and I just may recycle them sometime in the future – writing is so planet-friendly) suggested “Coming-of-Age”. I can see how it might be a fit, but since my girl is thirty-seven when the story begins, it could be slightly misleading to those seeking teenage kicks. And the “Journey” category has been well shagged into a tattered cliché by all those X-Factor contestants.

You may have seen my bio, in which case you’ll have noted that I’m a fitness instructor when I’m not writing. When you go to instructor college, the tutors teach you (amongst a heap of other stuff) to devise your own choreography and exercises. However, much of the fitness market today is occupied by multinational franchise companies, who supply music and choreo to those instructors willing to deliver classes identical to every other instructor of that class in the world. Sorry, that isn’t for me. It stifles creativity, doesn’t allow for client (or instructor!) error, and robs a class of its USP. We upstream-swimmers are known as freestyle instructors, and I guess my natural writing genre, if any, could be termed freestyle too. Despite the sexuality-unfolding storyline of “Out Late etc.” there are some important straight characters, and gay men too, amongst the lesbian and bisexual women; I have been very chuffed by the compliments I’ve received from mixed audiences of all sexes and sexualities when I’ve given readings from the book.

It’s significant, I think, that when my submission finally found that special person who fell in love with the sample chapters, and who sat up most of the night to read the rest, it was a young, straight, family man; a man who decided to be a publisher because he cares more about the writing and the story than about the commerciality of the genre.

I guess my book is essentially about the freedom to be yourself.

Here’s to freedom.

Suzanne Egerton is English by birth, but settled in Scotland in the eighties, and for the last few has lived with her partner in Motherwell, with deceptively cute mutt Jonesy (F) and a house and garden that take a lot of work to maintain. Her debut novel Out Late With Friends and Regrets is published by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing and you can read more about her here.

Building Worlds: A Conversation between Jane Fletcher and Nora Olsen

17 May

A couple of months ago we were delighted to be asked whether we would like to host part of a conversation blog hop feature between two Bold Strokes authors. As Jane Fletcher is one of the leading lights in UK lesbian fantasy writing and Nora Olsen is a brand new BSB author, we jumped at the chance to have them chatting on the site.

Jane Fletcher and Nora Olsen began their conversation at the Bold Strokes Books Author’s Blog on May 14  and will wrap it up on Tuesday May 21 on Women and Words. Take a look!

nora picNora Olsen:

I’m curious about what it’s like to have published a whole lot of books. I’m still a newbie, and every time anything happens I’m overwhelmed with wonder or maybe confusion. When you’ve published ten or more books, is it still really exciting to see your new book cover for the first time? Or is it just business as usual?

fletcherJane Fletcher:

I’m not a natural writer. I didn’t keep diaries or write little stories when I was a kid. I wrote my first book mainly to see if I could finish a whole novel, but also partly just to play around with the word processor on my first home PC. My only intended audience was my partner. I certainly had no plans to submit it to a publisher, so there was no pressure on me at all. Nobody else in the world was waiting for it.

Getting published was a year long roundabout of wonderful moments. Sometimes, out of the blue I’d be surprised by the thought “I’m going to have a book published” and I’d have to stop myself from literally jumping up and down with excitement. The peak though, was holding a proper copy of my book in my hands for the first time.

The surprised excitement element has now faded, but the satisfaction when I send the manuscript back to my editor after completing the last round of edits has not dimmed at all.

If I had to be honest, I’d have to say I enjoy having written more than writing. And nothing says “I’ve written” more than getting the copies and holding them – in fact, to be more accurate, the phrase should be cuddling them.

So what has the publishing process been like for you? What have you found the most unexpected part? And what got you writing to start with?

Nora Olsen:

bsb_swans_klons__94993I used to write a lot as a kid–in fact, when I was visiting my mother the other day I found a story that I had written when I was about seven years old called The Fight For Unicron (I was not a good speller at all.) Also a choose-your-own-adventure detective story where one of the options was disguising yourself as a landlord. I don’t know what I thought landlords were supposed to look like.

As an adult I started out trying to write literary fiction, short stories, for grown-ups, which was a total bust. I finally realized that I was writing about teenagers all the time and I should really be writing FOR teenagers. I hit my sweet spot when I started writing specifically for LGBTQ teens. (And anyone else who wants to read my stuff—I’m not picky. But there’s definitely a target audience in my head that I write to.) So far the publishing process has been great for me. I have been blown away by it. The most unexpected thing happened to me recently, when I went to the Rainbow Book Fair in NYC to help out at the Bold Strokes Books table. My book Swans & Klons was not published yet; it still had about a month before it came out. But there my book was, sitting there all glossy and shiny on the table, for sale. I was so surprised and amazed. And then some people bought it, even.

I definitely identify with enjoying “having written” more than actually writing. I think I mentioned before that I like writing the first draft, but editing it so that it’s good enough for an editor to read is torture. However, being done with writing is the most satisfying!

Jane Fletcher:

bsb_the_temple_at_landfall__81031On the other hand, I like editing. For me, it’s a bit like decorating a room and making it pretty after you’ve done the hard slog of building the house.

I’ve got set in my own editing routine, which came about from my first book. As I said, I didn’t write it with a view to getting published, but after I’d finished, I decided to put it aside for 6 months, then read it through, in the hope of seeing it with fresh eyes. If I thought it was good enough, I’d send it off.

When I eventually did the reading, what I discovered was that my writing had improved enormously during the course of the book. So I had to edit it, to bring it all up to the same standard – except the same thing happened again.

By the time I’d completely rewritten it six times, my writing was no longer getting better. But by now the novel was too long (250,000 words). However after all the time that had gone by, I had an idea for a shorter novel which I dashed off quickly.

I also let this sit on my hard drive, unread for 6 months – just to be sure. This confirmed my writing had stabilised. However, what I had written wasn’t always the same as what I’d thought I’d had.

When I’m writing, I’m much too close to the story. I need the gap of a few months so I can judge what I’ve written and see how far it’s drifted from what I intended. It’s when I edit that I really learn who my characters are. Their voices become much stronger. I also spot the bits that aren’t working – usually because I had an idea so firmly fixed in my head I didn’t notice when it failed to get onto the paper.

The second shorter novel became The Temple at Landfall. My first marathon effort was not a loss. After yet more editing, it was split in half and became the first two books of the Lyremouth series.

Nora Olsen:

That’s very interesting. I’m fascinated by how different every writer’s process is. It sounds like for you the book has to bake a little bit after it is written, and then you look at it again.

Jane Fletcher:

It sounds as if you also had to sit back and evaluate in order to discover who you were writing for. Was there anything more intentionally planned that led you into spec fic? Do you think you’ll stay with it, or do you have plans to explore other genres?

Nora Olsen:

I didn’t really intentionally get into spec fic, except that it’s a genre I’ve always loved, and that’s the kind of idea that tends to occur to me. It’s easier to have a story that’s a little offbeat in spec fic, and I think I can’t help bringing a quirky sensibility to what I write. I would like to explore other genres, but I’m sure I will always want to write spec fic too. I think that LGBTQ spec fic YA is kind of a rare, elusive unicorn—any two of those elements aren’t that hard to find but all three is uncommon. Most LGBTQ YA is set very firmly in our ordinary world. I like the idea that queer teens who enjoy reading dystopian or spec fic novels will be able to see themselves reflected in Swans & Klons.

Jane Fletcher:

I can trace the steps that brought me to the genre.bsb_wolfsbane_winter__16848

As a young girl in the 1960s, suitable books had titles like The friendly puppy’s birthday party. Edge of the seat excitement got no more intense than wondering if the sky really would fall on Chicken Little’s head.

Then one day, when I must have been no more than 7, I was allowed to pick my own book from the school library. I got a children’s version (it had big pictures) of the Greek legend of Perseus and Medusa. I can still remember being blown out of my little white cotton socks by a story of a woman with snakes for hair, and a flying hero who cut her head off.

The friendly puppy didn’t get a look in thereafter. I absorbed every scrap of mythology I could find. Which got me, via Arthurian legend, to fantasy and science fiction.

bold books logoBios:

Jane Fletcher is a GCLS award-winning writer and has also been short-listed for the Gaylactic Spectrum and Lambda Literary awards. She is author of two ongoing sets of fantasy/romance novels: the Celaeno series and the Lyremouth Chronicles. As a child, her resolute ambition was to become an archaeologist when she grew up, so it was something of a surprise when she became a software engineer instead. Born in Greenwich, London, in 1956, she now lives in southwest England where she keeps herself busy writing both computer software and fiction, although generally not at the same time.

You can find Jane here on the Bold Strokes Books website, her own website, and on Facebook.

Nora Olsen was born in 1975 and raised in New York City. Although her mother, a prize-winning author, warned her not to become a writer, Nora didn’t listen. Swans & Klons is her second YA novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Collective Fallout and the anthology Heiresses of Russ 2011: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction. Nora lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her girlfriend, writer Áine Ní Cheallaigh, and their two adorable cats.

You can find Nora here on the Bold Strokes Books website, her own website, and her Facebook page.