Layla M. Wier and Rural Life


Hello, and thank you to Skylar for hosting me today! I’m currently in full swing on my blog tour for my novella Homespun, recently released from Dreamspinner Press. I’m also giving away a hand-knit scarf (custom knit by me for the winner of the giveaway, in their chosen colors and style) – comment on any of my blog tour posts to be entered to win! There are more details here:

One thing most of my fiction has in common is a rural or small-town setting, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today. It’s not that I refuse to write about the city (cities are fascinating in their own way, and some stories can only be told in a city setting) but rural life is what I know best. The biggest town I’ve lived in for more than a few weeks was Champaign, Illinois, which is not that tiny — Champaign and its sister city Urbana have about a hundred thousand people between them — but it’s very isolated in the middle of central Illinois. Champaign-Urbana sits alone in a huge expanse of cornfields, and as soon as you leave town in any direction, there’s a sudden, startling transition from urban development to rural middle-of-nowhere, where sleepy little towns drowse along railroad tracks and water towers or grain elevators are the only landmarks, visible for miles.

And that’s the big city compared to where I grew up, a tiny remote town in rural Alaska, where the mail arrived once a week by airplane and the only road connecting us to the outside world was an “ice road” that relied on frozen lakes instead of bridges!

Homespun is set in central New York state. This could hardly be farther from Alaska, where I still live — though now I’m in Fairbanks, a bit more centrally located — but I chose this location for a number of reasons. One reason, of course, is that it fitted my plot (which hinges around recent adoption of same-sex marriage). But also, I love the area. My sister lives in Ithaca, NY, so I’ve had some opportunity to explore the area, and it’s truly beautiful, with picturesque little red barns, rolling fields and apple orchards. It’s the stuff of which rural daydreams are made …

… but only in some ways. New York is a blue state overall, but rural New York is quite red. And that’s the dichotomy of rural life, the conflict I’ve lived with all my life. I love many things about life in small towns — the slow pace of life, the neighborly camaraderie, the community festivals and the farms and the nearby wilderness — but small towns can also be hidebound, stifling, bigoted and repressive.

Homespun is, I guess, my way of dealing with that conflict head-on. Sheep farmer Owen Fortescue has lived all his life in small towns. He’s a quiet small-town guy who never thought to question his world or his place in it, until sharp-tongued big-city artist Kerry Ruehling walked into Owen’s life and turned it upside down.

I figured while I was working on Homespun that I’d have readers approaching the book from two basic directions. For some readers, the rural setting and the general theme of finding home and family in a small town would be a big part of the book’s appeal. As a society, we have a particular mythology that surrounds small towns. It’s partly nostalgia (for some of us) and partly a longing for a place that never was and never can be.

But there’s another group of readers who basically agree with Kerry when it comes to small towns (and he — and you — are right!): they’re repressive, stifling, and lacking in all the basic amenities. Why would anyone choose to live there?!

I hope this book, and the eventual compromise that Owen and Kerry work out, will satisfy both kinds of readers, and I hope you’ll find your time on Owen, Kerry, and Laura’s sheep farm to be time well spent.


by Layla M. Wier

Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Length: Novella/104 pages

Release Date: Sept. 18, 2013

For twenty years, Owen Fortescue, a down-to-earth farmer in upstate New York, has had an on-again, off-again relationship with volatile New York City artist Kerry Ruehling. Now that same-sex marriage is recognized in New York, Owen wants to tie the knot. But Kerry responds to the proposal with instant, angry withdrawal. Owen resolves to prove to Kerry that, regardless of the way his family of origin has treated him, family ties don’t necessarily tie a man down. With help from his grown daughter, Laura, who loves them both, Owen hopes to convince Kerry that his marriage proposal isn’t a trap, but a chance at real love.

Buy at Dreamspinner Press:

About Layla:

Layla M. Wier is the romance pen name of artist and writer Layla Lawlor. She was born in a log cabin in rural Alaska and grew up thirty miles from towns, roads, electricity, and cars. These days, she lives in Fox, a gold-rush mining town on the highway north of Fairbanks, Alaska, with her husband, dogs, and the occasional farm animal. Their house is a log cabin in a birch and aspen forest. Wolves, moose, and foxes wander through the front yard. During the short, bright Arctic summer, Layla enjoys gardening and hiking, and in the winter, she writes, paints, and draws.

Where to find Layla:




 Stops and topics on the Homespun blog tour (Sept. 16-Oct. 8):

Monday, Sept. 16: Zahra Owens ( – autumn

Tuesday, Sept. 17: Tali Spencer ( – sharing passions

Wednesday, Sept. 18: RELEASE DAY! Party at the Dreamspinner Press blog!

Thursday, Sept. 19: Charley Descoteaux ( – location scouting in central New York

Friday, Sept. 20: Chris T. Kat ( – interview

Monday, Sept. 23: Charlie Cochet’s Purple Rose Tea House ( – doing research

Tuesday, Sept. 24: Helen Pattskyn ( – bisexuality in Homespun

Wednesday, Sept. 25: Garrett Leigh ( – interview

Thursday, Sept. 26: Skylar Cates ( – rural life

Friday, Sept. 27: Madison Parker ( – interview + review

Monday, Sept. 30: Jessica Davies ( – learning to spin, part 1

Tuesday, Oct. 1: Anne Barwell ( – learning to spin, part 2

Thursday, Oct. 3: Michael Rupured ( – writing respectfully from outside a subculture

Friday, Oct. 4: Jana Denardo ( – invading characters’ privacy

Monday, Oct. 7: SL Huang ( – interview

Tuesday, Oct. 8: PD Singer ( – central NY photo tour


An Interview with Posy Roberts


An Interview with Posy:

What are your characters’ biggest flaws?

In Spark, Hugo Thorson’s biggest flaw is that he doesn’t believe in his own value in romantic relationships. Some of that stems from the loss of his father as a teen, which has created this drive to be loved and accepted by men even if he has to sacrifice part of himself for it. The other component is that many men have treated him horribly over the years. Yet that devalued feeling doesn’t exist with women or even men who are his friends.

Kevin Magnus’s biggest flaw is his subservience to his father. While his dad, Peder Magnus, is a force to be reckoned with, Kevin folds and bends to him quite easily. He’s been conditioned to follow Peder’s rule since he was a small boy, and he craves fraternal approval and affection. Even as an adult, he carries a lot of these same feelings around and isn’t able to start shedding them until after Peder dies.

Without giving away too many spoilers, what was your favorite thing about your two MCs?

I love that Hugo goes from being very secretive about his sexuality in high school to being extremely open and honest about it as an adult. He’s proud. He’s even embraced his femme side and occasionally performs as a drag queen (Miss Cherrie Pop!), which he never would’ve considered as an option while in high school.

With Kevin, I love how he’s willing to take risks, despite his fear. That doesn’t mean he takes all the risks he should. But when he truly feels something is important, he finds a way to compromise or make things work.

Do you think your novel teaches us anything about life? If so, what?

More than anything, I think Spark shows how our own lies can hurt and change us. Yet a lot of people can’t be entirely truthful because they need to save face, jobs, relationships, reputations, and more. But it all comes at a personal cost, not to mention how it hurts those around us.

What are your MC’s pet peeves?

In high school, Hugo has a cowboy hang up. Spark is partially set in the mid 90s, and at that time in the Midwest, cowboys have a surge in popularity (line dancing and cowboy fashion). Hugo hates this, because the kids in his hometown of Austin, MN are not cowboys. He calls them counterfeit cowboys.

If we were to get into the Hugo’s psyche, we’d see what he truly dislikes about these “cowboys” is that they are hiding behind a façade, but he sees no need for them to hide. If they showed their true selves, they wouldn’t be harassed or hurt like he would if he let it slip that he was gay. As an adult he has somewhat changed his mind about cowboys, but he still has a pet peeve about counterfeit cowboys.

What was the most difficult thing to write?

I initially wrote Hugo’s dad’s last days and funeral scene in Spark in flashback because they hit too close to home. I eventually went back and fixed those scenes, but they were very difficult to face in my first, second, and even third drafts.

What lessons have you learned so far about the publishing world?

I’ve learned that there are a lot of people helping authors succeed. It’s pretty amazing to see and experience. I’ve also found out how valuable having other author friends can be. We help each other out a lot.

Do you revise?

I revise a ton. And then I revise some more. Even after I’ve submitted my manuscript and the publisher has picked it up, I continue to revise. Haha. Definitely!

What is your idea of a perfect meal?

I love soup, bread, and cheese. Mostly cheese. I mean, I really love cheese! And a dessert with cream cheese frosting to top it off would be lovely as well.

Do you do a lot of research for you novels?

I research a lot, and my browser history would be a puzzle to most people if they didn’t know I was a writer. I think it’s just been beaten into me to have facts as straight as possible. I blame graduate school, but I also enjoy research. The lovely thing about this book was that I also got to research the settings in person, so it wasn’t all just reading or virtually strolling through neighborhoods online. I got to actually walk on the trails Hugo and Kevin walked on and see where they first kissed.

What superpower would you like?

I think I’d like the power to heal minds. I went to school to be a therapist, but to be able to help people with their issues without them having to experience the mess that therapy often unravels would be nice. Of course, the struggle is part of how true healing takes place, so maybe I’d just keep having to use that superpower to heal those same minds over and over again because the people would never grow and change. I’m already rethinking my answer.

What are you reading right now?

I’ve been reading several things. King Mai by Edmond Manning, and I actually started to re-read his first book, King Perry. Also open on my e-reader is Jamie Fessenden’s Billy’s Bones as well as N.R. Walker’s Point of No Return. All great books.

Are you a plotter? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I’m a mix of both. I always have a rough outline of my book(s) and know where I’m headed, but if I plan too much, I find I get stuck. I love the moments I encounter while writing where I’m taken on a wonderful journey. If I planned each chapter out meticulously, I’d miss those opportunities and never go off to explore. Some great things come out of those little trips, but I’ve also cut some of those sections as well.

What is your new WIP about?

Right now I’m working on edits for Fusion and Flare, the second and third books in my North Star trilogy. It’s a continuation of Hugo and Kevin’s story in Spark. In Fusion (released in Nov 2013) Hugo and Kevin are trying to figure out how to combine their lives while being sensitive to Kevin’s children and their needs. After living his public life as a straight man, Kevin has to figure out how to come out as bisexual without risking losing custody of his kids as his divorce to Erin is finalized. When Erin shares some shocking news of her own, the entire world is turned upside down.

Here’s an excerpt from Spark, Chapter 4. Hugo and Kevin run into each other at a party and decide to catch up on a walk around the lake. You can also find Chapter 1 here.

Kevin laughed deep and warm in his chest and stopped walking, pulling Hugo to a stop with him. “God, Hugo. I missed you. You always did know what to say to make me feel better. How the heck did we ever lose track of each other after everything we discovered together?”

Hugo shrugged, not knowing how to answer after their gradual drift from talking on a regular basis during their first month in college to nothing by the time winter break came. Hugo’s mom and sister had moved to the Twin Cities mere months after Hugo left for college, and that certainly hadn’t helped matters. But it was more, he realized.

“We just had different lives, I think,” Hugo said with a shrug. “We went our separate ways after I said good-bye to you in your driveway.”

“I still regret not kissing you that day. I should have just said ‘screw it’ and kissed you like I wanted to, even if my dad was right there.”

Hugo looked up the few inches to meet Kevin’s gray eyes and tried to smile, but it probably came across more as sadness than a smile. He couldn’t believe Kevin still thought of that day too. He wondered if Kevin’s mind ever drifted to the kiss in the wooded meadow when he was bored in a meeting or like Hugo’s had that very afternoon in the car. Slowly, he felt the corner of his mouth turn into something akin to flirty, and he asked, “Oh?”

“Yes,” Kevin said as his warm thumb trailed across Hugo’s jaw toward his chin. “I’ve thought about that day a lot, about our last kiss and how I wish it never would’ve ended. Damn the rain. Would you mind if I showed you how I’ve always imagined that moment in the driveway would’ve happened? Or are you with someone?”

“No. I mean, yes, you can show me,” Hugo stammered, his heart beating hard against his chest.

Kevin’s smile lit up his face, and he looked so young just then, the careworn lines that had appeared between his brows while talking about his father smoothing.

“Okay, so maybe this isn’t exactly like I would have said things back then, but this is how I wish I would’ve done it. Ready?”

Hugo nodded and licked his lips, drawing Kevin’s attention to his mouth.

“So pretend we’re standing next to my open trunk,” Kevin directed as he led Hugo near the tail end of a car parked in a driveway close to the roadside. Kevin tilted his head left and right, shaking his hands out loosely next to his body as if trying to get into character.

“Hugo,” he started, somehow pulling youthful nervousness into his voice, “we should plan on getting together in a few weeks.”

“Sure,” Hugo answered, ready to play along with the conversation he barely remembered. He recalled the feelings he’d had, though: excitement about leaving Austin but sadness about leaving Kevin. “I can get a ride down to St. Peter, or you can come up to Minneapolis. It’s not that far.”

That drive never ended up happening for either of them because Hugo auditioned for a play in the U’s theater department and got a lead role as a freshman, something unheard of. He had no time to get together on weekends because he had homework to do and lines to memorize and blocking to learn and sets to help build.

“Seventy miles or so.”

That’s where Hugo vaguely remembered Kevin’s dad clapping his big hands and telling Kevin he’d better hit the road. Now there was just the sound of far-off waves and traffic from the highway on the other side of the trees peppered with exploding fireworks.

“I’d love that,” Hugo said, regretful he hadn’t taken the time to find a ride and just go. “I’ll make it happen,” he promised, and he wished he’d kept it.

Kevin looked at Hugo with such intensity; even in the darkness surrounding them, Hugo could see how blown Kevin’s pupils were.

“It’ll happen this time,” Kevin whispered against Hugo’s mouth, lazily closing his eyes as he spoke.

Hugo tasted Kevin’s breath on his tongue, remembering it, even with the faint scent of lemon lingering. A silvery thread of his memory seemed to actually weave this moment to the moments in his past, pushing Hugo back into that world, filling him with all those emotions he had for Kevin when they were just boys. Kevin was the only man Hugo had really and truly been in love with. He was the ruler every single boyfriend since had to unwittingly measure himself against. And none, not a single one, had ever gotten anywhere near.

Hugo took in a quick breath and pushed forward, capturing Kevin’s mouth with his own as his fingers threaded through thick blond waves and shorter razor-cut strands; his hands landed on Kevin’s neck. Hugo thumbed over Kevin’s ears, allowing the pads of his fingers to tease the fine hair along his earlobes.

They fused their mouths, opening and closing with lips caressing, teeth nipping, and tongues pushing against each other in an attempt to taste the familiarity that was new again.

Kevin trailed his hands down Hugo’s back, kneading his fingers against Hugo’s ass once he got there, then pulling them closer. Hugo felt Kevin starting to firm up beneath the thin material of his shorts, and he wanted so badly to thrust. He barely restrained himself.

They stood on a darkened road and kissed how they both wished they would have years ago, giving to each other more than they took away. But by doing it that way, Hugo felt more content than he had in years.

“Come back to my place?” Kevin panted against Hugo’s temple. “Please, Hugh?”

Hugo nodded as he tried to catch his breath and then nodded again.

PR white bkdg large

BLURB for Spark:

In their small-town high school, Hugo and Kevin became closeted lovers who kept their secret even from parents. Hugo didn’t want to disappoint his terminally ill father, and Kevin’s controlling father would never tolerate a bisexual son. When college took them in different directions, they promised to reunite, but that didn’t happen for seventeen years.

By the time they meet again, Hugo has become an out-and-proud actor and director who occasionally performs in drag—a secret that has cost him in past relationships. Kevin, still closeted, has followed his father’s path and now, in the shadow of divorce, is striving to be a better father to his own children.

When Hugo and Kevin meet by chance at a party, the spark of attraction reignites, as does their genuine friendship. Rekindling a romance may mean Hugo must compromise the openness he values, but Kevin will need a patient partner as he adapts to living outside the closet. With such different lifestyles, the odds seem stacked against them, and Hugo fears that if his secret comes to light, it may drive Kevin away completely.

Posy’s Bio:

Posy Roberts lives in the land of 10,000 lakes (plus a few thousand more). But even with more shoreline than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined, Minnesota has snow—lots of it—and the six months of winter makes us “hearty folk,” or so the locals say. The rest of the year is heat and humidity with a little bit of cool weather we call spring and autumn, which lasts about a week.

She loves a clean house, even if she can’t keep up with her daughter’s messes, and prefers foods that are enriched with meat, noodles, and cheese, or as we call it in Minnesota, hotdish. She also loves people, even though she has to spend considerable amounts of time away from them after helping to solve their interpersonal problems at her day job.

Posy is married to a wonderful man who makes sure she eats while she documents the lives of her characters. She also has a remarkable daughter who helps her come up with character names. When she’s not writing, she enjoys karaoke, hiking, and singing spontaneously about the mundane, just to make normal seem more interesting.




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Suicide Prevention Week

Suicide Prevention:


You only want to end the hurt

You feel as if you are in a black hole and can’t climb out

You think nobody else can understand your pain

You think a failure is the end of your carefully constructed world


It took me only seconds to recall some of my feelings as a teenager. Although, I never went as far as trying to commit suicide, I did have to wrestle with some very dark feelings after my family went through some very rocky times. I wish that I could go back in time to my more fragile, sensitive self and tell her that life would get better, but I don’t know if she’d have listened.

I had a good friend who attempted suicide. She had given a baby up for adoption as a young teenager and regretted that choice. The shame consumed her. Even though her decision had been out of love, she was her own harshest judge and jury. Aren’t we all?  I think, sometimes, forgiving ourselves is the toughest thing to do.  I found her with pills and booze in our dorm room. Luckily, she survived it, but it would be a lie to say her path was an easy one. She considered suicide a few more times. Although we lost touch, thanks to modern technology, I goggled her name today when I decided to write this blog. I found her alive and doing well — I can’t explain the rush of joy I felt, even after all these years, to know she was still here and breathing. It gave me hope.

Her baby would be a teenager now.

I often look at my own children, far away from those teenager years, and take a deep breath.  I worry they won’t feel accepted by their peers, which is big reason for suicide, especially in the LGBT community. I worry that they won’t feel all the love I have for them. I worry that they won’t feel love for themselves.


Here are some tips for suicide prevention from the Long Island Suicide Prevention Coalition:

1.Give your undivided attention when your teenager wants to talk to you.

Don’t read, watch TV, fall asleep or make yourself busy with other tasks. Let them see that your focus is solely on what they are saying.

2.Develop a courteous tone of voice in communication.

Respect brings respect, even in the way we speak. If we talk to our children as we talk to other people, our own children might be more likely to see us as confidants. Gruffness or abruptness can arouse hostility, whereas a pleasant, caring tone of voice can pay great dividends in improved relationships.

3. Avoid making judgments.

Anyone avoids confiding in someone who is critical of his or her behavior. It is not necessary to approve all of your teenager’s behavior, but it is important to understand the feelings involved. Putting yourself in another’s place is not easy, particularly as attitudes, pressures and choices change. Today’s youth face many problems that did not exist when we were growing up. It is a challenge for a parent to be firm about important values while being flexible enough to bend with changing times.

4.  Keep the door open on any subject.

Too often, teenagers avoid discussing things that may make their parents feel uncomfortable. Belittling, humiliating and laughing at children can cause deep wounds and short circuit the lines of communication. Teenagers often pay a very high price for not having the right information about many subjects, including sex.

5.Permit expression of ideas and feelings.

Many young people have their own ideas about morality, marriage, work, education, time, money and whatever else is a part of our way of life. Just because their views and philosophies are different from yours does not mean that they feel certain about them. Often young people “test” their ideas in conversation. To communicate, you must be willing to listen first and acknowledge their opinions, even if you alarmed by them. Then give your viewpoints as plainly and honestly as you can, recognizing that love and mutual respect can exist, even when points of view are differ.

I thought the insights here were useful. I hope none of us ever have to use these tips, but I am grateful for help that is online and elsewhere.

For more blogs on this topic:


An Interview with H. Lewis-Foster



In 16th Century Scotland, the clans are in a state of relative peace, but the younger sons of the Strathyre clan are still expected to serve two years of military service. Mackie isn’t a keen soldier, but his duties have been made more bearable by highly pleasurable encounters with his fellow conscripts. With their green kilts hoisted round their hips, the men find ways of staying warm in the inhospitable Scottish climate.

Mackie’s least favorite task is lookout duty in the woods outside the chieftain’s castle, where he’s unexpectedly forced into action when he spies an intruder among the trees. As a result of the incident, he’s assigned to accompany the chieftain’s eldest son Alexander to his uncle’s castle in Braelen. The trip should be short and uneventful, but when disaster strikes, Mackie’s strength and bravery are put to the test. He soon finds himself in an even more risky situation, as it becomes clear that Alexander wants more from Mackie than simply his protection.

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1 What is a food that you love?

I’m afraid it has to be cake – of any kind – although chocolate cake would have to be my favourite. A bit predictable, I know, but sometimes it’s the only thing that hits the spot. We have, however, just discovered a wonderful new bakery which does the most amazing ciabatta bread. A chunk of that with a little olive oil is gastronomic heaven.

2 Who are some other authors that you love to read?

My favourite author is Edmund White, whose books are the literary equivalent of the perfect piece of chocolate cake – something to savour and take your time over. I love the way he combines intellect with anecdotes, wandering off into philosophical musings then returning to a beautifully written sex scene. I particularly enjoy his semi-autobiographical works, which can be truly heartbreaking. The other authors on my bookshelf include David Leavitt, Alan Hollinghurst and Patrick Gale. I love Stephen Fry’s novels too. They’re such good fun – I do hope he writes some more!

3 Are you a plotter? Or do you wing it?

It varies from story to story. Sometimes I have a whole plot figured out before I start writing and other times I start off with a single scene and see where it goes. Even then, it doesn’t usually take long for the general outline to take shape, although the details may change as I write. My upcoming novel Burning Ashes, for example, started off with a specific plot about two cricketers, but then I got so involved with the characters that I wanted to delve more into their lives and find out what happened to them beyond the initial story. I’m so glad that I did, as I absolutely love the story now and am really excited about its release in October.

4 Do you revise?

Lots and lots – I’m afraid I’ll never make a fortune out of writing, as I take so long to write (and rewrite) each story. I hope I’m getting a bit quicker, but I do like to get each bit of a story just the way I want it. If someone is going to take the trouble to read my stories, I want to make sure they’re as good as they can possibly be.

5 Without spoiling us, what was your favorite part of writing this story?

I must admit, I did enjoy writing the fight scenes in To Protect the Heir. I’ve never written anything like it before and it was quite a challenge. There are so many emotions involved in a fight scene on top of the pure physicality of the situation. This made the scenes quite intense and I hope that readers enjoy them. Of course, the sex scenes were great to write, too. There are no comfortable beds or plush fur rugs here. It’s far more rough and ready, with bare forest floors on cold wintry nights and danger lurking in the darkness – but there’s still plenty of romance too.

6 Describe your MCs

The main character of To Protect the Heir is Mackie, a conscripted soldier in 16th century Scotland. He has no real desire to be a soldier, but he risks his life for his clansmen on more than one occasion. He’s physically impressive, funny, intelligent and incredibly brave – the kind of character I think readers will fall for.

Alexander is the other main character in the story. He’s the chieftain’s son and starts off as a slightly shy young man. He treats Mackie and his colleagues with respect, but he’s been brought up in a life of luxury in the castle. He gives the impression of being a bit on the soft side, but he’s soon forced to grow up as the plot unfolds. He also happens to be very handsome – and did I mention he looks fabulous in a kilt?

7 If your MC could have 1 superpower, what would it be and why?

I think Mackie would like the proverbial ‘eyes in the back of his head’. He’d save himself a lot of trouble if he could see all around him all of the time – but then it wouldn’t be quite such an exciting story!


H. Lewis-Foster has worked with books, in one form or another, since leaving university. As an avid reader of gay fiction, she decided to have a go at writing herself, and is now the proud author of several short stories and her upcoming debut novel.

H. has lived in various parts of the UK and has recently moved to the north of England. She’s enjoying city life, especially the theatres and cinemas, and also likes visiting the beautiful villages in the surrounding countryside. In her spare time, H. loves cooking and also discovering the many fabulous local food shops. She tries not to watch too much television, but is a big fan of Downton Abbey. She also loves listening to Test Match Special while she’s writing (where they spend far more time talking about cakes than cricket!)