Sionnach Wintergreen

author of romance and fantasy

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Why Gay Men Weren’t in the Closet in 1923


My latest gay (M/M) romance is set in 1923 in a small rural town in East Texas. A Little Sin is available through Amazon and is FREE with Kindle Unlimited. While researching this historical western mystery romance, I discovered that gay men weren’t in the closet in 1923. No one was. Closets didn’t really exist back then. People kept their clothes in armoires, chest of drawers, and chifforobes (basically an armoire combined with a chest of drawers.) The idiom didn’t exist.

Instead, gay men who pretended to be straight to fit in with the oppressive heterosexual society were said to “wear a mask.” I found this phrase both poetic and poignant. It describes so beautifully what it feels like to have to hide your true self from people. I’m genderqueer, but I am biologically female and “read” female. Most people have no idea who or what I really am. (Even when I tell them, they often don’t really understand.)  I wear a mask. The stakes, of course, of someone discovering my true identity aren’t as high for me as they are for my protagonists in A Little Sin. Still, the idea that they were wearing masks made me feel very close to them.

There are so many things we take for granted in modern America. In the world of Avery and Garland, indoor plumbing and electricity have not found their way to rural areas. There are no antibiotics. “Okay,” one of my favorite words, didn’t exist until WWII (and it was OK). Prohibition made having a glass of pinot noir illegal. In Texas, literacy tests prevented many people from voting. (It was designed to suppress the black vote.) Texas legislators were openly members of the Ku Klux Klan. (At least now they make some attempt to hide it. Yes, I live in Texas. Yes, I’m bitter.)

Although women now had the right to vote, their roles were largely domestic. Even Garland, the more progressive and enlightened of my two main characters, is amazed when his secretary—a black woman—is curious about his work as a veterinarian and wants to read his old textbooks. The fact that she is interested in science blows his mind.

There were times when I felt quite estranged from my protagonists, who are deeply religious Christians (I’m not), drink buttermilk (ugh), rarely curse, and smoke like fiends. (Smoking was okay, apparently.) I kept wanting to put glasses of scotch in their hands or make them use the “f-word.” (Because I do…a lot.) Writing for these guys was like discovering a new world. Along the way, I fell in love with them. I hope my readers do, too.

There are so many things, so many advancements—both scientific and social—that we take for granted. These things didn’t always exist. They aren’t permanent. We need to be wary of people who want to take us back into a dark, oppressive, and often violent past. We need to be vigilant, vote, and keep moving forward. How can we make America great again when the past is littered with injustices and wasn’t too great for children, people of color, women, and LGBTQIA people? I like to write about history; I wouldn’t want to live there.

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The Fur Coats

Authors often talk about what music they listen to while writing, but what do their characters listen to? In my new gay romance, Zen Alpha, the two main characters get their blood pumping with the pop punk sound of Austin’s The Fur Coats. Ward listens to them every morning before work, where he teaches autistic children. On this particular day, he and Bradley listen to them after a long night looking for a lost cat.

Check out The Fur Coats here and wake up!

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But…I Like it Rough

So, my first negative review ever was about the only book I’ve published that has been a commercial success. The reviewer criticized the BDSM in my M/M romance, Lover, Destroyer, as being “borderline hardcore” and violent with “a frail veneer of consent.”

What hurt most about these comments, once I was able to separate my bruised writer feelings and set them aside, was the fact that it felt like an attack on my lifestyle. I don’t read about BDSM in books. The BDSM in my story might be a bit edgy because that’s how I like it. I’ve been a practitioner for about twenty-five years.

In the Dark Ages, when the Internet was in its infancy and few people had access to it, people who didn’t live in a city with a BDSM club–or who simply didn’t want to be part of a club–couldn’t just google ‘BDSM etiquette.’ They had to explore and discover things on their own. That was part of the fun.

Even in an age where such things are codified and catalogued,  accidents happen. Scenes go wrong. Feelings–and sometimes flesh–get hurt. One time my husband had to see the doctor because I bruised his spleen. He’s a wonderful sub, we’re closely bonded, and he was ready to go the next weekend. (Although I limited myself to flogging his bottom.)

Sometimes BDSM, like life, is messy and chaotic. Maybe some people like to conduct their BDSM like Vulcans in surgery–and more power to them–but I don’t. It’s  not fair to say that my way is bad simply because you don’t like it or don’t understand it. In Lover, Destroyer, which is set in a pre-industrialized world, Elarhe, a budding dom, is trying to understand what masochistic Kite wants. They are learning what works for them and discovering each other’s boundaries. They’re learning about each other.

I wanted to include a snippet from one of my sex scenes, but couldn’t find a piece tame enough. So, here’s Elarhe learning about after care following his first session with Kite.

When they were done, Elarhe removed the clamps from Kite’s nipples and sprawled on the floor, panting. Kite thudded next to him. He lifted his bandage, revealing his eyes. Elarhe stared at the high ceiling. Kite stared at him. After a moment, Kite asked, “Will you hold me?”

Elarhe couldn’t help himself and laughed at him. He stopped laughing when he saw the sincerity on Kite’s face. “I guess. I’m all sweaty.”

“So am I.” He looked rather childlike. “It’s just—it’s like I’ve been on a long journey. I need help coming home.”

Elarhe pulled Kite into his arms. Kite snuggled against his chest in a quiet, fragile way that took Elarhe by surprise.

Elarhe kissed the top of Kite’s head. “I didn’t realize there was this part. I would have done it sooner if I had known.”

“This part is just as important as the rest,” Kite said quietly, tracing one of the lean muscles in Elarhe’s arm. “You didn’t know because I failed to tell you. It’s not your fault. You performed splendidly.”

As they embraced, Elarhe realized that he needed the cuddle, too. It closed the door on their game and returned them to their normal lives. It reassured him that Kite bore him no ill will, carried no grudges. The dungeon was its own world.



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Elarhe and Kite

LD book sample I love contrast. I can’t resist unusual pairings. Elarhe and Kite, from my new erotic romance, Lover, Destroyer, are the perfect match, in my opinion, because they’re polar opposites.

Elarhe is a young, idealistic prince who left his kingdom to learn how to wield his magical powers, powers that are considered evil in his homeland. He discards everything to follow his dream and enters the Grandimanderian Empire disguised in rags. He is confident and passionate, spirited and kind. He is a creature of heart and fire.

Kite lives like a prince, but was actually an orphaned goatherd until, at thirteen, he developed a horrific magical power capable of destroying an entire city.  As an adult, he lives alone aside from his dogs and a few servants, surrounded by his wealth and a pervasive, brooding darkness. He is like a lake of still, black water hiding secrets and skeletons beneath its surface.

Lover, Destroyer explores how two such different men learn to love and understand each other while exploring BDSM and learning to appreciate each other’s boundaries.


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Every time I write a piece, I have a favorite chapter or scene. This excerpt from Lover, Destroyer is my favorite, partly because, even in a smutty book, I like to sneak in symbolism. In this passage, the soon-to-be-lovers Elarhe (aka “Squirrel”) and Kite have been flirting and verbally sparring for several encounters. Here, the normally dark and brooding Kite gives Elarhe a violet. Violets can symbolize humility, everlasting love, or death. In some way, all three apply here. Death, because death represents change, and this scene marks a turning point in how each views the other.

“Well, if it isn’t Darelock’s proudest urchin? How are you this fine evening, Squirrel?”
Elarhe tensed. “I’m fine.”
Kite walked up to him, smiling coldly. “You look like you’ve been rolling about in a dung heap.”
“I’ve been working. Doing an honest day’s labor. What have you been doing—buying posies all day?”
“I’ve been all day in the stacks, researching spells of the darkest nature.” He sniffed the bouquet. “The flowers are to remind me that this often dreary world is also beautiful.”
Elarhe watched him, disarmed. “The world is always beautiful,” he said softly, slowly. “Even the rain, even the mud. Everything can’t be flowers.”
Kite’s pale blue eyes seemed to mirror the violets. He gazed at Elarhe as if seeing him for the first time. After a long moment, he broke eye contact, shaking his head. “I need the flowers.” There was no pretense in his voice this time, just something quiet and melancholy. He handed a flower to Elarhe. “Sometimes we need something pure and good.”