Hiya peeps! We have debut author Nancy J. Hedin popping in today with her debut release Bend, we have a short guest post, a great excerpt and a brilliant giveaway, so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~
Nancy J. Hedin
Lorraine Tyler is the only queer person in Bend, Minnesota. Or at least that’s what it feels like when the local church preaches so sternly against homosexuality. Which is why she’s fighting so hard to win the McGerber scholarship—her ticket out of Bend—even though her biggest competition is her twin sister, Becky. And even though she’s got no real hope—not with the scholarship’s morality clause and that one time she kissed the preacher’s daughter.
Everything changes when a new girl comes to town. Charity is mysterious, passionate, and—to Lorraine’s delighted surprise—queer too. Now Lorraine may have a chance at freedom and real love.
But then Becky disappears, and Lorraine uncovers an old, painful secret that could tear the family apart. They need each other more than ever now, and somehow it’s Lorraine—the sinner, the black sheep—who holds the power to bring them together. But only if she herself can learn to bend.
Is Bend autobiographical?
by Nancy J. Hedin
There are people who will ask if Bend is where I grew up? There is no town named Bend in Minnesota. It is a fictional place and yes there are things about Swanville and its environs, where I grew up, that I projected onto Bend. Physically, Swanville and Bend are very much the same, beautiful farm spotted countryside with lots of lakes, trees, fields and small towns. I projected the love I had/have for the land and people there onto Bend, and also the knowledge that being a queer at the time I was a teen was not the same as it is in the urban areas today.
My main character, Lorraine wanted out and planned to return after she’d secured her education, career, and someone to love. I am not Lorraine. Lorraine was braver and lived in a different time than I did. I left my hometown and did not return except for visits because I didn’t believe I could have the employment opportunity, the freedom to live as an “out lesbian”, and provide for the needs of the children of color I brought into my life. I have great love for my hometown, the people who live there, and the institutions like the school, churches, and small businesses which anchor life. I wasn’t brave enough to wait for people to get used to me or tolerate me on a daily basis. I needed a community that included gay life as one of the many splendid ways of being in this world. I believed that I needed to be in a city for that freedom. In some ways, maybe I didn’t give my hometown community enough credit for what they could tolerate. I was scared, so I moved away.
Twitch got out of his Jeep and smiled. “Hello, girls.” He tipped his Twins cap at us, letting wavy brown hair brush against his forehead and cheeks for a moment before he reined it back in with his cap.
I handed him the glass of lemonade.
“Heavens, is it a margarita?”
“Nope, Becky’s lemonade. What’re we doing today?”
Twitch coming was the first good thing I’d seen all day. When he came for me on a Saturday it usually meant he had a job for me—drenching sheep, or pulling a calf, or neutering or spaying somebody’s pet. The pay was just above pitiful, but the labor was my idea of a vocation. Momma would only let me work for him a few times a month and never if it conflicted with a possible shift at the diner. She had forbidden me from taking the full-time summer job Twitch had offered every year since I turned fourteen. No matter how many times I asked, Momma never explained why I was forbidden to work for him.
“I gotta talk with your dad, run an errand, and then I’ll pick you up.” He drained the lemonade and handed the glass to Becky, but looked back at me. “I like what you’ve done with your hair. No makeup or dresses required for this job. Come as you are. You two, hard to believe you’re from the same litter.” He laughed to himself and sidled off to the barn before I could kick him.
“Becky, do you really think Grind was calling about the scholarship?”
“I don’t know. I wouldn’t tell you if I did. It’s more fun to watch you sweat.” She put the drink glasses on the porch railing, stretched her neck out, and balanced her box of Brides magazines on the railing. “It’s probably you in trouble.”
She looked at me, licked her finger, and tore another blushing, blonde, boney bride from the glossy pages. “You’ll never win that scholarship. There’s a morality clause. Do you know what that means, Lorraine? Even if you manage to miraculously beat my GPA, which you won’t, you’re a queer, a homosexual. I haven’t said anything about it before, but you’re a freak and you’ll never win!”
Becky said the words. She spit them like it was nothing, or just some shit in her mouth. She ripped out a picture of a model in a sequined wedding dress and added it to the pile on her white, satin-covered scrapbook.
Dad came around the corner of the house just in time to hear Becky’s last bit of venom: “Like Momma says, the rewards of the faithful will not be squandered on the unholy. Lorraine Tyler, God will burn you in hell for being queer!”
I lowered my shoulder and plowed into Becky. I swept her off the porch onto the lawn, and rolled her down a small hill. A perfume ad pressed against my face. We broke the porch railing, two gnomes, and flattened the hollow chipmunk tableau. Air whooshed out of Becky as I landed on her at the apron of the duck pond. We swatted at each other. She screeched. I yelled from a bruised part of me that I didn’t know I had.
“You take that back!” I might’ve drowned Becky if Dad hadn’t plucked me off her.
“Calm down, Lorraine! And you, Becky, get cleaned up and I’ll deal with you later!” He pointed Becky to the house. Covered in mud, Becky looked like a walking turd. I wished I had Momma’s camera so I could have taken Becky’s picture and submitted it to the senior yearbook committee—with the caption: most likely to be mistaken as fertilizer.
“March!” Dad pointed me to the barn.
I was covered in mud and duck shit. “I hate her! I’m so tired of her being perfect.”
“Nobody’s perfect. I’ve proved that to your momma over and over again.” He pushed at my shoulder. “Calm yourself down. It’s going to be okay.”
I’d never call my dad a hugger, but that day he halfway hugged me. He pulled me into his arms and ducked down so that our eyes met. I knew his look, knew he loved me. I tried to slow my breathing and quell my tears.
He slung his arm around my shoulders again and pushed me toward the barn. “Jesus Christ! You’re a mess.”
“Yep. Sent him on his way.”
Water spurted and splashed against the side of the cow trough as Dad worked the pump handle. He wet his handkerchief and wiped a clump of mud off my chin.
“Let’s get rid of your mud beard first.” He took another swipe at my face and rinsed the rag before he worked the mud away from my leaky eyes. “You resemble that old raccoon you brought in the house. Jesus, your momma was mad.” He chuckled. “And remember how scared Becky was when the critter jumped on her lap? She don’t go in for animals much.” He laughed so hard he went into a coughing jag.
Dad’s nostalgic inspection of my most recent battles just refueled my anger. I wanted somebody to take something from Becky for a change.
“What’re you going to do to her, Dad? Will you ground her?”
“What happens to your sister isn’t your concern. Your job is to worry about yourself.”
“No buts about it. You’re smarter than this. That’s what gets my goat.”
Then he did something I loved about him, but not always when he did it to me. From his shirt pocket he took out his little notebook and scribbled screwworm 1960 on a page and handed the note to me. Here we went again. Momma recorded sins in her notebook, and Dad wrote out homework assignments in his. I knew the drill. Research the animal at the library and figure out the lesson.
“Most maggots eat dead things.” He paused, lowered his head, and squinted one eye. “The screwworm is a different animal. Learn about it and you’ll know something about anger and hate.” He rinsed his handkerchief again. “You know better than to fight. Get cleaned up and get to your room without ruffling Becky.” He coughed hard like he did in the morning before his coffee and first filterless Camel. I worried that I might have killed him by forcing him to manage a fight that Momma would have squelched with a threat. Dad’s face bloomed purple.
“There’s gonna be people that got their own opinions, and you aren’t strong enough to knock all of them into the mud,” he said. “Although, if you tackle them like that, you probably will knock most of them down.” He grinned.
He bent over with his hands on his skinny knees and let out a long breath. His eyes slid over a pile of salvaged building material. He picked up a glass block and raised it so that sunshine filtered through it and reflected a rainbow on an oily puddle of water on the ground where I toed at the gravel. He fingered a chipped spot on the corner and spit shined the smooth flat surface with the sleeve of his shirt.
I started toward the house.
“Lorraine, I love you. Your momma loves you too!”
I looked back at my dad, the person I loved most in the world. I waited. Finally, he was going to say it—that it didn’t matter that I was queer. He loved me just the way I was. I wanted him to say it. I wanted somebody to say it. After God, Dad was my best shot at having somebody who still loved me if I stayed queer. I waited. Nothing. Nothing changed.
Read more at: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/bend (just click the excerpt tab)
I grew up in a small town in central Minnesota. That small town sensibility informs my writing and gives me interesting voices in my head and I strive to choose which voice to bring to the page.
I live in St. Paul with my partner, two daughters, one dog, one beared dragon, and two cats.
I have worked as a mental health crisis worker for over twenty years.
I love reading and getting my books signed by the author. I daydream about my own stories in book form and having others read them.
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