Officer in Distress, Code 5000, Ten-thirty-three, Ten-thirteen…


The language or codes used varies among jurisdictions, but no matter the jargon, it’s the call every emergency dispatcher hates to hear.

BSB-OfficerDownWhile researching my newest release, Officer Down, I reflected on my own career as a dispatcher. Sixteen years ago, I interviewed for a job as a 9-1-1 operator in a moderately-sized metropolitan dispatch center. I was just in my early twenties, and had never had a job with such weight or importance. We were trained for all types of emergencies, from those faced while answering 9-1-1 lines, to those we might hear while dispatching responders.

During our classroom training, our instructor played audio tapes (yes, they were on cassette, it was that long ago) of real-life incidents. In one case, an officer was shot and killed while assisting detectives who were serving a warrant. I also heard tapes of a bank robbery that resulted in a pursuit of the suspect. When the suspect opened fire, striking an officer, his K-9 partner attacked as he was trained to do, putting himself in front of the officer. The dog was shot and did not survive. As a brand new dispatcher these were not easy things to hear, but they helped prepare me for the job ahead.

But even that audio couldn’t completely prepare me for the first time I heard that urgency in an officer’s voice while behind the console myself. Imagine your favorite action movie scene, perhaps a chase or stand-off with a dangerous suspect. Then imagine you can’t see the scene, but can only hear it. And that you don’t get all the dialog, but just bursts, blurted updates and urgent requests given over a radio and into your headset. It’s your job to know where they are, send them back up, notify additional resources, such as a police helicopter, an ambulance, crime scene techs, or SWAT. You’ll also be running license plates, entering data into the incident log in the computer, and updating both your supervisors and those of the involved officers.

In Officer Down, Hillary O’Neal is an experienced dispatcher. She’s smart and takes pride her job. She has answered countless 9-1-1 calls, and spent thousands of hours at a dispatch console. She’s good—so good that when things go bad while she’s manning a radio channel, she handles everything exactly as she should. But even her quick action doesn’t prevent a bad outcome, nothing could have and she has a hard time dealing with the result.

While the driving incident in this story is a serious one, I hope I was also able to portray the camaraderie, the challenges and the rewards of my career. In my sixteen years, I have made life-long friendships. I have given life-saving CPR instructions. I have talked to a suicidal person for over fifteen minutes while officers searched for his actual location instead of the one he was giving me. I have managed resources for a twenty minute vehicle pursuit and a five alarm fire (not at the same time). I have even testified in court when a 9-1-1 call was the key piece of evidence in proving guilt. And in between all of the incidents that stand out, there were thousands of routine calls and even some mundane hours monitoring radio channels. Yes, when you’re working the midnight shift and the bars have already closed, there are just a few hours that could be described as mundane.

And now that readers know some of the inspiration for Officer Down, I hope they can feel Hillary’s passion for her job as well as her passion for Olivia Dennis.


The Time Before Now


This novel is a prequel to my lesbian romance, All Things Rise, and it begins with a journey.

The setting is a hundred years or so in the future, after oil has peaked and transportation is mostly on foot or by horseback. For Vivian Wildfire Yates, the passage she chooses is a footpath from East Texas to North Georgia. During this trek, two women cross Vivian’s path who individually impact her life in different ways. Along the way she is also confronted with numerous obstacles both natural and man-made.

The Time Before NowAs with most of my stories so far, I began my writing process for The Time Before Now with a drawing of one of its characters. In this case, I did lots of sketching of Vivian before I settled on a drawing that I felt captured the rugged individualism I envisioned for her. The drawing also conveys a subtle vulnerability. I think you see that when you look in her eyes. The final image of Vivian is featured on the cover. She is not as wise to the world as she thinks but thankfully learns this early in her journey.

Vivian is the sort of character many of us might aspire to be. She’s a person of integrity and is self-sufficient, confident, fearless even, in the face of adversity. And the sort of woman that others depend on.

This book is also the story of Ida George. Her aspirations and focus are different from Vivian’s. Ida is drawn to hearth and home the way Vivian is drawn to independence and freedom. Vivian and Ida couldn’t be more different and yet are drawn together during this epic journey.

Ida George

Ida George

If you have read All Things Rise, then you may remember that Ida is Cole’s biological aunt. In The Time Before Now, Cole is six and we get to see some of the forces in her life that shaped her into the person she



One of the first things I had to do when I plotted this story was to make sure someone could actually make Vivian’s epic walk.

Vivian uses a map, drawn by her grandfather. The coastline has changed considerably along the Gulf of Mexico due to climate change. Most of southern Louisiana is under water. Some of the notations on the map are in Cherokee

Vivian uses a map, drawn by her grandfather. The coastline has changed considerably along the Gulf of Mexico due to climate change. Most of southern Louisiana is under water. Some of the notations on the map are in Cherokee

The Appalachian Trail, which runs up the eastern U.S., is two thousand miles from Georgia to Maine. As a teen and as an adult I hiked different sections of the Appalachian Trail so I knew that trekking seven hundred miles was doable, and relied on my experiences for some of the details of this story.

I also spent a good amount of time sitting and imagining my childhood in Mississippi. What the air smelled like. What sounds you hear in the woods when the sandy forest floor is covered with pine needles. And then there are the swamps. I have sense memories of the large stands of long-leaf pines and the scent of the dark tannic water in the swamps and creeks. Hopefully I captured this sense of place for those of you who haven’t traveled in the Deep South.

This book will likely get categorized as science fiction because it’s set in the context of an imagined future. But it doesn’t really feel like science fiction to me. It feels like one possible trajectory for a society without machines and industry. If anything, I would describe it as a lesbian romance set in a mostly happy post-apocalyptic world. Mostly. Because where would the adventure of the journey be without a bit of danger?

Vivian’s grandfather

Vivian’s grandfather

There’s one other character that plays an important role in this novel: Vivian’s Cherokee grandfather. He raised Vivian, and his passing is the impetus for Vivian to begin traveling east. Her goal is to reach the mountains that were once the ancestral home of the Cherokees. She uses a map drawn by her grandfather to guide her. Even after death, he continues to be a spiritual force in Vivian’s life.

Writing this book and remembering my youth spent in forests in the Deep South with my father made me want to reconnect with my wilderness roots. Maybe it will inspire others to spend more time outside, and connect with their ancestors in the process. And let’s not forget: fall in love.


The Amazon Trail

Lesbian Vacations

By Lee Lynch

Lee Lynch by Sue Hardesty

Right this minute, friends are traveling through France. I am excited for them—the vacation of a lifetime. They post photos of their adventures on Facebook so I’m following them across France: Paris, Cassis, Marseilles, geocaching in Aix-en-Provence!

I’m not much of a traveler myself. When my sweetheart asked where I’d like to go for my birthday, I gave the usual answer: nowhere. Then I reconsidered. We’ve been trying to get over to Crater Lake, a geographic wonder filled with the bluest water in the world. We have friends along the way, two of whom have birthdays on either side of mine so it would have been fun to celebrate my 70th with them.

The birthdays happen during the Pacific Northwest’s prime fire season. Like most animals, human or not, I don’t do well under smoke-filled skies. Still, I’d gotten a bit excited about a short vacation. Who wouldn’t? This would be our first, ever, alone-together, no-deadlines, event-free time off—kind of a mini honeymoon.

Back east, when I took vacations, I’d usually travel to Provincetown, Massachusetts. So did a lot of other gay people. I felt comfortable there holding another woman’s hand on the street. Often, of course, these destinations became zoos where non-gays could observe and mock our otherness, our mating rituals, our gloriously outrageous entertainers.

Things are different now. No need to seek out a gaycation destination. We decided to avoid the inland threats and travel down the coast. We went as far as the Redwood forests, turned all touristy, and visited The Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California. It was terrific G-rated nuclear-family-type fun—one of Mother Nature’s theme parks—even without gay compatriots around us, though I wondered about the two motorcycle guys in leather. I could have waggled my pinky ring at them, but they never looked our way. We felt safe holding hands everywhere on the grounds.

My favorite things about the Trees of Mystery were: the colossal trees (overawing), the gondola ride above the trees (which we did twice), hiking the easy trail (also twice), and learning life is good, even at age 70. I treated myself to a Three Musketeers Bar, my sweetheart had a Babe’s Blue Berry Frozen Daiquiri topped with whipped cream (named for Paul Bunyon’s Babe the Blue Ox). A perfect day.

By the time we returned to our motel my sweetheart had every symptom of the flu. I put her to bed and raced to Safeway for Dayquil, Nyquil, a thermometer and orange juice.

I suspect anyone fortunate enough to be able to take a vacation risks falling apart at the first incredible moment of breathing free. I know I have. After spending a big chunk of time working and taking care of home, dependents, bills, and every other detail of daily life, if you even hint to your body that it’s time to relax, beware. Your immune system may throw in the towel and let the rough-and-tumble germs stampede.



My sweetheart is a good sport. She wasn’t about to ruin our vacation or my birthday. The next morning she insisted on visiting the local farmers’ market with me. She sat in the car while I plunged into the excited energy of the noisy vendors and shoppers. I was looking for late melons and found my birthday present as well. It’s a red, handmade, oversized, slatted wood cat on wheels that wiggles as you pull it (pictured). I tried to pass it by. I only wanted it for decorative purposes, not to play with, honest. My sweetheart named her Clovis.

We went for a little ride off the main drag. Just followed our noses and ended up at a body of water called Dead Lake. Looked for live birds, saw middle-aged couples fishing (not everything was dead) and two homeless guys warming up on the boat launch dock. Found a small airport and watched a commuter plane land. Put my sweetheart back to bed and went looking for the hidden Shangri-La of a park I’d found years ago. It was impossibly overgrown and the dirt road had potholes the depth of Dead Lake. Guys were coming out of the brush with skateboards under their arms. Shangri-La no more.

Our long weekend went on like that. Lots of quirky surprises. Lots of sleeping for my sweetheart, lots of reading for me. Breakfasting on motel grub and the seeded baguette we brought from home. (Were our friends in France eating baguettes too?) Take out dinners from eateries recommended by locals. Long walks around the harbor for me, snapping photos as I went of dandied up trailer park spaces and surfers in the tame waves. Sitting at the open motel window watching the harbor, falling asleep to the music of barking harbor seals and a fog horn.

One day we drove on a fiendishly narrow gravel road through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park where my sweetheart felt good enough to accompany me on my annual birthday walk over a bridge (all 60 steps of it). This bridge spanned a tributary of the gloriously wild Smith River.

We stopped at every park and Ranger station we passed. My sweetheart, on shaky legs, used a walking stick to gather maps and, our passion, post cards! I bought a souvenir mug. My sweetheart bought a souvenir watch cap. We found gifts for friends and family. We took more pictures, especially of old buildings and exotic manzanita trees. Such tourists we were!

We drove halfway home and stopped at another seaside town. My sweetheart had splurged on a room high above the ocean, which was prescient of her because the flu wasn’t about to let finish the trip in one day. As we approached the town we saw, then smelled, oily-looking yellow smoke roiling overhead like poisonous steam from a cauldron. We thought the smoke had reached us from the hot, dry east! But no, it was a 60 to 70 acre gorse fire just outside town, started by the backfire of an ATV on the dunes. Gorse burns ferociously and had once leveled that whole town. Our room escaped everything but the soggy smell.

We continued on home, our cooler filled with leftover take out, anxious to get the invalid into our own bed and rested. She was due at work in the morning. Our friends are posting pictures of Saint-Remy-de-Provence today, including Roman ruins and Van Gogh’s asylum. Our camera is filled with ghost signs on old West brick buildings. Lesbian vacations, as varied and quirky as lesbians.

Copyright 2015 Lee Lynch


Five Things I learned from Comic Con



The invitation was quite unexpected and it took all of about three seconds to say “yes.” Would I consider coming to the Long Beach Comic Con to participate in a panel on LGBT issues in fiction? No need to ask twice, I booked my airline ticket, reserved my room at the historic Varden Hotel, and waited with great anticipation for the day to arrive. I was going to my first Comic Con.

Now given what I write you might wonder why it was my first one. Oh, I’ve wanted to go in the worst way and yet was always too chicken to make the venture. For me, the greatest risk I’ve taken is to write my books the way I want to write them and create the characters that make me happy. Everything else about my life is pretty conservative from the day job to the city I live in to my leisure-time activities. It’s simply the way I’ve always rolled.

Yet inside me is the wild woman longing to be set free. Lately I’ve been listening to that woman and slowly, she’s finding a bit of freedom. It probably started with my novels then moved to going out on a limb with some extra work on Z Nation. Then a play. Then dancing in a short film. And finally accepting the Comic Con invitation.

Walking up the steps to the entrance of the Long Beach Convention Center was a moment filled with joy that was also mixed with trepidation. I mean, let’s face it, I’m not a kid anymore and did I really belong there? Had this ship passed me by while I huddled beneath my conservative cloak pretending to the world that I didn’t want to be different? My answers were just inside the glass doors ahead of me. All I had to do was take a deep breath, open the doors, and walk inside.

And so I did. By the end of the first day, five things became very clear to me:

  1. You’re never too old to let your dreams soar. Comic Con isn’t just for kids. It speaks to every age, race, and gender. Dreams come alive inside those doors no matter who you are.
  2. You’re not alone. You might think you’re the only one who finds Steam Punk awesome but you’re not. You might think you’re the only one who believes Princess Leah is hot but you’re not.
  3. Live for the moment, you’ll not regret it. Joy is in the air the moment you step inside. Drink it in and let it nourish your soul.
  4. Be brave. Not everyone will understand why Comic Con is important to you. Walk through those doors anyway because inside are lots and lots of people who do.
  5. Top hats are cool. No explanation necessary…you either get it or you don’t!Twisted Whispers

Comic Con was an experience filled with things I never imagined. I met great people, witnessed incredible artistic talent at every turn, and was surrounded by positive creativity. As I now sit and write my stories of psychics, werewolves, vampires, and ghosts, I know without any reservation that out there in the world are those kindred spirits who get it and maybe, just maybe, I’ll see them again at the next Comic Con.

And next time…I’m wearing my top hat.

My First Blog


I’ve never blogged before. This is mostly because I’ve never had much to say, and I don’t want to waste people’s time reading a blog about nothing. Now, though, I’ve finally found a topic that’s worthy of your time. I almost feel it’s fate, because the stars aligned at just the right time.

BSB-DeadlyMedicineI’m hiring a new doctor to work in my medical office, and it just so happens that one of Deadly Medicine’s main characters faces the same challenge. Hospital CEO Abby Rosen has to replace a sick ER director, and the topic is perfect fodder for my first blog.

When I started out in private practice, I needed doctors to work the few hours each week I reserved for my family. I relied on a few old friends to help me out. They were my mentors; I would have trusted them with my life.

How did you choose your family doctor? If you’re like most people, he or she came recommended by someone you trust, someone who had a good experience with them. When you needed your knee surgery, I’m sure you followed the same process, and looked around for someone “good”.

When you go to the ER, there’s no time for background checks . It’s an emergency, right? You’re relying on the reputation of the hospital. They’ve reviewed the doctor’s credentials. They’re properly trained, and a background check would have uncovered any issues, right? In Abby’s case, she’s relying on the company she’s hired to have done all of that. That’s their job.

You would think so, but that’s not necessarily the case.

Are you aware of how many ERs are staffed? Most often, a company bids on the ER contract for a hospital, and supplies doctors to staff it. Some of these companies own many contracts, in multiple states. Doctors don’t even know who their working for. How can companies know the doctors? Most often they rely on a resume. But just because someone looks good on paper, doesn’t mean they are.

And what happens when there aren’t enough qualified, emergency trained and board certified doctors to fill the schedule? Don’t forget, ERs run 24/7/365. They can’t close the ER. They must find someone to work.

So, how do these companies operate?

The turn to staffing companies, like the one Abby used. Or they hire local doctors. Anyone who is willing to try their hand at emergency medicine. Some of them might be competent, even qualified. Some are excellent. Some are not. You may find some family docs who are tired of the grind of private practice. They may be good at managing your blood pressure, but they have no formal training in trauma, and not much in critical care. Internists work the ERs too, but most have zero experience in pediatrics, orthopedics, trauma, and gynecology. Those cases account for about half of ER visits.

Does an Ob-Gyn doctor working weekends in the ER sound crazy to you? It does to me too, but I’ve seen it.

Over time, these doctors may become proficient in the practice of emergency medicine. They take courses on cardiac arrest, and attend trauma conferences. When they’ve been in the ER for a dozen years, they’ve probably picked up the skills they need to do a good job. If not, to their credit, their professional colleagues will probably have them fired…and then, they’ll move on to another hospital.

What about the background check when they get there? It’s only as good as the people who supply the data. In the opening chapter of Deadly Medicine, Dr. Edward Hawk, our psychopathic villain, is terminated from his position. Although he’s suspected of murder, no one calls the police. They simply show him to the door. On his way out, though, he’s given a letter of reference for his next employer.

Sound unbelievable? It’s plausible. A doctor has to do something really awful, and have it witnessed by many people, for his colleagues to report him. Those minor things, we blow off. Give people the benefit of the doubt. After all, we’re all in the same boat. I don’t want someone to report me, right?

I once worked with a family doctor who killed a woman in the ER. He wasn’t a psychopath like my villain Hawk, he was just incompetent. The patient was about thirty years old, and healthy. What could be so bad? When she came to the ER, her complaint was a headache. Not just any headache, though. This was the worst headache of her life.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

The worst headache of your life is without question a subarachnoid hemorrhage until proven otherwise. Every ER doctor knows this. An aneurism in the brain has leaked, and if it isn’t repaired immediately, chances are good the patient will die. The only way to diagnose this condition is by lumbar puncture. Dr. Jessica Benson does an LP in Deadly Medicine, and she does it easily. She is a highly trained, very skilled emergency physician.

Instead of an LP, this patient’s doctor ordered a CT scan of the brain. As is often the case with brain hemorrhage, it was normal, and she was discharged with pain medication. A few days later, the aneurism ruptured, rendering her instantly unconscious. This time, the CT scan was positive. Her brain was flooded with blood. She was placed on a ventilator, but with no evidence of brain activity, her husband pulled the plug.

The doctor who originally treated her had never heard the legend of The Worst Headache of Your Life, even though it’s taught to all ER residents, on or about the first day. His training did not include a basic procedure that would have saved this woman’s life. Yet he was hired to take care of her, and all the other unsuspecting people who ventured into the ER, because the hospital needed someone with a medical license present in the ER.

This story is not fiction. I witnessed it, and too many other incidents to count.

In parting, I will give you a piece of free medical advice, my little thank-you for reading my first blog. When you go into the ER, or the urgent care, or whenever you are under the care of a doctor you’re meeting for the first time, ask a simple question. How long have you been here?

If they’re wearing a diamond chipped watch for ten years of service, you’re probably okay. If they still can’t find the cafeteria, ask a few more questions.


by Ann Aptaker

Ann Aptaker photo


Some years ago, when I began to get serious about writing crime and mystery fiction, and the character of Cantor Gold was forming in my mind, I understood that Cantor’s story had to be told as a series. The complexity of her life and its moral contradictions had to be revealed slowly, her post-World War Two social and criminal worlds excavated depth by layered depth. So by the time I finished writing Book One in the series, Criminal Gold, published by Bold Strokes Books in November 2014, and started the second, Tarnished Gold, released by BSB this month, I understood what to do, and I was undaunted, yes?


Oh, I knew the plot, at least generally. And having spent so much time with Cantor and her circle—cab driver and Cantor’s sometime lover Rosie Bliss, Cantor’s young right-hand guy Judson Zane, doyenne of stolen goods Esther “Mom” Sheinbaum, crime lord Sig Loreale, and tug boat skipper Red Drogan—while writing Criminal Gold, I knew their personalities down to their souls. Their voices were crystal clear to me, their mid-twentieth century New York criminal underworld rich with drama, passion, danger, and humor. And new characters for Tarnished Gold were taking shape nicely, too, their personalities layering, their voices clarifying. So what was in my way? Me.

More precisely, my false expectations were in my way. I’d spent so much time with my characters and their world when I wrote Criminal Gold, I figured that creating their next adventure would be easier than the steep climb of writing the first one.


Tarnished Gold 300 DPIWriting Tarnished Gold was harder. Much, much harder. Why? Because I was a better writer by the time I finished Criminal Gold than when I started, not only as a more practiced wordsmith, but because I had a better understanding of what good writing, good storytelling, demands. “Demand” is the operative word here. In general terms, I already knew that good writing demands digging down into my depths in order to locate and comprehend emotions that would drive the characters and the story. But to grow as a storyteller, writing a second book demanded I dig even deeper, claw my way down into my most protected marrow, where I don’t always want to go, and be willing to use what I find there to drive a more complex plot. (Tarnished Gold is a more complex book than Criminal Gold, and writing it created even more demands: that I develop the ability to construct and maintain the more intricate plot, complicated further by the series’ ongoing subplot, and give voice and action to the more difficult emotions Cantor and other characters must face as a result.) Writing the second book demanded and demanded and demanded and kept on demanding more of me, demanding I have the courage to take even greater creative risks. (Cantor is going to do that? The story is going THERE? Oh. My. God. Do I have the nerve to write this? Do I have the skill to pull this off? Well okay, no choice: here we go! Whaaa-hooo!) If writing Criminal Gold was like scaling the sheer face of a cliff, writing Tarnished Gold was like leaping off that cliff and trusting—terrified—that I could land safely.

And now I’m writing the third book in the series, and the demands have become even greater, as they must, or the series could fall into dull sameness. With each book, the stakes are higher, the risks riskier, the emotional digging deeper, and finding the means to express it all is much harder. So now that I’ve scaled the cliff, and jumped off the cliff, I have to be able to fly. Simply landing safely is no longer an option.

But the thrill!

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