Archive for April, 2015

Singin’ the Blues in a Red State

By Clara Nipper

I live in a place that believes on the 7th day, God created Wal-Mart, Chik Fil-A and Cracker Barrel and that Jesus hunts deer and drinks beer while wearing the American flag. It’s Oklahoma, but it’s not OK.

I long to flee and relocate of course, but in the meantime, I’m sitting here in a red Christian prison where the DA proudly advertises his faith; where physicians, yes, scientifically educated and board certified medical doctors have Christian verses prominently framed and mounted on their office walls; where I get well-meant bibles as gifts from co-workers and it’s nearly impossible to hire anyone from carpenter to electrician to plumber to landscaper without an unsolicited lecture on their missionary work.

Recently, in a roomful of peers who were making fun of parents choosing to name their child Wolfgang Amadeus, I casually commented, “well, they named him after Mozart.” What ensued was a Babel of dubious shock. My hair almost burst into flame. How do I get through the days without throwing up in my mouth every hour? I drink copious amounts of Dew. It burns away the bile.

The thing is, I grew up here. Before I knew any better, I fell in love with the place if not the people. There’s nothing as sweet and sacred as an early morning skate on the river and smelling either the spring wildflowers or the rotting leaves and woodsmoke and seeing the bunnies, ducks, lizards and turtles along the way.

We have one of the best library systems in the county. We have a glorious art deco downtown; and one of the most beautiful skylines in existence. Our Glow Haven peaches are the best on earth. And we do have ghettos of safety: certain areas of town are populated with My Kind. Plus I have deep roots here. All of my past and my memories are intact around me. I have established my garden as a certified wildlife habitat ( and a monarch butterfly way station ( I planted a tree when I married my partner/spouse. I have planted trees in memory of dead loved ones. I have scattered ashes. I just installed my own Little Free Library, the first and only one in Tulsa. ( I’m planning an apiary and an urban chicken coop. Not that I can’t do that anywhere, but I’m years into project development here.

I would like to get a t-shirt that reads, “Just another feminist, pro-choice, pro-GLBTQ, vegetarian, bisexual atheist introvert for animal rights” but instead, I settled for a shirt that proclaimed in black block letters on a pale gray background: “This is what an atheist looks like.”

So last weekend, I decided to wear the shirt Out. I prepared myself for abuse, brawling, gunfire, arrest and being burned at the stake.

And in local vernacular, I’ll be dogged if I did not make a thousand new friends that day. When I’m Out, something an introvert resists and dreads, I’m severely menacing and difficult to approach because I don’t want your blah blah to slow down my mission of efficiency. Well, all of that dissolved with the shirt. It was like a giant welcome mat on my boobs. Atheists materialized in unprecedented numbers and expressed enthusiastic agreement and support for me and my shirt everywhere I went. Apparently, and I don’t say this lightly or often, I am wrong. Wrong about Oklahoma. It is covertly liberal! I was in a happily exhausted stupor when I arrived back home. I folded the shirt tenderly and put it away, vowing never to wear it Out again unless I’ve taken Ecstasy first.

I take back all my contempt for this alleged red state and I amend my opinion.

Oklahoma is secretly progressive! And it’s home.


Clara Nipper writes fiction and When not writing, she makes desserts, and enlarges her certified wildlife habitat gardens. Her two murder mysteries (Femme Noir and Kiss of Noir) have been published by Bold Strokes Books and are available at their website: and on She is a contributor to local publications: This Land Press and the Tulsa Voice. Clara also skates for Tulsa Derby League under the derby name Cat Owta Hell. With two Rollercons, countless clinics and boot camps under her jamming belt, it is safe to say it’s derby until death for this Jammer Assassin. Outside the rink, she has had roller derby articles published in Five on Five, Hit and Miss, USARS Magazine, Lead Jammer Magazine-, Blood and Thunder and Currently, her works in progress are two coming of age novels and another Tulsa-based murder mystery entitled, Murder on the Rocks. Find Clara at her website, on Facebook, Twitter (@mindybendy), Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Linked In, Amazon Author Pages, Good Reads, Derby Social, Word Press and at the farmer’s market.,, and

Twitter: @mindybendy, Good Reads: claranipper

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Tumblr: Catowtahell, Linked In: Clara Nipper

Derby Social: Cat Owta Hell, Clara Nipper

Amazon Author Pages:,

A Tale of Silence

By Franci McMahon

I’d be willing to bet the ranch there isn’t one writer out there who hasn’t yearned for more time alone to write. Sometimes we think we have silence. It is so uncivil to notice or complain about those small sounds of another person in the house, the water running in the kitchen sink, soft music a couple of rooms away, a cough or sneeze. Even the air moves in a different way when there is someone else in your living space.


There are days that the silence holds an unbelievable amount of racket no matter how long I sit unmoving. The amount of silence I relish is something another person may find intolerable. The partner brushes fingertips across the panels of the closed door, to whisper, “You’re so quiet in there. Are you okay?”


I applied to Hedgebrook, a writing retreat for women on an island in Puget Sound, in search of that solitude. This place of author bliss, imagined just for women writers, has six little cedar cottages spaced privately throughout the woods. After spending the day alone with our writing project we all troop down to the farmhouse with our Red Riding Hood baskets and a flashlight. The Hedgebrook chef prepares for us a superb and organic meal. Replete, we retire to the lounge where we may read from our pearls of words to each other and gently comment on our sister’s works. I stayed a month and have never felt so pampered as a woman and honored as a writer. This gift of silence and sisterhood of the book, became my benchmark.


In an effort to recapture some of this productive time alone, I encouraged my lover of over twenty years to spend time with her friends. Ones with whom she shared other interests. My long weekends were like excursions into writing nirvana.


All of this brought our relationship into focus. We faced the fact that our lives had very separate and different joys and needs and took the plunge into divorce. Or what passes for it in the queer world.


Sometimes I listen to my border collie Mollie, breathe. She’s a quiet breather. On her breath rides the peace I seek. She shares my home and brings me solitude. I have never been a chatter on the telephone and have become grumpy about phone calls that reach beyond “Meet me at six…”

Artist: Franci McMahon

Franci McMahon

I’ve managed to scare everyone off calling me on the phone. I think I was too effective in that endeavor. I feel like I have one of those emergency only phones. I do write, but it is amazing how little of the twenty-four hour day that consumes.


image1Two and a half years into my self-chosen silence I have solitude. I am learning how solitude can also be intermittent loneliness. Yet out of that productive alone time has come White Horse in Winter, due out from Bold Strokes Books in September. The next novel is shaping into a satisfying whole story. I know I will hit my stride, but I stumble where large cracks have opened in the dry earth. My feet are finding the ground, avoiding the rocks, or, that which I like even better, picking up the rocks and examining the grain of feldspar, red iron oxide and the conglomerate of sand. Then I want to see if they can fly.

Confession: An UnCatholic Rite

By Stevie Mikayne

In another life I might have been a priest.

In the kind of life where a woman—a lesbian, specifically—could be a priest in the Catholic Church.

Let me rephrase that—in a future life, perhaps I’ll be a priest. Because I like to believe the world will evolve and that I’ll get to see it again in a different incarnation. Something about the professional confessor has always appealed to me, perhaps because as a lapsed Catholic, I don’t go to confession myself…

My godmother taught me that the best confessors are mirrors as well as vaults—reflecting the intention of the person speaking while guarding their secrets religiously—so I treat all confessions like they’re sacred. Even the UnCatholic kind. The everyday purging of the soul that happens spontaneously over tea, or while standing in the street as children run around the cul-de-sac, is just as holy.

The loaded concept of sin aside, there is something healing in being able to verbalise the darkest thoughts in your head. Out loud. And have someone acknowledge them. Whether or not you perform an act of contrition; whether or not you believe God has forgiven you, confession—Catholic or UnCatholic— provides a necessary absolution.

Uncatholic ConductBeing Catholic has always been a paradox in my life: something I simultaneously allowed to shape me, and fought against with an almost teenage rebellion. When I began writing UnCatholic Conduct, I knew that the main character Jil would face internal conflicts where religion and lesbianism clashed in the same manner that I did while working in the Catholic school board—and trying to come to terms with all the cognitive dissonance that entailed.

I expected that Jil would fight against dogmatic views with a ferocity and a passion—and stroppiness—that nothing but this topic could elicit, because of course in my 20s, this is how I felt too. I rejected the church before it could reject me, finding it easier than seeking out the grey areas where we could blend.

Many people assume that the main character in a novel is written about the author. It’s often the case. But when I look at UnCatholic Conduct and Illicit Artifacts (forthcoming), I realise that the person who received more of my personal infusion was Jessica Blake—the Catholic school principal Jil falls for. I imbued Jess with my own experiences—struggling to learn that religion is only one vehicle to faith; that withdrawing from a set of rituals doesn’t have to clip your spiritual wings; that you can feel connected to the universe without feeling connected to a certain book…

For Jess, the Catholic life provides a necessary structure and set of rules, but she experiences a real problem when she finds herself attracted to Jil.

There’s something confessional about the act of writing these characters, and I am enjoying the process—at the same time that I continue to receive everyday confessions.

I think of my godmother often when people seek me out—her deep-seated spirituality and staggering empathy for others; her broad-minded ability to distill all the ritual into one universal message of acceptance and love. She’s achieved the type of spirituality I hope to understand myself one day: the compassionate kind that defies barriers of human construct.

Ultimately, this is what I want for Jess too, and for everyone, really, who feels at odds with their faith.

I hope we all find it…


Xo Stevie


The Amazon Trail

Helicopter Wife

By Lee Lynch



My sweetheart called herself a helicopter wife and I laughed. Not long ago we couldn’t even marry. Now we get to legally hover.

I begged to differ. She is no such thing.

She offered an example: the multiple times she asks when my medical, dental, whatever appointments are scheduled.

That’s helping, I protested.

Maybe the first three times, she responded. By the fifth or sixth time it gets annoying.

One of my standard responses: If you say so. Another: We’ll see. I think I was meant to be a spouse along the lines of my nearly silent father.

Then I started thinking. What is a helicopter wife/husband, really?

Is s/he the person who sleeps in a hospital chair all night after you have surgery?

Is she the one who digs holes for you when you have a bad back/shoulder/knee or all of the above, even though you’re the one who ordered native plants and trees months ago from the Conservation District?

Does the helicopter husband always check to see if your dinner is hot enough? Seasoned right? Pleasing?

Does she serve as your alarm clock?

He always listens to the emergency scanner when you’re out and about, right? And checks before you leave to be sure your cells are both on with the volume high?

Is that what helicopter spouses do?

And the straight, god-fearing neighbors, do they tell you you’re the cutest couple they’ve ever seen? Always out walking together, deep in conversation, making each other laugh, a pleasant greeting for everyone? Rotors spinning all the while.

Do you keep her enthralled with poetry and does she email you romantic Fred Astaire clips?

You seldom see a doctor alone, share test results, build duplicate med lists. She makes certain you have time to write, protects you from interruptions, apologises with urgent questions.

Every little outing is a vacation, a sunny adventure even in the rain.

Does he insist on walking the suspension bridge before you to make certain it’s safe? Do you always walk on the outside to protect her? Does each of you grab the other’s sleeve before you cross the street and look both ways?

The orange Coast Guard helicopters often rumble overhead here. Our community is fighting to keep one stationed at this port although Homeland Security has siphoned off the funds. Our fishing boats count on that copter. It rescues disabled crab crafts, surfers caught in rip tides, panicked captains of recreational boats and tourists with no sense of rising tides and rough surf. Also, people lost in the county and Coast Range, motorists who plummet down beach cliffs. Come the tsunami, it’ll probably drop food and water to our hilltop neighborhood.

Helicopters can be loud and scary, human helicopters can suffocate and irritate. Yet she reserves the flights, gets us from point A to point B, drives frequently wet streets in the dark, while I can’t see the white line. I’d fight to keep my helicopter wife and the Coast Guard flying rescue machine.

Just three minutes ago she knew, just walking in the door, that I’m having a health issue. I get to apply Band aids to her owies and remind her to take her vitamins. One or the other of us would forever be leaving the house without a Fitbit if no copter hovered, orange or not.

We might never again eat a vegetable (aren’t Cheetos vegetables?). Helicopter partner wants one around for a long time and sadly that involves mandatory vegetables—at least one gets the option of stir-fry or salad. If only there was a good commercial Russian dressing with which to smother the raw greens.

We also might never renew our prescriptions on time. Or take a walk or get to sleep before 4:00 AM. Or stop working on our various projects long enough to stretch and breathe.

When we go out, no instructions are given about how to dress. That’s not to say there isn’t an  inspection awaiting with a yea or a nay or back to the drawing board. I pack my own suitcase for travel while she sets up a spreadsheet. She color codes my activities so I show up  where I should and when.

Has your husband ever bought a computer? Much easier to monitor his choice by gifting him with laptops and tablets you love. Does she ask you where to hang the philodendron, then decide on the correct placement?

I’m telling you, helicopter partners are a blessing to us all. I never wanted to be a wife, much less marry a helicopter. If I’d known there was such a being, I would have run like Cary Grant in the cornfields of “North By Northwest.” I had enough of fluttering wings as an overprotected kid. My sweetheart is a partner, not a parent.

Yet, when I look at a list of loving, helicoptery nags—urging her to schedule medical appointments for her health, to see the dentist, to get out of the house before, not after, an event, to send out the taxes, to find her job openings—I have to admit it: I’m a helicopter wife too!


Copyright 2015 Lee Lynch


By Connie Ward



1) What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I began to write fiction at age sixteen, when I ended my career as a piano prodigy. The immediate success I enjoyed as a writer is likely due to the fact that I was able to transfer all I’d learned about music (harmony and counterpoint, shape and form, rhythm and tone) to the service of words. For me, the keyboard of a piano and the keyboard of a laptop have the same function. Each type of fiction is composed in a major or minor key, with its own time signature, toward an aim of realizing my particular purpose. I’ve never studied fiction writing on a formal basis. My apprenticeship as a writer occurred publicly, and my development can be traced through the course of my published books. Recently, I’ve come full circle and begun to compose music as a soundtrack to my fiction. Extracts from these early compositions can be found on my Youtube channel.


2) What kind of stories do you write? And why?

BSB-IndivisibleHeart My books are sometimes quite different one from the other; often readers have difficulty comprehending that the same author could have created any pair of given books. Some of my fiction, like The Indivisible Heart and the book that preceded it (The Laboratory of Love), is dark and disturbing. Other books are filled with symbols and fantasy and dream; others explore the richness of the human comedy in a more realistic, earthbound way. However different individual books might appear from each other, they share in common a search for the beauty that lies in both darkness and light, and they are all driven in one way or another by the forces of hunger and longing, and are fueled by a desire for love.


3) What do your family and friends think about your writing?

I have neither family nor friends. My books and music are the only children I create. My readers are all the friends I have, and I’m devoted wholly to them. They are enough; they are everything. I am continually strengthened and sustained by letters and email I receive from people who wish to express how much my books mean to them. It’s a constant surprise to discover how varied my audience is. It seems that younger people, at the stage of life when the world can appear confusing and troubling, are especially drawn to my work. Battle-scarred survivors of long, hard-fought campaigns waged in the service of love appear to be equally engaged by my imaginative world. My answer to all readers is: hold on, don’t give up, you’re not alone. The struggle for love is always worth it, even when every sign suggests that you have lost.


4) Where do you get your ideas?

   The source of my fiction is the universal human experience. What does it mean to be alive in this world? How can we grapple with the mystery of our time on this planet? What keeps us apart and what connects us? These are some of the questions that concern me.


5) How do you write; do you plan everything out, or just write?

I work on several levels simultaneously. Part of the process involves tapping into and connecting with the subconscious; at the same time, I am highly alert to what I’m doing technically. I hover at an objective distance above my writing even while I’m immersed in its depths. I feel it’s important to remain suspended between these two states all the while. Go deep into darkness and dream yet also keep myself above and apart from it.


6) What makes The Indivisible Heart special to you?

Each of my books is important to me for itself. The particular significance of The Indivisible Heart lies in the way it completes an exploration of the darker aspects of love that was begun in previous books such as Birthmarks and The Laboratory of Love. With The Indivisible Heart, this exploration has perhaps been taken as far as it can, at least for now. I delayed writing the novel for quite a few years because I was frightened of what it suggested and because I realized I wasn’t ready to confront that fear or to explore it coherently. The implications of the finished book have been quite difficult for me to accept. It is my own violent death that’s recorded in these pages. The two years that followed completing the book are more or less lost to me, on a personal level, although I continued to write all the while. Possibly, I’m now writing fiction that brims with comedy in a reaction to the disturbing ramifications of The Indivisible Heart.  


7) How much of yourself and of the people you know are in your characters?

I am in each of my characters, however unlike myself they might seem. I am an eighty-year-old woman and a child of ten. I’m a tattoo artist practicing his art deep within the souk, and I’m a boy selling his boys on Santa Monica Boulevard. When imagination is powered by emotion, it leads to empathy. We all have the same longings and fears, although each of us expresses those emotions in a unique way.


8) Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?

I’m quite unconcerned (and often unaware) whether an author is gay/lesbian or not. Brilliant writing transcends such definitions and refuses to be limited by them. In any case, I find that I read very little while I’m writing (which is constantly) because that experience satisfies my need for written language. I am inspired by silence and desert and the call of the imam from the mosque. I am empowered by the voice of the sea and by the voice of Maria Dolores Pradera. One writer whose work has impressed me is Patricia Highsmith.


9) Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

My advice would be to avoid creative-writing classes and writing groups. Learn by writing, not by talking about it. Spend three months at a time in a small, bare room far from home, preferably in a country where you know no one and where you don’t speak the language. Liberate yourself from Internet access; free yourself from all distractions; allow nothing to interfere with an extended experience of listening intently to the voice inside you. Your seemingly empty, confining cell will soon brim with riches and teem with treasure. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes or of taking chances. Risk everything on each page.


10) When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

I am always writing, whether it’s fiction or music. The creation of art isn’t a draining act that requires me to seek diversion or replenishment. The act of creation is life-giving. The more I give of myself, the more I am renewed. I take superb care of the instrument that is my body in order to maximize the power of the spirit it contains. In every way, my physical self is a work of art whose creation has the same importance as any words, any music. Although I’m currently at work on my tenth book, it’s clear to me that I’m just beginning. I hope the Bold Strokes Books audience will follow my journey forward.

Playing With Some Familiar Faces

By Lesley Davis


In March I picked up a new game to play. I had been waiting for it since they announced the release of the PS4 console and it was top of my list of games I had to have. When it was finally released I immediately got my copy, sat down and began to play. It looked great, had a fantastic story set in Victorian England with gruesome monsters and awesome weapons but the game play was awful and the characters were incredibly boring. I was taking them through the levels but I wasn’t really invested in their lives. They just didn’t make me care enough what happened to them. I completed it but now it’s back in the box never to be returned to. That’s so disappointing because I invested time into the story but it gave me nothing back in return. Yet there’s another game I have played and completed ages ago, and I can’t stop keep going back into it because it means something to me. I love the game play, I love the locations, (nothing beats climbing the Space Needle and then wrecking it with your superpowers!) and I am invested in the characters, each and every one of them, good guy or bad. They keep me returning to play with them again and again because the time I spend with them in that world is fascinating and time well spent. I love them, I love their story, and I can lose myself in their world.

Reading is like that for me too. There are characters that I like to go back to and re-read their story to experience all the highs and lows they went through to reach their happy ending. Writing my own stories, there are some characters that once I have finished their story I can sit back and bid them farewell for a while, knowing that their story has been told. Then there are others that, as soon as I am done, they are already telling me what they want to do next. When I finished “Playing Passion’s Game”BSB_Playing_Passions_Game_3ds Trent was already whispering in my ear that the nursery needed an occupant so I knew these characters would be back sooner, rather than later. And the amazing feedback I received from my readers only added to that knowledge. They wanted to go back to that world as much as I did.


Playing in Shadow 300 DPI“Playing In Shadow”, published by Bold Strokes and out this April, tells the story of Bryce who is the only survivor of a terrible car crash. She bears the scars of that trauma both inside and out. She meets Scarlet who has her own problems. Should she follow in her father’s footsteps as he expects her to or step away and follow her own path? What was fun for me about bringing this story to life was knowing that these two new characters were going to interact with a few familiar faces. Trent and Juliet are back, Elton and Monica, and young Kayleigh. I loved weaving these known characters into the lives of the new ladies whose story is being revealed. As someone who writes the kind of stories I want to read myself, I love Trent to pieces. She’s one of my favourite characters I have created and I have so much more to share about her. So while romance weaves it spell around Bryce and Scarlet, Trent and Juliet will be preparing for motherhood. And as you can imagine, with these characters, it’s not going to be all boring bibs and baby grows! Being someone who personally has never, EVER, wanted children of her own, I have had the most fun writing the experience for Trent. And now Bryce, being new to the fold, is going to see what kind of awesome family this group of gamers and Goths can be.

For Trent’s loyal fans, she and her family will be back in future tales. Their story is nowhere near finished because I’m invested in these characters, their stories, and their world. They keep drawing me back to play. As for Scarlet and Bryce, in “Playing In Shadow”, their story is just beginning! I hope you all enjoy it.

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