Archive for September, 2015

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!




What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I started reading for pleasure about six or seven years ago and fell in love with the stories I read, particularly those with strong female leads. Before that, about ten years ago, my sister-in-law loaned me Alma Mater by Rita Mae Brown. I read it twice in three days while on a business trip to Washington, D.C. I had no idea lesfic was even a thing. Then about five years ago, a good friend loaned me Fated Love by Radclyffe. I needed more. I read as many books as I could get my hands on. My wife and I went to a Bold Strokes Books-sponsored event in Palm Springs, CA, where one of the panels featured Kim Baldwin and Nell Stark talking about getting started as a writer. Their best advice? Write what you know. That weekend, Jordan and Kirsten were born.

What type of stories do you write? And why?

I write romance because I love the happily-ever-after. Relationships are hard work, but when you’re with the right person, the work is totally worth it. I’ve had great examples of the HEA, namely my parents. They got married after just four and a half months of dating, but the night my mom met my dad, she knew she would marry him before she even knew his name. They’ve been happily married for forty-nine years and honestly LIKE each other. They gave my brother and me a foundation and standard for our own marriages. My wife and I have been together nineteen years, and even though we’ve had our hard times, they’ve been worth it because we got through it together, as a team, as partners, as best friends.

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

NewBeginningsMy family and friends are over the moon about me being a published author. The morning I found out BSB wanted to publish New Beginnings, we were just about to leave for my parents’ house so they could take my wife and me to the airport for the GCLS conference. When I told them about New Beginnings being published, they cried and said they were so proud of me. They’ve always been supportive of anything I’ve wanted to do as long as I worked hard and enjoyed it.

Where do you get your ideas?

They honestly just pop into my head. New Beginnings came about vaguely because of a real-life experience. I believe in soul mates—not just as lovers, but as friends and family. I met a woman, who is now a dear friend, when I treated her in physical therapy. We had this instant connection, like we had known each other all our lives, but it was always on a friendship level. I’ve shared what I call a “twin connection” with a few of my friends, when we instinctually know when something’s wrong or we need each other. I love sharing that connection.

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

I’m basically a pantser. I come up with a vague story line, but I let the characters answer their profiles before I begin writing. I make the profiles as detailed as possible because then they become real to me. At that point, they start telling me their story. I’m just the writer.

What makes New Beginnings special to you?

New Beginnings is special to me because it’s my first published novel. It’s also my first attempt at writing a manuscript, so it’s cool to see how all that hard work paid off. The entire process has been an excellent learning opportunity. As I write my second manuscript, the things I learned from my editor and other authors are coming through.

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

The only things I have in common with Jordan are physical therapy and college basketball. Some of the stories she tells Kirsten are true stories that I experienced, but I’ll never tell which ones. 😉 I’ve also taken certain behaviors from some friends and incorporated them into other characters, but that’s about it.

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite

of this author(s)?

So many authors have inspired me, but I’d have to say Radclyffe and Ali Vali have made the biggest impact. Rad’s Provincetown Series and Ali’s Devil Series are my favorites. I’m typically a pretty passive person, but when I read Cain Casey, I start to take on her…um…assertiveness. I love Cain so much that I named our rescue puppy Derby.

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Read as much as you can by different authors and different publishers. If you want to be a writer, start writing. It can be a journal, poetry, short stories—anything. Just put words down on paper. If you don’t write that first word, there won’t be more to follow. Also, be open to the constructive criticism your beta readers and editors give you. It will only make your story that much better. But in the end, it’s your story. Be proud of that.

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

Work! LOL! I work a lot of hours, but I love what I do so it doesn’t really feel like work. I wish I did have more time to write, especially when the words are begging to be written. I love kayaking, playing golf, relaxing at home with my wife and fur kids, and of course, reading. Not a day goes by where I don’t read.

The Amazon Trail

Dykey Dorothy and Friends

By Lee Lynch

Lee Lynch by Sue Hardesty

Near where I live, closeted lesbians built and installed a bench on a mostly hidden concrete path between grassy sand dunes, out of sight of any casual observer. The bench was created in the mid 1990s to pay respect to members of the group who had died.

These women did not dare to name their dead. Even the full name of their sisterhood—a name that included the word lesbian—was too terrifying to engrave. Yet, I can guarantee that every group member read Rubyfruit Jungle and for the hours they spent with it they were unafraid. Because of such books, they dared to gather. They learned to value, in a way society did not, lesbian lives.

Where did this book come from? Was it pulp fiction? Was it some straight guy’s fantasy? No. It was a crossover book before there were lesbian crossover books, a lesbian classic before such a concept existed, and it was written by a radical lesbian feminist who was one of the founders, in 1971, of The Furies Collective of Washington, D.C., and who wrote for that newsletter and for “The Ladder.”

Rubyfruit Jungle helped us to rise from the primordial patriarchal ooze of fear, humiliation and silence. Audre Lorde might have been speaking of this author with her oft quoted words, “Your silence will not protect you.”

This year, I had the honor of presenting the Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) Lee Lynch Classic Award to Rita Mae Brown for her 1973 novel Rubyfruit Jungle.

Published initially in 1973 by the early feminist press, Daughters Inc., which was founded by novelists June Arnold and Bertha Harris and by feminist political theorist Charlotte Bunch, this was a novel of its time, a slap in the face of the heterosexist world and a daring gift to lesbians. It, along with Desert of the Heart (1964), and Patience and Sarah (1969), was a voice of lesbian liberation, parting the curtains we hid behind with humor and insight. From it, lesbians learned they might be alone, but they weren’t the only lesbians on earth. Readers felt buoyed, felt human for a few hours or days. It changed lives and, still very much in print, continues to do so to this day.

Author JD Glass, in “AfterEllen,” quoted from Rita Mae Brown’s acceptance speech: “You’re alive—you fight. You keep fighting.” Glass reported that Brown, “…reminded us all to continue to speak our truths, to tell our stories and that if we are ‘defined by our oppression,’ then we are still oppressed.”

The award was presented on a historic night for lesbian fiction. As editors wrote, “The Golden Crown Literary Society’s 11th annual literary awards in New Orleans brought together lesbian fiction pioneers Rita Mae Brown, Lee Lynch, and Dorothy Allison, all sharing a stage for the first time.”

Author Karin Kallmaker presented Joan Nestle, in absentia, with the GCLS Trailblazer award, in recognition of her writings including Restricted Country and Persistent Desire and her activism for lesbians.

Dorothy Allison GCLS 2015Dorothy Allison, best-selling author of Trash, and Bastard Out of Carolina, gave an impassioned and profoundly moving keynote address. She said, of a visit to the original Lesbian Herstory Archives, which originated in Joan Nestle and Deb Edel’s NYC apartment, “Oh children, I wish you could have seen that living room.” Her words brought the audience to tears.

The Golden Crown Literary Society (,  founded in 2004, is a 501(c)3 non-profit, all-volunteer organization whose mission is education, promotion and recognition of lesbian literature. Known for its well-attended annual conference and its programs, including The Academy (for emerging lesbian writers), the Cate Culpepper Mentoring Program, and its awards—The Goldies—the GCLS brings authors, readers and publishers together for the betterment of lesbian literature.

GCLS is for lesbians and like-minded women. Lesbian members run it, members do the teaching and mentoring, members staple and greet and administer and judge books for the Goldies. It is one of those incredible institutions created out of sore need by a few dykes—writer Lori Lake, publisher Cathy Bryerose and promoter Kathy Smith—with stars in their eyes and ambition for their people. The annual conference draws lesbians from around the world, the U.S. and Canada.

Seeing the other writers and readers is like going to a huge family reunion. There is never enough time to spend with the women we want to see and want to meet. Yet meetups happen without planning and are some of the best experiences. My sweetheart and I bumped into author Catherine Friend the first morning we were there and we took off on the typical NOLA adventure: Cafe du Monde beignets, a trolley ride and the French Market for Loretta’s Pralines.

One evening we happened across Donna McBride, co-founder of Naiad Press, who I hadn’t see in many years. We strolled through the underground mall to the Mississippi River, catching up. Sandy Thornton, organizer of the Jewel Book Club, a large lesbian readers group in Dallas, Texas, invited us to accompany her while she picked up Dorothy Allison at the airport. I’ll always remember a smiling dykey Dorothy slowly descending that escalator. Lesbian royalty.

I could go on and on with my highlights, but would rather make more highlights with lesbian book lovers and writers in Alexandria, Virginia next year.


Copyright 2015 Lee Lynch


Finding My Darkness

By Jacob Anderson-Minshall


Queerly Beloved 300 DPIIt’s been an interesting transition as a writer, to go from writing nonfiction articles for magazines to co-authoring a lesbian mystery series to writing a syndicated column to working on the memoir Queerly Beloved (the fourth book I wrote with my co-conspirator, Diane).


These different styles of writing take different skills and now I’m working on a graphic novel, which is employing entirely new ones. Some of which I’m doing pretty well with. My illustrations may not be great but I think they’re good enough, a phrase I’m trying to embrace after hearing Melissa Brayden at the Golden Crown Conference talk about how to be a more productive writer. She said to “embrace imperfection,” which is a struggle for me but I’m working on it and reminding myself that done is better than perfect.


Other aspects of writing a graphic novel are more of a struggle, like synthesizing half a chapter of content into 140 words and using imagery to replace words entirely. I just “read” a great graphic novel, Leaf, which has no words at all. The characters communicate exclusively by facial expressions and gestures. I’m certainly not able to pull that off yet!


And unlike some of my previous work, with this project I’m deliberately trying to harness my darker impulses, which I’m hoping to do without becoming subsumed by negativity or personally adopting the pessimistic worldview of some of my characters.


I don’t know if this is a surprise to anyone, but I’m a huge pessimist. Or I was. No, I think Diane would say I still am, even if I work harder now to hide that part of myself away (as the joke goes, “where it can fester as a mental illness.”)


Still, I think I’m less depressive and gloomy than I was before I started taking testosterone. Before my transition, especially back when I was a young adult, and my emotional state was like driving through the Sierras; with a lot of ups and downs. My “highs” never really went that high, but my lows were bottom of the Mariana Trench low.


The thing is, I’m not just a pessimist—I’m a second generation pessimist. My father recently revealed that he’s been expecting some kind of apocalyptic end to life as we know it since he was a little boy. The terrible future I’ve imagined has changed over the years but there’s always a dark cloud on the horizon, a doomsday around the corner (I just saw a right wingnut-type ad in the LA Times warning that “this is the year the world ends!” And, to quote a satirical moment from a Halloween Special of The Simpsons, “It will be Obama’s fault.”)


When I was 10, I was terrified of nuclear war, which I thought was an inevitable outcome of the Cold War arms race. A lot of us children of the 1980s were weaned on nuclear hysteria and the apocalyptic 1983 TV movie, The Day After. I was a pretty dark kid. But then my mom used to read us Edgar Allen Poe as bedtime stories, so it’s probably not a huge surprise. Plus once we moved to the farm I didn’t have friends, and I was already awkward in my physical body, both because it wasn’t the boy’s body I thought it should be and because it was already a source of chronic pain. I was so full of anxiety about the state of the world, and the struggles my family were facing, that I developed an ulcer before I was even 11 years old.


When the cold war ended and the nuclear threat receded there was still the religious right to fear, America’s ability to piss off other countries, the threat of AIDS, and looming climate change. There was still the promise that everything could go to hell overnight. Clearly I could catastrophize with the best of them.

This may have something to do with why I’ve had trouble putting down roots, why Diane and I have spent much of our 25 year marriage living as nomads, moving nearly every year; sometimes across the country, sometimes just down the street.


With my pessimistic view of the world, I was surprised when the Cold War ended, amazed that the Berlin Wall fell, and utterly shocked that Nelson Mandela was not only released from prison but eventually became South Africa’s first black President. Those were troubling times for a sworn misanthrope. Could it turn out that people were better, as a whole, than I thought?


No worries, the bigotry and discrimination I experienced first an out lesbian and later a trans man were able to reinforce my mistrust of other people. In the mid-1990s, when Hawaii’s Supreme Court threw out the state’s marriage law for discriminating against same-sex couples, my negative resolve almost crumbled, but it quickly rebounded when the voters of Hawaii rushed to pass legislation that would keep marriage an institution untainted by same-sex couples.


My negative world view was reinforced by climate change denialists and the increasingly negative impact humans were having on the planet. Whether it’s peak oil or global climate change, rising sea water, species extinctions, a virulent virus or the killer super volcano simmering under Yellowstone National Park, it seemed like there’s always something terrible looming in the distance.


Sometimes Diane has had to wrestle me back from the precipice to keep me from becoming a full-blown doomsday prepper with an underground bunker full of supplies and a bug-out bag by the door. She keeps me grounded in a world where we’re all capable of doing real good and real evil.


And I’m finding a way to channel my dystopian outlook into my characters, especially since one dark inhabitant of my graphic novel is really more villain than hero.


The funny thing is that while I’m drawn to really dark stories and my favorite TV shows, movies, and books are all a bit twisted, I don’t think that has come out in the stories I’ve written in the last two decades.


Sure some of the stories I tell about my life may be a little disturbing to some, but I usually play them for laughs. Sure I have unpublished manuscripts in which I’ve tortured characters (and the English language) but—like the three Blind Eye Detective Mysteries we penned—even these stories still seem to close on positive notes.BSB-BlindEyeSeriesVol1


Where the hell does that come from?


My fear is that I’m secretly a huge dewy-eyed romantic who wants to believe in fairy tales and magic and that real justice exists, that people get what they deserve and one person can change the world. Gross, right?


In my new promect I’m rejecting that niceness, the sense of justice, and comedic romance and embracing a darker universe that is not so much a dystopian future as it is a cynical present. I haven’t finalized the story’s ending yet but I’m pretty sure it won’t be a happy one. I’m thinking more like an act of ultimate betrayal by the one person the protagonist ever loved, followed by that person’s death, so there can never be forgiveness or redemption.


Because the truth is, the doomsday that I truly fear has less to do with apocalyptic weather patterns and more to do with my wife not being in my life. That would be like a future without the sun. Without her to brighten my days I’m afraid I would become enveloped by an eternal darkness.


Hmm. Maybe that’s what drove my character down such a dark path…..



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