Archive for the 'Lesbian Fiction' Category

Soul Mates and Butterflies Wishes

 

By: Lisa Moreau

 

butterfly-whispererI’m often asked where I get my story ideas. Sometimes they’re completely made up and other times they’re inspired by true events such as in my newest book, The Butterfly Whisperer.

A few years ago, I had two separate experiences that I tucked away in my mind, knowing that one day I’d incorporate them into a book. The first included encountering a soul mate from long ago, and the other was visiting a monarch butterfly grove. Love and butterflies…two of my favorite things. Hey, I’m a romance writer so what can you expect?

To me, a soul mate is someone you uniquely connect with mind, heart, and soul. In my life, I’ve been lucky enough to encounter several soul mates, which don’t necessarily have to be romantic in nature. Some come in the form of family or friends. I was inspired to write about reunited soul mates after unexpectedly bumping into my first love from eighteen years ago. It was a shock, to say the least, especially since we hadn’t seen each other in over ten years. We’d both moved on from our very special relationship, but it did inspire the idea to create two characters that reunite after ten years for a second chance at love.

Who doesn’t adore butterflies, right? They’re beautiful, extraordinary creatures who symbolize freedom, growth, and change. Monarchs in particular have amazing endurance since―like birds―they’re the only species to migrate thousands of miles. As incredible as that is, my affinity for monarchs really took root one unseasonably warm December day at a grove in Santa Barbara, CA. It’s the norm for monarchs to clump together in eucalyptus trees when it’s cool weather, but on this day I was astonished to see thousands of butterflies flying around, landing on my head, shoulders, and in the palm of my hand. It was like something out of a magical fairytale. That night, I Googled monarchs to learn more about them and in the search results I frequently encountered the Native American Butterfly Wish which states:monarch

 

If anyone desires a wish to come true they must first capture a butterfly and whisper their wish. Since a butterfly can make no sound, it can’t reveal the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit. In gratitude for giving the beautiful butterfly its freedom, the wish is always granted.

 

The two main characters in The Butterfly Whisperer, Jordan and Sophie, are reunited soul mates that must heal the past in order to rediscover their love. They’re also faced with overcoming differing desires and learn firsthand to be careful what you wish for when their respective Native American butterfly wishes come true.

The story takes place in the fictional town of Monarch, along the Central California Coast. It’s loosely based on many ocean side towns which house monarch groves. One thing not many people know about me is that even though I reside in a city of four million, I’m a small town gal at heart. Out of all the places I’ve written about, Monarch is by far my favorite and I’d live there if I could. It’s a quaint town filled with sometimes odd, always caring residents who love butterflies more than anything. Everything in the story and town revolve around monarchs. And in many ways, Sophie and Jordan’s romantic journey mirrors that of the twin caterpillars that they raise from birth, to cocoon, to winged adults.

Writing this story was a joy. Not only did it give me the opportunity to incorporate two meaningful real-life experiences, but I also had the chance to bring more awareness to monarchs and their conservation. In fact, I think Sophie and Jordan would agree that in addition to their romance the butterflies take center stage in the book.

BSB Author Interview with Alexa Black

alexa-black

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

 

I’ve always told stories and always loved words. I’m told I learned to read very early in my life, and I’m pretty sure I started writing soon after that. I’ve always loved imagining other worlds and how the people in them live. So I’ve always been drawn to science fiction, fantasy, or stories with magical elements. If it’s a world different from our own, I’m talking about the people who live there.

 

Steel and PromiseI’d always wanted to write novels but struggled to do it. My mind would wander off to another world before it bothered to finish a story. But with Steel and Promise, I just kept wanting—needing, maybe—to tell the stories of these two characters. Before I knew it, that became an overarching plot. And I went like this: “This is a novel. I can do this. I am doing this.”

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

 

Almost everything I write is speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, or some blend of the two). I love stories that take me to new places, that engage me to imagine what life would be like if the things we take for granted about daily life don’t quite work the way we expect them to.

 

A lot of what I write has a dark tone. There’s a lot of intense stuff in Steel and Promise. That’s always been something I’ve wanted to play around with. We often love stories of monsters: vampires, werewolves, and the like. Love and lust that’s red in tooth and claw.

 

If you look at my character, Teran Nivrai, she has claws, and she likes to use them. She’s a little twist on a vampire story. How can I take a legendary creature, like a vampire, and bring her into a science-fiction story? What’s she like there? How’s she the same, and how’s she different?

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

My family and friends are proud that I write. My family sometimes wonders why I write the things I do, but everyone has been hugely supportive.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

 

Honestly, I often get ideas from things I’ve read. I love to reread my favorite books and stories and find some obscure character or plot point and ask: Is there a story here? What might a very different character make of a plot twist like this? What might a character like this one do and say if I plopped her into a very different setting or situation? Very often when I ponder things like that, a whole universe opens up in my head, one that ends up very different from the one that inspired me originally.

 

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

 

I start off just writing, definitely. Steel and Promise began as a handful of short stories about a courtesan attending a mysterious woman with claws. Before I knew it, the characters grew a history, and a plot connected them. They went from just seeing one another out of mutual attraction to having a whole political and personal connection.

 

What makes Steel and Promise special to you?

 

It’s the first novel I’ve ever finished writing! I’d say that makes it special.

 

I dreamed up Teran many years ago. I always had a strong sense of a character who retreated into herself because of a swirl of rumors about her cruelty and coldness. I felt a deep need to explore that situation: what happens when you really are a little iffy, a little sinister, but aren’t quite the monster everyone makes you out to be?

 

Cailyn was a little more difficult. I knew I needed a partner for Teran who was patient, kind, deeply connected to others–everything Lady Nivrai was not. I also knew I needed to tell the story in her voice, to show why her compassion extended to Ms. Vampire Recluse.

 

But I found that it was very healing to write. All the dark things I wanted to explore with Teran made it into the story, and all the kindness I wanted to show to people who’ve been cast out or rejected by others made it in, too. I was in a bad place when I started writing the stories that became Steel and Promise, and writing it soothed a few of those hurts.

 

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

 

I think there’s a lot of me in some of my characters. I’m not sure about other people I know. I think it goes back to the alternate-world thing. I know what it might be like to drop someone like me into a different world. Or at least I can guess, because I live in my own head. But I don’t know as much about how that would work for someone else.

 

I do notice that many of my characters end up with histories of trauma. That’s from my own life too, I think. I’ve had some rough experiences, and I know firsthand how they change you and the way you look at things. I don’t enjoy writing about horrible things happening to my characters, but I do enjoy writing about how they protect and support each other.

 

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

 

Clive Barker, definitely! Not just because he writes otherworldly stuff, but because he has a gift for making dark stuff beautiful. He’ll be talking about something absolutely disturbing or violent or bizarre, and yet he’ll write about it using this rich, lavish prose that makes it sound attractive. Enthralling even.

 

That’s always fascinated me and inspired me in various ways. My character Teran is almost a vampire, pricking and cutting with her claws. That’s a little dark, a little sinister. What are sex and love like from the point of view of someone deemed a monster and for the woman who falls for her? For me, those kinds of questions make a story. They provoke us to ask what desire and love are, and how they look to people who don’t quite look like us.

 

For a recommendation, I’d have to say Cabal. It’s about an undead monster with mental illness. (He’s straight, but his romance is awesome.) The story focuses on a city of monsters—their culture, their identity, their art. Not only does that remind me of Teran, but I think it also speaks to many LGBT people’s experiences and support networks as well.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

Write! Don’t let anyone tell you that the story you want to tell isn’t the story you should tell. I never imagined that Steel and Promise would be published. I worried it was too niche, too weird, too intense. But all of a sudden my book had a future, and an audience, and a place to live.

 

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

 

Gaming! I play a lot of Magic: the Gathering with family and friends. Once again, it’s fantasy. But it’s also a tool to jog the mind. You can’t play well unless you think, and think a lot.

 

SURVIVAL BY CRAZY

 

by Ann Aptaker

ann-photo-300dpi

 

Okay, I have a few options here. I could cheer my good fortune in the year that just passed (Tarnished Gold, book two in the Cantor Gold crime series, won the Lambda and the Goldie awards, and I was hired to write scripts for a season of the children’s science TV show Space Racers.) Or I could hang my head in misery about events in that same year, which ended with the most nauseating election result in American history (talkin’ to you, Trump voters; I’m a dyke, and you clearly don’t give a fig for my rights, or even my safety). Or I could ignore the world’s crap and just hum my way into a numb nirvana, but a few days of that would probably kill me with boredom. Or I could embrace my most reliable survival skill, the one that writes the books, the one which identifies me as being a little nuts.

Though the first option feeds my ego with the irresistible candy of praise and recognition, I rely on the last one. It’s my “go to” when I need aid and comfort and strength. When I’m in my crazy-empowered state, hallucinations become scenes which become storylines which become books. Being a little nuts thus releases my most productive self; after all, I don’t have an elf crew which writes my books for me in the dead of night while I sleep.

Being a little nuts is also very freeing. I can chalk up my wildest, riskiest thoughts to, well, being a little nuts, and then everything just flows from there. No guilt, no shame, just literary flow. And come to think of it, I have to be a little nuts to write crime and mystery fiction in a Lesfic market which gobbles up romance. But oh well, what can I do? To quote one of the masters, Raymond Chandler, “Danger is my business,” to which I might add, “And dangerous women are my literary pleasure.”

Tarnished Gold 300 DPIWhich brings me to the recent focus of my crazy writer’s life, the outlaw Cantor Gold. She’s dangerous, all right: art thief, smuggler, and confident dyke in 1950s New York, as at home among the gangsters and molls of the criminal underworld as she is sharing cocktails with the upper reaches of New York’s high society snoots. Cantor is dangerous because lives life on her own terms, and no one—not the Law that wants to jail her or kill her, not the rich and powerful who want to use her—will ever take that away from her. She’s prepared to die for her freedom, and kill for it, too.

When I started thinking about the series, started formulating Cantor Gold—that is to say, when I finally allowed my crazy to escape into the world and onto the page—LGBTQ life was getting better. True, George W. Bush was president, and his conservative and religious fundamentalist supporters were waving their bibles in our faces. But inch by inch, court case by court case, they were losing the argument and we were winning our rights. We were pushing America toward that light of equality at the end of the tunnel, we were gaining acceptance—in the larger cities at any rate—and it felt good!

Something didn’t feel good, though, something irritated like a pebble in my shoe, and that something was the threat of forgetfulness. I couldn’t help feeling that in our rush into our bright future, a future of normalcy, the rough edges of the culture that thrived in our earlier, shadowed life would be smoothed away to the point of invisibility. Our colorfully defiant and dangerous past, no longer fashionable as we absorbed into the American mainstream, would be pushed into the closet we ourselves were coming out of. Thus, Cantor Gold, dapper butch in a time when being Lesbian, Gay, Trans, or any other non-hetero definition was punishable by arrest, imprisonment, or commitment to the psycho ward, was my way of keeping that defiant past alive.

And now it’s 2017. That nauseating election result I mentioned earlier has the potential to stop our progress in its tracks, make our way of life illegal again, make us fearful for our very safety. Who knew past would become present? Not I in those politically optimistic early days of Cantor Gold’s creation. Who knew that the release of Cantor’s third adventure, Genuine Gold, would coincide with the installation of a presidential administration and a congress which threatens our hard won rights? Threatens us?genuine-gold-bsb-final

What better time, then, for the defiant Cantor Gold to sing her stubborn insistence on living her life as she sees fit, on claiming her rights to her body and her sexual, emotional, and personal freedom? And as it happens, the crime and murder mystery plot of Genuine Gold takes Cantor back to the neighborhood of her childhood, the place where she grew up, the place which formed her, gave her her strength, her audacity, even her strut and style: Coney Island. Back on that honky tonk isle of fantasies and thrills, Cantor must confront everything she was, everything she is, and everything she insists on being. It all happens in vintage Coney Island, a wild place, a colorful place, where a little craziness, a little danger—then and now—are valued.

So being a little nuts is proving to be my most potent survival skill, fueling my literary ambition, my creative strength, and my defiance in the face of threats thrown at us from the incoming government regime. Cantor Gold, my offspring birthed from the womb of crazy, may be a fictional character from the 1950s but it turns out she’s a hero for our own time, too. She’s brave, she’s dangerous, she’s smart and sexy, and she survives in a world that wants to silence her, imprison her, even kill her. Her best weapon? Defiance.

But to keep her alive, I rely on my best weapon: the strength of being a little nuts.

Turning up the Heat

By D Jackson Leigh

Heat, cold, rain, drought – weather drives life on a very basic level in all parts of the world.

Aching bones predict a coming cold snap, a herd of cows lying down (not just a few napping) portend impending rain, thunder in winter forecasts snow will follow seven to ten days later, and so forth.

And, any culture born from agricultural roots, like the Midwest and the South, have learned to respond accordingly. If winter’s coming to the Midwest and granny says to go ahead and dig her hole next to grandpa in the family cemetery before the ground freezes, you better do it. Everybody knows the old and infirm seem to drop along with the outdoor temperature every year. Likewise, heat, the most basic measure of Southern weather, generally slows everything down in the sultry states because we’re familiar with the dangers of dehydration and heat stroke.

Writers, however, turn up the heat to bring our stories to a boil rather than slow them. Heat between two characters is the heartbeat of a romance. Heat brings tingle to a sex scene. Heat accelerates the pace of the plot to a breathless ending.

SwelterConsidering that heat was the theme, my timing was a little off when I found my rhythm while writing Swelter.

I had signed a contract with a deadline, then procrastinated getting started.

I always intend to write during the summer months but find it difficult with so many book events during the warm months. I still work a full-time job that pays my mortgage, so my writing time is mainly on weekends. This past summer, I had six weekends in a row booked with travel. So, no writing.

Autumn was rolling in when I whipped out the first chapters to introduce my two characters to the readers and to each other. Then I suddenly had writer’s block over what to do next. I struggled through those fall months, then went to visit a close friend, VK Powell, for one of our frequent brainstorming sessions. She’s a master plotter and lives in an awesome high rise condo where one wall is all glass and looks out over a downtown city park. So, as is our custom, we imbibed – I’m partial to whiskey and she likes vodka – and brainstormed while I paced and stared out at the city lights. She was left with empty liquor bottles, and I went home filled with inspiration.

Only now, it was the dead of winter.

So, I jacked up the furnace and turned on the gas logs in the fireplace until I was sweating and The Terrors, my three rescued terrier mixes, had their tongues hanging out.

The heat building in Swelter is three-pronged: chemistry between August and Teal; temperatures baking the Texas Panhandle; and plot tension as danger escalates.

In a nutshell: Congressional aide Teal Giovanni is fleeing the media and her shattered life after her affair with a married senator makes prime time news. Betrayed by her lover/law partner, August Reese is hiding out at a small cattle ranch to testify against a drug kingpin. Attraction sparks when Teal’s aging Honda blows its engine on a steamy stretch of Texas blacktop, and she’s rescued by August. But just as that spark bursts into flame, their worst nightmare comes calling. Will they survive or swelter as the heat becomes unbearable?

Why the Texas Panhandle? I’ve always been fascinated by places like Caprock Canyon State Park, red rock giants carved out and standing tall against the skyline. Besides, what’s sexier than cowgirls in boots and chaps?

The book’s title? Well, when temperatures become too hot to withstand, it’s not uncommon to hear a Southerner to proclaim: “I’m just about to swelter.”

Since Swelter was written in winter, it only seems appropriate to have it turn up the heat with December release to warm your holiday. Hope you enjoy the ride.

 

Parting note: Leave a comment on the Bold Strokes blog site by 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, and I’ll announce two winners on Sunday, Dec. 11, to receive autographed copies (ebook copies if you live outside the U.S.) of Swelter.

Portals of the Past

By Kathleen Knowles

Awake Unto Me 300 DPIIn his terrific book, Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco, Gary Kamiya had this to say about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake:
“The ruins looked like the bombed-out wastelands of Dresden, Tokyo or Hamburg in World war
II. It was the closest thing to an urban apocalypse this country has ever seen.”
As my readers, family and friends know, I love history, especially San Francisco history. It’s only natural I would write a story set during the 1906 earthquake, a seminal event in the history of San Francisco. When I was writing my first novel, Awake Unto Me, I took part in a ‘backstage’ tour of the botany collections of the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Our tour was led by two veteran docents who told us a remarkable story about a woman named Alice Eastwood. The Cal Academy was then housed in a Market Street building in 1906 and was burned in the fire that began immediately after the earthquake. Most of its holdings were destroyed but the most precious parts of the plant collection, the type specimens, were saved by Alice Eastwood, CAS curator of botany. I saw some of the material in storage at the Academy during that tour. When I heard how she accomplished that feat, I thought, “That has to go into a novel.”
I was already planning to carry the characters in Awake Unto Me through the earthquake. Part of that planning including situating their home west of Van Ness where the post-earthquake fire was finally stopped. I knew I would need some new characters though. So there was one of my main characters, Alice Eastwood, fictionalized under the name Abigail Elliot. Her character and background were quite easy to put together since the Cal Academy archives house her papers. I spent happy hours reading them. There’s nothing in Alice Eastwood’s background to suggest she was a lesbian but she never married and claimed she had no idea how she would combine marriage and her career. So I used the lack of evidence about her personal relationships to draw my own conclusions.
The other main character is, of course, one of the many medical people I seem drawn to write about: Norah Stratton, a friend of one of Esther Strauss from A Spark of Heavenly Fire and a recent transplant from New York. Welcome to San Francisco, now here’s an earthquake for you! Needless to say, it’s a shock to poor Norah.
The problem with writing about the 1906 earthquake was exactly what aspects of that very complicated event to use. There’s much to choose from because the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire was a extremely well documented disaster. You could say it was the first globally known disaster and the media coverage at the time was overwhelming. Even the early movie technology of the time got into the act. I watched some silent films of the smoking ruins from the Library of Congress.
My recurring character Kerry is an employee of the Palace Hotel so there was the tragic story of the demise of that building. Her lover Beth is a doctor as are their friends Esther and Addison so that gives all of them a concrete role after the earthquake. In a disaster, doctors are going to be on the frontlines taking care of the victims. I got to find out a lot about the experiences of the San Franciscans after the earthquake and I was able to incorporate a lot into the story. One my favorite factoids: the downtown post office evaded the destruction and was able to conduct business almost normally in the chaotic weeks after the earthquake. I learned about which parts of the City got their water back and when thanks to a website called The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco which incorporates the records of the City water department from 1906.
As calamities have a way of doing, the 1906 earthquake throws my human characters’ lives into complete disarray. Some are left with their home intact but with serious injury. Some lose their homes but everyone’s life is upended one way or another. To write about being in an earthquake and then adjusting to life in its aftermath, I drew on my own experience going through the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. That was a surrealistic experience to say the least for those who were present. For the loved ones of San Franciscans who were anxiously trying to get news, it was terrifying.
My wife, Jeanette was my girlfriend of just four months in October 1989. She was on a jet flying to Germany when the earthquake hit. She and her friend Michael watched scenes of destruction on CNN with narration in German, while she frantically tried to call me and Michael tried to reach his dad who lived on Nob Hill. After an earthquake, the phone lines are jammed because everyone calls their friends and family to ask, “Did you feel that? Are you okay?” In Two Souls, my characters are not able to phone but they still try to check in with one another and tell their stories just as we twenty first century folks do.Two souls
After the earthquake, my friends and I had a cook out and listened to the radio and watched the helicopters fly over the dark City all night. I still have a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle “Earthquake Special” newspaper. The newspeople put it together using a generator and then handed out free copies on street corners the morning after the earthquake.
People who don’t live in California often express abject fear of earthquakes. Honestly, give me an earthquake that happens every 30 to 100 years over tornados and hurricanes which happen EVERY year.
The framing columns on the Two Souls book cover are a stylized rendering of a monument called the Portals of the Past. Amongst the many photographs and stories I came across during my research was the photo Arnold Genthe took of the ruins of the Townsend mansion on Nob Hill. In the book, I have Abigail and Norah actually come upon him engaged in this activity while they are out exploring the ruins. The only surviving structures on Nob Hill were this doorway and the outer masonry walls of the James Flood mansion on California Street. The 8 marble columns of the entryway were given to the City by Mrs, Townsend and in 1909 were relocated to the shore of Lloyd Lake in Golden Gate Park. They were named the Portals of Past and are thought of as the symbol of San Francisco’s rebirth after the earthquake. They are also serve as a reminder of what happened in 1906. I visit them every so often and wonder what it was like for San Franciscans back then. Two Souls is the concrete result of my musings.

Random Acts of Progress

By Aurora Rey

 

When I wrote stories as a child, I did so because it was a fun way to imagine experiences and adventures beyond my own. As I grew up, I came to understand how much more power stories had, both for the writer and those who read them. I spent a few years obsessed with the idea of being a writer, without writing much.

And then I went through a period of personal upheaval and soul searching and a divorce. As I came out the other side of that, I remembered how much writing meant to me. I started writing in earnest and somewhere along the way I found my voice.

It wasn’t for another couple of years that I began writing romance. Even now, with my third romance coming out in a few months, writing romance—lesbian romance, no less—feels like an act of defiance. A heady mix of hope and daring that says love matters. Queer voices matter. I matter.

This sentiment has felt especially important after the recent US election. Politics aside, the uptick in hate-fueled speech and actions demands a response. There has been a flurry of activity on my social media sites around the idea of doing something—attending a protest or calling congress or having hard conversations with family. There’s also been a lot of talk about loving more, of random acts of kindness. I like the philosophy of that, spreading love and joy to complete strangers. I don’t think we can have too much of that in the world.

I’m trying to do my part. On a recent trip to Louisiana, I left extra cash in my hotel room for the housekeeping staff and generous tips at restaurants and coffee shops. I made eye contact with strangers and smiled. I reached out to a few relatives I was inclined to avoid. I’ve called my senator. But there are days when it doesn’t feel like enough, when the impact feels too small.

I’ve decided to expand the idea slightly. I call it random acts of progress. Actions that have a concrete impact on issues I care about. Donations are part of it, because money matters. But it’s other things too—volunteering with the local refugee welcome organization or serving on the board of the center for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. It’s making a commitment to make things better for those least able to advocate for themselves. Even if those individual acts don’t feel like much. Just like random acts of kindness, they add up. That’s the whole point, right?

Crescent City ConfidentialAnd that brings me back to writing. I just sent off the final revisions for Crescent City Confidential and I’m nearing completion of my first draft of Summer’s Cove. As much as it feels sometimes like writing romances is the last thing I should be thinking about, I know that’s not true.

The simple act of writing is, in fact, doing something. Telling stories of love and hope, stories in which women, queers, and people of color save the day and live happily ever after, is progress. Until the day conversion therapy is a bad idea referenced in psychology textbooks, until no child fears coming out, until every family is treated with dignity, LGBTQ stories are an integral part of making the world a better place. And I’m proud to be part of it.

 


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 614 other followers


%d bloggers like this: