Posts Tagged 'Lesbian Fiction'

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

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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

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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.

Words of Advice

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By Jessica L. Webb

There are so many times that advice is offered in life. When someone is embarking on something new, advice can be a grand gesture, often a wish and a hope of good things to come, more than practicality. Advice can be a rallying cry, friends who help shore up our resolve to adjust our aim, be brave, and try again. It can come from a place of regret, our attempts to help others avoid our own past misfortunes, words to steer a loved one around the rocky outcrops of life’s hurts.

Similarly, there are many reasons we choose to take or ignore advice. It may be a life preserver, words we cling to in an effort to keep afloat through storms we’re not certain we can weather. Advice can be unwanted, a knock to our sense of independence or adventure. It can seem like a barrier to our drive to discover and learn from our own mistakes. There are times when advice is just too close to the truth. Sometimes we simply aren’t ready.

In Pathogen, book two in the Dr. Kate Morrison Investigation series, Kate is struggling. Her life has changed dramatically since meeting Sgt. Andy Wyles. She would rather spend her time thinking about the incredible woman she has fallen in love with than the recent life-threatening incident with a deranged, self-proclaimed doctor. Or the fact that it brought up memories of her past and the heartache of losing her sister. When Kate is asked to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak in the wealthy and highly political town of Hidden Valley, British Columbia, Kate ignores Andy’s advice that maybe she should take a moment and think about everything she’s been through. Kate wants to focus on her patients and solve the mystery of a virus that isn’t acting like a virus. Kate wants to work with Andy and the RCMP as they investigate a potential bioterrorism threat. Kate does not want to stop and think about events and memories that hurt.

Like most people in life, there are times I seek out advice and times I am too stubborn or unwilling to accept advice, regardless of how badly I am in need of guidance. Here are just a few pieces of advice that stick with me.

My wife leads by example when it comes to advice, particularly in the area of failure. From Jen’s perspective, to fail is to discover the first attempt in learning. Failure is not something to avoid and it certainly isn’t something to be frightened of. For me, someone who wants to avoid that sinking feeling of failure at all cost, Jen’s continued lived example is a gentle reminder that failure is a first step and it can be as gleeful and magical as success.

A few years ago, my colleague David texted me some advice. He said “Tinker, Jess. Tinker.” Similar to Jen’s view on failure, David’s encouragement was to continue to find moments of exploration and adventure in our everyday lives. It’s a reminder that there is more than one way to solve a problem and sometimes the best solutions come from fiddling and tinkering and playing.

One of the most recent pieces of life advice I received was during this past summer’s Olympic Games. I love watching women’s soccer but I also find it stressful. My friend Katie told me, “Dude, always pre-pay the swear jar.” This advice makes sense to me. It’s a reminder that sometimes, despite our best plans and intentions, the wheels are going to come off and we’re going to struggle. In those moments we can grab a beer, find a friend, and curse to our heart’s content knowing the swear jar has been pre-paid. Tomorrow is always new day.

In Pathogen, there are a lot of reasons Kate is not ready for Andy’s advice. Like any of us, Kate is doing the best she can in a life filled with moments of joy and love as well as pain and heartache. Even as we want to echo Andy’s advice to Kate to simply stop and breathe and take some time to think, we know we cannot make others listen. There are times we cannot make ourselves listen. We carry on, we listen and learn, we watch out for each other, and we try again.

Meet Alexa Black

By Alexa Black

Steel and PromiseHi, I’m Alexa Black. Steel and Promise is my first novel, which began as a series of short stories that just never ended and eventually acquired a plot. I kept writing them as much out of surprise that I had more to say as anything else, and I’m very excited to offer you the characters, world, and relationships that grew out of that experiment.

 

I started writing the stories that became Steel and Promise because I’d just come out of my first relationship with a woman and discovered a great deal about myself. I’d always known that I like both men and women, but there’s a lot of stereotypes in the world that say if you haven’t been with women you don’t know for sure. Well, that relationship made me sure!

 

That relationship wasn’t great, and ended badly, but it taught me a lot about what I wanted and needed from relationships with both women and men. The bad place I was in was a blessing in disguise. I started writing about whatever came into my head, not worrying about whether I was writing something over the top or writing about something silly. That vow to myself to write what I wanted made it possible for me to finish the story.

 

I consciously wanted to mix an erotic story with a more conventional tale with a plot. There’s plenty of that around now if you look, but at the time I started the manuscript many years ago, it seemed like you had to pick whether you wanted something erotic or something more standard. I’m fine with heavy erotica, and I’m fine with stories that have no erotic content at all. I’ve always written both. But for this book, I consciously wanted something that someone who wanted either or both could pick up and enjoy.

 

I’ve also always liked characters that make the reader question things. The character of Teran Nivrai, a reclusive noblewoman with retractable claw implants instead of fingernails, sprang into my head years ago. The rumors about her sexuality and personality came right along with the initial idea. I think a lot of us in the LGBT community can relate to being questioned, or to questioning ourselves. To hearing rumors—or being the subject of them—and having to seek the truth inside us and find ways to reveal it to the world.

 

The character of Cailyn Derys, the courtesan who serves her and draws her out of her seclusion, took a while longer to create. But in the end, I wanted a character who answered rumors and assumptions not just with an open mind, but with kindness. I think a lot of “darker” stories can miss the power of kindness if the writer isn’t careful—and kindness is one of the most powerful forces in any of our lives.

 

Finally, as a bisexual woman, I wanted to create a story that focused on women loving women, but also challenged the stereotype that bisexual women are less serious about women than men. Not only did I learn that in my own life prior to writing Steel and Promise, but I wanted to show other women that they aren’t alone. And in doing so, I hope I’ve created a story that both lesbian and bisexual women (and everyone else!) can enjoy.

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.


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