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SAB_Unspoken_5(5)x8(5)_0416_dCHOSENRomance, drama and belly laughs. What more could you ask for in a summer read?

Available for Pre-sale on the Sapphire Books Website and Amazon.com.

Here’s a sneak preview of Unspoken:

Haymarket Cafe Northampton, MA

The woman behind Rowan was speaking French in double time. Even though the rapid-fire conversation was hushed, the energy the young woman was putting out was enough to short- circuit the entire basement. Rowan unplugged her laptop and stowed her electronic devices. She wasn’t expecting anything paranormal but decided to err on the side of caution.

The young woman was so adamant that her brown curls seemed to come alive as she made hand gestures that the person on the other end of the call could not see. Rowan was enjoying the show until a pair of unusual eyes, the color of dark honey, focused on her. The look the woman sent Rowan’s way would have made Mama Maggie proud. Rowan had to resist the desire genuflect and confess her sins.

Before Rowan could apologize for eavesdropping, the woman picked up her purse, added her dirty dishes to the bus station, and was on her way. Though not in the way Rowan had anticipated. There was nothing hurried in her gait. She was smooth as melted chocolate, just like the color of her hair.

Jodeci MacIntyre, Rowan’s best buddy, was as butch as the day is long. Rowan was happy to meet someone tall and built enough to share clothes.

“Rowan Knight, as I live and breathe.” Jodeci pitched her voice a good octave higher than usual and wrapped the words around a Southern accent. Rowan was glad she had finished swallowing when her buddy fanned herself as if she had the vapors.

“Did you get the part?” Jodeci had an audition earlier that day and Rowan wanted her to get it. Otherwise, her roommate would be insufferable until the next season.

“Stella!”

Rowan got goose bumps, and more than a few people turned around to gape. “I’ll take that as a yes. Shouldn’t you be workin’?” She gestured to the cooking station behind the counter.

Jodeci’s ebony eyes were alight with mischief. She knew exactly what that meant. “I see you have experienced the lovely Desiree Chevalier.”

Rowan blinked once, then twice. Her studiously blank expression barely concealed her suspicion.

Jodeci put her hands up and pleaded her innocence. “You can’t call it a fix up. I didn’t know she would be here. Besides, did that look like a love connection to you?”

Jodeci’s young Elvis hairdo and charming smirk didn’t work on Rowan. Jodeci was always trying to hook her up, but she couldn’t really blame her for that floor show. “Now tell me the real reason why you took a break.” Rowan was getting the stink eye from the counter girl. She wasn’t sure if the teen was pissed to have to do both jobs or if she thought Rowan had a thing for Jodeci. “Hurry up. ‘Sweet sixteen and never been kissed’ is going to bore a hole in my head if you don’t get back to work soon.”

Jodeci chuckled. “She’s only fourteen, the boss’s niece.” A lock of hair escaped from her pompadour, resting on her forehead. Elvis to a T. Rowan wondered if it was by design or if Jodeci was just that cool.

“She’ll be sorely disappointed to find out you’d be more interested in her teachers than her.”

Jodeci sighed like a boy on his first crush. “She still hasn’t said yes.” The high school music teacher was not falling all over Jodeci and had barely acknowledged her the other night at The Crooked Arrow. “Maybe she was just busy, you know, thinking about lesson plans.”

Being rejected was new to Jodeci, but changing the subject wasn’t lost on Rowan. “Are you going to tell me what you came over here to say?” Rowan gestured at the books littering her table. “I have things to do.”

“Just don’t count Desiree out. She’s only like that with her mother. Otherwise, she’s a real peach.”

Rowan did have some homework to do. She picked up the slimmest volume of the bunch, Plato’s Apologia. She was actually looking forward to that class. She cracked it open and started reading.

“Fine, I’ll let you go back to reading. You’ll just end up bumping into her anyway.” Jodeci slid out of the booth and left after a parting shot. “She was reading the same book before her mother spoiled her mood.”

Rowan’s head jerked up. Damn it, if she didn’t know you were interested before, she sure knows you are now.

Jodeci gave her a crooked smile, then swaggered back to work. The counter girl brightened considerably, her sour mood forgotten. That was until Rowan returned her coffee cup; she got an extra eye roll for politely saying good-bye.

“See you on the flip side,” Jodeci called out. “Oh, and give Desiree a hug and kiss for me.”

“Sure thing, honey bee,” Rowan mimicked Jodeci’s Southern drawl from before. She swore she saw steam shooting out the cashier’s ears and had a chuckle. Talk about hostile working environments. Apparently she hadn’t been around long enough to recognize sarcastic flirting when she heard it.

Rowan passed a pastry shop on the way to her apartment. The smell of chocolate croissants made her mouth water. French pastries made her think of Desiree Chevalier. She wasn’t sure what kind of chocolate Desiree was, sweet and smooth or dark and bitter. It didn’t matter either way: she wasn’t hungry.

By J.L. Gaynor

pridecircleI heard the news early Sunday morning just as I was getting in the shower to get ready for Philly Pride. There was a shooting, at a night club, in Orlando. The death toll was rising with each new report. It was a gay night club, which had been hosting a Latin dance night.

I immediately connected, knowing full well those club goers could have been dancing next to me in any gay bar or club from here to New York to New Orleans. Pulse was what every gay bar and club throughout the United States is: a place for the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender community to gather without judgement. They are places for us to feel safe, to forget about reality and what can come with it outside those walls for a few hours. As I watched the footage through tears, I briefly thought about staying home and cancelling my plans with friends in Philly. Just as fast, I let the thought go and got in the shower. To live in fear is to not live at all.
The rhetoric being spouted by politicians and the armchair quarterbacks on social media, arguing about gun control and immigration, is something I’ve been doing my best to avoid. It’s not about who dropped the ball at the FBI, which had investigated the shooter three times; it’s not about how he was able to obtain an assault-style weapon or what laws could have/should have kept it out of his hands. It’s about the 49 lives that should have happened and are now over.
They were sons, daughters, siblings, best friends, co-workers. They were aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. They were bartenders, baristas, waiters, waitresses, theme park ride operators, travel agents, accountants. They had hopes, dreams and desires. They are us and we are them and to have them get lost in the political pandering, finger pointing and name calling is a dishonor to their memory. As a community, we mourn but at the same time, we have to continue to live. It’s the best way to counter the hatred the gunman went into the club with. It’s the ultimate way to push back against the perverted ideology he and others like him follow.
Gay Pride is celebrated in June as a way to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969. The annual month-long celebration is a way for the LGBT community to show in force that we aren’t afraid and to stand united against hatred. Those who were at Pulse need to be remembered but not for what was lost but for what they were before the gunshots. They were full of life, love and hope. They had dreams and limitless possibilities. They are us and we are them.

The Day After by Gena Ratcliff

13445743_10153613282962765_8870135889594466009_nYesterday an American male walked into a gay club in Orlando, was seen sitting to have a drink before beginning a slaughter that ended with 50 dead, 53 injured and untold thousands of lives affected by this oft repeated instance of ‘death by an assault type weapon’.

I spent the day at my job at a home improvement store, listening as I walked the aisles, my emotions jumping between breathtaking sorrow and unadulterated rage, and except for a few colleagues that shared their own sorrow directly to me, I heard nothing. Not a murmur about what was, by then, flooding the networks.

Comparatively, I recalled the days following Columbine all the way through San Bernadino and the conversations then: full of outrage at the act from some, and, on the other side, grousing about how the ‘liberals’ would be trying to come for the guns again. But yesterday, I heard almost nothing in the aisles, and my mind made that horrible, terrifying leap… this time, it wasn’t children, it wasn’t  a church full of parishioners or an office full of folks sipping their coffee. It was a club full of queers and, really, who cares?

If one believes the flood of heartless vitriol that flowed through the social networks, it’s an easy jump to make. Then there’s the media helping incite the commentary by coloring our view and feeding outrage:  A kidnapped or murdered white girl gets media where a minority girl gets nothing. A white, male athlete rapes a woman and the headlines call it a sexual assault. It’s RAPE people! And there is no ‘excuse’ for it. A bunch of queers get shot by an angry, homophobic male, that was/had been on the no-fly list and had been interviewed by the FBI more than once, but was able to legally buy a fucking gun… but let’s talk about the Muslims and how they’re all terrorists. What planet are you from and what century do you live in? Do you not get the fact that all terrorism is a hate crime and all hate crimes are terrorism, and that radicalized Muslims are not the only ‘doers’?

Today I’m done. I’m done excusing the behavior of ignorance and intolerance. You don’t like ‘political correctness’, fine. The rest of this piece will please you, as I’ve thrown all that to the wind.

I’m done quietly defending my right to live in equality and safety in my country, my state, my town, and battling the faceless BS spouted by Faux News watchers. Get an education people. Check the facts. Read a damn book. I am done silently tolerating a representative from my state (TX) that is so heartless, he would tweet out at 7 am on Sunday morning, a quote about reaping what you sow after the worst mass shooting in the modern history of the United States. Never mind that the back peddling has begun… It was pre-set, blah, blah, blah.

I’m done choking down the whole religious freedom crapball that chips away at the lives and rights of women, blacks, gays, immigrants and poor people. I’m done feeling in the wrong when my heart flutters every time I see a camo-dressed, open or not-so-well-concealed carrier of a weapon strolling a store or street just because they can. Is he a good guy or a bad guy… or is it Halloween? While a visit to Walmart can be daunting, I’ve never in my life felt the need to carry a weapon to go shopping.

News flash to the Christian Right: your behavior isn’t ‘christian’ or ‘right’ (as in correct) and your legal right to worship doesn’t trump the rights of others to live in freedom. Your constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion is just that: you have the freedom go to the church of your choice and observe your religion in your home without fear of persecution. You do not get to make laws that force others to live according to your religious tenets.

If you have a business that serves the public, you are required to serve ALL of the public that waves currency in your face whether the customer is gay, a different race or from another planet. It includes covering birth control in comprehensive health care plans if your business offers the benefit. If you work for a government agency, for instance, a county office, you must observe the law and issue marriage licenses to ALL people that are legally guaranteed the right to marry. If you can’t do your job, get the hell out of my face and find a job that doesn’t offend your delicate sensibilities. Your religion isn’t mine, nor are its rules and regs. To force it on others via legislation isn’t ‘religious freedom.’ That is ‘theocracy’… you know, like ‘Sharia Law’.

To the NRA affiliated idiots that think the Second Amendment is the be all, end all of this nation’s foundation: Fuck you and the horse you probably fell off of. You need to back the hell off. If you need an assault type rifle for hunting, you should consider a different sport. If you’re so attracted to camo and stroking your weapons that you can’t be without them and insist that you’re ‘defending America,’ join the military (if they’ll have you) or law enforcement (again, if they’ll have you). And take a freaking class on the Constitution and learn what the whole thing means beyond the Second Amendment. It will require the ability to count beyond the number of fingers on one hand.

To our local, state and national governmental representatives:
-Do you take money from NRA?
-Believe bathrooms are dangerous because of LGBT people who need to pee?
-Think child molesters that are also former Speakers of the House don’t deserve to die in prison?
-Believe rapists (that are white and wealthy or professional/college athletes) don’t deserve the ‘hardship’ of prison?
-Don’t believe in equal pay for women or a living minimum wage for all that reflects cost of living?
-Do you lobby to close doors to women’s clinics that provide important and otherwise unaffordable health care because they also offer abortions?
-Do you think that folks on a no-fly list still have the right to buy guns?
-Do you think it’s a fine idea to pour billions into war, send our children off to fight said wars, then cut funding that would care for those very soldiers when they come home bent or broken?

The shit-list is long Mr./Mrs. Elected Official, and I, with masses of people of like mind, will do our damnedest to make sure you get to experience the joys of unemployment. I don’t care which side of the aisle you perch on. November, like winter, is coming. We are watching, listening and paying attention to your ‘representation’ of us. The bulk of you haven’t done your real job (representing the people, not corporate entities) in years, so it’s time for you to go.

I am gay. I am a woman. I will not live in fear. Either walk with me or stay the hell out of my way.

Gena Ratcliff 2016
See • Feel • Trust ~ No Regrets

Orlando Massacre by Sandra de Helen

82c1d62b32a0da83d1e7cc930be9c0faSaturday night and the joint is jumping. Friends and lovers, wait, is that your doctor over there? Doctors, lawyers, sales people, clerks. Wait staff, models, barbers, and moms. Daughters, sons, siblings, cousins. Dads, uncles, aunts, a few grandparents. Musicians, singers, artists, writers. Dancing, chatting, sipping the last drink of the night when the place is invaded by hatred.

One-hundred and three people shot, fifty died at the scene. Thirty people were taken hostage by the man who couldn’t live with having seen two men kissing. What those people went through for three hours before the police killed the shooter created enough trauma to last several thousand lifetimes.

The last time this many people died in a mass shooting was at Wounded Knee, and there the shooters were multiple. Hate and greed drive people to kill others. Can love and generosity fill the holes left in our lives?

I’m sending love and light to everyone touched by yesterday’s massacre. Including the family of the shooter. May all hearts mend. May we never forget.

Sandra de Helen
June 13, 2016

By Barbara Winkes

First of all, thank you, Liz, for letting us share our thoughts here. I am angry. Tired of living in a world where every attempt to ask the hard questions, to put the pieces together, is met with the usual “it’s not the time.”

imgres-1There are patterns and facts. Almost every one of the criminals committing these unspeakable acts have a history of domestic violence or hate against women documented in a manifesto. What if society wasn’t contantly coddling and indulging those attitudes? What if it was safe for women to speak up, and those guilty of domestic violence couldn’t get a high-powered weapon as easily? What if we took hate against women more seriously, laws were better enforced and we didn’t tolerate any of it?

Imagine the break that would give to the LGBT community. If you think that one gender controlling the other, including the use of violence, and that is the only way to live – well, then your fragile ego will be shaken by the sight of two men – or women – kissing. I wish we could live in a world where individuals like that understood that they are wrong, that this is not an opinion they are entitled to, but something that needs to change.

Homophobia is always rooted in the hate against women, everything feminine and female, and the idea that patrarchy is the way people should live. In that worldview, there are only women or predators.

We need access to information, education and therapy for centuries to come. It makes me tired and – angry – that the goal, eradicating all harmful ideology, is not going to happen in my lifetime.

As a foreigner, I’ve often been hesitant to wade into the gun control debate, but there is a point when you can’t ignore the numbers and facts anymore. There will always be violent people with an intent to do harm. They will do it in other ways, but what if they couldn’t easily get access to assault weapons? What if a knife is all they can get? Yes, they can do harm, but not that much in such little time. That is a fact.

I’ve been following the conversation long before Orlando, and once a commenter was asked what he actually needs this type of weapon for. His answer: It’s not about what I need, it’s about what I want.

I am tired, and angry. At the people who try to downplay the fact that this was an attack on the LGBT community, or ignore that every extremist shares the same hate against women and LGBT, not matter where they are. They don’t care about families, or love, or a safe environment for children to grow up in. All that matters to them is to keep the rigid structures and the hierarchy firmly in place.

It is chilling to think that this was supposed to be a safe place. When there’s no safe place to begin with…there is no reason for us not to demand our place at the table, in Washington, in Hollywood, in mainstream life everywhere in the world. Tolerating us is not good enough. We deserve equal.

We deserve clear definitions of wrong and right. Misogyny is wrong. Homophobia is wrong. I don’t believe in an angry, women-hating and anti-gay God – I believe any concept of a higher power like that is man-made, and I have no use for it.

Finally, we deserve to speak up. A moment of silence and contemplation can not be twisted into silencing us, because that helps no one but the people who are either silently, or very openly online cheering. They are wrong.

I am tired, but I’m also grateful for my wife, my family and friends, and a country that welcomed the way I am. Before we learned the horrible news, I was going to write about how politics and fiction intersect, and how important visibility is. Those things still matter. The more stories we write, the more happy endings, the more women in power – those don’t solve the problems overnight, but they are part of the solution.

I actually believe that empowering girls globally will strengthen the LGBT community. Those are long-term visions, but confronted with all the sadness and emotions right now, I wish we could simply find a switch and make it so that certain ideas simply no longer exist.