Today, paperback copies of Climbing the Date Palm hit the shelves at Wild Iris Books, our local feminist/LGBTQ+ bookstore! The bookstore’s owner and I are holding it up with the first book in the series,The Second Mango.
There’s a prevailing belief out there that bisexuality is incompatible with monogamy. I wanted to challenge this idea in my writing, by depicting not one but two bisexual characters who don’t get into more than one committed relationship at a time. But I also didn’t want to perpetuate negative stereotyping of polyamory. It would have been too easy to slip there by accident. When we insist “stop stereotyping bisexual people as polyamorous!” it’s only a short hop to “depicting polyamorous bisexuality is bad.”
I decided that the best way for me not to do that was to depict a polyamorous character who is not bisexual. So I created Eshvat, the fortysomething businesswoman who unwinds by finding men for spur-of-the-moment sex dates. She has magical powers that presumably keep her safe from pregnancy and violence, although I never went into specifics, and she has no inclination to pair-bond.
Once I decided she was aromantic, I realized I also wanted to fight the idea that lack of pair bonding would lead to loneliness. So her strong lasting relationships are her platonic female friendships — with women across the class divide from scullery maids up to, well, royalty eventually. She’s not lonely at all; she just doesn’t associate sex with anything other than casual fun. (In fact, a friend of mine suggested that she’s ‘solopoly’ — i.e. her primary partner is herself. I think Eshvat would approve of this idea.)
She’s a non chaste, non-committed, older female character with no desire for children who doesn’t meet any kind of a sticky end. I feel good about that. She’s also got a fully-developed personality outside of her sexual role in the story. Her life doesn’t revolve around sex — it revolves around her shop.
I hope that reading her few scenes make some of my readers feel good. I found her fun to write, and someday I’d love to write more about her.
Check out Climbing the Date Palm, the sequel to The Second Mango. Available from Prizm Books as an eBook package, from Amazon Kindle or paperback, and in autographed paperback from Wild Iris Books here.
Kaveh gazed up at him adoringly. “I thought I cared for you already, but when you spent all your money making sure everyone was fed, I fell in love all over again. My heart is completely consumed, and recreated to exist within you.”
“I’ll tend it well and keep it safe, here — with my own,” said Farzin, pulling Kaveh’s fingers to his own chest.
Love same-sex romance? Love justice? Love stories with dragons and shapeshifters and four queer characters including bisexuality? How about a fat gay nerd as the romantic lead? Check out Climbing the Date Palm, the sequel to The Second Mango. Available from Prizm Books as an eBook package, from Amazon Kindle or paperback, and in autographed paperback from Wild Iris Books here, if you’d like to help keep a locally-owned feminist/LGBTQ+ bookstore and safe space open.
Queen Shulamit is eager to help Kaveh, the youngest prince of a neighboring country, when his father throws his engineer boyfriend in jail for leading his workers in protest over underpaid wages. But if she can’t find a peaceful solution that will keep everybody happy, the two countries could wind up at war.
Graphite drawing by Erika Hammerschmidt.
Climbing the Date Palm is out in paperback on Amazon, finally. or if you are so inclined, you can also get it from Wild Iris Books, our local feminist bookstore/LGBTQ+ safe space.
Aviva was not surprised, only annoyed, when a strange horse interrupted her walk home from Market and tried to nose its greedy way into her purchased bag of malabar spinach; the surprise came a moment later when she realized that sprawled across its back was a very attractive, well-dressed young man who seemed near death.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “My goodness, Horse, what stall were you shopping at?”
artwork displayed was drawn by Ceili Braidwood and inked by Jane Dominguez
Several years ago, I worked for a wholesale vegetable distributor that delivered to restaurants, schools, and hospitals. One fall, the folks at corporate decided to close our local branch and transfer my territory to another facility, about 80 miles away. The company let me keep my position, making me responsible for the entire territory of my town. They even gave me the keys to the old, empty facility, telling me that until December it would be my responsibility to swing by every few days and make sure nobody had stolen the copper wiring from the building. (That’s a thing that happens here.)
One other thing I need to explain is the beer. A major chain restaurant we did business with was using us a way to get their signature beer from one of their locations to the local unit. I believe the beer is usually brewed in-house, but we have some kind of ordinance that prohibits that. So, they’d just ship us the beer, whatever they felt like, and we’d take it over with the crates of lettuce and bags of onions. We weren’t making any money on the beer itself and we weren’t responsible for ordering it; we just charged them freight.
Fast forward five weeks and my father lay dying at his home in South Carolina. While I was out of town saying goodbye, a truck containing sixteen kegs of seasonal beer that tastes exactly like pumpkin pie was headed for our town. You know that graphic with Ned Stark that says “Brace yourselves… pumpkin flavored everything is coming!” This beer is a smash hit. In my opinion, it’s the best of all this chain’s seasonal beers. And this was the last sixteen kegs of the season. Precious cargo, what.
Now, for some reason they sent it to my town, instead of to the other facility 80 miles away, from which the trucks bound for that restaurant would leave four times a week. When I got back from Dadpocalypse, I found out that the restaurant had never gotten their pumpkin beer. They complained to corporate, who promptly told them that their truck had made delivery “to us”, and that we should have the beer.
We very most certainly did not have the beer. Not only did we not have the beer, but the driver was saying he delivered to the facility in my town, which was not only locked up but literally the only person with the key in the entire county was two states away. So did he make delivery to the restaurant itself? No, because they still didn’t have the beer.
The restaurant’s corporate was adamant that we find the beer, and even made the executive kitchen manager meet me out at the empty, locked-up, “the fridges aren’t even turned on” warehouse so that I could unlock the gate and show him for realsies, no beer. No kegs.
It occurred to my former boss, who the company had transferred to another state, that our old warehouse was on 123 blahblah St. and that there was a convenience store at 123 blahblah Ave., and since they sold beer at the convenience store maybe the driver had taken the kegs there?
But when I went to the convenience store they had no idea what I was talking about.
We had the name of the person who’d signed for the beer, and although I found him on Facebook (and freaked out when I saw him in a selfie with a keg! …but not one of the pumpkin beer kegs) it didn’t give me any information about what had happened to the precious cargo.
Fast forward three whole freaking weeks.
The restaurant’s corporate office gets a call from the Yuengling distributor around the corner and a few blocks down from our closed, locked-up warehouse. They wanted to know what they were supposed to do with sixteen kegs of pumpkin pie beer.
So, let’s get this straight. First of all, the part of the corporate headquarters that was responsible for beer must have somehow not gotten the message that we’d changed locations. Then, the driver went to the empty warehouse. Instead of calling home base, or calling the local restaurant unit, he what, he just drove around randomly, turning a corner, driving down a few blocks, and then stumbled onto some other totally unconnected business that looked beer-relevant? Then, he doesn’t check to see if the address matches, and the Yuengling people just sign for it without having the foggiest idea what it is or where it’s supposed to go? I mean, we were never like that. If a truck had shown up with mystery product we didn’t order, my former boss wouldn’t have just signed for it!
Anyway, happy ending, because the beer eventually got back to the restaurant while it was still pumpkin season.
Queen Shulamit and Chef Aviva from The Second Mango are back for another adventure; in Climbing the Date Palm they’re charged with the rescue of a foreign prince’s labor activist boyfriend, while also trying to figure out how to become moms to an heir.
Hop on board for shapeshifters, magically-assisted artificial insemination, Jewish holidays being celebrated on-screen, and multiple bisexual characters depicted positively and without destructive tropes. Also available on Amazon (print coming by the end of July!) or from Wild Iris Books.
Artwork pictured by Rebecca Schauer.
I have no kids, and I certainly never thought I’d be writing a conception scene. But when you write fairy tales about fictional royalty, eventually the whole ‘heir’ issue is going to come up. Queen Shulamit is a lesbian and, although in the first half of the book she thinks she has no alternative to creating her heir the biological way, she eventually rejects the idea of ever having sex for a man even for that.
Luckily for her, she’s living in a magical universe where I could shoehorn in artificial insemination (AI.) I realized that this would be a great opportunity for me to write about this very real part of lesbian motherhood, and to represent the stories of some of my friends. (Naturally, not every two-mom couple conceives using AI, but certainly this method deserves a shout-out if one is writing about lesbian moms.)
I’m very lucky that two of my friends who have conceived this way were willing to speak with me about something so intimate. Without their help and guidance, I’d certainly have fallen on my face. I’m sure every mother’s experience with AI is different, but when I first wrote the conception scene I was aiming for romantic sensuality and seriousness, and they both said I was off base.
What they told me was to become more prosaic, and to add awkwardness and humor. One of them even recounted a story of how she and her wife tried it once in the car on the side of the highway, because they were in a hurry before the material lost its potency. This is real life here, which is what Shulamit and her partner Aviva have always represented for me, not some kind of idealized perfection. This is “oops!” and “hehhhh…” and “whoa, not that.”
By writing Shulamit and Aviva as sharing in the conception process equally, just as my real-life friends’ wives participated in the AI conception of their children, I was able to celebrate the joint contribution of both gestating mother and non-gestating mother in a two-mom family. I found this very meaningful, and I hope that those of you for whom this is your reality will be moved as well.