Cover Art, LGBT, Romance

Cover Reveal: Gaga for the Geek (Belinda Y. Hughes)

gagaforthegeek

 

I am pleased to reveal the cover for Gaga for the Geek, a lesbian romance. The cover artist is Marie Lavender of Ambrosia Innovations.

 

Back in June, I had the idea to do a geek romance and polled my readers. The title Gaga for the Geek was the winner. At the time, Marie was launching Ambrosia Innovations and offered to do the cover. Being a successful romance author herself, I knew she understood my needs, so I agreed to give her a try.

 

She sent me several stock images until we found two that worked. At every stage of the process, Marie was professional and customer service oriented. She listened carefully to my requests and did her best to fulfill them. Once we agreed on the couple images, she added the background and titles. The results speak for themselves.

 

And she surprised me with the red velvet stage drapes and spotlight effects, which I absolutely adore!

 

Click here to check out Marie Lavender’s gallery of gorgeous stock covers and learn more about her custom covers at Ambrosia Innovations.

 

So tell us in the comments below – what do you think of this cover?

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Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Ithaka Rising (LJ Cohen)

Need diverse scifi books for diverse readers? Look no further than the YA novel Ithaka Rising by award-winning and best-selling author LJ Cohen. Featuring a feisty lesbian heroine, a multicultural cast spanning three generations and a search and rescue mission involving a handicapped pre-teen, a wounded woman warrior with a prosthetic limb and a crone coding goddess, Ithaka Rising delivers diversity in spades.

Who Should Read This?

I would very highly recommend Ithaka Rising to librarians, teachers and parents wanting to motivate student interest, particularly girls and minorities, in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects, occupations of the future and leadership roles. Today’s veterans, especially wounded warriors, who love scifi and space will also enjoy this adventurous read. LGBT teens and adults will appreciate the relationship issues and community situations. Aspiring writers looking for great literature to learn from should grab this book with both hands. For adults and teens, it’s an exciting space opera flavored with Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who and M*A*S*H!

Racially Diverse Characters

Ithaka Rising is Book Two in Cohen’s Halcyone Space series, which began with DERELICT. The series follows the misadventures of a core group of four to five pre-teen through young adult human main characters, including a Hispanic-Asian lesbian couple, two black brothers and a Caucasian guy. No aliens, yet, but I’m waiting.

Star Wars Similarities and Departures

The space exploration series is primarily set aboard the battle fatigued freighter Halcyone and her asteroid-bound base, Daedalus, which is the Siberia of the Commonwealth government. Halcyone is similar to the Millennium Falcon in that repairs are constantly ongoing, nobody else would want her for anything but scrap recycling and her renegade captain has a determined spirit and often finds herself in complex challenges, surrounded by players of varying loyalties, danger, a shoestring budget and a ticking clock, much like Han Solo. The big difference in Halcyone and the Millennium Falcon is her fusion of artificial intelligence, emotion and music, aided and abetted by First Mate Barre. Barre lives, breathes, thinks and communicates in music. He is genuinely gifted, but unappreciated by his career military physician parents, although respected by his younger brother, Jem the resourceful coding genius. Jem exceeds Halcyone Captain Ro Maldonado’s coding talents by light years, which is saying something. Dr. Adiana May makes her entrance in Ithaka Rising as the Obi Wan Kenobi of coding. Her Jedis are, of course, Ro, Barre and Jem.

Excerpt

Ro had no idea how long it had been since her confrontation with Barre when her micro buzzed, pulling her out of her latest battle with Halcyone’s jump drive programming.

Shit. She had never called Nomi. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.

Blinking through layers of virtual windows, each running a custom diagnostic, it took her a few minutes to locate the small device. By the time she snatched it from where it lay on the main nav console, the call had ended, leaving a high-priority message scrolling across the screen.

The call had been from Commander Mendez. She wasn’t sure if she should be relieved or upset that it hadn’t been Nomi.

Ro had known this was coming. There was only so long she could lean on the station’s resources before Mendez’s gratitude expired. Sighing, she pushed away her guilt before sending a reply. Mendez first. And then try to fix things with Nomi. Her father would have ignored the call and the messages—both the explicit one and the implicit one behind it. Maybe she wasn’t entirely like him after all.

Shift change turned the corridors and the nexus into a traffic jam. Or at least the equivalent on Daedalus. The outpost station had few enough staff that even Ro was able to put names to all the faces she passed on her way to command. What surprised her was how many of them looked at her, smiling and nodding. It was unsettling.

Lieutenant Commander Emma Gutierrez stood at attention at Mendez’s office, her uniform crisp, her sidearm gleaming in its holster, her expression neutral. Older than Mendez by at least a decade, Gutierrez had the look of a lifer and the scars that marked her as having seen hard combat, probably in the war that had downed Halcyone. Part of her left arm and hand had been reconstructed—old battle tech that Gutierrez had never bothered to replace with more natural-looking prosthetics. But there was nothing wrong with how they functioned.

“The commander asked to see me?”

Gutierrez nodded and the door opened. Ro stepped through, feeling the intensity of the lieutenant commander’s gaze, like the laser sight of a gun on her back. The last time Ro had been in this office, Mendez had given her Halcyone.

“Ms. Maldonado. Please sit down.” Mendez came around the front of her desk and waved Ro toward a small table and two chairs in an alcove at the rear of her office.

She studied the commander, wondering what kind of meeting this was to be. So far, it didn’t seem like any kind of hearing or disciplinary action. Then again, Ro was not technically under Mendez’s command. The commander sat and Ro followed her lead. The woman had always seemed stern and distant, but Ro saw the lines of fatigue at the corner of her eyes and the deep furrows across her brow, legacy of the mess that led to an ongoing Commonwealth investigation into her father, the smuggled weapons, and the war they were meant to spark.

The door opened again and Gutierrez entered, carrying a tray with two steaming coffees. Ro frowned, but watched as the old soldier easily set down a cup next to each of them with her bio-electronic hand, not spilling a drop.

“That will be all,” Mendez said. Gutierrez nodded, turned crisply, and left.

Ro waited until the commander picked up her cup before taking a sip of the coffee. It was the real deal—a smooth, dark roast, imported from the Hub at great expense. And served black, just the way she liked it.

“There’s been no word on your father.”

He was out there—Ro had no doubt about that. Alain Maldonado was too smart and too vindictive to be dead. She knew she needed to find him before he came for her.

“There was enough evidence just based on dereliction of duty to strip him of his rank in the engineering guild and his Commonwealth citizenship.”

It was far less than he deserved after what he had done to Micah, what he had threatened to do to her and Barre. Ro focused on the welcome burn of the coffee as she swallowed.

Mendez put down her cup. “They also confiscated his assets.”

Unfortunately, Ro had also expected that. She finished the coffee and carefully placed her cup on the small table, waiting for Mendez’s third and final blow. A freighter without jump capability was space junk. Sure, she could live aboard Halcyone. The water recycling worked, as did the air scrubbers. The ship had enough aduronium to fuel the interstitial engines for a thousand years, or until the base metals disintegrated back into star stuff. But being forced to drift through the sector where Daedalus Station orbited felt like slow suicide.

“As little as Halcyone draws from the station, there is a cost.”

Ro kept her gaze steady, but she couldn’t help the heat that rose to her cheeks. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t been expecting this. That’s what drove her to work nearly through all three shifts during the past long weeks, irritating and alienating both Nomi and Barre in the process.

And for nothing. The ship was likely irretrievably broken. And there was a good chance her relationships were, too.

“I appreciate all you’ve done for me, Commander Mendez.” Ro was shocked at how steady her voice was. “I understand. Thank you for your time.” She pushed her chair from the table and stood to leave.

“Sit down.” Mendez’s command filled the room.

Ro sat, the heat spreading out from her cheeks to her whole face.

“You need resources. I need an engineer.”

“Sir?”

“Until this mess with your father is straightened out and Commonwealth Command decides to fill my staffing request, I am short one chief engineer. You have the skills to do the job and a ship that won’t fly.”

“You’re offering me a job?”

“Such as it is. My budget is stretched thin. When they claimed your father’s resources, they also froze his salary. I can manage to continue your intern’s stipend, along with supplies for Halcyone in return for a part-time commitment.”

“But I’m not military.”

“Consider yourself an outside contractor.”

“Oh.”

“I’ve taken the liberty of pushing a standard agreement to your micro. Am I correct in assuming you’d prefer to stay aboard your ship, rather than return to your previously assigned quarters?”

Ro nodded. One of the first things she had done on her return to Daedalus was to salvage anything of value from the small living space she had shared with her father. At least the Commonwealth didn’t get the contents of his workroom. Though if they knew she’d taken his notes and his spare memory cube, they would come knocking. It was encrypted and locked, but Ro knew her father as well as anyone and given enough time, she was going to crack it. And then she was going to go after him.

To find her father, she needed a ship with a jump drive. To fix the ship, she needed to step into her father’s old job. Mendez had assured her she was not her father. She hoped the commander was right. But now she would have even less time to work on Halcyone and to try to repair her damaged relationships.

“Welcome aboard, Acting Chief Engineer Maldonado.”

Ro jerked, unable to quell the involuntary response of looking for him over her shoulder.

Mendez studied her carefully. “You are not to blame for your father’s crimes. And you will not be judged by his actions, but by your own.”

The coffee soured in her stomach. “Thank you, sir.”

Conclusion

What thrills me most about Ithaka Rising is the character diversity on so many levels: age, ethnicity, disability, military (active duty, veteran, wounded warriors), survivalism and sexuality. I especially enjoyed the steamy lesbian shower scene. Of course, what is character diversity without a great story? Ithaka Rising is chock-full of edgy, page-turning, plot-twisting action balanced with humor, compassion and democracy. There’s even Greek poetry, a New Louisiana and gumbo!

Special Note: Ithaka Rising author LJ Cohen is committed to diversity, literacy and reader access. She has donated a signed set of her books to the Ferguson Library.

Grab your copy of Ithaka Rising at Amazon.

Read my Author Interview with LJ Cohen on DERELICT.

About the Reviewer 

Belinda Y. Hughes is the Louisiana lesbian author of Blues in the Night, Living Proof and Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2. Her poetry has been published in the Odessa Review, New Day Publications and Long Story Short. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. Belinda is eager to write in a variety of genres. Follow Belinda on Amazon, Goodreads and Twitter.

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Cover Art, New Releases, Romance, Writing Process

UKLGBTChat Knocked Me Up!

BLUES IN THE NIGHT COVER B

How does a single lesbian become impregnated without a sperm donor, sperm bank or Divine Intervention? All it takes is one Twitter chat: #UKLGBTChat. For me, it was the May 31, 2015 episode, which focused on books. That and I was fertile and took no precautions.

CONCEPTION

That fateful evening, I happened into #UKLGBTChat when it had just begun trending. When I learned the topic and heard some of the convo, I felt like I was among kindred spirits bearing compatible DNA: LGBT readers, reviewers and authors who wanted more LGBT in their gay and mainstream books. They shared reading lists for different countries, stating that US authors were doing fairly well at writing diverse books, including LGBT characters of various ages and abilities and genres beyond coming out stories, such as scifi. UK authors still needed to work at it. I forgot to mention my friend LJ Cohen did very nicely at LGBT and racial diversity in composing her YA space opera, DERELICT. But it was when I heard participants say they wanted to see more age and situation diversity, as well as disabilities in their LGBT characters that I felt that first spark of life.

GESTATION

Once the chat was over much too quickly, like many copulations, my book pregnancy – set in my hometown of Lake Charles, LA – sucked up my attention, time and energy. Ordinary daily tasks, like housecleaning, greenskeeping and grocery shopping, suddenly became secondary to the importance of nurturing this new life inside me. I even had difficulty sleeping and suffered from indigestion, from my baby demanding to be written. There was also a lot of loneliness as a hormonal single pregnant mom. Sex scenes, need I say more?

(OK, I will add that neither of my main characters is pregnant – yet. Who knows what will happen in future books?)

When I sat down to make out a grocery list, characters, settings, situations and plotlines sprouted on the pages, like ultrasounds. As I began writing from my notes, the story flourished. Each day its features grew more defined. Being a romance fan and a member of several award-winning authors’ street teams, it was no surprise to me that my book baby was a love child, too. What might surprise some is her complexion and full genre identity: lesbian interracial romance, yet another request from that prophetic episode of #UKLGBTChat.

LABOR & DELIVERY

As babies tend to do, mine decided when it wanted to be born, regardless of recommendations against premature birth. Thankfully, I had assembled my own street team, beginning with those same award-winning authors – now my midwives – to support me through the perilous labor and delivery process. Mackenzie Crowne administered tips on opening paragraphs as the pains began. Mac, Melanie James, Sarah Grimm,  Vonnie Davis, Marie Lavender, Devika Fernando, AJ Nuest, Dyane Forde, Alison Bliss and Betty Olsen were my Lamaze coaches as the cover art, in the form of a guitar pic by Sarah Bromage, began to crown and had to be turned.

As I shared with her about #UKLGBTChat, Marie introduced me to LGBT authors Dianne and Young. It was rather odd to meet new people in the delivery room, but these are two writers you don’t want to pass up, so I was immensely grateful.

S.A. Hunt, D.W. Metz, Paul Bucalo, Air Force historian Shawn Bohannon, and Bronx Pride’s Peter C. Equality Frank gowned up and gave their feedback and encouragement near the final push.

Alas, she got hung up in the birth canal and I had to stop pushing for a bit for Catherine Ryan Howard to coach me through ebook formatting for Amazon, et al. That was sheer torture!!! Thanks to her, I at last held my beautiful new book baby, Blues in the Night, safely in my arms.

So, to all the above and the members of #UKLGBTChat: Host Faye, Nichola, Jess, Marion, Antonia, Julianne, Liz, Vanessa, Debbie, Nina, Queer YA, Sophie, David, Kam, Michelle, L.D., Keren, Chouett, Sara, the Paisley Piranhas and George, a heartfelt and resounding THANK YOU!!! for knocking me up and seeing me and my book baby through this incredible pregnancy! Let me know when you’re ready to get together again. My next book baby’s already a twinkle in my eye. 😉

P.S. As I was writing the wedding proposal scene, set in New Orleans, I wondered how much longer it would take for same-sex marriage to become legal in Louisiana. At last, after Blues in the Night was born in the wee hours of June 15, 2015, eleven days later, the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages MUST be recognized throughout the country! #LoveWins

 

EXCERPT

Nita Nunez was going to hell. As she and Jo basically had sex in front of the whole church, Nita wondered if it was good for Jo, too. As they joined the band of seasoned bluesmen in performing “Learned How to Lean” for the morning worship service, Nita and Jo were getting into it, acting out the song by angling themselves against each other, sparks flying as their heads and shoulders brushed. “What a fellowship, what a joy divine,” thought Nita as their eyes rested in one another a few beats too long before returning to the congregation.

It was all she could do to keep from plucking the neck of her top and fanning herself as they finished the verse, Jo’s body rocking, her face squinching up as she unleashed her power gospel voice. Certainly everybody could see Nita’s nostrils flaring as she wondered if the handsome black woman in the Sunday go to meeting dress and pumps beside her was gay or not. “I found out if I trust Him, He will provide.” Nita sure hoped so, her mind racing as she tried to figure out how to ask Jo about her sexual preferences over Sunday dinner in the fellowship hall, surrounded by people Nita still barely knew.

That “Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian” t-shirt would come in real handy right about now, she thought…

BUY Blues in the Night at Amazon:

US: http://www.amazon.com/BLUES-NIGHT-Belinda-Hughes-ebook/dp/B00ZQW7ZNC

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00ZQW7ZNC

DE: http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B00ZQW7ZNC

FR: http://www.amazon.fr/gp/product/B00ZQW7ZNC

ES: https://www.amazon.es/dp/B00ZQW7ZNC

IT: http://www.amazon.it/gp/product/B00ZQW7ZNC

NL: http://www.amazon.nl/gp/product/B00ZQW7ZNC

JP: http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/product/B00ZQW7ZNC

BR: https://www.amazon.com.br/dp/B00ZQW7ZNC

CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00ZQW7ZNC

MX: https://www.amazon.com.mx/dp/B00ZQW7ZNC

AU: http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B00ZQW7ZNC

IN: http://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B00ZQW7ZNC

ABOUT the Author

Belinda Y. Hughes is the Louisiana lesbian author of the lesbian interracial romance Blues in the Night, Living Proof and Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2, a lacto ovo vegetarian cookbook. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. Belinda is eager to write more LGBT books in a variety of genres.

FOLLOW Belinda at: 

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