On the Shelf for November 2019

On the Shelf for November 2019 is your monthly update on what the Lesbian Historic Motif Project has been doing.

Listen to this episode here.

In this episode we talk about:

Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online

 

Transcript

Welcome to On the Shelf for November 2019.

You may have noticed something different in the show’s intro or on the website. The Lesbian Talk Show channel has rebranded itself as TLT–pronounced “tilt”. You still get the same content focusing on women who love women, produced by the same people. It’s just wearing a slightly different jacket. My show will keep the same name–The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast–it’s only our group network that’s changing its name.

Does it feel like the end of the year is galloping down on us? Writing communities have found ways to add extra layers to the end-of-year holiday crush. Whether you’re challenging yourself with NaNoWriMo–national novel writing month–or you’re one of the people who enjoys doing year-end book round-ups, or even participating in evaluating and nominating books for awards, it always seems like the last two months of the year are full to the brim.

Take a deep breath and rest for a little while. A podcast is a lovely way to carve some time out to relax. Especially a podcast on a topic near and dear to your heart like this one!

Fiction Project

The last story in the 2019 fiction series will be coming out at the end of November. This is “The Mermaid” by Kathleen Jowitt, a tale of a gift of the sea who may not be entirely what she seems.

Very soon it will be time to submit stories for the 2020 fiction series. You only have two months before submissions open! I’ll be excited to see what comes in this time because we’re opening submissions up to include historic stories with certain types of fantasy elements as well. If you write historic stories featuring women with same-sex interests, seriously consider trying your hand at something for the podcast. We pay professional rates of eight cents a word for stories up to 5000 words, and you’ll have an audience of at least a thousand podcast listeners. Check out the call for submissions linked in the show notes for the full details of what we’re looking for.

Publications on the Blog

The Lesbian Historic Motif Project blog is continuing our tour through a number of fairly dense works on sexuality and gender theory. In October we finished Joan Cadden’s Meanings of Sex Difference in the Middle Ages. Cadden digs deeply into the variety of understandings and theories about sex and gender in medieval thought and shows how those theories were applied to a selection of key questions like “what determines the sex of a child?” and “what is the purpose of sexual pleasure?”

In general, I’ve been trying to work through this set of publications in a systematic manner, following particular themes across time. But for logistical reasons, I slipped in Adrienne Rich’s classic essay Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence from 1980. Some of the language Rich uses to frame her ideas may feel dated today, but her major themes are–unfortunately–still pertinent, especially in how often feminist theory ignores same-sex relationships as an alternative and challenge to the heterosexual script.

The next two books weren’t as solidly relevant to the History Project as I expected, based on the shadow they cast across later scholarship. The articles in the collection Constructing Medieval Sexuality edited by Karma Lochrie, Peggy McCracken, and James A. Schultz were overwhelmingly focused on male topics. And while Carolyn Dinshaw’s Getting Medieval uses several fascinating incidents and texts as a lens for examining how communities arise around sexual topics, once again the lesbian-relevant content was less than I hoped.

Book Shopping!

I don’t know that the History Project book shopping will have much to say for a while. I currently have entirely too much material queued up so there isn’t much impetus to go on a shopping spree.

Author Guest

As I mentioned last month, I’m taking some shameless advantage of being an author with a podcast because I have a new novel coming out this month. So as a change-up in my author interviews, I invited good friend and previous podcast guest Darlene Vendegna to be the interviewer this month so I can be the guest. We have a wide-ranging conversation about Floodtide, the Alpennia series, and my writing habits in general. I’ll also be contributing this month’s Book Appreciation show with two of my favorite historical fantasy books with f/f relationships.

Essay

For the historic essay this month, I thought I’d look at the place of social class in images and stereotypes of lesbians in history. It was often the case that several different images of women in same-sex relationships existed side by side in a given culture, and the women in those groups may or may not have seen themselves as part of the same community or experience. It was not at all uncommon for those differences to fall along lines of class. You may not be surprised that this topic is also inspired by themes in my upcoming novel.

Recent Lesbian Historical Fiction

And speaking of which, other than my book what else is about to be released or has come out recently?

There are two September books that haven’t been mentioned previously. The first takes a cross-time approach via a hidden diary and looks like it has some horror aspects to it.

The Hidden Room by C.S. Joseph & Kathleen Greyson from Affinity Rainbow Publications.

Clara Bogard reluctantly married architect Arthur Dumas in the early 20th century, after her father passed away. As a gift to his new bride, Arthur designed and built a Victorian mansion for their new home. Seeming philanthropic to others, Arthur had a black evilness in him. As Clara dealt with the escalating violence in her marriage, she finds comfort and affection in the arms of her friend Emma. A century later, in a last-ditch effort to save her failing marriage, novelist Reese Iverson agrees to move her family to a dilapidated Victorian home. During the renovations, a hidden room with over a dozen handwritten journals is discovered. As Reese reads the journals, she becomes immersed with Clara’s struggles with life and love. It soon becomes evident that Clara overcame and endured sinister horrors. After falling in love with her best friend Julia, Reese finds romantic parallels between herself and Clara. As she learns more of the woman’s fate, she uncovers the strength in herself to take control of her own life and hopes it isn’t too late for her happy ever after.

The second item is short story with a western theme: “Wanted” self-published by Lyzzy Burns.

Sally Godwin is a whip smart young widow with a farm that’s too much for her and a line of suitors without her best interests at heart. When she put out a want ad for a woman farmhand, she had no idea just how much of her life would change.

I don’t usually include books as new listings if the work is a revision of a previously published item. But since I mentioned seeing a run of Robin Hood books last month, I thought I’d include this October release, which was one of the titles that sparked that observation.

Heart of Sherwood by Edale Lane from Past and Prologue Press.

What if there had been a real Robin Hood, but instead of being a “he” the heroic outlaw was a “she”? Relive the classic tale told from a new prospective in Heart of Sherwood! When Robyn’s father and brother are killed in the Third Crusade, she is banished from her manor home and branded a traitor by the Sheriff of Nottingham. Disguised as a boy, she joins Little John and the rest of the gang in Sherwood Forest—and soon finds herself their leader. Queen Eleanor suspects Prince John is up to no good, and colluding with Sir Guy and the Sheriff of Nottingham. To learn more, she engages Maid Marian as a spy—and unwittingly reunites Marian with her old childhood friend, Robyn. Together, the women help the queen acquire the funds needed to free King Richard and help Nottinghamshire—and perhaps fall in love along the way.

This next item is also a reprint, but of a story that previously appeared in the collection A Certain Persuasion, which had a Jane Austen theme. Based on the page count, this is the original short story and not an expanded version.

“Her Particular Friend” by J.L. Merrow from JMS Books.

When Susan Price leaves Mansfield Park to accompany her aunt, Lady Bertram, to take the waters in Bath, she little expects to meet an old “friend” of the family. Initially scandalised, Susan finds herself drawn to the former Mary Crawford, now a widow, Mrs Lynd. Mary has lost none of her playful spirit in the ten years since her family’s acquaintance with the Bertrams ended amid elopement and scandal. Her interest, first piqued by Susan’s resemblance to her older sister Fanny, only grows on discovering Susan’s very different character. But Lady Bertram will surely never countenance Susan’s intimacy with the woman whose brother caused her daughter’s disgrace — and Mary’s true identity cannot be kept a secret forever.

I have three November releases, one of which I was only told about very recently. It hadn’t shown up in my keyword searches, which makes my usual point that if you have or know of a book that I should mention, please don’t assume I already know about it.

We start with the next installment in Geonn Cannon’s Trafalgar and Boone series: Trafalgar & Boone Against the Forty Elephants from Supposed Crimes.

Trafalgar and Boone have faced danger from all around the globe, but their greatest threat may be lurking very close to home. A quiet period of rest and recuperation between adventures is interrupted by the arrival of two constables on the front steps of Dorothy Boone’s townhouse. A woman was seen dumping a dead body outside a hospital near Threadneedle Street, and Dorothy matches the description given by witnesses. Dorothy manages to avoid arrest and takes it upon herself to investigate the crime, enlisting other members of the Mnemosyne Society to help. She quickly discovers the Forty Elephants, a gang of all-female thieves, has been revived by a woman named Maud Keaton and makes it her mission to bring them down. But Maud Keaton is very aware of Lady Boone and Miss Trafalgar. She knows all about Dorothy’s vault of mystical objects and will go to any lengths to gain access to it. Lines are quickly drawn in the sand, with the Elephants on one side and the Mnemosyne Society on the other. Faced with an enemy who is her match in both cunning and intellect, Dorothy quickly discovers that victory may be impossible, or come with a cost she’s unwilling to pay.

The book I almost missed is A Transcontinental Affair by Jodi Daynard from Lake Union Publishing.

May 1870. Crowds throng the Boston station, mesmerized by the mechanical wonder huffing on the rails: the Pullman Hotel Express, the first train to travel from coast to coast. Boarding the train are congressmen, railroad presidents, and even George Pullman himself. For two young women, strangers until this fateful day, it’s the beginning of a journey that will change their lives. Sensitive Louisa dreads the trip, but with limited prospects, she’s reluctantly joined the excursion as a governess to a wealthy family. Hattie is traveling to San Francisco to meet her fiancé, yet she’s far more interested in the workings of the locomotive than she is in the man awaiting her arrival. As the celebrated train moves westward, the women move toward one another, pulled by an unexpected attraction. But there is danger in this closeness, just as there is in the wilds of the frontier and in the lengths the railroad men will go to protect their investments. Before their journey is over, Louisa and Hattie will find themselves very far from where they intended to go.

And, of course, November brings us Floodtide by Heather Rose Jones from Bella Books.

The streets are a perilous place for a young laundry maid dismissed without a character for indecent acts. Roz knew the end of the path for a country girl alone in the city of Rotenek. A desperate escape in the night brings her to the doorstep of Dominique the dressmaker and the hope of a second chance beyond what she could have imagined. Roz’s apprenticeship with the needle, under the patronage of the Royal Thaumaturgist, wasn’t supposed to include learning magic, but Celeste, the dressmaker’s daughter, draws Roz into the mysterious world of the charm-wives. When floodwaters and fever sweep through the lower city, Celeste’s magical charms could bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor of Rotenek, but only if Roz can claim the help of some unlikely allies.

What Am I Reading?

Now what have I been reading since the last On the Shelf? If you’ve been following my reviews at The Lesbian Review, you might think I’ve been reading up a storm, but alas that was only a matter of getting caught up with my to-do list for books I’ve read over the last year. And this month has been all topsy-turvy so I’ve barely gotten any fun reading done at all. I’ve worked my way mostly through Mary Robinette Kowal’s Valour and Vanity but while it’s a delightful Regency fantasy, it doesn’t have any lesbian-relevant content at all. Between the time I’m recording this and the time it airs, I’ll have been on vacation for two weeks, so quite possibly I’ll have worked my way through a number of books in that time.