The best-selling quartet that brought you Once Upon A Dyke unveils four deliciously different takes on magic in lesbian lives. Reluctant witches, tempting books, and beautiful bells—and belles—delve into the mysteries of love, lust and power.
Be Skyclad with Julia Watts. Do it By the Book with Therese Szymanski. Find enchantment with Barbara Johnson’s Lily and lose your reason with Karin Kallmaker’s Unbeliever.
Black cats, haunted houses, strange brews and dancing bonfires heat up the pages of this diverting quartet of erotic, imaginative tales. Curl up with a bell, a book and a dyke and let the magic be real.
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From By the Book, by Therese Szymanski
Screaming, he charged me with his sword raised. I backflipped off the wall and landed neatly behind him.
He yanked his sword out of the wall, from the spot where my neck had been only moments before.
I ran to the far wall and yanked a sword out of the display just in time to whip about and counter his thrust. Metal clanged as we danced through the well-choreographed moves of our duel. Our swords flashed under the hot lights.
I kicked a lamp into his path, but he was unrelenting in his pursuit. I leapt over the coffee table, flipping around to keep facing him. I didn’t dare let him at my back. I let my body act and react, keeping my motions fluid and fresh.
He laughed and grabbed the table in his beefy hand and tossed it aside. It was all theatrics on the part of the big, bad man, but it bought me time to readjust my weight and grip.
I dodged to the right, hurdling the shards of the coffee table, but he swung his arm around, striking me across the back and sending me tumbling forward.
Fucker. He hit me and it hurt! But I had no time to dwell on such things. I rolled off my shoulder to land on my feet. I had to focus and concentrate, or I could get hurt. I flipped over the futon, still holding onto my sword, and ended up on my knees on the far side. I blocked his blade just before it met the soft flesh of my neck.
I looked up at him. I grabbed the tip of my sword and used the full length of the blade to throw him back, leaving me room to somersault forward on my shoulder and swing my weapon just across the backs of his knees. After all, I wasn’t in a position to deliver a killing blow.
But just before my sword struck, I hit instant migraine, with a terrible pain drilling my skull. I lost control of my body and dropped my sword, fell forward onto my face, and . . .
. . . I knew my parents were dead.
“Cut!” the director yelled. “Ty, are you okay?”
“Some magic both in and out of relationships, some amusing twists on both magic and Druidism, and totally enjoyable for those who have a more esoteric bent. Great fun to read!”
—Golden Threads, March 2006
• • • • •
by Joy Parks
Lesbians and witches have long been co-associated as examples of powerful femininity. In fact some scholars believe that women accused of witchcraft in past ages may have been ostracized by their rigidly religious and patriarchal-focused communities for their knowledge, their independence and their unwillingness to marry more than their supposed magical abilities. In Bell, Book and Dyke, this connection is central to four novellas that offer four distinct approaches to Sapphic magic.
Overall, the collection is strong and the novella approach proves to be an excellent format for the level of detail and setup demanded by these fairly complex tales. Bell, Book and Dyke is a loose sequel to Once Upon A Dyke, a previous collection of four novellas by the same authors, but with each story based on popular fairy tales. Freed from the conventions of the set plotline demanded by the fairy tales, this second Bella After Dark novella collection demonstrates distinctly original approaches to the subject of witchcraft, as well some surprisingly fresh erotic twists that are at times quite spellbinding.
Barbara Johnson is at her erotic best in “Sea Witch,” which is at times a genuinely frightening tale of a coven member gone bad, a cold-blooded murderer who is using magic for her own evil gain. Set in the tourist town of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, modern forces pose an equally eerie echo with a military testing subplot while the extremely gentle (for the most part!) and sensuous love scenes offer a vivid, pleasant foil to the all-too believable evil that drives the plot.
There’s something irresistible about most of Therese Szymanski’s self-deprecating rogue heroines and Tyler Black is no exception. In the character-driven “By The Book,” Tyler’s profession as a stuntperson gives Szymanski the freedom to make her probably one of the most physically adept witches the world has ever known. Whether she’s falling through closets (a lovely bit of gay humor) into dangerous caverns beneath a suburban Michigan home, seducing starlets or ricocheting off the wall for some potentially deadly swordplay, Tyler’s humor, irreverence and sexy bad-girl charm not only helps her win the girl, but bewitches readers in the process.
Kallmaker strikes a much more serious tone in “Unbeliever.” Her cynical narrator Hayley is a skeptical academic charged with taking care of her dying twin sister who, despite her very public success, has lived very little of her life. A bewitching and mysterious neighbor, Aurora Lowell, enters their lives while Hayley becomes obsessed with a seemingly supernatural book that opens her to new possibilities for her own life. Despite its focus on illness, on the fear of risk and chances for freedom and happiness some of us are unwilling to take, plus sad echoes of a dysfunctional family life, the unexpected conclusion is truly life affirming and shows that love may be the most powerful magic of all.
In Julia Watt’s “Skyclad” (which is apparently the term given to performing magical rituals in the outdoors while nude), the plot takes a backseat to a lively discussion on spiritual freedom and the right to one’s own beliefs. In addition to a brave exploration of all forms of religion, there’s a wonderful, lush female sensuality to the magic here, as well as a lovely appreciation of the appeal of maturing women’s bodies and a strong political undertow. And reading of Chameleon’s escape from her fundamentalist family alone is worth the price of the book.
Bell, Book and Dyke is obviously meant as entertainment, but there’s more to it than that. In writing about the rituals of female magic, all four authors managed to conjure up a wonderful strong and real undercurrent of strength and sensuality, while each has also touched, to some extent, on the fundamentals that have drawn women to natural magic over the ages. Even if you’re a skeptic, reading this collection makes it hard not to believe that there isn’t something just a little magical about every dyke. You’ll leave feeling like an associate member of an ancient, lively and mystical coven of bewitchingly smart and sensual lesbians.
I had a lot of problems writing this novella, and when I say “a lot,” I mean boatloads. Tons. Drastic volumes of trouble. Tonnages, even. (So anyone out there who is stymied by a writing problem, know that it doesn't always come easily.)
Anyway, when I say this, what I mean is that pretty much, magic wasn’t my idea, so I hadn’t a clue what story I wanted to tell. I probably ended up writing at least 100,000 words on five novellas (the novellas were supposed to be 17-23,000 words each, so I was obviously lost) before I found a good idea. (Barbara Johnson read those 100,000 words to see if I was onto anything and vetoed them all.)
Then I wrote By the Book, and I think I got it right. I find it especially heartening that a Wiccan, among other people, asked for me to write more stories in a series featuring the main characters from By the Book.
The moral of the story? Sometimes even folks like me who have written quite a bit have some problems with certain projects—but it’s ALWAYS worth it to keep working to get it right.
Oh, also, for years my day job has been, amusingly enough, as a writer. Oftentimes, when I’m interviewing for my next writing job, folks Google me or use some other devious means to discover that, well, I really am a writer. As in, I’ve written books and short stories and essays, oh my! After that, they question how I can write for them during the day and myself at night. The answer to this is that they are two very different types of writing—with the day job, the work is pretty formula. Or it can be. Now, that doesn't mean that I keep saying the same things over and over again, or that it can't take me a while—and some wrong turns—to find the right hooks, leads and takes on a press release or article. Or that it can't take a while to find the selling points of my product during a sell sheet, direct mail, or product profile.
But the two—my day writing and my night writing—are so different that I don't have any problems doing both. Well, okay, I think three times I got home and realized I had no words left, but three days from ten years really isn't much.
I say all of this to explain the troubles I had with this novella—but that it all worked out in the end. And I really might make that Wiccan fan's dreams come true in the future with more books and/or stories about Ty and friends.
Regardless, since each of the four of us has our own style and inclinations, each of the New Exploits books has a wide variety of stories, with something for everyone!
Top, from left to right: Karin Kallmaker, Julia Watts, Barbara Johnson.
The butch on their laps: Therese Szymanski.
Sometimes my job is a tough one.
And you can buy the book from your local independent/feminist/LGBT or rockin' lesbian bookstore, or any really cool store that might sell books like mine.
Oh, and of course, you can buy it/find out about its availability and such from my terrific publisher, Bella Books.
My books are also available on a veritable plethora of online booksellers, including
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And a whole lot of other places.