Fridays at Ofelia’s | Blue Jay

Guest-Post

Today, we have A. Zukowski here on a visit, talking London and their book Blue Jay. Welcome!


Writing genderqueer-ness in a journey through my city

London pride postboxBlue Jay is about two people: genderqueer AMAB Chris and bisexual Alex. Chris first emerged in book 2 of the London Stories series—Liam For Hire—as the main character’s best friend. Chris is funny and sad, aloof and caring—my favourite kind of character. They deserve a whole novel about them, to give them closure with love and sunshine! Writing the novel took a long time and a lot of soul searching. I built the story around Chris’s wry sense of humour, fierce independence, and aversion to all things romantic. Alex is a tough one to write since he tends to hide the strong emotions behind his tough façade.

I didn’t want to only make the queer character appear more ‘feminine’. Instead, I tried to challenge gender norms through language. All the pronouns they/them/he/him/she/her are used to refer to Chris throughout the book. I struggled to write them more than I could imagine, but the creative process also brought out the gender variance within me. The novel shows my struggles and my refusal to conform as much as that of the protagonists. The other character Alex is bisexual. Alas, I am more familiar with his socioeconomic background and mental health issues.

London-Street-Art

I love writing about London; pre-Covid, I was always walking the city streets, dreaming up stories that happen there. These places provide the perfect backdrops to the angsty, raw, and gritty urban scenes in this book. You won’t find the locations on a tourist map but they have their own histories and eccentrics.

When I was training as a screenwriter, my mentor (who used to produce for the BBC; she has retired now) asked me how I wanted the audience to feel after watching my plays. The readers of Blue Jay should cry and laugh (or smile) alongside the protagonists. I want them to feel uplifted, romantic and hopeful. All at the same time. I want to find all these emotions in a romance set in London that has dark stuff, too.
^_^

Blue Jay CoverThird part of the London Stories.

Boxing was all Alex had ever known, his entire being now shattered beyond repair. One night and four years in jail changed everything. These days, Alex prefers the shadows and dreams of nightmares. Will he find rainbows and glitters in the run-down flat he’s moving into?

Chris has been selling their looks and body for too long. It may be time for a life change, but one thing is clear. The fairest of them all will make a lousy lover until they stop acting the smart-mouthed and blasé cynic. Their story begins with an elegant tango up the narrow stairwell…

A match made in London.

Blue Jay is a hopeful and romantic story with genderqueer and bisexual characters. It can be enjoyed as a standalone.

Best of 2019 ~ Love Bytes Reviews, Electric Me
Delightfully dimensional main characters ~ Joyfully Jay
One of those stories that slowly grows on you and tugs at your heart ~ Divine Magazine
Profoundly emotional, eye-opening, thought-provoking story ~ Love Reading
I have absolutely loved this series…all about redemption, second chances and love. ~ Love Bytes Review

Tags: genderfluid, genderqueer, contemporary romance, LGBTQ, bisexual, prostitution, sex trade, depression

Beaten Track Publishing
93,600 words/290 pages
ISBN: 978-1-78645-368-6

Book links: Beaten Track (publisher): https://www.beatentrackpublishing.com/bluejay
Amazon: http://mybook.to/bluejay
Ebook: https://www.beatentrackpublishing.com/shop/proddetail.php?prod=bluejay_format
Paperback: https://www.beatentrackpublishing.com/shop/proddetail.php?prod=bluejay
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/957426?ref=b10track

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45288523-blue-jay

Extract

Chris has returned from the hotel after a quick wash. These days, they can’t get away from the appointments fast enough. Even luxurious hotel rooms hold little appeal.
Washed up. That’s what they are; they sigh silently.
For an escort who works late a lot, this lighting arrangement is highly inconvenient. Chris curses and walks up the stairs as fast as they can, almost running.
Forward step in a tango. Cruzada. An Argentine cross.
Bang! They bump into someone massive at the first turn. The impact knocks them back down several steps.
“Hey, you okay?” says a gruff voice.
“Shit.” Chris stops and feels their way around the walls to find the light switch.
It’s gone one in the fucking morning. Who is standing in the stupid stairway, blocking my way? When their hand touches the other person’s, they recoil. Long and strong fingers connect with theirs, sending a shot of electricity through them.
Chris finds the switch; they and the stranger are bathed in the bright light from the bare bulb once more. They squint, uncomfortable with the glare of the yellow hue. They really should get their eyes tested—if there was anything they could actually read.
“What the—” Chris exclaims.
The guy must be about six feet six and built like Hercules. He shoulders a large black holdall. Chris is stunned silent by the bulging biceps and arms, and exposed flesh covered by tattoos. The physique of the stranger contrasts with Chris, who’s tall and slim like a catwalk model.
Crap. The man had better not be a burglar.
Chris stops a shudder, not wanting to betray weakness. They weigh up their limited options. They highly doubt they can take on the hulk in the middle of the night. Summoning their best act of caution and confidence, their hand reaches for the pepper spray in their trouser pocket. Out of necessity, self-preservation has become part of their routine.
“Where are you going?” they ask, praying the man has a legitimate reason to be in the building.
“I’m looking for Flat Five.”
Holy shit. What does he want in my flat?

About A. Zukowski

I am a London-based British writer who grew up in the gay village and red light district of Manchester, UK.

I was trained in screenwriting at the University of the Arts, London; National Film & Television School and Script Factory, UK, followed by a series of misadventures as a film journalist, writer and producer of short films. My stories are based on personal and emotional experiences, and feature strong LGBTQ-identified characters.

Read more:

The Boy Who Fell to Earth (2017 #1 London Stories) http://amzn.to/2Ao90X4
Liam For Hire (2018 #2 London Stories) https://amzn.to/2T1Zod8
Courting Light (2018) http://mybook.to/CourtingLight
Turn Again to Life (2020) http://mybook.to/turnagaintolife

Social Media

Twitter: @saszazukowski
Blog: http://azukowskiblog.wordpress.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16509569.A_Zukowski
FB: http://www.facebook.com/a.zukowski.353
Booklikes: http://azukowski.booklikes.com/

All’s fair in love and war: The Great Village Bun Fight

pumpkin-228510_640
Giant pumpkin (CC0 Creative Commons)

I have this, most likely completely false, idea of  Brits competing in the strangest ways – giant pumpkins and crazy perfect gardens – and now I know they also do it with cupcakes. Compete, that is.

We do it here too…I think. They at least have people competing in cake-baking on TV so I’m assuming we have cupcakes too. I would say there is one big difference, though, one thing I really love about the picture I’m painting of the UK, and that’s these village traditions. We don’t really have that here, not in that way at least.

By now I bet you’re wondering what the heck it is I’m talking about. I’m talking about The Great Village Bun Fight by Debbie McGowan. This is a story about Henry, who begat Herny, who begat Henry, who begat Henry and just so you know I begat a Henry too. If he becomes a baker, we’ll see.

So Henry Jones started a bakery in 1874, and all the Henrys after him were bakers too, until Henry the 8th got into a bit of trouble and Henry the 7th refused to change Henry Jones and Son to Henry Jones and Daughter – it has to do with tradition you see. An end of an era,  which lead to THE Village Bakery opening and left the Joneses without any bakery to call their own.

But as Henry the 9th is denied a wedding cake when he’s to marry his partner because Margaret, owner of THE Village Bakery, can’t give her blessing, things escalate.

This is such a lovely story. I snuggled up with a blanket and a cup of coffee and followed the battle of the bakeries until only one remained :D. The Great Villiage Bun Fight is sweet and funny – the narrator my absolute favourite – and I had this Wallace and Gromit feeling – that’s a compliment, just to make it clear. Wallace and Gromit guard the giant vegetables in their village just as the Joneses and Sharpes guard their giant bun LOL.


40801802All’s fair in love and war. But not in baking.

Part of Seasons of Love Anthology

books2read.com/BunFight


* By clicking the Books2Read link you’ll be taken to an external page. Links to Smashwords, Kobo U.S and Amazon contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

 

Boughs of Evergreen

In a few days, on November 21st, Boughs of Evergreen: A Holiday Anthology will be up for sale, and I would like to say a few words about this anthology.

It’s twenty-three stories penned by twenty-four authors from the UK, the USA, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. The stories are written to celebrate diversity, both cultural and within the LGBTQ community. But, here’s the most important thing—the proceeds go to The Trevor Project.

The Trevor Project is the only American organisation providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people.

You might not know, but suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people in the ages of 10 to 24. Lesbian, gay and bisexual young people are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, questioning individuals are three times more likely, and nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about ending their lives. The mission of The Trevor Project is to end suicide among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people, and that’s a mission we want to support.

If you want to help, buy the anthology! If you don’t want to read the nearly 1000 pages dedicated to this cause, buy one of the volumes or a few of the individual stories—they’ll be published on the first of December. If you don’t want to read, but still want to help, go to stayclassy.org/beatentrackpublishing and make a donation.


Boughs of EvergreenBoughs of Evergreen is a two-volume collection of short stories celebrating the holiday season in all its diversity. Penned by authors from the UK, the USA, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, these are tales of the young and the not-so-young from many different walks of life.

Themes of family, friendship and romance take readers on a journey through some of the major holidays, both past and present, including Thanksgiving, Advent, St. Lucia Day, Hanukkah, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice, Yule, Christmas and New Year. In each we find at the very least hope, and often love, peace and happiness.

Each story is also available as a separate ebook.

Proceeds from sales of this anthology will be donated to The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is the leading national organization [USA] providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.

THE STORIES:

A Friend for Christmas * – JP Walker
A Midnight Clear * – Debbie McGowan
From All of Us to All of You * – Ofelia Gränd
Homme for the Holidays  * – Jonathan Penn
Kiss Me At Kwanzaa – * LL Bucknor
Lion’s Hero *- Alexis Woods
One Nightstand * – Rick Bettencourt
Shiny Things * – Amy Spector
The Bard and his Boyfriend * – Kathleen Hayes
The Christmas Present * – Larry Benjamin
X-Mas Cake: A Modern Fairytale * – Raine O’Tierney

A Christmas Tale * – Hans M Hirschi
A Family Christmas * – Terry Kerr
A Little Christmas Magic * – K.C. Faelan
Always Have, Always Will * – Amelia Mann
An Angel in Eyeliner  * – Hunter Frost
Boyfriend Goes Home * – Laura Susan Johnson
Christmas Commitment * – Shayla Mist
Coming in from the Cold * – Ava Penn
Holidays with Drum and Bell! * – Matthias Williamson
Te Amo, You Mushrooms * – S.H. Allan
The Invasion of Tork * – Al Stewart and Claire Davis

* By clicking the Books2Read link you’ll be taken to an external page. Links to Smashwords, Kobo U.S and Amazon contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.