Lois Cloarec Hart
An Accidental Author

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STORIES
(Click on the Titles to Read the Stories)
[2011]
This brief piece is a companion for To Dance With No Music, which is best read first. (See listing below, alphabetically.) It completes the story of two longtime lovers who in their decades together deal with rejection, disapproval, fortune and misfortune, but who in the end find the greatest reward of all.

Author's Note: I hadn't intended to write a sequel for To Dance With No Music, but as occasionally happens, this very short piece insisted on being written. Whether the reader believes as I do or not, I hope they will take away a sense of being uplifted for a moment or two.

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[2007]

Angela doesn't know how she ended up in her present predicament. Two years ago she had thought she was running away from her rigid, fundamentalist father to live happily-ever-after with her fairytale princess, Gretchen. But some fairy tales turn dark, and Angela finds herself living on the streets of Atlanta, homeless and desperate. Just when things look the bleakest, an elderly lesbian couple comes to the rescue. Angela's story doesn't end there, for the couple have a granddaughter, Lianne-an antagonistic woman who resents the "strays" who drain her grandmothers' time, energy, and purse. Will the earthbound angels prevail and save Angela from a dark future, or will Lianne push the young woman back to the streets?

Author's note: This story was inspired by an older lesbian couple who often sat behind my wife and me in Atlanta's First MCC. I never actually met them, but I liked to think they'd been together for decades, which got me thinking about what life might've been like for lesbians in the Deep South years ago. That led to thinking of how difficult life often still is for Southern lesbians of the younger generations when they're from a family of religious fundamentalists. Blending the different generations gave me Country Mouse.

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[2009]

This is a prequel to Country Mouse, though it may be read as a standalone. Ruby Gaines is a veteran of the production line in the MacDonnell Preserves and Fine Chocolates factory in 1956 when she's assigned responsibility for training a new employee, Hazel Barrow. Ruby, a divorced mother of a young son, is initially disdainful of Hazel, who appears too ladylike to tolerate the factory's stringent physical demands. Hazel quickly proves herself, however, and Ruby reluctantly allows that the other woman is no hothouse flower. They begin a tentative friendship, but it's not long before Hazel is warned to be careful about whom she befriends. After all, Ruby has a bad reputation because she's one of them - a divorced woman. However, the strong-minded Hazel ignores the warning as a mutual love of movies sets the stage for a relationship neither woman ever dared dream of.

Author's note: I became so fond of the elderly lesbian characters that I'd created for Country Mouse that although I rarely write sequels, I had to learn more about how Ruby and Hazel had gotten together. The movie angle came from my wife's love of old movies, and the factory setting came from my mother's work in the billing department of a jam factory when she was a young woman, before she met my dad.

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[2006]

Bryn Marshall, an executive and a single mother, has a hard time finding a reliable nanny for her six month old son, Gideon. When the cameras she installs in her upscale condo prove her most recent employee criminally negligent, at the same time illuminating the kindness and dependability of the painter who is working in the nursery, she offers the position of nanny to the painter, Cam Keeler. Cam, a skilled carpenter, was badly injured in a construction accident and only after extensive rehab, now works light duties for her cousin's contracting company. She's startled to be offered the nanny job, but needs steady work while she finishes healing, so agrees to a four month live-in position. Bryn checks on her new nanny daily through the cameras still installed in her home, but is swiftly satisfied with the quality of care Cam gives Gideon. Almost effortlessly, Cam becomes a part of the small family, and Bryn fights a growing fascination with the woman. Then Bryn's fantasy life crashes to a halt, as Cam accidentally discovers that she's been on Candid Camera ever since she took the nanny position.

Author's note: Originally titled Nanny Cam, this light romance came to me, as so many story ideas do, while I was on the road. By the time I'd reached my destination, I'd outlined the entire plot and it was one of the most effortless stories I've ever written.

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[2005]

Zhou Ning, a Chinese prostitute, has been thrown in a jail cell with an elderly North Korean woman, Taek Dae. Out of sheer boredom, Zhou asks her unlikely cellmate how she ended up in their dismal situation. Much to Zhou Ning's surprise, the elderly woman tells her a touching story of love and loss. The story affects the bitter, hardened Zhou Ning so deeply that she is moved to an unprecedented act of courage and compassion on Taek Dae's behalf.

Author's note: This story was based on a real incident in Beijing when 44 North Koreans clambered over the fence at the Canadian Embassy in September, 2004. One of the would-be refugees was caught by Chinese police before he could make it over to freedom. The thought of what he endured seeing the rest of his group make it when he hadn't haunted me for a year before I finally sat down and wrote a story around it. Fences was included in an anthology called Romance For Life, edited by Lori L. Lake, and published as a fundraiser for breast cancer in February, 2006.

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[2004]

Grandmother's Cup was originally written for an anthology called The Milk of Human Kindness: Lesbian Authors Write about Mothers and Daughters, edited by Lori L. Lake, RCE, 2004. It tells of a daughter's coming out from her devout mother's point of view. It is also the story of four women; two mothers, fast friends for forty years, and their two daughters, who threaten to rupture that friendship when they fall in love.

Author's note: My own coming out at 42 to my devout mother was the inspiration for Grandmother's Cup, though in my case there were no accompanying dramatics. Despite her strong religious beliefs, my mom stepped far outside her comfort zone and became a staunch supporter of her eldest daughter's writing. That act of grace also underpins Grandmother's Cup.

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[2009]

Callie Ayrs, a Crown Attorney, needs to convince Jean Calder to meet with Frank Navarro, the convicted killer of Jean's wife, Hope Nichols. Navarro is willing to confess to at least six other murders, but only if Jean will have a face-to-face meeting and listen to what he insists on saying. Jean, whose life was shattered when Hope was stabbed to death, is infuriated by the request and refuses to even contemplate the possibility. She has lived only for vengeance since the night her beloved wife was taken from her. Callie, eager to close a difficult case, uses every trick in the book, and finally convinces Jean to agree to a meeting. What ensues as Jean faces Navarro across a table in a prison room is completely unexpected, but changes three lives.

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[2014]

Noe is happily going about her routine and relatively mundane life when she meets a very unusual woman one late Halloween night in a park. The lovely Aurelia Grant talks to spirits. Noe could handle that part, but she's not entirely sure how to deal with the fact that spirits apparently talk back to the enchanting stranger. Throw in Aurelia's crazy, witchy ex, and Noe should really just walk away while she can. But common sense has a way of flying out the window when love flies in. All Noe can do is hang on for the ride with fingers crossed for a safe landing.

Author's note: What's real? What's illusion? What's possible? What's crazy? It was a treat to take these concepts, mix in a healthy dose of romance, throw in a little eye of newt and a cauldron-stirring witch, shake it all up, and see what kind of seasonal 'trick' emerged.

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[2014]

This is a prequel that tells the story of how Lee and Dana, who figure prominently in my novels, Broken Faith and Walking the Labyrinth, first met and fell in love.

Author's Note: I often get attached to my characters and I'm reluctant to let them go, even though I know I'll grow just as attached to the next ones. But Lee and Dana are exceptional. They meet as mature women, raise Dana's son together, and endure a lot during the course of the years they spend as a couple. Readers of Walking the Labyrinth will know that they don't necessarily get their happily-ever-after, but their love story is moving and inspirational, and this is how it all started.

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[2004]

A bittersweet story of love lost in the intolerant early sixties, only to be found a half century later in a more enlightened era.

Author's note: This story came about because my wife wanted a happy ending to a novel called Murder Most Foul that I co-wrote years ago with C. Paradee. My co-author kindly gave me permission to take our characters and play with them, so I did, coming up with a much sweeter resolution to the story of Delia and Patricia.

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[2011]

Luce Sheppard is dealing with some serious health issues and a decision that has to be made, when she unexpected hosts a midnight visitor. Keira Keller, a distraught teenager, has lost her way home after discovering the boy she'd had a crush on with her best friend. Temporarily and gratefully distracted from her own woes, Luce steps in to help, and in the ensuing hours finds her own way.

Author's Note: As with so many of my stories, the idea for Midnight Messages was sparked by a real life occurrence. Like Luce, I once heard a young woman in distress walking the street outside my home at five a.m. When I went out to find out what was wrong, it turned out she was from a different city, and after a local party, hadn't been able to find where she and her friends were staying. In that instance, I loaded her in my car and drove around the streets until we found her destination, so her night had a happy ending. In my story, I chose to combine that incident with my own musings on an existential question: is it was ethical for someone who is diagnosed with a terminal disease NOT to fight it. We're all expected to explore every available measure if we get such a diagnosis, but some of them, like chemotherapy, are absolutely brutal. Do we have the moral right then to decline such measures, and live out the rest of our lives as we see fit? Or do we have an ethical duty to those who love us to fight to stay with them? Indeed, do we have a spiritual duty, based on the metaphysical assumption that we grow by being tested, to fight the good fight as long as there's breath in our body?

   
[2002]

Flying from Halifax to Toronto to visit her daughter and grandchildren for Christmas, Joan regrets leaving her long-time partner behind. However, her daughter has made it clear that she won't accept her mother's partner, and once every two years Joan takes the path of least resistance, leaving Corrie behind in Nova Scotia as she visits Toronto. But this flight will bring a dramatic change to all their lives, as a crisis drives home the fragility of life, the need to cherish those we love, and the true meaning of 'family.'

Author's note: Before I began driving the long commute between Calgary and Atlanta for six months at a time, I used to fly back and forth. On one memorable flight between my two homes, I sat beside a teenage boy who was literally incapable of sitting still. As I had an aisle seat, I had to move every time he wanted out of his window seat. The more my reading was interrupted, the more frustrated I got. Finally I put my book down and began to compose a story about this flight in my head. By the time we landed, the outline was complete and some of the details of the story, including my young seat mate and a mother and child across the aisle from me, are taken directly from that flight.

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[2007]

Delanie, an independent contractor, has been hired to work on a house that has been up for sale for two years, without so much as a nibble. Unbeknownst to Delanie, it is the tragic and bloody history of the house that drives potential buyers away. Her first day on the job, Del encounters the disembodied voice of a little girl. Terrified, she flees the house but, determined to finish the job for which she was hired, she musters her courage and returns. So begins the relationship between two souls who have walked very different, but equally difficult roads.

Author's note: This story was inspired by a country song called "Alyssa Lies," which is a heart wrenching tale of a child who is abused to death when no one intervenes to save her.

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[2012]

A sequel to Flea, this relates the Halloween adventure of a mischievous daughter of the Guardian faeries, Flea and Anemone.

Author's note: This story came about for two reasons. One, I excel at procrastination, and two, my wife loves carving pumpkins. She creates works of art out of the seasonal gourds, so as an October deadline loomed, I found inspiration from her craft.

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[2004]

Loneliness can be an unbearable burden. This is the story of a woman who plans a dire solution to her misery, until intervention comes in the form of one sleek and sexy GRD agent and a secret admirer who finally works up the nerve to be not-so-secret.

Author's note: To be honest, I was imagining Seven-of-Nine as Agent 713 - all sleek and silvery. Yes, I just outed myself as a long time Star Trek fan. I never saw the original series because my family didn't have TV until the first moon walk, but decades ago I frequently pulled the Sunday morning shift at the officer's mess when I was a lowly private posted in Ottawa. To pass the time - there weren't a lot of customers at those hours - I'd watch the original Star Trek on the mess TV. What can I say? I got hooked. But back to the story, I started with that image from Star Trek: Voyager, built my story around it, and had a little fun along the way.

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[2002]

The challenge was to write a Rod Serling style story in homage to Twilight Zone. Who hasn't fantasized now and again for their every wish to be granted? Rude explores what happens to one woman who ends up in that situation and the consequences of her deep-rooted disdain for incivility.

Author's note: I'm Canadian who lives half of each year in the States. My American wife believes I mostly adhere to the national stereotype of Canadians as a calm, polite people, but every now and then I'd love to have Jane's unexplained power...

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[2008]

Rayne had a very bad relationship with her mother-in-law, Everlene, mostly because when she realized she was gay, she divorced Everlene's only son. She's having an even worse relationship with Everlene's ghost, who pops in to haunt her at the worst possible moments. When Cayleigh Hunter joins Rayne's firm, things become even more problematic thanks to the nosy, aggravating ghost, but when Cayleigh asks Rayne out on a date, even the potential for Everlene-inspired disaster doesn't dissuade Rayne from accepting.

Author's note: A light-hearted bit of entertainment based on the nature of mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships and conceived while driving through Kentucky on my way to Atlanta late one night. Not that either of my mothers-in-law were anything like Everlene, of course.

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[2008]

Kris loves Sandy, her workaholic partner of 14 years, but lately she's been feeling very neglected. A trip to a local gym inspires Kris to take up climbing, both as a fitness challenge and as a way to feel again a passion that her long-term relationship seems to have lost. Enter a fit young instructor named Arden, who is eager to teach Kris all aspects of climbing. Will Kris' new-found ardour for the sport to extend to her climbing instructor?

Author's note: This story was inspired upon hearing a fascinating review of Richard Preston's The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring. The romance of climbing California's redwoods fused with the sometimes difficulty of keeping romance alive in a long-term, loving relationship and gave birth to Spider Lines. The beautiful, mountainous part of Canada that I call my northern home fleshed out the rest of the story.

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[2003]

Two lovers in a dystopian future are separated by borders and totalitarianism, yet battle overwhelming odds to be together and to fight for a better future.

Author's note: This is a much darker tale than my usual stories, though it is not without hope. It evolved from my border crossings in the year immediately after 9/11 when things got so much more difficult for the average traveller. I kept encountering an airport border guard who looked like Santa Claus, but seemed determined to keep me from the woman I love. I eventually solved that issue by driving the 4000 km to reach my love rather than flying, but I never forgot the impotence and helpless fury of a being singled out of line with no guarantees that this time he'd let me through. I had to stay calm then because he held all the power, but I let my residual anger fuel this story.

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[2010]

Hailey Anders has been hired as the live-in manager of an all-female resident hotel called The Peregrine. It's her dream job and will allow her to live in a desirable area of New York that she'd never be able to afford otherwise. But the true perquisite of the job is one long-time resident, an elderly lady who lives across the hall from Hailey's new abode. Miss Margaret Coulter is the elegant, caring heart and soul of The Peregrine, having lived there for over sixty years. The two women of different generations grow to be dear friends, and Miss Margaret eventually tells Hailey of her long-lost love, Mary Louise Elwood, aka: Billie. The story of Billie and Maggie affects Hailey deeply, and when Miss Margaret makes a request, Hailey is unable to refuse. That favour will lead Hailey in a most unexpected direction.

Author's note: This story was inspired by an article in The New York Times about all-female hotel residences. Like my m/c Hailey, I thought these were a relic of earlier days and no longer existed, but I could certainly understand the attraction of such a residence. The denouement of the story in Madison, WI, brings my characters together in one of my favourite cities, which also happens to be my wife's home base.

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[2004]

After a devastating romantic betrayal Dawn struggles to pick up the pieces of her heart. It's been sixteen years since she was last single, and the rules and regulations of a new dating world baffle her. But at her most pessimistic point, fate steps in and gives this Thursday's child a second chance.

Author's note: This story grew out of a friend's heartbreak over being callously cheated on and dumped by her long-time partner. But as did Dawn, she recovered and found love again. I do like happy endings.

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[2005]

Torie Khadimi is a war correspondent for BBC News. Along with her close friend and cameraman, Kenny, she is reporting from Baghdad on the eve of the country's first post-invasion election. It's a time when the streets are hugely dangerous for anyone, let alone western reporters. So when she's offered a chance to interview for a CNN job in Atlanta, Torie jumps at it. Though Atlanta is the home of her father and stepmother, as well as her younger half-brothers, it isn't her family she longs for. It's a woman named Tambre, whom she grew up with and fell in love with, many years before. Until now, Torie's career has always taken precedence over relationships of any kind, but weary of the continual danger and erratic nature of her life, Torie just wants to go home. She knows Tambre has been with another woman for many years, and she doesn't plan to disturb that relationship, but a chance meeting leads to an explosive reunion between the two old friends.

Author's note: Atlanta, where my wife lives and works, is my Southern home for six months of every year. This story grew out of a visit to Centennial Park (commemorating the Atlanta Olympics) on a cold November day, when my wife and I strolled through the park and read the inscriptions on the bricks making up the pathways, even finding a couple that had been sponsored by people from my Canadian birthplace.

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[2008]

This is a brief, first person narrative. The reader never learns the protagonists' names, but does learn of their deep love and commitment to each other in a time when it was dangerous to openly acknowledge their unlawful love. It is a story of passion, growth, sorrow, and ultimately finding the inner strength to step up when a loved one is forced to step down.

Author's note: This story was originally written as a submission for Read These Lips: Volume Two - Second Helpings, edited and published by Evecho and Linda Lorenzo (June 2008) It is a deeply personal story for me. My late husband, stepfather, and mother-in-law have all suffered varying degrees of dementia, and I know there are few homes that have not been touched by this scourge. And still, I believe in the power of love to ameliorate even this most dreadful of afflictions, and that is the story I wrote.

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