AIDS, Partner Loss, and the Spooky Ghost Lesfic

My current work in progress doesn’t have a title. Originally, it was called Strange Bedfellows, a title that made sense when the concept was about men forced to share an apartment together. This year, I decided to write it as book about lesbians, including the ghost of a woman who spent the 1980s AIDS epidemic offering care and comfort to men suffering and dying. Yes, I said “ghost” – it’s a light paranormal in which a benevolent spirit helps a lonely woman find her true love. That’s why the working title is “Spooky Ghost Lesfic.”

I know, it’s dreadful. I’ll make sure it has a good title before anything happens to the manuscript.

This came up when I googled “spooky ghost.” The book isn’t as scary as this at all. In fact, parts are comedic.

This book, like my royal romance The Queen Has a Cold, is ultimately happy and allows two people who may not initially seem right for each other to find love and fulfillment together. And also like The Queen, the story is complicated by intrigue that goes far beyond the romance. When I left off working on it during NaNoWriMo, the main character, Kara, had moved to Chicago after a year of grieving for a partner who had died of cancer. Unfortunately, she moved to an apartment haunted by the spirit of a former resident, Barb. Kara has to figure out what’s keeping Barb’s spirit from moving on to the next world. In the course of investigating the paranormal, the history of the apartment, and Barb’s personal life, Kara learns how difficult it was for someone to be out in the 1980s and how public health policies failed a community of men infected with HIV, who succumbed to AIDS-related complications sometimes under the care of the lesbian women who were willing to tend to them in the spirit of solidarity for the community.

This last part is something that is historically true and fascinates me. The Blood Sisters, for instance, were communities of women who organized blood drives, since AIDS patients often needed transfusions and since gay men (regardless of their HIV status) were banned from donating blood. (Men who have sex with other men are today still not allowed to donate blood if they are currently sexually active, regardless of the safety of their sexual practices and regardless of the fact that HIV affects people of all genders and sexualities. This is a rule in place by the FDA.) Lesbians also organized food banks for suffering men and provided nursing when they could. Many LGBTQ historians cite the AIDS epidemic as a turning point in relations between gay men and lesbians, who had not viewed themselves as a singular community before this.

Women marching in an ACT UP protest for health care and research for AIDS.

What does all this have to do with a contemporary romance about two single women in Chicago? There’s so much to learn from LGBTQ history, and as the characters delve into the past, they gain greater appreciation for their lives and their comparative freedom. Barb’s experience working with dying AIDS patients means she’s able to help Kara see the ways her grief hasn’t fully been processed. In turn, Barb’s struggle with her family back in the 1980s makes Kara appreciate every precious second she’s able to be out, alive, and sharing love. It propels her to take action on her blossoming romance with another former resident of the apartment – this one very much alive.

Right now, the book has many threads that are nearly tied up. As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m a plotter, so I do know how it’s all going to sort out and finish, though I need more time to accomplish that. But as I said in my previous NaNo posts, the characters in this book threw some surprises at me last month, so there are some details I hadn’t planned at all – like Barb being from the 1980s – that require more time and research. And truthfully? I love that.

The spooky ghost lesfic remains a work in progress, but I’ll update you if that changes. In the meantime, my first book, The Holiday Detour, is available everywhere, and my royal romance, The Queen Has a Cold, is currently in editing for April release.

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