Jody Valley Debuts LGBT Novel Set in Michigan

By Shelby Clark

Michigan-based author, Jody Valley, has just released her debut novel, A Venomous Cocktail, the story of a lesbian war veteran named Kera who returns to a fictional west Michigan town. Kera is then faced with the turmoil of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), unrequited love, a right-wing identical twin sister, and a town who wants to take away her rights.

The book blends mystery, suspense, and romance as Kera Van Brocklin returns home for her father's funeral. The soldier finds her hometown in chaos as LGBT activists push for civil rights against a mysterious "citizens" group that stops them at every turn.

Unable to stay out of the fray, Kera must tackle the issues in her town in addition to facing her feelings for her old friend, Mandy, and the tension of dealing with her sister, Deirdre.The plot thickens as a brutal murder occurs, leaving Kera as the prime suspect.

Valley, a former social worker specializing in LGBT counseling, had retired for several years when she decided to start writing the book. She was no stranger to the written word, having worked on a BTL column for over a decade.

Valley began writing while she and her partner, Elaine, were taking care of their first grandchild and Valley's aunt. Facing multiple tasks was difficult for the author: "For a long time, my writing took a back seat to these responsibilities. There would be long gaps in time when I couldn't work on the novel, slowing the process down. When I'd get back to writing, I would have to reacquaint myself with my work. However, even when I was busy with caretaking, I felt like I lived in and worked on my novel much of the time."

Valley found herself thinking specifically about her protagonist, Kera, often. Coupled with inspiration from her past, Valley was able to write a complex novel.

"My protagonist and her sister are identical twins. Years ago, I knew female identical twins: one heterosexual, one involved with a woman. Being a clinical social worker, I found identical twins with different sexuality very interesting," Valley says.

"In my book, the twin issue is relevant, but more of subplot. However, the idea of knowing these twins is what inspired my book. The twins [in the book] aren't anything like the ones I knew long ago, nor does my book have any similarities with their lives. Just the idea of identical twins having different sexual orientations inspired me."

The writer's background in clinical work also helped shape the book. "Having a social work background certainly helps me to know about human nature, what people do, what people say, and understand the various ways people deal with their lives in adversity," admits Valley.

"Family stress is part of everyone's life, and is often worked on in counseling, so I've dealt with family and many life issues with clients. I've counseled people who've experienced PTSD, so I know their struggle as well."

So far, the book has sold very quickly at Schuler Books and Music in Lansing, with positive feedback. Fans of the book have already made comments on Facebook about loving the work. Valley is understandably pleased.

Publishing had fortunately proved to be a smooth task. "I didn't try to sell my novel to anyone other than an LGBT publisher. I was lucky. I picked the publishing company (Bella Books) that I wanted to handle the book the most, and they accepted," says the author.

Valley is currently editing her sequel to the novel, called The Mark of Satan. Including both old and new faces from the world of A Venomous Cocktail, the book deals with the frequent misunderstandings of pagan religions, specifically Wicca. A yet-to-be-titled third book, to be set in both Michigan and Alaska, is in the works.

A Venomous Cocktail can currently be found at Schuler Books and Music, 2820 Towne Center Blvd., Lansing. They can be reached at 517-316-7495 or by visiting www.schulerbooks.com. The store will host a wine and cheese reception for Valley's book at 7 p.m. on Jan. 22.

The novel can also be ordered by request at other local bookstores.

To learn more about Jody Valley and her book, visit www.bellabooks.com or find her on Facebook.

For more information on events surrounding Valley's book release, visit BTL's calendar at http://www.pridesource.com/calendar.html.

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