Femme Noir: A Visit with Clara Nipper

Femme  Noir 300 DPI (3)

I was thirty-five the year I started drinking gin. It’s not a pretty story and I don’t come off smelling like a rose, but it’s time to tell it. With a story like this, gin is the only thing astringent enough to clean the dirt from my mouth. Gin is snappy and crisp and washes away my sins, at least for the night. I love everything about gin, but maybe that’s because my love affair with it is new. The smell of it is a cold wintry tang in the nose; the look of it is hard and clear like liquid diamonds and that’s sort of deceptive because the taste of it is smooth and sweet yet sharp too like a beautiful woman with a knife. Gin slides down my throat like an ice snake. It’s bitter and oily, wavering in the glass like a silver mirror, and when it is a mirror is when I drink most. I’ll take it any way-neat, a shot, on the rocks, in a martini, in a Tom Collins or a fizz, with stupid fruit draped all over the glass, I don’t care. But my favorite way to drink it is with tonic because it reminds me of Her. I got the idea that gin is a disinfectant like hydrogen peroxide and if I drink enough, it will boil out the infection, which is this story I must tell.

I found I’m a woman of excesses. I love cigarettes, I love gin, I love women and I love winning, all to a fault. I was born for trouble without knowing it and that is the worst kind. Suddenly, I’ve found that sometimes, a woman must drink alone.

So I was forty-five the year I started drinking gin. It all started one day with a call from my ex.



The ringing was insistent, urgent. Nora let herself into her apartment as quickly as she could because nobody calls at 4 am with good news. She flicked on a light and ran for the phone, a heavy, corded black dial phone that Nora loved for its old-fashioned rebelliousness.

“Yeah?” Nora’s voice was hoarse from lack of sleep. Karen’s appetite for Nora was insatiable. Nora shrugged off the sweaty t-shirt and damp cotton shorts she wore to and from Karen’s house. She never needed regular clothes there and felt it was too much bother to dress up just to go to her and come home. Underneath, she was nude.

“Nora?” the voice was crackly and scared and chillingly familiar. Michelle.

“What the hell do you want?

“Nora, I’m sorry to call so late…to call at all-“ static blocked her voice.

“Yeah, you have some nerve.” Nora wanted a cigarette badly. She needed to suck one to ash in two seconds flat. She made it out of Karen’s clutch without one and now, Nora had to have that dry hot taste to return her to herself. Sex took it out of her in a way that only cigarettes could restore. Plus, she needed to be soothed for this conversation. She spied a pack across the room. “Hold on!” she barked as she put the phone down and dove for the pack. She crumpled it and moaned. Empty. She smelled her hands with Karen’s ripeness coating them. She licked her lips. She picked up her wadded shorts, now a wilted pile of color and checked the pockets. Nothing. After years without, Nora needed a shot. A shot of something. Maybe tequila. She also needed a shower and some sleep. She needed a wife to come in and clean up this place and maybe do some laundry and ironing. She padded back to the phone wearily.

“-need you!” Michelle pleaded when Nora returned.

“I can’t help you no matter what you need,” Nora told her recent ex acidly. Nora found some wooden matches, her preferred method of lighting cigarettes and flicked one after another with her thumbnail. She felt the tiny fire was comforting, as if she were about to have a cigarette. Like the promise of foreplay. The flaming match told her that there would be eventual satisfaction. Was it possible to get a sudden ulcer? Maybe she should go back to Karen’s where there was beer to smooth this sudden craving, plenty of hot water, clean towels and sheets, all the cigarettes she could smoke, and of course, Karen. Karen’s cool, cocoa arms around her all night.

Static. “-please!” Static. Nora angrily banged the receiver against the table, taking mean pleasure in possibly hurting Michelle’s ears. She flicked more matches, savoring the smell.

“After these few months, don’t you have someone else to call?” Nora demanded.

“It has to be you. Only you can help. I need you to—“ static.

“What? What do you need?” Nora scraped one calf with her other big toe.

Crackling and hissing. “—trouble. Bad.”

“What sort of trouble?” Nora was perversely enjoying this drama, so it never occurred to her to get Michelle to call back for a clearer connection. The more inconvenienced Michelle was, the better Nora felt. After all, Michelle was with someone else and living in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Nora was in Los Angeles, completely free and not obligated to lift a finger to save Michelle from her persistent destructive foolishness.



1. How did you get started writing lesbian fiction?
I’ve always been a writer, so it was a natural transition after discovering I was Bi.
2. I write because…I can’t not write.
3. Heels or flats? I’m a total shoe whore and heel lover, but skating roller derby has forced me to wear sensible shoes that are foot-healthy.
4. What kind of characters do you most like to write about and why? I enjoy writing about gutsy, edgy people who are fearless in the world because I envy that. I am polite and well-mannered to a fault and always long to be more outspoken and candid, but one cannot keep a day job or get along with coworkers in the most backward red state in the nation without smiling, wearing pearls and keeping my views to myself.
5. Tell us a little about your new release. I don’t have one yet. I am working on a moody coming-of-age novel entitled At My Mother’s Table and another Tulsa-based murder mystery entitled Murder on the Rocks.
6. Name three things on your desk right now. Purring cat, cold Dew and computer.
7. What are some of your favorite lesbian fiction authors? Sarah Waters and Jeannette Winterson.
8. Favorite dessert? Grape popsicles.
9. Plotter or pantster? Pantster.
10. What are you working on now? An article about roller derby burnout.
11. Tell us one thing about you that most people don’t know. I am not sure how much people know or what they know; so this may or may not be news: deeply committed atheist vegetarian. Yeah, I live in Oklahoma. Try to imagine that hell for a minute.
Guest post:
Cookies and Why They Are Amazing-
Cookies are amazing because they make people happy. They are created from simple, authentic ingredients that are food for the soul. I have a dessert company, Andy’s Candies, and I make several flavors: chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate chip with black raspberry glaze, three kinds of oatmeal, peanut butter, lemon sugar and snickerdoodles. Making cookies gives me a deep sense of joy and accomplishment and I always have too many, so I burden the coworkers at my day job with the supply. The act of creation is the same whether it is a delicious sentence or a  sensual snickerdoodle that says everything I wish it to say. Their intention is also the same: to connect and delight others. That’s why cookies are amazing.
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“I was thirty-six when I left the big city for the Big Easy. They say New Orleans is like a woman, beautiful, deceitful and deadly. All I know is, I had to leave Los Angeles on the run and The Crescent City beckoned like a broad on her back.”  In the sequel to Femme Noir, Nora Delaney has returned to her job as a college basketball coach in Los Angeles and due to a series of lost games and constant drinking, Nora beats up a rival coach on national television and is fired. She flees to a tiny town outside New Orleans where her cousin Ellis Delaney and his wife live. They take her in and put her to work in Ellis’ pawn shop and Nora meets Cleo Sweetleaf, who becomes a mentor and a second father. While Nora takes stock of her life, her everlasting hunger for strange causes trouble from sunup to sundown. When Cleo is murdered, Nora is drawn into solving the crime to get revenge. But Nora, left beaten and bleeding in an alley, may not solve the mystery alive.



Clara Nipper writes fiction and blogs-www.claranipper.org. When not writing, she makes desserts, http://www.andyscandies.biz and enlarges her certified wildlife habitat gardens. Her two murder mysteries (Femme Noir and Kiss of Noir) have been published by Bold Strokes Books and are available at their website: www.boldstrokesbooks.com and on Amazon.com. She is a contributor to local publications: This Land Press www.thilsandpress.com and the Tulsa Voice. Clara also skates for Tulsa Derby League under the derby name Cat Owta Hell. With two Rollercons, countless clinics and boot camps under her jamming belt, it is safe to say it’s derby until death for this Jammer Assassin. Outside the rink, she has had roller derby articles published in Five on Five Magazine-www.fiveonfivemag.com, Hit and Miss Magazine-www.hitandmissmagazine.com.au/, USARS Magazine, Lead Jammer Magazine- http://www.leadjammermag.com, Blood and Thunder and Derbylife.com. Currently, her works in progress are two coming of age novels and another Tulsa-based murder mystery entitled, Murder on the Rocks. Find Clara at her website, on Facebook, Twitter (@mindybendy), Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Linked In, Amazon Author Pages, Good Reads, Derby Social, Word Press and at the farmer’s market.

www.claranipper.org, www.catowtahell.com, http://www.andyscandies.

Facebook.com/clara.nipper and facebook.com/pages/cat-owta-hell

Twitter: @mindybendy, Good Reads: claranipper

Instagram: claranipper, Pinterest: pinterest.com/catowtahell/

Tumblr: Catowtahell, Linked In: Clara Nipper

Derby Social: Cat Owta Hell, WordPress.com: Clara Nipper

Amazon Author Pages: amazon.com/claranipper, amazon.com/author/www.claranipper.org

Countdown to the Body Love music video and the launch of the Body Love Campaign!! Boom.


This artist makes my heart swell with pride and happiness. She has taken trauma and give us all a voice. We are more than the sum of our parts.

Mary Lambert Sings

Dear citizens of the universe (and beyond) (like bed bath and beyond) (but actually not at all like bed bath and beyond),

I’m releasing the Body Love music video in one week.

I decided to launch The Body Love campaign in conjunction with the anticipation of the video starting today. Every day on my Instagram, I will focus on a part of my body that I embrace, and offer you to do the same- posting a picture with it, hashtags, and a description that will automatically post to the Body Love Campaign website. Your empowerment and strength can be a tool for others. I believe we can build each other up.  I think self love is one of the most important and potentially culture-shifting movements that is happening and can be propelled. I was inspired by Denise Jolly’s “Be Beautiful” project, and Sonya Renee’s  “The Body is Not an…

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