Sunday, February 27, 2011

Waiting for Release

Well, release isn't actually right since it's not me personally who's  going to be released. My story is; my very first piece of writing will be published by Dreamspinner Press by March 16th, 2011.
Yet, waiting for this to happen still feels like a weight on me. Unfortunately, however urgently I wait won't make the day arrive sooner... *grins*

From what I've heard, the REALLY hard part comes after the release. Waiting for the reviews. Sucking up the bad ones. Jumping from joy at the good ones. Sitting in the corner, biting my nails, hoping that someone, ANYONE will review my story AT ALL, since this means that someone actually read it...
Going to learn how all this feels. I'm looking forward to it in a way...but wanting to hide in a corner at the same time.
Valium, anyone?
However, here it is:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Review: The Immortals

The ImmortalsThe Immortals by Victor J Banis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Strictly speaking, Jason and Peter don't have overly much in common. Peter is a male model and actor, extroverted, flamboyant and loud in everything he does, and also a little superficial, keen on appearances, and quite well-off. Jason goes to school during the days and flips burgers at night; he's more the introverted type, a bookworm and art lover, and thinks of himselve as average and a bit of a bore. So Jason can't help wondering how Peter came to find so much of a fancy in him, and in such a short time, since they've been together for only a few weeks when Peter asks him to move in together. But Peter insists that he loves Jason, and Jason thinks he loves him back, because

"...Peter was a catch, there was no denying that. You couldn’t not love a catch, especially if you’re the catcher."

On that note, Jason allows Peter to make the decisions for both of them without putting up much of a fight. He even agrees to move in with Peter's father, although he's quite scared of Alders, who's as ugly as Peter is pretty and apparently disapproves of his son's choice in companion. But Peter isn't only sure of himself but also convinced he knows what's best for both of them, an so he just sweeps Jason along without asking.

Due to some problems with his school, Jason finds himself with nothing to do and more or less stuck with Alders for his only company since Peter is off at work the whole day. As the days pass by, Jason discovers that there's more to Alders than his ugly face and his trim, fit body. Companionship turns into friendship and slowly, gradually becomes more than that.

It takes Peter a long time to realize that there's something not quite right with his and Jason's relationship. It seems natural, at first, that they would slowly drift apart, with Peter wrapped up in his work and Jason spending so much time with Alders on literature, art, and culture, things which Peter never cared for in the first place. But once Peter notices there is something wrong, he goes about setting things back to right the way he always did, with making decisions for both of them without asking Jason's opinion. It had worked fine so far, why shouldn't it this time? Well, Peter forgot that there was now someone else in the picture too, and this one was a force he'd better taken into consideration before it was too late...

This short story was a fine little piece of enjoyment to me. The writing was great. Smooth, flawless, funny and tongue-in cheek, but with just the right amount of seriousness to keep the story from being superficial. Although there was barely any on-page sex, the story oozed eroticism. And for only under 30 pages, the characterizations were awesome. Jason, Peter and Alders had nothing in common with the unfortunately often prevailing perfect-in every-aspect heroes; neither of those three men was, which made them all the more real and dear to me. Alders, in particular - to me he had some serious Mediterranean macho man charm. While it felt a bit put-on with Peter, the attitude and self-confidence just came naturally to Alders. He didn't have to steamroller Jason, he just needed to be himself - and he allowed Jason space without abandoning him and still kept Jason close without smothering him. Although we only get to hear Peter's and Jason's narrative voices, Alders is actually the best-drawn character. The author uses the narrative for characterization, giving Peter much room and stage time and letting Jason fade a little to the background where he feels most at home. I found this brilliant. The plot broke the familiar pattern of romance in an refreshing, cheeky way which I enjoyed greatly. My only complaint was that this story was too short, though; I'd have loved to see a little more drama after the dropping of the bomb.

I can see clearly why some readers might dislike this story and/or its characters. This story has some elements which generally aren't looked upon overly favorably in general: an apparently weak and gullible hero, a relationship breaker of sorts, something some might consider cheating, and an ending some might find less than satisfying. I couldn't help myself, though: I loved it. Capital L.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Review: Threadbare

ThreadbareThreadbare by Clare London

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Edward, a Victorian textile mill owner, has some ideas his compatriots think rather quirky. For example, he doesn’t employ children, and he provides basic healthcare for his workers, an almost unheard-of generosity. Although he can’t become rich that way, the quality of his fabrics is beyond debate, and his workers like working for him. His mill even attracts a group of somewhat secretive, unusually skilled foreigners who keep themselves separate from the other workers, but create the most impeccable cloths.

When one of those foreigners dies in an awful accident, Edward gets to know the group’s leader, Mori. Edward, who has put aside his romantic and carnal needs for the sake of the mill, finds himself strangely attracted to the beautiful stranger, to a point where he can’t help kissing the young man. He even goes one step further, inviting Mori to spend the night at his home. One thing leads to the next, and soon Mori is living with Edward, sharing his house and his bed, and Edward finds himself in love with Mori. Although he’s sure Mori loves him back, he can’t help wondering at his young lover. Mori often gets up during the night to work at a mysteriously beautiful tapestry which he says belongs to his entire group, with him being its keeper. When he comes back into Edward’s bed, he’s usually voracious for sex, which Edward doesn’t mind, quite the contrary. Edward finds his life enrichened and lightened by Mori, to a point where he can’t imagine being without Mori anymore, no matter what people might think of him.

Mori, though, doesn’t come alive on the pages. As well as we get to know Edward, his thoughts and motivations, Mori remains distant, strange, an enigma. Their love feels one-sided, with Mori merely playing along, pliantly and obediently following Edward around while he goes about his goal and purpose: weaving his tapestry. Everything Mori does revolves around his tapestry, Mori’s only purpose and the reason why he is with Edward seems to be his weaving, preserving it, working on it, completing it. The only time when Mori shows initiative is in bed, but this has also always to do with his tapestry, since he’s usually the most lecherous after working on it.

As the members of Mori’s group fall ill and die one after the other, the colors on their tapestry grow fewer and fewer until only Mori’s own silvery thread remains. Although Mori, thanks to Edward’s loving care, is as healthy and well-fed as any young man can be, he becomes more desperate day after day, with his tapestry as well as in bed, as if he was running out of time. Edward spends more and more time with Mori and less in the mill, bewildered and scared by Mori’s strange behavior, yet willing to do everything in his powers to protect Mori, even from himself. But will it ever be enough?

I can’t reveal more of the plot in order to avoid spoilers, but I have to say, this story wasn’t the usual m/m romance. I’m not even sure I’d label it as romance at all, although it was sure the story of a deep, lasting and all-consuming love. In fact, putting a label to this story gave me a hard time; “gay themed romantic literary fiction” comes closest, I guess. “Threadbare” reminded me of some works by Romantics I read back in school , Novalis, for example, or the young Goethe – a tragic, fated love, very sad, very mysterious, bizarre and yet so beautiful.

Don’t expect a “normal” historical m/m romance, for this “Threadbare” is not. Although I must admit I didn’t particularly like this story in itself, I must also clearly take off my hat to the author’s poetic, skillful writing and to her courage in setting about to publish such a story.

Threadbare can be recommended for those who are open to new and unusual experiences and don’t mind untraditional endings.

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

For whom are you writing?

I used to think I wrote for myself, just to please me. But even when I still did and had no hope anyone would ever be interested in the outpour of my imagination, I knew I was deceiving myself. Stories have been told from the beginning of time, but always TO someone. What good would it be if all those words just disappeared into nothingness? Once upon a time I used to tell stories to myself. They're gone now, those tales, and sometimes I miss them deeply, remembering parts of them but not all. Like a piece of music you've heard, you recall a couple of notes, some chords, and you know you liked that song, but for the life of you you can't sing it anymore.
I don't want my words lost once I'm gone. They may be meaningless for the greater whole, and they may not move a lot, but they're mine.
So now, after I've found someone liked my story enough to buy it, someone thought my story worth of distributing farther? I'm pleased, and a little awed. The other night I woke up thinking: "I've written a book. An entire book. Wow!"
Not that this is a big deal to those out there who wrote ten, or fifty. But even Stephen King, even Josh Lanyon, even Karl May or Edgar Wallace or any other of those awesomely prolific writers out there must have been at that point where I'm now.

I don't want to write for myself anymore. I write for those who like it.  Now I'm going to have to face the next step, Rejection.
Over time, I've met people on the 'net whose opinion I value greatly, people who I consider "friends" of sorts. It's them I write for, and if they find something wrong with my writing, they tell me so politely and reasonably and I'll take their critic for what it is, constructive, and try to do better by them. But what about strangers?

It's that thing with separating the writing from the person. With any kind of work, really. If you do something you like, produce something you're proud of, and then find your work rejected by strangers, it's hard not to take this personally. As a reviewer, and a writer, I think I know the difference, and still I catch myself tripping over that issue. For example, I reviewed a book a while ago which I didn't like, for whatever reason. I tried to explain in my review why this particular book didn't work for me, and that the review reflected but my opinion. Later, though I found out the author in question talked down on me as a person. Not my review, not my opinion, me. Hello? You don't know me, and I don't know you. I might or might not like you as a person, and still criticise your work if you asked me to and I found something to criticise. I found myself scowling a that author for that, and yes, I found myself consequently prejudiced about his writing. Id' be likewise wary if someone praised me as a person only because I loved his writing and said so in a review. I'm not my writing, and neither are you. So if someone can't discern between me and my writing or, even worse, between himself and his writing, I can't help wondering what this person's problem is. People can say about my writing whatever they want, maybe they're right, maybe not, as long as they leave my person out of it. That's what I think.
I try, at least. Remains to be seen how cool I can be when the first reviews on Desert Falcon come in...
Perhaps I'll indeed be sitting alongside Amy and Marie in the Crazy Tree, needy to feel loved by strangers who I don't care at all for otherwise through them loving my writing, or likewise feeling devastated and unloved if people give me a piece of their disapproving mind. I pray I'll be able to discern....

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Review: Perfect Score

Perfect ScorePerfect Score by Susan Roebuck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Alex and Sam first meet, Alex is a bored rich brat waiting in his uncle’s fancy car, and Sam is a ragged street kid collecting cardboard. Even during this first scene, their characterization starts, in an amazingly subtle and yet unmistakable way: Alex is a dreamer who waits passively for what life dishes out for him, shaping what plays before his eyes until it meets his own perception and the way he wants his world to be. Sam is a doer, going about an impossible task like pulling a cart that is heavier than he simply because it’s a thing that needs to be done, radiating a stubborn determination to make his world accomodate his needs, if not this way, then another. What amazed me most was how I, the reader, learned these facts about the boys. All the information was conveyed in the tone of Alex’s voice, his thoughts and the way he perceived Sam – and I was hooked from the start. The narrative was “showing, not telling” to perfection, and not only during the first paragraph, but kept up through the entire book. It continued in the chapter-wise change of perspective. Alex, formally educated and articulate, tells his parts from his first person point of view. Sam’s parts are narrow third person, which fits him since Sam is almost barred from normal social interactions by his speaking and writing disability, and communicates mostly through his actions.

After their first encounter, Sam’s and Alex’s ways part for several years. Although they move in entirely different circles, there is still a connection. Sam, who has long forgotten about the rich boy, unwittingly works for Alex’s mother and stepfather and also butts heads several times with Alex’s uncle Timothy Finch. In contrast, Sam stars in Alex’s imagination for years, first as Alex’s invisible friend and later as his dream lover, although Alex doesn’t know the first thing about Sam and is sure he won’t never meet him again. Still, when Alex learns that Sam is right there at his stepfather’s ranch, he spares no effort to leave an impression with the shy, taciturn laborer. I kept turning pages, impatient for them to get back together, always kept on the edge by the fact that any little twist of fate could bring them further apart. When they finally meet again, it is pure coincidence and yet inevitable since Sam’s hut on the ranch of Alex’s stepfather is the place where their own decisions have taken them, although Uncle Tim with his deeds of darkness unconsciously and certainly unintentionally pushed them along.

The characters are incredibly complex; I’ve hardly ever come across two so flawed and tortured heroes. Alex in particular isn’t easy to take to. For a big portion of the book, I alternately pitied him or held him in contempt. He’s the very example of the “poor rich boy”, grown up with all his worldly needs met and still so loveless and lonely that he must resort to an invisible friend for company. Cowering before his uncle, afraid almost of his own shadow, Alex nevertheless cheats his way around the business class his uncle wants him to take, studying music instead, since all he ever wanted to be is a musician. Selfish to a fault, gullible, sly and weak before his uncle’s oppressive personality, Alex still goes about his goal secretively, almost casually becoming a singer/songwriter superstar in the process. And Alex never wavers in his love for Sam. It’s beautiful to see how after a long and painful process of growing up he finally finds, with Sam’s help, the inner and outer strength to take charge of his own life.

Sam, on the other hand, is an incredible person I fell in love with on the spot. Running away from an abusive stepfather at age seven, he was used to fighting for his life every day. Forced to fend for himself with hard bodily work since he was twelve, Sam gathered enormous knowledge about chemistry, pharmacy, herb medicine, farming, animal husbandry almost in passing, making him a self-taught practical universal genius. But he stutters so badly that he can barely communicate, and he is dyslexic, both facts making him a retard in the eyes of his contemporaries. Thus he is denied approval and even reward for his achievements, which makes him distrustful against almost everybody. He trusts and loves only his physically handicapped sister, who he has saved from a state-owned asylum and put into a private nursing home which he pays for all on his own. In turn, his sister loves him back unconditionally and trusts him blindly. Alex is the only person who manages to get behind Sam’s thick walls; it’s Alex’s music which first melts Sam’s heart, and later Alex’s brash refusal to accept Sam’s rejection, Alex’s blind, mad love for him. Slowly, gradually Sam comes to care for Alex and to trust him, to a point where he finally manages to accept Alex’s help and to lean on him. Those two were fated to be together against all odds, those two dysfunctional men who compliment each other in a way that neither makes sense alone.

But not only the main characters, also the secondary cast were distinguishable, well-elaborated characters. Even Alex’s uncle Tim, a psychopath if there ever was one, was given character traits and motivations which, although they didn’t exculpate him, at least made his actions understandable. And I totally loved Sam’s sister Amy, who is as stubborn and determined as her brother at three times the sass.

Perfect Score isn’t an easy read. It’s set during a hard time, in the late 1960′s, and people’s lives were hard back then. The narrative voices, either Alex’s or Sam’s, make no big deal of the hardships, though. Things are as they are. People get drunk and kill other people, children get abused or become disabled due to poverty and poor healt care. The poor die early, the strong feed off the weak, and money makes everything possible. The intensity comes with the factual tone of voice, and the realism brought me right in the middle of Silver Creek, anywhere. Hints and references at the time, like musicians, clothes, hairstyles, mannerisms of speech further added to the timely feeling. I was there with them, on the pastures and in the cow barns, in the dingy bars and smoke-filled clubs. I suffered with both Sam and Alex through their darkest hours and rose with them to their bright, shining future.

Read the full review at

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's happening!

My first short story, Desert Falcon, has entered the editing queue. Boy, am I nervous!