Monthly Archives: December 2016

30Dec/16

Review of Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists by Angel Martinez

The heavenly Angel Martinez is a regular visitor to the WROTE Podcast, and a prolific writer of sci-fi fiction. To find out more about Angel and get links to her work, check out her latest interview with us. Episode 079: Flash Fiction Takes Flight!

REVIEW

Taro has recently won the lottery, and with his winnings has invested in several properties around the world. As he travels, familiarising himself with his new circumstances, he becomes aware of strange happenings in the night. Every morning, the mess he has made during the day is conveniently tidied away. When these events follow him from property to property, he is driven to enlist a ghost hunter to help him either solve the mystery, or prove that he needs psychiatric help.

When Jack Montrose appears, he isn’t the hero Taro hopes for, but a gangly eccentric who is just as strange as the turn Taro’s life has taken. Their awkward friendship is hilariously realised as Jack becomes Taro’s travelling companion, and attempts to understand why these strange events keep happening.

This book was a treat from start to finish. I instantly liked Taro, whose unexpected good fortune leads him way out of his comfort zone. And Jack, the eccentric genius, was a memorable character; sweet, awkward and brilliant, bruised from an abruptly ended relationship and wary of being hurt again.

Everything was unpredictable, including the story taking me to some very unexpected places. The author has obviously researched each destination, but has not fallen into the trap of sounding like a travel blog. The answer, when it is discovered, is delightful. I can’t say any more than that without massive spoilers.

This was a highly entertaining and intelligent read, with enough science to satisfy geeks and a sparkle of magic and a dash of folklore. Chemistry fizzed between the two MC’s, but it wasn’t laboured at all, and Taro’s sexuality was dealt with, subtly and sensitively. The whole thing just worked from start to finish. It wasn’t a long read (36,000 words) but for me it was just the right length. A fun-packed read that punches way above its weight. 

23Dec/16

Jeff Mann – Southern Charm

December 23, 2016

It gives us great pleasure to announce Jeff Mann as the guest on episode 091: Southern Charm!

This week Jeff Mann joins the show to talk about his journey from poetry through creative non-fiction and balancing gay identity with Southern/Appalachian identity.

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Bio:

Jeff Mann grew up in Covington, Virginia, and Hinton, West Virginia, receiving degrees in English and forestry from West Virginia University. His poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in many publications, including Arts and Letters, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, Willow Springs, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, Crab Orchard Review, and Appalachian Heritage.

He has published three award-winning poetry chapbooks, Bliss, Mountain Fireflies, and Flint Shards from Sussex; five full-length books of poetry, Bones Washed with Wine, On the Tongue, Ash: Poems from Norse Mythology, A Romantic Mann, and Rebels; two collections of personal essays, Edge: Travels of an Appalachian Leather Bear and Binding the God: Ursine Essays from the Mountain South; three novellas, Devoured, included in Masters of Midnight: Erotic Tales of the Vampire,Camp Allegheny, included in History’s Passion: Stories of Sex Before Stonewall, and The Saga of Einar and Gisli, included in On the Run: Tales of Gay Pursuit and Passion; four novels, Fog: A Novel of Desire and Reprisal, which won the Pauline Réage Novel Award, Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War, which won a Rainbow Award, Cub, and Salvation: A Novel of the Civil War; a book of poetry and memoir, Loving Mountains, Loving Men; and two volumes of short fiction, Desire and Devour: Stories of Blood and Sweat and A History of Barbed Wire, which won a Lambda Literary Award.

In 2013, he was inducted into the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival Hall of Fame. He teaches creative writing at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

 

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22Dec/16

Review of Strawberries and other Erotic Fruits, by Jerry. L. Wheeler

Recently, we had the fruity Jerry L. Wheeler on the show, revealing all. Find out more about Jerry and get links to his work on Episode 082: Work For It!

REVIEW

Well, this is a mixed bag, I must say. An anthology of fine short stories from an exceptional author, and worthy finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Erotica. This is a juicy collection, not only for the sex, of which there is plenty. There are plenty of other strange delights to chomp into but beware. Some of these stories have bite, and will stay with you for a long time; tragedy, horror, the lure of sensual pleasure that can only lead to destruction. And then, a dash of comedy to lighten things up here and there. This book gets inside your head, mucks around in there and refuses to leave, like a hardcore version of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. This is thinking person’s gay erotica, where the writing is so good, you’re not waiting for the action to begin, yet when it does, it doesn’t get in the way.

There are too many to list individually, but my standouts are;

Strawberries – The first tale, deceptively hot, even as events become more sinister by the minute. This sets the tone for the whole book. Be wary. Things are not what they seem.

Snapshots – One of the most disturbing tales. What goes around, comes around. Revenge tastes sweet unless you have too much.

Love, Sex and Death on the Daily Commute – A lonely, mild-mannered man fantasises about the fellow traveller he sees every morning, until the opportunity comes to make his fantasy a reality. When it all goes horribly wrong, his choices open the door to a dark future.

Templeton’s In Love – Different in tone, more melancholy and bittersweet. A lonely man witnesses the swansong of a legend as his own past catches up with him.

It’s hard to pick favourites, to be honest. The writing was outstanding in all cases. I’ve recently fallen back in love with short stories. With so many “wham, bam, thank you, man” erotic collections available, this one is a literary and weird delight from start to finish.

22Dec/16

Review of The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland by Joe Cosentino

Way back when we were small, we had a wonderful time with Joe Cosentino, who regaled us with unforgettable tales from his theatrical past. To find out more about Joe and get links to his work, check out Episode 014: I Saw Bruce Willis Naked!

REVIEW

A great big dollop fairy dust has been thrown over four traditional tales of Far Far Away and made them totally fabulous. Add a dash of ribald humour, gentle digs at the straight community, and you have a what Joe Cosentino does best. Jaunty, humorous tales with a bittersweet edge.

First, we have The Naked Prince, who appears in front of poor, downtrodden Cinder (guess which tale this is…) He’s stark bollock naked and helpless, due to being robbed. He’s also a bit of a jackass, which was a refreshing twist, and the Stepmother eventually gets off with the Queen….

In The Golden Rule, Gideon Golden has been thrown out of his home by his homophobic parents (sadly, an all-too-common theme in reality.) The tale takes on a happier note when he takes shelter in an empty cottage on Bear Mountain. The three burly bears all take a shine to young Gideon, and the theme is love and acceptance.

Next, Whatever Happened To…? A size queen reporter (Jack, who has a thing for giants!) is sent to interview Pinnochio about his childhood, and discovers that Pinnochio’s nose isn’t the only appendage that grows when he tells porkies. Could this be true love and the beginning of a Happy Ever After?

And finally, Ice Cold gains its inspiration from Grimm’s The Snow Queen (or if you’re a millennial, Frozen.) Two boys, childhood friends, are orphaned and grow up together, eventually realising they are in love before one seeks adventure and falls into the clutches of Isadore, the Ice Prince. This story sets a different tone to the others and I enjoyed it most of all, as the jokey dialogue is replaced with real drama and tension.

So expect the unexpected. The bones of each traditional tale are there, but Cosentino has made mischief with just about every one of them. This is a gay new world, where all the tropes are turned on their heads, introducing other well-known characters as cameos or giving them walk-on parts. The author has a theatrical background and it shows in the dialogue. What fun this would be if it was set on the stage! (STRICTLY for adults only, of course!)

If I had a niggle, it would be that in places, the writing seemed a little clumsy when the secondary characters began squabbling. Yes, it was funny, but it took away from the major plot-lines. Not that this mattered too much. The book was an easy read, a bit of a giggle, and not too taxing on the brain cells. Is it his best book? No, but it is huge fun and has been written with so much affection, it’s very hard not to like it.

16Dec/16

Spotlight: Keep The Conversation Going

keepcalmIt feels like the angry people of the world are trying to re-introduce isolationism and fear. This problem isn’t unique to the recent election in the US – this feeling is popping up in Europe too. We’ve come together as a panel of voices to continue exploring what is happening, scrutinize our news sources, and share resources. Take a deep breath, we’re going to get through this.

Click here to listen to this episode:

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Panelist Bios:

Kate Aaron
Born in Liverpool, Kate Aaron is a bestselling author of the #1 LGBT romances What He Wants, Ace, The Slave, and other works.
She holds a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature, and an MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture, and is an outspoken advocate for equal rights.
Kate swapped the North West for the Midwest in October 2015 and married award-winning author AJ Rose.
http://kateaaron.com

Dr. Redfern Jon Barrett
Born in the north of England, REDFERN JON BARRETT is a writer and polyamory rights campaigner. Armed with a doctorate in literature from Swansea University, they are author to novels The Giddy Death of the Gays & the Strange Demise of Straights (finalist for the 2016 Bisexual Book Awards) and Forget Yourself, as well as having contributed to publications including Guernica Daily, PinkNews, Van Winkle’s, and Strange Horizons on topics ranging from 18th century nonmonogamy to 23rd century science fiction.
http://www.redjon.com

F.E. Feeley Jr.
F.E. Feeley Jr was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and lived there for twenty years before joining the military. He is a veteran of the US Armed Services; having done a tour in support of Operation Iraq Freedom in 2002-2003. After that, he turned college student, pursuing a degree in political science. He now lives in Southeast Texas where he is married to the love of his life, John, and where they raise their 1½ year old German shepherd, Kaiser.
http://soulfultroubadourdotcom.wordpress.com

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09Dec/16

Brent Hartinger and Tim O’Leary

December 9, 2016

It gives us great pleasure to announce Brent Hartinger and Tim O’Leary as the guests on episode 088: Cockshrubbery!  They join us to talk about LGBTQ Film and Television from an insider’s perspective and the increasing need for diversity.

Connect with and support Brent Hartinger:

Connect with and support Tim O’Leary:

Bio:

For the last twenty years, Brent Hartinger has made his living writing just about everything that involves words: novels, screenplays, plays, web content, even greeting cards. These days, he writes in lots of genres in many different mediums. His latest project is a dark and edgy gay teen book — part horror, part puzzle box thriller — called Three Truths and a Lie (published by Simon & Schuster).
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Tim O’Leary is a Los Angeles-based screenwriter, ghostwriter, author, and playwright. On his website, timolearyonline.com, you will find news about his latest projects, including his various webseries and the next book in his adults-only Greek myth book series, The Lusty Journey of Perseus.

 

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08Dec/16

Review of Coming Home Again by Scott Roche

We were delighted to have Scott Roche on the podcast very recently. To listen to his out-of-this-world interview and find out more about his work, check out Episode 078: Scott Roche – Weird On Purpose

REVIEWcominghomeagain

Doctor Max Blair is stationed at a secure government research facility when he is told to evaluate a visitor from outer space. But this is no alien. He is Captain Michael Rogers, a US Airforce pilot who was abducted in 1948. Behind the growing attraction between the two men, the government officials consider any method necessary to unlock the Captain’s secrets, thus endangering the whole planet…..

This is a well-balanced mix of science fiction and romance. First off, don’t be put off by the romance bit. Roche neatly sets up the scene in the secretive government facility and doesn’t over-simplify the science or the language. It all sounds very plausible, and he’s obviously thought of everything, from the decontamination of the visitor, some background about his captors, and explaining why he looks like he does now, without the expected accelerated atrophy of the body. I was initially reminded of the film Forever Young, but this is, dare I say it, a lot more intelligent. The growing relationship between the two leads is subtle but constant, with an undercurrent of dread for the reader that their story may not end well (no spoilers!)

The author packs a lot in 51 pages. So much so that I sense a bigger story waiting in the wings. The writing is terrific, the dialogue believable and the relationships between all the characters enjoyable to watch as they develop. Because he packs such a lot in a short space, the climax kind of hit me before I was ready for it, and it felt a little speeded up, like a 33 vinyl on 45. Also, it left a LOT of questions. What happens next? How does the Captain react to modern-day living? He falls in love with the first man he meets but what happens when he hits the streets? How is their relationship going to survive the inevitable scrutiny of government and the world media? How will the world react to the story? So many questions and I would say enough for a sequel. I really hope the author reads this and thinks about it, because this story has the potential to run and run.

 

05Dec/16

Review of Forbidden by Jason Collins

forbidden

REVIEW

For months, Matt has been daydreaming about Tyler, who works in the office opposite him. He doesn’t know if he’s gay or straight. He just knows that Tyler is the one for him. If only he could pluck up the courage and start talking to him….

This is the story of sweet, innocent Matt, and wealthy, married Tyler, heading for a nasty divorce and needing to find some kind of release to alleviate his (ahem) tension. So he and Matt start talking, then fumbling, then experimenting and possibly falling in love.

But then, duh-duh-duuuuh! Tyler’s almost-ex wife is determined to screw things up, claiming most of Tyler’s fortune if she can prove he has been unfaithful to her. Apparently, she has the world media on her side, though I had already instantly filed her under Nut Job.  As the central plot device to add tension, it’s tenuous at best. Sooo close, but not close enough for me.

But what the hell. This is a wish-fulfilment fantasy. The handsome businessman, fabulously wealthy, is curious about his good-looking, cute neighbour, who is willing to drop to his knees and satisfy his forbidden desires…

See where I’m going with this? Well, you’re wrong because this is actually pretty unpredictable. I loved the way the plot zigged and zagged, throwing in a murder and a hot steam room scene and a dash around New York. Yes, there are a few issues with it, namely in the editing. It feels a bit rushed as well. Collins could have made this a novel, rather than a novella, and I don’t say that very often. I would have liked to have seen more in the way of character development, because I liked Tyler and Matt but felt they had a lot more to give. The sex was sexy and real. I did feel Tyler’s curiosity and indecision, but felt he was WAY too trusting with someone he had just met, however cute Matt was.

Having said all that, the plot thickened in surprising ways. Again, more could have been made of it, but there are no corny romance tropes here apart from (yawn) the bitchy ex. I’ve written three reviews today and all the villains are women and they all look the goddamned same. The neighbour tops the lot though, a truly nasty piece of work. I really hope this isn’t based on reality but I have a sad feeling it might be. The boys (Matt and Tyler) dealt with her with class and grace, which was very satisfying.

So not perfect and a little unpolished, but a fun, quick read with engaging characters that deserve another story.

05Dec/16

Review – Grind (The Riley Brothers Vo 6) by E. Davies

grindREVIEW

A sweet, sexy tale from E. Davies, and sixth book in the Riley Brothers series although this can be read on a standalone basis. Don’t be put off by the title, which suggests Grindr-related shenanigans (or at least, it did to me…) Nothing is further from the truth.

Ryan is the carpenter wanting to set up his own business. He is good with his hands but the accountancy and marketing side leaves him floundering. Enter trans man James, in debt due to putting his top surgery on his credit card, and in desperate need of a job. Fortunately, he has all the knowledge Ryan needs in order to make the business a success. Sparks fly between them, but both are wary of mixing business with pleasure.

A sugar-sweet love story, with enough spice and angst to save it from giving the reader tooth-ache. I had to check to see whether this was written by a man or a woman. Not that it should matter, but for such a lush romance, I was intrigued. This is written by a male author (something I only found out after reading it) who pours his heart and romantic soul into this book.

Shy and cute Ryan doesn’t have any misgivings about his attraction to James. He is eager not to screw up when talking to him, ensuring he does just that, and makes sure he does his homework, using the right terminology and pronouns, etc. A cynic would say he was too good to be true but what the hell, the world needs genuinely nice people. The the awkwardness when he gets it wrong made me squirm with embarrassment for him.

And slender, twinky James is totally bowled over by Ryan’s musculature. (That chest! Those thighs!) I would have liked to have known a little more about him. It felt as if an opportunity to explore his new-found masculinity was lost. After all, being on T isn’t just about growing more hair. Emotions are on a rollercoaster and that didn’t really come across. He is described as flamboyant but I wasn’t feeling it. Possibly, these issues have been addressed in the previous books.

So there was lots of insta-love going on, if not insta-action. When the action does happen, it delivers. I liked that they didn’t go at it straight away, but engaged in a great deal of teasing and what we English quaintly call “heavy petting,” the first few times they got it on. Cute and far more realistic.

And kudos to the author for not throwing in a boy meets boy/boy loses boy/boy makes up with boy trope. Ryan has great friends. Both characters have complicated family situations. James’ mother is … I’m not sure but I wanted to slap her. I’ve seen her type before in a lot of M/M fiction, so there was an element of “here we go again.” But maybe that’s the point. It is a depressingly common problem. Ryan’s nemesis was a work colleague, Roger, a would-be rival to his fledgling home crafts business, but in the end, the worst thing he did was stomp away. The people who weren’t bigoted and disgusting were terribly nice and very supportive, providing a warm, happy glow. And why not?

Look, I’m straight, so I can’t say for sure whether the conversations and situations for trans people are true to life in this book or not. For me, it was a cosy read with characters that were slightly different from other M/M romance books. The homophobia rang depressingly true and the author wasn’t afraid to tackle it, which was another plus point.  Grind is well-written, as enjoyable as a slice of chocolate cake on a cold winter’s day. It was such a feel-good read, I am tempted to check out the other books in the series, and I don’t say that very often.

05Dec/16

Review – Unexpected Circumstances (Isthmus Alliance Vol. 3) by Sloan Johnson

sloan

Earlier in the Fall we had the pleasure of talking to Sloan Johnson, a prolific author who is not afraid to tackle challenging themes in her books. To find out more about Sloan and her work, listen to her fascinating episode, and hear her giving our hosts a run for their money! Episode 075: Sloan Johnson – How Far Can We Deviate?

REVIEW

Zeke, Jeff and Mary have enjoyed a casual three-way relationship until fate steps in and makes them evaluate whether what they are doing is just a bit of fun, or whether they are ready to settle down into a more serious relationship. Whilst they are trying to figure that out, the outside world seems determined to pull apart their unusual arrangement.

The plot is fairly straightforward. After Mary is attacked by the ex-boyfriend of her best friend, her dreadful mother arrives to look after her, and finds her daughter embroiled in what she sees as a very unsavoury situation. Meanwhile, Zeke is torn between wanting to settle with Mary and Jeff and doing his own thing. And Jeff, the steadying influence, is busy trying to keep everything together.

Recently I read a comment that most books concerning polyamorous relationships, especially those that are M/M/F,  are basically erotica and have no story-line, but this is not the case at all for Unexpected Circumstances. Yes, the sex is hot, but it isn’t over-stated. Each main character is fully realised, with their own personalities and foibles, so they don’t merge into one being. The secondary characters are also convincingly drawn, apart from Mary’s mother, an obvious boo-hiss character so horrendous she verged on caricature. Somewhat oddly, she was dismissed in an off-hand fashion half-way through the book. I say oddly because after such a strong start, she was tucked away in Florida, conveniently out of the way. One of my favourite minor characters was Holly, a complex girl with an abusive ex and a supportive boyfriend. The author nailed her character with pin-point accuracy and for me, she was the most memorable in a large cast of satellite characters, all with their own problems.

In the end, what seems to be a huge drama is a misunderstanding. There’s a lot of angst, redeemed by the serious look at the relationship of the three protagonists, and the issues and prejudices that their situation throws out. And there are a lot of issues. The two men have the same love for each other as they do for the woman in their life. One of them isn’t fully out yet, and there are implications to their careers, their friendships and family members. I would have liked to have known more about how Mary felt, what her insecurities were. We learned Zeke’s and Jeff’s, but felt a little short-changed by Mary’s experiences, other than learning that she was incredibly satisfied in bed.

This is a long book, and it could have been tightened up a bit without losing any of its impact. I found I was skimming in places, then going back to see if I had missed anything. I hate doing this as it takes me out of the story. The dialogue could have been sharper as well, and the emotions less over-wrought in places, but the characters were likeable and I enjoyed reading about their dilemma and how they were going to deal with it.

This is part of a series, and I haven’t read the other books, but fans of Sloan’s writing will lap up this chunky read. For newbies, it might be a little hard to digest in places, but there is no denying the love that the author has for her characters, even as she’s throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at them.