06Mar/19

The Dragon Princess by Hans M Hirschi

This is something different to the usual books I review on WROTE. Recent guest, Hans M Hirschi, has written a children’s fable, a magical tale for bedtime reading with young children.

I felt it was important to review it here, because people aren’t just just genders and sexualities, they’re also parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and people like me looking for diverse and inclusive fiction to share with our children or those of friends.

How I wish I had something like this to read to mine when they were small. This is a delightful tale, with hints of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, beautifully illustrated by Felicity Swann, and just long enough for a good bedtime story. Basically, it questions the concepts of evil, and love meaning a prince has to have a princess in order to find their Happy Ever After. And I’m pleased to see this is Book 1 of the Valerius and Evander story, which means there is more to come for these two engaging characters.

The writing isn’t patronising and not too simple, striking just the right balance. And there is no heavy-handed preaching either. It’s just a lovely story which is pitched just right for the audience it was intended for, no doubt prompting discussion from curious youngsters, but also normalising the whole concept of same sex relationships, which is just as it should be.

BLURB

Love is love
and dragons are evil
or are they really?

The Dragon Princess is a story about love
and how it holds the power to transform
even the coldest of hearts.

A classic bedtime story for children of all ages
written by bestselling author Hans M Hirschi
and beautifully illustrated by Felicity Swan.

 

01Mar/19

LJ Evans

March 1, 2019


It gives us great pleasure to welcome LJ Evans as the guest on Episode 205 – Live Life Resiliently!

LJ Evans joins us to talk about her My Life As An Album series, how music inspires her, and she explains the evolution of the romance genre!

Follow LJ and support her work:

Books mentioned in this episode:

Bio:

Award winning author, LJ Evans, lives in the California Central Valley with her husband, daughter, and the three terrors called cats. She’s been writing, almost as a compulsion, since she was a little girl and will often pull the car over to write when a song lyric strikes her. While she currently spends her days teaching 1st grade in a local public school, she spends her free time reading and writing, as well as binge watching original shows like The Crown, Victoria, and Stranger Things.

If you ask her the one thing she won’t do, it’s pretty much anything that involves dirt—sports, gardening, or otherwise. But she loves to write about all of those things, and her first published heroine was pretty much involved with dirt on a daily basis. Which is exactly what LJ loves about fiction novels—the characters can be everything you’re not and still make their way into your heart.

Her debut series, the MY LIFE AS AN ALBUM series, has won multiple awards including The Independent Author Network’s Young Adult Book of the year and Audiobook Obsessions’s 2nd Place Most Recommended Romance Audiobook.

This Podcast episode is available on these channels (in order alphabetical):
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Or right here:

22Feb/19

The State of the Queerverse

February 22, 2019

Join Baz and Vance on Episode 204 – The State of the Queerverse

In a week with no guest, co-hosts Vance and Baz discuss the state of queerdom across media.

This Podcast episode is available on these channels (in order alphabetical):
Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayiHeartRadioSpotifyStitcherTuneIn

Or right here:


September 23, 2016

Join Baz and Vance  on episode 076: The Crossroads of Queer Storytelling!

This week your hosts Baz and Vance step away from books and examine how the spectrum of diverse characters is handled in comics, on television, in movies, and in music.

 

This Podcast episode is available on these channels (in order alphabetical):
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Or right here:

15Feb/19

K’Anne Meinel

February 15, 2019

 

It gives us great pleasure to welcome K’Anne Meinel as the guest on Episode 203 – If You Don’t Know Me, where the heck have you been? K’Anne Meinel joins us to talk about her works, and the Queer awards competition she runs. Give a listen to a great conversation!

Follow K’Anne and support her work:

Books mentioned in this episode:

  • Ships by Shadoe Publishing

Bio: K’Anne Meinel, pronounced Kay-Anne My-Null (in Europe) and My-Nell (in America), is an American author born and raised in Wisconsin.  While she has lived in central and southern California, she always returns home to roost. K’Anne professes to write books that she would like to read.  Through her novels, novellas, and short stories, she has grown into a writer who is willing to expand her horizons.  She fearlessly steps out of her comfort zone in order to allow the reader, through her words, to savor the experiences of her life.

K’Anne is the mistress of sarcasm and double entendre, with a wicked tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that many find addictive; she has a special way with words.  Her descriptions paint visions in your mind and her words fuel your imagination.  Named the lesbian Danielle Steel of her time, she has been featured in the Huffington Post for her detailed and gripping storylines.  In 2018 she was named a USA Today Best-Selling author!  Befriend or ‘like’ her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter to keep up-to-date on her latest books, stories, and career.  You are sure to find something you will enjoy.  K’Anne also welcomes your email comments, suggestions, or advice – but don’t hold your breath waiting for her to put it into practice.

This Podcast episode is available on these channels (in order alphabetical): Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayiHeartRadioSpotifyStitcherTuneIn

Or right here:  

10Feb/19

Contact (A New World, Book One) by M. D. Neu

There were a lot of expectations I had heaped on this book, mainly because my favourite sci-fi of all time (even trumping Close Encounters) is Contact, with Jodie Foster. And I KNOW that is really unfair, but once lodged, it couldn’t be shifted, so I turned my gimlet gaze on this book thinking “this has better be good.”

Well, reader, I was not disappointed. It was a bold move to start with the alien POV, but it turns out they aren’t all that different from us, with similar thoughts and emotions, and cute pets to cuddle when they are feeling down. But don’t let that put you off. Their rituals, expectations, way of talking and manners are very alien, as are their names and clothing. The author has taken a lot of trouble to build their world from the tiniest details (drinking tuma, and the name for the pet as a youngster) to the major issues. There IS a glossary at the back, and usually I wish the author had drawn attention to it earlier, but actually, I didn’t need it. The writing makes it clear enough, without long drawn-out explanations, but the Glossary is a good reference.

Then we have the humans, Todd and his husband Jerry, and their uber-camp friend, Dan. I found Dan a bit irritating at first but I really warmed to him when disaster strikes. Todd has a heads-up that alien craft are approaching the planet but he can’t tell anyone. Even his husband, Jerry, doesn’t believe him. The author captures how they deal with having to keep quiet, as well as their everyday existence as a gay couple, brilliantly.

So with the characters established, the author sets about telling the story from the human and the alien point of view. Humans are dealing with their own problems: rising bigotry and world unrest, environmental issues, overpopulation. And the Nentraee, who are homeless due to the destruction of their world and running out of resources, need somewhere to settle their remaining population. Naturally, the humans have something to say about that when the Nentraee make tentative contact with

To the Nentraee, humans are an odd race who don’t appreciate the beauty of the world they live in. And to the humans, the Nentraee are patronising, preachy and want to wipe them all out. There is mutual distrust as both sides slowly learn about each other, but after a terrible event, Todd is the one who ends up being the link between the two races, a role he feels unprepared for.

This was a very human story as well as an alien one. Todd and Jerry have to deal with homophobia on a daily basis. It even gets in the way of negotiations with the Nentraee, something the aliens find incomprehensible. The aliens also have complex and close family units and social delicacies. I hope we find out more about how they became such an itinerant race and what happened to their original planet.

There are also self-serving politicians, an indictment of American society at the moment and a study of how we would look to extraterrestrial visitors. It isn’t any surprise they view us with some suspicion.

So a great start to the New World Series, with solid character development, appealing characters on both the human and Nentraee sides, and the potential for things to get really messy in the future. I’m looking forward to the next one!

BLURB

A little blue world, the third planet from the sun. It’s home to 7 billion people with all manner of faiths, beliefs and customs, divided by bigotry and misunderstanding, who will soon be told they are not alone in the universe. Anyone watching from the outside would pass by this fractured and tumultuous world, unless they had no other choice. Todd Landon is one of these people, living and working in a section of the world called the United States of America. His life is similar to those around him: home, family, work, friends and a husband. 

On the cusp of the greatest announcement humankind has ever witnessed, Todd’s personal world is thrown into turmoil when his estranged brother shows up on his front porch with news of ships heading for Earth’s orbit. The ships are holding the Nentraee, a humanoid race who have come to Earth in need of help after fleeing the destruction of their homeworld. How will one man bridge the gap for both the Humans and Nentraee, amongst mistrust, terrorist attacks and personal loss? Will this be the start of a new age of man or will bigotry and miscommunication bring this small world to its knees and final end? 

01Feb/19

R. R. Campbell

February 1, 2019


It gives us great pleasure to welcome R. R. Campbell back as the guest on Episode 201 – Quote-Unquote-Fun!

R.R. Campbell joins us to discuss his latest release: EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn, the life of sequels, and the ethics of invasive technology.

Follow Ryan and support his work:

Books mentioned in this episode:

Bio:

R. R. Campbell is an author, editor, and the founder of the Writescast Network, a podcast collective for writers, by writers. His work has been featured in Five:2:One Magazine’s #thesideshow, Erotic Review, and with National Journal Writing Month. He is the author of titles including Accounting for It All and EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn (both through NineStar Press). Ryan lives in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife, Lacey, and their cats, Hashtag and Rhaegar.

This Podcast episode is available on these channels (in order alphabetical):
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Or right here:


November 16, 2018


It gives us great pleasure to welcome R. R. Campbell as the guest on Episode 190 – Why Not Both?

R.R. Campbell joins us to discuss his latest release: Accounting For It All and his upcoming release EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn. We also discuss perceptions of sex work and sex workers, sex positivity and more.

Follow Ryan and support his work:

Books mentioned in this episode:

Bio:

R. R. Campbell is an author, editor, and the founder of the Writescast Network, a podcast collective for writers, by writers. His work has been featured in Five:2:One Magazine’s #thesideshow, Erotic Review, and with National Journal Writing Month. He is the author of titles including Accounting for It All (NineStar Press) and EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn (NineStar Press, January 2019). Ryan lives in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife, Lacey, and their cats, Hashtag and Rhaegar.

This Podcast episode is available on these channels (in order alphabetical):
Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayiHeartRadioSpotifyStitcherTuneIn

Or right here:

28Jan/19

Power Surge by Sara Codair

Sara Codair was one of our lovely guests recently on WROTE. To find out more about them and find links to their work, check out Episode 194: Yeah That Happens!

Power Surge is Part 1 of the Evanstar Chronicles. Erin has a lot on their plate. Having recently come off meds for ADHD, they they think the visions they are experiencing are due to mental health problems. From being stalked by a sinister demon, to seeing fairies and pixies flitting in front of them, it isn’t surprising they think they are slowly going insane. Added to that, they are dealing with unfamiliar feelings for Jose, a childhood friend who has now become more than just a good friend, and at night they are haunted by nightmares. Also, there is the issue of being non-binary in a college full of jocks and prom queens, most of whom dismiss Erin as an ugly nobody, and family issues as well, as their previously close-knit family seems to be falling apart.

So it’s a lot to take in. Understandably, there’s a lot of description as at first, as we need to see inside Erin’s head to understand what they are going through. The balance of dialogue and prose is a little uneven, giving the story a slightly confusing start and this did mean my attention strayed a little, trying to grasp all these different conundrums and elements of Erin’s character. Having said that, the writing was incredibly good, and I really felt Erin’s dilemma as a young person trying to deal with the real world as well as what they assume is incipient madness.

The scene where they find out they are not alone, and Jose is right there with them, also seeing visions, is the best in the book in my opinion. I really felt their relief and joy. Until then, they had been keeping Jose at arm’s length, not wanting to inflict their problems onto him. They had been dealing with the bitchy girls in their social group, and feelings of isolation, so that scene was a wonderful moment.

There were also some gorgeous warm scenes with Erin’s family, and some really terrifying ones when the demons reveal themselves. Power Surge is a melting pot of young people’s issues, dealing with mental health, bullying, gender identity, family crises, superheroes who cannot fly and saving the world from imminent disaster.

Okay, so I didn’t connect with the book as much as I wanted to, mainly due to trying to process all these aspects whilst my brain was fried from dealing with Christmas, but that isn’t the author’s fault. This is a solid story of good v. evil, told by a narrator with vary real issues in a strange, creepy and sometimes beautiful world.

Finally, two things. First, the way they deal with mental health, not demonising it, but acknowledging it can really ruin a persons’ life, is brilliant and unafraid to say “look, this is just how it is sometimes, and it sucks.”

And second, the pronouns weren’t even an issue. Erin is non-binary, and the them/their pronouns sounded as natural as she/her or he/him do in 99.9 percent of fiction, This is an #ownvoices author who deserves recognition from readers of all genders.

BLURB

Erin has just realized that for the entirety of their life, their family has lied to them. Their Sight has been masked for years, so Erin thought the Pixies and Mermaids were hallucinations. Not only are the supernatural creatures they see daily real, but their grandmother is an Elf, meaning Erin isn’t fully human. On top of that, the dreams Erin thought were nightmares are actually prophecies.

While dealing with the anger they have over all of the lies, they are getting used to their new boyfriend, their boyfriend’s bullying ex, and the fact that they come from a family of Demon Hunters. As Erin struggles through everything weighing on them, they uncover a Demon plot to take over the world.

Erin just wants some time to work through it all on their own terms, but that’s going to have to wait until after they help save the world.


25Jan/19

Alex Harrow

January 25, 2019


It gives us great pleasure to welcome Alex Harrow as the guest on Episode 200 – Wait Wait This Is A Thing!

Alex Harrow joins us for a great conversation about the release of their first novel, Empire of Light, the importance of representation and #ownvoices within the community, and writing in a language that isn’t your first.

Follow Alex and support their work:

Books mentioned in this episode:

Bio:

Alex Harrow is a genderqueer, pansexual, and demisexual author of queer science fiction and fantasy. Alex’ pronouns are they/them. When not writing queerness with a chance of explosions, Alex is a high school English teacher, waging epic battles against comma splices, misused apostrophes, and anyone under the delusion that the singular ‘they’ is grammatically incorrect.

A German immigrant, Alex has always been drawn to language and stories. They began to write when they realized that the best guarantee to see more books with queer characters was to create them. Alex cares deeply about social justice and wants to see diverse characters, including LGBTQ+ protagonists, in more than the stereotypical coming out story.

Alex currently lives in Utah with their equally geeky wife, outnumbered by three adorable feline overlords, and what could not possibly be too many books.

This Podcast episode is available on these channels (in order alphabetical):
Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayiHeartRadioSpotifyStitcherTuneIn

Or right here:

24Jan/19

I Am The Storm by Tash McAdam

Tash McAdam was with us very recently on WROTE. To find out more about them and their work, check out Episode 197: Cassius Is Screaming!

This book is a rewrite of a previous book, SLAM, but as there is 60% new material, it really is a fresh start. I Am The Storm is Part 1 of the The Psionics series.

Part 1, I Am The Storm, is a tense game of cat and mouse as Sam, a Psionic who can control technology with his mind, has to go on the run to avoid being captured by the Institute, who want to harness his skill. He is also being chased by a resistance soldier, Serena, who needs him to help overthrow the Institute’s monopoly over the city.

When they finally meet and realise they are on the same side, we begin to see the human side of the characters, and that was when I really began to connect with them. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it beforehand. The book is extremely well-written, and the author knows how to play the tension and choreograph incredibly plausible and fast-paced action scenes.

But it isn’t all about the action. There are also some searing scenes of heartbreaking intimacy too, but I can’t say more than that without adding spoilers. The scenes at the Wall were incredible. I was sitting in a coffee shop reading this and honestly, every sound was drowned because I was so involved in the book. That’s an awesome talent, and those scenes alone were enough for me to decide this is definitely a YA author worth watching. It bodes well for the next book in the series. The ending is satisfying, with enough of a cliff-hanger to lead the story on but not so much that you want to scream for more straight away.

Only a few quibbles, the main one being I wasn’t fully engaged in the beginning and I’m still not sure why. I think it was because of the amount of tell rather than show, which can get in the way when a character is running for their life. Another was the slightly odd way the characters used the word “Google” in the way we would usually say “God.” Ie., Thank Google for that. I get that Google is the new God in this rain-drenched, Dystopian world (isn’t it already?) but it just took me out of the scene for a nano-second each time. I think that’s a personal preference though, and shouldn’t reflect badly on the quality of the writing.

Finally, the world-building is great, convincing and bleak, and the plot doesn’t flinch from difficult issues (death, mainly) and crucially, doesn’t try to be “down with the kids.” This is an intelligent novel, and a really strong start to a fast-paced YA sci-fi series.

BLURB

Keep your head down. Don’t look anyone in the eye. Never even think about technology if one of those ghostly, grey cars is sliding silently down the road. They’ll see the thoughts inside you, if you let them. 

Sam’s a technopath, able to control electronic signals and manipulate technology with his mind. And so, ever since childhood, his life has been a carefully constructed web of lies, meant to keep his Talent hidden, his powers a secret. But the Institute wants those unusual powers, and will do anything to get a hold of him and turn him into one of their mindless slaves. 

Sam slips up once. Just once, but that’s enough. Now the Institute is after him in full force. Soldiers, telekinetics and mind readers, all gunning just for him. 

Newly qualified rebel soldier, Serena, doesn’t even know she’s chasing a person, all she knows is that she has to find whatever the Institute is after before they do. But, tracking an unknown entity through an unfamiliar city, with inaccurate intelligence, unexpected storms, and the Watch on the prowl, will she even survive? Will she get to Sam before the Institute does? His special skills could provide the resistance with an incredible advantage, but not if they can’t get out of the city, and over the huge wall that stands between them and freedom. 

I AM THE STORM is the action-packed rewrite of SLAM, with 60% new material and a brand new ending. Don’t miss Book One in what is now a four part series, due in 2018. 

21Jan/19

Aesop Lake by Sarah Leigh Ward

Sarah Leigh Ward is one of our lovely featured writers. You can find her episode and discover more about her work in Episode 193: Finding Your Tribe!

I had a shaky start with this book, but in the end I loved it. This book is needed in every library in every state, in every county, in every country. End of. The use of Aesop’s fables in the chapter heads and the beginning let the reader know right from the start this is a morality story, and one that accepts that morality isn’t a case of black and white, but various shades in between.

Teens and adults will like the way the story gets to the point without going through laborious details of trials and somber navel-gazing. The story was compact, concise and said a huge amount in not a huge amount of words. (200 pages.)

Aesop Lake isn’t an easy read at first, as the hate crime committed against a gay couple minding their own business is horrific, and the ugly beliefs, exacerbated by holier-than-thou attitudes, are searingly unpleasant.

BUT

The story is told from two points of view. First, Leda. She is the girlfriend of domineering bully David, who instigated the attack, and at first she stands up for him, lying to cover up what he has done. Then we find out David has threatened Leda to keep her quiet, by saying he would expose her mother as a drug-dealer.

Jonathan is one half of the gay couple who were attacked. His boyfriend, Ricky, is unconscious in hospital, too traumatised to respond to anyone. Jonathan harbours festering resentment at his small town’s attitude towards the crime, but feels as if he has no one to turn to for help.

I was prepared to hate Leda at first. She couldn’t seem to see how terrible the situation was and to get away from it, she takes a summer job away from her home town. As the story unfolds it becomes clear she is in an abusive relationship with David, and she wants to tell the truth even if it means her mother going to prison. Away from the constrictive confines of her town, she is able to see a bigger picture.

Yes, there was a big chunk of coincidence when Jonathan turns up at the lake as the son of a friend of the people Leda is working for, but their relationship, from distrust, suspicion and dismay to growing friendship is wonderful to read. The author isn’t afraid to make Leda weak and scared, but she also gives her a backbone which she finds away from her revolting boyfriend, making her see how badly he had treated her, and how badly she has behaved as a result.

And Jonathan realises he does have friends and support in unlikely places. It really is a novel about coming of age, of small town “values” and school politics. There’s such a lot in a relatively quick yet powerful read. Some may find it slightly preachy in places, but if they do, maybe they should question why. For me, the book had a lovely feel-good ending from such unpromising beginnings, and a message we should all be aware and take notice of.

BLURB

Seventeen-year-old Leda Keogh is present when her boyfriend, David, commits a hate crime against a gay couple at the town reservoir on a warm May night. When David threatens to narc on her mother’s drug dealing if Leda confesses to what she’s seen, Leda tries to escape the consequences, by taking a summer job out of town.

Jonathan Eales is one of the victims. When he and his boyfriend, Ricky, are caught skinny dipping by two high school thugs, Jonathan manages to swim out of reach, but watches in horror as Ricky is severely beaten.

Jonathan wants to fight back, but fears the small rural community, where he is an outsider, will protect their own.Two voices weave a coming-of-age story that confronts diversity and bullying in rural America.