20Nov/17

Night Drop: A Pinx Video Mystery by Marshall Thornton

Marshall Thornton was one of our lovely guests recently! To hear his episode and learn more about his work, check out Episode 136: Enjoy What You Enjoy!

REVIEW

This book is the first in the Pinx Video Mystery series, and is a fun read, a murder mystery set against the backdrop of the LA Rodney King riots, and the first in a new series of Pinx Video mysteries.

Okay, those things sound as if they should be mutually exclusive, but bear with me. Noah is the engaging owner of Pinx Video, a store close to where the riots were taking place, but luckily, not close enough to be damaged by them. A distance acquaintance is not so lucky, however, so when his charred body is found in his burned out shop, the natural conclusion is to assume that he is an unfortunate victim of looters.

Set in the early 1990’s, when video stores were still thriving and LA is going to hell in a handcart, store owner Noah is too curious for his own good, but questions have to be answered, and he seems to be the only one wanting to answer them. Gradually, he uncovers a murky plot involving corrupt cops, redneck villains and a photographer blackmailing clients with kinky photographs. It’s all deliciously prurient and seedy, yet Noah seems coated with Teflon as he bravely asks searching questions to potentially lethal people.

I loved Noah’s private life, the support he has from friends as he continues to recover from his own tragedy, and the tight community surrounding him in Silver Lake. He is complimented by warm characters that don’t outshine him in any way, even though he is an unassuming hero; not too handsome, or too bright, just an everyday Joe trying to get by after the death of his partner. He is also like a dog with a bone when it comes to solving a mystery, and the way the author weaves the story around him, throwing up red herrings, tying together a potentially convoluted plot, makes for a page-turning read. The denouement is satisfying as well, balanced and not too “shock and awe.” I had kind of worked it out before that, but Noah’s journey to the truth was compelling and entertaining. I look forward to the next book in the series.

BLURB

It’s 1992 and Los Angeles is burning. Noah Valentine, the owner of Pinx Video in Silver Lake, notices the fires have taken their toll on fellow shopkeeper Guy Peterson’s camera shop. After the riots end, he decides to stop by Guy’s apartment to pick up his overdue videos, only to find Guy’s family dividing up his belongings. He died in the camera store fire—or did he? Noah and his downstairs neighbors begin to suspect something else might have happened to Guy Peterson. Something truly sinister.

The first in a new series from Lambda Award-winner Marshall Thornton, Night Drop strikes a lighter tone than the Boystown Mysteries, while bringing Silver Lake of the early 1990s to life.

 

 

20Nov/17

Once Upon A Rainbow Volume 1 by Various

REVIEW

I always find it difficult to review anthologies, as I want to give each story due diligence. In this case, I was asked to review one of the stories, (Hood’s Ride, by J.P. Jackson,) but found myself being drawn into a rabbit hole of fantasy, eroticism, horror and romance

These stories are based on well-known children’s fairytales, but with a definite adult twist, featuring LGBTQ characters from across the spectrum. Some fairytales are merged together, with aspects of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella in one of the tales, and the heartrending Little Match Girl being given a happier ending in another. This is a real mixed bag, with the most striking being Hood’s Ride, by J.P. Jackson, which sits like a Quentin Tarantino movie accidentally replaced into the Hallmark section of the video store. Immediately, it is obvious that this ain’t no fairy story, with the glowering Hood banged up in jail, being tormented by guards who don’t know what he’s capable of. It’s essentially a rescue story, the twist being that Hood is the wolf, a shifter who discovers his true identity in the most dramatic way.

The Gingerbread Woman is another standout. Shorter than the rest, it is a funny and erotic lesbian tale with a wistful twist at the end, and Once Upon a Mattress was the nearest thing to a classic fairy story, amalgamating Cindefella with the Prince and the Pea to humorous and romantic effect. Because the stories are of varying lengths, the effect could feel uneven, but it doesn’t. The writing style of each author compliments each other, rather than duking it out for top billing, which makes this a highly enjoyable read.

It would be hard to choose a favourite, so I won’t. And anyway, each tale is so different, the characters so diverse, it would be unfair to. Like every good anthology, this book is like a box of chocolates. There’s something for everyone, and you never know what you’re going to get.

BLURB

Your favorite stories from childhood have a new twist. Nine fairy tales of old with characters across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

Morning Star by Sydney Blackburn – Five wishes; one desire.

Fairest by K.S. Trenten – What will you change into?

Gingerbread by Riza Curtis – A night out to die for.

Sleeping Beauty by A. Fae – United by true love’s kiss.

Little Match Girl by Dianne Hartsock – Falling in love with the Little Match Girl was easy, but now Christian is determined to help Dani find his family, even if doing so means he might lose him forever.

Hood’s Ride is Red by J.P. Jackson – A red car, a werewolf, and a trip to grandpa’s house – this ain’t your usual Little Red Riding Hood.

The Gingerbread Woman by Donna Jay – When Candace sets out for a weekend of solitude she gets far more than she bargained on.

White Roses by A.D. Song – A kiss to break the curse…or continue it.

Once Upon a Mattress by Mickie B. Ashling – Will Errol spend a miserable night and prove his worthiness or will Sebastian have to keep on looking?

17Nov/17

Frank W. Butterfield

November 17, 2017


It gives us great pleasure to welcome Frank W. Butterfield as the guest on Episode 138: It’s All True and Very Silly!

This week Frank W. Butterfield joins us to talk about his latest novel, The Rotten Rancher, the joys (and woes, but mostly joys) of writing a historical fiction series, and suspending belief long enough to let historical figures impact a story without their legacies being impacted!

Follow Frank and support his work:

** Read Jayne’s Review of The Laconic Lumberjack HERE!

Bio:

Frank W. Butterfield, not an assumed name, loves old movies, wise-cracking smart guys with hearts of gold, and writing for fun.

Although he worships San Francisco, he lives at the beach on another coast.

Born on a windy day in November of 1966, he was elected President of his high school Spanish Club in the spring of 1983.

After moving across these United States like a rapid-fire pinball, he currently makes his home in a hurricane-proof motel with superior water pressure that was built in 1947.

While he hasn’t met any dolphins personally, that invitation is always open.

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17Nov/17

The Laconic Lumberjack (A Nick Williams Mystery Book 4) by Frank W. Butterfield

Frank W. Butterfield was one our lovely recent guests! To find out more about him and get links to his work, check out Episode 138: It’s All True and Very Silly!

REVIEW

This was an interesting one, the 4th book in a long running series of stories featuring fabulously wealthy P.I. Nick Williams and his partner, Carter. Set in 1953, when bigotry and homophobia were legal and enforced by law, the two men tread a fine line between living their lives as they want to, but always aware their loving relationship could land them in jail.

Having said that, this is a jolly escapade in the main, possibly a little too jolly, considering that Carter’s father has just been murdered in a most grisly way, and a local black man has been arrested as a result. Nick hires a plane forthwith, and off they go to Georgia, where every stereotype of Southern man and woman-kind awaits to cause them all kinds of problems. This wasn’t a bad thing though, because let’s face it, a LOT of people in the 21st century are walking stereotypes.

It’s hard not to like this story, although I ran up against a few niggles that threw me off a bit. The first, and biggest, were the occasions when a character would do or say something, “for some reason.” As a reader and writer, I am always looking for reasons. They don’t need to be immediate or blatant, but they need to be there. Adding nuances to writing can be difficult, especially when there are a lot of characters and different plot lines zinging about, but the phrase would have been better left on the cutting room floor, so that the reader could make their own decision as to what the reason was.

The other niggle, possibly because I’m a curmudgeon, is the uneasy mix of tough subjects (racism, homophobia, murder, lynchings) with the amount of time the characters spent laughing. They all seemed rather too happy. Possibly this was because trust-funded golden boy, Nick, could afford to buy everyone out of trouble. If this makes him sound like a bit of a wanker, he really isn’t. He and Carter are so achingly sweet, especially together, it could make your teeth hurt if you’re in any way a cynic. The sex is fade to black, as it would have been in any respectable 1950’s film, so anyone expecting woody shenanigans will not get them.

Instead, there is a lot of other stuff to enjoy. The plot weaves and ducks and dives. The author throws a lot at them, jail-time for Nick, followed by a  kangaroo court, and inserting him and Carter in with a lot of rufty-tufty lumberjacks to try to weed out the murderer. I looked forward to a woodsaw-related climax, especially after the gory death (off-script) earlier but bearing in mind the novel is 1950-esque, with the restraint, decency and politeness of that era, it’s best to read the book to find out if and when that happens.

On the whole, bar the few hiccups, I enjoyed it. Nick and Carter are engaging, fun and cute, even though people around them keep dropping dead. Readers not wanting sex and too many f-bombs, and who appreciate a sense of decorum as well as humour, will enjoy this retro romp very much indeed.

BLURB

It’s just another Thursday morning in July of 1953 when the doorbell rings at 137 Hartford Street and it’s bad news.

Carter’s father has been murdered in Georgia and the local sheriff has no intention of finding out who really did it.

So, Nick and Carter borrow the first plane that Marnie, Nick’s amazing secretary, can find for them and they zoom off back into the past to see if they can uncover the truth of what really happened before the wrong man is convicted. And, knowing the lay of the land under the moss-covered oaks, Carter is pretty sure that the color of a man’s skin will figure heavily in who takes the fall.

In The Laconic Lumberjack, the best Nick can do is stand by Carter’s side as he confronts an awful past, uncovers some surprising secrets, and deals with the unsavory reality of small-town hypocrisy.

In the end, Nick and Carter discover more about themselves than they ever expected to find.

10Nov/17

Wendy Stone

November 10, 2017


It gives us great pleasure to welcome Wendy Stone as the guest on Episode 137: Sucked in by That Passion!

This week Wendy Stone joins the show to discuss her work as a book reviewer and author promoter, and to unveil her writing as Francesca Donatella!

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Bio:

Wendy lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband and two cats. She spends most of her time immersed in the worlds that others have written and more recently has been writing new worlds of her own.

Currently working on three projects, two of which are collaborations under the pen name Francesca Donatella.

Her first love is books and has never met one she didn’t like.

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03Nov/17

Marshall Thornton

November 3, 2017


It gives us great pleasure to welcome Marshall Thornton as the guest on Episode 136: Enjoy What You Enjoy!

This week Marshall Thornton joins the show to discuss his novel, Night Drop, writing gay mysteries, and the love of RomCom!

Follow Marshall and support his work:

Bio:

Marshall Thornton is the author of the popular Boystown series. He has been a finalist for the Lambda Award five times and won once. His romantic comedy, Femme was a 2016 Lambda finalist for Best Gay Romance. Other books include My Favorite Uncle, The Ghost Slept Over and Desert Run.

He is a member of Mystery Writers of America.

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30Oct/17

Code For Murder by Eliot Parker

Back in September 2017, Eliot Parker was one of our lovely guests on WROTE. To learn more about Eliot and find links to his work, Episode 128: Show Up and Keep the Chair Warm

I do like a good murder, and the vicious stabbing of a handsome, popular US football player heralded a promising start. The novel is packed with familiar themes; the anti-social female detective with a complicated private life and severe health issues, the seemingly popular victim who has dark secrets, a drugs deal that goes horribly wrong, and a handsome, out-of-reach-because-he’s-married colleague. This is good thing when it provides anchorage for a plot that becomes quite involved.

This book illustrates how hard it is to write a strong female character who is also sympathetic. The essential element, whether male or female, is that one thing which makes you care about them.  With strong females especially, they have to work twice as hard to prove their worth.

I sense the author wanted to show us how Stacy’s behavior and decisions came about because she was trying to “prove herself” and/or close the case at all costs. I just wish that her motivation was more sharp-focussed. With peripheral characters, the book seemed to pick up on the current US television trend for “love-to-hate” shows (eg., House of Cards) which are full of people with dubious qualities and ideals. The plot was nicely convoluted though, and held some genuine surprises.

This would have been a much tighter, more compelling read with a bit of judicious pruning by the editors. Some of the descriptions of place were unnecessary, and forced my concentration away from the action. For example, I didn’t need to know the interior design of a supermarket, because it wasn’t relevant to the story. These chunks of prose, as well as some clunky dialogue, got in the way of what was shaping up to be a tensely-plotted whodunnit.

Stacy had a tough perspective for me to get into, but in the end, the book is a solid crime drama, with a female character that doesn’t make excuses for how she is. I wouldn’t put other readers off getting to know Stacy, as long as they know what they’re going to get.


BLURB

An overzealous decision by Cleveland Police Lieutenant Stacy Tavitt leads to a botched undercover investigation, leading to Stacy being attacked and her unconscious body dumped into the frigid Cuyahoga River. Six months later, Stacy’s first case back from medical leave involves the murder of Cleveland Browns football player Devon Baker. With little forensic evidence connecting anyone to the crime, Stacy sets out to find the killer. As Stacy comes very close to unraveling the tangled threads of the case, the killer wants her, and those close to her, to suffer for another impulsive decision she made in the line of duty. The killer just may be more familiar to Stacy than she realizes.

30Oct/17

A Matter Of Courage by J C Long

We recently had the pleasure of J C Long’s company at WROTE! To learn more about them and get links to their work, check out Episode 127: I’m Not Whitewashing Hong Kong

This was a joy to read, a book set in the backstreets of Hong Kong, where two fictional gangs mainly keep out of each other’s way until one is suspected of murdering a member of the other.

There was more than a whiff of The Fast & The Furious about this, with muscle cars, sassy side characters and a young man trying to prove himself in order to be accepted by the people he looks up to. And I loved it for that. The action scenes were well-written and not too long, and didn’t seem gratuitously shoe-horned in, adding sparkle to an already interesting plot. Show me a beefed-up Mustang and you’ve got me at the first rev, TBH. The family scenes provided grounding and balance, and the sex just added extra spice where needed.

I had no idea that besties jerked off together “just for fun.” It seemed that everyone knew about Winston and Steel, other than the two main protagonists, which got a little frustrating by the end when it was teased out to the max. (No spoilers.) Yet it’s so refreshing to read an M/M romance that is a) not set in the US and b) brash and ballsy but at the same time, adorable (and not in a “pass the bucket” type of way,) whilst not playing by the rules. The head of the “good” gang, The Dragons, is tough but fair, happily paired up with Noah, a cultured Englishman. I was kept guessing throughout the book as to whose side Noah was on, and it was clever touches like that, as well as the growing tensions between Winston and Steel, that made it such an enjoyable read.

I loved the way that all the gay characters are positive ones. The real issue Winston had was whether Steel was interested in him as more than a friend. Steel’s sexuality was fluid. He was a mesmerising character, strong yet vulnerable, with a deep sense of loyalty. I didn’t pick up any angst of whether friends and family would accept them being together. The world of the Dragons was an accepting place for a diverse selection of people. And that was a beautiful thing.

Finally, this book held a definite Asian flavour. It is easy to slip into the mindset that city life is the same all over the world, but it’s important to make the distinction between cultures, and I found that it worked here, from names of the characters to the attitudes and family rituals, and that gave the book its soul.

So this book had it all for me; a burgeoning romance between friends who actually like each other, ferocious street racing, the importance of family, tension between rival gangs, set against the colourful backdrop of Hong Kong. A great book.

BLURB

Winston Chang has spent much of his young life admiring the Dragons who have kept his area safe and fought off the gangs that would bring violence to their area. Now that he’s an adult, he wants nothing more than to join the Dragons and live up to those standards.

The opportunity presents itself when his passion and knowledge of cars is just what the Dragons need. One of their own has been killed and his death seems linked to his involvement with the illegal racing scene known as the Dark Streets. Winston is needed to infiltrate the scene and find out who is responsible and why.

Steel has always been Winston’s best friend, and Winston has always been there to get him out of trouble. Just as the stress in Winston’s life reaches its peak, the relationship between Winston and Steel begins to change in ways neither of them expected.

Will Winston and Steel be able to find the courage to face not only the unknown killer stalking the Dark Streets racers but also their growing feelings?

 

 

27Oct/17

Casey Wolfe

October 27, 2017


It gives us great pleasure to welcome Casey Wolfe as the guest on Episode 135: Weird Stupid Kid Stuff!

This week Casey Wolfe joins the show to discuss their novel, One Bullet, writing contemporary before Urban Fantasy, and world building with Vampires, Mages, and Werewolves – Oh My!

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Bio:

For Casey, writing equals existence. History nerd, film enthusiast, avid gamer, and just an all around geek. Casey has been known to spend a lot of time dancing around the kitchen to music while cooking. Add in an unapologetic addiction to loose leaf tea, and you get the general picture. Married, with furry, four-legged children, Casey lives happily in the middle-of-nowhere, Ohio.

 

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23Oct/17

Disease by Hans Hirschi

Hans M Hirschi was recently on our show to talk about his new novel. To listen to Hans’ Episode and find links to his work, go to Episode 133: Hits Close to Home.

This was bound to be a tough read, as any book about facing one’s one mortality is likely to be. Hunter has early-onset Alzheimers, which strikes pitilessly and without warning. The book is from his point of view, via a diary he writes to combat the gradual erasing of his memory. There are also post-death notes from his husband, Ethan, who makes sense of the increasingly paranoid and erratic course of Hunter’s thoughts, and the result is a beautiful, tragic and fascinating insight into the mind of a man facing up to his own death.

Through a beautifully-woven story-line, we get to know Hunter and his family, including his and Ethan’s daughter, Amy. We learn of the difficulties gay couples face when wanting to have children of their own, the way the law is pitted against them in all aspects of their lives, and the terrible dilemmas some face when a loved-one’s life comes to an end. This isn’t just a book about Alzheimers, but about the choices that many straight people take for granted, that are, more often than not, denied to gay couples. It’s about when death can deal a cruel blow, and sometimes a merciful one, and about choosing how to die, whilst still of sound mind and body.

The book is also massively about family. How one family deals with a child’s disappointment on learning there is no Santa Claus, is one of my favourite passages. The author has an incredible talent for conveying pain, sadness, and joy in just a few words. I couldn’t put the book down after the first page. It was as if I knew Hunter and Ethan personally. The way the reader is drawn in to the story, which can be a hard-sell in this world of romance and HEA’s, is masterful.

There were a couple of sentences that jolted a bit, which seemed slightly out of place in Hunter’s reminiscences, but then I realised it was because his memories were becoming mixed with hope and fantasy. It is a disturbing read, sensing Hunter slipping away, being replaced by this paranoid, tetchy and confused individual who is more child than man. Ethan, his husband, admits the difficulties he has in coping, without sugar-coating or over-dramatising the agonising choices he will be faced with.

Finally, this is a love story, between two people who know they will be parted sooner than either of them hoped, and how they deal with that, knowing that their struggle is made all the more difficult because of who they are. I loved Hunter’s humanity, Eithan’s loyalty, and Amy’s stoicism. It is a beautiful, sad yet ultimately life affirming read. Recommended.

BLURB

When journalist Hunter MacIntyre is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, he realizes that his life is about to change, not to mention that he’s been handed a certain death sentence.

Alzheimer’s is a disease affecting the patient’s loved ones as much, if not more, than the patient themselves. In Hunter’s case, that’s his partner Ethan and their five-year-old daughter Amy. How will they react to, and deal with, Hunter’s changing behavior, his memory lapses, and the consequences for their everyday lives?

Disease is a story of Alzheimer’s, seen through the eyes of one affected family.