Thursday, December 29, 2011

Transcending Gender 2012 Reading Challenge

Transcending Gender 2012 Reading Challenge hosted by Bibrary Book Lust

This year's challenge is all about reads that transcend gender . . . those that play with stereotypes, blur the gender binary, and challenge traditional gender roles. All genres are fair game, so long as they do something interesting or unique with the concept of gender. 

It could be a feminist read that challenges gender stereotypes; a story that features a society where gender roles are reversed; a book with a transvestite, transsexual, intersex, or genderqueer character; a more fanciful/imaginative novel that explores alien or alternative genders; or a story that features some sort of magical transformation or shapeshifting that crosses gender lines. 

The scope of the challenge is intentionally broad, and as much about how we perceive a book as it is about the books themselves. 

To register for the challenge, please submit your Name/Blog Title and the URL of your Challenge Post in the Link below.

There will be 2 giveaways to celebrate the challenge, one at the end of June and the other at the end of December. Simply signing up for the challenge gets you one entry for each, while every review linked in the first half of the year gets you an additional entry for the June draw, and every review linked in the second half of the year gets you an additional entry for the December draw.

For those of you who have already registered, click HERE to link your reviews.

Friday, December 23, 2011

INTERVIEW: Blaine D. Arden (author of The Forester)

It is my great pleasure to once again welcome the amazing folks over at Storm Moon Press to my little Bibrary Book Lust blog! Joining us today is Blaine D. Arden, author of The Forester (as well as The Fifth Son, due in March of 2012).

Blaine is a purple haired, forty-something writer of gay fiction with a love of men, music, mystery, magic, fairies (the pointy eared ones), platform shoes and the colours black, purple and red. Born and raised in Zutphen, the Netherlands, Blaine spent many hours of her sheltered youth reading, day dreaming, making up stories and acting them out with her barbies.

Though she wrote her first gay fiction as a teenager, Blaine's true inspiration comes from the wonderful gay romance called 'Beautiful Thing'—an adaptation of the play by Jonathan Harvey—through which she gained some very dear gay friends and a postponed bout of puberty that caused an introverted and shy Blaine to finally grow into herself. Supporting Blaine in all matters regarding household, teenagers, cairn terrier Kendra and pursuing her dreams, is her long-suffering husband for over twenty years.

When not writing, reading or at choir practice, Blaine has singing lessons and hopes to be in a band someday.

Before we get into Blaine's interview, let's take a quick look at The Forester:

Kelnaht, a cloud elf, is a truth seeker caught between love and faith. Worse, a murder committed ten days before Solstice reveals an illicit affair between two tree elves he desires more than he can admit: Kelnaht's former lover Ianys, who once betrayed him, and the shunned forester named Taruif, who is not allowed to talk to anyone but The Guide, their spiritual pathfinder. When Taruif turns out to be the only witness for the crime, Kelnaht has to keep Ianys from sacrificing himself and losing his daughter, while at the same time realising he'd gladly sacrifice himself to end Taruif's loneliness.


♥ For those who may be new to your writing, and who haven't yet checked out your latest release, please tell us a little about yourself.

Hi. I'm Blaine. I'm a purple haired, forty-something (turned 43 yesterday), writer of gay romance with a love of men, music, mystery, magic, fairies (the pointy eared ones), platform shoes, and the colours black, purple, and red, who sings her way through life.

I was born and raised in Zutphen, the Netherlands, and have been married to a rather indulgent husband for over twenty-one years now. Together we raise two sons, a foster son and a dog, all equally mischievous. Officially, there are four adults living in this household, unofficially, I doubt you'd find even one.

♥ The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?

I began writing in my early teens, but as much as I loved losing myself in my stories, it wasn't really encouraged and being as naïve as I was, I never thought about doing something more with it. I still have a box filled with slips of paper containing mini-plots and character lists, plays and a number of shorts, both finished and unfinished.

The first time I saw my work in print (non-m/m under a different name) was in a British small press magazine in 2004/2005. I entered a competition and was one of two winners. I was thrilled to get my copy and dragged it along to every friend and family meeting I went to.

♥ Did you deliberately choose a genre because there's something specific that draws you to it, something you feel it offers that other genres don't, or was it just 'right' for the story you wanted to tell?

I never deliberately chose the gay romance genre, though most of my early work was definitely romance – sappy young teen stuff, but romance. After seeing the film 'An Early Frost', I felt gay characters needed a break from all the negativity, and just started writing a gay romance. I was seventeen, I think, and wanted to change people's perception of men falling in love with men. As for writing fantasy. I love building my own worlds, my own cultures. Plus, I love magic, elves and dragons.

♥ How does your past influence your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?

Funny thing is that I did a writing course years ago, and out of five students, I was the only one who didn't write a memoir, diary or travel journal. I was the only one who actually just made them up. I thought it was very strange. So, no. It's never been a conscious thing for me. I crawl into my characters' skins, feel their emotions and tell their stories. Some of their reactions might reflect my own experiences, but I'm mostly the last to realize it.

♥ Do you have a schedule or a routine to your writing? Is there a time and place that you must write, or do you let the words flow as they demand?

I spend most of my days in my office or at the dinner table, trying to stick to a work day routine, and remembering to have lunch. Of course, being a mother, even of 17s and up, there are too many other chores and appointments to make it a full forty hour work week, but I'm getting the hang of this scheduling thing. When I'm not at home, I always carry a notebook or laptop with me; you never know when inspiration will hit.

♥ Do you have a soundtrack to your writing, a particular style of music or other background noise that keeps you in the mood, or do you require quiet solitude?

My taste is too eclectic to stick to one style only. Because I tend to sing along with about every song I know, and I'm very focused on lyrics, I often play instrumental music in order not to distract myself too much. But sometimes I just need something different, need the lyrics to inspire me, and I'll just play anything and everything to keep me going. I keep the volume low so it doesn't outcry my thoughts.

That said, I've been having a bit of an Adam Lambert obsession lately, and I can't seem to stop playing his album.

♥ For some authors, it's coming up with a title, and for others it's writing that first paragraph - what do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing?

Bringing it all together. I'm more a pantser than a plotter, so most of the story happens while I'm writing, while there will always be key elements that I've planned out beforehand. Sometimes getting all the things in my head to rhyme on page is a struggle for me. It never happens while I'm writing a first draft. Things don't come together until I start editing. I always feel I'm deeper into the story during the editing phase, and then halfway through editing, something will click for me, and I suddenly know how to make it all come together.

♥ Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated. Has a twist or turn in your writing ever surprised you, or really challenged your original plans?

I'm always amazed at random thoughts popping up just the right time, solving parts I wasn't even aware were causing a problem. A couple of years ago, I started a short story about an immortal man who found the reincarnation of a past lover. But after the first chapters, I started to write more and more from the POV of the reincarnation, and the story changed. On top of that, the reincarnation suddenly found himself hooking up with a blind date that went wrong, but wouldn’t go away, and my perfect villain was born. The short story turned into a novel.

♥ When you're not writing (or reading), what are some of the hobbies and passions that keep you happy?

Very sneaky of you to prevent me from answering reading. :)

I sing. I have singing lessons, and I sing in a choir. Both are very good ways to take my mind off things (still with my notebook never far away) and replenish my energy. I recently took up Qigong, a perfect way to clear my mind for a bit (even if it's only an hour a week). I also cycle with a friend once a week and I love watching films with my husband.

♥ Just for fun, who would you single out as your number one celebrity crush, and what would you like most to do with/to them?

Number 1? Well, since I keep thinking I'm over him until I listen to him singing and go weak in the knees, I'll have to go with Gareth David-Lloyd. What I'd most like to do with him? Err … apart from the obvious ;), sing a duet with him. I'm sure between our different tastes in music, there has to be a song that we could rock its socks off.

♥ If your book were being made into a movie, and you had total control over the production, who would you cast for the leading roles?

So many gorgeous men to choose from. But, in keeping with my answer above, I think Gareth David-Lloyd could be a very decent Ianys. As for the other two, Andrew Lee Potts would look great with wings, so he'd be Kelnaht, and for Taruif, I'd have to go with Johnny Depp. He could play any role, but I think he'd look gorgeous with a long grey braid and those vine tattoos.

♥ Is there a particular theme or message you're expecting readers to take away from your work?

I always try to write diverse worlds, where sexuality doesn't matter. So, apart from hoping they've enjoyed the story, I like readers to feel a sense of hope that one day everyone will realize that diversity is a fact of life and love doesn't discriminate.

♥ What can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

During NaNoWriMo I wrote a story about an investigator who finds out that his boyfriend was the female suspect of a murder case he's working on. I'm looking forward to polishing that one.
Right now, I'm working on a story set in the same universe as 'The Forester', about a mute, magical baker. I enjoyed writing this world so much, that I couldn't leave it at just one story. No reappearance of old character's though, at least, not yet. Maybe in a different story I'll revisit Kelnaht's village.


Thanks so much to Blaine for stopping by - you can find her at:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

REVIEW: Red Gods, Twin-Bred, and The Last Nude

Unfortunately, due to some other projects that are currently monopolizing my time, I’m afraid that I've been unable to properly dedicate myself to the blog over the past month. I feel bad, especially for those authors who are patiently (I hope) awaiting reviews, but when life seems to be all about feast or famine, you have to capitalize on the opportunities to feast.

Hopefully I won't be doing to many of these quick review articles, but right now it's the only way I can share these wonderful reads with you all. Enjoy!

Red Gods by James A. Finan: Normally, I'm not a fan of 'experience' novels (i.e. stories pasted together from multiple sources/mediums), but Finan makes it work, including everything from flashbacks, to journal entries, to magazine articles, to old folk songs. It helps that the story itself is so interesting, with a group of elite mercenaries sent into the snowbound countryside to discover who (or what) killed the residents of Fernby Lakes.

This is a very graphic novel, centred around sinister forces that have no regard for polite sensibilities. The mercenaries themselves are a dark bunch, authentic comrades in arms, as opposed to the 'friendly' gangs so common in these kinds of stories. The book is wonderfully well written, and Finan manages (for the most part) to successfully manage the different voices quite well. There's just enough humor to relieve the dreary horror, but not so much that it becomes campy.

Twin-Bred by Karen A. Wyle: Wyle offers us an interesting twist on the alien contact genre, putting Humans on another planet, but in a situation where their own impatience/intolerance makes war a seeming inevitability. In order to ward off that conflict, Mara Cadell comes up with the radical proposal of intentionally developing fraternal twins, one human and one Tofa, in order to create a bond. Of course, such a bond is only as good as the intentions behind it, and when the government believes in knowing the enemy . . . well, you can imagine the consequences.

This is a really well-written classic science fiction novel, thoughtful and full of ideas. The aliens here are truly alien, similar enough to humanity that we can relate, but unique enough that we never shake the novelty of them. Smartly, considering the potentially huge scope of the ideas being explored, Wyle draws us into the story on an intimate level, focusing primarily on the development of one set of twins. There are a lot of characters, and some frequent changes in point of view, but the different voices are distinct enough that you never get lost in the narrative. As for the setting, the alienness of Tofa is subtle, almost masked by human intervention, but quite remarkable when it comes through.

The Last Nude by Ellis Avery: While not a book I would have been likely to stumble across on my own, I'm deeply indebted to G.P. Putnam's Sons / Riverhead for providing me with the opportunity for an early read. Here we have a fictional romance between two historical women, Tamara de Lempicka (artist) and Rafaela (model/muse), set in that uneasy period between WWI and WWII.

Although I knew nothing about Tamara coming into the story, and even less about art, her history is absolutely fascinating. I suspect the story might carry a bit more weight for those who are familiar with her work, and who can debate the 'was she/wasn't she' lesbian aspect, but I can attest to the fact that ignorance doesn't in any way take away from the read.

What really drew me into the story was the way in which Avery explores all aspects of Tamara's life, really getting into the dark side of how such passion can impact familial and professional relationships. This is not a happy-go-lucky tale of lazy lovers, content to pose and paint the day away, but of two women consumed by their work. Tamara comes across as a selfish, petty, arrogant woman, but rather than turn me off, I found her contrast to the sweet, sensitive, vulnerable Rafaela compelling.

If I had one issue with the book, it's with the brevity of the scenes. I like to get lost in a story, to emerge from a thirty or forty page chapter, and be shocked to find that it's gotten dark outside. The chapters here are often comprised of single page or even half-page scenes that work from an artistic perspective (as if each scene were an individual brush stroke), but it's just not my style.

INTERVIEW: Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane (authors of Saturnalia)

It is my great pleasure to once again welcome the amazing folks over at Storm Moon Press to my little Bibrary Book Lust blog! Joining us today is the brand spanking new author duo of Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane, authors of Saturnalia.

Violetta Vane grew up a drifter and a third culture kid who eventually put down roots in the Southeast US, although her heart lives somewhere along the Pacific coast of Mexico. She's worked in restaurants, strip clubs, academia and the corporate world and studied everything from the philosophy of science to queer theory to medieval Spanish literature. She homeschools her eldest son and has a passion for political activism.

Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town New Brunswick, Canada. She now lives in the rugged oil-patch frontier of Northern BC with her husband, an Irish ex-pat whose long work hours in the trades leave her plenty of quiet time to write. She has a degree in History from Simon Fraser University with a concentration in British and Irish studies; much of her work centred on popular culture, oral folklore, and sexuality, but she was known to perplex her professors with unironic papers on the historical roots of modern romance novel tropes. (Ask her about Highlanders!) When not writing, you might catch her trying to explain British television to her newborn daughter or standing in line at the local coffee shop, waiting on her caramel macchiato.

Before we get into their interview, let's take a quick look at Saturnalia:

Troy Khoury is serving a life sentence in Westgate prison for a robbery gone wrong. He just wants to keep his head down and do his time, but he runs afoul of an old-timer named Franchetti. Franchetti offers Troy a simple choice: kill fellow inmate Daniel Amato by Christmas in exchange for protection, or be tortured and raped to death by Franchetti's heavy, Pliers. Troy's no killer, though, and Daniel is as gentle and calm as can be. But a prison is a small place, and time is running out. Troy must decide how much he's willing to sacrifice before the choice is taken from him.


♥ For those who may be new to your writing, and who haven't yet checked out your latest release, please tell us a little about yourself.

Heidi: I’m a Canadian SAHM with a degree in Irish and British history. I like Highlander romances and British TV, and you could even say I’m a bit of a Whovian. I talk with my hands and have a really self-deprecating sense of humour. I have a baby daughter who loves to blow raspberries.

Violetta: I rose like an irritable phoenix from the ashes of a decade in the corporate world. Before that, I was in academia, and before that, I messed around and got in trouble a lot. I’m the mother of two wonderful sons, and I homeschool the eldest.

♥ The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?

Heidi: I’ve been writing since as long as I can remember, honestly. Since childhood, definitely. It’s been a long journey from there! I’ve had a couple of dramatic breakups with writing when I felt like I would never be good enough and never finish anything, and a lot of wasted time writing what I thought other people wanted me to write rather than what I enjoyed and cared about. Seeing my work published makes it feel like all that struggle and angst has been worth it. I feel like I’ve been legitimized finally. Of course, the work doesn’t stop at the acceptance letter, but damn do I feel good!

Violetta: Unlike Heidi, I came to writing late in life. I’ve wanted to write my own stories for decades, but I always felt inadequate because I couldn’t understand how I’d ever reach the level of the writers I most admired. The key for me was starting out slow, studying writing, working hard, and keeping high standards. Writing has turned into a source of huge fulfillment in my life, because I’m succeeding at the goal I set for myself: to write what I love as well as I possibly can. Publication feels like an external validation of that feeling of success. I also love how it’s such a cooperative endeavor.

♥ How does your past influence your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?

Heidi: I think parts of ourselves always creep into our writing, whether we intend them to or not. My love of history and how overwhelmed I feel by the past seeps into a lot of what I do, but there are other things—things that are too personal for me to share—that also sneak in, although I’d never draw attention to them publicly. But yes, there are definitely parts of me in there, even if it’s just sensory impressions.

Violetta: All the time, and absolutely yes, even when I write characters that are completely opposite to myself. For example, for “The Saturnalia Effect”, I’ve never been shot down by the police, and then sent to a maximum-security prison, thank goodness, but I have had times in my life when I’ve felt completely trapped and hopeless, and I drew on bits and pieces of those experiences and filtered them through the character.

♥ For some authors, it's coming up with a title, and for others it's writing that first paragraph - what do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing?

Heidi: Transition scenes! I want everything in a novel to be pivotal and compelling and nothing to be a boring workhorse. Of course, stringing together a bunch of scenes with no connective tissue isn’t exactly the best idea when you’re trying to tell a story and have people actually understand it, but oh man I don’t like doing it. Luckily I have Violetta to kick me in the ass.

Violetta: Titles and certain figures of speech. I can’t write a title to save my life. I either use a song lyric or cling to Heidi. I tend to obsess about using too many or too few metaphors or similes to the point that I get hung up on style even though the story is flowing smoothly. “The Saturnalia Effect” is Heidi’s title, by the way, and it sums up the book beautifully by the end.

♥ Is there a favourite quote or scene from your work that you feel particularly fond of? Something that reminds you of why writing is important to you?

Heidi: On pure personal enjoyment factor, there’s a scene in “The Saturnalia Effect”—well, a couple of scenes—where the main character Troy is being threatened by a nasty enforcer who goes by the name “Pliers”. I love writing dialogue for horrible wicked evil people. Cold, hateful dialogue. I’m such a bubbly optimistic person by nature that being able to wear that skin and speak in that voice for a scene feels cleansing but also makes me feel like I actually have the chops to do this.

Violetta: My favorite scene is the one in the prison shower that culminates in the experience depicted in the cover art. The character is pushed to such an extreme point that he’s actually taking off all his clothes and walking into a confined space filled with sexual predators. We needed it to be intense, disturbing, not too exploitative, terrifying, and then hopeful. Pulling off that scene—rereading and deciding that yes, it was exactly what the story needed—was an inspirational reminder that writing can take you to the worst places and the best ones.

♥ Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated. Has a twist or turn in your writing ever surprised you, or really challenged your original plans?

Heidi: Violetta and I spend a lot of time planning, but sometimes a bit of character backstory will reveal itself and totally change our perception of a character. Like a character in our big fantasy novel that’s out on submissions right now—it wasn’t until after we’d finished writing that book that we realized that story hadn’t been that character’s first brush with magic or the gods. It didn’t change the book that we’d written, but it will definitely come into play if we write a sequel!

Violetta: We often welcome these twists and turns, especially when they crop up in the planning stage and make the story much richer. For example, I had the idea of making the lead character of Arab descent as a homage to the recent prison movie Un Prophète. But when Heidi and I translated the setting from France to New York, we needed a character who rose organically out of the new setting. So we decided our man Troy Khoury would be a Lebanese-American, Christian (as most Lebanese-Americans are), and born and raised in South Brooklyn. We delved deeply into Troy’s worldview, and upbringing, and times of happiness and sadness, and decided that he’d have a pretty special and complicated relationship with Christmas, the time the story takes place.

♥ Is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who refreshes your literary batteries?

Heidi: Everyone in the M/M genre! When I was a teenager, I wrote a lot of stories centering on gay men and their relationships, but I felt like they’d never be published or find an audience. Who would read them? What publisher would buy them? And when they were written by a woman, no less? So I tried to force myself to give up those characters and those plotlines, thinking that I was just wasting my time and energy. Of course, here I am an adult, now, and there’s a whole genre of amazing people writing and reading these same types of stories I thought would never find their place in the romance genre. People of different genders, sexualities... After growing up a bisexual teenage girl in a small conservative town and always feeling so lonely, my writing being only one facet of that basic sense of isolation, being a part of this community and writing books here, knowing there are other people who will read them and appreciate them, feels absolutely amazing.

Violetta: Samuel R. Delany, a ground-breaking science fiction writer. Although I doubt I’ll ever write as widely or deeply as Delany, his stories and his hyperarticulate talk about stories have always inspired me. Beginning in the early 1960s, he wrote in a very dense, poetic style that didn’t seem to fit with his chosen genre of science fiction. He also writes gender and sexuality in completely unique ways, including strong women characters and radical feminist theory, and as a gay black man, he faced a lot of adversity in his career. One of the most chilling stories Delany ever related took place on the night he was awarded his second Nebula Prize—right as he was walking to the podium, Isaac Asimov made a supposedly friendly joke about how he was only given the prize because he was black! I’ve learned a lot from reading Delany over the years: how to analyze and expose racism and prejudice, which is important to me because I’m a woman of color who has faced a lot of sexism and racism in my life (although I’m not LGBTQ)... the need to write about all subjects, not just the polite and ordinary ones, and bring them out of silence into language.

♥ When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

Violetta: For me, it’s always a mix. Everything I write has at least three audiences. First, myself. Second, a limited audience of my co-writer and other writers. Third, a broad audience of everyone who might ever read the story. I might start getting carried away with a strand of backstory, but then when I step back, I remember that a general reader has no reason to care about it, so I need to cut it off. Working with a co-writer like Heidi makes this balance a lot easier, because we can creatively filter as we write each sentence. I believe that writing without any personal satisfaction results in lifeless stories, but at the other extreme, I don’t see much point in writing only for yourself when the goal is publication.

Heidi: Definitely both. I mean, loving what I write and being interested in telling a particular story is a big component of staying motivated; that’s just a fact. Just think about every essay or project you’ve ever written about a topic you couldn’t care less about, and then multiply that by a full length novel. And then you’ve got to promote the thing! No thank you! On the other hand, I’m always aware that literature is a two-way street. Readers put as much into a book as authors do, so you have to remember them as part of the equation. Mostly that just means making sure that you write in a way that isn’t impossible for them to understand/interpret, or if you are a bit abstract, allow for the fact that they’re going to come up with interpretations that might not fit your exact intentions. I think it’s just important in general to respect your audience: respect their intelligence, respect their need for a story they can connect with on some level, respect that they have feelings and emotions and you should keep those in mind when you’re writing, and not write things that are potentially hurtful or harmful or offensive without good justification. So I guess, yes, I do worry about their reactions, but not to the point where I only write what I think other people would want to read.

♥ Is there a particular theme or message you're expecting readers to take away from your work?

Heidi: I try not to put a “lesson” into my writing, because I don’t think readers really appreciate being explicitly preached to, or reading a story for entertainment only to get pounded with a moral message. Are there topics and issues I care about that crop up in my writing? Absolutely. I think the fact that we wrote a love story about two prisoners and asked readers to sympathise with them even though they’re both guilty of crimes is making a statement in and of itself. There’s no point in the story where I set about saying “convicts are people too,” or teach a lesson about the American prison system or illuminate you on the issues of prisoners’ rights. Because the point of the story isn’t to convince you of a political standpoint—it’s to entertain you, make you feel suspense and sadness and happiness and arousal—but that doesn’t mean those sensibilities aren’t still there.

Writing m/m (or f/f, or m/m/m or m/m/f or f/f/m, etc.) as a genre in and of itself in this climate automatically makes a political statement: that love for LGBTQ people is legitimate and real and worthy of stories and fantasies and respect. If you’re writing a story without that belief in your heart, even if it’s not the “message” of the book, I have to wonder why you’re in the genre at all!

Violetta: Agreed. Fiction relies on ambiguity for its full effect, so it’s not the best medium for persuasion. But it’s never completely divorced from real life, either. For “The Saturnalia Effect,” one concern we had was not to diminish the very serious issue of prison rape. It’s a constant looming danger in the book and a major plot point. I often asked myself, “are we treating this in an exploitative manner?” To some degree, I think it’s inescapable, simply because as writers and readers we’re attracted to the extremes of human emotion and the extremes of suffering. From the Stone Age onwards, we like stories where horrible forces threaten characters—monsters, cancer, war—partly because it makes us feel better that we’re safely outside the story, away from the danger.

But we also didn’t want to contribute in any way to having prison rape being treated lightly, or as a punchline, as it so often is. People will say, “So-and-so is a monster; he’ll find out how his victims feel when he gets raped in prison,” but the reality doesn’t reflect that. Prisoners in danger of rape tend to be: 1) gay 2) transgender 3) ethnic/racial minorities in the prison environment 4) physically weaker/disabled 5) women (a lot of prison rape is, in fact, committed by male guards against women prisoners). I believe there is no “acceptable level” of prison rape, and the fact that someone deserves imprisonment does not mean they deserve to be raped. Although this “message of the day” isn’t sledgehammered inside “The Saturnalia Effect,” I’ll give it right here: please don’t make jokes that treat prison rape lightly. And to support an excellent organization that fights it, visit Just Detention International.

♥ What can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

Heidi: Well, barring any sudden publication announcements, my next work coming out is a solo short story called “Bookended”, with Dreamspinner press. It’s an M/M/M erotica with just a dash of cheeky romance. It’s much lighter than “The Saturnalia Effect” and a lot of the work I co-write with Violetta, but I think it’s a lot of fun. It’s just a quick little smut story, with a dose of filthy and funny dialogue and an unexpected romantic center. Definitely a story you could take into the tub with you or read with a glass of wine just before bed.

Violetta: I beta-ed “Bookended,” and it’s an awesome read. The style is quite different from our co-written stuff, in large part because it’s in present tense, which I’ve never mastered, although I think it works brilliantly for short stories.

Our magnum opus of the moment is an epic novel tentatively titled The Hollow Hill. It’s set mostly in modern-day Ireland, with detours to other worlds and times as magic entangles our characters. We took a maximalist approach to make sure this story had everything: a passionate love story, high stakes and real suspense, an approach to magic folklore that’s both authentic and imaginative. The world is so rich that ideas for prequels and sequels keep sprouting in our heads, but we’re trying to keep a lid on things until we get some definitive publication news. In the meantime, you might want to check out our free short story “Out of the Tombs, Exceedingly Fierce,” a tight little horror-style prequel which introduces a main character, Cormac Kelly, through the eyes of someone who enters his world only briefly.

We’re also more than three-quarters finished on a novella with a style I can only call Hawaiian Gothic. Like most of our stories, it has a strong multicultural element. The two characters are men who were childhood friends, both born in Hawaii. One of them is Hawaiian (as in native); the other is of Filipino descent. One stays in Hawaii; the other, devastated by his inability to declare his love, joins the Army and gets sent to Iraq, only to return when... well, I won’t give more of it away, but it’s a tragically beautiful story and I’ve found myself crying onto the keyboard at several scenes.


Thanks so much to Heidi and Violetta for stopping by - you can find them at:

Friday, December 16, 2011

REVIEW: The Value Of Rain by Brandon Shire

Gay, straight, or in between, human stories don't get much more powerful than in Brandon Shire's The Value Of Rain.

At it's heart, this is the tale of a young teenager (Charles) who is catapulted from the arms of his first love into the restraints of a mental hospital. Over the next ten years he is mentally, physically, and psychologically abused, all in an effort to cure him of his gayness - and all at his own mother's behest. While he manages to hold onto his identity, the experience changes him, transforming an innocent boy in search of love into a scarred young man in search of revenge.

This is a book that's, at times, both sad and angry, literally haunted by the dreary sound and images of falling rain. It's not a difficult story, but it is a challenging one, told in a deliberately haphazard fashion. The story jumps around through Charles' life, contrasting past and present, giving meaning to one, while justifying the other. What struck me most about the book was how beautifully Brandon writes, especially when writing about the cruelties which Charles encounters. It's very disconcerting to both admire and despise the same passages, drawn in by the narrative, only to recoil from the subject matter.

Like I said, this is a story that's sad and angry, and full of a lot of pain . . . but that pain, ultimately, leads to a catharsis. Charles evolves as much over the course of the story as he did during the duration of his imprisonment, and even if he can never reclaim his innocence, he can make peace with his situation. As for the ending, it's been a few days since I've read it, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. The human part of me rejects it, demanding a very different sense of satisfaction, but the reader in me admires it, appreciating just how Brandon brought everything together.

A powerfully moving read, it also comes with a note of caution for anybody who has ever felt like an outsider, who has ever been shunned or made to feel ashamed - this is a book that will make you think, feel, and sympathize, whether you want to or not.

REVIEW: Best Bondage Erotica 2012 edited by Rachel Kramer Busse

I must say, the good folks at Cleis Press have really spoiled me this year. First it was the five-star transgender collection, Take Me There, then the five-star gothic erotica collection Red Velvet and Absinthe, and now the four-and-a-half-star bondage collection, Best Bondage Erotica 2012.

This is a wonderful diverse collection of tales with something to offer just about everyone, although it will probably be of more interest to readers who are either new to the scene, or only casual participants. Those who are already heavily invested in bondage and submission as a lifestyle may find this a little light, but it's still a great read.

The collection starts off, rather appropriately, with Melting Ice - a tale of experimental self-bondage involving one woman, a pair of handcuffs, and a key trapped in an ice cube. From there, it progresses through intimate scenes involving pairs of lovers, more intense scenes involving multiple submissives (and switches), and some outright exhibitionist displays.

There's a lot of focus on the anticipation, on the sensuality of being restrained, as opposed to the more punished aspects of being bound. More often than not, it takes several pages before a cuff, collar, or rope even makes an appearance, but the 'threat' looms large, drawing the reader into the story. Most of the stories revolve around existing relationships, so there's an element of safety involved, although there is still very much a power exchange to be respected.

Female domination seems to be a predominant theme here, which is probably the reason why my spouse and I had so much fun with the stories. There are plenty of tales where the men are in control, however, and even some where who's in control isn't readily apparent . . . and where that control shifts rather abruptly. What's more, the focus of these stories is rather refreshingly on the bondage and the exchange of power, with sex secondary in most cases, and almost an afterthought in others.

Well worth a read . . . and even better if you have the opportunity to share it.☺

Thursday, December 15, 2011

INTERVIEW: Sherri Hayes (author of Slave)

Good morning, all! I am very pleased to introduce you all to Sherri Hayes, author of the BDSM romance Slave (Finding Anna Book 1), who has stopped by for a quick chat.

Sherri is a country girl at heart. She lives outside a small town in Ohio with her husband and four cats. Her mother encouraged her love of books and fondly remembers childhood story times. Sherri satisfied her need to be creative through singing and performance throughout her high school years. About three years ago, the urge to write started and she has not stopped since. It has become an outlet for her and is excited to be able to share the characters and stories that constantly float in her head.

Before we get into the interview, let's take a quick look at Slave Slave (Finding Anna Book 1):

Stephan has lived the lifestyle of a Dominant for five years. After several rebellious teenage years, it gave him the stability and control he had been seeking after his parent’s death. As president of a not-for-profit foundation, he knows what his future holds and what he wants out of life. All that changes when a simple lunch with his college friend and Mentor, Daren, leads him to buying a slave.

Thrust into a situation he never thought he’d be in, Stephan can’t walk away. He is compelled to help this girl in the only way he knows how. Brianna knows only one thing, she is a slave. She has nothing. She is nothing.Can Stephan help Brianna realize that she is much more than just a Slave?

And now, without further ado, please welcome Sherri!


♥ For those who may be new to your writing, and who haven't yet checked out your latest release, please tell us a little about yourself.

I have two published novels, Hidden Threat and Slave (Finding Anna Book 1), and a short story, A Christmas Proposal. My mother fostered my love for books at a young age by reading to me as a child, so I’ve always loved reading. Once I entered my teen years, my reading choices drifted toward romance with the occasional mystery. Although stories have been floating around in my head for as long as I can remember, I never had the desire to write them down growing up. Now, it’s become a creative outlet that allows me to explore a wide range of emotions while having fun taking my characters through all the twists and turns I create. When I’m not writing, I can usually be found helping my husband in his woodworking shop.

♥ The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?

I wrote my first story on-line four years ago. It was nerve wracking to put it out there for everyone to see, but it turned out to be one of the best things I ever did. The success of that first story led me to write my debut novel, Hidden Threat. I don’t think it really hit me until I held the book in my hands for the first time even with all the hours I spent working with my editor; seeing it, feeling it, made it real.

♥ Did you deliberately choose a genre because there's something specific that draws you to it, something you feel it offers that other genres don't, or was it just 'right' for the story you wanted to tell?

For my first novel I choose the genre I loved most at the time, which was romantic suspense. I still love that genre, and probably always will. For my second novel, Slave (Finding Anna Book 1), I choose BDSM because it was right for the story. It’s a key element that, if taken away, would change the entire tone of the book and the series. Only after beginning to research and write the story did I become intrigued with the genre itself.

♥ How does your past influence your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?

I think all writers draw on their own experiences in one way or another to write their characters. However it not something I consciously think about while writing. I try to get to know my characters before I begin a story, and approach the story from their perspectives and backgrounds rather than my own.

♥ Do you have a schedule or a routine to your writing? Is there a time and place that you must write, or do you let the words flow as they demand?

Normally, I allow the story to flow as it comes to me. However, since I have deadlines with my stories now, I do sometimes have to discipline myself. During those times, I tend to be the most productive in the morning. I sit down at the computer with my breakfast, read over what I’ve written last, and pick up where I left off.

♥ Do you have a soundtrack to your writing, a particular style of music or other background noise that keeps you in the mood, or do you require quiet solitude?

I don’t usually have music playing while I write. Though, I might put on some classical music to help myself focus when the words aren’t flowing.

♥ For some authors, it's coming up with a title, and for others it's writing that first paragraph - what do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing?

That’s easy; book titles and character names. I’m in the middle of writing the second book in my Finding Anna series and I still don’t have a title for it, so I have to keep referring to it as ‘Book 2’ in my tweets and on my Facebook page.

♥ Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated. Has a twist or turn in your writing ever surprised you, or really challenged your original plans?

Always. I don’t outline my stories before I write them. Although I always have a rough idea of where I want the story to go when I start it, getting there is completely up to my characters. I let them tell the story how they want it told. One example of this is in the sequel to Slave. A past character decided he wanted to attend a party unannounced. It threw an unexpected twist into the story creating drama and the opportunity to find out a little more about Brianna’s past.

♥ When you're not writing (or reading), what are some of the hobbies and passions that keep you happy?

I love to sing. In my younger years, I took voice lessons and participated in a few vocal competitions. I even went down to Nashville once and recorded a demo with a live band. It’s not uncommon for me to break out into song while shopping in a store or even doing the dishes.

♥ When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

That’s a good question. I do consider how a reader would react to a point, but I’ve never changed anything major in a story just to make a reader or reviewer okay with something. My characters are not perfect. They make mistakes like everyone else. I try to make them and the situations they find themselves in as relatable and realistic as I can. You will never make everyone happy and you’d drive yourself crazy trying. I’d much rather write a book that I would enjoy reading.

♥ What first compelled you to begin writing, and what is it that keeps you motivated?

Frustration is what tends to start the stories in my head, and it’s what started me writing. I can’t tell you how many times growing up where I’d watch a movie or read a book, get to the end, and want to know what happened next. Instead of just leaving it there and moving on with my life, I would close my eyes and let the story continue in my head. It was much the same the first time I sat down to write. I was irritated at how a show I was watching on television was handling a romance between two characters that I loved, so I decided to ‘fix it’. Little did I know that a year later I would be writing what eventually became my debut novel, Hidden Threat.

Today, it’s usually deadlines that motivate me. The characters and plot lines continue to flow faster than I could ever possibly write them, but I’ve set a goal for myself to write two books a year and that keeps me busy and focused.

♥ What is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've ever encountered?

That has to be when my husband’s step-mother called me and asked me what BDSM stood for. She’d just started reading my novel, Slave (Finding Anna Book 1), and there at the top of page two was ‘BDSM’. She had no idea what it was or what it meant. Even after I told her, she said, ‘oh. Well they should have a glossary in the back or something for things like that. I had no idea what it meant and neither did your father-in-law.’

♥ If you could live a day in the world of someone else's story, whose would you choose, and why?

That’s a difficult question, but I think I’d have to go with one of the Outlander books, although I think I’d try to pick a ‘slow day’ in their lives. Jamie and Claire tend to get themselves in way too much trouble. Claire is an amazing character, and I’d love to pick her brain more than anything; see how she keeps from knocking some of those male doctors who think she doesn’t know anything because she’s a female on their backsides. As for Jamie, I want to know more about how he feels knowing Claire lived a whole other life in another time without him and how that knowledge affect his daily life. We get glimpses of it in the books, but I always want to know more of his point of view on the subject.

♥ Is there a particular theme or message you're expecting readers to take away from your work?

The biggest thing I want people to take away from my first book Slave is that human trafficking is real even in the US, and we can’t be blind to it. It really doesn’t matter what country you live in or where you’re from. And the people who are enslaved have everything they are taken away from them including their individuality. It isn’t as simple as just freeing them. They need support and assistance in finding themselves again. It something that for many takes a very long time, and for some, it never fully happens.

♥ What can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

I’m currently working through the second round of edits for my third novel, Behind Closed Doors, which is due out February 9, 2012. It’s a romantic suspense novel dealing with betrayal and domestic abuse. In my downtime, however, I’m also in the process of writing my forth novel, which will be the second book in my Finding Anna series. It will be exciting to see that completed. More than any other characters, Stephan and Brianna have pulled me in and grabbed me by the heartstrings. I want to know what will happen next in their story just as badly as everyone else.


Thanks so much to Sherri for stopping by! You can check her out at The Writers Coffee Shop or on her Finding Anna blog.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

INTERVIEW: Casey Crow (author of Can't Fake This)

Good morning, all! Joining us today is Casey Crow, author of the contemporary erotic novella, Can't Fake This, just released last week by Loose, Id.

Casey Crow is a Summa Cum Laude graduate from the University of Alabama with degrees in Business Management and Dance.  She received her Master of Business Administration from the University of Mobile.  Casey resides in Mobile where she stays busy with her two young children.  She also works as a dance choreographer, pageant coach, professional emcee and model, and certified Miss America preliminary judge.  In fact, she is a former Miss University of Alabama.  Casey writes erotic and spicy contemporary romances with the tagline “Sexy, Southern & Sassy.” 

Before we get into things, let's take a quick look at Can't Fake This:

Anna Ryan is a woman on a mission. She’s sassy, pretty, petite, and ready to reenter the dating world after a messy divorce. She will kiss a few frogs, but that’s okay because she needs the practice. As a romance author, one would think she knows about sex. Sure, she can bump and grind, but what she desires is passion – hot, steamy, mind-blowing chemistry.

She capitalizes on the instantaneous lust with Chase Harris, deciding he is Frog #1. Sucking up her anxiety, she proposes a plan no man can refuse – sex with no strings, no commitment, and complete control. The catch is he must teach her "to make love" and do it for the next twelve days, a Christmas present to herself. The confirmed playboy is intrigued by the idea and takes it a step further by using the traditional carol The Twelve Days of Christmas to illustrate each lesson.

Anna needs to sow some wild oats so that means letting him go, even if Chase says he loves her. Bachelors talk a good game, so why does the intense look in his eyes have to be so real? Like he means it? Like she is…the one?

And now, without further ado, Casey!


♥ Tell us about Can’t Fake This.

Can't Fake This started out on a whim. At the last minute, I decided to enter this 10,000 word contest. I’d written spicy mainstream, but this was my first dive into erotic waters. I didn’t win the contest, but after having what I thought was a good start, I added some more words and low and behold, this erotic became the first manuscript I sold. It also finaled in the Golden Claddagh book contest.

The story is about a divorcee ready to reenter the dating world. Anna Ryan is determined to be the best “product on the market,” which requires a lot more experience so she propositions sexy police officer Chase Harris to teach her how to make hot, passionate love as opposed to just having sex. He takes it a step further, instructing each lesson based on The Twelve Days of Christmas.

♥ If Can’t Fake This was made into a movie, which actors would you cast as the main characters?

Vin Diesel would play Chase. Kate Hudson would make a fantastic Anna because they both have a quirky sense of humor.

♥ You’ve long been a fan of romance novels. What prompted you to cross over to the writing side of things?

In high school and college, I only read text books so I didn’t even get started on romance until I was twenty-five. Oddly enough, my mom, an avid reader of all romance genres first encouraged me to write. About the time I started thinking, “I could do this,” she said, “You can.” Thank goodness too, because I love it and turned the hobby turned into a serious career almost two years ago.

♥ How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?

I’m a plotter for sure, but the outline is very vague so if my characters want to take a detour, I’m okay with that.

♥ Is there a genre you’d like to write?

I’d love to write YA. Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of teenagers either as a dance instructor or pageant coach, and it fascinates me how they flip flop between still being kids and being incredibly mature.

♥ What are your three major addictions in life?

Awe, I have to pick just three? Okay, dancing (I used to own a dance studio) and working out aare major passions and they compensate my Barq’s root beer addiction. I also love pageants. Seriously. I’m not kidding, but not the Toddlers & Tiara glitz kind. I’ve been an emcee and pageant coach for over twenty years, and I still get such an adrenaline rush teaching modeling and interview to girls of all ages. It’s incredibly rewarding to see one’s self-confidence grow with each lesson. Finally, I’m not a huge TV watcher, but I’m addicted to Castle, although Revenge is giving my mystery writer a run for his money.

♥ You spent some time in pageant life. What was that like?

Casey: As a dancer and gymnast, I was on stage my whole life, but I began competing in pageants at fifteen to prepare for Jr. Miss (now Distinguished Young Woman). I’ve done everything from glitz to natural. I prefer youth development programs where talent is the primary focus. I’ve competed in the Miss America and Miss Universe systems. I have to say it was pretty cool being Miss University of Alabama, but my most memorable reign was Miss Motorsports, where I got to be a NASCAR spokesmodel and hang out with all the famous drivers.

Pageants typically have a negative connotation, but the friendships, public speaking skills, and confidence I gained make me a firm believer in the many positive aspects they provide.

♥ What is one thing you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t done?

Learn to play the violin, or as we say down South, the fiddle. I’ve about convinced myself it should be my Christmas gift this year.

♥ If you cook, do crafty stuff, or have a hobby, please share the details with readers.

I do cook and love crafts, but considering I’m about four years behind on scrapbooking, I don’t think it counts if it stays in a box under the bed. I really enjoy playing pool and golf, but since I’m fairly pitiful at both, I stick mainly to taking dance classes. I’m in a class with a bunch of other teachers and former dance competitors so it’s not easy by any means. The best part is that we rock the house during recital time. Old ladies, apparently, still have it.

♥ What’s next for you?

Casey: I have two other manuscripts on submission right now with various agents and editors. HUSTLER’S DREAM is about a southern socialite pool shark who hustles the wrong guy, or is he? FEELS SO RIGHT is about a country music agent and her ex-boyfriend songwriter. I’m also half way finished with FAST DREAM, the sequel to HUSTLER’S DREAM, about a female NASCAR tire changer in love with the driver.

I recently was offered a contract from Siren Publishing on DANCE WITH A MILLIONAIRE, which features a ballerina. It will be out March 2012.

I swear these are not autobiographical! But, I’m passionate about the things I enjoy, and they invariably make their way into my writing. My tagline is “Sexy, Sass & Southern” and all my heroines are just that.


To learn more, visit Casey at, follow her on Twitter, or check her out on Facebook.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hops, Follows, and Tag Alongs, Oh My!

The 18 & Over Book Blogger Follow is a weekly feature that begins on Fridays and runs through the weekend, hosted by Crystal from Reading Between the Wines.

Q. Keeping with last week's and the end-of-year theme; What are three new-to-YOU-authors that you've read and loved this year?

A. Okay, this one's a bit easier that last week's question. I'd have to go with Cassandra Duffy (she won me over with The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head), StaceyKennedy (I loved Whatnots & Doodads), and Gena Showalter (Awaken Me Darkly was everything I was promised - and more!).

It's also time for the Friday Follow, courtesy of Parajunkee's View!

Q. Keeping with the Spirit of Giving this season, what book do you think EVERYONE should read and if you could, you would buy it for all of your family and friends?

A. I doubt most of them would be willing to tackle its daunting size, but I would buy them all a copy of Clive Barker's Imajica - quite simply the most amazing book I have ever read, and one of the few that I will happily reread.

Finally, it's time for TGIF, is a weekly feature created and hosted by GReads! that re-caps the week’s posts and has different question each week.

Q. Book to Movie: Which book turn movie do you feel did the best adaptation? What about the worst?

A. I'm going to go with a Stephen King theme here. I thought Pet Semetary was an almost perfect adaptation of the book. On the other hand, Lawnmower Man was a stinking pile of rubbish that bore absolutely no relation to the gloriously bizarre story from his Skeleton Crew collection.

As always, I urge you to hop around to some new blogs, tag along with some new friends, and find some great new reviews to follow. I always find something new to delight me!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2011 Rainbow Award Winners

This year was the biggest yet for the Rainbow Awards. Run by the wonderful Elisa Rolle, the awards are judged by volunteers from all over the world. This year there were more than 300 books nominated, and over 100 judges involved!

I've worked with Elisa as a judge for the past 2 years, and I really like the way the program works. Each judge reviews up to 5 books, and assigns a score (1-10) for Setting Development, Characters Development, and Writing Style. Instead of a committee debating their favourites, and swaying each other's opinions, multiple judges review each book independently, and the aggregate score is used to determine the winners.

If you're looking for a new read, take a few moments to check out the complete list of winners. As or the the categories I always watch, the winners were:

1) L.A. Witt – Static
2) Penelope Friday – Thrace
3) Lauren P. Burka -
Up For Grabs 2

Best Bisexual/Transgender Debut Novel
1) Ryan Loveless - Building Arcadia
2) Elliott DeLine –
3) Ben Monopoli -
The Cranberry Hush

Best Bisexual/Transgender Novel
1-tie) Justine Saracen - Sarah, Son of God
Catherine Ryan Hyde -
Jumpstart the World
2) Ryan Loveless -
Building Arcadia 
3) Elliott DeLine –

Congrats to all involved! I've already had the pleasure of reading a few of these reads, and I'm definitely adding a few others to my TBR pile.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

REVIEW: TASH by Hilde Orens

While the execution has a few flaws, the concept of Hilde Orens' TASH is quite fascinating. Basically, we're presented with a stood-up, fed-up, beat-up heterosexual man who seemingly has nothing left to lose. The victim of a brutal assault, he awakens in a new world that is very different from our own.

As you would expect, issues of gender and sexuality are glossed over at first, as Tim focusses on the practical differences between this new race/culture and our own. It's things like not needing to go to the washroom (they use everything they consume), being able to read minds, and not understanding the concept of money (a handshake and a thank you is payment enough for anything) that consume his first few days among the Tashians.

That's one of the things that bothered me about the story. Tim seems far too accepting of his predicament, even given the miserable day that preceded his journey, and not as desperate to get home as you might expect.

Seemingly genderless, the Tashians nevertheless appear more masculine than feminine, creating a confusing situation for Tim. As their friendship grows into something more, and he finds himself coming to love this strange, transparent, watery figure, he struggles with his own sexual identity. It isn't until we encounter male and female non-Tashians that we realise their race is distinct, at which time Tim's confusion turns to confrontation.

That's the other thing that bothered me about the story. Tim's confused sexuality is entirely plausible, given the nature of the Tashians, but the sudden emergence of his proud, fierce homosexuality in the face of heterosexual confrontation is a little hard to swallow.

Fortunately, the conclusion justifies most of those issues, creatively explaining away the grey areas. Definitely a happily-ever-after tale with a twist, it's still nice to read a love story that's more cute than sexy, and which is so positive in its message.

While the dialogue was a little weak in parts, the worldbuilding was well done, and the clash of cultures handled very well. There are really only 2 characters we need to care about, and they are very well developed. The secondary characters are a little thin, but they serve their purpose. Overall, this was a good read, and one that's short enough to warrant some patience along the way.

REVIEW: Love Me by Danger Slater

I'm a sucker for stories that push the edge, that take pop-culture obsessions and tear them to pieces, so when Danger Slater came to me with Love Me, describing is as "a tongue-in-cheek satire heavily steeped in speculative-fiction/absurdism/bizarro.....think Forrest Gump if it were directed by David Lynch," I was only too happy to take up the challenge.

With a set-up like that, any book should be doomed to failure - except he tosses in just enough Monty Python, Douglas Adams, and even Looney Tunes to make it all work.

This was a wonderfully absurd read, and one that had me frequently laughing out loud. It's twisted and perverted (which isn't a bad thing!), and wildly inventive. Every time you figure you've reached the heights of absurdity, and have found a rare lull in the story, he dangles something even more ridiculous in front of you . . . and then sneaks up behind you and macks you over the head with something even more unexpected. I could list a dozen favourite scenes from the book (none of them with a straight face), but I'm wary of spoiling the experience.

If you're not open to a read where tangents make the book, this will likely try your patience at times, but I still suspect it will make you beg for more. So long as you don't mind people staring at your public laughter, then give this a read.

REVIEW: First Taste by Violet Williams

When Violet Williams introduced me to her newest project, she said she wrote First Taste to address "the lack of interracial, bisexual characters in 'new-adult' paranormal romance." Toss in a taboo student/professor relationship, a gruesome serial killer, and a vampire twist, and I was immediately hooked.

This was a very nice change from the kind of urban fantasies stories that seem to be in vogue lately, with a strong, confident, sexually mature heroine who is neither a wanton slut, nor a weak-kneed swooning romantic. Don't get me wrong, those stories can be fun, but they also get tiresome after a while, especially when the romance is used to disguise a plot too thin to succeed on its own.

The story is very well-written, well-balanced between eroticism and horror, with characters you really care about, and a plot that keeps you engaged right to the very end. There's clearly more of the story to come, and (for one) definitely welcome the chance to revisit Violet's world, but as a self-contained tale this works very well.