Occasionally there's a story that comes along that crosses a line – and this one crosses two. Usually you can pretty easily categorize a work of fiction. Is it m/m? Is is gay? Is it mainstream?
And with PAINTING STEPHEN, which was Jayne DeMarco’s debut, you’d have to answer “yes” to all of those questions. I’ve read a lot of gay books … books written by gay guys, for gay guys, published and promoted by gay guys. They’re not often anything similar to the boy-boy romance that are so popular right now. There’s a certain brand of “nitty-grittyness” about gay books that gets to grips with the realities of being gay and just gets on with the process of living. On the other side of the fence, there’s all that deliciousness of discovery that makes m/m something of a joy! With m/m stories, you get the feeling that “the novelty hasn’t worn off being gay yet” …!
If this doesn’t make any sense to you, then read some of the great gay novels I’ve reviewed on my blog, and then read a rucksack full of m/m, and compare the two. Gay novels are fantastic because they actually feel like a slice of real life. M/m stories are fantastic, because it’s like the shine and glitter hasn’t worn off your Christmas pressies yet. And as a reader you get to love *both* …and ooooh, but you get to wish that there was something, some kind of story, that actually embraced both side of this literary coin!
PAINTING STEPHEN is just about spot on the target. It’s 45,000 words, which is a nice length for me to read. I don’t have a heck of a lot of time any more, and the spare time I do have is usually spent rocking around on a bus. I read on a palmtop device, with earbuds stuffed into both ears to kill the sound of the diesel engine…
And Jayne DeMarco came close to owing me a bus ticket, because I got so absorbed in the piece, I nearly missed my stop. It’s a very involving story, with some magically spicy bits, and some real thrills at the end, too.
In the first chapter you meet the hero, who’s an artist of 40 years old. He’s feeling his age, and his ex has not long before departed the scene, taking with her the bank balance. John’s bi, and he was married for about ten years. Right as the story starts, he’s in a deep blue funk about life … having a rough time, so he’s quite entitled to the funk!
His best friend is his agent, a gorgeous older man called Barry Provine. If anybody else likes old, old movies, you might known an actor called George Sanders. I would swear that the part of Barry was written for George Sanders. He’s lovely! He’s also smart enough to know what John needs. The best medicine would be something to snap him out of the Deep Blue Funk he’s in, and get his artwork away from the “too real” stuff he’s painting, and back onto something “semi-fantasy” and that Barry can actually sell through his galleries. Check.
The magic Barry works comes walking into the story on two beautiful long legs. His name is Stephen. He’s a knockout. He’s about 22. He’s a cross between siren and ingénue. He’s sexy as all get-out. He likes mature guys (thank God!) and he’s going to be John’s new model.
He’s also going to be the force of nature that rips John’s whole world to shreds like a tropical cyclone going through -- and John wouldn’t have it any other way. As the story progresses, you soon learn that Stephen is in big trouble, and by this time John has fallen for him, hook like and sinker. Of course he has to help! And Barry is right there to stand by them when the barrowload hits the fan in a big way.
This book isn’t very long, but it has a kick like a mule. The sexy scenes are delicious as well as being just a bit understated by today’s standards. The writing is expressive and emotional, but there’s nothing really sweet about it. The treatment of the Real World is *so* real, it puts you right there inside the artist’s loft, and in the street while they’ve being stalked by Stephen’s nemesis.
It’s the way the whole thing’s handled that makes PAINTING STEPHEN straddle the line between gay book and m/m … and -- at least for me -- it also crosses over into the mainstream as well. I say thing because the story is so “real,” and so strong, it stands on its own feet anywhere. Stephen could have been Stephanie, and it would work just as well without changing anything major. (I know that a couple of mainly-hetero readers Beta-read the manuscript before it was passed along to the publisher, DreamCraft, and the feedback was unanimous: terrific story.)
So, your bottom line is that this is something for *almost* everyone. It’s out in ebook format, and it’s going to be released in Kindle very soon. The price is between $3.99 and $5.99, depending on when and where you get it. Highly recommended, and I’m looking forward keenly to JDM’s next one. I also loved UMBRIEL, which was a co-work with Mel Keegan, and DreamCraft says JDM’s next one is an SF story. Great -- I have a passion for gay sci-fi. Aricia’s verdict: five stars and big fun.
Length: 45,000 words,
Format: ebook (PDF; Kindle due at this time)
Genre: m/m romance with a thriller's sting in the tail
Cover by Jade
Buy now, for $3.99, right here! (Also available at GLBT Bookshelf, Rainbow eBooks, Kobo, B&N, Smashwords, and soon at Kindle)
Monday, October 4, 2010
Occasionally there's a story that comes along that crosses a line – and this one crosses two. Usually you can pretty easily categorize a work of fiction. Is it m/m? Is is gay? Is it mainstream?
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I'm lucky enough to be a proofie for DreamCraft, so I read this one a few months ago, long before the cover was painted ... before the web pages were uploaded ... before it tickled the Top 50 Techno Thrillers in the Kindle store -- and I can tell you, the ranking is highly deserved.
GROUND ZERO is one of Mel Keegan's best, and he's written some doozies. It's sorta-kind SF, yet at the same time it's close enough to the present day world for it to have a great contemporary feel. (In fact, I was at Amazon the other day and I noticed that a lot of users over there are tagging it "contemporary thriller" as well as SF. This shows you that the book is rooted deeply in the present, at the same time as having the SF "polish" that plunks it in the Techno Thriller bracket.
And "thriller" it surely is! Here's another one you don't want to start reading later in the evening, because you won't be getting a hell of a lot of sleep till you're done...! It's a page turner almost from the beginning. MK takes a chapter out to introduce us to the characters, the backdrop, the geography inside of which the story's going to be taking place. Then, Chapter Two starts ... and you're on a rollercoaster to the end.
It's also a damned hard book to review without handing out spoilers. So I'll describe it in broad terms and whet your appetite. It's set in Adelaide in 2048 (this adds extra zest for us, because Adee is hometown for MK and self, and the crew from DreamCraft), and it's set in the winter of that year, and in the hills east and south of the city. Those who know the landscape will find it so involving. Those who don't will find the descriptions evocative and visual. The big chances are in the tech that runs the world in this era. People haven't changed...
You're about to meet Brendan Scott and Lee Ronson. Two beauties, an established couple, hitched and all, who grew up in the decades *after* anti-gay prejudice died the death it richly deserves. They're gorgeous, and the book is a tad bit hotter than MK's usual. There's quite a bit of sex, and it's deliciously written.
The book also has a sharp sense of humor. There's a lot of chuckles and a couple of belly laughs. But the "thrust" of the story is the mystery ...
It’s winter when the city suffers a series of bizarre murders, robberies at high-tech labs – and a virus which sprang from nowhere. Every two days, a fresh body is discovered … entirely drained of blood. Every two days, a weapons research or energy technologies facility is robbed of a seemingly bizarre list of oddments. Meanwhile, the virus known only by a codename – 2048-3a – is so new, no part of the community is immune and the city is crippled. Murders, robberies and virus are intimately connected in a mystery that will astonish. Lee Ronson and Brendan Scott find themselves taking point in an investigation filled with unexpected hazard – and equally unforeseen reward.
Lee and Brendan work for a university department. They're the data analysis team in the Paranormal Studies department at the new (fictional) Franklin University. They're the ones who get to go into the field, "wrangle" data on weird, offbeat cases that often turn out to be the work of serial killers, loonies, cults. On rare occasions, the data turns up a genuine haunting or sighting, or an "out of place artifact."
So DCS Maggie Jarmin hands the latest too-weird case to her old mate, Doctor Robert Strachan, who's the head of Paranormal Studies. And Doctor Strachan assigns Lee and Brendan to git out there and do the sleuthing, find the data to prove (or dis) what the hell is going on in SA this winter...
It's a mystery which unfolds over the book's 105,000 word running length, and it gets progressively more thrilling as it goes, until the last segment will have your heart in your mouth. And I honestly, seriously, can't say anything else without handing you plot spoilers -- and in this case, guys, plot spoilers will be story ruiners. You have to READ this one, experience it "as it happens" to get the thrill ... and it'd be lousy of me to spoil that for you.
The ebooks are out right now (everything from Kindle to Blackberry, via everything in between), and the paperback comes out in October. Right now, it's $9.99 across the board -- for a good, solid read, and a story that you're going to remember.
Here's the book's own page: http://www.dream-craft.com/melkeegan/ground-zero.htm
On that page, you can read the first couple of chapters, and buy it rafts of formats.
AG's rating: 5 out of 5, and a gold star for giving me an absolute thrill.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Welcome to the launch of
LEGENDS: The Fall of the Atlantean Empire
Book One: The Winds of Chance
At last ... fully edited, impeccably proofread, perfectly formatted for your ebook reader, desktop, laptop or netbook ... no typos, no shuffling from one blog post to another ... just read and enjoy, as a fully-featured ebook from DreamCraft!
In an era of storm and chaos, One will be born who will command the Power, but the ancient magic that flows in his veins like blood is his curse as well as his gift.
In this time of cataclysm and ordeal, the upstart Empire of Vayal has placed a bounty on the heads of all scions of the lineage of Diomedas, for the oracle foretold the doom of Vayal, and it rides on the shoulders of the One.
He lives and breathes already, hiding the old city of Zeheft and in the slowly drowning outlands. He is Faunos Phinneas Aeson, still dangerously young -- and he has one dread: the witchfinders of Vayal, who are charged with the hunting of those like himself.
Twenty years, Faunos has hidden and learned, until the gods of sea, storm and earth destroy Zeheft --and one night destiny brings Vayal's young witchfinder to the camps of the water gypsies, where a youth like Faunos should never have been. Galen lies dying; the City of the Sun is celebrating the coming of age of Soran -- althlete, hunter, beautiful as the night, Vayal's heir and greatest witchfinder ...
The Empire of the Atlantan has one slender chance to survive, and its struggle will begin on this night.
Read the first four chapters, on GLBT Booshelf!
See the Legends art gallery -- art by Jade...
And save 30% ... indulge yourself in the "blog special," right on this page!
- Published by DreamCraft
- Ebook edition: July 2009
- 98,370 words
- For PC, Mac, Laptop, desktop, netbook, BeBook, iLiad, Sony Reader, Palm Pilot, Kindle, iPhone, Blackberry, Microsoft Reader, smartphones.
Like to see more of the Mel Keegan novels? Start here:
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Not a book review today (if only I had time...) but a piece of news which is great for blind and gay readers (or visually impaired readers who like a good gay yarn). I'll keep this brief, because Mel Keegan has said it all on The World According to Mel.
There's not -- yet -- any publisher who is providing great gay fiction in a format that visually impaired people can read. That's about to change. Mel's mother was recently diagnosed with advanced glaucoma. I have the privilege to know this lady, and it's a tragedy. Losing your vision is always one hell of tragedy. And I struggle to imagine being blind and gay.
Leave it to MK to "do something about it."
The Swordsman is the first title which will be available to visually impaired readers in a Large Print Edition. The font is around the standard 16pt mark, which makes the book 600pp ... but every word is there, and I can tell you that as of today, a copy is on its way to Aus as a gift for Mother's Day, in May.
For the whole story, visit here: Gay and visually impaired ... what are you reading, and how?!
And please do pass this along to friends who are in this predicament -- visually impaired, dying for a great gay read, while traditional publishers aren't willing to get involved. Please share the above URL of the page on MK's blog -- or this page.
At this time, Me Keegan is asking for participation from visually impaired readers. There's a download, a small PDF, that you're invited to print out, read, try for size on the eyes, and give feedback. Please help to make this project a success.
Here's the direct link to the download, which gives the first 10pp of The Swordsman in the next format.
Other titles which will be appearing in this range from DreamCraft: Windrage; Tiger, Tiger; Storm Tide; Aquamarine; Fortunes of War; The Lords of Harbendane.
Which titles are done first, and how long it takes to produce the range, depends on interest shown by readers. Thank you for help in spreading the word, and helping to "beta test" the format!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Love it or loathe it, you can't seem to ignore this vampire novel -- and it depends who you talk to, whether it's garbage or gold. Poppy Z. Brite has a writing style that's hard to compare to anyone else. The only other writer I can think of with something like this style is Taylor Caldwell (specifically, Captains and The Kings; not so much her other works), and once again, what you get out of it is down to your "ear," which is a very personal quality. I've heard PZB's writing called "lyrical," and "incredibly visual." I've also heard the same style, the same wording, called "bloated and boring." So the only recommendation I can make about this novel is --
75% of people either like or love it, and the top 10% think it's the most fantastic thing they ever read. However, at the other end of the scale are 10% of readers who think it's the most boring, immature load of twaddle that ever wasted printing paper! So, the bottom line has to be, make up your own mind about this one. I'll tell you what I think, and leave the rest to you!
From the first, I was impressed by Brite's knowledge of the region. It's all set in the south, in and around New Orleans, and the area is painted in technicolor phrases. I was blown away by the narrative detail depicting a real place. You feel like you've been there. The story starts with a prologue introducing three punk vampires. Nothing like Dracula, or Ann Rice, or Mel Keegan's Nocture, this. These vampires are out there, weird. It's all about booze and drugs and sex -- oh yes, and being immortal, and fathering a new generation of their kind.
Brite's vampires are contemporary descendants of an elder species that would have had to hide from the sun. These guys don't have to stay out of daylight; they merely cavort at night because they prefer to. They can also eat and drink like normal humans ... they just "suffer" a kind of bloodlust, a blood hunger. Are they true vampires? Possibly not, because necessity doesn't drive them to blood. They bite, and they suck, and they drink blood, because they like it and want to.
So you have a rather perverse bunch of characters to start with, and the plot thickens from there. It's a difficult plot to pin down; it does go somewhere, but it gets there by such a circuitous rout that some readers have just become bored. Others (and by far the majority) are fascinated by the skillful weaving of the place, the time, the psychotic characters, most of whom seem to have no grasp of right, wrong, mortality, rsponsibility or destiny!
I was one of the fascinated ones. The book is murky, it does seem to go in five directions before the threads start to draw together and you glimpse where it's going. You'll either be drawn into its bloodthirsty, perverse clutches, or ... you won't.
The story is about characters and relationships, rather than action. There's Nothing, who is half vampire, sired in the midst of a drunken orgy at Mardi Gras time, by Zilla ... and there's Zilla, who's drop-dead beautiful, bisexual, with confused and confusing gender identity. And Molochai and Twig, his two companions in eternity and night. And Christian, enigmatic, gentle, much more intelligent and refined than the rest. And ... so on.
The plot isn't about events, facts, places, incidents; it's about how people weave around each other, how relationships form and tear apart. It will either draw you in with fascination or it will bore you senseless by page 100 of its 359pp length. I was one of those who were caught on its hook, but I can more than understand the wails of complaint from the other side of the fence!
The book has several downsides. It is slow-paced. It is confusingly structured in places. The descriptive passages are lavish to the point of "one more syllable and this will be overdone." (But Brite always, to me, stops with that one syllable to spare.) The characters are weird and perverse. People are killing their mates; there is a foray into incest, plus domestic violence. And booze and drugs. And vampires.
But I would have to say, all of the above were Brite's intention. She never set out to write a linear, clean-cut storyline with the pellucid writing style of your Keegan, your Lanyon, you Charles Nelson. She fully intended to write a murky swamp of a narrative where sensuality is thick as mist, and "sin" is something you kind of wade in, up to the tops of your galoshes.
Did it work? Most people say "oh, yes." Some people disagree. Depends what you want from a book. The only other novel I know that has this formless ebb and flow quality ... where you can't pick the storyline to save your life, but fascination with the place, the time, the people, keeps you reading ... is Ann Rice's The Feast of All Souls.
The gay content is like a background buzz. It's just there. Brite makes nothing special of it, and there certainly isn't any specific relationship to focus on. The term I'd use is "omnisexual." (Yep, like Cap'n Jack himself.)
I have to recommend this book, because I've never forgotten it, and still relish the incredible richness of the prose, the sheer weirdness of the characters and the way Brite makes a plot come together somehow, from apparent plotlessness! But be warned: 10% of the folks reading this will more than likely hate the whole thing.
AG's rating: 3.5 or 4 out of 5 stars, depending on how I feel at the time. (Can't give it 5, because it's just so much of a challenge for so many readers).
Still in print, and readily available from Amazon. (You can buy some amazingly cheap copies, but consider doing the industry, and the author a favor: buy a new one!)