I’ve mentioned many times of my love for the anthology Fool or Love: New Gay Fiction and one of the reasons is that this compilation of short stories introduced me to several wonderful writers, one of whom is author, editor and graphic designer Jeffrey Ricker.
A graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Jeffrey is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
His first novel, Detours was published in 2011 by Bold Strokes Books, and on the occasion of the recent release of his second novel The Unwanted, Jeffrey was kind enough to accept an invitation to answer some questions here at Indie Reviews.
The Unwanted, Jeffrey Ricker’s second novel, is an extremely well written, action-packed gay young adult fantasy set against the backdrop of the ancient Greek mythological world. In it, the author unfolds the story of Jamie Thomas a sixteen-year-old high school junior whose life is turned upside down by the return of a mother he thought was dead, and who is now seeking his help to save her tribe – The Amazons. Mixing action, danger and romance, Mr. Ricker chronicles Jamie’s more personal journey of coming to terms with the relationships in his life to write a page-turning young adult adventure story that has depth and underlying meaning, and one that I could not put down.
Dear God by John Goode is a deleted chapter from End of the Innocence, the fourth book in the Tales From Foster High Series, which was excluded from the book because the author felt it would have slowed the pace of the story, but important enough in its subject matter to be released as a short story. In this short piece, Kyle goes to a local church in search of understanding and answers on God, the Bible and Christianity’s treatment of homosexuality as a means of fighting prejudice and those using religion against his friend. His inquiry leads him to some surprising conclusions and forces him to re-examine his own beliefs.
As with all the books in the series, Dear God is well written, and I enjoyed this short fiction for what it is – a means of delving further into the character of Kyle Stilleno, one of the main protagonists in this series, and at the same time examining the issues of Christianity and its treatment of homosexuality, within the context of the overall story arc.
My list of reading favourites for 2013 features a mix of titles, both literary and genre fiction, including action/adventure, contemporary, fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery, young adult and (erotic) romance. Most of the books listed were released in 2012-2013, but there are a few that had been on my reading list for years and that I was finally able to get to in 2013. The past year’s best include stories from previously read favourite authors, as well as from author’s that are new to me, and I look forward to reading more of their works in the future.
End of the Innocence is the fourth book and the first full-length novel in the Tales From Foster High series. It is an incredibly moving and thought-provoking multi-themed story in which author John Goode throws the doors of Foster High wide open to grow Kyle and Brad’s world by focusing on not only what is happening to them, but also on what is happening all around them, further developing secondary characters and introducing new ones.
In doing so Mr. Goode examines the issues of homophobia, forced outing, marginalisation and cyber bullying from all angles and blurs the lines between bully and victim. The author also deals with the issue of gay teen suicide head on, with the same sensitivity and respect that he’s written all the books in this series. There are tragic events that transpire in this story that are transformative for both Kyle and Brad, their friends and the entire town of Foster. They are also a turning point for the series as a whole.
I found this instalment in the series the most powerful and the best written to date. This is saying a lot because I consider all the books in the series to be extremely well written. What make this particular book stand out so are Mr. Goode’s courage and care in the execution of this story. Courage in tackling with realism extremely difficult subject matter, and care in how the issues are depicted all the while ensuring the integrity of the overall story and its characters. And despite the ugliness of some of the events and the tragedy that ensues as a result, the story conveys incredibly important messages while at the same time leaving the reader with a sense of hope.
My introduction to the writing of John Goode came by way of his debut novella Maybe With A Chance of Certainty, the first book in the Tales From Foster High Series published in October 2011 by Dreamspinner Press. While reading the story I quickly fell in love with Mr. Goode’s writing and in particular his characterisation. The compilation of the first three books in the series, entitled Tales From Foster High, made the list of my Best in LGBTQ Literature for 2012. Since then, the author has been quite busy with over ten published works under his belt, to date, in the realms of gay young adult and adult-themed contemporary fiction, science fiction, fantasy and romance. On the occasion of the release of the latest instalment in the Foster High books, Taking Chances, I invited John to participate in an Author Question & Answer at Indie Reviews.
The Elephant of Surprise is the fourth book in the Lambda Literary Award winning Russel Middlebrook Series that was kicked off by the groundbreaking book Geography Club, and which has been adapted into a feature film slated for released sometime in 2013. Mr. Hartinger continues the tale of Russel and his best friends Min and Gunnar in this fourth volume by mixing humour, danger and romance to unfold an extremely well written story chalk full of life lessons for the threesome. In the process, the author also touches upon important social issues while at the same time not sacrificing the story’s subtleties.
John Goode’s Tales From Foster High #1-3 is a compilation of the first novella that kicked-off this well written young adult series Maybe With A Chance of Certainty and the two books that followed: The End of The Beginning and Raise Your Glass. I initially read and reviewed Maybe With A Chance of Certainty as a single title and immediately fell in love with Mr. Goode’s writing and in particular his characterisation. While this is a review of the compilation as a whole, it also incorporates some of my thoughts from the review of the initial novella.
If I were to choose a theme to characterise my reading year in 2012 it would be the year of the debut and independent author. The majority of books I read either for my own pleasure or specifically for review were by first time and/or predominantly self-published authors. While self-publishing tends to get a bad rap in some reading circles, in general, my personal reading experience with self-published and independent press authors has been positive as I find that they are able to push creative boundaries not always readily achievable within the realm of more mainstream publishing. Works by several such authors have made the list of my reading best for 2012.
The list also features works by some of my favourite authors that have become staples in my reading life, they include Alex Jeffers, Erik Orrantia and Brandon Shire. Several new-to-me authors such as, Drake Braxton, Kergan Edwards-Stout, John Goode, Red Haircrow, Jeff Mann, Tom Schabarum, Lee Thomas and Arthur Wooten joined this list in 2012 and I look forward to reading their previously published and future books.
My reading best for 2012 includes a mix of novels, novellas, compilations and short stories across a variety of sub-genres and within the realms of LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction that were published in 2011 and 2012.
“Cody Pinnt’s sense of himself came early; valued the carousal of pubescence as an affirmation of his nature: Queer. No doubt about it. Didn’t linger on the implications. Took to wrestling as a worthy sport, befitting the use of his body strengthened and sculpted by the demands of a lifetime of work that began before sunrise and ended after sunset. The leveraging of that strength against others, the feel of sweat-soaked skin and nylon singlets, the smell of the battle, the more often than not sublime joy of the win, all of it barely satisfying a voraciousness to get on with it; life just moved too damn slowly in Big Spring for Cody Pinnt’s liking. Cody Pintt knew who he was early on. Knew where he wanted to go. Knew, too, the worth of Skylar Hand to his life.”
I readily admit that George Seaton is a favoured author in gay fiction and it is always a pleasure to read one of his stories. In his recently released novella, Saving Skylar Hand, Mr. Seaton gifts the reader with a beautifully written and tender holiday tale of lifelong friendship between two boys that are separated by the life choices they make as young adults, only to realize that their love for one another is immutable and that they cannot spend their lives apart.