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.
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.
I first learned of author Marshall Moore when I came across his guest post on Rick R. Reed’s site, entitled, My Open Relationship With Genre, in which the author shares his insights on genre, writing, and the state of gay fiction. While as a reader I also share many of Mr. Moore’s perspectives on genre what equally made an impression are the titles of his published works – The Concrete Sky, The Infernal Republic, An Ideal for Living. Call it this particular reader’s quirk, but I have a thing for titles, and have been known to purchase a book based solely on its title. So when I received a request from the author to review his 2013 release, entitled, Bitter Orange, I agreed without hesitation.
Bitter Orange is the last book I read in 2013, and in this regard I saved one of the best for last. It is an extremely well written, imaginative, provocative and by degrees disturbing multi-themed story that is part urban fantasy and part mystery, but is firmly rooted in contemporary reality. Through the main character of Seth Harrington, who possesses the ability to become invisible, Mr. Moore turns the more accepted notion of superhero in speculative fiction on its ear to explore the darker motivations and actions of an ordinary person who possesses extraordinary powers. The author grounds the fantastical elements of this story and Seth’s increasing confusion and anxiety about his ability to become invisible against the backdrop of the disquiet and weariness of American (urban) life in a post 9/11 and dotcom crash world. Particular to the main protagonist’s personal story is the question of whether Seth can move beyond the loss, pain and trauma of those falling towers to once again find his place in the world.
‘Nathan Burgoine grew up a reader and studied literature in university while making a living as a bookseller – a job he still does, and still loves. A cat lover, ‘Nathan managed to fall in love and marry Daniel, who is a confirmed dog person. Their ongoing “cat or dog?” détente continues and according to ‘Nathan will likely end with the acquisition of a dog. They live in Ottawa, Canada, where socialized health care and gay marriage have yet to cause the sky to cave in.
My introduction to ‘Nathan’s writing came by way of his first published short story “Heart” a beautiful and poignant tale of love and loss, which appeared in the critically acclaimed 2009 Cleis Press anthology Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. My introduction to ‘Nathan came about while I was on the hunt for a second print copy of Fool For Love (my first one had fallen apart from re-reading). Coincidentally, the only bookstore in Ottawa that wasn’t sold out of copies was ‘Nathan’s, and a great thing happened when I got to the bookstore – I met one of the authors of one of my favourite anthologies.
Not only a writer of short stories, ‘Nathan’s also an avid reader of short fiction and combines insightful reviews of the stories he’s read with equally thoughtful observations about, among others, his experiences as a bookseller through his Short Story 365 Series.
His first novel Light was released by Bold Strokes Books earlier this week, and to mark the occasion I invited ‘Nathan to participate in an author Q & A here at Indie Reviews.
I’ve been a fan of ‘Nathan Burgoine’s short fiction since reading his first published story “Heart” in the critically acclaimed anthology Fool For Love: New Gay Fiction. To say that I eagerly awaited the release of Light, the author’s first novel, is a bit of an understatement. As it turns out my anticipation and excitement were well founded. In Light, Mr. Burgoine brings together elements of several sub-genres including action/adventure, fantasy/urban fantasy, horror, the paranormal, suspense and romance to write an incredibly charming, funny, action-packed and by degrees sexy page-turning superhero adventure that I could not read fast enough and devoured in one sitting.
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.
Destiny on the Tracks by Drake Braxton is a Bittersweet Dreams title by Dreamspinner Press that offers a refreshing alternative to the traditional happy ending within romance. It is a multi-genre novella that incorporates time-travel, fantasy, romance, mystery and a period historical to provide for a well written and touching page-turning love story.
No Deadly Thing by Tiger Gray is the author’s debut novel and the second book in the Twisted Tree series published by Hard Limits Press. The story is set in the American Pacific Northwest and the author fuses the tenets of good and evil of the ancient Zoroastrian religion and philosophy with the theme of environmental contamination to write an elaborate urban fantasy tale that also interweaves strong elements of action/adventure and mystery. The writing is refined and textured and well serves the plot, world building and characterisation.
Ashrinn Pinecroft has spent a lifetime trying to forget his Anglo-Persian family’s expulsion from his native Iran. He’s a career soldier serving in Iraq as the leader of the elite American anti-terrorist unit, Delta Force. When a sniper’s bullet cuts Ashrinn’s career short, he wakes up in an infirmary tent not sure of his reality or whether he’s hallucinating the silver-haired man standing at the foot of his bed. The man is named Randolph and he is the leader of the Order of the White Eagle, a group of magicals on a mission to rid the evil that is infecting the Pacific Northwest. Randolph enlists Ashrinn to lead a group of paladins (warriors) in the fight against this evil force.
The Zoroastrian myths Ashrinn’s mother entertained him with as a child have found new, twisted life in the streets of Seattle, and he has a central role to play in the fight against destruction, whether he likes it or not. Ashrinn must use his newfound divine powers to save the Pacific Northwest from an evil snake-handling cult that is contaminating the waters with its magic, killing both magicals and humans. The cult is also hell bent on sacrificing Ashrinn to their demon god. With a ragtag group of warriors that call themselves The Storm, that includes a half crazy werewolf, a psychic sniper, and his equally blessed best friend and former Delta team mate Malkai (Mal) Tielhart at his side, Ashrinn will do everything in his power to combat the corruption. But sometimes the greatest horror imaginable and the things held most dear are one and the same, and corruption is not so easily spotted when it hits close to home.
Each December I compile my list of favourite books read over the course of the year. Unfortunately, the trend I experienced in 2010 persisted in 2011 and my reading and reviewing time was extremely limited due to the demands of work. As a result, the number of books I did read was less than in previous years and there were a number of new releases by some of my favourite authors, as well as books by new-to-me authors of interest that I wasn’t able to get to. They include, among others, The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam by Alex Jeffers, The Palisade and Finding Deaglan by George Seaton, The Visionary: Welcome to the Fold by the writing duo of Reno MacLeod and Jaye Valentine and The German by Lee Thomas. I’ve included these 2011 releases and several others in my reading list for 2012.
Even with less time to read, my reading habits remained consistent and I continued to read across sub-genres. My list of favourites for 2011 includes an eclectic mix of novels, one anthology and short stories from a cross-section of sub-genres including fantasy, horror, the suspense/thriller, erotica, contemporary, historical, indigenous and young adult literature. In addition, my list includes not only gay fiction (as in previous years) but also books and stories that feature lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer characters and themes, something I hope continue in 2012 as I broaden my reading experiences.
Always a thrill for me is the discovery of new authors and there are a number of books that made my list for 2011 written by new-to-me authors, including a debut author, all of whom I look forward to reading in the future. Also listed this year is The Equinox Convergence by Erik Orrantia, a novel that does not feature a prominent LGBTQ theme (there is a lesbian relationship involving secondary characters in the novel) I chose to include all the same because it is an excellent story by this LGBTQ award-winning author. Finally, two of the novels listed are past favourites re-read in 2011.