Afflicted by Brandon Shire

“Loving someone gives you courage; being loved back gives you strength.”

Afflicted is Brandon Shire’s first published foray into the realm of gay erotic romance. The story traces the development of the relationship between Hunter Stephens, a blind audio books publisher, and Dillon Chambers, a high priced male escort, from their chance meeting and one-night stand, to their burgeoning love. What ensues is a well-written, highly erotic and sensual romance story as their need for something more than a sexual relationship grows, but their respective insecurities serve as an obstacle in fulfilling their desire for love.

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Reading Round Up: An Evening with Thomas King

“Stories are wondrous things. And they are dangerous.”

Thomas King Thomas King is one of my favourite authors and I was thrilled to learn that he was to give a reading and talk in Ottawa. On the evening of March 6th, a sold out audience of about 1,000 congregated at the Centretown United Church to listen to Mr. King read from his most recent book, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Doubleday Canada, November 2012) and to field questions from Waubgeshig Rice, author and broadcast journalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), and from the audience. The event was co-sponsored by a host of organizations, among others: Octopus Books one of the only remaining independent bookstores in the city; Random House of Canada; and a number of local Aboriginal organizations, including, the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health and the Odawa Native Friendship Centre.

The Truth About Stories  My initiation to the work of this author, activist and academic was through his Massey Lectures, which he delivered in 2003. Mr. King was the first indigenous person to be invited to do so and in all he delivered five lectures under the title The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative (House of Anansi Press Inc., 2003) to different audiences across Canada. In keeping with the Native oral tradition of storytelling, Mr. King begins each of the lectures with a Native creation story of a pregnant sky woman who falls to the water world and with the help of various water animals builds the earth (Turtle Island) upon which she can deliver her twins. He uses this story in each lecture to weave through his own personal history as a Native American and that of the colonization of the Americas, illuminating upon the impacts of colonization on First Nations (or Native Americans in the United States) and of Canada and the United States’ relationship with its Native peoples. The Massey Lectures are eloquently subversive and they remain my favourite body of work by this author.

The Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour a radio series that he wrote and produced, and which premiered in 1997 and ran for three consecutive years on the CBC’s Radio One is also a personal favourite. Characterised as irreverent comedy that pokes fun at Indian stereotypes, the Dead Dog Café borrows numerous elements from King’s highly acclaimed novel Green Grass, Running Water, including the fictional café of the same name which is set in the equally fictional town of Blossom, Alberta, but with different characters. In Dead Dog Café, Mr. King plays himself and is the straight man and third wheel to Jasper Friendly Bear (played by Floyd Favel Starr) and Gracie Heavy Hand (played by Edna Rain). The CD box set of Dead Dog Café has become a listening staple during our annual road trips.

The Inconvenient Indian Over the years I have read Mr. King’s books for my personal knowledge, understanding and growth. It was an absolute pleasure for me to attend his reading from his latest book, The Inconvenient Indian, which has been described as both “a history and the complete subversion of history” and “a critical and personal mediation…about what it means to be ‘Indian’ in North America.” In his responses to questions from Mr. Rice and the audience on his experiences as a writer and activist and his views on First Nations issues, Mr. King was quite gracious and erudite and that rye sense of humour that is woven throughout his stories comes naturally.

Thomas Hunt King was born in 1943 in Sacramento, California. His father was Cherokee and his mother Greek, and he holds dual (American/Canadian) citizenship. Mr. King received a PhD in English Literature from the University of Utah and went on to teach Native Studies at the University of Minnesota, where he became the Chair of American Indian Studies. In 1980, Mr. King emigrated to Canada which has since become his adoptive home. He has taught Native Studies at the University of Lethbridge (Alberta) and Native Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Guelph (Ontario).

In addition to Green Grass, Running Water, which made a splash in Canadian literature and earned him his second Governor-General’s Award nomination, The Truth About Stories and The Inconvenient Indian, his other widely-acclaimed novels include Medicine River (Penguin Books, 1990), and A Coyote Columbus Story (Groundwood Books, 1992), a children’s book for which he received his first Governor-General’s Award nomination. He is the editor of All My Relations: An Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Native Fiction (University of Oklahoma Press, 1992) and co-editor of The Native in Literature: Canadian and Comparative Perspectives, in the academic journal American Indian Quarterly (University of Nebraska Press, 1992).

New Release: The Agony of Joy by Red Haircrow

The Agony of Joy

“Finding the courage to face the pain of the past in order to have a future.”

Title: The Agony of Joy
By: Red Haircrow
Published: February 17, 2013
ISBN: 9781301334520
Length: 350 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, GLBTIIQ Interest
Price: $4.99 in e-book format
Available at: Smashwords; soon at other online distributors
Book Trailer: The Agony of Joy

Blurb: For many survivors of child sex abuse, there is a lifelong battle for understanding and acceptance, not only from others, but also from themselves. From London to Berlin, to the frozen seas of far east Russia, this is an unforgettable journey of rebirth, revelation and redemption as two men struggle to overcome their separate past agonies and allow themselves to experience friendship and love.

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The German by Lee Thomas

5 Stars

The German The German by Lee Thomas had been on my reading list since its release by Lethe Press in March 2011. I was finally able to get to it in late 2012 and read it in virtually one sitting. As a long-time reader of the suspense/thriller and horror fiction, over the years I’ve read my share of both well-written and utterly forgettable stories in these sub-genres. However, it’s been a long while since I’ve read a story of this calibre of excellence.

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Reading Round Up: The Best in LGBTQ Literature for 2012

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.

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The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam by Alex Jeffers

The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam by Alex Jeffers is a compilation of ten exquisitely written short stories that take the form of chapters and come together as a novel. Ziya, a Turkish national, narrates the stories in retrospective explaining himself and his life to Adam, his American lover, telling Adam the stories of his life.

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The Narrows, Miles Deep: A Novella and Stories by Tom Schabarum

4-5 Stars

The Narrows, Miles Deep by Tom Schabarum consists of the title novella and three unrelated short stories: My Kid in Footlights, The Road to Alaska and Follow Me Through.

The novella, The Narrows, Miles Deep, is the beautifully written and heartrending story of Eric Morris and Roy Bancroft, lovers who parted ways some four years ago when Eric joined his family’s business as a trucker and relocated from Utah to Las Vegas and Roy remained in Salt Lake City to be near the mountains and continue working in a small engineering firm. Eric and Roy have arranged a reunion camping trip in The Narrows Zion National Park in the hopes of rekindling their relationship.

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Saving Skylar Hand by George Seaton

4 stars

Saving Skylar Hand

“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.

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Silence Is Multi-Colored In My World edited by Red Haircrow

“Who am I?

I am G.Y.S., a profoundly deaf man. I have blue eyes and red hair, which I wear long. I am gay and Russian, and was born in 1978 in the Ukraine, but I moved myself to Germany when I was fourteen. You’ll learn how and why later.

My words are a mélange of impressions, memories and observations for I love many things and am distressed by many things. I have wandered to a number of countries and enjoy meeting people and getting to know new ideas and perspectives. I find the world both a fascinating and terrible place.

Photography, Nature, Overcoming Disabilities, Ending Homophobia, Being Deaf and Love are some of the topics that interest, concern and keep my attention. In writing about me I wish I could have said something clever, unique or witty, but this is simply me: sometimes I’m silly, sometimes I’m angry, sometimes you may find me annoying or overly sad but I’m always honest and sincere.

Flash bits about me? I have a beautiful pink “Grecian” style nightgown I love to wear. I once blew up a vacuum cleaner (not on purpose!). I prefer to sleep during the day but I’m not a vampire. Sometimes I hate being bothered to eat because chewing is usually necessary but can be so very boring.”

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Listening to Dust by Brandon Shire

“…and if we could capture it, put it under glass, keep dampness from tamping its restless tranquility. What then? Every storm has brilliance, Dustin; has beauty when you look at it from a distance. It blurs all those incessant imperfections we seek to hollow out with each of our hopes. But when you step into its still center, when you see its fury and its power, you also see its beauty; its grace.

Five thousand miles away and I can still feel your turbulence on my skin, Dustin; your grit stuck in the chambers of my heart…and all the silence that has followed it.

Please write me back.”

Listening to Dust by Brandon Shire is a devastatingly beautiful and emotionally powerful love story of a magnitude that is at times overwhelming. It is not often that I find myself without the ability to articulate my thoughts in a review because the writing has rendered me so. This is such a story and I am not altogether sure if this review can or will do the writing justice.

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