Saturday, April 30, 2011

REVIEW: A Stray Hand by Lee Harlem Robinson

A Stray Hand is another companion piece to Lee's “serialized dyke drama in blog form” (check out http://www.leeharlemrobinson.com/) but, like the others, can quite easily be read alone. In fact, one lucky reader will get the chance to give it a read, since Lee has generously provided a copy for our final giveaway!

While the story once again focuses on Lee, it's a third-person narration involved, with Jennifer as the focus. As was the case with the last short (Sex With Strangers), this provides us with a different, perhaps more immediately accessible, perspective on the overall serialized story. If you’ve been following along online, you'll appreciate the fresh approach, but if you're new to the story you'll have no trouble settling in.

Jennifer and Kim are both roommates and lovers, a lovely couple who have decided to take on a new roommate to help make ends meet. Enter Lee who, quite innocently, upsets their arrangement and quickly turn the lesbian couple into an awkwardly sided lesbian love triangle. It's not so much that she comes in and begins seducing either of the women, but her very presence is a source of temptation for Jennifer.

Part BFF chick-lit and part lesbian romance, this is another wonderful story about relationships that explores the very idea of temptation, placing the responsibility upon the tempted, rather than the temptress. If you're curious, head on over to http://www.leeharlemrobinson.com/ and discover for yourself where Lee has come from and where she's going next.

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Don't forget, this is also your last chance to become eligible for this week's giveaway (including an electronic copy of A Stray Hand), so be sure to include your email address in your comment. Of course, you don't have to be a follower to win, but being a follower will earn you a bonus entry for the week (just let me know in your comment if you're a new follower or an old favourite).

Friday, April 29, 2011

GUEST REVIEW: Confessions of a Transvestite Prostitute by Chris Burrows

Welcome to the last of this week's Spring Celebration reading recommendations. Stopping by this afternoon with a guest review is an author I'm sure you have seen here many times, the one-and-only Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk. If you missed it, please check out last week's review of Mick's Times Square Cutie.

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What attracted me to Confessions of a Transvestite Prostitute by Chris Burrows was an interview the author had showing his photographs for all the world to see, Wawawoom! What a fantastic looker! My mouth dropped open at seeing her in a long off-shoulder gown ready to dance the night away, to his wearing a pretty gray skirt with a black and white top ready for office work. Whatever she was wearing she simply looked divine. I, as many cross-dressers know very well, it isn’t just mere clothes that make a woman she has to walk with confidence and carry herself with the assuredness that her sex, as she presents herself, is not merely something she has shoddily put on but a full 24 hour a day woman, living, breathing, sleeping and then getting up and doing it all over again. Ah, life… I could never be that woman and long ago even stopped trying but Chris Burrows makes it look very easy, a snap, really.

Of course, it would be easy for him he’s been doing it since early childhood. He tells us of his longing and desire for feminine clothes, to be near them, to put them on and successfully pass as a woman. God, what a thrill that could be! From his early teen years, at first just trying the clothes on, to her later years when she successfully passed as a woman, still, the world sees us as different, as hooker/prostitutes and Chris shows us how it is possible to live and survive, which he/she does admirably in his role as a woman. It wasn’t long that he started doing it for money, with the exclusive friendships he had in Hong Kong, Bangkok and other Asian cities.

Asia looks at transgenders differently than we do in the West, there seems to be no stigma for trying to change sexes, why should there be anyway? Your sex is your sex; no one can alter that, only you. The Ladyboys, though I’ve seen it as spelled Ladybois, which teem Asian cities, wouldn’t survive in the West, our prejudices and hatred of others is simply too ingrained in us. We fear the different, the other, and men as women? Forget it, no way! Or do we? Two of my editors were once men and now survive as women, even had the operations to go all the way, and one, well, I’m still trying to figure out their gender but I don’t think I ever will, so I’ll leave with that.

In the West we view the transvestite prostitute as odd, a freak of nature, nothing but a hooker on Times Square while in the East a trans/pros is really a Ladyboy, and certainly looking and acting a lot better than an actual woman.

In the book we go through the author’s adventures or misadventures, of being a woman to a surprising conclusion that actually made me smile; I did not expect it all. But also a great ending by an author whose works I will certainly reading more of. This is perfect book, with a perfect ending. My hats off to Chris Burrows! Take it off, baby, no, wait, I’ll take it off for you. Still, better we both take it off…

Keep writing!

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A huge thank you to Mick for taking the time to share with us such a wonderful review (and thanks as well to Chris for stopping by last week for an interview!)

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With Mykola Dementiuk here to help keep our Spring Celebration going strong, it's also time for you - the readers - to do your part by stopping by, saying hello, and hopefully even sharing a few thoughts on her review, or on her blog.

Don't forget, this is your next opportunity to become eligible for our final giveaway, so be sure to include your email address in your comment. Of course, you don't have to be a follower to win, but being a follower will earn you a bonus entry for the week (just let me know in your comment if you're a new follower or an old favourite).

REVIEW: I Rise - The Transformation of Toni Newman

I Rise is a fresh (and refreshing) addition to the growing realm of transgender memoirs, being the story of someone who is proudly black, proudly gay, and proudly transsexual. What immediately strikes you when reading her story is that it is neither the story of a victim, nor that of a life fashioned out of the need to escape something or someone in her past. Instead, it’s a story of simply becoming herself, of realizing who she always was inside.

Although she knew from an early age who she was meant to be, Toni worked very hard at being who everyone else expected her to be – and, by all measures, succeeded very well. Before deciding to transition, she was an attractive, fit, desirable, young, gay man. She was popular, smart, well-educated, and a very successful entrepreneur. For most people, looking in from the outside, hers was a life to be envied. For her, looking out through the fa├žade she’d created, it simply wasn’t the life she was meant to live. In the first of many difficult choices to come, Toni gave it all up, sacrificing everything she had achieved for the most noble of all causes – being true to herself.

Faced with such difficult choices along the way, she never took the easy way out, never cheated herself, and never let herself be the victim. More than that, she befriended and mentored those around her, always working to improve their lives alongside her own. When faced with social injustices, an absence of community, and a lack of legal recognition, she found a renewed sense of purpose and passion. Instead of laying blame and hiding behind society’s failings, she took it upon herself to begin making things better for her transgendered sisters.

Toni’s story is exciting, full of drama, celebrity encounters, and a career that could just as easily have sprung from the pages of an erotic novel. It’s also a story that is deeply moving, sometimes sorrowful, but always inspiring. Whether or not you agree with the choices she’s made, you cannot help but admire her perseverance and her sense of purpose.

“I feel victorious that I have endured, and have come into my true essence. I am a black transsexual. I am happy and healthy and free.”

Ultimately, I think what I love most about Toni’s story is that she is has taken control of her body, just as she took control of her life and her identity. She has decided that sexual-reassignment surgery is not the answer for her, and doesn’t make any attempt to disguise who she is. While many of her sisters ultimately reject the transsexual label, looking to be recognized solely as female, she is comfortable with herself as a transsexual – not because it’s exotic or erotic, but because it’s who she was meant to be.

If you’re at all interested in the transgender experience, or simply interested in the story of a life that inspires, I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hops, Follows, and Tag Alongs, Oh My!

Don't forget to check out Week 4 of our Spring Celebration with interviews, reviews, reading recommendations, and one fantastic giveaway!

It's time for another Book Blogger Hop, courtesy of Crazy for Books!

Book Blogger Hop

"Summer is coming quickly - what 2011 summer release are you are most looking forward to?"

I have to admit, the HBO series has renewed my interest in George R.R. Martin, so I'd have to say A Dance with Dragons.

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


"Keeping with the dystopian and apocalypse theme that seems to be running rampant on parajunkee.com, I have one very hard question for you: If you were stocking your bomb shelter, what books would you HAVE to include if you only had space for ten?"

Okay, end-of-the-world, space for 10 books, that means books with serious re-readability, but it also means I need some variety. As much as I'd love to take the entire Dark Tower saga or a few trilogies, I'd have to go with:

  1. Imagica by Clive Barker
  2. The Stand by Stephen King
  3. Silver: Humanotica 1 by Darcy Abriel
  4. Necroscope by Brian Lumley
  5. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
  6. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  7. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
  8. The Ruins of Ambrai by Melanie Rawn
  9. Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
  10. A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay
The 18 & Over Book Blogger Tag Along is courtesy of Bitten by Paranormal Romance!

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"Do you have another hobby besides reading?"

Absolutely - I enjoy hiking through the woods and cycling along the pathways and trails that ride along the river.

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!

Interview (plus giveaway): Drew Hunt

Welcome to our latest Spring Celebration interview, this time with the the fantastic Drew Hunt, author of such gay male erotic romances as Twelve Hours, Fireside Romance, and Calvin's Cowboy (all of which are published by JMS Books, which means any one could be chosen as part of this weeks' grand prize). Fed up with characters who are super-wealthy, impossibly handsome, and incredibly well-endowed, Drew is determined to make his characters real and believable. He lives a quiet life in the north of England with his cat, and someday hopes to meet the kind of man he writes about.

His latest is Brett's New Game Plan, a sequel to his first Afterlife story, Waiting for Colton:

College football player Brett is devastated when he learns Gavin, the man he’s waited for in Heaven, is married and intends to spend his afterlife with his wife, who predeceased him. Lost, Brett leans heavily on his friends, his dads Colton and Dennis, as well as his work as a vet tech. Brett is assigned the rehabilitation of Willow, a tall sorrel horse, who died in a lightning strike. However, where Willow goes, so does Jake Rushton, the cowboy who rides him. Can Jake adjust to life in Heaven and, for the first time, allow someone close enough to love and care for him? Despite past hurts, can Brett be all Jake needs him to be?


And now, without further ado, let's get into the interview . . .

♥ What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?

I write gay male erotic romance, chiefly though not exclusively my stories have a contemporary setting.  Why do I write in this genre?  Mainly because those are the sorts of stories I like to read.

♥ When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Who or what was your inspiration for writing?

2003, I think.  It was a long time ago. Back then e-books didn’t exist. The only stories I could access online were free and generally of poor quality.  I thought I could do better so set about trying.

♥ What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Edit. In many ways it’s easier to tell someone else how to write than to write oneself. 

♥ What books are currently on your nightstand?

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. Maybe I would argue with his writing style, but the man spins a wonderfully entertaining and humorous yarn which keeps me engaged.

♥ Do you remember the first novel you read?

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White.  I remember crying buckets when Charlotte died.

♥ Who are your favorite authors and why?

James Herriott tells simple stories, but does so very well.  Bill Bryson makes me laugh but also manages to educate me. Although more a playwright than an author, I adore anything written by Alan Bennett.  His ability to dissect and observe the world around him is amazing. Also doesn’t hurt that he’s originally from Yorkshire, like me.

♥ What is your favorite gay book that you didn’t write?

Bareback by Chris Owen.  It was also one of the first gay books I read, but it’s powerful (and not always comfortable) message has stayed with me. 

♥ Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.

I am legally blind.  I use synthetic speech on my computer to read back to me what I’ve written.  Some people say I write very realistic dialogue.  I think the fact I actually hear the words being spoken aloud to me helps with this.

♥ Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Cheese, as my waistline can attest.

♥ Where are you from originally?  Family?

I was born and still live in the north of England.  The recent (and not so recent) economic downturns have blighted the local economy pretty badly. But for the most part Yorkshire people have remained positive and friendly.

♥ Why do you write? What excites you about writing?

I can put myself in the shoes of one of my characters and can fall in love with the man I create for him. Finishing a story excites me, sending it off to my small group of editors/beta readers and getting their feedback. It’s not always positive, but when it isn’t it’s constructive. I am always learning.

♥ What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I don’t do more than an hour’s writing at a time.  If I push it I find my mind wandering.  I know when it’s time to write again because I can’t concentrate on whatever it is I’m doing, my characters keep butting in with suggestions for what I should do with them next.

♥ Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Try and join a critique group.  It’s okay to show your work to your friends or family, but ask yourself if they’ll be objective.  Learn how to take constructive criticism without wanting to crawl under the desk and curl yourself into a ball. Writing is a learning process. Your first story might not be very good, but hopefully your second will be better.

♥ What would you consider is your favorite part of a book to write? The beginning, the middle or the ending?

The beginning. it’s the hardest and takes me the longest, but it’s the most rewarding.

♥ Most people envision an author’s life as being really glamorous. What’s the most unglamorous thing that you’ve done in the past week?

Clean out the cat’s litter box.

♥ How long does it take you to finish a book from start to submission?

Months. I write slowly, get distracted, want to write other things.  I wonder if part of this is because I don’t want to say goodbye to the characters.  For example, in my recent book Calvin’s Cowboy I still want to talk to the guys, give them exciting things to do.  Maybe I should write a sequel, but I don’t like sequels for the most part. It’s so difficult to hit new highs with the same cast of characters.

♥ What is the best and worst writing advice you have ever received?

The best advice was about how to write in limited third person. It wasn’t easy to do this at first, but I know I was able to get much deeper inside my characters when I limited myself to one scene, one point of view. The worst advice was to just sit at my computer and write whatever comes into my head.  It didn’t work for me.  I ended up just writing nonsense.  I’ve found that I can’t force the words when they don’t want to come.  However, I recognize this might be good advice for some people.

♥ Do you track work count or write a certain number of hours per day?

I write when the voices in my head become too loud to ignore.  I figure if I can successfully block out the suggestions being told to me, then those suggestions aren’t strong enough yet to make their own way in the world.

♥ Have you ever had one of those profound “AH-HA!” moments while you were writing?  Would you be willing to share it?

I had decided to treat myself to a doughnut  after finishing my short story “Missing Manhole Cover” Ernest had just come out to Liam then had taken himself on a walk to give Liam some thinking time. Liam was there to greet Ernest on his return, they confessed their love for each other, the orchestra swelled and the final credits rolled.  But on my walk the inner voice said, “What if Liam wasn’t there waiting?” So I rewrote the ending, it was still happy, but I would like to think more fulfilling.  This was the first time I got an a-ha moment, I hope it won’t be the last.

♥ What was the most uplifting moment you’ve experienced during your writing career?

Holding a print copy of my first book in my hand. 

♥ How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

About fifteen.  Some aren’t published yet and a few are still incomplete.  I think I’m most proud of Calvin’s Cowboy, but probably Colin and Martin First Christmas is my favorite because Martin is the closest I’ve ever come to describing myself in one of my stories.

♥ When a new book comes out, are you nervous about how readers will react to it?

Yes. Even though I know it’s totally out of my hands by that point, I still worry that I should have done this, that or the other to the story.

♥ What can we look forward to in the upcoming months?

Further installments of Fireside Romance, Afterlife and Twelve Hours

♥ Of all the books you have written, which would you consider your easiest to write? The hardest to write? The most fun to write?

The Fireside Romance stories were the hardest, they were also my first. I didn’t know what I was doing initially.  The most fun to write was “Trucker and Pup” Joey could do and say things I would never do myself. Don’t think I have an “easiest book” all my stories took quite some effort to produce.

♥ What story haven’t you written yet but would like to?  Is there anything holding you back from writing it?

I’ve had a story in mind, almost from the beginning, about an English high school student falling in love with his new next door neighbor who is American, possibly native American.  Don’t really know what’s holding me back, I guess I want to really do it justice so want to wait until I think I’ve honed my wordcraft to such a degree that I can do it properly.

♥ What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?

I am an Englishman but choose to set many of my stories stateside.  It’s important to me to get the American idioms and speech patterns correct.  Thus I consult with a small panel of US citizens who let me know what I’ve done wrong.  When I recently visited New York I tried to implement all I’d learned, but I’m sure (accent aside) I stuck out like a soar thumb.

♥ Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?

Hinder. I don’t do well under pressure.  I like to finish a story before submitting it for publication. Therefore everything, apart from the editing, is already done.

♥ Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I have a mental outline, which is subject to change as my characters do things I hadn’t intended them to do. I have a series of loosely connected scenes, conversations or just phrases that I want to use in the story, so the writing process is often about joining these various things into something that flows naturally.

♥ What was your first published work and when was it published?

Something About Trevor was published in July 2010.  It’s my best-selling book, and I honestly don’t know why.  Sure, I like the characters and the situations I put them in, but I wouldn’t say it was any better than my other stories.  Just goes to show an author is not the best judge of his work.

♥ If your book is available in print, how does it feel to hold a book that has your name on the cover?  What is your favorite cover of all your paperbacks?

I cried when I held my first book.  The cover of Rough Road to Happiness is my favorite.  It’s uncluttered, simple and quite dark in tone.

♥ What is your least popular published story?  Why do you think readers don’t like or “get” the story?

Trapped Nerves hasn’t sold as well as I would have liked.  I wonder if readers are put off because one of the protagonists is disabled and is in a wheelchair. Many of my characters are not physically perfect, Mason was the most damaged of all my characters I think.

♥ Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Generally (but not always) one of the characters is very loosely based on me, or shares some of my beliefs/fears/aspirations.  His love interest tends to be the kind of person I would like to date. 

♥ Is it hard coming up with names for your characters?

Yes, I try not to use a name I’ve used before, but as I write more stories that’s harder to do.

♥ Have any of your characters ever haunted your dreams or woken you up during the night demanding attention?

No, thankfully.  But they do talk to me when I’m buying groceries, in the shower and once while sat on the toilet. No, the mental prompt had nothing to do with bathrooms.

♥ Which of your stories would make a great movie?  Who’d play the lead roles?

A couple of readers said Something About Trevor would make a good movie. I’d have to think about who could play Paul. Hmm,  Daniel Craig, although his hair is the wrong color. And I’d play Trevor ‘cause I’d get to make out with Daniel Craig!

♥ Do you make a conscious decision to write a certain type of character with a certain occupation, or do the characters decide for themselves what they want to be?

I start out dictating what types of people (job temperament etc) each character should have, but invariably the characters have other ideas and change things around.

♥ What in your opinion makes good chemistry between your leading characters?

A loneliness or a need which the other party can fulfill.

♥ Is there a character from one of your books that resonates deeply with you?

John “Brock” Brockwell from Calvin’s Cowboy He’s a  cowboy, he’s strong  but yet vulnerable, he’s lost but too proud to admit it.  And did I mention he’s a cowboy? The fact he’s a contractor and often wears construction gear doesn’t harm, either.

♥ Do you have a favorite vacation spot? 

New York. There’s so much going on in the Big Apple.

♥ Are you a cat person or a dog person?

A dog person.  But don’t tell my cat.

♥ Name one website you visit every single day

All Romance eBooks.  I buy way more e-books than I can read.

♥ Where do you get your daily dose of news?

I’m British, therefore I get my news from the BBC.  It, along with our National Health Service, is a most precious institution.

♥ If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, which would it be and why?

I don’t listen to a lot of music but I think it’d have to be Bryn Terfell’s Something Wonderful. What can I say, I like show tunes, and Bryn’s voice is heavenly.

♥ What’s the last album you bought?

And the World Goes Round, a selection of music by Kander and Ebb.

♥ What was your favorite movie when you were 12?

Mary Poppins. But being English I couldn’t stand Dick Van Dyke’s appalling attempt at a cockney accent.

♥ If you could meet anyone, living or dead, for dinner, who would it be? Why? What would you talk about?

Thomas Edison.  I’d like to bring him up-to-date with technology and show him that his inventions are still in regular use nowadays.

♥ What is your favorite word/phrase for the male or female genitalia?  What is your least favorite word/phrase?

Being gay I have no interest whatsoever in female genitalia. My favorite name for male private parts would be “wedding tackle.” Least favorite, hmm, “meat and two veg.”

♥ What is your favorite curse word?

“Bugger.”

♥ What body part do you wash first?

My face.

♥ Innie or outie?

Innie.

♥ Have you ever been tied up? Do you want to be?

I haven’t, but if the tie-er was the right guy (someone I could trust completely) I’d give it a go.

♥ How many drinks does it take before you get drunk?

Four double gin and tonics and I’m asleep.
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A huge "thank you" to Drew Hunt for stopping by. You can check him out on the web at JMS Books.

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With Drew Hunt here to help keep the last week of our Spring Celebration going strong, it's also time for you - the readers - to do your part by stopping by, saying hello, and hopefully even sharing a few thoughts on either his books or his interview.

Don't forget, this is also your chance to become eligible for this week's giveaway (including your book of choice from JMS Books), so be sure to include your email address in your comment. Of course, you don't have to be a follower to win, but being a follower will earn you a bonus entry for the week (just let me know in your comment if you're a new follower or an old favourite).