Thursday, March 31, 2011

REVIEW: Fireflies by Lacey Reah

Initially, I had planned to hide away in a darkened corner, curl up with a nice glass of wine, and enjoy Fireflies in a single setting. It seemed like such a slender book, and I assumed an erotic tale about Nymphomite vampires would simply demand a quick, intense read. I couldn’t have been happier to be wrong. Fireflies is so not your typical, run-of-the-mill lesbian vampire story – for such a short read, it’s surprisingly deep, and entirely satisfying.

At its core, this is the story of three very different women. Linda is a career-driven woman, with a life that’s just a bit too perfect, who stubbornly clings to her own humanity following her transformation. Natasha is the vampire who turned her, and who laments the loss of her own humanity. Jesse is the passionate, free-spirited artist who, upon being turned by Linda, chooses to reject humanity and embrace the monster inside. Lacey clearly demonstrates that the line between humanity and monster is not as distinct as we’d like to think, and it’s in the blurring of the two that the story finds its depth.

Despite that depth, this is a very fast-paced story, full of frantic action, and sublimely erotic scenes of lesbian arousal. It’s also a story that’s often amusing, in an ironic smile kind of way, especially with Linda repeatedly wandering naked through the city. The language here is beautiful, with words selected (particularly in the more erotic scenes) to be both subtle and powerful, without being rudely explicit.

The first-person perspective of Linda adds a sense of immediacy to everything that happens, and almost demands that we exhibit the same superhuman stamina in following her from one encounter to another. This limits our experience a bit, denying us any insight into what the other characters are thinking, but it’s a narrative technique that works well here.  At times exhilarating, and at times exhausting, Fireflies is a story that engages the reader physically, emotionally, and intellectually.

Whether she chooses to revisit the fireflies and Nymphomites again, or takes her talents in a completely different direction, Lacey Reah is certainly an author to keep an eye on.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

REVIEW: The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight by Donald Allen Kirch

I’ve enjoyed some great reads this year, but I can honestly say none of them were quite as pleasant a surprise as The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight. This was a book I had on my radar for a while, attracted solely by the gender-bending premise, but it wasn’t until Donald got in touch that I decided to make room for it in my towering to-be-read pile.

I’m so glad I did.

This is the kind of book that takes me back to the classic, pulp fantasy novels that I so fondly remember from my high school years. From the plot, to the characters, to the narrative voice, it reminds me at times of authors like Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, and Michael Moorcock. Whereas the trend over the past decade or so has definitely towards towering works of epic fantasy, this is a return to old-fashioned sword & sorcery fantasy. If I had to compare it to anything contemporary, it would likely be David Drake’s Lord of the Isles saga (which, as a result, I find myself in a mood to revisit).

As you might expect from a book about a legendary warrior cursed to live out his life as a beautiful woman, this is also a story with a fair bit of sex – and sexual innuendo – but it’s done in a very clever and amusing way. Yes, Ka-Ron awakes from his transformation as an incredibly beautiful, sexually insatiable woman, but there are magical reasons for it . . . and very real consequences because of it. Aside from the sex, there are also some interesting explorations of gender here. Alternately comic and tragic, Ka-Ron’s efforts to adapt to his situation reveal a hidden depth of maturity and sophistication that you simply won’t find in a strictly erotic tale.

Readers who find the initial sexual explorations to be a bit too much are strongly advised to stick with it, as there is a wonderfully exciting fantasy tale to follow. As they battle their way through pirates, hungry sea-dragons, a coven of vampires, an undersea realm, and an insane elven king, our heroes find new companions in the form of a wizard, a dwarf, an elf, a vampire, and a man-child upon whom both the curse and the story eventually turn.

The story does get a little dark in the latter chapters, especially with the threat of an elven civil war, but Donald paces it well, knowing just when a bit of humour or sexual adventure is needed. At the same time, he resists the temptation to spice things up just for the sake of spicing things up, allowing the story to carry us along. By the end, we’ve formed strong bonds with all the characters, and their parting from us is indeed sweet sorrow . . . although I suspect we’ll see them again.

And, should that be the case, I will be there at the head of the line to welcome Ka-Ron, Jatel, Keeth, Molly, Rohan, and Dorian (especially Dorian!) back into my head and my heart all over again.

"Waiting On" Wednesday - The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer

"Waiting On" Wednesday spotlights upcoming releases that everyone's excited about (created by Jill at Breaking The Spine.)

The one book that I absolutely cannot wait to get my pretty little hands on this week is:

The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer: Three thousand years ago, a god told a lie. Now, only a goddess can tell the truth. Persephone has everything a daughter of Zeus could want--except for freedom. She lives on the green earth with her controlling mother, Demeter, growing up beneath the ever-watchful eyes of the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. But when Persephone meets the enigmatic Hades, she experiences something new: choice. Zeus calls Hades "lord" of the dead as a joke. In truth, Hades is the goddess of the underworld, and no friend of Zeus. She offers Persephone sanctuary in her land of the dead, so the young goddess may escape her Olympian destiny. But Persephone finds more than freedom in the underworld. She finds love, and herself. The Dark Wife is a lesbian revisionist retelling of the Persephone and Hades myth.

If, like me, you can't wait to get your hands on this one, pop on over to Sarah's site, check out her blog, or look her up on Goodreads.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Author Interview: David W. Richards (author of Pairs)

Good morning, all! Sitting down with us today is a fellow Canadian, and all-around interesting guy, David W. Richards. David is a member of the Canadian Authors Association and, beyond being a novelist, he is also a ‘script-doctor’ and freelance writer.

As if being multi-talented on the creative front weren't enough, he also has a Bachelor Degree in Psychology from Carleton University and is a Certified General Accountant. With such different professional interests, it's no wonder he divides his time between Venice, Italy and Ottawa, Canada.

Before we get into chatting, let's take a quick look at Pairs, a book that comes with the recommendation "If you liked Sex & the City and The Celestine Prophesy you are going to love Pairs" and which has been hailed as "engaging and hilarious" as well as "voyeuristic and often spiritual":

PairsIn grown-up fairy tales, even the happiest endings have complications. Kayley, the single mother of a psychically gifted four-year-old, squeaks out a living writing and creating greeting cards. Adam is a carpenter doing a favour at the request of a mutual friend. Alexandra is a former stripper making a place for herself in the "straight" world when she meets Adam's sexually ambiguous cousin Henry, a math teacher with nineteenth century values. In no particular order, spiritualism, home renovation, etymology, herbalism, psychic aptitude, quantum physics, Wicca, and Jungian teachings, are all braided seamlessly into a frequently humorous, sometimes outrageous, and often enlightening storyline that explores the nuances of romantic love and friendship between four very different yet equally engaging individuals.


♥ The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one - when did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?

 Pairs is actually my second novel and in both cases being in print didn’t register with me as a particularly significant event. With my first novel the excitement and joy of being a writer came when someone I didn’t know bought my book. With Pairs I experienced the same feeling when someone I had never even met rated the novel highly on the social network, Goodreads. I wanted to send her flowers!

♥ Did you deliberately choose a genre for Pairs? Was there something specific that drew you to it, or something you felt it offers that other forms of literature do not? Or was it just 'right' for this novel?

I set out to write a story that I would like to read; humorous, pithy enough to hold my interest and peppered with some eccentric characters. And I hoped others would enjoy it also. The concept of genre is a contentious one for me. Having to market the novel I needed to pick a genre, such is the nature of publishing. My editor thought that Pairs was chick-lit, which is a sub-genre of women’s literature.  I, however, felt that if I had to choose, then women’s literature, as opposed to chick-lit, was a better fit. But even now, I’m not sure. Certainly the gay and bi-sexual elements within the storyline added to the debate of the genre of Pairs.

As an author who happens to be gay, I didn’t initially believe that there was very much homosexual content, but some blog critics have found it disconcerting. Should Pairs be categorized as gay fiction? Perhaps yes in Omaha, but not in New York City. There it would be women’s literature. In Toronto it would be women’s fiction as the definition of ‘literature’ is a little bit more uptight here in Canada.

♥ Yes, literature certainly does have a more narrow definition in Canada. You mentioned being an author who happens to be gay - tell me, how does your past influence your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?

My first novel had quasi-autobiographical connotations to it, but Pairs much less so. However, themes of sexuality and orientation are prevalent in both. I find sexual orientation, particularly when it is ill-defined for a character, an interesting topic and one that has certainly been a significant part in my life. I also find it fascinating how much society ties the sexual component of a relationship to ‘orientation’. In Pairs a ‘straight’ woman develops a homosexual crush.

♥ Your career is clearly varied, so I assume the demands on your time are equally varied. Do you have a schedule or a routine to your writing? Is there a time and place that you must write, or do you let the words flow as they demand?

My schedule is not regimented, but it is disciplined. I don’t seek out a particular place or adhere to a particular time of day, but I do write every day if I’m working on a project. And I always seem to be working on something. In my first novel words came in fits and starts. I’d get up in the middle of the night to jot down a note for fear that the epiphany would never come again. However, by maintaining a loose but regular schedule, I am able to turn the creative process on and off.

When I do sit down to write I focus on the task. Although I’m not absolutely married to the idea of achieving a certain minimum word count per day, it is a useful and bluntly honest metric that helps to fend off any erroneous delusions of a productive session. I’m not done for the day until I’ve reached that minimum. With novels that number is 250 words per day, which is low, and with scripts it is 500 words per day. Lately, I’ve been doing over 1000.

♥ Is there a favourite quote or scene from your work that you feel particularly fond of? Something that reminds you of why writing is important to you?

A: My favourite quote is: “It is the purpose of art to heighten the mystery.” It encapsulates an undercurrent that runs through the storyline to the very last sentence.

Some of my favourite scenes are the least important in terms of moving the narrative forward. They share a common attribute of being interesting vignettes of life that are fully captured in a paragraph or a page of dialogue.  Alexandra and Adam standing on the porch in “Pairs” on a hot summer’s day taking a beer break from renovating the house and discussing the word preternatural and how it applies to Kayley’s tomato garden is one such scene.

♥ That is a great quote, and something you can apply equally to any kind of art (even if people sometimes forget that writing is an art). With that in mind, what's the last work of art you read, and would you recommend it?

The last book that I’ve read was called Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I think that guy is going to do alright for himself as a writer. I’m rather eclectic in my tastes, but in the mix I always try to ensure that I keep current on new voices. In that category the last book I read was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows. It was a very sweet story in a lovely, awe-shucks, kind of way.

♥ Wow, that second is quite the title, but I suspect you're right about that Steinbeck fellow. Tell me, is there a particular theme or message you're expecting readers to take away from your work?

There is no agenda other than to entertain, which I think should be the primary goal of any work of fiction.  ‘Possibility’ is a theme which quietly wanders through the story line, and I hope the reader is left a little open to embracing it, however it shows itself in their lives.

♥ I like that - sometimes we get so wrapped up in the 'literature' that we forget the 'entertainment' aspects. If we can turn out attention a moment to the entertained, what is your favourite aspect of the author-reader relationship? Do you actively seek out any formal interaction with your readers?

I love feedback, particularly when it’s positive. Failing that, any sort of response from a reader is nice but is surprisingly difficult to illicit. The unfortunate part of being a writer, as opposed to a stage performer, is the isolation from the audience. After releasing a novel to the world some critics may give it a perusal and give their thoughts. And while I do think critics provide a valuable service, they are not my intended audience. As I mentioned at the start of the interview it is wonderful when someone who has read my book strictly as a form of personal entertainment reacts.

As a writer I do continuously invite interaction on social networks such Facebook (David W. Richards – Writer), Twitter (DW_Richards) and Goodreads (David William Richards), but for Pairs I will also be doing public readings this spring.  Also, I maintain a blog called Living Robertly, which is tangential to my formal writing, but nevertheless provides me with loads of entertainment. My partner, Robert, also gets a kick out of it.

♥ What can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

My next novel is further off down the pipe than I had originally projected. The intent behind Pairs was that it would be the first book of a much larger and broader story arc. I had already begun working on the follow up manuscript when a few projects landed on my lap.

At the end of last year I became involved with a company called Ucreate Media to re-work a script for a graphic novel that they believed had potential. Their long term goal for this particular project is to spin it into a movie. In line with that goal they plan to have actors do a read-through this summer and have asked if I could be on set. 

Also on the docket, and also taking precedence over the next book, is another graphic novel which I have been working on. The script should be finalized by early May at which time there will be a competition to search for the artist. This is also being done through Ucreate Media. Any artist wanting more information about the competition should contact Ucreate Media directly:

Finally, again with Ucreate Media, (these are busy people) I will be working on the scripts for a series of short films that will tie together under one story arch. The details are still being hashed out, but they want to start shooting in June!


A huge "thank you" to David for stopping by. You can check him out on the web at  or Do yourself a favour and be sure to check out both sites . . . as soon as you've picked up your copy of Pairs, of course!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday In My Mailbox - What Are You Reading?

In My Mailbox and It's Monday, What are you Reading? are weekly memes hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren and Sheila at Book Journey, respectively. Both are great ways to share the books you're either reading, or shifting to the top of your TBR pile (because, let's face it, sometimes a little shifting is the best we can manage!).

Most recent arrivals in my Mailbox (all courtesy of the authors/publishers in question) are:

♥ Strike by Gemma Rice
♥ Darkroom by Poppet
TAG by Simon Royle
Triptych by J.M. Frey
When Women Were Warriors by Catherine M. Wilson
Ashera's Curse by A.E. Lathern

Strike  Darkroom  Tag (The Zumar Chronicles)  Triptych  When Women Were Warriors Book I  Ashera's Curse
As always, I'm generally hopping between books as the mood grabs me. Currently teasing me for time and seducing my attentions are:

Fireflies by Lacey Reah (I've been sooo looking forward to this!)
The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight by Donald Allen Kirch (an absolutely outstanding read . . . can't wait to share my review on this)
The Crippled God by Steven Erikson (took  bit of a break from this one, but I'm back at it)
The Gambit by Nancy Cole (wonderfully empowering transgender fiction)
Tricks by Rick R. Reed (just getting started on this slice of gay horror)

Fireflies  The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight  The Crippled God: Book Ten of The Malazan Book of the Fallen  The Gambit  Tricks

Well, that's it for now . . . what are you reading?