Thursday, February 28, 2013

Allusion, Homage and Filing off the Numbers by Angelia Sparrow (GUEST POST)

Like many writers in our genre, I got my start in fanfiction. Technically, I've been writing fanfic since I was eight, when I hauled my mother's enormous manual typewriter out and typed up a Land of the Lost comic as a script for recess play-acting. All on Mom's favorite lavender typing paper of course.

In the early 80s, I discovered science fiction fandom, conventions, and fanzines through Star Trek. In the late 90s, after college, marriage, and children, I rediscovered it through Buffy. And I wrote. I wrote fairly copiously in the 80s, and moreso when I had an actual computer instead of longhand. I discovered slash and made it all my own.

Then, in 2004, someone I knew from Star Wars fandom announced "I have this new press, and we need short stories for an anthology." So I tried my hand at original slash-style fiction, and it took off from there.

Every now and then, I look at something like Fifty Shades of Gray and wonder about recycling some of the older fanfiction. I have done it. And I have pirated characters almost wholesale from media properties and dumped them into my own universes.

There are ways to do this that aren't plagaristic and make your readers feel clever instead of making them glare at the book and ask "Did I really need to spend 200 pages on a 'Sons of Anarchy' Mary-Sue fic set in a paranormal universe?"

Let's start with the most obvious: Heart of a Forest is a Robin Hood novel. Now Robin is a semi-historical legendary figure and the set pieces of the story are all public domain. But, when Naomi and I were writing, we had to be careful not to take anything whole cloth from the movies and books. There is homage, and then there is plain old laziness.

One of the more blatant homages is when Bess and Little John are fooling around:
"Oh no! You’ll keep me here, you wicked thing, and have your fierce naughty way with me! Every day!" She turned her face away and bit the knuckle of her index finger. "Every night!" She turned the other direction, pressing the back of her hand to her forehead. "And sometimes right after lunch?" She gave him a wicked grin as she fell giggling across his chest for a kiss.
The dialogue comes from Men in Tights, but the behavior is pure Bess.

On the other hand, in the forthcoming space bounty hunter piece, the character of Hevik is clearly written for Harrison Ford. He's not quite Han Solo, despite the whole space thing. He's closer to a fired and displaced Jack Ryan with a side of Rick Deckard. Even as we were writing, his dialogue came through in the trademark growl. But Hevik Montag is his own character for all of that.

Then there are Zora and Talla, in the Adventuresses collection. These two started as original characters in the Star Wars universe, background in a couple of fics. Then, I came up short doing the collection. So I looked over the old fanfiction, took a Han/Luke slash piece that had been a zine fic only, and removed all SW universe references. That meant everything had to go: lightsabers, the Force, Chewbacca, the last chapter rescue by Darth Vader (don't ask). I let the girls take over the roles for the boys, made Talla a cat-girl, kept the primary adventure plot and rewrote the ending. I'm rather pleased with it.

And that brings us to Barbarossa's Bitch. The sources are there and fairly obvious for anyone who wants to look. In fact, Dylan, our narrator, is a big enough geek to hand some to the reader on a silver platter. When the masked leader of the wildpack is looking over the captives, he has a Road Warrior flashback and has to stifle a giggle. The equipment the pack uses is pure SCA camping gear, down to Barbarossa's curule chair. One bit I really like, that made one of my first-readers fall out of her chair laughing, occurs at the Amazon freehold. The pack makes sperm donations, the amazons (all lesbian) centrifuge out the Y sperm and only have daughters.
"But no Barbarossa daughters," I said, looking at him sadly.

"One, and only one. But they call her Diana and her mother tells her she made her out of clay and the goddess Hera breathed life into the statue. She's being raised to be the next leader." He glanced up to the walls where General Prince inclined her head at him.
It's the Wonder Woman origin story in one sentence. I don't explicitly tell the reader that in the narrative. I assume they will either get the reference to Diana Prince, or it will just wash over them.

So, if you're looking at your old fanfic, wondering, I would say try it. My best suggestion is put two generic character names in, remove all universe reference and have a friend not in that fandom read it to see if it makes sense. With a good editor, and a good amount of hard work, fanfic can be converted. Not every fic has what it takes, but sometimes it's worth trying.


Barbarossa's Bitch is currently available from Storm Moon Press in ebook format for $5.99.

Angelia Sparrow's work can be found at She can also be found on LiveJournal (valarltd), Facebook (Author Angelia Sparrow), Google+ (Angelia Sparrow), Fetlife (valarltd), Twitter (@asparrow16), and Blogger.


This post is part of the blog tour for Angelia Sparrow & Naomi Brooks' new book Barbarossa's Bitch. To celebrate this new release, they're holding a huge giveaway! You can enter by commenting with your e-mail address on this post or any other on their blog tour throughout this week. Commenting on multiple blogs means multiple entries, so follow along and keep commenting! Entries are open until Midnight EST on Saturday, March 2nd, 2013. There will be three winners. The Grand Prize is Angelia Sparrow's entire backlist (that's 12 novels and over 70 short stories). First runner up will get an ebook copy of Barbarossa's Bitch along with a $10 gift certificate to Angelia's Etsy shop, and the second runner up will get the ebook alone. Amazing prizes are a great way to sweeten the dark themes of this post-apocalyptic gay novel! Thanks for joining us on the blog tour and remember to comment to enter the giveaway!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Agony of Joy by Red Haircrow (PRESS RELEASE)

“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.

Description: “Former model turned actor Adrian Lee can barely list age range '23-29' on his resumé anymore nor stand his life of empty social events and appearances, meaningless roles and casual partners. When he meets Alexander Skizetsky by clever arrangement of his agent, the enigmatic yet infinitely attractive Russian kindles a little light of hope in his aching heart. Yet even the beginnings of a friendship and love beyond his wildest dreams cannot assuage a life spiraling out of control.

The long estrangement from his devout Irish Catholic parents and family and the dark secrets they all share combine to drive him to the brink of despair, though Alexander is determined to stay by his side. After locking away his own memories of betrayal and loss, the Russian had decided never to love again but something in Adrian spurs the noblest intentions in his formerly jaded heart. Returning in pilgrimage to his homeland, he brings Adrian along on a journey of rebirth, revelation and redemption.”

More about the novel: Taking almost ten years to complete, The Agony of Joy, incorporates many of the author’s experiences and observations as a survivor of sexual abuse and violence. But far from being the central theme although psychological and behavioral after-effects continue for many, the novel focuses on the courage it takes, often in the face of opposition, misunderstanding and/or apathy to not allow anything or anyone to keep you imprisoned by that past, not even yourself.

One of the primary reasons the author returned to university, completing another degree in Psychology, graduating Spring 2013, was to help others in this and other regards, as well as continue personal healing.

Editorial Pre-release Reviews:

"Your story does what good fiction should do.  It makes me think, makes me feel, allows me to visit different places, and connect deeply with the characters.  It explores real issues that people face...."
"I love descriptive stories that enable me to travel to different places without leaving the comfort of my easy chair. I love using all my senses while reading and getting so totally immersed in a story that the sound of the phone ringing makes me jump. And I love characters so deep that I think about them during the day and dream about them at night."
"A love story, but not a romance, definitely a gothic feel and one of the most positive portrayals of bisexuality I've ever come across in fiction."
-Nancy Ferrer, Outlaw Reviews

"It is an incredible work! You have been able to channel your memories and experiences, create vivid real characters and make something so beautiful out of pain and struggle is the highest meaning of what I believe art is: transforming hurt and becoming healers.
I’ve never read anything like Agony of Joy. There has never been a story that deals with some of the personal issues you are presenting in such an open way. It is inspiring and liberating and needed."
-Ana Christina Caelen, Sound therapist, Musician and Composer

"A well-told story...I admire your tact, and am enthralled by these characters and the world they live in."
-M. Daniel Nickel, Entertainer and Author of The Dashing Mister R

About the Author

Both traditionally and independently published, Red Haircrow is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction, poet, private chef and former law enforcement officer of Native American (Chiricahua Apache/Cherokee) descent who lives in Berlin, Germany. They are also a Psychology major and operate the independent publishing label and writer cooperative Flying With Red Haircrow.

Red Haircrow has various poems, shorter works and articles published in magazines like Sword & Saga Press’ American Athenaeum, Sibling Rivalry Press' Assaracus, Danse Macabre, and Indian Country Today.  A winner in Rainbow Awards 2012 for Best LGBT Biography/Memoir: “Silence Is Multi-Colored In My World.”

Among other things, Red Haircrow enjoys photography, traveling, learning languages and cultures, and is quite active in Native American affairs, life, traditions and history.

Other Works


A Lieutenant’s Love
Convenience Store Romance
Night Shift
Katrdeshtr’s Redemption
The House of Doom, Dreams and Desire
The Coat: Secrets of a Hatcheck Boy
The Angel of Berlin
The Caravaggio and the Swan
We, The Dead


Songs of the Universal Vagabond
Silence Is Multi-Colored In My World

Other Book Trailers:

Wrestling Against Myself by Katie Leone (REVIEW)

Wrestling Against Myself is a sweet, touching and gut-wrenching story by Katie Leone, an author who has a knack for demanding the reader's emotional involvement in her novels. This is a realistically told story about a romance between two innocents that flames brightly before calamitous events precipitated by hate, bigotry and transphobia test the values and principles of the "righteous" as this novel winds toward a very exciting conclusion.

What I loved most about this book was that it grabbed me at the start and gripped me from start to finish. I also enjoyed witnessing the unfolding inner strength and unflinching loyalty of Antonio, the male lead. What a fine young person, wise beyond his years, but still very human and not without his flaws. Surprisingly for me, I also appreciated the strongly religious aspect of this book, which was portrayed in a manner that seemed appropriate for the characters, but not to the point of trying to convert the reader to Christianity.  For the non-Christian reader like me, this was interesting and more than tolerable.

Where I felt this work was less than perfect, was my sense that the story was a little too drawn out. I felt that it could have been condensed a bit and tightened up for an even better reading experience. On the other hand, that it was not, made the events that were to unfold appear more like the "train-wreck" they turned out to be. So who knows? Lastly, the character of Courtney, our very young transgender protagonist, was a bit too enigmatic for me and not as developed as I would have liked. I sometimes wondered what Antonio saw in her that caused him to love her. Yes, she was sweet, innocent and needy, but what else was she? Well, I guess, as Antonio (and Woody Allen) were fond of saying, "The heart wants what the heart wants." A very enjoyable effort.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Boy in a Bikini by Russell Frank (REVIEW)

This fine novel features an extremely narcissistic and bereaved mother who creates havoc in a young boy's life by slowly and inexorably turning him into a girl, totally against his wishes.

The Boy in a Bikini is a story of child abuse and forced feminization leading to gender transition, told primarily from the point of view of the victim. Offering many plot twists, Russell Frank weaves a deft tale that eventually concludes in a manner reminiscent to the 1967 movie, The Graduate, but with an unexpected counter twist that I won't reveal.

A particularly interesting technique that the author employs advantageously is the 360 degree overview afforded as each of the central characters has the opportunity to describe his or her own perspective on things, offering justifications and rationalizations for sometimes aberrant behavior that will make you cringe.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Gender's Hourglass by Cybele Marcia Carte (REVIEW)

I'm an avid reader of books in the transgender genre with an additional long-term passion and interest in fantasy and science fiction. Gender's Hourglass (Second Edition) is a fine novel satisfies me on all these levels.

Cybele Marcia Carter spins an ingenious tale of gender transition through time travel, grabbing me from the very first paragraph, when she writes:

"It was odd, closing my eyes in 2012 and opening them in 1972. But stranger things have happened to me. Like living my life in two genders."

The author goes on to weave a most interesting, creative, and realistic tale, rich in nostalgia and 'what-if' scenarios, one that conjures up similar emotions felt when reading the haunting H.G. Wells novel, The Time Machine. It is a story that I didn't want to end. I could say more, but I don't want to ruin the impact for other readers. PS. I always overlook minor editing issues on powerful books that are self published. There are a some here, but I consider them of little consequence to the total picture.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Sissy and the Billionaire by Crystal Veeyant (REVIEW)

With The Sissy and the Billionaire being Crystal Veeyant's longest work to date, I was really excited to see what she could pull off with space to let her imagination and her talents soar. Much to my surprise, rather than using those extra pages to ease us into the tale, she goes all-out from page one, introducing us to not just one fantasy-fuel scenario, but a second intricately intertwined within it.

For most authors, it would be more than enough to open the story with a forcibly feminized prisoner, on his knees, and kissing the female warden's lovely derrière. Some might even push it a bit further, and have that all be a set-up for Ricky/Rita to be offered as a birthday present for a senior prison officer. A few of them might even try using that as a springboard to explore the military barracks threesome that led to the sissy's incarceration, but I doubt any of them would use all of that to set up a lifetime of submission to a spoiled, bratty, billionaire's daughter.

Crystal does all that, and more, in setting us up for a story that is wilder, darker, and more emotionally stimulating than any she has written before. The way in which she links all of those scenarios together, making the all a part of the ongoing story, rather than just convenient fantasy scenarios along the way, is quite spectacular. Just when you have forgotten about the men and women who have played a role in Ricky's transformation into Rita, Crystal finds a way to not only bring them back, but have them play far more of a role than we, as readers, have any right to expect.

As always, her protagonist is a huge part of what sets her tale apart from the competition. Ricky is a nice young man with a lingerie fetish - a little confused, but not your typical emotionally-damaged, shame-filled, guilt-ridden crossdresser. Life's circumstances definitely set him up as a victim, but Crystal never allows him to wallow in that role, instead making him a young man who makes his own choices, and who follow his path into sissy submission as Rita with equal parts excitement and trepidation.

For the first time, however, Crystal presents us with an antagonist who is just as fully developed, and just as worthy of her time in the spotlight as Rita. I will be honest, I came to intensely dislike Sylvia by the end of the book, but the strength of that dislike is a testament to just how well her character was developed. Like Ricky, I fell in love with her early on but, as we both came to understand her selfishly deficient understanding of the power relationship, I really worried where the story was taking us.

Fortunately, just when I though the story was going to end on a dark note, Crystal throws in a last-minute twist that may be just a bit too convenient, but which works beautifully. In the space of dozen or so pages she ties up the loose ends we never knew were waiting to be resolved, gives the entire story meaning, and resolves not just Rita's journey, but the theme of dominance and submission at the heart of the story.

It is a book that is entirely satisfying on all levels - sexual, emotional, and intellectual - and which truly entertains as it arouses. Definitely worth reading for any fan of the transgender experience, and any lover of the BDSM power exchange.

[Reviewed by Bobbi]

Friday, February 1, 2013

Reclamation by Vee Hoffman (REVIEW)

Reclamation, by Vee Hoffman, picks up almost immediately where her first novel, Acclamation, left off. In case you didn’t read my review of Acclamation, let me summarize by saying that I have rarely loved so many aspects of a story so much. Acclamation was detailed, intense, erotic, moving and realistic. Reclamation is all of those things, and more. I wouldn’t recommend reading the sequel without reading its predecessor first, but that’s okay, because trust me, you’re going to appreciate starting at the beginning with this one.

Acclamation was in some ways a very tentative novel, fixated on the taboos and challenges that are inherent in a relationship between Michael Cassidy, a teacher at a Catholic school who is in his late twenties and an atheist, and Dominic Butler, one of his students, a teenager and devoutly religious. Reclamation carries some of that tenuousness over, but there are also a series of revelations that make their romance, if not their lives, easier. Not that their romance is easy yet; the mating dance, as Michael puts it, is exhausting, and that lengthy, time-consuming courtship is on full display. What makes the wait for all of us more palatable is how much more we learn about the main characters, and particularly Michael.

Michael is given the chance to express more of his own foibles in this book, to be more than a love interest and partner in exploration. He’s the narrator for both books, but with Reclamation we get a real sense of both the good and bad of his character. He gets angry, he feels betrayed at times, and he expresses himself with imperfect control and immaturity. Thank god. He’s not even thirty yet, he shouldn’t have to be a paragon of control and maturity all of the time. Michael gets to have his bad days, just like Dominic has his own. The important thing, the thing that makes this pair worth reading about beyond the obvious lyricism of the writing, is how determined they are to be there for each other. Even when the misunderstanding is intense, there’s never a sense of hopelessness. We’re swept up in Michael’s enduring, sometimes astonishing love. Once we learn more about Scott (via his mother Makoto, who is an amazing character) we get a better sense of that love, of how Michael loves, of what he gets from being in love with Dominic. It’s explanation and satiation all wrapped up in absolutely delicious description. Speaking of that…the sex. The intimacy. It will give you shivers.

Feel free to expect a lot from this series and this author. She’s not afraid to tackle difficult subjects, and the introspections on topics ranging from literary interpretation to prejudicial violence to the myriad definitions of virginity were thought-provoking without being proselytizing. The stage is set for future conflicts, the road forward is murky but hopeful, and I personally cannot wait to read more. Ms. Hoffman, with all due respect: step on it.

[Reviewed by Cari]