UPDATE: We're selling Gold Digger at $1 off to say "thank you" to all the Special Forces supporters over the years. Thanks, guys!
25 August: Came back from editor with a comment that the ending was rushed and not very satisfactionary.
(Weekend: Spent editing 40k and writing a new ending of 5k. Also fixed embarrassing research mistakes. I'm an ex-finance journo, I should know better. Also spend a delightful hour playing "hostile corporate takeover" with my partner. No, it didn't happen in the bedroom.
28 August 2012: This is now out to betas who know stuff about Canada. Expecting to see new version from editor today.)
29 August 2012: Canadian betas have come back with good stuff to be included/edited/fixed. Also, we have a blurb and a website.
30 August 2012: Edits back on my desk. Minor tweaks and incorporating Canadian feedback now. (later) Edits back to second editor. It's taking shape.
1 September 2012: Editor feedback on the first 75% in a nutshell: "They fuck like rabbits, so this is way hotter than you said, also, the sex is really hot. Both guys are intensely likeable, but the emotional arch needs tweaking." - I'd call that a RAGING RAINBOW CONFETTI-EXPLODING success. Whew.
3 September 2012: Two more editing passes over the weekend, fine-tuning some motivation and pacing, but nothing major. Back to editor early in the morning. It's a wrap. Now off to get proofed and laid-out. Also, we're selling it cheaper than the length suggests to say "thank you" to SF readers/supporters.
7 September 2012: Back from proofing
8 September 2012: Off to be laid out.
Random Other Note: This is a sweet and light contemporary. Yes it is, hand on heart. Though it does feature Vadim. (less)
A 13k short story that is fairly "different" to what I've been doing recently, but leads right into my next novel (there's a hint of my next novel in...moreA 13k short story that is fairly "different" to what I've been doing recently, but leads right into my next novel (there's a hint of my next novel in there for people who'll read both. :) ). Huge amount of research, very nervous, because it was so difficult and so demanding. (less)
I love the whole series and buying them in paper as they come out, because I believe in supporting the writer and no writer m...moreAll time favourite shelf.
I love the whole series and buying them in paper as they come out, because I believe in supporting the writer and no writer makes money from a free ebook. These are some of the best m/m stories I've read, and Casperian did a great job sourcing that talent and putting out the books. (less)
----------------------------------------- My partner described this story as "Disabled German-Named Space Maori in a Haunted House IN SPAAAACE with Polymorphing Monster". Yes, I thwapped him for it.
This was written after November 2011, after "Dark Soul" and started life as "Scorpions in Space!" (harkening back to my fantasy novel "Scorpion") and is in part triggered by Reese Dante's concept art for Scorpion, and part is just the whole concept of "Scorpion" messing with my head (hence the name of the ship).
Further influences were the idea to write a disabled hero for Jody (I hope I did a decent job, thwap me if I didn't!), a discussion on what constitutes a "real man" (thank you, JW!), because the jump to "real human" wasn't far - yes, this is how my brain works. And two movies are in there somewhere, too, namely District 9 and the latest Terminator movie. Pour in, stir, serve.
Kyle is a scarred, broken hero like I love them, though Grimm has my heart.
This also has the loosest connection to Dark Edge of Honor - it's set in the Commonwealth, which has some issues with the Doctrine on one end and the Glyrinny shapeshifters on the other end. I can totally see writing more in that 'verse. For the record, the connection is so tenuous that it's really just a nod in that direction, so reading Dark Edge of Honor is not necessary to get this story.(less)
Okay, I started this a while ago - I had to read a couple other things first, and I was planning to read this when the worst stress of the year would...moreOkay, I started this a while ago - I had to read a couple other things first, and I was planning to read this when the worst stress of the year would be over. Boy, am I glad I did (wait). I'm not sure this book would have fitted into a busy life. It's too long to be read during a stolen afternoon, and too engrossing to want to rush it or share headspace while the rest of your life's too busy to enjoy it.
This is to say, this is one of those fantasy reads that I've been missing like all hell: Good writing. Haimowitz has a hugely readable style that sucks you in and doesn't let you go. As a novelist, she doesn't cut corners. She handles action/battle scenes just as well as character exploration and sex. While the romance is a large part of the story, I'd be hard-pressed to call this book a romance, because it's much larger than that. Ultimately, it's about how two people come to trust each other and overcome a lot - a lot - of bad blood, while the rest of the world has very clear roles for both of them (or at least the human side does - the elves seem somewhat more laisser-faire).
There's politics, and beautifully written magic (I say that as somebody who prefers no magic, no elves, and certainly no glowing elves), and an exploration of culture. You have noble, self-sacrificing Freyrik, and super-snarky, hard-headed, easily-bored Ayden, and their dialogue often resembles a fencing bout.
The power dynamics are hugely entertaining as well. Both struggle - against themselves, each other, and ultimately, for their love. This is well-realised, well-crafted fantasy at its best. It's about human nature, believable, emotionally authentic. (I want to shout "THIS is how you do it, idjit!" to all those fantasy writers churning out 900 page bricks where nothing interesting happens.)
The twist at the end provides a great set-up for the second book, and I'm looking forward to that one. The editing is almost impeccable (I found one missing period), the cover works very well for the novel, too. If that's the level of quality that Guiltless Pleasure, the publisher, puts out consistently, I expect great things from them as well.
I didn't finish "Wheel of Time". In fact, I flung the second book as far as it would go, and remember it with revulsion. "Counterpoint" made me acquire everything Haimowitz has written so far, and I'll be getting a paper copy of the book. There's a keeper. And they are rare.(less)
A solid 4.5 stars that contains some absolutely haunting violence (including a rape). But it's not just the sex and the tautly controlled sexual tensi...moreA solid 4.5 stars that contains some absolutely haunting violence (including a rape). But it's not just the sex and the tautly controlled sexual tension - Haimowitz creates a world that's not all that different from ours. While people can be slaves and our protagonist is owned by his news channel (he's the anchor man), it's also a world where people read "Wall Street Journal" and "The Economist". This resonates for everybody who's ever been treated by a corporation like their property (so probably most of us corporate drones).
The writing is superb, the characters believable. While I wish the main character had a pair and fought back, I can see the reason why he grew up that way and how he's incapable of fighting back. It shows what a great writer Haimowitz is that she can pull me right into a character I'd normally not enjoy. This, BTW, is my first book by her, but I've already started on "Counterpoint", which so far looks like 5 stars.
The basic premise, that of a modern world where slavery is not only accepted but never questioned, and that everything is done for a profit, is fascinating and very well executed. The protagonist and his master are only at the beginning of their journey, however. While the book is self-contained and ends on a significant milestone of their relationship, there are many ways Haimowitz can still mess with her characters. Let's hope she will.
This is planned as one of three stories dealing with William Raven (a character I introduced in "Deliverance", currently out of print). When I wrote "...moreThis is planned as one of three stories dealing with William Raven (a character I introduced in "Deliverance", currently out of print). When I wrote "Deliverance", I didn't know that there were so many more stories in there, but that's how the muse works.
"Lion of Kent" covers the youth and first love of William. Part 2, which I'm currently outlining, will deal with his other love, Guy de Metz. And hopefully I'll manage to "bring the herd home" (aka, wrap things up) in a third part.
So, while "Deliverance" and "Lion of Kent" are independent stories - you don't need read both to enjoy them individually - they are also connected. (less)
I'm shocked to learn that Ambroses taught history. The military history/analysis is pretty poor to appalling. He's good when he talks about Easy Compa...moreI'm shocked to learn that Ambroses taught history. The military history/analysis is pretty poor to appalling. He's good when he talks about Easy Company and relates stories. (Though he states that the book is "very much a group effort" with the men from E Company, so how much of that credit goes to them is anybody's guess, and some events were anonymised and possibly left out to protect people.)
Whenever he attempts military analysis of the actual way/battles, his thoughtless "MURRIKA!" propaganda grates like hell. His core thesis appears to be that "democratic soldiers" (what he terms "citizen soldiers") necessarily outfight those under fascist/totalitarian systems - which obviously flies in the face of the fact that it was the Red Army that broke Nazi Germany's back - not exactly a democratic system to be found anywhere. Not a hint of irony or awareness in his thesis. I guess it would wrinkle his propaganda too much.
What I found interesting was the amount of looting and casual violence in Germany, which gels with other sources I've read. What I found even more interesting is how Ambrose condemns Germany's mistreatment of people, but totally excuses similar behaviour from his subjects (looting for fun and profit, shooting of unarmed, surrendered POWs). Not a hint of applying the same critical measurement to all sides.
Ambrose nicely feathers his wooden, lacklustre account with liberal quotes from a number of decent to good military historians who are far more insightful than he is (such as Keegan).
Overall, the show does a great job putting all this on the screen, so you can skip the book. What the show left out it usually left out for good reasons. I read this book for any gems that were left by the wayside, but it's not worth it, in my opinion.
The has another big flaw that rankles me especially. All the German is wrong/misspelled. If you can't be bothered to get it right, just leave it out. Parading around badly-spelled, agrammatical German is doing nobody any favours.
This is a very sweet (also steamy) contemporary story about, of course, a "first time". It's also the debut of this author.
What struck me about this...moreThis is a very sweet (also steamy) contemporary story about, of course, a "first time". It's also the debut of this author.
What struck me about this story was the quality of "flow". The story is alive, fully immersive, the kind of writing that goes much deeper than other authors that go through the motions of romance. There's real feeling in here, which is a pretty rare quality in all writing.
There's something in there - that spark or living quality - that promises a lot for future works of this author, and I am looking forward to further, and longer works.
Some of it is "Not My Kink" (NMK), but Rachel and Cat still pull it off admirably. Crisp writing, great psychological insight, hot sex, and pretty ext...moreSome of it is "Not My Kink" (NMK), but Rachel and Cat still pull it off admirably. Crisp writing, great psychological insight, hot sex, and pretty extreme BDSM. (less)
There are plenty of books in the genre that are a struggle to read even once. Even more aren't worth being read more than once. There's nothing left t...moreThere are plenty of books in the genre that are a struggle to read even once. Even more aren't worth being read more than once. There's nothing left to discover, and I delete these off my reader without regrets. Then there are books like "Eromenos" by Melanie McDonald, which I read twice to be able to review it, and will very likely read a couple more times. (This from somebody who rarely, if ever, re-reads fiction books – non-fiction is a different matter.)
What made Eromenos so compelling for me was the style and the authenticity. Frankly, few authors in the genre write as well as McDonald, and even fewer look behind the mask of their characters, so when you find a book like that, it's a rare ray of sunlight in what threatens to be fairly drab and mediocre world – at least when I despair over the genre, as I sometimes do and every time I read a bad book that somehow got published.
Here's one of the rare gems that make it worthwhile. And if "Eromenos" is a gem, it's an opal. Glittering depths and sparks of light and brilliance, a complex aray of meaning that is great to discover a first time, even better the second time around, and strong enough to earn a permanent space on my bookshelf.
On the surface, it's another novel (or short novel/novella, it's pretty short at under 180 pages in the formatting on my e-reader, of which around 30 pages are appendices and intro) about Antinous, the Greek favourite of Roman emperor Hadrian. It's the second Antinous novel I've read (after Gardiner's The Hadrian Enigma and it's facinating how different the two books are.
McDonald's book is written in first person from the view of Antinous just before he commits suicide. The mysterious death of the emperor's lover on the cusp of manhood has always intrigued historians and writers, and every one has found his or her own solution. In this case, it's suicide.
But it's more than that (so I'm not really giving away the twist of the story here). It's a short memoir where we learn about Antinous's youth in Bythinia, his training, how Hadrian chose him, and about life at court. It's not a historical romance by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly not an erotic romance. Sex is hinted at and more or less symbolic. Hadrian must have what Hadrian wants, and as the most powerful man of his time, who would deny him?
At the same time, Antinous knows about the vulnerabilities of the great man, and plays dumb to survive the power struggles at court. He's not a player, he's not a pawn, he's an outsider in a very privileged position and defined as "Hadrian's favourite".
In this is the true tragedy of the character. He's defined as Hadrian's lover, and yet about to lose his position (as he's getting too old, and while it's fine for an emperor to take a boy or youth as a lover, it's unseemly to have a man as a consort). And once the emperor has severed those ties, where else does he have to turn to? What else could he possibly be? From the dizzying heights he has climbed (or rather, has been elevated to due to his good looks and a healthy portion of luck), anything after that would be a fall and descent into anonymity and insignificance.
The tragedy is that because of Hadrian, Antinous can't be Antinous. He can't discover who he really is, because he is the emperor's consort. But even without Hadrian, he'll only be the ex-consort. Who and what he is beyond that is the question that makes suicide such a tempting option. He can be tied forever to Hadrian, becomes eternal in joining – according to the magical thinking of the time – his lifeforce with that of the emperor and prolong his life.
The memoir we read is that search for identity, which asks these questions. Who could I be? Who could I have been? And many of those questions have no answers. The search for these answers is what defines Antinous in the book – he is a cypher, both for historians and writers and for himself. The suicide makes him even more that.
If that makes it sound like a self-pitying, whining book, it's not. It's an earnest quest for identity and purpose (this is where the authenticity comes in). The book is literary in style and depth, and treats both the history and sexual mores of the time with great respect. There's a lot of research in this, both how a man of the times would frame things, what he'd refer to and how he'd express himself. References to mythology and history firmly ground the character in history.
The relationship between Hadrian and Antinous is an unequal one. An eromenos is the beloved, and the junior partner to an erastes, supposedly to be taught and prepared to become a man, but ultimately, it's not the equal partnership of two men that romantic love would suggest. And while there's fondness and affection in the text, I don't read Antinous as being romantically in love with Hadrian. He was clearly infatuated and loved him during the early stages of the relationship, but that emotion is tempered and changes into something else during the telling.
And how could Antinous, now more mature, really truly deeply madly love Hadrian? In the end, he is "just" the consort. He plays his role because that's his duty, he's been chosen, but he's never an equal partner and can't possibly be. Hadrian calls all the shots.
Here's a small piece of text from the start:
"When I was six, wandering about the cook's garden behind our villa, I discovered a field mouse dead in a thicket of berry brambles as high as my waist. Gazing at those translucent claws, his fur the color of bark and stone, I wondered how he came to be suspended there between earth and sky, like a tiny Antaeus. Maybe he had climbed up to escape one of our cats or wriggled loose from the talons of a hawk or owl only to drop down and become entangled in those thorns he mistook for his salvation. Perhaps he had been summoned there by Apollo Smynthius, Lord of field mice and the plague, my favourite god in the story of the Greek war against the Trojans.
Studying the creature's unnatural position, my wonder turned to pity, for death had left him in a state of indignity. Heedless of the bramble spines that scored my forearms, I reached into the thicket to dislodge him, an effort frustrated by the clumsiness of my childish fingers. I carried him away and deposited him on solid ground at last beneath a rosebush, where his tiny stink bothered no one as he returned to the soil.
I wondered if mice went to Hades, and imagined their tiny shades scrabbling about among the tall ones of famous men."
This little piece foreshadows the whole book – the similarity of the names – Antaeus and Antinous – is hardly accidental. And Antinous, too, writing this just before he dies, is suspended between earth and sky. Compared to Hadrian, the "famous man", he's nothing but a field mouse.
It's layers like this that make the book such a joy. While eminently readable, historically accurate, there are depths to discover, symbols, foreshadowings, and it's all written beautifully, too, which made this a five star read for me.
A bold, well-written tour-de-force about a male couple taking their female friend into bed (and into their lives). I really wanted it to work for the...moreA bold, well-written tour-de-force about a male couple taking their female friend into bed (and into their lives). I really wanted it to work for the characters, but even that ending worked for me. The sex is steaming hot, the writing strong, passionate and alive. My first work by RG, certainly not my last.
Apart from being extremely hot, this also examines gender, sexual orientation and attraction. A thinking person's erotica.
(Disclosure: I met RG is real life - and she's extremely cool - so I'm not exactly neutral. But even considerin that I wanted this to be good, it was much better than I'd hoped. Read it in one go.)(less)