Secrets: The Full Nelson, Book One – Jeff Erno (Dreamspinner Press)

SecretsBuy from Dreamspinner Press

Jeff Erno is an old pro who writes with the pace, enthusiasm and eroticism of a first-timer. There is a canniness underneath, though, that reminds the reader that Erno has been entertaining us for quite a while with his gay romance and young adult novels, perhaps most famously Trust Me and the Dumb Jock series. With Secrets, Erno’s newest, out in September from Dreamspinner Press, the prolific Michigander launches a gay crime series called The Full Nelson. We can only be happy that it’s a series and so there will be more.

“Nelson” not as in wrestling (well, kind of), but as in Chris Nelson, an openly gay cop assigned to investigate the brutal murder of a swim team coach at a military academy. The crime has gay overtones, so we sympathize with Chris’s annoyance and discomfort at being automatically handed the assignment by a harried and insensitive superior. At the same time, Chris himself is not the most easygoing guy on the force. His interactions with superiors, witnesses, suspects and even his newly assigned female partner have a disquieting edge that suggests he might in fact not be the best man for the job. (Said partner at one point delivers the best female comeback to male assholitry that I have ever heard.)

As the case becomes more complex and the academy’s reticent young athletes slowly reveal more (some of it true, some of it not) about their relationships to the coach, Chris’s home life is kept nice and hot by hunky and energetic husband Ethan. These two lose no time in freely expressing their passion for one another on several occasions.

Meanwhile, Erno moves the crime-solving action along with a sure feel for timing and suspense. The young cadets, all mired in adolescence, have their own fears and loyalties, so they continually throw Chris, and the reader, off the scent. Then, just as we see a final resolution coming, Ethan unexpectedly becomes involved in a heart-stopping climax. (Ethan is of course also responsible for many other heart-stopping climaxes—of a different kind—throughout the book!)

In the end Chris proves he was indeed the right man for the job. Backed up by the right man at home and by his sardonic partner, he untangles the cadets’ and the coach’s webs of shame and fear. One need not have been sexually traumatized to the degree these boys have to identify with their feelings. If you passed through adolescence and were mystified and frightened by the onset of puberty and the secrets of adults, especially the sexual secrets, you can feel for Erno’s young heroes. You will feel for his older ones, too, especially the adorably hot couple at the center of the book. We can only be excited that Erno is already preparing the next Full Nelson book, Glitter, for release. Each of us can come back for more suspense, more twists and turns, and maybe some more vicarious three-ways with Ethan and Chris!

© 2014 David Pratt

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The Full Ride: Bottom Boys Get Play – Gavin Atlas (Lethe Press)

Full Ride2Buy from Giovanni’s Room

Sometimes running this blog is such a no-brainer. I get to beat the drum for my favorite authors and promulgate…well, smut. That’s right, smut. I love it, and I don’t know many gay men who don’t. If they deny it, look under their mattresses. Those bitches lie. For all the non-sexual M/M romances, spec fic, YA, New Adult, and literary fiction (not that there’s anything wrong with any of those), sometimes you just have to let the written word carry your libido away. And no one does this better than Gavin Atlas, the bottom’s bottom. His latest collection, The Full Ride, only adds to his reputation.

Full disclosure: I’ve published two of these stories in anthologies I’ve edited. “Il Circo Dei Fiori” appears in Tented: Gay Erotic Tales from Under the Big Top, and “Engine of Repression” appears in Riding the Rails: Locomotive Lust and Carnal Cabooses, and I’ll go ahead and say that “Engine of Repression” is one of my favorite stories of all time. Nowhere else will you find a closer glimpse into Atlas’s mind–trains, injection of rape pellets, and a dream about pirates all conspire to form one of the wittiest, strangest, and oddly erotic pieces I’ve ever read. And the recent public discussion of rape culture gives this an added political dimension it didn’t have when I first published it. It’s no coincidence this piece ends the book. There’s nowhere else for it to be, because nothing else can follow it.

Getting to the end, however, is a treat in itself. One might assume a book about nothing but bottom boy stories might seem rather one-note after a while, and this might have some merit were we not talking about Gavin Atlas, here. His situations are brilliantly creative and his erotic follow-through never less than perfect. In particular, I loved the bottom who had to fuck his way through all the casinos in Las Vegas (alphabetically) to win a casino of his own from a rich man in “Three-Way at the Western,” and the chocolatier who shows his love for the bottom in “Fair Trade” by creating a special candy bar especially for his boy. “And Brawley Threads the Needle” explores rough, angry sex and championship tennis, while the narrator driving naked in “Tanner’s Tuck-In Service” provides a great community service by relieving small-town men who can’t sleep until they get a little something.

But really, anywhere you plop yourself down in The Full Ride, you’re bound to find your jaw dropping at the variety Atlas is capable of. It’s one-handed reading at it’s finest. Or maybe you should just get the audiobook and use both of them.

© 2014 Jerry L. Wheeler

 

 

 

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Halstead Plays Himself – William E. Jones (Semiotext(e)/MIT Press)

9781584351078

Before we get on with Felice Picano’s guest review, I need to take a moment to celebrate Out in Print’s 500th post. When William Holden and I started this blog (suggested by Steve Berman at Lethe Press), we had no idea it would run this long. It’s a remarkable coincidence that our 500th post falls on Labor Day, because this has been a labor of love. I cannot express to you how much I’ve enjoyed sharing wonderful books with you–poetry, drama, gay fiction of all stripes and flavors, interviews, essays, and even the occasional music or video review. It’s been a marvelous ride, and it’s not over. It can’t be. There’s still so much to read, so much to share, and so much to say. Thanks to all of you out there for clicking and bookmarking and buying and being involved. As Duke Ellington used to say at the end of his concerts, we love you madly. And we intend to keep on being all you need to read about all you need to read. Okay, Felice–take it away.

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When the Queer Theorists finally stop screwing around discussing who in the nineteenth century might have been signaling in their second-rate short stories that they were playing “hide the salami” and other such foolishness, academia may actually begin doing some serious exploration of LGBT culture. Until that mythical time to come, we are beginning to see some other popular outlets for the dissemination and discussion of the first decade of open homosexuality in America.

The immediate post-Stonewall era let loose many different breeds from their many different kennels, and nowhere was that more evident than in film. Under review is a book and several films about two of the two best known gay male cineastes of the 1970’s, Wakefield Poole and Fred Halsted, who in some ways might be seen as the alpha and omega of their time. Pretty much any film savvy and with-it queer over the age of forty is expected to know, and hopefully to have seen, The Boys in the Sand, Bijou, L.A. Plays Itself, and Sextool. Throw in Joe Gage’s El Paso Wrecking Company, and you have a gay porno pentateuch.

If that early biographer and arch-gossip, Plutarch, were alive in 2014 and writing an updated version of his Lives, he’d do far worse than include in his gallery of contemporaries the singer, dancer, choreographer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur, Wakefield Poole. At least, according to Jim Tuskhinksi’s sweeping new documentary movie, I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole that premiered at Los Angeles’s Outfest film festival recently. Poole’s films in 1971 and 1972 helped to alter everyone’s view of what a gay man was and could be–most famously, Boys in the Sand. Poole is to gay film and especially gay porn what D.W. Griffith is to the film medium in America: the originator and first master. And unlike Griffith, Poole’s movies can be watched without MV5BMTExMjI4MzgzMzVeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDA0MzU1MzAx._V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_AL_flinching some forty odd years later. To my mind, Bijou is a classic.

I was at the Poole documentary’s L.A. premiere because I’m in the film, one of the “talking heads” who contextualize what we see on screen. Also, because Wakefield Poole touched my life through his art, almost through a career choice–which I’ll share later–but mostly through the unique and beautiful men on the scene we knew, now gone–among them, the famous Casey Donovan. It’s been several years since I was shot for the movie, and while I’d not exactly forgotten the session, it had been one morning’s labor superseded by similar work in three films since, so my stake in it was tiny. Luckily, Tushinski caught me on a particularly articulate day and used the footage wisely, so I end up saying nothing stupid. That’s always a relief.

From the opening of the Poole documentary, you are immersed in the life of a child for whom talent is abundant. The four-year-old from Florida singing along to the big console radio became the star of the church choir and school, and when his voice changed at puberty, two thoughtful women got him into dance–first tap, and later classical–and they supported his talent. As a high school graduate, he was able to leave home and fly to New York to join the Ballets Russes. When young Walter Poole Jr. (Wakefield is his middle name) realized he didn’t want the touring and rigors of classical dance, he switched to popular dance and was soon hoofing it along with major stars on Broadway.

This led to a stint as a choreographer where he worked with people like Richard Rogers, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, and Michael Bennett. He also had the hard luck to work with brilliant if troubled theatre folk like John Dexter and Joe Layton which nearly ended his career. His early marriage to another dancer did end, and they divorced. Poole’s involvement in small commercial films decided him–he would become “an experimental filmmaker.” By then he was involved with a brilliant man–Wakefield has nothing but great things to say about all of his personal relationships. He would fall in love quickly and remained hitched for long periods of time. Somehow everything seemed to come together and for a total of $4800, Poole filmed a two hour 16 millimeter film with a good-looking blonde and a bunch of guys he makes love with at a house, pool, deck and upon the sands of Fire Island Pines.VS-041_webIronically, Boys in the Sand opened in a little theatre a few doors down the same block as The New York City Ballet where Poole might have been onstage but for his earlier decision. Boys was a smash hit from the first day. Fortified with cash and a new star, Bill Harrison, Poole then made a second feature film, Bijou. It was urban, gritty, and far less sunny than the first, and that too struck gold–which is where I come in. While I was being filmed for this documentary Wakefield said, “I know you. You took your clothes off for me.” He vanished into an office and emerged with a semi-nude photo he’d taken of me from when I auditioned for Bijou. That came about because I knew Casey and he sent me to Poole. Alas, in the 1970’s one did not become an author and porn star at the same time. So I turned down the part and a porno career and found a low-paying bookstore job.

As the documentary shows, Poole definitely had major career ups and downs, he moved across country then back again and ended up near where he grew up. He was a San Francisco co-owner of American Hot Flash Emporium which opened just as the Castro was taking off. He made and lost fortunes. He’s totally open about how and why (drugs, sex, men) and unlike a lot of Boomer hypocrites, Poole is completely unapologetic about what he did. He tells us that he had a great time and enjoyed himself immensely. Bravo for him.

Add it up and his is a storied life; and the story via the film is worth viewing. As are the new prints of those two films as well the 1986 Boys in the Sand II. In a separate video is Poole’s later, polymorphous perverse film, The BibleIf Poole was all sunshine and positive imagery that any healthy gay suburban lad could use to come out with, Fred Halsted provided a shadowy vision that many of us living in those 1960’s/1970’s grimy urban neighborhoods where gay life actually happened were quite familiar with.

Blessed with regular handsome features and a hairless, good physique that he continued to build up in the years long before muscles were in, Halsted was himself a suburban lad who grew up in San Jose, California. But the dark side was already in place. In later years, he attested to being raped by his stepfather while still young. This in turn led to his discovery and then his whole-hearted acceptance of the world of sadomasochism, which Halsted would go on to explore in both his private life with his partner in business and personal life, Joey Yale, and in his films. Naturally, Halsted took the top.

Like Poole, Halsted was never educated beyond high school and, like Poole, he worked intuitively in the medium of his choice, which he also called “experimental film.” But he was intellectual enough to form some kind of artistic vision that informed and strengthened his work. He counted it as his greatest triumph that several of his films were officially part of the New York City Museum of Modern Art’s film collection. Unlike Poole, Halsted wanted to break out of what he saw as a flat and boring “acceptable” landscape of homosexual behavior and art, and he did so in spades in his first feature length film L.A. Plays Itself, which ends with the first on-screen display of fist fucking.

As William E. Jones points out in his excellent and well put together biography of Halsted, the first gay leaders and tastemakers in Manhattan to see the film were completely scandalized. As I myself found out several years later when my novel, The Lure, was published dealing with other dark parts of gay life, this kind of display in any media was deemed treachery and siding with the enemy, i.e Hetero America. “We’ve got enough haters, so why air this dirty laundry in public?” both Halsted and I were told. Well, in my case and I’m assuming in Halsted’s too, there existed an underlying belief that if you’re doing art as well as entertainment, that the truth is required.

Halsted’s life was short—he committed suicide in 1989—and he apparently wavered wildly between judging it a success and a failure. He did peak early and, in a way, his life went out of his control as he continued using drugs and alcohol. Clearly, he lacked that one essential ingredient for any kind of artistic reputation in the U.S.–dogged perseverance. He was certainly one of the most outspoken advocates of what he was showing and living. Besides his films, he did numerous interviews for some surprising mainstream media, he started one magazine, Package, and was instrumental in the growth of another, Drummer. In addition to that, others closely followed in his path, including Joey Yale who also became film producer/director. And so, unlike Poole, Halsted left both an immediate and also a future legacy.

That Halsted’s own life ended up being tragic, is something Jones touches on again and again in his book without going into it too much. In a way, he may be leaving that intriguing question to someone else. What might be needed is a fiction-maker with a similar tragic vision. What becomes clear when we hear Halsted’s voice is that he is, as many of us were doing at the time, busily constructing some sub-section of an entirely new lifestyle which had distant predecessors, but no real rules or criteria. And he did it without any way of knowing whether or not any of it would survive. That Halsted and his persona are today instantly recognizable is a sign that he did a great job.

Again, unlike Poole, Halsted’s personal relationships were few and tormented in all senses of the word. In one interview, Joey Yale begins to interrupt Halsted and is flatly told to shut up. But when Yale was dying of an HIV opportunistic disease, Yale turned the tables in true bottom-style, constantly blaming and baiting guilt-ridden Halsted, who seemingly never got over Yale’s or other deaths around himself.

Meanwhile we have this handsome hardcover book, typical of Semiotexte’s best publications. It is over-sized, filled with photos and stills from many movies and copies of crucial documents, with on-set pictures not seen before and room for a lot of s/m artwork of the period, including advertisements of the time: a real visual treasure-trove. Halsted’s life was neither long, nor very complex, so Jones tells his story and also includes invaluable full reviews of the films, lengthy interviews with the star/director, and even examples of his writings.

Want to know gay history? Forget the Queer Theorists blowing smoke up each others asses and check out this book and these films.

© 2014 Felice Picano

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Salvation – Jeff Mann (Bear Bones Books/Lethe Press)

eba6a7b6b0f84e36b86adc7947c0e13acd8d6b53Buy from Giovanni’s Room

Any regular reader of this blog knows I’m a big fan of Jeff Mann, whose work never fails to inspire me with its depth and profundity. I was mightily disappointed when I did not get a chance to review his previous Civil War novel Purgatory. Another reviewer fell in love with the book and asked if he could take on the task. As I rarely get a chance to read anything that I can’t also feature on the blog (so many books, so little time…you know how it goes), I couldn’t get back to it. When I heard the sequel was being released, I grabbed the chance to read it. And my patience was well-rewarded.

In Purgatory, Yankee soldier Drew Conrad is captured and tortured by the Rebel soldiers, but war makes for strange bedfellows, and he falls in love with Rebel Ian Campbell, with whom he escapes. As Salvation begins, they are on the run in Rebel territory, trying to find a safe place to wait out the war so they can begin their lives together. They encounter a variety of Southerners in their travels–men, women, opportunists, sadists, and just plain folks–having to keep their love secret with all but one. Can they survive until war’s end and make new lives for themselves in the post-war South?

Perhaps Mann’s largest gift is his ability to take the political and social implications of the war and humanize them to such a degree that all that remains is the human face of conflict. And there are human faces aplenty, here. Not surprisingly, most of them belong to strong, nurturing women. That does not mean, however, that danger is far removed. Pursued by a band of Rebels who have splintered from their respective units and have banded together in a loose conglomeration of death and destruction, Drew and Ian are hardly safe. When their paths do cross, the carnage is as bloody as Mann can make it. But again, politics (other than the broadest kind) are secondary to human retribution.

Along the way, Mann makes the obligatory stops for his recurring peccadilloes of bondage and food. Both are explored in detail. I’ve said it before, but I’ll reiterate here that Jeff Mann is the only author I’ve ever read who can make bondage and sweat-soaked gags sound intriguing and erotic to me. It’s nothing I’d ever indulge in anywhere except the printed page, but…lordy, it makes me want to fan mahsaylf. But his descriptions of Southern cooking are even better–biscuits, gravy, ham, chicken and dumplings, beef stew, sweet potato pudding, creasy greens, barbecue, slaw, custard pie…well, the list goes on. One of the blurbs for this book should read, “A pound on every page.” Clearly, Mann relishes (I couldn’t resist typing that) writing about both bondage and food with equal gusto.

But as interesting and as well-written as those particular quirks are, Mann shines most brightly when creating characters. Drew and Ian spring ready-made from the last book, deepening and strengthening their relationship, so Mann must start from scratch with such wonderful minor characters as Irene Stephens, one of their female saviors. Christian but not puritanical, she’s tired of being bled dry of supplies by the local reverend, so she extracts a terrific retribution  on him and his church. But even she’s small potatoes (oh, dammit–more food) next to the former slave, Tessa, who shelters and feeds them. But the color of her skin is not all that separates her from the others in this book. She’s also a lesbian with a gal masquerading as a soldier in the Confederate ranks. That alone would make her special, but Mann endows her with an insatiable curiosity about the ways of “mens like you.” This character is a total delight that you’ll be thinking about long after her time on the page is finished.

Salvation, then, is an incredible read that teaches about the Civil War as well as it entertains. Full of richly nuanced people and heart-stopping situations of desperation and pursuit, it’s a worthy successor to Purgatory. And I can only hope for a third book that explores how Reconstructionism treats Drew and Ian. Highly, highly recommended.

© 2014 Jerry L. Wheeler

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A Conversation with Ethan Day and Geoffrey Knight

EthanDay_author_p_lr-210x315Ethan Day and Geoffrey Knight are authors and, as of a year ago in April, the publishers of Wilde City Press.  Ethan, a resident of Missouri, is the author of books such as At Piper’s Point, As You Are, and Northern Star. Ethan is also one of the organizers for the GayRomLit Retreat.  Geoffrey Knight is the author of books including the bestselling gay adventure novels The Cross of Sins, The Riddle of the Sands, and The Curse of the Dragon God.  Together, Ethan and Geoff wrote To Catch a Fox and Zombie Boyz: Guess Who’s Coming At Dinner.

Hi, Ethan and Geoff.  Thanks for being here!

ED: Thanks for having us!

GK: We’re thrilled to be here… from far and wide!

Ethan, I talked to you and Lynn Lorenz in 2011 about the GayRomLit Retreat.  I just saw that the 2014 retreat is in555064_500252293369482_2021518698_n Illinois this October.  What would you like readers to know about this year’s event?  Are there ways you’ve adapted the event over the last three years?

ED: Absolutely, the event has certainly changed over the past three years. After successful events in New Orleans, Albuquerque and Atlanta we’ve seen growth each year and as such, we’ve had to adjust. Most of the changes we make are a result of survey responses we receive from our attendees each year, but we also take into account the publishers who help pay for the event. The other organizers and I have always felt it necessary to cap overall attendance for GRL, a decision that has more to do with obtaining sufficient publisher sponsorship dollars than anything else. The evening parties in particular can be costly, and with each person added to our overall attendance, the price per event goes up. We don’t want GRL to price itself completely out of reach for most of our publishers, nor do we want the overall quality of the GRL experience for our readers to suffer as a result.

Beginning in 2013, we made the decision to limit the amount of authors who were able to register as a featured author due to the overwhelming response on our survey that there were too many authors in 2012. Author-to-reader ratio ended up being the number one complaint on our survey after Albuquerque, from both authors and surprisingly also from readers, for a multitude of reasons. Considering the cap on overall attendance, it made sense that we needed to further break things down. The author cap continues to be the most controversial thing we have done, and each year there are people who get angry and complain—mostly authors who were unable to register as a featured author, understandably, as no one likes to be told no. To give you some context, while 2013 was the first year we ever completely sold out—though we came close in 2012—this year, our 2015 Featured and Supporting Author spots sold out in less than two minutes, and our General Registration spots sold out in just under two days.

It was never our intent to instigate this sort of frenzied atmosphere surrounding registration, and we even increased the attendance cap for 2014 in hope of alleviating some of that, yet we still sold out in a record-setting time. While we’d love to take full responsibility for the success and growth of GRL, it really speaks more to the passionate fans of the Gay or M/M Romance genre. From its very inception, GayRomLit was intended to be a ‘Thank You’ to the readers, and in organizing the Retreat we continue to make the bulk of our decisions based upon that initial ideal. At the same time, we also rely upon the generosity of our sponsoring publishers and attending authors—who not only help pay for the event, but also show up and spend three and half days interacting with and entertaining readers. As organizers, we do our best to balance the Retreat and meet the needs of everyone participating.

Can you share any plans or hopes you and the other organizers have for GRL going forward?

ED: Honestly, we hope to continue being a strong proponent of the Gay Romance genre above all else. For myself, as an author, I was delighted to discover the genre even existed back in 2009. I had all but stopped writing many years before, but had several finished or near finished novels/novellas sitting around collecting dust from my college days. There were precious few changes required by me in order to make the stories I’d been working on for years fit nicely within the already well-established M/M romance genre. That was, to date, the happiest accident I’ve ever experienced. Like any other author out there would be, I was thrilled to discover there was an actual built-in readership for the types of stories I wanted to tell. I’m still grateful to each and every one of those readers, which is why I continue to work on GRL. I’m certainly not the only organizer/author/publisher who feels that way. : )

Moving on to Wilde City, I loved the concept of your company not just being a publisher but also a city to “play in.”  Have any authors thought about setting their work in Wilde City and what would you think of that idea?

ED: We’ve actually discussed that at great length, lol. It was something we hadn’t considered until we were forced to change the name of our press due to trademark issues and thus, Wilde City was born. We’ve definitely discussed a potential series or an anthology of stories set in Wilde City—the name of the press certainly lends itself to the idea. And we’re pleased to announce that Geoff is going to kick off the concept of bringing Wilde City to life with his new book, Buck Baxter, Love Detective, which is due out this September.

GK: Yeah, I’m so thrilled with Buck Baxter, he’s exactly the kind of character you’d find in Wilde City! And we’d love for our authors to start exploring the dark alleys and flashy night clubs of Wilde City to bring us their own stories. Wilde City is a great destination for everything, from thrills to romance, from adventure to mystery. And Buck is just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s the blurb for Buck Baxter, Love Detective, our first ever Tales from Wilde City:

BuckBaxter_LoveD_200x300px_cvrWelcome to Wilde City, 1924—a crane on top of every skyscraper, a party in every club, a romance on every dance floor, a shooting every night, a broken heart on every street corner, and a dirty secret behind every window with the curtains drawn. It’s the kinda town that keeps Buck Baxter, private detective, in business. For despite his fondness for a cold gin and a pipe stuffed with cannabis, Buck is the best gumshoe in Wilde City. Why? Because he has rules: never make friends, never make enemies, and never, ever fall in love. That is until the day playboy nightclub owner Holden Hart swings into town. He’s suave, he’s charming, he’s chivalrous… and he’s exactly the kinda man that Buck will break all the rules for. From the romance of the Rainbow Palace atop the Wilde City Tower, to the dazzling debauchery of the gentlemen’s parlor, The Velvet Viper—from the history surrounding the sinister convent on the hill, better known Hell’s Bells, to the lantern-lit opium barge, The Peking Empress, run by the mystical Madame Chang—could Buck be about to unravel the greatest mystery of them all…the mystery of love?

I noticed in a previous interview that you praised fellow presses Dreamspinner, Resplendence, and MLR.  I can guess the basics of a good publisher include picking good books, skilled editing, and treating authors well.  Are there other key ingredients to being a good publisher in your opinions?

ED: Recognizing the importance of all those readers out there who make what we do possible is certainly a key ingredient. Treating authors well is important, but also working with authors who care about promoting their own work as much or more than we do as a publisher is also key. It really is a two-way street, and authors don’t always understand that the things they find attractive in a publisher are the same things a publisher will find attractive when considering working them.

TheNext_100dpi_cvr-210x330In addition to gay male romance and erotica, you’re also interested in gay mainstream fiction. Even though I bet many readers have an idea of what that means, could you elaborate on how that’s defined at Wilde City?  For example, I noticed that The Next by Rafe Haze (insanely hot cover, by the way) is listed in your mainstream store, but its subgenres include mystery and erotica. Then you also have three mysteries available in your erotica store.  Is where a booked “shelved” based on your general impression of a book’s heat level, on specific parameters, on the author’s input, or anything else?

ED: We definitely take the authors intent into consideration. That is usually the jumping off point for sure. We also depend upon our editors to speak up if they feel the manuscript an author submitted truly doesn’t fit the genre they want it marketed under.

The inception of our three base categories of Mainstream, Erotica & Romance come back to catering to the reader, more than anything else. Romance readers and Erotica readers are typically looking for very specific things when they go looking for a new book to read. That doesn’t mean that all readers of Romance and Erotica are unwilling to read anything else, but it is true some of the time. The romance genre, by design, has several set “rules” which make a book a “romance title.” A few examples would be having a happily-ever-after or a happy-for-now ending, at the very least. Cheating is typically a taboo, as well. They typically also include some erotic content, but don’t have to, and unlike Erotica, the erotic content in a romance novel shouldn’t be there solely for the purpose of titillation—it should also be integral to propelling the story forward.

All that being said, our Mainstream category, which may initially seem to allude to more of a lit-fic status, for Wilde City, it simply means anything other than straight-up Romance or Erotica. We have Mainstream titles that are love stories, but because they don’t fit those rules of romance, we do not market them as such. One thing Geoff and I talked about early on was how much we missed the experience of going into the local bookstore and perusing the mosh-pit of titles located on the shelves of the LGBT fiction section. We always went in looking for one title, and walked out with several other books we’d discovered while in the store.

Amazon and the other online retailers are great, but once you buy one genre you end up getting inundated with the same sort of recommendations. That sort of in-your-face marketing is great if you only like to read one type of book, but it otherwise hinders the discovery of anything different—typecasting in its most basic form, if you will.

We wanted Wilde City to be a return to the mosh-pit, only online instead of in the store, lol. When you visit the Books page at Wilde City, you’ll find Patrick Darcy’s Confessions of a Gay Rugby Player erotica sitting next to Lammie finalist Jon Michaelsen’s mystery, Pretty Boy Dead or Poppy Dennison’s werewolf romance titles next to Historical Western erotica by Dale Chase. We also have authors like Owen Keehnen and J.P. Barnaby writing books for Wilde City, which show up in more than one of our three base categories.

We can’t control the way a retailer chooses to display our titles, but on our site we state quite clearly which category each title falls within, while also exposing each visitor to the wide variety of gay fiction we offer. From there each reader can remove or add filters to affect search results.

I noticed in the submission guidelines some standard content guidelines (though unusually thoughtful, in my opinion) for a romance and erotica publisher as well as a mention that you’re not considering YA.  For authors interested in submitting, are there genres you’re hoping for more of in your in-box? Is there anything you’re seeing too much?  Are there submission errors which too many authors are making?     

GK: We definitely want to be known as an across-the-board gay press. We want to publish everything from romance to thrillers to comedy to action to erotica, although there are always trends that peak and dive, and as a commercial business we’re always on the lookout for that. And although we definitely want to see more romance coming through the door, we also pride ourselves on having one of the finest—if not the best—gay mainstream line-ups in the industry, despite being such a young press.

ED: Speaking for myself as a reader, a good mystery with a romance subplot always gets me. : )

As far as submission errors go, not taking the time to read the submissions page would be the most common error, lol.

PrettyBoyDead_200x300_cvrYou just mentioned that Pretty Boy Dead by Jon Michaelsen was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for mystery. Congratulations!  To what level was it a surprise to have such recognition within your first year? 

GK: The recognition all goes to Jon! He came to us with a book that he had poured his heart into, he believed in, and his passion spoke volumes to us. We truly love working with Jon—he is a talented, caring, generous soul—and we cannot wait for his next book! And no, the nomination wasn’t a surprise at all, because it wasn’t a nomination for us a publisher, it was a nomination for Jon and his book. We were simply lucky enough to be the ones to publish it.

ED: It didn’t really surprise me either, in the sense I don’t think we’d have published the book if we didn’t think it was well written. As Geoff said, end of the day, the credit all belongs to Jon, who logged in all the long hours researching and writing the book. I know Jon and his editor, Jerry Wheeler, worked long and hard on polishing the manuscript, and the end result was recognition from Lambda. That didn’t exactly suck to see.

What did you like and dislike (if anything) about collaborating on To Catch a Fox and Guess Who’s Coming At Dinner?  Perhaps you’re using your real names, but if not, did you come up with “Knight” and “Day” before deciding to collaborate? Did the names lead you toward: Hey, maybe we should work together?”

ED: LOL! I’ll let Geoff answer the why, since he was the one who initially brought up the idea of collaborating. Hopefully he was attracted by more than just my name, lol. We were each already published before ever meeting online, so there was certainly no design in that sense.

The only thing I don’t like about working with Geoff is dealing with the time zone differences, though even that we’ve sort of gotten past at this stage. Still, there have been times when I know we’ve each had ideas or inspiration and wanted to share them immediately, only to realize we’d have to wait HOURS before getting a response. Total suckage, especially for two gay men! We do so love that instant gratification, after all. : )

Beyond that, writing with Geoff has been an awesome experience. Writing can be an extremely solitary and isolating profession. People who aren’t writers don’t always understand that there’s a party going on inside our head, and the fact we’ve neglected to return a few phone calls or missed a couple of days’ worth of texts isn’t a personal slight, just an occupational hazard. Co-writing just means I’m not the only “real” person at the party, lol. Geoff and I are both pretty laid-back, with similar temperaments, and I think that helps.

In terms of the actual writing, there are things that I believe Geoff does better than anyone else out there, so there are times when it’s simply a matter of getting out of the way so he can do his thing. If you’ve read any of his Fathom’s Five adventure series, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Beyond that, I think Geoff is extremely underrated when it comes to writing Romance. The entire concept from Guess Who’s Coming At Dinner was all Geoff. When he sent me what he’d written I was totally taken by the emotional punch he’d packed into the story.

GK: Aw, thanks Ethan! From my point of view, the reason we work so well together—and the reason I wanted to work with Ethan in the first place—was because we get along so well but have different skill sets. It’s always been my motto in business and in writing to surround yourself with people who can fill the holes you can’t fill yourself. That’s what a great partnership is all about. Ethan is amazing at quirky characters and hilarious situations, and laugh-out-loud dialogue. That’s stuff I can’t do as well as he can. But I can write adventure and tension and action and mystery. So combining our two skills seemed like a great idea, and suddenly Fox was born.

Geoff, what would you like readers to know about your fiction? TempleOfTime_200x300px_cvr

GK: Mmmm, that’s a hard question. I guess the main thing readers should know about me is that I love writing a range of genres. I’m best known for my gay adventure series Fathom’s Five, and I’ve written a few other gay adventure tales such as Scott Sapphire and the Emerald Orchid, and Drive Shaft. But I write whatever story I’m in the mood to write at the time, and that can be anything from mystery to comedy to romance. I think my coming-of-age romance set in the Top End of Australia, The Pearl, is the book I’m most proud of, simply because it’s set in my home country and delves deep into our nation’s cultural history, yet is a tender contemporary love story as well as being the story of a young man who must come to terms with his homosexuality and his Aboriginality. The thing I love about it the most is that, true to Aboriginal culture, the landscape plays a major character in the story. We are nothing without the land we live on.

And how about you, Ethan?

AtPipersPoint_200x300px_cvrED: I’m a card-carrying smart-ass at heart and that has a tendency to work its way into my writing. I’m probably best known for writing contemporary romantic-comedy, although I’ve dabbled in paranormal and historical, along with mystery/suspense with Geoff. I’m probably most comfortable with contemporary romance. I write about what I like to read about: gay men who are looking for love—usually in all the wrong places. I think relationships, by nature, are funny, and my writing is definitely tinged by that point of view. Some writers might take the subject of stalking your ex-boyfriend to a darker, scarier place. I tend to take a slightly nutty, neurotic, I Love Lucy kinda slant. If the individual reading my book finds themselves wishing they could climb inside the car with my character in order to help them stalk that ex-boyfriend, I consider that a success.

Finally, what are you both looking forward to, in terms of writing? Publishing? General happiness goals you’d like to tell your fans?

GK: Wilde City has been an amazing challenge, but now that we’re up and running I am determined to throw myself back into writing. I have the first Buck Baxter story coming out soon, after which I’ll be releasing the long-awaited, fourth Fathom’s Five novel, The Temple of Time. We’re determined to take Wilde City from strength to strength over the next two years, turning it in to a major player in gay fiction publishing. As for general happiness, last year I met the love of my life so all is great on that front. He’s smart and sexy and supportive and funny and utterly perfect…so writing any angst in my upcoming novels is going to be difficult :)

ED: Having time to write, would be one happiness goal…that, and I still have my fingers crossed for a pony! A boyfriend wouldn’t exactly suck, at least in theory—of course that would require me making myself available for such things.

As for Wilde City, like any other online destination, I hope more and more readers will visit, and discover what we have to offer. We’re getting ready to launch our Wilde City Club membership which will allow readers to create accounts and save their information, as well as offering the option to re-download any and all ebooks purchased through their membership. Club members will also have early access to some or all of our new releases, and will receive special un-advertised discounts not offered anywhere else.

Along with WCP Readers Club, we’ll also be setting up a separate type of account available exclusively to independent books stores and smaller retail chains around the country that would like to purchase our print books direct from Wilde City at a wholesale discount.

Thanks to both of you!

ED: Thank you, Gavin!

GK: Thanks for a wonderful opportunity to walk you through Wilde City, Gavin! Hope to see you again real soon!

Keep up with Geoff at the Wilde City blog.

And keep up with Ethan at ethanday.com

© 2014 Gavin Atlas

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The Geography of Pluto – Christopher DiRaddo (Cormorant Books)

jacket_medBuy from McNally Robinson

Those Canadians. It must be something in the water–or possibly in their government-funded arts programs–but four of my very favorite gay authors (Peter Dube, ‘Nathan Burgoine, Shawn Syms, and Christopher DiRaddo) are residents of that country. Burgoine’s Light was a keenly done superhero love story as sharp as it was sharp-witted, Dube (author of the prose poem collection Conjure) and Syms have new collections either out or just released (and will be featured here soon), and DiRaddo’s first novel, The Geography of Pluto, has also found its way into my hands. And it’s a pleasure to report his debut ranks right up there with the best work of his aforementioned countrymen.

Montreal high school geography teacher Will Ambrose can’t seem to get beyond his breakup with his ex-boyfriend Max. Despite the best efforts of his best friend Angie, he dwells far too much on the past even though the present requires his attention. After one battle with cancer, his mother finds herself dealing with another round of the disease with only Will to help her through. But Will’s preoccupation with getting Max back threatens both their holds on stability.

Make no mistake, this is not a novel with intricate plot twists and turns. It is character driven, but that doesn’t mean it’s directionless. Will has a purpose in mind, even if it’s just getting himself through the day or–even worse–the night. We’ve all been there. He’s mystified by Max’s departure. When Will calls Max out of desperation, we are as astounded as Will when Max agrees to see him. Even more astounding is that they attempt a reconciliation, but we know it won’t work. So does Will. But Will’s biggest fear, the one he never states but pervades the book, is that he will end up like his mother–alone, dependent solely on work to structure his life, and facing cancer. The parallels between mother and son are too ably portrayed to miss, but the biggest is that they are both unable to move past their lost loves (Will’s father died when he was quite young). It’s no coincidence his second try with Max happens once his mother’s been diagnosed. They are both afflicted, paralyzed by their visions of what their lives should be, yet unable to make those visions reality. They both come to learn, however, that permanence is a myth and that life is only a series of temporary realities.

The Geography of Pluto is masterfully told, full of heart and heartbreak. DiRaddo’s gift for dialogue is only matched by the clarity and directness of his prose. He also has a finely detailed sense of place and time, but he never lets either of those overwhelm the characters. The setting emerges as naturally as a sunrise. His language and insights are also wonderfully honed, and I can’t think of any better example than the pull-quote from the back cover of the book:

Over the last three months I had been troubled by another imprint that lingered on my walls and furniture. Although he had never lived here, Max’s indelible presence could still be felt in the apartment, his scent burnt into the wood like waves upon waves of incense. It spooked me, sometimes, being alone in this space. It reminded me too much of who I used to be, who I was when we were together. Sometimes it felt as if I were the thing that didn’t belong in the room. This was someone else’s house, a happier person who was long disappeared, and I was living in his place as a squatter.

Di Raddo’s first novel is a terrific debut that will have you mulling over the characters long after you’ve finished. They resonate that strongly. Highly recommended.

© 2014 Jerry L. Wheeler

 

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Last vacation of the year

IMG_0754Once again, I leave Out in Print in Duncan’s capable hands so you may marvel as his Chocolate Lab awesomeness while I am at a writer’s retreat at the Easton Mountain Center in upstate New York. Out In Print will return on 8/11 with a review of Christopher DiRaddo’s The Geography of Pluto. Until then, feel free to leave comments lauding our boy for capturing and chewing the Bad Bone.

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