Tag Archives: Gavin Atlas

‘Nathan’s Audio Corner: An Asian Minor: The True Story of Ganymede – Felice Picano (Lethe Press/Audible – performed by Jason Frazier)

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 When you listen to audiobooks on a regular basis, as a listener you start to find performers you love. Before you know it, when you’re looking at the lists of audiobooks, you’re searching the listings not by title or author, but by who performs the audiobook, and then reading the blurbs of the books they’ve done. Finding a new and awesome performer is like finding a new author, and in fact absolutely leads to just that: finding new authors through the performer.

I have a trio of performers like that. Barbara Rosenblatt, Jane Entwhistle, and Jason Frazier. Every time I go looking for a new audiobook, I quickly search the three out to see if they’ve got anything new, and when they do, it jumps to the top of the list for consideration.

So, you can imagine my joy at finding a new Jason Frazier. In and of itself, that was a fine, fine thing. He doesn’t narrate, he acts. His voice acting is so great I’ve twice now purchased audiobooks for which I have already read the books physically, and listened to them as a second read-through. To be clear: I nearly never re-read. But Jason Frazier doing Steve Berman’s Vintage? And Gavin Atlas’s The Full Ride?  There was no resisting, and it was a joy to revisit.

Now, add to that the realization that this new book narrated by one of my favorites is a novella from Felice Picano, and all hesitation was gone. I’d clicked before I’d even read the description. I had it queued up for the next dog walk, and in the space of two days I was done.

An Asian Minor: The True Story of Ganymede is a very small class of narratives: mythology retold with a clever and consistent voice. Quite a few times while I was listening to the story, I caught myself thinking of Mark Merlis’s An Arrow’s Flight, but where Merlis crafted a unique contemporary hybrid of the myth and a modern world, Picano instead does stick to the time period in question as Ganymede tells his story, but it is told now, by the immortal in the present day, with all the colloquialisms and long-view wisdom the eternal and immortal young man has gathered since.

That conversational voice, written so cleverly by Picano and given such charm and insouciance through Frazier’s performance, is magic in a bottle. Or, well, an earbud.

As Ganymede sets us straight on what really went down from the time he was born, receiving a troublesome destiny, this breezy tone delights with amusing asides and clarifications of many a mistake in the retelling of the modern myth: most centrally, Ganymede insists, the notion he was somehow some innocent doe-eyed youth with no idea of the powers at play around him. Picano’s Ganymede is nobody’s fool, and indeed knows that when one has a destiny writ large, the best way to play it is to try to turn large into huge.

It’s also telling that in Picano’s prose, and with Frazier’s voice, this story puts Ganymede on an even playing field with the gods who would tempt and curry favor of him. Yes, he’s a youth, but he’s no fool. And these are, after all, the Greek gods who are by no means infallible themselves. As everyone around Ganymede starts to see perfection in the beauty of his form, Ganymede refuses to give up trying to keep what control he might have. This is a Ganymede in search of as grand a destiny as he can cram into one vague prophecy. He’s smart, and wily, and willing to go toe to toe with multiple gods as he entertains offers, and then risks and gambles for the next—hopefully better—thing to come along. Matching wits with multiple gods, the story of how Ganymede came to be the chosen of Zeus is told with a delightful twist or three along the way.

An Asian Minor: The True Story of Ganymede isn’t a long audiobook, but the energy and talent packed into the piece grabs attention. The recollections of his smart and sexy immortal had me laughing multiple times, and in Frazier’s capable hands the words simply sprang to life.

If you’re looking for a short, engrossing, and not-just-a-little-bit sexy audiobook about the foundation of the ultimate Sugar Daddy relationship, look no further. Ganymede awaits.

Reviewed by ‘Nathan Burgoine

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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

Interview by Gavin Atlas

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Best Gay Romance 2014 – Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane, eds. (Cleis Press)

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I tend to shy from universal absolutes like “every fan of gay romance will love this anthology,” but hold on a moment while I ponder that.…Still thinking…Right. I’ve got nothing. Ergo, yes, I think every gay romance fan will want to add this to his or her TBR list.

I discovered some new favorite authors and found new facets to authors whose work I’ve enjoyed before. One complaint often lodged against romance anthologies is how each piece resembles the last. Not here, and that nice bonus is accentuated by skilled editorial flow.

The opening story is charming and light. “Strange Propositions” by Eric Gober lives up to its name. With relationship scenarios such as “May I invite you to a movie that I won’t be going to myself?” and “Would you like to go to a protest dressed as a chicken?” Gober has created a tale that will make readers smile while showing the importance of stepping out of one’s comfort zone.

Speaking of leaving behind what’s comfortable, sometimes the way to risk the utmost vulnerability is to offer a long overdue, heartfelt apology followed by a stammered appeal for a second chance. The job Rob Byrnes does showing the complexity of regret, apprehension, and longing in “Carver Comes Home” is remarkably moving and vivid to the point of being cinematic.

Description is again an incredible strength in “Sight” by Jordan Taylor. Here, the immense, hollow loss that is almost certainly experienced by anyone who has gone blind is tempered by a loving partner’s exceptional ability to verbally paint a picture.

Jameson Currier’s “My Adventures with Tom Sawyer” was another story written so beautifully, I kept thinking “I hope someone sends this to the O’Henry Prize anthology.” The intricate details were phenomenal and the overarching theme—allowing yourself the bliss of the present instead of clouding the moment with the disappointment that it won’t last forever—felt both touching and significant.

Thanks to the story “Hello Aloha” in Foolish Hearts and “Dandelions” in this volume, I’m now a fan of Tony Calvert. If ever a fictional character needed a reality show, it is the busybody mother of Calvert’s main character, Jim. The combination of quirky humor, homespun “wisdom,” and the protagonist’s introspection make this story a joy.

With “True in my Fashion” by Paul Brownsey, I’ve discovered another new favorite writer. Brownsey masterfully shows his character meticulously building and trapping himself in his own web of adorable neurosis. We learn here that sometimes a person’s flaws are what make him most endearing. That and how the main character tries to cover up those flaws are what make “True in My Fashion” one of the most charming stories I’ve read.

Each story deserves its own paragraph, but the equivalent of the Academy Award Orchestra is telling me to wrap it up.  However, I need to mention the smile-inducing characters and adorable dogs from Shawn Anniston and Alex Jeffers, the distilled essence of companionship from Kevin Langson and Georgina Li, new definitions of family and acceptance from Felice Picano and Lewis DeSimone, delightful moments captured in vignettes by James Booth and N.S. Benarek, and the beauty of seeing a long time love with brand new adoration from David Puterbaugh.

The editors, in their commentary, bring up concepts that can make romance work. First, likable protagonists who go out on a limb, taking risks that could leave them crushed. Second, likable “contagonists” or objects of affection readers will know are worthy of that risk. Third, devotion, understanding, or longing that makes the reader understand, on a gut level, that this is right—these guys want more than anything to spend their lifetimes making each other smile. Will you find those elements here in spades? Yes, yes, and yes.

Reviewed by Gavin Atlas

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