5 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Historical Romance, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Review: Ansel of Pryor House by Hayden Thorne

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Title: Ansel of Pryor House

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press/JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 116 Pages

At a Glance: Another excellent YA historical fantasy from the author of The Twilight Gods.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Fifteen-year-old Ansel Tunnicliffe has lived a harsh life. Abandoned by his mother and his siblings to a drunk and abusive father, Ansel knows nothing more than hunger, fear, pain, and loneliness in his short life.

One evening, a wealthy stranger appears, challenges Mr. Tunnicliffe to a game of cards, and easily wins. The prize? Ansel. The terrified boy is whisked away to a remote and mysterious house, whose stern and aristocratic mistress takes Ansel in for a purpose that remains elusive to him.

Little by little, however, Ansel discovers additional secrets in every magical room of Pryor House — secrets that are somehow linked to him and Miss Peveler’s strange interest in his welfare. One of those secrets also turns out to be a young boy who haunts Ansel’s lonely hours and who may very well hold the key to Ansel’s future and the shadowy history of Pryor House.

Dividers

Review: Fans of Hayden Thorne’s YA historical fantasy should read this book. Although it’s short, it’s another wonderful tale that focuses on a young man, his harsh life, and the magic that changes it. Though in many ways different, this short novel reminded me of The Twilight Gods in that there is an older, magical benefactress who guides a mistreated young man to meet his destiny. If you’re looking for a romance, this book has some, but not until the very end, which follows along with the author’s style.

Reading this book transported me to another time. Pryor House came to life for me on the pages, and I felt like I was there. And it’s not just any house, but this one is just as much a character as Ansel, Cedric, Miss Peveler, and the other few characters.

And that brings me to my next point. There are very few characters present throughout this book. Not even many background characters, unlike other novels by this author. The focus is on Ansel and his self-discovery with the aid of Miss Peveler and the house. And while there is dialogue, the novel isn’t laden with it. Instead, there are beautiful descriptions which I have found is the standard for Hayden Thorne.

My only issue with the book is that it was too short. I wanted more! The epilogue was excellent because it filled in the gaps I was worried about, and it provided that small touch of romance I hoped for. Seeing Ansel come into himself and move beyond his horrible past was heartwarming.

If you’re looking for a novella with a lot of action, set Ansel of Pryor House aside for a rainy day, but definitely come back to it because you don’t want to miss out. I look forward to more books in this style from the author.

TNA_Signature_Jennifer







 

You can buy Ansel of Pryor House here:

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5 Stars, Harmony Ink Press, Johanna Parkhurst, Reviewed by BJ, Young Adult

A Boy Sets Out To Solve A Mystery And Finds Himself In Johanna Parkhurst’s “Every Inferno”

Title: Every Inferno

Author: Johanna Parkhurst

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 180 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Depressed. Defiant. Possible alcoholic. These are just a few of the terms used to describe fifteen-year-old Jacob Jasper Jones. Lately, though, JJ has a new one to add to the list: detective. He’s been having strange dreams about the fire that killed his parents ten years ago, and he thinks he finally has the clue to catching the arsonist who destroyed his family. Continue reading

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3 Stars, Harmony Ink Press, Reviewed by Tina, Russell J. Sanders

A Mystery Is At The Heart Of Russell J. Sanders’ “Special Effect”


“Reality makes a crappy special effects crew.” ― Adam Savage


Title: Special Effect

Author: Russell J. Sanders

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 180 Pages

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb: Graduating senior, theater lighting wunderkind, and closeted gay, Nick Fortunati volunteers with The Streetwise Players in the dark corners of The Laughton, a creepy old movie palace decorated in Grand Guignol style. But his father wishes Nick would use his intellect and his scholarship to become a biotech engineer and earn a prosperous living for his future family. Nick loves his dad and wants to please him, but he dreams of a career in theater. And he wants a male lover. Unfortunately, his homophobic father won’t approve of either.
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3.5 Stars, Gene Gant, Harmony Ink Press, Reviewed by Jackie

A Young Man Learns That Life Is Rarely Simple In Gene Gant’s “If You Really Love Me” – Reviewed by Jackie


“Never tie your happiness to the tail of someone else’s kite.” ― Beth Hoffman


Title: If You Really Love Me

Author: Gene Gant

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 172 Pages

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb: With time ticking until graduation, Ellis Carter doesn’t have a plan for after high school. Since his best friend Cary dropped out, he has no one to talk to. All he knows is he doesn’t want to continue being a burden to his mother. Adding to his daily torture is the school’s new resident bad boy, Saul Brooks. So to say he’s amazed when the mysterious Saul invites him to the gym for a workout is an understatement. Soon, they go from workout buddies to boyfriends, and Ellis couldn’t be happier. But happiness is fleeting. His mother begins a new relationship he thinks will lead to pain, and Cary makes a decision that could take him out of Ellis’s life for good. Just when he needs to lean on his boyfriend the most, Ellis discovers Saul has a secret that could break them apart.
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Harmony Ink Press, Suki Fleet

“This Is Not a Love Story” – This Is An Interview And Giveaway With Suki Fleet



TNA: Hi, Suki, thanks so much for being here with us today. Why don’t we start out by having you tell us a little bit about yourself? In your author bio, you say you lived an unconventional childhood. Would you care to expand upon that?

Suki: Well, I always thought my childhood was normal until I told people about it. When I was around 8 months old my parents bought a beautiful old wooden fishing boat and we lived on board, travelling between England, the Isle of Man (a small island between England and Ireland where my mum is from) and France. When I was around three, my parents decided to travel to New Zealand but we were shipwrecked on some rocks off the coast of France. The boat sank and we lost everything we had (I have some very damaged photographs of when I was a baby but that is all). After that, we lived in different places in France for a while, and my parents couriered boats between the South of France, Spain and England.
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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Hayden Thorne Stops By Today To Talk “Wollstone” And A Giveaway


"The Nightingale and the Rose" by Oscar Wilde gave me the idea for 'Wollstone's' main love story

“The Nightingale and the Rose” by Oscar Wilde gave me the idea for ‘Wollstone’s’ main love story

So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and the thorn touched her heart, and a fierce pang of pain shot through her. Bitter, bitter was the pain, and wilder and wilder grew her song, for she sang of the Love that is perfected by Death, of the Love that dies not in the tomb.

– Oscar Wilde, “The Nightingale and the Rose”

Wollstone is the most fairy tale-y of my contemporary fantasy books, and I needed it to be that way. I’ve always wanted to write a gay YA boarding school story, considering my sources of inspiration and writing background, and I decided I didn’t want it to be a realistic one. Just the concept of an exclusive school for boys makes me instantly look at fantastical elements and not the issues that can be raised involving boarding schools and gay kids.
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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Hayden Thorne’s “Banshee” Is Here, And She’s Offering A Giveaway


My favorite collection of Victorian ghost fiction

I believe in ghosts. It’s an odd thing coming from someone who’s pretty much an atheist and who’d sooner worship science than a god. But I readily admit it without an ounce of self-consciousness or embarrassment. I do believe in ghosts because I’ve been in a situation that counted as a haunting. And as I’ve noted at my blog in the past, I wasn’t alone when the incident occurred, and I’ve got my younger sister to corroborate my story. We still talk about it from time to time, and I’m sure neither of us will forget it till the end of our days.

The incident’s rather too long to recount here in full detail, but let me just say this: we continue to be convinced it was our dad, who’d recently passed away, whom we heard walking slowly up the stairs and across the hallway, only to stop at our bedroom door to turn the knob. Thank heaven our door was locked. If it were a live person, we’d have heard him/her walk away from our door, but we heard nothing after the doorknob turned a couple of times. This rough summary doesn’t do my experience any justice, but for the sake of brevity for this guest blog, that’s it.

I’ve also been deeply fascinated with the supernatural when it comes to my entertainment. Ghost stories in the traditional sense are my love, and when I say “traditional sense”, I’m talking about ghosts treated as – ghosts. Not things that kill people in an orgy of blood lust, which tends to be the modern interpretation of ghosts, particularly in film. I’ve read recently published ghost stories that ended up being nothing more than chapter after chapter of increasingly over-the-top hauntings, so that there’s nothing subtle about ghostly activities in those books.

Classic Victorian ghost fiction done right by a contemporary author

I had high hopes for the more recent adaptation of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, but while the movie does a spectacular job visually, the writers have completely ignored the gradual, creeping nature of Jennet Humfrye’s hauntings in favor of jump-scares and piled-on moments of ghostly occurrences, which aren’t reflective of Hill’s novella at all. The movie’s release, though, re-ignited my love for Victorian ghost fiction, and I re-read Hill’s novella prior to seeing it, and I dug out my old anthologies of Victorian ghost fiction to enjoy.

I wish I could explain why ghosts and ghost fiction have such a stranglehold on me (not that I’m complaining, mind). I think it’s got a lot to do with the unknown, with what goes on after death and how ghosts seem to upend everything we’ve always been taught about the afterlife. There’s also that chance, however slight, of a deeply psychological element involved in hauntings – not just in the part of the deceased, but the witness as well.



Enter young Nathaniel Wakeman, circa 2007, when I wrote Banshee.

Before I received the call for material for Prizm’s opening, I’d already read several Victorian ghost fiction anthologies. I’d also latched on like a barnacle to M.R. James’ ghost stories, which are considered to be the best in the genre. Through James’ stories, I developed an appreciation for the actual art of writing ghost fiction, which (to me) involves a skilled use of suggestion and sustained atmosphere – a lot of control going into each haunting scene. So I jumped at the chance of trying my hand at writing my own Victorian ghost story – one that involved a gay teen, at that.

My ghost story hero

Nathaniel Wakeman lives in the Isle of Wight – a setting that I wanted right off the bat because the one effect I was hoping to achieve in this story is the pervading feeling of claustrophobia. So Natty grows up in an island, and he’s the son and only child of a modest vicar. His world view is extremely limited in every sense of the word – he’s physically isolated, mentally limited to whatever books his parents allow him to read because he doesn’t go to a regular school and is taught at home by his father, and emotionally, he’s very much focused on his day-to-day cares.

The novel’s also written in the first person POV, which was a bit of a challenge because the story takes place in the mid-19th century, and there’s always that tricky juggling act of making the story readable without sacrificing too much of its historical angle. But I decided it was necessary to stay inside Natty’s head the whole way as a means of capitalizing on that feeling of claustrophobia I wanted. Once the hauntings begin, we get to see the ghost through his eyes, and we experience his struggle for understanding using nothing more than his limited perceptions of the world.

Poe shows us how to write psychological gothic fiction with a capital ‘P’. When I grow up, I want to write like him

I wrote the ghost as both a haunting as well as something that’s deeply psychological. And I based it on an actual experience my sister had involving my mother when we were little kids. In short, my mom appeared to my younger sister – looking normal and talking naturally and all that – when she was supposed to be at work. Of course, she told my sister she needed to see our grandmother next door, and almost immediately after she left us, we got a call from her, checking up on us. “I was just thinking about you kids while I was working,” she’d said (summarized), “and I thought I’d call to see if you’re all okay.” Well – we sure as hell weren’t okay after we got the call.

As an addendum, I was in another room when my mom appeared, so I didn’t see her, but I heard her voice as she talked to my sister. My oldest brother was infuriated and tried to catch her at a lie, but my sister stuck to her story. She was, what, six years old or something? Would a child that age lie about things like that? Count this as another incident that can be corroborated, even if it didn’t involve an entity.

If you want visual inspiration for a ghost story, use Caspar David Friedrich’s moody landscapes

But that was what I wanted to achieve in writing the ghost. It isn’t a sentient being, out to kill for revenge or for sport. It haunts Natty for a reason he won’t uncover till the end, and even then, the psychological aspects of the hauntings throw a few shadows in there, clouding his attempts at full understanding. That, though, is the nature of ghost stories as I’ve always seen them. No matter how many times we turn things over in our heads, no matter how hard we try to work logic into them, there really isn’t any way for us to come to a complete understanding of incidents that defy the natural order of things.

I’ve always said that Banshee was my baby of the three books I debuted as a gay YA writer because it’s in a genre I’ve always loved and will always love. I continue to feel a special kind of fondness for it. It remains my only attempt at Victorian ghost fiction so far, and I’ll have to remedy that situation soon. Having gone through another couple of rounds of edits to prepare this book for its 2nd edition release, I’m again bitten by the bug. And I’ll have to go back and re-read my favorite ghost fiction anthologies and re-watch my favorite haunted house movies to whip myself up to another haunted house frenzy. Not that I mind, of course.

BLURB: Nathaniel Wakeman is the only child and son of a modest vicar, who lives in the quiet and idyllic confines of the Isle of Wight. When his maternal grandfather dies, Natty’s mother reconnects with her estranged and wealthy brother and his family in hopes of raising Natty up in the world, to urge him to go beyond the humble life he’s always known.

Though his cousins show no particular regard for him, one of them, at least, lures him away from his retired life and introduces him to the world—and to the son of a baron from Somerset, Miles Lovell. Natty gradually finds himself drawn toward the older and worldlier gentleman and returns to his father’s vicarage a changed young man. He also seems to have attracted the attention of a ghost, one that has followed him back to the island.

Haunted by a woman in white, who seems to appear when he’s at his weakest, Natty struggles with his own nature and with his family’s increasing difficulties. His mother is distant, hiding things from him as she never has, and his father is aging before his eyes. Quarrels between his parents grow more and more frequent, and Natty’s increasing terror of familiar and beloved footpaths add to the spiraling tension at home.

While Natty tries to find his place in the world, his childhood is crumbling around him, and he becomes more and more convinced that his persistent ghost is a harbinger of doom.

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

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Harmony Ink Press, Mia Kerick, Reviewed by Tina

Mia Kerick’s “The Red Sheet” Will Make You A Believer – Reviewed by Tina


“Only a man in a funny red sheet.
Looking for special things inside of me, inside of
me, inside of me.” – Five For Fighting (John Ondrasik)


Title: The Red Sheet

Author: Mia Kerick

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 190 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.
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Backlist Book Bump, Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

It’s A Backlist Book Bump Day For Hayden Thorne’s “Renfred’s Masquerade”, And Of Course, There’s A Giveaway


The Novel Approach is thrilled to have Hayden Thorne back with us today to celebrate her Young Adult masterpiece, Renfred’s Masquerade, a book that made my choice for best young adult book of 2011. It’s a gorgeous bit of storytelling, and Hayden has decided it’s time to introduce you to Nicola, the hero of this tale, by offering the chance for TWO lucky readers to win an e-copy of the book.

Enjoy the excerpt and see entry details below!

BLURB: Young Nicola Gregori has always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a brilliant clock-maker who’s famous for his wild, fantastical designs. But his father instead sends him to school to learn more practical matters. Nicola, stricken with infantile paralysis that left him with a deformed right leg, becomes an object of mockery and cruel jokes in school. He learns that in order to survive his daily ordeals, he needs to vanish in the crowd, to stop aspiring, to stop dreaming, and above all, to believe himself unworthy of respect and love.

Tragedy strikes when Nicola turns sixteen. Gustav Renfred, an old friend of his father, takes on Nicola as his charge and whisks him away to an isolated islet filled with empty mansions and bordered by a bluebell forest. There Nicola slowly learns about the tragic history that tightly weaves together the fates of Jacopo Gregori, Gustav Renfred, and Gustav’s twin sister, Constanza.

Magic, impossible dreams, and unrequited love come together in Ambrosi, the Renfreds’ mansion, where Nicola is caught up in a world of haunting portraits, a ghostly housekeeper, and the mysterious disappearance of Davide, Constanza’s adopted son. When Nicola’s invited to one of Renfred’s magical masquerades, he discovers the answers to riddles as well as the mounting danger that the Renfred family faces with every passing hour. With the masquerades’ existence depending on the physical and mental strength of an ailing Renfred, the task of solving the mystery of Davide’s disappearance before time runs out falls on Nicola’s shoulders, and he has no choice but to depend on things he’s long learned to suppress: courage, self-respect, and the desire to aim for impossible goals.

EXCERPT:

Nicola frowned as he looked around him. The spell had broken somehow, but while it didn’t ruin the charming, colorful, and festive atmosphere of the masquerade, a keen awareness of the magical nature of the assembly now took over. He felt as though he were back in his usual logical self, baffled all over again by the fantastical nature of his surroundings and slowly finding himself being lured away from reality with promises of possibilities that went beyond his limited perceptions.

With that came a very unwelcome question: how would he be able to dance with someone who was, Nicola was now convinced, nothing more than a phantasm created by Renfred? He was the only flesh and blood being in that ballroom, and while the revelers appeared to be real, Nicola attributed that to the remarkable quality of Renfred’s skills.

The music ended, and the dancers whirled to a halt, their laughter replaced by the buzz of conversations. Some dancers left the floor and either took their places in the room’s periphery
or left the ballroom to rest elsewhere. The majority stood and chatted, waiting for the orchestra to rest before moving on to the next piece. No one seemed to notice him, but Nicola didn’t mind
at all. If he were invited to a magical masquerade for entertainment and not interaction, he was pleased for the most part, though he hoped that there would be real food available in another room, for he was sure that he’d be famished soon.

“Then again,” he muttered, sighing and clucking, as he looked around to admire the elaborate costumes of fellow guests, “why should I stay till three in the morning if all I’ll do is stand and watch, uh, ghosts dance and enjoy themselves?”

A surge of restlessness coursed through him, and Nicola abandoned his spot to walk along the room’s perimeter in order to observe the goings on more closely from different places. He deliberately walked close to some of those who stood near the walls, sometimes brushing against guests, but while none of them felt unreal or incorporeal, he remained ignored. Masked men and women pushed past him or didn’t meet his gaze, no matter how long he stood before someone and stared. He felt invisible, almost, the fact that he also wore a mask and a costume to hide his identity adding a degree of irony to the realization.

He had nearly reached the orchestra by now, noting that the musicians were already getting ready for the next dance as they took up their instruments again while turning the pages of their musical scores.

“Will you dance with me?”

Nicola nearly tripped on his own feet at the question as well as the sudden feel of warmth enveloping his left hand. He froze in his tracks and spun around, shocked. The young man in the odd white costume stood before him, holding his hand.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Nicola blinked as he stared at the fellow and then dropped his gaze to their joined hands.

“Pierrot.”

“What?”

The young man in white smiled, releasing his hand. “That’s my costume. I hope it’s acceptable.”

“Oh.” Nicola looked to his left and then his right, not sure what was going on and wondering if now was a good time to leave despite the fact that he’d just arrived. “It’s an interesting costume, I’m sure.”

“So—will you dance with me?”

Nicola frowned, felt the urge to scratch his head in confusion but remembered that he was wearing a hat. Within seconds he went from feeling confused to feeling stupid, then suspicious, then shy. Swallowing, he feigned indifference and nodded. “I suppose.”

Pierrot grinned, perhaps reading Nicola’s bewilderment and the sudden threat of nausea that gripped him, and offered a hand. “We should take our place on the floor, or we’ll get squeezed out of it before we even start.”

“But where’s your partner?”

“He’s dancing with someone else now. It’s all right.”

Pierrot’s eyes sparkled with mischief, a brilliant light that his mask didn’t mute at all. “I swear I won’t hurt you.” When Nicola hesitated some more, he added in a softer voice, “Please.”

“I’m sorry. This is my first masquerade.” Nicola felt sheepish beside his new partner as he was led to the floor, his nervousness taking on a completely different dimension. He’d never danced the waltz before; he’d never danced at all before. He was sure that he’d end up injuring his partner within the first few bars of the next piece. That is, if make-believe people could be injured. The urge to vomit continued to threaten, but he forced it away, reminding himself that this was supposed to be nothing more than good fun. Renfred had taken the trouble to conjure up a themed masked ball for Nicola’s sake and even acquiesced to Nicola’s plea for a normal right leg. Whether or not this Pierrot fellow was a specter that was meant to be his partner Nicola couldn’t tell, but he wasn’t about to be an ungrateful brat, and he chided himself for his nerves and awkwardness.

“Don’t ask questions,” he murmured. “Play along and enjoy what you can.”

He’d just finished his self-directed lecture when Pierrot stopped and turned around. “This is a good spot for us,” he said.

When Nicola stared, his confidence slipping again, Pierrot chuckled. “If it’s your first time, I’ll guide you. It’s really very simple.”

Stepping forward, he gave Nicola brief and clear instructions on how to hold one’s partner, and before long, Nicola found himself in a very intimate and nerve-wracking partial embrace, with his partner smiling down at him, while he could only swallow a dozen times, his eyes unblinking and ready to pop out of their sockets.

“Relax and let yourself move with the music,” Pierrot said. Nicola nodded, his body still rigid. It didn’t help that his partner suddenly leaned close and spoke into his ear next. “I’ll take care of you. Just enjoy yourself.”

The noise of dozens of conversations broke to the beginning strains of the next waltz—one that was as heavy and insistent as it was rhythmic, melodic beauty shedding any pretenses to poetry and speaking of a people’s hardship and enduring pride. The strains haunted with melancholy but romantic images that clung to Nicola’s mind as he danced around the room, awed, mortified, and exhilarated by the strangeness of this new experience.

“Don’t look at your feet. Look at me.”

Simple enough directions, but difficult to follow. Nicola found that he couldn’t look straight into his partner’s eyes, the self-consciousness and embarrassment weaving an uncomfortable thread in the mix of emotions that defined his first dance. But he also felt compelled to, largely because his partner’s eyes exuded intelligence and sadness that affected Nicola in a way that was foreign to him. Suddenly he wanted to know this young man’s story, and suddenly, he wanted to be with his partner all night, though he was still quite fuzzy as to what was going on regarding Pierrot’s acknowledgment of his presence, given his observations on the rest of the assembly’s indifference.

I dithered over whether or not to add a video to this post, and I decided to go ahead with it. It’s a piece that inspired the scene, actually, and I listened to it repeatedly while writing it. Ignore the fact that it’s totally anachronistic to the time period of the story. :)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I’ve lived most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area though I wasn’t born there (or, indeed, the USA). I’m married with no kids and three cats, am a cycling nut (go Garmin!), and my day job involves artwork, great coworkers who specialize in all kinds of media, and the occasional strange customer requests involving papier mache fish with sparkly scales.

I’m a writer of young adult fiction, specializing in contemporary fantasy, historical fantasy, and historical genres. My books range from a superhero fantasy series to reworked folktales to Victorian ghost fiction. My themes are coming-of-age with very little focus on romance (most of the time) and more on individual growth with some adventure thrown in.

ON GENRE FICTION FOR LGBT TEENS:

LGBT teens have all sorts of stories to tell. They’re heroes not only of contemporary adventures or of fantasy and magic, but also of history. The rules might be different – stricter, a bit more frightening given 19th century laws, for instance – but there are still dreams to be shaped, character to be developed, and all of these done within the parameters set by the genre. It’s going to be a challenge, sure, but if it means allowing LGBT kids their own time in the “limelight” of, say, the Victorian stage, I’m game.

THE GIVEAWAY: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Magic And Illusion Weave A Spell In Hayden Thorne’s “Renfred’s Masquerade”


“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” ― Stephen King


Title: Renfred’s Masquerade

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Pages/Word Count: 238 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Young Nicola Gregori has always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a brilliant clock-maker who’s famous for his wild, fantastical designs. But his father instead sends him to school to learn more practical matters. Nicola, stricken with infantile paralysis that left him with a deformed right leg, becomes an object of mockery and cruel jokes in school. He learns that in order to survive his daily ordeals, he needs to vanish in the crowd, to stop aspiring, to stop dreaming, and above all, to believe himself unworthy of respect and love.
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Harmony Ink Press, M.B. Mulhall

M.B. Mulhall’s “Heavyweight” Is In A Class By Itself


“The Universe doesn’t like secrets. It conspires to reveal the truth, to lead you to it.” – Lisa Unger



Title: Heavyweight

Author: M.B. Mulhall

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 230 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Secrets. Their weight can be crushing, but their release can change everything—and not necessarily for the better. Ian is no stranger to secrets. Being a gay teen in a backwater southern town, Ian must keep his orientation under wraps, especially since he spends a lot of time with his hands all over members of the same sex, pinning their sweaty, hard bodies to the wrestling mat.
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Huston Piner, Prizm Books

Please Welcome Huston Piner, “My Life as a Myth”, And A Giveaway!


About My Life as a Myth and a couple of Tidbits from Upcoming Projects!

First, let me say I’m so happy to be here at the wonderful Novel Approach Reviews site! The reviews and discussions are superb.

I’ve been honored by the fabulous reception of My Life as a Myth. Reviews have been very generous in their praise, which is most gratifying, and to even be considered for two prestigious awards (Stonewall and Rainbow) were honors that blew me away. People have commented on the humor and realism as well as the emotionally moving passages that even made me cry when writing them. And the notes from readers who have told me how much they identify with Nick, and how he gave them strength to deal with their own struggles have been the most gratifying of all. Thanks, folks!

I think the reason people identify with Nick is because he just wants to be accepted by his peers, to have friends, and to find a love he can be intimate with. These are basic teenage concerns (and humans in general), heightened only by his homosexuality, which draws his struggles into sharper relief.

Like all teenagers, Nick has to deal with dysfunction in his family, his own loneliness and self-doubt, and expectations based on other people’s perceptions of him. He initially finds himself cast as a troublemaker through no fault of his own and dreams of being popular, but when he seems to get his wish, he quickly discovers that popularity brings its own pressures. As his reputation soars, he gains friends and admirers, but few he can really feel close to. His public image is totally at odds with who he is temperamentally and mirrors the demands placed on him by a heteronormative culture he cannot embrace. The conflict between being who the world expects him to be and accepting who he is drives him throughout the book.

But Nick’s life really begins to change when he meets Bobby Warren and a mutual attraction between them begins. Writing about their first meeting, Nick says,

The one who really made an impression on me is Bobby. He’s laid back, and he’s real nice and showed the most interest in getting to know me. There’s something about him that makes me think he could be the leader but just doesn’t want to be. I must have embarrassed him at one point, ’cause when I noticed him looking at me he blushed, which triggered that embarrassing nervousness I sometimes get. But the way he smiled at me kinda made it all right. Like I said, he’s real nice.

In Bobby, Nick has finally found someone who accepts him for who he is, someone who alone can provide him with the intimacy he deeply needs. As he accepts his feelings for Bobby, Nick also comes to accept his sexual orientation.

Since Friday, Bobby and I have been doing the kinds of things I used to think only guys and girls do together, and it all turned me on like no girl could.

The fact is I’ve been attracted to Bobby since I first laid eyes on him. He turns me on. All those times I looked at him, or he looked at me and I blushed, I felt the same thing other guys say they feel around girls.

What does it mean? In health class, they say homosexuality is harmful and dangerous, deviant; they say it’s a disease. But Bobby’s helped me like no one else ever could. And we haven’t hurt each other. What we do together feels fantastic and it seems so right.

And it’s not just physical; I love him. Does that make me dangerous? Why is it wrong to find Bobby attractive anyway?

Bobby and I share something different. We love each other. And that’s supposed to be wrong?

Everyone’s always going on about meditating and really coming to know yourself. Isn’t that what the hippies always say? What I’ve come to know about myself is that I’m falling in love with Bobby.

Can that really be bad? I don’t think so.

No. I know it’s not wrong.

I’ve just got to find out how it fits in with the rest of our lives. I know it’s gonna have to be something we keep to ourselves. But damn, now that we’ve found it, I so want to keep it.

My Life as a Myth is a romance of first love between two gay teenagers, but it is more than that. It presents a realistic and moving picture of the struggles a gay teenager endures as Nick comes to understand and accept his orientation in the midst of a deeply homophobic culture. While it doesn’t promise a happily ever after ending, it is ultimately hopeful and has plenty of humor as well as passages that will make you cry. Gay teens will find affirmation of their experience of life to remind them that they are not alone in what they feel, and straight teens will discover how similar a gay person’s basic hopes, dreams, and fears are to their own. Adults will, hopefully, become more sensitive to the needs of the gay youths around them.

My next book, Joined at the Soul, coming in February 2015, is more light-hearted and explores issues of physical attraction versus love. Set in 1979, Chadham High continues to struggle with the acceptance of gay students. But sophomore Randy Clark comes to terms with his orientation a bit differently than Nick Horton did ten years earlier.

I woke up this morning and discovered I am gay. I know I know I know; it’s not supposed to work like that, but that’s just what happened. I was brushing my teeth, spit out, and looked in the mirror. A pointy-nosed sixteen year old with mousy brown hair stared back at me. “Randy Clark,” he said. “You, young man, are gay.”

Aided and (mis)guided by his friends Anne Brock and Jeremy Smith, Randy quickly learns that being comfortable with your sexuality is only half the struggle; finding a boyfriend, a special someone, is the real difficulty.

Like Nick before him, Randy must also deal with bullies, prejudice, and the problem of distinguishing true love from mere physical attraction. Thanks to his friends, Randy just might find Mr Right, if he can only manage to not screw it up. For Randy, that just might be a problem.

Later this year, I’ll also have a novella just in time for Halloween entitled Light in Endless Darkness. Kevin Reeves is fresh out of high school and more than ready to get the hell out of Chadham — that is, after he takes a community college course so Dickerson College will accept him. Meeting Dominic Pierce, who has a dark secret, is sure to throw a monkey wrench into those plans.

Once again, my thanks to Lisa and everyone at The Novel Approach. What a great site! Everyone should bookmark it.

My Life as a Myth is available from Prizm Books

BLURB: 1969 freshman Nick Horton has problems. He suffers from bouts of depression, he’s a high school social outcast, and he doesn’t understand why he’s not attracted to girls. So when a series of misunderstandings label him a troublemaker, he’s delighted to have Jesse Gaston and Jesse’s gang befriend him. Nick wants to explore his attraction to Bobby Warren, but Jesse promises to give him a new image and soon transforms the shy loser into an anti-establishment student hero.

Thanks to his new reputation, Nick finds himself besieged by would-be girlfriends and expectations that he live up to his public image. As Jesse’s PR campaign becomes more and more outrageous, Nick’s road quickly becomes littered with ridiculous misadventures and unexpected psychedelic explorations. Meanwhile he struggles to understand his emerging romance with Bobby while dealing with the Vietnam War’s continuing impact on his family and the dangerous goings-on at school.

Nick’s freshman year is a remarkable journey of struggle with his unwanted reputation and his deepening passion for Bobby. Is a world still reeling from the sexual revolution, Acid Rock, and the illicit pleasures of underage drinking and pot smoking ready to accept two boys in love? Will Nick and Bobby’s love survive or will the world’s prejudices drive them apart?

Joined at the Soul will be published by Prizm Book in February 2015.

You can find me on Facebook and on Twitter, as well as GoodReads
and LiveJournal

THE GIVEAWAY: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

“Masks: Rise of Heroes” – In Which There Are Strange Things Afoot In Vintage City


“With great power there must also come—great responsibility.” – Stan Lee


Title: Masks: Rise of Heroes

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Pages/Word Count: 238

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Strange things are happening in Vintage City, and sixteen-year-old Eric seems to be right in the middle of them. There’s a new villain in town, one with super powers, and he’s wreaking havoc everywhere and on Eric’s life. The new superhero who springs up to defend Vintage City is almost as bad, making Eric all hot and bothered, enough so that he almost misses the love that’s right under his nose.
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Louis Stevens, Queerteen Press

The Truth Is “What We’ve Been Waiting For”


“In the lie of truth lies the truth.” ― Dejan Stojanovic



Title: What We’ve Been Waiting For

Author: Louis Stevens

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Pages/Word Count: 118

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Blurb: From the age of three, Tim Bailey wanted to marry Tom Watkins. Many changes occurred during their formative years, but Tim’s love for Tom remained rock solid. Even when Tom temporarily broke up with him to date girls, Tim never stopped loving Tom.
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Dreamspinner Press, Johanna Parkhurst

Three Cheers For “Here’s to You, Zeb Pike” by Johanna Parkhurst


“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” ― Confucius



Title: Here’s to You, Zeb Pike

Author: Johanna Parkhurst

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 180

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Fact: When Zebulon Pike attempted to climb what is now known as Pikes Peak, he got stuck in waist-deep snow and had to turn back.

That’s the last thing Dusty Porter learns in his Colorado history class before appendicitis ruins his life. It isn’t long before social services figures out that Dusty’s parents are more myth than reality, and he and his siblings are shipped off to live in Vermont with an uncle and aunt they’ve never met.
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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Hayden Thorne Brings On “Masks: Rise of Heroes”, And A Giveaway!



Firstly, thanks to everyone for putting up with me twice in a month. I’m normally a lot more reclusive than this, but Lisa’s been very encouraging, and even a hermit can’t say no. :D So let’s get going, shall we?

Masks: Rise of Heroes is the first of a three-novel arc (and the first of six books in a series) about the (mis)adventures of Eric Plath – sixteen, gay, and not a superhero, unlike his friends. It was one of three YA novels I debuted when Torquere Press first opened Prizm Books, their YA imprint. I recently got my rights back, with my contract with Prizm expiring, and I’m now re-releasing it through Queerteen Press. With additional edits to smoothen rough edges and some minor tweaking of a few passages that have always bugged me with their muddiness, I’m now very happy – not to mention much more confident – to offer it up again.

Masks: Rise of Heroes – 2nd Edition Cover

It’s now in its second edition with a new cover image.

Rise of Heroes started out as a short story – an erotic adult story, at that – that I’d submitted in answer to an anthology call years ago (called Unmasked: Erotic Tales of Gay Superheroes). Rejected, of course, as yet another ding to my belief that I can write adult erotic stuff. It sat inside my folder for a few months until I received a request for material from Torquere Press, who’d said that they thought that I’d be one of a handful of TP authors who’d be interested in writing gay YA for them.

I doubted my ability to write from a teen’s POV at first but decided, why not? The worst they could do was reject my manuscript. Besides, I suck at writing erotic adult material, so there you go. The gay superhero theme turned out to be a promising one, so I decided to dust off the short story I wrote, purge it of all erotic elements, and expand it into a novel. As it turned out, Eric’s story wasn’t complete by the time I’d written the last chapter, so I thought then to expand it into a series and ended the Rise of Heroes with a mini-cliffhanger of sorts.

Eric Plath was – and still remains – my free therapist. As a fictional character, he’s always been the teenager I never was (ignore the fact that he’s male and gay, and I’m female and straight). He’s confident (overly so in some instances), brash, sassy, a serious drama queen, and always in trouble with his parents. I was the kid who hid herself in the darkest corner of a given room, vanishing behind a book, while everyone had fun around me. I never gave my parents any lip. I was a freakin’ Catholic School girl, for crying out loud, from kindergarten all the way to my senior year in high school. I suffered through hour-long rosary rallies during October. I forced myself to shed a tear when Pope Paul VI died because all my classmates were crying around me. Good lord, I was hopeless.

So writing Eric was like a fun, fun, FUN tumble into the rabbit hole, and I’ve never looked back.

Masks: Rise of Heroes – Original Cover

I wanted to avoid writing him as a superhero because it would’ve been expected for me to do that, and I really wanted to do something different. After all, that would’ve meant lots of material for teen existential angst, with superhero otherness mirroring a gay kid’s sexuality otherness, in a manner of speaking. I wanted him to be an outsider and yet not, and it meant making him the non-genetically manipulated kid whose normalcy helps ground his superhero buddies. Yeah, he’s the outsider looking in, a hanger-on, so to speak, but he’s the one his friends depend on to keep their superhero feet on the ground. He doesn’t spare them his snark and his attitude. He marvels at their powers and is even jealous of them in some way or another, yet he treats them no differently from everyone else, doesn’t place them on any pedestal.

Unless it’s his superhero boyfriend, of course. In that case, all Eric wants is to get inside Peter’s pants while placing him on a pedestal.

Another reason why I avoided turning him into a superhero was that I wanted to explore teen issues from the perspective of an ordinary boy who’s trapped in extraordinary circumstances, with him being both observer and participant. It’s bad enough he’s got his Regular Joe Blow issues to deal with, with his Chemistry and Geometry classes making him want to retire to a monastery if he could; he certainly doesn’t need the craziness of all the superhero vs. supervillain activity exploding around him.

Besides, it messes up his commute.

The biggest reason was humor, which is kind of my default tone when it comes to writing. I wanted to show the superheroes as awkwardly kickass, their development never perfect, and I wanted Eric to be the critic who’s also fumbling his way through his own issues. Superheroes are campy, something that Joss Whedon understood very well, which was why The Avengers proved to be a great success (and why I love watching it again and again). You can certainly do angst when it comes to superheroes, go all-out gritty and dark a la Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight series, but for me, it’s all about embracing those campy elements and knowing when to have fun with the material. Magnifiman, the leader of the superhero pack, even talks a certain way – very silver screen, as Eric puts it. He even strikes a very heroic pose now and then that’s never lost on Eric.

I’d just finished writing the first draft when Perry Moore’s Hero was released. As I’d been holed up for months working on my books for Prizm, I’d remained in the dark regarding Moore’s debut novel and missed out on the buzz surrounding it. Of course I bought it and eagerly read it. And I loved it. It remains my all-time favorite gay YA novel even with what I feel are its flaws.

It was the first gay YA novel I’d read that’s out and proud of its fantasy elements while it uses them to explore contemporary LGBT issues. It’s not a completely escapist read, but I really appreciate the humor and the earnestness of the way it tackles Thom’s problems, which include his relationship with his father. It was also a much-needed reassurance for me as I’d wondered if going escapist with Rise of Heroes with a heavier emphasis on humor would be a good move.

It was also reassurance for me to be out and proud of my fantasy books for gay kids, when the overwhelming preference for gay YA fiction has always been – and continues to be – contemporary realistic (or issues-based) stories. I figured there’ll always be room, no matter how small, for Eric and other kids like him, whose experiences are nutty, weird, freaky, and everything in between, with the world around them hopelessly cockeyed and all the more fun – or even thought-provoking despite the comedy – for that.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

In honor of Hayden’s visit today, she’s offering the chance for one lucky reader to win an E-copy of Masks: Rise of Heroes.

All you have to do is leave a comment right here on this post, and you’re automatically entered. Comments must be received by midnight Pacific Time on Monday, December 30, 2013. One winner will be drawn at random on Tuesday, the 31st, and contacted by email for prize delivery.

Good luck!

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John Amory, Prizm Books

John Amory’s “A Christmas Caroler” Sings Its Way Into The Holidays



“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.” ― Harold G. Coffin


Christmas trees aren’t the only things green in John Amory’s young adult tale A Christmas Caroler, the story of Jeremy Walsh, a high school senior who’s certain his final year in school will weigh heavily in his favor for the coveted and prestigious solo part in this year’s Christmas concert, and will guarantee a future at a prominent college, which will then lead to a certain path that includes one day singing at Carnegie Hall.

Until, that is, the new boy at school, Zach Brooks, lets loose with a voice that could make the angels weep; then all bets are off, and Jeremy turns positively pine green with envy that Zach has swooped in and snatched his dreams right out from under him.
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Bristlecone Pine Press, Hayden Thorne

The Inspiration Behind Hayden Thorne’s “The Glass Minstrel”, And A Giveaway



This only happened to me three times (two for a novel, one for a short story), and I hope to experience it again because compared to the process of writing novels that aren’t inspired and sustained by actual musical compositions, this (accidental? unplanned?) method tends to be a lot richer. That’s with regard to the process of writing, not the finished product. Though I hope that the finished product provides readers with hours of good reading material. :)

Start out with a piece of music that, for some reason or other, fires up the imagination by touching on a certain mood or feeling. For me, it was a very specific version of a traditional holiday carol.

Allow the mind to work with the music and the mood that it feeds until images – or in my case, a specific image – takes shape.

The Toymaker by Felix Ehrlich

Nope, there was absolutely no logical reason why I envisioned a toymaker who, unlike the one in the picture above, sat isolated in his workshop, hunched over a little glass ornament. It was the feeling of melancholy and nostalgia – and a lot of regret – that came over me when I first listened to Chanticleer’s rendition of “In Dulci Jubilo”.

The earliest passage that helped lay the foundation for a story, which turned into a novel – The Glass Minstrel – came after the “visualization”, and it was naturally murky at first. With the help of my editor, it became this:

For several weeks after his son’s burial, Abelard Bauer remained isolated. He lost himself in his craft, molding and perfecting little figurines, tossing several away with increasing frustration. Living off meager sustenance, the grieving father nonetheless found strength and determination to carry through with his work. A consistent, gnawing hunger that made his belly ache sharpened his senses and heightened his restlessness and impatience. It would take some time for him to create a figurine which managed to embody his love and his loss, and once shaped, he’d immediately put all his time and energy in sculpting it further till it pleased him, finishing his outpouring of unhappiness through his paintbrush.

It was, as a friend would later describe it, his little masterpiece.

Abelard Bauer had recreated his own son in a little glass ornament. He used a mold he specifically designed for his purpose – and which he destroyed once he felt that he succeeded in his attempts. The figure was that of Stefan at the height of his youth and promise at fifteen years of age, costumed to look like a poor, traveling minstrel from days long gone, a little harp in one hand, a look of hope shining in his eyes. Stefan, after discovering his musical talent, had looked forward to pursuing his passion under the tutelage of any genius of his age who’d follow Schubert’s long-silenced footsteps. He was always ambitious that way.

– from Chapter Three
The Glass Minstrel

The story at first took shape as a holiday fairy tale, in which the glass ornaments came alive when Christmas rolled around. In the original version, the glass minstrel, because its creator poured all his sadness into it, spent its time alone and unhappy and unable to get out of it until a glass king (it shows up in the novel toward the end) comes around and cheers it up.

After a few years, I decided to dust it off and rewrite it into a YA novel, adding the subplots of Schiffer and Jakob and dumping the fantasy elements.

The Glass Minstrel is one of three books I’ve written that I hold closest to my heart (Renfred’s Masquerade and Desmond and Garrick Vol. 1 &2 are the others). It’s the second “pure” historical novel I wrote (i.e., no fantasy elements anywhere), and the subject matter’s also a pretty weighty one. It’s also the most difficult book I’ve written, and truth be told, I don’t know if I’ll be able to match it down the line should I be inspired to write another “pure” historical.

The subject matter is weighty because it deals with the effects of the deaths of two young lovers on their families. It’s also weighty because with the addition of Jakob Diederich, I had to tackle the experiences of a boy who lives in poverty and who discovers he’s gay. He’s alone, confused, and constantly projects his dreams onto people who can’t, for whatever reason, be what he desperately wants them to be. He needs guidance, and he turns to petty thievery as a way of coping with his troubles.

I once complained that The Glass Minstrel was my albatross, and it was on a lot of levels.

1. With the addition of Andreas Schiffer and Jakob Diederich, I had to balance the POVs between three main characters, something I’d never attempted before. I also didn’t follow the more logical alternating sequence of chapters (Chapter 1: Bauer, Chapter 2: Schiffer, Chapter 3: Diederich, Chapter 4: Bauer, etc.). Time was an important factor, and I needed to keep track of it the whole time because the story unfolds about a month (maybe three weeks) before Christmas. So the POV sequence was more jumbled, depending on what was happening to whom at the same time another character was doing something.

Neuschwastein Castle, Bavaria, Germany

2. The setting was very limited and so made research a challenge. I chose the 19th century Bavarian Alps region for the setting because of the music that inspired it (a traditional German carol) as well as the fact that it was the image of a grieving toymaker that prompted me to write the first version of the story. Zirndorf, a small town in Bavaria, was known for its toy-making industry at that time, so it came out the winner. That said, there’s hardly any info out there about the town’s history, and I needed to depend on more generalized articles on mid-19th century German holiday traditions for my guide. Some historical purists frowned on the generic image I created of the setting, but I was interested in the setting only as a means of anchoring the time and the conflict of the story. My primary goal was to explore the fallout from Stefan Bauer and Heinrich Schiffer’s love story.

3. From an emotional standpoint, I had a pretty difficult time writing a number of scenes. There’s nothing worse than placing myself in the shoes of parents who’ve lost their children, and there’s nothing more crippling than imagining how it would be like being a largely unschooled young boy with hopes and dreams like everyone else and yet is constantly shown that those dreams are unacceptable and wrong. But their stories needed to be told, and I wanted the challenge of being in an emotionally vulnerable state until the end. I was drained by the time I finished, but it was well worth the trip.

That’s not to say the novel’s a big downer. It ends in hope, with each character finding what he needs from the others. Bauer and Schiffer will both give up a very precious item for the benefit of the other (think of it as a gift exchange involving the glass minstrel and a boy’s journal, though the time gap between them is a big one). And while Schiffer and Jakob will never cross paths in their lifetimes, Schiffer will, indirectly, help Jakob. As I’m wading in the pool of spoilers, I can’t go any further than that.

Today I wanted to leave our mark somewhere. Leaves weren’t any good when I tried painting our initials on them, and I don’t like carving our initials into trees. Everyone does that, and it’s boring. Stefan and I are different. We should have something different. There’s a pile of large rocks about half a mile west of the school, just outside Fürth. I’ve heard people say that they’re used by witches, but what do they know, really? I went there this afternoon and brought a knife. The rocks turned out to be softer than I expected, which helped. All the same, my knife barely survived the carving process, but I somehow made it work. So now all of Nature can see it and know us. Even those stupid witches, if they really do exist. I chose the rock that faces east because that’s where the sun rises. I won’t tell Stefan about this. This is really between me and God, and I know He’s listening to what I have to say. Heinrich und Stefan: in infinitionem.

– from the journal of Heinrich Schiffer

One of the things that was brought to my attention after the book was published was with regard to Heinrich’s journal entries, which open each chapter. The original manuscript I submitted didn’t contain them. It was my editor who suggested showing Schiffer reading Heinrich’s journal and adding an excerpt into that scene. I thought it was a good idea but decided instead to write passages from Heinrich’s journal at the beginning of each chapter as a way of showing the progression of the romance between Stefan and Heinrich.

19th Century Christmas

I also wanted to provide a contrast of romantic idealism and the joy of falling in love with the right person to the chaotic aftermath of that love story. Stefan and Heinrich were wildly in love with each other and were very happy. Why couldn’t Bauer and Schiffer see what they had? Why should they struggle with so many questions, when nothing in the end matters than their children’s happiness? True, this is a contemporary view of mine that I’m trying to project into the past, but when difficult questions can’t be answered, I strongly feel that, even if full understanding is never reached, the matter of a child’s happiness should take precedent. And it’s that specific point that Bauer and Schiffer would have to come to terms with if they really do love their sons the way they claim.

It was a crazy process from start to finish. Looking back, I’m shaking my head at how unpredictable writing can be. I sure wouldn’t have expected to be affected by a Christmas carol I’ve heard so many times before. I never thought it would move me so much as to associate not only an image, but also emotions behind that image. I never thought I’d be writing a short fairy tale for it, and I sure as heck didn’t expect to take that fairy tale and run away with it, turning it into a novel touching on some pretty heavy stuff I’d never tackled before.

When I mentioned earlier that I don’t think I’d be able to replicate this experience again, it’s not for want of trying. The creative process behind a book is unique, and other writers will attest to that. What might work for one won’t work for another, though musical influence remains a constant, and I look forward to being deeply inspired by another piece of music again.

By the way, the other two stories that’ve been inspired by music? Renfred’s Masquerade came about when I listened to Offenbach’s “Barcarolle”, and “Cloud’s Illusions” (a gay YA short story) was inspired by Judy Collins’ rendition of “Both Sides Now”. I’d love to see that list grow.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

BLURB: The Christmas season in mid-19th century Bavaria is brought to life in the The Glass Minstrel, an original historical novel from acclaimed author Hayden Thorne.

Two fathers, Abelard Bauer and Andreas Schifffer, are brought together through the tragic deaths of their eldest sons. Bauer, a brilliant toymaker, fashions glass Christmas ornaments and his latest creation is a minstrel with a secret molded into its features. When Schiffer sees Bauer’s minstrel ornament in the toy shop, he realizes that Bauer is struggling to keep his son’s memory alive through his craft. At first he tries to fault him for this, but then recognizes that he, too, is seeking solace and healing by reading his son’s diary, a journal that reveals, in both painful as well as beautiful detail, the true nature of his relationship with the artisan’s son.

In addition to the story of the two fathers, a third character is central to the plot: fifteen-year-old Jakob Diederich. The young man is burdened with his own secret; he develops an obsession with a traveling Englishman who stays at the inn where Jakob works.

The lives of all three men intersect during the holiday as Schiffer tries to focus on his family in the present; Bauer struggles to reconcile his past and Jakob copes with an uncertain future. The lyrical prose and rich period detail will keep the reader engrossed from the very first page in this tale of redemption, hope, and haunting, but timeless, themes.

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THE GIVEAWAY: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

An Unlikely Friendship Transforms “The Weeping Willow”



“Fairy tales and folk tales are for children and childlike people, not because they are little and inconsequential, but because they are as enormous as life itself.” ― Anthony Esolen


Crispian Butcher is a throw-away child who, at fifteen, has learned what it means to be homeless, friendless, hungry, tired with nowhere to rest. He finds work where he can, lucking into a job that provides just enough for survival, making his home within the sheltering branches of a weeping willow tree, a very special tree that is so much more than what it seems, a tree that is bound by magic to absorb a wealth of human grief.
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Harmony Ink Press, Mia Kerick

Mia Kerick Proves There’s Hope If You’re “Not Broken, Just Bent”

“Forgiveness requires a sense that bad behaviour is a sign of suffering rather than malice.” ― Alain de Botton

BLURB: Braving the start of high school, longtime childhood friends Benjamin Wells and Timmy Norton quickly realize they are entering a whole new world colored by their family responsibilities. Ben is trying to please his strict father; Timmy is taking care of his younger sisters. While their easy camaraderie is still comfortable, Ben notices Timmy growing distant and evasive, but Ben has his own problems. It’s easier to let concerns about Timmy’s home life slide, especially when Timmy changes directions and starts to get a little too close. Ben doesn’t know how to handle the new feelings Timmy’s desire for love inspires, and his continuing denial wounds Timmy deeply.

But what Timmy perceives as Ben’s greatest betrayal is yet to come, and the fallout threatens to break them apart forever. Over the next four years, the push and pull between them and the outside world twists and tears at Ben and Timmy, and they are haunted by fear and regret. However, sometimes what seems broken is just a little bent, and if they can find forgiveness within themselves, Ben and Timmy may be able to move forward together.

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Harmony Ink Press, M.J. O'Shea

MJ O’Shea’s “Blood Moon” Might Make You Wish Your Childhood Memories Were This Exciting



“Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ― Roald Dahl


***Warning: This Review Contains Major Spoilers!***

I was very excited to read Blood Moon because it was about my favorite subject: vampires! After my last book, I needed something fun and sexy. Blood Moon delivered on all fronts! It was fast paced, fun and sexy. Yes, I used those words before, but it was. Enjoyed the book so much I could have read on.

The story is about childhood friends Zack and Noah. The boys meet on a summer vacation at an upstate lake, when they are 5, and become inseparable. When I was a kid, I too went upstate to spend my summers. I never met a vampire but hey, the fantasy is nice. This brought back fond memories for me and made me enjoy the book so much more. Every year they would spend their summers together. The friendship turns into love and when they are both 17, they share their first kiss. Everything is fine until the next day when Noah rejects Zack with a flimsy excuse. Zack’s devastation is palpable.
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Bold Strokes Books, Jennifer Lavoie

Why Not Take A Chance On “Meeting Chance”?



“Pets have more love and compassion in them than most humans”– Robert Wagner


Wow, I needed this book. I have had several disappointing YA LGBT reads lately. Books where abusers got away with their crimes and date rape was treated as just another mistake. I told myself I was finished with YA novels. But I had already committed to read and review this one. I don’t put much stock in God or Fate or whatever, but this book was the right one for me at the right time. It made me feel hopeful. There are authors writing age-appropriate LGBT fiction! Jennifer Lavoie is one of them. It is not only age appropriate, it is good! I read this in half a day. Made frozen pizza for dinner because I wanted to keep reading.
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All Romance Ebooks, Sara Alva, Self-Published

Sara Alva Gives Voice To The “Silent” In This Story Of Young Love



“Secrets are what can ease or crush a soul, mend or destroy a heart, and rescue or murder a life.” ― Alexis Hurley


BLURB: Alex’s life as a teenager in South Central L.A. is far from perfect, but it’s his life, and he knows how to live it. He knows what role to play and what things to keep to himself. He’s got it all under control, until one lousy pair of shoes kicks him out of his world and lands him in a foster care group home.

Surrounded by strangers and trapped in a life where he could never belong, Alex turns to the only person lower on the social ladder than he is: a “special” mute boy. In Sebastian, Alex finds a safe place to store his secrets—those that sent him to foster care, and the deeper one that sets him apart from the other teenagers he knows. But Sebastian has secrets of his own, and when tragedy rips the two boys apart, Alex will stop at nothing to find the answers—even if it means dragging them both through a past full of wounds best left buried.

It might just be worth it, for the slim chance at love.

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Harmony Ink Press, Mia Kerick

Schedule Some Time With Mia Kerick’s “Intervention”



“There are tons of kids out there who endure chronic abuse and suffer in silence. They can’t trust anyone, they can’t tell anyone, and they have no idea how to get away from it.” — C. Kennedy


I have a hard time reading books containing incest. The subject matter is a heinous one and I laud author Mia Kerick for attempting to tackle it in her newest book. When I got to the first part in Intervention where the history of incest was clearly stated, I didn’t think I’d be able to read the book. But, I pressed on. I’m not sure if it had to do with the skilled way in which Ms. Kerick wrote it or my determination to get through a troubling story. I say all this to be sure you know where I was while reading Intervention.

**Warning: This Review Contains Spoilers**

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