29 March 2011

It's almost here!

Release day, that is! This Saturday, 2 April, my next novella will be coming out from Torquere, Compass Hearts.

How do you define yourself when others have always done it for you? Half a world from home, Matthew must find the answer before his loses the one man who may truly love him.

As the fourth son of merchant parents, Matthew Morgan has always been superfluous. The only guidance he ever received was to behave himself and stay out of the way. Now, at a new university half a world away from home, he must discover who he is and what he wants. The only trouble is, he's never made a decision in his life.

When Ash Thearon meets Matthew -- the handsome fellow student he's been ogling all quarter -- he finds him sweet, sexy, and more than a little puzzling. To solve that puzzle, he must first collect all the pieces -- something more easily said than done.

The new friends quickly become lovers, but Matthew's sheltered life has taught him only how to follow another's lead. Ash wants more than that; he wants the give and take of an equal. Matthew's tendency to try too hard to please others leaves Ash wondering how to teach him independence without losing him.

And I must give a shout out to Alessia Brio for the gorgeous cover art!

28 March 2011

Year of Reading Youthfully - Epilogue

So, if you've been following my YoRY posts, there may be one question as yet left unanswered in your mind: Why is the author of erotic m/m fiction reading young adult novels?

Am I right? ... I thought so.

The simple answer is: Because I like YA fiction. And it's true. I don't like all of it, but I don't like all of any category of books. What I have found lately, though, in returning to the realm of YA, is that a lot of it is, quite frankly, better written than "grown-up" fiction. That's not to say "adult" fiction, with all of its sundry connotations, but books written with non-children as their target audience, whether erotic or otherwise. With a few notable exceptions (::cough::twilight::cough::), we seem to expect more of young adults and children as readers than we do of adults. I'm sure there are many sides to that discussion, and I'm not going to cover them all here because no one person can sum up the whole of literature. That's just a silly idea. But in my experience over the past few years, I've found that I've tossed aside a goodly number of adult-targeted books of a variety of genres because they bored me or they irritated me. (I've tossed aside a couple of YAs for these reasons, too, just so you know.) Either the story was far too simplistic or predictable, or the characters weren't interesting or even likable. In one case (an erotic romance), the title character was, frankly, a loathsome person and I saw no reason to give a damn whether he lived or died. Another book (technically a mystery), which I unfortunately finished because it was for a book club, was utter shit. Award-winning, gods know why, because it was GARBAGE. (On the up side of finishing it, one does like to be fully knowledgeable about one's subject when eviscerating it with friends.)

The books I have continued to read and finish (or intend to finish) for my own enjoyment have a high expectation of the reader. Boneshaker and The Ark, for example, are both books that expect a certain level of attention, comprehension, and retention from their readers, and that makes me more interested and excited to actually read them. They make me think while at the same time providing me with an escape and entertainment. Maybe that's why I've been diggin' on the YA so much. It takes a lot to get a teenager to sit down and focus on something that isn't a video game, or a TV show or movie, or any one of far too many means of social media and electronic communication. We're all moving too fast these days, and it seems to me the current teen/tween generation are taking the brunt of it. So, to get one of them to sit down, slow down, and read tens of thousands of words on a single subject... Well, you'd better be damned good at what you do to make that happen.

So there it is, for what it's worth. And now if you'll excuse me, I have a stack of books awaiting my attention. :-D

21 March 2011

Defying Definition - YoRY Part 7

Okay, so that heading's not entirely true. The last two books from my Year of Reading Youthfully aren't hard to categorize on their own, they simply don't belong in any of the previous categories, nor do they fit together in one.

First, there's Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner, which is essentially your basic contemporary YA fiction. I picked this book up at Powell's in Portland, OR, because of the title and because the staff recommendation card said it was "the raunchiest book I've read...on this floor." "This floor" being the one that houses the Children's, Middle Readers, and Young Adult books. I thought at the time that with a title like that and a recommendation like that, it must be worth checking out. So I read the back and promptly put it in my basket.  Here's what the back of the book says:
"Shakespeare has always hated his name. His parents bestowed it on him as some kind of sick joke when he was born, and since then his life has been one embarrassing incident after another. But Shakespeare will have the last laugh. He is chronicling every mortifying detail in his memoir, the writing project each senior at Shakespeare's high school must complete. And he is doing it brilliantly. For as much as he hates his name, Shakespeare is a good writer. And, just maybe, a prizewinning memoir will bring him respect, admiration, and a girlfriend . . . or at least a prom date."

So, you see why I couldn't resist. And it's written in two styles, although both are the voice of the title character, Shakespeare Shapiro. (His more popular younger brother is name Gandhi, by the way.) The narrative goes back and forth between his daily life, written in first person, present tense which seems to be a popular format these days with YA books, and the assignments he is given for his senior writing project, i.e. his memoir. In both, however, he tends to cast himself as the hapless victim. Now, lest that sound too irritating for you, it is done with such good humour and honesty that I never once got fed up with his "poor me" point of view. Fact: His little brother is cooler and more popular. Fact: His parents are nut-jobs, well-meaning as they might be. But also fact: His life is put in perspective when he gets to know another student in his memoir class and discovers just how normal and lucky his life really is in comparison to some. Yes, the boy can learn!

A friend gave me Jake Wizner's second book, Castration Celebration!, for Solstice, and I'm looking forward to reading it!

Second, there is The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, which is magical realism. I picked up this book by accident. See, I went to the library to put a hold on Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (which is flipping awesome, by the way. Go read it!). I wasn't paying very close attention and I put a hold on The Boneshaker first. I was going to cancel that hold until I read the book blurb and I thought, "Well, that sounds cool!"

I was right.

 Here's what Goodreads says:
"Thirteen-year-old Natalie Minks loves machines, particularly automata—self-operating mechanical devices, usually powered by clockwork. When Jake Limberleg and his traveling medicine show arrive in her small Missouri town with a mysterious vehicle under a tarp and an uncanny ability to make Natalie’s half-built automaton move, she feels in her gut that something about this caravan of healers is a bit off. Her uneasiness leads her to investigate the intricate maze of the medicine show, where she discovers a horrible truth and realizes that only she has the power to set things right."

It's set in a little town in the flat middle of the U.S. in 1914. Near a crossroads where once thriving, now ghost-, town stands. In short: mysterious illness; traveling medicine show; clockwork automata with no source of power; and a bicycle no one can ride. Oh, and you know who you're likely to meet at a crossroads, don't you? Better be sure you know what you're doing before you make a deal with him.

I love magical realism! I wouldn't be completely hooked on Jack Flanders if I didn't. The Boneshaker is about a regular 13-year-old girl dealing with extraordinary events that turn her ordinary world on its ear. Of course, it's not that simple, but I don't want to spoil things for you. Natalie is bold and brave and foolhardy and vulnerable and absolutely real. The author totally nailed the voice of the character and immediately drew me into her world and her story. (Unlike The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, which is garbage. Don't waste your time. It jumped the shark in the first paragraph.)

So there you have it. My Year of Reading Youthfully. Of course, I'm still grooving on my YA novels. I have three new ones from NZ to read, you know! Plus the new Wizner I mentioned above, and the others I've mentioned in previous posts. So it's not like I'm stopping just because a year is up (and has been for a while now), it's just that I can only keep so much information in my memory for so long. And now it's here for you to read. I hope you check out some, or indeed all, of the books I've talked about. You'll find them worth your while and you might rediscover something in yourself while you're at it.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you around again soon. After all, I have a book coming out in less than a fortnight! ;-)

17 March 2011

YA Books from NZ!

The books I ordered from NZ arrived today! Yay! Very excited to have the rest of the Blood of the Lamb trilogy and Banquo's Son to read. But first I really should finish the books I'm already reading.

15 March 2011

I Haz Art!

Cover art, that is! Check out the pretty while I try to infuse enough caffeine into my blood to get me past this stupid Daylight Savings time change. *yawn*

That's nice to wake up to, though. Isn't it? Counting down until my 2 April release date!

11 March 2011

YA Lit of New Zealand - YoYR Part 6

Last time I mentioned that I'd read some YA books by New Zealand authors. Sadly, only two so far, but three more are on their way from Wellington to me at this very moment. Woot! Two of those books are #2 & 3 in The Blood of the Lamb Trilogy. The first book, The Crossing, is one I picked up in a Whitcoull's Bookstore on Cashel Mall in Christchurch. (OT: Please consider donating to NZ Red Cross (2011 Earthquake Appeal) or NZ SPCA (Canterbury SPCA Earthquake Appeal) or any other charitable organization you like to the help with Chch earthquake recovery efforts.)

The Crossing (Blood of the Lamb Book #1) by Mandy Hager. I'm not sure how to sum this one up for you and I don't really like the blurb behind that link there. Hmm... Ah! This one from the Whitcoull's website is better:
"The Crossing is the first book in a stunning new trilogy that follows the fate of Maryam and her unlikely companions - Joseph, Ruth, and Lazarus. This is fast, suspenseful drama underpinned by a powerful and moving story about love and loss. The people of Onewere, a small island in the Pacific, know that they are special - chosen to survive the deadly event that consumed the Earth. Now, from the rotting cruise ship Star of the Sea, the elite control the population - manipulating old texts to set themselves up as living 'gods'. But what the people of Onewere don't know is this: the leaders will stop at nothing to meet their own blood-thirsty needs. When Maryam crosses from child to woman, she must leave everything she has ever known and make a crossing of another kind. But life inside the ship is not as she had dreamed, and she is faced with the unthinkable: obey the leaders and very likely die, or turn her back on every belief she once held dear."

Even better is the cover quote from renowned NZ Children's Lit author Margaret Mahy (who I'll talk about in a minute): "Like '1984' for teenagers - direct, passionate and powerful". Just think about that for a minute and if it doesn't make you go "Whoa" you're not reading right. Read it again. ... Got it now? Yeah. That's what I'm talking about.

This book covers all sorts of issues from religious hypocrisy to forced breeding. In short, not your usual YA fare. It does it in such a skilled fashion that I had some seriously visceral reactions to some of the scenes, although no scene crossed the line, if you know what I mean. The young characters learn a lot in this first book and it's a helluva a way to grow up too fast. The world they live in is harsh and tightly controlled. Strict lines are drawn and you're damned, pretty much literally, if you dare to so much as question them. This isn't YA for the timid reader and I love that about it. When the U.S. is caught up in the pablum that is Twilight-mania (Yes, I said it and I stand behind it.), NZ is putting out truly amazing books for teens. Well-written and with powerful and empowering (Gods, I hate that word, but there you have it.) themes. The heroine, Maryam, has to reassess her entire world in the face of newly-discovered truth. She has to redefine who she is without the labels and locks that others have put on her. I can't wait for the other two books to arrive in my mailbox so I can read the rest! (The third book coming is Banquo's Son. The first in a trilogy about Fleance. You know, the only boy in Shakespeare's Macbeth who doesn't snuff it at the hands Mackers or his henchmen. I should've bought it when I was there but, damn, books are pricey in NZ, and this one was heavy, too. I didn't want to haul around it in my already stuffed luggage. So now I'm paying shipping instead of tax, and I have to wait. D'oh!)

The other book I picked up while in Chch was Kaitangata Twitch by Margaret Mahy. The clerk who helped me at the bookstore was astonished that I'd never heard of her. All I could really offer was the fact that I was an ignorant American. :-( If it's not American or English, we don't get it in our bookstores/libraries. Hell, we don't even get Canadian lit unless we go looking for it--in Canada. Anywho, I discovered this (or rather my hubby did) on our flight from Sydney, Aus, to Christchurch, NZ. They've made a TV series out of it and there were, allegedly, a few half-hour eps available in-flight. Sadly, I couldn't get any of them to work. (I got to watch Cosi instead, though, so I'm not bitter.)

This book is what I would call magical realism. Here's what the Whitcoull's site (linked above) says:
"Kaitangata is an island with a rocky fist punching skywards. Kaitangata seems to have a will of its own, and a voice, although only Meredith can hear it...'What we need is a powerful enchantress,' Meredith cried. 'Someone who could put a spell on Marriott.' As she spoke, a strange thought came into her head, running round and round inside her like a mouse on a pet-shop wheel. It was not a thought she could share, for it had a wickedness hidden in it and Meredith did not want anyone to know just how wicked she could be, even if it was only in her dreams. Can Meredith save the island from an unscrupulous developer? How could the dreamer of the family succeed where grown-ups have failed? Only Kaitangata can tell..."

They call it "a spellbinding supernatural thriller", and that's a fair categorization, too. The fantastical lives hand-in-hand with the everyday. This book is about the power of the Earth itself and one girl's connection to it. It reminds me a little of The Dark is Rising Sequence. Natural elements beyond "ordinary" reality that have a direct effect on "ordinary" and not-so-ordinary people. I love when a character is faced with something so powerful that she can't quite wrap her head around it and yet she embraces the challenge and achieves more than she thinks she can. This is an awesome lesson for anyone at any age.

Last installment coming next time. I'll talk a little more about magical realism and what happens when you don't pay attention to what you reserve at the library, and "the raunchiest book" on the Children's Books floor of Powell's in Portland.

04 March 2011

International Sex Worker Rights Day

Did you know that March 3 was International Sex Worker Rights Day? Nor did I until I saw a link on Babeland's Facebook page and followed it to this Babeland Blog Post. I wish I had known. I'd've prepared an interview with Micah Hartshorn, one of the heroes from my novel Client Privileges. For those who haven't met Micah, he is a sex worker or, in the simpler parlance of his culture, a professional whore. In the city of Korpi, the Whores' Guild is like any other professional Guild. Think of it as a union, a union with rules that must be followed but which also protects its members' health, safety, and livelihood. I'm sure he would have a great deal to say about how our culture should decriminalize and destigmatize his chosen profession. He could talk about the rights his government gives him through the Guild, like the right to refuse service to any client; or the benefits it provides, like quarterly heath screenings and free birth control for men and women. He could talk about industry-standard pricing structures, seniority, and job security. But when it comes down to it, he'd probably rather talk about the work itself--as long as it didn't violate client privacy regulations. But, in lieu of all that, maybe you should just go read, or re-read, the book. I'm sure Micah wouldn't mind. ;-)

01 March 2011

Upcoming New Release

I have a release date for my latest novella! Compass Hearts will be available from Torquere Press on 2 April! To whet your appetites, here is an (unedited) excerpt from the book.


Compass Hearts by Maia Strong

He barely recognized his own voice as he went on. "The human body is...fascinating." There was a question, an invitation, underlying his statement. He hoped Ash would hear it and understand. Despite this sudden swell of bravery, he knew he couldn't say that out loud.

A slow smile spread across Ash's face. Matthew grinned back, guessing his message had gotten through. His guess was confirmed when Ash asked, "Have you ever had a live model?"

"No." Matthew's cock strained at his breeches. He yearned to draw Ash, see him stripped and posed. He couldn't remember ever wanting anything so much or so urgently in his life.

Then reality crashed down on him. His face fell. "My materials are at my apartment." In the time it took to get there and back, the moment would be beyond lost. And there was no way he was taking Ash back to his flat. He didn't want Ash to see it. It was so unbearably grim, lacking in any charm or comfort, especially when compared to Ash's quirky and inviting room upstairs.

"What do you need?" Ash asked.

"Charcoal pencils, largish paper."

"I have that."

"You do?" Matthew perked up at this spark of hope. It was almost too good to believe. "How? Why?"

"Botany class. We do a lot of plant sketching. I not only have charcoal pencils, I have pressed pigment pencils."

Matthew's eyes lit up and Ash grinned and grabbed his hand. "Come on." Ash pulled him to his feet and toward the stairs.

Matthew's practical side asserted itself and, still clinging to sense, he asked, "What about our books?"

"No one will bother them. Come on!" He practically dragged Matthew from the parlor. By the time their feet hit the stairs, though, Matthew was plenty willing to follow him up.

Inside the cozy comfort of the little attic room, Ash went immediately to the window seat. He opened it and fished around inside, coming up a moment later with a large tablet and a tin box. "Here." He handed the box to Matthew who opened it and looked in wonder at the myriad colored pencils within.

"Where did you get these?" he asked, awed and envious.

"Some of them I bought in town. Some of them my dad gave me before I came here." Ash flipped through the tablet of his Botany drawings, Matthew looking over his shoulder. The plants were barely recognizable, and then only because he'd labeled them. "They're awful, I know," said Ash. He pulled a disgusted face. "It's all right to say so."

"I just have one question," said Matthew.

"Yes?" Ash turned and looked up at him. "What?"

"Are you actually passing Botany?"

Ash burst out laughing. "All right, Master Critical." He flipped to a blank sheet and shoved the tablet at Matthew. "Let's see you do better."

"That much I can guarantee."

"I've never been an artist's model." Ash's eyes looked deep blue in the lantern light and his voice was husky. "Tell me what to do."

Matthew swallowed hard once. The heat and tightness in his groin were intense and he was glad for the tablet he held in front of him. What was he thinking? He'd never get through this! Panic began to rise in him, quelling his arousal. No. I want to do this, damn it! Steeling himself and taking control of his fear, he said with as much authority as he could muster, "Strip."


Hopefully that's piqued your interest. ;-) I should have a cover to share with you next time I'm here, so keep your eyes peeled for that, too!