Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway with Fiona Glass



Since my book ‘Necessity’s Door’ was published by Riptide Publishing a few days ago, I thought you might like to know a little more about the author, ie muggins here! So here’s a quick tour around what makes me tick, just for fun.


1. I was born in, and brought up near, the city of Liverpool - which is of course where the Beatles hailed from. Growing up, I lived about fifteen miles outside the city and we didn’t often get in, but my Mum took me to Santa’s Grotto in Lewis’s department store in November every year as a special treat. The Grotto had moving displays which struck me with awe as a small child. I left the city in the 1980s to find work elsewhere, and haven’t been back at all since the mid 1990s.


2. My star sign is Virgo and I fit the ‘earth sign’ perfectly since I adore gardening, wildlife and anything to do with the natural world. I’m a member of The National Trust and regularly visit beautiful gardens around the country, and I also enjoy fell-walking, which is the northern English term for going up mountains! In our last house I hacked, dug and nurtured a garden out of a strip of bare turf and found it incredibly rewarding.


3. I have a degree in Ancient and Medieval History and Archaeology. I chose the course at Liverpool University because it featured a whole year’s worth of studying Roman history, which fascinated me at the time. Two years into the course, I found I was even more interested in the early Middle Ages and eventually specialised in early medieval art and architecture. Sadly, the archaeology was entirely theoretical and I’m ashamed to say I have never been on a dig, although I devour archaeological magazines and programmes on tv.


4. My favourite place on earth is Ambleside, a small town (well, village really) in the English Lake District. All the houses are built of the local, very dark, slate and the whole village is sheltered by high hills with evocative names like Fairfield, Red Screes and High Pike. Mountain streams race down from the valleys and tumble past the village shops and tea rooms and there’s even a quaint little house built as a bridge over the largest stream. I find it an incredibly peaceful place and even when the streets are thronged with tourists it’s possible to walk up the back streets into the countryside beyond.


5. I started writing gay fiction many years ago now. I’ve always cared passionately about equality and equal rights for everyone no matter what they look like or how they choosse to live (well, axe murderers excepted!) and I’m also fascinated by lifestyles or [things] that I’ll never be able to experience myself. Writing about gay men seemed to be a natural extension of that. My gay romance novel, ‘Roses in December’, which combined my loves of history and gardening, was published by Torquere Press and I’ve also had many short stories published over the years.


So there you have it, me in a nutshell. There’s lots more, of course, but I wouldn’t want to bore the pants off you (even if this is Pants Off Reviews!) so that will do for now. It’s been nice ‘talking’ to you all.




Blurb:

Being an openly-gay detective in Birmingham comes with its share of problems. For one, the pay is awful. For another, Jake always gets stuck with the crappy undercover jobs. Like posing as a prostitute to catch the new crime boss in town—a man notorious for rough sex with pretty young rentboys.

Jake’s latest op is fraught with difficulties, all of them men. Like his partner, Mac, who he’s secretly fancied for months. And his new client, Graham, who he keeps sleeping with for reasons far beyond maintaining his cover. And of course there’s the target, Frank Warren, who’s much harder to lure than anyone had anticipated.

The longer the job drags on, the tougher it gets for Jake to juggle his own needs with those of the job. They may be closing in on Warren, but Jake’s heart—and his sense of right and wrong—are slipping through his fingers. Mac is there to back him up, but is he really the man Jake needs? Tough to know among all those lies Jake's been telling himself and everyone else.



Giveaway
 ~~~

During this blog tour I’m holding a little contest with a variety of prizes. There’s a perfect-bound (ie print) copy of my earlier gay cop story ‘Any Means Necessary’, a print copy of Radgepacket Volume 2 which contains my gay short story ‘Rock and a Hard Place’, and various bits and pieces of general swag!


All you need to do is answer the following three simple questions, the answers to all of which can be found in ‘Necessity’s Door’. When you have the answers, email them to me personally and I’ll put all the correct entries into a hat (well, actually a willow-pattern bowl, but who’s checking...) and the first correct entry drawn from the bowl at the end of the blog tour will win the prize.


Here’s the questions:
1. What is the real name of The Blue Baboon gay club?
2. What colour is Frank Warren’s hair?
3. How much does Warren pay Jake for sex? 


Think you know the answers? Then get emailing and good luck! I’m looking forward to hearing from you. And in the meantime if you’d like to find out more about me and my work, then please just drop into my website or my blog.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Spaghetti Again? My Fave Foodie Books

I am a lover of food, and lately I’ve been dabbling in the world of cooking and baking. I have been cooking for a long time now, but I am going worldwide with my cooking. I’m doing recipes that I was afraid to try in the past, and doing a fusion with recipes I already know. Being from a Jamaican background, I am used to eating a certain way but it’s gotten boring and now I am mixing it up. I also dabble in a bit of baking, that doesn’t often go as well as the cooking but what the hell I’m trying.

So I love food, and I love to read about food in books. Sometimes it can be seriously boring with easy spaghetti for dinner. I always wonder where did the author’s imagination go when it came to writing the food part. Where did it go! I’m not knocking spaghetti, it’s my go too dinner for my boys cus they love it. I just really enjoy reading about food in books, really sets the mood for all the awesome fucking that’s gonna happen afterward.

Here are some of my fave Foodie books… Where the men cook or they get the cooking done for them.


The Wedding Planner by G.A Hauser
Puppy Love Series by Jeff Erno
Devon Cream by Jet Mykles
Just Desserts by Scarlet Blackwell 
Bring the Heat by M.L Rhodes
A Taste of Love by Andrew Grey
Loving Edits by Mickie B Ashling





The Long Way Home by Z.A Maxfield

The Trap by Indigo Wren
Double Blind by Heidi Cullinan
King Perry by Edmond Manning  
Once A Marine by Cat Grant






So that's some of my fave books where the food made me want to eat my reader. What books had you wanting to eat your reader/pages? ~list to be updated~.

*I just got a slow cooker and cooking in my house is about to become extreme, cus you can do all kinds of shit in a slow cooker*


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Guest Post: The Ronin and the Fox by Cornelia Grey (Illustration)

I am excited to have Cornelia Grey on Pants Off today, talking about the Illustrated version of The Ronin and the Fox a book I really enjoyed. Please, help me welcome Cornelia Grey.


Hi Darien – thank you so much for having me here at Pants Off :)!

A few months ago, the editor at Storm Moon Press emailed me asking me what I would think of having my latest story, The Ronin and the Fox, illustrated. Needless to say, I was enthusiastic! See, I have a special relationship with art and illustrations. While writing has always been ‘my thing’, ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always been dabbling in lots of creative activities. So, when the time came to pick which high school I wanted to attend (high schools are, in Italy, divided by main subject), I chose the fine art one. For five years I studied history of art, drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture and restoration, specializing in drawing and painting. I was fairly good at it, and even decided to carry on afterwards with a Fine Art degree. However... I soon realized that I wasn’t good enough: while I could copy very well, for example with a live model in front of me, I couldn’t invent. While my friends spent their time doodling, I spent mine jotting down plots and bits of stories. It took one year to realize that, while I loved drawing – just like I loved performing in theatre, or sewing – none of those were my thing, and I decided to finally start focusing on writing.

However, while I haven’t drawn seriously in years, I haven’t stopped loving art. I spend way too much time hanging around museums, my computer is constantly exploding with tons of images from all over the internet, and my sources of inspiration--as well as the way in which I elaborate my stories--are predominantly visual. Sometimes, I even suspect that many of my ideas, exactly in virtue of the highly visual component, would be better suited for a comic rather than a written piece (which is why many of them remain languishing in my notebook!). But, while I have a very detailed vision of what they should look like, I absolutely don’t have the skill to actually draw them. Which is why I was so ecstatic and jumped at the chance of seeing The Ronin and the Fox illustrated – it’s something that I have been dancing around for years.

As a writer, I am, however, quite a control freak! So, as I virtually bounced around like a ball of excitement and thrilling anticipation, I was also a little worried that I would make the artist’s life hell, bossing her around and nitpicking every little detail – especially since I had experience of drawing, and I had such precise, exacts images in my head of characters and scenes. Would I make her want to stab me in the eye with her pencil? Would I make her wish she’d taken to apiculture instead of drawing? You will find the answer to these poignant and dramatic questions in my next post – tomorrow, at Babes in Boyland ;)! For now, enjoy an excerpt of The Ronin and the Fox as well as a character sketch by illustrator Alice Girlanda!



***
Katsura the Fox
A loud, pained yelp tore the night, and Hajime sprang up, unable to contain a wild grin. The fox must have fallen into one of his traps. He launched himself between the clumps of bamboo, following the whimpers and yelps, and only slowed down when he saw the small shape of the creature twisting fruitlessly, one of its hind legs caught in the jaws of a trap.


 As he approached, the figure shifted and blurred, stretching and growing, making Hajime's eyes ache until he had to look away. When he glanced back, Hajime could see a human where the fox had been, bending to pry the trap open with frantic hands.


 "Not so fast," Hajime growled, his hand shooting out to grasp the man's arm. Before the fox spirit could react, Hajime tied a red ribbon like the one he was wearing around the man's wrist, knotting it maybe too tight. The man cried out as the fabric touched his skin, trying to tear his arm out of Hajime's hold. When the fox spirit turned around to face him, Hajime gasped.


The man had wild red hair and two furry fox ears flattened over his head like those of an angry cat. His face was contorted in agony and anger, covered in scratches and with a large bruise marring his cheekbone, but there was no mistaking his delicate features or the unusual, rust-brown eyes that fixed on Hajime with fury, and which had been full of pleasure the last time he'd seen them.


 "You," he gasped, his grip on the stranger's arm faltering.


The fox snatched his wrist out of Hajime's hold and snarled, his head held high. "Surprise," he said, sharp teeth gleaming in the moonlight. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

King Perry by Edmond Manning

King Perry by Edmond Manning
Dreamspinner Press
Novel: 343pgs
Rating: 5/5

Blurb:
In a trendy San Francisco art gallery, out-of-towner Vin Vanbly witnesses an act of compassion that compels him to make investment banker Perry Mangin a mysterious offer: in exchange for a weekend of complete submission, Vin will restore Perry’s “kingship” and transform him into the man he was always meant to be.

Despite intense reservations, Perry agrees, setting in motion a chain of events that will test the limits of his body, seduce his senses, and fray his every nerve, (perhaps occasionally breaking the law) while Vin guides him toward his destiny as ”the one true king.”

Even as Perry rediscovers old grief and new joys within himself, Vin and his shadowy motivations remain enigmas: who is this offbeat stranger guiding them from danger to hilarity to danger? To emerge triumphant, Perry must overcome the greatest challenge alone: embracing his devastating past. But can he succeed by Sunday’s sunrise deadline? How can he possibly evolve from an ordinary man into King Perry?


Review:
This book is an experience of epic proportions, and it took me such a long time to get into the book I totally thought I wouldn’t like it. Then from page 204 and on I was spellbound. It took sometime for me to get into the characters, and maybe I was a little apprehensive because I knew I was going to cry for something *when I’m moved I cry*. I’m glad I stuck with it, because King Perry made me feel, it made me love.

Vin Vanbly is sarcastic, a trickster, and such an interesting character that you want to know more about him. He’s a king, and not one of those that rule over a monarchy. It’s his energy, the way he loves people, and his gift to recognize that energy in others. He recognizes that energy in Perry Mangin, who is unable to recognize it within himself. So he begins the steps to King Perry.

You’re probably wondering how the flying feck he’ll be able to it, how do you king someone? Let me tell you folks it’s an adventure like nothing I have ever read, like nothing I have ever felt. From the dark night of Alcatraz, to the wonder of The Golden Gate bridge, the awesomeness of ducknapping, and celebrating on a mountain. It’s a journey of one man finding his kingdom, forgiving but never forgetting the circumstances that have shaped his life. Also, it’s Vin’s story of awesomeness and his guide to teaching a king and discovering a little about himself along the way.

The plot is over the top but it’s spellbinding, the writing is lyrical if a little carry on. Sometimes it borders the line of over dramatic, but it’s charming and makes you wanna get up and do something crazy. Something exciting because you’re fuck tired of doing nothing! A longing in the heart for a King/Queen weekend where shit don’t make sense but you could care fucking less.

King Perry Says…

You don’t have to be in love to love, you don’t even have to know the person.

Sometimes you got to open your eyes and just see

Life is a box of chocolates and you can stuff your face and freaking enjoy it


Though it took me awhile to get into the story, I completely love it! It has been written that this is not a romance, but I don’t know… It felt like one to me. Perry falls in love with the city, he falls in love with the people, and he falls in love with Vin. Because romance is love and this book is love. So yeh, there’s no neatly wrapped HEA but man did I feel the love.

King Perry is an experience not to be missed, and like the cover and a significant part of the book, you will want to stand up and rejoice. To my late grandfather who always called me princess, ‘well grandpapa your princess feels like a Queen’.

“Have you ever done anything so significantly outrageous, so beautiful and insane, that on days when your life feels dull, these shining moments leap out? Do you have an answer to the question ‘Did I live? Did I touch the world?” Vin..
5 Pants Off

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway with Violetta Vane: Santeria



I am very excited to have Violetta Vane on the blog today, talking about her new release Cruce de Caminos *check my review* written with her partner in crime Heidi Belleau. Please give a warm welcome to Violetta!


Santería 

By Violetta Vane 

My introduction to Santería began in grocery stores. When I lived in Miami, certain aisles would display large, glass-encased, multi-colored candles. The glass would be printed with blurry white images, some strange to me, some I recognized as Catholic. Women in hoods looking downwards. Men staring towards the sky. Crosses. Words and names, some in English, mostly in Spanish. 

Santería is a syncretic religion, which means it grew out of at least two different religions mingling together. Santería combines Catholic Christianity with the traditional religion of the Yoruba people of West Africa. Many slaves taken to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean came from Yoruba areas. Although their owners waged a conscious campaign of cultural genocide against them, just as in the United States — isolating same-language tribes from each other so that their children would forget their language, forcibly converting them to Christianity — these slaves still found a way to preserve their religious heritage through Santería.  

In the traditional Yoruba religion, the creator God is a powerful but distant figure. He can be appealed to through intermediaries, however. Catholic Christianity mirrors this structure in daily practice already. Jesus, Mary and the Saints are powerful intercessors for humankind. Yoruba intercessor deities, or orishas, soon became associated with Catholic saints. Yemaya, the orisha of motherhead and the sea, is worshipped as Mary, Star of the Sea. Ogun, lord of blacksmithing and war, becomes Saint Anthony.  

The orishas can be prayed to like saints, but they can also take human form in rituals by riding the people who call to them. For the worshipper, it’s the most intense spiritual experience to be possessed by their orisha. This metaphor of riding is very powerful and central in Santería and for other Yoruba-related religions as well. 

Christianity, either Catholic or the Protestant version enforced by English-speaking slaveholders, enforces certain strict roles for gender and sexuality that orisha worship does not follow. Orishas can cross-manifest. Changó, a male warrior Orisha, is worshipped as the female Saint Barbara. Male orishas can ride female worshippers and vice versa; a man possessed by a very feminine orisha will temporarily take on feminine mannerisms, postures, even demand makeup. 

I’ve always thought it’s rather telling that areas of the Caribbean that are most homophobic and transphobic are the English-speaking ones... the ones in which English Protestants were more successful in enforcing their religion. I’m speaking both from personal experience and research. I’ve been to Cuba, stopping in the Bahamas on the way, and I almost got physically attacked in Nassau for dressing too androgynously. And I was a straight woman just... walking down the street. I had no such problems in Cuba and met several openly gay people there. No, places like Cuba and Haiti aren’t bastions of tolerance by any means, but there’s much less of the kneejerk, irrational, horrifying hate that leads to so many murders in the English-speaking Caribbean. 

Unlike New Orleans Voodoo, Santería in Cuba spread so widely that it became less tied to race. Most Cubans who emigrated to the United States after the Revolution came from the whiter population, of more European descent, but even among these Cuban-Americans, Santería was held close by many. They’d grown up with the religion and continued practicing it wherever they lived (mainly, Miami). In the grocery stores, there are candles, but in the specialty shops—botánicas smelling of medicinal herbs and musky incense—you’ll find an amazing assortment of props, symbols, art... all the ritual implements of a living faith. 

Santería is not a mainstream accepted religion in the United States, though, and even where widely accepted, it’s practiced quietly. Like Voodoo, it inspires a lot of fear. Its depictions in popular culture are overwhelmingly negative. One reason is that these religions do continue the practice of animal sacrifice—usually animals that are eaten anyway, like chickens and goats—and this is something totally alien to modern-day Abrahamic religions. 

To a large extent, however, this fear is racialized fear. Racist fear. In the New World, mainstream Catholic and Protestant Christianity was invoked in order to enslave millions and commit genocide. Yet a different form of syncretic Christianity is the one we’re supposed to fear! This dynamic is still powerfully with us in pop culture: as an example, see last year’s Florence + The Machine video for “No Light, No Light,” in which Christian iconography is deployed against blackness, evil and voodoo (analyzed here). 

These stereotypes noted, I don’t want to put Santería up on any pedestal, either. Its unorganized structure means that there’s a lot of room for unscrupulous leaders and abuse of believers, just as with any other religion. I remember an ex-boyfriend in Miami railing against belief in Santería... he’d been raised in it, and hated it, because he’d seen relatives drain life savings in the pursuit of costly, ultimately pointless rituals. 

I’ve always been fascinated by non-mainstream religions and their associated mythologies, and when it came time to write a paranormal erotic horror story set in New Orleans starring a Cuban-American character, Santería is what I wanted to draw on. Heidi is as dedicated as I am to writing rich, diverse mythologies (nothing against werewolves and vampires, but we like to explore different ground) so she jumped into the idea wholeheartedly, just like I jumped into Irish Celtic mythology with her. Together, we created a character who is grounded in the tradition of Santería. He’s also more than what he appears. If you look on the cover, you might notice a third shadow... 

The human and the divine combined, perhaps. You can decide for yourself. 

~~~ 

Contest
Want to win some “Cruce de Caminos” swag, as well as a few other surprise New Orleans goodies? Leave us a comment on this or any of our other Riptide Rentboys blog tour posts with your email (or other contact info), and we’ll enter you into our week-long draw! 

How about a copy of “The Druid Stone”, which picks up Sean’s story five years later? Click here to try your hand at our Cruce de Caminos quiz! 

About Heidi and Violetta: 

Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane are two unlikely friends and co-writers from different sides of the same continent. Heidi, from Northern Canada, is a history geek with a soft spot for Highlanders and Victorian pornography. Violetta is a Yank (and a Southerner, and a Japanese-American) with a cinematic imagination and a faintly checkered past. Together, they write strange and soulful interracial and multicultural m/m with a global sensibility and the occasional paranormal twist. 

Visit us online! 
“Cruce de Caminos”, out now from Riptide Publishing: 

Addiction drives Sean O'Hara to a critical crossroads. Will he make the right decision, or will the floodwaters bound for New Orleans sweep him away? 

Street kid Sean O’Hara never had it easy, but New Orleans has driven him to his knees. His girlfriend’s broken up with him for a sugar daddy, a gun-toting pimp has robbed him of everything but the clothes on his back, and he’s down to his last two OxyContin. Sean’s no seasoned streetwalker, but he’s not above it either, not when he’s already itching for his next fix. 

A familiar-seeming stranger named Ángel may be his ticket to some quick cash, but only if Sean’s willing to help him indulge a high-class john’s weird fetish for the night. As Ángel tells him, in this city and this business, you have to get a little weird to survive. 

When night falls on the French Quarter, Sean realizes Ángel and the john want more from him than he was expecting to give. What once seemed merely strange soon crosses the line into supernatural and sinister. And Ángel, the man Sean had viewed as a partner and protector, might also be his otherworldly judge and executioner. 

Cruce de Caminos by Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane

Cruce de Caminos by Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane
Riptide Publishing
Short Story: 50pgs
Rating: 4.5/5

Blurb:
Addiction and desperation drive Sean O'Hara to a critical crossroads. Will he make the right decision, or will the floodwaters bound for New Orleans sweep him away?

Street kid Sean O’Hara has never had it easy, but New Orleans has driven him to his knees. His girlfriend’s broken up with him for a sugar daddy, a gun-toting pimp has robbed him of everything but the clothes on his back, and he’s down to his last two Oxycontin. Sean’s no seasoned streetwalker, but he’s not above it either, not when he’s already itching for his next fix.

A familiar-seeming stranger named Ángel may be his ticket to some quick cash, but only if Sean’s willing to help him indulge a high-class john’s weird fetish for the night. As Ángel tells him, in this city and this business, you have to get a little weird to survive.

When night falls on the French Quarter, Sean realizes Ángel and the john want more from him than he was expecting to give. What once seemed merely strange soon crosses the line into supernatural and sinister. And Ángel, the man Sean had viewed as a partner and protector, might also be his otherworldly judge and executioner.

(Publisher's note: This title contains dubious consent, drug use, and a non-explicit rape.)


Review:
There is nothing pretty, romantic, or happily ever after about this story. There is no falling in love and being rescued from the harsh life of hustling on the streets. What the story is, is moving, haunting, and hits you in the face with a nice amount of realism that you can’t walk away unaffected.

We are introduced to Sean, he’s young and an addict, and is completely devoted to his girlfriend. An altercation leads him to lose all his possessions and he faces a very clear truth. He’s gonna have to become a prostitute if only for a while. It’s the point in Sean’s life where his choices will lead him down a path of good, or the one that will lead to his end aka his destruction.

There is a mist of supernatural in the story, emphasized by the backdrop of New Orleans. I think if the setting were anything other than New Orleans, it wouldn’t have worked as well ‘shit just seems more believable when it goes down in NOLA’. It’s the playground for Vodou and the supernatural so it just made sense.

My feelings on Sean are still open, because he comes off as a flake but he’s a honourably flake. His devotion to his girlfriend is admirably, and his wanting love makes him endearing. He’s young so he has a lifetime to grow, and the book gives us a little to gather some hope in your heart that he’s going to be just fine. Though he’s stubborn and wilful, he wants to believe.

The writing is freaking genius and it comes as no surprise. Heidi and Violetta always leave me pondering, feeling, and making a connection when I read their story. I kept thinking that I could be Sean! Life leading me down a not so good path, and I have to make heavy choices which leads me to my crossroads. Though I hope my crossroads never has to with the supernatural, it kinda scares my pants away.

There is a lot in the story that worked for me, though it’s totally subjective to the reader. I will probably think about this one for a long time, like I find myself thinking about The Saturnalia Effect. These women know what they’re writing and you can see the care and thought that goes into their work. I really appreciate stories like this and it stands outside the norm, love it or hate it, you really just have to appreciate it.

~ I am all kinds of excited for The Druid Stone! It’s coming out my birthday month, so it’ll be like receiving a really good present.~ 

4 1/2 Pants Off