Author ReDiscovery ~ Sarah Black

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The General and the Elephant Clock cover

Author ReDiscovery

 Sarah Black

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I was going through my first Kindle the other day and came across several books by Sarah Black, all of which I just loved.  I started to search for anything more recent by her but, alas it seems she has disappeared altogether from writing and the media.

Which is a shame because when it came to writing military characters, native americans and the American west, Sarah Black always got it right, that includes when she threw in a touch of mysticism.

Of course, her ability to write soldiers who spring from the page with the Marines buried in them to a cellular level came naturally from her family background and herself (she is a veteran herself).  And after serving?  Well, then it was to the reservations of the American West and nursing care that brought the other experience deeply home.  In story after story, her characters sing of life, authenticity, pain, and something more that Sarah was able to bring out of herself and her narrative.

And it was not just her  characters but the locations.  The land itself spoke to Sarah on a elemental level.  Posted on her Goodreads author page are some of her photographs from 2014. Moab Desert.  Pictures often accompanied her travels and research.  I remember especially the pictures of the bathtub Marys from Marathon Cowboys.  I had no idea what they were before then.  She sent me searching for more.  I guess in Sarah I saw/see a kindred spirit.

Marathon CowboysGeneralandtheHorse-Lord[The]

Sarah’s book’s held a fair amount of controversy.  Some featured disfigured Veterans which some readers didn’t want to see in their romances, and others, one of my favorite stories, featured a couple in which one half  was married to a woman.  Yes, I can hear it now and yes, I think it  contributed to the lack of sales.  Here was how Sarah addressed the issue.  I thought then and I think now it was very realistic, given the times and nature of the military:

“As you all know I loved The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black but I realized that some readers would take issue with the fact that Gabriel Sanchez was married with children while he still continued to see the General on the down low as it were.  I could hear the questions forming in little balloons over my head.  How do you have an honorable man who, at least in one part of his life, act less than honorably?  What about his family?  Well, one of the reasons I loved this story is that, like real life, the relationships between John and Gabriel (and Martha) were messy and complicated.  Gabriel wanted a family during a time when being outwardly gay would have made that an impossibility. So Gabriel got married, something that tore John up.  But Gabriel intended to be a good and faithful husband to Martha. He cared, even loved her, then the reality of what he did to them all by marrying her set in with shattering consequences.

For the last week, The Washington Post printed letters from the children of two gay men from the same era, each married a woman and had a family. For one man, it drove him to despair and bitterness with a family that functioned not at all (“My Father’s Gay Marriage, The Washington Post, 4/5/2013).  For the other, the father came out after years in a loving marriage but unable to deny his true sexuality any longer (“My Loving Gay Dad”, The Washington Post, 4/10/2013).  In total contrast, his wife accepted him and his sexuality, so did his children.  What a difference between those two marriages.  Gabriel and Martha’s falls somewhere in between.  I know that many gay men married, hoping that the marriage would change their sexuality or help them deny who they really were.  Some still do.  And others, like Gabriel, realize that who they love and who they are should not be buried in a closet or be seen as a burden to be carried alone.  Think of former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, now happily living with his partner, and others now coming out of the closet ,then think about the era they grew up in.  Such different times than the one we live in today.

Another element of Sarah Black’s story that I appreciated is that Martha Sanchez is not a one-dimensional “bitch”, a characterization I have seen in other books and not just the m/m genre.  She is a real woman, whose marriage has fallen apart and her life completely in turmoil.  She hurts and reacts to that pain by wanting Gabriel to hurt as much as she does, so realistically is Martha portrayed that you do feel for her.  It is inferred that their marriage was in trouble for some time (something she mentioned to her son). As it is when most marriages fail, it takes two people to contribute to that collapse. This part of the story felt painful because in real life, it hurts and the people involved react because of the way they are feeling now and their expectations upon entering the marriage.

So when I read that Sarah Black wrote a post called “Whose Side Are You On Anyway” about Martha Sanchez, I knew I wanted to repost it here, and have done so with her approval.  I know that for some people, they never want to see cheating in their stories (oh the blogs I have read about that) and for others, it is not a problem as long as it works within the story.  I think here it absolutely works within the story.   Let me know what you think.

 Whose Side Are You On Anyway by Sarah Black

I nearly stopped writing The General and the Horse-Lord about halfway through. The problem? Martha. She was sitting in the car with the general, and she was telling him what she had done to try and ruin his life. And I was like, you go, girl! You want a baseball bat? I’ll tell you where Gabriel has his pickup truck parked.

I was totally on her side. I thought she was being a little too restrained in her revenge, because, I mean, these guys had cheated on her! They had been cheating since before she was married! She deserved some revenge.

But wait a minute, the guys, they’re the heroes, right? How can the ex-wife possible become a Valkyrie in the middle of the story? So I stopped to think about it all.

When you’re writing the rough draft, you do it intuitively, what I call ‘doing it like Kerouac.’ Just let the words flow like a river. Then when you start to revise, you think about things like motivation, behavior. Why does he do that? What am I really trying to say? Once you can be clear about what your point is, you can revise to hone the point.

So I’m trying to think, why was I so totally on Martha’s side? Well, I’m a woman, of course. There is no woman in the world who wouldn’t look at this situation and hand Martha a baseball bat. The fact that she is very self-contained and proud meant she did it a different way.

But John and Gabriel, they had been in love for years before Martha ever entered the picture. They would have made a life together, and it wasn’t Martha who kept them apart. In a different world, they would have made different choices. When basic human rights are kept from people, they’re not the only ones harmed. The harm flows down over all the people they love, the people they know, even just the people who stand as witnesses.

We’re all harmed when human rights are denied. In this story, John and Gabriel were not the only people hurt. They tried in their own ways to contain the pain, but it flows down, over Martha, over the kids, over Kim, who watched this growing up. I decided all I could do is write the story and not take anyone’s side. Martha, I totally feel it. I am going to find you a wonderful guy to fall in love with, I promise you, somebody who deserves a woman as smart and strong as you are. Just be patient.

(And in response to a question from a reader about the marriage between Martha and Gabriel):

I guess what I didn’t write clearly enough was that we don’t really know what happened in Gabriel and Martha’s marriage. The POV character was John and he always stayed away from it. And two people don’t divorce after twenty years of marriage and two kids and it’s all just one issue or one person to blame- to my mind, writing this story, they were two people who tried to make a marriage and failed, and the fact that Gabriel was in love with John during that time, and seeing him, was not the reason the marriage failed. It was the reason Gabriel stopped trying, but if they had been happily married, they wouldn’t have been fighting for a year before the divorce, as Juan told Kim. We don’t know what happened to their marriage, because neither one of them was the POV character. We only know what John sees.

The point of honor I can’t back away from is I feel like I want my characters to tell the truth. I’m 52. I’ve seen a lot of marriages fail. And it is never easy and it’s never just one person’s fault. And I wrote this story with what I saw as characters being truthful, even knowing I would get hammered for it. These characters, Martha and the kids, they are still Gabriel’s family. It’s not like they’re going to dissapear and the guys can dance off into the sunset. Consequences of our actions roll on down like water, and Gabriel will be dealing with the fallout for the rest of his life. His fictional life, I mean!

I know we would all like our heros to have guilt free loves that are HEA, free of too much angst and turmoil.  Those stories are lovely to read and make everyone feel good.  But there is plenty of room for love stories where the path to HEA or even HFN is gritty, complicated and oh so human.  People get hurt, lives get shattered and to takes time for all involved to heal and move on if possible.  I love those too, perhaps even more so because they are realistic and well, grown up.

The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black fits into my second category here and I appreciate it because of the realistic choices the men make throughout their lives.  Not ones we would have necessarily wanted them to make, but ones that they felt were the ones they (and others) felt like they had to make at that time.  The choices made by the men in the story and in the Letters to the Editor at The Washington Post are ones that are made less frequently now as more states legalize gay marriage and gay adoptions.  Society’s views are changing, albeit more slowly than we would wish.  Still Stonewall wasn’t that long ago, something we tend to forget in our disapproval over gays/lesbians cheating outside their straight marriages. The change in human and civil rights has occurred in a short amount of time and stories like these bring that back front and center as well as put a human face to a very real state of mind from the past.

Her characterizations are multidimensional and come fully alive before your eyes, complete with a authentic back story and dialog that fits in their mouths like water in a river.  It flows and carries with it the regional characters that the earth has endowed it with.  As I said, I can always pick out a Sarah Black character or dialog.  It doesn’t matter the subject, the locations, or the couples, they will haunt you, you will love them, and even if Sarah Black never writes another word, I am richer for having read her stories.  Pick them  up and get acquainted with her today.

About the Author:

 

I have no idea if this is still true…she moves around like the wind.  She went from Boise to the South Sea Islands to Seattle back to Boise. I was surprised that she hadn’t made the desert home again.  But if you click on her website they ask if you want the Japanese translated, don’t bother.  Its not her.  Same for her twitter account.

 

“Sarah Black is a fiction writer living again in beautiful Boise, Idaho, the jewel of the American West. Sarah is a family nurse practitioner and works in a medical clinic that takes care of homeless folks (they have lots of great stories). Raised a Navy brat, she’s lived all over the country. She and her son James recently moved to Boise from the Navajo reservation in Arizona. When she isn’t writing, she’s doing something with wool. She learned weaving out on the reservation and now has her eye on an antique circular sock knitting machine.”

The author’s love and knowledge of her subjects permeates each story she writes.  Whether they feature a former Navajo Marine heading into the  desert or a wildlife photographer capturing the photo of the year in a river in Alaska, the authenticity her background brings to each story is unquestionable and the realistic characterizations and locations is never in doubt.  I could pick up one of her stories and know it is hers without ever glancing at the cover, her voice is that unique.

Sarah Black’s stories have often informed and educated me.  In Anagama Fires I learned just enough about raku pottery and the intricacies of glazes to fire my own curiousity, sending me off into the realms of research and adult education classes on pottery nearby.  As a former Park Naturalist I am familiar with wildlife photography, yet she made it fresh once more with Sockeye Love, especially in the scene captured in the title.  It had me laughing in joy and the delights that nature continues to surprise me with. The author’s own military background as well as her family’s shines forth in her characters with their own Marine backstories. In Border Roads 4 members from a platoon return home from Iraq and try to reintegrate in the society they left behind. These veterans are scarred physically and emotionally, holding onto the brotherhood formed in war to help see them through the trenches and ambushes of life back at home.  One character is so physically disfigured he hides behind a kerchief, ashamed of how he looks and feeds. Black’s background as a clinic nurse brings this character close to our heart, helps us understand some of the mental and physical challenges he is going through, gives us a man in pain, instead of a victim. I always thought it was a shame this book was narrowed down to m/m fiction as that covered only two of the men from the platoon, the other two were heterosexual.  I think it is possible that the inclusion of m/f content hurt this book and caused it to have a lower following than her other books.  Either way, this is an incredible book of injured veterans returning home, an issue that will be with us for some time to come. A hard, painful must read.

The only time Sarah Black has lost me so far is in Slackline.  Slacklining is a practice in which a 1 inch nylon rope is strung between two anchor points.  The rope is not tightly strung as in tightroping but looser so it has a degree of  play so the rope becomes dynamic (in some cases stretching and bouncing to allow stunts and tricks).  In other words, slack not tight.  The main character injures himself when attempting to cross the sea of Hoy off the coast of the Orkney Islands in Scotland on a slackline.  He was by himself, no backup, no one knew he was there, he was trespassing and didn’t take into account the high winds off the sea and up the cliffs.  I started off thinking what an idiot and unfortunately that impression never left me.  I will give Sarah Black credit in that the character knew he was flouting slackling rules as well as the local laws, but such stupendous stupidity (especially as a Park Naturalist who has seen people do incredibly insane things in nature) left me with no connection to this character and therefore to the story.  But one out of all I have read?  I would love to have those odds at the track.

And finally when Sarah Black gives you a character that combines her love of the Navajo people and the military, then you have characters that will stay with you long after the book has ended.  Lorenzo Maryboy, Navajo, former Marine and cartoonist (Marathon Cowboys) or Code Talker Logan Kee of Murder at Black Dog Springs still linger on, in my heart and thoughts. Give them a chance to introduce themselves to you.  I know you will love them.  I know you will love Sarah Black.

You can find her at her website: Sarah Black Writes (no longer viable)  She has free reads there for the taking.

She also has stories at Goodreads M/M Romance Group. Find it here!

A VVivacious Review: Bad Dogs and Drag Queens (Rose and Thorne #1) by Julie Lynn Hayes

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Rating: 3 Stars out of 5
 
Bad Dogs and Drag QueensDetectives Vincent Delarosa and Ethan Thorne are federal undercover cops designed to give local cops the extra push without actual FBI involvement.
 
Vinnie and Ethan are partners in every sense of the word and they find themselves in Roanoke to deal with a pesky mugger situation, only to have their stay extended. As Vinnie and Ethan go undercover in a bar they need to find out who is harming the customers and the drag queens of The Stroll, one of the biggest gay nightclubs in Roanoke.
 
This book is an established couple romance when it is not trying to be a mystery and vice versa.
 
The MCs Ethan and Vinnie have been together for five years. There are some unresolved issues in their relationship but the author chooses not to explore those in this book. At the same time the author also doesn’t give us any details on how they met except the fact that it was during a drag show and Vinnie was the drag queen.  This approach left the book hanging a little on one hand I love an established couple romance where the couple resolve their issues and come out on the other side victorious and in love but this book doesn’t give us that.
 
On the other hand this book could have been about a crime fighting duo but both the crimes in Roanoke don’t seem to add anything to the overall story which still seems to revolve around how much Vinnie and Ethan love each other. Also both the crimes are quite petty in nature, definitely not at the level of a murder mystery and get resolved very quickly.
 
I guess the problem that this book faces is one of labels it’s not a mystery and it is not an established couple romance either. It is kind of doing a tight walk rope between these two genres. It is definitely a cute romance but almost nothing more.
 
The book’s title does say Bad Dogs and Drag Queens and we do get one bad dog and lots of Drag Queens. The dog in question, Benny, has a pesky problem which just makes him more adorable. It would have been nice to see Vinnie and Ethan training him to not go around running away with ladies’ handbags.
 
This book is a fun read with lots of love and it is interesting but it is just a story. I never got the feeling that we were delving deep into these characters or that these missions were actually important. This story was just skimming the surface, it doesn’t offer much conflict and also doesn’t give us any details on the love story between our two MCs or on their appearances for that matter. In my opinion this book would have been better if the focus was on one aspect of this book instead of trying to drag both along and doing justice to neither.
 
But despite everything I didn’t find the book awful, personally because of the lovely moments shared between Ethan and Vinnie. These two characters are very much in love and there love is really sweet.
 
Cover Art by Paul Richmond. I don’t like the colour combination of blue with yellow but the cover works for the title of the book “Bad Dogs and Drag Queens”.
Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook, 138 pages
Expected publication: May 25th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634772846
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesRose and Thorne #1

A Free Dreamer Review: Yesterday by Mickie B. Ashling

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

YesterdayIn June of 1978 Grady Ormond, eighteen-year-old son of diplomat Peter Ormond, accompanies his father to his new posting as US Ambassador to Pakistan. Neighboring Iran is on the brink of a civil war, with the monarchy in danger of being overthrown.

Grady will be leaving for New York City in late August to study cinematography and has been warned to keep his homosexual orientation tightly under wraps while on vacation. Repercussions in the predominantly Islamic region could be severe.

On their first night in Karachi, his father hosts a cocktail party to meet the local dignitaries. Grady is introduced to His Highness Prince Kamran Izadi, nephew of the shah of Iran. Twenty-three-year-old Kamran has recently returned from the UK, where he spent eleven years, first as a student, and then as a financial analyst.

The attraction is immediate—unforeseen and dangerously powerful—but neither one dares to make a move. Odds are so stacked against them it’s futile to even entertain a friendship, but they do, and their world tilts precariously.

With his country in turmoil and Grady about to leave for college, Kamran makes a decision that will change their lives forever.

First of all, I want to congratulate the author on braving such an unusual setting. It’s the number one reason why I picked this book up.

Okay, so I’m having a really hard time rating this book. On the one hand, I absolutely loved the setting and want to give this book 5 stars just for that. On the other hand, however, quite a few things in the story itself just didn’t work out for me.

For one, the whole story felt a little rushed. I get that Grady and Kam were on a deadline from the very beginning. They only have till the end of summer before they have to face their real adult lives. For Grady that means the start of his cinematographic studies at the renowned Tisch College in New York. For Kam, that means getting married to a woman he has never even seen before. But while I understand that feelings had to develop fast, I still would have liked for the protagonists to have more time to really and truly fall for each other. A somewhat slower progress from friends to lovers would have been nice.

I liked that a lot of the political and historical background was explained. I would’ve probably been a little lost without that. Unfortunately, Grady essentially got a lecture from his dad and it was a lot to take in at once. There was no slow interweaving of necessary information and plot, which is a bit of a shame.

You do need a certain basic knowledge of the political happenings in Iran. Nothing elaborate, the more complicated things are explained by Grady’s father. But in order to understand this extra information, you need a bit of previous knowledge to work with.

Now, I’m no expert on the history of Iran, but it did all feel very realistic to me. Grady really is essentially clueless about the political situation in the Middle East and has no real idea of even the most basic Muslim traditions, such as the five daily prayers or the ban of alcohol. And that’s what actually felt realistic to me. I really don’t think even the son of a well-travelled diplomat would know things like that in 1978.

I would have liked more scenes that didn’t solely revolve around Kam and Grady. More scenes about Grady getting to know Pakistan and the Middle East in general would have been interesting. But I guess that’s to be expected from a romance and I shouldn’t complain.

The ending felt a bit over the top. To me it seemed like Kam changed his mind very suddenly. A lot of drama followed. But I guess all that was necessary for Kam and Grady’s HEA.

I did really like the epilogue about Kam and Grady’s life together over the years. I think this would make an excellent sequel.

Overall, a few more pages probably wouldn’t have hurt to make the events feel less rushed. Still, the setting was intriguing and very unique. I really did want to love this. As it is, I’m torn between a rating of 3.5 and 4 stars. I think I’ll round it up to 4 for now, mostly for the great setting.

The cover by Catt Ford makes me feel just as torn as the story itself. On first glance, it looks a bit cheap. Once you’ve read the story, however, it does get a deeper meaning. Homing pigeon play an important role, so that works. Still, I can’t help but slightly dislike the cover. That pigeon looks very strange.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published January 22nd 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634766792 (ISBN13: 9781634766791)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Celebrate the Paperback Release of ‘Blue’ by D.P. Denman (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Blue
Series: Blue Series #2
Author: D.P. Denman
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 12, 2016
Format: Paperback
He escaped a program designed to cure him. Instead, it left him near death with nothing to rely on but the generosity of a stranger. Hostile and headstrong, Blue needs a calmer influence to balance his fury. Someone to save him from himself.


Brady’s life was quiet and orderly until fate sent him a blue-eyed hurricane. Bursts of temper and flashes of despair batter his efforts to quiet the storm in a man he doubts he can tame, one drowning in the wreckage of his past.

With a head full of lies and a body full of scars, Blue works to rebuild his life with the help of a man determined to prove sometimes trust is worth the risk.

Blue features one of the most popular characters of the Saving Liam saga! Destined for greatness, he reveals the past that made him the scarred bad boy readers love.

Blue folded arms across his chest, shoulder-length, dark hair framing his face, dangling in his eyes. The scowl returned with a distinct brooding quality.
 
“We’re talking about me being insane, and you waiting another few years while I get my head together,” Blue said. “You’re going to explode — or find someone else.”
 
“You’re too hot when you’re pouting for me to consider anyone else.”
 
“I’m not pouting.”
 
“Sulking?”
 
“I’m trying to be serious, and you’re being an ass.”
 
“No, you’re trying to create a problem where there isn’t one.” Brady got up from his chair. “I don’t mind waiting, though I doubt it will take years. Dr. Geist is too good at her job.”
 
“And what happens when you get tired of waiting anyway?”
 
He stepped to the edge of Blue’s exaggerated personal space. “I won’t.”
 
“Yes, you will.”
 
He saw the pain of imagined betrayal fluttering in Blue’s annoyance and stepped closer.
 
“I won’t get tired because this isn’t a game.” He caressed Blue’s cheek. “I love you, Cub. Unlike certain people in your past, that means something to me.”
 
The words slid out before he realized what he was saying and he gave himself a mental slap. He hadn’t wanted to admit that to Blue yet.
 
Blue blinked away the shimmer of tears. “Don’t say things you don’t mean.”
 
“I didn’t.”
 
“How can you say you love me? You barely know me,” Blue said.
 
“Why would you say that? We’ve spent close to eight months under the same roof. That’s plenty of time to get to know you.”
 
“You don’t know everything,” Blue said.
 
He smiled and took one of Blue’s hands. “Probably not, but I know more of your secrets than they ever did — and I’m still here, Jeremy.”
 
He’d never called Blue by his real name before and didn’t intend to do it again. Jeremy was dead, murdered by a sadist, but he was making a point. Blue was a new persona with a new life. He was happy to let him grow into it. That didn’t mean he didn’t remember the kid he used to be and what that kid had been through.
 
“Don’t call me that,” Blue said and pulled the hand from his grasp.
 
“My point is I know you as well as anyone and I still want you. If we take longer than some people to get to the part where you don’t sleep down the hall anymore, I guess that’s what happens.”
 
Blue swiped at his nose.
 
“Would it be too mushy to say I’m positive you’ll be worth the wait?” Brady asked.
 
“God, yes.” Blue rolled his eyes and marched toward the door. “I’m going to find a Kleenex.”
 
Brady smiled after him.

Award winning author DP Denman writes character-driven contemporary romance about gay men. Her stories are real and intense, but resolve in endings that make people want to read the book all over again. She lives among the moss and trees of the Pacific Northwest with a rambunctious pair of fur babies.
In her spare time, she is a dedicated LGBTQIA rights activist with a special focus on the thousands of rejected and abandoned kids who end up on the street every year. To support the cause, 25% of the royalties from every book go to LGBT charities.

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