A MelanieM Release Day Review: War Paint (States of Love) by Sarah Black

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

There’s an art to love.

Mural artist Ben has come from Tel Aviv to Atlanta to work on a commission. A successful artist, he’s still lonely and isolated after his family’s rejection. Ben is charmed and surprised when local soldier Eli mistakes him for homeless, and brings him a cup of coffee and a biscuit. This gesture opens the door. Eli is lost, trying to make sense of a future without the Army after a combat injury ends his career.

Art gives them a new language and a path forward. But lost men can reach out, desperate to hang on to anyone close. Is what they find together real, and the kind of love that will last?

States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.

I’ve accepted that I’ll never read a long novel by Sarah Black as she’s written that the novella is her favorite form of story.  Truly length has never really mattered other than my strong wish to spend more time in the universes this author creates and with the characters she brings so vividly to life.

War Paint is a perfect example of why I love her stories so.  Small, encapsulated, yet so fully formed a universe that every building, cafe, street, and benches across that street can easily be envisioned.  And populated with layered, wounded characters trying to find their way through life, one day, one person at a time (see Sarah Black’s guest post on Adaptive Reuse on Young Guys and Old Buildings)*.

Vet Eli feels lost, and not just because of the trauma of losing a limb and the subsequent recovery.  He’s still dealing with the loss of his “warrior self” as well as his limb.  His unusual therapist wants him to keep a diary.  Eli’s character is wounded in multiple ways and the path he takes towards healing and love is remarkable, and (in a 88 page novella) deceptively slow.

An act of kindness has Eli meeting artist Ben and his dog across the street from the cafe Eli haunts.  A conversation becomes a layered, complicated, and oh so lovely relationship that I can’t even begin to attempt to describe.  A sort of yin and yang of need, love, wounds and ability to salve.

Oh, and there’s this automobile building that’s getting repurposed (like so many older wonderful buildings are these days) and is getting a mural as well.  Sarah Black gives us some insight into that process as well.*

This story runs tender, wild, funny, and loving.  All within 88 pages.  It has so much soul.  Love even for the buildings and the man himself who is behind the construction project is treated with a light of respect and a gift.

Small gems like these leave me smiling all day, even more in memory when I spot street art or another building downtown being repurposed and saved.  I’ll remember War Paint.  And Ben and Eli, and a certain therapist.

Yes, I highly recommend this story. And the author.  Oh and check out the free story here at Dreamspinner Press, The Nutmeg King of Marrakesh.  Just amazing!  Yes, another gem.

Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht.  Cover is strong but I always wish for a little more here. Maybe something of the building itself.

Sales Link: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 88 pages
Published May 25th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640806412
Edition LanguageEnglish

Sarah Black on Adaptive Reuse and her new release ‘War Paint’ (author guest post)

Standard

War Paint (States of Love) by Sarah Black 

Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht

Sales Link: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Sarah Black here again talking about her latest story, War Paint. Welcome, Sarah.

♦︎

Adaptive Reuse for Young Guys and Old Buildings

Thanks for letting me visit! When I was writing War Paint, I was thinking about what happens when a door slams shut behind you. You don’t get to transition gradually, get used to the change and settle in to the new place or new role. Sometimes life just kicks us in the butt and slams the door. Retirement, divorce, an accident or injury. For soldiers and other military people, a combat injury not only changes everything today, but may change the future forever. No kids, no career, no ability to support oneself—that’s not easy to swallow at 24.

At the same time I was working on this story, about a young guy who sustains a combat injury and is trying to find a way forward, I was looking at adaptive reuse buildings. I started writing some information articles for an architectural firm to use on their blog, and the more I looked into adaptive reuse, the more I liked it. The idea of saving the old buildings, making them useful and beautiful again, appealed to me deeply. Much of the adaptive reuse is being done in cities, and as the old warehouses and factories are being turned into lofts and small creative businesses, more than just buildings are being rejuvenated and made new again.

This adaptive reuse is more expensive and difficult that simply tearing down the old buildings and putting up new. They have to be changed to support new access and new systems, while keeping their structural integrity and the design elements that people associate with the old. The care and attention, intentionally seeking out a difficult way to work, was very appealing.

But why? It didn’t make sense. Lead paint! Asbestos! Why couldn’t we just sweep those old mistakes under the rug and put up the new and shiny and efficient, with functioning air conditioning? There is just something about the slow, the old, the challenging, choosing to keep the antique and not so efficient—because it is part of our history, it reminds us where we came from, it has—forgive me—the weight of years of stories in the floorboards, the walls. We are more than our potential. We are also where we came from. For me, keeping the old buildings, making them useful again, seems like we are keeping the soul of the old places. And taking responsibility for caring for it.

Somehow my thinking about these characters, one just injured and one injured in the past, melded with the other writing I was doing about adaptive reuse. I wanted to fix everyone, the old buildings, the characters. So then I did something totally off the wall- I put myself into the story. I’m the model for the slightly flaky, totally inappropriate therapist the guys call The Manatee.

The building in the story, the Riviera, is actually an adaptive reuse Buick showroom in Roanoke, Va. It has been made into lofts and artist studios, and is called The Electra after one of the original Buick models. The work done on the old building is beautiful, and it is lovely, a grand old lady- but without a mural! However, the wall of big industrial windows on the side of the building make the artists who work there very happy. I live right up the street, in another adaptive reuse building, in a neighborhood of warehouse conversions and old buildings made new again.

Thanks for reading my story! I hope you like War Paint.

About War Paint

There’s an art to love.

Mural artist Ben has come from Tel Aviv to Atlanta to work on a commission. A successful artist, he’s still lonely and isolated after his family’s rejection. Ben is charmed and surprised when local soldier Eli mistakes him for homeless, and brings him a cup of coffee and a biscuit. This gesture opens the door. Eli is lost, trying to make sense of a future without the Army after a combat injury ends his career.

Art gives them a new language and a path forward. But lost men can reach out, desperate to hang on to anyone close. Is what they find together real, and the kind of love that will last?

Sarah Black on Screwing Up, Moving On and her new release ‘American Road Trip’ (guest blog)

Standard

American Road Trip by Sarah Black
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Tiferet Design

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Sarah Black talking about her latest release, which we highly recommend, American Road Trip.  Welcome, Sarah.

♦︎

After You Fall on Your Face

Sarah Black

When you fall on your face, drive off a cliff, stand clueless holding a bomb while it ticks down, like Wile E Coyote while Roadrunner speeds safely away- how do you recover from the massive and irretrievable disasters that strike your life?

Hey, this part is easy. We stagger back to our bloody hands and knees and start down the road to recovery, step by brutally painful step. You know what the worst part of the whole deal is? Deciding it was all your fault. And being right. Because when the screw-up is your fault, there is no place to put your pissed-off except squarely between your own two eyes. 

It’s so much easier, isn’t it, when someone else screws up? Then we can sit on top of our high horses and explain to them exactly where they went wrong, and what they should have done. But when we are the culprits in our own lives, all we can do is slink off in shame, muttering, ‘what the fuck is wrong with you?’ over and over again. Not really helpful, but it is a classic.

Some people, and I have to include myself in this group, have become experts in studying personal screw-ups. I remember when I was a kid, thinking that adulthood was when people knew what to do in most situations and stopped messing up all the time. Apparently for some of us, adulthood never comes!

But that isn’t really the point. We know we screw up. Everyone does. The real question for me is how do we deal with it, how do we move on, how do we learn to forgive ourselves? That’s what I was interested in, and why I wanted to write this story. I don’t know if other writers have this experience, but I don’t always know or understand how my characters are going to react. If I ignore things like what the market says, or what the genre says I need, then characters start doing things that I only half-understand, but that strike me as genuine and real. Maybe later it will come to me that this motivation or that issue was behind a character’s actions.

My point of view character, James Lee Hooker, started growing his hair long after the Army, and he used his grandmother’s hairbrush and braided his hair over his shoulder, like she had done. It was a small gesture, but it was something he would do—to feel closer to her, like an unconscious memorial. He did all sorts of small things like this when I was getting to know him. But the bigger issue for me and for him, as a character, was how he was going to punish himself for screwing up. Because he did screw up, a number of times.

I kept trying to make him more heroic, stronger. I didn’t want him to appear in a bad light. I was trying to save him from the consequences of his screw-up. He just sat and stared at me, wouldn’t open his mouth. Wouldn’t move. I finally gave it up and gave him his head. When I decided I wasn’t going to try and write him as a good guy, a hero, strong and brave, then he suddenly became more real to me, and more interesting. And his actions became believable.

I think mostly when we screw up, we try to punish ourselves. And we can usually devise tortures that are particularly brutal and painful, because they are so on-target. We embrace our self-punishments, because we deserve them and they define us. The really tough thing, I’m starting to think, is learning when to say that it’s time to move on. That we’ve punished ourselves enough, and it’s time to move on and enter the world again. Go out into the world again, where our next screw up is waiting. Or maybe not! 

Here’s a scene from American Road Trip:

“I’m sorry I didn’t come and find you. Austin too. I’d done something I couldn’t take back. Just that one moment, you know? I couldn’t live it over again. And once it was done, it was done. And I could never fix it. He was hurt. The damage was done. I felt like I had to atone. Put myself in limbo or something.”

Easy stared over at me. “Limbo? Is that some Catholic thing? What the hell does that even mean? James Lee, you didn’t lay the IED in the road. You didn’t tell your spotter to get out of the vehicle, start jumping up and down on the spot where he’d seen a wire buried.”

“That’s what got him hurt. Once you’ve got an injury to the brain, it’s probably for a lifetime. That’s what TBI is, right?”

“Yeah, he’s got a TBI, but that wasn’t what got him hurt. What got him hurt was he had feelings for you, had a big thumping heart of an adolescent crush on you. And you knew it and didn’t do anything to stop it. He was acting like an idiot to impress you. That’s what got him hurt.”

I stared out the window again.

“You did the wrong thing with me, pushing me away. I was a man, and we were lovers. We were in love. We could have made it work, and fuck the Army. It was real. Austin was just a kid. He depended on you, looked up to you. You were his captain, and you got a kick out of all those young boys crushing on you. Big black eyes, ripped muscles, silky black hair. You looked like some vid star, and they would have followed you into hell. Not because you were their leader. Because you were you.”

I closed my eyes. I wanted to be anywhere but inside this truck, with this man shoving his angry truth in my face. Did I really do that? Did I take advantage of those kids, play them when I should have been thinking how to keep them safe?

“I loved you then, Jamie, and I still do. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see you. I see who you are. And if you even think about trying to walk away again in the fucking middle of this, I’m going to break you into pieces. I won’t let you do it to me again.”

That’s exactly what I was thinking, about walking away. I was picturing walking down this road, my thumb out, anonymous, no history, drifting across America with the truckers, listening to them talk, and meditating. Not doing anyone any good and not doing anyone any harm. Was that the balance I was looking for, between harm and good? Was it a worthy goal for a life, to try to stop hurting other people? Or did I have a tendency to leave when things got too hard and too real?

“I have about said all I’m going to say on this. Oh, one more thing. We had peanut butter and jelly for supper and donuts for breakfast. I’m hungry. I’m stopping at the first diner I see that has burgers on the grill. And you can stop crying anytime.”

“I’m not crying,” I said, wiping my eyes with the heel of my hand. “I’m allergic to the dog.”

 

American Road Trip, by Sarah Black, out March 16 from Dreamspinner Press

A single moment—or a single mistake—can change everything.

When Captain James Lee Hooker and his lover, Sergeant Easy Jacobs, were in the Army, they made a mistake that got a young soldier hurt. Three years later, they’re civilians again, living far apart, haunted by what they lost. Now that young soldier needs their help.

With his grandmother’s one-eyed Chihuahua riding shotgun, James Lee climbs into Easy’s pickup for a trip across the American Southwest. They set out to rescue a friend, but their journey transforms them with the power of forgiveness.

Author Bio: Sarah Black is a writer, artist, veteran, and mother. She is a Lambda finalist.

American Road Trip has an epilogue! “Tino Takes the Cake” is offered free on Dreamspinner’s blog on March 16, and tells the story of the main characters’wedding! 

You can find it here:

A MelanieM Release Day Review: ​American Road Trip by Sarah Black

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A single moment—or a single mistake—can change everything.

When Captain James Lee Hooker and his lover, Sergeant Easy Jacobs, were in the Army, they made a mistake that got a young soldier hurt. Three years later, they’re civilians again, living far apart, haunted by what they lost. Now that young soldier needs their help.

With his grandmother’s one-eyed Chihuahua riding shotgun, James Lee climbs into Easy’s pickup for a trip across the American Southwest. They set out to rescue a friend, but their journey transforms them with the power of forgiveness.

Hallelujah, that spare, rare , totally wonderful literary voice known as Sarah Black is back in American Road Trip.  How I’ve missed her unique perspective.  Her narrative so powerfully evocative in rendering the American West and US veterans so vividly alive and haunting have stayed with me story after story.   Now comes another.

Told in alternating time frames, we get the past that has framed the current circumstances under which Captain James Lee Hooker now finds himself.  Adrift after being discharged from the Army, he was sent to look after his grandmother in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he ends up staying after she dies, looking after her house and dog Tino.

Sergeant Easy Jacobs is sent on a mission.  Go look for his cousin, Austin.  The very same young soldier from their troop injured in the IED blast in Afghanistan, a blast that left lasting reverberations on Easy and James Lee.   It sends him looking for his Captain and a long overdue meeting with his ex-lover.

American Road Trip pulls out all the convoluted feelings between these two in one memorable road trip across America, in small cabins and motels with Tino, a one-eyed Chihuahua, who they keep telling the people they encountered different stories as to how he came to lose that eye.  Each tale more more hysterical than the previous one and just as unbelievable.  All the while the men reconnecting, exploring their past, their present, and just perhaps seeing if they have a future again together.

I read it twice.

This particularly american rite of passage was so sweet, touching, and yes, hilarious in sections.  How I loved that dog.  I also found out he was based on Sarah’s rescue dog, a Chihuahua also named Tino, made it all the more heartwarming.

This is a HFN, which is as it should be given their past, this road trip, and their recent reconnection.  I would love for Sarah to bring them back later for us to see how it all works out, Austin included.  So many stories on that road.  I feel they were just getting started.

If you are expecting a lot of erotica, this is probably not the book for you.  This is all about characterizations, the past and where our current paths will take us.  It’s about forgiveness and redemption.  And the beauty that can be found in the small out of the way places along the road if you only stop to look.

Yes, I highly recommend this and the author.  Welcome back, Sarah Black.  You’ve been missed.

Cover Artist: Tiferet Design.  I liked that cover.  It has the colors I think of when I t hink of the desert and the American West.  And yes  that’s James Lee rocking that ponytail and yoga pants all right.  Ok, I love it.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

book, 86 pages
Expected publication: March 16th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640802582
Edition LanguageEnglish

Author ReDiscovery ~ Sarah Black

Standard

The General and the Elephant Clock cover

Author ReDiscovery

 Sarah Black

✍✍✍✍✍✍

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!

Author ReDiscoveries and This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Standard

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words blog Badge

Author ReDiscoveries and This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

✍✍✍✍✍✍

Its a week of reviews and one Author Rediscovery as I look back on a author I dearly love whose books deserve a second and perhaps even a third look by readers  everywhere.

Surely we all have authors like those.  Writers whose books we’ve read and we’ve wondered why they just haven’t caught on  for some reason.  We’ve adored their prose, their characters, the way the plot just came together and caught our hearts and minds.  And then looked around to see that maybe no one else was reading along with us.

So I thought why not start a column to bring back some of the authors that we felt that way about or books we want to highlight once more.

This week I’m going to highlight a favorite author of mine, Sara Black and her books.  To me, her style, her wounded soldiers and yes, even her mysticism, just stood out and left me marveling long after her stories were over.  More about her later on in the week.

What authors or books make you feel that way?  Write us and let us know….

Now on to this week’s schedule…

This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Sunday, May 8:

  • This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Monday, May 9:

  • Riptide Tour: Risk Aware by Amelia C. Gormley
  • A Jeri Review: The Sweet Spot (Homeruns #4) By Sloan Johnson
  • An Ali Audio Review: Starstruck by LA Wit

 

Tuesday, May 10:

  • A Stella Review: Neon White Episode 5 by Wulf Francu Godgluck
  • A BJ Audio Review: Never a Hero by Marie Sexton
  • A Lila Review:  Tiny House by Charley Descoteaux

Wednesday, May 11:

  • A BJ Audio Review: To the Highest Bidder by Caitlin Ricci
  • A MelanieM Review:  Kellen’s Awakening by Angel Martinez and Bellora Quinn
  • A Paul B Review: Signed with a Heart by AJ Marcus

Thursday, May 12:

  • A Free Dreamer Review: Yesterday by Mickie B. Ashling
  • A VVivacious Review: Bad Dogs and Drag Queens by Julie Lynn Hayes
  • STRW Author ReDiscovery:  Sarah Black
  • A MelanieM Review Redux:  The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black

 

Friday, May 13:

  • A MelanieM Review: Brandywine Investigations: Open for Business (Brandywine Investigations #1-3)
    by Angel Martinez
  • An Ali Review: Bored, Stroked and Blueprinted
  • A Stella Review: Black Dust by Lynn Charles
  • A Paul B Review: For the Love of a Wolf by Charlie Richards

Saturday, May 14:

  • A Jeri Review – Pop Life by Ryan Loveless