Love NonFiction and Romance? Check out the Blog Tour and Giveaway for SAINT UNSHAMED: A Gay Mormon’s Life Healing by Kerry Ashton

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Book Title: SAINT UNSHAMED: A Gay Mormon’s Life 

Healing from the Shame of Religion, Rape, Conversion Therapy & Cancer

Author: Kerry Ashton             

Publisher: Lynn Wolf Enterprises

Cover Artist: Kerry Ashton

Release Date: April 17, 2019

Genres: A Gay Memoir featuring M/M Romance & some hard core sex

Tropes: Forbidden love, Rape, Mormon Religion

Themes: Coming out, Forgiveness, Overcoming Religion, Rape, Police Surveillance & Arrest, Conversion Therapy including Electric Shock Treatments, and a 16-year battle with rare cancer

Heat Rating:  5 flames

There are many erotic passages—most are hardcore, erotic and explicit passages, all M/M. Many deal with scenes of sexual humiliation, degradation, group scenes, S&M and/or the gay male leather scene.

Length: 120 000 words /348 pages incl. 14 pages of B&W photos from author’s private collection.

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“A TRIUMPHANT MEMOIR!”  Clarion Books

Blurb                       

The first paragraph of Kerry Ashton’s new memoir explains a lot: “I told this story once as fiction in the 1980s, but this time I tell the truth. I even tell the truth, in #MeToo fashion, about being violently raped by another man when I was 18, with a knife held to my throat—a secret I kept from everyone, including myself, for over 40 years. The rape, like other experiences I endured while a student at Brigham Young University, where I came out in the early 1970s, had a profound impact on my later life. But this story is not so much about my rape or my coming of age at BYU, as it is about the lifelong effects of shame itself, not only about how I internalized and inherited a wounding shame from my Mormon upbringing, but also how I eventually unshamed myself. It is about the journey of a lifetime, finding spiritual growth, self-discovery and healing along the way, while encountering many miraculous events that pushed me forward through darkness toward the light.”

Telling about his experiences during his four years at BYU—the rape, falling in love for the first time, police surveillance, harassment and arrest, while enduring three years of conversion therapy and electric shock treatments—provide the structure of Kerry’s memoir. But intermittently, the author shares memories from his childhood, growing up Mormon in Pocatello, Idaho, and later from his adulthood, as well as from his professional career as an actor and writer, both in L.A. and NYC, describing encounters with Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis and Julie Harris, while detailing his experiences with Tennessee Williams and his brief affair with Stephen Sondheim. Lastly, he talks about the 12 years he spent in therapy, about his 16-year battle with cancer, how he eventually rid himself of the shame internalized from his Mormon youth, sharing glimpses into his sexual journey from his innocent youth through S&M and the gay leather scene in mid-life to the loving monogamous relationship he now enjoys.

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Indie Bound

Excerpt                             

READ PART ONE  HERE

The Holy War, as I have come to think of it, began on a hot day in early September 1971, the day I left Pocatello to drive four hours south to Provo, Utah, to attend Brigham Young University. As in all wars, whether holy or unholy, it would not be without its casualties.

I spent the morning packing things in my ‘56 Chevrolet, parked in the spot on the lawn where our driveway would have been had my parents ever had the money to pave it. A yellow-and-bronze, two- door coupe with cream interior, a huge cream steering wheel, and black dashboard, the car had class, which is why I named it Oscar— after the Academy Awards I hoped to win one day.

As I packed Oscar full of boxes, Dad worked under the hood of the car. Once Oscar was filled with boxes, I sank down on our front lawn. Knowing this would be my last day at home, I tried to capture everything I saw and felt around me: The red of Mom’s roses framing our side porch, the hazy blue of the late morning sky, the large pine tree at the front of our corner lot, and the blue-grey crag of Scout Mountain in the distance, where I had always imagined Santa’s sleigh flew over on Christmas Eve.

Hearing Mom humming in the kitchen as she prepared lunch, everything seemed right in my Latter-Day-Saint world.

Getting up from the grass, I walked over to where Dad was still working under Oscar’s hood. “Everything look okay, Dad?” I asked.

“Oh, sure,” Dad replied in his folksy way. “I just wanted to make sure everything’s good with your car. I don’t want you stranded on the highway.”

Though I had fulfilled every church obligation, I was not the mechanic that Dad had hoped each of his three sons would become. I left mechanical jobs to Dad or to my two older brothers, both married by then.

“I love you, Dad,” I said suddenly. He stopped tinkering with the spark plugs and looked up at me. “I love you, too, son,” he replied, embracing me with a greasy hug.

Mom came out on the side porch just then. Wiping her hands on her apron, she called out to us, “Okay, you two! Lunch is ready!”

I washed my hands at the kitchen sink and let Dad wash his hands in the bathroom. Then I joined Mom at the kitchen table while we waited for Dad.

“Kerry Lynn,” she whispered, stroking my dark brown hair as she often did, “I don’t know what I’m going to do without you.”

Now a grown-up, or so I thought, I bristled at her calling me by both my given names as it sounded so girlish. But since it was my last day at home, I chose to ignore it.

“With all the kids married,” Mom continued, “and you going off to college, this house is going to feel awfully empty without you.”

“Maybe you and Dad will finally get some peace and quiet,” I kidded. “Maybe now you two can finally go on that second honeymoon you’ve talked about.”

“Maybe,” she said, laughing as she reached out to hold me. “I

love you, Kerry.” As she held me tight, I never wanted to let go. Once Dad joined us at the table, he said a blessing on the food, as we always did in our home.

After the blessing, we tore through the food. Mom had made some of my favorites: Her wonderful potato and egg salad, savory burgers with all the trimmings, and delicious corn-on-the-cob bought fresh from the farmer’s market.

After lunch, we went into the living room where Dad anointed my head with oil, laid his hands upon my head, and gave me a sacred Father’s Blessing—the blessing of a Melchizedek Priesthood Elder— warning me to be “mindful of the Adversary.”

Before I left that day, Dad took a photograph of me standing in front of Oscar. Barely 18 and dressed neatly, at 6’3” and 190 pounds, I was the very image of a conservative, clean-cut, LDS young man who loved his Mormon family, the LDS Church, and his Heavenly Father.

I arrived at Salt Lake City three hours later. From there, it took me another hour driving south on Interstate 15 before I arrived in the city of Provo.

Taking my first glimpse that day of Provo through Oscar’s wide windshield, I could see the white LDS Temple huddled against the Wasatch Mountains, its golden steeple gleaming in the late afternoon sun. Further north, Mount Timpanogos reached heavenward, while a sign at the main entrance to the BYU campus read: “The World Is Our Campus.” In reality, the campus became my world.

Driving north past the immense Cougar Stadium, and then into the foothills just beyond the BYU campus, then turning east and heading toward the mountains, I came to the huge Marriott Sports Arena under construction on my right, and stopped at the light. Once the light turned green, I made a left turn onto Sumac Avenue, climbing dramatically into the foothills, before pulling into the driveway in front of my new off-campus apartment.

About the Author

Raised in Pocatello, Idaho as a Mormon in the heart of Mormon Zion, Kerry attended BYU in the early 70s, where some of the most dramatic events recounted in his memoir took place.

Always interested in pursuing a career as both an actor and writer, Kerry wrote his first play, BUFFALO HEAD NICKELS at the age of 17, and published it at 18. Since then, he has published several works, among them most prominently THE WILDE SPIRIT, a one-man play with music, in which Ashton starred as Oscar Wilde, and also wrote the play’s book, music and lyrics. The play won Kerry critical acclaim for both his writing and performance, and three 1977 L.A. Civic Star Awards for Best Actor, Play and Direction. The play ran for three consecutive seasons in Provincetown, MA from 1990-1992, and was produced Off-Broadway in 1996, winning Kerry a National Award of Merit from ASCAP. The author now makes his home with his partner Victor Ramirez in South Florida. For more info, visit www.KerryAshton.com.

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A MelanieM Review: Ripe: Letters by Alan Semrow

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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

 

Funny, sexy, evocative, and brutally honest, Ripe is Alan Semrow’s ode to relationships with men. In this epistolary book, Semrow writes to the men who have impacted his outlook, reminded him of basic life lessons, surprised him in more ways than one, and left him reeling for days. Writing to one-night-flings, men he has never met, and men he’ll never stop running into, Semrow touches on some of the most constant human themes—love, lust, desire, and the yearning for connection. All the while, the book details a man’s journey navigating and blooming by way of the modern gay scene. Readers will find familiarity and hard truths in Semrow’s statements about the intricacy and explosiveness of the intimate moments we share.

I honestly thought that reading someone’s letters written to men that they’d met and slept with  would come with, well, more introspection, more self examination in depth and less self frippery. Instead of getting the feeling that the author has spent real time pondering these man and their impact upon the direction his life took, the reader comes away thinking Semrow was writing his hookup version of Jimmy Fallon’s Thank you notes.   These letters read just that shallow.

And about as sexy and funny.

Each with a title such as Dear Sunday, Dear Flannel, Dear Only Child, they all quickly blend together into one familiar narrative. The author meets someone or arranges to hookup with someone, they go to bed, he leaves thinks about him/them, letter over.  On and on.  If you are looking for sexual details, yo can skip that too.

Ripe: Letters just comes across more as someone keeping track of all the men he slept with or couples and then making a note next to them.  “Liked him, would do him again”.  ‘Nice sex, he made me smile.’

Something you might expect to see in a little  black book (do they even have those anymore?), or a diary.  Certainly not anything of enough heft for a book, not in this format, at any rate.  Might have been funny but again, not as the   letters posted here. Perhaps instead of posting letters, the author will reflect on the whole, wait a while, and find a new path for an narrative adventure.

Cover art is cute.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Kindle Edition, 127 pages
Published October 1st 2018
ASIN B07HY4MYR1

Review: Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family by Joel Derfner

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Lalwfully Wedded Husband coverIn 2007, Joel Derfner’s boyfriend stuns him with a Christmas time proposal.  It was a time when gay marriage was struggling for equality and there were few places where Joel and Mike could legally wed.   As the couple sets out on the path to a legal marriage, Joel and Mike encounter a multitude of obstacles, including ones that Joel creates himself, before they can say “I do”  legally before family and friends.  It includes ailing parents that move in, a reality show that has little to do with reality, wedding planning nightmares to make Bridezilla cringe, arguments, Ouija boards, and the very definition of marriage itself.

When I picked up Lawfully Wedded Husband, I realized I was already familiar with Joel Derfner.  No, it wasn’t from his previous books (Gay Haiku and Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever) but from the cringe inducing reality show he mentions in his story, starting with the Introduction.  Yes, I watched that show he and his best friend were a part of, Girls Who LIke Boys Who Like Boys, filmed in 2010 for the Sundance Channel.  The author had, along with his best friend Sarah, and his then fiance Mike, appeared on the show which filmed their marriage in Iowa. It had that stilted, painful feel to it that low budget reality shows can have.  And I ended up feeling bad for everyone who appeared on it, including Joel, Mike and Sarah, who later bore the brunt of vicious comments due to the editing by the director who seemed to have her own agenda.

I  admit I like Joel Derfner’s version far better than the scripted, awkward one that managed to make its way to cable.  And its not just because the behind the scenes manipulations and headache pounding repetition that Derfner reveals as standard operating procedure but the unique, dramatic, hilarious voice that Joel Derfner brings to the proceedings and beyond.

Joel Derfner muses, rants, and hilariously relates his path to the alter and wedded bliss with his husband Mike in Lawfully Wedded Husband.  He is alternately introspective, musing upon the institution of marriage, its history and redefining it in today’s cultural reality.  He takes on his colorful, and somewhat alarming ancestry and stacks it along side Mike’s in order to make observations about the differences in upbringing and their ideas of family.  But while he is doing that, there are momentary asides into gay shopping venues,  couple counseling, and Joel’s past sex life.  Lawfully Wedded Husband is a veritable explosion of clever quips, thoughtful introspection, and hilarious soliloquies on living in Brooklyn mixed with meaningful forays into gay history and the meaning of marriage.  And I suspect how you relate to Joel Derfner and his outlook on life will temper your feelings about this book and its author.

High maintenance.  Those are just two of the words I would use to describe the narrator.  I would also throw in clever, intelligent, manipulative and at times throughly exhausting.  I really came away feeling for Mike at times, especially when Joel is blind siding him with his participation in this reality show or decreeing that morning clothes with the de rigueur gray top hat (of which the clothier only has one and it’s the wrong size) is the way to go for their wedding apparel or even at the beginning, stopping Mike’s proposal to run and check on his (Joel’s) horoscope for the day before saying “yes”.  But there is also a balance here, each side, warts and all, is revealed.  Joel Derfner doesn’t hide the bad times, the lack of communication that almost derails the couple, its there too.  In fact the whole relationship sink is thrown into this story, along with gay history, wedding planning, Jewish marriage rituals and the search for the perfect Ketubah.  Talk about the proverbial box busting at the seams!

I suspect that the author has no inner editor, no real gates between the brain and the mouth. I kind of appreciate that.  This books sounds like the way I imagine he talks in real life.  If he thinks it, out it comes, whether in person or on the page, except of course when he is deciding not to tell Mike about the portable dishwasher he just bought or something similar.  The pages are full of Z Gallerie, the “gayest online store ever”, as well as the fact that Joel decides that he is going to win their new home via the HGTV’s Urban Oasis Giveaway for that ultimate condo in Manhattan. OK, I admit to doing that too but definitely not on the scale Derfner did. I am talking about 5000 handwritten entries!  I am not sure anyone does anything on the scale Derfner does. That is both part of his charm and part of his annoyance factor.

It’s this “overstuffed” aspect that kept Lawfully Wedded Husband from a perfect five, there is just too much here to take in.  But take it in you should, as it’s marvelous in so many ways.  It flows with the rhythm of a man who loves words and knows how to use them.  The history lessons that go along with the histrionic scenes, the quiet reflection to go along with the manic maneuverings of a man intent on getting married his way, the legal way and making it feel as it should for both him and Mike.  A right that should have been theirs all along.

Consider Lawfully Wedded Husband highly recommended.  And now I am off to find Gay Haiku, and Swish to see how the romance started.  Don’t let this author and his book get away!

This is how the Introduction starts:

What are you guys wearing tomorrow?” asked the assistant director of Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, the reality show my fiancé, Mike, and I were being filmed for in May of 2010.

“I’m wearing jeans and a nice vest,” I said, “and Mike will be in shorts and a T-shirt.”

There was a brief silence on the other end of the line. “Joel,” the assistant director said, “this Iowa wedding is the culmination of your story arc.”

“Right.”

“If you’re not dressed up, people will think you’re not taking it seriously.”

“Look,” I said. “I promised Mike that this would be as low-key an event as we could possibly manage, and I’ve already broken that promise in more ways than I can count. Not dressing up is the one shred of evidence left that I actually care about his feelings.”

“This is bad,” the assistant director said, and waited.

“Okay,” I said finally. “I’ll talk to him about it.”

“Great,” said the assistant director. “It’ll really help the audience understand what a special thing you’re doing.”

I put my cell phone in my pocket, went back to the table at the restaurant where Mike and I were having lunch with his cousin DJ and DJ’s boyfriend, Kevin, and promptly did not talk to him about it, because Mike’s fury was already just shy of the boiling point, and the last thing I needed was for it to get any hotter less than twenty-four hours before our nuptials.

Book Details:

Hardcover, 248 pages
Published September 19th 2013 by University of Wisconsin Press (first published January 1st 2013)
ISBN 0299294900 (ISBN13: 9780299294908)

edition language English
Buy Links  Amazon,
Other Books by Joel Derfner:
Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean
Gay Haiku
Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever