Author Spotlight – Sarah Black

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This was first published spring 2012 and since then my admiration for Sarah Black as a writer has grown stronger.  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.

Tomorrow The General and the Horse-Lord will be released by Dreamspinner Press and Sarah Black will be here with a guest post to mark the occasion.  Scattered Thoughts will mark the occasion too by giving away a copy of this book, courtesy of Dreamspinner Press to the lucky person chosen at the end of the day from those who comment on her guest blog.  It’s a fascinating look at one manner in which the author gets to know her characters, don’t miss it.

My review will be posted on Tuesday, but really I will say it right now.  I loved this story and you will too.GeneralandtheHorse-Lord[The]

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May 12, 2012

Today I thought I would start a new feature called Author Spotlight, highlighting authors who books I love and often recommend. Today the spotlight falls on Sarah Black. Just her name on a cover is enough for me to buy it,  She has over 42 books to her name.  I aim to read them all. My hope is that this will get you to pick one up as well.

Here is her bio from her website Sarah Black Writes:

“Sarah Black is a fiction writer living 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   She has free reads there for the taking.

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

Marathon Cowboys

The Legend of the Apache Kid

Gregory’s Ghost

Review: The Legend of the Apache Kid by Sarah Black

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Rating: 4.75 stars

Dr. Raine Magrath is lazing about in a hotel hot tub when he sees young Apache Johnny Bravo and his grandfather by the side of the pool. Johnny is in town for his first film festival and to meet with a man about the independent film Johnny has made. When Johnny joins Raine in the hot tub, they make an immediate connection with each other and Raine asks Johnny to look him up in Taos if he ever visits.  Then Johnny and his grandfather disappear and it is another year before they meet again.

When Raine walked into The Peaceful Bean to get his morning coffee, he was surprised to see he knows the new guy behind the counter.  It was the Apache film maker he had met a year ago at the film festival.  Johnny Bravo was in Taos and it looked like he now lived here.  Johnny had gone home with his grandfather until the cancer killed him and then went looking for Raine.  The connection they felt at their first meeting is as strong as ever and getting stronger with each passing conversation.  And when Raine takes him home to the family ranch he shares with his father, he semi jokingly introduces Johnny as his new boyfriend, something that  becomes reality.  With the arrival of Johnny’s 8 year old cousin, Weasel, the men start to form a family, cemented by love of the land, history, family, and each other.

But Johnny has another love, film making.  He’s a genius at it and Hollywood is beckoning by the way of the Sundance Festival.  And when he begs Raine not to put any chains on him, Raine knows that for them to succeed, he must be prepared to let Johnny go and chase his dreams.  When Johnny heads off to the Sundance Film Festival, the welcome his film gets is overwhelming with offers to work out in Hollywood.  It’s everything he has dreamed about or is it? With Raine and his family missing him back in Taos, Johnny must decide where his dreams really lie.

OK, right off the start, I will tell you that I want to take a black marker and eradicate that awful blurb for this remarkable book.  Why?  One, Johnny is in no way an “airhead” bur rather someone focused more on the quality of film he makes and less on its marketability.  What a disservice the person who wrote that did to Sarah Black’s characters and this story.  *Shakes head*  Alright.  Rant over, now that I have gotten that off my  chest.  The Legend of the Apache Kid has all the qualities of the best of Sarah Black’s writing.  Her characters of all ages are so well crafted, so beautifully put together that I feel I have run across them in my travels out west for truly Sarah Black has one of the strongest regional voices for our western states that I can remember.

These people rise up from the pages of this book covered in the dust of their ancestors, history percolates through their bloodstream, and who they are is so strongly tied to the land they walk on that they are as much a part of the landscape as the weedy scrub sage, twisted juniper and alligator pine of Carson National Forest.  From their dialog to their rides (either horseback or truck) the characters exude authenticity of  location, the author’s love of the southwestern desert and the native american tribes who belong to it.  Sarah Black knows this land and its people intimately and it translates her love and knowledge into her stories, characters and locales.  If she has an old man talking and walking in her scene, then that character moves and sounds like an old man does. When the bored and sullen Weasel is left by himself for a few precious moments in his first introduction to Raine and Taos, he carves his initials into the shop’s small table because that what small sullen boys with a pocketknife do.  To write like this, your knowledge of people cannot be superficial.  You must have the ability to see beneath the surface, to get under their skin and somehow burrow into peoples thoughts and emotions to bring forth characters as real as these.

Equally remarkable is the dialog and narrative of the story. It is both weighted with emotion and yet as dry as the desert air. It is elegant in that spare western way rarely heard outside the region.  You could give me anonymous samples of writings, and I could pick out Sarah Black’s signature voice in an instant.  Although I dislike taking sentences out of context, this is one such example:

“He leaned forward and kissed me, light as a hummingbird on the side of my mouth. “Later, Raine.” He climbed out of the tub, grabbed his clothes, and pulled the old man’s jacket over his shoulders. The snow was falling on his hair, but he didn’t hurry, just followed the man, wet bare feet on frozen concrete. I closed my eyes so I didn’t have to watch him walk away.”

I put that out there, loving the feeling it evokes within me  and still feel I have not done this author justice because there is so much beauty to be found everywhere within this book.  There is the author’s considerable knowledge of the history and her appreciation for the differing Native American tribes and their cultures. In fact, her love for and curiosity about all cultures comes shining through each and every story.  A particular delight of mine is to see what new element of Americana she will bring into a book.  In Marathon Cowboys, it was bathtub Marys. Really I had no idea. Check them out.  Here it is the green Earthship homes built in communities out west.  Yes, I had to look them up and darn it if I can’t stop thinking about them and the need for green sustainable living ever since.  Sarah Black has given me a real itch to go out west and visit one to see  and experience them for myself.

So why not a 5 star rating?  Well, that would be the ending and really, I need to just give it up when it comes to Sarah Black.  If anyone reading this is already familiar with Sarah Black’s books, then you know what I am talking about.  The ending of the book just comes to a gradual stop.  There is no epilogue, more of a “this is where it needs to end naturally” sort of thing.  It’s not rushed, nor is it drawn out, it just is. In some of her stories it drives me crazy my need to know more is so great, in others it’s just fine because it is in tune with the story and characters.  And truth be told, she is never going to change that, so I just need to let it go.  And yes, it works here, it ends well and brings the story back around full circle. But damn it , I just wanted more. More of these characters, and more of their story and so will you once you read this. It enters your bloodstream as it did mine and won’t let you go. And you will be ok with that.  It’s a Sarah Black story after all.

Cover: Paul Richmond was the cover artist.  The colors he chose are perfect for the story as is the illustration.  The background graphic is the poster for Johnny’s film.

Read my review of Marathon Cowsboys here.

Read my review of Border Roads here.

Read by Author Spotlight on Sarah Black here.