Sunday Shorts – “The One That I Want,” by A.M. Liebowitz

Every week, I take part in the #RWChat over on twitter. I often feel a bit like an interloper (what with being not just a guy, and not just a queer guy, but also a queer guy who only sometimes writes romance) but the questions are generally ones that cross all genres, and they’re generally quite thought-provoking. I also generally learn a few things, share some great discussions, and often I meet a few new authors.

Which is what happened last week.

Thanks to a tangent discussion about promoting other authors as a way to not feel like you’re constantly shouting about your own stuff into the void, I bumped into A.M. Liebowitz. I took a peek at their backlist, saw a queer short story/novellette length work, and, well, my Kobo and I had a nice night.


CoverWhen Al proposes to Chad, he has in mind a fairytale wedding with all the works. Chad’s not so sure it’s a good idea. Between the planner with her binders full of weddings, the myriad tasks, the short time frame, and Al’s meddling sister, Chad’s at risk of coming undone long before the big day. When his own fears bubble to the surface, he nearly breaks Al’s heart–and his own. They’ll need to work things out in time to be the stars of their own magical story.


This is a cute and fun little novella/short fiction piece that I believe takes characters from one of Liebowitz’s other works and gives you a “how they met” narrative (or at least, that’s what the dedication had me assuming). That said, it’s a complete story in and of itself, and certainly has a full romance arc to it of its own.

You get to see Al meet Chad at an unlikely place: Al’s sister has a kid performing alongside an orchestra, and despite Al not being at all inclined to the classical music sides of things, he has a good enough time, is proud of the kid, and can’t beat the view he’s got right in the seat next to him: Chad.

Al’s sister knows Chad, introduces him as an IT guy, and Chad mentions he’s got a season pass before the evening ends and they go their separate ways. Al decides the little spark might be worth checking out, and is correct, and after a really cute date or two, we move ahead to an offer of marriage and then the planning of a wedding.

It’s funny, but Liebowitz nailed a voice in Al that I had myself: if anyone asked, prior to marriage equality in Canada, I shrugged off needing a marriage in any way, shape, or form. It was a kind of sour grapes reaction: I can’t have it, so I don’t want it. There. Now you have nothing over me. But once the laws changed, I proposed almost immediately. Because I wanted the protections, the legality, and—yes—the symbology of what it meant to have the weight of the law behind the word “husband.”

So, Al wants the wedding to be a big gay fantasy, and Chad… is less sure. The reasons behind this, and how it nearly derails their relationship, are a gradual reveal that forms the crux of this narrative, and definitely felt organic and emotionally truthful. I liked these two, I liked that they got mad realistically and then talked things through just as realistically.

I’ll have to track down their other appearances.


A. M. Leibowitz is a spouse, parent, feminist, and book-lover falling somewhere on the Geek-Nerd Spectrum. She keeps warm through he long, cold western New York winters by writing romantic plot twists and happy-for-now endings. She is the author of several published works, and her short fiction has appeared in multiple anthologies. In between noveling and editing, she blogs coffee-fueled, quirky commentary on faith, culture, writing, and her family at amleibowitz.com.

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Sunday Shorts – “An Asian Minor: The True Story of Ganymede” by Felice Picano, performed by Jason Frazier.

In case you missed it last Monday, I was over at Out in Print: Queer Book Reviews talking about Felice Picano‘s An Asian Minor: The True Story of Ganymede, performed by Jason Frazier. An audiobook novella, it was fantastic.

CoverLong out-of-print, this novella is Ganymede’s life story – unapologetic in its ribald details of Greek gods in disguise, trying to seduce the most beautiful youth in the Ancient world. When a prince of Troy is born with perfect proportions, not only does every man he meets desire him, but the Immortals want him as their lover. Ganymede loses his virginity to Hermes at 12, at 14 he captures the attention of Ares and Apollo…can Zeus be next? This risqué tale, narrated by acclaimed storyteller Jason Frazier, will appeal to all who have wondered how one boy stepped out of myth to become a gay icon.


My full review is here, at Out in Print.


Felice Picano is the author of twenty-five books of poetry, fiction, memoirs, and nonfiction. His work is translated into sixteen languages; several titles were national and international bestsellers, including The Lure, Like People in History and The Book of Lies.

Four of Picano’s plays have been produced. He’s considered a founder of modern gay literature along with other members of the Violet Quill. He’s won or been nominated for numerous awards including being a finalist for five Lammies and received the City of West Hollywood’s Rainbow Key award in 2013. Picano’s most recent work is True Stories: Portraits From My Past (2011), Contemporary Gay Romances (2011),  Twelve O’Clock Tales (2012) and 20th Century Un-limited.


Jason Frazier is an award-winning voice actor and performer working in animation, interactive, audiobooks, theatre, commercials, new media, film and television. Member of SAG-AFTRA, AEA, ASIFA and the Television Academy.

Sunday Shorts – “Save the Date,” by Annabeth Albert and Wendy Qualls

CoverRandall Young has one duty as his sister’s “man of honor”: to ensure she has the best wedding ever. That includes an epic bachelorette pub crawl, leading him to Portland’s most popular gay bar… and into Hunter Mitchell’s well-muscled arms. A one-night stand with a sexy soldier is the perfect way to ditch that pesky V-card and get himself in the mood for a weekend of flowers, cake, and nuptials.

Hunter wants to blow off some steam before he stands up as his best friend’s best man. He’s already married to his military career, not looking to settle down. He certainly doesn’t intend for the one guy he met (and, okay, got off with) in Oregon to be his counterpart in the wedding party. Or a virgin. Definitely wasn’t intending that. Luckily, they have the rest of the weekend for Hunter to show Randall what he’s been missing.

The more they’re thrown together by the wedding, the more Randall and Hunter grow together outside the bedroom… which is dangerous because there’s a lot more than 2500 miles standing between them and a happily-ever-after. If they want a future beyond their wedding weekend hookup, both must find the courage to take a chance on love.


This was a lot of fun. Quick, light, and not drowning in angst, it was very much a “Wait, what are you doing here?” mixed with “Opposites attract” story between a soldier and a nerdy astrophysicist (no, really). They meet at a bar when one is leading trying to keep his sister on track during her bachelorette party (which, as a gay man, made me laugh a bit: lord knows the last thing we want in our bars is yet another loud and rowdy bachelorette party). His sister moves on with her friends without him, and he ends up having a great night with a big burly sexy guy in an “Army” t-shirt, and then has to book it to make it to the start of the days of wedding fun…

…only to see the big burly sexy “Army” guy is the best man of the groom.

What follows is a bit of sexy fun as the two sneak off together between their wedding duties, then of course hit bumps when the fast-and-loose-past of the soldier comes to call. The brother is a virgin at the start of the story, which was actually handled pretty well: he wasn’t instantly good at everything he tried, and he also had played with some toys, which added at least a slight dose of realism to making first-time sex potentially pleasurable for him.

It’s a romance, so you know they end up together, and the path isn’t super rocky for them to make it. Like I said, this was fun and breezy. No chest hair in sight, alas (why is everyone super-smooth?)


Frequent tweeter, professional grammar nerd, and obsessive reader, Annabeth Albert is also a Pacific Northwest romance writer in a variety of subgenres. Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two toddlers.

Wendy Qualls was a small ­town librarian until she finished reading everything her library had to offer. At that point she put her expensive and totally unrelated college degree to use by writing smutty romance novels and wasting time on the internet. She lives in Northern Alabama with her husband, two girls, two dogs, and a seasonally fluctuating swarm of unwanted ladybugs. Wendy can be found on Twitter as @wendyqualls. She is represented by Moe Ferrara of BookEnds Literary Agency.

Sunday Shorts – “Double Up,” by Vanessa North

CoverWhen I go on vacation, I try to read things that suit if I can. So when I saw this novella by Vanessa North was about wakeboarding, and I was heading to Hawai’i, I figured beachside reading about a beachside sport would be just about perfect.

And I was right.

Knowing he’s loved can make any man fly.

Fifteen years ago, Ben Warren was a wakeboarding champion: king of big air, ballsy tricks, and boned grabs. Until a career-ending injury left him broken in ways he still has no hope of fixing. Now he takes his thrills where he can get them, and tries not to let life hurt too much.

Then Davis Fox arrives in Ben’s sporting goods store with a plan to get in touch with his estranged brother by competing in the annual wakeboarding double-up contest. The catch? He’s never ridden before. It’s crazy, but Ben’s a sucker for the guy’s sob story—and for his dimples, too—so he agrees to coach Davis.

Davis is everything Ben isn’t: successful, confident, and in love with life. And he wants Ben to love life—and him—too. But before Ben can embrace a future with Davis, he needs to remember how to hope.


Okay, there is a lot to love in this novella. First off, Ben’s character was well written: he’s a former athlete, he suffered a major injury, and his recovery was by no means an easy journey, and he’s living with chronic pain. Ben comes across as someone who has—in many ways—given up on “better” and is enjoying moments of happiness as he can snatch them (which includes fun sex with hot guys when he can grab it). Ben’s living very much on the sometimes tough-love and kindness of Eddie, his friend, former once-tumbled-into-bed, and super-swish gay buddy who is wealthy and owns the business where Ben works (and adds cachet).

Davis Fox is a gay man rejected by his homophobic family who wants a shot at reconnecting with his stepbrother. Davis is an architect, a gosh-sweet-blushing sort of guy, and he hires Ben to teach him to wakeboard—because his younger step-brother is a bit of a wakeboarding prodigy, and there’s a contest coming up where they could both enter and have a chance to reconnect and talk out of the reach of their people.

They connect, miscommunicate, take terrible risks, screw up, and eventually come clean with each other about how they feel, what they’re afraid of, and of course delivers a happy ending for the reader. My only quibble—and it’s a minor one—is something I see pop up quite a bit in m/m romance, and that’s the whole “I don’t bottom, but I’ll bottom for you” thing. I know it’s a reader favourite, but it always makes me cringe just a wee bit. That said, Double Up is a solid journey, has some very sexy moments, and was a great read for my holiday.


Author of over a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories, Vanessa North delights in giving happy-ever-afters to characters who don’t think they deserve them. Relentless curiosity led her to take up knitting and run a few marathons “just to see if she could.” She started writing for the same reason. Her very patient husband pretends not to notice when her hobbies take over the house. Living and writing in Northwest Georgia, she finds her attempts to keep a quiet home are frequently thwarted by twin boy-children and a very, very large dog.

Sunday Shorts – “Rebound Remedy,” by Christine d’Abo

CoverAs I’m sure I’ve mentioned a few times, I listen to audiobooks around the holidays, and I often try to listen to holiday-themed audiobooks, too, to make it possible to try and restore some smidgeon of my holiday spirit after two decades in retail.

It’s February now, but this latest story, Rebound Remedy, was the last short audio I listened to last Christmas, and it was a fun, light, pick-me-up tale.

The last thing Cole expects to get for the holidays is dumped. But there he is, in the airport on his way to Banff for a romantic getaway, helplessly watching as his boyfriend’s ex declares undying love, proposes—and is accepted. With a few weeks to go until Christmas, Cole’s mood dives from jolly to jaded. But instead of sitting at home alone and feeling sorry for himself, he goes to his favorite bar, McGregor’s, for a pint and some company.

The moment Owen McGregor sets eyes on Cole, he knows there’s something wrong. So he takes it upon himself to ensure that Cole has a happy holiday: twelve outings for the twelve days before Christmas. Even if he can’t quite think up twelve activities that don’t involve getting the forlorn hunk into his bed.

With each outing they take together, Cole realizes that the love he thought he’d shared with his ex was less than perfect. And that Owen might prove to be more than just his rebound remedy.


The blurb gives away the vast majority of this story, and overall, this one was a feel-good piece that lasted me a few walkings of the dog, and pretty much was cheerful and upbeat. There are some good comedy moments (Cole, who is a “helps others as a reflex” kind of guy, earns a shiner for his efforts helping Owen wrangle a drunk into a cab), and this is the beginning of Owen’s “I’m going to restore your Christmas spirit,” campaign.

On that level, I enjoyed the story. Owen has his own struggles going on, and the intersection of Cole and Owen’s spark of attraction, the resistance from Owen to be a rebound guy for Cole, and Cole being raw from getting spectacularly dumped all turns into a snarl of miscommunication and emotional wariness that I bought. The reader did a good job with the voices, too (especially Owen’s) and I liked that.

There were some “pardon?” moments of queer authenticity troubles—most especially was one in particular, when the guys are getting physical, and Cole’s tongue wanders a bit, and there’s this moment where they kind of talk about how none of Cole’s past boyfriends (the reader is left with the sense that there are quite a few as he’s a gay guy with a libido). The conversation turns to how these past boyfriends weren’t really into kink, and… well… we’re talking about rimming. Just, rimming. It threw me out of the narrative, as I can’t imagine the series of boyfriends a gay guy would have to have for rimming to not ever have appeared as an experience, period. Rimming isn’t particularly kinky on the scale of things. I get everyone has their own comfort zones, but it just struck me as so incredibly unlikely.

I kept going with the book, but it was an odd moment and I had to chuckle a few times after.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, easy listen, and if you’re willing to overlook a moment or two here and there, and want a well-performed piece, Rebound Remedy can fit the spot for a holiday listen.


A romance novelist and short story writer, Christine d’Abo has over thirty publications to her name. She loves to exercise and stops writing just long enough to keep her body in motion too. When she’s not pretending to be a ninja in her basement, she’s most likely spending time with her family and two dogs.

Sunday Shorts – “The Loft,” by Elizabeth Lister

coverSunday Shorts has kind of fallen by the wayside a bit this year—mea culpa—but I’m going to play some catch-up. I’ve been reading short fiction and novellas with a full on clip this year, but the reviewing part?

Well, as I said: mea culpa.

I try to be the guy who owns up when I fall behind (and having a public blog to hold myself accountable to said goals is one of the ways I do manage to say on track). Between the horrendously endless grey-white of winter and my own mood, I went south, dove into reading, and haven’t been writing much at all, let alone reviews.

So, to be clear: I fell behind, this has nothing to do with the quality of the books I’ve been reading, and I totally need to own my mistake in falling behind.

And speaking of having the guts to take ownership of a mistake, let’s revisit the guys from Elizabeth Lister’s James Lucas trilogy


Revisiting the trio from the James Lucas Trilogy was like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes (okay, maybe more like a comfortable leather harness), I slipped right into this novella.

When a former acquaintance of James’ becomes involved with a shady character and James’ efforts to help him backfire, Tate decides it is up to him to save the day even if it means putting himself in danger.

So Tate makes a couple of mistakes in this short novella, and from there the whole narrative spins forward. One: he allows himself a moment of jealousy when he sees a former client of James’ Loft days speaking with James with an obviously close confidence. That threatens Tate in a way his already polyamorous relationship doesn’t, and it’s from there the stage is set for his ever-increasing well-meaning but bad choices.

When Tate learns James’ old friend is in a troubling and potentially dangerous relationship, he dives into the situation without a lot of forethought, and of course ends up in danger himself.

What Lister does with these three characters is magic on a couple of levels. On the one hand, Lister does her research. Be it consent, contracts, kink of any kind (and there are some rarely seen kinks in this piece—sounding, anyone?), I have never found even a shred of fault in the depiction, which always walks the perfect example of “safe and sane.”

Two, the intersection of these three characters with very different points of view balances the queer mentality really, really well. These men live and breathe and exist in very different circles (I love that Lister writes a character who is involved in the church as well as a character who wants nothing to do with religion), have different ages and life experiences, and have formed a unit that’s strong without making the parts feel weaker alone.


 

In between making school lunches, driving her children to activities and snuggling in front of the TV with her handsome husband, Elizabeth writes very graphic erotica about gay men in love.

Her three full-length novels comprising The James Lucas Trilogy – Beyond the Edge, The Cross and the Trinity, and A Numinous Light – are available to purchase in print and ebook. This series follows the lives of three men drawn together by a mutual enjoyment of BDSM play and an undeniable attraction to each other. Beyond the Edge received an Honorable Mention in the Pauline Réage Novel Award category of the NLA-International Awards, which recognize excellence in writing and publishing about Leather, SM, bondage and fetishes.

Elizabeth is currently working on a series of erotic short stories called The Loft Series featuring the characters from The James Lucas Trilogy. These stories will fill in some details about the year following the events in The Cross and the Trinity, when Tate, Sebastian and James figure out how to live successfully as a cohabiting and committed poly-amorous unit, and let the reader be a fly-on-the-wall for more of their sexual journey together in James’ infamous loft playroom.

Elizabeth has also published two novellas, Exposure and The Crush, available in ebook format only.  She has also written two very sexy short stories, Apartment 1209 and The Beach House, available to read for FREE.