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GUEST POST: In Search of Paradise by Annemarie Musawale

I’m no good at introducing my books. When anyone asks me what my books are about, I always feel like slapping a kindle into their hands and saying, “Read it and see.”
I think that many writers have that problem. The book blurb is always the hardest thing to write. How do you condense all of that awesome into a few sentences, not give away the plot and still make it sound interesting enough to make someone want to read it. It’s a headache, I can tell you.

So I’m not going to give you a treatise on In Search of Paradise, the first of book of its genre; how do I know that, you ask? Well, in the process of submitting it for publishing, there is a step where you choose the category your book belongs to right? So I looked for “African, gay”, also “African post apocalyptic”…
Guess what?
Those categories don’t exist.
The closest I got was African American gay romance.
Why do you think that is? Well, of course, there is the denial that gay Africans even exist; I know that for a fact. It’s getting better by the day what with TV shows like Empire which are popular locally, having gay couples. I’ve even had a discussion about it with work colleagues; mostly they seemed to suspect their wives of having lesbian relationships when they insist on seeing their friends. Sigh…

Well, gay Africans do exist, gay Kenyans are out here trying to hustle just like the rest of us. To make sure they can do that, there exists the national gay and lesbian human rights commission – a legal charity. I’ll let them introduce themselves in their own words:
Founded by six young legal advocates, The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) announced its foundation at its inaugural Gay and Lesbian Awards in December 2012. Held in Nairobi’s City Hall, the Awards affirmed the Kenyanness of the LGBTIQ community while demanding for their inclusion in public and social organizing spaces. Since then, NGLHRC has been encouraging diversity and agitating for public dialogue on sex, sexuality, gender, and nonconformity.
Since 2013, we have been the go-to organization for LGBTIQ legal aid, including security response. We provide a greatly needed national legal aid response mechanism to help prevent and respond to discrimination on account of real or presumed sexual orientation or gender identity. We also engage in civic and public education on LGBTIQ identity, needs, and rights as we push for the full inclusion of LGBTIQ individuals and communities in Kenyan society. Through unique partnerships, targeted trainings and a responsive staff, NGLHRC’s services and resources are available to LGBTIQ individuals wherever they may be; in every city, town, rural area, and county in Kenya.

When I began to write this book, I didn’t have any lofty ambitions in mind. It was a story, it came to me, and it wanted to be written. LGBTQIA is not really my space – except in the laziest of terms, where I could probably be described as an ally, maybe. But I thought that since I have appropriated their culture for my book, it’s only fair that they reap some of the benefits. That’s why I decided to give all preorder proceeds to the NGLHRC to help in my own very small teeny tiny way to make it easier to be gay in Africa. That way, it won’t take the goddamned apocalypse for people to come out of the closet.
Damn, is that a spoiler?
I think that’s a spoiler.
Oh well.

Blurb

When the world ends, it’s not with a bang, but a series of disasters. Ben and Anders, caught wrong-footed and unprepared – and mostly in the closet, find themselves on the run with Anders’ sister Zawadi.
Their families are gone and all they have is each other. Now they’re looking for somewhere safe to lay their heads; somewhere they can be themselves.
The hot dry Sahara desert offers hope- if only they can get across it and to Egypt where a new civilization is said to be rising. Already there is new lore about old gods; anywhere where people have enough leisure time to make up stories must surely be safe…right?
Anders wants more than safe, he wants a place where he can sleep in the same bed as his boyfriend without being lynched. Ben just wants to keep everyone alive. And Zawadi? Zawadi knows that these two boys would have been long dead without her.

Pre-order price is discounted. All pre-order proceeds go to the national gay and lesbian human rights commission.

Buy Links

Amazon

Other sites

About the author

Annemarie is a writer of several published stories as well as a ghostwriter of many more. She enjoys writing stories about love, life, and relationships in a way that is real, relatable and possibly a little uncomfortable. If any of her stories provoked thought in her readers, then she’s done her job. She’s still waiting to make the New York Times bestseller lists though.

Find out more about the author here

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Guest Review: The Butcher’s Sons by Scott Alexander Hess

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Guest Review

This was a fascinating read. Set in New York, back in the early thirties, the story tells of three brothers, close in age but not in nature. Dickie, Walt and Adlai have been raised by a father who may have been there for them physically, providing employment and a home above the butcher shop, but he definitely wasn’t there emotionally.

The viewpoint shifts between the three brothers.

The lack of a mother’s love for the majority of their lives has affected them in different ways. One reviewer likened the story to King Lear. While the number of siblings was the same, I didn’t see the same connection. Lear was the central character in that drama while Pat, the father in this one, wanders around on the periphery, his absence being more important than his presence.

All the brothers had their birthdays around the same time, in the middle of summer. So the days which marked their passage into another year of maturity came amidst stifling temperatures that not only sapped their energy but added to their impatience and frustration. There were some passages of truly lyrical prose that brought this home:

There was a sudden, violent, onslaught of brutal and deadening heat. It was after midnight, and the city was a furnace of unrest, escalating anger, petty arguments broiling into bloody fist fights, small squatty fires igniting in dry bristling edges of dark spots near the river. Children were awake, somewhat dazzled by the strangeness of it all. Hydrants, untapped, sprayed ferociously, and mutts dashed through over and over. The heat wave, they said, would only get worse.

The garage door in the back of the butcher shop was open, but no breeze blew. Things were still as if an ancient drought had come to stay.

Then later:

A surge. A wailing from the insects in the country, deep country, black night, loose, slow airless country. The brute heat forgotten due to the scream of unseen and miniscule things, they overwhelming everything with their unifying power, their music.

The window was open, and there was no screen. Anything could crawl in. The black at the window was pure and silky, but the long, constant song of the bugs made it clear things were out there in the night.

But every now and then this heat would break.

There was a snap of light and a bold crash of thunder, then a hungry wind blew in the open window at the two of them as the storm revived and grew in severity. There was crude shouting from the street, and dark animal screaming, hounds and indefinable creatures, voices drenched in the new, mad rush of storm and a sudden clatter of pounding hail.

Like this heat, the tension boils along in the story as the brothers become embroiled in gang warfare. This was around the time of prohibition, when areas of a city were under the control of thugs who dressed in fancy suits and carried big guns.

Dickie, the eldest, sees joining one of these gangs as a way up in the world and he is prepared to do whatever it takes to get there, dragging along his brothers whether they want to be involved or not.

Walt, the middle brother is physically larger than the other two, who are little over five foot. He dreams of becoming a doctor to escape life in his father’s butcher shop where they all work. But this background and Dickie’s actions, bring about a different set of problems when it comes to the girl he loves and wants to marry.

Then there is Adlai, affectionally known as Rat because of his small stature. When the book begins, he is not yet sixteen. He is different again, but his difference stems from his desires.

The book beautifully captures the differences from today’s society. Despite the fact most of the protagonists are still in their teens, they are seen as men. They live in the world of gangs, gyms, professional boxing, cock fights and prejudices that are thankfully not as prevalent today.

This was an era where being a prostitute or having loose morals was worse than being a murderer.

When having sex with a negress was what you did when the white virgins wouldn’t put out, but marrying one was illegal.

It was even worse if you were discovered to be a homosexual.

New York in the thirties was also in the midst of an economic depression. It was a melting pot of immigrants, each intolerant of the other. The boys great grandfather would today be considered one of the “boat people” as he boarded a “coffin ship to freedom to escape famine”

Being Irish carried its own set of racial characteristics. The love of whiskey, the seemingly boundless ability to feel guilty for real and imagined sin. Wallowing in introspection and self pity. The sins of the fathers being passed on to their sons.

Years passed, and I became more and more a drunkard. My own stink, the reek of cowardice, that fear mixed with my shame grew month after month, year after year, working the whore house, stuffing away money, drinking late into the night, losing my soul.

But despite this grief and shame, blood is integral to the story. Both literal and metaphorical. In the end it is death that finally brings the sons and their father together in a more literal sense.

Along the way they hurt each other, help each other, but throughout, they remain loyal even if a part of them wonders why. They share a bedroom and each has a dream or more accurately a recurring nightmare that terrifies them but bonds them at the same time.

There are other themes running throughout. Size is one. The gentle giants and the aggressive runts. Where the line between bravery and stupidity is easily crossed. Where  earning respect can come from being tough and able to withstand pain.

If you’re looking for a nice fluffy romance, this is not it. But if you want a book that whisks you away to another era, where each of the brothers finds a very different kind of love, give this a try. 4 stars.

Review from A.B. She is someone who likes reading stories reflecting reality. She has lived long enough to see many changes first hand and knows these stories need to be written.

About the Book

Bound by blood but separated by secrets, brothers—Dickie, Walt and Adlai—run a butcher shop for their alcoholic father, whose broken spirit has isolated him from the world. When Dickie makes a rash decision, involving an organized crime family, a chain of events ensues that changes the brothers’ lives and forces them to come together— at first, with a sense of camaraderie, but ultimately, with something much fiercer, more brutal. The Butcher’s Sons is a gritty, intimate portrait of three young Irish-American brothers whose lives irrevocably change during a heat wave in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, circa 1930.

Buy Links

Lethe Press

Amazon

Scott Alexander Hess

About the Author

Scott 2 smooth-4Scott Alexander Hess earned his MFA in creative writing from The New School. He blogs for The Huffington Post, and his writing has appeared in Genre Magazine, The Fix, and elsewhere. Hess co-wrote “Tom in America,” an award-winning short film starring Sally Kirkland and Burt Young. The Butcher’s Sons is his third novel. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Hess now lives in Manhattan, New York

Learn more at http://www.scottalexanderhess.com and follow Scott Alexander Hess on Twitter @ScottAlexHess.

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Scott Alexander Hess

Today we are joined by Scott Alexander Hess, author of The Butcher’s Sons, out now from Lethe Press.

Guest Post – The Intricacy of Masculinity

Masculinity.

That singular word drew me initially into the writing of my latest novel, The Butcher’s Sons, set in a gritty butcher shop in Hell’s Kitchen New York City circa 1930. As I explored the word and concept, my research guided me back to early images of men including my father (who built our St. Louis family home as well as launching a restaurant equipment company) and to my two older brothers (the inspiration for the novel’s rough and tumble siblings Walt and Dickie).

While I had considered myself strong and at times courageous through my life, I did not consider myself masculine, at least not in the traditional sense. That changed through the writing of The Butcher’s Sons, as did my perceptions of the word masculinity itself.

Seeing the world through the eyes of the character Dickie, I discovered in myself a base connection to a gutsy, violence-infused quest for power, domination and respect. This trait, though associated with masculinity, is in essence war like, brutal and in some ways sexless. In writing the gentler middle brother Walt and even more so the youngest, fragile and secretly gay brother Adlai, I uncovered a wide range of characteristics that were shaded with variations of what may be considered masculine.

In essence, the writing of these three very different brothers cracked open a broader appreciation for, and definition of, what it is to be masculine and to consider the concept’s more subtle edges.

Dickie’s form of masculinity is all violent bravado as in the scene below from Part One, Chapter 12:

“We’re The Butcher’s” Dickie said.

The fat kid swiped at his brow, scrunched his forehead.

“Oh yeah, so the fuck what? Get out of here you dirty Mick. We got business.”

Dickie flinched. The chimes swayed and as the kid turned to notice the sound, summoned by some stray memory of some stray summer, caught off guard by that delicate phrase of sweetness, as he turned Dickie lifted the heavy jar of pickles and slammed it into the kid’s head.

Bug was touching the chimes, making them dance, and he kept that up as the kid squealed and fell to his knees, blood spurting out of the side of his head, one shard of glass from the expertly shattered jar holding firm just above his ear, gushing. Dickie bent to the floor, plucking the shard from the kid’s head.

“I’m Dickie, leader of The Butcher’s, Now we’ve met,” he said.

I discovered a more layered level of masculinity and strength in the character of young Adlai, who against the odds, discovers love through the novel, and more importantly comes to embrace himself as a man. The scene below from Part Three, Chapter 12, is part of his awakening:

Adlai stood naked for a moment, then gently, lowered himself down to a lying position in the creek, so the water was forced to rush around him, as if he were a torn branch fallen from storm. The cooling water swarmed around his head, swirling out and into and through him. He was mostly submerged, though not fully, He felt the water like gentle hands, like a rushing dream come back. With one hand he tried to cup water to bring it to his parched lips, but it kept spilling out, so he flipped over and let water gush into his mouth, rushing forcefully, as if molesting and bruising his lips, chocking him. So thirsty, he gulped, then flipped over again, letting the coolness take him.

He wondered if Ed could fit next to him, the bulk of that man in the narrow creek. Looking up, he again spied the moon, and for the first time that night, that week really, the insect’s music, which was awash with the gentle cry of the creek, comforted him. It was as if they were singing for him, as if it were a love song, a lullaby.

Ultimately, the novel also shed light on parallels in my father’s more traditionally masculine creative life and my own. His building of our home, the late night sawing and nailing during the summer of 1954 under a hot Missouri moon; and my own evening discipline, at my writing desk near a wide open New York City window, constructing long, winding sentences and discovering characters that were to become The Butcher’s Sons.

We both, I realized are explorers, men of strength and conviction.

Butcher's Sons _ HiRes

About the Book

Bound by blood but separated by secrets, brothers—Dickie, Walt and Adlai—run a butcher shop for their alcoholic father, whose broken spirit has isolated him from the world. When Dickie makes a rash decision, involving an organized crime family, a chain of events ensues that changes the brothers’ lives and forces them to come together— at first, with a sense of camaraderie, but ultimately, with something much fiercer, more brutal. The Butcher’s Sons is a gritty, intimate portrait of three young Irish-American brothers whose lives irrevocably change during a heat wave in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, circa 1930.

Buy Links

Lethe Press

Amazon

Scott Alexander Hess

About the Author

Scott 2 smooth-4Scott Alexander Hess earned his MFA in creative writing from The New School. He blogs for The Huffington Post, and his writing has appeared in Genre Magazine, The Fix, and elsewhere. Hess co-wrote “Tom in America,” an award-winning short film starring Sally Kirkland and Burt Young. The Butcher’s Sons is his third novel. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Hess now lives in Manhattan, New York

Learn more at http://www.scottalexanderhess.com and follow Scott Alexander Hess on Twitter @ScottAlexHess.

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BLOG TOUR with GIVEAWAY: Coming Out Catholic by Alex Dunkin

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Blurb

Like all good Catholic boys I care what Jesus thinks. Jesus the man, and the faith. Following him make me happy. There’s just one issue… I think I’m gay. Well, it’s hard to be sure going to an all-boys school. It could be simply liking what I know and really, oh so very, liking what I see all day, guys. Being gay and Catholic can’t possible work together. Can it?

Coming Out Catholic follows a year in the life of a private Catholic school student as he comes to terms with his sexuality. Armed with sarcasm and his best friend Mark, he prepares to take on the school thug and the awkward social encounters plaguing his late teenage years.

Confronting himself and his family are just the beginning of his trials. He learns he must find solace with his sexual desires without surrendering any of his faith. He loves both too much but when the time comes he will have to know which one he has to give up or prepare to succumb to a life of denial.

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Excerpt

Here I am, on my knees in front of this man. Anyone would think that by sixteen this act would come naturally to me now, but it doesn’t. I’m a bit bothered by the submission implied by my position, but I’m told this is what makes the experience so powerful. My knees ache, my back grows stiff from the monotonously repetitious back-and-forth movement, and all for this one half-naked man in front of me. I look up at him, try to make eye-contact, but his face is averted. Everyone says that I’m supposed to get something amazing out of this too, but I never feel it. All I feel is the wood I kneel upon. Seriously, who uses so much wood when building a place like this? There’s not even a cushion. God, it hurts more now. When I have my own place one day, every room will be carpeted, no question about it. Lots of carpet and fine rugs to soften the place. No wood.

I’m over it now; I just want it to be over. I can’t pull out now though, because people will talk. I know my reputation isn’t a good one, but I can’t afford for it to get worse. I keep rocking back and forth, hoping it will be done soon. I can tell it won’t be long now from the rising vocals – not a word I can decipher but still so full of meaning. I can feel the tension growing, feel something rising up within. Wait for it. Almost there. I forget the pain that infuses my knees with the thought that it is close to over. Almost there… at last. I ready my tongue in preparation; taste the life essence from the flesh of my savior in my mouth. I swallow it quickly, feeling dirty.

The last echo dies from the room, and then: “Amen.”

And then it’s my turn. “Amen.”

Thank God that’s over. I hate communion at the best of times, and it’s even worse at school. Sure, it’s fun to mock and fool around with Father Donovan in religious education classes, but his sermons leave a bad taste in my mouth. It doesn’t make me want to purge my sins, just my breakfast. But I’m glad now that I can dust off my pants and wander back into class to daydream of a world outside of my own, and usually about my classmates. Our school is all boys, so understandably most of my close friends are guys and I’m more comfortable with the thought of interacting with members of my sex, but in the dreaming something else lingers in the back of my mind. Something strange and enticing tickles the back of my mind and hijacks my dream onto awkward yet exhilarating sexual encounters with guys from my class. I’m not sure if that’s normal. I haven’t spent much time around girls to see if they would venture into the daydreams just as naturally as the guys do.

The proper teachers quickly usher us onto our next class. By ‘proper’ I mean they actually went to university and studied education to learn how to teach from someone other than God. Not that I’ve turned apostate – I keep faith in his wisdom and his grace – but I can’t bring myself to believe that a loving God intended his Word to be exactly like how the priests preach it. Until they iron out the crinkles in the fine print in the Bible I think I might listen to the actual biology teacher who knows about evolution, even though I’m not sure I understand it myself, but look how Mark’s short blonde spikes always seem to be in the same place every day. And I’m happy to believe my physics teacher when he tells me about the Big Bang, although Mark’s hair is always perfect, never a hair out of place. Then there are his striking blue eyes, bright to the point of glowing. And he always smells so good. He’s like one of the those plants I am sure the teacher is talking about now, that looks beautiful from a distance, luring in unsuspecting prey, and then capturing them as soon as they get too close, digesting them slowly. What was I talking about again before I got side-tracked… oh yeah. I’m going to hell. At least that’s the deal according to the priestly teachings. And so maybe that’s the best way to describe Mark, a beautiful trap and a hell of a best friend. The more time I spend with him the more my feelings towards boys are confirmed, but I couldn’t allow myself to fall into a trap that meant losing my friends, my family, my beliefs… my entire life.

I’m in the tenth grade now and these feelings have been growing (I like to think of it as blossoming) for quite some time. My feelings towards other guys, I mean. I think I like guys, and in a special kind of way. These feelings excite me, but they scare me more, and I don’t think I can follow through with them. The faith I was raised inrevents me from even considering the possibility that I might like guys. How can I live a good Catholic life, and have a family and children, and be accepted into heaven if I like guys?

Most boys my age constantly think and talk just about sex, and in an all-boys college there’s plenty of opportunity to share stories. I have heard some wonderfully graphic tales about their conquests, who pandered to the every sexual desire of a few of the guys in my class. And while I was vaguely aware most of it was boasting to cover that their first, three-second sexual encounter still blew their pubescent minds but still left them feeling inadequate, I’m honestly in no position to judge. I’ve never had sex, let alone good sex.

Buy Links

http://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=83&products_id=4388

http://www.prizmbooks.com/zencart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=31&products_id=99

Giveaway

Rafflecopter Prize: E-copy of ‘Coming Out Catholic’ by Alex Dunkin

Click here or on the image to enter the Rafflecopter

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About the author

Banner300x250Alex is a PhD candidate in language and linguistics at the University of South Australia focusing on Italian literature and initiating the movement of cannibale literature into a new cultural space. He has previously worked as a journalist for LGBT publications including blaze magazine and Gay News Network and writes in a volunteer capacity as an arts critic for glamadelaide.com.au. His creative publication history includes the short stories Inside Out and A Threepence Remaining published with Gay E-Books and poems selected for publication in the Piping Shrike anthology series. He has been awarded the Youth Prize in the Mardi Gras Literature Competition and received High Commendations in numerous other competitions.

Where to find the author:

Facebook Author Page: AlexDunkinAu https://www.facebook.com/AlexDunkinAu

Twitter: @AlexDunkin


Tour Dates & Stops: June 4, 2015

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