New 5-heart review of “Seidman” on MM Good Book Reviews!

Seidman

“I absolutely loved Kol. He was like the Viking Harry Potter of his era. He was very shy, but incredibly brave. Even when death was staring him in the face he stood stall and strong.

I recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a very entertaining and historical book depicting young love, magic, and adventure. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.”

(Click the image to read the full review!)

“Fire” coming soon and some reviews of “Seidman” and “Dreams”!

Dreams of Fire and Gods - FireI received the final release versions of Dreams of Fire and Gods: Fire yesterday.  I think it came out great and I’m very excited to have it hit the shelves next Friday, March 1st!  I also can’t wait to get a paperback copy of it to hold and caress and put on my bookshelves next to Dreams and Seidman.

Speaking of Dreams and Seidman, I was also notified of two new reviews—one for each of them.

Rya at Hearts on Fire Reviews gave Seidman 4.5 stars, saying that “The stages of Kol and Thorbrand’s friendship are beautifully presented. I enjoyed their together-scenes a lot. There is so much innocence in their actions and the transition between hugs and kisses was cute, if I may say so.”

Dreams likewise received a 4.5 star rating from CrossroadReview on NightOwlReviews, saying “And let me tell you it is good! He build such a great fantasy world that you just couldn’t stop reading it! I just can’t get over how good this book was! I’m looking forward to more from this author.”

Free giveaway of “Dreams of Fire and Gods: Dreams” on Boys On The Brink Blog!

Dreams of Fire and Gods: DreamsThe Boys On The Brink Blog is hosting a free giveaway of Dreams of Fire and Gods: Dreams this week, so hop on over there and put your name in the hat for a free copy!

You can read an excerpt of the novel here.

And for those who missed it, Jamie Deacon’s terrific review of Dreams can be read here!

“Seidman” has received two honorary mentions at the Rainbow Awards!

rainbowawards_hon_mention3

So yesterday the winners of the Rainbow Awards were announced.  The Rainbow Awards are given out by a panel of judges (quite a large panel, in fact) on the popular Elisa Rolle review site.  I don’t know how many years they’ve been going on for now, but they’re pretty big, with a huge list of books in the competition, so it’s really an honor to win.

Seidman didn’t win, but it did get an honorable mention in two categories:

BEST LGBT YOUNG ADULT / COMING OF AGE

and

BEST GAY DEBUT NOVEL/BOOK!

In honor of this, my publisher has discounted Seidman by 25% for the entire week at All Romance eBooks!

In other news, Dreams of Fire and Gods: Dreams has gone into galley proof, which means that it’s mostly done — we’re just checking over the formatted novel for typos and other errors.  It will be available on December 15th!

Coinciding with the release, I (James Erich, in case you’ve forgotten who I am) will be doing my first online chat!    It will be on the Harmony Ink Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/HarmonyInkPress

So come and say hello!  And win free stuff!  We’ll be giving away a free eBook copy of Dreams of Fire and Gods: Dreams, as well as some original sketches of the main characters, Sael and Koreh, by Beau Shemery!  I think it’s from 1pm EST to 6pm EST, but I’ll double check that and post the hours here again, when I’m more certain.  The first Harmony Ink chat was yesterday, featuring Beau Shemery (in his author guise, but with plenty of giveaways of his sketches), discussing his steampunk novel, The Seventh of London, and it went pretty well.

Lastly, I’ve submitted Seidman for consideration in the Lambda Literary Awards.  As they say, you can’t win, if you don’t enter.  The competition is steep, but the award is prestigious.  Even being a finalist would be amazing!

Great review for “Seidman”!

Jessica Chambers over at Rainbow Book Reviews has written a wonderful review for Seidman!

The thing that struck me as particularly good about this novel was how we get to see Kol and Thorbrand grow up, following their progress from carefree boys interested only in each other, to mature young men with their own responsibilities. Though the story does have a strong fantasy element, the developing relationship between the heroes is incredibly realistic, taking into account the attitudes towards homosexuality at the time, and is in fact one of the most poignant I’ve come across in a while.

Read the whole review here!

Sex and the LGBT YA Novel

Calico, by Dorien Grey, may very well be the first gay YA novel I ever read, not counting novels like A Separate Peace, which weren’t actually intended to be gay.

It was published in 2006 by Zumaya Boundless at a time when the very idea of a gay character in a YA novel was scandalous.  It came to my attention, in fact, because it was on a list of books people were trying to ban.  As I recall, the same people who were throwing fits about this novel were also in a frenzy over the children’s book Jennifer Has Two Daddies (by Dr. Priscilla Galloway and Ana Auml), despite the fact that that had been out for over twenty years.  I mention this, because it probably factors in to what I’m going to say later.

In the novel, young Calico Ramsey is hired to escort two 17-year-old siblings, Josh and Sarah, to Bow Ridge to live with their aunt.  Along the way, it becomes clear that somebody wants the twins dead and Calico finds himself falling in love with Josh.

Repeating History: the Eye of Ra by Dakota Chase was published a few years later in 2010 by Prizm.  It follows the adventures of two teens — Aston and Grant — who are sent back in time by Merlin to retrieve an Egyptian artifact (the Eye of Ra) from King Tutankhamen.  They manage to ingratiate themselves to the young king, but they soon realize that they might be in a position to thwart an assassination plot against him.  Can they change history and save King Tut?  And will doing so cause them to be trapped for the rest of their lives in Ancient Egypt?

Both of these YA novels are excellent and I highly recommend reading them.  They also share a loving attention to historical detail.  The tone is different, with Calico presenting the reader with a very gritty (and often dangerous) Old West and The Eye of Ra depicting a much lighter-hearted, but still richly detailed, story of two boys trapped in a time and place they’ve only read about in the history books.

I have one criticism of both of the novels, which is why I’ve grouped them together in this blog entry.  It just happened that, while I was reading each of these two novels, completely independently, I was struck by the same thought:  Where’s the sex?

Now, I’m not insisting that every YA novel should have sex in it, or saying that an author doesn’t have the right to choose whether or not to include sex.  Certainly, there are times when sex is appropriate in a novel and times when it is not, and one could argue that the latter is usually the case with YA novels.  I also recognize that both authors may have felt that their readers or their publishers may not have tolerated anything more than a chaste kiss or two.  Certainly I’ve seen plenty of reviews of YA novels with gay content where readers echo the tedious sentiment, “There’s a little gay romance, but not that bad.  You can ignore it and get into the story, if you like.”

Um…thanks?

But all that aside, what bothers me is when the lack of sex doesn’t feel true to the characters to me.  Now, keep in mind that when I was 17, I was shy and hated undressing in front of my classmates in gym.  I also went to a fundamentalist church that was extremely disapproving of same-sex…exploration…and as a result, I didn’t even know that I was gay.  Seriously.  I just thought I was a late bloomer.  Yet somehow even I managed to see quite a lot of male nudity and raunchy sexual humor amongst my friends.  And when I finally met another gay man (I was nineteen, by then) who was willing, I couldn’t wait more than a few days before “doing it.”

Of course, your mileage may vary.

But I do find it extremely unrealistic when two teenage boys are alone together and horny, knowing that they’re both interested…yet they refuse to do anything.  In Calico, Calico and Josh kiss about midway through the book.  Then Calico refuses to kiss for the rest of the novel, until the end, fretting that Josh isn’t legally an adult yet.  In The Eye of Ra, Aston and Grant start making out one night in the dunes and suddenly they feel they have to stop, because, as Aston puts it, “It would be bad.”  Bad?  What would be bad?  Both of these feel contrived.  In reality, a 17-year-old would probably have been considered adult in the 1800s and two hot-and-bothered teenage boys really need a better reason for putting on the breaks than, “It would be bad.”

Keep in mind that when two boys start groping at each other, the context is vastly different than when a boy starts groping at his girlfriend.  They don’t have all that baggage of “Good girls don’t do this!” and “What if she gets pregnant?” and “What if he’s just using me?” to contend with.

There is baggage, certainly, but it’s different.  There’s no chance of pregnancy.  There’s little sense of having to maintain an image of purity.  And even though there is some chance of exposure to HIV and other STDs, if both boys are sexually inexperienced, they’re unlikely to worry too much about that, assuming that neither could have caught anything yet.  (Not always true, of course.)

What there is, is fear of being of being labeled a “fag,” and that’s a real fear.  The social stigma is enormous, even today, and certainly would have been a major concern in the 1800s.  But there’s also a sense of mutual transgression:  it’s more difficult (though not impossible) for one to accuse the other without implicating himself.  (Whereas a teenage girl might risk losing her reputation, if her boyfriend chooses to boast about having sex with her, while his status with his friends would likely increase.)  There is also guilt, of course.  But my experience was that my brain tended to shut off at the time, and I didn’t fret about things until afterward, my religious bent notwithstanding.  Lastly, there is just plain shyness and anxiety about venturing into sexual maturity.

Again, everybody is different.  Some boys may just go for it; others may have too much anxiety about it and may push back.  Or perhaps one will be shy, while the other will be more aggressive.  All of these are valid options.  But the reader shouldn’t be left feeling that the reason the characters aren’t having sex is simply because it’s a YA novel and the publisher forbids it.

Again, both of these novels are terrific and I hope the authors aren’t offended by me using them for examples.  It just so happened that they both brought the same thought to mind, while I was reading them.  I do recommend them as good YA novels with gay characters.

Part of the YAM LGBT 2012 Blogathon.