Saturday, January 29, 2011

Slow Melt - New Cover!

Check out the hot new cover of Slow Melt (by Dawne Dominique, artist extraordinaire!) I've revamped Slow Melt with minor edits to correspond with the release of Descent, my novel featuring Master Mike and mutt.

Loveyoudivine Alterotica will soon be offering all three Master Mike and mutt stories (with Pony Boy) as a package deal!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II by Edvard Radzinsky

I don’t usually read two books in a row on the same subject but I borrowed these from a friend and need to return them. The first book, Robert Massie’s The Romanovs: The Final Chapter read as a sequel to The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II by Edvard Radzinsky. The latter did much of the research and digging into numerous Russian archives, many of which he was denied access. However, Radzinsky persevered. The result of his decades-long labors is an amazing work of history, giving us a glimpse into a heinous act covered up for most of a century.

Radzinsky reproduces many entries from the diaries of the royal family themselves: Nicholas II, his beloved wife Alexandra and some of their five children. This brings the tsar and his family to life, as people with fears, blind faith and uncertainties of the future. Radzinsky paints an entirely different picture of ‘Nicholas the Bloody’, as a weak-willed man, susceptible to the whims of his tougher relatives and his unhinged wife who was under the spell of the mad monk Rasputin, the Holy Devil.

I wonder if Radzinsky’s book would have been published had the Soviet rule not ended when it did. Much of the work shows the propaganda, lies and subterfuge employed by the Bolsheviks, the Whites and the secret police to sway the Russian citizens into the herd mentality. And it worked. The population went along with whichever way the wind was blowing that day. Or maybe it was in fear for their lives. Although the repressive regime suppressed the tongues of several generations, many people came forward to talk to Radzinsky, giving eyewitness accounts of the tsar’s last two years.

There seems to be a lot that got lost in the translation from Russian to English (this edition was translated by Marian Schwartz) or perhaps editing follows a different set of rules in Russia, but the book is not an easy read, especially for those not already well-schooled on Russian history. He leaves a lot out. For example, on page 177 he states that ‘everyone remarked on the tsar’s strange indifference at that terrible time’. Who commented? What did they say?

Radzinsky puts more emphasis on the facts rather than the flow. He interposes his personal opinion on many of the events or people. He switches back and forth between Grand Duchess Olga, Nicholas’ sister and Grand Duchess Olga, Nicholas’ daughter without distinguishing which one. One may think it’s easy to discern between a woman and her niece but sometimes the vague details makes it difficult.

He mentions several times that Alexandra had the blood of Mary Stuart in her veins. Mary Stuart got her head cut off by her cousin Elizabeth I after being imprisoned in the Tower of London for nineteen years. Where is the parallel?

Radzinsky compares Grand Duke Michael Romanov’s secretary Brian Johnson to Mr. Pickwick. Who?

Despite the difficult read, this is definitely a book to save and read again. There is a lot of history here that isn’t taught in school and probably wouldn’t be seen if it was for Radzinsky’s diligence in seeking out facts that many people died to keep secret.

The Major and the Miners, Part I: A Serpent in Paradise by Barry Lowe

The first part of Barry Lowe’s The Major and the Miners is a warm and (almost) innocent story set in the coal mines of post-WWI Australia. Innocent, but not na├»ve. The main characters Major Damien Bouton (Button) and Joshua Carter have a mutual attraction and neither is bashful about expressing his feelings, even in an environment hostile to homosexuals.

Major Button is the resident physician at the remote village of Seaspray Bay, where the coal miners work. Joshua is a young miner, who is injured in an accident while working below. They first meet when the good doctor patches him up so he can make the trip to a hospital better equipped to handle his injuries. Upon Josh’s return to Seaspray Bay, Mrs. Carter treats the bachelor doctor for a home-cooked meal as a thank you for saving her son.

It isn’t long before Button and Josh are in each other’s arms and various body cavities, much to the chagrin of Danny, Josh’s best mate. Danny is engaged to Joshua’s sister but it’s evident he has the hots for Josh instead.

As the relationship between Button and Josh heats up, so does Danny’s hostility toward his perceived rival. Major Button decides that it is time for them to quit the backwater village and head to the big city where they’re more likely to find a better ratio of accepting people to homophobes. As the first part closes, Danny has gathered some like-minded villagers to run Button out of town, leaving Joshua behind. The doctor doesn’t believe Danny’s assertions that Josh has changed his mind and won’t leave but he has little choice. He makes his escape to Sydney sans Joshua.

Here ends the first part but Lowe peppers his work with flashbacks and flashforwards, so readers are aware that Joshua joins Button at some point in the future, which robs the story of much-needed suspense. The two flashbacks have an ambiguous effect. The first is simply confusing and out of place. However the second gives us a quick glimpse into Major Damien’s Button’s closeted past.

The biggest questions Lowe leaves us are when did Joshua rejoin the major, and why has Danny shown up at their new abode three years later?

I'll have to wait until Part II.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Author of theWeek on Nomar Knight's Knight Chills Blog!

Check out Nomar Knight's blog. I'm the featured author of the week. Nomar has posted my horror short story "Graveyard Shift". He couldn't have found a better picture for the cover!

I met Nomar via and become good friends. He's taught me a lot about writing horror. If you read any of his work, you'll understand how talented he is. I was quite surprised when he asked me if he could feature this story on his blog, knowing how high his standards are. Drop by his blog and read his short stories (with the light on, of course!)