Review – Cigarettes & Wine by J. E. Sumerau

Imagine the terror and exhilaration of a first sexual experience in a church where you could be caught at any moment. In Cigarettes & Wine, this is where we meet an unnamed teenage narrator in a small southern town trying to make sense of their own bisexuality, gender variance, and emerging adulthood. When our narrator leaves the church, we watch their teen years unfold alongside one first love wrestling with his own sexuality and his desire for a relationship with God, and another first love seeking to find herself as she moves away from town. Through the narrator’s eyes, we also encounter a newly arrived neighbor who appears to be an all American boy, but has secrets and pain hidden behind his charming smile and athletic ability, and their oldest friend who is on the verge of romantic, artistic, and sexual transformations of her own. Along the way, these friends confront questions about gender and sexuality, violence and substance abuse, and the intricacies of love and selfhood in the shadow of churches, families, and a small southern town in the 1990’s. Alongside academic and media portrayals that generally only acknowledge binary sexual and gender options, Cigarettes & Wine offers an illustration of non-binary sexual and gender experience, and provides a first person view of the ways the people, places, and narratives we encounter shape who we become. While fictional, Cigarettes & Wine is loosely grounded in hundreds of formal and informal interviews with LGBTQ people in the south as well as years of research into intersections of sexualities, gender, religion, and health. Cigarettes & Wine can be read purely for pleasure or used as supplemental reading in a variety of courses in sexualities, gender, relationships, families, religion, the life course, narratives, the American south, identities, culture, intersectionality, and arts-based research.

For those of us who lived in the 90’s, for those of us who came from smaller towns, for those of us that felt constricted with the need to hide our ‘strangeness’ from others, Cigarettes & Wine puts you right back there, ready or not. Our unnamed protagonist navigates their teen years dealing with love, friendship, sex, and growing up.

Nothing about adolescence is cut and dried, despite what we might think at the time.  It’s like stepping on eggshells in a minefield. Adding in issues of gender and identity only make it more difficult. Our narrator is unapologitic for who he is, which I think is putting a positive example out there for any youths reading this book. There is no sugar coating here: drinking, smoking, and sex happen; also heartbreak, elation, fear, and happiness.  These are all things that happen, and I think it’s an excellent thing to see portrayed honestly, and not demonized or glorified.  It’s also good to see the topic of poly relationships pop up.

The storytelling is solid and the narrative flows well. It definitely kept me interested. The fact that it is also a part of the Social Fictions Series, crafted from interviews and research, back it with authenticity.  I appreciated the fact that it also had topics of discussion and assignments for a classroom setting. It’s not just dealing with ‘LGBTQ+ subjects’ it’s dealing with people in all their various forms in different ways that can be gleaned from this story and its characters. Overall, Cigarettes & Wine is an enjoyable and thought provoking story that I highly recommend.

Buy here==>

https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/social-fictions-series/cigarettes-and-wine/

https://www.amazon.com/Cigarettes-Wine-Social-Fictions-24/dp/9463009272/

 

Watch “Pale Winter Sun trailer” on YouTube

A quick trailer I put together for Pale Winter Sun.  Share and enjoy!

Review: Cinema by Jason Gehlert

Cinema by Jason Gehlert

Cinema is Jason Gehlert’s fifteenth entry into his library of work and his unique writing style brings horror to a new level! This collection, separated into sprawling short stories and poems, brings back several of his iconic characters as well as some thrilling new heroes. Laanes Available paints a disturbing tale about reckless teens stranded in a rundown bowling alley. Echoes is the centerpiece of the collection, featuring a group of teenagers fighting for survival inside a cave and features William, a Down Syndrome character you’ll likely not soon forget. Gehlert’s Immortal hitman Jeremiah Black (from his novel of the same name) returns in a pair of unique tales, and Malcolm Ellis for the macabre tale, My Black Valentine. Cinema also features artwork by artist Mary Ellen Doering, and marks the fifth collaboration with Black Bed Sheet Books. “Gehlert’s Cinema is a unique collection of horror stories that will keep you up at night with the lights on!” – From award-winning G.A. Minton, author of TRISOMY XXI.

I’ve been reading a lot of anthologies lately.  Not a bad thing, but I have been hankering to dig into some novels and get lost for a longer term. I decided to belay that for Cinema by Jason Gehlert, and I made the correct decision. I’ve read Gehlert’s books before, and enjoyed them immensely, so I sat back to see what sort of madness he had for me this time.

The title ‘Cinema’ is fitting.  Each story plays out very visual and textured, much like a good creepy movie would be; maybe showing some old rundown theater in a dirty back corner of town.  The illustrations provided by Mary Ellen Doering were a nice touch, which I think helped set the stage. Starting with a story of a fisherman for hire, you aren’t sure if he’s going with ‘Old Man and the Sea’ or maybe ‘Ryme of the Ancient Mariner’.  As per usual, it goes in a different direction entirely, and away we go into the darkness. The book is broken up much like a movie, with acts and intermissions.  It’s a device that works because each Act has a different tone to it.  Each story in Act One gives us twists and turns, keeping us interested.  In Echoes, we find our hero to be not whom most would expect.  In the Roade to Ruin, we find our hero to be exactly what we expect, but what he has to go through keeps you on the edge of your seat. (or bed, if you like to read in those sort of places)

The Intermission is a nice little palate cleanser.  Full of poetry, dark and moving, it helps ready for Act 2 without forfeiting the tone of the anthology. I’ll admit, while I sometimes enjoy poetry, I’m not one to speak to much on it.  I still think the peak of poetic genius lays with Shel Silverstein, so I’m probably not a great authority. I read each one, though.  Each and every word.

Act 2 starts with a seriously creepy piece of body horror in Incision.  Then we get to a treat.  Combining the worlds of his previous work in Jeremiah Black and The Ferryman, we are taken on a hell of a ride in Ferrymen: Judgement Call.  This is a world I wanted to read more of and hope there is more of it in the future.  The Devil’s Troll and Laanes Available, both delightfully disturbing lead up to My Black Valentine, where , Jeremiah Black shows up one more time in a ‘just one more before we go’ gesture. He tussles with love, devotion, and various open wounds.

Overall, this is a fun collection of stories and poetry. Each story is a ride all in of itself, leaving a lasting impression. I highly recommend this anthology.

Buy it==> https://www.amazon.com/Cinema-Jason-Gehlert/dp/1946874019/
http://downwarden.com/blackbedsheetstore/authors/jason-gehlert/cinema

Just checking in…

It’s quick update time!  Just to let you know that I haven’t fallen off a cliff or anything; we’re still alive and kicking.  The move from Austin to Allentown has taken it’s usual toll.  Give about three to four months of adjustment, and catch up time, before one is back up to steam with normal things.  But of course it’s not an actual big move until some thing really inconvenient happens just as things are settling in.  And inconvenience always comes with friends.  In this case the clutch went out on my car. As I live way too far from work to walk, or take a bus, it was all begging for rides and Lyft for me.  But rest assured the little beast is back up and running and life is resuming as normal.  Well, sorta.  We also have bugs, thanks to our upstairs neighbors.  The exterminator will be here on Thursday, and we have to figure out what to do with the animals for three to eight hours.  (insert sarcastic cheering here)

I really just want to write and edit.  Honestly, it’s about all I think of.  My work schedule is not helping make time for it either, but I can figure out a way around that.  It’s all this other crap that keeps getting in the way.  Who knew that just doing what it takes to survive eats up all your time and energy? Weird, right?

I need to win the lottery.  Or sell the rights of one of my stories to someone.
Anyone have the phone number for Hollywood?

Oh well.  The important thing is that Mel and I are doing well, and that I can get some writing done here and there.  And speaking of which: my next WIP novel is still in Beta reader/edit mode.  And as usual I’m still not sure what to title it.  I’m quite excited about it.  But because writers are delicate snowflakes, the more pumped I get about a project, the more I question my skills as an author of words and letters. So it’s the usual; excitement mixed with crippling doubt.

I have far too many side projects going on, so I’ve settled (for now) on an anthology of short stories, a serial if you will, involving a world where all the horror movie tropes are real and everyday.  A bit of a parody, but high on the horror factor.  My main character is in a slow process of MTF gender transition.  I’m having fun with it, and considering publishing one or two of the stories before hand.  Side note, if anyone is transgender and would like to beta read these stories to make sure I’m getting my character right, PLEASE hit me up.

I do have a story being published in Shadows and Light Anthology this fall, so that is exciting.  I guess I could have started with that.  I am very happy to be in this years edition, as there is always superb writing every year, and it’s nice to have a story along side all that goodness.

Last but not least, you can expect a book review in the next day or two.  To be honest, the whole point of this post was to say that I’m running way behind on everything (still) and expect a book review.  I’ve gotten away from the reviews and interviews, but I’m thinking of fixing that.  I like sharing new and different things with people and would like to do that again. Stay tuned.

Remember kids; stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and it’s all shits and giggles until someone giggles and shits.

Save Money – Buy Books!

(Updated – The kindle edition is now permanently $1.  I feel strong about this story and I want it easy to acquire by those who could benefit from it.)

For a limited time, get Pale Winter Sun on sale.  Just dropped the price of both Kindle and Paperback.  Also, fyi, if you buy the paperback, you can get the ebook for only a buck!

Lessons learned from a positive review

I’d like to post a review I received a while back and then discuss it for a moment.

(Reprinted with permission)


  •  Pale Winter Sun

    Intriguing, unique, distinctive

    4.4 stars

    Mick Collins’ book Pale Winter Sun synopsis from Good reads:

    Isolation in the cold of winter. That’s all Mark Jensen has as he fights to survive.

    Living in the small Mormon community of Grason, Idaho, Mark and his best

    friend Trevor have no one but themselves. Both are shunned from their families

    for simply trying to live open and honestly as homosexual. Cold and queer, the

    boys make do with what little they can, counting on no one but themselves in

    the stark Idaho countryside.

    Mark’s struggles increase when he becomes afraid of confiding in his last

    friend. The growing realization that he is bisexual confuses and conflicts him.

    It leaves him feeling more alone than ever. Friendships are redefined and

    stretched to the limit as the two young men scratch by and they ask

    themselves; can they survive each other?

     

    It is very rare to read a book that strays from the normal plotline. Collins’ book

    was definitely different from what I normally read, but it was a breath of fresh

    air. The daily struggles the characters face places ideas in a new perspective.

  • People in similar situations as the characters share the same feelings and

    conflicts. To be able to experience that through the characters was intriguing.

    For the most part, people do not realize the struggle that comes for being a

    homosexual. Collins’ was able to show the internal conflict not only between

    the character relationships, but also the individual themselves. The atmosphere

    of the book (winter, cold, isolation) compares with the feelings of the two main

    characters. They are considered queer, people are cold toward them, and they

    feel isolated from their community. The storyline was unique and it made it

    stand out. Mark was a strong character in the book. He stayed true to himself

    and it stood out throughout the book.

    The reason it did not get 5 stars was due to the writing itself. The writing style

    was not as refined as some other books, but there is emotion and the message

    is clear. If the writing style was more fine-tuned, then the book would have

    been even more captivating.

    Emma Hall (The Kindle Book Review)

    The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an

    independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the

    author or Amazon.


Ms. Hall wasn’t able to post this to Amazon because it someone from the Kindle Book Review already posted one, apparently.  Amazon (wisely) won’t let me post it under my own name, so I am posting it here. Which does kinda suck, because I lost a few reviews when I uploaded a new edition a couple months ago.

(Updated – the review has been posted to Amazon.  Thanks to G.W. Wright for showing me what to do)

Sales haven’t been great, especially since the new edition came out, and that is partially my fault.  I haven’t been pushing it much, mainly due to work and trying to get over this damned cold. But then again, sales for books, especially self pubs, are down anyway. I have already put in some time to find new and exciting ways to get the word out, but that takes time and money.  I am stock piling both so I can do it right. That includes a push to get the book into libraries and local stores in Allentown.  I’ll keep you fine folks posted on that as developments happen.

Back to the review:
This review is indicative of a common thread I have come across with Pale Winter Sun.  The message, the story, and the characters are engaging and on point. The narrative isn’t typical to the genre and the overall feel of the story is of isolation. Mark and Trevor’s struggle are not trivialized, and Mark’s journey especially, is clear.

This is what I wanted.  I wanted the points to be clear, non-cliched, and the story to be interesting.  I feel that is mission accomplished.  Go me!

….but…

The other common thread is that the writing lacks.  I had hoped that getting it edited again would relieve that particular problem.  And while it was much needed and certainly helped immensely, it didn’t solve it completely.  And if you know writers, a ship full of compliments can sink with one tiny raft of critisism.  We writers are an emotionally unstable and touchy lot.  So yeah, the last bit kinda bummed me out.  I try not to stay down long, or dwell on the negative, despite my proclivity to so exactly that.  Hell, if a lifetime of battling depression has taught me one thing it is DON’T FEED THE BEAST.

I stood back and looked at this review, and other feedback I’ve received, and put it into perspective. When I wrote PWS, it was message driven.  I had a point to make, dammit, and I was going to make it.  Well that’s great, but in doing so, I let my writing of said message suffer. Another thing I realized; I have only published two books and a few short stories.  Night Shall Overtake was picked up by the first publisher I sent it to. To be honest, I didn’t really expect it to get published in the first place.  Really, I decided to test the field with it while trying to hammer out another project.  While amazing and awesome, it also spoiled me.  Thankful as I am, I’m sure there would have been lessons to learn had I needed to work at getting it published more than I did.  PWS being self published, I think those lack of lessons hurt in terms of the strength of how it is written.

Being the pragmatist that I am, I had to think about what I was going to do about all this. PWS will probably not go though a third edition any time soon.  I’ve too many other projects on the burner right now.  And honestly, I haven’t the heart to rip it apart one more time. (and maybe I’m just a little bit lazy, too) If my writing lacks a little, but the story still holds up, I’ll take it and go with that for now.  I still think it’s a book that can help kids, and parents, dealing with gender, identity, sexuality, and all the components that make up a family.

If PWS is staying put, then where am I employing these learned lessons? The future of course, or really, the present.  Current projects are under severe scrutiny and retooling.  I am still trying to find my voice and become a better writer.  A task that will never end, most likely.  If I focused too much on story, and not enough on style, then I will work hard to get my style down.  Hopping genres probably didn’t help the issue either.  My next novel, A Geography of Purgatory(working title), is back to the dark and gritty and I think it’s the perfect chance to really find myself as the writer I can be. As someone who takes such things seriously, I owe it to myself.  I also feel that I owe it to anyone who decides to take a chance on one of my books.  There is a godawful amount to stuff to read out there, if they do pick up something of mine, I want to make damned sure it’s worth their time.

In case you are wondering: I have no time lines on Geography as it’s still out to the beta readers, but I’ll keep you posted. Going to try the standard publisher route again, then if that doesn’t pan out, I’ll self pub. At least that’s the current plan.

tl;dr – Writer gets a good review, then whines about it.  In the end he learns a very important lesson.

Remember kids: Stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and mistakes are good as long as you learn something from it.

 

 

 

On The Road (not the Kerouac one)

So, in case you were wondering, we made it safe and sound in Allentown.  We’ve been here a week so far and right now the snow is flurrying outside my window.  After almost a decade in Austin Texas, it’s nice to see snow laden trees and white along the horizon again.  Of course the first time I have to drive on icy and snowy roads my opinion will change and I will rue the snow as the chilly hell it is.  I miss being north.

I’ve never been in the northeast, being the westerner that I am, but so far so good.  Row homes, walking to the market instead of driving, and weather that doesn’t change 20 degrees up or down in an hour is my jam, son.  Yes I’ve already gotten a parking ticket because I’m still trying to figure out the parking situation on my block, but that’s neither here nor there.  Once we get acclimated and the job situation settled in, I can see myself getting plenty of inspiration for upcoming writing projects.  I have some stuff on the burner, but I think Pennsylvania has some new things to show me that I can use.  Like old houses, abandon factories, wooded areas, and Bucks County.  ( I hear it’s creepy as hell and M Night Shamalamadingdong films all his movies there.  Should be something dark and inspirational there, right?)

And before you ask, yes we drove the entire way.  A Penske truck with a car hauler on the ass end, all the way from Austin to Allentown, and with two cats and a dog.  About 30 hours of road time, give or take.  Mel and I saw a lot of pretty country side and it didn’t drag on nearly as bad as I thought it would.  I did learn a few things though.  1) Getting out of Texas take about 3/4 the total time of driving anywhere.  The state never ends.  Ever.  I’m still not totally convinced we actually have left the Texas border yet.  2) Louisiana needs to do something with thier friggen roads. I actually stopped off the side of the road in Shreveport to make sure I didn’t have a flat tire.  That bad.  3) While Birmingham might be a nice place full of nice people, none of them were on the road that same time we were as we drove through.  The flyovers reminded me of that show ‘Life After People’ when they showed overpasses a couple decades after people had gone.  Not encouraging at 65mph and on the top level.

AND THEN THERE WAS CHATTANOOGA…. Nothing against the town itself, mind you.  A pretty drive leading up to and out of it.  The problem we had turned out to be the blinding driving monsoon-like deluge that happened once we hit city limits.  I literally LITERALLY could see nothing but the tail lights ahead of me.  So here we are 65mph, speeding over the top teir of flyovers, and completely blinded by the rain.  The tail lights of the idiot pulling the little U-Haul trailer in front of me and the white line of the road to my right were the only thing that kept us from dying a horrible wet death.  This is not hyperbole.  I could neither stop nor pull off the road.  These were not straight roads, nor flat.  The Penske corporation will have to replace the steering wheel to get the imprint of my death grip removed from the truck.

As we drove out of town, we crested one of the big hills as the rain finally died down to a trickle.  Quietly we stopped a gas station just off the highway.  In the spirit of levity, I said, “Well, that sucked.” I have third degree burns on the side of my face from the look I received from Melody.  Then we laughed like idiots, that ‘how the hell did we not just die’ shock induced laughter.  I’m pretty sure people in Tennessee thought we escaped from some sort of facility.  After that, the road wasn’t too bad.  Got a chilly two hour nap in Virginia before the home stretch.

But we are here now and I’m ready to get down to business. This is a new chapter and a new adventure and I’m ready to embrace it. By the throat if I have to.

Remember kids; stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and now for a real Philly Cheesesteak.

2nd edition – Pale Winter Sun – Ready for your Consumption

Huzzah!!

Insert fanfare and rejoicing here.

Pale Winter Sun is now the book is should have always been.  A 2nd edition is up and ready.  Many thanks to all those who helped in the process, including Apache and JD, and all those who beta read at the beginning.  I want to especially thank A.M. Leibowitz for the stellar professional proofread and suggestions she made to strengthen this story.

Nothing major was changed in terms of story, but I did tighten up the mechanics and a few points I really should have cross-referenced better before publishing.  That’s the nice thing about self-pub I guess, when someone points out something you screwed up, you can go back and fix it.  I am nothing if not receptive to suggestions and can pack my ego away enough to admit that I done f#^%ed up and fix it.

The plus side (one of many) is that there is already some chatter about this new edition and talk of it taking up residence on some library shelves.  This is something important to me, so I want to get this on as many library shelves as possible.  (I won’t go on about why I think this story is important, etc, etc; because I’m sure you’re sick of me bringing them up)

Let’s keep up the momentum and get this book EVERYWHERE!!

Shameless plugs and links:
For editing work I highly suggest A.M. Leibowitz – www.amleibowitz.com

PWS on kindle – www.amazon.com/Pale-Winter-Sun-Michael-Collins-ebook/dp/B06W551N7L

PWS paperback – www.createspace.com/6477222

 

Remember kids: stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and support your local word slinger.

Quick update# 382

coverB-circle                               ecfe32be43d3e5c3a6149abebd908e40

We did it!!  Well, to be fair, YOU did it.  Pale Winter Sun needed a tune up and the Gofundme I set up to pay for a 2nd edition met it’s goal.  This book means a lot to me, and even in it’s busted-ass edition, it is still touching people.  I’ve already sent it to an amazing editor who I know will get it right. A shiny new edition will be available soon, most likely in February or March.

That being said, expect another flurry of pandering and begging of people to buy books.  This time I’m doing it right.  I want to thank everybody who not only donated to the cause, but those who also shared my posts and kept the conversation going about it.  Maybe those shares didn’t equal into dollars every time, but it still means a lot to me.

Thank you again, and expect a new and improved PWS soon!

Remember kids: stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and it’s never too late to start all over again.

 

Another year to try and get it right.

Well, we made it.  Another trip around the sun and we are still here.  Go us!  We tentatively step into 2017, cautious in our expectations.  And why shouldn’t we be; 2016 was a sphincter of a year.  Yes, we lost a lot of our heroes, but we also saw a huge rise in racism, violence, LGBT+phobia, and a sham of an election.  Every year has as much potential to be great as it does to suck, but so far the deck seems stacked against us.  All I can say about it is that we need to take action where action needs taken and we need to watch out for each other.  All of us.  Even the assholes.

I don’t do resolutions, but I don’t go into anything without some sort of game plan.  2017 will be a year of changes and I am ready to embrace whatever changes come my way.

I am ready to write more.
I am ready to market more.
I am ready to play more music.
I am ready to explore new locales (both external and internal)
I am ready to take better care of myself.
I am ready to do more to make the world a better place.

I learned a lot during the last year.  Not only about the world, but myself and my craft.  I am seeing more of what I need to concentrate on, especially on the post production part.  I need to work on my prose, round out my characters, etc etc.  I also need to play waaay more bass than I have been.  Maybe make some new music while I’m at it.

For the upcoming year, I can only wish for the best, prepare for the worst, and hope that we all get through it okay.

Happy New Year.

Remember kids: stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and Auld Lang Syne.

P.S.  – I still need help with Pale Winter Sun. It needs a new edition and that takes money.  Every donation over $5 gets you little something for your donation. 

https://www.gofundme.com/pale-winter-sun-2nd-edition

 

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