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==>



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==>

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.