Tag Archives: indie books

Global Ebook Awards 2013, Best LGBT Fiction: “The Agony of Joy” by Red Haircrow


It’s one of those things…well, it’s one of those things I never actively think of: winning an award, but I know what The Agony of Joy meant to me. It’s fiction, but it’s also my story in that it is based on real life situations I’ve dealt with (and still do in some ways) and what others close to me have experienced. Being a child abuse survivor, devastatingly losing a beloved to suicide, parental distance and strife.


It took me almost ten years to complete, from beginning to end, because it is a very vividly realized novel, which can have “triggers” for survivors like me. Triggers refers to those phrases, suggestions, scenes or dialogue that “trigger” memories of abuse or some other traumatic episode, but my point wasn’t to force that: it was simply to present the reality we live with every single day.


The moments we have to fight through when others are oblivious, just to keep going: to keep walking, to keep working, to go about daily activities. Sometimes it is excruciating physically, mentally and emotionally, but we go on because that’s what we know to do, and because those ones who hurt us didn’t ultimately break our hope or belief in goodness or in trying to do good for others because that is what helps us keep living.


There’s an anonymous saying: “Always be kinder than necessary. You never know what someone is going through.” That is CANON. Too few people ever consider such a thing, only thinking of themselves, their own needs and wants for even the most minor thing.


Almost ten years. I had to take a hiatus from writing AofJ because my own memories were close to overwhelming me at times. Like the character Adrian Lee also, the family divide because of choices and sexuality, the disrespectful and insulting treatment hurled my way was tearing me down. But I completed the book eventually.


And then you submit your book. And you receive replies like:


“This is ordinary….”


“This didn’t grab me….”


“This is too unreal, unbelievable….”


When it was my life. It was the life of men I’ve known, loved, and some of whom are now dead because the crushing disappointment  of being dismissed, disbelieved or disrespected became too much for them. Most of the scenes/locations in the novel are based on actual places, restaurants, places I’ve lived and explored.


I believed in this work. It was a complete labor of love, hard fought and won. I didn’t let the literal couple of hundred of rejections get me down, but I also didn’t go with a couple of acceptances as the understanding of what the novel is was important for the story and for me. I knew it was a story I had to tell because it was important not only for me, but for millions of others who have lived or are living in such situations regardless of social status, religion or belief system, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, etc.


No, awards aren’t everything. There are many great books out there that don’t get the attention they deserve. This award was important for me because I know publishers, especially traditional ones, are very dismissive, often editors only go by their own whims or reading tastes, and what they THINK readers want. I’m glad the judges of this award were more objective and recognized Agony for what I tried my damndest to present just as it had been lived.


My latest interview for this novel was at the AuthorQuiz website, where you can read more details about its writing and background. The book trailer is below. It was first published at Smashwords, and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo and other online distributors.


Other of my posts about The Agony of Joy:



Description: “Former model turned actor Adrian Lee can barely list age range ’23-29′ on his resumé anymore nor stand his life of empty social events and appearances, meaningless roles and casual partners. When he meets Alexander Skizetsky by clever arrangement of his agent, the enigmatic yet infinitely attractive Russian kindles a little light of hope in his aching heart. Yet even the beginnings of a friendship and love beyond his wildest dreams cannot assuage a life spiraling out of control.


The long estrangement from his devout Irish Catholic parents and family and the dark secrets they all share combine to drive him to the brink of despair, though Alexander is determined to stay by his side. After locking away his own memories of betrayal and loss, the Russian had decided never to love again but something in Adrian spurs the noblest intentions in his formerly jaded heart. Returning in pilgrimage to his homeland, he brings Adrian along on a journey of rebirth, revelation and redemption.”

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Filed under Announcements, Book Trailers, Books, Fiction, Gay Interest, GLBTIIQ, GLBTIIQ Interest, Writers and Writing

A Disruptive Invention by Peter W. Shackle

Review: “A Disruptive Invention” is what might be called “serious” science fiction as obviously the author is well knowledgeable about his topic and this is evidenced throughout by lengthy passages of technical details or one character imparting paragraphs of information. I did find the many secondary characters introduced with extended background information rather distracting, especially in that I had a greater interest in the settings themselves.

I looked forward to the views of Redstone Arsenal for example, as I used to live and work there with a certain level of security clearance. Some statistics seemed a little off regarding Alabama and its population (but only someone who’s lived there might know), but there were other items I knew well, such as the munition testing that sounds periodically and the Biergarten café. I personally know the family that owned and managed, for they are long-time friends of mine.

“A Disruptive Invention” had a great story premise and I found it intriguing from the very first and the author imparted great enthusiasm in his work, but the descriptive attempts at interpersonal behaviors, skills and/or relationships between characters were sometimes a little too stereotypically “geeky” or genderized for me. For example, the woman on the John’s team, Judy seemed to be thinking about men all the time and/or how she looked or having a relationship. When this occurred in the narrative or dialogue, it “stuttered” the story for me, but never stopped my forward motion because of the strength of the central plot.

Those looking for a strong sci-fi story with lots of detail and historical background included would find “A Disruptive Invention” of interest. It really makes you think about what would happen to the world if such technology became widely available.

Description: John Sykes, an inventive young engineer, accidentally discovers the long predicted “Fifth Force” of physics, which allows levitation against gravity. Follow his encounters with the world of venture capital, the patent office, foreign spies and the air force as he forms a company to make a UFO like vehicle that could reshape the global balance of power. John’s adventures take him from his home in Long Beach CA, to the security of the Redstone Arsenal in AL and then on to the ultra secret Area 51. Experience the mystery when the first mission shows that they are not alone in space!

Publication Date:  17 January 2011

Publisher: Peter W. Shackle via Smashwords

Genre: Science Fiction

Format: Ebook and Kindle

Purchase Link/Excerpt

Source: Author

Author Bio:

Peter W. Shackle is a professional engineer and inventor living in Palos Verdes California. He has a Ph.D. in physics from Trinity College, Cambridge in the UK. A life senior member of the IEEE, he has authored 53 United States patents.

Website: http://adisruptiveinvention.com

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Filed under Reviews, Science Fiction

Drum Dance by Bonnie Turner

Review: “Drum Dance” begins with a believable premise many people might identify with: the attempt to get know a parent again after being separated for some time. As young David is flown to the icy trading post which his father manages, the battle through the elements was particularly outstanding. Not trying to stereotype all seventeen year olds, but I found some of the thought processes, reasoning and observations suggesting experiences were somewhat beyond the main character’s years, and more representative of a matured man in his thirties. I realize, however, this is taking into consideration the time period as well as David’s expressed Christian upbringing.  Perhaps this was an unspoken element dating the setting, for many young people then had responsibilities beyond some of the social media, fashion and/or entertainment obsessed adolescents of today, so very self-centred in concerns.

Some things which worked against the pacing for me was the fact it is a dialogue heavy manuscript where the speaker isn’t always clearly confined, which I sometimes found confusing. Changes in sentence and paragraph structure might have helped this. I felt providing scene details and background information would have been better served in smaller portions at a time, or at set times within a scene which didn’t isolate sentences of a conversation.  Such as in the scene when David meets his father again after long years of separation, during a rather emotional exchange, we’re panned off to a couple of paragraphs describing the room before it picks up again. There are some editing issues, especially towards the end but I would attribute this to the fact I was supplied with a final manuscript in .doc form and not the finished .pdf version.

It’s an engaging tale, rather a “coming of age” of sorts, and it’s a nice step outside the bounds of truly contemporary works though it’s not quite historical fiction. It’s set in the late nineteen thirties, yet except for a few references to the Great Depression and the beginning of World War 2, it could have been any time period, for the way of life in the snow and ice of the great Canadian north is in many ways unchanged in basic needs, daily life and activities. Plotting was good, and the author’s knowledge of the Canadian Artic and this particular indigenous tribe was apparent, which is a huge plus in “Drum Dance’s” favour. The supporting characters, mostly in the form of natives, were “real” for me, and the main character David, likeable. Although I had a lingering wish for more narratives and less “spoken” words to provide a greater depth and inspiration for empathy, I was satisfied with the story as a whole, and found the work one to admire.

Personal Note: As a Native American, I particularly respected the author’s not presenting native customs and life in a derogatory manner simply because it is different than Euro-Christian beliefs.

Description: A young-adult historical novel set in Canada’s central Arctic in the late 1930s.

Seventeen-year-old David Jansson moves to an isolated fur-trading post at Gjoa Haven to live with his estranged father, Per Jansson, manager for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Expecting a loving reunion when he arrives on the harsh, sunless island in late February, David instead finds an alcoholic father with a flash temper. David’s struggle to stay sane amid conflict over a half-blood Inuit girl, a shaman who sees the youth’s potential for shamanism, plus David’s chilling psychic abilities, lead him to risk his life by underestimating the weather … and his own heart … in the same area where Sir John Franklin and his crew froze to death searching for the Northwest Passage.

  • Paperback, 240 pages, also in Kindle format
  • Published December 6th 2010 by Lulu.com (Imprint: Aurorawolf) (first published November 14th 2010)
  • ISBN13-9780557855216
  • Buy Link: Amazon, Smashwords, and Lulu.com
  • Source: Author
  • Genre: Young Adult, Recent Historical Fiction


Filed under Child/YA Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Mind Café by Lizzy Ford

Review: “Mind Café” was a story I found while roaming through Smashwords, and found the description appealing. There were a couple of times when sentence structure in the narrative portions left me somewhat confused as to what was happening and when, but this story grabbed me from the very first sentence which was outstanding in its unspoken encouragement to have me read more.

Dialogue was naturally flowing and enjoyable. The descriptions were perfectly on time, just enough for you to visualize and build upon in your own mind, without slowing the pace. The story was one almost anyone could understand and find themselves empathizing with the main character, yet with special touches that made it personal. You were made to imagine yourself being in their position, wondering what you would do.

“Mind Café” shows a unique view of life, death and dying which I felt privileged to have seen from the author’s perspective. Don’t mistake it as a mere story of a life’s end, but how life can continue on as long as you are convinced you are alive.

I will admit that despite all the books, short stories and poetry I’ve read, several thousand, there are many I’ve liked or even loved, but there are a limited number which have personally touched my emotions in this way. Mind Café is truly outstanding writing, an unforgettable story and proof positive against those who believe self-published or “indie” titles are less worthy than those offered by traditional publishers.

Description: The Mind Café: death’s waiting room and the only refuge for a woman trapped in her body after a tragic accident leaves her unable to do anything but watch the world and think. A fiction, paranormal short story just under 5,000 words, part of a larger collection of stories depicting a day in the life of the unique.

Buy Link/Publisher: Smashwords

Fiction, Fantasy, Speculative

Format/Length: eBook, 4968

Source: Author


Filed under Fiction, Speculative