Binge on Books Top Books of 2017: Edwin’s Favorites

Edwin‘s top reads of the year

As designated Chief SFF Nerd at Binge On Books, it feels appropriate for my top 4 reads of the year to also be in the SFF genres. So what follows are the four science fiction and fantasy novels I read and enjoyed the most, in no particular order.  Before I get to that, though, I should mention some books in the contemporary queer romance genre I enjoyed very much this year. Some honorable mentions, if you will: Kim Fielding’s Love is Heartless, Roan Parrish’s Small Change, and Liz Jacobs’ Abroad: part 1 are all wonderful books and well worth your time.  I should also add that there are 2 or 3 other books it was really hard to leave off the list.  2017 has not been a good year, but it has had some damn good books.  Now on to the main event. Read More

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The Romance of Fan Fiction, part 4 by Jude Sierra

Hello all! Happiest of Novembers to everyone. This month we wanted to welcome Jude Sierra for two exciting reasons: first for a very first look at her upcoming novel and second, for a four part series she wrote for Binge On Books. Jude will be spending the month of November discussing the intersections between some of her favorite things: fanfiction, romance novels, and authors you know who play in both sandboxes! Jude will be talking with some of your favorite romance authors throughout the month about their fanfiction to original fiction publication stories and just how important fan communities have been to them.

Before we get down to the nitty gritty, there’s one more order of business. It’s been a little while since we’ve seen a new novel by Jude, and we’re excited to announce the details of her upcoming novel, A Tiny Piece of Something Greater.

Blurb: Reid Watsford has struggled with his cyclothemia his whole life. When his grandmother offers him a place to stay at her condo in Key Largo, he decides to leave Wisconsin, his ex, and his family to try to make a fresh start. There he meets Joaquim, a Brazilian wanderer who came to the US looking for adventure, and ended up an intern at the Key Largo Dive Shop. When Reid signs up for his introductory dive classes, it seems an adventure has come to Joaquim—but Reid has a lot of secrets, and a past he can’t quite escape. As their relationship deepens, so do Reid’s complications, something they both must learn to navigate—on their own and with each other.

Coming from Interlude Press on May 17th, 2018. 


The Romance of Fanfiction, part 4

Why Fanfiction:

As I wrap up this blog series, I find that I could say so many more things about what a gift fanfiction and fan communities are and have been for me. Let’s be honest, that’s basically what I’ve done this past month: write a long winded love letter to the practice, but also in a way, to the authors whose work I love and who too have loved what fanfiction has given them.

When I interviewed authors, my final question was this: if you could tell the world one positive thing about fanfiction or fanfiction communities, what would it be? Community, friendship, learning experiences, cultural importance: these were just some of the answers I received.

Co-writers Tom Wilinsky and Jen Sternick, themselves authors of fanfiction, described other fan authors as, “incredibly dedicated. They spend hours and hours creating new stories, verses and series, for an audience that doesn’t even know their real names, let alone pay for their work.” This dedication and love for work and fictional worlds is what led Tom and Jen to their write own original fiction: one of the main characters in their soon to be released novel, Snowsisters, writes fanfiction and is active in online communities. Their example, and that of authors who described the doors opened to them through fanfiction, shows this – that fanfiction offers a world of opportunity and inspiration and future potential.

I’ll be honest and say that one of my favorite responses to my final question came from Racheline Maltese (Love in Los Angeles series, Tremontaine). “People who like stuff hang out and talk about it. I feel like that’s a really minor, bland statement, but that’s sort of my point. It’s like any other hobby, sometimes it’s where you meet your best friends.” In this series of blog posts, there were so many threads I could have explored; so many lovely things each author shared. At the end of the day, however, one of the most important things I’d love to see would be readers of this series walked away with this: it doesn’t always have to be complicated. Yes, sometimes it is complex. But it’s also just fun.

Writing fanfiction is often a breath of fresh air. It’s enjoyable and it’s a rollercoaster. It’s a unique experience shared with other people who just love a thing as much as you do. It’s filled with laughter and tears. I once wrote a story so filled with cute banter I woke my husband up laughing. For those of us in the Glee community, losing Corey Monteith was a tremendous blow. Writing about Finn was cathartic, it was healing, and it helped us feel like we weren’t alone. Writing fanfiction provides us with an outlet to love and remember a thing together, whether in joy, sorrow, and the millions of nuanced human experiences and emotions in between.

For many of us fanfiction has allowed us to see or place ourselves – our othered selves – within stories that often exclude us. For Taylor Brooke (Fortitude Smashed), fandom was a place to create a self-affirming, inclusive narrative. “I wanted to see more of the characters in certain fandom worlds and more importantly, I wanted to see them Queer. I wrote stories where characters were out and proud… because I was desperate to find myself in media.” So many of us want our queer bodies, our colored bodies, our real selves to be reflected in the world and in media. Fanfiction is a space where we get to do that.

There is often a practice of justification many of us fanfiction authors feel we must participate in in order to be taken seriously. I want to shelve that and redirect to the best of this world. The final message from authors interviewed then: here we learned to write. Here we had fun. Here we learned how to put ourselves into conversations that have marginalized or excluded us, giving ourselves affirming stories, love stories, queer and erotic stories – and with them, lifelong friendships and communities of love and support.

Personally, fanfiction and fandom have meant the absolute world to me. Without them I would never have this platform to even share these stories. I wouldn’t be published. More importantly, there would be huge parts of myself (my sexuality, my desire to connect with community stories and narratives, my intense love of fictional stories and characters) I would not understand. But whether big or small, lighthearted and simple or deeply personal, writing fanfiction has been life changing. I wouldn’t change a thing.


Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who  began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007. In 2011Jude was introduced to the Glee fan community began writing fanfiction, where her stories garnered thousands of readers.

Jude is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews.  Her novels include Hush,  What it Takes,  and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her upcoming novel, A Tiny Piece of Something Greater will be available in May of 2018.

Social Media Links: Website Twitter Goodreads Facebook


Tom Wilinsky and Jen Sternick are two friends who started a conversation in high school and years later are still talking. Together they write LGBTQIAP+ YA fiction, and blog about LGBTQAIP+ books at neverhaveieverbooks (@nhiebooks). Their upcoming novel, Snowsisters, will be coming in February of 2018.


Racheline Maltese is a hybrid author who has published in non-fiction, fanfiction and with various small, medium and big five presses. She has published several novels, novelas and short stories with fellow fan author Erin McRae. Their most recent work is the award winning A Queen from The North. They can be found at www.Avian30.com.


Taylor Brooke if a former special effects makeup professional and the author of the Camelia Clock series the first of which, Fortitude Smashed was published in 2017. The sequel, Curved Horizon will be released in March of 2018.


 

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Urban Fantasy Buddy Review: The Year of the Knife by G.D. Penman

The Year of the Knife by G. D. Penman

Published by: Meerkat Press

Format: mobi

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Mystery

Order at: Publisher | Amazon | B&N

Reviewed by: Edwin & Alex

What to Expect: Fun, ambitious, mostly successful queer urban fantasy featuring a kickass heroine, tons of magic, and an alternative history of the good ol’ US of A. Read More

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Guest Post: How Much Does a Bear Weigh? (And Other Things a Novelist Needs to Know) by Alysia Constantine

 How Much Does a Bear Weigh? (And Other Things a Novelist Needs to Know) by Alysia Constantine

My Google search history and my little notebook of Things to Remember have become quite amusing reads this year. My second novel, Olympia Knife, tells the story of a woman who grows up in a travelling circus in early 20th Century America, and in researching that book (even if it was often only on Google and not through airless hours in the library, as I was trained for), I wound up seeking the answers to a hundred little questions that presented themselves: how much would Viselik, the trained bear, weigh? How many of those mean, alcohol-soaked clowns could fit into a clown car, and is it a special car? When was the circus canon invented (in case I want to shoot a character out of one)? How do you swallow a sword?

Since the novel takes place in the early 20C, this research was made ever more important by my need to be historically accurate. I also wound up researching period circus costumes, customs of the time and early 20C American slang. (My favorite discovery: “It’s all jake,” as in “everything’s cool”.) I even found myself trying to figure out when folks in the U.S. started saying “OK.” (In case you need to know, it was originally a joke in Boston ‘round about the 1830s… cool Bostonians liked to abbreviate everything—“That’s an NG” instead of “That’s a no-go”, for instance—and OK stands for “Orl Korrect,” which is the 1830s Bostonian’s Intentional Silly-Talkin’ way of saying “All Correct.”)

My point, I suppose, was that the old saw “write what you know” will only get you so far. In my case, it means all my novels would be about middle-aged, fat, disabled, white, first generation, lesbian professors who live in New York and have two dogs. That would dubiously be good for one novel, but after that, one probably must move on. On the other hand, I’ve never been interested in “historical fiction,” either—like sci-fi, much of it seems too caught up in the details of the unfamiliar world, and privileges those details over good, strong characters, beautiful language and sensory detail (the good stuff, of course, doesn’t… hence my love for Octavia Butler).

So how does one strike the balance between research and writing when one’s writing something creative? It’s a version of that same predicament about whether good writing requires routine and diligence or inspiration. (I cannot count how many people, upon hearing that I write novels, have made the assumption that I sit around eating bonbons and waiting for inspiration to strike. I must then explain that if I did that, I’d never write anything at all, because I usually find other things—things that don’t feel like work, like sorting through my fourth-grade papers or arranging my socks—more inspiring, and that writing, at least for me, is work and often an unpleasant task I must make myself do on the regular by, usually, sitting at my laptop for a prescribed 6 hours a day.) Eating bonbons is pretty good, too—as long as I’m also working.

What I’ve finally discovered, well into my forties, is that for me, writing works best as a tightrope walk balanced between inspiration and routine: I must get myself inspired within the confines of a routine. Research helps with this—I can spend hours flipping through pictures of early 20C circus performers, or reading about the history of poi spinning (that’s twirling stuff, often stuff on fire, for you uninitiated folks). But if I limit myself to twenty minutes of research, which must be followed by an hour of writing, I have the inspiration I need to feed me in the drudgery, and the structure to make sure the drudgery gets properly drudged.

Here’s the disenchanting, unromantic truth: writing is usually neither fun nor magical nor John-Berryman-wild-eyed-crazy-inspired. Writing drunk or high doesn’t usually make for good writing, either, at least in my experience. (Lots of writers wrote in spite of drinking or drug use, not because of it.) Dead Poets Society got it 100% wrong: writing is work, often unpleasant or tough or boring or just unrewarding in the moment, and rarely does it involve standing on your chair and bursting with emotion and quoting Whitman. And almost never does a writer get to witness the effects of the writing (except when a reader makes the effort to find her and tell her about it, ahem, friends).

I’m not trying to make writing sound more difficult than it is, or more important, I’m simply trying to demystify it here.

It’s the same thing I had to learn when writing about circus stuff, too: I was really drawn to writing about trapeze performers and fat ladies and bear trainers, but what I found was that the more real I made these characters, the more I had to think about what people threw at Minnie the Fat Lady while she was on stage (newspaper, rocks and hair pins, mostly), or whether Samu slept in his bear Viselik’s cage at night (yes, he did). I also figured most of their costumes smelled like sweat, and the air around the Flying Knifes was always filled with chalk dust from their hands. And the clowns were mean and cliquish and a little bit ominous.

Oh—and in case you were wondering and your Googling finger is broken, the answers to the questions I began with are, in order: about 400 pounds; between 14 and 21 clowns in a car without seats; the first human canon ball performed in 1877.

And how do you swallow a sword? Very carefully.


Alysia Constantine is the author of the novels Sweet (2016) and Olympia Knife (2017). She lives in the lower Hudson Valley of New York with her wife, two dogs, a cat, and a cucumber vine that has completely taken over the garden and produces ridiculous, armlength cucumbers.

Her next book is Olympia Knife. It will release on 11/3/17:

Born into a family of flying trapeze artists, Olympia Knife has one small problem: When her emotions rise, she becomes invisible. Everyone in the traveling circus has learned to live with this quirk; they banded together to raise Olympia in a loving environment when her parents vanished midair during their act, never to return. But the same fate befalls Arnold, the world’s shortest man, followed by one act after another, until the show is a crumbling mess of tattered tents and terrified troupers. Into this chaos walks Diamond the Danger Eater. Olympia and Diamond forge a friendship, then fall in love, and, together, resolve to stand the test of time, even as the world around them falls apart.

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Guest Post + Giveaway: When Romantic Suspense and True Crime Accidentally Meet by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Hi all! Happy Halloween! To help us celebrate this spookiest of holidays, author Rebekah Weatherspoon joins Binge on Books to talk Romantic Suspense and True Crime and also to bring you, a giveaway!


When Romantic Suspense and True Crime Accidentally Meet by Rebekah Weatherspoon

I’ve been a fan of true crime since America’s Most Wanted made me suspicious of every white man over the age of twenty-five. Now-days you could say I’m obsessed. From the old school American Justice and Forensic Files to NBC and CBS’s Dateline and 48 Hours I have a thing for what a friend of mine dubbed “Murder Shows”. Despite this weird interest of mine, I’d never considered writing horror, mystery or romantic suspense. That all changed in 2016. For obvious reasons the world got a little darker. I wanted to write something dark. I wanted to let out a little bit of the anger that was cranking through me. I started drafting HAVEN, which opens with two homicides. When I first picked the location for Shep’s mountain home I didn’t think to google any true crimes in that area. Why would I? I was writing fiction, based on my own imagination.

But, not 24 hours after I started working on HAVEN (I’d written the 2 murders in question and put the heroine and hero through one hell of a meet cute) fellow romance author, HelenKay Dimon tweeted about watching a true crime show on the Keddie Murders. I caught the tweet and just had to google. The Keddie Murders are a horrific, violent crime that resulted in the death of four people back in 1981. It also happened in the same Northern California town where I had set up Shep and his secluded cabin. I couldn’t believe it. Later, when I started listening to the true crime podcast My Favorite Murder, they too, covered the Keddie Murders that are still unsolved to this day. I ended up changing the name of Shep’s mountain because while real life does drive fiction, I didn’t want to link the two that way. The next book in the series, HARBOR, will have an intentional link to the Long Island Serial Killer, an ongoing, unsolved investigation.

 

You can learn more about what happened in Keddie California here or check out episode #13 of My Favorite Murder.

 


Rebekah Weatherspoon is celebrating Halloween with a special HAVEN giveaway! Enter below to win your choice of either an e-copy (international) or paperback (USA) of her bestseller, HAVEN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


About Haven

A week-long getaway…

City girl Claudia Cade’s carefree life is plunged into chaos when a camping trip with her brother in the national forests of Northern California turns into a deadly dash for her survival.

 

 

 

 


Bio: Award-winning author Rebekah Weatherspoon was raised in Southern New Hampshire and now lives in Southern California where she finally found her love for writing romance.
 Most recently her queer paranormal romance, SOUL TO KEEP, Book 3 in the Vampire Sorority Sisters Series won the Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBTQ Erotica. And her coming romantic suspense title, HARBOR hits shelves Spring 2018. Come on by and get to know Rebekah on twitter at @rdotspoon . You can find more stories by Rebekah at rebekahweatherspoon.com

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Romance Review: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Published by: Washington Square Press

Format: E-book

Genre: Romance

Order at: Amazon | B&N | Publisher

Reviewed by: Madison

What to Expect: A well written story that forces you to reflect on the different versions of yourself. Prepare yourself with tissues. Read More

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 11 with Michelle Osgood

Michelle Osgood joins Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from her paranormal romance, The Better to Kiss You With.


About The Better to Kiss You With: 

In the rare moments when Deanna Scott isn’t working as the moderator for Wolf’s Run, an online werewolf role-playing game, she wanders the local forest trails with her golden retriever, Arthur, and daydreams about Jaime, the attractive, enigmatic woman who lives upstairs.
As Wolf Run’s “den mother,” Deanna is accustomed to petty online drama. But when threats from an antagonistic player escalate, Deanna wonders if her awesome online job could be riskier than she’d ever imagined—and if her new girlfriend knows more about this community than she had realized.


About Michelle Osgood: 

Michelle Osgood writes queer, feminist romance from her tiny apartment in Vancouver, BC.  She loves stories in all mediums, especially those created by Shonda Rhimes, and dreams of one day owning a wine cellar to rival Olivia Pope’s.  She is active in Vancouver’s poly and LGBTQ communities, never turns down a debate about pop culture, and is trying to learn how to cook.

 

 


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here.

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Contemporary YA Fiction review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published by: Balzer + Bray

Format: mobi

Genre: YA

Order at: Publisher | Amazon | B&N

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: A stunning debut that neither flinches from telling one story of why the Black Lives Matter movement matters nor does it preach while doing so. This book is every bit as good as you’ve been told it is. Read More

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 3 with Anna Zabo

Anna Zabo joins Sounds Like Halloween with a scene from Close Quarter.


 About Close Quarter: 

On a transatlantic cruise to New York, sculptor Rhys Matherton struggles to piece his life back together after losing his mother, inheriting a fortune, and finding out his father isn’t his father after all. He spills a tray of drinks on a handsome stranger, then he finds himself up against a wall getting the best hand-job he’s ever had. And for the first time in his life, he feels whole.

Rhys enjoys the company of Silas Quint, but for the eerie way no one pays attention to them even while they kiss in a crowded bar. Silas explains he’s a forest fae able to glamor the room around them—and more importantly, that he’s on the cruise to hunt vampires. Rhys thinks Silas is full of it, until he discovers vampires are real, and he’s part of their main course.

Silas Quint can’t be distracted by a human lover, even one as lovely as Rhys. Stuck in the middle of the ocean, he has barely enough of energy to hunt the vampires he’s been sent to destroy. Rhys is full of the one thing Silas needs needs most—the element of living plants. Only sucking energy from Rhys would make Silas as soulless as the creatures he hunts. How can he keep Rhys safe, without becoming like the very monsters he hunts?



About Anna Zabo: 

Anna Zabo writes contemporary and paranormal romance for all colors of the rainbow. They live and work in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn’t nearly as boring as most people think.

Anna grew up in the wilds of suburban Philadelphia before returning to their ancestral homelands in Western Pennsylvania. As a child they were heartily disappointed to discover that they couldn’t grow up to be what they wanted (a boy, a cat, a dragon), so they settled on being themself whenever possible, which may be a combination of a boy, a cat, and a dragon. Or perhaps a girl, a knight, and a writer. Depends on whom you ask. They do have a penchant for colorful ties and may be hording a small collection of cufflinks. They can be easily plied with coffee.

Anna has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where they fell in with a roving band of romance writers and never looked back. They also have a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University. You can find Anna on Twitter as @amergina, at annazabo.com, or in their Facebook group.

Get Close Quarter now on Amazon. 


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here.


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Contemporary Queer Romance Review: Femme by Marshall Thornton

Title: Femme by Marshall Thornton

Published by: Kenmore Books

Format: Softcover

Genre: Contemporary Queer Romance

Order at: Amazon

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: One empowered femme does not need to deal with one closeted straight-acting boy’s drama…even if the sex is hot. Femme is a relatively low angst romance with pro-Boi vibes with friends and family who take a long time to figure their stuff out but do get there in the end.  Read More

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