Panorama: The Missing Chapter is a heartfelt memoir of your journey working and living in South Korea. What inspired you to share your experiences in a book?
In 2019, I wrote and published my first book, Views from the Cockpit: The Journey of a Son. The residual effect of publishing the book made me feel at peace with myself and the relationship I had with my father. Readers have also told me that Views from the Cockpit inspired them to take a different approach with their father or become more interested in forgiveness.
As I wrote my first book, I began to comb through my background of relationships. The story of Panorama bubbled up, and the time I spent living abroad in Seoul. I felt that if I shared it, someone could relate and benefit. Perhaps they could relate to escaping from problems, having secret relationships, or figuring out where they belong in the world. Not only was it interesting to reflect on these moments from my life, but in the real-world, a lot of stories surrounding bisexuality are not featured or appropriately categorized.
I appreciated the candid nature with which you told your story. What was the hardest thing for you to share in the book?
The hardest thing to share would be my social-political opinions about identity politics in America and how they’ve made me feel. Everyone can criticize anyone for anything, so I knew that I was opening myself up. When it comes to relationships and how people exist outside of heteronormativity – sometimes people just can’t understand anything else outside of that. Panorama not only exists outside of mainstream heteronormativity but also mainstream LGBT culture, which typically spotlights gay male voices. I was terrified to share a story from a minority group and criticize larger socio-political structures and members of those groups.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from your story?
There are a few things – Bi people are real – we exist and not only in a suggestive, explicit connotation. Bi people are a whole demographic of people, mostly invisible, in mainstream media and day-to-day social discourse.
Additionally, I hope people take away the importance of building bridges between communities. At the end of the book, I write about thought islands. We all want to feel safe and protected where we are. We all want to be seen and heard, and have our views get the most clicks and attention.
My goal is to build bridges, lift others, and make sure there are seats at the table for others who share in building. I also hope that people realize that the way people live, think, and behave does not put each of our identities and beliefs at risk. Somehow, if we can all get to a point to coexist, be slow to judge, we will have achieved something. I know that this is very optimistic, but I think bisexuality, in and of itself, focuses on people (men and women) and the things that make them unique.
You have another book, Views from the Cockpit. What can readers expect in that book?
Views from the Cockpit is a book born from pain. Father-son memories of plane watching at LAX quickly morph into familial dysfunction that ranges from divorce, resentment, to elder abuse. Views from the Cockpit uses airplane metaphors to tell a boy’s coming of age story into a man by reflecting on the living memory of my father – Claude B. Victory. Panorama is “the missing chapter” of Views from the Cockpit. However, both books can be read separately.
In The Empath’s Lover: A Sci-Fi MM Romance Novella by Sidonie Savage, Davon Pax is the Chief Medical Officer and Microbiologist on the Explorer 2. Davon wakes from cryo-sleep after a ten year journey from Earth and is excited to be one of the first humans to explore Neptune and its moons. But before the crew can complete the mission, their research vessel is attacked. They are saved by an alien named Tulq’on, a Kyphomi Intelligence Officer who has been studying humans. He is injured, and Davon heals him. The two find themselves feeling unexpected emotions for each other. But unless Tulq’on can convince the Kyphomi that humans are worthy of life it will be the end of all humanity.
This short novella was a quick and engaging read. I enjoyed the meeting of two worlds and reading about how Davon and Tulq’on interacted together when they first met and as they learned to communicate and discovered more about each other, both their differences and the ways that they were the same. I liked that they had compassion and respect for each other, acting selfless in putting the other before themselves, as they worked together to prove that their species could coexist. Due to the short length of the book, I felt that the conflict was resolved quickly, but I liked that the story had a happy ending for Davon and Tulq’on even though they came from different worlds.
It was interesting to learn the details of the Explorer 2’s mission at the beginning of the book, but I think this level of detail would have been better suited to a longer story, or for a story that was sci-fi fiction rather than romance. For a romance novella, the heroes should have met sooner in the story. This did not happen until after the first quarter of the book, which didn’t give the heroes much time to come to know each other before declaring their love. I felt that this was too rushed, and I would have liked the book to be a bit longer to allow for more focus on this aspect of the story. I also wanted to see how Davon adapted to life among the Kyphomi, and how Earth reacted to the introduction of the alien species. There was not much world-building and I would have liked to know more details about the Kyphomi and their society.
Pages: 76 | ASIN: B08H4W2YHF
Silent Screams by Zachary Ryan follows the lives of four high school friends forced to grow up due to a school shooting. Lane struggles with whether or not to come out to his friends while mourning the loss of his lover. Cass struggles to find someone to save her from her home life. Zachary deals with losing what she thinks makes her special. Ben finds his life of luxury torn away and struggles to figure out who he is without it. Being friends with the shooter, these four students battle with their own demons while attempting to cope with the guilt and responsibility they feel for their friend’s actions.
The raw emotion and authenticity of the characters is something that is outstanding in this book. I applaud Zachary Ryan for creating such imperfect characters that are so relatable. Each character deals with something different and grieves in a unique way. Each character, even background ones, go through so much character development and really grow up and learn how to trust and depend on each other. We get to see through each character’s eyes through point of view changes that happen each chapter. It’s refreshing in a way because you get to see into the heart of each of the four main characters and see their innermost secrets and insecurities. Silent Screams is a story about friendship, love, insecurities, trust, and the dangers of keeping secrets in for too long.
I enjoyed this book, but there were some times I had to reread a line because of a typo. There was also one background character who’s name was inconsistent, being Violet in some places and Valerie in others. However, this book is still thoroughly enjoyable.
Silent Screams was a roller-coaster of emotions from beginning to end. I am not ashamed to admit I cried a couple of times. This is the sort of book you pick up and can’t set down until you finished it. I’m not sure that I would class this as a feel good story but it ultimately leaves you feeling satisfied and rejuvenated.
Pages: 254 | ASIN: B08BK4DPN5
Tags: author, book, book review, bookblogger, coming of age, crime fiction, drama, ebook, fantasy, fiction, friends, goodreads, kindle, kobo, lgbt, literature, love, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, romance, Silent Screams, story, suspense, teen, teen fiction, writer, writing, ya fantasy, young adult, Zachary Ryan
Bernadette Maney is an elderly lady who left the comfort of her home for someplace unknown and along the way made friends who have become more like family. However, that family is now being threatened. The Wyoming Sleepwater chapter is in danger from the government and we find our eclectic group of characters on the run again. This is despite one pregnant member being so close to her due date and Bernadette’s arthritis being especially bothersome. Bernadette assumes they will be safe in a cabin in South Carolina. But will they? How will they manage to deliver an infant with everything that is going on? How will the Wyoming Sleepwater chapter survive having lost so many members?
This is book two in Kathrin Hutson’s Blue Helix sci-fi series. In this installment, we get to dive deep into Bernadette’s character and experience her wisdom. This book touches on issues like racism in a way that is powerful and effective without being annoyingly political. While it is a second in a series, the first is not a necessary prerequisite. The book handles revisits expertly. Providing just enough information from the first book to give the backstory but not overwhelming the reader with information or regurgitating the first book.
Sleepwater Static is an excellent piece of thought-provoking literature. Wyoming’s Sleepwater chapter persecution parallel’s contemporary societal issues. The fight for LGBT civil rights is a global issue, but in Sleepwater Static it is distilled down to a group of friends, and driven by well defined characters with special abilities that still must overcome humanities abhorrence to diversity.
Bernadette was only a little more than briefly introduced in the first book. In this book, we get to see her in all her arthritic glory, exuding wisdom and life experience. But character development was something I took for granted as it was well on display in the first book and carries over to book two. Bernadette returns home only to find that trouble is hard to elude.
Sleepwater Static is a story that is consistently entertaining. It reminds me of Netflix’s recent sci-fi movie Code 8. If you have a chance to pickup book one in the series then do so, it will make book two much more enjoyable. In either case this is a fun book that you shouldn’t pass up.
Pages: 397 | ASIN: B085S7ZG3S
Thirst Trap follows four friends as they deal with sexuality, tragedy, substance abuse and wild friendships. What made you write a story about these topics? Anything pulled from your life experiences?
Honestly, the story came from some of my closest friends. I wrote a novel several years ago that was based on me coming out, and I wanted to write a novel as a follow up to it. It’s kind of like my autobiography but in my own way. I pulled from my brothers suicide, my friends abusive ex, my friends boyfriend suicide, and my friends marriage. Also, a lot of the back and forth with the witty comments are actual comments my friends have made to each other.
What kind of research did you do for this novel to ensure you captured the essence of the stories theme?
I did 4 years of research just watching my friends. I wanted to make sure that I did justice in that no matter what happens friends have each other’s backs. I think my theme in all of my books is to be open and honest or it will bite you in the butt down the road.
What character did you enjoy writing for? Was there one that was more challenging to write for?
I think in such a messed up way Ivan was my favorite to write. I loved him going from an abusive relationship to standing up for himself. The challenge with all of these characters was I didn’t want them to be too close to my actual friends. I made sure to change their appearance to make sure I could write right freely without worrying I’d they would get offended.
What is the next novel you have planned? Any involving the characters in the Thirst Trap?
I actually have another serious novel coming out in June called Silence Screams. Its my favorite novel that I’ve written. It’s my 50th novel, and it’s elements of all my books I’ve written. It’s about the aftermath of a school shooting. I’m also working on finishing the spin off trilogy to High School Queens. Sadly, Thirst Trap is a stand alone and those characters are done.
Tragedy comes in all forms, and you never know how you’ll deal with it. Four friends have all dealt with their fair share of struggles. Dillion, is an aspiring writer with writers block because of his brothers sudden death, Jesse the emotional stunted drink thanks to his boyfriend’s suicide, Ivan the abused victim just looking for a place to call home, and Leo the stubborn romantic trying to get his friends to open up, while keeping his issues close to his chest.
With these four friends, they avoid all their elephants in the room like a death card agreement between Dillion and Jesse, Ivan completely hoping his abusive lover with change or even Leo focusing on his friends problems instead of his own. Can these four friends learn to embrace and accept their own tragedy or will they be stuck in the past?
Thirst Trap is a humorous coming of age novel dealing with sexuality, tragedy, substance abuse, and the most beautiful.
Sleepwater Beat follows Leo as she is thrust into Sleepwater’s guerrilla war, hunted, and used as a weapon. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
The inspiration as a whole came from what actually became the tagline for this book: “They say the pen is mightier than the sword. In Sleepwater’s world, words are literally more powerful than bullets.” As a writer, I’ve always been a firm believer in the power of the written word. The thousands of books I’ve read have all impacted me in various ways. The written word has the power to incite plenty of action, or positive change, or emotional awakening not just in individuals but on a broad scale. I actually have the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword” in Latin tattooed on my arm above a feather quill. So I’ve always loved the sentiment behind it – words and ideas are more powerful and lasting than the physical scope of an experience (and yes, in many contexts, “peaceful discourse over violent acts”).
I can’t remember exactly why or how the thought occurred to me, but I do remember wondering what things would look like if “the pen is mightier than the sword” were translated into something more literal. What would the world look like if the spoken word wasn’t just a means of expression but an actual tool for physical effect? What if a traditionally unarmed person stood up against someone with a gun or a knife or even just a raised fist and could not only physically defend themselves but also attack and maybe even hurt that other person with nothing more than their words? Or words as a physical weapon, “literally more powerful than bullets”?
And that’s where the premise of “the beat” began. The rest of this Dystopian world and especially Leo’s part in it was a long process of not knowing what I was doing until I workshopped the original short story in a writer’s group in Charleston in 2014. The group’s love of that short story (also originally titled “Sleepwater Beat“) and their honestly ravenous desire to know more about the world on a broad scale when faced with the issues I only brushed on in the short story inspired me to flesh this thing out and create what later became the novel. And now, after having written it, that short story of 30,000 words has fueled an entire trilogy, at the very least, and maybe even more books beyond that.
Leo is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas that drove that characters development?
In all honesty, I’d say about 75% of Leo is me. And the other 25% is partly who I feel like on the inside without anyone else seeing it and partly who I wish I could be in certain situations. I think that plays a really big role in why she feels so well-developed and fully rounded. Leo and I share so many of the same experiences, background, and struggles (in different variations, of course), and I found myself writing certain scenes in this book for Leo that came directly from true, real-life experiences I’ve had myself. I could go on and on about the similarities, but it would be a very long list. I can say that the supporting characters Alex, Carlos, Kaylee, and the twins Tony and Don were all modeled off of people in my own life as well. The garage where Sleepwater stays for the night and where the group of beat-spinners are interrupted by one of those intense action scenes (I don’t want to leave any spoilers) was based on what I remember of a real place in Denver, Colorado. So many of the dark places Leo experiences in this book come from my own dark places, some of them very, very real. That wasn’t my intention starting out, but the more I wrote, the more I realized I could funnel my own life experiences into this character and make her that much more perfect for the role she inhabits. It was also the first time I’d done this with any of my characters, so it was a little nerve-wracking, to say the least.
The unique ability that Leo has is something that was well developed and fascinating. How did you balance this to ensure things were believable throughout?
In speculative fiction of all sub-genres, whenever there’s a “great power”, there always has to be something to balance it out – a “catch”, so to speak. With the beat in general, Leo learns very quickly that the ability she’s used most of her life to get her out of sticky situations (and sometimes into them) doesn’t work at all when heard through technology: radio, audio devices, recordings, intercom systems, etc. That’s the one thing Sleepwater has to combat, too. A group of people with an ability that could wreak devastation if using their ability for the wrong reasons find themselves up against shady organizations who know what will render the beat “ineffective”. There’s also the fact that being inebriated with any substance kills “the beat”. There’s a certain sharpness of mind necessary for “spinning a beat”, which we also find out quite quickly.
The balance in keeping it believable lies with the truth behind this idea of the proverbial pen being mightier than the sword. There’s also a lot of commentary on social media use and technological advancements in this book, where “hearsay” and “fake news” are oftentimes believed and hyped up and perpetuated beyond reason. This comes from something I’ve always valued in my own life: the importance of hearing all available sides of the story not through gossip or what’s “trending” but straight from the source itself. Hence the balance of technology and any kind of mind-altering substance wiping out the beat’s effectiveness. I also touch upon the idea that people with this ability must be very careful with how they use and what they’re feeling when they do. Emotional outbursts (a common trope with “powers” in speculative fiction) can trigger the beat without a person intending to use it in the first place. It’s my way of shedding light on a warning I try to always keep in mind in my daily life too: letting our emotions get the better of us comes with its own set of unintended consequences.
Really, while “the beat” is completely made up and definitely the most “improbable” aspect of this book, it’s just another reflection of society and how we conduct ourselves individually and as a whole. People with this ability are normal, everyday people. Yet they have something the rest of the world doesn’t understand and are summarily feared and hated because of it. That theme doesn’t change throughout the rest of the books planned for the series.
This is book one in your Blue Helix series. What can readers expect in book two, Sleepwater Static?
Sleepwater Static may just be the most emotionally charged project I’ve worked on (for me personally, and hopefully for my readers). It has so much to say, just like Sleepwater Beat does, but in a very different way. We see the same characters for the most part, but the main character of book two is Bernadette Manney. I know readers fell in love with Leo (as did I), and while she’s still a part of things with Sleepwater, I wanted to explore a few other characters I didn’t get to dive as deeply into as I did with Leo in the first book. Bernadette fascinated me when I wrote her, and she’s got an incredible story to share.
Book two definitely takes it down a notch on the “explosions, fist fights, and running for their lives” scale, but the suspense is still there throughout. Through Bernadette, we get to see much more of how Sleepwater started, of what people with this ability went through before Leo ever came into the picture. And there were incredibly important topics I wanted to touch on with book two that I didn’t get to explore in book one. The story continues, but the focus doesn’t turn nearly so much onto the “seedier underbelly” of Leo’s world. Instead, I explored the way this Dystopian world has changed and what’s headed down the pipeline through the lens of race and racial tension, transracial families, bigotry, isolation, motherhood, age. Bernadette undergoes a surreal and uncomfortable return to her “Southern roots”, all while trying to protect her new Sleepwater family from the nationwide hysteria turning the people she once knew and trusted against her. It may be as heavy as book one, just in a different way.
I’m so excited to share Bernadette’s story when Sleepwater Static releases on May 26th this year. And I’m even more excited to dive into the next book after that. There will definitely be at least three books (maybe more, if the story begs me to continue it), and the endless possibilities have me itching to keep going.
Leo could always make people believe anything she says—really believe. When her chest burns and the words come from her mouth, her targets’ eyes glaze over, they forget their own thoughts, and they’ll do anything she says. It’s what keeps her alive after being on the run and living on the streets for years. But after using it on her girlfriend and her dad’s drug dealer, it’s also what got her here on the streets in the first place.
Then Sleepwater finds her. When Leo discovers there are others out there with similar powers, scattered across the country, she can’t say no to the underground organization. After all, what’s a little sit-down with the only people who may ever understand her? What she doesn’t expect is to be thrust into Sleepwater’s guerrilla war, hunted by government agencies, and used as a weapon. Worse than that, she might be more valuable not for what she can do but for who she was before they found her.
Cloud Cover by Jeffrey Sotto starts off with a warning so intense that it grabs your attention and you just have to continue reading. Like on the news when they say “these images may be disturbing… viewer discretion is advised.” Indeed, the books’ graphic exploration of eating disorders (from an in-depth exploration of a violent binging and purging episode to hair loss and bleeding gums) is slightly terrifying for anyone who isn’t aware of the very real consequences of anorexia and bulimia. But in addition to being horrifying, it is fascinating like seeing a horrific car accident.
The thing I really loved (and I am not sure if “loved” is the right word, but I definitely couldn’t put it down) about this book was its reality and Sotto’s ability to accurately portray the struggles that people who see themselves as “different” go through hundreds of times a day. Though Tony (the main character) isn’t actually all that different from those around him, being a gay man with severe mental health issues is enough for anyone to feel like an outsider among the masses. Anyone who struggles with any mental illness will immediately empathize with Tony as he runs the exhausting race of attempting to navigate a life fraught with the invisible pain of mental illness. And really, who can’t relate to that on some level? We all fall somewhere on the spectrum of mental health issues, whether it is simply never being happy about how we look in the mirror or feeling dissatisfied with our current status in life and feeling like we are missing something.
The book delves into so much of the human experience in one fiction novel. So much so that I could not believe this was Sotto’s first book. Throughout the book we explore how those with mental health issues interact with the people around them. Tony’s blossoming romantic relationship with Antonio provides insight into how someone with the dark secrets of mental health navigates between the pain of their lives alone with the hope of happiness that new love provides. The constant juxtaposition of how Tony is living with how Tony could live is regularly portrayed through scenes like an episode of what should be a happy couple indulging in a delicious meal ruined by Tony’s ongoing inner monologue about how he plans to purge himself of the calories the very second he is able.
This book will be an excellent read for anyone, though those who can relate more closely to Tony’s issues will probably get even more from the book. In all, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in taking an unfiltered view of the things that some people hide inside them which they may otherwise go their whole lives without otherwise being introduced to. It is a book for those who long to understand humans and their experiences.
Pages: 339 | ASIN: B07ZRTJ255
The ’49 Indian is a beautiful coming-of-age love story following two friends leaving home and traveling across the country. What was the inspiration for the setup to this emotional story?
Thank you for the compliment! I am thrilled you enjoyed the book. As my first novel, The ’49 Indian is very special to me. The inspiration for the book is based on my real-life relationship. Not so much the details and occurrences of their journey, but the bond/connection between the two main characters.
Gauge and Dustin’s relationship was one I enjoyed watching develop and change. Was their relationship planned, or did it develop organically while writing?
It certainly developed as I was writing. In fact, I think the tone of the book’s first-person protagonist, Dustin, changes and evolves as the journey progresses. In the beginning, he is naive and poetic, but when things get real, he becomes far more direct and pragmatic with the way he delivers the story.
During their travels, they encounter many trials and tribulations. What were some obstacles you felt were important to their character development?
There are certainly some autobiographical encounters in this story that I felt represented the core of the most long-lasting trials and tribulations the two main characters faced. The relationship between Dustin and his mother is very reminiscent of my past relationship with my own mother. Thankfully, unlike the case with Dustin, my mom has evolved tremendously in her acceptance of me and my relationship. Parental acceptance is a blessing denied to many—for various reasons—something I am quite aware of, which is why I am deeply grateful that my story ends on a far more positive note than Dustin’s. Sadly, Dustin’s experience with his mother is more accurate to the misunderstanding, judgment, and pain many gay people endure when it comes to their own parents and families, especially during the early days of the AIDS crisis.
What is the significance for you of the ’49 Indian in this story?
For me, personally, the ’49 Indian represents the physical embodiment of Dustin and Gauge’s hope, perseverance, and resilience. That old bike just kept on going, despite the elements against it. Sure, it needed a tune-up or two, but in the end, it got them where they needed to go. For Gauge, it represents his departed father; he treats the bike like a living being. It becomes the third main character throughout the story. It is always thrilling and interesting for me to hear how readers personalize and interpret the meaning and significance of the ’49 Indian motorcycle so differently. It’s something unique for everyone, and there are certainly no wrong answers.
In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Dustin Thomas’s naive curiosity leads him into the shadows of Fort Lauderdale’s seedy underground, where his innocence is met with violent and traumatic consequences. Despite the dire start, the dreariness of the season is instantly transformed when a handsome and mysterious new next-door neighbor arrives, the tattooed, multi-talented, and youthfully exuberant Midwesterner, Gauge Paulson. Gauge possesses an inspired passion for restoring his late father’s classic 1949 Indian motorcycle, as well as a healthy penchant for the beautiful young women of the nearby South Florida beaches. Regardless of their differences, Gauge and Dustin kindle an unlikely companionship, spending nearly every waking hour together for the remainder of the summer.
After a series of dramatic and disturbing circumstances force the duo to flee the familiarity of home, they venture across the country on the back of the antique motorcycle, with only their friendship and a shared dream of relocating to the magnificent California shores of the Pacific Coast leading the way.
Faced with an onslaught of trials, tribulation, turmoil, and misfortune, Dustin and Gauge persevere, surrounded and guided by a connection that transcends their understanding. When an unexpected intruder invades the sanctuary of their world, the young men are confronted with an impossible fate, challenging them to embody the selfless sacrifice and impenetrable commitment needed for their journey’s end on the sands of the Pacific.
Intense and beautifully tragic, The ’49 Indian tells a timeless, universal coming-of-age love story, vividly capturing the fierce, uncompromising loyalty of a profound and mighty bond.