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Maiden Voyage is the final part in the Comfrey, Wyoming saga. It gives readers a look into the lives of twins Amadeus and Marcela who are on the cusp of adulthood, much to the chagrin of their guardian Heidi Crow. Set amongst the backdrop of beautiful and rural Wyoming, we see the twins grow and try to find their place in the world. They are accompanied on this journey by old friends, and new ones they make along the way. With their help, Amadeus and Marcela might just be able to face their past and reach a bright future.

Author Daphne Birkmyer does an amazing job setting the scene with her uniquely observant writing and colorful descriptions. It all comes together beautifully to make the reader feel like they are in Wyoming. Against this exquisite backdrop the author has created a story that captures the difficulty that every family (no matter how typical or different they might be) face in life. Life isn’t a bed of roses for twins Amadeus, Marcela, and Heidi. They have a lot of struggles to overcome, which Birkmyer doesn’t shy away from. I really enjoyed the authenticity in their characters and how grounded their approach is to their problems. This is a story that is infused with emotions and uses its particular voice to tell a compelling story.

The LGBTQIA+ themes and the message of connecting with one’s culture is strong in this final part of the trilogy. Birkmyer thoughtfully tackles the contemporary issues that transgender teens face and perfectly captures how scary it can be for a trans person to enter a romantic relationship.

Maiden Voyage’s is an epic family saga with a large cast of characters. The story is constantly switching points of view. It can become overwhelming and confusing at times if you’re a quick reader, but this serves to give you a holistic view of the story. Comfrey, Wyoming Book Three: Maiden Voyage by Daphne Birkmyer is a fascinating story with compelling characters that explores trans youth, family relationships, and the variety of issues we face growing up.

Pages: 368 | ASIN: B0BC2L5JTT

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No Limitations

Anne Harding Woodworth Author Interview

Gender explores gender roles through two compelling stories that are told in an engaging mix of free verse, form, and rhyme. What inspired you to write these stories?

Who knows where ideas come from when there are no limitations to what you can do with them? A poem, or a plot, seeps into my consciousness unbidden. But there it is. For “Martin/Martina” I pictured a woman of the 11th century dressed in finery and lying in a glass coffin, remembering her past and acutely aware of 21st-century life surrounding her in the chapel where she lies. I place her resting place somewhere in a Mediterranean area, perhaps something like Orta San Giulio, a beautiful lakeside town in the north of Italy. When my husband and I were there, we visited the island out in the lake where in the basilica the remains of San Giulio lie in a glass casket. I extrapolated from that and invented Mother Martina’s glass coffin, gave her a voice, and let her speak, as her past played itself out.

I used to live in Athens, Greece, where I heard about St. Marina, who gave me the idea of Martin/Martina. Marina dressed as a young man and entered a monastery. S/he was accused of fathering a child. That was the inspiration for me to create a story about Martina’s life as a man and father. Near the church of St. Marina in Athens, there is a cliff where pregnant women or women who wanted to be pregnant or did not want to be pregnant or wished for a safe delivery, used to slide down in hopes their prayers would be answered. As Martina lies in her coffin, women pray in a similar manner to her.

At the time we were in Orta, sainthood was being sought for Padre Pio, and his face appeared on the blank exterior wall of a building. That may easily have been considered a miracle. That gave me the idea to have Martin/Martina’s face appear on a wall.

As for the inspiration behind “Aftermath,” I started out with a poem that compared an apocalyptic band of survivors to a beehive. But things changed quickly in my mind, and I invented my own society. I didn’t want a “queen,” though the weavers, or females, as in a real beehive, seemed like the most important of the tripartite group. Builders were asexual beings, and the Fennel Men were the sexual ones, but where the fennel part of it came from, I really don’t know. It just seemed rightly erotic to have a fennel bulb dangling down from the waist of these men.

In today’s world many of us think about the destruction of our planet or at least our way of life. Climate change is going in that direction, as we witness tremendous flooding, wildfires, rising oceans, to name a few of the causes that might be behind a future apocalypse.

What were some challenges you set for yourself as a poet with these stories?

The challenges were the craft of poetry. I knew “Martin/Martina” would be free verse, with Father Ralph providing the occasional contrast with his rhymes. I wanted to make him likable, albeit eccentric.

In “Aftermath,” after writing the introductory poem in terza rima, I just couldn’t stop myself from wanting to rhyme. The story just kept begging me to rhyme. I used all kinds of rhyme schemes in order not to get tied down to anything predictable, and I hope it works.

As for challenges for both stories, I wanted to make them “almost” believable to readers. I want readers to believe that Mother Martina in her glass coffin really is a sentient being whose experience spans a thousand years. I want her story to be moving. I want Martin as father to Dino and friend to Bronwyn to be true. I want metaphor to occur to a reader. When Bronwyn says to Dino, “A father who has nothing of the mother in him is not a real father,” I hope the reader sees how gender should combine in all lives. One could easily say, “Gender Does Not Matter.”

What are some poets or poetry that you feel inspired this collection and you as a writer?

Well, in a small and in no way comparative sense, Dante inspires me a lot, which is why I began “Aftermath” with terza rima. I majored in Italian in college, took lots of Latin in high school and college, and have read quite a few stories in verse, not to mention the books we all grow up with as children.

Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road was not a favorite of mine, and I have to confess I enjoyed parodying it in a sort of book review I wrote some time ago, “The Book Reviewer’s Diary.” But the idea of apocalypse that McCarthy explored is of great interest to me.

Two fiction pieces of verse that drew my attention were Brad Leithauser’s Darlington’s Fall and Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate. These books prompted me to write my first novella in verse in 2008, Spare Parts.

My favorite poets are, though this is not by any stretch a complete list, nor is it in any order, and who knows if their work has influenced me?: Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Walt Whitman, Lucille Clifton, Ilya Kaminsky, Hayden Carruth, Ada Limon, Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, Ellen Bass, Edward Hirsch, et al.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am working on a New and Selected. After eight books of poetry and four chapbooks, I would very much like to bring a few poems from each together in the same volume and add some of those I’ve been working on lately.

I just finished a chapbook-length manuscript in verse, The Spare Parts Saga, which is based partly on the U.S. Postal Service, as we know it today. The main character of the chapbook, which is a novella in its own right, is my novella in verse from 2008, Spare Parts.

Author Links: Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Website

In Gender, the sexes are everything.

Anne Harding Woodworth has brought together two novellas in verse that share a look at the role of male and female. In Martin/Martina a young woman dresses as a man, is accused of fathering a child, and as the boy’s father, raises him. In Aftermath, a member of an asexual group-among three survivor groups that have formed after cataclysm has destroyed most of civilization-becomes pregnant.

Two not dissimilar landscapes set the stage for these stories, somewhere in (perhaps) a Mediterranean place of the eleventh century, as well as one of today and of the future. Regardless of time frame, the atmosphere in both novellas lures us into lives of sex, parenting, labor, confusion, and friendship, all in a mixture of free verse, form, and rhyme.

Demon’s Land

Sixteen year old Jude is just trying to get through life while using photography as an outlet. He faces many hardships that a teenager shouldn’t have to face, from his mother leaving to a father who doesn’t understand him. Along with his only friends CeCe and Abel, they are just trying to make it and find their way through life. Jude struggles with telling CeCe how he really feels about her while CeCe tries to help Abel and Jude keep it together. On top of it all Abel has to deal with school bullies because he is gay and considered not normal. How will the three friends overcome the obstacles that life has given them?

Demon’s Land by Sarah Ferguson is an emotionally-charged coming-of-age story that utilizes sharp writing to elevate a contemporary literature story into something that is sentimental but powerful. Jude’s character is dark and brooding. He just wants someone to love him. I found his character to be well-crafted, relatable and endearing. His character gives hope to those who are going through hard times as he channels the same worries that we all have, but the author conveys those emotions in a way that feels sophisticated. I appreciated that CeCe’s character is the voice of reason and she genuinely cared for Abel and Jude. I enjoyed Abel’s character because he is not ashamed of being gay and Jude accepts him for who he is. This makes the novel a fantastically uplifting LGBT novel that feels authentic.

Fergusons is a fantastic storyteller with impactful writing. Her way with writing tells so much in such a short read that I didn’t have questions even though the ending leaves the reader hanging. There are serious topics that are explored throughout the story, but the author handles it beautifully. I felt the isolation and hopelessness that the characters felt and I was rooting for them the entire time.

Demon’s Land is a heart-felt and inspiring coming-of-age novel. I recommend this book to readers who are looking for a profound young adult story that deals with trauma in a way that feels grounded and poetic.

Pages: 120 | ASIN: 0645355992

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Coming Alive

Coming Alive is a vibrant and inspiring memoir that follows the author’s spiritual journey, an Italian-American with a deep passion for religion and spirituality. The book is diverse and authentic and details how the author comes to terms with who she is, her sexuality, and how society can be, at most times, closed-minded.

Ierardi’s tone is calm and positive, with clear values and goals. She spends her life looking for the best way to achieve her purpose. The author is determined to never give up, as she conquers many obstacles and difficult situations along her journey. When faced with challenges, Ierardi lets humanity guide her down the right path.

As the author takes the reader through various experiences and situations, she covers many aspects of religion, spirituality, art, astrology, family life, and sexuality. Ierardi delicately but directly discusses how sexual orientation and identity can present a setback where there is a lack of acceptance. However, the author never lets obstacles stand in her way and instead lives valiantly during a time when coming out risks being ostracized by family and community.

I enjoyed the author’s determination and strong spirit, as she presents a clear picture of how she navigates through her family, community, and experiences in life. It’s an immersive story that gives you the holistic view of everything Ierardi goes through and how her journey includes different reactions and experiences as a part of the LGBTQ and feminist communities and movements. Ierardi does an exceptional job of weaving the modern history of social justice and equal rights while searching for a more authentic life.

Coming Alive by Anne Ierardi is an excellent book for anyone from any religion or sexuality. It’s a great read highlighting the personal reward of coming alive while challenging the reader to find their true self and follow an authentic path.

Pages: 241 | ASIN: B09TRZL91W

Sparks in the Dark

Sparks in the Dark paints a fascinating futuristic world where space travel and alien interactions are the reality. It’s a story inspired by classic science fiction series such as Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Doctor Who. You’ll find many twists in the plot development, including the unlikely pairing of two characters, their respective challenges, and a relationship that is rife with sexual tension and dual points of view, shifting back and forth with a seamless transition and excellent narration. The author handles the complex nature of these characters expertly, engaging the reader from the start.

Cutter and Buzz are complex main characters with strong personalities and intense chemistry. Their on-and-off intensity between intimate and not-so-intimate moments will reel you into some intriguing and captivating dialogue. While the description paints vivid visuals, it is never overdone, and you feel as though you are a voyeur, watching each scene as it unfolds. The reader is guided through the story, learning more exciting developments and diving further with anticipation without feeling overwhelmed with too much information or confusion.

The build-up towards the story’s ending does not disappoint, and readers will find the crescendo of excitement build as they progress through each chapter with bated breath. It’s a cleverly written book with a few sharp twists, including how the plot shifts suddenly, moving in a very different direction. Siewert’s incredible world continues to hold up throughout the story, filling the reader with amazement from beginning to end.

Sparks in the Dark by James Siewert is a creative, science-fiction tale. It is an excellent addition to the genre with an LGBTQ twist. The characters were not only complex and personable, but I found them entertaining throughout the book. I highly recommend giving this excellent story a try, as it is an exciting read that brings new enjoyment to the world of science fiction.

Pages: 251 | ASIN: B0B8DWC41S

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Literary Titan Gold Book Award September 2022

Literary Titan Gold Book Award

The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and writing talent of these brilliant authors.

Gold Award Recipients

INFINITY: Book of Matthew II by Catalina DuBois

Visit the Literary Titan Book Awards page to see award information.

Loves Knows No Gender

Carey PW Author Interview

Grayality follows two friends who set off to try and restart their life in a small town, only to be faced with hate and judgment while trying to find love. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I transitioned in a tiny rural town in Montana. I haven’t faced anything as direct as Pate and Oakley encounter, but I have experienced subtle issues. For the few other transgender people I know here, they have encountered pretty nasty prejudices. Personally, I have found it hard to be open with who I am since there is little support here. I also feel lucky, however, because as someone who transitioned later in life, I have more financial resources and independence than many college students undergoing these changes. I wanted to share both the internal and external struggles that sometimes exist. A great deal of my own personal challenges is portrayed through Pate, but as I reread it now, I know that I have grown. I embrace myself a lot more.

My husband inspired Oakley. He married me when I presented as a woman with neither of us knowing at the time that I was transgender. I know that sounds strange, but I had assumed that I had to live my life presenting as a woman for a long time. He adamantly believed that he could not be romantically or sexually involved with a man. However, he came to realize that it’s the person that counts. I will proudly say that his attraction for me has not faltered. I wanted to convey his internal struggles with sexuality that stopped him from supporting me for nearly three years. However, in the end, he showed me that love knows no gender.

Was there anything from your own life that you put into the characters in your novel?

My inspiration for this entire book comes directly from my life, but I will add some more to the first question in this regard. I struggle with social anxiety and have experienced some bad bouts of depression. As a mental health counselor, it is important to me to share these experiences without shame. I did reveal a lot of them through Pate. Sometimes it is difficult for me to even read those parts of the book, but they are a part of my journey. Also, it is hard for me as a transgender person to share my own internalized transphobias that were present when I first transitioned, which is also portrayed through Pate. I am in a better place now with my identity and even see it as a gift rather than a tragedy. I wasn’t always there, so I am happy with my progress.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

This novel has some very heavy themes to it. Identity is a major theme in several ways. Foremost, Pate is coming into his identity as a man while Oakley is discovering his bisexuality. However, both characters are young and are still figuring out what direction they want to take in life, making this a coming-of-age novel.

I would also say that prejudice is a theme. While there is obvious prejudice against LGBTQIA people, readers could also say that Pate and Oakley show some prejudices against rural communities. Stormy was created as a character who shatters these preconceived notions about ranchers. Lastly, I would say acceptance is a theme. The characters learn to accept themselves while also discovering that others will accept them, too.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My next novel is Acing the Game, which is getting published through Extasy Books and will hopefully get released either later this year or the beginning of 2023. This novel is a contemporary LGBTQIA+ romance about two married bisexual men – a popular small-town chef (trans and ace) and a shy and reserved high school principal (cis and allo) — who are thrown for a loop when the latter finds himself yearning for more sexual discovery. Through a surprising dive into polyamory, they explore every side of their compatibility. . . and just might learn how strong their romantic bond can be.

Shep Lee thought he had it all. A successful restaurant, a loving husband who understood his asexuality and, most of all, the ability to be himself, a popular chef in the small town of Cloverleaf, Montana. That is, until his husband Elmer Eshler began pushing Shep more on sex. Elmer doesn’t understand why he can’t turn his partner on – aren’t they perfect for each other? And Shep loves him, right? Shep, meanwhile (while confident with his body) is and always will be sex indifferent. Why has Elmer suddenly changed his tune? But he doesn’t want to lose the man he loves so much. What can they do?

Shep convinces Elmer to try a polyamorous relationship. Elmer gets to have Shep and the sex life he has always wanted. Shep gets a cooking buddy and a chance to experience a relationship, and even try sex, with a woman, as his authentic gender. Shep isn’t sure at first but finds himself coming around – this feels safer than opening up the relationship. All three of them will be romantically involved, so that should ease any jealousy, right? But when Willow Saint, a free-spirited, boisterous and saucy young woman, comes into their lives, neither are prepared for the emotional and sexual rollercoaster that follows. Enthralled by Willow’s charm and kindness, Elmer and Shep struggle to understand what this means for their own bond.

Can they become one happy family? Or will this ruin everything?

Acing the Game is a novel about loving others, loving oneself and the intricate nuances of asexuality, sexual insecurity, polyamory and relationships. Starring three memorable characters who find each other in completely different but wholly satisfying and sexy ways, (and with plenty of emotionally erotic scenes and a lot of heart), Acing the Game shows that there are many dimensions and paths to satisfaction and love.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Love knows no gender.
Pate Boone, a twenty-six-year-old transgender man, embarks on a new adventure when his childhood best friend, and yes, ex-lover, Oakley Ogden, convinces him to escape their hometown in hopes for something new.
They land in Cloverleaf, a tiny rural town in Montana, so that Oakley can care for his granny who is battling breast cancer. She pressures the two young men to enroll in a nearby college. Pate immediately becomes enthralled with Maybelle, a young, vivacious freshman to whom he fears revealing his transgender identity. Still, he finds it impossible to resist Maybelle, even after he meets her ex, Bullet, a large, violent man determined to keep Pate away from “his girl.”
But there are others who accept Pate immediately, like Stormy. An outdoorsy, rugged freshman, Stormy warns Pate away from Maybelle and Bullet, but Pate’s too infatuated to heed these warnings.
Oakley tries to support his friend’s new love but finds himself entangled in his own emotional calamity when he unintentionally falls for Jody, a gay and ostentatiously confident drag queen. This new relationship awakens deep internal conflicts in Oakley as he struggles to accept his bisexuality, lashing out at Pate and causing friction between him and Jody.
Oakley must decide if he can overcome his insecurities so he doesn’t lose the love of his life. And Pate must discover if the love between him and Maybelle is strong enough for her to accept him as a transgender man, or if she will break his heart.

Give Us Strength Or Tear Us Apart

Vincent Traughber Meis Author Interview

First Born Sons follows five different groups of people in the LGBTQ+ community whose lives end up intertwined due to a series of events. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

All the major characters in First Born Sons have come from three of my previously published novels, Four Calling Burds, Tio Jorge, and Deluge. Though I’ve never written sequels, several of my fans expressed an interest in knowing what happened with these characters. At the end of the respective books, all of them would have been living contemporaneously and in the same geographical area. I had the idea of not only continuing their stories, but having them interact and in one case fall in love. The background to the events is the Covid pandemic, but it’s not really about the pandemic. The personal issues the characters are dealing with are complicated by the health crisis though it’s only one of many crises that take place in 2019-20. Others include wildfires, Black Lives Matter protests, divisive politics, and general racism and homophobia.

What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?

In general the characters confront the notion that families, both alternative and traditional, can give us strength or tear us apart depending on how one handles the issues. Simple love doesn’t alone conquer all. It takes perseverance and being true to oneself.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

One narrative tackles gender identity and how transition causes upheaval not only for the person changing but the loved ones around them. Another story revolves around extremist politics causing disastrous consequences for a family. Still another examines an older gay man finding love when he no longer believed it could happen. And one of the main themes is two gay men trying to protect their mixed-race son as he deals with the complications of becoming a teenager in a society that still struggles with racism.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Since I’ve gotten over my hesitancy to write sequels with this novel, I have embarked on a new project, which follows the story of the coming-of-age character in my novel The Mayor of Oak Street. It’s 45 years later and he is dealing with growing old after a life of love and loss. My intention is to make it more of a romance, but we’ll see how things develop.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook

A group of coastal Californians battle wildfires, racism, and their own demons in five distinct narratives set in late 2019 and 2020.

First Born Sons is populated by a cast of LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies who struggle to find love, comfort, and fulfillment. As the novel progresses, characters interact across the separate narratives and are brought together for a birthday and a disastrous Black Lives Matter demonstration. A man returning to the horrors that made him leave Mississippi, a blind gay man flirting with love, an FTM transgender starting hormone therapy, a woman struggling to protect her sons from her ex-husband’s surge to right-wing politics, and a teenager with two gay dads searching for his Black surrogate mom paint a disturbing tableau of modern-day America.
Praise for First Born Sons:
“Vincent Meis’s First Born Sons is at once a sprawling epic with a global scope and an intimate mosaic of stories, touching on important issues like race, gender, pandemics, and prejudice — but never forgetting the humanity at their core. These are characters you’ll want to know, and this is truly a novel for our times.”
– Eric Peterson, author of Loyalty, Love & Vermouth
“Meis once again proves to be an assured chronicler of our times. Never one to shy away from humanity’s darker impulses, this spellbinding story of love and immigration, civil unrest, and political polarity amidst lush, tropical locales is the perfect book for summer. A rip roaring ride!”
– David Jackson Ambrose, author of Unlawful DISorderA Blind Eye, and State of the Nation

“I raced through the pages of First Born Sons, unable to put it down. Meis explores the traumatic events of 2020 through an engaging group of characters, whose personal lives are upended by events far away and close to home. This is an exciting work that deftly captures the tensions, anxieties, and hopes of our turbulent times.”
-Gar McVey-Russell, author of Sin Against the Race
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