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Literary Titan Silver Book Award December 2022

Literary Titan Silver 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.

Silver Award Recipients

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

The Ballpark Buster

The Ballpark Buster by Don Shearer tells the story of an average kid, Buster, who lives an ordinary life like everyone else, with just one difference: he’s well over six feet in height by the time he’s twelve years old. Buster strives to have a normal life, hanging out with friends, going to school, helping his parents at home, and playing sports, despite this unusual medical condition that rapidly speeds up his growth rate. Instead of focusing on the challenges of his record-breaking height, Buster Logan uses it to his advantage to become an athlete. He quickly learns how his size can work for him, not against his pursuits, transforming his life from ordinary to an extraordinary nationwide sports hero.

This fascinating story is set in the 1940’s, imbuing this sports fiction story a unique historical fiction feel. The story explores the golden era of major league baseball, a simpler life, and the nostalgia of this decade. Shearer writes a rousing story which feels like a classic with a clear and lighthearted tone throughout, making this an easy read. It’s a fun book for children and young adults. It conveys the importance of living your life to its fullest potential and using any attribute you have, including an unusual height, to your advantage.

Shearer adds creative and unique characteristics into a tale that could otherwise be considered ordinary. It’s a fantastic story for baseball fans as there are pictures of ballparks included, and the descriptions give the reader a decent visual of the author’s love of the game. It’s an inspirational and feel-good story that makes a great light read. I recommend The Ballpark Buster for its creativity and simple but profound writing that makes a fun story for all ages.

Pages: 287 | ASIN: B0B7QP7V9X

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This Was Always About Basketball

This Was Always About Basketball by Craig Leener is a wonderful story that follows the protagonist Ezekiel Archer, better known as ‘Zeke,’ as he prepares himself for his next big step in life at the University of Kansas. This is where he plans to take his basketball dreams to the next level. However, as he begins completing his extensive to-do list before he leaves, he encounters a few bumps along the way, such as history being completely altered. As this is not the first time an unusual happening has been in Zeke’s life, he knows exactly who to turn to, his autistic but brilliant mathematician friend Lawrence.

The whole concept behind this story is compelling, and the imagination used to combine science fiction with a diary written by Zeke is done well. Having the story written in the first person narrative and having him address the reader by introducing himself,  ‘My name is Ezekiel Archer’  from one of the first lines draws them in, making them feel included in the story. There are areas throughout where the details are rich and descriptive, such as ‘Lawrence’s handwriting—rigid and purposeful letters carefully sketched and slanted in an easterly direction.’ These moments allow readers to come to know the characters, it assists the reader in understanding them on a deeper level.

This Was Always About Basketball is an entertaining and enjoyable read. The chapters are short, but all relevant which helps with the plot flow, and you are always left wanting more. This is not the first book in this series that I have read, and I hope it will not be the last as through each adventure, you learn more about the characters and feel you are part of the story with them. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a fantasy story.

Pages: 257 | ASIN : B08PM9X1PW

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Acceptance of Differences In All People

Jeffrey Sotto Author Interview

The Moonballers follows a gay tennis star that feels threatened by a straight player that joins their organization. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I’ve been part of a queer tennis league in Toronto, Ontario, Canada since 2003. Back then, we only had queer members, and I always thought it would be funny to see how the league would react when straight people started to join. I then put the idea aside as I worked on my first book. Then in 2016, when Donald Trump was elected president, I thought about this premise again, and started to imagine what my main character would be like – a president who wanted to keep certain types of people out; in this case, keep straight people out of a queer sports league.

Stefan wants to be the best, and when someone tries to take that spot from him, his worst side comes out. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Stefan is toxic masculinity personified; he’s the ugliness of the ego that comes out in all of us when we feel inferior to others, and must compensate by bullying. As I mentioned, I looked at Donald Trump as for inspiration for Stefan; I feel his actions are a response to a threat of being replaced as the “queen bee”; he is driven by his ego and need to feel worshipped as president of the league and the best player. In all his villanry, I tried to make his antics as ridiculously absurd and funny as possible.

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

I wanted to highlight the consequences of the ego’s response to feeling inferior. But I “flipped the script” by having Stefan, and the league, queer. I wanted to challenge the idea that toxic masculinity is only associated with heterosexual men. There’s sometimes a stereotype that gay men are supposed to be softer, effeminate, and ultimately weaker than straight ones. But as I’ve witnessed in my almost 20 years as part of a queer tennis league, when the competitive juices for superiority — the “need to win” — rears its ugly head, the toxicity that manifests can come from anyone despite their gender, sexual orientation, and all other parts of their identities. In other words, we are ALL toxic as*holes. Lol. Further, there is a message about the need for the acceptance of differences in all people, and the pervasive bias and intolerance in everyone, including those who insist they are “woke.”

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

Similar to the tone of my first novel, Cloud Cover, which was a lot more serious and dramatic than The Moonballers, I want to do a modern retelling of the story of Adam and Eve. In this version, the Adam character will be a middle-aged, gay, HIV-positive asexual, and the Eve character will be a young, bisexual and polyamourous woman. Being inspired by Eve’s liberated way of living, Adam will re-enter the dating world in hopes of finding love and connection. Considering the political events unfolding in the United States right now, I want to show their journey together in coming to terms with the outcomes of pursuing their own empowerment and personal freedom, despite what institutional or ideological constraints are placed upon them. This book is still in very early stages, but I’m hoping to publish it by 2026.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

“MAKE TENNIS GAY AGAIN!”

Winter 2016. The Toronto Torches—aka the Toronto Gay and Lesbian Tennis League—had come to a crash under mysterious circumstances.

Spring 2020. A new queer tennis organization has been created in the nearby wanna-be-downtown suburb of Torpedo Valley. Proud and out Stefan “Steffi” Porsche relishes in his dominance as both the President of the league, and—coincidentally—the league’s best player. That is, until strapping and super talented Khalid Adam arrives. But differences threaten to disrupt the order of the gay institution: Khalid is … STRAIGHT, sending Stefan into a neurotic tizzy.

Will the hyper-competitive and heterophobic Stefan maintain his invincibility, or will Khalid dethrone him? Can Khalid—and all those outside the queer majority—be kept from invading the sacredness of the gay tennis league? Or will President Stefan succeed in his quest to “MAKE TENNIS GAY AGAIN!”?

With a colourful cast of characters, campy humour, and dramatic twists à la Pedro Almodóvar, The Moonballers: A Novel about The Invasion of a LGBTQ2+ Tennis League … by Straight People (Gay Gasp!) is an action packed and wacky sports parody about intolerance, love, and the absurdity of socio-political extremes that will hit you like a hard shot straight to the face!

All Roads Lead to Lawrence

All Roads Lead To Lawrence, by Craig Leener, is a lively science fiction story that follows the life of a young man named Zeke, his friend and their lives; which revolve around the game of basketball. Everything starts to go terribly wrong as they approach their summer break. Someone dies, his girlfriend Rebecca makes a decision that will change the course of their relationship, and one of his friends is in a terrible accident. Zeke is forced to grow up and take responsibility for his life and how he affects those around him. Then things begin to get really strange when an unusual character starts to cross his path. Being no stranger to weird happenings, Zeke knows he needs the help of his friends, especially his autistic friend Lawrence, to try and figure out what is going on.

From one of the very first lines, “My name is Zeke Archer, and that’s where this strange tale begins.” the author establishes the point of view, sets the level of intrigue, and prepares readers for the extraordinary things that are about to occur. I enjoyed this opening from a technical perspective, but this also shows the sharp writing of author Craig Leener. From here readers will be engaged with the first person narrative, and feel more involved in the story. This is important since this is the second book in the series. You don’t necessarily have to have read book one to pick this book up, you can enjoy it on it’s own, but you may way to read book one just to get a full appreciation for the character and story arc over the series.

Many themes are touched upon throughout the story which offer advice for young readers, especially teenage readers who may find themselves in a similar situation (minus the science fiction parts). For example the subject of the death of a loved one or having a sibling in the U.S. Marine Corps is explored in the story in a delicate and respectful way. Telling this story from the first person perspective allows the reader to get an insight into how someone in this situation may feel. Furthermore, by following the characters facing pivotal life lessons such as getting their first job, it makes the tale more relatable and provides useful tips that the reader can apply in their own lives.

I was amazed by the level of imagination that is infused throughout this story and the clever way in which young adult science fiction and basketball is woven together throughout the book. Having read other stories in this series, it is nice to gain further details about the characters and I am sure they have so much more to give. I would definitely recommend this read to others as the short chapters make it easily digestible and the fun plot make this an entertaining story from start to finish.

Pages: 334 | ASIN: B07XL91FZG

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The Moonballers

We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it and stay out of our space! This is the unofficial slogan of the Torpedo Valley tennis organization created by queer people for queer people. The league president is Stefan Porsche, an ace tennis player who is out and proud of his sexuality and superior tennis ability. When Khalid Adam joins the league, Stefan is immediately threatened. Not only because he is a great player but also because Khalid is straight as a board.

The Moonballers: A Novel about The Invasion of a LGBTQ2+ Tennis League … by Straight People (GAY GASP!) written by Jeffrey Sotto is a unique take on how ridiculous it is to harass someone because of who they are. Turning it upside down and showing Stefan Porsche actively trying to push Khalid out of the tennis organization simply because he is straight forces the reader to think. They must grapple with how unfair such behavior is.

Sotto has delivered this message in such a hilarious, tongue-in-cheek way. He does a great job of balancing every person’s negative and positive traits. Sometimes you will despise some characters, but that’s what makes them so believable. Stefan’s behavior is beyond aggravating and downright criminal. He does have some redeeming qualities that readers will discover as they read through the entire novel.

Sometimes, you need to parody the issue to make people see their hypocrisy. People respond to humor more than anything, and Sotto tapped into this factor to deliver this humorous and charming novel. The Moonballers is a delightful, witty, no-nonsense book that is excellently written and is one read you will not want to put down.

Pages: 290 | ASIN : B09VTFQ42P

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It’s Always Been A Dream Of Mine

M. K. Lever Author Interview

Surviving the Second Tier follows a female college athlete and her team who rebel against a greedy coach and a system that cares more about money than the players. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I had a couple sources of inspiration for my story. My first is personal experience as a former Division 1 athlete who navigated the college sports system myself and had some of the best and worst times of my life during my athletic career. College athletes are under so much social, personal, and external pressure and that’s really hard to understand unless you’ve been there yourself. Although I was a successful runner who loved my sport (until injuries derailed me) I struggled immensely with feelings of worthlessness, self-doubt, and anxiety. I was also in an emotionally abusive relationship with one of my coaches and I needed a way to make meaning of that. Surviving the Second Tier was an outlet for that experience as well as a way to educate readers about these dynamics and the problems that college athletes face in the real world.

The second source of motivation is my research. I’m a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas where sports policy is a huge part of what I study. The policy issues I research are important but frankly, policy can be boring to talk about even if it’s fascinating to me. Academic research is also very inaccessible because of paywalls and jargon so I needed an interesting and accessible way to discuss my research because, given the current climate, I believe the stakes of it are high. I started telling people “the NCAA is a dystopia” whenever they asked about my research as a way to create conversation. The metaphor really stuck with people and became a great gateway for discussing the ways bad policy negatively impacts college athletes. I wanted to give the college sports industry the 1984 treatment and give people a thought-provoking book that hit close to home and fiction turned out to be an effective vehicle for my academic work. Plus, it’s always been a dream of mine to write a book!

Did you create an outline for the characters in the story before you started writing or did the character’s personalities grow organically as you were writing?

I’m a terribly disorganized writer so I didn’t outline my characters so much as I outlined the issues I wanted to cover. They’re all stuck in a system that was never designed to benefit them but they’re also dealing with personal struggles like anxiety, injuries, burnout, identity crises, discrimination, poverty, abuse, and masculinity. Once I had a concept of the issues that I wanted to address within the real-world college sports industry, I had a good idea of how I wanted my characters to develop and they sort of had minds of their own once I started the writing process (which I loved!).

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

Identity was a huge one for me. College athletes tend to get really wrapped up in who they are as athletes and fixate on their performances, statistics, rankings, and so on as measures of self-worth. It’s a form of self-objectification that is hard to stop, and fans and coaches also dehumanize college athletes by viewing them solely in terms of their productivity. A big goal of Surviving the Second Tier was to humanize college athletes because they’re so often viewed in terms of production instead of personhood.

As the title implies, I also wanted to focus on themes of surviving a corrupt system. When we think “survival,” we tend to think of things like food, clothing, shelter, and basic necessities. For some athletes (like Sis and Striker), their sport is a ticket out of poverty so it truly is life or death, but sometimes athletes are surviving other things like abusive coaching relationships, mental health issues, crippling media pressure, and life-altering injuries. There’s a lot of pressure on athletes to be tough and gut through these things without showing weakness so I wanted to explore all of that through my characters, their work, and their relationships with each other.

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

I’ve very tentatively started my sequel but I’m also finishing up my Ph. D so it’s hard to juggle creative writing with my academic obligations. If I had to guess, I’d say I could be done with that in a few years (fingers crossed!). I’m also currently working on my dissertation which addresses many themes from my book so I’d love to publish a non-fiction book about college sports as well. The problems college athletes face are a great civil rights issue and writing about them matters a great deal to me.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Website

“Sicily “Sis” Jones is the only undefeated college athlete in the Amateur Fighting Association (AFA), but her spotless record is running her life. She’s living on pennies and nursing a debilitating injury. Her teammates have their share of struggles, too. Striker fights to support his struggling family. Rip has a secret. Cal harbors a grudge.

Topping it off is their cut-throat coach who pushes them beyond their limits for the sake of his own career.

It’s a new order in the world of college athletics. After a financial crisis, the AFA had to salvage its profits. Fighting became the only sport, a brilliant and violent solution to the economic collapse. But at what cost to the athletes?

Sis and her teammates have made it through nearly four years together at their little second-tier university. But all bets are off when the AFA puts Sis against one of her own. Will the Association survive the aftermath?”

Fore Play

Linda Sheehan’s Fore Play is a book that explores the beauty of golf and the intricate lives of those who play it. Set in a fictional Los Angeles sports club called Bellstone, the book’s storyline revolves around three main characters – Jody, Mandy, and Newt. It particularly focuses on the life of Jody – the granddaughter of the club’s founder – Forrest Wheeler.

Traumatized after the death of her grandfather, Jody stops playing golf. But her husband convinces her to try out the sport by joining the Bellstone club. Here, they cross paths with Mandy, Newt, and a host of other characters that significantly affect the couple’s life trajectory.

As Jody gets more involved in golfing and her work as a scientist, she becomes closer and closer to Jackson – a reserved caddy. Moreover, she begins to notice some of her husband’s unpleasant qualities. Ultimately, she, like the reader, comes to realize that all that glitters is not gold.

If there’s one thing that this book does well it’s that it highlights how far some people will go to gain social acceptance and praise. Using the lives of characters like Mandy, the author highlights how important it is for some people to appear rich, beautiful, and successful, regardless of who they hurt to achieve that. On the other hand, characters like Jackson remind us of how society overlooks anyone who seems different, poor, and unwilling to participate in posturing.

Another theme that is deeply explored in this book is the propensity of victims to become oppressors down the road. For instance, Mandy is bullied as a child and grows up to be a bully herself. On the other hand, Father Norm is abused as a child and grows up to manipulate people and the system to do his bidding. Ultimately, their stories parallel so many real-life ones, making them believable and relatable.

The author creates characters that are layered and interesting, making it easy to believe that this book could be inspired by real events. Even the way that the different golf games are described seems so real. It also helps that the book is written in simple language and even includes verses to popular songs that the characters listen to in different scenes.

Fore Play provides a unique and captivating look at life through some intriguing characters. This is a riveting and easy to read sports fiction novel that uses humor to assuage the darker moments of the human drama unfolding in this absorbing story.

Pages: 273 | ASIN: B09WCT3VHV

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