Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Best Reads of 2015: Comic Books - Paul Dini's Black Canary and Zatanna

Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell 
Paul Dini and Joe Quinones
DC Comics, June 2015

Cover image artwork by Joe Quinones.
Dini, a master storyteller of various animated DC Comics and Marvel Comics flagship characters including Batman Beyond, Superman and Ultimate Spider-Man, once again spins a fine yarn. This time, he explores the longstanding friendship between Dinah Drake and Zatanna Zatara, the titular characters. The result is sexy, silly and almost too much fun.

Dini's writing feels punchy and inventive, for which readers should be thankful. For example, take the scene where Zatanna magically plays with Green Arrow and Black Canary action figures and makes them get hot and bothered. This blogger cannot describe this scene and do it justice. Read it for yourselves, true believers. Joe Quinones’ art is simplistic yet expressive, reminiscent of animated DC Comics shows. Still, he allows the characters to breathe and develop and their interactions to grow, from the flashback scenes when they were 16-year-old kids to Zatanna’s early days with the Justice League.

Animation superstar Dini originally announced this project in 2006 but it never saw the light of day until June 2015. So rejoice, readers of fine comics. These heroines have legs in fishnets and, in the immortal words of ZZ Top, they know how to use ’em. But the book’s about more than a great set of gams, although admittedly that is part of the appeal of both strong female characters for this author. It’s about a great writing-and-illustration combination and about great characterization. This a great ride for Zatanna fans and Black Canary fans who want to see Dinah do something else besides hang with the Birds of Prey team. Bloodspell is, simply, a great standalone story.
Gorgeous artwork from Joe Quinones
featured on the back cover.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Ottawa Review of Books raves about Town & Train

The latest online issue of the Ottawa Review of Books features a glowing review of my horror novel Town & Train. Thank you, fellow writer, Benoit Chartier, author of Red Nexus, for the kind words. 

"One of the many great things about this story is that it is seamless. There is a perfect balance of elements, from narration to description, plot to execution. It is written in a straightforward style, which creates an incredible ease of reading. Moran reminds me of early Stephen King novels, in that there is always something interesting around the corner. Both Moran and King dip you into the horror one toe at a time."
-Benoit Chartier, Ottawa Review of Books, November 29, 2015

You can read the full review here.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Star Wars Fan Gets Dying Wish, Sees Episode VII:The Force Awakens!

The Force is strong with Daniel Fleetwood! The 32-year-old Star Wars fanatic, who has spindle cell sarcoma, a rare cancer, got his dying wish - an advance screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Star Wars luminaries including Mark Hamill and Peter Mayhew rallied to his cause. May the Force be with them, always, for doing this beautiful thing.

The story is here on Mashable.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Notes from the Road, or Rail, Return Trip of October 18 2015

Riding the rails on an angel-headed high, and endurng so much inspiration that I don't know where to start. And, since my folks always taught me to be polite and grateful for whatever good comes my way, I owe an intergalactic thanks to Jeffrey Round for inviting me to Naked Heart: An LGBTQ Festival of Words. I'm gonna' thank those there fine fellas at Glad Day Bookshop when I get their deets. In the meantime, what a brilliant weekend. I started more conversations than one human being should start. Hopefully, I harangued, badgered, encouraged, nagged, and cheerled those authors I believe in to - in the words of Kerouac's Dean Moriartygo, go, go!

I know that I will.

Notes from the Road, or Rail, October 16 2015

Alright , then, October unrolling outside the train window, that Ray Bradbury October of leaves like fire in the trees, that October earth that Kerouac rhapsodized about so and more trees and the railway unwinding beneath the passenger car, the slate-grey clouds overhead. And, taking it all in, on my journey to Naked Heart, I have Steve Berman of Lethe Press to thank for this adventure. He published my Town & Train and has afforded me many adventures since the book came out. So my heartfelt thanks to the Duke for what his does. And the trail rolls onward.

Ottawa Review of Books covers Benoit Chartier's Red Nexus

My pal Benoit Chartier's sci-fi novel, Red Nexus, set in a dystopic future and brimming with enough ideas to make your mind bend, received a great review in The Ottawa Review of Books. Congratulations, Benoit!

Martin Bueno writes:

"Benoit Chartier’s Red Nexus is as entertaining as some of the best action movies, and at the same time compels us to reflect on values we set on family, and raises disturbing questions about what could become of corporate allegiances, should we allow them to take control of us."

The rest of the review is here


Friday, October 30, 2015

All Hallows' Eve Prep with Chaos Magic, Wicca, Mummy Meatloaf

It feels good to be a Chaos Magic and Wiccan practicioner, listening to Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, makin' mummy meatloaf, and rakin' leaves in the sunliight on All Hallows' Eve eve. Hope everyone celebrates in their own way this Samhain.

Scary Halloween reading

It is one day before Hallowe'en, kiddies and grown ups. Anyone up for a good, scary read? My debut horror novel Town & Train from Lethe Press is "one ride you won't want to miss" says Chrissy Steinbock in her recent glowing review for Apt613.

And the book's here. Here's what the back cover says:

In a small Ontario town, seventeen-year-old John Daniel wakes by the railroad tracks with no recollection of how he got there. Something called him from his bed. Officer David Forester, a recent transfer from Toronto, struggles to fit into the local police force, despite resistance from established circles. Both soon suspect a more pervasive and menacing collusion occurring in town when an antique steam train arrives late in the night. At the phantasmal engine, a conductor promises the desperate locals escape from their town dying with so many closed stores and shattered dreams—but there is no denying what the stranger really brings is the stuff off nightmares.


“A ticket to ride an antique train, mysterious dream visions and vanishing towns—these are the things that will set your heart racing in James K Moran's very welcome addition to small-town horror stories. Wondrously weird and eerily compelling, it is a knockout.”
—Jeffrey Round, author of the Lambda Award-winning Lake on the Mountain and The Honey Locust

Just a reminder that Town & Train is available in Kindle and hard copy on amazon.caamazon.comBarnes & Nobles in the U.S. You can also find the book at independent Canadian bookstores such as Toronto's Glad Day Bookshop, Kingston's Novel Idea and Ottawa's After StonewallPerfect Books and Black Squirrel Books & Tea.
Photo by Anita Dolman.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Town & Train: A Good, Spooky Halloween Read

Anyone up for a good, scary Halloween read once they finish watching It Follows

You should pick up my first horror novel, Town & Train.

But don't take my word for it, true believers. Listen to Chrissy Steinbock, a writer for Apt. 613, an award-winning Ottawa blog, who reviewed Town & Train today.

Steinbock writes: 
"Town & Train, the debut horror novel from local author James K. Moran is one ride you won’t want to miss." 
"I’d recommend it whether or not you’re a horror fan. The trueness of the setting and the characters’ experiences are sure to set up even the most skeptical reader for the spooks when the train rolls in."

The rest of her review is here

Town & Train is available in Kindle and hard copy on amazon.ca, amazon.com, Barnes & Nobles in the U.S. You can also find the book at independent Canadian bookstores such as Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto, Novel Idea in Kingston and After Stonewall, Perfect Books and Black Squirrel Books & Tea in Ottawa.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Astonishing and Creepy: A Review of It Follows

A ways back, I watched It Follows and, ironically, the horror film stuck with me. Its shots of the dilapidated suburbs. Its sense of timelessness established by trappings including split-level bungalows that could be from the 1970’s or 1980’s, high rise apartment complexes, and a 1975 Plymouth Gran Fury that figures in the plot. Filmmaker Magazine called It Follows a “creepy ode to old-school ‘70s horror”, but it is more an exorcism (no pun intended). Director David Robert Mitchell takes unwitting viewers on a discomfiting journey over cracked suburban streets, through decaying urban Detroit, past graffiti-tagged and shuttered businesses, to bleak tower apartments, imbuing every moment with the threat of a sexually transmitted monster.

The premise is uncomfortably simple. Jay (Maika Monroe) sleeps with her new boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary), and discovers that a monster has been following him, transmitted to him from the last person he slept with. The only way to rid yourself of the creature, which can follow you in any form it chooses to take, often someone you love, is to sleep with someone else and pass on the sexually transmitted horror.

Still with me? Good, then. It Follows is visceral and unsettling. Watching the film, I was uncertain whether I liked it or was uncomfortable and couldn’t articulate exactly why. However, any film that prompts you to think about it for days or weeks afterward is a film, in my estimation, worth thinking about.

It Follows flaunts an inherent and distracting beauty, opening with a 180-degree pan of a young woman fleeing home in dusk light while her perplexed father looks on. This is the inverse of the shot of Jamie Lee Curtis fleeing the front door of a house in John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween. In fact, many of the tracking shots early in Halloween depict characters roaming the 'burbs, chatting about boys and the homecoming dance. It Follows draws from Carpenter’s vision, establishing haunting ambience with wide shots of leafy, sprawling suburbs, red-brick bungalows, and sidewalks and roads that have seen better days.

But I really only grasped what It Follows was about when I re-watched Halloween recently with friends. And, Bam!, there was it was, staring me in the face. It Follows occurs in the same setting as Carpenter’s Halloween, with more fissured suburban streets, and rundown homes. Tumbling leaves signify decay as well as atmosphere. It’s the same neighborhood, but 35 years later. If this wasn’t trippy enough, Mitchell gives us a new monster. Instead of a maniac returning to butcher oversexed teens on Halloween night, it’s a thing from the immediate past that, well, follows you.
The poster, featuring that notable
 1975 Plymouth Gran Fury.

The creature can be anyone, even a loved one, often unclothed. This nakedness is never explained, as though the creature wants to yank the curtain back on social taboos. In one scene, the monster, using the guise of a character’s mother, attacks the son, her housecoat opening to reveal shapely breasts. It’s like the creature wants to expose the boy’s Oedipus complex. In another instance, a trim, muscular aged father stands atop the suburban homestead, pointing at a protagonist.

Director Mitchell is relentless with his retro references. The story occurs somewhere in a murky time that could be the 1970's, 1980's or now. The sole indicator of era is a character who recites portentous poetry from her Compaq that doubles as an e-reader. Otherwise, the Internet and cell phones do not seem to exist. These kids use landlines, in fact. The teens also watch mediocre 1950’s sci-fi films (reminiscent of Halloween that featured characters watching the original The Thing from Another World and Forbidden Planet). Like a 1980’s horror film, It features an immersing synthesizer soundtrack by a single artist, Richard Vreeland, better known as Disasterpeace.

In one astonishing scene, the heroes try to stop the creature using totemic gadgets that any child of the 1970’s and 1980's will recognize—a hair dryer, an electric typewriter, and solid base lamps among them. The protagonists seem to be trying to exorcise their past.

Mitchell steadily carries viewers through staple settings of youth—making out in the car on your hot date, having sleepovers in someone’s room, sitting in the backyard cross-legged having a pow wow with your friends (in a five-pointed star pattern, no less). In one pivotal scene, a main character asks, after a life-changing intimacy, if their beau feels any different. Ostensibly, they are discussing making love. The couple passes someone industriously employing a leaf blower. The viewer gets a three-quarter shot. The couple is wearing matching black-and-white colours. They are doomed to be subsumed as a suburban couple as their parents were.

It is also a tale of lost innocence, of attractive studs sleeping with nubile babes and tossing them aside. The film often feels like a Jungian journey through the mausoleum of one’s suburban youth, from the lonely, expansive streets to the preternaturally respectable homes. A dedicated introvert, inspecting someone else’s house, pulls out a porn magazine depicting voluptuous women. He begins leafing through its pages. Why is unclear. He is, after all, sitting in the house of a missing person that they are attempting to find. Still, this moment moves the story forward.

As for innocence, the heroine, Jay, seems to have a spiritual connection with nature, established in her first scene, floating in a pool, staring at clouds. This day-dreamy young woman spares the lives of ants. Water seems to be a spiritual haven for her and a last refuge other characters.

When Mitchell moves away from dead suburbia, he channels his voice through his characters with abandon. One angst-laden teen reflects on how their parents wouldn’t let her go past Eight Mile when she was younger because Eight Mile marked the boundary where the 'burbs end and the city of Detroit begins. This dialogue segues into shots of urban decay, dilapidated buildings, graffiti-covered walls, and shuttered businesses.

Who, in horror films, expands on such a thesis, while featuring a hive-inducing monster that you get from having sex, all the while exploding social taboos and kicking up the rocks to unearth the ugliness of the ‘burbs in a borrowed setting?

Astonishingly enough, director Robert Mitchell does.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Andrew King on Letting go of his Star Wars Dream

Andrew King, amazing Ottawa graphic artist, cartoonist, historian and social media master, recently blogged about his lifelong dream to work on the new Star Wars films, starting with The Phantom Menace. In this article, he writes about working toward your dream, and that dream not working out, but many other things working out well instead. It's a tough, moving, inspiring piece worth reading.

His blog post is here.

King is an artist of astonishing talent who possesses a razor-sharp sense of humour and keen eye for social satire. Also a painter and an avid tweeter, he is worth following. Inspect more of his work at his website - here.

Friday, October 16, 2015

E-interview with 'Nathan Burgoine

Further to my lead up to Naked Heart: An LGBTQ Festival of Words, starting tonight, I am posting an e-interview with fellow reader, ‘Nathan Burgoine.

In July 2014, I had the opportunity to do an e-interview with Ottawa short story writer and novelist, ‘Nathan Burgoine. He was charming, affable, thoughtful and prompt. In the publishing business, it is always a particular pleasure to meet a gentleman, and Burgoine certainly qualifies as one. And besides, l learned a helluva’ lot. But read it and see for yourself, true believers.

JKM: I like your writing. How long have you been writing?
Photo from dearteenme.com

NB: I’ve been writing for as far back as I can remember, but I didn’t try to write with the goal of being published until 2007. I was given the opportunity to pen a short fiction piece for a potential gay romance being put together by R.D. Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert. Unfortunately, the publisher went under. Fortunately, the editors were tireless and championed the collection to Cleis Press, and ‘Fool for Love’ made it into the world in 2009.

JKM: What would you like my blog readers to know about you that they might not read in your author bio (Sometimes dozens are served daily, as the saying goes...)?

NB: The one question I get asked a lot after people read the acknowledgements is “Did you end up letting your husband do that thing he wanted to do?” That’ll make sense if you’ve read the acknowledgements, obviously. And the answer is “Yes. Yes, I did. And the result is exuberant and large, but awesome.”

JKM: Tell me about how your first novel, Light, came about. What were you thinking when you sat down to do the first draft?

NB: “What the hell am I doing?”

Seriously. I write (mostly) short fiction. Writing a novel seemed like an insane idea for someone who enjoys writing pieces that are 3,000 to 5,000 words. I had zero confidence and the sketchiest of outlines and a deadline. That last thing was likely the only thing that kept me going.

I was also thinking that I wanted to make people laugh, and hoped that they’d pick up my book and then look up and realize time had gone by and they were smiling. That’s the ultimate goal—to entertain.

JKM: How long did it take to pen the first draft?

NB: About two years.

JKM: Speaking of which, how many drafts did you do of Light?

NB: I said “about two years” but I tend to re-write and re-write while I’m making progress, and I jumped all over the place from beginning, middle, and end while I was writing it, so I’m not sure exactly when there was a complete draft. I wrote the epilogue before I wrote anything else, actually (and then re-wrote it about a dozen times). I think there were probably less than twelve drafts of the whole shebang, but key scenes definitely had up to (or perhaps more than) a dozen versions before I sent it in to my editor.

JKM: How did the deal come together with Bold Strokes? Please tell me about this. How did you find the market, etc.?

NB: I’m a short story writer first and foremost and hadn’t really thought of being a novelist. For short stories, I went looking where I was already reading. Open calls for submission aren’t always plentiful, but I stuck to it, hunted, and watched my favorite publishers for any openings I could find. Short stories are a great way to “meet” a publisher and editors, as well as a way to work on your skill. I’ve been really lucky to work with some awesome publishers and editors.

NB: After “Heart” (my first story with R.D. Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert), I went to the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. I met some amazing people there—some I already “knew” online, others new to me—and those connections stuck.

NB: In fact, I can trace pretty much every success I’ve had in writing back to people connected with Saints and Sinners. Most of my short stories were sold to calls from people I met there, or through degrees of separation.

Photo from the Bold Stokes Books website.
NB: I’ve worked with some amazing editors through short stories, and I’ve always tried to be as professional as I could. Greg Herren, my editor for Light, was my editor for a half dozen short story collections first. One year (at another Saints and Sinners Literary Festival) he flat-out asked me when he’d be seeing a novel from me.

NB: When I said, “But I write short stories!” [I] was met with a slow eyebrow raise that made me rethink the statement. Sure enough, I’d had ideas that just wouldn’t work for short stories, and I’d just been too dense to realize that they were too big for a short piece. Light came from that pile of ideas that I couldn’t quite make work for an anthology.  

NB: Bold Strokes is amazing to work with. Every step of the way I was involved, and at no point did I feel like I was floundering without a net. Even better, like the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, BSB has the feel of a community of people out to support each other.

JKM: You have a charming, witty narrative voice in your novel Light. I was also astonished and impressed with the very Canadian setting of Pride week in Ottawa. Was the Canadian locale something you pushed for? Or was Bold Strokes fine with such Canadiana from the start?

NB: It’s funny you mentioned that. I try to put Canada in my stories—Canada is a wonderful piece of my life, and often setting is as much a character as the characters themselves. It’s only occasionally I’ll set a tale elsewhere (in one case, I had a story set in the States since I wanted to touch upon ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’), and only once has someone asked me to remove the Canada from a story. With Bold Strokes, I didn’t have to push at all—I think Light would have been a very different tale if it was set somewhere else (even within Canada), so of course it was a relief when I realized there wasn’t going to be a problem with the setting. I know Ottawa pretty well—this city is the longest I’ve lived anywhere—and there are few other places in the world I’d feel confident setting a novel-length tale.

NB: There were some fun back-and-forth questions, of course. “What the heck’s a loonie?” became kind of an in-joke or short-hand for Canadianisms. I’ve almost always worked with publishers from the States, so I already my list of things that I knew to look out for (colour vs colour, for example) but writing a novel certainly added to the list.

JKM: Did you have any particular inspiration to create a gay hero? Please expand either way.

NB: I was a huge X-Men geek growing up. People who were born different to families who were otherwise “normal,” and hated for it? Gee. I’m not the first person to make the connection to the LGBT experience with those of Marvel’s mutants, but it was a powerful thing for me as a kid. Also, they were the closest thing I saw to an example in fiction of someone like me—this was before cable T.V. and the internet, and in many of the small towns I lived in, there was no hope of bumping into any representation of an LGBT character.

NB: Things have changed—even in the X-Men, there are quite a few queer characters—but I wanted to write a story of a gay superhero in a gay setting. Kieran came from that. In a way, he’s the X-Man I always wanted to be.

JKM: I like your hero, who can bend light. In many ways, they are a superior version to the Marvel Comics character, Dazzler, who merely shoots light or makes light shows to confuse her opponents. Was this a conscious tribute?

NB: Definitely a tribute to the X-Men in general, but not Dazzler in specific. Also, rainbows and gays are so wonderfully interconnected that when the idea struck me, I couldn’t let it go. On the surface, Kieran’s powers aren’t that amazing in the grand scheme of superhero traditions. Telekinesis, sure, but only thirty-odd pounds or so. There’s the light-bending thing, which isn’t the most useful tool until you get very creative with it. His telepathy has been more of a hindrance than an asset. He’s an everyday guy—again, that nod to the X-Men—but he’s been born different twice. Gay, and super-powered.

JKM: ‘Nathan—I should add that it’s also such as funny book. The whole subplot with people voting to name the mysterious hero Rainbow Man, I thought, was hilarious. Well done.

NB: Thank you! I really struggled with whether or not to go for the laughs, actually. I have a reputation for being more of a “bittersweet” writer, but I love to laugh, and my favorite books always seem to have a slice or humour to them.

As for the “Name the Superhero” contest, I tried to imagine all the worst things that could happen were an anonymous superhero to show up, and it occurred to me that the name would be picked by the press or the community at large. And in this case, the gay community in particular.

Personally, I like “Disco.”
Burgoine, a hero in his own right.
Photo by Daniel Smith Photography. 

JKM: You would! Let’s talk Ottawa Pride. Why did you choose Pride Week in Ottawa as a setting?

NB: I wanted to tell a gay superhero story, and I wanted to highlight the gay community. Pride felt like the best setting for that. Also, Kieran’s joy at being gay — that was absolutely something I wanted to make certain came through—would be best represented in settings where he was wholly free to be himself (well, except for the superhero stuff).  

JKM: Would you consider Pride Week an influence on your writing? It’s a great backdrop for a story, BTW. I’m a little jealous. But more impressed with your great story and compelling characters.

NB: I’m actually quite an introvert (like many writers, I’d say), so having safe spaces like Pride or Saints and Sinners or the Bold Strokes Writer’s Retreat are huge to me. LGBT people often have to make our own families, and Pride—and the various events thereof, and the organizations that make it happen—were where my “chosen family” was found when I came out and ended up flying solo.

NB: Being myself and not having to care at all who might see is a big deal, and Pride exemplifies that. I try to live my life very openly in the every day; if someone mentions their husband or wife, I’ll mention my husband, and to heck with the social awkwardness that can sometimes follow. I remember being a kid and never seeing any examples of who I might be as an adult (which was actually the whole point of a piece I wrote for Bruce Gillespie’s nonfiction anthology A Family By Any Other Name.)

NB: From the point of view of the novel, it also gave me a reason to have Kieran stuck to a timeline he couldn’t control, and a flashpoint for the villain of the tale.

JKM: What’s your experience with Ottawa Pride? I could tell you were writing from it.

NB: I love Pride, though I have to admit working a retail schedule often means I have to miss key events on weekends or evenings. When I was in university, it was my favorite celebration. As I’ve gotten older, I still love getting to the parade if I can, but I’m more likely to be at the brunches or art shows or plays.

If that makes me sound boring, I’m okay with that.

JKM: My opinion of you thus far is the opposite of boring. However, would you consider Ottawa an influence no your writing—a muse of sorts? Do you agree or disagree? Please expand on this for me.

NB: Ottawa was the first place I’ve ever really felt was my “home.” I moved a lot growing up, and didn’t really settle anywhere until I came here for university (and even then, I’d intended to move on after graduating). Instead, after coming out, I stayed here. I really think this is one of the best cities in our country, and I love the way Ottawa is a city that doesn’t overwhelm like Toronto does.

NB: I’m not sure if Ottawa is a muse, exactly, or just the first place I’ve ever felt confident about. I can write Ottawa and know and see the places in my mind. I could do that fairly well with a few other cities, but not with the same surety. 

JKM: I also thoroughly enjoy your character’s ability to sympathize with others by feeling their thoughts physical pains and aches. This does, however, make me wonder why he is perpetually single.

NB: Kieran’s telepathy hasn’t really helped him out much, eh? Without spoilers, I’d say that’s more to do with his own flaws than being able to read minds and feel what others feel. There’s a joke I heard somewhere: what’s the only thing worse than not knowing what someone thinks about you? The answer, of course, is: knowing what someone thinks about you. Kieran has definitely set up his own barriers there, but at the start of the book, he’d blame the telepathy.

JKM: On that note, do you have any idea where the inspiration for your charming hero came from?

NB: Other than always having something snarky to say, he’s not much like me, that’s for sure. I’m nowhere near that confident. Kieran was born from a “What if?” and some advice I got from my editor, Greg.

NB: The “What if?” was simple: what if someone had these abilities, and that someone was a fairly regular gay guy? What would that look like? How would that shape his life. 

NB: The advice from Greg was this: if you need a character to act a certain why, what sort of life experience would they have needed to have to make them think that’s the way to act? So, I worked Kieran backwards a lot. He likes to think he can handle anything thrown his way, cares about others, values family, and sees the value in the Pride and the support it creates. I needed him to think and feel that way if he was going to handle the potential disaster ahead of him, and worked backwards from there to make him make sense.

JKM: I also like how the protagonist has a thing for a leather guy in the book. Where did this leather man character come from?

NB: Sebastien is the most “made up” character of the bunch, I’m afraid. I am lucky enough to know a few people in the leather community, and they were really helpful with my questions. With Sebastien, I wanted to finally make Kieran consider trusting someone.

NB: Granted, Sebastien was also a lot of fun to write as he’s a big ol’ hunk with a tongue stud. He’s also very full of himself and incredibly forward and if I met him in real life I’d probably want to take him down a peg or two (assuming I could work up the nerve to say hello to him).

JKM: In both your superhero villain story and in Light, you refer to homophobic right-wingers. Might this be your peccadillo or recurring theme? If so, where is coming from?

NB: I actually find the casual and systemic homophobia of the world more of a fear than right-wing zealots. Right-wing zealots fit the idea I had for the novel, and the super-villain short story, “Lesser Evil” (from ‘The Lavender Menace’) suited them as well. Superhero stories are often over-the-top, and I wanted to play on that trope a bit.

NB: Over-the-top groups like the Westboro Baptists are obvious in what they do—they’re visible, loud, obnoxious fonts of hate. Those are easier to fight than the quiet hatreds, or the people who can make bigoted notions seem reasonable. The man thundering from a pulpit doesn’t scare me half as much as a legislator quietly amending (and restricting) women’s rights to birth control, or a teacher claiming that a LGBT support group might cause a backlash so it should probably be tabled at the 
high school for another year.

NB: Worse, we’ve got our own infighting. The queer family can be pretty cruel to itself, especially the more outward you go from “mainstream” (whatever that is). Some of the worst biphobia and transphobia I’ve seen has come from within.

NB: So, no—while I went for the loud hate-mongers in Light and “Lesser Evil,” they’re not something I’m specifically targeting or a theme I’ll likely be exploring elsewhere.

JKM: What do you like best about your novel, Light?

NB: I made people laugh. I love to laugh, and I love being caught off guard and laughing out loud in 
public. Let me be a bookseller for a second here and tell you I think Rob Byrnes is brilliant at this, and you should read his awesome LGBT Caper series, Straight Lies, Holy Rollers, Strange Bedfellows. When readers started to tell me they’d laughed out loud, I was so damn happy.

JKM: Great to hear. Now, what was the hardest part about writing the book?

NB: Writing a novel is obviously a lot more work and takes a lot more time, but the big piece that left me nervous was how much more I had to commit before I showed anything to anyone for feedback. Short fiction is a very different animal, and the feedback cycle can be much simpler. I had to wait for a significantly longer chunk before I felt right sending off a piece of Light to someone for feedback. That was daunting.

JKM: What was the best?

NB:  The best part of writing Light was probably the daily game of “What would I do?” I played. I tried to think of one instance every day (be it at work, or at home) where I’d have used Kieran’s powers if I had them.

NB: I am not a saint, and there would be some people who would find their shoe-laces mysteriously tied together when they started to leave after being rude to other retail clerks. Also, a lot of cigarette butts that were tossed out of car windows would be telekinetically hurled back into the car. The world is not an ashtray.

JKM: Your character endures a lot of embarrassing moments in the story. Have you endured any embarrassments that have informed your writing? Please tell me about them. I promise not to share too much with readers.

NB:  I think everyone has had those moments, and half the fun of writing fiction is to sublimate those moments with something even worse.

NB: That said, I’ve worked at a bookstore for years, and there was this one time a man asked me to help him find a book about an animal. I took him to the nature section, and he looked confused, and explained he was looking for a city version of this animal. I explained we didn’t have a book that about a city-specific regional variety of animal, but it might be covered in one of the larger books. He then explained it was a sports team. So off we went to the sports section—where he was on the cover of the book. I’m pretty sure he thought I was an idiot.

JKM: As well, I am sure our readers are curious about your trip to the Lambda awards. Want to comment briefly on your first Lammy award experience (I read your blog post about it and am now a proud owner of  Justin  Hall's No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics, as a result.).

NB: The Lammys were magic! Being nominated on my first novel was terrifying. I didn’t write a speech, sat with my Bold Strokes Family (my plus-one was actually Rob Byrnes) and spent a good while feeling star struck before I shook myself out of it and started to actively mingle. Everyone was brilliant and welcoming, and it reminded me again of just how wonderful the LGBT community can be.
The cover image of Burgoine's next novel,
also from Bold Strokes Books. 
NB: I’m about half-way through No Straight Lines—it’s fantastic. If you like graphic novels and sci-fi, you also need to pick up Artifice by Alex Woolfson. (Sorry. That’s twice, isn’t it? You can take the bookseller out of the bookstore...)

JKM: Now here is good question. Do you have a question that a journalist has not asked that you yourself would ask if our roles were reversed? If so, what’s the question?

NB: I rarely get asked about being a bookseller as well as an author, and I think that’s been a valuable experience. I have been a bookseller for years, and part of my day-job has always been to talk about books and try to find the perfect book for right person at the right time. I’m a voracious reader, and was always quick with a positive word when I found a book that spoke to me. I’m very aware of the value of a positive review—and the damage that a negative review can do.

NB: I also know—from years of working with books—that there’s no such thing as a book everyone will love. What one person loves, another loathes. And thank goodness for that. There’s so much out there, and there’s something for every taste, and that’s a great thing.

NB: If I enjoy a book, I try to boost that book’s signal as much as I can. I write reviews, talk about it online, tweet it, whatever I can do to give it a bit of noise. And conversely, if a book wasn’t the right fit for me, I take a long look at why. As a random example, I’m not a fan of gore. I’m easily squicked out by blood and guts. But I know full well how many people enjoy what I’d consider very gory books—horror, medical thrillers, even some mysteries are pretty blood-splattered. I’ll happily connect people who enjoy that facet of a story to more books that are the same, but I’ll own that the book wasn’t for me.

NB: Which is a longwinded way of saying I don’t really write “negative” reviews, so much as I try to point out the strongest themes of a book if it didn’t work for me, in hopes to connect a reader who likes those things to the book. They’re likely a better fit than me.

JKM: Do you have any other projects on the go? Please tell me about them.

NB: I’m working on short fiction right now—it’s like comfort food. I think I’ve got five pieces I’m working on, but nothing was promised. They’re for open calls, which gives me a bit of freedom to not panic if the story isn’t working before the deadline.

NB: I did write a novella-ish length work for Jerry L. Wheeler’s On the Run: Tales of Gay Pursuit and Passion and I loved the format. I wrote a story about an editor who learns he’s dying of brain cancer, and decides he needs to make something right with the first man he ever loved before he dies. But—like in most things I’ve written—there’s also a little something “extra” happening, and the same tumors that are robbing his sense of time and memory might also be giving him a unique opportunity. I loved writing that story—there’s a great freedom to the “middle length” of a novella. Also, the other three stories in the collection (written by Hank Edwards, Jeff Mann, and Dale Chase) were awesome. I love being in such great company.

NB: I’m not sure what novel (or novella) I might work on next, but I’m not on a contract, so until I pitch an idea and it’s picked up, I’m willing to stick with short fiction.

NB: I do have scratch notes for a sequel to Light, but I’m not sure that’s what I’d do next.

JKM: Who do you like reading?

NB: Got an hour? Let’s start with fiction by authors whose names start with A.

Okay, in all seriousness, let me talk LGBT authors. Rob Byrnes is pretty much my writing hero. The man writes the most hilarious capers—think Donald E. Westlake, only with an LGBT crew of even less capable con artists and thieves. I love anything Timothy James Beck writes, which includes anything the four people who make up Timothy James Beck write, too; R.D. (Becky) Cochrane, Timothy J. Lambert, Timothy Forry and Jim Carter are all wonderful writers. I’m also an addict for both Greg Herren mystery series—the Scotty Bradley mysteries and the Chanse MacLeod mysteries are two very different types of books but both are great. And lately I’ve been diving into a lot of LGBT YA books—if you didn’t read Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, Cub by Jeff Mann, Tristant & Elijah by Jennifer Lavoie or The Unwanted by Jeffrey Ricker, you’re missing out.

NB: And of course, I’m a giant fan of short fiction, especially speculative fiction. Pretty much any Lethe Press anthology is going to be awesome on that level. I’ve been lucky enough to be in a couple of their collections and I’m always stunned at the company I’m keeping.

JKM: What inspires you as a writer?

NB: Generally speaking, other authors. I’m lucky enough to have found this incredible group of authors through Saints and Sinners and Bold Strokes Books, and I get genuine happiness from seeing their work get recognized. I also find myself reading amazing books and putting them down after and feeling inspired to try something new, or to work harder on my writing skill. I mentioned a lot of books earlier, and each and every one of them does something—often many things—better than I can imagine myself ever doing, but it sure makes me want to try to improve what I can do. 

JKM: Is there anything you want to add that I might have not asked you about? If so, mea culpa.

NB: Not at all! Thank you.

JKM: You’re welcome. My pleasure conducting the e-interview.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Reading at Naked Heart this Saturday

I'm very excited that I'm readin' with 'Nathan Burgoine, Stephen Graham King, Michael Lyons and J. M. Frey this Saturday at the brand-new Naked Heart: An LGBTQ Festival of Words in Toronto. We will share some of our Fantastic Worlds. Mine, Town & Train, is a horror yarn set in the heatwave summer of 1990, brimming with closeted characters, the creeping supernatural, and a bi hero. By Saturday, I hope to decide what section I will read from. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Profile: 'Nathan Burgoine's charming debut novel Light

Blogger's Note: In summer 2014, I interviewed queer Ottawa novelist and short story writer, 'Nathan Burgoine, for an article due for publication before Ottawa Pride 2014. However, in the end, the story did not run. In the freelance journalism business, this happens, as I have mentioned in previous posts. When such a story does not run, the freelancer witer is paid a kill fee, which is usually half the price they are owed for the piece. Or, sometimes, if they are lucky and have an amicable rapport with the editorial staff, the writer gets paid the full fee, as I did. Here's the story, with minor alterations. (And with thanks to those who paid me for the work.)

Ottawa queer novelist 'Nathan Burgoine is attending Naked Heart: An LGBTQ Festival of Words in just over a week. He should be proud for creating a queer hero who debuts at Ottawa’s Pride festival in his first novel, Light.

“I wanted to tell a gay superhero story, and highlight the gay community,” Burgoine, a writer and bookseller, said. “Pride felt like the best setting for that."

Burgoine planted his story here because he attended university in Ottawa, stayed here afterward, and found hope at the festival.

“Pride was where my “chosen family” was found when I came out and ended up flying solo,” Burgoine said.

Burgoine adeptly injects wit and heart into Light. His hero, the perpetually single yet charming Irish protagonist Kiernan Quinn, is a telepath and telekinetic who can bend light. He books time off from his job as massage therapist every year to attend Ottawa Pride festivities. This time, though, an evangelical, right-wing preacher nicknamed Stigmata Jack (think Fred Phelps with bleeding stigmata) and his followers picket events, threatening to kill the deprived ‘sinners’ in attendance. Kiernan, flirting with a hunky leather man, dodging his family’s phone calls, and hanging with his caffeine-addicted co-worker Karen, feels he must step up.

As for super heroics, Burgoine confesses that he loved reading The Uncanny X-Men comic books while growing up in an era without cable T.V. or the Internet.

“People who were born different to families who were otherwise “normal,” and hated for it?” Burgoine says. “Gee. I’m not the first person to make the connection to the LGBT experience with those of Marvel’s mutants, but it was a powerful thing for me as a kid. They were the closest thing I saw to an example in fiction of someone like me. In many of the small towns I lived in, there was no hope of bumping into any representation of an LGBT character.”

“I remember being a kid and never seeing any examples of who I might be as an adult,” Burgoine said. “Being myself and not having to care at all who might see is a big deal, and Pride exemplifies that.”

Photo by Daniel Smith Photography.
From the Bold Strokes Books website.
Although Light is his first book, Burgoine has written for as long as he can remember. Starting with publishing “Heart”, a gay romance story, in 2009, he has crafted short gay erotica and speculative fiction. Burgoine’s clever story “Lesser Evil”, about a C-side super hero crushing on established male heroes, appeared in The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy!, from Northwest Press in 2013. Light, though, earned Burgoine a Lambda Literary Award nomination in the LGBT SF/F/Horror category.

“The Lammys were magic!” Burgoine says of attending the June 2, 2014 ceremony in New York City. “Being nominated on my first novel was terrifying.” However, on a serious note, Burgoine added that everyone warmly welcomed him, despite his initial reaction of being star-struck.

Burgoine draws inspiration from many influences, including gay U.S. author Rob Byrnes’hilarious” capers. Light is often hilarious, too. For instance, the queer community debates what to call their mysterious hero, giving him monikers including ‘Refraction, ‘Disco’, ‘Prism’ and “Rainbow Man’.

Burgoine’s Rainbow Man is happy with his own identity. This sensibility, well, shines in Light.

“Kieran’s joy at being gay was absolutely something I wanted to make certain came through, best represented in settings where he was wholly free to be himself (well, except for the superhero stuff),” Burgoine says.

'Nathan Burgoine will be reading at Naked Heart: An LGBTQ Festival of Words at 4pm on Saturday, Oct 17 as part of the "Fantastic Worlds" event with authors J.M. Frey, Stephen Graham King, Michael Lyons, and myself, James K. Moran. 

Naked Heart occurs Oct 16 to 18 in Toronto. 

Glad Day Bookshop. 598 Yonge St. Third Floor event space. 

For more details about Naked Heart, go here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Naked Heart: An LGBTQ Festival of Words

Heads up, Toronto scribes & editors who I know of but have never met in person. I'm attending Naked Heart: An LGBTQ Festival of Words in TO on Oct 16-18. I'm honoured to be a panelist and possibly a reader, perhaps giving TO folks a sampler of Town & Train.

My 10:30am panel on the Saturday is ... Bending the Genres of Sci-Fantasy & Thriller.

The stellar line-up also includes reading and workshops and panels with over 100 authors. These include Sky Gilbert, Farzana Doctor, Jeffrey Round, Marnie Woodrow, Nathan Burgoine, Zoe Whittall, Marcus McCann, Daniel Allen Cox, Amber Dawn, and Ben Ladouceur.

Looking forward to it! 

Many thanks to Jeffrey Round for his behind-the-scenes toiling.http://jameskmoran.blogspot.ca/