June newsletter

Official author newsletter under the cut, for those of you who refuse to have anything to do with Yahoogroups but would still like a crack at the contest.

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Tusday Thingers

Missed Tuesday Thingers last week, but am back this week. This week’s Tuesday Thingers prompt:

Last week I asked what was the most popular book in your library- this week I’m going to ask about the most unpopular books you own. Do you have any unique books in your library- books only you have on LT? How many? Did you find cataloging information on your unique books, or did you hand-enter them? Do they fall into a particular category or categories, or are they a mix of different things? Have you ever looked at the “You and none other” feature on your statistics page, which shows books owned by only you and one other user? Ever made an LT friend by seeing what you share with only one other user?

I’ve got 27 titles shared with only one other user — and oddly, it’s the same user in the case of “Star Cops: Little Green Men” and “Rome Insight Travel Map”

For the ones where it’s just me, it’s quite a mix, covering a wide range of categories:

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New Lord and Master short story now up

The new short story about the characters from Lord and Master is now available on my website. It’s set on Mark’s thirtieth birthday, about two years after their wedding, i.e. some time after both the original novel and the forthcoming sequel. This is a standalone and you don’t need to have read the novel first, though obviously you’ll get more out of it if you already know the characters. For those who wanted to see something from Steven’s POV, here’s your chance. Around 7100 words, contemporary m/m romance, one sex scene.

Flight of Dreams

Comments on the story are welcome. Comments are also welcome on any broken code on the page, as I’m still getting to grips with CSS. :-)

Book Review: Warwick Collins — Gents

Another one from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme.

This is a short tale in what might seem an unsalubrious setting, but it’s a small gem of a book that’s well worth reading. It was first published in 1997, but went out of print, before being republished in 2007 by The Friday Project. The republication is well deserved.

Gents is the tale of Ezekiel Murphy, a West Indian immigrant, and the job he takes as an attendant in a public lavatory in London. The supervisor, Josiah Reynolds, and the other cleaner, Jason, teach him the job, which includes more than he had expected. As Ez soon discovers, the facility is popular with cottagers — men using the cubicles for fast, anonymous sex with other men. The attendants discourage it as best they can, but tolerate a certain amount of activity, because as Reynolds points out, the ‘reptiles’ are no threat to anyone.

There are still complaints to the council about the goings-on, and the crew are told that they must clamp down on the cottaging or the facility will be shut. Alas, they’re too successful for their own good, and takings from the small cover charge that covers the facility’s running costs drop precipitously, leading to renewed threats of job cuts, and a dilemma for the attendants…

Gents is a gentle, funny and subtle parable about tolerance, on more levels and subjects than the obvious one. The characters and situations are sketched lightly but deftly, in a lovely display of showing rather than telling, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that Collins originally conceived the story as a screenplay. The three West Indian attendants have much in common through their common background, but are still very different people with different attitudes and prejudices. They have an outsider’s view of the society they live in, and see it from underneath. Through Ez the book touches on issues of race, class, homophobia, religion and culture, without ever being heavy-handed or one-sided.

There are stunningly good descriptive passages about the men and their world, and the characters are likeable and sympathetic, without being unbelievable saints. The main characters are the three men, but they also all have wives (two in Jason’s case), and Ez’s wife Martha and his relationship with her is a particular strength of the book.

One minor problem for some readers will be the Jamaican patois in the dialogue, which does take a few pages to get used to if you’re not familiar with it. But it’s appropriate for the characters and not pushed to the point where it’s hard to follow.

This is a much shorter read than its 172 pages might suggest, as a large font and plenty of white space mean that there aren’t many words per page. At 25,000 words or so, this is a novella rather than a full-length novel, and you get around an hour’s reading for your eight pounds. But it’s beautifully written and a joy to read. It may be short but there’s plenty of depth, and it will stand up well to re-reading. Even if you feel that the book is too pricy for the word count, it’s well worth checking it out from your library.

ISBN: 9781905548767

LibraryThing entry
Gents at Amazon UK
Gents at Amazon US

Tuesday Thingers

Late with Tuesday Thingers again. My excuse is that I was already past a deadline for a short story, and was trying to get it finished so I could send it out to my crit group. Anyway… this week’s prompt from Boston Bibliphile:

Why did you choose to open and maintain an LT account? Do you/did you use other online cataloging/social networking sites, like GoodReads or Shelfari? Do you use more than one? Are they different or do they serve different purposes?

I wanted a catalogue of my books for insurance purposes. Yes, you need to separately list anything with serious value if you want your insurance covered, but there’s also the problem of insurance companies refusing to believe that anyone owns several hundred paperbacks. Having a list of what you’ve got, plus some photos, makes it easier to persuade them that you’re one of the mutant freaks. I’ve had to claim on shipping insurance after a long-distance move, and the company paid out without a murmur on the detailed list I provided of water-damaged books, with notes on whether they were a total loss or whether I was just claiming the reduction in their value. At least there I still had the books, but sometimes you get complete loss. I was also running into the problem of buying duplicate books because I could no longer remember what I already owned.

I already had a small database on my own computer, but I wanted something that would let me just type in the ISBN and let it look up the details of the book online, rather than having to type in all the details by hand. So I asked around my friends, and someone suggested LibraryThing.

Tim knows what he’s doing with that free account covering up to 200 books. It’s a big enough number to let you think you can do something useful with the free account even if you never upgrade, so it’s worth your while putting in a few books to try it. I had my credit card out half an hour later. The system is easy to use, and it’s fun. And even in that half hour I could see all sorts of other ways it could be useful.

Since then I’ve got involved in the social side of the site. You don’t need to ever go near this to get a lot out of the system, but it’s a good place to talk to like-minded readers.

I don’t use other book-orientated social networking sites, although I can see the appeal of something like BookCrossing. One is enough of a timesink for me, and LT’s facilities suit me extremely well.