30.10.14

HEALING by Grace R. Duncan - GIVEAWAY!


In a world that's gone to hell, will you let old fears keep you from the chance at more than just survival?

Blurb:

When Duncan stumbles into a pharmacy in search of something to fix his broken leg, he’s surprised to find someone else there. Like the rest of the post-pandemic world, it appeared empty. Instead, he discovers Mark, a former nurse who walked away from his profession after losing too many patients to the virus. Despite swearing he’d never practice medicine again, Mark patches Duncan up over Duncan's protests. He even finds an abandoned house in the tiny town, and they settle in until Duncan heals enough to look out for himself. Much to the chagrin of both, they find themselves caring for each other.

Duncan welcomes it, thrilled at finding someone he can trust. However, he’s well aware of the shadows in Mark’s eyes and understands Mark’s reticence as he learns the story. But as he’s starting to do things for himself again, Duncan realizes he doesn’t want Mark to leave. He’s not sure if can get Mark to let go of his fears so they can stay together and love. But Duncan’s damned sure going to try.



Excerpt:

He should have known better. Under normal circumstances, it was a stupid move, but right here, right now, “stupid” didn’t begin to cover it.

Duncan glared at his leg for another moment, then leaned his head back against the wall. He needed to keep moving. It hurt like hell, but he had to keep going. It wasn’t going to get better on its own. The gash needed to be cleaned and bandaged, and even if the break wasn’t bad, it should at least be braced. And it wasn’t like he could call an ambulance. Or even go into an emergency room.

Well, he supposed he could go into an emergency room, if he was in the city. But like a lot of other people, he avoided the cities whenever possible. And when it wasn’t, he stayed as far on the edge as he could. But even there, it was a dangerous risk. As corrupt as the cities were now, the price of anything was higher than most could pay. He’d heard rumors that, in some of the worst cities, people simply got shot if they couldn’t pay what the thugs in power wanted. It was all rumor, but rumor he wasn’t about to ignore.

So he did his damnedest to stay away.

He’d been stupid to jump off the ledge. Even at only a couple of feet higher than he was tall, the risk hadn’t been worth it. He’d have thought, after nearly three years, he’d learned how to be more careful and not take those kinds of risks. It wasn’t the first time he’d fallen and hurt himself—though, thankfully, the last one hadn’t involved a broken bone. Maybe it should have; he might have learned his lesson then.

“Really fucking stupid, Dun.”

Duncan steeled himself and pulled to his feet, grimacing when the sharp pain shot up his ankle and through his leg. “Fuck,” he muttered, breathing hard through his nose. When he finally focused past the pain, he looked up and noted the position of the sun, the only real indication he had for the time, and figured he had another good hour or two of light. If he was right about where he was, he wouldn’t need all of it. He tucked the stick he’d found under his arm, grimaced when it dug into the soft flesh, but then leaned on it and hobbled along again.

Grace’s Bio:

Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age - many of which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.

A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children - both the human and furry kind. 

As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.

Grace’s website: http://www.grace-duncan.com
Facebook: 
https://www.facebook.com/GraceRDuncan2
Twitter: @GraceRDuncan

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27.10.14

The Religious Right is Wrong, The Ethics of Religion and the Gay Community by Dr. F. Lee Barham

The Religious Right is Wrong, The Ethics of Religion and the Gay Community

Dr. F. Lee Barham


Publisher: Bridgeview Press (September 16, 2013)

OK, it is important for me to tell you right off the bat that the man who wrote this book is a Christian.  Not a member of the religious right nor any sort of fundamentalist, but if you are an atheist, an agnostic, Jewish or Muslim or any number of other persuasions you may not find this book all that compelling.  It might interest you as being full of pretty convincing arguments in case you get into it with a born again Christian, and it won’t cost you a penny, so what the heck?  Buy it.

Dr. Barham makes lots of simple and some not so simple points that utterly refute what the Religious Right have to say about GLB people.  You notice I did not add the T because this book is not about transgender people at all.  That’s fine. We can write a separate book if need be.  He makes lots of convincing arguments, the first of which has to do with the reason the Religious Right has taken on the GLB community at all.  The fact that there are not very many communists left for them to yell at or be paranoid about is that reason.  They lost the Red Menace so they had to take on a Lavender One, or rainbow if you prefer.  That ultimately is all you need to know, because the arguments they all give for why they hate GLB people are nonsense.  Even if you believe in the Bible, the fact of the matter is that it does not say gays are evil and bad and it does say a whole lot more about everyone else.  I had this debate a couple years ago with my next door neighbors and all I can say is I wish I had read this book before that… I would have had an answer to everything these Box of Rocks idiots said.  The point is, however, that they would not have heard a word of it.  They believe what they want to believe, and don’t confuse them with the facts.

So here are some of the other points Dr. Barham makes about why the Religious Right is wrong:

1.       The Bible itself is no authority on Christian belief.  The present constitution of the Bible did not even get decided on until the fourth century A.D.  Even if you like the version the Emperor Constantine liked, you have to choose a translation, since, contrary to what Michelle Bachman seems to believe, it was not written in English but had to be translated.  There are quite a few translations and in every case the agenda of the translator comes through.  My absolute favorite is how, when the New Living Bible was produced they changed the two men who kissed to reconcile their differences to just shaking hands.  Every other translation stuck to kissed.  It is well know, I might add, that when King James I of England had his version of the Bible done he was nutso about witches and changed the Hebrew word for “poisoner” to “witch”, which had plenty of repercussions.
2.       The few passages where homosexuals are mentioned are flawed in translation as well.  There is some question about what the old Hebrew or Greek words meant, but in any case, there is nothing whatever in the Bible about lesbians.  Or, as in the case of the angels who visited Lot in Sodom, if you actually read the story you may, as Dr. Barham does, decide it was some other issue God was mad about, or you might just be disgusted at the fact that Lot sends his two virgin daughters out to be raped by the mob, and, for that matter, that God chooses to nuke a couple cities just because the people who lived there were not observant Jews but pagans.

3.        If you believe the Religious Right when they insist that marriage should be between one man and one woman, you won’t find examples thereof in the Bible.  Adam and Eve never married.  The rest of the luminaries in the Bible had more than one wife at a time and often numerous concubines.  The women were not considered full humans, had no say in their marriage, nor in how they got the babies they had, and what would happen to them if their husbands ditched them or died.  Citing modern statistics Barham points out that the record of marriages  to divorce is heavily leaning to the latter and that this goes double it seems with the Religious Right.  Dr. Barham loves to point out how Bob Barr, the fellow who pushed for the Defense of Marriage Act could easily have been asked which of his three marriages he planned to fight for the sanctity of.

Where the book goes astray is when Dr. Barham talks about eunuchs – why? – and starts positing that everyone from David and Ruth to Jesus and Paul were all likely gay.  That may be but I don’t think so, and frankly the fact that they were mostly fictional is more compelling to me.

The book is long, but you probably don’t have to read every word like I did, since you aren’t reading the book in a form accessible to the blind.

The arguments themselves are clearly made and irrefutable, for the most part, and full of examples and references.  I think this book could have used professional editorial advice, but that’s how it goes.  It doesn’t appear to have been.  Sadly the Religious Right will just say “Don’t’ bother me with the facts” but I suppose some fairly liberal doubting Thomases might be swayed.  I’m a nonbeliever so I am just grateful to have specific answers to my neighbor’s taunts. Though he and his wife just laughed at the ones I did make.

22.10.14

That's All I Read: MAN ON THE BRIDGE by Stephen Benatar

That's All I Read: MAN ON THE BRIDGE by Stephen Benatar:



MAN ON THE BRIDGE

By Stephen Benatar


ISBN 13 978-1-62798-869-8

It was interesting to me to see Dreamspinner Pressbranch out into more serious literature with Stephen Benatar’s MAN ON THE BRIDGE.  I had heard comments about the imprint Bittersweet Dreams but this went beyond that to something actually important. The novel is neither HEA (happily ever after) nor HFN (happily for now) but addresses a great deal of pain and redemption in the final analysis.  I applaud Dreamspinner Press for producing this fifth edition of this remarkable, may I say, astounding novel.

John Wilmot meets the suave and rich Oliver Cambourne when he is no more than 19 in the year 1958 and quickly becomes his lover.  They reminded me of Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, with the older man’s affection for the younger and the callousness of the younger man’s selfish regard in return.  There is a great deal of witty badinage in the first third of the book as Oliver and John jet about, almost literally, on Oliver’s checkbook, to Biarritz, and with no responsibility for John paying for anything.  One gets the sense that John in his way really cares about Oliver, but he talks himself into betraying the older man, with dire consequences.  That may sound like the plot of the novel but it is in fact about John’s guilt at those dire consequences and how he manages to deal with what he has done.

Benatar does an astounding job of showing the good and bad sides not only of the youthfully selfish John but the overcompensating Oliver who manages to belittle and demean John by turning him into a pet.  The gray areas of the mutual affection are quite well portrayed.  Even when John has moved on to his new life the selfishness and callousness keeps coming through.  What Oliver has done more wholly punishes John and one is left wondering if Oliver did that on purpose.  My eyes grew wider and wider as I realized just how poetic the justice was.  If John can find redemption given all that has happened, it will be a remarkable accomplishment.

One point made is that John does not believe he is homosexual and, in fact, marries a woman with whom he has a satisfying sex life.  That it is little more than that says more about the importance of the two man’s relationship than if John had only been interested in sex with the woman.  He is bisexual, yes, but that’s not the point of his bond with the important person in his life.  This may b the case with a huge number of people living now, but we are so polarized that we mistakenly insist on the either-or.

That all this happens at the time of the Wolfenden Report when the British finally realized how devastating their laws against homo sexual acts were is no coincidence.  The creative and artistic community in Britain took a very hard blow from its sensitive same sex loving man being imprisoned while the death penalty for murder was outlawed.  The irony of these two bits of jurisprudence comes through with the actions of the main characters.  Early in novel the “man on the bridge” is a painting by Oliver of a young man arrested for, tried for, found guilty for and executed for a murdered he did not commit simply, it is implied, because the real murderer was his male lover.  This single image informs the ironies, injustice and cruelties of the entire story.  It is painful to realize how recent this all took place.

Benatar handles all the excruciating details with sensitivity but lets the injustice hit the reader nonetheless.  This is not a novel that one will easily recover from, no less forget...

11.10.14

That's All I Read: I KNOW VERY WELL HOW I GOT MY NAME by Elliott DeL...

That's All I Read: I KNOW VERY WELL HOW I GOT MY NAME by Elliott DeL...: I KNOW VERY WELL HOW I GOT MY NAME  by Elliott DeLine and Red Thomas BUY ON AMAZON Publisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publish...



Storytelling worthy of Mark Twain or Garrison Keillor.

2.10.14

WINTER DUET by Anne Barwell

Lovers in a Dangerous Time

Walking down the street, hand in hand with the person you love.  Sharing a kiss in a crowded café...

These are things we take for granted today. We read romance novels and expect a happily ever after.

For gay men living in the not so distant past, all of this was a dream that—for them—would never be reality. Not only was homosexuality frowned upon, it was illegal and any men caught in what could be presumed a sexual relationship with another man would be sentenced to hard labour, or worse.  I say ‘presumed’ because even holding hands in public was dangerous. Some got a choice—avoid prison and choose to be chemically castrated. Not much of a choice, is it?

Kristopher, one of the main characters in my WW2 Echoes series, also had another dilemma he needed to work through. He, like many others of his generation, had been taught that having romantic and sexual feelings for another man was wrong.  That thinking had already caused him to walk away from one friendship because he was scared when he figured out what his true feelings were.  In Shadowboxing, the first book in the series, Kristopher’s father discusses the ‘Jewish problem’.  The Jews are viewed as ‘other’ and Kristopher soon realises that, because he is homosexual, so is he.

There’s a well known poem by Martin Niemöller that has stuck in my mind. It is about how first they came for others and I did not speak out, and then came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.

I’ve been asked why I wrote two homosexual couples in this series.  Each man approaches their sexuality differently, and they each reflect the differing ways men dealt with the fact it was dangerous to admit to someone else who they truly were.  While Kristopher needs to admit to himself who he is, and accept it, Michel already knows he prefers men, and has had a past relationship.  Matt’s self-awareness came with the realisation that he couldn’t continue his relationship with his friend, Elise. He loved her, but not romantically and didn’t want to live a lie any longer.  Many homosexual men pretended to be straight and were in relationships with women. Ken’s situation is different again. He’d never met a man or a woman he was interested in. Then he meets Matt, and even then neither takes the risk to admit their true feelings to each other until....

In Winter Duet, Kristopher and Michel take refuge in a safe house with a German couple.
Later, Kristopher tells Michel:
“You know what I really want? I want what Karolina and Georg have. I want to be able to be with and get married to the person I love and not to have to hide how I feel.” Tears formed in his eyes, and he blinked them away. “I want to be able to offer you comfort when you need it and not just when we’re alone.” He stood up abruptly, walked over to the edge of the loft, and kicked at the straw at his feet. “Damn it, Michel. How can what we have be wrong? It’s not. It feels so right. I feel complete when I’m with you, like I was missing something before but never knew it.”

Even if he and Michel survive the war, they are going to have to hide their relationship in public.  Given that, any HEA is going to be bittersweet. Ditto for Matt and Ken.  It’s the reality of the time in which they’re living, and portraying it unrealistically would be doing them, and everything they’ve been through a disservice.

Buy Link:

Echoes book 2 - Sequel to Shadowboxing

Germany 1944

With Kristopher finally fit enough to travel, he and Michel leave the security of their safe house and continue their journey across Germany toward Switzerland. Caught in a series of Allied bombings, they stop to help civilians and narrowly escape capture by German forces.

While investigating a downed aircraft in the Black Forest, the two men discover an injured RAF pilot.  After they are separated, Kristopher and the pilot are discovered by a German officer who claims he is not who he appears to be. Determined to find Michel again, Kristopher has to trust the stranger and hope he is not connected to those searching for him and the information he carries. Meanwhile Michel is intercepted by one of the Allied soldiers he met in Berlin. His help is needed to save one of their own.

Time quickly runs out. Loyalties are tested and betrayed as the Gestapo closes in. Michel can only hope that they can reach safety before information is revealed that could compromise not only his and Kristopher’s lives, but those of the remaining members of their team—if it is not already too late.

Excerpt:
“Oh.” Kristopher paused, his spoon halfway to his mouth. “I’m sorry. I never thought. I didn’t mean to….” The words trailed off. Telling them he hadn’t meant to embarrass them would only serve to do just that.

“I’d never heard the poems before either,” Michel said. He glanced toward the door, as though suddenly nervous.

“That’s the thing with wars,” Karolina said. “They draw all sorts of different people together, don’t they? It doesn’t matter who you are. Out there on the battlefield everyone’s the same, aren’t they?”

“Yes, they are.” Kristopher swallowed a mouthful of beans while he collected his thoughts. “I was a musician,” he said at last. “It was a long time ago. Sometimes it feels as though it was in another lifetime. I’ve been trying to work out why the code phrase sounded so familiar. I’m sorry. I guess I should have kept it to myself.”

“Nonsense,” Georg said briskly. “Don’t apologize for having a good education, and if it gives you some distraction to get through this terrible time, you should use it.” Karolina placed a hand on his shoulder. He reached up and placed his hand over hers. A sad look crossed her face, and she suddenly appeared a lot older.

Kristopher bit his lip. He lowered his gaze and concentrated on eating. He hadn’t meant to upset either of them. Michel had warned him to keep any conversation brief and focus on very general topics.

Damn it. He wasn’t very good at this at all. For a short time he’d forgotten their situation and been caught up in the moment, remembering his passion for his music and wanting to share it.

“Paul….” Michel spoke Kristopher’s assumed name, and he looked up. “Karolina’s right. This war has drawn people together who normally wouldn’t have even met. Perhaps we should take it as an opportunity to learn new things, hmm? We all have something to offer.”

“Well said, Gabriel.” Karolina squeezed her husband’s hand. “It’s been too long since Georg and I had the company of young people. You said you were a musician, Paul. What instrument did you play?”

“I play the violin, although I haven’t picked it up in years.” Kristopher watched the couple, noticing the way in which they took comfort from each other’s touch. He wanted so badly to be able to just lean over and take Michel’s hand in his and be open in front of others as to how they felt about each other. During the months spent in the attic at St. Gertrud’s, they’d still had to be careful, but they’d been left alone for much of the time. He hadn’t realized just how difficult having to hide their relationship was going to be.

“We’re not that young,” Michel said when Kristopher lapsed into silence again. He’d told Kristopher he’d turned thirty on his last birthday. Kristopher was almost a year younger and had wondered at the time where both of them would be by his next birthday, which was only a few months away.

Georg chuckled. “You’re about the same age as our boy, so to us, that makes you young.” He got out of his chair. “I’m going to make some tea. Do you want some? Here, Karolina, have my chair. You’re not getting any younger.”

“My husband, he thinks he’s funny,” Karolina said. She gave him a light peck on the cheek and went to clip his ear again, but he ducked out of the way and headed toward the kitchen.
“He’s only offering me his chair to keep me away from my knitting. He knows full well I’ll poke him with one of my needles if he gives me too much cheek.”

“How long have you been married?” Michel asked. He seemed amused by their banter. Kristopher wondered if it reminded him of his parents.

“Since just before the last war.” Karolina picked up the cloth bag Kristopher had noticed earlier and settled into the other armchair. She opened the bag and took out yarn and what appeared to be a large knitted square on needles. “We’d met the year before, and I waited for him to come home to me and our newborn son. I didn’t allow myself to think he might not. Tell me, do you have someone waiting for you?”

Kristopher glanced at Michel. Karolina wasn’t exactly following what he’d been told about keeping to safe subjects either.

“I have someone, yes,” Michel said finally. “I want nothing more than this war to finish so we can have a life together, but sometimes I doubt that will ever happen.”

“It will,” Kristopher said firmly. He placed his bowl on his knee, feeling the warmth of it through his trousers. “When you love someone, you wait for however long it takes.”

Bio:
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing "discussion," and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as "too many." These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of "spare time" is really just a myth.

Links:


25.9.14

THE PILLAR by Kim Fielding

THE PILLAR

Kim Fielding

ASIN: B00MOKC9J4
Dreamspinner Press, August 2014

BUY AT AMAZON.COM

BLURB: During his youth, orphaned thief Faris was flogged at the pillar in the town square and left to die. But a kind old man saved him, gave him a home, and taught him a profession. Now Faris is the herbalist for the town of Zidar, taking care of the injured and ill. He remains lonely, haunted by his past, and insecure about how his community views him. One night, despite his reluctance, he saves a dying slave from the pillar.

A former soldier, Boro has spent the last decade as a brutalized slave. Herbs and ointment can heal his physical wounds, but both men carry scars that run deep. Bound by the constraints of law and social class in 15th century Bosnia, Faris and Boro must overcome powerful enemies to protect the fragile happiness they’ve found.

This novella is just about perfect.  The story is heart-breakingly sweet.  Its characters, both main and secondary, are crafted for the role they take in a historical piece, the history accurate without being pedantic.  The dialogue is personal and real and fills the need for sincerity and poignancy.  What's more, the story is organized just right to offer the elements of a fable precisely.  Everything happens in the story just when it should.  If you are waiting for the "but", there is none.  Kim Fielding's story is just right, a sort of It's a Wonderful Life where every element is supplied exactly when and how it should.

The Bosnian setting is realized without beating anyone over the head with it.  The time period is, to this medievalist's eye, well-executed.  The pace is steady and comes to a head just when it should.  The sex is compelling and sweet.  There just isn't one damn thing wrong with this adorable story.

I don't give stars, as you know, but if I could I would give this one six our of five.

My critical hat is off to you, Kim.

23.9.14

That's All I Read: A TASTE OF HONEY by various

A TASTE OF HONEY by various

BUY ON AMAZON.COM

 A Dreamspinner Press anthology

Celebrating bears.. whether grizzlies, panda bears, koala bears, chubbies or otters... they need love to, and this anthology has a lot to share with them.

My own story is in here, so I won't review it, but I will include the burb:

Truck Stop by Christopher Hawthorne Moss
When a snowstorm strikes an isolated diner in 1940s Nevada, diner owner Cleve is trapped inside with a single customer, a surly truck driver named Sully. As country songs play on the juke box, both men begin to reveal their secret desires and realize they have more in common than a preference for other men. They've made mistakes and faced disappointments, and they've both given up on finding love.

See if the country songs bring back some lovely memories.

Now to the reviews:

The Bear Fetish by John Amory
Robert has a full plate when he's sent from New York City to Albuquerque to prepare a regional bank to merge with a national chain. When he looks for a place to unwind, he inadvertently ends up at a gay bar on Bear Night. Used to living in the closet because of his cutthroat career, Robert is nervous... until a sweet Native American bear named Louis buys him a drink and starts to break through Robert's shell.

A warm and endearing story of a man who finds love where he does not expect it.

The Bear Next Door by Jack Byrne
It took a lot of effort for Bryce Philipson to get the attention of his neighbor, Rob Johnson, and even more persistence to prove to the middle-aged bear that he’s more than a spoiled rich kid. But both men are plagued by insecurities that threaten their relationship, and a tragic misunderstanding might prove the last straw unless they can learn to trust and forgive each other.

This one will make you appreciate what you already have.

The Bear at the Bar by J. Scott Coatsworth
Dex's life is all about the hook-up, and he knows he’s attractive enough to have any man he wants. If a guy isn’t his idea of hot—gym-toned with zero percent body fat—he won't give him a second glance, especially if he’s a bear. But then something happens that flips his perspective and makes him rethink his entire life and the decisions he’s made. In the end, though things go back to “normal,” Dex will never be the same.

Everyone dreams  of this sort of switch, or at least those of us not so traditionally beautiful.  I thought the insights Dex gains from his transformation were real and accurate enough to make the story work quite well.

Barefoot by Lillian Francis
A crunching tackle brought Finn’s rugby career to a premature end, shattering his confidence and leaving him shy and insecure about his sexuality, despite his size. Now, knowing how it feels to be left with no hope for the future, he volunteers at a homeless shelter.

One night he gives up his shoes to a homeless man. Of course, that’s the night he finally gets an opportunity to talk to Sam, the cute twink he’s been crushing on.

Mistaken identity and assumptions keep you guessing as this volunteer at a homeless shelter makes time with the man from thee grocer store where he picks up day old bread.  Thoughtful and enlightening.

Just Breathe by John Genest
Checking into a clinic one evening, Will is unnerved by the woofy Daddybear of a technician who hooks him up and gets him into bed… for a sleep study. When Will can't relax, the technician tells him a story confirming he prefers chubby cubs like Will. But recent performance problems and issues from his past hold Will back. After some uninterrupted sleep and an extraordinary dream, perhaps Will can let go of his pain and move forward.

I got such a kick out of this story of a man going for a sleep study, something this little bear had to do recently.  True to life the story yet hgas a magical side to it that makes it almost mystical.

Bear Chasing by Renae Kaye
Neil has a crush on the big guy across the road. But someone so masculine wouldn't be gay, would they? And even if they were, they wouldn't be interested in someone like Neil. The guy across the road could only be described as a bear, and Neil? Well, he's skinny, awkward and shy.

But what on earth was this "Woof!" business?

Neil's rather humdrum life takes a turn for the adventurous when he and his sister's kids get to know Rob whose car obsession causes first trouble but then a chance to get quite neighborly.  Bryce is endearing but Rob's affectionate nature towards him and others is the real selling poinct of this story.

Golden Bear by G.P. Keith
Norm’s comfortable city lifestyle is challenged when an ice storm downs his Internet and threatens his power lines. When friendly, golden-bearded Hydro worker Winston comes to remove a downed tree limb, Norm is smitten and insists on him staying for dinner. With his outside work uniform off, however, Winston is self-conscious about his heavy build. Norm has always gone for perfectly-toned gym rats, but as he discovers that Winston’s open, good-natured personality fits his build, Norm begins to see the beauty of a bear body-type.

How many of us have admired the city worker who comes to dal with one mishap or another.  In this case the fellow in Norm's backtard has insecurities of his own, making him a tender morsel for a tryst.

Hunting Bear by Edmond Manning
In Chicago’s warm June, bear-loving twink Tyler will go to any length to win the affection of his crush, the sexy construction worker known as “The Great White Bear”. With the help of his loyal friend Derrick, Tyler’s persistence finally pays off. Will he find true love with the Great White Bear? Maybe…maybe not. Tyler learns a few things about “hunting bear” that may change his heart.

The way this story brings two people together who were already friends is exceedingly satisfying.  The story is written with a precise wit that is masterful.

The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Getting Over Yourself by Robert B. McDiarmid
Following a brutal public breakup, Bill nurses his broken heart at a resort in Palm Springs. At his roommate Barnum’s insistence, he’s looking for some wild and sexy fun to help him get over his ex. He might get even more than that when he meets Arthur by the pool and they decide to see where the night will lead.

Just plain charming.

Banyan Court by Samuel Scott Preston
Returning to Honolulu for his sixtieth birthday, Professor Dan Kumagai sits by the tree in the Banyan Court and thinks back forty-odd years to his first and only romance. His time for finding love has surely passed. His grandnephew gives him an unexpected birthday present: a surfing lesson from a former Marine named Hank Ross. Dan assumes his attraction to the younger Hank is one-sided… but he couldn’t be more wrong.

This was easily my favorite story in this collection.  It has a stream-of-consciousness feel to it interrupted by grim reality so well handled that you sense the abruptness  yet fall in love with the two characters all over again.

Amped by Zoe X. Rider
Twenty-year-old Toby has looked forward to the Firesiren show all week, and now that he’s there, he’s in a rotten mood. He sulks at the back of the club, where he hopes to talk Wolf McCandless into buying beer for him. Wolf is older, always comes to the local metal shows, and is hot in a way guys Toby’s age aren't. Toby wouldn't mind getting more than beer from him. He just has no idea how to go about it.

The unexpected interlude in this story makes it all come together.

The Bear King of Snowbird Mountain by Michael Rupured
Recently single Jeremy Jenkins is an average guy working hard as a landscape designer in the mountains of Tennessee. At a conference in DC, he meets gorgeous Donald Matthews, who says the strangest things—like how he thinks Jeremy is hot and wants them to spend the rest of their lives together.

But Donald isn't just a gorgeous man. He's a descendant of the bear king of Cherokee legend, forfeiting his crown for a future shown to him by a seer long ago.

A charming fable with a heartwarming core.

Life's Tiny Surprises by Tara Spears
What possessed Mac to celebrate his thirtieth birthday alone at Giordo's restaurant, he'll never know. He's as lonely as ever, until the tiny wisp of a waiter makes a declaration that leaves Mac dumbfounded. He worries that accepting Jerrod's offer to make his birthday special will end the way such nights always do: with Jerrod gone without a trace after he's conquered the bear.

I loved this story.  It turns convention on its had and makes two men's dreams come true.  It's surprising how such a simple premise can come alive in a story well told.

Gay Boys - Abstract by Jade