Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book Review: Blackmail, My Love




Title: Blackmail, My Love

Author: Katie Gilmartin

Publisher: Cleis Press

Genre: F/F, LGBT, contemporary, roman noir/neo-noir

Length: 232 pages

Published: November 18th, 2014

Blurb:

Josie O'Conner travels to San Francisco in 1951 to locate her gay brother, a private dick investigating a blackmail ring targeting lesbians and gay men. Jimmy's friends claim that just before he disappeared he became a rat, informing the cops on the bar community. Josie adopts Jimmy's trousers and wingtips, battling to clear his name, halt the blackmailers, and exact justice for the many queer corpses. Along the way she rubs shoulders with a sultry chanteuse running a dyke tavern called Pandora's Box, gets intimate with a red-headed madam operating a brothel from the Police Personnel Department, and conspires with the star of Finocchio's, a dive so disreputable it's off limits to servicemen — so every man in uniform pays a visit.

Blackmail, My Love is an illustrated murder mystery deeply steeped in San Francisco's queer history. Established academic and first-time novelist Katie Gilmartin's diverse set of characters negotiate the risks of same-sex desire in a tough time for queers. Humor leavens the grave subject matter. Set in such legendary locations as the Black Cat Cafe, the Fillmore, the Beat movement's North Beach, and the sexually complex Tenderloin, Blackmail, My Love is a singular, visually stunning neo-noir experience.

Review

You know, right off the bat, just from the cover art of this book alone, I had an inkling feeling that Blackmail, My Love would be something special and unique. I don't normally get that "feeling" for just any book, and with this one, I sure felt it, and from just reading chapter one, it was certainly real. 

The neo-noir/roman noir genre may be too "old school" or old fashioned for most, or too dark and cold to be instantly inviting, and in a way, that is kind of the point. It is an acquired taste genre. The writing style is as cold, dark, mysterious, and eerie as the world that unfolds page by page, illustration by illustration, and the characters are just as cold, dark, and mysterious too. It is "dark fiction" at its finest, and to boot, the illustrations in this book were done by the author herself! Don't be fooled: this is not a picture book. The illustration aren't chock full, but there are enough to truly take you into the the story's troubled world, and they were just so enticing that I wished that there were more of them. The writing pulls you into the story as powerfully that even without the illustrations, you'll be in the story, the reader is in. I will admit that the plot itself is just a decent murder mystery. It's the way that the author weaves San Francisco's history with such beautiful words and pretty colorful characters that makes this book a must-read and a true winner of its kind. The author clearly knows San Francisco's 1950's LGBT community and the plight of the people of that time period, in a time when San Francisco wasn't the accepting, liberating, LGBT-friendly city that we know and love today. There is so much history and geography here. The author doesn't at all tell us about it, she shows us. The geography and history comes to life, so much so that I think the story itself gets lost. Sometimes, I forgot that I was reading a murder mystery and was reading more about San Francisco and that the novel was really about her story, people, and past than it was about Josie and her gay brother's story. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's something to put out there for those who might expect some gripping, edge-of-your-seat, fast-paced murder mystery.

Nonetheless, Blackmail, My Love was a real delight, and it's a treasure. You won't see San Francisco the same again after reading this one. And seriously, the author's illustration skills are just wonderful. How can anyone not love them? The characters, writing, and illustrations aside, I really did love how the neo-noir genre is so alive in this, and it's done with such style, grace, and class, which I can imagine is not easy to do. And Katie upholds that genre and tradition so well that it's simply...perfect. 

Rating: 5
 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

This Is The Way It Is

So it has been a little over a week since I started to take a break off from writing, and though I'm still the busy bee with my day job (which gives me not much time to relax and unwind as much as I'd like, lol), I'm really enjoying going back into doing all the things that I love to do when I'm NOT writing. Not that I didn't do these things when I was writing. I just didn't do it hardly as much as I'm doing now! I would make more time for writing than all this, and now that I'm taking it easy, I have all the time in the world now to do just this, and I really feel invigorated and refreshed already! Though I don't always shout it out at the mountain top, writing truly is my passion, and it's something that I always did and always do for fun. It's just a bonus that I've found publishers who enjoy my work and who are working with me to polish it so it can be more enjoyable for you all to enjoy ;). But like anything that you spend hours, days, weeks, months, and years on, you just need "time off" from it.

And the time is certainly now!

Can I get an amen?

Here are the things that I'm doing for fun, pleasure, and leisure:

Making New Friends/Making New Connections on Twitter/Facebook


For the past year, I've really had a blast on my author page on Facebook, and just recently have used Twitter. I've only had it for I think...4-6 months? Not sure how long it has been, but the Twitter thing is still pretty new to me. I think I'm finally "getting it". I'm more into Facebook, but I do enjoy how Twitter is more spontaneous, interactive, and fun when you really get conversations going, and along the way, make some new friends by chatting, retweeting, favoriting, etc. And this is what I really want to start doing more in general all the time: making new friends/new connections on these sites. It's not about the quantity of likes or follows but the quality in the people who make social networking, well, social! I'd rather build more connections/relationships rather than building as many numbers on the "Likes" and "Followers" tabs as possible. The more, the merrier the party!


Getting Back Into The Film Binging Groove

I've always been a film buff, and go to the library often to rent tons of movies. I'm really into the Golden Age of Hollywood (think MGM, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, black and white films, etc.) and some "modern day" stuff. I'm pretty open to watching almost anything, but with so many great classic films out there, it's hard to really know where to start. For years, I've been picking my movie choices from this gargantuan book which starts from the 1920s to 2013! I love it, and yes, my library carries the majority of what's in this book, so needless to say, I borrow A LOT of stuff (sometimes 20+ DVD's a visit). I'd highly recommend this if you want to watch the best of the best of movies :).


Try And Catch Up On Some Reading!

From Paris Is Burning: "Reading is FUNDAMENTAL!"

And unfortunately, the more I write, the less reading I get done :(. It's pretty hard sometimes to balance both, but now that I'm taking a little break, I'm trying to get some reading done, and yet, still, I'm not getting as much reading done as I'd like! But here's what I'm reading at the moment:


As I've mentioned in a prior post, I'm not going to review that much anymore, but a Cleis Press book? Whatever book of theirs that catches my eye, absolutely I'll read/review it, and this is one of them!

Penthouse/Cleis Press has kindly invited me to take part in the blog tour for this newly released book! A whole collection of blowjob stories? What's not to love about that? I'm in for reviewing this too!


Far outside from erotica, I'll be reading these two books for purely reading pleasure:


I think I've mentioned before that I LOVE classic literature! I hardly remember the last time I sunk my eyes and my mind into a classic piece of literature. This one is a modern classic that I haven't really heard much of, but the plot/summary of it is intriguing, so I'm looking forward to this!

And lastly, Clive Davis's autobiography, The Soundtrack of My Life. 

 

I rarely read autobiographies unless it's from somebody that I truly admire, and this man is certainly admirable! I've started reading some of this book already, and it's so instantly inviting! Clive seems like one warm, understanding, sharp, and kind spirit, and what amazing stories he has to tell and what incredible talents that he has worked with over the decades. I'm really enjoying his book so far.

 Working out my MUSCLES!


Unfortunately, this aspect of my life has been put way in the back burner since I got more into the writing. And I really do miss it. I'm not a gym person. I'm a home body, so all of my work out plan takes place either inside my home or outside. I mostly lift weights, power walk, hoola, and jump rope. Around this chilly time of year, the focus is mostly on my weight lifting and hoola hoop (that's far more fun to work out the abs than doing crunches), whereas the power walk and jump rope are more suitable for sunny/warm weather (they're too awkward or uncomfortable to do off season).  

For now, I'm baby stepping my way into my work out regime with the weight lifting, and so far, I feel great! And the hoola hooping also keeps me warmer and more energetic in general. My main problem is consistency: I start off working out strong and then lose focus, so I'm going to really try and discipline myself to stay focused and keep the momentum going even when I am writing again.

Keeping a Balance, Keeping Things Positive!

The most important thing, above all, is for me to balance my work life with my writing and with taking the time to tell myself "That's enough, now. Relax, go offline, and enjoy yourself!" Not everything in my life is perfect, balanced, and positive, but with so much negativity everywhere, what's the sense in making things worse by not doing this? I love writing, but I don't want it to be all that I do on a daily basis, because, well, it's certainly not all that I do. I wish it was, but then again, I do prefer variety! I mean, I do write on a daily basis, but there's more to me than just being a writer, and I want to show myself and my readers/followers/friends other sides of me and what other things turn me on besides that. Mostly, I really want to try and keep things more upbeat, positive, and happy. That's not to like completely ignore the negative stuff in life, because sometimes that has to be focused on whether we make that choice to or not, but it shouldn't be a burden and it shouldn't take over the soul. You know what I mean? Let's face it: negativity is so draining and weighs you down! It took me a long while to realize this, but it's true: the more positive minded you are, the more powerful you are. Negative vibes/situations are a part of life, but it's up to you on how you want to take it. It's not always easy to keep that chin up and smile, but hey, there's never any harm in trying.


For me, anyway, blasting this song makes things a tad bit better hehe. Whatever works, right?


Much love, lovelies!

V.C. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Man on Top of the World Rewrites Are DONE!




And I'll tell you what, I'm EXHAUSTED! ;) And I feel all sorts of feels, and the only way I can describe them are in these songs:


I think all writers feel this kind of overwhelming sense of relief, sadness, and excitement after finishing a major project that has taken up 2-3 months of our time or longer (in some cases, a few years!). Writing (or rewriting) a book is like being in a relationship, hell, maybe even more like a marriage. It truly is a commitment if you love it and believe in it enough to see it through to its logical beginning and conclusion. It's not always easy. There are doubts, and in my mind, anyway, every book is a miracle. Not all stories "make it" through from the author's mind to a page, for whatever reason (that doubt, or writer's block, etc.). I'm glad that this one made it, and I did my best with it in the execution of the story and the characters. With The Man on Top of the World finished, there's that one question that all writers must ask themselves after finishing a novel: NOW WHAT? 

 I'm not really the "future" type, like I prefer just living in the moment, day by day, and taking each day at a time. But I will say that for now, I just want to RELAX, get back into working out (mostly focus on muscle building), watching movies, and read more, not just erotica but get back to my "roots" in classic literature! When/if The Man on Top of the World finds a new home with a publisher, naturally, you all (and my lovelies on Facebook and Twitter) will be the first to know! Until then, I just want to take it easy, and enjoy life a little bit more outside of my head/writing/world, hehe ;).

V.C.