Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir Mitchell
S.L. Armstrong and K. Piet recently launched Storm Moon Press, a M/M devoted publishing website. I had the chance to read their first book, The Keeper, and it was original and good, that is good thing for a first release. It's my intention to read the other two releases they have, meanwhile, welcome them as Inside Reader this week.
S.L. Armstrong’s Five Picks:
The Lord of the Rings/The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien: I’m going to have to cheat here and claim both of those as books that had a major impact on my life. I was late being introduced to those books, as they were not really mentioned to me in my adolescent or teen years, so I didn’t read them until my early twenties. However, when I did read them, I devoured them, my mind swept along by the sheer scope of the world Tolkien had created. While it taught me nothing about creating deep, moving characters, it did teach me about world-building and how nuanced worlds make for believable worlds. In Tolkien’s world, my mind was filled with love, betrayal, pre-destiny, and tragedy, swimming in the poetic nature of the narrative and the great expanse of characters. The epic tale of the Hero’s Journey and the rise and fall of gods was awe-inspiring to me, and with Tolkien’s world and characters in mind, I set pencil to paper and penned my first true stories. It was through Tolkien’s writings that I honed my own voice, my own style, and found the courage to share those tales with an audience.
Paperback: 1216 pages
Publisher: Mariner Books (October 12, 2005)
Amazon: The Lord of the Rings: 50th Anniversary
The Shining by Stephen King: I’ve read a lot in my life, never sticking to just one genre, and King’s works were introduced to me early by my mother. When I was thirteen, she put Night Shift into my hand with all its creepy short stories, and I slowly ate through her Stephen King library. The one book, though, that stuck with me all these years has been The Shining. It has a small cast, just seven characters (one of which is the Overlook Hotel itself), but it feels so much more expansive. It was a truly frightening book without any blood or overt violence until the end, and I felt so much for those characters and what they were going through. While it was horror, it was also tragic and sad, and it’s where my love of the psychological horror genre was born. It’s what’s inspired me to want to write my own horror stories, ones that are more ghostly than grisly, as it was the fearful things my imagination conjured while reading The Shining that really terrified me, not the actual events that King wrote. I learned through The Shining that my own imagination was far more horrifying than anything an author could put down on paper, that it was the suggestion of frightening things that made the book scary, and I wanted to write that sort of thing myself.
Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Gallery (October 1, 2002)
Amazon: The Shining
The Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle, and Dark Visions by L.J. Smith: I’m going to cheat here again and choose three series by the same author. I read all three series between the ages of twelve and fifteen. I voraciously consumed them, and then reread them each year. I still have the series on my bookshelf, and I still reread them every year or so. They hold the same fascination for me as they did when I was a young woman, and I know they will hold that fascination long into my adult years. Smith’s novels introduced me to paranormal romance, and I fell head over heels for the subject matter. They were the first romances for me, too, and I knew I loved reading about two people meeting in extraordinary circumstances, not being 100% ‘normal’, and falling deeply and lastingly in love. Those three series were the foundations in my mind about vampires, witches, and psychics, all character types I wanted to write about. When I finally decided to write my own material, it was to these paranormal roots I went, creating my own myths and characters who would fall in love and live abnormal lives filled with danger and trial.
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (November 2, 2010)
Amazon: The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #1: Origins
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman: This is a comic book series I was introduced to just as it was finishing up. When I was fourteen, I met a girl in summer school who was a huge fan, and I borrowed the entire series from Preludes & Nocturnes al the way up to her individual copies of the comics that would be compiled to make The Kindly Ones. I bought my own copies of comics that would comprise The Wake when they came out. Here is where my mind began to store away the thoughts of creating my own myths from other myths, of taking commonly accepted characters and beliefs and making them my own. Greek and Roman gods, the Christian angels and apostles, historical figures. I realized that, even if we did know these people’s lives or had established myths, it didn’t mean there wasn’t more to tell. It’s here my love of speculative fiction and alternate histories was born, and I’m slowly writing my own contributions to the genres and loving every second of it, thanks to Gaiman’s Sandman.
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Vertigo; Reprint edition (October 19, 2010)
Amazon: The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes
Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss: It’s not a fiction book, but it’s one of the greatest gifts I was ever given. My very first editor seven or eight years ago presented me with this non-fiction book about punctuation. I had a terrible time with comma splices at the time, and she (living in England) sent me this book all about punctuation. To this day, if I question where a comma or semi-colon goes, I pull out the very volume I was gifted with and refresh myself. It’s been valuable in ways I cannot express, and I encourage ALL writers (be they fiction or non-fiction ones) pick this book up and give it a read-through. You’d be amazed to learn all the rules you think you already know.
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (July 25, 2006)
Amazon: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!
Paperback: 164 pages
Publisher: Storm Moon Press LLC (October 31, 2010)
Amazon: Cast the Cards
Cast the Cards: For over 250 years, the use of the tarot for divination has been a mainstay of mystical and occult practices. The themes and forces represented by the cards are said to govern our lives and our destinies. Whether you believe that or not, the story of the cards is nevertheless the story of our lives -- the accomplishments and the pitfalls, the path from soaring joy to crushing defeat and back again. "Cast the Cards" is a collection of six all-new short stories that explore snapshots of remarkable individuals trying to make their way along that path.
Edith, a woman who has been burned too many times to play the Fool again. Jason, a young man whose bisexuality has made him feel like a Hermit. Sjofn the witch, on a quest to free herself from the control of the Hanged Man. Aaron, a dominant soul stuck in an ivory Tower. Bea, a mind reader weary of battle, but still with the Star in her eyes. Caleb, courted by a god beneath a dream of the Moon.
The path the tarot set before us is never easy, but by facing it with strength and determination, the rewards it promises are worth the risk.
K. Piet’s Five Picks:
The Lord of the Rings/The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien: I join my co-author on this pick for the number one spot. Though many enthusiasts would look down upon me, I’ll readily admit that I was introduced to these amazing books through the motion picture trilogy. In high school, I was swept up into the visual decadence of Tolkien’s world in the movie theatre, and within a couple days, I had my hands on copies of these two written works. There is a richness to Tolkien’s world that ensnared me and still refuses to let go. His were the first books I felt truly engrossed in, and I found both the detailed world-building and the way he could weave timeless themes seamlessly into a single story utterly inspirational. The combination of epic, interwoven themes, and intricate history developed into each setting is something I know I will always strive for thanks to the influence of Tolkien’s fiction. Much like my co-author, these were the books that first gave me the courage to write down stories of my own.
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Second Edition edition (November 15, 2004)
Amazon: The Silmarillion
The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey: S.L. is the one who got me hooked on this lovely trilogy. She gave me the first book as a birthday present, and I felt like I couldn’t put it down. After reading almost nothing outside textbooks for school, it was a breath of fresh air. The Last Herald-Mage trilogy was the first set of books I had read that featured well-developed, gay characters. The one thing I really liked was that, while Vanyel’s struggle with identifying as shay-al-chern (gay) is addressed, especially through his relationship with his father, he isn’t treated in any particularly special way by the author. Lackey provides us with several characters who see his sexuality as completely natural and, in turn, that has the potential of helping a young reader begin feeling comfortable with themselves. While I wasn’t one of those young readers myself, I have a feeling I would have been eternally grateful for this book if I’d come across it back in elementary school or junior high. Beyond the skilfully handled homosexuality, the world was vast and engaging, and each of the characters was undergoing their own journey, which gave each a depth I found truly enjoyable.
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: DAW (June 6, 1989)
Amazon: Magic's Pawn (The Last Herald-Mage Series, Book 1)
Twelfth Night or What You Will by William Shakespeare: I bet this pick will seem a bit out of place and silly, but I have loved this play ever since I first read it. I have always loved how Shakespeare’s characters end up so incredibly entangled in their various relationships, their own plans turning against them and one problem snowballing to involve many. This play in particular marked the shift in Shakespeare’s comedies, challenging the convention of everyone marrying everyone else and living happily ever after. While they do marry, they do so with obviously shallow, if not completely arbitrary, reasons, and you’re left with Malvolio cursing them all and wanting revenge. Along with the characters acting out a farce, I had always been attracted to the way Viola falls in love while cross-dressing. Even better is how Orsino is obviously attracted to her even when she is under the guise of Cesario. The misunderstanding of Olivia also falling in love with Viola and their awkward encounters were brilliant. All in all, it made me see sexuality as more of a fluid thing while providing plenty of laughs along the way, even if that wasn’t the intent of the play.
Paperback: 228 pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (July 20, 2009)
Amazon: Twelfth Night: The Cambridge Dover Wilson Shakespeare
Forbidden Acts – Pioneering Gay & Lesbian Plays of the Twentieth Century (collection): I’m cheating on this one, and I know it, but there was simply no way I could ignore this book and all the wonderful plays in it. The collection includes The Boys in the Band by Mart Crowley, Bent by Martin Sherman, and Love! Valour! Compassion! by Terrence McNally, among others. There are so many different themes covered in the varied plays that it would be impossible for me to do them justice in my little blurb here. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed the material so much that it made me wish my summer school course on ‘Gay Plays’ had been a full semester long instead. My appreciation for the power of the written word being translated into the visual medium of theatre grew exponentially. While it isn’t a style of writing that I excel in by any means, it will always retain an appeal all its own. Plays can be performed in a variety of ways, so it becomes important to write excellent dialogue to hold the on-stage interaction together. Thanks to excellent plays, I strive to write engaging dialogue that one could see being acted out.
Paperback: 744 pages
Publisher: Applause Books (September 1, 2003)
Amazon: Forbidden Acts: Pioneering Gay and Lesbian Plays of the 20th Century
A-Muse-Ing by Willa Okati: This is a fairly recent book by a m/m erotic romance author. It makes this list because it was both the first ebook and the first m/m erotic romance story I had ever read outside the vast realm of fanfiction. I had read plenty of erotic content by that time, but this story felt special to me. With it was the realization that you truly could publish such material, albeit primarily through online e-presses. The characters, storyline, and plot all lived up to the title of the work: I was amused from start to finish. It was one of those stories where characters’ idiosyncrasies caught my attention, lending another nuance to the prose and the characters themselves. Of all the ebooks I have read from Okati, this has always been my favourite. I’m just grateful this ebook was my first. It left a very good impression and set the foundation for my own willingness to publish in both ebook and print formats through Storm Moon Press.
Publisher: Loose Id LLC (November 4, 2008)
Amazon Kindle: A-Muse-Ing
Rachmaninoff: Nineteen-year-old Aric Reynolds has spent most of his life in boarding schools, summer camps, or on tour as a prodigy with the piano. His wealthy parents have never had time for him, and after a failed year at college, they have decided on a final course of action. Aric is brought to Nikola Jovanović's beautiful, sprawling manor in Serbia.
Nikola is known the world around as a master in music, unsurpassed by any, but terribly reclusive. For one year, Aric is to be his student, but in the modern day, it is easy for Aric to learn Nikola's secrets. With a dark shadow lurking from Nikola's past and Aric's stubborn, promiscuous nature, the sexual tension between the pair simply explodes, and Aric's very mortal life is held in the balance.
About S.L. Armstrong: S.L. Armstrong was born in West Virginia and raised in Tampa, Florida with her younger brother and a family dog.
She has been a voracious reader since early childhood, a hobby encouraged by her mother. In middle school, S.L. began to write as a hobby, scribbling poetry and snippets of prose during her classes. By the end of her high school career, she'd filled three binders full of her writings. It was the beginning of a life-long obsession with words and worlds, characters and plots.
Shortly after high school, S.L. married her husband, who has always encouraged her in her chosen field.
S.L. writes primarily male/male romance or homoerotic fiction, and she tends to lean toward the fantasy, paranormal, and horror genres.
She and her husband currently live together in Bradenton, Florida with seven cats and two dogs.
About Kris Piet: Kris Piet was born in California and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona, with her older sister. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Nevada – Las Vegas in Kinesiological Sciences, Kris has moved back to Flagstaff to pursue a career in therapeutic bodywork and massage with an emphasis on sports massage for athletes, dancers, and circus performers training at high altitude.
Throughout high school and college, writing was little more than a pleasant diversion. After working with writer Saundra Armstrong on a number of small writing projects and coming to see the act of writing as a learned skill, Kris has found a new zeal for the challenge and is now pursuing writing as a sideline career. She is particularly interested in writing High Fantasy and Paranormal fiction with a homoerotic flair.
Kris also enjoys drawing, Cirque du Soleil, musical theatre, and hoopdancing, all of which she feels balance her scientific, kinesiology side with her passion for the artistic and dramatic.