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Big Gay Book Review – Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey

Published on February 11, 2010 by in Books, Fantasy, Gay

I’ll never forget the thrill I had when reading Mercedes Lackey’s first book in the Last Herald Mage trilogy entitled “Magic’s Pawn.” A friend loaned me a copy, saying very little about it other than I might enjoy it. The story starts with Vanyel, son to an uncaring father and heir to his lands, struggling with his home life. We aren’t talking whiney rich kid here. Vanyel’s trouble are serious, both physical and emotional in nature, and it comes as a great relief to the reader when he is sent away to live with his Aunt in the capital city of Haven.

Often times while reading I pretend characters are gay until the plot forces me to think otherwise, and I did the same with Vanyel. Imagine my delight when he actually turned out to be gay. Vanyel doesn’t discover this until his exodus to Haven, an act intended as punishment, but one that becomes a blessing when Vanyel meets the love of his life, Tylendel. A decent chunk of the novel is taken up by this relationship, but happy endings don’t belong at the beginning of a story, so a parade of surprising conflicts soon interrupt their happy honeymoon. Where Lackey takes their relationship over the trilogy of books, is something better left experienced than described.

Lackey’s portrayal of a gay relationship is a bit hit and miss, occasionally coming across as too flowery and feminine. I suspect that’s partially due to the aristocratic backgrounds given to the characters along with the author obviously not being a gay man. Considering how few homosexual characters were present in popular media back in 1989, I think Lackey did a commendable job regardless.

One thing I certainly appreciate is that the story and characters aren’t preoccupied by coming out. Acceptance of their sexuality comes nice and quick, both internally and from the society surrounding them. Too often coming out dominates the entirety of a plot, but with this out of the way, Vanyel and Tylendel are able to get on with their relationship without having to tackle this age old issue.

On rereading “Magic’s Pawn,” I was surprised to discover echoes of Harry Potter in this tale, since Vanyel is a sympathetic character, misunderstood, unappreciated, and abused by his family until the day he is sent off to a more colorful and magical world. It’s a very effective way of getting the reader on the protagonist’s side. Who knows, maybe Rowling drew inspiration from this earlier tale when writing her own books.

It had been a long time since I read this trilogy, and naturally I thought of it when writing my own gay fantasy novel, but this made me avoid it like the plague. Lackey did it right, and long before anyone else had done it, and I didn’t want to step on her toes. Her success and bravery in incorporating gay characters long before the world had warmed to the idea was a constant inspiration to go ahead with my own vision, and for that I am eternally grateful to her. To me, the Last Herald Mage trilogy will always be the first and most classic gay fantasy series, and I can only hope there are many more to come.

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Cocoa Gets Tanked

Published on February 5, 2010 by in Pets

It would be criminal to keep this to myself any longer. This is the painting that Andreas made for me as an Xmas present, and man do I love it! No, your eyes don’t deceive you. It is indeed a cat sitting on a toilet. Cocoa to be precise. She’s always been fascinated by water and used to play in it when she was a kitten. She prefers to keep her distance these days, but is still curious. Every morning when I take a shower, she sits on the toilet tank and listens to the sound while staying near me as she always is. Cheesy as it sounds, every time I pull back that curtain and see her waiting for me, I feel loved. Andreas managed to take that feeling and solidify it into a work of art. With all that considered, Cocoa on the toilet is still a quirky subject for a painting, and that makes me like it all the more since it’s so personal. I’m crazy about the colors too, and the reflection/shadow on the tiles. Only Andreas could have made something so well suited to me which shows just how well he knows me, and reminds me of why I love him so much.

You can see more of Andreas’ art on his website:
www.andreasbell.com or on his deviant art page.

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Jay Bell is a Writer, Not a Baseball Player

Published on February 2, 2010 by in Random

As soon as you make your foray into the world of publishing or any other media outlet, you soon realize that your name is your product identity. Outside those that know them, nobody thinks of Stephen King as just Steve, or mentions “Liz” when talking about the Queen of England. Unfortunately, my birth name James Bell is as common as can be. Any town I’ve lived in, even in Germany, has included another James Bell. Since there is already an author with near enough the same name, James Scott Bell, I decided to go by what most people call me. I soon realized that I had competition of another sort when it came to being Jay Bell.

Baseball player Jay Bell is retired, so I figured his trademark had expired. If not, I’m sure people will have no trouble telling us apart. I’ve always sucked at sports. As I kid, I cried every time I went up to bat. The few times someone was crazy enough to toss a ball my way, it always ended up hitting me in the head. Even today I fail at Wii Baseball. There couldn’t be anyone less athletic in the world than me, so it’s a bit ironic that the company I keep on the Jay Bell boat is that of an athlete. If only we had more in common. The only connection Jay Bell and I have, is that he once played for the Royals. I suppose if I were forced at gun point to name my favorite team, the Kansas City Royals would be it, since I grew up around there.

The only problem with sharing this name, is that baseball statistics sites tend to drown out my blog in the search results. I’m not sure what I could do about that. Maybe the other Jay Bell could do me a favor and change his name, now that he’s retired. Jim is nice. Or how about a decorative symbol, like Prince once used?

I had the chance to avoid all of this. I thought about giving myself the pen name of James Donner many moons ago. It sounds cooler, and makes a better name brand, but I wanted to stick with Bell to make my dad proud. I still hope to, so there’s no turning back now. Maybe Jay Bell and I can set up some sort of timeshare on the name. Dibs on the weekends!

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Fantasy’s Finest: Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept Series

Published on February 1, 2010 by in Books, Fantasy

There aren’t many series that I can read and reread without ever tiring of, but Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series is one of them. Seven glorius books tell the story of Proton, a technologically advanced planet, and its twin Phaze, a world of traditional fantasy. Both Proton and Phaze occupy the same space, being separated only by a dimensional veil that few have learned to cross. In effect, we have a world that is both science fiction and fantasy, a literary playground with high potential, but this isn’t what enamored me with the series.

The society of Proton functions as a sort of Feudalistic lottery. Those arriving on the planet are serfs and must be employed by Citizens; a select group of wealthy and powerful individuals. After playing servant for twenty years, they must leave the planet, but the wages earned are enough to set them up for life. If a serf plays and win The Game, which encompasses all sports, board games, or any otherconceivable challenge, they can win the right to stay on Proton and become a Citizen themselves.

The dimension of Phaze is mostly unknown to the people of Proton, because each has a doppelganger on the other side. Only those that do not can travel between the two dimensions. Phaze is everything there is to love about fantasy. Werewolves run along side unicorns, vampires and trolls lurk in the shadows, and the very best of all is the Adepts. Counterparts to the Citizens of Proton, the Adepts are equally influential, but their power comes from magic rather than wealth.

This is what I love most about the series. Each Adept is known by a different color, and each has a different way of executing their magic. For instance, the Yellow Adept deals in potions. The icy White Adept uses runes to work her magic, and the Blue Adept must play music to summon his power. I adored this concept, and loved discovering the strange and wonderful personalities that Anthony gave to each of these strange characters. The plots of these books are wonderful, full of adventure and intrigue, but the strange world of the Adepts is what has always held my rapt attention.

So enamored was I by this concept, that I borrowed heavily from it for my own book, The Cat in the Cradle. My story is strictly fantasy, but it’s no coincidence that the ten powerful Oligarchs that rule the Five Lands are each designated by a different color and magical ability. I’m very proud to be inspired by Piers Anthony, and was thrilled when he agreed to read my book. I feel a bit embarrassed now, since The Cat in the Cradle wasn’t professionally edited at the time, but the feedback and comments he gave me were very encouraging and kind. Most of all, it just felt good to hand him something that proved what a massive influince his books have had on me.

I’ve barely touched on the characters that fill the Apprentice Adept series, but they are as varied as a multi-genre novel should be. Robots, harpies, androids, shape shifting amoebas, ice demons, bug eyed aliens, and humans all have their role to play, and as hard is it might be to imagine all these elements working together, Anthony pulls it off with style. Piers is best known for his Xanth series, but anyone that hasn’t discovered the Apprentice Adept books is missing out on a truly enjoyable world. To me, this series will always be the very best of Piers Anthony’s creations, and the one closest to my heart.

Books in the series:
1. Split Infinity (1980) ISBN 978-0345354914
2. Blue Adept (1981) ISBN 978-0345352453
3. Juxtaposition (1982) ISBN 978-0345349347
4. Out of Phaze (1987) ISBN 978-0441644650
5. Robot Adept (1988) ISBN 978-0441731183
6. Unicorn Point (1989) ISBN 978-0441845637
7. Phaze Doubt (1990) ISBN 978-0441662630

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Sometimes I Wii myself…

Published on January 28, 2010 by in Random

Only because I don’t have anyone to Wii with. I just got my console online today. I thought that I’d have to buy some sort of USB WiFi thing until one of Andreas’s coworkers clued us in. Now I’m online, but still a little clueless as to what to do when it comes to interacting with other people? Messaging, maybe? How does one arrange a Wii date to play tennis or whatever? Feel free to enlighten me.

Here’s my code, in case that’s helpful.

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Yoga for Cats

Published on January 28, 2010 by in Pets

My mom’s Siamese is so cute. There are three cats living there, all girls, and they each gathered in my room to play every night. I usually look forward to being completely free of responsibility on my trips, but I couldn’t resist those big cat eyes. I’m weak!

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