Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mick Dementiuk's review of BEND IN THE ROAD

I am so pleased to share a review by Mykola Dementiuk, author of Times Queer, Vienna Dolorosa and other works, of BEND IN THE ROAD. Here's some of what Mick says:

While reading Jeanne Barrack’s Bend in the Road I couldn’t help but be reminded of that Yiddish story teller Isaac Bashevis Singer, whose Yiddish tales of the pre-Holocaust Europe earned him the Noble Prize. One story especially comes to mind, "Yentl the Yeshiva Boy," in which the girl Yentl, wanting to learn the teachings of the rabbis, disguises herself as a young man and befriends the other young men in pursuing this course of study. Though the latent homosexual traits are obvious to any reader, Singer shies away from exploring the relationship any further…

Not so Jeanne Barrack in her two-part novella, Bend in the Road. In Part One In the Lion’s Den, she explores a relationship between an older male, Aryeh, and Dani, a very young man.

In the other novella, Part Two, From Stage to Stage, Yuval and Tsvi are as different from each other as night and day or Christian and Jew. Yuval runs the music of the theater troupe while Tsvi is a lowly disfigured gardener in a home Yuval is visiting. Yuval convinces Tsvi to sing in the company, at least part time, as they prepare for a recital.

Each man feels he in unworthy of sexual pleasure or true physical love; in this they stand utterly alone, tormented by their sexuality, by their aloneness. No wonder there’s a feeling of lost about them, which will persist until they let another into their lives.

These two stories are exquisite, rewarding novellas...I would highly recommend these two novellas. You’ll definitely learn something from this book about a long-lived culture that now seems so short-lived before anti-Semitism reared its ugly head once again …but until then at least it was gloriously lived!

Jeanne Barrack has shown us what indeed was a fascinating way of life and that underneath all the poverty and hatred was a powerful resilience, a force of love pushing its way upwards not to the sky but directly straight to God…

Thank you, Mick. From one New Yorker to another...
Mick's website:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Guest Blogger - Maura Anderson

Today our guest blogger from MLR Press is Maura Anderson, putting on her editor's hat to share some points about world building in one of her favorite genres: Science Fiction and Fantasy
Hi everyone! I'm thrilled to be guest blogging on The Sweet Flag. My name is Maura Anderson and I'm both an author and an editor and work in many different romance and fiction genres.

Today I wanted to give you all some insight into what I look for and at when I edit science fiction and fantasy, specifically m/m science fiction and fantasy. After a bit of thought, I figured I'd set out my list of the top seven things NOT to do instead of telling you what to do. Because science fiction and fantasy have such a huge arena to play in, the To Do list might be really huge!

Do NOT skimp on world building.

If you don't know your world well and have rules set out for how it works, it's far too easy to either cheat the reader on the richness they would expect from a fully developed world or create problems you later need to resolve or apologize for. Even if 90% of the details of your world and its history never made it into a book, you won't go wrong by knowing that information yourself.

Do NOT limit yourself to the societal rules and values of today.

If you are building a world for your science fiction or fantasy story, don't feel you have to take today's societal rules as the rules for your world. If gay relationships are the norm in your world, treat them as so. If gay relationships are forbidden, treat them as such too. Maybe things that are crimes to humans now are sanctioned in your world. You can add richness and interest by changing societal rules and values.

Do NOT lose consistency.

The rules of your world need to be consistent and kept so if the reader is to understand and believe them. If you are inconsistent, your readers will question every rule and it will pull them out of the story.

Do NOT use modern slang without good reason

Nothing pulls me out of a science fiction or fantasy story faster than hearing a modern slang phrase tossed in when it clearly does not fit in the world. If a society has no concept of the Judeo-Christian theory of Hell and someone says "go to Hell", I'm going to be pulled out of the story and the world.

Do NOT forget logic

When you build a world, it should be internally logical. That means that if red is the color of the Gods, you wouldn't later refer to a mark of adultery as a scarlet letter. If the reader can't follow the logic of the world, they will start to only see chaos and stop trying to follow it. Or complain about it.

Do NOT skimp on description

This is especially true in science fiction and fantasy where the author can't take advantage of the fact most people are familiar with the current world and can merely emphasize differences. A richness of description and setting up the world will draw the reader in and make them love stepping away from their real life.

Do NOT substitute a rich world for rich characters

With as much emphasis as there is on world building in science fiction and fantasy, don't ever forget your characters. You still have to have characters the reader will fall in love with and care about in order for them to stay interested in the story. Even the best world ever can be tossed aside if the characters aren't strong.

That's my current list of "do NOT" items. I hope it gives you some things to think about when writing or reading your next science fiction or fantasy story!

If you'd like to see some of my work, feel free to visit my website at http:\\