SA Collins

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Book Reviews

Queer Storytelling At Its Finest – Call Me By Your Name and The World of Normal Boys

Queer Storytelling At Its Finest – Call Me By Your Name and The World of Normal Boys

Two works that tackle the same subject matter – the world of “normal” boys finding themselves in queer relationships.
I’ll discuss both from a literary stance (where they share common ground because World of Normal Boys hasn’t been optioned for a film – but it should be!).
THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS, in a nutshell, is a queer story about self-discovery amidst a harrowing family calamity. Robin MacKenzie is a gay boy coming into his own but hasn’t put a finger to his queerness. All he knows is that the next door neighbor kid, Todd, and a boy at school (Scott)- both wrapped up in the secure “normalness” are anything but “normal”, are desired by him. Indeed, what this work does very well, aside from completely capturing 1978 New Jersey, is that there is no normal despite Robin’s desire to be like the boys he craves. The three of them (in different pairings) show how boys discover many things about themselves while professing to the world of their normalcy. They are anything but. Hormones are used for the gay boy pairing up with the normal straight boys. “Don’t make a big deal of it.” When all Robin comes to realize is that they keep saying it because they KNOW it’s a big deal. They just don’t want Robin to bring it out into the light he craves to show everyone who he is.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME – is not a gay story. After reading and seeing the film, I totally think it wasn’t intended to be a gay story. But it is most definitely queer. Two young men – 17 year old Elio is in a semi-steady relationship with a girl during the summer of ’83 when his father has an assistant, 24 year old Oliver, from America come to help him catalog artifacts from several digs in Italy. At first the boys dance around their mutual attraction. Oliver first advancing in a nonchalant manner giving a back rub that Elio refuses because it endangers his ‘normal boy’ status. Eventually, they spiral to one another – despite knowing that Oliver’s stay is limited. It becomes a queer heady romance. Neither one knows why the attraction is so strong. Elio finds immense comfort in confessing his lack of boy knowledge – he is a boy of books, music and antiquities. Though he eventually has sex with his girlfriend, it becomes quite apparent that his desires are greater and revolve around Oliver. Oliver, for his part, feigns ambivalence – which is later revealed to be because he is protecting his own heart with whatever he feels (unexpectedly) for Elio. Eventually they collide in a mash of bodies and tongues to revel in whatever their relationship is. Elio implores Oliver “I don’t want you to go.” But it must come to an end as Oliver’s time with the family is over. The talk after Oliver departs as Elio’s father explains it all to him – with definite hints of knowing what happened between his son and the assistant is both beautifully written and executed. The way father’s should be with their sons.
What I find interesting in these two works is that both deal with the perceived (and infinitely misplaced) idea that men are to be “one way” with each other. As I’ve stated in another post, this contributes to #ToxicMasculinity. Both works defy standard gay tropes (if there is such a thing, which I am not wholly convinced of any longer because queerdom defies classification – that is at the root of the word’s meaning).
The romantics will insist on happy endings. Neither of these works are romance in the literal/tropic sense. What they are can best be described as a cursory exploration about how men feel and act when they feel comfortable enough in their anonymity (aside from their male sexual partners) and absolution from having whatever they are feeling for another man to be rigidly classified. Both works have a happy ending for the main characters. Robin learns that normal boys can and do behave as he does, craving that male intimacy – if only to allow themselves a moment of breathing without society’s expectations to weigh in on them. Elio becomes more confident in who he is as a man having the intense experiences with Oliver. They part and it is bittersweet, but he’s grown immensely from the experience of it all. Are these relationships gay? No. Decidedly not. But they are queer in every sense of the word.
Highly recommend them both.
Until next time …
– SA C
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Five Star Review – and GIVEAWAY for Angels of Mercy Vol 2!



Print cover reveal

The Print Edition of Angels of Mercy – Volume Two: Marco


Thanks to Paul Gay Berry from GayMediaReviews for the lovely words and the opportunity to share it with the readership out there! #Humbled #DoingTheHappyDance !!

BIG GIVEAWAY WITH THIS ONE – There’s an opportunity to win the entire series (all 6 books when completed) and a $25 Amazon GC! GO check it out!


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Something Wicked(ly Awesome) This Way Comes…

Something Wicked(ly Awesome)
This Way Comes …


The podcast banner

The podcast banner


Sorry there haven’t been any recent posts. I’ve been busy with Angels of Mercy Vol 2 and Quarrel of Sparrows and something else I am really excited about.

AUTHORS! READERS! Lend us your ears!

Along with author pals Vance Bastian and Jayne Lockwood on a slightly audacious endeavor – we’ve put together a M/M podcast where authors (and their readers) roundtable topics, the art of the craft, and the worlds we create. It is intended to be a forum for authors from across the multiple sub-genres who want to discuss their works from the author’s perspective that they may not have much in the way of opportunity to do. Interviews are often limiting, and the range of what can be discussed is usually fairly focused.


This isn’t that type of podcast.

Authors will grouse. Authors will praise or rant about others in the field or works that were an absolute struggle to get out into the world.

And we’re not limiting it to authors alone.

READERS! You too, can be part of the conversation. The intent is to foster and engender that sort of discussion not only amongst ourselves as authors, but also with the readers who buy our works. We invite this sort of discussion across the table between the two parts of producing and consuming the works.

Episode one will be out shortly (within the week if we can swing it – the ep is recorded and edited – it’s just up to distribution to get it out there).

You can find us on the web at 3mmusketeerspodcast.

Our Twitter account is – @3mmusketeers

Facebook Group Page

You can email us at

Please join us for the release – (to be updated when we have a firm date this week).


3M/Musketeers Podcast is a Akwekon Media production in association with,, and All rights reserved where applicable.


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The Ups and Downs of it all…

The Ups and Downs of it all …


So the past couple of days have had me pondering what I am doing. I mean, I’ll write no matter what. It’s what’s consuming me creatively. I’ve set aside the singing and the theater work in favor of an “all in” thrust in writing.

To be honest, I don’t know what I am doing with it all. I mean, I know what my stories are, but the mechanics of writing, editing, publishing, promoting (the part I hate the most but it’s got to be done), it’s all a journey into the vast unknown. I read blog posts like mad on the subject. I read reviews to see what people are saying about what others write (not because I am looking for the ‘next big thing’ because I know I’ll never be one of those writers). But yeah, just a general observation on it all.

Angels of Mercy - Volume 1: Elliot

Angels of Mercy – Volume 1: Elliot

So last night I spied a two star review of Angels. Needless to say I had a grim set to my mouth. I knew this was coming. It doesn’t shake me up. I’ve been in theater long enough to know that people will say what they want to say about it. There’s no debate that goes on. It’s done and over with well before you can engage. Anything after that is a mere grab for … but, but, please LIKE me! Yeah, I so am not that guy.

The 2 star review in all is weird assed glory.

The 2 star review in all is weird assed glory.


I guess what trips me up about it though is that the review doesn’t make sense. I mean, I get that it wasn’t for him. Fine – done dead deal but there are things under the hood that my hubby pointed out to me that said something altogether different.

Let’s take it apart, shall we?

The first statement is rather straight-forward and he’s entitled to his opinion. No arguments there:

Sorry, but these characters were poorly written.

Grammatically speaking he’s incorrect. I’ve had several people, many of who have been in the biz long enough and ALL have said it’s the cleanest manuscript they’ve read in a long time. My editor knows his grammar (having come from a long line of educators that stretch back to the early 1800’s – this family is VERY old skool when it comes to grammatics). As to character development itself, his sphere of those he knows in life must be woefully short of color and variation. Because each of these characters is rooted in someone real and it culls from their own lives. So uh, mmm, okay. Just sayin’…

Then there’s the next couple of lines of the review that is sort of push/pull against each other. He’s not clear about what got to him (though, make no mistake, I was pushing his buttons):

The teenage boys talk like middle aged Ivy League men that are absurdly gushing about everlasting love. These are not teenagers. Too much angst and pre-teen type of relationship. It just didn’t ring true.

So which is it? Are they Ivy League men or are they riddled with “pre-teen angsty relationship” – they can’t be both. I make it very clear that Elliot, like myself, was a cultivator of words and emotions FAR beyond his years. It was the only thing in his arsenal to make his quick getaways from bullies in school. I even make it a point to have Elliot cop to the fact that he knows it is a smoke screen, that it isn’t real. It was, in fact, how I survived school. I have this in my own writings FROM that age (sidebar: I was tested to have a college level grammar comprehension in the third grade). As I’ve said before, these situations and character points come from real life. They’re just told in a fictitious manner. So he didn’t think it rang true. He’s entitled to his opinion. I’ve no qualms there. But then we get to the meat of his ire:

And, worst of all–a cliff hanger ending. Are you kidding me?!? 540 pages and you can’t give us some sort of ending? That really annoyed me. Why invest all this time and energy in reading this pot-boiler when there is no answers to ANY of the questions raised in the story? To me, that’s unforgivable. I will not be reading this author again.

So now I knew what I was dealing with here. A M/M romance reader applying the rigid trope rules that I rail against. BINGO! I had my culprit (not that I needed one, but it was an interesting post-mortem of the review that I was curious about). So 1) The BOOK TITLE clearly states Volume One – implying there will be others. It does continue and as such, it WON’T by it’s very nature, answer questions. Volume one is concerned with posing questions, not answering them. The answers come later. 2) I emotively got to him, whether he’ll concede to that or not. So in my estimation, bang on brilliant. I WANT emotive responses to the work. Good, bad or indifferent (well, actually the indifferent ones will probably hurt me the most).

I also in the write up before you buy say it is a character study work. That means that it is more concerned with the character as he is, and not the situation he finds himself in. It is meant to walk away knowing how he processes his world. And let’s be clear about this. As first person POV, you are ONLY getting his internal voice. The reader is  woefully short on Marco’s take on things. You only get a wisp of an impression of him and it’s filtered through how Elliot processes things. It’s how he hears it. We’ll get a very different voice when Marco picks up the tale in book 2.

And lastly, the dreaded cliff-hanger. Let’s talk about that one. I was warned by fellow authors I would get dinged for that. I DON’T FUCKING CARE! (My ire is not at my author buds, just to be clear – I am railing at expectations that are placed on works before the author has the platform to weave their story – that is what I am railing against) It is, what it is. If you won’t read my stuff later, bully for you. I am not going to beg for it. Move on, nothing to see here. I’ll still write. I’ll still publish. It’s not a threat to that, bud, just sayin’.

Cliff hangers, by their very nature, will never have a trite ending. They aren’t written that way. I apologize if the guy didn’t comprehend this in the write-up I have attached to the book on all of the sites, but it is clear that he didn’t read or comprehend what he was buying. He bought it thinking that it was standard romance fare. I make it abundantly clear it is not.

My hubby also pointed out one other thing to me. Why continue to read it if it was so awful a work? I’ve started many a book and pitched it aside because it didn’t do anything for me. But the hubby, ever the clinical psychiatrist he used to be in a previous professional life, pointed out that the book did get to him. The emotive response that threads his review is very clear.

The hubby’s takeaway: he has poor reading comprehension skills. Having read other reviews by him, I tend to agree. His vision of what works and what doesn’t is rather pointed and narrow. Not that I’m saying it to sooth ruffled feathers on my part. They aren’t ruffled. It is all part of me trying to understand how people process. This is what I put INTO my own works. I am truly fascinated by it all.


(Highlight it to see it, ignore this next bit if you don’t want to know about a plot point in the book – it’s fairly significant)

The cliff hanger is the physical beating Elliot (the main character) goes through at the hands of his boyfriends teammates who are through with his corrupting of their beloved captain of the team. It deals with homophobia in the worst possible way – through violence. At the end you don’t know what happens to Elliot. I knew going in that this would kick the reader hard in the rubber parts. But it is what happens. We often don’t know what the outcome will be. That was intended from the moment I started to write Angels. It’s not an easy read. It’s not meant to be. It’s not an easy thing to write. But I do want the reader to invest in Elliot and his world. He WILL rise and be greater than anyone expects from his tragedy. In a very real way, what didn’t kill him does make him stronger. Far stronger than his boyfriend can comprehend.


The hubby said that clearly the reviewer was emotively moved by it as evidenced in his real pointed angst in the work. It’s not a romance read. There will be no big bow or a litany of answers at the end. IT’S NOT THAT KIND OF BOOK.

Never was …

Moving on …

So this morning I woke up to two rather lovely things in my in-box:

First up, I appear to be a finalist in a review competition.

The Shrill of Sparrows - the reworked abridged edition as sold by Amazon.

The Shrill of Sparrows – the reworked abridged edition as sold by Amazon.

It’s just a lovely thing to see this happen for Shrill/HO’M,O as it was such a clusterfuck of a novel release. Just that it was mentioned was a totally unexpected honor.




That was a lovely thing to see (esp. after the small shrug I had over the 2 star Angels review above).

Second up – a real (honest) look at my Angels of Mercy – Volume One: Elliot novel.

And boy, did it ever kick me in the BEST possible way. So here’s the drill on why I am sort of gun shy about Angels: I feel that the work will be largely misunderstood. I know what it is, and what the intent is. But readers pick the work up with a precept of what they think they are getting when they buy it (as evidenced in my angst ridden two star review above). So when I offered it up to the reviewers at Saguaro Moon Reviews, I didn’t think they would get to it so quickly. They did, and how.



4 out of 5 Moons – I’ll take it!


The work was only given to them a short while back so I was sort of stunned that it was out there already. The reviewer seemed think it was a page turner (good, that’s what I was hoping for) and she didn’t hold me to the hard and fast tropes of a romance read – which it’s most definitely not. Honesty in the approach was a really lovely thing to hope for. That’s all I ask. Even with the two star review above, I’ve no hard feelings about it. He’ll move onto things he enjoys more. That’s as it should be. My works are obviously too dark for his literary world. That’s okay. I’ll take that for what it is. No harm, no foul (even if he’s put off anyone else who are hard and fast in their romance tropes to give something else a try). Eh, they probably wouldn’t like it or get it either. So yeah, maybe it’s best if they don’t buy it at any rate.

Writing is a very lonely business. It’s cathartic as all hell, but it is a lonely thing. Your thoughts, your creativity on paper or on a computer screen. But it’s just you and the keyboard/pen hammering out a world word for word, feeling by feeling, with all the ups and downs of a real emotive roller-coaster.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Until next time …


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