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Friday, November 30, 2012

Stroke the Fire by M. Christian

Author: M. Christian
 Length: 433 k
 Sub-Genres: Gay Romance
        The Best ManLove Stories of M. Christian
Sizzling tales of bad boys, bruised hearts, and sweaty encounters. Lambda Award finalist M. Christian’s stories of men-who-love-men have been selected for Best Gay Erotica, Best American Erotica, and Best of the Best Gay Erotica. Eavesdrop on what hot men who are doing hot things with other hot men say to each other between the sheets ... and up against the wall. Start reading the fiery ManLove fiction of M. Christian with this personally selected collection of his best. "A wonderful book … just the thing if you are in the mood for an enjoyable quickie (or twenty)." -Mathilde Madden, author Reflection's Edge. [Don't miss the other books in "M. Christian's ManLove Collection from Sizzler Editions.] And don't miss his Lambda Finalist book, Dirty Words. "Fairy tales whispered to one another by dark angels whose hearts and mouths are brimming with lust." -Michael Thomas Ford, Lambda Award winning author Looking for It.
Sizzler Editions/Attraction$8.50
See what I mean?  Short story writing is hard.
M. Christian's new collection of singular and satisfying short stories, Filthy Boys, is subtitled "Outrageous Gay Erotica." Emphasis on "outrageous." Although each of them does deliver a more than adequate erotic charge, Christian is after bigger game here.  He's writing short stories.  You know, like the ones you had to read in high-school: stories about suburban Connecticut teens and hardscrabble poor white trash and adventurers desperate to light a fire to stay alive.  The ones you had to discuss in class, using terms like "irony" and "thematic development" in those seconds before your forehead hit the top of your desk out of total apathy.
Take heart.  Christian's stories are sexy, smart and a lot more fun.
"Man's got a home, then that's where he sleeps.  Can't, myself, see how you can stand the god-derned quiet out there in the flats," Lew had said, listening to the music of the man's voice.
The man shrugged, the tip of his cigar bobbing in the soft night.  "That it be.  Name's Last.  Jeff Last."
Lew wiped the grime off his hands (and hopefully the fool's grin off his face) and offered his own.  "Lew.  Just Lew around here."
The handshake lasted a bit too long, long enough for the two men to size each other up.  Lew in his Stinkhole clothes was a burly barrel of a man, all beard and round blue eyes.  He looked fat from aways, but if you're ever seen him haul cornmeal or lumber you'd know that it was iron, fella, strong, strong, iron and not just insulation against Craggy's winds.
Last was long and lanky, and while the light was none too good in that narrow little ways between the public corral and Miller's Fine Feeds, you could tell that he was a beanpole: Six feet easy, in buckskin and serape.  In the dark beneath his wide brimmed hat, his shaved face was carved and as Craggy as Lew's mountain home.  The handshake had lasted way too long.  Now, he thought, how to get this fine feller up the mountain...
"Gotta hit the trail if I'm ta make Ridgewood by dawn," Jeff had said, and Lew's heart had sunk down to his Stinkhole boots.  
"Knows how it is–" he had said, starting to turn, maybe extend a hand, and an invitation for another time.
"But you is one fine figure of a man.  Might temptin'–"
Lew stared, unsure of how exactly to respond.  
"You think the same, Lew of the Mountain?" Jeff had said.
Even in the low light cast from the lanterns of Sal's Lew could see Jeff's fine figure, out in all it's glory there in the "street" of Stinkhole.  
The brush was dry so he wet it.
The strokes at first were always, for some reason, slow and precise.  He knows that nothing will remain of them after it's done, but for some reason it always starts that way: bands, shades of the same color, going vertical, diagonal, horizontal.  He guesses, when he does think about the act, that it is a getting acquainted with the brushes, the canvas – his medium.
Why that should be when he has painted for so very long is a mystery Doud never examined.
Dry again – silent, precise strokes now skittering and scratching across the smooth face of the canvas.  Dries so quickly.  He wet the brush again.
Those first strokes were a climb into the work, he supposes when he does.  Painting those stripes, bands of one color – always that one color – are like the rungs of a ladder.  Going up, into the act, the glow, of creativity ... of making a work.
The next movements of the brush were wild, feverish: all precise control lost in the rising swell of what was fleeting around his mind, just beyond Doud's normal vision.  He knew, certainly, absolutely, that he was trying to pin it down now with the brush, the color – to make it stick and stay so he can see it clearly: see if it is pretty or ugly.
Dry again.  He dipped it into his seemingly inexhaustible well and continued.
Maybe a man.  Yes, perhaps that: like a stroller walking out of a fog, a shape becoming shoulders, a broad chest, legs, and what could be a waist.  Then, with more movements of the brush, it grew details like leaves from a tree: The curves of a chest, the tendons in the arms, the contours of muscles and bone, the texture of smooth skin ... a face.
Dry again.  Doud dipped the brush into his red-filled mouth and tried to capture the man more fully.
* * * *
The street was brilliant with a heaven of shines and reflections from a light rain.  The primary neon colors burst from places like Jackson's Hole, the Ten Pin, the 87 Club, Aunt Mary's Diner hit the street, the sidewalk, the faces of the tall buildings like ... like watercolors, Doud thought, though his own medium was a lot less flowing and fluid.
The Space didn't have neon, and despite the beauty of the rain-shellacked street outside, its owner would never ever pondering lighting its very nondescript doorway with gaudy attraction.  Wellington took extremely cool pride in the austerity of his gallery – going over its rubber-tiled steps, eggshell walls, industrial lighting, stainless steel display stands and single office countertop with an eye as precise and chilly as a level.  Doud easily imagined him thinking the photographs, paintings, and sculptures that paid his rent a distraction from the purity of an absolutely empty room.
He hoped for a frozen second that the flash had been lighting beyond the window, out among the glimmering night street and hunched and brisk people.
Doud loved the rain and especially lighting.  Like the bands of slow, precise color that started his works, he never really examined why the world being lit for a second, frozen and trapped in a blink of pure silver, fascinated him.  Maybe it was the raw power of natural electricity – or maybe it was just the close comfort of being snug and warm for the evening that he associated with rain outside: lighting was the tiger prowling outside while he warmed his feet, safe and warm, inside.
But lighting doesn't come from within (unless you count inspiration): trapped with the flash, for a second, was his own face in the window glass: wide, large brown eyes, aquiline nose, brushy brows; curled black hair; deeply tanned and lined skin; large, strong mouth with hidden teeth.  Some thought him Italian, others American or East Indian.  A few guessed at maybe Eskimo or even Polynesian.  Never guessed the truth of New York (son of New Yorkers).  Never, ever, guessed his age.
The disappointment over a lighting-free night came quick, a gentle slap (because it was a simple pleasure) and he turned back to the semi-crowded gallery.  There he was, a too-clean looking photographer he instantly knew was either the friend of an artist or one of them himself (newspaper shooters were usually a lot more scruffy and exotic).  Doud hated to be photographed, hated being frozen in time and having his image in the hands of, and at the mercy, someone else.
"Yours?" the photographer said, his face opaqued by the complex of a flash unit, massive lens, and a matte-black camera body.  Dirty blond, almost brown, tall, broad was all Doud could see.
"Those are," Doud said, nodding to the right hand wall and the five paintings that were edge-on and so just the colors of their frames.  Doud didn't need to see them, an artist's privilege of many hours of work.
The camera came down and he treated Doud with his profile as he scanned the paintings: Pale, hollow cheeks; bones seemingly as thin as a bird's; wet blue eyes that, even across the mostly-empty gallery, seemed to see far too much, far too quickly; a mouth that bloomed with lips that Doud found himself instantly wanting to kiss; a nose all but invisible against the beauty of his face (which was fine, having such a profound nose, Doud disliked the same in others); and a fine and elegant body that seemed to be all chest and shoulders, a rack on which thin, pale arms and legs dangled with a refined and dignified posture.  He was dressed simply elegant in black pants, a very tight turtleneck and an elegant, and probably antique, morning coat – a direct polar extreme from Doud's old sweatshirt, boots and jeans.
It was a kind of shock to see someone who sported himself so ... dapper was a word that came out of Doud's memory along with the smell of horses and raw electricity, the rumble of the "El" trains, and scratchy Al Jolson from a Gramophone.  Dapper?  Yes, refined and polished. Quite out of character for The Space and being an admirer of Doud's work.
"You probably get asked this a lot–" The man fixed those darting, smiling eyes on Doud and smiling pure warmth.
"An awful lot," Doud said with a practiced sigh that spoke of a joke rather than true exasperation.  "Animals," he finished, answering the question.
"I saw the jar," the photographer said, indicating with a jerk of his camera the large bell jar stuffed with a cow's severed head on the floor in front of Doud's wall, "and thought as much."
"The medium is the message," Doud said with a smile.  "People either look at me real funny and think about DNA testing or they think it's a trick of paint and technique."
"It is rather ... your studio must really stink."
Doud laughed, the sound coming from down deep, "Lots of windows, and I keep my stuff well-covered. Then of course I fix it real good after.  Lots of shellac."
The man smiled, shifted his camera and stuck out a pale, long-boned hand, "Jona.  Jona Periliak."
"Charmed," Doud said.  Jona's hand was dry and very warm, almost hot.  "Are you here as well, or just taking shots for a friend?"
"I'm in the backroom."
Doud remembered the photographs on his way in that evening, but since he never supervised his installations he hadn't looked beyond that initial glance.  "Would you mind," Doud said, smiling his best smile and hoping he'd remembered to gargle and brush his teeth, "showing me?"
The Space had started to fill up since they'd been talking.  The usual wine and cheese crowd of artists and their usual mixture of friends.  They passed carefully by suits and jeans and piercings and Doc Martens and even a latex bodysuit and a full tux.
The backroom was sky blue, lit with Wellington's usual baby spots.  Maybe a dozen, maybe fourteen, black and white portraits.  Jona looking thoughtful with glasses and a book.  Jona looking sad with gravestones in the background.  Jona looking pained as blood, black as ink (and it could have been) ran down from a sliced palm.  Jona excited, his bare chest slick with sweat and probably oil.  Doud scanned them all, lingering long over excited and pained, giving them his examining, look – then glanced over at the title of the series: Portrait of the Artists.
Doud hated photographs: He saw them as a kind of cheat, a kind of shortcut.
"They're fine–" Doud said, using a word that also came from penny candy and hoop skirts.  He didn't like photographs for lots of reasons, but Jona was very pretty, very striking in his pallor and funereal garb.  Being self-portraits made it easy to lie – Jona was very fine, indeed.
"You don't like them." He didn't seem hurt at all, more like he was calling Doud on his politeness.
"I didn't say that.  It's not my medium is all.  Besides, I meant what I said.  I like the way these are all parts of you."
"I appreciate that," Jona said, moving the camera behind him so Doud had have a nice view of his flat stomach and hard chest – at least what he could see outlined in the black turtleneck.
It had been a long time for Doud.  He could barely remember the face, and couldn't, for the life of him, think of the last name of the last person he was attracted to as much as he was attracted to Jona.  You'd think, he found himself thinking with surprising clarity, after all this time I'd get better at this.  At least he wasn't hungry – but he did feel that other kind of desperation, the one that wanted to make his gently shaking hands reach up and stroke Jona's soft, pale cheeks and tell him how beautiful he looked. Go on, he thought next, say that you appreciate him ...
"Are you–" Doud did say, waving at the row of photographs "–going to be here long?"
"Tonight or the show?" and before Doud could respond either way, Jona quickly added, "Just a few minutes and the end of the month."
The Space had started to fill up and Doud felt himself being pulled by their body heat, their eyes.  Going to an opening was rare, staying as late as he had was ever rarer ... but Jona, and Jona's beautiful attention, was priceless.
But the people –
"It's kind of getting crowded," the pale beauty said with a smile that made a warm spot on Doud's stomach and his eyes loose focus for a second.
Doud heard himself say, "Let's go outside."
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About The Author:
M.Christian has become an acknowledged master of erotica, with more than 400 stories in such anthologies as Best Gay Erotica, Best Best Bisexual Erotica, Best American Erotica, and Best Fetish Erotica. He has had three collections of stories about men who love men published, Body Work, Filthy Boys, and Dirty Words, which was a Lambda Award finalist. And he is the author of two man-love novels, the vampire classic, and Me2, a gay thriller. M. Christian is also a veteran anthologist, and with more than 25 to his credit, including the Best S/M Erotica series; Pirate Booty; My Love For All That Is Bizarre: Sherlock Holmes Erotica; The Burning Pen; Garden of Perverse, and others. Sizzler Editions/Attraction, a glbt imprint, recently issued his personal selection of his best gay erotica in the ebook, Stroke the Fire. A genre-busting author, M. Christian has also written non-fiction (Welcome to Weirdsville, How To Write and Sell Erotica), as well as lesbian, straight, futuristic, fantasy and horror erotica. All three of his gay male collections, both novels, and Stroke the Fire have all recently been released as M. Christian's The ManLove Collection .

My Thoughts:
This book is the best of M. Christian’s ManLove Fiction but it is so much more.  Instead of giving us one story, he packs in a lot of stories in just a few pages.  When you purchase this book you need to know that the stories can be very graphic.  And what’s good about an anthology is you don’t have to feel as if you have to read all the stories at once.

M. Christian gives us one story where he has you thinking of food.  He also shows the reader that there is more than one way for two people to love each other.  Some couples seem totally vanilla and others more adventurous.  There are those people that like to be treated like someone else’s property.  One short story had me thinking that if it were made into a movie Nathan Lane would be the perfect diva (a la Bird Cage).

Our author also doesn’t use the same type of story over and over.  We get some paranormal, a lot erotic, and even some gore (think bloody).  This book is not for someone who can’t think outside the box or have an open mind.  You need to accept strong language and scenes that are very descriptive.  There was one short story that had me think “incestuous”.  M. Christian even surprised me with one story with religious undertones (I have a feeling you will know it as soon as you read).  I will admit that a couple of the stories lost me – but it’s possible it was just me.  You will have to let me know if you feel the same.

If you are looking for a straight book of romance, you won’t find it here.  M.Christian explores all different types of love and you become a part of the story.  Unless you are a person with no feelings, you can’t help but be touched (good or bad) by his writing.  If you are someone that likes a little “meat” to your story, then you will want to get this book.

Rating:  4 stars

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