Saturday, February 28, 2009

ORIENTATION Called "Love Story with a Sense of Mysticism"

It's rare you find such a thoughtful reviewer of books, someone who has really taken the time to not only read a book and report on its contents, comment on pacing, plot, and characterization, but goes the extra mile and really considers what's between the lines.

Such is the case with reviewer Jay Hartman and his insightful, and positive, review of my reincarnation love story, Orientation on his informative and entertaining website, Untreed Reads. Jay said:

"Absolutely a don’t-miss read. Fans of films such as Crash and other stories where characters are drawn together under seemingly unlikely circumstances will gobble this story up. The incredibly well-written prose is coupled with dynamic characters who are three-dimensional, vivid, engaging and amazing snapshot of pain, love, fall from grace and redemption among a small group of people doing their best to survive the sadness and terrors of everyday living. This is not so much a ghost story or horror story as a love story with a sense of mysticism about it. A thoroughly enjoyable read."

Read the rest of the review here.

For an excerpt and e-book and trade paperback purchasing options, go here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The 'AWA

By A. J. Llewellyn

Anyone who reads my books will tell you about my painstaking attention to detail since my stories are all set in the Hawaiian Islands. I like to introduce ancient lore as well as current places for couples to eat, drink and be er…merry (I am including the hot sex here).

Anyway, an interesting thing happened to me in Honolulu yesterday. I have discovered Kava or as the locals call it, ‘Awa and in all the research I have done, the ancient Hawaiians loved to sip this stuff. Enough of it makes you quite euphoric…well…two bowls is supposed to be the bomb.
What they should really tell you is two bowls will get you bombed. My mate Tony, his lover Antonio, my dad, his girlfriend and I decided to whizz by my new discovery, The Cove, and partake before our Valentine’s Day celebration last night.

I don’t know why we were all so giddy, but I have noticed my friends and family have a tendency to pooh-pooh my new discoveries. Nobody believed me about the ‘Awa so we drove down to Diamond Head and we each bought a bowlful.

Now, I was about to celebrate Valentine’s Day…me and two couples. Of course l welcomed the idea of being euphoric and otherwise sublimely…snuckered…since my own partner is across the country. I just didn’t dig the idea they all thought I was full of shit.

But I digress.

We crammed into the place that caters to a very hippyish clientele who all looked mighty jolly. Lord knows how many pints of the stuff they all sucked down…but judging by the weird art on the walls and the pseudo fashionable music they were listening to…they’d imbibed buckets of the stuff.

Our cute waitress served up ‘Awa in coconut shell bowls. Like I had told my posse, it tastes like dirt and is very very cold. It is not a drink to be savored. The Cove is only one of two places on the entire island that serves ‘Awa and we all tried to be properly awed by the occasion.
I felt the same way I did the other day when I tried one…a tang on the back of the throat, numb lips…followed by…nothing.

We all took our waitress’s advice and ordered a second bowl each. She advised drinking it quickly. We chugged down a second bowl and left the place arguing.

We drove to our dinner in Waikiki at the glorious House Without a Key at the fabulous Halekulani where the arguments continued. You’re not supposed to drink on top of ‘Awa…it can apparently make you sick. Since I was the designated driver, I stuck to water, but the men in my family are damned showoffs. They ordered drinks and ten minutes into our night on the town…complete inertia hit us all.

I don’t remember the music or the show…well…embarrassing moments I do recall. I don’t know who ordered pasta and fish for everyone or more bread and crackers…but I remember seeing Tony crawling on his knees to pinch an extra basket of home-baked potato chips from the bus boys’ station. Antonio and I sang a pretty embarrassing version of Tiny Bubbles - whilst Greek dancing. I was hammered, but good.

An ‘Awa high is not like booze or pot (yes of course I’ve bloody tried it). You feel completely relaxed and at peace. You love everybody and everything tastes so good…damn those missionaries for robbing ordinary folk of a bloody good time!

It seemed to me since I didn’t drink alcohol and I was the only one still awake that I should still be the designated driver. I was feeling very mellow after dinner and a couple of cups of coffee. We all remarked ‘Awa was excellent…then we got into the car.

Hey, you ever seen the episode of I Love Lucy - one of the ‘on the way to Hollywood’ episodes - where she takes the wheel as Ricky, Ethel and Fred snooze and she drives for hours, winding up in the same spot?

I am here to tell you it is possible. Oh, yes, I drove away from the hotel at 8.30 and somehow managed to arrive back there at 10.02pm!

Nobody could believe it. Least of all me. I know this evening will go down in our personal family history as a classic A.J. escapade and will not make me look very good in years to come, but I look at it this way. I just got a slice of invaluable research that will go into my next book. Nothing
I experience goes to waste…it just breaks my heart that I will have to wait until I return to Hawaii to try my next bowl of ‘Awa…

Aloha oe,


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Through the Closet Door Makes Number Seven

Even a jaded old fart like myself gets all excited when I make a bestseller list, so I just about peed my pants with joy when I saw that my latest story, Through the Closet Door had made number seven on the January bestsellers for Amber Allure.

Part of my excitement (well, most of it, actually...who am I tryin' to kid?) comes from the fact that the story is reaching readers. But honestly, the other part is thrilled that there's such a positive response to such a personal story. Although Through the Closet Door is not autobiographical, the emotions and situation are. I went through what Gregory did: falling in love with and marrying a lovely woman at a young age and then coming to terms with my homosexuality. In a perfect world, I would have done the second thing first and then maybe I wouldn't have hurt other people. But hindsight, as they say, is 20/20...and another part of me is very grateful I had those seven good years of marriage and the wonderful son those years produced.

In Through the Closet Door, Gregory is just realizing he has to be who he is...and I know what a painful journey that can be. His journey isn't finished yet, though. I am planning at least one more part--and a couple of surprises--for these characters.

Here's the synopsis for Through the Closet Door:

Gregory has all the pieces in place: youth, good looks, a beautiful wife, a job he loves as an elementary school teacher, a quiet house on the beach...

So why is Gregory so miserable? Why is he unable to control his lingering gaze on his neighbor, Jake, the handsome truck driver who lives just down the way from him? Why does Gregory spend his private time keeping a secret journal that details fantasies and memories of him locked in embraces with other men?

It's summer, and the peaceful lake belies the turmoil in Gregory's heart. His wife wants to start a family, while Gregory wants to start something with Jake, but doesn't dare.

Rick R. Reed's heartbreaking new story brings to painful life the consequences of coming out of the closet when you're married and no one in the world but you knows the secrets you harbor. Gregory's mask is slipping, pulled down by the allure of a handsome neighbor and the demands of a desire that gets only louder the more he tries to quiet it.

Climbing out of the closet is never easy...but it's even more difficult when doing so might shatter the lives of those around you...

Now, won't you help a poor writer out and keep it on the bestseller list for February too? Is that asking too much?

Buy Through the Closet Door.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ma Ma Loa

By A.J. Llewellyn

I rarely blog about my books and I never post excerpts in blogs, especially shared blogs. I put a lot of thought and effort into each and every blog, but since I am once again preparing to head to Hawaii in a few days, I felt it was important to talk about my new book Ma Ma Loa which was published by eXtasy Books today.
No, I am not going to post an excerpt and violate my own rules…but I do want to mention what inspired the idea. It’s one which has stayed with me since my visit to Hawaii last Spring when I went to the old Chinese cemetery in the Manoa Valley on the outskirts of Honolulu.
I was very depressed. One of my best friends had lost a painful battle with cancer. My beloved cat of fifteen years had also passed and my latest relationship was in trouble. I was feeling overwhelmed. I have no idea why I drove to the cemetery since I’d never been into it and whenever I went past it, I got chicken skin (goosebumps).
But I sat in my overheated rental car, pondering my next life move when I saw this procession of very old Chinese men and women emerging from brand new, shiny cars with brightly colored paper and plastic sacks full of…who knew what and the writer in me just had to find out.
Being a white guy, I thought I might have trouble blending in…but they didn’t seem surprised that a volunteer had shown up. I am a big volunteer in life. I give a lot of my time to an animal rescue group, my local library and a homeless shelter. This particular gig though was one which particularly intrigued me.
These old men and women were there to clean the graves of the Baby Section. I cannot describe the mingled sensation of loss and hope as they cleaned off the offerings left on graves - some over 200 years old. These were not their ancestors, but the graves of children otherwise forgotten on the island. They were the offspring of plantation workers brought to the islands under horrendous conditions, longterm contracts and a lot of local hostility.
The ring leader of the volunteers was an 82 year old woman with one tooth left in her head and an abundance of energry that would exhaust Serena Williams. Her name was Marianne.
She told me they came to tend the children once a month. They bring them flowers and candies. I was not allowed to set food inside the cemetery until I left a candy at the gates. I swear I heard the ghosts of those children as I stepped forward. And I sensed their excitement. I have always been attracted to the dead since my mother died when I was six. I suppose now I think of it, since I cannot visit her grave in Sydney, Australia, I am drawn to cemeteries as a way of connecting with her.
This experience though was something else…the Chinese men and women insisted that taking care of the dead is essential, since they watch over us. They left red papers and cloths on many of the graves, fruit, rice cakes, bao…and for the children, tons and tons of candy.
Marianne, liuke most who have suffered loss, knew I was hurting.
She came over and placed her hand on my chest. “You will see. You will grow another heart,” she said.
And she was right. I went back to Manoa at Christmastime and found a few of the old folk still there, attending Marianne’s funeral. It broke my heart to know she died, but I felt it was no mistake I’d arrived on this day…her send-off to the hereafter.
I like to think all her children were waiting for her, to reward her with playtime and laughter for never forgetting them.
Next weekend, I will go back and let her know she inspired Ma Ma Loa. That she lives on. And that her humble, unique way of giving back has inspired a light in me.

Aloha oe,