Welcome to our 2nd week of celebrating the amazingly talented
In today's post we will focus on Con's book SALVAGE, an amazing review for the book, a list of Con's favorite things, and a chance to win!!
Five years ago, an accident fractured Gabe Cooper’s family. Believing it was broken beyond repair, Gabe and his best friend Jamie Carlson left Minnesota behind for San Diego sunshine and college. Now another crisis brings Gabe home to help his ailing father, and he finally has to face the guilt that kept him away for so long.
Scott Stark also returns to Minnesota, with his young niece and nephew in tow, shouldering new family responsibilities. While Gabe comes to grips with his past, Scott struggles to accept his present role as a substitute parent, caring for two children, each with different needs. As Gabe and Scott get to know each other, reclaiming family life almost seems possible. Only two things stand in the way of love: Gabe’s unresolved relationship with Jamie, and Scott’s plan to leave Minnesota as soon as he can. Both men will have to accept past mistakes if they want to salvage a future together, and time is running out.
“I’ve been a terrible neighbor.” Driving back and forth between the hospital, Ariel’s workplace, and keeping the business open had been about all he could manage.
“Maybe you could pay Scott a visit this weekend,” Ariel suggested. “See if he wants some company. I don’t think dad will misbehave again if you want to take a few hours off, and I can easily stand behind the warehouse counter.”
Gabe nodded, but he couldn’t help thinking that he should have paid more attention, especially after seeing Scott’s bleak expression at the mall.
Ariel touched his elbow. “You think there’s something you could have done to help out earlier? Sounds like Scott handled things the best he could.” She sat down slowly and eased herself into a comfortable position. “Why don’t you go over there tomorrow? Put your mind at rest.”
Gabe pulled his dad’s favorite hotdish from the stove—the kind of Tater Tot casserole that was hard to find in San Diego—and placed it carefully on the counter. He served a portion and placed it on a tray next to a pill case divided into three daily sections. Gabe carried the meal up, sat at the foot of his father’s bed watching him push a child- sized portion of his supper around his plate. Ariel joined them, and Gabe continued their conversation.
“Maybe I should leave it. It’s not like I even know the guy or how to deal with kids. He just looked....” Gabe shook his head. “I don’t even know how to describe it.” The more he thought about it, the more the word “bleak” seemed like the best descriptor. “We’ve got nothing in common.”
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With permission from Julio himself, his review for Salvage:
this was written by a marvelous writer at the height of her powers.
one of the things that defines us as a species is our drive to create metaphor—to tell stories—to create things from the bits of other things.
i know, i know; i'm a dork. just—wait:
very nearly everything we do is an abstraction of something else. the names we give things are symbols for the things we have named. the words we use are a kind of code for the things the words mean, and when we string them together—
the real kind.
the word 'dog' is not an actual dog; it's a series of three symbols we have all agreed means 'dog'. further, we have all agreed that that word sounds a certain way, and that sound also means dog.
if you want to go the other direction, think about the letters we use to make up that word—who decided the 'd' should sound like 'duh?' why is it shaped the way it is? how cool is it that we can use that same shape to make that same sound in all sorts of—
—i am not high. i'm just really, really excited.
so yeah. abstraction. everything is an extrapolation, a symbol, a metaphor, and human speech and human writing and human storytelling is a series of them put together, which in turn form yet another abstraction, a whole other level of meaning—imagery, emotion, ideas—
—and in this way art is made.
a writer writes 'the dog barks.' and human beings thousands of miles away, long after she's dead, reading a translation maybe—they know what that means. they see a dog in their minds, and they hear it barking.
transliteration. conveying a thing from one brain to another, using feelings and images made up of millions of metaphors for things everyone understands a certain way.
it's how we tell stories. symbols.
con riley knows how this works, and she knows how to play with it.
months ago i reviewed her first book, After Ben:
Referring to Ben too many times probably weakened the overall feel of the book, but as a device for the purposes of explaining or enriching the context of the situation, it works very nicely indeed. When you lose someone, you really do think of them as often as Theo thinks of Ben. You compare everyone to the one you lost, and everything has everything to do with them.
But in fiction, it's sometimes best to be a little bit unfaithful to the literal truth of a thing, to keep the story moving along. Some restraint here and there, with the Ben memories, would have better served the story than the (still, frankly) wonderful and amusing glimpses of the kind of crazy-charming and funny man Ben was.
what i saw in her writing back then was this astonishing ability to transliterate the way your mind works in grief—the so, so often retrieval of memory in loss, of the mimetic connection between smells and tastes and sounds to painful memories that savage you when you're suffering. it was terribly, terribly exciting to see, even if the device was slightly out of balance.
it wasn't perfect, but it was close. and it was like being able to read minds.
so, here we are, and she's four books on, and that skill, that talent—connecting you to the mind of another person she's created, so you identify with them, and feel what they feel, and recognize the way things happen in your own head through the inner ebb and flow of their emotions and thoughts and memories—it's...
...it's not unbalanced anymore.
now, it is perfect.
gabriel, her main character here—he's alive. he's human. he's real. because the way his mind works—memories of conversations, experiences, sounds, smells, all coming back at random times to inform his present state of mind—it's real. it's accurate.
and it happens just that way, doesn't it?
you're thinking of your high school crush breaking your heart twenty years ago, just as someone cute standing right in front of you today does something that could be taken a certain way, and you react well out of line—you shut them down—and the extent of your emotional response only makes sense in the context of the things you were thinking and feeling just... before... you went... totally nuts.
but then riley does one better.
she's mastered that, y'see—and now homegirl's just showing off, really: the way you or i use metaphors to convey 'the dog barks,' she uses that—the obscenely complicated and delicate dance of past memory and present experience—to create spellbinding scenes that not only build powerful imagery in your head, but blow them up and put them back together again in absolutely incredible ways.
it was—on at least three occasions—literally breathtaking.
when i reviewed riley's second book, Saving Sean, i had this to say:
over and over, you'll find yourself reading something and wondering, 'why is this here? why am i seeing this now? what about that other thing?'
the narrative loops over and around itself again and again, layered with surprising allusions, parallels, and metaphors—and you'll find that in its playful structure and clever symmetry, you've been set up just right for incredibly satisfying emotional payoffs.
she'd improved that skill—playing with the symbolism of memory and the process of cognition. she'd improved it so much from one book to another i found it astonishing, because the talent and ambition behind such writing had grown exponentially.
as it has, again, here.
with this book.
you're given a word—marble—and you're given another, and another, in a row, and they build an image in your mind—green marbles in a glass jar—and then some more words, more images, more ideas imbued into the marbles—who does what with them, and what that means to whom, and when—and then it all circles round at the end of a scene and that symbol—marble—means something completely different than it did at the start—something more—something incredible—and then, hundreds of pages later, hundreds of scenes like that later, you realize this author's been doing the same thing, but with entire scenes, the whole novel, and those same green marbles now mean something even greater, something so vast and so rich and so human—
yes. it's really that good.
it's like getting gay lit story for MM money.
this book is compulsively readable, and very, very recommended.
Con's favorite things:
- Fandom: I fell into my first fandom when I was in my 30s. I hadn’t written fiction since the age of 16, so my first stories were a hot mess. The beauty of fandom is that it’s very supportive of new writers, and I’m a better writer today because of the freely offered help I received.
Lots of my best memories are tied to fandom. I crossed the globe to meet fanfic friends, and that’s how I fell in love with Comic-Con. You don’t really know someone until you’ve camped on a San Diego sidewalk with them waiting in line so you can snag front-row seats to see the cast of Merlin.
It was definitely worth it.
A group of us meet up in the UK as often as we can. I chat on Twitter with fanfic buddies I’ve known for close to ten years, and my writing group — people I talk with every single day — is made up of fandom friends who write original fiction as well, and it’s great that we still all write together.
Basically, fandom is my all-time favourite thing, and I consider myself very lucky to have maintained my close fandom friendships while I’ve found fabulous new friendships in the MM genre.
- Drink: Tea. I would happily go my entire life without drinking another cup of coffee. Tea on the other hand is marvelous. It’s my fuel, and my favourite mug has special significance as a friend sent it to me from Seattle, home of my first series of books.
I enjoyed writing my next release, True Brit, as I got to incorporate my two favourite things together. In the story, the main characters Ed and Pasha call on fandom followers for help, and their fandom comes through for them. The fact that they also both enjoy a nice cup of tea is a bonus!
Speaking of True Brit, watch this space for more info on that book, coming soon!
Thanks for celebrating with us. Please join us again next week for more about Con Riley. Until then, happy reading!!