Not me, but then I wasn’t really expecting it. 🙂 EPIC got the list of EPPIE winners up and Cat 15 was won by Rick Reed for Orientation.
I have to say that I was expecting Rick to win. Oh, not at first. I mean, “Spirit of Vengeance” is one of my favorite of my own stories, and I figured I had a decent chance. I wanted to check out the competition, though — and besides, the finalists list was bound to have some pretty good books on it — so I started reading the other Cat 15 finalists. I thought I still had a decent shot all the way to the end, when I read the last book, Orientation.
Not that it’s last on the list, but it’s the last one I read. Why? Because the plot summary sounds… well, I have to say, kind of iffy. It’s a reincarnation plot, which can go either way, and the (gay male) protag’s lover dies and comes back as a woman, which just has “Train Wreck” written all over it. I mean, you know? Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, or maybe it’s just because I’ve done a lot of reading, but for whatever reason I’ve noticed that there are certain plots or devices which are incredibly difficult to do well, and most writers who tackle them seem to end up in the weeds. This is one of those plots that a less than stellar writer could smear all over the landscape — I had images of a “straight for you” sort of storyline, where the guy is gay but he loves the soul inside this woman so much that he turns straight just for her or something, which just…. No. You know? The gay community already gets enough crap from idiots who think they could just “decide” to be straight if they really wanted to, and said idiots don’t need any encouragement.
But these problematic plotline types are also the kind that a really excellent writer can turn into gold, and that’s what Rick did. He handles everything beautifully — the characters sound real, the reincarnation device isn’t too twee or completely woo-woo, and it isn’t really the central pivot around which all the characters’ development arcs turn. The secondary characters are appropriately well developed, even the protag’s current lover in the here-and-now section; he’s a selfish little druggie jerkwad who’s completely consumed by and focused on his addiction, but Rick shows us (without rambling on and on about it) how he got that way and who he was before, and lets us see the shreds of the person he was still buried inside him. I empathized with him, and wouldn’t mind seeing a book about him later on; I hope his recovery goes well.
There’s a bit of action, but this isn’t an action book and isn’t trying to pretend it is. There’s drama but it doesn’t go over into melodrama. There’s barely any sexual content, which is fine because what’s there is what the story needs and no more, just the way I like it. There’s just enough of everything, not too much, and it all fits just right and balances. And the last chapter is perfect — I was holding my breath all the way to the end on the possibility of a straight-for-you ending, but Rick didn’t go there, and where he went fits the characters and ties everything off just neatly enough.
Excellent book — highly recommended. I don’t at all mind losing to this one.