LusterLuster by Raven Leilani
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Phenomenal read.

Raven Leilani possesses an offhand brilliance. Her prose flows smoothly, naturally; seemingly without effort. As a writer, I’m hyperaware of the hard work that goes into preparing a book for publication. But as I was reading this novel–nay, experiencing it–never once did I consider how many edits Luster must have endured to arrive at the completed stage.

Over a two-day period, I immersed myself in this modern tale of a doom-and-gloom, problematic young person. The voice of narrator Edie is unforgettable. She’s harsh, but in a manner that’s not necessarily off-putting. At times, however, I wanted to shake some sense into her. Sure, she’s young, but why must she be so foolish?

Then again…I was talking with my friend the other day about what nincompoops we were during our twenties. Still hung over from the perceived invincibility of our teenage selves, it seemed inevitable we’d push the envelope even further into the territory of “a step away from certain death.” We were often drunk and/or high. Smoked our lungs into the danger zone. Searched for purpose in the midst of the party. Allowed our romantic partners take advantage of us…laid ourselves out as doormats. Developed imbalanced friendships, jumped from job to to job, sometimes bed to bed. We grew numb; apathetic. Self-loathing.

So, when I reflect on my post-college youth, I notice some uneasy similarities between Edie and the younger version of me. The lack of motivation, the constant depression, self-love, poor interpersonal connections and poorer decisions on who to date…the list goes on. Edie is bound and determined to wallow in her own apathy. At the same time, she’s won’t fully acknowledge her self-destructive capabilities, other than to tell the reader, in a matter-of-fact way, what she does to prove she’s alive. There’s a yearning in her for happiness/contentedness, but she thinks she doesn’t deserve it. Her upbringing and traumatic life experiences exacerbate her tendency to disappear into her worst self.

As a result, she engages in a cringeworthy, precarious relationship with the least deserving man ever, and falls into an odd, unbalanced dynamic with his wife and daughter. Bizarre events ensue. I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for her to either find her wings, or plunge into an apocalyptic tailspin. For the sake of keeping the spoilers at bay, I will only say that, by the end of the book, there is a suggestion of an open ending, yet also a resolution that feels more authentic than your average wrap-it-up-with-a-bow conclusion.

In short, this was a terrific book (likely the best I’ve read all year), stuffed with humorous zingers, apt social observations, and blistering clarity. Weeks after reading Luster, the narrator’s voice remains firmly ensconced within my memory. In wide-eyed awe, I anticipate Raven Leilani’s next novel.

‘Tis the season for things that go bump in the night (with a little bump ‘n’ grind on the side). Take a gander on my award-winning hybrid-genre novella: reimagined, re-edited, re-packaged…remastered. If you don’t mind a bit of bite to your read, Crimson might be just the thing to get you in the mood to scream.
Warning: Crimson contains triggering subjects such as sexual assault, violence, and various forms of abuse. In addition, the story features a couple of brief, yet explicit, sex scenes. Reader discretion is highly advised.
Genres: Dark Fantasy/Horror/Paranormal/LGBTQ/Contemporary
Suggested reader age: 18+

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Crimson by R. N. Jayne

Crimson

by R. N. Jayne

Giveaway ends October 29, 2020.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway 

Re-envisioned. Revised. Remastered.

Eleven years ago, Crimson (MASTER, Book 1) was wrenched from the mewling cavern of my cacophonous brain, wiped free of bloody afterbirth, and sent sprawling into the chaos of the World Wide Web. This niche vampire novella seemed destined to remain an experiment in online-only publishing; until Summer 2020, when I decided it was time for my tween to gain substance–and a physical body, via paperback print-on-demand. The version of Crimson set to reemerge on 10/16/2020 reflects the craft development I’ve both self-taught and assimilated over years of trial, error, and careful observation. At first, my book baby flourished (winner of Best eBook in the 2009 Hollywood Book Festival Awards). Soon after, my toddler began to flounder (less than glowing reviews in certain circles; pirated eBook copies widely distributed). Finally, my older child retreated into hibernation like a hormonal, moody bat too ashamed of growing pains and obscure status to perpetuate increasingly awkward interactions with the outside world (removed from publication with the scowling demeanor of the Fox who shunned the “sour” grapes). 

Fast-forward a few years–past physical deterioration, chronic illness, multiple surgeries, death of loved ones, starting a family, raising children, and a mental breakdown or two–I’ve arrived at this RL point: 27 weeks pregnant, ready for the rebirth of my metaphorical baby mere months before the debut of my third flesh-and-blood child. This time around, however, instead of attempting to self-publish without any outside assistance (been there, done that, fell splat on my back), I’ve hired helping hands via Reedsy: Donald Weise, an experienced editor with a penchant for niche, erotic-tinged LGBTQ fiction; and George Cotronis, a talented illustrator and book cover designer who specializes in horror and dark fantasy art. Though my writing process is largely private, I require the assistance of other creative and analytical minds to maximize the potential of my storytelling impact.

As I eagerly await Crimson’s release date, I’m all too aware of the jaunting leap of faith readers will need to take on an unknown author. I don’t have delusions of grandeur, fame, and fortune: I’d simply be thrilled to (eventually) gain a loyal following for The MASTER Series. This saga of J-rock star/secret vampire Raiden, his vain actor co-conspirator-cum-co-star Gabriel, his Big Bad, pure-evil vampire-maker Justus, and his first victim, naïve fiancée Naomi, has stayed with me since its inception in the early 2000’s. Despite my best efforts at banishment, the voices of these characters won’t cease to haunt me. I’ve put The MASTER Series in time-out–shushed it–told it to go to its windowless room. I’ve ignored it, attempted to will it out of existence–done everything in my measly power to escape its sway–but, with a survivor’s grim determination, it keeps me locked within its bloody grip. No matter how often I’ve abandoned my ambition to complete the series, it always comes around to this: I must not leave it unfinished. What’s more: I want to finish it. So I will. With two more books awaiting edits, and the fourth in-progress, I’m about halfway to the seven-book finish line. I hope you’ll join me on the sidelines to witness its transition into adulthood. 

Learn more details on the impending release of Crimson, or preorder your Kindle copy here. You can also read an excerpt. A word of caution: this story contains triggering themes, such as domestic violence, substance abuse, sexual assault, and repressed sexuality. Reader discretion is highly advised.

Question of the week: if you could pick one supernatural creature to inhabit for a day, which you choose, and why? My pick: a faerie, because WINGS.

 

Until next time,

R. N. Jayne

R. N. Jayne

Author

Follow my social media for updates on The MASTER Series, sundry writing WIP’s, and pictorial depictions of my passions.