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Belated #TeaserTuesday from Saugatuck Summer (#mmromance coming May 2014 from @RiptideBooks) inspired by a FB convo

So over on Facebook, Lisa from The Novel Approach posed this question about barebacking in m/m romance:

Okay, peeps, opinion:

Brand new M/M author, chapter one, first few pages, guys are already gettin’ busy. It’s their first time together, neither are virgins. They bareback, no mention at all of condoms or status.

This is a real-world contemporary, not paranormal, not fantasy.

Thoughts – irresponsible on the author’s part? Not a big deal? What?

This question keeps popping up occasion. Leta Blake has had a couple great posts about her research into why gay men bareback over on her blog, and it came up not long ago at Jessewave as well.

Yesterday, people on Twitter were doing a #UnpopularOpinion thing. Well, here’s mine:

The prevalence of protected sex in m/m romance is out of proportion with reality to the point of being a rather trite.

(/me dons flame-retardant suit. Any flames on this post will be unanswered and/or deleted)

I know WHY this is. M/M romance is written primarily by straight women, and we love the gay men we write about and we want to portray them in as positive and responsible a light as possible and never show them doing things which are, in popular opinion, Bad Things.

But we as storytellers have no moral or ethical obligation to show our characters doing the perfectly correct thing all the time. We do, however, have a moral or ethical responsibility to portray minority characters as fully rounded, complete, un-stereotyped beings. And that means letting them do things that maybe aren’t politically correct.

The Perfectly Correct use of condoms is another branch of the same school of thought that says 1-finger-2-fingers-3-fingers-fuck is the only way to gear up to anal sex, and that spit isn’t lube. Except some men–and women–have anal sex without any manual prep whatsoever, and some of them are perfectly okay using spit as lube. What we assume as gospel because our genre has been preaching it as gospel Ain’t Necessarily So.  When you scream “SPIT ISN’T LUBE” you are basically telling real people who use it as their lube of choice with no difficulties URDOINITRONG.

I think the insistence on the Protected Sex All The Time Unless They Have The Talk trope in m/m romance is its own form of well-intentioned homophobia. First off, because most people don’t raise nearly as much fuss–if any at all–if characters in an m/f romance have unprotected sex. This reinforces the idea that HIV/AIDS is a Gay-Only issue, and yes, it is an issue in the gay community, except maybe there are members of that community who don’t perceive it that way. Who, for whatever reason, to not consider condom usage to be an Absolute Necessity in any and all circumstances. Maybe they’ve just decided it’s their risk to take, for whatever reason they want to risk it.

Secondly, it trivializes the other issues surrounding the choice whether or  not to use condoms, many of which are emotional and personal and subjective to each individual. We like to over-simplify and make it a black-or-white issue, but it ain’t.

If we as writers are going to portray characters within the gay community, we need to give visibility to all its various schools of thought and behavior.

Someday I’m going to write up a blog post about Strain and why I chose the fuck-or-die trope for it. Let’s just say a lot of it has to do with subverting the idea that fluid exchange = death. But this #TeaserTuesday segment is about Saugatuck Summer and one of the many reasons why a character might willfully, knowingly, choose not to use condoms.

And this time I’m going to put it behind a cut because this is actually from Chapter 12 and features a rather significant conflict spoiler.

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#TeaserTuesday from Strain (#mmromance coming Jan 2014 from @RiptideBooks) – Meet Jacob

For #TeaserTuesday today, I’m introducing Jacob Houtman, who is the common-law brother-in-law to 19-year-old Rhys Cooper (Meet Rhys, Part 1 and Part 2). Seven years before the story begins, Rhys, along with his mother and sister, found refuge at an abandoned monastery with a few other families, including Jacob and his fundamentalist dad, Father Maurice.

In the aftermath of an attack by revenants, from which Rhys was saved by Darius and Xolani, Rhys discovers that he and Jacob are the only remaining survivors.

(as usual, this excerpt is not yet edited and may be subject to change.)

Cadence and Caleb were dead and Jacob had managed to live.

Didn’t that just suck? If the revs weren’t going to chase and kill Rhys the way he’d intended, the least they could have done was gone after Jacob instead.

Rhys spared his so-called brother-in-law a disgusted look when he keeled over and began puking, then went back to contemplating what had been the last of his family. In a moment he’d start moving again. He’d help gather wood so he could do the proper thing and lay his sister and nephew to rest. Revs weren’t above scavenging fresh graves, so cremation was the best way to spare a loved one the indignity of becoming carrion.

He heard the guy in charge, Darius, bark something about getting Jacob washed off, but he couldn’t be bothered to care. If the Rot took Jacob, Rhys wouldn’t waste any tears. Jacob had agreed readily enough, after all, when Father Maurice had tagged Rhys to be bait, writing him off to save their own asses.

“Don’t know why we’re bothering,” he heard the grizzled guy over by the pump—had Darius called him Titus? What was with the Roman names, anyway? Was it a theme? Jesus, why couldn’t he focus on a single thought?—grumble to the woman who’d introduced herself as Xolani. “More trouble than this shit-stain’s worth. It could just as easily be the girl’s blood as rev. They were on her when the fucker ran off.”

It took a moment for the words to make sense, and then everything went hot and cold all at once. Sweat prickled and chilled as it erupted from pores all over Rhys’ skin; he could feel it running down his back to the crack of his butt. Everything in him clenched, like that flushed, crampy moment when your entire body seizes up just before the first wave of a bad case of the runs. He whipped his head around to stare at Jacob.

“You ran away?” This was it, then. This was what it felt like to lose your mind. Wow. You really did snap. Rhys was pretty damn sure he felt something physically break inside him. “They were being attacked and you left them?”

Then he was flying at Jacob, the half-healed cracks on his knuckles breaking open as he swung his fists. He drove Jacob out of the pump’s stream and into the muddy soil beneath it, screaming obscenities and trying to pummel him with far more rage than skill. Only Jacob’s shock and the insane force of Rhys’ anger gave him any advantage; he certainly didn’t have the stature, weight, or skill to take down Jacob otherwise.

“Get off me, you cocksucker!”

You left them!” Spittle flew from his lips and he didn’t care that he was screeching. His arms flailed, fists driving toward the body beneath him. He couldn’t even see Jacob for the red rush of fury blinding him. “I’ll kill you! You left them!

Jacob managed to flip them, driving the breath from Rhys’ lungs as he hit the ground. He didn’t bother to throw a punch; he just grabbed Rhys’ head and slammed it back, cracking it against one of the bolts on the thick steel pipe coming up from the well. Rhys saw stars, though he kept swinging blind punches toward Jacob as blood trickled down the side of his face and into the thick layer of mud-churned moss under him. He growled and snarled—sounding, he realized in some disconnected portion of his mind, like a revenant himself. His upper lip and chin were wet and he wasn’t sure if it was from the pump or if he really was foaming at the mouth.

I’ll kill you! I’ll fucking kill you!

What the fuck is going on here, Titus?

He barely heard Darius’ roar before Jacob bashed his head against the pipe again. Then everything went black.

Strain is coming January, 2014 from Riptide Books.

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#TeaserTuesday from Strain: Meet Rhys part 2 (coming Jan 2014 from @RiptideBooks ) #mmromance

As promised, I’m offering another, longer passage for TeaserTuesday today regarding Rhys, the nineteen year old protagonist in my post-apocalyptic novel coming in January from Riptide. You can find the passage I shared for Seven Sentence Sunday here.

Rhys is a survivor of a deadly plague that ravaged the human population over the last decade, killing a vast majority and turning a significant portion of the rest into maddened, animalistic predators called revenants. In the first snippet I shared, I introduced you to Darius via Rhys’ first impression of him. Rhys–who has been sheltering in an abandoned monastery for the last seven years with a handful of other survivors, including his younger sister and most recently, her infant son– is under attack by the revenants when Darius and his second-in-command Xolani rescue him.

This will actually be two segments because I can’t decide between the two passages and they’re both too long for Seven Sentence Sunday. It should also be noted that all these snippets are at present unedited. That’s due to happen next month, after which I very much hope there will be a longer, less segmented excerpt to share.

So, enjoy!

They snarled like rabid dogs and stunk to high heaven. He hadn’t considered what they might smell like until they bore down on him. Their wild manes of tangled hair reeked of oil and dirt. The ones who had once been men had beards even more ragged than the facial hair that grew indifferently in haphazard patches around Rhys’ jaw. Clearly hygiene wasn’t high on the revenant list of priorities.

Rhys giggled madly. He was losing it, he realized. His senses were aflame, singing; his awareness of everything had sharpened to a keen point. His heart raced and his muscles quivered. In those moments before death, he felt more alive than he had in the past seven years. He could almost thank the revenants for smelling so foul, because it made his last breaths into something that actually had an impact.

For one instant, he considered not fighting. Let them kill him. Let his final moment of this delicious sensitivity be the excruciating pain of their teeth rending his flesh.

In the end, though, the survival instinct was too strong. He swung his useless shotgun-turned-cudgel with what limited momentum he could muster, knocking one of them back. A spray of blood erupted from a cut on its brow and its head snapped back toward him, its eyes narrowing in fury. So human and yet so lacking anything resembling humanity.

The other charged him before he had a chance to draw the blood-smeared shotgun back for another blow. It knocked him to the stone floor, driving the breath from his lungs. The club flew from his hands. He managed a lucky blow with his elbow to its throat, winning himself a moment more of existence as it recoiled. Then it pressed down on him again, yellowed teeth snapping.

And the next one:

Darius had to hand it to the kid. With his shoulder blades visible beneath his skin, ribs jutting out like the bars of a xylophone, and his hazel eyes bulging with shock, he still had fight in him. No sooner had the question left his lips than he pushed past Darius.

Cady! Cady, are you okay!?”

Darius’ stomach sank and Xolani’s normally stern expression softened with sympathy. Before Darius thought to catch the kid, he’d darted out the door.

“Where is she? Cady!”

Shit.

“Keep searching the rooms. Find me that last rev Jamie reported and get the kid some damn clothes!” He took off after the survivor. His long strides carried him down the stairs where he caught the naked, dripping kid almost out the door. He might as well have been trying to hold an angry badger. The survivor thrashed and flailed, and Darius finally had to push him away when he even tried scratching and biting. Last fucking thing he needed was for the kid to draw blood.

Not that it mattered.

Suddenly free, the survivor didn’t pause but charged the final few steps to the door, against which Darius slammed him chest-first to eliminate the hazard posed by the kid’s teeth and nails.

“Settle down, son. There’s still a rev on the loose and we gotta find it. My scouts reported four. I’d hate to think you fended off those other ones just to run smack into the last.”

“My sister might run into it!” The kid’s flurry of struggles renewed. “Cady!”

Darius growled to himself and tried to make his tone at least somewhat sympathetic. “There ain’t no one left alive out there.”

The thrashing came to a shuddering halt.

“They got away?” The plaintive hope in the kid’s voice probably made a whole host of angels somewhere burst into tears.

Darius was no angel, but he didn’t want to be an asshole, either.

“I’m sorry, son.”

“But the revs were supposed to come after me. I was gonna distract them.” His voice cracked with desperate confusion. “They were supposed to get me!

Oh, fuck. This was why he hated dealing with survivors. Especially traumatized ones.

Futilely brave, fucking heroic traumatized ones.

“They probably heard the baby cry and it was all over.” As comfort went, Darius was pretty sure it fell short but he didn’t know what else to say. “Revs are predators and like any predator, they know babies are easy prey. You couldn’t have got their attention no matter what you tried.”

To his credit, the kid didn’t burst into tears. That would have put the perfect cap on Darius’ afternoon. Instead, he drew a few quavering breaths and said almost calmly, “Let me go.”

“You don’t wanna see what’s out there, son.”

Xolani spoke from behind him and Darius almost jumped. Shit. He got so distracted by the kid he wasn’t even watching his six.

“Kaleo and Gina are reporting the rev still at large isn’t in the building or courtyard. Jamie says Titus is out on his bike. He suspects the last rev ran off from pack and Titus gave pursuit. We’re still looking for clothes, but for now here’s a blanket the kid can wrap up in.”

Darius reached behind him to take the scratchy woolen blanket. “If you promise not to bolt, I’ll let up so you can put something on.”

The tips of the kid’s ears turned red and he gave a stiff nod. Darius eased his weight off him and stood back, proffering the blanket. Avoiding Darius’ eyes, the survivor wrapped it around himself, then opened the door and dashed out.

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#SevenSentenceSunday from Strain (coming Jan 2014 from @RiptideBooks ) Meet Rhys pt 1

I’m going to cheat a bit today and give you a bit more than seven sentences. Because the theme I’ve been going with is using Seven Sentence Sunday to introduce characters and elements you’ll encounter in Strain and there are just no seven sentences that encapsulate nineteen-year-old Rhys Cooper, a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world where a deadly virus has killed a vast majority of the population and turned a significant portion of the people remaining into maddened predators.

So I’m quoting here a more-than-seven-sentence passages which really give some insight into who Rhys is and how he functions. Stay tuned for #TeaserTuesday when I will share another, longer, passage about Rhys.

Rhys was splattered with blood by the time the revenant stopped thrashing. A drop itched as it chilled and dried on his lip, its weight irritating.

Don’t lick. Don’t lick. Don’t lick.

He supposed it didn’t really matter. Even if he managed not to become dinner, he was still a dead man. He had been from the moment he’d breathed the same air as the revenant.

Knowing that made it easier, in a morbidly reassuring way. He had a small knife in his pocket, the faux-ebony handle cracked and the blade dulled. It was useless as a weapon, but with enough determination he could try to slit his wrists. Assuming he survived the revs, he might still die a clean death. If he was smart, he’d do it now, before they got through the door.

But then they might still turn and go after Cadence and Caleb.

It was all about priorities, he thought, his chest heaving and his arms aching as he stared down at the caved-in face of the rev he’d killed with dispassionate curiosity. He could see that with a remarkable clarity he’d never had before. First, keep the revs from chasing his sister and nephew. Second, take them out and avoid being eaten. Third, kill himself before the Rot set in or he became a revenant. Knowing what to do had never been so easy.

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#TeaserTuesday from Saugatuck Summer

I don’t have a release date yet on Saugatuck Summer, but I’m anticipating it will be spring or summer, 2014. Saugatuck Summer is part new adult/coming of age and part romance. My protagonist, Topher Carlisle, is a 21-year-old college student at a critical time in his life, trying to work out his troubled relationships in his family, reconcile his history of abuse, and figure out where he’s going personally, academically, and financially.

In this segment, he meets his best friend’s father for the first time.

I turned back to trudge up the beach toward the house.

When I reached the bottom of the stairs climbing the dune, a man was coming down. He was dressed preppy-sharp: stonewashed blue Oxford shirt, well-fitted tan slacks. He appeared to be out for a stroll, not coming down to lay around the beach.

He looked like Robert Redford in his prime. Only not quite. The bone structure had that same sort of chiseled definition, but the eyes — which I could see only by virtue of the fact that his sunglasses were that weird sort where the lenses were tinted at the top but not actually dark — were long-lashed and feminine, more like Tom Hiddleston. And the mouth was softer and fuller, like David Wenham.

So, okay. He was basically an amalgamation of every redheaded man to ever turn my crank (and how!) And he lived in a popular gay resort town, which meant the chances were above average that he might actually be interested. Watching him trot lightly down those stairs to the beach, I realized what my objective this summer would be.

Agent Carlisle, your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be to find out which of these residences belongs to Mr. Strawberry-Blond Hunka Burnin’ Love and convince him to have sex with you on every horizontal surface — and against a few of the vertical ones.

I was so up for that gig.

He flashed a smile at me as he reached the bottom of the stairs and slid his sunglasses down his nose, revealing eyes so dark and sparkling a blue they made sapphires turn green with envy. And he had deep smile-creases in his cheeks, too long to be called dimples. Suddenly I wondered if my loose shorts were loose enough.

And he was smiling like he knew me. What—?

His hand darted out to shake mine. “Hi, you must be Topher. I’m Morgan’s dad, Brendan Gardner.”

Abort mission! Abort! Abort! Abort!

Seriously? Fuck my life.

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#TeaserTuesday from An Inch at a Time (The Professor’s Rule #2)

Because I’m a big attention whore and apparently #SevenSentenceSunday isn’t enough to satiate that need, there’s this brilliant thing called #TeaserTuesday I found out about today!

At @kelly_instalove’s request, I’m going to be snippeting all three of my upcoming books.

This first one is from An Inch at a Time, the second book in a series of erotic novelette’s co-written with Heidi Belleau called The Professor’s Rule. In Giving an Inch, TPR#1, we meet James Sheridan and his one-time Dom, Professor Evander Carson, two years after their relationship ended. We give some insight into that previous relationship in Giving an Inch but we wanted to take a step back in time and explore how James and Carson started out. That’s what we address in An Inch at Time.

Evander could see the calculations written on James’ face, assessing how much time was left in the term and if he could begin to turn the class around and grasp it the way Evander described. Which was, of course, the perfect moment to make his offer.

“I can help you.” One corner of his mouth lifted in a wry smile. “I’m not at all adverse to doing some extra-curricular tutoring. If you’d be willing to entrust your academic future to the hands of a rumored deviant.”

He watched his student’s face carefully, searching for–ah, there it was. A flicker of intrigue that went beyond idle curiosity. He could almost hear James’ thoughts. Was Evander a pervert? What did that even mean? If James consented to be tutored by him, what else might happen?

Evander made no effort to deny the speculation that anything untoward would occur in the course of such tutelage. It wouldn’t do to mislead the lad, after all. Evander’s reputation wasn’t entirely unearned. For that matter, it wasn’t even mostly unearned. He could teach James, of that he had no doubt. And by the end of the term, he would have awoken in his student a passion for far more than history. The spark was there, on both the academic level and the other, even if young Mr. Sheridan didn’t realize it yet.

James cleared his throat again, looking both wary and fascinated. “Okay.”

“Excellent.” Evander jotted down an address on a sticky note and reached across the desk to lay it before James. “Be there tonight at 8 o’clock sharp. We won’t be doing this on campus.”

“Okay.” James’ voice was thick, raspy, as if he couldn’t get enough spit together to wet his tongue. But he took the sticky note and stood. Evander politely refrained from commenting on the semi-erection swelling the fly of the lad’s jeans. “Thank you, professor.”

“You’re welcome.” Evander dismissed him with a negligent wave of his hand, calling out only once James’ fingers lay on the doorknob. “And Mr. Sheridan?”

“Yes?”

“No underwear.”

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