So begins a (slightly) new venture for myself, one on which I had ultimately planned, albeit not quite so soon.
I’m about to release my first m/m romance novels, set in the world of the Shifting Isles. I had planned to jump into m/m romance with the J.A. Wood series, planned for a few years down the road, but these new books pretty much just jumped up and took over my life for a few months, throwing my writing schedule completely off-track, but I simply had to run with it.
The Matchmakers Trilogy all started when I was writing Broken (Shifting Isles, Book 4). In that story, there is a minor character, Remy, who appears in all of two scenes and has a mere handful of lines, but somehow he grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go.
In Broken, the MC, Daivid, is working as a stripper at a gay club in order to pay off a debt he owes the club owner. One night, due to a shortage of staff, the boss has Daivid participate in a live pornography stage show instead of his usual stripper act. Daivid, being the Kinsey Zero that he is, freaks out about this, but ultimately gives in, since it’s either that or lose his job, and wind up even more in debt than he already is, and his criminal record is so long that no one else will hire him.
He winds up performing the stage show with Remy, a flamboyant kid who popped out of my imagination on a moment’s notice just to make Daivid’s situation harder (*ahem* Sorry…more difficult). Remy is about as gay as they come, so his flirtatiousness only makes things worse for Daivid when he’s already having a miserable night.
After the show, Remy pops off with the following comment:
Hey! Maybe next time I’ll get you all out on display like that again, and I’ll ride you. What do you say?” Daivid choked and took a step back, but Remy pressed right up against him and dropped his voice to a husky murmur. “My boyfriend just loves to watch me bottom. Makes him so friggin’ hot. Mmmph. Yeah. Next time. Totally.
Now, what kind of guy would have a boyfriend who actually enjoys watching him have sex with other men? This question teased me for the longest time. I mean, it felt like such a Remy thing to say when I wrote it, but as a strict monogamist myself, I was having a hard time wrapping my head around that as a real situation.
So that got me thinking: Who was Remy’s boyfriend? And why was he so easy-going about Remy’s job? Why wasn’t he jealous? Was he always like that, or did they have a hard road to get to that point?
Bam! There you have it. The makings of a new story: Second Chances. Once those questions started popping up, I couldn’t stop. A minor character who appears in two scenes suddenly had his very own novel.
And Remy … *sigh* Remy, Remy, Remy …
The more I wrote him, the more I absolutely adored him. Remy is the kind of character you want to just wrap up in your pocket and keep safe. By night, he’s a porn star and a stripper who absolutely loves his job. But by day, Remy is an intelligent, sophisticated, responsible young man who likes to wear nothing but suits and ties, and all he really wants in life is to settle down and be loved, to have someone for himself.
So along comes Chance Whitaker. And yeah, alright, spoiler alert, they get their HEA, of course, since they’re still together during the events of Broken, but it’s not an easy road. (And, as it turns out, Chance really does like to watch Remy bottom on stage…)
While I was working through this story, I was also discovering Queer as Folk. I know, I know. I’m only about 15 years too late. That’s apparently how I operate when it comes to TV shows. But I got sucked into the show and completely fell in love with it…
Until the finale. I mean, come on: BRIAN AND JUSTIN DON’T WIND UP TOGETHER?!?! WHAT?!?! HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!?!
*sigh* Alright, fine. Yes, I agree, that is exactly how the show should have ended, considering their characters. It totally made sense, but a part of me hated that it made sense, because I was so rooting for that big, romantic HEA.
So, of course, I had to fix it.
I needed a story where the guy who refuses commitment (Brian) comes across a man he simply can’t live without, even if he has to learn it the hard way. I needed Brian and Justin to have that big, happy ending.
The story wound up taking a different direction than I originally expected, but as I was finishing Second Chances, I was suddenly well into mentally outlining the sequel, Second Drafts.
Shain Ahren, Chance Whitaker’s brother, flat refuses to settle down, and won’t even sleep with the same guy twice. A writer and a major control freak (that doesn’t sound familiar at all … *ahem*), Shain simply won’t let anyone in.
Until he meets…
And here’s where the story really threw me for a loop. I needed a counterpart for Shain, someone to shake up his world and mess with his control, and the first (and only) character who came to mind to fill that role was Elliden Crawford.
Elliden also appears in Broken, as the unstable artist who is the brother of Daivid’s love interest. Elliden inherited an extreme chemical imbalance from his mother which leaves him prone to violent outbursts. When he has one of his fits, his sister literally has to wrestle him to the floor and hold him down until he works the fit out of himself; otherwise, he carries pills that can quickly sedate him and stop the violence before it starts, but they leave him lethargic and unmotivated to do anything whatsoever. His volatility forces him into a very sheltered, isolated existence. In some ways, he’s really not much more than a child, though he has the intelligence and rationality of any other man his age.
I really struggled with this character choice at first. Right off the bat, I knew there was going to have to be a sexual element between Shain and Elliden, and I had the most impossible time trying to picture Elliden as a sexual being. Straight or gay, I just couldn’t imagine it. To me, he always came off the page as not only a virgin, but as someone who would probably never have sex in his life. I just couldn’t see it ever happening.
What I could see, however, and see so easily that I knew he was the perfect choice for this book, was his need to be dominated. What little I’d written of him in Broken translated perfectly into his interactions with Shain. Elliden knows he’s dangerous, and he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. However, he’s also lonely, but thinks he can’t ever be close to someone because he’s unstable. Still, he does manage to succumb to his sister’s control, and even to the authority in Daivid’s voice, so pairing him with the domineering control freak, Shain, just made perfect sense. Elliden knows he needs someone not just stronger than him, but someone with enough presence to get through to him when he’s having a fit. He finds that he actually craves that outside control.
This whole book is really about control: taking it, needing it, and letting it go. Not to mention, an element of shame attached to it all. Apparently, the Writing Muse was trying to teach me a lesson with this book. I kept trying to get back on track with writing the Shifting Isles series, but the Muse wouldn’t let me, insisting I work on Second Drafts instead.
And no wonder. I was having some major control issues of my own. Some parts of my life in which I needed to take control, but thought I couldn’t (like Elliden does when he first moves out on his own). For instance, standing up for myself and seeking out the health care and procedures I needed in order to embrace my trans identity, rather than suffering the misery of constantly pretending for the sake of not upsetting others. Just like Elliden felt ashamed of wanting to take control and have his own life, I felt ashamed of wanting to take control and embrace my identity. Through my own character, I learned a lesson.
…Some parts in which I needed to let go of control but didn’t want to (like Shain does when Elliden starts to affect his life). For instance, not getting myself so worked up about things being done just precisely the right way (I might be a little bit OCD), and learning to let go and ask for help when things get beyond my power or ability (something I’ve never been good at because, hang it all, I want to be able to do things myself).
…Some parts in which I needed control, and was ashamed to admit it (like Elliden craving Shain’s presence to keep him in line). For instance, I’ve learned that exercise requires another’s presence. I can’t seem to motivate myself, but if I have someone else there pushing me, telling me what to do, I love it. Just as Elliden felt ashamed of wanting that controlling presence to keep him in line, I felt some shame in wanting the same thing in the gym, and we both had to learn to let go of that shame and embrace what we needed.
And through both of these stories, there is the matchmaker himself, Danny Berringer. Through Danny’s interference, Remy and Chance are brought together, then Elliden and Shain. Only fair that the matchmaker get his own love story, right?
Danny is still in love with Bryan, even after they’ve been apart for years, even though Bryan is married to someone else. But Bryan’s marriage seems to have fallen apart, and as much as Danny would give anything to have a chance to get back together with Bryan, he’s also dying to know what went wrong with Bryan’s marriage, considering he matched up the pair, and he never gets couples wrong.
This story centers heavily around death, guilt, betrayal, and moving on. Without even realizing it, this whole story exploded out of my own grief over losing the family dog. It was a year ago yesterday that we put her down, but it feels like it just happened. Even after a year, I still struggle with the guilt I feel over her last day. She spent her last day at the vet’s office, a place she hated, and when we went to say goodbye, she clearly thought she was finally going home, but instead we all cried over her while she was put down.
It felt like we’d killed her. She spent her last day away from her family, and then we killed her.
That thought tormented me for the longest time. Still does, to some degree.
And even though she was just a pet, I’m not quite ready to move on. I thought I was finally getting to that point, until my father started talking to a breeder about getting another dog, and I burst into tears, thinking, “You can’t replace her!” Stupid thought, but there it was.
So all these feelings — the grief, the guilt, the struggle to move on — came out in this story. Once again, the Muse was leading me where I needed to go, rather than where I wanted to go (namely, sticking to my writing schedule).
Hmmm, there’s that control thing again…
Despite all the difficult feelings that arose in these stories, I am so completely in love with them, and I can’t wait to share them with the world (well, my small readership, as it is, but it feels like sharing them with the world). As I sit here, eagerly awaiting my final proof copies to arrive, I’m counting down the days to their scheduled release date.
July 24th. Giving myself a birthday present this year. Writing what I want to write and not caring what anyone thinks about it. Trans guy writing gay romance. *shrug* That’s just who I am.
The Matchmakers Trilogy will be available — separately and in a combined edition at a discounted price — on Amazon.com and CreateSpace.com starting July 24th. I can’t wait!!!