Life Without Parole by Jeff Erno Blog Tour

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Is Prison Romance Just another Form of “Gay for You”?

The idea of a prison romance has intrigued me for some time, but I hesitated to embark on the project due to a number of misgivings I harbored. For one thing, the very notion of situational homosexuality made me uncomfortable. It doesn’t quite fit within my personal view of sexual orientation and more or less contradicts what I’ve argued for many years—gay people are born gay. You can’t be persuaded or recruited into the “homosexual lifestyle”. Writing a story that depicts a straight person falling in love and becoming sexually active with a member of their same sex felt hypocritical to me. In a way, it seemed like a betrayal.

But in so many ways, this reasoning proved hypocritical. For one thing, “Gay for You” is a very common trope, and some of my previous works could arguably at least border on that categorization. And even more significantly, prison romance is a reality as is situational homosexuality. Rather than denying its existence, wouldn’t it be better to explore it and try to gain a better understanding?

I believe there are two valid explanations for situational homosexuality in a prison setting. The first is that most humans are not one hundred percent heterosexual or homosexual. Regardless how we identify in terms of orientation, few people land in the far outer reaches of the Kinsey Scale. So in the absence of the opposite sex, it makes sense that people who are mostly heterosexual but who’ve entertained homosexual thoughts or fantasies, could be willing to explore those feelings more deeply. If you’re in prison for a long sentence, possibly even a life sentence, wouldn’t you find a way to make the best of your situation?

Secondly, I don’t think sexual intimacy is always about expressing love and attraction. Sometimes, as in the case of rape, it’s about power and domination. In a prison setting, an entirely separate hierarchy exists from that in the outside world. And often it becomes a matter of natural selection where the fittest survive. The most powerful control those beneath them in the pecking order. I can see where a person would submit to the will (and sexual desires) of one more powerful in exchange of protection or other favors.

And then, setting all this aside, I would also add that gay people—openly gay people—do get sentenced to prison, as do transgender people. So it is entirely possible that a gay inmate could fall in love with another gay or bisexual inmate. Or a transgender person, forced to identify as their birth gender rather than their true gender, could fall in love with a person of their birth gender.

In Life Without Parole, I don’t offer distinct, iron-clad explanations for the orientations or genders of my characters. When a happily-married, middle-aged corrections officer receives oral sex from a transgender inmate, I don’t explain if he’s gay, bi, or straight. I don’t explain the motivation of the inmate either. It is what it is. It happens.

And when my main characters, Jeremy and Trey, fall in love, I let the reader decide how to label them. In my mind, this is not a gay for you love story, but I wouldn’t argue with any reader who sees it that way. I wanted to present a genuine love story within a not-so-typical setting and simply let the chips fall where they may. I allowed the characters to lead me into some situations I found shocking and confusing. Some twists and turns occurred I didn’t originally anticipate. But instead of trying to explain the “whys” I simply showed the story as I saw it.

I personally like what happens between Jeremy and Trey. They each broke my heart at different times. They cracked me wide open, made me angry, made me hurt in ways I haven’t for a long, long time. And this is the sort of writing I started out with so many years ago but somehow managed to veer away from in pursuit of approval and sales.

I’m not sure if Life Without Parole is going to be a huge success, and to be honest, I don’t really care as much as I probably should. It’s a story that seemed to find me, and not vice-versa. I had to let go of my concerns that my preconceived opinions would be challenged and simply follow my characters.

I do appreciate all who are willing to give this series a shot. I won’t lie and tell you it’s going to appeal to everyone. I understand in many ways it is controversial, possibly even offensive or capable of insulting one’s sensibilities. Yes, it’s raw and very harsh in some places, but it also contains tenderness and very primal, deep-seated passion. It is both complicated and simple. The multiple storylines of the many characters twist around each other but hopefully in the end all becomes clear. And yes, it has some too-good-to-be-true happy endings, for the most part. But if you know anything about me, you realize I can’t write a story of any kind without an HEA.

I’d like to thank Michele and Gabbi for hosting me and participating in my blog tour. It’s awesome to be back here on the website where it all began for me. I’d like to offer a giveaway prize for those willing to comment. I’m going to give away a gift at each blog stop and conduct a final drawing at the end of the tour for a complete set of the Life Without Parole series. It’s six books total. Please leave a comment or question to enter.

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Blurb:

Trey Palmer killed his stepfather three years ago, stabbed him repeatedly with a butcher knife, and now he’s facing life behind bars. He doesn’t deny what he did, nor does he regret it. But he’s plagued with flashbacks of a torturous childhood in which he was abused by this man he finally extinguished. In prison, Trey employs a strategy of avoidance. He becomes a loner and a workaholic, steering clear of the gangs and their drama. His life changes one day, however, when a new cellmate arrives. Jeremy Banks, also in for murder, decries his innocence. With his long hair and angelic face, he’s too pretty for a men’s prison. Though at first annoying and mouthy, Jeremy begins to wiggle his way into Trey’s heart, and Trey starts to wonder if maybe the kid really is innocent. He really does seem like an angel. Their feelings for each other evolve, blossoming into something forbidden yet beautiful. But how can a love like theirs last in a place like this?

Neena Jaydon gives us a glimpse inside her book, Moon Shadows!

It’s been a year since Moon Shadows, my second novel, was released by Torquere Press. In honour of that, here is an excerpt from it. This is the first time that preppy dog trainer Max and nerdy werewolf Theo meet.

Blurb:

Nerdy werewolf Theo and preppy dog trainer Max are accidentally brought together by the mysterious appearance of malevolent spirits in their quiet northern town. More than unruly spirits are unleashed as Theo and Max discover that they have secrets and desires in common.

Excerpt:

There was a car parked out front, and he’d clearly heard the doorbell respond when he pressed it, but no one came to the door. Max glanced up and down the street, which was full of old-fashioned stuccoed houses like this one, before facing the ragged screen door and its scratched white partner again. He tapped his fingers on the wrought-iron railing as he tried to decide whether to ring again or just leave. Just as he reached out to the button again, the inner door opened.

A face appeared: pasty, stubbled with dark whiskers, largely hidden by a combination of brown-framed glasses and heavy, black curls. Taken aback, for a moment Max just stared. Presumably the other man was staring back, but Max couldn’t see his eyes clearly. He rallied himself.
“Hi, I’m Max Shevchenko. Anastasia’s brother.”

The face rose as its owner straightened. The man pushed his hair back with one hand, revealing wide, gray eyes behind the glasses. He took a half-step back and glanced around.

What, is he expecting trouble? Max covered his offense with a smile.

“I’m sorry to intrude, but I just wanted to say thanks for what you did for my sister.”

“Oh.” The voice itself was a sturdy baritone, but spoke softly.

“You are Theo Dimitriadis, right?”

“Yeah. Yeah.” Theo cleared his throat. “Sorry. Come in.” He gestured for Max to enter.

The little house had a sloped ceiling and small, paned windows. The living room wasn’t exactly out of control but clearly fought the reins. Stacks of magazines wobbled on a stool, and DVD and game cases sprawled across the coffee table, while the sofa provided a home to a potato chip bag, a wadded blanket, and a video game controller. The armchair tucked next to the window overflowed with half-heartedly folded laundry. An incongruously new home entertainment center dominated the room.

As he took this scene in from the front hallway, Max carefully kept his expression pleasant. The last thing he was here to do was judge.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Theo,” he said, holding out his hand. Theo shook it; his hand was big and warm, but his grip too careful. After the handshake, Theo rasped his fingernails across his stubbled chin. He wore a black T-shirt, plaid pajama bottoms, and a ratty, gray cardigan.
“You, too.”

“I hope you don’t mind,” Max pushed on, “but I just really wanted to say thanks in person. The police say you saved her life.”

“I just did — what anyone would do.” Theo took off his glasses and held them in both hands. The eyes that kept avoiding Max’s were remarkable. They weren’t blue at all, but a stormy gray that paled when light touched them. “Is she doing okay?”

“Yeah. She should be out of the hospital by next week.” Max pressed his lips together. “She doesn’t remember how the car got into the river.”
“It happens,” Theo said. “Trauma and all that,” he added hastily when Max looked at him.

“Yeah, that’s what the doctors think.” Running out of steam, Max looked at the floor; for at least a minute silence reigned in the hallway.
“Do you want some coffee?” Theo asked abruptly. “Sure.”

“The kitchen’s this way.” Theo led the way down the hall. The kitchen was tidier than the living room, but even more outdated. Formica topped the white table, and the fridge was a dark yellow-beige color. The table had space for four chairs but only had two. At Theo’s nod, Max took the nearer and sturdier of the two.

“Is that a harvest gold fridge?” Max asked. Theo looked up from pouring coffee and nodded. “I just had to ask, because we had one when I was a kid. My mom said it was a ’70s thing.”

“Yeah, my grandmother, uh, said that, too.” Theo looked at the fridge. “She loved it. Ma hated it.”

“My mom wasn’t so big on it, either. As soon as we could afford it, we got new appliances.” Max noticed that the coffeemaker was an expensive brand and sized to serve more than one. Possibly as many as four.

“How do you take your coffee?”

“I always order double-doubles,” Max said sheepishly, and again Theo nodded. He brought Max coffee in a mug decorated with a famous TV spaceship crew. His own mug of clearly black coffee had the initials “FQVII” on it. “Thanks,” Max said, trying to work out what the initials meant. “So what do you do, Theo?”

“I’m a game tester,” came the reply. Here, for the first time, was a hint of a challenge in his voice.

“Game tester?” Max blinked.

“I test video games for game companies. Freelance.”

“That sounds like a fun job to have.” That’s a job?

“It’s actually pretty rough sometimes, but, uh, lots of people want to do it.” Theo drank from his mug.

“I bet. How’d you get into it?”

“I won some competitions. Passed some tests.” Theo quickly drank again. “I’ve got better reflexes than most people.” This was almost inaudible.
“Huh.” Max tentatively sipped his own coffee and then paused. “This is really good coffee.” Running back and forth from the hospital, he hadn’t slept well since the accident, and the caffeine hit him like a slap.

“I drink a lot of coffee,” Theo said with a shrug. “I’m willing to send away for good stuff.”

“Hm.” Max had more of the best coffee he’d ever tasted. After a false start, Theo spoke.
“What do you do?”

“I’m a dog trainer.” He saw those pretty eyes go wide again, and tension lift the broad shoulders hidden in the cardigan. Theo’s build was a mystery under the baggy clothes, but he certainly didn’t seem to be as soft as Max would expect of a man who played video games for a living. “My family runs a boarding kennel,” Max went on. “I grew up around dogs, so it was a natural fit.” He leaned forward, trying to gain eye contact. “Look, why don’t you drop around for supper next week? Maybe Sunday? My family would love to meet you, and Anastasia should be home by then.”

“I really don’t need any fuss made over this.” Theo stared into his coffee. At this angle, his curly flop of hair cupped his cheekbones, as if trying to draw attention to them. They were worthy of attention, high and finely carved.

“Don’t worry about that,” Max said. “It’d mean so much to my mom.”

“Okay.” Theo nodded, offering a smile that did nice things to his well-shaped lips.

“Great,” Max said, feeling a warmth inside unrelated to the coffee. I’m not sure, but I think this guy might actually be really cute.

Neena Jaydon discusses the research she did for her book Moon Shadows

Writing Moon Shadows made me extra-sensitive to the moon. For one thing, I had to figure out the dates of full moons based on the 2012 lunar cycle so that the timeline worked out. But it also meant that every time I went outside at night and saw the moon, I’d smile and my mind immediately filled up with Theo and Max. Often that turned into inspiration and when I got back inside, I’d write up a storm. In my hometown, which is what the setting of Moon Shadows is based on, the night skies can be crystal clear, with the moon just popping out of that sea of darkness. Especially when I lived on a farm, away from the town lights, the stars would be so incredible, in their infinite layers of white sparks. More than once I nearly froze into a statue standing on our driveway to look at the Northern Lights. And the mists rising off the hayfields that appear in the book come from my own experience haying in the evening. Now I live in town, but I still get treated to some really lovely moons. And now, a year after Moon Shadows was released, I’m looking forward to more of the sort of beautiful northern autumn night skies that Theo and Max encounter.

To Max, the moon is just something pretty to look at. To Theo, it’s Mother Moon, an entity with deep connections to his people, and one that often causes him great distress. My relationship with the moon is much simpler than Theo’s — it fills me with joy and inspiration. But then, I’m not a werewolf.

Back to the Drawing Board by Blaine D. Arden

A while back, I thought I had a great idea for a story. I fell in love with a purple faerie called Wisc—Wiscojoiathéo, actually, which translates into ‘beneath the blueberry bushes’ and is a hint as to where he was conceived—and I couldn’t wait to write his story. A couple of days later, I had a full background for him. From his large family—complete with overbearing mother—to his love for designing, and his obsession with human technology. He was about to spread his wings—yes, wings—and discover a whole new world filled with humans and their precious technology. First part done, right?

The story was supposed to be a fantasy suspense, meaning something bad was going to happen to Wisc, and he would be in danger for most of the story. I was imagining scraped knees, bruised wrists, torn clothing, and a creepy guy who had it in for him. Oh, and a possible love interest in the form of some agent who’d save him, or help him save himself—he might be a bit on the innocent side and helpless at times, but he wasn’t going to be a damsel in distress.

I had plenty to write about, I thought, and chapter one was soon done. The basic story was set. He got lost, ran into creepy guy, and spent most of the chapter running from him, trying to find his way through a city he didn’t know to get back home.

Chapter two, I’d decided, was going to be from the point of view of the possible love interest. More action was involved, because mister agent was trying to find a thief, a spy, before meeting Wisc and falling in love. It all went well, and by the end of the chapter, he’d arrested Wisc—case of mistaken identity—and went home to his boyfriend.

Hold on? Boyfriend? What do you mean boyfriend? Oh, right, that’s not exactly what I called him, I called him a hot fuck. Still… he just met the faerie he was going to fall in love with, and couldn’t wait to go home to have some whoopee time with some hot fuck. Granted, the fuck was hot—at least, I thought so when I wrote it—and so was the bloke—according to Wisc’s possible love interest, also known as Callum.

And that was where the problems started, with a throw-away line at the end of the chapter that led to a hot sex scene at the beginning of Chapter Three. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed writing that sex scene, even if I wondered all through writing it, where the hell the story was going. As it turned out, that was only the beginning, because not even I realised until the almost end of that scene that Callum didn’t have a cock. I’d been so invested in fleshing out Wisc—the character I loved—that I’d left Callum to develop on page during the writing, and not once did it dawn on me that Callum was a transman. Of course, Callum was pretty pleased about passing so well even I hadn’t caught on until he hit me with the clue-bus.

I had to stop writing at that point. Not because the story wasn’t going where I thought I’d been taking it, but because I realised I couldn’t just let Callum develop as I wrote along. I wanted, needed, to know more about him.

And then I fell in love with Callum.

No problem, right? Loving our characters is pretty much a calculated job risk for us writers. A risk I’ve always been more than willing to take. No, the problem was that, suddenly, I found myself pushing Wisc’s story to the background. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved Wisc, but the more Callum revealed himself to me, the more I wanted to tell his story instead of Wisc’s.

After fleshing out Callum, I struggled with the story for a while as I tried to find the right balance between telling both men’s stories. But it didn’t work. As a last resort, I tried restarting chapter one, shuffling the scenes to get a better balance—writing one point of view per chapter obviously isn’t my thing. Still no luck. Not until a light bulb went off and I rewrote chapter one—again—starting the first scene from Callum’s point of view instead of Wisc’s. It still wasn’t smooth sailing, and I kept puttering away, kept changing things around. In the end, I completely deleted Wisc’s point of view scenes, and, slowly, everything fell into place.

My point with all this is that writing is an organic process, and whether a plotter or a pantser, things like this happen. It’s often the little things, like the ‘blind date that won’t go away’ thing that happened in Aliens, Smith and Jones and turned a short story into a novel. Whatever it is that turns our stories upside down, it keeps us writers on our toes. I’ll rant and rave about it when it happens, but it’s what makes writing interesting to me.
As for the hot fuck… he’s a bit of a slut who can’t bear being tied down—metaphorically speaking; he’s not opposed to bondage, at all—and he’s still in the story.

~~

Addendum (aka Further Proof that Writing Keeps Evolving):

Between writing this post and its publication, Callum and Wisc have decided to go their separate ways and are now both looking forward to starring in their own stories. The separation has been very amicably settled so far. Wisc took the title, the scenes already written have been split in half, with some overlap, and Wisc has generously granted Callum access to his great-uncle. And Julian? Well, as cute as he thought Wisc was, he wasn’t going anywhere unless he could stay with Callum.

~~

Blaine D. Arden is a purple haired, forty-something writer of gay and trans* romance with a love of men, music, mystery, magic, fairies, platform shoes, and the colours black, purple and red, who sings her way through life.

You can find Blaine at blainedarden.com, Twitter,Facebook, and Goodreads.

Join us while A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder discusses Space-the Final Frontier

Space – the Final Frontier, for the Boys
A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder

In writing our M/M Romance EMERALD FIRE, Rachel and I wanted to twist the tropes a bit. (A trope is a convention in storytelling, such as “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets the girl”.) She grew up reading romance and adored the “harem girls and rich sheik” stories. I grew up with science fantasy and loved the idea of worldbuilding and creating our own culture to play with. What resulted was a desert world where the harsh environment meant that traditional gender roles were changed and men took some of the jobs traditionally given to women.

I don’t know of very many books set in space with M/M stories, though the literature is growing. What was fun about writing EMERALD FIRE is that we got to create a world we love, with characters who have many stories waiting to be told. I’d say to anyone wanting a treasure trove of ideas, create a world in which you can play and set the stage for lots of ideas to unfold.

What are your favorite science fiction or science fantasy M/M stories? What tropes do you wish would be written with a M/M twist?

The Amazing Jack Greene is here discussing why he loves to write M/M Romances!

Hi, I’m Jack Greene, and I write about men behaving like men—except these men like to misbehave with other men! Now, as anyone knows, men love sex, and gay men are no different in this regard. In fact, I feel it is my mission in life to let the gorgeous men in my head have as much sex as they want. And they want a lot, no surprise there!

Which is one of the main reasons I started writing M/M erotic romance. Now, I love to read. As often as I have time, when I’m not writing I’m reading. I love all genres, especially horror and sci-fi. But as I got older I noticed that there were almost no m/m romantic scenes in any books! Sometimes they were hinted at, and there were occasionally a mentioned gay couple, but they never got any screen time, so to speak, and certainly never any action! Of course there have always been hardcore gay stories out there, but I’ve always been more interested in the chase, the buildup, the tension. Not that the climax (pun very intended) isn’t a hell of a lot of fun, but as a reader (and now, as a writer) I enjoy getting my guys into bed, whatever obstacles happen to be in their way—be it society, laws, other relationships or something more concrete. The bigger the obstacle, the better it is when they finally get together. My goal is getting two hot men together, and taking them, and my readers, for the ride of their lives to get there.

Now don’t get me wrong—I never fade to black once I get the men together. I do enjoy writing sex scenes, getting the boys down and dirty and sweaty. But for me, the thrill is the buildup, and the more foreplay the better. I want my men (and the readers) to be ready to explode once they get to bed—or the ground, or a wall, or wherever they finally give in.

So while you’ll see lots of sex in my stories, most of the time it’s the chase that’s the true goal. And if they fall in love along with their lust, well, I consider it a job well done!

Happy reading,
Jack

For the full list of Jack’s books, please check HERE.