Like It or Not by Angelia Sparrow, Naomi Brooks, Sean Michael, Gryvon, Stella Harris, TC Mill, Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane


Title: Like It Or Not
Author: Multi-Authored Anthology
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Pages: 161
Characters: Multi-Characters
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Fantasy, BDSM, Erotic Romance
Kisses: 4.5


Blurb: Be it forced seduction/dubious consent, non-violent intimidation, or pre-negotiated fantasy, there is something wickedly taboo about non-consensual sex, where consent is muddled. While rape is a crime of power, focusing on exerting physical control over another person, non-con is all about the gray area where verbal consent is either never given (not a ‘yes’, but not a ‘no’ either) or doesn’t match the arousal and passion both parties share during the act. In Like It or Not, we push the boundaries of consent without fully breaking them.

When Connor’s rent money is due and not even hooking can make up the shortfall, he really is Out of Options. So when playboy Jarrett makes him a very generous offer, he doesn’t look too closely at the terms—and lives to regret it. Then, werewolf Trevor is subjected to Obedience Classes when his pack alpha becomes fed up with his rebellion. Dirk, the wolf charged with this task, though, seems more interested in claiming Trevor for himself, by any means necessary. Writer Ian Richards has to decide What It’s Worth to get his story when his contact meets him in a private club. In fact, Vincenzo has no intention of letting his information go easily, if at all.

In Blindside, freshman Matt is tired of enduring the hazing by (admittedly gorgeous) upperclassman Dylan, when Dylan ups the ante significantly. And as much as Matt wants Dylan, he can’t be sure the whole thing isn’t one more bizarre prank. Confessor Isak must resort to Unnatural Means when he is charged with the task of forcing Sain to confess his sins of murder and witchcraft before inevitable execution. Torturing in the name of the Divine is difficult enough, but when Sain’s seductive magic takes hold of him, he isn’t sure it will be Sain who breaks under pressure to find release. Finally, Salting the Earth becomes Ronan’s only choice when he suspects his sister has been taken by the fairies. However, this only draws the interest of ruthless King Finnbheara, who extracts a price for his cooperation that may be too high for Ronan to pay.

Review:

Out of Options by Angelia Sparrow & Naomi Brooks

Connor has no rent money, no real job, no family or friends to turn to. His only option is hitting the streets. His hook-up, Jarrett, seems like a nice guy, a great kisser and gentle to boot. Connor is left feeling good. When he’s low on money once more, he hooks up with Jarrett again, signing a contract for sex in return for money. When he wakes up the next morning, he’s trussed up good, with Jarrett going all out kinky.

From the get-go, this anthology is about forced seduction and non-consensual sex. This first story has that in spades. Tied up, ball-gagged, flogged. All well and good. Morning and evening beatings for no reason at all and not allowed any kind of safe words? Yeah, that threw me. This one leans heavily into sadism of the BDSM mix, so be forewarned. Worst of all, Jarrett gave the wrong impression of himself, seemingly on purpose, to Connor, luring him in and then holding him prisoner. Connor does have an answering quirk, so I suppose that makes up for violence present here. Personally, I wasn’t all that taken with this story.

Obedience Classes by Sean Michael

Trevor is a young werewolf pup who is now in college and is rebelling against the established, time-honored hierarchy of the pack. The alpha sends Dirk, a powerful werewolf, to teach the wayward puppy how to behave. From a little stalking to outright rattling of Trevor’s chain, Dirk knows all the ways to make the young man submit.

I adored this story. Trevor and Dirk are well suited to each other. Where Trevor has a sharp tongue and a razor wit, Dirk has physical strength and seductive prowess to match that. Their arguments and fights, the whole chase, is hotter than hot. A great story that makes forced seduction seem this sexy is easy to recommend.

What It’s Worth by Gryvon

Ian is a writer who is trying to get a story from a mafia family about immigration. When an old don sends him to his nephew, Vincenzo, the information gathering takes place at a dark club where Ian is forced to decide just how badly he wants the story.

In the beginning, this short story is bogged down by useless rhetoric about how much Ian hates everything. In his words, how everything sucks. That was boring. Once he gets to the club, however, he is literally brought down to his knees and then on his back to experience the humiliation of strangers watching him be hurt and pleasured. Being a virgin, Ian experiences things for the first time. Vincenzo seems to have a handle on him, and what could have been a horrible experience, transcends into a new beginning. The life-affirming attitude of Vincenzo is well balanced with Ian’s more cantankerous nature. Not a bad story in the end.

Blindside by Stella Harris

Matt attends college for his first year, and he’s hazed constantly by a fellow rugby player, Dylan. Matt doesn’t know how to make it stop without incurring the wrath of everyone else, but he’s also afraid of being discovered as gay. Then an unexpected visit to a health center brings Matt and Dylan suddenly into a new kind of game field, and we get to enjoy them playing doctor.

This was my favorite story of the bunch, realistic and heartwarming. What we see, isn’t always what we get. Dylan knows what he wants, and he goes after it. Matt, however, thinks Dylan wants something else entirely, humiliation and power play, and this creates delicious tension. Both so young, at the start of their lives, there’s much pleasure, sex, and love to be had here—if they only dare to step out of their predetermined roles. Great short story, and I would have loved to see more of Matt and Dylan.

Unnatural Means by T.C. Mill

Witch-Confessor Isak is facing his biggest challenge yet, a beautiful witch named Sain who is accused of murder by sorcery and unnatural congress. Isak is a devout priest who wishes for these performers of the dark arts to confess their sins of sorcery and avoid the fires of Hell. But Sain is a gay witch. It’s who he is, and saying it to be wrong would betray himself more. Neither can yield, so the torturer’s rack and hangman’s noose are ahead for Sain—unless Isak can find a way to help him, even though Isak is certain the lovely young witch has put an enchantment over him.

For such a short story, this has surprising amount of depth. It’s not just the characters who are three-dimensional and relatable, but the world around them is vivid and realistic, and the philosophical talks the two men have about being true to one’s self and the nature of faith and desire feel like skimming the surface of much larger oceans of knowledge. At first Sain may appear unlikeable, but it’s Isak’s own preconceptions that color the impression. In essence, Sain is true to himself throughout the story while Isak is the one still trying to find his path. Torturing witches is clearly not it. I liked this story a lot. Recommended.

Salting the Earth by Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane

Ronan’s sister, Rose, is a wild child who keeps disappearing at night. Living in a small town in Ireland, there aren’t that many happening places, so when a man at a bar tells Ronan that Rose has been taken by the fairy folk, it seems plausible to Ronan who has always believed in these things. So, armed with salt and liquid courage, Ronan digs a path into the fairy realm. But getting Rose back isn’t going to be easy, and Ronan has to acquiesce to the cruel pleasures of the sidhe court and King Finnbheara. But perhaps there’s more to the fairy folk, to the king, and even to Rose than Ronan was prepared for. And Ronan has his own shameful secrets to face.

This story has mixed writing, in the sense that thoughts and actions get a little jumbled at time. And the story takes a bit too long before getting into the fairy realm. There, however, these fairies who can change sexes at will are sadistic and cruel if not treated with the proper respect. The king is an enigmatic man who’s perhaps more multifaceted than the legends tell. There’s definitely forced seduction here and a few magical toys to boot, and the ability of the fairies to read minds adds a new twisted dimension to the whole thing. An intriguing fantastical conclusion to a good anthology.

Reviewed By: Susan

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Bump in the Night by Heidi Belleau, Ally Blue, Kari Gregg, Peter Hansen, Laylah Huner, Brien Michaels and Sam Schooler


Title: Bump in the Night
Author: Heidi Belleau, Ally Blue, Kari Gregg, Peter Hansen, Laylah Huner, Brien Michaels, Sam Schooler
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Words: 55300
Characters: Multiple
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Paranormal M/M
Kisses: 4




Blurb:

Turn off the lights . . . and turn on your darkest fantasies.
Demon pacts. Ghostly possessions. Monsters lurking in the depths. The things that go bump in the night frighten us, but they also intrigue us. Fascinate us. Even turn us on.

Join us as fan favorites Ally Blue and Kari Gregg bring over-amorous aquatic beasts to life with their mythic twists on the Siren and the monster in the lake. Erotic horror pros Heidi Belleau, Sam Schooler, and Brien Michaels show us just how sexy scary can be with a pair of demon deals destined to curl your toes and set your heart thrashing. And literary masters Laylah Hunter and Peter Hansen weave haunting worlds where ghosts and dead lovers can touch our hearts (and other, naughtier places too . . .) and teach us lessons from beyond the grave.

By turns exciting, evocative, and exquisitely explicit, the stories in Bump in the Night are sure to scratch your sexy paranormal itch. Explore your wildest fantasies with us in this collection of dark erotic tales.

Review:

I enjoyed this book as the stories reminded me of the spooky anthologies I used to read, at a totally inappropriate age, but these have sizzling sex to go with the terrifying tale.
These stories are as sexily hot as they are chillingly creepy.

Creatures raised from the dead, a cephalopod seeking a mate, demons, these are just some of the beings our heroes face.

If you’re looking for rescues or HEAs, you won’t find them here. But if you want something dark and erotic, you’ll found the place to look…if you dare.

Reviewed By: Pammyla

Salting the Earth – Hard Questions with Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

Title: Salting the Earth – Hard Questions

Hello, intrepid readers! We’re Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane, here to shamelessly plug talk to you about the Storm Moon Press anthology Like It or Not and our story, which rounds out the anthology, “Salting the Earth”.

Salting the earth becomes Ronan’s only choice when he suspects his sister has been taken by the fairies. However, this only draws the interest of ruthless King Finnbheara, who extracts a price for his cooperation that may be too high for Ronan to pay.

We decided to do something a little different with this post, so we’ve done a bit of a Q&A between us. Violetta wrote the questions. Heidi did the answers. Somewhere in the middle a strange kind of logic began to emerge.

– What do you think is the difference between dubious consent and nonconsent? In fiction, of course, as we both believe these terms shouldn’t exist unless applied to fiction.

Oh hey, thanks a lot for starting with the trickiest question, you evil woman.

Okay, well, let’s start with the standard disclaimer: I don’t speak for everyone. These terms are about as explicitly defined as say… the difference between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal. (Anyone wanna try their hand on THAT distinction? No? Bueller?)

When we’re talking about non-con or dub-con, we’re talking about erotica specifically, whereas a depiction of rape not meant explicitly to arouse is a completely different beast. So, assuming the purpose of erotica is to arouse, then the difference between non- and dub-con lies in how they’re meant to arouse.

Non-con is all about a character who says and means no, and then is raped regardless. The appeal of these scenes is their sexualized suffering and violation. These stories can either be sympathetic to the rapist or to the victim, which is a further distinction that also changes the shape of the narrative and also the specific appeal of the story. Someone who enjoys stories that sympathise with the victim might not like ones that sympathise with the rapist, and vice versa.

Dub-con, on the other hand, is about someone who says no but means yes, or someone who says yes but means no: for example, a bodice-ripper where a heroine says no but discovers sex was what she wanted all along, or a story where a person is coerced into sex or has to have sex to save their life or their house or their job. Here, the appeal is more about the tension inherent in a scenario where consent and desire don’t match up, whether that means saying no and meaning yes, or saying yes and meaning no.

– Fairies seem to be a near-universal presence across human culture. It’s as if we have a template to believe in fairy-like beings: quasi-human, with magical powers and strange, hostile-but-not-fully-evil motivations. Why are we so into fairies?

I think it’s in our nature to look for meaning in things. When something bad happens, maybe it hurts a little less to think there’s a reason, because maybe we can control it that way. If it’s truly random, it’s meaningless and we’re powerless.

So why these semi-malevolent figures? Well, I can only speak for myself, here. I was raised in a pretty Christian background, and one of the first real obstacles to the Christian faith is trying to grasp all the horrible things that happen in the world. Namely, if God loves us and is all-powerful and all the rest, and we’re meant to accept that, and that’s fundamental to Christianity, then why do terrible things happen? Now of course there’s plenty of theological theory that grapples with this issue, but with figures like fairies and many pagan gods, it doesn’t even come up, because these are figures that are:

  • Yes, powerful
  • Yes, logical and give reason and meaning to the randomness of the world
  • Yes, can be appealed to and influenced

but

  • No, don’t have any specific obligation to be good or kind or compassionate.

So when something random and bad happens, we can assign it meaning in a way that doesn’t fundamentally undermine our beliefs, and we can also take steps like praying or performing rituals or leaving offerings, to try and control future outcomes. It’s an empowering and affirming belief system… except for the part where you’re constantly at risk of being kidnapped by the very beings you worship.

– Another big question. The origin of the word “rape” is Latin, and the root words means to take, to seize, to capture. And given its historical use, it was often applied to women (regarded as prized possessions) being taken away from men. Pretty grim stuff, once you think about it. Can you talk a little about this usage as it applies to “Salting the Earth”?

Well, the whole catalyst for the story is all about Ronan’s sister being kidnapped by the fairies for presumably sexual use, as in the story of Eithne the Fair, who was stolen from her husband in the night. So Ronan’s sister disappears at night to the other world and Ronan follows to save her, but the justification he uses for being there isn’t empathic (as in I love my sister and want her back) so much as it is based on patriarchal ideas of men owning women (she’s my sister, it’s my responsibility to take care of her, by bringing her here you’re stealing her from me). Of course, once Ronan’s there he learns the sidhe aren’t very much bound by our notions of gender roles…

– I’ve never read a lot of forced seduction narratives. I do vividly remember sneaking my grandmother’s copy of The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss, reading it, and being very disturbed by it. Even moreso than erotic horror with grotesquely invaded bodies–I mean, I’d read Clive Barker and William S. Burroughs by then. But I’m sure many people have the totally opposite reaction, and I don’t want to say they’re wrong for it. What makes these reactions so different for different people?

I think it comes down to a few things. Taste, for starters. I risk insulting/angering/hurting people by saying this, but whether you like “forced seduction” (STRICTLY AS A FANTASY) or not isn’t all that different from whether you like spanking or not, or whether you like shoes or not, or whether you like dirty talk or not.

However, I don’t need to tell you that fetishes and sexual appetites don’t exist in a vacuum. Sometimes they really do have real world implications, and trying to ignore that is a potentially harmful attitude. Consider, for example, the racism inherent in having a fetish for submissive Asian women, or the transphobia and othering that goes into fetishizing MTF transgender women as “chicks with dicks”. Not to say that these things are 100% bad all the time, but if we were to draw a venn diagram, they’d definitely overlap.

Being into rape/dub-con/non-con as a fetish is just the same. Some people have a visceral response to it based on personal experience. Some people are morally opposed to the idea of anyone getting off on suffering, even fictionally. Some people (like me) find these narratives very pleasurable but simultaneously are very anti-rape in the real world. Some people play morality police about these fictional narratives while simultaneously contributing to the suffering of rape victims and survivors in the real world by participating in victim blaming or politically restricting their access to vital services such as rape kits, counselling, justice, abortion and emergency birth control, and their simple rights to privacy and dignity. Most people fall somewhere in between.

– OK, finally an easy question. What do you think is our character Ronan’s biggest mistake? I hope we don’t imply at any point that he deserves what happens to him. But he does have certain errors in his judgment…

Oh, that is an easy one. Without a doubt, it’s the fact that he never once sits his sister down and asks her straight up what’s going on with her life and how he can help. He assumes on a hunch that she’s kidnapped by the fairies, never verifying if that’s true, or even whether not she’s going willingly. The whole narrative is centred on his somewhat fanatical belief that Ronan Knows Best.

– Let’s say someone asked you angrily, “What’s the point of Like it or Not?” How would you respond?

What’s the point of any book? I can give one book to ten readers and each can assign it a different meaning or purpose. Having read Like It or Not, I can say that even individual stories can be taken different ways. For example, you can read Angelia Sparrow’s offering as an erotic story whose “point” is to get you off, or you can read it as psychological body horror whose “point” is to make your skin crawl. Or maybe even both!

– Hurt/comfort narratives are very popular in fanfiction, slash, and m/m. It’s acceptable to put characters through any sort of extreme physical and mental torture as long as they recover at the end. But our story, and at least one other story in the anthology, is straight-up hurt/hurt-some-more. I do anticipate requests for a comforting sequel, but I feel resistant to that. Given that we don’t always agree on these things (if we did, that would be kind of eery) how do you feel?

About a sequel? I’d be open to it, if we were writing it for the right reasons. If we’re writing it so Ronan can find a man who will stick his dick in him and everything will be magically okay? Then no, that’s just not my bag. If we’re writing it so we can explore Ronan’s recovery and extend his character arc, building on the change we begin to see happening at the story’s conclusion? Yeah, I’d

definitely be up for that. But it’d have to be more than just a character piece. I’d need to explore the fantastical side of the story more, as well.

– Last question. “Salting the Earth” is a very shadowed story, but is there any bright spot?

Yes, absolutely. I think Ronan really grows as a person thanks to this narrative. Not that he couldn’t have grown without it, or that growth justifies tragedy (which is a kind of horrible worldview), but yes, I think this story does end on a note of cautious optimism without necessarily being tied up in a neat bow.

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Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane Interview


Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Heidi and Violetta.

Heidi: No problemo! Thanks for having us. 🙂

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Heidi: I was born in New Brunswick, Canada. I’m half-English (on my dad’s side) and half French-Canadian (on my mother’s). As a preteen I moved to rural Northern BC with my family, where I still live to this day, except now with a family of my own! I have a degree in History.

Violetta: I was raised by wandering hippies. My mother eventually settled down in Florida, and I still live in the Southeast today, although I’ve done a lot of travelling on my own as well. I’m Japanese-American, and I speak Spanish, but not Japanese.

What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?

Heidi: Our first book as co-authors is called “The Druid Stone”. We first discussed the possibility of co-writing in April 2011, and finished the novel (including rigorous edits thanks to the brilliant April L’Orange) in mid-August. Two days after submitting it, I had my baby, and just before Christmas we heard from Carina that they’d decided to publish it! To bring it all full circle, Carina is releasing it in August of this year and we couldn’t be happier.

Violetta: The first book we wrote has had the longest route to publication! You definitely need a lot of patience in this business.

Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?

Heidi: A little of both, I think. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. It’s a constant fixture in my life and I get anxious when I’m not doing it. (Just ask Violetta what it’s like when our schedules get hectic and we go a week without writing!) So I’d say writing chose me, but I chose to be a writer. I chose to research a genre and publishers and I chose to read reviews and network with authors, editors, and publishers. I chose to make time for writing and make a concrete business plan for being consistent and productive at it. So I’d say it’s part natural inclination/talent, and part decision, planning, and action.

Violetta: I wanted to be a writer for a very long time. I’d studied literature, I’d written poetry and essays, but I’d talked myself out of believing I could write fiction. About three years ago, I successfully unconvinced myself, and I’ve been writing ever since.

On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

Heidi: I have a newborn who is attached to me 24/7, so I don’t really have “writing days”. I have “normal days where I fit writing in between diapers”. So I don’t really know how to answer this! Basically I sneak writing into all kinds of little spaces. I may or may not be incredibly behind on my housework (cough–laundry–cough) because of that.

Violetta: I used to have a corporate job, but now I’m at home, homeschooling my oldest son. The demands on my time aren’t any less, unfortunately. I get most of my writing done early in the morning and late at night and with an afternoon hour or two in between. Sometimes Heidi and I schedule time formally for writing, but more often we just try to get a certain amount of progress every day or every week, and keep our schedules really flexible.

Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

Heidi: We try to have a clean first draft, and because we work together in real time, we’re constantly editing or changing each others’ writing. But we do try to reserve major edits or rewrites for after we’ve had a third set of eyes and some time to let the MS breathe.

Violetta: I love reading different perspectives on this. Robert E. Heinlein famously said, “You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.” Other writers approach the first draft as a trial run and revise almost everything on the next pass. I think we’re more on the revise-as-you-go end of the spectrum. I don’t like wasted passages. I’d rather spend an extra ten minutes deleting and retyping a sentence to make it perfect before moving on than type out a few paragraphs just to keep moving and then have to go back and delete it all the next day. We really do our best to get it right the first time. We’re very open to beta and editorial feedback, and most of our revision is done at that stage. That’s when we have to be absolutely merciless and delete the stuff we can’t justify.

When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

Heidi: We are planners. We are very very very thorough planners. At the very least, we have a beginning, middle, and end sketched out, as well as detailed character bios, when we start a first draft. However, depending on the complexity of the narrative, we often have more than that. Way more. Like, complicated pacing and arc spreadsheets more. It borders on obsessive in the most awesome way.

Violetta: Planning all the way. I really, really hate wasted passages. I want to know what a scene is supposed to do before I’m in the middle of it. I think it’s also very hard to create meaningful suspense without thorough planning, and suspense is always something we’re aiming for, so that we can give the reader something exciting and unexpected.

What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?

Violetta: Tons of research. Our research has research. That’s one of the best parts of being a writer: you’re always learning something new (and the reader gets to learn that stuff along with you!). “Cruce de Caminos” has paranormal elements based on Santería—this is a syncretic religion combining Catholic Christianity and West African Yoruba religion—and while that was something I was familiar with on a surface level just from having lived in Miami, we needed a lot of research as well. We don’t just come up with the details out of thin air; the fantasy is more compelling if the details are grounded.

Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?

Heidi: Neil Gaiman has some advice on “writer’s block” that I subscribe to whole-heartedly. You can read it here.

Violetta: Co-writing is fantastic for defeating writer’s block. If one of us is feeling uninspired, the other one can pick up the pace for a bit.

What are you working on now?

Violetta: We’re in the revision stages of a free short story. It’s a romance, a very unusual one, because one of the characters is invisible, and the other one is practically asexual. And it’s set during the war between Finland and the Soviet Union that took place during WWII. We’re also working on an ancient Roman gladiator novel, also a nonstandard romance. Like our other books, this does have a fair amount of hot sex, but it has no paranormal elements at all: it’s a straight-up, very rigorous historical. If you’re into shows like Rome and I, Claudius, that’s the feel we’re going for.

Heidi: But with the sexy bits from Spartacus.

When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?

Violetta: We try to be active and engaged in social media, and also locate our books in a community of other books and stories that readers enjoy. For example, most of our books are interracial and multicultural, and I’m always happy to read and talk about other great IR/MC m/m books. I hate getting spammy messages and would never do that for promotion.

Heidi: “What lengths have you gone to” sounds so seedy, like taking people hostage or something. I just try to network, be available on social media to readers and peers, blog regularly, that sort of thing. Writing freebie stories has been a great way to expose people to our writing style and the quality of what we put out. Our story “Harm Reduction” (free for download from Storm Moon Press) was brilliant on that front.

Where did you get the idea for the stories you write?

Violetta: For “Cruce de Caminos,” the story grew out of a larger story. We wrote a long novel called The Druid Stone, coming from Carina this summer, that tells the story of a young man named Sean O’Hara who travels to Ireland to get rid of a curse. It’s also the story of Cormac Kelly, the modern-day druid who comes to his aid. Sean has a very sad, complicated past—although he’s much more than a bundle of trauma, because he put himself back together on his own—and part of that includes a trip to New Orleans just before Katrina and then a traumatic event afterwards, in Florida.

We wanted to go back and tell the story of what happened in New Orleans. It’s pretty intense.

Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?

HeidiBelleau.com | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads | Tumblr
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New Release Mailing List for Heidi and Violetta (new releases only)

Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) from one of more of your stories with us?

Of course! Here’s a scene from Cruce de Caminos:

Sean knew he wasn’t going to like the client the minute they walked into his suite. Actually, he’d had a hunch from the moment the cab had pulled up outside of the hotel, and he’d been struck stupid by the sheer expensive opulence of it. The ceilings of the lobby glistened gold and white and dripped with huge crystal chandeliers. Monster-sized ornate furniture crowded the floor.

“Do not look around,” Ángel had hissed as they’d passed through the huge front entry under the watchful gaze of the doorman, so Sean kept his eyes forward. He didn’t need to look around to know how excessive this place was, how exclusive. He was a trespasser in another world and the other world was watching.

Any person rich enough to afford this place had to have stepped on a lot of necks to get their money; any person vain enough to want to stay here had to have some serious pretensions. He’d been talked down to a lot in his life—by his father, by his teachers, by charity workers, by the various people he’d encountered while panhandling— but he had a feeling that was just the small leagues.

Having successfully navigated the lobby, Ángel led them to the so-called “European Palace Suite.” Oh, a definite ego. Maybe Sean would call him “Your Highness.” Fucker.

~~~

Contest:
Want to win some “Cruce de Caminos” swag, as well as a few other surprise New Orleans goodies? Leave us a comment on this or any of our other Riptide Rentboys blog tour posts with your email (or other contact info), and we’ll enter you into our week-long draw!

How about a copy of “The Druid Stone”, which picks up Sean’s story five years later? Click here to try your hand at our Cruce de Caminos quiz!

About Heidi and Violetta:

Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane are two unlikely friends and co-writers from different sides of the same continent. Heidi, from Northern Canada, is a history geek with a soft spot for Highlanders and Victorian pornography. Violetta is a Yank (and a Southerner, and a Japanese-American) with a cinematic imagination and a faintly checkered past. Together, they write strange and soulful interracial and multicultural m/m with a global sensibility and the occasional paranormal twist.

About “Cruce de Caminos”, out now from Riptide Publishing:

Addiction drives Sean O’Hara to a critical crossroads. Will he make the right decision, or will the floodwaters bound for New Orleans sweep him away?

Street kid Sean O’Hara never had it easy, but New Orleans has driven him to his knees. His girlfriend’s broken up with him for a sugar daddy, a gun-toting pimp has robbed him of everything but the clothes on his back, and he’s down to his last two OxyContin. Sean’s no seasoned streetwalker, but he’s not above it either, not when he’s already itching for his next fix.

A familiar-seeming stranger named Ángel may be his ticket to some quick cash, but only if Sean’s willing to help him indulge a high-class john’s weird fetish for the night. As Ángel tells him, in this city and this business, you have to get a little weird to survive.

When night falls on the French Quarter, Sean realizes Ángel and the john want more from him than he was expecting to give. What once seemed merely strange soon crosses the line into supernatural and sinister. And Ángel, the man Sean had viewed as a partner and protector, might also be his otherworldly judge and executioner.

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Cruce de Caminos by Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane

Title: Cruce de Caminos
Author: Heidi Belleau Violetta Vane
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Pages: 51
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Contemporary
Kisses: 3.5




Blurb:

Addiction drives Sean O’Hara to a critical crossroads. Will he make the right decision, or will the floodwaters bound for New Orleans sweep him away?

Street kid Sean O’Hara never had it easy, but New Orleans has driven him to his knees. His girlfriend’s broken up with him for a sugar daddy, a gun-toting pimp has robbed him of everything but the clothes on his back, and he’s down to his last two OxyContin. Sean’s no seasoned streetwalker, but he’s not above it either, not when he’s already itching for his next fix.

A familiar-seeming stranger named Ángel may be his ticket to some quick cash, but only if Sean’s willing to help him indulge a high-class john’s weird fetish for the night. As Ángel tells him, in this city and this business, you have to get a little weird to survive.

When night falls on the French Quarter, Sean realizes Ángel and the john want more from him than he was expecting to give. What once seemed merely strange soon crosses the line into supernatural and sinister. And Ángel, the man Sean had viewed as a partner and protector, might also be his otherworldly judge and executioner.

Review:

Not a very long read for the amount of turmoil the main character finds his self in, but it was done very well by these two authors. The main character is a drug addict street kid, Sean O’Hara who is doing all he can to keep his drug addicted girlfriend happy and with him. They beg, they turn tricks, they do what they have to for that next hit and out of nowhere this man Angel shows up one night as Sean is on the phone begging his girlfriend to return to him and promises her he’ll get her the drugs she needs, but while he’s begging on the phone he sees a ruckus going on causing him to get off the public phone to try to help the person that’s being assaulted only to find himself staring down the barrel of a gun. Wanting no trouble he backs up and tries to run off but when he goes to pick up his backpack he’s warned to leave it, therefore leaving everything he owns behind in order to stay alive.

He ends up meeting Angel in an alley, keeping him from getting in a van with two other men who would probably have killed him, and he goes home with Angel when the man offers him $500.00 if he would pretend they were brothers for a client who gets off on odd and kinky things. The thing is Sean isn’t gay, or he doesn’t think he is. I’m not sure it matters. He will do what it takes to get the money he needs to get his and his girlfriend’s next hit, but when he wakes up the next morning not remembering the night before he runs from Angel and his odd ways. As the story goes on, he finds himself in situations where he’s constantly running into Angel, even going as far as buying the drugs he desperately seeks.

This is a story that brings the truth of life that IS going on out on the streets in every city, in every country, with drug addicts and what they’ll do for that next high. Overall there is no happy to this story, it’s one that will make you think about those people who stand on the street corners begging for money, or the one’s you see sleeping in alley’s, and it’s a story that will make you ask yourself. Are they, is he, is she, addicted to something that keeps them from making their life better?

Reviewed By: Michele

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We’re Talking Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane and The Saturnalia Effect – Oh My!

Thanks so much for taking the time to be with us today, Heidi & Violetta. Why don’t we start by having you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

Heidi: Well, for starters I live in Northern Canada with my husband and four-month-old daughter. I have a degree in history and I’m a big nerd. (I feel these things go hand-in-hand.) I’ve been writing M/M since my teens, but it was only recently that I realized that it’s a real genre full of real readers and writers!

Violetta: I was raised by roaming hippies and eventually put down roots in the Southern US. My family values always involved questioning authority; I didn’t rebel against my parents by becoming a conservative, but I’m still not quite as eccentric as they are. I’m an Asian-American and ex-goth, among other things.

When did you discover your passion for writing? Was there someone in particular who encouraged and inspired your love of storytelling?

Heidi: Ever since I was a little girl! I remember writing a Sailor Moon ripoff “magical girl” series of stories in the fourth grade, and I was writing before that, too. I think the first time anyone suggested I might have a knack for it was in the sixth grade, when the librarian in my elementary school started personally tutoring me in creative writing, I think because she saw I had potential. She’s been supportive of my entire journey, although I don’t know if M/M erotic romance was quite what she had in mind for me. I know she’d be proud regardless!

Violetta: I wrote poetry as a young child, including some very odd, anachronistic stuff that was inspired by Robert E. Howard. I was in academia for a while, and wrote lots of essays, trying to master style as much as content, but I was never really happy with that path. Then, for several years I worked on some pretty intense memoir essays in a specialized field. Finally, I started writing fiction, and something clicked. I love this!

How long does it typically take you to write a book, then see it through the publishing process?

Heidi: That depends entirely on the book length! Violetta and I have written stories that are anywhere from 15,000 words right up to 130,000 so I can’t say there’s any hard and fast number.

Violetta: The turnaround for The Saturnalia Effect was speedy, probably because we wrote it for a call. It took about a week of intense planning, two weeks of writing, another week of beta editing, two weeks of waiting to see if it would be accepted, a week of giddy celebration after it was accepted, a few weeks of relaxing, a week of final editing, a week of gasping OMG OUR COVER ARTWORK IS OUTRAGEOUSLY AMAZING across all social media, and then several weeks of promotion. Storm Moon Press has been fantastic to work with throughout all of this.

Do the titles of your books generally come to you as you’re writing, or do you know what they’ll be called before the writing process begins?

Heidi: Once again, that depends. With The Saturnalia Effect, we knew our title pretty much immediately, when we were in the planning stages even, but a lot of the time it takes a bit of back and forth to come to something that works.

Violetta: We like to give our work a short title immediately after beginning, although we try not to get too attached to it in case a better one comes along. But The Saturnalia Effect turned out to be perfect.

Asking this question might be a bit like asking you to choose one child over another, but of all the characters you’ve created, do you have one who stands out among the others as a favorite? If so, who and why?

Heidi: That is a tough question! I’m going to have to say Sean O’Hara from our big fantasy novel that’s out on subs right now. I love his resilience and the growth he goes through over the course of the novel. At first blush he seems very reactionary and a bit immature, but over the course of the book you come to realize he’s so much more. That’s my favourite kind of character in general, really: one who surprises you.

Violetta: I love Sean so damn much, too. And it was such a validation to track the reactions of our beta readers to Sean: at first encounter, a wary irritation, deepening slowly into respect and fascination.

When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope s/he takes away from the experience?

Heidi: I just hope that for however long they were reading, I helped them to feel some real emotion, whether that’s sadness or excitement or anxiety or arousal. However, if they read a story of mine and are still thinking about it a week, a month, a year later? Then I’ll know I’ve really done well.

Violetta: Whether they loved it or hated it, I hope they come away with a sense of honesty. It’s hard to explain–I don’t mean not messing with readers’ minds, because many readers love that and look for that in stories–but there’s a sort of creative honesty that always impresses me in the books I love.

How much creative input do you have in the cover design of your books?

Heidi: Storm Moon Press gives authors this amazingly detailed worksheet for the cover artist to work from, so for The Saturnalia Effect, we had an amazing amount of control, actually, right down to the expression on Troy’s face! The artist originally had this incredibly sexy, captivating expression where Troy was looking “into the camera” as it were, and it was really breathtaking but it didn’t fit who he was as a person, and we were able to actually say “can you try X” and “can you make him look a little more Y”, which is absolutely fantastic.

Violetta: I always like to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. I was determined to grit my teeth and nod politely if we happened to end up with a horrendous, cheap-looking Photoshop with dead-eyed Ken-doll men. Instead, we got a jaw-dropping piece of original artwork tailored to fit the story.

Is there a particular sub-genre in which you enjoy writing more than others? (i.e. paranormal vs. historical vs. contemporary)

Heidi: Funnily enough, even though I did history in university and it’s a lifelong passion of mine, I have a very hard time writing it! I’m so worried about doing things wrong and not researching enough… it’s very paralyzing to me. I’m terrified of making mistakes. So when I write, there is a sense of history, and a respect for the enormity of history, but I feel much more comfortable writing in contemporary settings.

Violetta: I love writing any story where big things happen. I respect people who can make great art out of normal daily life, but I’m not able to do that. I’ve always had a fascination with the epic and the weird. Doing a quiet, slice-of-life contemporary would be quite difficult for me. I love fantasy and science fiction, and urban fantasy represents the ideal overlap of our interests as co-writers.

Do you prefer writing in the 1st or the 3rd person? What advantages do you see in writing in one vs. the other?

Heidi: I can do either, although everything I’ve been working on recently is in a close third. I think I like third just because you can use a slightly more authorial voice. I think writing, say, Troy in first person would be a bit tricky because he’s not had a lot of opportunities in life for education and he isn’t much of a reader, so I’d have a very limited vocabulary to work with if I wanted to write his “voice”. I prefer to write as me lurking around in his head, vocalizing things he might have trouble with.

Violetta: I’ve rarely written in anything other than third person. The years I spent working on memoir style would bleed into any attempt at first person, I think, but someday I really need to challenge myself in that direction. One skill I’d love to master is third-person omniscient. I’ve heard advice that modern stories shouldn’t use it, but I disagree: writers like Neil Gaiman often use it to brilliant effect.

Do you write full time? If not, how many hours per day do you attempt to dedicate to your writing?

Heidi: I’m a stay-at-home-mom, so some would say I do write full time, although I think parenting is my primary job, even if I don’t get paid. I generally write anywhere from one or two hours a day up to eight or nine, just depending on how motivated I’m feeling and how cooperative my daughter’s being.

Violetta: I have two children, and I homeschool the oldest. My days are tough. So are my evenings. I actually got more written when I was still working a full-time office job! I write whenever I can, in between the constant demands on my time. I’d love to write full-time, but that’s a far-off luxury still.

Do you typically outline your plots before you begin the writing process, or do you write in a more freestyle fashion?

Heidi: I think when you’re co-writing there isn’t as much room for that “by the seat of your pants” writing. We do definitely improvise and change tracks midstream, but we definitely plan a lot more than a solo author would have to, because we need to both be on the same page for everything from character motivation to plot to what purpose scenes serve.

Violetta: We outline very carefully. For a novel we wrote, we used spreadsheets and tension charts and enough Google Docs planning material to choke a digital/virtual horse. I’ve read too many romance stories with lackluster plots spackled over with filler. As a reader and a writer, I always want suspense. Sure, there’s going to be love and sex and a happy ever after, but how? There needs to be doubt, excitement, tension, real stakes. We like to keep our stories tight as hell. On the other hand, we do permit ourselves the flexibility to change some plans midstream if that’s what really makes the most sense for the characters. Also, our method of structuring often gives us more freedom to freestyle and get loose and poetic. It feels supportive, not constraining.

How much do your characters resemble you and/or the people you know?

Heidi: I think on some emotional level there is probably some of me in there, and I know when I wrote Cormac Kelly from our big fantasy novel, there was a dash of my husband in his dialogue when it came to Irish-isms, but otherwise, seeing as I’m a middle-class white girl from rural Canada whose biggest crime was shoplifting a pair of earrings as a teenager? I’d say I don’t much resemble my characters at all.

Violetta: Real life is like the seasoning that goes into the stew. There’s not a lot of it, but it really makes a big difference. As writers, we’re all influenced by other stories we read or watch or consume, consciously or subconsciously, so sometimes we end up repeating the same tropes and personality traits in our characters. At worst, it’s stereotypical: at best, it’s repetitive. Referring back to real life helps check that tendency and keep things fresh. But it’s a subtle feedback process. I can think of only one very minor character that I copied directly from someone I knew in real life, and even there I changed his nationality and speech mannerisms.

How much do you draw upon your own life experiences in your writing?

Heidi: More than I know, I bet!

Violetta: Directly? Not a lot. But it happens. For The Saturnalia Effect, when we were conceptualizing the failed robbery that got Troy Khoury sent to Westgate Prison, I thought about two experiences ducking semi-automatic gunfire – one in Mexico, one in a motel in Charlotte, North Carolina. For the story that we’re writing now, I’m drawing on scary moments swimming in rough oceans when I was younger. I live a sedentary life now, but I’ve got a somewhat checkered past!

Are you surprised by the ever growing female fan-base of Male/Male fiction?

Heidi: Not at all! Women have been slashing Holmes/Watson and Kirk/Spock for ages, and the whole yaoi genre of manga has been going strong in Japan for as long as I can remember (and probably longer still), so the fact that a romance genre about men in love with men exists and is written and read by women doesn’t shock me at all.

Violetta: Being Japanese-American and having ties to Japan, no, I wasn’t surprised. I’ve known for a long time that this was a genre that appealed primarily to women, but I honestly didn’t have a high opinion of it, because it seemed, well… schoolgirlish. However, I think I was operating on some stereotypes of my own, because when I actually started exploring m/m romance seriously, it turned out to be much more diverse than I expected, and included some very mature, sophisticated themes and perspectives. I’d thought it was something completely separate from “real” gay fiction written by and for gay men, but I discovered there are many areas where the two overlap.

When did you begin writing in the Male/Male genre? What about it interests you the most?

Heidi: Since I was a teenager, at least! Growing up in a conservative community, writing and reading was really the only way I got to explore sexuality beyond the Stephen Harper approved Man+Woman=Baby equation. I love it for the same reason I love any romance: because I want to see deserving people who’ve faced hardship find happiness. Writing about queer people finding that happiness, with all the adversity we face, just makes it all the sweeter.

Violetta: I’ve always looked out for books and media incorporating diverse approaches to gender and sexuality. I’m not LGBTQ myself, but I faced a lot of racial prejudice growing up, and other kids often attacked me for being non-gender-conforming as well. I’m very stubborn, so I reacted by questioning the whole idea of having to conform. My artistic heroes were often people who resisted conformity, perhaps with defiant androgyny, or just quietly being queer. I read and write m/m because it turns me on (along with other things) but I try to do it respectfully as much as possible.

What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received with respect to the art of writing? How did it change the way you approach your craft?

Heidi: Don’t worry about writing the Great Novel. You don’t need to change the face of literature to be a good or happy writer. It took a couple years, but I finally came to understand it was okay to write what I love and write a niche genre. I was able to let go of a lot of fear and insecurity and just write what I love.

Violetta: I haven’t reread Samuel R. Delany’s essays since I became a writer, but the way he talks about writing has influenced me in so many ways. He always stresses structure, which is different from plot, and so I often try to think about writing in architectural, three-dimensional terms.

Will you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?

Heidi: 1. The publishing world is a small place, so don’t burn bridges.
2. Don’t sit around waiting for a contract: get back to work! Hitting “send” is not the end of your responsibilities as an author.
3. Don’t use social media just to dump buy-links on people. You might as well be selling penis enhancement drugs, with that strategy.

If you were to offer a word of advice to a new author just starting out, what would it be?

Heidi: Write what you love and care about. Don’t write what you think people expect you to write, or what you think will make money, or what will be “easy” to get published… just be authentic.

Digital media—the e-reader/tablet computer/Android apps—is changing the way people access and enjoy books. What pros and/or cons do you see surrounding the business of e-publishing? How do you see digital media evolving in the years to come?

Heidi: Pros? The opportunity for small presses and small genres to find readership and get authors published. A lot of stories in the M/M genre, at least at this point in time, would probably never find a home in traditional publishing for various reasons, some of them financial, but many, many more political and based in the bigotry of our society.

Cons? Less quality control, especially with the boom in easy self-publishing. Since there’s less of an investment required to make and distribute an ebook, a lot of stuff that should have just stayed on a given author’s harddrive is getting an isbn and getting put out there for the world to see. I think because of that, though, the role of trusted reviewers is going to become more vital. We’ll adapt.

When you have the chance to sit down and enjoy some quiet reading time, what sorts of books are you most likely to pick up? Who are your favorite authors?

Heidi: I read romance, actually! Although I do very much enjoy general fiction, as well. It depends on what kind of mood I’m in. If I’m feeling run-down, romance all the way. I’ll buy anything by Diana Gabaldon (especially her Lord John mysteries, because I feel like her original Outlander series is getting a bit bloated at this point) or Karen Marie Moening (my guiltiest pleasure!).

Violetta: My must-buy authors are mostly in science fiction and the New Weird. I love Walter Jon Williams, C.J. Cherryh, Robert Charles Wilson, Richard K. Morgan, China Miéville, Jeff VanderMeer. I don’t have a favorite author yet in m/m; I’m reading widely and finding out my favorites. I’m also always on the lookout for quality MMF and interracial/multicultural M/F.

If you had the opportunity to sit down to dinner with one famous person, either past or present, who would you choose and why?

Heidi: Jack Layton, so I could give him a hug and thank him for everything he did for Canadian politics. Or Chris Pine, so he could be witty and handsome and talk about literature while I stared at his bulge the whole time. Either or!

Violetta: David Bowie. I’m a Bowiefreak.

How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?

Heidi: Very self deprecating! I love to make fun of myself. What makes me laugh? Everything but “politically uncorrect” jokes. You know, the ones where the person telling the joke looks over their shoulder before they say it? Ugh.

Violetta: Absurdist humor. Black humor. I was raised with a lot of British media, so maybe that’s to blame.

Do you have an all time favorite fictional character?

Violetta: I have a strange, fishy love for Namor, the Sub-Mariner, the Marvel superhero whose roots go back to the 1940s. I love how he started off from the beginning as an anti-hero. Then how his erratic development reflects the different stages of US postwar history. Maybe it’s just the fact he’s well-built and his “costume” consists of nothing but a gold bracelet and a green speedo made from dragon scales.

Do you have a favorite personal mantra, quote, or saying that describes your outlook on life and the way you approach each day?

Heidi: Oh yes! It’s a Stephen Fry quote: “[Wodehouse] taught me something about good nature. It is enough to be benign, to be gentle, to be funny, to be kind.” I think about that quote all the time. It reminds me not to hold myself to impossibly high standards. Your life isn’t a waste just because you don’t change the world. Especially when I was teaching, I really did need to keep this idea close to my heart, because it’s very easy as a teacher to fall into the trap of taking every tiny failure personally.

Violetta: In difficult times, I often think of Marc Antony as played by James Purefoy in the HBO/BBC production of Rome: “When in doubt, attack!”

Do you speak more than one language? If so, which one(s)?

Heidi: Just English, I’m afraid! I was once relatively fluent in French, and I can still pick up the jist of a French book if I’m reading it, but I’ve mostly lost the language otherwise.

Violetta: Spanish. I learned it in Miami, Costa Rica and Mexico. As a teenager, I was fascinated by German, mainly because I wanted to have a “Berlin period” like Iggy Pop and David Bowie. But when I tried to learn it, it defeated me entirely, and I never got past German 101. I moved to Spanish instead, which was a lot more practical when I worked restaurant jobs in Miami. I love Spanish, achieved decent fluency and wish I had the chance to speak it more. I also know a bit of Japanese, but really nothing beyond basic phrases.

Of all the modern conveniences, which one would you most likely say you couldn’t live without?

Heidi: The Internet! I live in such isolation, it’s really my only connection to the rest of the world. If all I had in life was this city, I don’t know that I’d be alive right now.

Violetta: I’m a creature of the Internet too. I’ve been on it for almost a quarter century.

Do you have any new projects/works-in-progress you’d care to share with us?

Heidi: We are nearly finished this amazing novel set in Hawaii, all about a couple of young men who were childhood friends and in unconsummated love as teenagers, trying to claw a second chance at a relationship out of impossible circumstances. And it’s got a fantastic Hawaiian-flavoured paranormal twist, as well. I can’t wait to get it out in the world.

Violetta: “Hawaiian Gothic” is going to rock the m/m world. We’re so excited about getting that done and subbed. We’re also in early editing stages of a raw, beautiful but not-really-romance story. It’s got sex, drugs and Santería, but that’s all we can say at the moment.

Thanks again for spending some time with us, Heidi & Violetta! It’s been great having you with us. Will you tell us where we can find you on the Internet?

Heidi: Thank you for having us! I do enjoy talking about myself, so thanks for enabling me ;). You can find me on tweeting as @HeidiBelleau , on goodreads , facebook and g+ (whichever side of that divide you fall on), and I have a blog: Heidi Below Zero .

Violetta: Violetta: I’m at Violetta Vane’s Imaginarium, I tweet at @ViolettaVane, and you can find all the links to social media at my blog. I try to reserve my blog for longer posts and throw out the shorter fun stuff on G+ and Twitter.

And we’d love if you’d consider sharing a favorite excerpt from one of your books with us.

Sure! Here’s a steamy scene from The Saturnalia Effect:

So maybe Daniel had a hunch about what he was up to. But if Troy pushed him hard enough, pushed him just right, it might not matter. Make him think with his dick instead of his head. Yeah. The time for slow, coy seduction had passed.

He looked down at the neat little pile he’d made of his boxers and jumpsuit, sneakers on top. Smoothed his hands down his thighs. He could hear the water from the showers hitting the tiles, and if he closed his eyes, he could pretend it was rain.

He hadn’t had a single shower since coming to Westgate. He’d been washing himself at a laundry room sink instead, with a sliver of soap and a scratchy handtowel, braving the bitterly cold water just enough to keep from getting ripe. The reputation prison showers had on the outside was well earned—except that in the real world, you didn’t actually need to drop the soap to end up… well. Doubly so for guys like him. He’d put a lot of effort into not getting himself into that situation.

Now he was going in with the exact opposite intention.

A smothering wall of steam hit him face-on. He pushed ahead, heading straight for the back of the room, far past the comfort of an easy escape route. He had to fight every instinct and habit he’d carefully built up since coming here. If he could have worn shoes in here, he would have.

“Work it, girl!” came the first catcall. He barely flinched; he’d known that was coming. He’d seen the looks they all gave him in the TV room, the cafeteria, every shared space he dared to enter. It had always only been a matter of time.