Ways to get off the bump to get from good to great #1 remembering your passion…and a review squee

From the review: “Changeling reels you into its web and never lets go.  Intense characters set within the back drop of a bleak life manage to survive and then thrive in Changeling,”

The reviewer picked up exactly what I was trying to say. Matt’s life is incredibly bleak. He can’t see his future ever getting better and knows he’s walking a tight-rope between his first arrest, the probation that he’s going to get, the second arrest while on probation because it’s not like his situation is going to change at all, then jail for probation violation. Then the authorities are going to take Sam away. And if Matt loses Sam, then everything he’d done in his life to keep Sam with him was for nothing. Matt has had one goal that hasn’t changed since he was in his mid-teens, and that is to protect his baby brother. Not just from physical danger, though, protect him in all ways so that Sam could grow up “normal”. Matt knew from the second he saw Sam that he and Sam were meant to be together whatever the personal cost. When Sam, despite all Matt’s protection wants to start stabbing things, a little bit of Matt dies inside.

I started Changeling on March 23, 2013. The review says that the romance is secondary to the plot, and in that’s the only thing wrong with the review. It is a love story, and that love is front and center, but it’s alove story between siblings as much as it is between two adults entwining their lives together. Whether Matt will trust himself with Kevin’s offer of love or not is secondary to how much and how hard Matt loves his baby brother.

The moment Sam was on the page I realized this story was going to be so much more than the clearing the pipes story I was going to need between drafts of my high non-erotica fantasy. But in the first scene of Matt and his brother Sam in the bus, I knew this story was going to be so much more than just id fic. It’s been more than a year now, and I still have to rework the fantasy. Matt’s story just took over.

But that’s okay. I spent most of 2013 writing Matt/Kevin and Sam and relearning how to love my main character first, then care what happens to him secondly. I think all writers, if they start writing early enough, start to write because they love writing. Then they start learning about the craft of writing, and although the quality of their stuff goes up, that excitement of the story takes a corresponding nose-dive. I saw it a lot at the writing group I belonged to. Newbie writers would come in with their precious baby, it would be ritually sacrificed at the table of critique, and we would either never see the baby writer again or they would come back with a story that would be technically better, but that spark of wondrous creativity would be dimmer.

This would go on until the now journeyman writers, able to tell competent stories that passed all the hallmarks of “good” writing except the passion would be gone. To get back up to the master level storyteller, they need to relearn how to love telling stories again while still keeping all their hard won structural knowledge in place.

Excerpt from Changeling’s beginning:

The snowstorm finally broke, and the night cleared. A few stray flakes flew into the headlight beams. Matt and the other adults on the bus exhaled the breath they’d all been holding. The snow that had already drifted across the highway obliterated the lines, and the bus had been reduced to school zone speeds. Matt had been planning on setting Sam up for the night and ducking out to the park to see if he could find a date, but he did the calculation in his head and knew they were going to be arriving in Calgary so late that only the freaks would be out trolling.

There was a truck stop coming up, and Matt could probably turn a couple of tricks in the parking lot, but he’d promised himself he’d never go to work with his little brother around. Matt was still a hundred and eighty dollars short for the rent and utilities with only four days to go until the money was due.

He had thought he could afford the trip to Vancouver before they left, and no matter how tight he tried to keep their spending down, food had cost twice what he’d thought. He felt a little dizzy with hunger. He could order smaller portions, but Sam was still growing.

Sam slept curled up in his window seat. Matt’s job was to protect him.

The bus only had three other passengers, and one of them had checked him out in the lineup. Matt called the checker-outer Married Guy because of the wedding ring on his left hand. Blanket Guy, the handsome blond with a gray blanket over his lap, wouldn’t have even noticed Matt. Matt felt Married Guy’s arousal like pus seeping through the rough edges of a wound. That sometimes happened when Matt crossed the path of someone who got off on pain.

Matt sighed, rubbing his face. It felt like a decade ago that he had been sitting in the “reserved for family” seats of the music competition, pretending to be saving a spot for their “mom” in case she could make it out of the surgery in time. Or had he said she was a lawyer? The other parents showed such concern for the small and serious-faced Sam in his black suit that Matt had forgotten how many lies he’d spun. Matt, at nineteen, was only seven years older than Sam. He’d never signed up to take his brother on, but couldn’t and wouldn’t shirk his responsibilities.

But if Matt didn’t turn another three dates by the fifteenth, their landlord was going to kick them out. Mr. Strickland hadn’t upped the rent this year, but he had the utility bill of a grow-op. Matt’s apartment was a converted storeroom in the basement, and to assume that the illegal suite took half the padded bill infuriated Matt, but he had to keep his cool around Sam. The last thing he needed was for Sam to realize Mr. Strickland was being a jerk. Sam was almost twelve, but he would arrange so many “accidents” they’d be kicked out regardless. It wasn’t like they had a lease.

Married Guy turned back to look at him. Matt pulled himself together, getting ready to push to his feet. Normally, sex was like a handshake with a glove on. He didn’t have a glove on right now. Worrying about the weather and the money left him exhausted. He’d known this trip was coming and worked a whole day extra. Four dates meant a two-hundred-dollar cushion, but he’d forgotten about provincial taxes. Sam could still technically order from the kids’ menu, but then he was still hungry after he cleared his plate.

Matt had blown through most of the cushion before getting on the bus. Getting Sam a hamburger and a juice cleaned Matt out of the change he had. He kept looking at all the men slipping into the bathroom. If he got caught, they’d take Sam away.

Matt still had to pay for Christmas coming up. He leaned away from Sam to grab his backpack.

“Don’t,” Sam said, still asleep.

“We need the money,” Matt told him.

Sam didn’t answer because Sam was asleep.

Matt took out his phone and checked for new messages. None had arrived. He glanced over the texts from his semiregulars, but asking for a date meant cutting Matt’s rate in half, and he couldn’t suck a dick for twenty-five dollars.

Matt scrolled through the names. If he wanted to get fucked, any one of them would pay him four hundred dollars for the privilege. He rarely, if ever, sold his ass, so his rates were correspondingly high. Two fucks would pay for utilities and Christmas. Rory would pay for the motel Matt could ask Charlie to meet him at. He could even shower between them. It would take him two minutes to arrange the whole thing, and get it over with tomorrow afternoon, and then be done for the month.

He closed his eyes. The whole month off with no worries for an hour’s worth of work. And that wasn’t counting on any tips. He put his phone away. He’d rather hustle a dozen men for blowjobs in the next couple weeks. Matt hated getting fucked. There wasn’t a worse feeling in the world than the friction sliding inside him.

The man who brought him up, Bart, had started messing around with him the day after he brought twelve-year-old Matt into his home, but Matt had escaped getting fucked for three years. Raped. The word was “raped,” but Bart had done a great job making Matt feel like sex paid for his room and board.

Matt hated getting fucked so much. Until Sam came around, Matt had gotten out of it most of the time by kicking up such a fuss that Bart couldn’t hold him down and get his dick in. He was sure he got fucked more than he remembered, but each time Bart gave up was a victory.

Then came the possibility that Sam might come and stay with them. Matt had been fifteen. He’d begged Bart, but it had taken a promise of penetrative sex at least once a week to get him to agree to it. Matt rubbed his face. All the old times Bart got him still counted. His birthday. All the holidays.

Married Guy looked the type who would get angry when what he wanted wasn’t available. If he and Matt got into it, Matt knew it wouldn’t be the wealthy-looking guy in a suit the bus driver would leave behind on the side of the road. Married Guy sat back in his chair, no doubt sure that Matt would be up to negotiate soon.

Matt sat back too. He didn’t need anything that badly.

Blanket Guy glanced back to Matt. Matt froze, waiting for the man to look through him like all men in suits who were not trolling for sex did, but the man nodded, even going so far as to smile.

Matt was still gay, and Blanket Guy looked as though his muscle mass had been sculpted out of marble.

Matt froze. There was no one behind him, but he still didn’t assume that Blanket Guy meant to smile at him. Blanket Guy’s smile grew gently, in a yes, you way. Matt nodded back, not knowing what else to do.

Blanket Guy checked Matt out. Matt felt his ears warm. He didn’t have any time for nontransactional sex. A relationship was completely out of the question while he was dealing with Sam, and yet in that heartbeat he saw himself and Blanket Guy sitting in a car, Blanket Guy’s hand welcome on his knee. Matt wasn’t going to get a date. He didn’t know why was he thinking about anything long-term, but it was like accidentally falling off a cliff. He didn’t mean to do it, but there he was. The landing might cost him everything, but for several seconds he felt like he was flying.

In this moment, Matt actually wanted to have sex. He’d occasionally jerked off in the shower when he and Sam had been on their own, but that was just biology. Sex and fun were not things Matt knew how to equate. He was staring now and didn’t know what to do.

Matt looked over at Sam still sound asleep. Thinking about Sam was easier than thinking Matt and Blanket Guy were meant to be together. Maybe he would schedule the dates with two johns. Matt had grown to like punishments in a sick way. The panic settled down. He should try to keep Sam home in the morning so he didn’t go to school with black circles under his eyes. Sam needed the rest.

The fight might not be worth it. Sam was turning twelve at the end of the month, but he was ornery in a way that Matt could not have gotten away with. There was always a line that Matt couldn’t cross with Bart, even if he really didn’t want to get fucked. When Matt crossed that line, he paid for it. Sam never got stubborn with Bart. He knew Matt would pay for it with interest. Part of the deal was Bart could never touch Sam, not for any reason. Sam had been such a good boy when they were in the farmhouse. Matt knew it was bad parenting, but he loved every ounce of Sam’s stubbornness. Bart hadn’t beaten it out of him.

Blanket Guy gave Matt another look. Matt could have sworn he felt Blanket Guy wonder, briefly, what it would feel like to come on Matt’s stomach after he’d already brought Matt off. The intentions Matt sensed from people were usually never that specific and had only come to him when someone intended to harm him. The thought warmed Matt from his belly outward.

Married Guy stood and came toward them. Matt had opened himself completely to Blanket Guy’s attention. When he looked up into Married Guy’s round face, he learned Married Guy wanted to tie him up and fuck him with the massive dildo he carried. The thought was sickening for how naked and obvious it was. Dildos the size of coffee thermoses were novelty items.

Matt shifted so more of him could protect Sam from the man’s gaze. Married Guy licked his thick lips with his bloodless tongue, and Matt felt nauseated just looking at him.

As soon as Married Guy passed his seat, Blanket Guy stood. Matt should be worried about Sam, but the sneaking suspicion that the gentleman would be disappointed when he learned that Matt was a pro snuck in. Any john could get violent–Matt had learned that the hard way–but he knew the man would smile and take it as a just my luck.

Married Guy was still three rows away. It was going to get ugly. He noticed Sam’s head was cocked at a bad angle. Both his neon green earplugs were in. Matt saw the other one reflected in the window. He felt like a bad guardian, but that was all right. Matt was a bad guardian. Of all the problems Sam had, waking up with a stiff neck was one that Matt could do something about, and yet still he let Sam sleep.

Married Guy lumbered slowly between the seats. There was a chance he was just heading for the john, in which case Matt wouldn’t even have to look at him. Time slowed but didn’t stop, and neither did Married Guy. He leaned over them, his shadow black.

Matt wanted to cover Sam’s ears, even with the earplugs in. “What do you want?” Matt asked.

“I’ll give you a hundred bucks for five minutes.”

Matt knew the man wasn’t telling the truth about how much time it would take or how much money he would cough up. Matt let himself be hurt for money, but he needed a lot of money for it. “I’m not interested.”

Married Guy leaned in closer. “Two hundred.”

The blond man was right behind him. He had to have heard every word. Matt’s cheeks burned.

“Please leave us alone,” Matt said. If he gave this man any reason to take offense, he wasn’t going to be satisfied until Matt was left on the side of the highway. If Matt was getting off the bus, Sam was too.

The man’s wedding ring reflected the light the rest of his body blocked. He could have children. Matt tried to smile even through the fear of the bus driving off without them and leaving them on the side of the road. “It’s a school night,” Matt said. He kept his voice low. Sam’s breathing had changed. He was going to wake up any second. “Please just go.”

“How much to just put it in you?”

Matt’s eyes had adjusted. He looked the man in the eye and saw he was as much a prop to this man’s wants as the dildo he carried. If Blanket Guy hadn’t been on the bus, Matt would have offered Married Guy a handjob in the toilet just to keep him quiet. With Blanket Guy watching, Matt couldn’t do it, even if it left them on the side of the road. “I’m asking you to just go away.”

The blond man tapped Married Guy on the shoulder. “I believe he’s made himself quite clear,” he said. He didn’t so much have an accent but a clipped way of speaking that made each word sound exactly perfect. Matt’s heart switched between pounding with dread and racing. It couldn’t be good for the muscle. Most blond men Matt knew had fairly bland features, but the man was even more handsome this close. He couldn’t risk stealing any more glances.

“You his pimp?” Married Guy demanded.

Sam didn’t wake up. The motel had been the cheapest one Matt could find within walking distance of the competition, but it had been filthy and the foot traffic outside their door constant.

Blanket Guy put his hand an inch over Married Guy’s shoulder. The blond man’s face turned cold. He was obviously done trying to be polite. “Apologize to this young man and be on your way.”

Young man. Matt’s heart dropped. He didn’t want to stir paternal feelings with this man. He had no chance, and he knew it, but it broke him in half to think of being nothing more than just an anecdote Blanket Guy would have given over a cup of tea with his real significant other.

Matt didn’t need a meaningless forced apology. Sam was going to wake up and freak out, and then the bus would drive off, and Matt would be alone again, not even knowing Blanket Guy’s name.

“I’m sorry,” Married Guy said through gritted teeth.

“Sure, whatever,” he said. Meaningless words. He just didn’t want Sam to wake up. Married Guy stumbled as though he’d been pushed, even though the man just lifted his hand off his shoulder.

“Would you come and talk to me once your brother is settled?” the man asked.

Matt wanted to say no. He didn’t want to pretend he and Sam were going to be all right, because they weren’t. The man might even try to save his soul for Jesus. But he nodded without looking up. His disappointment was so bright the man had to see it burn through him. Matt would have to seriously look at his wardrobe if everything he wore screamedavailable and for hire even to nice people. The man went back to his seat.

The bus rolled on. Matt hoped Sam would wake up and give him a reason not to go. But almost immediately Sam settled back down, his head at a better angle.

Matt waited another five minutes. He had butterflies in his stomach. He grabbed his backpack that held all his supplies in an easily accessible front pocket from between his feet just in case, and stood.

It didn’t even feel like he was going to work. Matt headed down the aisle and stopped at the seats that offset the most handsome man in the universe’s row.

“Hey,” Matt said, feeling stupid just standing in front of him. People pay me for sex! He wanted to scream. I fuck up everything I touch. Matt swallowed before help me, please came out. He was falling again.

“Hello,” the man said. He kept his voice low and rumbly. “I’m Kevin.”

Matt hadn’t asked his name, but it thrilled him to know it. Kevin. It felt good just to repeat the sound of the vowels. Even if it had no power over the man. “That’s not your real name,” Matt said.

“It’s a nickname you can use until we get to know each other a bit better,” Not-Kevin but still Kevin said.

The name felt happy in Matt’s head. “Do you want to know mine?”

“Very much so,” Kevin said.

“It’s Matt,” Matt said, but for once it didn’t sound long enough.

“Matt,” Kevin repeated, and having his name roll around in Kevin’s mouth felt even better than Kevin’s had in Matt’s head. Matt touched his mouth, not understanding why he was smiling.

“Thank you, Kevin,” Matt said. His palms were sweating. He wiped them down on his thighs in case Kevin wanted to shake his hand. He didn’t know what Kevin wanted.

“You’re very welcome, Matt.”

That was the end of all the niceties Matt knew how to participate in. Kevin motioned Matt to sit down, even sliding over to the window so Matt could have the aisle seat. Matt was so beyond himself he probably would have slid over Kevin’s body and let Kevin box him in. His stomach still tickled, and his dick was getting hard enough that if it hadn’t been in his briefs it would be slapping his belly.

“Thank you,” Matt said. He’d already said that. Kevin was still smiling an I’m a good guy and think the best of the worldsmile that only decent people had. Matt could fool himself into believing that he sat next to Kevin in a nonprofessional manner.

Matt met Kevin’s beautiful blue-gray eyes. He had to make sure Kevin understood that he might be grinning like a fool, but he still needed money. “He wasn’t wrong about what I am.” And if that wasn’t blunt enough, Matt masochistically made himself spell it out. “I fuck guys for money.”

“You didn’t fuck that one,” Kevin said.

Matt covered his mouth with his hand, not sure if he was going to let a laugh or a sob escape. “It’s the first time I had standards. Say you don’t want to pay me, and I’ll go back to my seat.” He wanted to look away. He didn’t want Kevin to agree to it. That would cheapen him, and Matt didn’t want him cheapened. He wanted to memorize everything from the way Kevin smelled to the way he made Matt feel inside and use every detail to jerk off with the next time he found himself with an erection. This was the point where Kevin would stop himself, even if he’d let himself go this far with a pro. He was so squeaky-clean. Matt wanted to get him dirty.

He would have let Kevin fuck him in the truck stop and everything.

Kevin put his hand on Matt’s knee. Need rushed through Matt like a live wire. He wanted to yank the hand over his dick. He didn’t want to be subtle.

So he wasn’t. “You need to pay me,” Matt said, even while he was fighting his body not to slide Kevin’s fingers higher up his thigh.

Kevin pulled out his wad of bills held together with a gold clip. It wasn’t meant to impress Matt, though there were a lot of bills in it. “Is this enough?” Kevin removed the clip and fanned the bills out so they obviously weren’t a single twenty and some fives, though there were so many that even that would be enough. He showed Matt a hundred dollars.

“That’s not usually enough to fuck me,” Matt said, looking away. He didn’t know why he was so devastated. He didn’t want Kevin to think he was that cheap. Matt had sold himself for that little once, the first time, and he’d cried during the sex. At least the bastard had gotten off on it and it didn’t last long.

“Of course not,” Kevin said. Maybe he had paid for sex before. He spread the blanket over both their laps. A handjob, then. Matt had been paid less for more. He was nodding, but Kevin hadn’t finished talking. “Maybe I could touch you?”

“You want to touch me?” Matt repeated, feeling thick. Kevin lifted the armrest.

“May I?” Kevin asked.

Matt shrugged, but that wasn’t agreement. “I’d like that,” he said truthfully. He usually played what the john wanted. His range stretched from straight kid who needed the money to hesitant gay boy still exploring his sexuality to hardened whore just banging one out, but now he wasn’t wearing any of the masks. When Kevin brushed Matt’s stomach, he was touching Matt. “I’d like that a lot.” He held out his hand for the money, wishing he didn’t have to.

Kevin put the bills in his hand. Matt folded them up and stuffed them into his sock.

Matt wanted Kevin’s body pressed against his. The blanket was nice, though. He’d never felt cashmere before. It was so soft he couldn’t help rubbing it between his fingers.

Matt’s heart pounded, but his head felt like a helium balloon floating off his neck. Matt had always been sensitive to smells, and the chairs still carried the scent of other, less clean people, but Kevin worked for him. The aftershave complemented the smell of his skin and sweat, making him a real person. Matt felt himself getting harder. “Is there anything I can do for you?” Matt asked, feeling as though he had to ask from a professional standpoint.

“Just lie back and enjoy yourself. You can even close your eyes if you want.”

Matt was about to ask if he could. “You don’t…” he began, but there was nothing in Kevin’s wide-open face that said he was being deceitful. “Guys have done this before, but they do it so they can watch me do it.”

“I don’t want you to think about them. I want you to enjoy this,” Kevin said. He flicked open Matt’s jeans with a single hand, something Matt couldn’t even do. “Would you like to wear protection?”

“I don’t… I do, I always do, always for everything,” Matt sputtered. Kevin was running his fingers over Matt’s lower belly, down the line of fine hair. Matt kept himself shaved, but he hadn’t, not for days. He hadn’t thought he’d work in BC. “I’d like to feel your hand,” Matt said and held his breath. Some guys were latex freaks.

“I’m glad,” Kevin said. “You can relax. I won’t try to use my mouth. I wouldn’t without your permission, and I haven’t been that bendy since I was a young man your age.”

Everything was going too perfectly. “Lube?” he asked. He didn’t like dry skin on dry skin. Suddenly, he wanted Kevin to explode in anger. He knew he didn’t deserve how nice this was. “Please.”

Kevin pulled his hand away from Matt’s skin. Matt got out the sample size he liked. He’d seen one too many cheap bottles of lube that still had pubic hair sticking to the cap that he paid extra for the simple, disposable yet amply proportioned soy-sauce-packet size. He tore it open with his teeth and squeezed the slippery water-based lube on Kevin’s outstretched palm.

“You probably already have a way you like doing it,” Matt said. Kevin was paying him, after all. This had to be his kink.

“It’s your dick. How do you like it?”

Matt pulled his briefs down. His cock slapped his belly he was so turned on. “However you like it,” he said automatically. The noise of the bus let them speak at conversational tones in their own privacy bubble. Anyone standing over them wouldn’t hear what they had to say. “Do you want me to tell you how I do it when I’m alone? I’d rather not, but if that’s your thing…” He let his voice trail off, watching Kevin’s face intently for any signs of anger.

“How do you want it done here?” Kevin asked. He worked the lube from his palm to his fingers, so that the first time he touched Matt, his fingers glided over Matt’s skin. Matt sucked in his breath, pushing his weight down on his elbow on the aisle armrest so he could drive his dick up into Kevin’s fingers.

“If I wasn’t so turned on, I’d like it nice and slow,” Matt said. “Carefully, so I could trust you not to yank it like it’s a slot machine arm, but I like this, and I like you, and I…trust you not to hurt me. Please don’t hurt me. We both know you can.”

“Do you know I won’t?”

“I know anyone can,” Matt whispered. “But you’re so beautiful. I know that has nothing to do with trust, but I still trust you.” Matt was breaking all his rules. Kevin pulled up his shirt under the blanket. Matt grabbed hold of Kevin’s arm with his ungooey hand.

Kevin’s suit hid how muscular his body was. Matt was just shy of six feet and felt protected sitting next to Kevin. It wasn’t a feeling he’d ever wanted, but he liked it as much as he’d liked Kevin’s name.

“Was your trip business or pleasure?” Kevin asked, his voice a low rumble.

Matt’s brain wanted to ignore the question and focus on the low vibrations of how his dick would feel down Kevin’s throat, but life wasn’t fair. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Matt said. “Could we not?”

“I’m sorry.”

Matt slid his hand across Kevin’s lower belly. He didn’t need to move it down much lower to realize they were both hard. His warning system that said to stay home some days or not to get into a certain car when he had worked the streets told him Sam couldn’t be left alone for too long.

Kevin’s fingers were colder than Matt’s but long and strong as they wrapped around him. Kevin didn’t seem to mind Matt’s hand on his jerking-off hand. Kevin’s arm felt so sturdy that Matt didn’t think he could pull him away, but Kevin would stop the moment it was uncomfortable. Matt had to believe that was true. “Most people don’t pay for this.”

“I’m not most people.”

Matt had turned money down before because he felt bad about the situation, but he wasn’t ready to let Kevin’s arm go. “Could you go easy at the beginning?”

“How do you do it?” Kevin asked.

Matt’s cheeks warmed. He’d already said he didn’t want to talk about what he did. But obviously Kevin wasn’t as perfect as he was in Matt’s head. “The usual way,” Matt said. He was vulnerable now with his jeans down over his hips. If Kevin went full-on crazy, Matt would definitely be on the side of the road.

Kevin’s cheeks grew pink. “I meant letting strangers touch you.”

Matt shrugged. His movement slid Kevin’s hand up and down his dick a quarter inch, and that was nice. His grip could be tighter, though. “It’s a job. Most people are nice.”

“But how do you know if they are nice?”

He was using Matt’s word out of politeness, but that wasn’t what he was asking.

“Do you want to hear bad-trick stories?” Matt asked. Some guys got off on that alone. Matt didn’t give his history up for anything less than a couple hundred and dinner. He knew what the guys who asked did with the specifics. “Do you want to hear about the cigarette burns or what happened to my wrist?” His wrist wasn’t a bad-trick story, and if Kevin wanted details, Matt could deal with it. He had misjudged people before.

But he didn’t have any right to snap at Kevin. He was suddenly too sensitive. He lifted his hips up off the seat. Kevin’s fingers could have squeezed him, and the pain would have doubled Matt over. He wished he’d put on a mental glove before he started, but he’d said he’d wanted to feel Kevin’s touch.

The lube stayed cold and jellylike on Kevin’s fingers until he spread it all the way along Matt’s length. As much as Matt wanted to enjoy this, Kevin’s smell edged him along to the point Matt couldn’t slow it down faster than he wanted. He shifted away from Kevin.

“Please slow it down a tad,” Matt said, as gently as he could.

Kevin stopped instantly. “Did I hurt you?”

“No!” Matt said, breathless. He was supposed to be the pro at this. He didn’t want to just take the money and come. “Just the opposite. If you want your money’s worth, you’re going to want to slow down,” Matt said, face red. He never said he was a good whore.

“Do you want me to slow down?” Kevin asked, his voice as soft as his touch.

Matt knew what he should have said as a pro whore. Kevin wanted to believe that Matt had never felt this good. And it was true; he hadn’t, but he couldn’t make himself say it. He looked away. He might have to give the money back, but he didn’t care. “Not really.”

“Then sit back and relax,” Kevin said.

If anyone else had told Matt that, it would have been a good time to grab his backpack and bolt, but it felt so good to do what Kevin told him.

Changeling and where to go to get help

Since I write to a +18 crowd, I’m assuming that no child will be reading Changeling. But I know I cut my teeth on the Nightmare of God by Mark E. Rogers (don’t read it…that book will change you) and Jilly Rogers by the time I was 14 so I was reading far above what I should have been at a time where I was. If you are a child, and someone is hurting you in any way, tell an adult. Adults such as teachers, principals, pastors all have a legal requirement to inform the authorities. If one person doesn’t help, keep trying. There is nothing that you could possibly to do have deserved being hit or touched or emotionally abused. You are the child in the relationship, and the adult is the one responsible. If your victimizer has something over you and is threatening you, please, just tell an adult until someone does something. Whatever your victimizer is doing is going to be 100% THEIR fault. Like Kevin says, if it is out of your hands, you cannot be held responsible.

But more to the point, if you are over the age of eighteen and you still are looking for help, it is out there. At the con this weekend, I was asked if the stats are true, did I really think 1 in 4 women are still dealing with their sexual assault on a day-to-day basis and I said for the most part, absolutely.

Here are some places to start, whether or not you’re dealing with sexual assault. And if you’re in a position to give support, they’re also the sort of organizations that are chronically underfunded, and may take support in the form of money or volunteers or both.

Help lines for kids and teens:

  • Kids Help Phone (Canada): a free, anonymous and confidential phone and on-line professional counselling service for youth.
  • Your Life Your Voice (US): a toll free number available to kids, teens and young adults at anytime.
  • Childline (UK): ChildLine is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of nineteen.
  • Kids Helpline (Australia): a counselling service for Australian children and young people aged between 5 and 25 years.

RAINN: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network : RAINN’s links to hotlines and counselling centres, in the US and internationally (Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres )

International Planned Parenthood Federation:

Crisis centres and suicide prevention:

I was attacked in Korea. I man broke into my apartment and grabbed a knife off my counter. I managed to get free. I hadn’t been drinking. I had been wearing a T-shirt and underwear because I’d been sleeping when he attacked me. I hadn’t said anything or done anything that provoked the attack. I wasn’t actually sexually assaulted, though he punched me in the face over a dozen times. My eyes had both swollen, one completely shut, the other barely could open. Of all the bruises, the fingerprints on my neck where he’d choked me to the point of blacking out twice were the last to fade.

He tried cutting into my arm four or five times, but for some reason it seemed like a good idea at the time that I should put the 13″ very sharp butcher knife in the drawer the night before the attack away. I’d been living in the apartment for three months, and for all but that one night, the butcher knife and the dull steak knife he’d grabbed had been side-by-side. As I did the dishes that night, as I was drying the knife off, a voice in my head said “you should put the knife away” just occurred to me, and I put it away in the drawer. Don’t ask me why or how, I’ve just have an intuition voice in my head that I’ve learned not to question. So when he tried cutting into me with a knife so dull that it bulged the skin around the knife but didn’t actually cut in, I recognize the fact that I was very, very lucky.

So when Mr. Thinks He Know It All on the panel asked me if I really believed that all women who have been attacked still deal with their assault, I laughed in his face.

Because just like the fact that I put the knife away, just like the fact that my attacker hadn’t brought a knife with him and chose one that I knew to be too dull to cut anything, just like the fact that I wasn’t actually violated physically but not sexually, I was one of the “lucky” ones.

It’s almost as though some people think that the only kind of rape out there happens in the dead of night, with a stranger, while the woman is out somewhere she shouldn’t be. The comparison to cars left running in bad neighbourhoods gets used a lot, which is infuriating. Even worse is the comparison to a woman *choosing* to drink and drive (something *SHE* acts on) to a woman who gets drunk and gets assaulted (something *THE RAPIST* acts on) as being the same thing.

Those kinds of rapes are by far just a sliver of assaults. Most (70%) of survivors know their attackers. They haven’t left “their car” in a bad neighbourhood. They left their keys on the kitchen counter and someone she knew stole them. You can be wary of strangers, but are all people supposed to be wary of everyone because anyone could be a rapist?

For most survivors, what is taken from them is not just the violence or the threat of violence on their person. It is the betrayal of trust. They trusted that the world was a safe place and now that they know that it is not, it changes them as people. So yes, Mr. Thinks He Knows It All, I do believe that all survivors deal with their assault on a daily basis.

But this post isn’t about telling a man who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. It’s about getting help. There are therapists out there that can help you deal. You do not have to be afraid all the time. You may always be aware of your surroundings more than before, but contact the sexual assault helplines in your area. Do a google search. RAINN is there 24/7 no matter how long ago your attack happened.

And lastly, I want to talk about those who, like Matt in the story, have been groomed as children to see their bodies as a commodity by people who want to use them. In a room full of writers paying money to take a weekend off to network with other writers, the people who, as children, had been groomed by their victimizers to devalue their own bodies probably weren’t present. Children need to feel safe in the same way they need air and food and water. When something as basic as their own body’s autonomy is taken away from them, who they were going to be as adult without the interference in their basic needs has changed.

Children are not sexually mature. Once a child starts developing secondary sexual charactertics like pubic hair or mensturation, they’re not suddenly ready for sex. Puberty is an on-going process that takes years to finish, and the young adult is not sexually mature at the start of puberty, they’re mature at the end of it. Young women who have not finished puberty but get pregnant may face complications up to and including death for the mother and child. In times anon, puberty didn’t start in girls until they were at least sixteen. So not only are children not equipped physically to be having sex, they are not emotionally ready either. Sexual contact with a child is sexual assault.

Those children who are just statistics on the page — one in four. One in six — all grow up to be adults. And as adults, they self-medicate, self-harm, or self-destruct. For every one sex worker who is engaging in sex work to complete a goal, there are countless workers who had no choice. These are the people in our society that the middle class have entirely written off. If the survivors have not been taught how to value themselves as children and choices that they make lead to worse choices in the future, they deal with the hole inside them that can be only filled with self-love. We cannot blame people for trying to fill that hole up with sex from people who don’t love them, or who have a bad way of showing that love, overeating, drugs, alcohol or just bad choices in general. Help is out there as well, no matter how far down from rock bottom they are.

In Changeling, Matt goes out and gets himself picked up by the absolute worst person he can find on the day of his eighteenth birthday. When he started hooking at seventeen, if he got caught, there would have been social workers and a special judge and his record would have been expunged. Once he turned eighteen, his record was set in stone. Even though nothing had changed from one day to another, he should have somehow pulled his shit together.

Child sexual abuse is already a crime and with the right kind of therapy, it doesn’t have to ruin a child’s life. It doesn’t take much for a child victim to internalize what is happening to them out of shame or guilt and never tell anyone what has happened. We’ve all had the colouring in of the bathing suit lesson that what is under your suit belongs to you, but in a perfect world every child will understand with as much clarity that nothing an adult ever does to them is ever their fault. Their bodies are wonderful, amazing precious gifts that are theirs and theirs alone. Sex can be a wonderful thing with a wonderful person, but the act that takes place when there is a large gap in age between the participants, coercion or threats or drugs isn’t sex at all. It’s a violation, and it is not their fault no matter what they say or do.

Sex work is work first, sex second. But if the sex worker is not there on their own free will, that’s not sex work. That’s organized sexual assault. And there is help out there. Call RAINN. They can help. And if you know a child who is not being cared for, is reluctant to be touched or who doesn’t seem to have a healthy set of boundaries around adults or other children, make sure they understand that they are not in trouble or have done anything wrong first and foremost. As the victim of physical abuse of a child, by the age of six I had internalized that abuse was what happened to innocent kids. My beatings were “punishment” because I was “bad”.

I wish someone had told me there was nothing I could have done to deserve what was happening to me. Don’t blame the victim.

Consent, dubious or otherwise

In Changeling, my main character has just met the man of his dreams. He’s rich, handsome, generous and respects Matt’s limits instead of using them as a to-do list. Only three days into the relationship, however, Matt’s offered the chance to be a private school administrative headmaster’s sex-toy for an agreed-upon amount. 

Clearly, those of us with a sound mind would be screaming at the character for even thinking about the deal, but Matt knows that what he is doing on the streets for money is non-sustainable. Eventually he’ll proposition the wrong guy, and even though they’ll probably give him a fine and probation rather than sending him off to jail, the next time he gets caught they’ll have him for breech of probation.

He can’t just get a job. He doesn’t have a high school diploma, and every job that is willing to hire him needs their newbies to work evenings and weekends. Matt has a twelve-year old brother who is as smart as he is a pain-in-the-ass. His deal with the headmaster puts them both on the same level. Matt needs his brother to go to a good school to get the education he needs to succeed and the headmaster has far more to lose than Matt has. Matt’s non-disclosure agreement is air-tight. Even though the contract itself isn’t legally valid as it pertains to prostitution, if the press gets wind of a headmaster hiring sex-workers, his career is over. He’s completely on the up-and-up, there’s no abuse of children under the age of 18 and he’s removed himself from the day-to-day running of the school, but it’s a precarious situation.

Matt’s new lover seems to be filthy rich. He easily has the funds to put Sam through school to the post doctorate level, but the relationship is 72 hours old. Sam is the most important part of Matt’s life and keeping Sam safe gives Matt the motivation to go out and sell himself. His deal with the headmaster is a considerable improvement to the dangers of working on the street. Protection is written into the contract, there’s a safe word Matt could use at any point and while there are consequences for using it, it’s written down as to what they are. 

Consent and abuse are two very important strands running through Changeling. I’ve been very careful not to sexually charge the abuse Matt had suffered in the past. I remember reading Firefly by Piers Anthony way back when it first came out, while I was recovering from trying to twist my ankle off in a skiing accident, and as high as I was on T-3’s, the way he described the abuse the little girl suffered was horrible. To date when I read it, I think Xanth was on book eight? or nine? I was in grade eight at the time and didn’t have the ability to explain why I hated it. I loved the Fae bit around the sexual abuse, but looking back years later I realized that I’d read a book where a child seduces the adult main character. I went back and deleted “practically” as an adverb, because it was horrible and graphic. I stopped reading Anthony from that point onward. I went back, years later, thinking it must have been the pills, I couldn’t actually have read what I thought I’d read, but sure enough, there it was. 

I started writing Changeling as a camp nano book. By the time I got halfway through the opening scene, what had started out as a palate cleaning id book between projects had become *the* book I wanted to write. It’s a little bit ironic that it’s the last book I’ve published when I actually wrote it first. The first draft of Coral that I didn’t use was next and The Care and Feeding of Sex Demons was the last book I wrote in 2013. 

Consent in erotica has taken a bit of a knocking. There was a brilliant article from Cracked the other day that talked about what are hottest fantasies are on paper are pretty closely linked to our deepest shame. A woman’s desire to be dominated was first out of five kinks, but when the same people were asked to list their most shameful memory, it was times when their partner failed to respect their limits. 

When That Book came out, everyone rushed out to write the book that got BDSM right. As much as my books are often BDSM-lite, it’s not really a thing with Matt and Kevin at this point in their relationship. It will, most definitely be an aspect of their relationship, but before you can allow yourself to be dominated, you have to first trust your partner. And Changeling, if it’s about anything, it’s about learning how to trust when you have no basis in your life to know where you begin. 

I don’t want my stories to be polemics. I think it’s possible to take consent and condom usage and bring them to the forefront of the story without standing on a soapbox. I don’t care if people sensualize what scares them the most when it comes to losing control and there’s obviously a market for I’m not responsible; I was “forced” smut. I just don’t want to write it or read it. I want to do the opposite of that. I want to make consent important and sexy if it wants to be. 

I want to show two scenes. The first time Kevin and Matt discuss how they’re going to have sex because Matt wants to and then in the second, have Matt discuss it as a business relationship. 

As an active participant: It’s eight o’clock in the morning after Matt has spent the whole night in the police station due to being the last person who saw a murder victim alive. Matt isn’t a suspect, but despite one cop being nice to him, they know what he does for a living. Kevin has pulled up in front of the police station and offered Matt a thousand dollars for the day, even though Matt has to be at the school at three to pick up his little brother from school. It’s more than twice he charges for penetrative sex and Kevin promises him breakfast and a nap, first. There’s no actual sex, but frank discussion of intimate partner violence and sex. 


Confessions of an ex-there-are-no-rules writer

Oh my goodness, this got long. By the time I got down to the end of it, I realized I don’t like the word “rules” when talking about writing, so I decided to crib off of the science world and called them writing theories. To quote Star Gate Atlantis, Like “dinosaurs turned into birds” theoretically or “theory of relativity” theoretically?” It’s somewhere in between.

At age nineteen in my second year of higher learning, a show came to Edmonton. Picasso’s pencil sketches. Because I was nineteen, I walked into the gallery expecting to see what I was expecting to see because at that point in my life I thought, as all nineteen year olds do, I thought I knew everything.

I knew nothing. At fifteen, Picasso was drawing photo-realistic pictures of people. His sketches were absolutely freaking amazing. I could see why he’d started to go abstract because after you master something at such a young age, where could anyone possibly go?

In 1996, I had already been writing for over a decade. I had about a dozen novels under my belt. None of them were any good and I knew it, but I am the writer who can’t contain all my thoughts in my head and if I didn’t write them down, I was sure my head would explode. I read anything I could get my hands on about writing and by the time I was in my late teens, I could quote them as fluently as anyone, but the one rule I held onto most dearly was that rules were meant to be broken. I was its standard bearer. I looked at the rules like bars in the zoo, keeping the ideas trapped in behind them.

For the next decade, I did have some minor success. My teenage dream of being an established writer by 25 was quietly shaved down to be published by the same age, and two months before my 25th birthday, I was. Every once and a while, a story had “it” and more often than not, a short story contract followed, but if I said I had one “it” for every 10 “not its”, I am being generous to myself.

And it’s not as though I didn’t have help. Every single time someone I respected offered me a critique, they would always come back to the rule that I had broken, on purpose, and as gently as they could they would try to “help,” while inwardly I seethed at how dumb they were for not getting that I had broken the rule on purpose, though being Canadian of course I was exceedingly polite about it.

A decade later, in 2006, something inside me just clicked. I realized, horrified, that actually, the rules that I had spent the past decade trying to bend back on themselves until they broke, were actually exactly what you need to do in order to find an audience for your stuff. To be fair, I realize that not everyone who is writing is writing to be published, but oh, my god. You can thread a needle on the ground or you can thread a needle on the wing of a stunt plane, but if your goal is to finish the quilt you’re sewing and not just learn how to thread a needle on the wing of a stunt plane, it is so much easier to tell a story that someone else who doesn’t know you personally might want to read.

Show, don’t tell. Murder your darlings. Tension on every page, have characters that the reader can empathize, if not sympathize with. These are the iron bars that kept the tiger from devouring the public, they’re ingredients you need to make your final product edible. You could spend ten years and finally write one story about an unsympathetic bastard who does nothing and then dies with enough skill that it might find an audience, but if you spent that decade using more common ingredients, when you do write that the story that bends the rules, your main character by muscle memory alone is going to be more empathetic than not.

But here’s the big thing. If you are the Pablo Picasso or the Neil Gaiman of your generation, chances are no one will ever need to tell you that there are no rules, or that they were meant to be broken. Once I realized I was fighting against the current for no other reason than the fact it was there and actually used the ingredients that writers a lot smarter than I am have been telling me for fifteen years at that point, I sold the next story I wrote. I got an honorable mention in a year’s best anthology for it, but by the time that came out, I was already on my second paranormal book that I sold on spec to the publisher of the first.

The scientific method clearly states that if your results are not reproducible, no matter how perfect and pretty your theory is on paper, it’s not valid. If your worst enemy goes into his lab and can reproduce your results, you’ve got yourself a true theory.

Because I had my list of ingredients, I could spin story after story, all of them closing in on what I wanted to say, without compromising my voice or message. Now people were willing not only to send the money to buy it, they were willing to spend the time reading it. Finally admitting that I didn’t know everything and what I was doing wasn’t working let me change to the point to where it was working.

When talking to other writers in a group, it doesn’t seem to matter who I’m talking with, whenever I talk about the rules of writing only being there to help beginners find a solid foundation so that they can avoid common traps of unpublishable stories, there’s always a self-published, unpublished or underpublished writer willing to jump in and say some variation of “there are no rules.” It’s like they’re not hearing what I’m saying. If you just want to write, absolutely, there are no rules. If you want to write stories for other people to read, though, the guidelines we call rules are only there as the white lines on the highway telling you where it is mostly safe to drive. You *can* drive anywhere you want. But for most people learning to drive, learning to drive the right way is usually easier than learning to drive upside down on the wrong side of the road going backwards.

“But what about *famous outlier*?!?” the un/self/under published author cries, as though they’ve slain my argument at my feet. Well, what about them? Writers are extremely susceptible to the Dunning-Kruger effect. That’s when you think your talents are better than your talents actually are. Even after you’re told that most people over-estimate their abilities, most people are going to think that their self-evaluations of their stuff is still accurate. It’s true that there are some people, like Picasso, that utterly nailed their early attempts and only got better at it. There are some writers that do publish and take off like a shot. The late, great Jay Lake, for example. He had a meteoric trajectory in his career.

I’m not saying people don’t win the lottery of talent, but the chances that your talents alone, without an ounce of hard-won skill, won’t carry you through. Even if your first book has 2-3 times more raw talent than the average first novel, you probably still had, and still have, a long way to go before your very best first attempt equals that of someone else with half your talent’s best attempt at their tenth novel.

“But wait! There are millions of readers out there. If you find 1% of 1% of people who like what you write, you can be successful!” I’m dubbing this the Dragon’s Den fallacy. You see it all the time on pitch to the millionaire shows, be it Sharks or Tigers of whatever. Four billion dollars are spent on dog products every year! Ipso facto, even if 1% of those people buy my doggy bib that turns into a diaper, it’s a sure hit! In theory, it should work but in practice, unless your product fills a need, there is no need for it. The more limits you put on your audience, the less chance you have to succeed.

“So, what, you say. Are you telling me we all should be writing Twilight? If it doesn’t have mass appeal, we shouldn’t even bother?” Okay, that’s going to take a little longer to unpack. First off, I’m sick of people knocking Twilight as an example of really bad writing being successful. Even though it is, in my opinion, a terrible book, and it’s a terrible book for a multitude of reasons, it obviously scratched an itch that people had. Just because you are not the book’s intended audience, it does not make the whole thing inherently “bad”. Just because it’s a terrible book for me, does not mean that the people who bought it and loved it are terrible people.

Secondly, I write gay smut. I write gay, paranormal, bdsm smut that offers redemption to those of us that had a shitty lot in life but don’t want to be defined by the crumbling foundations that they constructed at an age when they didn’t know life could be any better than what it is right now. I realize that my market is very, very small over the very large body of work, but my sales are actually pretty good, thanks for asking. If you want to be published, you need to have an ideal reader that you are writing for. “Everyone” is not a target audience.

Which leads to my third point. The general reading public values their time and money more than you think they do. If you think there is an infinite population out there willing to throw their time and money down the toilet time after time while an author is still trying to find their voice, you are sadly mistaken. You enter into a contractual obligation with your reader when they put down after-tax dollars and after-work hours. Your end of the deal is, first and foremost, I WILL NOT WASTE YOUR TIME.

Anyone might be persuaded to buy anything once, but the best, most sustainable promotion does not come from advertising. It comes from Person A telling Person B that the story they just finished was so good that they want you to read it. Your brain is an amazing reward center. Not only do you get a shot of dopamine when you read something awesome, you also get a dopamine shot when you share what gave you pleasure to others. It’s just like telling a joke. You get the same shot of joy-juice when you hear the joke as when you tell the same joke to others. It wears off quickly as the connection in your brain gets established, but that’s okay. Your next story should be as good as the one before it. 

And lastly, yes, you should bother. Even if the book you write isn’t good enough yet to be picked up and published, every single time you write anything, you’re going to be better at the craft than you were before you started. On one hand, I wasted a decade believing that rules were meant to be broken. I cranked out…seven…eight? books in that decade, and not one of them were good enough to be published. Did I waste anything at all? Not even a little bit. Regardless of all the things I was doing wrong, I was doing as many things right. I’ve probably started a hundred books in my career. But I’ve also middled and ended probably about forty of them. That practice, the art of maintaining the plot throughout the middle forty to fifty thousand words and then bringing everything to a close at the end is as important as the beginning. Some people have been writing for a decade and only ever middled and ended a book three or four times. If writing is as much skill as it is talent, that’s not a great deal of practice.

In all my mistaken belief that going back and rewriting a story is “wasting” my efforts, I never went back and rewrote anything. My first draft was my last draft. I always had a new, better, more shiny plot to write.

We had a blast with my smut money. While I was still working a day job, it was our vacation fund ever year. Considering what the average small press/self published author makes, we were doing all right. Just when I was starting to think that I could say I had a good grasp of this how to write, I sat across the table from Ms. Kerr to pitch a book in 2012, confident that I was good, and she asked me what my book was about.

I didn’t have a clue. I knew the rule about the elevator pitch and knowing what it is your book is about off by heart as much as I knew show don’t tell, and it was with a shock that I realized, holy cow. I know nothing about what any of my books are about beyond the “it’s about a guy who does stuff” level.

When I started my next book, I sat down to write a book about knowing when to let go. There is so much to say about what the book is about, it practically wrote itself. Your book should have a purpose. Even in my smut, even though I’m telling the story of a main character who sells his body because it’s the only way he provide enough money to keep his brother with him because any job without the main character could do would demand that he has to give up the evenings and weekends he needs to be with his brother. Even with the love of his life willing to swoop in and take him away from his terrible life, it’s not enough to save him from the terrible choice he needs to make.

So, yeah. That’s the full confession of a writer who went from honestly, whole heartedly believed that there are no rules to speaking in absolutes when I talk about the rules. They are not there to keep the your voice locked up. They are there to help you say what you wanted to say in the first place.

Honestly and truly, if you are innately good enough that the rules can be played off, you don’t need someone to tell you otherwise. For everyone else, unless you don’t mind hundreds and hundreds of face plants, there is no shame in learning how to walk before you run.

TL;DR: If you are the kind of writer I was who honestly believes that there are no rules of writing, if commercial publishing is what you are trying to achieve, it doesn’t take much to change “there are no rules” in writing to “There are a couple of ingredients in writing that are applicable to most writers and the sooner you understand why some people call them rules, the less time you’ll be face-planting”.

In science, there are no facts. All we have are theories. It’s exactly the same in writing. The hard-core four – show don’t tell, murder your darlings, write empathetic characters and every story needs conflict are all pretty good theories that will help your writing get better. It is theoretical to have a successful story without all or even one of them, but in practice, it is unnecessarily harder. But if you don’t believe me, I get it. Ten years ago, I would have either not read past the first paragraph of this post or I would be crafting a systematic, line-by-line critique of every single thing I’ve said, and so if you feel the need to do so, knock yourself out.

I know there are exceptions to every single thing I’ve said. I have argued for hours defending the “there are no rules” rule. Luckily, there are a lot of people who had the patience of a saint to put up with my Sith-like thinking in absolutes. Thank you for all your time. I can finally say that it wasn’t in vain. It sank in eventually.

 Hopefully this will be my last post on the subject of writing theories in a good long time. As much as I love talking about it, I do believe the horse is just not getting back up without the help of a forklift. 

Changeling Cut Scene Thursday #4: the smutty bit

And here is the last Cut Scene Thursday for Changeling!
This scene got caught because it didn’t progress the dead guy in the bathroom plot at all and I was desperate to cut unnecessary weight. Also, Kevin getting fucked by Matt becomes part of the plot in book three. It goes right before they come back and eat yogurt sitting on the floor. There’s also a passing mention of Bea. Don’t worry, you’ll meet her in book two. She’s awesome.


Changeling Cut Scene Thursday #3: even less about the jeans

It’s Cut Scene Thursday again! We’re still spoilerific around here, so watch for that cut tag.

This is the second version of Matt shopping for jeans in a thrift shop. In the second version, like in the final draft, there’s more going on plot-wise and the thrift store is just the backdrop. A lot of the background and relationships have already been established, so I had to sacrifice some of the details.

Kevin called him Mattie a lot earlier in the final version of the book. The scene is all about Matt stepping away from his old life in a deliberate choice, but it ultimately had to get scaled back and go in a different direction. I still love the banter between them–in all versions.


Five (other) books about changelings

The whole concept of a changeling has a huge range of possibilities for storytelling. Here are some other people’s takes:

book-blood-ironBlood and Iron: a Novel of the Promethean Age by Elizabeth Bear

“Spellbound by the Faerie Queen, the woman known as Seeker has abducted human children for her mistress’s pleasure for nearly an eternity, unable to free herself from her servitude and reclaim her own humanity.

Seeker’s latest prey is a Merlin. Named after the legendary wizard of Camelot, Merlins are not simply those who wield magic, they are magic. Now, with rival mages also vying for the favor of this being of limitless magic to tip the balance of power, Seeker must persuade the Merlin to join her cause-or else risk losing something even more precious to her than the fate of humankind.”

book-stolen-childThe Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

“The double story of Henry Day begins in 1949, when he is kidnapped at age seven by a band of wild childlike beings who live in an ancient, secret community in the forest. The changelings rename their captive Aniday and he becomes, like them, unaging and stuck in time. They leave one of their own to take his place, an imposter who must try–with varying success–to hide his true identity from the Day family. As the changeling Henry grows up, he is haunted by glimpses of his lost double and by vague memories of his own childhood a century earlier. Narrated in turns by Henry and Aniday, The Stolen Child follows them as their lives converge, driven by their obsessive search for who they were before they changed places in the world.”

book-daughter-houndsDaughter of Hounds by Caitlin R. Kiernan

“Stolen their human parents to be raised by ghouls, the Children of the Cuckoo are changelings who are forbidden any human contact, but now they are coming to reclaim a lost child, Emmie Silvey, a precocious and solitary young girl, who has been raised by her widower father and is haunted by two very different women–one who stalks her and one who haunts her dreams.”

books-hot-leadHot Lead, Cold Iron by Ari Marmell

“Chicago, 1932. Mick Oberon may look like just another private detective, but beneath the fedora and the overcoat, he’s got pointy ears and he’s packing a wand.

Oberon’s used to solving supernatural crimes, but the latest one’s extra weird. A mobster’s daughter was kidnapped sixteen years ago, replaced with a changeling, and Mick’s been hired to find the real child. The trail’s gone cold, but what there is leads Sideways, to the world of the Fae, where the Seelie Court rules. And Mick’s not really welcome in the Seelie Court any more. He’ll have to wade through Fae politics and mob power struggles to find the kidnapper – and of course it’s the last person he expected.”

book-solstice-woodSolstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip

” Summoned home for her grandfather’s funeral, Sylvia Lynn arrives with the intention of leaving as soon as possible. Once there, however, she feels the treacherous pull of the old house, the shadowy forest around it and the otherworldly beings who live there. Sylvia’s grandmother introduces her to the Fiber Guild, women who meet once a month to sew the magical barriers that protect Lynn Hall from the fay, “a cold, loveless, dangerous people.” But the hall’s protective magic has weakened, leaving Sylvia—both mortal and faery herself—vulnerable as “the bridge across the boundaries” between the two worlds. Can generations of mistrust and long-hoarded secrets yield to a truce, let alone a new understanding and even trust between faery and human?”

book-inked-magicInked magic by Jory Strong

“With the touch of her palms to the skin of a crime victim, San Francisco tattoo artist Etaín can see the faces of the guilty and draw them. Changeling elf but unaware of it, at odds with her police captain father and FBI agent brother, magic and gift have put her in the path of two compelling men.

Cathal Dunne, the son of an Irish mob boss, needs Etaín’s help finding the rapists who left his cousin for dead. Eamon, a powerful elf lord, is determined to make her his consort-wife.

Her gift once made permanence impossible when it came to a lover. Now, as she approaches the transition to fully Elven, her survival depends on keeping two. One of the men is willing to share her. The other isn’t-until the search for a sexual predator turns deadly, and only by paying magic’s price will there be any future at all.”

To celebrate the release of my new book Changeling, I’m going to be posting related links on Tuesdays and cut scenes on Thursdays for the next month. Changeling is a m/m paranormal erotica novel about Matt, who sells sex to keep himself and his little brother together. When Matt discovers Kevin, the john he’s rapidly falling for, is a Prince of the Fae, the questions start piling up. But most importantly, why does Kevin keep acting like it’s Matt who will leave, when it’s Matt who’s the broken one?

Cutting scenes (but also, why Changeling is so long)

Because that’s how long it took to tell the story. I really wanted to tell it under 80,000 words, and, if at all possible at 100,000 words, but the beginning needed more. I had even sacrificed my two favourite scenes. The scene where Kevin takes Matt to the arcade and the scene where spoiler does spoiler, but at the end, I had to go back and put them back in.

For most of the scenes in the cut scene, they ended up being superfluous for the story at the time that they happened. I don’t plan the books I n write, but my process allows for that. I truly respect authors who can write out a four page outline as to what the story is going to be about and then sit down and write that story. There’s an amount of ordered thought to that that I couldn’t even dream of.

I start with a character in a situation and an ending that I have a vague sense of. I start with an interesting character with an interesting problem in an interesting world and try to let the story guide itself. In the first draft, this can mean not really figuring out what was going on until the last quarter. That means that if the book is a room in pitch darkness, I spend a lot of time groping about, trying to identify everything that is in the room as points to the plot.

By the end of the book, I know what I’ve written. It’s like turning on a light and not just having to guess at what I was trying to describe, but see it clearly for what it was. Sometimes I ended up spending a lot of time describing something that was far more complex than it was in the bright light of day, and some times there’s a smoking gun in the middle of the room that I didn’t stumble across.

It means a lot of what had formed the story to get to the ending was wrong. And I know that’s hard to hear when a book spends so much time getting all the way out of you, but I wish I had known a decade ago that all that time I spent trying to save my deathless prose with the least amount of effort got me no further in my writing path.

I think discovering micro-tension put the last nail on the coffin of trying to save the scene for being what it is. I know a lot of people that I really respect who don’t bother with making each sentence have a sense that the character is struggling, it makes for a quick read. The more the microtension carries the piece, though, the harder it is to just cut and paste section from scene to scene. The character knows what they know at the time they know it, and if the tension in the sentence is out of whack with the tension in the scene, it always reads to me like there’s a flat tire on your car.

Is that mixing enough metaphors? Yes? I think I’m done. Except to say that if you cut a scene and it physically hurts to do so, and you start to obsess about it, it should probably go back into the manuscript. Cutting away the scene at the curry shop, even though it solidifies the reason as to why Matt decides that no matter how much he loves Kevin, he’s realistic that the relationship is less than a week old and he can’t possibly trust Kevin with Sam’s life. His own, sure. Sam’s? No way. I’ve already made that point, so redundancy is redundant.

But the arcade scene? Matt never does anything for just himself, and would never do something fun just for himself. Him giving up his arcade games wasn’t just a financial choice, though, it also reminded him horribly of the really bad choice he made in one. When Kevin takes him out to the funland, Matt could be exactly what he was, a nineteen year old kid for once in his life.

That it also showed that when he stops worrying about “acting gay”, his body moves effortlessly, he has fine motor control, and it gives him a way of being able to “see” the moves he needs to make in order to do magic in a way that makes sense to him. In book three, when he climbs up a tree, all he sees are the up down and sideways arrows that make a very complex task simple. Cutting it would have cut out five thousand words and a piece from the chest cavity of the book.

There. That’s enough mixed metaphors for the day.

Changeling Cut Scene Thursday #2: it’s not really about the jeans

It’s Cut Scene Thursday again! There are more spoilers than last week here under the cut tag.

This scene happens in a thrift store where Matt goes shopping for jeans. In the first draft, the scene happened a lot earlier and Matt and Kevin barely know each other, and things unfold differently with Matt needing to get a blood test done. There’s another draft before the final version that I’ll be posting next week.


Five things about consent culture

I’m very pro-sex, obviously. I write erotica. The one thing I hate is when people ask me what I write, and I say erotica, I could almost say along with them, “like 50 shades of Grey?”

And I want to scream no, nothing like that. I want to celebrate consent culture. Even though Kevin meets Matt while Matt is engaged in sex-work, I’d still like to think that the book is pro-sex and pro-consent culture. After dabbling in fanfic for almost a decade I understand the desire for dubious consent because playing with fire is hot, but not obtaining your partner’s enthusiastic consent before engaging in sexual acts is no grounds to actually build a relationship with.

Abuse does more than just hurt. It can destroy the sense of safety and trust that everyone needs to be able to become a productive member of society, including sex-work if consensual. Abuse can leave a hole in someone’s soul that dangerous habits like drugs, alcohol or dangerous habits can almost, but never completely fill. No foreign substance could ever completely fill that hole. The person has to figure out for themselves that they are worthy of love and can trust on their own, independent of the acts of other people. As much as it is a love story between Matt and Kevin and a platonic love story between Matt and Kevin, there’s also a side story where Matt figures out what he needs, and allows himself to be whole.

Matt learning to trust Kevin is as important as Matt learning to like Kevin. It was love at first sight, but falling in love is the easiest part to a relationship. Relationships take serious work to maintain for both parties.

As bad as the headmaster is to Matt in real life, both of them entered into the relationship with clear expectations as to what would, and wouldn’t happen. It may not be as sexy as smouldering looks, but trying to get a person to do something that is on their ‘hard no’ list. Getting a person to do something they did not want to do from the onset is the very definition of not sexy.

Matt and Kevin do not have penetrative sex until the very end of the book because it takes that long for Matt to trust Kevin. In the Fae language, one of the kinds of love you can have for a person is synonymous with trust.

If you want to know more about consent culture, here are some good places to start, and related links:

Laci Green, Consent 101 – what it says, a Youtube video.

Consent culture from the Pervocracy – what an ideal consent culture would look like.

enthusiastic, willing, unwilling, coerced – different models of consent culture at The Dirty Normal

Elodie Under Glass gust-posts at Captain Awkward on how to romance for everything and the kitchen sink


To celebrate the release of my new book Changeling, I’m going to be posting related links on Tuesdays and cut scenes on Thursdays for the next month. Changeling is a m/m paranormal erotica novel about Matt, who sells sex to keep himself and his little brother together. When Matt discovers Kevin, the john he’s rapidly falling for, is a Prince of the Fae, the questions start piling up. But most importantly, why does Kevin keep acting like it’s Matt who will leave, when it’s Matt who’s the broken one?