Tag Archive: m/m romance


Ace3

What a long, strange ride it’s been. And wonderful, sometimes. The later bits more so than the earlier, but that’s kind of how it is when you don’t figure out an essential part of who you are until you’re fifty-two years and some-odd months old.

The author in me wants to tell this story ‘properly’ – spin it out, keep you in suspense, scatter a few red herrings here and there, and (me being a romance author and all) wrap it up in a nice neat Happily Ever After. But this isn’t one of my stories, and the purpose of National Coming Out Day isn’t to win a Pulitzer or a RITA. I’m writing to shed my secrets, claim my life. And maybe shed a little light on the path for the next people to walk it.

I’ve always known in my heart that I live somewhere “on the rainbow”. I was just never sure where. I only knew that I didn’t fit in with any group of people I’d ever met or heard enough about to understand. And I finally got tired of the not knowing, and the not fitting in, so about a year ago, I found an amazing therapist and started a process of actively questioning and exploring my sexual identity. Both the orientation and gender dimensions.

I started out thinking I might be genderfluid, or agender, or possibly even transmasculine – I’ve always hated my body, and I’ve always hated female stereotypes. But that wasn’t quite it. I hated being in a female body, but I didn’t want to be male – as I told a panel at Rainbow Con, about the only time I really wish I’d been born with a penis is when I sit down to pee and my iPhone always falls out of my back pocket. *winks* (And really, that wasn’t even a problem until I sized up to an iPhone 5s…) And it turned out, my hostility to my femaleness was something else entirely – I’ll get there in a few paragraphs, I promise.

Then came the breakthrough. The Moment. A Facebook moment, actually. A friend liked a post, a post it normally wouldn’t have occurred to me to do more than glance at (information overload being a Very Real Thing), because hey, it couldn’t possibly be me, right?

But it WAS me. A young woman was writing about her experience of asexuality. And every word made me want to jump up out of my chair and do the Rocky Balboa arms-pumping-the-air thing.

I’d finally found me.

This is who I am. I’m asexual – I don’t feel sexual attraction to other people. Other kinds of attraction, yes, but not sexual.

I’m not celibate – granted, a lot of vocabulary in the field of human sexuality is fluid right now, words have a tendency to change meanings according to who’s using them and in what context, but to me, celibacy is a choice to forego something you actually want or value. A celibate person is still heterosexual or homosexual or bisexual or wherever along the sexual axis of the spectrum they might find themselves, they’ve just chosen not to act on their attractions, for whatever reason.

And I might be graysexual (intermittent or sporadic sexual attraction), maybe even demisexual (capable of sexual attraction in the context of an intense emotional relationship) – I’ve never been in the kind of relationship that would let me explore my sexuality safely with another person in a way that would let me find out. But for now, where I’m at, asexual is pretty much perfectly descriptive. The picture at the top of this post is a tattoo I got at Rainbow Con back in July – asexual people (aces) often make use of playing card Aces as symbols, and graysexuals and demisexuals often use the Ace of Diamonds in particular. (“Often”, not “always” – symbolism’s a fluid thing too…) (This is also what happens when I try to take a picture of my own ankle with my phone…)

And frankly, I’m not overly concerned at this point about finding the exactly right sub-label. Or about putting myself in a box. That’s not what I’m trying to do, when I describe myself as asexual. I’m finding a language to speak about my life, and people to speak it with. I’m finding out, for the first time in my life, that I’m not actually fundamentally broken. That there are other people out there like me, and that it’s okay to be the way I am.

This is a fairly new thing for me. I spent most of my life convinced that I was defective. Not quite human. Because everybody was sexual – all the good people were, of course, heterosexual, but even the homosexuals still had sex with somebody. The real fate worse than death was being frigid. If you were raised the way I was, being frigid meant you were choosing to refuse to give your man what he had a right to expect, and that you would probably end up divorced and alone; if you were the feminist I later became, being frigid meant rejecting the delightful gift that was your own sexuality.

I tried to hide, for a very long time, without using that horrible word “frigid” (even though I did end up divorced and alone, twice, after sexless marriages – which were by popular definition “bad” marriages, so the last thing in the world I could do was admit that I liked them that way).

And here, it turns out, is why I hated my body. Men kept finding it attractive – and I, with my entire sense of self-worth being pegged to keeping my promises and honoring my obligations, firmly believed that I was obligated to go along with whatever their attraction prompted them to do, even though as an asexual person I totally didn’t want it. I ended up in two marriages that were very bad ideas that way; in between marriages, I stumbled through attempted relationships in which one or the other of us (usually him) always gave up after a few dates because there was no “spark,” no “chemistry.” Even if we could spend a whole lazy Sunday afternoon strolling hand in hand through an enormous flea market, and stay up till three in the morning talking about the movie we’d just seen… even I thought a “real” relationship had to be more than that, and if there wasn’t more than that, well, it just wasn’t going to work.

And I hated places like Victoria’s Secret, with their “every woman is sexy!” ethos and their underlying assumption that of course every normal human woman wanted to be sexy, so of course I wasn’t normal. I panicked every time I heard “love your curves!” – dammit, I thought I was safe, being fat. But nope, now there’s a spotlight on me. “Here she is, boys! – come and get her! Just look at all that sexy just waiting to be loved up! Even sexier than the skinny girls!” (For the record, I’ve always considered “love your curves” to be a wonderful, empowering thing. For everyone but me. I figured it was just part of how broken I was, that I had to keep hating on myself for a reason that would have been totally wrong to apply to any other woman.)

This is starting to change. (Finally!) My therapist is amazing. Beyond amazing. She’s helped me through the scariest part – getting rid of my preconceptions about asexuality. Especially the whole “frigid” thing. I’m not frigid. Hell no – just read any of my books! I don’t have to hate my body any more, because guess what? – even if it IS looking “eminently edible” to some folks, that creates no obligation on my part. And Victoria’s Secret is just overgeneralizing. (Still working on internalizing both of those, I admit. But progress is being made!)

I did think it was odd, at first, being an asexual author of m/m erotic romance. But it isn’t, really. For one thing, we all write about things we don’t know first hand, to some extent. Black Beauty was a wonderful book, but I strongly suspect it wasn’t written by a horse. And I have a strong libido, even though it doesn’t express as attraction to other people. And I truly am “in love with love” – to me, the best stories are the ones about two (or more) people who take most of a book to figure out they can’t live without each other. My romance is heavily fantasy-flavored, and who knows, maybe someday I’ll be writing fantasy that’s heavily romance-flavored… but there’s no sign over the romance clubhouse door that says “No Aces Allowed”.

And m/m is perfect for me, too. The idea of most romance is to get your reader to identify with one of your protagonists. Me, I’m more comfortable reading or watching erotica in which I don’t identify with anyone involved. If I start identifying with someone in the scene, I push back. (Yes, it’s a paradox. Ain’t life fun?) Writing m/m lets me explore all the intensity, all the passion, all the sensuality, in a way I can truly enjoy, without putting up any barriers.

And on a slightly related note, I think I finally understand why I’ve always preferred hanging out with gay men, rather than straight men. When I’m with gay men, I absolutely don’t have to worry about them picking up on some mysterious and unintentional “attractive” thing I might say or do and having any expectations of me. I’m not making them any promises, or at least not any promises they have any interest in me keeping! I can finally just be myself, safely. I sometimes think that my ideal relationship at this point in my life would be a poly relationship with two uninhibited gay men who adore me and don’t mind having an audience in the bedroom. If anyone knows how to get in contact with Dirk Caber and Jesse Jackman…. *happy sigh* *did I mention I’m also musicosexual?* Or, failing that, I’ll just sigh happily over Brock O’Hurn from a safe distance. (Celebrity crushes can be wonderful things… they don’t have to be sexy, and they can be perfectly safe. And in case anyone’s wondering, yes, I do truly enjoy all the luscious man-candy pictures that turn up on my news feed. I may not be daydreaming about what I personally would love to do in bed with all that male beauty, but believe me, I can come up with plenty of other daydream fodder!)

Next on my agenda? – (1) really internalizing my intellectual understanding that other people’s sexual attraction to me, or lack thereof, is their own bidness, and not any obligation on my part — it’s perfectly okay to say “nope, not interested”. (2) starting to figure out what I actually want out of a relationship (because I’m sure I do want one), and (3) starting to learn how to ask for whatever (2) is. I might be graysexual – I’ve felt sexual attraction to people before, usually a passing thing. Or I might be demisexual, and need to be in an intense emotional relationship with someone before I start feeling sexual attraction. I don’t know. It’s been over 20 years since I’ve had any chance to find out for sure. But I do know I’m going to have to figure out how to start talking about possibilities, if I’m ever going to find anyone willing to help me explore them.

Maybe some gedankenexperiments would help, a little constructive daydreaming with some of that daydream fodder. Maybe Brock. *grins* Hard to believe it’s taken me this long to realize that it’s okay for me to daydream about finding ways to be happy with someone that don’t involve immediate chemistry and sexual yearnings, but hey, better late than never! It feels deliciously self-indulgent, contemplating the prospect of figuring out what my thought experiment and I could say to one another, or do with each other, that might stand a chance of someday, down the road as far as I want it to be, carbonating my hormones…. or of making me happy even if said hormones remain UNcarbonated.

I finally understand now, fifty-three years down my life’s road, that uncarbonated would be perfectly fine. It’s okay for me to want to be happy, and not need for that happiness to have a sexual dimension.

I’m not broken after all. I’m just a different kind of whole.

Lamia

 

Exciting news! — ever since I found out about the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s “Don’t Read in the Closet” project, this year titled “Love Is an Open Road”, I’ve wanted to get in on it. Readers choose 200 of their favorite photos from the group’s archives, and write prompts – “Dear Author” letters – asking for stories to be told about the pictures. Then the pictures and prompts are posted, to be claimed by authors. The resulting stories are put together into a free anthology, released during the summer. I’ve never been quick enough to snag a story prompt before, but this year I got my act together on time and got exactly the prompt I wanted! So now I have until May 1 to write a story about this compelling male. (Hint: he’s a male of a species I’ve only written as female until now…) Here’s the prompt – are you as excited as I am?

Dear Author,

I cry out in pain as my body changes. The muscular power of my body expands and my scales slide off my torso, revealing flesh. What’s happening to me? I don’t know who I am, or why I can smell the heat coming from the man carrying my limp body over his shoulders. He’s strong for such a small being. He cares for me, washing sweat off my brow while the rest of my body changes. Now, I am part of the human world and I need to find out why. But this man, this beautiful man who rescued me from the forest floor touches me sweetly, and I know he is mine.

Sincerely,

M.E. Sanford

So for those of you who are keeping track of my schedule for 2015, here’s how things are shaping up:

April 22: Scheduled re-release date for HARD AS STONE, by Riverdale Avenue Books (new cover, and a new Fae-language glossary/phrase book!)

April 29: Scheduled re-release date for GALE FORCE (likewise)

May 6: Scheduled re-release date for DEEP PLUNGE (ditto)

May 13: Scheduled re-release date for FIRESTORM (rinse and repeat)

May 20: Scheduled NEW release – BLOWING SMOKE, SoulShares #5

Sometime between June and September – release of “Obsidian”, my Don’t Read in the Closet/Love Is an Open Road story

July 2-5: CONvergence (SF/F convention, Bloomington, MN) http://www.convergence-con.org/

July 16-19: RainbowCon (QUILTBAG fiction/media convention, Tampa, FL) http://www.rainbowconference.org/default.aspx

October 22-25: Midwestern Book Lovers Unite conference (romance readers and authors, Minneapolis, MN) https://midwesternbookloversunite.wordpress.com/ I’m co-hosting a cosplay party on the night of the 24th – come as your favorite romance novel character, anyone from a genderbent Vishous to Claire Beauchamp Fraser – or a character created by one of the attending authors!

TiernanChrisBrown2

With the upcoming re-issue of the first four SoulShares novels (HARD AS STONE, GALE FORCE, DEEP PLUNGE, and FIRESTORM) and the upcoming release of the fifth (BLOWING SMOKE), and the fact that I’m about to leave on a week-long you’re-going-to-take-a-vacation-whether-you-need-it-or-not, I haven’t had a lot of time to craft a Valentine’s Day story for this year. However… I’m treating this as an opportunity to go back in time a couple of years and bring back one of my favorite Kevin and Tiernan short stories, about the first Valentine’s Day of their married life. (Sorry if that was a spoiler for anyone….!) And a word to the wise, this is definitely a love story for the 18-and-over set…

***********

Kevin eyed the plastic cup in his hand speculatively. Well, kind of a cup. A hollow hand grenade. And the bartender was watching him with an ill-concealed grin. Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted it’s my first time in New Orleans. Off to one side, the house band on the small stage was rocking out a zydeco song about what girls in the bayou they will do, won’t do.

Strange choice for Valentine’s Day. But, then, so was the Funky Pirate. Sighing, Kevin raised the cup, saluted the bartender, and took a healthy swig. Then, slowly, he set the cup back down on the bar, fighting the urge to cough. Holy shit.

The bartender laughed. “You let me know when you want another one.”

He moved off down the bar, stopping in front of what looked like a group of friends of the band, and Kevin’s gaze wandered. The front door of the bar stood open, and looked out onto the famous Bourbon Street. The street was closed to traffic, and was fairly crowded with pedestrians, most of them probably bar-hopping, carrying their take-away cups from one bar to the next. Probably nothing like it had been a few days ago, though.

The firm couldn’t have sent me here for Mardi Gras, no, they had to wait for Valentine’s Day. Kevin grimaced and had another go at the cup of death and delirium in his hand. Just let me get this down and I swear I’ll go back to civilized drinks. Nothing wrong with Jack and coke.

Nothing except the fact that he’d be drinking it alone. Damn, he missed Tiernan. Which was silly, because he’d be home in a couple of days. But he’d been looking forward to this Valentine’s Day, the first of his married life.

Almost on the thought, there was a pleasant buzz in his pocket. He pulled out his phone, saw the familiar number, and grinned as he slid the toggle to unlock the screen. “Hey, lanan.” He slipped off the barstool and looked quickly around; the Funky Pirate had a back courtyard, and he headed for it, phone in one hand and drink in the other.

“Hey, bodelafint.”

Kevin felt his cheeks flush even as he grinned. Only a Fae would turn ‘Elephant Dick’ into an endearment. “Are you at work?” He sighed with relief as he escaped into the courtyard; there was hardly anyone out here, and even though the music inside was being piped outside, it was a hell of a lot easier to hear.

“Hell, yes. Though I don’t know why, it’s not like there’s anything for me to do here.” Kevin thought he could hear the pounding bass of Purgatory’s sound system behind his husband’s voice. “Where are you? I hear music.”

“I thought I’d try the Funky Pirate. Great music, lethal drinks. I’m out in the courtyard now, though.” Kevin tried another pull at the oddly shaped glass, and this time there was no reason not to cough.

Tiernan’s laugh was pure wickedness. “You’re trying a hand grenade? When I’m not there to take advantage of you afterward?”

“You know the place?” A small staircase in a corner of the courtyard led up to a second story that was gated off; Kevin crossed to it and sat down on the stairs, balancing his drink on his knee.

“Yeah, I’ve been there a few times. I like the music. Though Bourbon Street Blues Company’s better for picking up guys.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.” Kevin chuckled, but there was frustration in the sound. “I’d rather be at home right now. Especially considering that I wanted to dress to suit the day, but I don’t own anything pink, and the only red item of clothing I have is my red silk tie.” The tie that was his private signal to his husband that he was in the mood for breath play. Which he was. Damn.

“You don’t say.” The words were slow, drawn-out, and followed by a long silence. Then, just as Kevin was about to ask if the Fae was still there, “You say you’re in the courtyard?”

“Yes.” Puzzled, Kevin took another drink, held the peculiar glass between his knees, and rubbed the back of his neck.

“Send me a picture.”

“Of me?” I am so not unconfused.

Another low chuckle. “No. Of the courtyard. That back corner, by the steps.”

Kevin opened his mouth to ask how Tiernan knew the layout of the courtyard, but one glance at the corner beside where he sat answered that question very nicely, supplying him with all sorts of images of his husband putting the semi-privacy to thorough use with a woman, women, a man, men… All of which thoughts were making him horny as hell. “Hang on.”

Switching the phone to camera setting, he snapped a shot of the corner and texted it off, then returned the phone to his ear. “Was that what you wanted, m’lanan?”

“That was fucking perfect.”

Tiernan’s reply wasn’t coming from the phone.

Kevin’s head snapped around, and his eyes went wide at the sight of the Fae, shirtless under a denim jacket, in jeans so tight they looked like they’d been tattooed on, blond hair curling around his shoulders. And wearing a smirk that brought the lawyer’s cock to instant and rigid attention.

“I needed the reminder.” Then, in a murmur that should have sent up tendrils of smoke, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Holy shit.” Kevin slammed down the last of his hand grenade, let the cup fall to the ground, and surged to his feet, to be caught up in Tiernan’s arms and turned and pushed back against the vine-covered brickwork, where the Fae’s mouth came down on his in a kiss that left him dizzy.

He felt one of Tiernan’s hands sliding up between their bodies, out of sight; long, strong fingers closed around his tie and slid up the silken length to fist just below the knot. “You weren’t kidding, I see.” Faceted ice-blue eyes held him spellbound, as his husband’s other hand undid his belt buckle, unbuttoned his trousers, and slipped inside to curl around his shaft. “Hold very still, lanan, and let me show you how much I’ve missed you.”

The only answer Kevin could manage was a faint moan, one that Tiernan kissed away before starting to twist the silken tie tight. Kevin’s pulse was like thunder in his ears; his breath came in soft, rapid pants against Tiernan’s lips, and his hips made little, tight jerks of their own volition as his cock was firmly, insistently stroked.

“You are so incredibly fucking hot.” He could feel Tiernan’s lips moving, breathed in his words, and shuddered in ecstasy from his touch. “I can’t get enough of you.” The Fae’s hot tongue traced a path back to his ear, probed; teeth nipped, and the tongue soothed. “Are you close? Are you ready?”

Kevin tried, and failed, to get a breath. And the failure sent liquid heat racing down his spine, to pool in his sac. He felt Tiernan’s hand tighten in anticipation – both hands, the hand twisting the tie as well as the exquisite vise around his cock. He had no voice to whisper with, all he could do was move his lips. “…don’t let me fall…”

Tiernan leaned into him, pinning him to the wall, as his knees buckled with the first thick white jet of his release. His eyes threatened to roll back, his hips jerked forward; darkness started closing in, his vision becoming a tunnel. Tiernan’s hand became slick, and the Fae was moaning now, too, along with him, with every pulse of hot fluid that welled up and spilled over.
And the joy. Oh, Christ, the joy. Pure bliss, the delight of being held, pleasured, cherished.
Scair-anam,” he whispered, as the last wave of pleasure rippled through his body.

Opening eyes he hadn’t realized he’d closed, he saw his husband nod. “So fucking beautiful you stop my heart.” Tiernan’s lips parted, he leaned in, in a kiss that was as close to gentle as he ever came. “I love you, m’lanan.”

And before Kevin could answer, the faceted blue of the Fae’s eyes heated with a smile. “Let’s go back to your hotel room so I can do it some more.”

A Fae Christmas Eve

Tiernan cleared his throat, and Kevin’s father turned away from his perusal of the framed display on the fireplace mantel to take the tumbler of ice and Scotch he extended. “Thanks.” He turned back to the frame on the mantel as he sipped. “This is very nice.”

Thomas Almstead’s nod made it clear that he wasn’t talking about the Glenlivet in his hand. The frame held a set of dog tags, and a picture of a young man who had Kevin’s easy smile, but short hair closer to blond than to Kevin’s dark brown. He wore a uniform of desert camouflage, and posed against a wall of sandbags.

“I know Kevin appreciated you giving him Tanner’s tags.” Small talk was never easy for a Fae, but his husband’s father was as close to blood kin as he was ever going to have in the human realm, so Tiernan made the effort. Besides, it made Kevin happy to see his father and his husband get along. “He talks a lot about his brother –.”

“My ears are burning.” Kevin entered from the kitchen, balancing a Waterford crystal bowl brimming with eggnog and setting it carefully on the sideboard beside the dining table.

“That’s a hell of a lot of eggnog for three people.” Thomas eyed Kevin skeptically. “I’d rather not spend Christmas morning with a hangover.”

“Since when do you get hangovers?” Kevin laughed.

“I think my warranty ran out when I hit sixty-five. I spent the day after my birthday hiding from the horrible racket the birds were making.”

“Don’t worry, Dad. You’ll be fine.” Kevin winked at Tiernan.

Did you put honey in that? Tiernan mouthed.

All the answer he got was Kevin’s best mock-angelic smile – more like fallen angelic, actually. You’re asking for it. Tiernan arched a brow.

How nicely do I have to ask?

            Depends on what you’re asking for.

Thomas snorted. “You two are worse than Gloria and I ever were –.”

The doorbell rang, cutting off Thomas’ gruff chiding. “Were you expecting company?”

The color was high in Kevin’s cheeks, but his voice was even. “Yeah, we invited a couple of friends over. They don’t have family anywhere near, so we said they could stop by here.”

“Hence the extra eggnog.”

While they talked, Tiernan went to the door and opened it. On the doorstep stood two men. Both looked to be in their mid-sixties, but that was as far as any resemblance went. One was short, broad, and very bald, and looked every bit as soft and yielding as a knot of oak wood. The other was taller, leaner, and wore his gray hair in a military brush cut. Both men looked nervous, the taller one several orders of magnitude more than the shorter.

“Mac, Lucien.” Tiernan shook the hands of his early shift bartender and bouncer. “Merry Christmas, come on in.”

The bald man nodded and stepped inside; Mac looked about to follow suit, then stopped cold, staring into the living room at Thomas Almstead, who was staring back with the air of a man seeing his own ghost.

“Sarge?” Mac’s voice was nearly inaudible.

Tiernan’s gaze flickered to Kevin; to say that his scair-anam was watching anxiously would be a gross understatement. The surprise Christmas Eve reunion between retired Marine first sergeant Thomas Almstead and the member of his fire team in Vietnam who had twice saved his life, the second time at the cost of a leg – and subsequently received a dishonorable discharge for being gay – had been his idea.

“Sweet bleeding Christ,” Thomas murmured. Carefully, he set his Scotch on the fireplace mantel, then crossed the living room to where Mac waited. Time almost seemed to stop as the former sergeant looked the former rifleman up and down, his gaze pausing for a fleeting moment on the artificial foot protruding from the bottom of one trouser leg.

Even Tiernan found himself holding his breath, rather to his surprise. Mac’s story had played a huge part in his father-in-law’s acceptance – reluctant at first, but slowly warming – of his son’s marriage to another man.

And how strange was it, that the Fae had to swallow a lump in his throat as Thomas drew himself up to attention, and snapped off a crisp salute?

“Sarge, no, that ain’t right.” Mac was blushing, shaking his head.

“Neither was what happened to you.” Thomas wrapped the other man in an awkward but fervent bear hug; when he stepped back, there was a grin on his face shining brighter than the star on the tree. “I have no idea how you came to be here, but damn, it’s good to see you.”

“There’s a story behind that,” Kevin put in, before Tiernan could open his mouth.

“I’m sure there is.” Thomas looked from Kevin to Mac, and from Mac to Lucien, and then cocked an eyebrow at Tiernan, “Why don’t we start disposing of that eggnog while you boys tell it?”

 

*****

A very Merry Christmas to all, from Kevin, Tiernan, Thomas, Mac, Lucien… and me!