SLAVE is now a full time reviewer for Guys Like Romance, Too!

Please note that SLAVE's Erotic Review is on hiatus to catch up on reviews.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

That man's Army

Hi everyone, Jaxx Steele here to give you my take on being gay in the military.  I will not divulge which branch I was in, but I will give you a small peek at what I experience. By no means is this blog meant to be a military bashing experience. This is only a politically correct retelling of my personal experiences.

During my time in I learned what all other soldiers learned: follow directions without question, tolerate horrible food, build my stamina, shoot a variety of cool guns and how to tune out people that yell in your face. I also learned to conceal my true nature and that was the hardest thing I ever had to do.

I went in knowing, of course, about the don’t ask-don’t tell but being young and na├»ve I thought that if I did that I would be fine. I soon found out that that was not the case. If someone even accused you of being gay whether you were or not didn’t matter. You were ostracized by everyone. In front of the brass and the suits all was well, but when we had down time...that was another story. 
I was not the only one on that side of the fence, but the heterosexuals out number us for sure. Even those who called themselves your friends would shun you fearful of being labeled the same and thus receiving the same treatment. I won’t go into detail on said treatment for fear that it could cause a psychotic like episode that would leave my left eye twitching for days. I will just say it was reminiscent of a few distasteful scenes from the movie Full Metal Jacket.  

Time moved on and even the emotional scars healed. Although I eagerly scratched each day off my mental calendar, I would not have changed my years in the service. The experience made me stronger mentally and physically and the man I am today. Even though the repeal of the DADT is on the books, I believe it will take time to affect the folks on the ground level of things and change to occur among the masses. I hope it doesn’t, but…

Not long after my time was up, I wrote a story about a gay couple in the military called Care Package (SilverPublishing). The counselors they make you see when you are released may say writing this story was somehow therapeutic, but I say it was pure fun. LOL

First Sergeant Dwayne Roman was asked to leave his life as a soldier. Reluctantly he did so and settled fitfully into civilian life. The law of the land and a military cover up separated him from the most important person in his life. After suffering three years with regret and loneliness, he had the chance to get back what an unjust law and self-serving people took from him. 


"It is my duty as your commanding officer to—"
Roman's mouth snapped shut. The passion in the other man's outburst stopped him in his tracks. The pain his words inflicted was evident on his face. That had not been his intention. All he wanted to do was make sure that they had a future where they were, and some sacrifices had to be made to ensure that.
"Private, you are dangerously close to being insubordinate with your tone."
Styles held the bridge of his nose as he took several deep breaths and blinked away obvious tears. Leaning forward, holding the chair for balance, his gaze was intense and his words were slow and deliberate.
"I want you to tell me that you don't want me. That you think it is best for us to be apart. Give me the order to leave you. I want to hear it from your lips, not read it off a piece of paper, and I will go and never bother you again," he finished, pointing at the door.
Roman left his chair as the request ran through his mind. Styles was obviously distraught over his decision. The look he landed on him seared his soul. Roman had to turn away from it. His sense of duty rose within him, in battle with what his heart felt. Private Styles' suggestion was exactly what he should do. He was a seasoned soldier in the United States Army. Protocol dictated nothing less, and so did the law of the land. 
Roman turned around. Styles stood waiting for his response. He was young, too young to have so much passion for Roman. His mouth was parted and his bottom lip quivered slightly. For more nights than he could count, Roman had stroked his cock thinking about that very mouth bringing him to completion instead of his hand. The brilliant blue eyes that stared back at him haunted his dreams nightly. Now they sparkled with distress and unshed tears. Seeing the anguish there was like a knife in his heart. He just wanted to ease Styles' pain. Knowing that he was the cause of that hurt was his undoing. He quickly closed the distance between them and slipped his hand behind his subordinate's head.
"God help me, but I cannot give that order," he said, then fused their mouths together.

Jaxx Steele…has left the building!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The art of graditude.

I never set out to write a book about gratitude. In fact, I never set out to write a book about any particular theme.
I’m the guy who picked up his laptop one day and decided to use it for something other than watching porn. I had discovered the gay romance genre about a month earlier and said to myself, “Brad, what do you have to lose?” Before I faced a blank white document screen, though, I sat on my front porch and pondered my options. I decided this would be my first book, not my only book. A debut should demonstrate that I can deliver the basics: three-dimensional characters that engage the reader, a compelling, well-paced story, naturalistic dialogue, emotion, and some hot sex. I decided to write a novel based on the tried and true “boy meets boy, boy loses boy, boy gets boy” formula. That novel became The Nothingness of Ben. When I saw Carson was looking for plain and simple contemporary stories for November, it seemed like a natural fit.

I wrote a book that begins in tragedy, because I like when a happy ending is both earned and deserved. The story opens as the main character, Ben Walsh, is walking along Forty-Fourth Street seven days before Christmas. Ben is an Ivy League lawyer on the rise in Manhattan, with A-list friends and a “sky's the limit” future. As he’s walking, he receives a phone call informing him that his parents have been killed in a car accident. The next morning, Ben returns home to Texas and the reality of his three teenage brothers. That's when he meets Travis Atwood, the handsome next-door neighbor who has become a surrogate older brother to the Walsh boys in Ben’s absence.

It’s a difficult road for Ben and Travis, but I don’t believe readers would want it any other way. The book ends eleven months later on Thanksgiving, and by that time, there’s plenty to be thankful for. Although I never set out to write a book about gratitude, it turns out that’s exactly what I did. Because sometimes the worst possible thing imaginable leads us to the place we were meant to be all along.
In the scene below, Ben and Travis are still in the “bromance” stage of their relationship. Ben is gay but Travis isn’t. Yet. Ben comes to Travis for help with his custody issue. If Ben doesn’t return to Texas and assume guardianship of his brothers, they will be split up among two uncles and an aunt. Ben and Travis are sitting on the back porch. It’s December in Austin, Texas. It’s cool but not cold. The trees are brown. The university students have left and the neighborhood is quite. Travis has brought two bottles of Shiner Bock to the patio table where they sit down and begin to talk…

Ben took a swig of his beer and let the icy sensation slide down his throat. “I need to make a decision,” he said.
“You’re in a bad way, Obi-Wan, if you’re coming to me for advice.”
“Somehow I doubt that.”
Ben decided he liked Travis’s nickname for him, an obvious but still clever Star Wars side reference to Ben’s name.
Travis took a drink from his bottle and then asked, “This about custody?”
“Of course. My Aunt Julie thinks I’m in no shape to be a parent. She thinks they should be raised in a more traditional setting, even if it means splitting them up.”
Travis rubbed the top of his head with his right hand, scratched behind his ear, and then matted down his short red hair in a petting motion.
“What do you think?” Travis asked.
Ben looked at him. “I don’t know. This is serious shit. If I fuck it up then I’m fucking up three lives. And I don’t know if I can do it. I have a life back in New York. I’m supposed to walk away from all that?”
“I don’t know.”
“But you said yesterday, don’t split them up. You have an opinion.”
“Of course I have an opinion. Is all that really more important than your brothers? They need you right now, and you may not know it yet, but you need them too. Your parents died, Ben, and those three boys are the only other people on the planet who know exactly what you’re going through. How do you think that splitting them up and you hightailing it back to New York is gonna do anybody any good? Dressing it up with excuses ain’t gonna change what you’re doing. You can put your boots in the oven, but that don’t make ’em biscuits.”
  “Me being a failure as a parent isn’t going to make them biscuits either.”
“Making a few mistakes here and there is a hell of a lot better than living with that kind of regret. I’m telling you, Ben, if you leave ’em behind now, they ain’t never gonna forgive you. In fact, Quentin may never speak to you again. And no matter how successful you become or how much money you make, you’ll never be able to come back to this moment and fix it. Your aunt is two sandwiches short of a picnic, and I would tell her so to her face.”
“I don’t think that’ll be necessary. Besides, Julie is only half the problem. Quentin is just so….” Ben paused. “He hates me.”
Travis shrugged again, a gesture that suited him.
“Can you blame him? He’s a smart boy—he knows what’s going on. If you’re thinking about splitting them up, then I’m sure he knows it.”
“Oh, he knows.”
“And besides, he don’t hate you. He hates your absence. There’s a difference.”
“I’m not sure he even wants me here.”
“Well, now you’re just being silly. He misses you like crazy. Take it from your replacement.”
Ben was stunned. It had never occurred to him that his absence had left a void in his brothers’ lives—or that someone else could fill it.
“Any advice?”
“All you got to do is be there. They don’t need you to be the perfect brother. Ninety percent of life is showing up. I think somebody famous said that.”
“Woody Allen.”
“I think so.”
Ben took another swig of his beer and looked around the brown backyard, some raked leaves still in a pile next to the chain-link fence. The neighborhood grew silent again, like the night before, except for the rumblings of nearby freeway traffic. Ben could feel Christmas approaching. He put his hands over his face and took a deep breath.
“What if it’s too much?”
“Christ. Stop being so dramatic.”
“Don’t underestimate how selfish I can be.”
Travis reached over and pulled Ben’s hands away from his face.
“Then let it be too much.”
“What does that mean?”
“Whatever comes your way, accept it. Accept what you can’t change. Let it rain. That’s what they used to say in Al-Anon.”
Ben looked into his eyes, remembering something. Why did Travis seem so familiar? For a moment he thought he might lean over and kiss him, but then he realized how crazy that sounded and panicked.
“I should go,” Ben said, getting out of his chair. “I told them I wouldn’t be gone long.”
Travis stood up and sighed, looking disappointed, as if nothing he said had sunk in.
“Thanks for talking to me. I heard you. Really.”
Ben turned to go, but then stopped and asked, “What are you doing for Christmas?”
Travis grinned. “Your father had already invited me to spend it with your family. Now, I think I’ll just stay in and watch some movies or something.”
“If you’re watching movies, then you should definitely come over, because that’s what we’ll be doing too. I know that much about my brothers. Maybe we’ll do a theme—things blowing up, saving the world, that kind of stuff. A real testosterone fest.”
“That’s what I’m talking about. And Deep Impact.”
The Day After Tomorrow.”
“Always room for Jake. And Speed, of course.”
“It does sound like fun. Count me in.”
Ben said good-bye and left Travis on the back porch to finish his beer. He crossed the street to his house and bounced up the front stairs. He felt better, that was for sure. Talking to Travis had gone a long way toward clearing his head. He went into the house, hoping to find his brothers hanging out in the living room, but there was no one. Must be upstairs, he thought. No rush. He felt confident about tomorrow and the meeting with the lawyer, and because of that, he knew there would be plenty of time to get to know them.
He heard something splattering against the window and looked out to investigate. It had started to rain. And for some reason that he couldn’t explain, that made Ben smile.

Buy the book at Dreamspinners Press (Available November 23): Stop by Goodreads for an awesome givaway.

Contact the author:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Inspiration for true meaning of love

Thanks for having me, Carson. *sits on couch*
Why did I write True Meaning of Love in the first place? Well, I wanted a different story involving to characters from very different worlds are different stages in their life. London is an older man already successful, rich, and looking for that special someone to fall in love with while Brandon has unfortunately had some trials and tribulations and lives through his art. He says in the book that his painting saved him. He was able to convey all his feelings on the canvas. I feel the same. To me, this book is like my canvas to share with the world what I feel is the True Meaning of Love.

Never discriminates, it doesn’t pick and choose the perfect person for you to fall in love with. Also, when you find that person, what do you do to satisfy them and make them happy? Do you compromise or does one have more of a say so than the other.

In the first book, Brandon and London have a disagreement and when something occurs that might separate them for good, they reconcile and learn what love truly means. Now, this one tells the more complete story if how they got together and the trials they went through to get to that point in their relationship. As it says, it’s a complete portrait whereas the first one is just a snippet into their lives.

I feel it fits in with your theme perfectly. A younger man who is almost two decades London’s junior who falls in love with him from the start. I love this book and these characters because they are so vastly different; two worlds coming together through a sweet and simple love story. 

Blurb: Over fifty doesn’t mean too old to find love

London Davies desires a man to take care of and despite the advances of his former lover and partner James, he pushes on to search for another to make him turn in his bachelor badge.

Brandon McFerry has been abused and scarred for the duration of his life. His only saving grace is his talent with the paintbrush. Although he hasn’t made his big break in the industry, he pushes on in hopes that one of his paintings will capture the attention of his obsession: London Davies

This is a romance. The kind that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside with some hot smexy sex thrown in. An emotional story between two men of different backgrounds searching for the same happy ever after ending!

Here is an Excerpt!

Brandon and London sat on the couch together as the artist spoke at length about the methods he’d used during the creation of the painting. To Brandon, the object of his desire seemed very interested in everything he’d said. He hoped he didn’t bore him with his babbling. The last thing he wanted to do was make the man tire of him too quickly.
London poured some more of the Cristal into both glasses. He handed the flute back to Brandon. They’d finished half the bottle but for whatever reason, Brandon still felt nervous. He took it and tried his best not to spill it, his hand trembling slightly. “Um thank you.” He sipped a little from the glass.
“You’re welcome.” London lightly smacked Brandon on his kneecap. “Love, chill out, yeah? We’re here just having drinks. Relax.”
Brandon nodded and lay back against the cushions. How could he relax knowing he sat beside the man of his dreams? He took a whiff of London’s manly scent. A mixture of cologne and after-shave, as strong as he’d expected. When it infiltrated his nostrils, he felt himself hardening under the slacks. The goose bumps became rocks on his flesh. He was perspiring a little; he hoped his desired one wouldn’t notice. “I’m tryin’, it’s just...” Brandon bit his lip and set the glass on the coffee table in front of him. “Well, I’ve admired you for such a long time, London, and I... This is really a thrill for me.”
London chuckled and moved closer to Brandon. He took the artist’s palm into his. “I get that, but I’m just a man, like any other. I don’t walk on water. No second coming here, love.”
To Brandon McFerry, he did. London had captivated him for years and now his dreams about being on this sofa with him in private had come true. Deep down he wished he could take London into his arms and kiss him feverishly. He’d envisioned a moment like that too, but he refrained. They had just met. “I know,” he sighed and placed a hand on top of London’s. “Tell me. You really like the painting?”
“I do.” London placed an arm around the younger man’s shoulder. “In fact, it resembles a work of art I have at home. I’d love to take you there to see it tonight.”
Brandon looked at the owner with widened eyes.
Did he just say...?
Brandon thought he just heard London say he wanted him to see a painting he had back at his house.
Could it be? Could the man he’d seemingly desired forever be in possession of a work of art that belonged to him? “I… um.” He swallowed hard. “You want me to accompany you home, tonight?”
London held onto him a little tighter. “Yes, I, I hope that isn’t too forward, it’s just... I really do like you and I’d love to see if that painting is yours. Forgive me for moving too quickly but...”
“No, no, not at all I’m just a bit taken aback by this. I’d love to go, though.”
“Good. Then, if you don’t mind, I’d like you to be my date for the rest of the evening. If it weren’t opening night, I’d certainly just ask James to take over but, since it’s a big event…”
“Yes, yes, I understand. I have no issue with staying here late with you.”
He really didn’t. There was nowhere he’d rather be than here with London and to him, the owner wasn’t moving too fast at all. Just right in his eyes.
“Great, now.” London poured the last two glasses of the expensive beverage. “Let’s finish this off, shall we? Then we’ll go out amongst the people.”
Seeing London pour yet another glass of the champagne made Brandon wince. Truthfully, he’d already felt the effects after two glasses coming on quickly and he wished he didn’t have to drink anymore. However, he wondered if he refused London would that upset him. He took the glass. “Thank you very much.”
“And thank you again for the painting as well as your presence this night.” London toasted with Brandon, clinking their glasses together, before he drank the contents.
The painter nodded and did the same, hoping he’d be able to stay up for the duration of this evening.
I have to make a good impression on him if I want a chance at being part of his life.
Once they’d finished drinking the expensive bubbly, London led Brandon by the hand, back out to the main area. The hold London had on Brandon made his head swim, along with the wine.
He just couldn’t believe this. Him, Brandon McFerry, on the arm of London Davies, powerful businessman and owner of the new club, Fantasia. Many of his friends, especially Tyler, had told him to not get so wrapped up in this man, but how could he not? Even though he didn’t know much about the man, he’d long ago fallen in love with him from afar, and the fact that London expressed some interest in him made him happier that he’d never given up his dream of meeting him. 

BIO: Michael Mandrake is the gay male muse of author Sharita Lira who enjoys writing stories of everyday men in love in regular settings as well as extraordinary. Michael’s latest book True Meaning of Love is a self pubbed publication now available at Amazon and other online retailers. Please visit A Gay Man in a Females Body for more info.