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Friday, November 14, 2014

Romance 101

Artistic Endeavor is the story of an unlikely romance. Cobey is an art professor at Cathia University. Due to his strict religious upbringing and education at a church-related college, he’s been forcibly closeted. Fearing loss of financial support and retribution, he bided his time until after he finished his Master’s degree.

When Cobey finally gets out into the real world, he discovers at age twenty-five he’s woefully inexperienced and has no skills for dating. The clientele at the local gay bars intimidate him. When Cobey learns fellow professor Eli is gay, Cobey confides his problem to Eli and his partner Burke. The two set Cobey up with their friend Michael.
Michael is a graphic artist. In the past, he’s loved and lost big. Last Christmas found him at the altar with two rings and no groom. Since then, he’s resolved to stick to sex, not love. Michael has become the king of the one-night stand.

When Eli and Burke tell Michael about Cobey, Michael wants to run. He likes guys with lots of experience and no strings attached. What does he know about introducing an inexperienced guy to sex? But at Eli’s urging, Michael agrees to meet Cobey. The two of them make a deal: sex only, at Cobey’s speed.

It’s all fun and games—unless someone falls in love.
When I was invited to participate in writing a story for a  M/M collection set at a university, it sounded like a winning proposition.  I wanted to explore the theme of a guy who knew himself and accepted his orientation, but couldn’t reveal it until well into adulthood because he was trapped by circumstance. Juxtaposing this character with a man who is very experienced in bed but avoiding emotional intimacy worked well. The combination allowed me to point up each character’s shortcoming and strengths and made for some interesting situations along the way. 

Between a religious family and college, Cobey couldn’t act until well past the usual age of introduction to intimacy. Michael enjoys sex but won’t risk heartbreak. Each of them has a lot to learn.
The title of the story is derived from the two artists coming together with a common goal: an artistic endeavor. The college setting gives a lot of flexibility to bring in other characters in a natural way. The setting provides a number of locations to carry the story, including Sunshine’s CafĂ©, an art supply store, and Eclipse, an establishment catering to intimate needs.

This story is a contemporary romance set in the current day—it’s a modern courtship of sorts, taking place at a liberal arts college in a gay-friendly town. As you might expect, the encounters start off chaste but heat up—it’s a four-flame book. There are occasional humorous elements in addition to the more serious theme of establishing identity. In this story, Michael is changed just as much as Cobey—maybe more. Artistic Endeavor is a feel-good read with a happy ending.

Artistic Endeavor is part of the Campus Cravings collection.
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