So I’ve been cogitating on my career lately, as writing heteromance has given me some distance from “being Brad Vance” for a while. I just recently put my gayrotica shorts up on AllRomanceEbooks, where the dirty stuff is sellin’ like hotcakes.
And my biggest selling series is the “Sam’s Reluctant Submission” stories, even now. I’m giving away the first story in all three series – Sam, Colum and Luke – but it’s Sam the people want. So as I think about what to do next that will A, sell, B, be the basis for at least four stories (because bundles are where the $ are), and C, be something I’ll really enjoy writing, I’m trying to figure out exactly what it is about Sam that sells. And, more cosmically, what it is that really makes gayrotica tick.
Sam has a lot of components that could explain his success. There’s the “gay first time,” the “straight to gay,” the hot hot sexin’, the research I did into SERE (Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape), the secondary characters, the “men’s magazine” True Adventure escapades, some or all of the above and/or something else. Is it some magic formula, some happy accident?
Well, I don’t think it’s magic. What I’ve realized, and want to share with other would-be writers, is that there are certain conflicts and strategies that make a good gayrotica story, maybe just a good romance, period.
First, for me, the secret is putting together two UNLIKELY LOVERS. Viking/monk, billionaire/Special Forces dude, porn star/office type. They would never meet in ordinary life, so EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES have to bring them together. Admittedly, Derek and Sam meet in a bar, but it’s Derek’s twisted manhunt offer that triggers the meet.
Let’s start with the bottoms. There’s a SEXUAL JOURNEY each of them takes from some form of sexual denial – whether that’s denying their gayness, or their enjoyment of sexual subservience. But, they can’t just roll over for the the dom, because honestly, where’s the conflict then? Someone who instantly abases himself to a stranger on command may be a turn-on in a dark bar, but not in a story. Sam, Colum, Luke are all tough in some ways (Luke maybe least of all, but he still has his pride and it takes time and more than just cruelty from Slader to move him into submission). None of my bottoms are pussies! Sam is an overall badass, Colum walks out of the monastery alone to fight the Vikings, and Luke is very verbal with Slader about his desires and his fears.
So that’s the bottoms. Who are the tops, then? They’re men who NEED TO BE DEFIED, who are surrounded by yes men, who WANT someone to say NO, though that defiance is eventually overcome or overwhelmed. Colum fights Viggo on the beach, Sam plays the psyops game against Derek for several episodes, Luke under “torture” tells Slader that he’s the best slave because he’s not slave-like, because he’ll always give Slader a run for his money. Each dom has to GIVE to his sub to make him cross the border, not just TAKE.
The dom’s method of giving is reluctant, oblique, and painful to them. But inside they are GOOD, they are JUST. As Luke says, someone who knows when to be Jekyll and when to be Hyde. The doms all have anger issues :). But they channel that anger CONSTRUCTIVELY, through consensual S/M. The object of that sexual fury has consented, in some form – Sam consents in that he’s agreed to play a game, and has lost, and yet he fights back in the middle of their first sexin’ by calling Derek out as gay. But that’s the game! That’s what makes it HOT! The defiance is the attraction!
The story is always told from the bottom’s POV. We’re omniscient about the bottom’s thoughts and feelings, but blind to the top’s, in the beginning. In some stories, the top/dom is “ready made,” i.e., already the perfect master. That one-sided dynamic where only the bottom/sub changes is kinda boring to me.
The dom needs to have SECRETS, and not just sexual ones. Derek has his history in spying/intelligence, Slader has a mysterious source of wealth (which we never learn about because I had to wrap up the series, around the time Amazon fucked over hardcore erotica – I had to give Luke and Slader their HEA and move on). Viggo has a mysterious knowledge of Latin. The sub is fascinated by the secrets, but knows they’re not going to come out in some ordinary dating-scene “tell me about yourself” way.
It’s EVENTS that force the secrets into the open. There was never an EVENT with Slader that brought out the backstory I had in mind for him, but that was also because I wasn’t sure it was entirely moral enough – I had the idea that he fell into some of the billions of “lost money” that fell off a truck (plane, actually) in Iraq. It was fucking wasted money that went into the wrong hands no doubt, but if he kept that money, it would have been immoral, so I never used it. Where did Slader’s money come from, then? I don’t know!
It’s crucial that the dom has a STRONG MORAL CORE. Yeah, he likes to spit on you and slap you around and punchfuck your ass till you scream for mercy…but he knows you like it! Slader and his crew toss a sub into the street when he shouts the safeword prematurely. Viggo doesn’t share Colum the way the others share their slaves. Derek plays a twisted game but he keeps his word, even pays Sam for what Derek sees as Sam’s “win.”
And the “JOURNEY INTO” is something over and above the sexual journey described above. Colum’s journey is from bored, frustrated monk/clerk into a warrior, a full member of Viking society. Sam’s journey is into gayness, sure, mostly, but also into self-discovery and self-sufficiency, as he gets his business going without Derek’s help. He finds himself through Derek, and through his relationship with Jake and Eddie, but it’s not just his sexuality he finds there. Luke’s journey is the least complex, from the guy who never acts on his fantasies, who would “never” crawl around a bar on his hands and knees on a leash, for all to see, to the guy who does it joyfully, because he’s doing it for Slader. Well, for himself, too, but yeah. And yes, because it’s gayrotica, it’s the sexual component in all these relationships that UNLOCKS THE CHANGE.
And, yeah, this is a money making endeavor. So you have to give the people what they want. But I have to FUCK WITH EXPECTATIONS as well. I started Sam back when success in erotic shorts was all about “keywords.” People searched for certain subjects, so you either stuffed your title or your subtitle with them to get notices. “Reluctance” and “submission” were the big keywords when I wrote Sam. But, y’all know me by now. I can’t just write to order! If I could, I’d be a fookin’ millionaire right now, with a wagonload of stories about shifters, billionaires, etc. What I also didn’t want to do was create a boilerplate “submission” scenario. (“Now, slave, you will learn to please me or learn the meaning of pain!” Oh, brother…) I wanted there to be some serious pushback – I didn’t go into “Sam” intending to write a series. But when I got into the character, when I realized how hard he’d fight to maintain his sense of self (which at the time meant “I’m straight” as well as “I don’t lose”), I saw that the journey would take a while. It would take more than one game, one command, to transform Sam. Sam would have to CHANGE THE GAME as he played it.
And, finally. You have to RESPECT THE INTEGRITY of your characters. In Sam’s case, I wasn’t going to just create some soap opera version of a military guy – to say, here’s Tyler or Skyler or Ryler and he’s a SEAL or SF or whatever, now on with the sexin’. Not just because soap characters are boring, but also because of my family history. My dad was a career Army guy, and I know his WWII experiences in the Pacific Theater really fucked him up psychologically. I didn’t realize that until after he was dead, when I saw the miniseries “The Pacific,” and only then saw the endless terror those men lived through, the insanity of an enemy who wouldn’t surrender (or only surrendered to blow themselves up and you with them). This is why IAVA and WWP are important to me – when my dad came back, you “just didn’t talk about these things,” there was no such thing as PTSD, you had all your fingers and toes so what’s your problem, man up and shut up…
So I wasn’t going to just slap a uniform on a paper doll and pretend that was enough to create a viable military character. I’ve never written battle scenes for either Sam or Tom in “A Little Too Broken” because, you know, I just don’t know how crazy/ awful/ exciting/ terrifying that could be, and I won’t pretend I could possibly know. And I felt really weird/wrong about writing ALTB and making a profit off a character like Tom – that’s why Tom’s half of the profits go to charity.
Anyway! I did the RESEARCH on Special Forces. (I won’t get into the research thing all over again – y’all know how I feel about that. You wanna write a story about Vikings? Better read a book or twelve first!) I couldn’t have written Sam without that. And guess what? It’s paying off! Sam is a perennial seller, so I did something right!
Okay, that sort of turned into a rant at the end 🙂 So that’s about all I got. I’m trying to keep these lessons in mind as I start to toy with the rock star story. Gotta, gotta, gotta get this heteromance done, but I’m kinda feeling the need for a little break for some hot gay sexin’ 🙂