On December 31st and 5pm EST, I submitted "The Mating of Michael" to Dreamspinner. This is relevant why? Because I promised myself (among other people) I'd get it done in 2013 and turn it in in December. Talk about under the wire! I'm very exited about "The Mating of Michael" for a few reasons:
1. It's my first full m/m novel at 73K words, so it will be in paperback too. Yo.
2. I think it's pretty good.
3. One of the MCs is Michael Lamont, who had some fun scenes in "The Trouble With Tony" and "The Enlightenment of Daniel". People have commented that they're looking forward to Michael's story.
4. I am *in love* with Michael Lamont.
Of course, I love all of my characters to a greater or lesser degree, but I am really gone on Michael. Physically, he is based on the L.A. model Isaiah Garnica. Below are a few of my favorite pictures that I put on my desktop while writing.
Personality wise, though, Michael is very different from any other character I've written before. He's a R.N. and a licensed sex surrogate for Expanded Horizons, the sex clinic that the Sex in Seattle series is based around. Michael was such an interesting character to write. He's extremely empathetic and compassionate and very sensual. When someone is hurting, he wants to make them feel better, and he does that using his sexuality. He works with clients who really need help for various reasons. You will meet a few of them in "The Mating of Michael".
I found it fascinating to research sex surrogacy and tried to represent the field accurately (whilst being entertaining, of course).
What Michael wants most, though, is a love of his own. Will he ever find a guy who can appreciate his gentle, giving nature and not be freaked out about the surrogacy? It will take someone very special, that's for sure. I discarded several options for the other MC--until I found James. You'll learn more about him later.
Estimated publication date: April-June 2014
For now, here's an excerpt -- Michael working with a new client, Lem Peterson (Note: Lem is NOT the other MC. Just to be clear!):
EXCERPT (The Mating of Michael, unedited):
When Michael opened the door of his apartment, Lem Peterson looked like he was on the verge of expiring from mortification. His milky blue eyes dropped immediately to stare at his shoes and his round face went an alarming shade of tomato pink. He looked seconds away from fleeing and Michael steeled himself to prevent that at any cost. He’d just have to be the sweetest, most innocuous little damn ray of sunshine Lem Peterson had ever seen.
“Mr. Peterson? It’s so lovely to meet you. Please come in. It’s drafty in the hall, isn’t it?”
Michael’s apartment was on Capitol Hill, Seattle’s gay neighborhood, and it was in a converted old house. Michael loved the high ceilings and 1900’s mouldings, but it was a bit cold. Nevertheless, the nudge was meant more to give Mr. Peterson a good reason to step inside. Thankfully, he did.
“I…” Mr. Peterson said, before his throat apparently closed up. He was still looking at his shoes.
“Do you like hot tea? I made a nice pot of chamomile. But I can also make you a cup of coffee if you prefer.”
Choices. Give the man something to agree to.
“Tea is fine. I like tea. Thank you,” Mr. Peterson said in a very soft voice. He dared a glance at Michael’s face before blushing harder and looking down again.
Well, that was progress.
“Good. I’ll go get the tea. You can toss your coat on that chair and take a seat on the sofa in the living room. I’ll be right there.”
Michael stepped into his little kitchen, giving Mr. Peterson a chance to hopefully decide to take off his coat and sit down. Michael’s living room was cozy and warm, with deep orange and red Oriental prints, an electric space heater, low lighting and a few lit candles and incense. He hadn’t gone all out with the candles, didn’t want to scare Mr. Peterson off, but a few were always nice to create a relaxed ambience. Soft instrumental Hindu music played in the background.
When Michael brought out a tray with a pot of tea and two Japanese cups, Mr. Peterson was sitting at the far end of the couch, pressed up against the side. He’d removed his coat but not his scarf. Michael put the tray down on the coffee table and took a seat in the middle of the couch. He poured tea into both cups.
“Cream or sugar?”
“No thank you.”
Michael held one of the cups out to Mr. Peterson. The man hesitated, then took it quickly, as if afraid to get too close to Michael’s hand. Michael made no comment.
“So you’ve been working with Dr. Halloran. What do you think of him?” he asked, sitting back casually.
Mr. Peterson sat with his thighs close together, leaned forward with both elbows on his knees. He was not a small man, at least two hundred pounds, and the position looked uncomfortable, poor guy. He held the small teacup with two beefy hands.
“I like Dr. Halloran,” he said quietly. He darted a glance at Michael. “I’m very nervous. I’m s-sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Michael said softly. “You can be whatever you want with me. You’re safe here.”
“But, I mean, you’re so….”
Mr. Peterson chugged his tea in a single gulp, then turned redder. Damn, the tea was hot. That probably hurt.
Michael spoke lightly. “I’m just me, and you’re just you. I hope we can be friends.”
Peterson darted a look at him and nodded once. “That would be nice.” He shifted his shoulders uncomfortably. “I’m really sweating. I’m sorry.”
“Are you hot? Sorry about that. I get chilled.” Michael got up and shut off the floor heater.
“It’s okay, I—”
“Can I take your scarf or would you like to keep it on?” Michael stood in front of Mr. Peterson, smiling.
Mr. Peterson’s eyes got stuck at Michael’s waist, darting back and forth as if fascinated by his sweater.
“Okay.” He swallowed loudly and took off the scarf and handed it to Michael. Michael put it on the chair with Peterson’s coat and sat back down where he’d been before.
“What exactly makes you nervous about being here? Would you like to talk about that, Mr. Peterson?”
“Please call me Lem.”
“Thank you, Lem. You can call me Michael.”
“Okay. Michael.” Lem reached out and poured himself more tea, which Michael counted as a win. “You’re very… handsome. It makes me nervous to be around… men. I mean any man who…. you know, isn’t really old or a child or something. My parents… they were wonderful people, but they didn’t approve of s-s-sexual feelings of any kind.” Lem blushed again. “Not that I have sexual feelings for you,” he said hurriedly. “I just get nervous around anyone when it’s even a possibility.”
Michael could tell Lem had been working with Jack. He seemed to have a handle on what the issue was, at least.
“I understand. But I think that’s sad, that your mom felt that way about sex. Sex is a part of love, and love is the nicest part of being a human being.”
“That’s what Dr. Halloran says.” Lem looked down at his cup. “I’d like to get better. I’d like to be able to maybe… m-meet someone. Or maybe be with someone I’ve already met.”
Michael perked up. “Oh? Do you like someone now?”
Lem tittered nervously. “Not exactly but… I have a client named John. I do his taxes. He… he seems to like me. I think. But I have no idea how to… I mean, I get like this when he comes to my office, and it’s….” He trailed off weakly.
“That’s good though,” Michael smiled. “It’s so much easier to work at therapy when you have a specific goal in mind, don’t you think? Have you talked to Dr. Halloran about John?”
Lem nodded. “He thinks it would be a good goal for me to be able to go out on a d-date with John. But I have a lot of work to do before I would feel comfortable doing that. I mean, look at me. I’m a mess.” He chuckled nervously.
He was, poor thing. His voice shook, his face was still red, and he had sweat gleaming on his temple. He couldn’t meet Michael’s gaze for more than a second at a time and he looked about as uncomfortable as a Lutheran in a flop house. But he was still here, bless him, and he was talking. That took heart.
“Well, I think you’re doing great. Tell me what kind of guys you find attractive.”
“I don’t know. I don’t really care about that. Just someone nice I guess.”
Lem seemed put off by the question. Well, that topic was a no go. Michael made himself take a breath and try to get a read on the situation. He wanted to make Lem feel less anxious, and Michael sensed he was scared to death about what might be coming, about the possibility of contact. It was like being worried about a first kiss on a date. Maybe it would be better to just get it over with and make sure Lem knew the game plan.
“We’ll take this slow, Lem, don’t worry. For today, I’d love to just talk to you and get to know you better. And maybe we could try having you touch my hand. Would that be okay?”
Lem sort of shuddered and studied the cup in his paws. “I… how would that....”
“Do you have a pet?”
Lem smiled and glanced at Michael. “I have a Pekenese. Her name is Margaret. She’s a really sweet dog.”
“I love dogs! Do you pet Margaret?”
“Oh, yeah. We watch TV together at night, and she sits on my lap. I pet her a lot. That doesn’t bother me,” Lem said in a rush.
Michael’s heart ached for Lem, but at least he was getting some affection in his life. Thank God for animals.
“Then maybe you could try touching my hand the way you pet Margaret. See what you think of it.” Michael carefully placed his hand, palm up, on the sofa between them.
Lem glanced at it and then away. “You have a n-nice hand.”
“Thank you.” Michael left it there.
Lem put the cup down and rubbed his eyes. He turned his body, which was stiff with tension, slightly on the couch toward Michael. With his eyes fixed on Michael’s hand, he licked his lips and then reached out and touched Michael’s palm. He kept his fingers tightly together and petted Michael’s palm three times before putting his hand back in his own lap.
“That was nice,” Michael said gently. “It felt good. You doin’ all right?”
“I’m okay.” Lem whispered.
“Good. Would you like to try it again? And this time, I’m going to give you an assignment, all right? I want you to describe for me how it feels—the texture, the way it looks, anything that comes into your mind.”
Lem took a deep breath and licked his lips nervously. He reached out and stoked Michael’s palm again, this time with his index and middle finger taking a more active role.
“Your… your skin is cooler than mine,” he said. “But then, I’m, uh, I’m really w-warm right now.”
“Your fingers do feel warm. What else can you tell me about how it feels?”
“It’s softer than I thought it would be. Softer than my hand. Maybe you use lotion?”
“I do use lotion. What else?”
“You have a lot of lines in your palm.” Lem stroked them lightly. “Is that supposed to mean you’re an old soul or something?”
Michael smiled. “I’ve heard that. I don’t know if I believe it. Do you?”
“I don’t have much of an imagination, I’m afraid,” Lem said self-depricatingly.
“Being practical is good. Sometimes I wish I was more practical. Is there anything else you notice about my hand?”
“You have very l-long fingers. Long and thin.”
“Do they feel boney to you?” He elevated his index finger so Lem could get around it.
“Um…” Lem felt it cautiously.
“It’s okay. You can say whatever comes into your head. I won’t be insulted.”
“Maybe a little boney. But not in a bad way. More like, I dunno, a bird or something.”
Michael smiled. “That’s a lovely image. How do you feel inside when you touch my hand?”
“All right.” Lem kept petting Michael’s hand as if it was, indeed, a Pekinese. “But I’m not really thinking about it like… like… you know.” He couldn’t get the words out, and just thinking them made him blush scarlet again and pull away his hand as if he’d been caught doing something wrong.
“Like something sexual? That’s okay. It would be awesome for you just to get used to touching someone. You don’t have to think about it in a sexual way right now.” Michael left his hand on the couch.
There was a tentative pause before Lem reached out and touched Michael’s palm again. By his elevated breathing, and the blotchy affect appearing on the back of his own hand, Michael would put money on the fact that Lem was thinking about sex this time. Michael felt a little touch of arousal as Lem stroked his palm. He could go with it and get hard if he wanted to, not because he found Lem physically attractive, but because the man was sweet and he tugged hard at Michael’s empathy. But Lem was far from needing an erection from Michael, and if he sensed there was one, it would probably scare the poor guy to death. Michael took a deep breath and willed it away.
“That feels really nice,” Michael said gently. “Would you like to talk about how it makes you feel when you think about sex?”
Lem huffed. “Bad.”
“G-guilty. Like it’s wrong to think about it. To want it. Like I’m a bad person.”
“When you pet Margaret, do you feel guilty about that?”
Lem looked insulted. “No. But I don’t feel that way about her. I mean, she’s a dog.”
Michael smiled. “I know. But it’s affection. You give Margaret affection and she gives you affection in return.”
“I guess so.”
“Do you think she likes it when you show her affection?”
“She loves to be petted.”
“And you feel happy when she licks your face and shows you she loves you?”
“Sure. She’s my best friend.” Lem smiled at the words. He really did love that dog.
Lem was petting Michael’s palm, calmer now, and Michael let his fingers curl up just a little so they brushed against Lem’s hand as it moved.
“That’s not something to feel guilty about, is it? Giving affection to your dog and getting it in return.”
“No. But that’s different.”
“It is different. But when you really like a person, and they really like you, then it’s natural to want to show each other affection. And sex is a great way for two people who really like each other to show affection and make each other feel good, feel happy. You don’t need to feel guilty about making someone happy, or even making yourself happy.”
“That’s what Dr. Halloran says. He says my body was made for it, or I wouldn’t have those feelings. I wouldn’t be able to… you know, if my body wasn’t made to do that. It’s just like it was made to breathe or eat and digest food and eliminate waste. That means it is by definition natural and being natural means it’s not wrong.”
Michael could tell Lem was a logical thinker, and this reasoning brought him some comfort.
“Well, Dr. Halloran is a hella smart guy.”
Lem frowned, looking conflicted. “I know that’s all true in my head. That is, I know it now, but it’s hard to change your thinking. I was always taught I shouldn’t… t-touch myself and stuff because it was a sin and God found it disgusting.”
Lem’s voice shook a little and Michael knew there was a tidal wave behind those words, years of rants, years of belittling. He felt so bad for Lem. He just wanted to hug him tight, but Michael had to take this slow.
“It is hard to change your way of thinking, but you’re your own person, not your parents, and you said you’d like to have a relationship someday?”
Lem swallowed. “Yes. I really do. I don’t want to be alone.”
“Then you can do it. I have faith in you. Dr. Halloran is a really good doctor. And I’d like to help.”
“Thank you,” Lem said to Michael’s hand. “You seem like a very nice person. This is….” He expelled a heavy sigh. “This is the first time I’ve ever touched anyone like this. I’m still nervous but… it’s not bad.”
“Yeah?” Michael felt a swell of pride and pleasure. God, he was such a basket case. It meant more to him to hear someone like Lem say holding his hand was ‘not bad’ than having some good-looking leather daddy plow him in a club’s bathroom. By a million miles.
He tried very hard not to sound as moved as he was. “Well, I think you’re doing great, Lem. Would like to hold my hand now? We can just sit here and chat while we do that. I’d like to hear more about what you like to do for fun.”
Lem froze, his hand hovering over Michael’s. “I guess that would be all right.”
It was clear he wasn’t sure how to go about it, so Michael interlaced his fingers with Lem’s and placed their paired hands on the couch.
Lem gulped. “Okay.”
“So tell me what TV shows you like to watch…”