December 31, 2015

Tour Day: Matthew J Metzger and Sex in YA Fiction

This week Foreplay and Fangs welcomes back author Matthew J. Metzger, touring with his new release The Italian Word for Kisses. Matthew is a British author currently living, working and writing near Bristol in the south-west of England. He is both asexual and transgender, and seeks out the loud characters, rough stories, and quirky personalities that explore the rich diversity of the QUILTBAG world. He writes both adult and young adult novels, covering topics from mental illness to ill-advised crushes, and particularly enjoys writing about universal issues from the QUILTBAG perspective. Matthew can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tsu, or at his website.
When not writing (which is rare), Matthew is usually found crunching numbers at his day job, working out to inappropriately chirpy pop songs, or being owned by his cat. It is important to note that the man does not, naturally, own the cat.
Social Media Links: Facebook and Twitter

Matthew J. Metzger
"Sex in YA"

When does young adult become adult?

Generally speaking, I don't care. Typically, my young adult is about fifteen-year-olds, and my adult books are about twenty-two-year-olds and older. So it's a pretty big and obvious gap, and ne'er the twain shall meet, except for one trilogy where the characters were growing up and kind of jumped over the line.

But this book?

This book posed the question.

The Italian Word for Kisses is young adult. Technically. By US standards, and given it's published by a US publisher, those standards apply. But when I was sending scenes to beta readers, one of them asked, "Hey, could this book show them having sex? Because that would be fun as fuck to read."

And I paused.

Where's the line, sexually speaking?

The fact is, my beta reader was right. Both main characters are pretty volatile, and it's not clear who's in control most of the time. Luca's one of five boys, has an Italian mother, and inherited her temper. Tav is two steps to the right of being expelled because he reacts to even the smallest slight at school with his fists. Both are born and bred in Yorkshire, not a place known for tact, diplomacy, and gentlemanly hobbies. How these two behaved in bed would make for a pretty interesting scene. Heck, if they were adults, I would probably have given the book a distinct BDSM leaning.

But they're not. They're seventeen years old.

Seventeen is a grey area. The English-speaking world doesn't have universal consent laws: in Britain, where these two characters live, they're perfectly legal. The age of consent is sixteen, for boys and girls alike. But in America? Nope, this is illegal shit right here.

Legally, this is a non-starter, obviously. My publisher's American, American law in their state considers seventeen-year-olds minors, and therefore it's child porn to depict explicit sexual acts. Legally speaking. I knew right from the beginning that on-page sex wasn't going to be allowed.

But is it a no-go area socially and morally speaking too? If I wanted to explore that sexual dynamic, did I have to age them up, or could I effectively write around the problem?

My line is where I, personally, get the 'ick' factor. It's subjective as hell and I'm cool with that. The idea of fourteen-year-olds having sex, no thank you. Fifteen-year-olds? Sure, I'm fine with the idea that they're doing it, but I wouldn't really want to write it. Sixteen? Fair game.

Seventeen is well above my personal threshold. It was well above that particular reader's threshold. But another reader didn't like a scene where it was blatantly obvious they'd been having sex not five minutes earlier, and said it was too explicit. She, too, was British.

The line's less of a line, more of a fuzzy smudge. And I was left with these characters who couldn't get any older or the plot wouldn't work, but had a dynamic that could extend very well into the bedroom and it seemed a shame to miss it out entirely.

Plus, realistically speaking? These were seventeen-year-old sports-mad boys who've been together a good couple of years. Given that neither of them identifies as asexual and neither are from a religious background, there's almost no chance that they're not having sex.

In the end, I resorted to being a sneaky shit. They very clearly, very obviously, have sex twice in the book. Not even blink-and-you'll-miss-it or full-on fade-to-black, but obvious sexual encounters.

You just don't quite get to see it.

The Italian Word for Kisses

It’s no secret Tav and Luca are going out. After the accident, it’s also no secret that new kid Jack Collins has a raging case of homophobia, and is not best pleased about having given the kiss of life to a gay guy. Either Luca quits swimming, or Jack is going to make him.

Tav favours the tried-and-true method of knocking Jack’s teeth down his neck, only he can’t really afford another school suspension. Luca favours just ignoring him, only ignoring a penknife being held to your throat at New Year’s Eve is downright stupid.

Thing is, Luca suspects Jack is a victim of something himself. And time is running out for Luca to get through to Jack, before Jack gets rid of him.

Pick up a copy at JMS Books or All Romance Cafe today.


"Alright, Collins."

The bang of the changing room door and the amiable greeting from one of the other boys caught Luca's attention, but the sudden, sharp silence made his blood run cold. All at once, Luca was both afraid, and angry with himself for being afraid. So he squared his shoulders and turned on his heel, folding his arms over his chest and meeting Jack's scowl with a glower of his own.


"What the fuck are you doing here?" Jack snarled.

"Fuckin' swimming. What about you?"

"I told you not to come."

It was like the rest of the team didn't exist. Luca didn't dare break eye contact, and Jack -- although he tossed his bag onto a bench and unzipped his jacket, was zeroed in on Luca in a way that made the hairs on Luca's arms stand on end.

"Dunno what kinky shit you're into, Collins, but I don't follow your orders." Being both an older and a younger brother had made Luca able to bluff with ease, and despite the impotent anger, the tart tang of shame around the edges of his brain that this moron had somehow gotten one over him and seized some power in this stupid fucking game, his voice sounded -- even to him -- arrogant and bored.


"You what?"

"I said go," Jack repeated. The other boys hovered uncertainly, but Aaron and David had both closed ranks to Luca's shoulders, and Luca took a fortified breath. Aaron looked steely. David looked a little more confused, but determinedly hostile all the same.

"Like hell I'm going," Luca said. "You got a problem with a pouf on the team, you need to fuck off and get your head out your arse. I'm here to swim. I'm not going nowhere."

"What the fuck is going on?" David asked.

"Jack, mate, leave it," one of the other boys said. "It's just Jensen, Jensen's sound --"

"He's a fucking faggot, and I won't have his kind here -- I warned you, I fucking told you, and you're still fucking here!"

"What's your problem, mate, he's taken up wi' that Chris in Jan Krawczyk's tutor group ..."

"Yeah, Jack, lay off already, who d'you reckon you are anyway, you're new--"

"I know there's a fucking faggot on this fucking team and I --"

"Don't fucking call him a faggot, twat," one of the other boys -- a lad called Ryan that Luca had never so much as spoken to outside of the club, and was in the year below them anyway -- sneered, and he shot out a hand to shove at Jack's shoulder.

"I told you to stay away!" Jack bellowed, and his hand vanished into his unzipped jacket. "I told you, I fucking told you --"

The changing room erupted; the flick-knife flashed under the sickly halogen lights, and Luca's back slammed into the wall of locker doors as Aaron and David shoved him back as one. Both doors -- one to the foyer and one to the pool -- banged loudly, and the bolshy kid, Ryan, lashed out with a fist, smashing into Jack's jaw from the side. A couple of men came rampaging over from the showers in their wet trunks, all the noise bouncing off the walls until it was dizzying. Coach arrived with a shrill shriek of the whistle, and the knife had gone somewhere but Luca couldn't tell where in the ruckus, and then Aaron's hand was on his shoulder and he was being steered off into one corner of the changing room, and --

A flush of hot, furious shame boiled up Luca's stomach and into his guts, and he twisted away from Aaron's hands and grabbed for his kit bag. He didn't need Aaron to fucking protect him. He didn't need anyone to protect him, he wasn't some pathetic little kid who needed their hand holding. He shouldn't need defending, he was a Jensen! He should be able to defend himself.

He grabbed his bag and bolted. As he fled up the stairs, a burly security guard and Coach were wrestling the knife out of Jack's hands in the corridor, both shouting at him, and Jack shouting back, face red and voice hoarse and shrill with fury.

"You fucking steer clear of me, Jensen!" he bellowed after Luca, who didn't dare look back. "F'you know what's good for you, you'll stay out of here, you fucking queer!"

Luca reached the top of the stairs, and ran. 

December 24, 2015

Tour Day: Ember Leigh and Smutty Insults

Ember Leigh has been writing erotic romance novels since she was far too young. A native of northern Ohio, she currently resides in South America with her Argentinean partner, a detail she uses to justify her Bachelor's degree in Latin American Literature. In addition to romance novels, she also writes travel articles, maintains three blogs, and continually attempts to complete a mildly-gripping short story. In her free time, she practices Ashtanga yoga, travels the world, and eats lots of vegetables.
One Smutty Insult

By Ember Leigh

Since age 14, it’s been very clear to me what my choice genre is: EROTIC ROMANCE. There’s never been any question, though I certainly didn’t have the words for the genre back then. It wasn’t until my mid-20’s that I discovered what I’d been writing for over a decade.  

Sure, I’ve liked writing other things aside from erotic romance in the years since my teenage-dom: travel memoirs, non-fiction pieces, the haphazard short story. But I’ve never, not even once, been able to finish writing a novel that wasn’t inherently romance-based.

Erotic romance is my thang, is what I’m saying. And all writers have their thang, their jam, their hot toddy, whatever. I’ve come to embrace it, but it wasn’t always so easy to accept this.

Up until about a year before I published my first erotic romance, I was still mostly unable to admit to people that I wrote romance. I let my inner circle know, and one of my best friends even helped me edit my work. But meeting strangers and having The Conversation was always one I tried to shirk.

The Conversation, in this case, was one that I built up in my mind so much that it felt like one of those 80’s movies where all the kids are pointing and laughing in the school lunch room while the protagonist slinks off with a stain on their pants or something. But really, The Conversation I was trying to avoid went something like this:

Strange Person I’ve Just Met: So what do you do?
Me: I’m an author.
SPIJM: Oh? That’s so cool! What sort of stuff do you write? Crime novels? Literature? Educational textbooks?
Me: I write erotic romance.
SPIJM: [awkward pause] Oh. You mean like…smut?

What I was really shying away from was the possibility of judgement. Writing these romances has been one of the only lifelong passions I’ve known. It is so integral to the fiber of my being that I would scarcely know life without also having the desire to write. For anyone to comment negatively really fucking hurts.

Hence the general avoidance for roughly two decades.

Once I started claiming the title of Erotic Romance Author, it felt really good. I won’t bore you all with the psychological underpinnings, but hell—it was a relief to finally say out loud what had been true for so long. To admit it with a mostly straight spine and a firm lip, reactions be damned!

Despite the firm lip and the mostly straight spine, with the truth came the judgement. Because that conversation I had always feared did actually come to pass. Not always—but often enough. And it STILL happens. Except, it doesn’t stop there. Other comments include…Oh, so you write porn? That’s ridiculous. That sort of stuff is a joke. I can’t believe you write that! How hilarious. What smut.

I’ve even had close friends scoff and remark, Wow, I wish I had THAT sort of free time!

And on. And on.

Point is, writing erotic romance novels invites criticism. It also invites wonder, awe, envy, and fascination, but what sometimes sticks out above the rest is the criticism.  

When people call my work porn, or smut, I’m focusing less on the words and more on the transmission. If a genuinely confused person asked me whether or not what I wrote was smut, I would gladly educate them about how my definition of smut is different, that my stories are actually love stories with explicit sex thrown in, etc.

And really, I’m not offended if someone calls my work porn and they love the porn industry. People get called to make porn, too! That is someone else’s passion. If someone tells me that as a compliment, then I’ll receive it.

But that’s not usually the case.

An article by Ruth Suehle summarizes nicely where the insult is buried within comments like these. Though she addresses creative types being told they have “too much time on their hands”, the variety of related responses—You’re ridiculous; that’s hilarious; oh, you write THAT sort of thing—touches upon the same core message: What you do is a waste of time and pointless.

It hurts to receive that message, whether the emissary intended it or not.

But what I’ve realized in the several years since I’ve “come out” of the erotic romance closet is that this sort of response is not reserved for erotic romance authors. It’s not even reserved for creative types. It is part of the standard repertoire of human reaction, based entirely on variables that a person could not ever hope to control. How the person is feeling that day; how they were raised; their happiness with their life or chosen career; their own psychological demons or standards that have nothing to do with the person being commented on. And on. And on.

This doesn’t mean that anybody can say anything they want simply because maybe they were raised differently than I. Really, it points to the fact that in our diverse and chaotic world, there will always be a nay-sayer.

There’s a naysayer to the investment banker. There’s a naysayer to the priest. There’s a naysayer to the HVAC guy. There’s a naysayer to the organic gardener. There’s a naysayer to the police officer. There’s a naysayer to the autobiographical author. There’s a nay-sayer if you decide to have kids; there’s a nay-sayer if you remain childless.

The important thing is that the nay-saying doesn’t erode, crush, or otherwise destroy the passion. When I receive comments like these, I take them in stride, or try to offer gentle education. Like, hey, I don’t know what sort of porn you’re watching, but my books are about two fully-formed adults finding each other and falling deeply into love, which leads to a relationship that also includes sex, which I just happen to describe explicitly because I want to.

I wish everyone I met could understand the fear behind living a passion or dream. The ways it forces your heart onto your sleeve, the myriad moments of crippling self-doubt and equally crippling excitement. The shaky and unstable path into the future, the uncertainty that drifts into piles around us.

It’s easy to say “get over it” or “don’t let it bother you”. But as an author and student of human beings, I know that it’s much more complicated than that. We don’t often control the sensations that arise in us, only what we do with them once they’re there.

Nay-sayers won’t stop me; it won’t even make me change my course. But despite what my higher self might wish for, I’m still human. And this is a very human part of the experience of pursuing a passion.

At the end of it all, I’m happy I even have the chance for someone to react incredulously to my chosen profession. It means I had the guts to go after my dreams.
Find Ember:


A New York Minute

“I’ve wanted this to happen since the day I met you,” he whispered in her ear, sending shivers up and down her spine.
“So have I,” she admitted, too quickly for her own taste.
He laughed, deep and gravelly. His green eyes sparkled—the mask of his professional fa├žade had completely fallen away. She loved this real Josh above her. He was so boyish yet mature, hard-bodied yet gentle.
“But Paige, I thought you hated me.”
“What makes you think I still don’t?” She placed tiny kisses up and down the sides of his neck. Kissing him removed the veneer of his professional side, allowed her to peer behind the curtain to the soft core inside. A regular guy with power, a west coast boy with dreams. Wiping away the Hollywood lacquer revealed something even more attractive beneath.
“Well, this certainly doesn’t look like you hate me,” he whispered, fingertips trailing down the side of her face, over the dip in her neck, making swirls in the area between her breasts.
Wild Rose Press     ~     Amazon     ~     All Romance     ~     B&N     

Turkish Delight

Kadir stood, hands on his hips, in a skintight black suit with a startling array of bright blue sequins. It was like a futuristic space suit mated with the gaudiest of show tunes. He grimaced as her gaze fell on his costume.
“I can’t wear this on stage,” he said, sneaking a glance in the mirror, a twinge of terror in his voice. “I’ve never worn something so overtly gay.”
Jenna bit her lip as she looked him up and down. He was right, the costume was laughable. Though it might look spectacular under the lights and grandeur of the stage, up close it was a hilarious mess. But it wasn’t all bad. Kadir was sculpted, a fact that wouldn’t go away no matter how much she tried to dodge the issue. And it seemed every way she turned, his biceps or an errant brush of his hands was waiting for her, tugging at her resolve.
It didn’t help that his cock was perfectly showcased in this get-up, caressed by the strange black satin in a way that made it impossible to look away. She cleared her throat, working hard to keep her face neutral and breathing even. He must be huge under there. Probably bigger than her favorite vibrator, the one she’d been using over the past few days as she entertained lurid fantasies about him.
“It’ll look great for the cameras,” was all she said. And every woman in America will be dying to put your dick in their mouth.
“Great? I’ll look like a fool. Nobody will take me seriously in America!”
“Oh, come on. There have been stranger costumes on this show, I promise you. Besides—” she did a slow perimeter walk around him—“it makes you look really ripped.”
Without a word, he kicked the door closed behind her. “Can you help me out of it?” Dark eyes gleamed with mischief.
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