When J. Alex Cook, a production assistant on The Fourth Estate (one of network TV’s hottest shows), is accidentally catapulted to stardom, he finds himself struggling to navigate both fame and a relationship with Paul, one of Fourth’s key writers. Despite their incendiary chemistry, Alex’s inexperience and the baggage they’re both carrying quickly lead to an ugly break-up.
Reeling from their broken hearts, Alex has an affair with a polyamorous co-star and Paul has an ill-advised reunion with an old flame. Meanwhile, the meddling of their colleagues, friends -- and even the paparazzi! -- quickly make Alex and Paul’s real life romance troubles the soap opera of the television season.
But while the entertainment value may be high, no one knows better than Alex and Paul that there are no guarantees when it comes to love in Los Angeles.
They talk so much that dinner takes forever. Paul's delighted because it means he's not crazy for feeling invested, even if he's self-aware enough to know he probably would be even if dinner had been merely a brief stop on the way to sex.
Eventually, though, they manage to push back from the table.
"Am I taking you to the couch or the bedroom?" he asks casually as he takes their plates to the sink.
"Bed," Alex says distractedly.
When Paul turns around Alex is crouched on the floor, petting Todd. It gets him in that weird biological place that seems reserved for attractive people interacting with small animals or babies.
After a moment, Alex looks up. "Sorry."
Paul shakes his head. "It's fine. Glad you're making friends. Let's bring the wine upstairs, too, okay?"
They're quiet on the stairs and it's awkward for a moment in Paul's bedroom. Alex finds himself thinking about the nights Paul spends alone. It's the mystery of adult and normal life in general that fascinates him as much as what Paul is like when his only company is himself.
He's not sure how much the room itself gives away; pale yellow walls, dark blue comforter, white trim around the windows and doors. The airiness of it is all California, but it lacks the blunt excess of his costars' massive and ugly houses. Even so, the contrast to his own apartment remains immense, and fills Alex with a certain degree of shame over his choices.
After Paul sets down the wine and glasses on the little table next to the armchair that resides in the corner of the bedroom, the silence stretches and snaps only when he finally takes a step toward Alex.
It's nothing then for Alex to close the rest of the gap and kiss him hard, pressing against him. Paul slips his hands into the back pockets of Alex's jeans and kneads at his ass.
"Clothes," Alex mutters as he starts frantically trying to pull Paul out of his.
They break apart only for the logistics of it all.
Alex winds up pushing Paul into the armchair. It's by the windows facing the bed, and it gives Alex a million ideas that range from sitting there getting a show to simply relaxing with his tablet while watching Paul sleep.
Right now, though, they're both naked, and Alex has remembered what it is to be brave.
As coauthors, Racheline and I get asked a lot about our writing process. And as coauthors of erotic romance books, we also get asked a lot about our writing process for The Sex.
To get the most pressing issue out of the way, co-writing sex is not particularly sexy. It’s actually usually absurd, with Levels of Ridiculous ranging from “Well that was awkward and amusing” to “Oh my god I can’t believe I just wrote that email about rimming and what character X’s history with rimming is and whether it’s remotely germaine to anything except our own understanding of the character help.”
But really, we write sex scenes the way we write any other scene: When we get to the scene, whoever has the time next goes for it, although sometimes there are expertise considerations. Racheline and I have very different personal histories, which allow us to bring a broad range of experiences to what we write -- in and out of our characters’ bedrooms.
And while Racheline and I do have moments of writing as a sort of creepy hive-mind (no, we have no idea how we both knew Paul’s cat in Starling was white with tabby splotches), when it comes to editing, we tend to play to our strengths and focus on different things. I’m in charge of continuity. Racheline, who is also a playwright and has a great ear for rhythm, hunts down repeated words and makes the prose generally as tight as possible.
Speaking of tight, in editing Starling, that became one of our rather surreal words of concern.
We were in the first or second round of Starling edits back from our publisher when I got what is possibly the most hilarious note on the manuscript from Racheline ever. To paraphrase, because the original has, to the relief of both of us, long since been resolved:
Character 1’s balls are tight. Because he’s about to come. Except I think we just said his ass was tight when Character 2 was fucking him. We need different words because I think that anatomically confusing. I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST LEFT YOU THIS NOTE AND AM FULL OF SHAME BUT CAN YOU CHECK.
In other words, #EroticaWriterProblems.
So I cracked up laughing. And then I banged my head on my desk. And then I hit ctrl-f and ran a search for tight on the chapter in question. And then I banged my head on my desk again that that was a thing I had not only done, but a thing I needed to do, to polish our manuscript to its utmost. And then I emailed Racheline back with the good news for the book and the bad news for her:
Just ran a search. “Tight” only used once. So you imagined that. But we’re good.
Starling is a novel we’re very proud of for many reasons. One of which just happens to be that we never did wear out the word tight in any of the book’s sex scenes.
Review posted here
Review posted here
Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese’s gay romance series Love in Los Angeles, set in the film and television industry, is published by Torquere Press. The first novel, Starling, was released September 2014; its sequel, Doves, is scheduled for January 2015. Racheline is a NYC-based performer and storyteller focused on themes of sex, gender, desire and mourning. Erin McRae is a writer and blogger based in Washington, D.C. You can find them on the web at http://www.Avian30.com.
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