Title: Sex, Love, and Videogames
Author Name & Publisher: CJane Elliott (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: August 21, 2015 – 264 pgs
Shy guy Jed Carter has always felt invisible next to his charismatic older brother, Kent. Kent’s master plan for Jed is simple: University of Virginia, business, sports, and ladies’ man. None of it is Jed, except for playing on the rugby team, which he joins in defiance of soccer-loving Kent. Jed comes out in his sophomore year and starts seeing Pete, an attractive junior, who uses him for sex and videogames. Jed wants more—in life and in love—and starts making his own plans. First on the list: getting to know Charlie, the handsome guy working at the local videogame arcade.
Charlie Ambrose has always felt like an oddball, and not just for his tendency to stutter. Being gay sets him apart from his African-American community, and as a “townie,” he doesn’t fit in with the college crowd. Charlie’s inspiration is his cousin, Morocco, who’s transgender and doesn’t give a fig about fitting in. Art is Charlie’s passion, and when a local videogame designer discovers him, Charlie’s living a dream. The only thing he’s missing is love. But the last person Charlie expects to find it with is a cute, white U.Va. rugby player named Jed.
I loved the multicultural aspects of the story. I’m always happy to see more stories featuring characters who are not only white and middle class, and I love books with great trans characters. This book gets a win on that front.
Another thing I liked was that it wasn’t a traditional romance, and that wasn’t the only thing going on. I don’t need my love stories to focus exclusively on the relationship–in fact, I’d rather they not. So another plus.
On the other hand, there were a lot of things I struggled with about this book. For one thing, there was really no plot. A lot of things happened, but there was no running thread from start to finish other than various versions of people being closeted. There were a lot of loose ends, which I’m not sure relates to this being part of a series or if they really just won’t ever be resolved. I was bored for a lot of this book–the relationship between Jed and Charlie didn’t even start until 2/3 of the way in; they had almost nothing to do with each other before then. It was odd, given that, how they had instant love and declared “forever” at twenty or twenty-one.
I was really wary of the portrayal of the only “bisexual” characters. They seemed to be stereotypes and reinforced some negative things–that Black bisexual men are “on the down-low” and are responsible for spreading STIs to gay men and straight women and that white guys are “mostly straight” but like to have sex with men sometimes (and will probably lie to and cheat on their girlfriends/wives). I’m sure this wasn’t intentional, but it is something the bisexual community is actively working to change, so it upset me to see it shown in the book without anything to balance or challenge it.
In the end, I’m glad I read this, but I don’t think it was the book for me.
“Okay, warm up laps!” Beau led the rugby team in a slow circuit around the perimeter of Mad Bowl. After a few laps, he stopped and had them do stretching exercises.
The other team did their warming up, and when they moved to take positions, Jed noticed a pair of people standing on the sidelines. His breathing stopped for a second. Charlie stood, hands in his pockets, shifting from foot to foot, while Morocco, a vision in a pink track suit, set up a camp chair (apt name, that) and sat down. Morocco saw Jed looking and waved. Charlie turned and gave a small wave himself, and Jed waved back, heart beating faster.
“Who’re they?” Bud asked, squinting over at them.
“Um, Charlie’s a guy who works at Lucky’s. In the gaming area. And the other is his cousin.”
“Um, well, about that….” Jed cut himself off because the referee blew the whistle. Time to play ball and hope he did well in front of those two.
The game proved the usual testosterone-fest, with lots of grunting and body contact. When Jed scored some points, Morocco produced pom poms that matched her outfit and waved them wildly.
At the break, Jed ran over to them for a minute to say hi—fuck what the rest of the team thought.
“Jed, child, my word!” Morocco fanned her chest. “Y’all are such manly men! Rugby is going to be my new obsession, I just know it!”
“I like it. My mom never let me play contact sports in high school, so I kinda love ramming into people.” Jed felt his cheeks flame at what he had said. Crap-a-doodle.
But Morocco laughed and Charlie faked a cough so he could smile behind his fist.
“So, hey, thanks for coming. I gotta go back now.”
Charlie nodded as Morocco said, “We’ll see you after the game.” She picked up her pom poms. “Wa-hoo-wa!”
When the team huddled before the second half, a homophobe named Welburn said with a sneer, “Who are those freaks on the sidelines?”
Another guy laughed. “Yeah. I thought all the he-shes lived in San Francisco.”
“What’re you talking about?” Bud peered over toward Charlie and Morocco. “That girl?”
Welburn spit on the ground. “That girl is no she. She’s a he. What the hell are they doing here?”
Beau raised his voice. “Hey, concentrate, guys. We need to win this game.”
Jed held up a hand to stop Beau from continuing. “Before we do that, you all need to know that those are some friends of mine. So shut your fucking faces before I shut them for you.” He leveled a lethal glare at Welburn and his compatriot.
Fueled by his anger, Jed played an amazing second half, and the team pulled out a victory on the strength of his points alone. After their team high five, he trotted over to Charlie and Morocco. Charlie smiled broadly while Morocco jumped up and down. “Jed, Jed, Jed! Wa-hoo-wa! Thass right!”
“Okay, okay.” Jed couldn’t help laughing at Morocco’s outrageous enthusiasm. “Thanks for coming to the game.”
“It was fun. I’m glad we came.” Charlie took a step back, seemingly surprised to have gotten two stutter-free sentences out.
“I’m glad too.” They gazed tentatively at each other, and Morocco suddenly got busy folding up the camp chair.
First off, I’d like to say thank you for taking the time to answer these questions so me and my readers can get to know a little bit more about you!
Thank you so much for having me! I’m happy to be here today to share the third novel in my Serpentine Series, Sex, Love, and Videogames. Each book is a standalone but the series has recurring characters. Sex, Love, and Videogames is the story of Jed Carter, who we first met in Serpentine Walls, and Charlie Ambrose, a new character to the series.
Now for the hard part:
- Can you describe in detail what your writing environment is like? My writing environment is in a state of flux right now because we recently turned my home office into a temporary guest room for my niece’s stay. In the process, we got rid of my old desk and still haven’t replaced it. I’m writing this blog post at the dining room table. But I do most of my writing sitting on the loveseat in my bedroom. I can look out the windows at trees and ferns, and the loveseat reclines and has a footrest. I used to write longhand and then type up my work but I’ve become more comfortable with doing all my writing with the computer. It’s much faster that way.
- Is there one of your characters that you relate to (from any of your works)? Why? That’s a hard question because I relate to so many of them. There’s something of me in most of my characters. Pete Morgan from Serpentine Walls was me in college, upset about my parents divorcing and cynical about love. Aidan Emery from Aidan’s Journey is not very like me on the surface, but I used my own experience of depression as a young adult to inform my description of Aidan’s depressive period. I relate to both Jed Carter and Charlie Ambrose in Sex, Love, and Videogames because they are quiet and introverted by nature but become more confident over time. I had the same experience growing up as an extremely shy child and teenager, then becoming more outgoing as I matured. People who know me today find it hard to believe I was ever shy!
- If you couldn’t be an author, what would you do instead? I’ve done all that I’ve wanted to do professionally because I didn’t become an author until later in life. I’m a licensed clinical social worker and work in a hospice organization. I used to be a course leader for an international corporation and flew around to different cities in the U.S. and Canada to lead courses. The only thing I’d like to do now is get more involved in the performing arts. I like singing, dancing, and acting, and I come from a long line of hams (my mother and father met each other while acting in plays).
- Is there anything that you learned during the writing process that you wish you had known before hand? I pretty much hid in my writing cave the first few years of being published. One thing I’ve learned is the importance of making connections and friendships with others in the writing world—authors, readers, bloggers. I wish I had known beforehand how much more fun the process of being a published author would be by having these relationships.
- Is there anything that you wish you could change about your book now that it is out? I sometimes question the story arc for Morocco, one of the main secondary characters. She’s a trans woman of color and faces some hate and discrimination. I think it’s realistic but I almost wish I didn’t have to put her through that.
- How do you come up with new ideas for your story? A lot of ideas come to me in the shower! They should invent waterproof pads of paper (maybe someone has). Also, I love to brainstorm with friends and often will come up with great ideas that way.
- What’s next for you as a writer? I’m working on a novella in another series I have, called the Wild and Precious After that, I want to write something for Dreamspinner’s new category called Dreamspun Desires. It’s Harlequin-like stories for m/m and I can’t wait to dive into all the classic romance tropes. I’m thinking about something along the lines of the movie Now, Voyager where Bette Davis turns from an ugly spinster into a swan and finds love on a cruise line.
- Where do you live? Do you think this influences how or what you write? I live in the Pacific Northwest now. I set my stories mostly in cities where I’ve lived. The Serpentine Series features Charlottesville, where I attended the University of Virginia, and also Northern Virginia and Washington DC. I have also lived in San Francisco and one of my books, Stay Right Here, is set there. My latest series, Wild and Precious, starts in Washington DC and then moves to Portland, Oregon. The third book will probably also have scenes set in Seattle.
- What is your favorite genre outside of the one you write in? Why? I’m absolutely loving paranormal m/m stories, much to my surprise. It’s probably because of the fine writers in the genre. I also enjoy mysteries, but haven’t read many m/m ones.
- Do you have any vices? Shoes, coffee, shopping…etc? COFFEE. I’m writing this on National Coffee Day. I can’t live without it.
Thank you so much for taking your time to answer my questions. I wish you much success as a writer!!
Thank you for having me!
After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.
CJane is an ardent supporter of LGBTQ equality and is particularly fond of coming out stories. In her spare time, CJane can be found dancing, listening to music, or watching old movies. Her husband and son support her writing habit by staying out of the way when they see her hunched over, staring intensely at her laptop.