Updated: Jun 10
I thought I'd come over here and talk a little about this. Tristan began because I love arranged marriage stories. I think because I also like captive/slave stories and they have a similar feel to me? An arranged marriage involves some kind of coercion (even if that "coercion" is a personal value like undying love for your homeland) and I love that feel and watching the characters deal with it. Of course, in my stories, eventually it will turn out well, but the struggle is intriguing.
It's clear from the beginning that Tristan won't choose himself over Markaytia. Markaytia is too important to him. He wants to protect her and the people he loves within in the best way he knows how.
In the sort of "olden day era" Tristan and the gang live in, arranged marriages are normal in some places and going out of style in others. Markaytia is an in between. They are common place in Elven culture. The Elves strike this bargain with the Markaytian king who is also Tristan's uncle. As king, he can't turn something like this down. Even the resident Warlord (Tristan's father) knows how foolish it would be to turn down such an offer when the Elves can offer such protection. Giving Tristan away is not what anyone wants, but being king and Warlord and a Warlord's son, these men understand the greater obligation and Tristan knows it. Lucca doesn't really care and probably has some growing up to do before anyone lets him be king! Ha!
Underlying all of this, we have the topic of sexuality. It doesn't focus so much on "gay" or "straight". Everyone in all my verses are just queer -- they love who they love and they be who they be. My characters are simply attracted to who they are and they exhibit any gender traits that suit them.
But back to sexuality. Tristan explores his multi-faceted sexuality from domestic discipline, to the Master/slave dynamic he ends up in with Alrik and whatever the hell him and Corrik are. I honestly don't even know what to call them. Maybe primal? But that doesn't really fit either. They might just be their own thing. Of course there is the DD element, but even with that, it's riding some edge. I dunno, but I love it and I will continue to scribe whatever they tell me. With Baya, that's what I consider more toward pure domestic discipline, which is why Bay has always been who I've gravitated toward since it's such a large part of my own sexuality. River is yet another faucet of Tristan's sexuality. River himself has intriguing aspects to his sexuality that I will continue to explore as we go.
So yeah, the first book has our pal Tristan going through the wringer over this arranged marriage, which was very hard for him considering it's totally ruined his whole life's plan. It's a shock and I think it's felt viscerally by us all. We're meant to feel it deeply. I felt it so deeply in him when I wrote that first book, I wanted to get that across. I didn't want this book to be a Hallmark style arranged marriage. There needed to be struggle. The sense of loss. Lots of big feels. Grittiness. I like gritty stories. Like, a lot.
SOME THINGS I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO REWRITE:
I can't rewrite the book now that it's published. There are all these dumb rules about that, LOL. I could only republish it and at this time, I'm not prepared to do that. It's a lot of work for one and for two, though it's not a perfect work, I'm partial to it. I'm not sure I want to republish it.
BUT, I was a green writer. Oh so very green. I had not been on my fan fiction journey yet to learn what I know now. I had not been writing 8-10 hours a day yet. I didn't have a wonderful team of betas surrounding me and if you go back a few blogs, you can read about the disastrous editor I had. It was my first crack at a novel. Basically, it was my first born child --- the one I learned on (I can say this, I'm a first born child -- c'mon, we know we were our parents' learning model, lol).
In a perfect world, I would rewrite these things:
The Tristan and Arcade stuff
This was definitely supposed to show as a tumultuous relationship, but I was too subtle on the soft stuff and too aggressive on the conflict stuff. I didn't show enough of Arcade's love of Tristan. When we first encounter him, he was a man in complete turmoil because he was losing his favourite person forever (or so he thought at the time) and he had no idea how to handle it. There was a whole year that built up to what we see at wedding time that happens off screen. Without some of this, the reader is left to take Arcade at face value and he seems way more awful than he was ever meant to. Was it his most shining moment? No. But our parents are human too and he was dealing with the loss of his prized son, horribly. I think it's OK for parents to sometimes deal with things in a messy way. We tend to wish our parent were "XYZ" or always perfect in the ways we need them to be, but parents are just humans and they get to BE human. Arcade was being human in this moment. I feel we get a nice resolution to this, which starts in book 2 and then is solidified in book 3. Arcade is one of my fave characters and I forever feel that I failed him in the first book with how I wrote this. However, I have written a little bit of Young Tristan (excerpt below) that I will include over on my Patreon first and then later in a mini book of outtakes that can hopefully show us more sides of Arcade. Strict father/son relationships are SO MY JAM. I could write them forever. I love writing these two. Arcade is one of my faves in this series.
2. The Entrance of Bayaden
In my inexperienced wisdom, I thought it would be so awesome to introduce this as a shock. And it's a shock all right, but it's where most of the people who have stopped reading, stop reading. Whoops! It also gives the wrong impression that Tristan was *forced* into sex with Bayaden, which I 100% admit, was on purpose too. I won't apologize for liking that kind of thing in fiction. It's the only safe place I can get the true feel of that and I enjoy it. I wanted to give the illusion for half a second until we realize that it's not the case at all.
HOWEVER, I always want to do right by the characters first (above and beyond my own desires) and I wish I'd first shown the scene where Tristan finally gives in (which is in the second book) and WHY he does -- he thinks he's there forever. He does process guilt as though he might be cheating on Corrik, but ultimately, it was supposed to read that he isn't because he's moving on ... not having a romp behind his husband's back. He genuinely believes he's never leaving and is giving up Corrik forever. The "giving up" is part of his love journey too. And so, given the circumstances, I don't personally view his actions as cheating. Tristan is only unsure because of his Markaytian upbringing.
AND, he's been abducted, he's not over the whole "This sexy blond elf guy stole my life" thing and he's going through personal crisis realizing he's never really chosen what he wants. He's always chosen for Markaytia.
Plus, this kind of thing is OK with Elves. Tristan as a Markaytian was learning this. It was his foray into poly, which is yet another aspect of his sexuality.
Ultimately, Tristan was taken and yet again his world is in complete shambles.
So yeah. I'd have inserted a certain scene there and fleshed that part out more. Baya would have gotten a slightly softer intro, however, I would have left the conflict because that's vital to Tristan's story. I love the bit of enemies to lovers him and Bay go through and the attraction that's so out of this world they can't deny it. It's also the point that Tristan FINALLY says "fuck it" and takes something for himself, which he hasn't before having given his all to Markaytia. He needs this for his growth. I would have just written it all way better!
3. The Elven Sex Culture
I had wanted this to be an openly sexual culture rather than "BDSM". This is one of the reasons I wrote it without the contemporary ideas of rules and etiquette commonly seen in clubs and in the literature. I don't think I hit the mark on this one in the first book. Thus, I even feel obligated to tag for BDSM in the introduction, which really doesn't help my case. LOL Though I stopped tagging for it by book three because I think it's a least a little clearer by then? Hopefully?
The idea was that this was a culture 100% open with its sexuality, "sex creatures" if you will, LOL, which means it's not "play" to them. They might take on roles (Master/slave, Top/brat, etc...) but it's still just part of who they are. How they are wired. They don't need the usual safety nets we use in real life because they are connected to this thread of the world and can better sense "too much" and "not enough" for their partners. They take time to learn about their partner in a special Elven way, and because they are Elves, they have magic so that if by some wild chance "too far" happened, it could be easily "corrected" with magic. Basically, still a safety net, just a different one than safewording. A safeword is one kind of safety net for sure, but there are others. Plus, a safeword is only as good as the people who are using it. There are so many other fun ways to explore boundary-keeping.
AND, I love exploring little to no boundaries. I will fully admit that negotiations and safewords in fictional kink stories are NOT my jam. I skim these parts in books, "GREEN" squicks the hell out of me and when there is too much, I close the book and stop reading. Give me all the non-con and dub-con and WOW, I'm not sure about that one con. Ha! I LOVE that sense of vulnerability and "can't stop this from happening" that can only happen safely in fiction (safely because I am not there to actually be hurt). In real life I want safe, in fiction, I don't want safety nets. I wanted to create a world in which we could experience some danger, throw away conventional standards and rules and then close the book and return to the real world once we've ridden that electric thrill ride!
When I wrote the first book, I was young in my own explorations of these things and I didn't portray this as well as I would have liked to because I didn't have enough vernacular. I would rewrite ALL of this and make it so much better so that what I was trying to do was clearer. I leaned on too many terms that made it "BDSM-like" and so yeah, people view it as BDSM and I can understand why. As I've carried through the series, I think I've done a better job of pulling away from that. Could I go back in time, I would completely rewrite this thread from the start.
And so, in future, I want to attempt this again. It will feature new characters, but it will be clearer that I'm writing about an open sexuality culture vs. "BDSM" and one where we can throw away contemporary safety nets, get on a thrill ride but still feel all the love between the romances.
WHAT I LOVED
1. Unfettered Writing + Corrik
When I wrote Tristan, I was unfettered. I hadn't heard all the criticism that plagues me now. Criticism is such a double-edged sword. The right critiques can improve the hell out of a writer, the wrong kind can send them hurtling to the ground and hold them back, sometimes forever.
I don't often reread my works, but I need to when I'm writing a second or third book in a series to make sure I haven't forgotten about anything so I was rereading Tristan and having a grand ol' time. I didn't hold back in that book. I wrote as I saw it playing in my head. I love how much of an ass Corrik is. I think he might be one of my greatest achievements because I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to go there again. And it's hilarious because he IS an ass (I know this -- it was on purpose) but he's the crowd fave. I get the most "mail" about that guy. You wouldn't believe it! Ha! But I love writing that relationship. Corrik gives zero fucks and it's the kind of philosophy I aim for. LOL!
2. Unfettered Tristan
I love how wild Tristan is. TRISTAN IS A DRAMA QUEEN. I say this with love. I went all out with him in ways I'd be afraid to now, which is a shame, but he just gets to be him unfettered. Maybe this is why he'll always hold the highest place of honour in my heart. He isn't perfect (even though all the Elves and dragons fall in love with him) but it's his imperfections I love most.
Yeah. I basically just love that I was riskier and I'm working my way back to this. I'm learning to push all Amazon and Goodreads critiques out and write what's in my heart!
FINAL THOUGHTS BOOK ONE
Overall, I wanted to explore arranged marriage from one man's perspective in book one. The overarching plot has only just begun, but the arranged marriage aspect mostly wraps up in this one. It's not leading to any idea. It's truly an exploration and the reader gets to decide what to take from it (if anything) while also enjoying some sexy times!
Because yeah, I wrote this for sex too! And of course, the spanking. Always the spanking.
I hope you enjoyed this. I'll return to give my thoughts on book 2 and what was behind the writing of that. What I liked and what I wish I could change.
I'll leave you with this tiny piece from "young Tristan", which yeah, I said I'd put in my Patreon, but I go back and forth because I'm not sure how interested people are in young Tristan when he doesn't have any sex (remember, he's a virgin on his wedding night)! However, Arcade and Eagar do have all the sex and they are wild!
I'll also leave you with a new Chibi. This one has merch available. I haven't uploaded the "War Brats" line yet, both because I just got it and I am a one woman show, but also am trying to decide if I want to wait until I have the whole line ... or at least two. Who am I kidding? I have the patience of a fruit fly. You will probably see the first of the War Brats line up soon enough. I will have some non-chibi stuff too. We've got Artsy Ape on the scene now! It's gonna be so exciting to have her do some stuff as well.
Young Tristan Excerpt
I attempted to sulk for all of five minutes in my room at the palace before I gave up and went home. Father is right. I should be home to talk to Papa, but I don’t feel like talking. I feel like stewing.
I’m in my favorite robe, curled up with my favorite tea and a romance novel. Papa’s pretending to do things like tidy up the small living space. Everyone knows he keeps this place neat as a pin such that there’s nothing to do this late in the evening.
He’s making himself available for me in hopes I’ll speak up first, but that’s not happening. He sighs and sits on the armchair next to me running fingers through his tawny blond hair, his large feet sink into the throw rug Father hates, but finally allowed because Papa loved it so much.
“I’m going to make you talk, you know.”
“I know, Papa.” I give up. “What … What do you want to know?”
“He said he would loosen the rules,” he says instead of asking me a question.
“He did. I’m grateful, but this whole thing has turned into a fucking mess. I’m ready to marry my sword and forget love.” Thank the Gods that strict as my parents may be, now that I’m an adult, they don’t care about cursing. Papa might chide sometimes in particular company, but we spend too much time on the field to worry about coarse language.
“Don’t give up yet. You’re still young. Dating is messy no matter what.”
“Eaton wants to court me and told Father, but not me.” This time my dragon’s blood boils. Gods fucking dammit. I take some breaths to cool down.
He nods. “I can understand why you’d be upset about that.”
“I’m a little pissed at Father too if I’m being honest.” His rules percolated this little nightmare. I think. I’ll find out tomorrow.
And now stupid tears leak from my eyes. I hate being mad at Father. I hate crying over childish things. At least they’re angry tears.
“That’s why he sent you to me. He knew you’d be too angry to talk to him.”
“As if I even could,” I say too loudly. “Tristan, since when is anything I say about you up for negotiation? Ever?" Those may not have been his exact words, but the growl in my voice is spot on. "How am I supposed to have a conversation with that?”
“Good Gods you two. You’re too much alike.” He softens. “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but he’s barely holding it together.”
I tilt my head.
“He knows things aren’t going well in practice even if they are on paper.”
“But, Papa, I don’t understand. I’ve been to war. Surely dating can’t be worse than war.”
Papa laughs. “Your father knows war. He doesn’t know his only child dating a man who clearly wants to fuck him.”
That should not make me hot and bothered with Papa sitting right there, but it does. I swallow. “Eaton has been perfectly courteous.”
“I’m sure. Because he has no other choice. Arcade will string him up outside the palace walls as a warning. But he knows what Eaton is imagining.”
“As if I couldn’t gut Eaton myself.”
“As if you don’t want Eaton to do what your father does not,” he counters.
“Okay, fine. I do, but I don’t see why I shouldn’t. I’m an adult. Waiting until marriage seems old-fashioned. I don’t even know that I want to get married. Having a husband sounds incredibly boring.”
Papa laughs. “Do I look bored with your father?”
“You two are the exception not the rule.”
“And you’re a marriage expert, I see,” he teases. His face levels out into something a little more serious. “Please go easy on your father? He can handle a lot, but I’m not sure he’ll survive this.”
Yeah. Right. He’s being a tad dramatic, but I don’t say so. “I’m not going easy on Eaton. He’s going to hear from me about this.”
“I expect no less. Never go easy on your man when he needs it.”
I frown. “I’m not sure Eaton is my man. I like him, but I don’t feel like I know him.”
“If you want to break it off, your father will say yes to other men.”
“Only the ones he likes though and if he likes Eaton, maybe who I like and who he likes won’t align?”
Papa shakes his head. “I dated a lot of men before I met your father, and they were my choice. You can even pick wrong for yourself if you can believe it. It takes a bit of time to figure out what you want.”
“Isn’t it supposed to be fun?” Lucca’s been having a riot. I’m heavily considering his way at this point even though if my father finds out, he’ll kill me.
“Papa. I know you’re trying to let me figure this out on my own—which I do appreciate—but could you tell me what you would do if you were me? Please?”
His eyes sparkle with mischief. “I can’t tell you that or I’ll be in trouble with Arcade.” He laughs. “But I will say this, consider moving on. I don’t think he’s it for you.”
I nod. “Okay.”
Papa gets up and kisses the top of my head. “Arcade will be home soon if you want to … not be out here when he is.”
I smile. “Papa, wait. Do you ever wish you’d had more than one child?” I’m a lot of trouble. They make a lot of fuss for me. Maybe if they had more than one, things would be less stressful for them.
“Nope. We did it right the first time. Can’t improve on perfection.”
I warm straight though to my insides. He’s probably supposed to say that, but it is true that they could have had more any time and simply chose not to. I tend to think it’s because they realized how much trouble having a child is, especially when that child is me.
You would think I’d had enough of being on the receiving end of Father’s stone stare, but I’m almost craving it right now. I don’t know that I could explain that if I tried. I read by the fire. Papa’s long headed off to bed.
When the door swings open, Father's stone glare is there immediately. “Tristan. What are you still doing up?”
“I was just finishing this chapter, sir. Then I was going to turn in.”
He shakes his head. “I hope that’s not filled with sex.”
I would roll my eyes, but I value my life. “Just romance, Father.” And steam, I don’t add. Like I’d read my sex books out in the open. Those are stashed under my pillow.
“Well, I’m going to bed, which means so are you.” To put a period on the end of that sentence, he moves to put out my nice fire.
That would rankle me another time, but right now there’s so much comfort in all his strictness, I relax. I shut my book. “You were right, sir. I needed to talk to Papa, and I did. He gave me some good advice.”
“Oh? What did he say?”
“He said I should consider ending things with Eaton.”
He growls at that and harrumphs, putting out the fire with more force than necessary.
“Do you disagree, sir?”
Most people find my father absolutely terrifying. I do too—often—but times like now, rare times, he’s just my dad.
“I think you should give the poor bastard another chance.”
He nods. “He was trying to impress me, which was the right thing to do. Let him have the chance to impress you. If he doesn’t then I agree with Papa.”
“Sir? Why are you being so protective?” He’s always been strict, but this is overboard even for him. He let me try using a sword when I was seven. I was in my first battle by fourteen.
He stiffens. “Because. Now go to bed.”
Figures. Mr. I’m Your Father and You do What I Say. My hands ball into fists. I don’t mean to scowl, but I do. I only get as far as standing up. He holds his hand out. “I’ll be taking that.”
“It’s not a sex book.” Why? Why did I stay up? I could have avoided this if I’d used Papa’s warning.
“You’d better hope not, but that’s not why I’m taking it. You’ll read it by candlelight if I let you keep it and then I’ll have a tired Warlord at pratice tomorrow.”
Yeah, I will.
I hand him the book and I relax inside some more. My anger fades away.
He whacks my arse with the book. “Go.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t read ‘romance novels’ that are so thick.”
Oh Gods, he’s opening the book. Thankfully, it is just a romance book, but it’s still a window into my tastes. “Hmmmm, alpha Warlords. I see. Maybe that’s who we need to find for you?”
Arggh. I’m leaving. “Goodnight, sir.”
I storm off, unable to get away fast enough.
Arcade saunters into the room with a book in his hand and a smirky smile on his face.
“What did you do to our child?” I ask.
“Teased him a little about his choice in books so he’d go to bed. He was looking for some solid ground and I gave it to him.” He sets the book on his bedside table. “He asked why I’m being overprotective.”
My eyes widen. Bold boy. “What did you tell him?”
“Nothing. I’m not breathing a word about that.”
I’m not exactly keen on that either, but I do go back and forth. We want him to discover his own sexualities. We don’t want to force our beliefs about him on him. But we do think he’s a taken in hand. That’s why Arcade worries.
Tristan is a fierce warrior, but the other side of him is delicate.
Arcade removes his cape. I watch him undress. He’s thick everywhere. Everywhere. I lick my lips as he steps out of the last bit of his clothing, leaving my eyes to stare at his heavy balls. I swallow. “Sir? May I help relieve you, sir?”
His long hair falls over his large arse. I want him so badly.
Ripping the blankets from me like an animal, he grips my ankles and spreads my legs apart. “You’re going to help me, all right. I hope you like fighting with a sore arse.”
He knows I do.
With a slicked-up cock and not much prep, he sinks into me. Arcade is like a battering ram. I love being used up. I’m a large man. It takes a man like Arcade to do that for me.