The Harder He Falls, The Deeper He Hurts

Prompt: Tell about a book you’re currently reading (or have recently finished). Give us a brief synopsis and your thoughts on it.

Ugh, this is not a good time for me to be answering this prompt. Talk about embarrassing!  I’m currently in the middle of a series that features m/m couples who are each involved (to different extents) in the BDSM world.

So, I just finished reading The Harder He Falls by Lynda Aicher. And I’ve started on the sequel, The Deeper He Hurts. These are both re-reads for me. But… (ooh, exciting!)… I’ve just seen that the third book in the series is out, and I haven’t read that one before! It’s called The Farther He Runs, and it starts Finn who plays a big part in the first book.

So, all three books are based around a company called Adrenaline Kick Adventures. Their speciality is white water rafting. The first book starts a little over a month after Grady joined the company. On his first time leading a group down a river for Kick, with two of the company’s partners in the boat with him, they hit a submerged log. One of the partners is killed, and the other (Finn) ends up in a coma. Grady, of course, is drowning (forgive the pun) in guilt.

At the hospital, visiting Finn, Grady meets Micah, who reads to coma patients. Micah reaches out to Grady and offers to talk to him, as he has experience of being in a coma. Micah has some permanent mental health issues resulting from his time in the coma – primarily, he gets ‘lost’ at random times, being suddenly unable to recognise his surroundings. This can mean he can be lost in his own house or in his workplace. Pretty scary.

Grady and Micah hit it off. Unlike most of the guys who work for Kick, Grady isn’t ex-military, nor is he a Dom. Micah isn’t either, but due to his coma-related issues, Micah has a need to be in control during sex. Grady struggles with that, as he’s had a bad experience with a Dom before. He sees submitting as weak, even though he craves it. His struggle to accept this aspect of the relationship is one of the key conflicts in the book.

Another issue is that most of the partners at Kick are Doms. Grady is sure if they found out that he likes to submit to Micah in the bedroom, they’ll see him as weak, and he’ll never be seen as an equal again.

Meanwhile, Micah doesn’t understand how an adventurer like Grady, who has travelled the globe, can be happy with someone who gets lost in his own bedroom. He also needs to learn to trust Grady to be there for him when he’s lost.

It does all eventually work itself out, of course. This is a romance novel after all.

The sequel, The Deeper He Hurts, features another river guide who is convinced by Grady to join the company. He’s what is termed a ‘pain slut’. If you don’t really understand what that means, don’t worry. Neither did I. The BDSM world is not something I’m familiar with! He agreed to leave his current job and join Kick because he’d heard rumours that one of the partners was a sadist, and he was curious if the guy would be a match for him. That sadist is Asher.

I was genuinely unsure if I could like a character who liked hurting other people. My knowledge of sadism is pretty limited, but it’s about getting off on hurting someone else, right? That’s where my thinking was at when I started the book. But it’s not like that, and in fact, there’s a lot of focus on Asher looking after Sawyer, both in and out of the bedroom. Like any other couple in a romance novel, they slowly fall in love, and it’s not one-sided. The pain exchange (or whatever the term is called) doesn’t mean the two don’t have gentle feelings for each other. It’s hard to explain.

The third novel is about Finn, who is the one in the coma in the first book. I’m looking forward to reading that. I have already gathered that Finn is a Dom, but not sure about anything else at this stage.

I haven’t read many BDSM books, and I think the reason I can deal with these ones is that the relationships remain very equal, especially outside the bedroom. Although they do ‘scenes’, there isn’t one person who wears the pants all the time. That’s important to me. I’m not sure I could read a book where one of the couple was constantly grovelling and begging for scraps of attention. No thanks.

I can’t say how accurate the books are in terms of the actual BDSM world, or any parts thereof. I have no idea. If you’re curious, read them yourself and let me know.

Write like you think

Prompt: “Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” Isaac Asimov

Two things today made this prompt quite relevant. The first was when my admin assistant was laughing over an email she got. After sending out a politely worded follow up to a client, she got back an email that said “Um, well…” She couldn’t quite wrap her head around the idea that someone had actually written an um, as if they were talking instead of writing.

And my friend Ann from Writing.com responded to the letters I sent her, saying that my babbling letters reminded her of the long, newsy ones she used to get from her older relatives when they were alive.

For me, writing is like thinking through my fingers. I think that’s such an awesome quote. I know that we have the ability to edit what we write, especially when using computers instead of pen and paper, but other than correcting typos, I often don’t edit my writing. I’m not talking about poems and stories, which obviously need editing and revising, but rather blog entries, emails, letters, forum posts, etc. I also write like I think. This is particularly true when I’m writing snail mail letters, as I have a tendency to just babble as if they were on the other end of the phone line or similar. I have definitely been known to write ‘um’, ‘hmm’ and other ‘vocalised pauses’.

When I was in high school (and even in years since), people used to moan about minimum word lengths for written assignments. I’ve never in my life had a problem meeting a minimum word length. Ha ha! I have definitely had the reverse problem though, trying to trim my words and make them more concise to fit a word limit. But babbling? Even on a technical subject? That’s easy.

There’s definitely a time and a place for it. I know that I shouldn’t use ‘um’ in a formal work email, or a uni assignment. But I also know that it makes my blog entries more conversational and my letters more personal. I suppose that ultimately it’s part of what gives my writing a personal voice. Right? People are always saying you should find your own voice when it comes to your writing. Writing like I’m thinking, or how I talk, is part of my writing voice.

That horse has bolted…

“It’s a bad break. We need to get him to a doctor.”

Sam gritted his teeth against the pain while he listened to the McKenna brothers argue over what to do with him.

“I know,” replied Jack, “but it’s a good half day’s ride to the house and it’s damn near dark now. It’s not safe. He’s going to have to wait until morning.”

Sam breathed deeply, trying to find the strength to fight the pain. The last thing he wanted was to look like a weakling, a child, in front of his best friend Mike, and Mike’s older brothers. He was the youngest, but it didn’t mean he’d bawl like a baby or he needed rushing to the doctor for the smallest scratch. Okay, it wasn’t scratch, it was a broken arm, but still… “I’ll be fine,” he grunted. He looked up to find the other three men staring down at him, identical frowns on their foreheads.

“We don’t even have any painkillers, Sam,” Mike protested. “Dude, that’s gotta hurt.”

“I’ll be fine,” Sam repeated.

Jack’s face changed as he thought. Jack was the oldest of the McKenna brothers, with Riley between him and Mike. Sam and Mike had been best friends forever. “I might have something…” Jack murmured.

The other two brothers spun to look at Jack with narrowed eyes.

“What do you mean?”

“What have you got?”

They spoke in near unison, both clearly curious.

Jack smirked, and Sam tensed. It was bound to be something terrible, knowing Jack’s sense of humour. You’d think he’d be the responsible one, being the oldest, but he wasn’t. He loved dragging the younger guys into whatever mischief he’d cooked up.

When Jack drew a bottle of whisky from his saddlebag, jaws dropped.

“You can’t give him that,” hissed Riley. “He’s underage! He and Mike aren’t legal yet!”

Jack rolled his eyes. “I wouldn’t normally, but he’s broken his arm, Riley. He needs something for the pain. We can’t head back tonight, and even if we did, the trip’s going to be hard on him. This,” he lifted the bottle up, “will make it easier.”

“Oh god,” groaned Riley. “We’re going to be in so much trouble.”

Mike was grinning gleefully. “We won’t tell anyone, will we, Sam?”

Jack frowned. “You can’t have any. It’s for medicinal purposes only, and you ain’t hurt.”

“No way! If Sam’s drinking, I’m drinking!”

Despite the pain throbbing in his arm, Sam had to chuckle at the familiar sight of the brothers squaring off.

“What’s it gonna hurt, Jack?” asked Riley, playing the peacemaker as usual.

“Yes!” Mike did a fist pump and turned to grin at Sam.

Jack grumbled, but eventually gave in. “Set up camp first. Mike, since you’re all excited, you can take on Sam’s usual duties. Ah ah ah….”

Sam froze in a crouch and looked up at Jack.

“Sit your ass back down.”

“I can help.”

“Nope. You need to be as careful with that arm as possible, or you’re going to make the damage worse. Sit down, and let Mike do it.”

“It’s fine, Sam,” Mike yelled out as he ran to find firewood. “I got this!”

With a relief he didn’t really want to admit to, Sam leaned back against the saddlebags behind him and let the pain wash over him. The throbbing was radiating all the way up his arm and into his head, not to mention the searing pain every time he accidentally moved his arm. He knew he’d get through the night, but he wasn’t looking forward to it.

“Here,” Jack said, leaning forward with a small glass of whisky. “Sip it. Don’t gulp.”

Sam reached out with his good arm and took the drink. It smelled strong, with a faint hint of ash that reminded him of his father’s cigarettes. He sipped and gasped as the liquid hit his throat.

“Easy,” Jack cautioned. “Just let that settle and then take another. Slow and easy does it.”

Sam took another sip. He wasn’t sure he liked the taste, which seemed to be of smoke and chemicals, but if it was going to help with the pain in his arm, he was happy to give it a shot.

It wasn’t much longer before Mike was giggling and Sam was falling asleep. The warmth of the fire and the whisky combined to relax him, and the pain in his arm wasn’t bothering him as much anymore.

“You good, Sam?” Riley leaned over to ask. “You want me to help you move so you can go to sleep? Probably the best thing for you. Be a good idea to get a decent night’s sleep, since the ride in the morning will be hard for you.”

Sam smiled, but it felt a little lopsided on his face. “You guys are the best,” he murmured. Did his voice sound right?

Riley laughed, and the other two sat forward with eyebrows raised.

“What’s so funny?” they asked.

“Sam’s a bit pickled.”

“Maybe,” Sam mumbled, feeling his cheeks heat. “My face feels funny.”

Jack burst into peals of laughter. “Shit, Riley, don’t give him any more! He’s wasted!”

Riley wrapped an arm around Sam’s shoulder, careful not to jostle him. “You’re not truly wasted until you tell your friends that you love them, right, Sam?”

Sam felt a wave of ice wash over him. He stared up at Riley with wide eyes. “I wasn’t gonna tell him!”

The laughter from the other three faded into uncertainty in the face of Sam’s expression. “Dude, he didn’t mean you really loved us. It’s just something drunk people say,” Jack said. “And he didn’t mean love love, just mates. It’s not a gay thing. Chill, dude.”

“Oh shit,” Sam whispered. He looked up at Riley with worry in his eyes. “I fucked it up, didn’t I?”

“Fucked what up?” Riley asked.

“They didn’t know, but I thought they knew, but they didn’t, but now they do,” Sam babbled.

“What?” Riley frowned and smiled at the same time. “What did they know? Or not know? Shit, I’m confused.”

“Wait,” said Mike, “does this mean Sam’s in love with me?” His eyes grew wide and his mouth fell open.

Jack slapped a hand under Mike’s chin, causing him to howl in protest as he narrowly missed biting his tongue. “No, you dumbass,” Jack said, rolling his eyes. “He’s not in love with you. Who would love you?”

“Shut up. I’m loveable.” Mike looked over at Sam and Riley. “I’m totally loveable, right, guys?”

Riley laughed. “Sure, Mike, whatever you say.”

“Sam?” Mike asked, crawling around the fire to where Sam and Riley sat. “Tell them, Sam. Tell them how loveable I am.”

Jack groaned. “Dude, you’re fucking wasted. No more for him either, Riley.”

Riley reached over to push Mike away. “Don’t touch his arm, Mike.” He eased back and looked down at Sam. “You okay? You’ve gone quiet. Tired?”

“Um…” Sam tried to gather his wits, but his head was foggy and his thoughts were slip-sliding all over the place. “So, does that mean you guys know I’m gay or is it still a secret?”

For a moment, the only noise was the crackling fire, before Mike let loose with a loud “Fuck!”

“Mike!” Jack and Riley scolded in unison.

“What?!” he protested. “That’s…. That’s… Fuck!”

Jack pushed himself to his feet before walking around to cuff Mike on the back of the head.

“Ow! What’d you do that for?”

“Shut your mouth before you say something you regret, dumbass.”

“But…!”

“Shut it,” growled Jack.

Mike slumped, his mouth in a pout.

Jack circled around to crouch in front of Sam, careful not to get too close to the fire behind him. “Sam, you okay?”

“I dunno,” mumbled Sam. “I think I’m drunk.”

Jack laughed. “Yup, you certainly are. So is Mike.”

“Yeah,” said Sam with another lopsided smile. “We’re drunk.”

“So…” Jack drew out the word. He looked up at Riley as if seeking inspiration.

Sam felt Riley shrug.

“I’m guessing Mike didn’t know that you’re gay, huh?” Jack offered.

“Nah,” said Sam. “Nobody does.”

“Uh huh,” Jack nodded. “Is it okay that we know now?”

“I dunno,” shrugged Sam.

Riley squeezed him with the arm still wrapped around his shoulders. “Yeah, Sam, it’s okay.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Riley and Jack replied.

“Okay, good, I guess. I mean…” Sam trailed off and closed his eyes. “I’m tired. And I think I’m drunk.”

The older men laughed, and Riley withdrew to help rearrange Sam’s saddlebag so that he could lie back and use it as a pillow.

“Mike will be okay with it too,” Riley whispered. “He was just surprised.”

“He was?” asked Sam.

“Yeah. Not that you can tell now.” Riley gestured to Mike who lay on his side in the dirt, snoring. “Just give him time to get over his hangover and adjust to the news, and he’ll be fine. Now, get some sleep. And for god’s sake, don’t roll onto your arm in the middle of the night.” Riley reached down and rearranged Sam’s limbs into something resembling the recovery position. “Good night, Sam.”

“Night, Riley,” Sam mumbled.