Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Giveaway & Guest post by Sloan Parker: Location, location, location

Today the wonderful and award-winning author Sloan Parker is my guest. She’s talking about her upcoming release, Take Me Home, a m/m romance about two best friends taking a train trip home and getting trapped in the mountains by a blizzard. Sloan is sharing about the choice of a train as the location for this novel. And not only that, at the end of her guest post she’s generously giving away an ecopy of Take Me Home to one lucky commenter. So, let’s give her the stage. :)

Location, location, location
by Sloan Parker

Huge thanks to Janna for inviting me to share on the blog today.

When she suggested I talk about the setting of the train in my upcoming release, Take Me Home, I must admit, I got a bit nervous. The choice of setting for this story was not a carefully planned out decision. I can’t offer much on how and why I thought that choice would be a good one, at least not when I started out. As I outlined the details of this story and the characters, I got more and more excited about the very mobile location of a train, and the positives and negatives of such a choice became clearer. In the end, I thought it worked out better than I dared to imagine when I’d started.

The day I got the idea to write Take Me Home I was taking a shower (which is how almost all my ideas start), and the kernel of a new story popped into my head. By the time I stepped out of the shower, I knew a few things: the main characters were best friends on a train heading to their childhood home for the holidays, their names were Kyle and Evan, one knew he’d always been in love with the other, while the other was in complete denial, and an old journal from the 1950s or 60s would play a key role in the plot.

Still wrapped in a towel, I grabbed a piece of paper, sat on the edge of the bathtub, and started writing. By the time I put down the pen, my hair was almost dry (and was looking rather ridiculous since I hadn’t bothered with a brush) and I had 10 pages of notes, all about what would happen on that passenger train. The story, the setting, and these characters were really working for me.


Crap, I wanted this to be an erotic romance, and the erotic parts were essential to each man’s character arc, so that meant they needed some serious time alone, not just at the beginning and the end, but throughout. This was not going to be the kind of story (or the kind of train trip) where they would be engaging in a public sex show bent over a table in the train’s dining car.

That led me to my next set of decisions: They would be traveling over 2000 miles. Which meant they could get a private sleeping compartment. Yes! The erotic scenes were back in play.
When I had the rough draft completed, it turned out more than half the book took place during that train trip. The setting of such close quarters and the fact they had all that time to spend together offered both opportunities and challenges.

How could I use the setting to compound what each man was feeling? Did I want them sitting in one room for most of the story? How could I get them moving around so it wasn’t a bunch of dialogue scenes strung together? How could I work in both intimacy and advance the plot from the confines of the train?

These kinds of deliberations (whether conscious or unconscious) are true of most decisions an author makes about a story: the setting, the time, the characters’ backstories, their professions, their families, etc. All of those specifics can help an author craft the tone and feel of the story he or she wishes to tell.

How such details are interpreted by the reader will vary, of course, as we all draw from our own experiences, likes, dislikes, and more when we read. That doesn’t mean just any old description can be thrown in, though. They need to be important and meaningful.

So how can the setting details help to shape the story and characters?

To give some examples of this, here are a few of the ways the setting in Take Me Home affected my writing, the story, and the characters.
  • Don’t forget the romance
    Sometimes when outlining a story, I have an issue with creating too much distance between my characters, focusing on the plot as it relates to each man individually more than the emotional and physical interactions necessary in an erotic romance. Which is funny, because the emotional sex scenes are the ones I enjoy writing the most.

    The confined space of the train provided plenty of opportunities for the characters to interact. The setting forced me to keep their romantic relationship as the focus while planning out the story. When I started working on the scenes, I began by considering the characters’ relationship first, then the plot.
  • Setting to enhance the character’s mood
    Utilizing a mobile, temporary setting created a sense of being “in limbo” which was very central to Evan’s journey. Throughout the story, he never says the word “home,” even when talking about the places he has lived, he is living, or the old home they are returning to, until a specific scene near the end of the book. That’s because he doesn’t have a home, doesn’t know where his home is. Or perhaps a better way to say that is he doesn’t know if he can fully embrace the home he wants.
  • Specifics create a connection
    I can’t recall where I’ve read this writing advice before, but it goes something like this…the more specific the details of both time and place, the more universal the story for readers. Romance is fantasy. Most of us who read it like to escape into a love story, to really connect with the characters and get enough details to feel their emotions along with them. Utilizing specifics about the place, the time, and even the weather helped me showcase the emotional moments for Kyle and Evan. As an example, at one point Evan describes the snow-covered ground outside the train’s windows as something rushing by him, rather than the other way around, and he relates that to his own broken life and how it was nothing like he imagined it would be.
At first I feared a train might not be the best choice for an erotic love story, but when I was done writing Take Me Home, I knew it was the perfect choice for this erotic romance.

Some of my favorite m/m romances have powerfully utilized a setting to draw the reader deeper into the story and the characters’ emotions. The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks, Ransom, Brethren: Raised By Wolves, Keeping Promise Rock, and GhosTV just to name a few.

What are some of your favorite settings in a romance?



Sloan Parker is generously offering a copy of her upcoming release Take Me Home to one lucky commenter. To enter leave a comment telling you’d like to enter and answer Sloan’s question about your favorite settings in a romance.

The giveaway is international, and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 13, the release date of Take Me Home. So be sure to leave your comment before then and don’t forget to check back or leave a way for us to contact you in your comment or profile.

Good luck to you all!


Author Bio

Sloan Parker has been writing and playing with fictional characters for years, but she finally found her true passion when she began telling stories about two men (or more) falling in love. Now she spends her writing life creating m/m erotic romances and romantic suspense. She loves to explore the lives of people who are growing as individuals while falling in love. Her novel MORE is the 2011 EPIC eBook Award Winner for Mystery, Suspense, and/or Adventure Erotic Romance and winner of the 2010 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Romance. Sloan enjoys writing in the fictional world because in fiction you can be anything, do anything...even fall in love for the first time over and over again.

Blurb for Take Me Home
Aspiring television writer Evan Walker has been in love with his best friend since high school, but Kyle doesn’t do boyfriends. Never has. Never will. Evan knows it’s a bad idea to give in to desire when he wants more than a friend with benefits. He has a new dream job. Now all he needs is the dream partner.
Kyle Bennett is a mystery novelist with a severe case of writer’s block. He needs a change. He has three days on their cross-country train trip home for the holidays to figure out how to tell Evan he’s staying there for good. He also has to write the overdue pages for his editor. Only, he’s a little too distracted by the close quarters in their sleeper compartment—and Evan’s ass—to get much done.
The sparks that fly between them are hotter than ever. Good thing they have a real-life mystery to focus on: why people all around them, including Evan’s new boss, want to get their hands on a journal that once belonged to Kyle’s grandfather.
When a blizzard traps them in the mountains, Kyle and Evan steam up the train’s windows and must finally face their true desires.

Other Details
Length: Novel, 90,862 words | Genre: Gay Contemporary Erotic Romance (m/m) | Publisher: Loose Id | Format: e-book | ISBN: 978-1-61118-687-1 | Release Date: December 13, 2011

Sloan Parker’s website | Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Behind the stories: a preview in pictures of Take Me Home | Buy Take Me Home here



  1. Great post and this book sounds awesome! I would definitely like to be entered for the giveaway.

    One of my fave setting is a farm/ranch there is something about all that land and nature that makes finding love so beautiful.

  2. First, Thank you so much, Sloan, for being my guest and your wonderful post! :D

    @Darien: The farm/ranch setting always does it for me too! Maybe it's because we don't have that kind of location in the Netherlands (or it's different anyway). And I have a weak spot for settings that are (partly) Dutch. :)

  3. This book sounds great I can't wait to read it.

    My fav setting is small towns

    Sarah S


  4. I would love to enter!

    I enjoy foreign settings as long as they are described well and believably.


  5. "This was not going to be the kind of story (or the kind of train trip) where they would be engaging in a public sex show bent over a table in the train’s dining car."

    Shoot. ;-) Just kidding, sort of.

    Hmm. I like snowed-in type settings, or hurricaned or rained or somehow forced into close quarters, as long as death isn't imminent. That's kind of a buzzkill. I like stories set in my city (so I can pick them apart - meany) or in cities I've visited to see if I can go "Oh, I remember that" and it brings back nice memories. I also like exotic places I've never been, so I can eagerly try to find locations when I visit. :-) So I'm easy.

    Great post.

  6. awesome post. I've never thought about what kind of setting I prefer...I think anytime the couple is forced into hiding. Undercover cop type of stuff. So being on a train is such close quarters works well . Love the pics you posted for the characters

  7. Janna: Thanks so much for letting me share today. You were such a sweetheart about it all.

    Darien: Thanks! I love ranch/farm settings too. Especially in m/m. There’s just something incredibly sexy about a couple of rugged guys who work with their hands falling for each other. And you're so right about nature and love.

    Sarah: Thank you! That's a great choice of setting. I loved writing about the small towns in Breathe and Take Me Home. There’s just something intimate about it that works for me both as a reader and a writer.

  8. Jason: Ooh, foreign settings can be so sexy. I usually can't tell if they’re believable, but I do love learning about new places and feeling like I’ve traveled somewhere, which only happens when they are described well, like you said.

    Tam: LOL. Sorry to disappoint (just kidding). This book might just have my least amount of sex of my three novels, but the most sexual tension/longing. I’m not sure. Maybe I should do a chart and compare. More would win for overall amount of orgasms, that's for sure. *grin* Great answer on the setting. So true about the buzzkill of imminent death. I also have trouble with sex scenes when one of the characters is too injured, like a bullet wound. Or ten. Thanks about the post.

    Sharon: Thanks! Glad you liked the pictures. I’m a sucker for the undercover cop stories. In fact, I think I have 2 or 3 of them in my ideas folder.

  9. I would love to be included in your contest.

    As for setting, wow lots of things can work. I love the ranch/outdoor setting, but really anything that makes it feel like they are at home together.

  10. I like when they are stuck together,because of weather etc., and have nowhere to go.
    Thanks for the giveaway,it sounds like a great book.

  11. I'm a big fan of romances where the characters are together a lot - so I like road trip romances (and I think this one would qualify). I'm the same with movies actually - I HATED Sleepless in Seattle because they were never together. What I want from a romance is to see how the characters interact with each other. I want a shared journey - that's not to say that each character won't have their own arc or anything, but more that I want to see how each character's journey contributes to the relational arc. Or something.

    I don't really mind where a romance is set as long as the MCs are together.

    hankts AT internode DOT on DOT net

  12. Sounds like quite a ride! Please consider me for the contest...please?

  13. A fav, well I do love a good tropical island, the sun, the sea, some romance ;)

    -not an entry-

  14. WildMom: Great answer about feeling like they are at home together. Thanks for sharing!

    elaing8: Having the main characters trapped together is a great way to force the relationship forward, to build the sexual tension higher. Love that! Thanks about Take Me Home.

    Kaetrin: I’m with you on that one. If the blurb sounds like the characters will be separated for months or years, I have a hard time starting the book. I usually know I’ll end up racing through the pages to get to the next time they are together. Although, some of my favorite books have been historical romances that do that exact thing, but it’s still not the kind of story I’m drawn to.

    Em: Thanks! I hope you enjoy it if you get a chance to read Kyle and Evan’s story.

    Blodeuedd: Love tropical settings. I wrote a short story set in Hawaii, and I think that was my best effort writing about the setting. Perhaps because I had such a longing to be there with those guys. *grin*

  15. *is not entering for the contest*

    Wonderful post Sloan Parker! Loved reading it and thanks for the information it may come in handy sometime! :-)

    Favorite setting. It's hard, cause everytime I think I have a favorite, along comes an author with something new. However, I do really like stories with elves in it. Being high fantasy or urban fantasy. Hot smexy elves are very yummie!

    *adds book to list*

  16. This book sounds good! I love friends-to-lovers stories. I love a winter seasides, I think it’s just beautiful and romantic, maybe even a little melancholic without being too sad. That’s probably my fav setting, but it has to be winter.

  17. I love stories where the characters are friends first and I love sex at home. So my favorite setting is two buds hanging out at one of the men's homes, and then bam! Passion, sex, love! A very specific setting but it is my favorite! I hope I win this book, best friends becoming lovers is great!

  18. I love to read about different places - either overseas or even here in the US where I've never been because then it feels like I get to travel while staying cozy at home :-) Definitely count me in for the giveaway - would love to win Take Me Home!

    smaccall AT

  19. Sounds like another winner.

    I would love a chance to win this book. I loved More and Breathe and have no doubt this one will be just as fantastic.

    marit41702 @ hotmail . com

  20. I'd love a cance to win this book.

    I don't have a forte settiing but I do live a good friends to lovers story.

    Ruth_junk at yahoo dot com

  21. Sorry I’m so late in responding. We had such a busy, but lovely weekend. Thanks to everyone for your interest in Take Me Home.

    Lis: Thanks! Glad you found the post interesting. Can you believe that I’m not sure I’ve read a smexy elves story yet? Sounds like I must do something about that soon.

    Brie: Oooh, winter seasides are fantastic settings. Great one! I live in the Great Lakes region, so not the sea, but I do love being near the water in the winter. It’s almost magical to see the water moving and breathe in the crisp air while you’re all snuggly in your winter gear.

    Juliana: I love best friends becoming lovers too and have been wanting to write something like this story for quite a while now. I love your description of two buds at home and then bam! LOL perfect!! I’m a sucker for any romance where the two can hardly keep from touching each other. Love all that sexual energy between two old friends.

  22. Bookwyrm369: Isn’t traveling from your own cozy home such a wonderful thing? Especially when the author has depicted the setting in such a way you can really feel like you know the place.

    mrsmarit: Thanks! That’s so very kind of you to say. I do hope it holds up for those who enjoyed my first two novels, but I’ll let you readers decide that. :)

    bookgeek: Friends to lovers has to be one of my favorites. :) Thanks for stopping by and checking out the post.

  23. Please enter me!

    I'm a little bit old fashion, because nothing beats smex in a bedroom. But I have always been fascinated by smex in the tiny bathroom on a plane. I've only read one m/m story (so far) where that was done. lol I secretly want to be a part of the mile-high club. :D

  24. ferishia: I don't think that's old fashion. When it's in your home and it's someone new, there's something very intimate and touching and sexy about inviting them in your own bed. In Take Me Home Kyle mentions something about the tiny bathrooms on the plane, so maybe I have a secret wish for the mile-high club too. :)


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