We love Heidi Cullinan here at SSBR and we were delighted when she agreed to our readers Q & A… as bloggers, we always get to ask the questions, but sometimes we don’t necessarily ask what the readers want to hear. So back in February we asked YOU our readers for some questions for Heidi and WooHoo! …today she is here to answer them …did I mention we love Heidi? Haha… there are some AMAZING questions, and a huge thanks to all of you that participated, I love that our readers are so chatty.
Tough Love (Special Delivery #3) by Heidi Cullinan
Title ~ Tough Love (Special Delivery #3)
Author ~ Heidi Cullinan
Publisher ~ Samhain Publishing
Genre ~ M/M Erotic BDSM Romance
Release Date ~ 8th April 2014
Rating ~ 4 Stars
Special Delivery, Book 3
Crescencio “Chenco” Ortiz pulled himself up by his garter straps after his father’s will yanked the financial rug from under his spank-me pumps. He doesn’t need anyone, yet when Steve Vance steps into his life, the prospect of having a sexy leather daddy on tap begins to take on a certain appeal.
There’s a hitch when he learns Steve is friends with Mitch Tedsoe—the half-brother Chenco never knew except through his father’s twisted lies. Despite his reservations, soon Chenco is living his dreams, including a performing gig in Vegas. Now if only he could get Steve to see him as more than just a boy in need of saving.
Steve’s attraction to Chenco is overshadowed by too many demons, ones he knows his would-be lover is too young to slay. Yet as he gets to know the bright, determined young man whose drag act redefines fierce, Steve’s inner sadist trembles with need. He begins to realize Chenco’s relentless tough love might be the only thing that will finally set him free.
Warning: This story contains glamorous drag queens, exhibitionist secondary characters, and no-holds-barred BDSM play, including watersports. Readers advised they may well leave this novel feeling uncharacteristically fierce.
The boys are back in town!!!
Over the last three months with the re-release of both Special Delivery and Double Blind, I have loved, loved, loved revisiting this series, with Special Delivery being one of my all time favourite books and Randy… well, that man has my heart for sure. Tough Love is the new edition to the family, introducing Steve, all bad ass, leathers AND tattoos! ..as a Dom he has a commanding presence and Oh. So. Very drool worthy. Chenco is our drag queen… all sparkles and sequins, but all that big brash facade hides is an insecure, lost and incredibly lonely boy.
When a mother utters the words…
You are strong and good, my son. God gave you to me perfect. I am so proud of you, and I love you just the way you are.
…as a child you believe them and for Chenco those words were burned into his soul, but not with the love they should represent, but the hypocrisy and worthlessness that they represented… the pain and rejection of the false utterings of a mother whose love should be unconditional.
Caramela is the alter ego, that protects and gives Chenco the strength to deal with the pain of rejection. Caramela is everything that Chenco has ever wanted to be, confident, feisty, strong, but above all in control. But when the wig comes off and that persona leaves him, Chenco is adrift without an anchor. With the death of his father, a complete and utter bastard… who also happened to be Mitch’s father his life starts to fall apart and that is when Steve finds him.
Steve may not put on a wig and lots of glitter, but he too has his own persona… that of big bad Dom! He comes across as strong and in control, which he is… but it also masks his own loneliness and isolation, there is a blanket of sadness and misery that surrounds Steve… haunted by a past and one man in particular. But Chenco’s youth and spark and Caramela’s dynamic personality ignite something within him he had resigned himself to having lost forever.
Called Monk for his abstinence from sex and relationships, for Steve BDSM is not about the sex, it’s about the control and the power and the ultimate gift of trust and submission, but with Chenco, despite trying to nurture the natural submissive into the lifestyle with that ethos in place, his body yearns for something it hadn’t for over five years… and not just the sex his body seemed to be doing cartwheels over, it’s the emotional as well as the physical connection he yearns for. Chenco called to all his protection instincts, he just wanted to take care of him. Chenco is curious about the lifestyle, as a natural submissive he longs to give up control and trust that Steve could see exactly what he needed without him having to say a word.
If like me you have read countless BDSM books, you’ve heard it all before, an in depth discussion to the BDSM lifestyle and what that would entail for Chenco as a submissive, especially as Steve’s kink is sadism. But as I listened to Steve, it wasn’t just a “how to” manual on BDSM, it was heartfelt, it was his life, and he spoke about it as something he was passionate about, and I don’t mean that sexually. Heidi managed to make me see BDSM as not just some smut and kink I like to read about. For those people that live it, it’s an intense and emotional experience which doesn’t necessarily have to involve an intimate relationship. Much like the poker, and the pivotal role that it played in Randy and Ethan’s relationship, which Heidi managed to make a fascinating experience… haha, for someone that doesn’t like gambling, that was an achievement in itself! The BDSM in Tough Love was just as compelling and engrossing. It wasn’t just Steve’s telling, but also Chenco’s reaction to Steve’s gentle and tender encouragement, analysing his own reactions and feelings, unfamiliar, yet his body and soul craved for all of Steve’s praise, attention and care. Discovering his masochistic streak was a perfect pairing for his Dom’s sadistic streak.
Tough Love, for me had a completely different feel to it than the previous two books. Both Special Delivery and Double Blind were sexually intense, the pages burned up with it. In Tough Love, even though the kink is more prevalent and just as intense, it’s subtle somehow with a lot of it off page, personally this book was more about two lost souls, who more than need each other to survive, each supporting each others weaknesses and drawing from each others strengths, healing their wounds with the kink being a mutual purging of the pain they both endure.
The fabulousness of this book, for me of course was the inclusion of the characters from book 1 and book 2… yes my Randy, I just love him! His character just seems to animate every page he makes an appearance, his snark, humor, just being a pain in the arse… but most of all his incredibly intuitiveness. Chenco being related to Mitch, makes them family, and Mitch’s family, this misfit bunch that they are, are a big part of his life making them Chenco’s family. Sam and Chenco being the same age hit it off, and there is so much testosterone flying around, mainly in the guise of Crabtree.Unassuming yet without a doubt an underlying threat that commands attention, he comes to the rescue again, quietly assured, sussing out the needs of the people that have also become his family.
I have loved this series, the characters and their journeys, and in all honesty, I can’t recommend it enough. As always, Heidi just wowed me with her writing, and just confirms the reason why she is without a doubt one of my favourite authors.
Readers Q & A With Heidi Cullinan
WELCOME HEIDI! …It’s a bit of a mad house but we’re pretty friendly bunch… honest.
Thanks for having me! Glad to be here.
I will start you off with an easy question Heidi, as many of our followers are new to the M/M genre and Robbie Bauldree, Karen, and Tina Grey-Hamilton are three of our followers who have not yet had the pleasure of reading your books, and would like to know which book of yours you would recommend they start with?
That’s a difficult question, and the best answer I can give is, “It depends.” I write a variety of subgenres and heat levels, and I’m so all-over-the-map I had my web guy make a sorting engine for my books: http://www.heidicullinan.com/books-by-genre. You can sort by heat level, genre, series. I’ll do my best to give a how-to guide.
If you want something sweeter: For those nervous about gay romance or too much smexing, start with Love Lessons or Dance With Me. DWM is a bit sexier, but both of those qualify as wildly romantic. Family Man and Second Hand also fall into that category, and those are written with my sometimes-partner in crime Marie Sexton.
If you want something very sexy: My “naughtiest” books are Nowhere Ranch, Dirty Laundry and The Special Delivery series, particularly Tough Love.
If you like historical: Try A Private Gentleman.
If you like fantasy: At this exact second I only have the Etsey series available (begin with The Seventh Veil) which is HIGH fantasy, but I have two paranormals returning to print this summer: Hero and Miles and the Magic Flute.
Though honestly I would say poke around with that sorting engine and read excerpts. There are three free stories on there, which are all novellas/shorts between books in series.
I have to say I love this question from Liz … I personally came away with a better understanding of Poker after reader Double Blind and found it intriguing… whereas before… yep, totally over my head! Here’s what she had to say…
“After "Hooch & Cake", Randy has fully redeemed himself for me. I can't wait for his HEA. My question for Heidi: Did you know all about poker when you started this, or was there lots of research needed? :D”
I knew NOTHING about poker except that there were cards in it. I read about ten books, watched a lot of movies, and played Holye games. I’ve forgotten a lot of it now, though it comes back pretty quickly when I put my hand back in.
YES! Great question from Jen CW… I loved Randy and I’d like to know this too!
“How did you come up with Randy's character? He's got lots of depth…”
Randy showed up on that CB call. I had no plans to insert him (had to retroactively add mentions) and basically watched in panic as he stomped all over my manuscript. I think he’s an imp who took up residence in my head. Or he’s some repressed part of me. Whatever he is, I didn’t make him. I discovered him.
I totally know where Allison and Christine are coming from with their questions, as after my first reading of Special Delivery I was so hungry for more… So yes, we want to know all about it!
“I just finished Special Delivery a couple of hours ago, it was wonderful. What made you write this series? Where did the idea come from?” ~ Allison
“I just read the excerpt for Double Blind, omg, sooo good, I can't wait to read this one. So for my question, how do you come up with the ideas for your characters and stories? ~ Christine”
Special Delivery, while not my first published book, is the reason I began writing gay romance. I’d been including gay secondary characters for a long time, and I was still writing my fantasy series which was full of gender-bending and romances between bisexual everybodies, but SD was the first time I out-and-out said I was writing a contemporary romance between two men. I credit Corrina Lawson, who nudged me toward a call for gay romantic shorts. She told me it was time I yielded to the inevitable and wrote something straight-up gay romance. “But I don’t know where I’d get that published,” I told her. She assured me the universe would make a place for it, and suggested I start with this short.
A few hours after that email I was shopping at my local crunchy food co-op, and as I wandered the aisles with my preschooler wondering what in the world I’d write about, I overheard the produce manager say to a co-worker, “That delivery guy is hot.” By the time I pushed my cart out the front door, I had Sam and Mitch making out in the stockroom.
Within a week it was clear I had a novel on my hands instead of a short, but that was how it started. I kept getting stuck, so eventually I killed the mom and sent them on the same road trip my family had just taken, except with sex. (In our family vacation, I was the one flipping the fuck out in the back seat over Wolf Creek Pass.) It took me two years to finish the book from concept to sale, but that’s how it all started. My ideas for stories in general come from all over, and honestly I have no idea how they happen. I have chronic pain issues, and I swear at least a third of my novels come via Vicodin. Dance With Me started after an annoying aerobics class at my local gym. Not everything becomes a finished work, but how they arrive in my head is always a little bit crazy and absolutely inexplicable.
There is a lot of love for Special Delivery which makes me very happy as it’s one of my all-time favourites and Rodney Batterman seems to be of the same opinion…
“Loved Special Delivery. A sequel sounds great. How much of Sam & Mitch do we see in Double Blind? Will they also be in the third book?”
Yes, they’re all there, and in a significant amount. In fact Sam was a bit absent in the first draft and Damon Suede scolded me until I amped up his presence.
And Nicki B wants to know “will it stop at three or continue?”
Originally I’d planned for it to end at three, but I think now there will probably be at least another novella. Or another novel too. Probably I’ll go back to Vegas, but I’m insisting I finally get to visit first. Research and all.
And Andrea Doddell is asking “Do you have to read in order, sounds like the characters do a lot of cross over in each book?”
You don’t have to read in order at all. You’ll get some spoilers, but it’s things like “Sam and Mitch get together” and finer details about their lives. I worked hard so someone could start at Tough Love without issue. Each book is always a new set of guys and a new HEA.
This is an excellent question from Marc, which I’m sure a lot of readers would like to know…
“I still have an old eBook version of Special Delivery. How different is the new release of Special Delivery? I didn't have a chance to read it yet, though you have made me very curious ;)”
Special Delivery is mostly the same, only with better, tighter editing and a prettier cover. Double Blind is worth repurchasing for a clumsy formatting error in the poker hand reporting which basically made a big mess-up in every digital publication except PDF. Otherwise no, you’re fine.
Now, if you’re a completist and need everything to look the same, I can’t help you. The good news is Samhain’s books are significantly lower-priced than all my other pubs, so the most expensive you’ll ever pay for me from them is $5-6.50USD depending on vendor.
Fabulous, love it!… Sue is asking…
“Which character did you find the most difficulty relating to? …The hardest to write?”
Haha… and from Anonymous…
“Oooh - nice one! I want to know, too :) especially since I don't like Crabtree, but still have a soft spot for him (yes, he's instrumental in the HEA - but he's also a badass mofo who you better not try to cuddle with!)”
Probably Steve and Mitch. They’re the most removed from me, so I had to work to get into their heads, but only at first. Nobody’s ever been particularly difficult.
Crabtree, actually, is more than a little like me. Cats and all.
Ooooh, I’m all ears! Trix… great question…
“If you could do a crossover with any book, film, or TV show, what would it be and why?”
For this series? The Ocean’s Eleven movies. Every time I work on Double Blind I have to go watch them again. It would be fun to watch them try to take Herod’s. Or have the boys be part of a takedown of somewhere else.
I know a lot of M/M authors are asked this question but as readers, I think we are always curious as to the reason why any author choses the genre they write in, be it thriller, paranormal, historical, etc... and KellyMae Helfrich, Steph F, Liza Dequilla, and Regann Nicole would all like to know
“What prompted you to decide to write M/M romance? And is there any other genre you would like to write in?”
Well, I don’t really consider gay romance a genre, more of a pairing. I write in a lot of romantic subgenres, and I keep flirting with fantasy, but everything I’ve published to date has been gay romance—though I have plans to change that in the next few years, just a little. Why I got started writing gayrom is mostly that gay secondary characters kept walking on and stealing the show, and eventually I caved and gave them the floor.
In the Love Lessons series it’s my intention to write not only the full rainbow but a heterosexual romance as well. The latter is the most beta of beta heroes, full-on geek. In my fantasy series I pretty much hit every gender and orientation, but mostly yeah, I’ll probably hang out in gayrom world. It’s home, somehow. Don’t know why, just is.
Elle, Lisa and Stella Matta would all like to know…
“Who is your Favourite author and book? …and do you prefer standalone’s or series?”
Favorite author and book is Terry Pratchett, Going Postal. I like series, but only when each book is independent. I tend to stay away from most series where it takes eight books for the characters to get the official HEA. I’m either bored or stressed out, and I hate waiting for resolution.
Obviously the best series in the world is Discworld. I even have a Guild of Seamstresses T-shirt.
Randy is definitely my favourite character of yours Heidi, but Paul Berry is asking…
“What is your most favourite character that you have created?”
Randy. He’s teacher’s pet, but he’s nice to the other kids, so it works out.
As someone whose favourite sub genre within M/M is BDSM, I am loving this question from BlackAsphodel
“Why do you write about the bdsm lifestyle?”
Never intended to—it just happened in Special Delivery, at it’s snowballed from there. I think it’s drawn me largely because I hate it when people decide something is taboo and too far. I like to challenge people to not simply write off a kink, fetish, orientation, or activity, and I like shining light where people have tried to install a lot of curtains. Plus the more I learn about the BDSM lifestyle, the more beautiful and amazing I find it.
As a blog that is dedicated to bringing our readers both LGBT and hetero romance equally, reflecting in a Romance Blog the same equality we want to see within society… with 95% of our followers now reading both genres or M/M exclusively… this is an Excellent question from Christina!
“How do you feel about LGBT books gaining popularity among the non-LGBT community?”
It’s awesome! Love stories are for everyone, all the love stories. The more the merrier, bring it on. Honestly I’d prefer eventually to not be known as an LGBT writer, just that I’m a romance author whose characters happen to be gay more often than not.
Haha… this could be interesting from Penumbra…
“Do any of the characters resemble people in your own life? If so, do they know you wrote them into the stories and how do they feel about it?”
Oh, there are borrowed attributes, and there are a few direct homages. In Double Blind and the free novella Hooch and Cake I gave winks and real-name shout outs to writing buddies and local friends, and they enjoyed their cameos immensely. Mostly though these people emerge from my head or the ether or wherever story people come from.
This is from Mary Preston… I’ve often wondered that…
Do your books go through name changes as you write?
All the time. I just renamed the third Love Lessons book, and it might get changed again. Twice the publishers have asked me to change the title, which is always stressful but in the end is always the right call.
I like this question too… Trisha Hudson, it gives us a little peek at the person rather than just the author…
“My favorite author question is what do you like to do when you are not writing, aside from reading?”
TV. I watch a lot of TV, usually on my phone or laptop. Because I’m always discovering a new food allergy, I cook a lot too. But I love watching TV by myself or with my family. Anything to keep from leaving the house.
Last question is from ME!!!!
What is next for Heidi Cullinan… books to be released? works in progress? Do I need to mark any dates in my diary? …come on, spill, I want the goss?
LOL. Okay, here’s what I know for sure:
May 27: reissue of Miles and the Magic Flute from Wilde City Press. Ebook only first, then paperback in a few months. Hero will be out in August from them as well.
September 30: Fever Pitch, book 2 in Love Lessons series, by Samhain.
October: Paperback of Love Lessons.
November: Sleigh Ride, book 2 in Minnesota Christmas series.
December: Paperback of Let It Snow.
Next spring I’m hoping to have Love Lessons 3, whose title keeps shifting but is currently called Lighthouse. I also want to have Carry The Ocean done, a standalone I’m keeping mum about. I have lots of other things in the works, but nothing I can talk about yet.
From the team here at SSBR and all our readers we can’t THANK YOU enough for taking the time out to stop by and answer our reader’s questions, we really appreciate it and hope you will pop back and visit again soon.
I will come by anytime you ask me! Thanks for all the great questions. They were fun!
Series Reading order
About Heidi Cullinan
Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren't enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn't writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first midwestern state with full marriage equality.
Find out more about Heidi, including her social networks, at www.heidicullinan.com.
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