A huge thank you to Charlie for hosting me!
Choices is my first ever published novel. I started it way back when, but of course, never had the nerve to put my stuff out there. Then a few years ago, I made the leap to putting fanfiction on the web and that was what really changed things for me.
When I started writing fanfiction, I had always stuck very firmly to “canon-verse,” maintaining the world that the original creator started with. Then, almost two years ago, a fellow fanfiction writer got me sucked into an alternate universe of hers.
I was hooked.
I talked it over with her and before long, I was writing in her AU. It was still someone else’s world but much further removed from canon. And I started to really appreciate the appeal of your own world and being able to make things how you want them.
Then I ran across art done of a pleasure slave over on Y!Gallery. I can’t find the picture anymore, but you know the kind. They’re often inspired by Anne Rice’s Beauty series – naked, sometimes covered in jewelry, ready to be played with at the whim of some Master or Mistress. Already interested in BDSM and familiar with domination and submission for pleasure, it took root very quickly and in less time than I can tell you about it, Teman was conceived.
At the same time, my friends (and daughter) had been pushing me to get into NaNoWriMo. I hemmed and hawed, agreed and changed my mind. Despite having written nearly twenty novel-length fanfiction stories, the concept of a full original novel still intimidated me. But I caved to peer pressure, pulled out the notes I’d made about Teman and started scribbling furiously.
Initially, Teman was supposed to fall in love with his best friend, Jasim. Well, he was having none of that and instead, told me flat out that he was attracted to the crown amir, Bathasar. My characters have always had more sway over my stories than I do, but I’ve learned over the years that it’s best just to listen to them.
As NaNoWriMo moved along, I found myself pounding out chapter after chapter of story. I won NaNo, but the book was still nowhere near done. Teman had more to say, Bathasar had more to do and Mukesh was doing his best to make it difficult on both of them. I had stumbling blocks and despite the point of NaNo — to write and forget the rest until later — I found myself lost in research often.
I learned a great deal about the medieval Middle East, spending hours studying transportation methods, food, clothing and even instruments. I had amassed a small library on the period, then had to decide what to keep and what to ignore! I think that was more of a challenge than the initial research itself.
But I had encouragement in the form of a very supportive family and a wonderful beta who kept poking me for the next chapter because she just had to know what happened next. And then, when I least expected it, Choices was completed.
We make many decisions in our lives. How we handle the situations thrown at us define who we are.
Choices takes us into an erotic world of royalty, privilege and pleasure. It shows the things people are willing to do for love – and the things others won’t give up. It is a story about how easily one can blinded to what is both right and needed, when we refuse to listen to the part of us that usually knows best… our hearts.
Born and raised a gypsy, Teman learned early that freedom is everything. Then one night, Teman and his best friend are caught committing a crime. They’re taken to the palace for sentencing and given a choice: the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery. With his eye ever on the need to escape, Teman becomes a slave and this need never wavers through training and new friendships.
Until he is requested by the gorgeous, fascinating crown amir, Bathasar.
Bathasar doesn’t want the throne, which suits his cold, cruel father well. Instead, he works covertly to preserve his brother’s legacy. But Bathasar’s eye is drawn often to a handsome gypsy slave and he finds himself doing something new: requesting one. Before long, Bathasar and Teman are in love.
Then Teman’s best friend is gifted to the empress of a neighboring nation – the one the malik has decided to invade. Recognizing that his father is no longer stable, Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction.
If successful, Bathasar would be malik with the power to offer Teman freedom. But would Bathasar be able to let go? Would Teman take it? What other choice could a gypsy possibly make?
“Even without the charge of attempted murder, you have reached your third chance,” he said, coming to a stop in front of them.
“By our laws, I must punish you, and harshly. I have some leeway in what I choose,” he said and Teman’s head snapped up in surprise. “But only by so much,” the captain finished.
He turned around and walked across the room, and they heard him move around, opening a cabinet and then closing its doors. There was metal rattling, then the near silent slippered steps as the man crossed the room again.
When he stood in front of them, he held four large rings in his hands. They were big enough to go around a man’s neck and Teman stared at them for a moment, incomprehension clouding his mind. And then, as if a light was turned on, he realized what they were.
But that only succeeded in confusing him further. Because two of them were obvious – they were the heavy blackened iron collars that were worn on the prisoners in the dungeons. He’d been lucky enough to never actually be down there, but he’d met a few men who’d gone and managed to escape. They’d told him plenty about it – including about the collars, cuffs and shackles that were worn – which had only fed his determination to stay out of the place.
But the other two collars he held weren’t heavy iron. They were only a couple of inches wide, very thin and made of etched gold. They were hinged on one side and on the other, a loop for a lock with another ring below, that was made to be hooked to things.
And then it all clicked. Teman had heard the rumors of the slaves the malik kept in his palace. Slavery was still a very common practice even within their own country of Neyem, though usually it was more along the lines of indentured servitude. And he’d never had it confirmed exactly what the palace slaves did, though the rumors were that they were pleasure slaves.
Teman looked from the collars up to the captain, raising his eyebrows. The captain met his eyes, then spoke. “I told you that I have some leeway in punishment. I have the right to toss you in the dungeon. But I think it would be a waste.
“Instead, I will offer you a choice,” the captain said, meeting first Teman’s eyes, then Jasim’s before lifting the rings again. He held one of each type in each hand and dropped them at their feet. “The gold collar is worn by palace slaves. You will lose your freedom one way or the other, but how you lose it is up to you.”
He considered them carefully, then continued in a quiet voice. “The palace slaves are pleasure slaves. They serve the malik and the amirs, the masters and mistresses of the palace and their visitors. If you choose that, you are a slave. Your choice ends there. What they wish to do to or with you, is entirely up to them. Your body will no longer belong to you, it will belong to them. When it comes to many things, you will no longer have free will.”
He paused to allow the words to sink in. Then, he said simply, “Or, you may take the other.”
Teman didn’t have to ask what the other was. It was a one way trip to the dungeons and darkness, bare minimums on food, drink and even air. And the near impossibility of escape. As a palace slave, he might well have a much better chance. He didn’t know if they were chained or locked up in any way, but he figured one way or the other, there was a greater possibility of getting out. And, at the very least, it was likely to be better until he could try for freedom. He glanced over at Jasim to see his best friend’s eyes fixed on the two collars on the floor, gaze showing the confused jumble of thoughts going through the shaggy black head, the facial expression mirroring what Teman was sure was on his own face.
He wanted to ask what being a pleasure slave really entailed, wanted to ask a million questions that crowded into his head, but he held his tongue. He knew enough about the alternative that, in the end, he didn’t think it really was much of a choice.
And, in the end, the one thing that meant the most – his freedom – wasn’t an option either way.
His best friend looked over at him and met his eyes. Jasim nodded, Teman gave one in return and together, they knelt down and picked up their fate.
Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age – many of which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.
A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the U.S. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children – both the human and furry kind. She also teaches Information Technology classes at a local college.
As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.