Today I am so pleased to welcome Taylor V. Donovan to Joyfully Jay. Taylor has come to talk to us about her latest release, Heavy Hitters. She has also brought along…. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Heavily Hit by Nostalgia
Hello, everyone! I’m excited to be here for my second stop in the quasi-blog tour for my upcoming release, Heavy Hitters. A million thank you’s to Joyfully Jay for hosting me once again.
Heavy Hitters is the first title in my new(est) series, Caribbean Tales. All the stories will be standalones set in Puerto Rico and will explore the life journey of gay Puerto Rican characters living in a country closed-off to their sexual orientation. Yesterday I stopped by The Novel Approach to talk about the ingrained machismo in the Latino culture, which is one of the subjects I tackle in Heavy Hitters. Today I thought I’d lighten up a bit by talking about music and what inspired Caribbean Tales. To set the mood I’ve included one of Puerto Rico’s official tourism videos. If you can spare seven minutes or so, I’d suggest you watch it. It’ll help you get familiar with the setting of my stories. ?
Ever heard that absence makes the heart grow fonder? I’ve been hearing people say the same since I was a kid, but I never knew the real meaning of it until I moved to NYC. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, it wasn’t until I decided I needed a new start that I packed my things and came here with my kids. We had no family here. No friends. I mainly worked, then went home and watched TV. I remember one night when I was lying on my bed, surfing channels, and all of a sudden there it was, the Miss Universe pageant. Now, let me tell you, I couldn’t care less about those shows, but I found myself mesmerized by this particular one. Not because physical beauty means all that to me, but because the pretty ladies clad in colorful bikinis had been filmed in the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, and the Cruceta del Vigía. I recognized those places. I’d visited them hundreds of times. That was my beautiful Puerto Rico on the TV, and it was the first time I was getting a glimpse of home since leaving all those months ago. I’m not going to lie. I cried.
I was overwhelmed by memories and the realization that I wasn’t part of that world anymore. And, from that moment on, I actively sought out anything and everything that would keep me connected to my people and my culture. It isn’t a total paradise down there. Like I said, there’s machismo and domestic violence along with the beautiful beaches. Gender roles are applied and religion is super important, and I don’t need to tell you that not many have jumped on the equality bandwagon, do I? Homosexuality is not exactly accepted, but people are friendly, family oriented, and extremely lovable. You take the good with the bad, right? That’s how we roll.
Fast-forward a few years and I’m still doing the same; seeking out Puerto Rican everything in the concrete jungle where I live. Food, shows, plays, the Puerto Rican Day Parade… you name it. Whatever it is, I want to eat it, see it, hear it or experience it. Why? ’Cause I miss home. I can’t tell you how much.
Music is a huge part of the Puerto Rican lifestyle. Believe me when I say we can’t really function without it. We sing and we dance. We celebrate everything. Families are big, so there’s always a birthday party, a wedding, a mixer… social calendars are busy! It’s the most wonderful chaos. Living in NYC I don’t get to experience any of that; not as often as I’d like, but I’ve attended a large number of shows, and going to Madison Square Garden to see a sold-out concert by an artist from my tiny tropical island makes me feel the kind of pride and joy I can barely describe. It was during one of those concerts the idea for this series was born.
The Garden has seen many Puerto Rican singers, but also our National basketball team, and several boxing champions. Before I knew it, I was mentally working out my characters backgrounds. I wanted them to be gay and they had to live in Puerto Rico. I wanted to tackle the bullying and discrimination our LGBT community faces on a daily basis. I wanted to revisit all the things I experienced with my best friend while we were growing up. And so Santino Malavé and Luca Genaro Betancur were born. They both try to conform to what society expects from them. They both try to behave like “real men.” They grow up as best friends and they both have a difficult time accepting their orientation and coming out as gay. I never had to decide “what” they were going to be. Once the idea formed in my mind, I knew they’d be the kind of people adored by many fans. Santi fights himself constantly, so it was only natural for him to do the same on a professional level. Luca was always “easier” to deal with. He’s faithful to God, but not “religious.” He has strong ideas, and he wants to make a change. He told me early on he wanted to sing his message to the world.
If you watched the video posted above, you know Puerto Rico is kinda famous for its salsa music—not to mention the Bacardi rum—and, more recently, for reggaeton. In essence, reggaeton is danceable hip-hop, but the lyrics are mainly about sex and love. That too fit Luca perfectly, because, did I mention he’s one heck of a sexy man? He plays several musical instruments, and boy, can he sing. But that’s nothing compared to the way he moves his hips. And so that’s what he decided to do (to his mom’s dismay). He decided he would sing reggaeton because it is a fun and hyper-sexualized genre. What better place to hide than behind scantily clad female dancers that are always ready, willing, and unknowingly available to provide a smoke screen for his “perverted” sexuality? Also, he wanted to sing the kind of music that is native to Puerto Rico. Below is a sample of it.
“Heavy Hitters” will introduce you to our folklore, our culture, our food, our ways, and our people. You’ll meet Santi and Luca when they are kids, and you’ll be right there with them through the years until they reach their thirties. Their journey won’t be an easy one, but I hope you come along for the ride until they reach their happy ending. ?
It took a few minutes for Father Benicio to answer, and, when he did, he sounded disappointed. “Why would you take communion without cleansing your spirit, getting absolution for your sins, and doing penance first?”
Luca gulped and squeezed his eyes shut again. “Because I’ve had impure thoughts and couldn’t control my actions,” he blurted, louder than he’d intended. “I was taking a shower and my penis got hard. I grabbed it with my hand to force it to go down, but then I stroked it by mistake, and it felt good, so I stroked it some more. I kept stroking it until all the white stuff came out.”
His skin tingled, and he thought he might hyperventilate if he kept breathing so fast, but a smile formed on his mouth at the memory of his first ejaculation. He knew what he’d done was wrong, but the truth was he didn’t regret it for a second, which was one of the reasons he’d stayed away from the confessional.
“Masturbation is morally wrong,” Father Benicio said in a stern tone that managed to wipe the smile off Luca’s face. “Have your parents talked to you about sex?”
“Yes, Father,” Luca mumbled, remembering the awkward moment two months ago when his Father caught him humping his pillow for all he was worth. He’d ordered Luca to stop and spent the following ten minutes explaining stuff about sex. He said it’s something adults use to express their love to their spouses and also to procreate. Then he’d said procreation was the process where men gave women their seed to have babies, and that Luca would be allowed to have sex when he got married. Until then Luca was expected to control his urges and practice the virtue of chastity.
“Then you already know sex is a gift husbands and wives give to each other. It’s the fulfillment of a person’s wedding vows, whereas masturbation is a selfish act,” Father Benicio concluded in the same stern tone. “Sexual acts aren’t supposed to be only about pleasure. This is why the Catholic Church condemns masturbation and teaches abstinence.”
Luca frowned and bit the inside of his cheek.
He didn’t like either concept, and he had no idea how he was supposed to control his urges when he didn’t even have control over his erections. He got boners at the most random times, and by now he knew there was nothing he could do to about that. He’d tried to obey Dad, but he had failed. Luca thought it was his oldest brother’s fault for putting ideas into his head.
Mateo, who was fifteen years old and was secretly dating a girl from their church, had locked Luca’s bedroom door after Dad left and given him a crash course on erections and jacking off. It had absolutely nothing to do with marriage, procreation, or love.
Mateo had admitted he wasn’t down with all that “religious bullshit” and never tried to control his urges. He said that jalarse una puñeta whenever he got hard was his favorite thing to do, and told Luca he should masturbate too if he felt like it. That it was a private thing, and no one would know about it.
Luca thought his brother was crazy for disobeying Dad and God on a regular basis, but he could see why Mateo had become such a big fan of masturbation. In the end, he’d followed his brother’s rebellious steps. Luca hadn’t given into temptation every single time he got hard, but he’d jacked off a few times in the shower. He hadn’t been able to stop. He hadn’t tried to. Nothing felt better than making himself come, and he wanted to feel that tingling sensation all over his body as often as he could.
He took a long, deep breath and focused on Father Benicio’s words.
“…must learn to give sexuality its proper place in your life. Masturbation, same as sodomy and homosexuality, is a sexual deviation. You don’t want to be a sexual deviant, do you, Luca?” Father Benicio asked in a softer tone. “If you indulge in masturbation, you’ll become a deviant, and sexual deviations lead to sexual addictions. This, in turn, will crack the foundation for what’s supposed to be a mature, loving, sexual relationship with your chosen wife when you grow up. Do you see now why masturbation and sex outside marriage are sins and need to be avoided at all cost?”
Luca knew what homosexuality was. It was when a man liked another man and they got together and their families hated them and they couldn’t find jobs, go to mass, or even come out of their house for fear of being attacked. Some people felt sorry for all the patos out there, and some others felt disgust. Luca just felt sorry for them. He got dizzy whenever he thought about the way they were treated not only by Catholics, but the majority of the Puerto Rican society.
He didn’t understand how the church could teach love and acceptance and reject patos at the same time. Mrs. Pérez, Luca’s music composition teacher, said all people were made the same and should be treated equally whether they were attracted to individuals of the same or opposite sex. Sadly not many seemed to share her opinion. Luca had never met any patos personally, but he knew they always lost everyone they loved, got sick with AIDS, and probably went straight to hell. Luca couldn’t imagine anything worse than losing his family, and was terrified of doing things that he knew would get his soul condemned.
But what if he couldn’t resist temptation?
What if he couldn’t change what he thought he liked?
What would he do if the thoughts plaguing his mind turned out to be stronger than the teachings of the church?
Luca lowered his eyes and thought about the adult film his brother Mateo kept hidden in the back of his closet. They’d watched it together twice, and Luca ended up jacking off in the bathroom both times. He’d felt so good he thought his legs would give out on him, but his buzz promptly turned into guilt for giving himself sexual gratification. Then he’d realized it wasn’t the woman who’d made him hard, and he’d felt absolutely horrified. As mind-boggling as it was, Luca had to admit it was the big, strong, naked man on Mateo’s T.V. who’d caught his eye and inspired many fantasies afterwards.
Luca hunched forward and rubbed his stomach. All of a sudden he felt like throwing up. He didn’t want to talk about masturbation anymore. He only wanted to get this over with and go see if Doña Esperanza, one of their neighbors and his mom’s good friend, had arrived to church. He needed to see if her entire family was with her.
His toughest opponent is himself.
World Boxing Champion Santino Malavé has been fighting since he was a kid. Poverty, domestic violence, and emotional abuse were early contenders. Guilt and self-loathing were beaten into him by his homophobic dad at an impressionable age and now machismo, an integral part of the Latino culture, rules his life. In the ring he’s undefeated. Outside the ropes life constantly hits him below the belt. It takes a sucker punch from his best friend to finally knock the denial out of him and force him to face his true nature like a real man.
A natural born entertainer, Luca Betancur has grown up laughing, performing, and celebrating life among his tight-knit family under the scorching Puerto Rican sun. He has also dedicated years to deny his sexuality, study what the Bible really says, and pursue fame. Singing the wrong note on stage is not a mistake the multi-platinum award-winning singer would ever allow. Falling in love with a man is not a transgression his devout family would ever accept. The ties that bind him are strong, but the pull toward his childhood best friend may just be enough to tear it all to shreds.
Anger, mistakes, bigotry, and the need to conform put up a good fight. Can they break down the walls erected by Catholic teachings and a chauvinistic society, or will their relationship lose by technical knockout?
Taylor V. Donovan is a compulsive reader and author of gay romance and suspense. She is optimistically cynical about the world; lover of history, museums and all things 80s. She is crazy about fashion, passionate about civil rights and equality for all, and shamelessly indulges in mind-numbing reality television.
When she’s not making a living in the busiest city in the world or telling the stories of gorgeous men hot for one another, Taylor can be found raising her two daughters and their terribly misbehaved furry baby in the mountains she calls home.
Taylor has brought a copy of Heavy Hitters to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Tuesday, November 4th at 11:59 pm EST.
Do you live away from your family and friends? Do you ever feel nostalgic about anything? Share with us for a chance to win an ARC of Heavy Hitters. I look forward to “hearing” your thoughts. 🙂
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