Sex, Love, and Videogames, my interracial New Adult novel, won first place for Contemporary Fiction in the 2017 EPIC awards this month, making it my most awarded novel. It also won first place for New Adult in the Swirl Awards (dedicated to diversity in romance literature) and Honorable Mention in the Rainbow Awards.
Sex, Love, and Videogames is mainly a coming of age story with a slow burn romance that doesn’t fully happen until the last third of the book. It’s the story of Charlie and Jed, two shy guys from very different backgrounds, and how they deal with growing up, coming out, and finally getting together. It was one of my first forays into writing POC characters and my very first time writing a trans character (Charlie’s cousin Morocco).
Shy guy Jed Carter has always felt invisible next to his charismatic older brother, Kent. Kent’s master plan for Jed is simple: University of Virginia, business, sports, and ladies’ man. None of it is Jed, except for playing on the rugby team, which he joins in defiance of soccer-loving Kent. Jed comes out in his sophomore year and starts seeing Pete, an attractive junior, who uses him for sex and videogames. Jed wants more—in life and in love—and starts making his own plans. First on the list: getting to know Charlie, the handsome guy working at the local videogame arcade.
Charlie Ambrose has always felt like an oddball, and not just for his tendency to stutter. Being gay sets him apart from his African-American community, and as a “townie,” he doesn’t fit in with the college crowd. Charlie’s inspiration is his cousin, Morocco, who’s transgender and doesn’t give a fig about fitting in. Art is Charlie’s passion, and when a local videogame designer discovers him, Charlie’s living a dream. The only thing he’s missing is love. But the last person Charlie expects to find it with is a cute, white U.Va. rugby player named Jed.
Jed made it out of the frat house and walked toward the dorm through the crowds of bid-night revelers. He hadn’t thought about how awkward things could get with him and Kent in the fraternity together. Frats meant parties, which meant alcohol and girls. Put Kent in the middle of that, with his “everyone follow me over the cliff” personality, and that was it. Jed was sunk. Dead meat. He’d either have to persuade Myesha to be his beard, or… come out?
Right. Get real.
As if summoned by the gay unicorn gods, Aidan Emery and his merry band of queers appeared, strutting down the sidewalk, laughing and singing. Jed’s insides contorted with jealousy. He wanted to stick out his foot and trip them for daring to be so openly gay and happy about it.
Coming out? To Kent and a bunch of Wahoos in SAE? To the rugby team? To the world in general? No way.
Jed changed course and headed to Lucky’s. He’d thought about going to lift weights at the university gym, but the truth was, he was tired of everything U.Va., with its fraternities, homophobia, and all the rest. He needed a videogame fix. Kent had told him Lucky’s had the best selection in town. The wind picked up, carrying with it a hint of snow. He pulled his coat closer around him and started a slow jog, relieved to be leaving the Grounds and the parties behind.
Ten minutes later, Jed reached Lucky’s, breathing hard but feeling more centered as he pushed open the door. He stopped to survey the scene, having never been there. The place was hopping—people eating, drinking, playing pool and pinball—and there against the far wall were huge screens and sofas for gamers. He went over to scope out the games.
“Let me know if I can help you with anything.”
A handsome black guy stood next to the counter. He gave Jed a shy smile, and Jed smiled back. Zing. Jed had never thought about having gaydar, but this guy set something off in him that said they were playing for the same team.
“Do you have any suggestions?”
“D-depends.” The guy came to stand next to him. He was a couple inches taller than Jed and he smelled nice. Plus he had striking greenish-brown eyes. His nametag read Charlie. “W-what’re you into?”
You. Jed’s cheeks warmed. Damn stupid blushing. “I like Halo, Mass Effect, stuff like that. But I also like fantasy games. I was way into Oblivion in high school.”
Charlie picked out a game and handed it over. “You’d l-like this if you haven’t p-played it. It came out a c-couple months ago.”
“Dragon Age: Origins. Cool. I’ve been wanting to try this one. Thanks.” He followed Charlie back to the counter. “You go to U.Va.?” Jed wasn’t usually this forward in striking up conversations, but something about Charlie—his obvious shyness, his slight stutter—made Jed want to put him at ease. To Jed’s dismay, his question seemed to embarrass him.
“N-no.” Charlie shut his mouth in a grim line as he rang up Jed’s rental.
“Oh.” Jed cast around for something else to say but a bunch of high school kids rushed up to the counter, clutching games. Charlie didn’t meet Jed’s eyes as he handed over Dragon Age and turned to his new customers. “Um, thanks.”
Jed left Lucky’s, puzzling over Charlie’s response. So he’s a “townie.” So what? Oh well. The guy hadn’t seemed all that interested in Jed anyway. He lost himself in reading the game jacket as he walked back to the dorm.
Near Alderman Library, he heard, “Carter, you are so busted!” Bud weaved toward him on the sidewalk. “Where the hell’d you go?”
“Like hell you did. I—oh.” Bud lurched and Jed caught him by one arm.
“Someone’s wasted. You need help getting back?”
“Naw, ’m’fine. But don’t cut out on us like that, boy. I love ya, man!”
Jed watched fondly as Bud stumbled off into the night, then hoofed it to his dorm room.
Time for videogames.
I’ll leave you with a picture I took earlier this month in Cape Charles, Virginia. We’d gathered for my mother’s memorial service and then spent the week at the Chesapeake Bay. A sad and happy occasion.
Talk to you next month!
After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.
CJane is an ardent supporter of LGBTQ equality and is particularly fond of coming out stories.
In her spare time, CJane can be found dancing, listening to music, or watching old movies. Her husband and son support her writing habit by staying out of the way when they see her hunched over, staring intensely at her laptop.
CJane is the author of the award-winning Serpentine Series, New Adult contemporary novels set at the University of Virginia. Serpentine Walls was a 2014 Rainbow Awards finalist, Aidan’s Journey was a 2015 EPIC Awards finalist, and Sex, Love, and Videogames won first place in the New Adult category in the 2016 Swirl Awards and first place in Contemporary Fiction in the 2017 EPIC eBook Awards.