Please welcome Bradley Lloyd with
Are You a Voyeur?
I’m a people watcher. I think a lot of readers and writers are. I love living in a city high-rise because I can get my daily fill just by looking out my window. In fact, I probably would not have written Shadow Fray as quickly as I did without a little motivation from my neighbors two buildings over.
In Shadow Fray, Justin is a watcher. Part of it is the fighter in him, always looking for an advantage, sizing up threats, planning a course of action. He’s got a sister and brother to protect in an unforgiving dystopian future where the ground is contaminated and people live in high-rises, so a lot of what he does comes from his protective nature.
But Justin isn’t alone in his watchful tendencies. Drones are prevalent and privacy is practically a thing of the past. This creates an interesting sort of Catch-22 because Justin is also very aware of being watched, so part of his watchfulness comes from a worry about who might be watching him. When you need to remain anonymous to participate in an underground fighting ring, being discovered is downright dangerous.
I think this dynamic is something a lot of LGBTQI people can relate to, particularly those that have lived any part of their life in the closet. There’s a constant sense of caution, and a fear of the unknown, of what might happen. It makes one very watchful indeed.
When I’m writing, I’m a morning person. I particularly love waking up predawn on the weekend. I settle down with my coffee and computer at the window table overlooking Lake Michigan while my husband is still in bed. I take a lot of photos of the sunrise as I get caffeinated and start writing. And since I was writing about people that watch each other from the windows of their high-rises, I started for the first time really looking away from the sun and the lake and toward the buildings and windows around me.
That’s when I found a strange source of inspiration in the Attractive Naked Couple. I never really got a close look, but at the same time I saw plenty, because this couple never closed their blinds. I get it—why close your blinds when you can look at the lake? Even if you sleep in the nude, on your back, with no covers. Or even when you step out of the shower after your morning bike ride.
I couldn’t believe I had never noticed this before! Clearly, the couple didn’t care, and I learned that “Ugly Naked Guy” from Friends was more than just a made-up thing, and the naked guy does not have to be ugly.
I was a morning person before this, but I did find it very fascinating and I can’t say it didn’t give me a little extra motivation to sit in front of the window and write. This happened within the first few weeks of starting the book, so now I honestly can’t say how much of the voyeurism in the book was planned (which it was) compared to how much is actually there (a lot).
I do think it turned my book into more of a slow-burn than a hot and heavy sex fest. Not to worry—there’s sex, but I think Justin and Hale spend a lot more time watching each other thanks to Attractive Naked Couple. It fits with their characters and situations, so perhaps it would have turned out the same regardless, but who knows? I do love the end result. I like to think of it as tantric writing, where the build-up of their relationship makes the payoff all the more satisfying.
Attractive Naked Couple has since moved out of the building down the street, and I will never know who they were. I still get up and write in the morning even without them. But if you read Shadow Fray and get turned on by the voyeurism, or exhibitionism, or the slow-burn romance like I do, you’ll know where it came from. Even though I don’t thank Attractive Naked Couple in my acknowledgements, I am very grateful.I hope you will be too.
About the book:
Family is worth fighting for—and family doesn’t always mean blood.
No one knows what calamity poisoned the earth and decimated the human population, but living close to the toxic ground means illness and death. Justin is determined to keep his twin sister and younger brother from that fate—no matter what he has to do. To earn enough to keep his family safe in a high-rise, Justin enlists in a deadly sport called Shadow Fray. He quickly finds himself in over his head, especially when he is scheduled to face the most dangerous player.
Hale—who competes as Black Jim—knows he won’t be on top forever, despite his skills. He fights for a better life for his daughter, but his time is running out as Shadow Fray becomes increasingly lethal. Something about the newest fighter intrigues him, but does he dare defy his masters to investigate? Justin and Hale will clash in the ring, while beyond it the powerful elite and the crumbling world seem determined to keep them apart. If they can find common ground, they might have a chance to fight for their futures.
Get the book:
In fitting with my blog entry, I’ve chosen a special excerpt where Justin intently watches video one of Hale’s fights. Since fighters must remain anonymous, Justin doesn’t know him as Hale, but as Black Jim, the top fighter in all of Shadow Fray, and someone he has long admired.
Justin had studied Black Jim. Idolized him. He both feared and dreamed of fighting him. Justin wasn’t excited for much, but this—
What would it be like to walk into an Arena and suddenly see this man staring him down? He rehearsed it mentally so when it did happen, he wouldn’t crumble. He’d be able to look back into those eyes without fear.
He visualized walking in. He didn’t look at an opponent directly during pat-down. He’d analyze the physical space of the Arena and indirectly study the other Brawler’s body for advantages and threats. That would allow him to then raise his eyes and stare right back at the man with his full attention. Black Jim’s eyes were actually blue. Justin had spent hours magnifying video to find his true eye color so he would know Black Jim was just another man, a man who could be beaten. He wasn’t some white-eyed black demon.
Black Jim always looked and dressed the same. With the grease paint his face was, of course, black. The paint disguised the true color of his hair, which was not quite shoulder-length. It looked like it might curl slightly when it wasn’t slicked back. The paler skin of his arms and hands was overlaid with dark hair. He looked rugged, so he was likely one of those guys who had a permanent five-o’clock shadow.
He wore a sleeveless black shirt, one that clung tightly to him and moved with him. His arms could be carved from marble. He appeared to be all muscle and 0 percent body fat. His veins stood out along his arms and on his hands, but he wasn’t huge. He didn’t look like a bouncer like so many other Brawlers did. He looked like an athlete.
Justin watched as the visitor walked on-screen, a Brawler named Lynx. The man was African-American, very large with leonine features. Standing across from Black Jim in an abandoned McDonald’s, he certainly looked more like prey than predator.
The one good thing this guy did was charge out of the gate. Black Jim usually had an opening advantage, knew the visitor would likely be a little shocked to see him, a little slow. Justin gave this guy credit for taking action and not hesitating, but he didn’t have a backup plan. Black Jim wasn’t surprised by the move even though it didn’t often happen. He took advantage of the charging stance of Lynx and planted a jump kick into his face.
The man was pretty much done after that. His nose was broken and bleeding freely, and he looked stunned. The fight lasted for a long time though. One of the reasons Black Jim was so popular was because he was quite the showman. Had there been a literal spotlight in that McDonald’s, Black Jim would have completely absorbed it.
In this one he looked to be having particular fun. He slammed the guy’s face into one of the old registers on the counter, knocking it to the floor. It was the only register on the counter, and Justin firmly believed Black Jim had planned this move and had removed the other registers in the Arena prior to the cameras going up. Showing up first was one of the advantages of being the home team, and as the top Brawler in Shadow Fray, he was always the home team, until someone took him down.
Then he did Justin’s favorite move, grabbing the guy and standing him up to punch him backward onto the counter. Like the boss he was, Black Jim gripped the guy’s neck and slid him along the countertop. It was a scene right out of an old Western. This was showmanship.
As the man fell to the floor at the end of the counter, he did something out of desperation. He grabbed for Black Jim but only managed to get the bottom of his shirt. As he fell, he didn’t let go, and Black Jim was forced to bend over partially, the man pulling his shirt before hitting the ground hard and releasing it. With his shirt bunched up on his chest, Black Jim stood up smiling, as if he knew he was giving people a real show. It was one of the only times you got to see the magnificence of his upper body.
Justin paused it and replayed the move, watching it again and again, for two reasons.
First, it showed a potential weakness. If Justin ever fought Black Jim, he could use that shirt. Clothing was fair game. He could get it up, maybe entangle him somehow. While watching, he thought of the different moves he could use to accomplish this, planning scenarios to give him an advantage.
The second reason he watched this portion repeatedly was because, as an admirer of Black Jim’s fitness, this allowed a rare glimpse at parts of his body that were otherwise covered. Justin loved the trimness of the man—everything was corded and tight. He had narrow hips and a V-line, with stomach muscles that popped. He had to be flexing for the camera as he lowered his shirt. Justin replayed it again, this time focusing on the flash of pec he could see, circular and very well defined. Both nipples were visible, taught and tight on his hard body. His chest was covered in dark hair, prevalent but not overly long—not something a Brawler could grab and hold onto for any kind of advantage. The hair on his chest narrowed and trailed down between his flexing abs and over his navel, disappearing beneath the waistband of his black pants.
Justin marveled at that body. For the physique, of course. Purely professional.
His eyes zeroed in on the screen, the heat he felt looking at Black Jim practically burning the image onto his corneas.
He paused the video and Black Jim froze on the screen, a statue of perfection.
About the author:
Bradley Lloyd is a Chicago-born author who studied Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was raised in a conservative religious household but became aware of his sexuality at a very young age—about the same age he learned of his ancestry to Hans Christian Andersen. Inspired by this knowledge, writing became an outlet that helped him cope with inner conflicts and bullying.
Of course, he was no angel and occasionally used his storytelling powers for evil. He once convinced the neighborhood children that gnomes had been real before all being turned into lawn ornaments.
Later, these experiences lead him to work with middle-school students. Now a teacher in the inner city, he shares his love of writing with a captive audience of kids, who are thrilled with true(ish) tales of their haunted school building.
Interestingly, his favorite UFC fighter and former world champion was a student at his school, and when Brad is not reading or writing, you might find him hosting the next UFC pay-per-view event party. His dreams of becoming an ultimate fighter are realized vicariously through his stories and video games.
Brad is happily married to a wonderful husband. Their tenth anniversary was also the day same-sex marriage became legal, and they were couple number seven at the courthouse.
You can read more of Brad’s (free) tales on his website, follow on Facebook and Twitter, or e-mail him directly.
Promotional post. Materials provided by the author.