Hey guys, today we have the exciting end of the serial The Flesh Cartel with the long awaited Promise, now usually we have a review but with this serial I am doing a separate full series review which will be posted very soon (as soon as I can put into words this very disturbing but very good serial) we have Heidi and Rachel popping in to entertain you and a brilliant contest, so guys check it all out and I’ll see you all soon ❤ ~Pixie~
(The Flesh Cartel 19)
Heidi Belleau & Rachel Haimowitz
A bit by Heidi & Rachel
Hello all, and welcome to the Oh Thank God It’s Finally Finished last-episode blog tour for the Flesh Cartel! 🙂 Episode #19 has just released, and thus concludes the serial whose first episode released nearly two years past. We’re so excited to be sharing the boys’ happy endings with you, and to be with you here on this last look at the nearly 400,000 word journey into and then out of the darkness of human trafficking. We’ve done our best to make this tour fun and interesting both for folks who haven’t yet read the books but might be considering doing so, and for folks who’ve already begun (or already finished!) the series. Plus, there’s some very cool prizes up for grabs at the end of the post!
Thank you all again so much for sharing the experience of the Flesh Cartel with us, and for being a part of our farewell tour. Thanks also to our host for having us!
If you follow/have been following the tour, you’ll see that one of our tour stops features art by the exceptionally talented Ariaa (y-gallery link). As a special treat for one lucky commenter on our tour, we’re commissioning one more Flesh Cartel-themed image from them . . . and the blog tour grand prize winner gets to pick the scene of their choice! So if you have a favourite scene from the series that you’d like to see brought to life in gorgeous art, now’s your chance! The lucky winner will also receive a $25 gift certificate to Riptide Publishing.
Haven’t read the series yet? We’re also giving away a copy of the first season to five lucky commenters! That’s six fantastic prizes in total! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on any stop on the tour. Each comment (up to one per tour stop) counts as its own entry, so the more you comment, the more chances you have to win.
About Heidi & Rachel
Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town New Brunswick, Canada. She now lives in Alberta with her husband, an Irish ex-pat whose long work hours in the trades leave her plenty of quiet time to write.
She has a degree in history from Simon Fraser University with a concentration in British and Irish studies; much of her work centred on popular culture, oral folklore, and sexuality, but she was known to perplex her professors with unironic papers on the historical roots of modern romance novel tropes. (Ask her about Highlanders!)
Her writing reflects everything she loves: diverse casts of characters, a sense of history and place, equal parts witty and filthy dialogue, the occasional mythological twist, and most of all, love—in all its weird and wonderful forms.
Connect with Heidi:
Rachel Haimowitz is an M/M erotic romance author and the Publisher of Riptide Publishing. She’s also a sadist with a pesky conscience, shamelessly silly, and quite proudly pervish. Fortunately, all those things make writing a lot more fun for her . . . if not so much for her characters.
When she’s not writing about hot guys getting it on (or just plain getting it; her characters rarely escape a story unscathed), she loves to read, hike, camp, sing, perform in community theater, and glue captions to cats. She also has a particular fondness for her very needy dog, her even needier cat, and shouting at kids to get off her lawn.
Connect with Rachel:
Grilling the Co-Author: Heidi Interviews Rachel
Heidi and Rachel have obviously worked together closely for a long time now on this project, but it turns out they don’t know everything about each other yet. So they thought it’d be fun to ask each other the tough (or silly) questions about the Flesh Cartel. Heidi, take it away!
H: You were notoriously against the serial idea when I first pitched it to you. Why was that, and what ultimately changed your mind? Now that we’re done the series, how do you feel about it now?
R: The primary concern, at first, was actually a business concern. I worried that readers would hate the format, find the waiting interminable, and find the stories overpriced. But we assuaged those concerns one at a time, and actually came to some very compelling conclusions supporting serialization as the best format. Price-wise, we bundled the episodes by season on the Riptide site, which meant people could buy an entire season (which, except for S1, is a full novel’s worth of content) at an affordable price. $8.97 for 300 pages is admittedly a little on the high side of affordable, but given all the additional expenses the press incurs to make a serial (cover art modifications, very high conversion fees because of four or five separate files instead of one, extra hours spent making multiple files available to multiple retailers, etc.), and also given the care that went into writing, editing, production, etc., we felt it was a fair price point, and many thousands of you have told us through purchases that you’ve found it well worth the money. We also made full seasons available in trade paperback at the same price as any other similarly long novel we sell.
As for the wait, obviously some readers have disliked that, and many readers chose to wait until the series was nearly done or actually done so they could binge-read all at once, but the most common feedback we’ve seen about the once-a-month releases is that the waiting was actually very important for them, because the subject matter is so heavy that reading more than one episode at a time would have been too much. Many readers have expressed gratitude for the imposed control over the reading schedule–they want time to digest, but it’s like potato chips; if they had the whole bag at once, they’d eat it and then not feel well. I’m the same way and would’ve done the same thing if I were reading this instead of writing it, and I think I would’ve been equally glad to be forced to slow down and savor.
So now I’m actually really glad we did it the way we did it. primarily because of the savor aspect. Even with the big drawback of being on a very, very strict writing schedule (we had to put out one episode a month, every month, for two years, with only a single month’s break between each season), I’m glad that readers who found the pacing useful were able to have it. And of course many readers also relished the anticipation, which is something you lose on a binge read, and something we would’ve lost a big part of if we’d released this a book at a time. We would’ve still had the anticipation at the end of each season, but we would’ve lost the opportunity to end episodes in little cliffhangers. Which brings me to the last really excellent thing about the format: it gave us space to spread out. Knowing we were producing an episode a month let us take the luxury of exploring some themes, ideas, and characters that, had we written a traditional novel, we would not have had the time or structural opportunity to explore. So yes, all told, serializing was a big win.
H: What was your favourite scene to write? What stuck with you? How about your least favourite?
R: Oh man, choices choices. I don’t know if this was my favorite scene ever because, let’s face it, it’s been two years, but my favorite scene in recent memory was Mat and Nate’s first kiss. Heidi and I had been so anxious to write that (we write strictly in order, so even though we knew it was coming, we had to get to it first), and were so excited while writing it, that we literally were just shouting “KIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISSSSSS” and variations thereof back and forth on Gchat for like thirty solid minutes as we wrote the scene. I realize, given my reputation as a hardcore sadist, that you probably were not expecting that answer :-p And it’s not like I didn’t write some of the torture scenes with gleeful abandon. But ultimately, it was the scene with the big emotional punch that really sticks with me.
As for least favorite? I had a very hard time with Allen’s voice, and more than one of the scenes with Allen left me feeling kind of unmoored. Like, we might have known where we were starting and ending, but I’d end up losing focus on the driving thematics along the way and write myself into a corner. So, no one specific scene, but basically just . . . Allen in general. Thank god for my awesome co-author, who wrote Allen absolutely brilliantly.
H: We’ve said from the beginning that Doug/Dougie was the character I empathized with most and that Mat was yours. The reaction from readers has definitely proved Mat to be the more popular character. What about him do you think is so appealing?
R: I think he’s the more inherently sympathetic character because he’s more proactive, and the one very clearly on the hero’s journey. But when you think about it, if Nikolai had done to Mat what he’d done to Dougie, the story–and Mat’s journey–would’ve turned out very differently. Mat was no more immune to Nikolai than Doug was, and maybe not even any mentally stronger, and definitely not smarter. He was just spared. Er, if you can call it that. And I think it’s very easy to forget that or lose sight of that when Dougie does inevitably fall prey–and yes, it is inevitable; anyone in Doug’s shoes would’ve ended up the same, anyone–and Mat doesn’t. But what makes Mat such an appealing hero is that his resistance is not inevitable; it’s actually quite remarkable, and took tremendous strength. But you could see that strength at work because he wasn’t fighting an immovable force or a hopeless battle. Dougie was fighting an immovable force and a hopeless battle, so his strength was much harder to see, but it was very, very much there.
H: When I originally pitched you the idea it was as a series of loosely interconnected stories featuring a different cast of characters in each. Ultimately we didn’t go that way, which I think was definitely for the best. But if we were to write another story set in the Flesh Cartel universe–and not featuring (except maybe as a cameo) any of the major players aka Mat, Doug, Nikolai or Roger–who or what would you most want to write about?
R: Ooh, that’s a good one. And tricky tricky. I think maybe I’d be interested in a bounty hunter’s story. All bounty hunters started out as guards in the auction houses, who then advanced to members of procurement teams, and the best of the best got promoted to bounty hunting, where the biggest money is. Like, what kind of person do you have to be to do this kind of work? How do you get into it? We have an all-female team of bounty hunters in Flesh Cartel, and I’d be especially curious to know their leader’s story. What her life was like. How she moved up through the ranks. How she picked her team members. How she feels about what she does. If she’s a sociopath. You know, the easy questions 😉
H: I’ve been saying for a while now that I definitely need a break from dark non-con fiction, and true to that intention, all of my current works in progress are decidedly lighter. How about you? Do you need a break from this kind of content, or will you be jumping right back into the thick of it?
R: Tough to say. I really thrive on the dark stuff, and noncon is so my kink, and I’ve definitely become known for dark books all across the consent spectrum–even when there is consent, there’s often violence and/or sadism–so I think this is something many readers have come to expect from my writing. And honestly even when I’m not writing something purposefully dark, dark elements have a way of creeping in. Like, Break & Enter was mostly a funny shoot-em-up-blow-em-up good-time cyberpunk chase movie in book form, and somehow we still managed to shoot and briefly torture the main character :-p And in terms of the projects I’m contemplating next, one of them contains its share of dark and noncon elements but does have a romance and a happy ending, and the other’s MC is recently orphaned, depressed, and desperate enough to lead to what I’d consider a dubcon prostitution choice, even though that also leads to romance and a happy ending. Ultimately, I suspect the dark side of humanity contains themes that I am always going to orbit around one way or another, but I also seem to really like using those themes and events as catalysts to bring very positive things into my protagonists’ lives.
H: What were your priorities when we wrote this series? What themes and tropes did we need to touch on? What were you completely unwilling to skimp out on?
Lemme answer that backwards. I was completely unwilling to skimp out on either the breaking process or the recovery process. In other words, no cheating the psychology, no “six months later,” no handwaving the extensive mental processes involved in breaking or in healing.
Themes are the things that happen while you’re not looking, and I think writers are usually too close to their work to have a very good conscious grasp on a lot of them (though their unconscious grasp may be excellent), so this is a tougher part to answer. But definitely themes of family, love, human strength and also human frailty, protection and overprotection, generosity and darkness of spirit, and–one of the most interesting for me–the nature of crime and victimhood, innocence and guilt.
Like, we’re mostly all capable of looking at Doug/Dougie and forgiving him for the terrible things he did because we can see how he was victimized and brainwashed and coerced and broken. Many of us are much less capable of looking at Roger and being equally forgiving–and he’s a fascinating character to me in large part for exactly that reason–because we didn’t watch him be victimized and he’s so far removed from the time of his breaking and so entrenched in Nikolai’s craziness. Personally I find Roger to be deeply sympathetic and one of the biggest tragedies in the whole story, but I also fully understand how others may hate him. Yet literally the only thing that separates him from Dougie is time; he and Dougie endured the same breaking/brainwashing/training, and he and Dougie both did the same horrible things (raped Mat, injected Mat with the serum, etc.). Yet is he guilty or innocent? Victim or victimizer? Sympathetic or monster? There are no easy answers there and that fascinates the crap out of me. And, on the same train of thought, what about Nikolai? He was a victim too. His mother was broken by a trainer just like Dougie was. He was five when the trainer ended life as he knew it and raised him as his own. I guarantee you Nikolai’s childhood was not free of abuse of one kind or another, even if his mentor never touched him sexually (which he did not)–and he was so profoundly isolated that he had no opportunity to learn any other way of life. Nikolai wasn’t born a monster, he was made a monster. So what about him? Is he ultimately a victim too? At what point do we become responsible for our own crimes? I love that stuff.
H: Really taking advantage of the episodic format, we ended on a lot of truly evil cliffhangers. You’re the sadist here, which was your favourite?
R: Haha omg, probably the one at the end of–I think it was episode 9?–where they escape and the episode ends with them climbing into a car. Such delicious false hope and crushed dreams for readers and characters alike
H: If you could go back, is there anything you would change?
R: Yes, but I think only one thing. I would dial down the abuse in the first season–particularly the first episode–just a little bit. In Season 1, we were still very fetish focused and not as much story focused. By the end of Season 2, we were hugely story focused, and of course there was still plenty of kink but the story reigned supreme–something that becomes very, very obvious all throughout Season 4 (where there is very little kink) and Season 5 (where there is virtually none at all, and what there is of it is self-inflicted). So I’d love the opportunity to bring Season 1 more in line with the tone and focus of the rest of the story. I don’t think it’d take much–all that horrible stuff really needs to be happening, after all–but a little could make a huge difference, imo.