Sex, Identity, and Skyscraper Dreams

By |August 2nd, 2015|

As I’ve stated a bazillion times, I have a few books coming out in the near future (6 in the next year and a half actually), but you might not know 5 out of 6 of those planned novels are in my new Five Boroughs series. The first of which—SUTPHIN BOULEVARD—was released on Friday. Keep in mind—all books can be read as standalones. Characters will pop up all over the series but you don’t need to read them in a particular order if you don’t want to, and each couple gets a happy ending by the end of their book.

I’ve had a semi rough release weekend (broke my phone, argued with family, screamed at disappearing GR ratings before being reassured they will return, agonized over promo and wondering how to accrue Amazon reviews—hey this is Real Talk w/ Santino), but the reviews rolling in are… fucking phenomenal. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“The chemistry between these two fairly sizzles the pages. This book is sexy. The love scenes are dirty in all the best ways.” — Fiction Vixen

“This book and these characters offer a gritty and realistic view of life while offering a complex and multi-layered story of true friends that become lovers.” — Joyfully Jay Reviews

“Hassell’s storytelling is raw and gritty, but utterly perfect. It’s been a while since I had a book hangover of this magnitude, but it’s here in full force.” — JesseWave

“It’s a book that makes you want to read it over and over again, and I’ve read its final pivotal and epiphanous scene so many times I almost know it word for word now.” — The Novel Approach Reviews

“I couldn’t be happier with this book. Though it’s written in first person in Michael’s point of view, Santino Hassell writes it in a way that lets you see all that Michael is blind to.” — LoveBytes

“This book is special, in an extraordinary, I’m kind of in awe of how special it is way. I was totally captivated by Santino Hassell’s voice, and no nonsense writing style, wow, the man really is such an incredibly talented author, and I’m excited by his potential and of what’s to come in the future.” — Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews

“I love Santino’s style of writing, which is definitely not slushy, or overtly romantic, he expresses emotion in a very visceral way, which stays with you a long time.” — Prism Book Alliance

I am utterly thrilled by the response. It’s a personal book (in a purely thematic sense), and one that was difficult to write for various reasons, so reading these reviews has been amazing.

In case you missed it, I wrote a blog post on casual sex over at The Novel Approach, did a really interesting interview at JesseWave, and I also talked about inspiration and future plans over on the Dreamspinner FB page! I did a post on STYGIAN (my October release) with inspiration photos and I also talked a bit about the YA short story (and potential series) that spawned McCleary High School–the school some of the characters in SUTPHIN BOULEVARD work at. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be talking about this book and this series. I love the characters and I want you all to get to know them. I even love Michael’s students. I created an entire roster for his History class!

So, what IS the Five Boroughs series?

Well, the first book was initially inspired by elements from my own life—teacher drama, family issues, and of course a guy (that story will get told in another blog post 😉 ), but the idea grew as I wrote the draft of SUTPHIN BOULEVARD. I was infatuated with the main character’s friends and family, and I wanted to tell their stories too. From there it got bigger. I decided to make it a series that would pay homage to shows like Queer as Folk, The L Word, and Looking (in terms of the ensemble cast, interlocking storylines, and the big city setting) but with my own style.

So that’s what Five Boroughs is—adult romance novels about a diverse group of men (although I do have plans for a M/F and F/F at some point) trying to figure out life, forge relationships, and push their sexual boundaries in a city that moves fast and stops for no one. And what other city would I write about than New York?

One of my goals with Five Boroughs was to represent NYC in terms of how diverse it is. Racially, ethnically, age-wise, and all of those different subcultures that are crushed together every time a subway car opens and people come flooding in. FB will feature teachers, lawyers, hipster (or should I say… yuccie?) dancers, disgruntled hedge fund heirs, student loan-weary Millennials, and a couple of cops from Staten Island. They all have challenges to overcome and dreams they want to reach, and every one of them will find love even if they weren’t looking for it when their book started.

The characters have vastly different backgrounds but they’re all connected to each other (social media is major theme in this series). Book one is about a Puerto Rican teacher and his Italian-American best friend, and everything after that is like Six Degrees of Michael Rodriguez. David gets his book, so does Raymond, Charles, Drew, Caleb… they’ll all get their stories eventually and I hope you stick around to read about them!

Subscribe to my newsletter for updates about my future releases! I’ll be putting exclusive SYTGIAN stuff in there soon.


Sutphin Boulevard Blog Tour

By |July 23rd, 2015|

Release day is just around the cawnah.

Sutphin Boulevard will drop at your friendly neighborhood retailers next Friday, and the blog tour will kick off around the same time. You can find the blog tour schedule below as well as the type of content I’ll have at each stop. There’s also a giveaway or two so, if you’re interested, don’t miss opportunities to rack up some points!

Blogtour Badge

July 30

Diverse Reader – Exclusive Excerpt

July 31

Jessewave – Interview with LenaLena (submit questions here!)

The Novel Approach – “Is it ever ‘just sex’?” (Guest Post)

August 1

Binge on Books – Deleted scene (with sexy times!)

August 2

Santino’s Blog – “Sex, Love, and Skyscraper Dreams”

August 3

Sinfully… – “Sexual Chemistry” (Excerpt + Guest Post)

August 4

Joyfully Jay – Behind the Sutphin Boulevard scenes! (Guest Post)

August 5

Purple Rose Tea House – Character Interview (hosted by Charlie Cochet)

August 6

Love Bytes – “Running From Love” (Guest Post)

August 7

Romance Novels in Color – Fun Q&A + Excerpt

Prism Book Alliance – Interview with Alexis Hall

I hope you guys follow along! Sign up to my newsletter for future updates and, for now, you can preorder at Dreamspinner’s website and All Romance ebooks, as well as read an excerpt on Heroes and Heartbreakers!

The Science Teacher – Meet Nunzio

By |July 14th, 2015|

Last week we saw an excerpt that summed up Michael, so let’s go ahead and do Nunzio Medici as well:

The crush of people in the car intensified, and Nunzio moved closer until we were squished against the door. He didn’t hesitate to align our bodies until we were chest to chest, his mouth brushing my ear. I let him lean into me and didn’t pull away like I normally did when he showed these public displays of affection.

Nunzio was oblivious to the curious stares his touchy-feely nature garnered, but homophobes were generally reluctant to mess with two guys over six feet, no matter how much he cuddled me. And I couldn’t deny that I’d missed it.

“I wish I’d been here with you,” he said. “I shouldn’t have gone.”

“I wouldn’t have let you stay.”

“Like you could have stopped me?”

Nunzio is a Queens-born Italian American who refuses to show the lingering battle scars from his rough-and-tumble childhood. He won’t change for anyone and rarely bites his tongue, but he’s also one of the most affectionate characters I’ve ever written. Nunzio doesn’t take crap from anybody but when he loves, he loves hard. And he isn’t shy about showing it.

If I had to describe Nunzio in three ways it would be fiercely loyal, charming, and he’s a very… ardent lover (he’s also an ENFJ personality type).

Nunzio is the friend who would be there for you no matter what.

By the time I stopped talking my voice had a ragged edge and Nunzio was rubbing my back, his strong hand an anchor that kept me from sliding off the barstool and succumbing to weariness and resignation. I wished I’d just waited for Nunzio in his apartment where I could bask in his affection without an audience.

The devilish charmer every dude would be jealous of if he wasn’t so damn likeable.

Nunzio’s smile was infectious, and he couldn’t stop himself from casually touching people when he talked, not that anyone ever minded.

He’d always been the charming one of our duo. The one who could get an allegedly straight frat boy to drop his pants with no more than a suggestive comment and a raised brow. It was a talent that had kept him away from long-term relationships for most of our adult life.

And the kind of guy who could potentially get you off just by talking dirty.

“Just have fun with me. No one’s gonna know.”

“It’s not that.” I swallowed again, and my eyes slid shut when he dove in, mouth attacking my throat and sucking on the bobbing lump of my Adam’s apple. “Jesus Christ, Nunzio. What’s with you?”

His tongue dragged along the rough stubble on my throat. “Just really horny, and you’re right here. And I haven’t stopped thinking about stretching that ass out since July.”

Nunzio gives 200% of himself when it comes to his career and his relationships but unfortunately for him that sometimes backfires. Although he can come off as devil-may-care and even arrogant, Nunzio is sensitive. His feelings get hurt easily and when they do, he won’t hesitate to let you know that you’re the one causing him pain.

He walked out of his parents’ lives when they refused to accept who he is, so he’s very cautious with the remaining people he cares about. Especially Michael. It takes a lot for Nunzio to give up and walk away from someone, but if he feels he is being taken for granted… Well, it may get to that point.

You’ll learn more about Nunzio when SUTPHIN BOULEVARD is released on July 31. You can pre-order now, and don’t forget to enter the big-ass SB giveaway! There’s 2 days left, and you have the chance to win a teacher survival pack, a signed paperback, and exclusive SB merch.

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The History Teacher — Meet Michael (and enter a giveaway)

By |July 9th, 2015|

This excerpt is a good introduction to Michael Rodriguez, the main character of SUTPHIN BOULEVARD:SutphinBoulevard- FINAL SMALL

“The guy in the striped shirt wants to buy you a shot.”

Miranda’s voice jerked me out of my reverie. I hadn’t even noticed her approach.

“I already have a drink.”

She nodded at the other end of the bar. “He thinks you look sad.”

I didn’t pick myself up from my slouch against the bar, face still braced in one open palm. I peered past her—the guy in question was giving me an appreciative grin. He was good-looking, but I wasn’t in the mood to hear anything a buttoned-up yuppie had to say, especially not when I was unkempt, unshaved, and sweating in a torn-up T-shirt. Misery might love company, but Rodriguez men historically liked to suffer in silence—preferably with a bottle of rum while listening to Héctor Lavoe.

“He looks like a banker.”

“Close. He’s an accountant.”

“Sounds thrilling.” I turned away again, lifting my mug. “Tell him I’m straight.”

Michael is a thirty-two year old history teacher who was born and raised in Jamaica, Queens. If the people on his block would tell you anything about him, they’d say Michael is one blunt mother****er. He doesn’t bullshit you. If he’s not interested, he’ll let you know. But if he is? Watch out. He’s not shy about asserting himself professionally or romantically (unless you’re his best friend of twenty years and then things get… complicated and he’s a lot less sure of himself).

Three characteristics to describe Michael would be dedicated, passionate, and a liiiittle high-strung (he’s also an ISTJ personality for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing).

He’s the dutiful son even though his family drives him insane.

I heaved an exasperated sigh. “Ray, just tell me what you want.”

“We got family shit.”

Raymond had this amazing ability to annoy the hell out of me with just one sentence and very little information. We used to be close enough to be friends as well as brothers, but that had changed after I’d moved back to our childhood home in Queens to help take care of our mother.

The hard-ass History teacher at McCleary High School who clearly cares a lot about his students.

I ignored the dawning look of horror on his face and jerked my thumb at an orange textbook on my desk. “Don’t give me that face, because this is a good deal. And I can tell you now that this is a one-shot deal. I don’t believe in magical makeup packets and get-out-of-p.m.-school-free cards for kids who can’t be bothered to show up. You feel me?”

“Yeah, I feel you, mister.” Shawn leaned against the desk behind him. “But what if I don’t finish in time?”

“You have no choice.”

“Yeah, but what if I can’t?”

I snorted. “Stop making excuses before you even try.”

But he’s also that guy who wants to carry everything but sometimes buckles under the weight bearing down on his shoulders.

Try as I might to convince them, Raymond wouldn’t get a job, my father wouldn’t stop drinking, and my childhood home was all but falling apart. The fact was cemented by the handful of bills in the mailbox—one was a cut-off notice for the electricity, another was a letter from the bank reminding me I was late paying the mortgage.
I crumpled the envelopes in my hand, shame warring with frustration after I stepped into the house.

Michael thinks he can handle it. He thinks if he has a plan, he’ll have things well in hand. And usually that works out for him, but when it doesn’t… Well, then he both withdraws and gets lost in his thoughts, or he seeks escape.

Escape Route #1: Going to the bar.
Escape Route #2: Sex with aforementioned best friend.

A couple of months ago, the most physical we’d gotten was lying next to each other during a Breaking Bad marathon and eating off the same plate, but it took roughly ninety seconds for Nunzio to convince me to strip and lie on my back with my thighs spread wide.

Sounds intense, right? Well, he is. He’s an intense dude at work, with his family, and in the bedroom. Let’s just say he’s a very… giving lover. Especially when he’s hooking up with a guy who has Sinatra baby blues, a killer smile, and a dirty mouth. A guy named Nunzio. But you’ll meet him next week.

You’ll learn more about Michael when SUTPHIN BOULEVARD is released on July 31, but for now you can pre-order and enter this super dope giveaway for the chance to win a Teacher’s Survival Pack (filled with exclusive merch, random goodies and supplies a NYC public teacher might need), an I <3 SUTPHIN BOULEVARD T-shirt (wrinkles optional), and a signed paperback:


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Creative Guilt

By |January 10th, 2015|

Last night I had the following conversation with my friend Ashley:

Ashley: what’s crazy is that most people don’t make things. it’s so weird to me that i feel like a huge flop if i don’t make something like art or writing, but most people don’t do that.
me: youre right. i try to tell that to myself about writing, but it doesnt help
Ashley: i wish i could be one of them tbh. like how cool would my life be if i just gave up art and played video games instead
Ashley: let’s give up making things!
me: i think we should. maybe we would feel less bad about ourselves when we aren’t creating something. we could make snarky podcasts about gaming
Ashley: no! stop that!
me: you’d be cute cool gamer chick and i’ll be the mopey sullen gamer guy
Ashley: even your giving up doing things is like: OK BUT LET’S MAKE THINGS! lmfao
me: LOL i am a fail.

Now, let me give you some backstory on my homegirl Ashley. She is nearly a decade younger than me but she is a graphic designer, has pursued several creative endeavors such as acting, creating webcomics, writing a fantasy story featuring queer characters, ran a successful RP, makes book covers (she designed the new ICoS book covers), and she is a prolific artist. Most recently, she painted a portrait of famous actor and drag queen Willam Belli (you might know him from RuPaul’s Drag Race), and Willam loved it so much that he invited her to hang out on Valentine’s Day. COOL, RIGHT?

And yet… and yet… she, LIKE ME, thinks that one or two or even several “off days” where we have not created something or done something “constructive” when it comes to our creative hobbies makes us lazy-ass flops who will never get anywhere because we lack motivation, dedication, and are simply a big pile of bad. And we both know that’s ridiculous and we have absurd expectations of ourselves. We discuss it frequently. But yet… it’s a cycle that repeats on nearly a weekly or sometimes daily basis.

For me, it’s worse in the winter, when you can most often find me like this:

yes, this is actually me. the human sloth.

I get the winter blues pretty hardcore. You might also know this condition as Seasonal Affective Disorder. I didn’t used to believe in SAD, but after two years of the same exact symptoms kicking in at the same exact times… I can’t really deny it. Last year and this year I struggled with either insomnia or coma-like sleeps that happen a couple of times before the insomnia returns for days or weeks. Low energy, low interest in all of the things I usually love, I can’t concentrate or focus on anything, I’m more of a moody fuck than usual, and I want to be alone (again, more than usual). Last year I dealt with this by drinking a bottle of wine every night. This year that isn’t an option, so I just sit around and stare at social media and generally feel like a flop. The creative guilt kicks in hardcore.

I could clean my whole apartment and make 10 phone calls to my one billion doctors and still say “I didn’t do anything today” because I didn’t write. It’s this ingrained knee-jerk reaction to say I got nothing done even when I did a lot of things, but to me it wasn’t the thing that mattered.

Writing isn’t a chore for me. I genuinely love it. Even if I wasn’t planning to sell books, I would still be writing and posting for free. It’s been my favorite hobby and way of expressing myself for twenty years. But I often ask myself how it became something that on the one hand brings me a sense of pleasure and release while on the other bringing me a significant amount of stress. And then I ask myself… did you feel this way even when you didn’t want to do this as a second career? Is THAT what has activated this sense of urgency? Maybe. But I’m not convinced. I’ve been this way as far back as I could remember, and Ashley is the same.

So what can I do to try to drag myself out of this slump? Or at least to try to avoid this crushing sense of failure? Maybe I’ll try to figure out a game plan. SAD isn’t going to go away just because I will it away, but I can try to do some things to improve the situation.

For example, I can re-arrange my self-made deadlines to take my winter blues into consideration. Instead of writing a chapter per day, I can set my goal at 500-1k words a day. It’s not as high as I would like it to be given I am not working at the moment, but I would still be accomplishing something. On that schedule, I would still finish 180 Proof Vega: Volume I by the end of January. I would even be able to write Volume 2 by the end of winter if I stick to my goal of 40k words per volume. Two long novellas in three months would not be so bad at all. I just have to convince myself of that.

I could also try to have days where I focus on planning, researching, or outlining instead of always trying to up my wordcount which is almost impossible when I’m in this type of slump. It’s just a different level of concentration and focus. Even better, I can give myself “off days” (and try to convince myself that my 8 hour hospital appointments don’t count as being “off”) so I can spend time doing something else I enjoy. My guilt will still be there, but maybe I can eventually adapt to having 1 or 2 off days per week so I don’t burn out.

So, will these things work? I have NO idea. Having a plan is great, but assimilating this new strategy into my existing schema is a whole other story. Maybe I’ll post an update about my progress in a month.