They Didn’t Work Out, But Man Was the Sex Hot

While this isn’t meant as a promo post, I want to talk about the fact that I just agreed to write a sort of bonus Desert Dogs novella, Drive It Deep, to come out next summer between books two and three—Give It All and Burn It Up. This is very exciting to me, but not just because it’s a new contract and a cool opportunity. No, it’s exciting because of what I get to write about.

give-it-allIf you haven’t read Lay It Down, it doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that there are three particular characters among the group with some tension. A woman—whom I will call Trashy Bar Owner—used to sleep with a man I’ll call Frustrated Cowboy, before ultimately shacking up with another man, whom I’ll call Batshit-Crazy Lawyer. In Give It All, Trashy Bar Owner and Batshit-Crazy Lawyer fall in love, and Frustrated Cowboy is displeased…but is also man enough to realize he needs to get over Trashy Bar Owner and move the fuck on already.

But then, thanks to the publishing powers that be, after all that has gone down, readers will also get to read about Trashy Bar Owner and Frustrated Cowboy, and all the hot sex they had two summers back, well before Batshit-Crazy Lawyer ever showed up on the scene.

Think about that. Readers watch the heroine and her hero fall in love and have their HEA (or as close as I ever get to those.) Then they get to read about that heroine with her ex. An ex with whom she had amazing sex. And they didn’t break up because he turned out to be an asshole, or she caught him cheating on her. In fact—and this isn’t a spoiler—she dumped him because he wanted marriage and children, and she didn’t. He was a good guy, and a good lay, and she broke his heart. (She’s also slept with more people than either of these men, I ought to add, and has no qualms about that fact. She didn’t realize it was true love with Batshit-Crazy Lawyer because he gave her her first orgasm—she’d had plenty of those already, with plenty of other people. In fact, she coerces him into his first-ever blowjob and it explodes his brain.)

Anyhow, back to her and her ex, and this novella.

I think it’s kind of awesome, that Penguin’s happy for me to do this. To show a romance heroine’s past sexual relationship in a positive light, trusting that the fact that she’s had satisfying sex with a man other than her eventual hero doesn’t call into question anyone’s worthiness, or the validity of either relationship. In fact, I’m certain the reason they want me to write this is because there’s something about the tension still lingering between Trashy Bar Owner and Frustrated Cowboy in those first two books that they’d like to see more of, even knowing she winds up with another man. In a genre populated by more than a few Evil Exes, I’m delighted by this. This heroine gets to have an ex she loved, if briefly, and burned like a wildfire with—not some controlling asshat she caught boning her best friend, or who sucked in bed. If you asked her why that relationship failed, she’d tell you it didn’t—it simply ended. The wedding-bells-or-it-doesn’t-count mindset does not compute with this heroine.

Sometimes it feels as though the only nice former lovers that romance heroines are allowed to have—if they want to qualify as ladylike and lovable—need to have died. Like women must be victimized or wounded in some way by a bad partner, or widowed by a good one, or else they’re, what? Just slutty?

Well this heroine is very slutty then, yet the folks at Penguin still think her flashback story will be hot and interesting and worth telling, and that it will enrich those two characters for readers, not diminish them or their ultimate couplings. That’s a vote of confidence I’ll wear like a tiara, thanks very much.

Plus, why shouldn’t a heroine have a good man for an ex? A decent human being capable of giving her orgasms? Why give her exes that any old kinda-okay guy could stand next to and look like a dreamboat simply by contrast? Why shouldn’t the man she winds up with in the end have a fucking high-ass bar to clear, in order to find himself beside her?

I’m just so excited by this, I can’t even tell you.

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the stories we tell when we are free

Please forgive me if this looks like shameless promotion (and I guess, to an extent, it is) but: Prosperity came out yesterday.

What can I tell you about this thing? It’s a steampunk Western with a Lovecraftian twist. It’s written in 18th century thieves cant. It’s a lovestory from the outside. Its heroes are a street rat, a priest, a crimelord, an opium-eating governess, and a genderqueer skypirate. It’s about faith and love and monsters and selfhood on the edges of the world.

It was the first book I ever wrote.

It’s the kind of book you only write when you don’t have a goddamn clue what you’re doing.

When all that matters is the story you want to tell.

A long time ago (maybe last Friday), on this very site, Amber Lin wrote a really fascinating post she called The Myth of Selling Out. I’ve thought about it a lot ever since I read it. I admire Amber’s blend of pragmatism and idealism, in that she acknowledges very explicitly that making money from what you do is good and necessary (something we shuffle around a lot when it comes to art) but she also believes that writing what you’re passionate about is the best way to make money.

I very much hope this is true. Frankly, if it isn’t, I’m fucked.

But I think between these twin myths of selling out and art for art’s sake there’s something else, something subtle and ephemeral that I guess you could call – in its most positive and useful form – awareness. It’s understanding the context in which you write.

And, here’s the thing: that’s not some ghastly submission to soul-less commercialism.

It’s just an economic reality. In many ways I have a degree of what you might call writing privilege. I’m not dependent on my books to pay my mortgage. I have a dayjob, in which I am happy and fulfilled. Basically, I’m a hobbyist. I can afford to write books that don’t sell.

Unfortunately, my publisher can’t.

And actually, as Amber says, there’s no such thing as a choice between money or not-money, selling or not-selling.

There’s just awareness.

Prosperity will always be the book of my heart. It is a book about freedom written when I felt free. And by free, you understand, I also mean free of any notion of what I was doing. Which is, y’know, a mixed blessing.

The truth is, I will probably never write anything like it again. And that’s not a bad thing.

But, all the same, it’s an odd sort of gift, being able to look back upon the things you wrote when you were free.

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On Writing Slumps and Swimming in Circles

I’ve been in a writing slump.

Writing books. Writing blog posts. It’s why I haven’t been around much on Wonkomance. In fact, I didn’t have a post for today, so I decided to talk about… not writing.

The standard advice for such a slump is to write anyway. Write crap. Then you’ll have something on the page, and then you can revise that something, and thus produce a viable book. Except I’ve been doing this author thing for a few years now. I’ve tried that, more than once. And the writing that comes out is more often not salvageable.

Not salvageable for me, anyway. I can’t infuse voice into a book that has none. I could sit here and fill out a plot worksheet and GMC, and I do, but I can’t give a character a voice… ergo, slump.

There’s one book in particular I’ve been not writing. I’ve been muddling through and banging on and generally circling it, but not writing it. Because it’s due so that makes it kinda important. Okay, a lot important. I have about ten beginnings for this not written book.

So I guess it’s not really not writing. It’s not writing anything good. Or writing and then starting over repeatedly.

It’s not finishing.

I’ve still been reading. Sometimes I feel guilty about that that, because that’s time I could spend writing. Well, some of it. A lot of reading happens right before bed or when I’m out waiting, and therefore not writing time anyway.

But I know the day I stop reading I’m in even bigger trouble. I’m trying to read more indie books. More “cracktastic” books. Books that don’t have as much polish but work because of the story. I need to get back to storytelling.

I am not a plotter.

The word panster has always struck me as weird. I don’t identify with it. I’m almost never wearing pants when I write, and flying by the seat of them? No, not really. Even when it’s going well, writing doesn’t feel like flying.

Writing has always felt more like swimming, like diving underwater. The thing about a lost city is it’s already there, I’m just finding it.

Except when I’m not…

I’ve started this blog post five times. Because that’s just me right now. I can’t write, can’t finish, can’t find the damn story. Seriously, why is it so murky down here? Is that a shark?

I think I need to go up for air again.

I think I need to start over again.

Has anyone been in this place before? Any tips for getting out? Or, like, cookies. If you had cookies that’d be nice, because then we could eat cookies.


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