Wonking an Entire World (or: My steampunk releases today!)

Howdy everyone! I am super-bouncy and excited today, probably something like that little dog in the Kibbles & Bits commercial jumping back and forth over the big dog, and the big dog is my latest book release! Or something! YAY! *fires glitter cannon*

GossamerWing[Pause for shameless self-promotion: my new book is GOSSAMER WING, it’s steampunk romance with espionage, there is angst and boat sex and Paris and cool outfits and science and also other sex that does not take place in a boat, and more science-type stuff and action! Also feelings. And a friendly cow. And if this sounds appealing in any way you can buy it here, here or here, or in an actual physical book store such as Barnes & Noble! Anyway, that’s all I’m gonna say about that as such.]

But what this post is really about is writing wonk. Because I was working on this book around the time Wonkomance was first formed, and I remember joking once to Ruthie Knox in those early days that I didn’t really write wonky stuff like the other blog contributors. She’d just read the manuscript for this book. And she set me straight, because…well. Heroine’s a widow who loved her first husband, and had since the age of fourteen, so she is still grieving him and…well, you know, thinks about doing him, the first time she is doing the hero. Heroine is also a claustrophobic control freak with daddy issues, a little bit, and sort of has a death wish. The hero is one of those dudes who is neither alpha nor beta, genuinely nice and in love with the heroine. But possibly has a Peter Pan syndrome thing happening, because he knows from the start she’s off limits so it’s relatively safe to fall in love with her as he can’t have her anyway. And they’re technically married, for purposes of their mission, but the plan is to annul that shit as soon as they finish the job. Her dad arranged all that. Because he assumed she’d decline. Which is why she didn’t decline. Yeah.

At some point in there, recapping, I had to admit it was kinda wonked (Ruthie had also read an early draft of Theory of Attraction, and of course that was hella wonky too. But I digress). I hadn’t even realized how weird it was until this was drawn to my attention, which possibly says more about me as a person than me as a writer. While I was writing it, it all seemed normal…for a given value of normal. Some of us set out to write perfectly normal things, and somewhere along the way things inevitably take a turn for funkytown. I have no idea how this happens. But this steampunk book was the one with which my consciousness was raised and I learned to recognize this trait in myself. To spot my own wonky tendencies and not just accept, but celebrate them. Yes, celebrate. Because, although I’d been published for years before writing this…this turned out to be a milestone book for me. This would be the book that secured me an agent (Hi, Courtney! You’re awesome!). This is the one I got a big New York publisher deal with (Hi Berkley! You’re awesome!), and it is also my first stand-alone print release (Actual Bookstores! You are also awesome!). I’m reasonably certain I owe all that not to what’s “normal” in the book, but what’s not. To the stuff in there that makes you go 0.o, but then you keep reading anyway. And to whatever in my brain just naturally wants to start with a normal-seeming trope like arranged marriage, then can’t help but slather several extra layers of WTF on there.

I think steampunk lends itself to wonk, because it’s already sort of like taking a historical and a spec fic, then locking them in a room together until they breed up a freaky, hybrid love child that may or may not also be paranormal (mine is not, as it happens, but a lot of steampunk is). Writing steampunk is doing to an entire world what my brain already wants to do to my characters’ relationships and feelings. You know how it goes. It starts with a setting that is near the Victorian or Edwardian, but then something in you isn’t satisfied. “Hmm. This would be better with lots more Stirling engines and also universal suffrage!” You can never have too many Stirling engines, folks. Or nixie tubes, for that matter. And sometimes you just want to say, “Oh, screw those Victorians and Edwardians and their freakin’ rules. I’m putting my heroine in trousers and she is taking a lover, dammit!” Several chapters later, large parts of North America resemble feudal England, but your main character has decamped for Paris and is landing her airship on the top of the Palais Garnier, being chased by some villainous guy with a fancy claw handShit just happens, okay? I have no idea why, I just know that sometimes a book is the result.

The takeaway for me here, though, is that there never is or was a normal, just as nobody is ever truly average. I was writing wonk without realizing it. And I think we are all writing wonk all the time, just to greater or lesser degrees, whether or not we realize it. The key is to learn to spot it–in others’ writing, in your own–and learn to just go with it. Embrace the fucked-up-ness. Celebrate it. It may well be where the extraordinary part of your writing lives.

Now, go read some steampunk! I would be so happy if you read mine, but you could also try Meljean Brook (brooding dubcon Duke!) or Gail Carriger (hawt Scottish alpha werewolf!). Steampunk-adjacent literary/spec fic by China Miéville! Or old skool H.G. Wells or Jules Verne. It is all good stuff. Shit will happen.

Posted in Shameless Self-Promotion, Writing Wonkomance | 5 Comments

There’s No Such Thing

Don’t make noise.

Be quiet.

Don’t make that face.

Sit up.

Get your hair out of your eyes.

Get some fresh air.

But don’t run around.

Come out of your room.

Go to your room.

Turn down your music.

Look nice.

But not like that.


Maybe without showing your teeth.

That’s too loud.

You’re too loud.

Sit still.

But don’t sit like that.

Make friends.

But not with them.

They aren’t nice.

These aren’t my rules.

But they have to be yours.

Why would you do that?

What will people think?

Do you want to be judged like that?

Because, I’m just trying to help you.

No one will listen if you say it like that.

It reflects back on me.

It reflects back on you.

This is just something I understand.

You don’t understand.

I don’t understand you.

I don’t expect you to understand.

That’s too much.

That’s not enough.

You’re too much

You’re not enough.

You’re making too much of this.

You’re not making enough of this.

That’s not a good use of your time.

I don’t have time for this.

It’s time.

This has gone on too long.

Someday, you’ll thank me.

You’re welcome.

Turn it down.

It’s about balance.

And moderation.

You’re exaggerating.

You’re not getting the whole picture.

This way.

No, this way.

Actually, don’t do that at all.

This is not for you.

That’s selfish.

You’re not for them.

They’re not for you.

This is for your own good.

This is experience talking.

I’m the one talking.

I’m talking to you.

You don’t know what you’re talking about.


Not to them.

Listen to me.

I can’t hear you when you speak like that.

Just be quiet.

So I can think.

It’s like this.

Can’t you see?

This is what people see.

The world sees what it sees.

I can’t help what they see.

Not everyone has to look at you.

Look at you.

Everyone’s looking at you.

You’re an example.

Act like an example.

A good example.

You’re not making sense.

I can’t make sense of you.

I’m not making this up.

It is what it is.

Just ignore them.

They know what they’re talking about.

You’re making this difficult.

For me.

For them.

For yourself.

This is just how we do things.

But it depends on the situation.

You should be able to tell the difference.

You’ve brought this on yourself.

I told you.

So many times.


But not like that.

Don’t look at me.

I didn’t do anything.

Don’t do that.

I don’t know what you’re doing to me.

You’re the one doing this.

You have yourself to blame.

I don’t blame you.

I blame them.

Don’t make it easy for them.

Don’t make it hard.

This isn’t hard.

You’re going to have to try harder.

But not like that.

Try again.

You’re not trying.

That’s not how they were doing it.

They did it like this.

That’s how you do it.

Don’t do that.

You’re getting ahead of yourself.

You’re getting behind.

It’s like I keep telling you.

Not like that.

I’m disappointed.

You’re disappointing.

Well, this is disappointing.

Don’t disappoint me.

You’ll disappoint yourself.

I’m not mad.

I’m disappointed.

Anger will not solve anything.

Don’t be a part of the problem.

You’re the problem.

This is a problem.

Like I said.


Not exactly.

It’s still too loud.

Posted in Writing Wonkomance | 8 Comments

Romance Writing: Halloween Frightfest Edition!

I drew this all by myself.

I drew this all by myself.

I love horror movies, but I love them only during a particular time of year and only in a particular way.

The first rule of horror movies is that I cannot watch them in the theatre unless I am surrounded by at least five or six very good friends. Said friends usually bring me to a horror movie as a way of diffusing the tension of the movie, using me as a form of additional entertainment adjacent to the movie itself–a carnival sideshow, if you will. They do this because I am a relatively anxious person to begin with, and I have what my therapist husband calls an “exaggerated startle response.” Basically, this means I jump or screech or otherwise make a total fool of myself during the big scare moments in a horror movie, which makes my friends feel relief, because then they can laugh at me instead of feeling afraid.

The second rule of horror movies is that I prefer not to watch them in the theatre at all, but in the comfort of someone’s home, in a pile of blankets and people and pets. I’m okay with turning the lights off for added creep-factor, but I never ever watch them alone.

The third rule of horror movies is that I really only want to watch them around Halloween, which is the socially acceptable and culturally sanctioned time of year for All Things Scary.  We’re taught from childhood that it’s safe to feel afraid at Halloween, because it’s all pretend, and life will go back to normal on November 1st.

Basically, then, it’s delicious to feel a little bit scared when you also feel safe. It’s not so delicious to feel scared when you feel genuinely terrified. My tendency to easily feel terrified is why I have so many rules about when and where and how I can watch a horror movie; otherwise, the experience is too overwhelming, and that’s even knowing that it’s only onscreen, knowing that it can’t actually hurt me.

In my day job as a librarian, I work in a neighborhood that is known for its crime levels. When I first began working in this neighborhood, I tried hard to make no assumptions about the area, the residents, or my library patrons, but there was a constant background buzz in my ears: “Be careful, don’t get shot, don’t get mugged.” In order to do my job and do my job well, I cannot allow myself to feel afraid, so I just don’t. I don’t have the luxury of fear. Instead, I go about my days in a sort of willfully stubborn cloud of ignorance about my surroundings, and I get angry whenever that haze is pierced. When my patrons tell me to be careful or warn me that it’s unsafe to walk to the El stop after dark, I know they’re just looking out for me, but they’re forcing me to feel that fear that I can’t let inside if I’m going to function. I am not safe enough to let myself be afraid.

This October, about two weeks ago, a group of us who contribute to this blog went to Door County, Wisconsin for a few days to write. Writing was the excuse, but the real reason, maybe, had to do with spending time with some like-minded women– fellow writers, yes, but writers who write about love and sex, who share an ethos, to a degree, or a vision of sorts; writers who have held our hands both literally and metaphorically; writers who have read our work and said, “Oh! I love this, and here’s how you can do it even better. . .”

I am a new writer. Maybe not a new writer, since I’ve been writing since I had the fine muscle dexterity to hold a pencil, and I have enough academic credentials to say that somewhere along the way, someone either thought I had learned enough to pass a writing class or thought I was too big a pain in the ass to keep around for another semester. But I am new to the notion of being a published writer, certainly, and I’ve only taken the smallest of steps forward toward that goal. So far, I’ve been happy, excited, proud, of those steps.

Until, during this wonderful retreat, I found myself sitting on the couch between two good friends, staring out the window at the lake, crying, and I couldn’t figure out why.

One of my friends once told me that publishing is like riding in a hot air balloon while people shoot at you, which sounds about right. Utter, pants-pissing terror combined with really beautiful views.

But I hadn’t been letting myself feel the fear, because it wasn’t safe to feel the fear. The scary monster felt way too real, until that moment, surrounded by a whole bunch of love and support, and even though it was pretty humiliating at the time to be completely unable to answer anyone’s questions about why I was crying (“I don’t know! And I can’t stop!”), suddenly I was safe enough to feel it. The hot air balloon wasn’t going to crash.

And in the two weeks since then, I’ve realized that I’m going to have to deal with a lot of uncertainty if I’m going to do this. Hell, even if I never publish anything else, ever again, life is all uncertainty, all the time, and I’m going to have to learn how to live with it. It’s already easier.

Though I still won’t be watching any horror movies by myself.

Posted in Holidays, Life & Wonk | 4 Comments