Thanks so much to all my readers and blog-followers for your support and encouragement during last month’s Author Spotlight as my dad premiered his first novel. It means a lot to me. He is hard at work on the third novel and the second should be coming out this summer, once edits/blurb/cover crap is dealt with. Now, as promised, I have an announcement concerning my own plans for publication this year, which I think I can sum up by saying there’s good news and bad news. And because I’m a ‘rip the band-aid off fast and then kiss it better’ kind of person, I’ll start with the bad news first.
Some of you have been asking where Pool is. (*cue ominous music*) The short answer is, on my computer. The slightly longer answer is, where it’s likely to stay.
Look, here’s the thing. I don’t read reviews. And the reason I don’t read reviews is because sometimes people–nice people, well-meaning people, people who love children and dogs and are not in the least slavering trolls hiding under bridges and grinding authors’ bones to make their bread–say hurtful things about the books that I have worked very hard on. And yeah, I know, all right? I know that anytime you throw something out in the public forum, you invite people to make their opinions publicly known. And I’m fine with that! I am! They can say whatever they want, positive OR negative, but I reserve the right not to have to hear about it, because while that pile of reviews is mostly flowers and only a teensy bit shit (and in many cases, well-deserved shit at that), and intellectually I understand that I need to gather up the flowers and let the shit slide off, emotionally, I will be smelling that shit for years. So I don’t read reviews, because I have found that the easiest way of dealing with shit is not to jump in the fucking pile and roll around in it.
I really ran with that metaphor, didn’t I? Moving on.
So after Land of the Beautiful Dead came out, I was unavoidably exposed to some reviews. And the vast majority were overwhelmingly positive! But. Even in the midst of these otherwise glowing piles of flowery praise, lurked a whiff of criticism I have oft heard before, which I will paraphrase here as along the lines of, “I almost didn’t get this book because the author doesn’t always deliver a Happily Ever After.”
And I get it. I do. Because I don’t. And the reason I don’t is because I don’t write Romances.
I don’t write Romances. I don’t read Romances. I don’t understand Romances. I write Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy that occasionally crossover into Erotica, but I don’t write Romances, and here’s the thing: The Happily Ever After in a Horror genre, or Sci-Fi or Fantasy or even Erotica, is NOTHING LIKE the Happily Ever After of a Romance. So these readers who have this complaint are 100% correct and 100% entitled to feel/voice their dissatisfaction, and especially 100% right to warn others that my books may not deliver a “good” ending. I would much rather lose potential readers who I know would not be happy reading my books than have them buy it, read it, and hate it.
Those readers are going to hate Pool.
Pool is not a Romance.
Pool does not have a Romance-genre Happily Ever After.
Pool doesn’t even have a “good” Horror-genre ending.
Pool is a B-Movie creature-feature all the fucking way, and I love it, and I will not put my baby book in a brand-new pair of sneakers and pack it a lunch and write its name on a flower-shaped nametag that I pin to its brand-new jacket and wave goodbye as it gets on the big-book bus KNOWING GODDAMN WELL it’s coming home in tears.
I’m not a Romance writer, is I guess what you should take away from all this, and more importantly, I am not willing to become a Romance writer just to sell books. I’m just going to do what I do and let the readers do what they do, and eventually, we’ll sort ourselves out, but eventually is a long way off and my career is still very young. I’m lucky to be able to do this writing-gig for a living, especially considering how long I’ve been doing it, but that could change if I alienate my fanbase this early in the game. So, no, I’m not going to shoehorn a romantic plotline into a B-Horror book, but I’m also not going to put out a book I know the vast majority of readers are just going to hate.
So, yeah. I may change my mind in the future, but as of this moment, I have no plans to publish Pool.
This naturally raises the issue of just what is next on my short-list of projects. Well, I have a number of cards tacked up on the ol’ Write This board, but I think what I’m really going to do is take a year off and think about things. You see, two years ago, I was working on Pool when my sister walked up to me and said, “We’re going to the RT Convention in New Orleans,” and I said, “New Orleans? Awesome!” and then I said, “What does RT stand for?” and she said, “Romantic Times,” and I said, “I’m not a romance writer,” and she said, “Pack your alligator hat, we’re going,” and so as I was packing my alligator hat, she came back and said, “Oh, and I’m going to have space on one of the freebie tables, so I want you to write a 20k word novella we can put on it,” and I said, “I can’t write a grocery list less than twenty thousand words,” and she said, “Just do it and make it romantic,” so I went grumbling over to my computer and stared at it, thinking, ‘What’s romantic? Hmmm. Romantic, romantic, romantic…and short. Short and romantic. Oh! Zombies!’ and started work on what was to become Land of the Beautiful Dead (which turned out to be more than TEN TIMES the wordcount I was ordered to produce, but that’s okay because we didn’t get space on the freebie table after all).
I told you that story to tell you this one: Land of the Beautiful Dead was tough to write. This is in part because I wasn’t planning to write it. Most of my books percolate around in the back of my head for a long time before I start typing it into life, and with the exception of Cottonwood, I never start writing until I know how it begins and how it ends. I went into LotBD cold and blind and it was an uphill struggle the whole way. But it was also difficult to write because, seriously, the zombie apocalypse made for a bleak, depressing world and that was the world I had to inhabit for the nearly two years it took to write. I was having a resurgence of health issues at the same time, so I always felt scummy and tired, and I’m sure that added its own flavor to the finished soup, and the ending was…let’s just say non-traditional. Especially for a Romance, which, let’s be honest here, IS what I was attempting to write with that one. Seriously. Land of the Beautiful Dead is what I consider a Romance. This is why I don’t write them, folks.
Because I was having a hard time at ‘work’, after I got done with my daily quota of LotBD writing, I would unwind with a little ‘me time’ in the form of fanfiction. I find fanfic relaxing, in the sense that I don’t have to build anything, just wind up my own toys and let them go in someone else’s world. Plus, since I can’t publish it, there’s no pressure to make it readable or likeable or profitable or anythingable. I can just write.
When I finished LotBD, I continued to noodle around on my fanfiction story, thinking that I would put it up when the new year started and get back to work on Pool. Then, as I said, the reviews for Beautiful Dead started appearing and people started sending them to me, and then I got sick again and as I was lying on my bed of pain, I began to think about the fact that I really am damned lucky I can do this for a living, and how that is by no means guaranteed to continue if I put out a book that straight-up spits in the eye of the successful romance formula, and yadda yadda yadda, you don’t need to hear this twice. Point is, since I didn’t have Pool to work on, I continued noodling around on my fanfiction, and eventually I reached the point where it stopped being scenes and notes and turned into a book.
At this point, I called my sister into the room and said, “I’m writing something I can’t sell. Tell me to stop.”
She said, “Change the names and sell the book.”
I laughed and laughed and laughed and said, “No. I get crap enough from people who think I already did that with Cottonwood. This book legit does not work outside of the source world. It doesn’t matter what I change, anybody who reads it is going to know what it is and where it came from. I cannot sell this book. Tell me to stop writing it.”
She said, “Do you want to stop?”
“Hell, no,” I said.
She said, “Write the book.”
I said, “If I write this book, I won’t have anything else to publish this year, and I can’t publish this book. If I write this book, this whole year might as well be a wash. If I write this book–”
She said, “Is it a good story?”
I said, “I think so.”
She said, “Do you want to tell it?”
I said, “Yes.”
She said, “If no one ever reads it, will you be sorry?”
I said, “I don’t care if no one reads it. I just said I can’t publish it.”
She said, “If you don’t tell it, will you be sorry?”
“Yes,” I said.
She said, “Write the book.”
So I’m writing the book. And as so often happens with me, once I started writing, I just couldn’t stop. The book is divided into five parts (it’s not a series, these aren’t stand-alone stories, just five parts of one novel, similar to the structure of Olivia), and each part is shaping up to be around 200 pages, so yeah, the end result will be easily 1000 pages long. Of fanfiction. Hey, it beats working.
Anyway, I finished the first part and am nearly done with the second, when my father asked when we were going to read it. We had just finished his beta-read-through of his second novel, you see, and he is really into this whole, how-writers-write thing. I explained that since I couldn’t publish it, I wasn’t planning on doing a beta-read. This confused him. He told me he failed to understand what one had to do with the other, and the more I tried to explain, the more I realized he was probably right. So, what the hell, I took the first part of the book downstairs, gathered my betas and my family, and we read it.
Honestly, this was possibly the best thing I could have done, because I not only got feedback from some of the people who knew the source material, but I got feedback from the people who had never heard of the source material. So my work was judged as fanfiction, but also as a standalone story. And the second thing I was asked afterwards was when it was going to be posted. (The first thing was, “You can’t end it there! What the hell?”) I explained, gently, that it was fanfiction and could not be published. It was explained to me, gently, that it could still be posted and made public, even if I couldn’t sell it.
For some reason, this option had not yet occurred to me, in spite of the fact that I read fanfic all the freaking time. All of which I have told you, just to tell you that there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is, I won’t be publishing Pool. The good news is, I will be posting Everything Is All Right after all. The bad news is, most of you probably won’t like it. The good news is, at least you won’t have to pay for it!
So what is Everything Is All Right based on? Well, I could just tell you, but I think it’d be more fun if you guessed. Here are some clues:
- As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I absolutely despise fanfiction that is not based 100% in the world of the source material. So if it was Star Trek fanfict (hint: It’s not), my story would not make the crew students at Enterprise High in the year 2016, where the plot of the book was mainly concerned with who was taking who to the Prom. That shit’s stupid. So if you go back and look at the snippets I’ve already posted, the source material absolutely would fit within those parameters, i.e., somewhere in the contemporary US of A.
- This is not a crossover. Apart from the Original Characters and other elements I bring to the pot directly from my imagination, everything within the book occurs wholly within the source material’s world.
- The source material is NOT a movie or TV show or comic book. Neither is it real-life celebrity fanfiction. I shouldn’t even have to say that. Writing smut about real-life celebrities is not fanfiction, it’s a stalker manifesto. The source material is very much a fictional setting with fictional characters.
- The source material is fairly recent, initially made public in summer of 2014, right about the time I was heading off to that fabled RT Convention in New Orleans. It achieved international acclaim and has produced a number of subsequent installments of source material and commercially-available merchandise. There is, in short, a damned good chance you’ve at least heard of it, even if you’re not yourself a fan.
- The characters of Ana and Rider, as mentioned in my previous posts, are Original Characters and have no connection to the source material whatsoever. In fact, I’m not sure there’s anything in those excerpts that tie in to the source. Neither is the image I used taken from the source material, although I consider it a clue.
- My fanfic references four locations from the source material, as well as fourteen characters, four of whom are main characters along with Ana, my OC. As previously mentioned, one of them is a musician. He plays the guitar. Music plays a small, yet important role in the source material as well.
- The source material is very much set in the Horror genre and I expound upon many of its original themes. In fact, this is the first time I have actually felt compelled to include a Trigger Warning, due to recurring themes of violence towards children.
Finally, while not a clue per se, I feel I ought to stop here and say that while the source material contained absolutely no sexy times, fanfic would not be fanfic without inappropriate mash-ups and lemony goodness. And I will say right now the sex scenes I wrote for this book are easily the weirdest I’ve ever written or am ever likely to write.
It’ll be interesting to see what your guesses are. Because I kind of want the guessing to go wild, I won’t be answering comments this go-round, because I don’t want to put an end to it too quickly by saying if you’re wrong or right. I’m just going to give it some time, say a week or two, and then post the answer, along with maybe some more snippets.
I WILL NOT BE POSTING THE ENTIRE BOOK HERE ON THIS BLOG. I know, I know, it seems like the ideal place, except, holy cow, this stuff is dark and I was not kidding about the trigger warning. Those of my followers who do not want to be subjected to it should not have to unfollow me to avoid it. So! My plan is to start posting on Fanfiction.net (and maybe some other places, if I can find a solid fanbase) by the end of the month, releasing one chapter each week. As each chapter goes up, I will make an announcement here, including a less-triggery excerpt and a link, and anyone who wants to can hop on over to Fanfiction.net to check it out. As I say, the book is divided into five parts. The first part is completely written and ready to post; the second part is about 80% written; the third part is maybe 40%; the fourth part is maybe 25%; and I got nothing of the last part except the ending right now.
Wow, this was a long post! But I hope it has answered some questions and I look forward to reading the comments!