Yes, I am a writer. Yes, it is a “real” job.

I am a writer.

I have another job too.  It is a job that people consider a “real” job because, I suppose, I have to drive to it and stay there, in a space that is not home, and do work-related things until I leave.  No one bothers me at that job.  They do not call and say, “Hey, since you’re not busy, can you do x, y, and z?”  They do not get irritated when I don’t immediately answer texts, because they know I am working.  No one asks if I can pop out and do them a favor.

Of course not.  Because they respect my working time.  And yet very few people aside from my partner respect my writing time.  Which is also working time.

I often wonder why that is, why people treat writing as a hobby or an indulgence rather than as work.  Is it because of the pernicious and fuzzy geography of “home”: the fact that my writing workplace is also the same one where I eat cold pizza and dance to bad 80s music in my free time?  Is it because I do not have to get in a car and go to an Important Place?  Is it because I am writing sweet and sexy romances and not the next great American novel?  Is it because people think writing is a “a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings,” like Wordsworth said, and therefore requires no actual effort?

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Free Halloween Short Romance: “Toil and Trouble”

Toil and Trouble

A completely PG Halloween short story that teases the beginning of a sweet romance: as a hapless father struggles through the chaos of Halloween with a kindergartener, he confronts his past and meets someone new.

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The Un-Romance: Consent, Coercion, and Winning Favor

“Don’t worry,” my boyfriend said.

He was relaxed in the driver’s seat of his truck, tapping his fingers gently on the steering wheel.  His face was flushed from our earlier argument and my declarations of displeasure – I’d complained that he was way too possessive, and I didn’t really love how he always demanded to know where I’d be and when – but his voice remained soft and calm.  “Just stay calm,” he instructed again, and drove past the exit that would have taken me back to my small apartment, to my friends, to people who knew me. “I’m not going to let you run away from the way we are together.  We belong together, no matter what.  So we’ll talk this out as long as it takes.”

He’d never been violent with me, though his embarrassingly possessive nature, his obsession with my schedule, and his over-the-top declarations and acts of love both concerned and mortified me. I’d had more than enough, and I didn’t want to talk it out or be together.  Yet here I was, locked inside a truck with a man who had no intention of returning me to my home, even though I’d stated clearly and repeatedly that home was where I wanted to be.  His need to prove our love was greater than any need I had to feel safe, and I wondered what to do as he sped up to pass yet another exit.  I was excruciatingly aware that both my phone and purse were out of reach, tucked away where I couldn’t get to them.  So I did the only thing that made sense to me at the time:

I punched the window of the truck with my hand.

It accomplished nothing, of course, beyond causing bruises that would take days to fade.  But the dull thud got his attention.  And as he glanced over at me, I unbuckled the seat belt, unlocked the door, and wrapped my fingers around the door handle.  I remember that I spoke with absolute calm and absolute conviction.  “If you do not turn around and take me home right now,” I told him, “I am going to throw myself out of this truck.”

Spooked either by my tone or my intensity, he turned around and he took me home.  But that isn’t what I remember.  What I remember is that after I got back and shared the story with family and friends – expecting a horrified “he did what?” – the response I got instead was, “Well, it was a little crazy, but he acts like that because he loves you.  It’s kind of romantic, in a crazy way.”

And that is the myth I refuse to write: the myth that love inherently involves coercion and the slow erosion of resistance.

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Why I like to write working-class men.

A long while back, an editor I knew at a Certain Publisher of Heterosexual Romance described to me the sort of man they wanted in a romance novel: good-looking (of course), smart yet flawed (sure), “alpha” and commanding in personality (my inner feminist weeps, but okay) and rich as holy fuck.  Upper-class.  Elite.

Sigh.  I stopped listening after that.  It’s not that I have a problem with writing (or reading) rich men.  In fact, nothing is so much fun as writing a man who has everything and still struggles, or displays startling flaws.  But I can’t help but chafe against the notion that a wealthy man – a commanding master-of-the-universe-man – must exist at the heart of every romance fantasy.

I like to write working-class men.  I don’t like to romanticize them, and I don’t buy into the idea that a dirt-under-the-fingernails way of life automatically renders a man a saint, but I like to write them.  I like to write them because they are real, and complicated – and maybe because they most reflect what I know.

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Halloween Short Romance Poll

giphyIt’s the time of year for candy corn and pumpkins and, yes, Halloween romance.  I’ll be posting a romantic short story on my blog for free to celebrate the season – and now it’s your turn to decide what you want!

Comment here with which of the following options tickles your fancy, or tweet me (@reallexistone) your choice!  You have one week from the date of this post to get your votes in so that I can have the story written in time for the holiday.

Your choices are:

  • a pagan romance on Samhain
  • a bedraggled parent experiences a trick-or-treat misadventure
  • a costume party takes an unexpected turn
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Halloween Giveaway!

I am giving away one free copy of one of my published novellas – In The Margin or Physical Therapy – for free!

All you have to do is the following:

1) Tweet at me (@reallexistone) letting me know you’d like to be included in the giveaway, or…

2) Leave a brief comment on the “Contact Me” page here on the blog with the subject line “Novella Giveaway.”

You have until midnight on October 30th, 2014 to enter.  I’ll throw the names into a magic Internet hat, pick the winner, and send you a novella of your choice by email!

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Twitter Takeover!

This is how I look when I write romance:

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And speaking of romance and writing – isn’t this a glorious segue - I’ll be doing a Twitter takeover of the Torquere Press (@torquere) account tomorrow from 2-4 pm (CT) – that’s 3-5 pm for you Eastern Standard folks.

You’re welcome to come talk shop, say hi, or whatever you like – and my novel from Torquere will be out in February of next year, so keep your eyes peeled for it!

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Heart and soul: when did you start reading romance or erotica?

My love of romance started in my younger years as my own personal rebellion against sexual ignorance.

In my first year of middle school I had a friend whose home I visited and her mother read romance novels: those drugstore bodice-rippers with muscled men clutching women in their arms.  My friend and I used to sneak them out from her mother’s underwear drawer, giggling and wondering what it was that made them so forbidden.  We opened them immediately and, lifelong readers of everything from cereal  boxes to schoolbooks, commenced our exploration.

And immediately stumbled onto a sex scene.

And in retrospect it’s funny, because the “sex scene” I read then is now, to my adult mind, hilariously vague and full of euphemisms: her wanting his “strength” and him wanting her “warmth” until they “joined.”  But as a kid, man, it was scandalous.  I blushed through the whole thing – but I came out on the other side more knowledgeable about what sex at least entailed and that it could actually be, you know, pleasurable.  Raised in a fairly strict environment, I’d never so much as had a bird and the bees talk and up until that point only knew that sex was a vaguely unfortunate and sinful thing that people did to make babies.

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Romances Don’t Have To Be Realistic.

We’re living in a time where the most important thing - even and especially in fictionis being “real.”  Authentic.  Gritty.  Batman broods.  Game of Thrones as a series delights in subverting and undermining viewers’ and readers’ hopes.  And the protagonists in our media have as a whole become flawed and much darker, at times impossible to love and at times themselves unable to love.

In the midst of this, it’s no surprise that people would roll their eyes at happy-ever-after romance.  And with our cultural emphasis of late on Real Live Flawed Humans, it seems almost foolish or naive to write stories in a genre that generally offers happy endings and a steady belief in love and relationships.

But it isn’t.  It isn’t foolish at all.

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Physical Therapy Release / Come Say Hi On Twitter!

So tomorrow is the release date for my steamy little novella Physical Therapy, published by Ellora’s Cave.  To celebrate – and because I have chained myself to my desk to finish writing another novel – I’ll be hanging out on Twitter.  You’re welcome to join me!  I’d be thrilled to talk shop, answer questions, or just shoot the breeze with any of you lovely people.  So pop by any time after noon (EDT) and drop me a line.

 

 

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