More Fabulously Stupid Mistakes

First off, a free audio copy of RECKLESS, the second book in the Rohan family saga.   Since the books are about separate generations you don't have to read them in order, and in certain ways this one is my favorite.  For some reason it's all about sex.  I don't know why it came out that way, but it did, and it's great sex, with a lovely supporting couple and all sorts of wicked goings-on.  I have five copies, read by the divine Susan Ericksen.  Just leave a comment and I'll use the good old random number generator and choose the winners.

So where was I?  Hanging up on editors?  Refusing a passionate offer from the best historical house around to go with the worst?  Fantasizing about bashing a certain senior editor's head against the wall?  Oh, that one was okay -- it was only in my mind.  I was sweet and polite, even when editors sometimes aren't, depending on the amount of power they hold.

I'll do a separate post on my relationship with agents, which is rife with mistakes.  Let's move on to some of the others.  There are occasional signs of brilliance, such as the time I was struggling with a book.  It had taken me two months to write sixty pages on a new romantic suspense.  I loved the idea, I had interesting characters, a great premise and setting, but it was like pulling hen's teeth (how's that for a mixed metaphor?).  At that point I had an office in a nearby town, and more often than not I would arrive there, read my email and immediately take a nap.  Days, weeks would pass and I'd get nothing new written.

So in frustration I decided to play with an idea I'd had bouncing around in my brain since a one-day trip to Paris (from London that is).  Even one day in Paris is enough to stir you, and I found I could even struggle in my schoolgirl French.  We got in a taxi with a very rude taxi driver (how delightfully Parisian!) and there was a song on the radio - "Elle a les jeux revolver."  At first i thought it meant she had roving eyes.  Then I wondered if it really meant she had revolving eyes, like the late great Marty Feldman (Igor in Young Frankenstein).  Finally Susan Wiggs translated it for me.  "She has revolver eyes, she shoots …."  And I started thinking of dangerous men in Paris, and a young American woman living there (I would have liked to be both young and living in Paris) and I started writing Black Ice.  And in two days I wrote as much as I'd written in two months on the other one.  So I called up my editor and asked if I could switch books (I'd already gotten the okay on the turgid one) and fortunately she said yes.

Black Ice did better than other book I've written.  And when it came time to write the second book in the contract, everything I tried to come up with kept sounding like Black Ice.  I couldn't shake myself free from that world.  For some idiotic reason I'd always avoided series (with the exception of Maggie Bennett), even though they were the "smart" thing to do.  As I said in a previous post, I always avoided being "smart" -- I wanted my decisions about writing to come from my heart, not my head.  So I agonized about making the book I was writing a follow-up to Black Ice, even though the characters kept feeling like characters from that dangerous world.  Someone finally slapped me upside the head (Wiggs or Jill Barnett or maybe Crusie) and I grudgingly did the smart thing that the girls in the basement were insisting on.  It's one thing to avoid selling out.  It's another to actively refuse where your heart wants to go.  So I turned my nascent idea in COLD AS ICE.  There was only one slight problem.  The only character from Black Ice left alive to serve as the hero had spent the first book undercover as the boy toy of an arms dealer.  A male arms dealer.

So I had a hero who'd had a sexual relationship with another man, and there was no way I could change that.  That was enough to make the last of my qualms disappear -- this was going to be fun!

But that's when the trouble with my publisher started.  I will be tactful (for once) and not mention my distress over choices that were made when I was so very sure I had found exactly what I needed to be writing.  I loved those ICE books so much!  So I behaved badly.  I gave interviews gently chastising them and then an evil, anonymous harridan on the internet decided to go after me with three separate blogs saying how stupid I was, and for a while it was a mini-cause celebre, and I had no idea because I was taking care of my mother while she had her knee replaced. I found out I was in big trouble from my agent. Ugh.  Everyone was mad at me, and I hate it when people are angry, but the worst part of it was that there were people who had worked hard for me.  Marketing and salespeople and such, who felt slapped in the face.  

For some reason the publisher stuck with me, despite my iffy behavior.  But we were an uncomfortable fit after that, even though the editor I actually worked with understood my work and we were great together.

What else did I do?  I've often taken the wrong offer -- sometimes the one with more money when I should have weighed other things, sometimes for less money when I thought it was a smarter choice (and of course it wasn't).  I'm not properly professional for NINC, and even RWA has issues with me on occasion, though RT would love me in full flower.

There's only one mistake I haven't made, and it's the worst mistake of all.  And that is to stop writing.  To let anger or disappointment or clusterfucks stop you from working, letting a broken heart make you doubt your talent and voice.  I've never doubted that I was meant to write, never doubted my gift.  I know perfectly well that I can't be all things to all readers -- a lot of readers find my stuff too dark, or they simply don't like my voice, and I can't expect them to.  All I know is when things work for me -- it's the best I can do.

Maybe I'll talk about agents tomorrow.  I'm probably already saying way too much (have a piece of clue cake, Janet Reid).  I could talk about people who really piss me off (see last sentence) or I could be circumspect and polite.

But what I should probably do is go work on the new book in a new series, which I hope will be ICE IN AMERICA.  (No, I won't call it that).  And try not to get into any more trouble.