Time: Halloween Night, 2013
Place: 24 hour Starkbucks, Plant City, FL, USA
Point of Conflict: To NaNo or not.
It was Halloween, the night before the National Novel Writing Month (NaNo for short) contest begins. You know the thing where you sign up to bang out 50K words in the month. They can either be for a rough draft of a new project or additional words on something you’re currently working on. It’s fun. You get a lot of support from other folks participating and can even meet up with them to have “write-ins.”
I had participated the previous year and “won,” meaning I wrote over 50K words on my novel Return to Cooter Crossing. The problem was, that story needed a lot more than 50K and a year later I was still working on it. One reason it was taking so long was I’d taken breaks along the way and written a number of short stories and a novella. So it was NaNo season again and folks were asking, “Are you going to do it this year?”
“No, I’m not,” was my reply. I’d say something about enjoying the whole thing last time, but I really wanted to get my current project done. So I was at my favorite writing spot at the time—the 24 hour Starbucks in Plant City, right off the interstate—working on the story about Aidan Quinn returning to the little village where he grew up, when someone said, “Hello.” I looked up and saw a young woman from our local NaNo group. We’d often run into each other at Starbucks. We did the typical chitchat while she waited for her drink. “Are you doing it this year?”
I gave my reply and asked, “Are you?”
She said she was thinking of doing some kind of paranormal fan fiction. I was very good. I smiled and was encouraging. (I really don’t get fan-fic, which doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. I just don’t understand why you’d want to be a second class citizen in someone else’s sandbox. The thing I love about writing is I get to create my own worlds where I am the Lord High God.)
I also think the paranormal romance thing has become eye-roll worthy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the genre in general, I loved the first few Anne Rice vampire books, but lets face it, the genre has devolved into sparkly emo vampires and silly alpha-beta-gamma fraternity shifters.
As I turned back to my WIP and the clock ticked toward November, I thought, What would I do with the genre? How would I play with it? How would I make it different and my own?
I’ve always appreciated witty stories that poke fun at a genre with a wink and a nudge, like Gordon Dickson’s “Dragon Knight” series. And I had thoughts about vamps. Oh yes I did.
Lets face it, vampirism has always been a sexual metaphor. And as a gay man, I’ve always thought blood was the wrong body fluid to be used as a life giving force, if you get my meaning. There’s another one that’s freely available, kind of magical in and of itself, and no one has to die. But wait…. don’t the French call an orgasm la petite mort (the little death)? Wasn’t there some kind of mystical energy transfer going on in the midst of the panting and groaning?
So my monster was a young man cursed to give blow jobs for eternity or was the monster the one that cursed him? And if you’re going to have real monsters, you need Nazis in there somewhere, or the memory of them—that is monstrous enough for me. And of course, the meta themes of family, loss and love would have to be in there, because they’re in most of my work.
I opened a new Scrivener project and started writing. I found this guy named Dieter in an old barn on his great-uncle’s rundown citrus farm. The uncle was dead and the family farm—the family heritage, was going to be sold and bulldozed away. I’d been in that barn. But I hadn’t been able to do anything about it. Maybe things would be different for Diet.
This book flowed. I couldn’t believe how fast the words came. Right before me the little hamlet of Live Oak sprang up. Suddenly Bennett Bay had a Spanish Quarter, well I kind of always knew it probably did, but now I was walking the streets. And OMG, I really wanted to live there. Total confession: the Esperanza is my fantasy place to live. And yes, the Quarter is a total ripoff of Saint Augustine, Florida—the place I’d live if I ever won the lottery or sold a ton of books.
In the four weeks of November, I hit the 50K mark and kept writing. In about ten weeks I had a 110K word draft done. I’d created a paranormal world that lived side-by-side with my other Bennett Bay stories. There were dragons, and little faeries talking like valley-boy-surfer-dudes. There were witches, dark forces, and one lost soul that had to suck a lot of dick. In the midst of all of this, Dieter had to mourn the loss of his uncle and the family he once had and come to terms with the family he did have. Of course, he had to also admit that magic was a thing and his ex, Innes, wasn’t as bat-shit craze as he once thought. He was just a witch on his way to becoming a Druid. It apparently happens more often than you’d think out in the swamp.
The most amazing thing was other folks went along with me on this crazy ride. Dieter grew on them and they followed him, despite his dickish ways. (He gets better.) And people got the tongue-in-cheek humor, especially with my little blue dudes.
So the desire to poke a little fun at paranormal-romance—from a rather bent queer perspective, and my need to work through my lingering grief over the loss of my family’s farm and ancestral home in central Florida resulted in Dark Love, the story that launched the Live Oak Tales. It’s dark, silly and oh so me. Check it out and let me know what you think. Want it for free? Just sign up for my newsletter and choose it as your free selection.
Thanks for stopping by,