Monday, December 7, 2009

Pen Envy

This week's topic, coveting another author's creation for  your own, has been an interesting one to wrap my mind around. My imaginitive side has been around since before I can remember, but it's only been the past 9 months I've actually been writing. Honest!

I was reading chapter books in preschool, was the teacher's pet in every reading or english class I ever took, and could be found lost in a book more often than not all through my formative years. I subsequently quashed all that inclination when I was counselled to forego a liberal arts degree by every adult I respected. I waded through Pre-Med until I finally figured out that I couldn't skate through org chemistry without studying, then for lack of anything better to do, switched over the business school into health administration. Thus began a my career as a paper jockey. Ironically, I'm good enough at organization and numbers to have been competent in management, but it wasn't my true calling.

Passing my 39th birthday, with 40 breathing down my neck, I was at home with the kids trying to remember when my last adult conversation was, running an internet business, and moping about when I discovered the instant gratification of e-books. I was suddenly reading everything I could get my hands on.

With a scattergun approach to reading and trying publishers, I saw the best and the worst out there. Whole 'nother topic, but it was "the worst" that inspired me to open a manuscript and write my first story this past spring...the old "I can do better than that!" But today we're going to talk about "the best."

I wouldn't have dared imagine wishing to have written anything I'd read to that point in my life, all print books that were either literary classics or through the major NY publishing houses. They seemed so far out of reach, so far above little mortal me.

E-books? Opened my mind so many ways. Finally it seemed as though there was a realistic and accessible venue for non-traditional genres, non-traditional lengths, and non-traditional authors. I loved reading the gritty realism and blunt sexuality, paranormal not all shined up for a sanitized box-store display. I was fascinated by the appeal of 'everyday' BDSM, and that of gay romance.

The first book which popped into my head when I read this week's topic was Simply Sinful by Kate Pearce. Peter is a young man made jaded before his time by his childhood capture at sea and subsequent service in a middle eastern brothel. When he is approached by Lord James Beecham to help him save his marriage, the request intrigues him and sets the three into an intimate dance.

Under the radar of the main storyline of Peter's interaction and eventual relationship with Abigail, come the raw and deeply felt needs of James. He had been initiated into manlove by a sexual dominant and sadist, and now craves domination, by a man, to a point where he cannot perform in his marriage bed. Abigail means the world to him and her request for him to father a child on her forces him to try to overcome his natural inclinations with Peter's help.

The first meeting between Peter and James is one of the most powerful scenes I've ever read. Well before the reader is made aware of his masochistic need to submit, you can feel the undercurrents as James tries to alternately force and tempt Peter into helping him, eventually using the ruse of calling in a gambling win and Peter's own strong sense of honor against him.

It was my first ever exposure to m/m sexual interaction, and that blowjob literally blew my mind. Reading on, I had no idea how it was all going to come to a happy ending, especially when Peter's affinity for a married woman, and his inability to give James the domination he craves became clear. The eventual resolution was inventive and emotional, and I was hooked. All the subtexts and angles to the story, including Peter's complex relationship with his best friend and fellow prisoner in the brothel, Valentin, flat wrung me out.

I read that story twice that first night, let it set for a day and read it again. Then I opened a manuscript and wrote my first novella with m/m interaction, a m/m/f menage. I was inspired, not necessarily to write the sequel (which Kate has since done), or even the equal, to that story. But write in that genre, that I could do. All my published work to date is m/m and I have Simply Sinful to thank for birthing my muse.

Nine months ago, I wished I had written that...and became an author to cure my pen envy. Tasty antidote!


  1. Devon,

    Great Post: and Pen Envy! That's a clever term.

    I admire your honesty for stating that publication seemed a long way out of reach. This is a point I keep encountering with my students, some of whom are very good: but so many of whom are fearful about making a submission.



  2. I enjoyed your post.

    I can totally relate to the feeling that certain things are beyond one's reach. Everything I've attempted to write lies unfinished because I just haven't been able to get beyond the idea that I couldn't possibly be as good as others. I'm so glad that you were able to take that leap of faith in yourself and publish. I've really enjoyed your work.

  3. Thanks Ash! Usually titles are difficult for me, but 'Pen Envy' popped right out of my uncaffienated brain this morning. It actually gave me a story idea, so if I can manage to find time to write it (see today's post at my blog for why this seems remote), you may eventually see a book titled, Pen Envy, from me. :)

    Humility and self-doubt...yes, I can admit to it. Some days, I think I'm going to wake up and being published will never have happened to me, even now with three titles out and more to come. Just shows the esteem in which I hold the written be disbelieving that I could ever be there myself.

  4. Hi Eyre! We've been communicating a lot the past few days, haven't we?

    It took constant mental massaging (picture me in the corner of a boxing ring, facing my foe) in order to build myself up enough to not only finish, then submit, then write something else and submit that. To that end, I gave myself a timeline of two years. If I hadn't had a story accepted by then, I would use my time differently (so I said anyway, hard to imagine just stopping in actuality). My first two ms were rejected, but the third (Remarkable Restraint in the Games In The Dark antho) is now out there in the public domain.

    I'm so glad you enjoy my work, feedback like yours makes it all worthwhile!! Thanks for stopping by Eyre!

  5. The fact that one of my books inspired you is so humbling. I was concerned when I first broached the concept of Simply Sinful to my editor seeing as the first three chapters has no woman/heroine involved :) and centers around that rather graphic m/m sex scene you mentioned. But he told me just to write it the way it needed to be written and everything else in the story came from there.
    I'm still very proud of that book and its complex relationships and I'm even prouder that it inspired you to write yours :)

  6. Hi Kate, I'm very glad you found your way here, I'm guessing by way of my cross-post review on GR! ;)

    I can understand why you might have been leery of starting the story from that direction, but it was so essential to James' development. And I must say that in the months since then, I've read a LOT of m/m storylines, and James in particular is one of the most well-developed and complex characters I've ever read.

    Very appreciative of your editor who gave you such wonderful leeway, and kudos to you for your fantastic writing.

    Always a pleasure to see you, Kate! My signed copy of Simply Wicked has a place on honor on my 'special' bookshelf. :) Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Devon,

    It seems to me like we have a lot in common, including folks telling us we could never make a living at the things we were best at in school! It kills me to this day to recall that everyone I knew told me I'd never find a career in either art or writing, so I needed to get a degree in something sensible instead. It worked out all right in the end, but guess how I ended up making my living? Highest paying job I ever held involved art and writing.

    Kudos to you for taking the plunge and deciding to write. I had an experience similar to that as well! See, we're awfully alike!

  8. Hey Helen! I'm a positive person and while sometimes I feel like a wasted a lot of years, most of the time I'm just happy that I finally found my way back to what I was meant to do (albeit 20 years late). Glad the same happened for you as well!

  9. Hello, Devon,

    Sorry to be late to the party...the real world interfered...!

    I can't believe that you've only been writing for nine months. Your prose, here on the grip, has a direct impact that I really admire. I haven't had the chance to read any of your fiction yet, other than excerpts. Got to get one of your books to review.

    Actually, I started writing for publication in a rather similar way, being inspired by someone else. Funny, but that didn't occur to me when I sat down to write my post. Of course, for me that was more than ten years ago.

    Thanks for sharing your doubts and your triumphs.



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