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I hear voices…

June 4, 2015

I hear voices in my head

Of course, as a writer, many times voices are a good thing. They whisper lines to me, make bad jokes, tell me about their fears, complain, breathe secrets, and lead me forward to a story. Or more than one story. HandDrawingBook

I often get asked how I plan which book to write, how I come up with ideas, and whether story X will get a sequel. It’s a bit weird to say, “The voices tell me,” but it’s kind of the truth.

Now don’t worry; I’m not suggesting that I can’t tell real conversation with my brother from Zach nagging me that he wants to see Aaron in a tux. I’m not confused about who in my life wears flesh and blood and who doesn’t. But I’ve often wondered if non-writers’ brains are… quieter.

If you don’t write, can you sit in a calm place without your brain starting to fit it into a story? When you close a good book, do the characters stop talking?

I am in awe of the writers who seem to have wrestled order from their characters. They plan out series and releases, choosing the right sequence of books and dates for maximum impact. So very cool. So very not me.

Take “Life, Some Assembly Required”, and its upcoming release on June 9th … More than three years after the first book, “The Rebuilding Year.” That’s no one’s idea of perfect timing. But then I hadn’t planned on a sequel at all. I thought I would leave my characters there, with Ryan on the phone, standing beside John in their kitchen, after the events of the first book. Lots of scope for imagination, with the main issues sorted out. Happy for Now, which is all you can get from real life while you are still living it.

Except that over time, as I wrote other things, there were voices in my head that wouldn’t shut up. And frankly, the loudest was Torey’s. blondeTeenBackTorey

Torey is John’s twelve-year-old daughter. In the first book, she’s not given as much presence on page as her bother, Mark, or either of her parents. She’s a bit of a chess-piece, not overlooked, but subordinate to the needs of her unhappy brother, her difficult mother, the constraints of court custody decisions and so on. I don’t think it could have realistically gone differently for her in that book, but for two years, Torey had been letting me know she wasn’t happy. Ever more loudly. It wasn’t fair. Guys got all the luck and girls were afterthoughts. She’d been shunted aside.

Ouch.

But you can’t base an M/M book on the voice of a twelve-year-old girl, really, so I wasn’t paying full attention. Then Ryan chimed in. He wanted to know what his father had said, on the other end of that phone call that I dropped in mid-word with “The End.” He wondered what came next in building a family with John. And he was firmly in Torey’s corner. She deserved more. RyanTRY

He frankly wanted me to run over John’s ex-wife Cynthia with a steamroller, and send both the kids home to John forever. Ryan is not a fan of Cynthia’s. I had to remind him that trying to be a realistic author is not quite compatible with dropping a house out of the sky on the Wicked Witch. Even if it would be fun (which it would, because I’m not a big fan of Cynthia’s either, although I try to understand her.) He said, “Well, then what?”

And so, over two years after publishing “The Rebuilding Year”, and four years after I wrote it, I found myself typing…

Chapter One

Ryan felt an annoying trickle of sweat sliding down the side of his neck. He was
determined to ignore it. There were good reasons for him to be overheated, for the wetness
of his palm where he clutched the phone. The kitchen was too warm, and John was standing close behind him, a solid, heat-radiating bulk at his back. Plus he’d just given John one hell of a blowjob, which was vigorous exercise of a sort. Then he’d gotten up off the floor too fast and tweaked his bad leg, and that always made him sweat.

It wasn’t that he was scared to hear what his father was going to say. Wasn’t. He pressed the silent phone to his ear…

. . .

And… the story began to unfold. Not always in the ways I expected. I’d hoped to keep Cynthia at a distance. Not out of the book – unless I did steamroller her, she’d have to be there as the mother of John’s kids, especially with custody an ongoing issue. But I’d planned for her to be less central. Didn’t turn out that way.

The conflict I’d thought was going to be hardest for John and Ryan fizzled, when Ryan refused to do what I’d thought he would, logically, for his career. He said no. Flatly.

The fun of being a pantser, as a writer, is that I watch the story unfold as I write, sometimes with surprises. It’s like reading, in a way, but better. The downside is that I don’t feel as God-like. I can’t seem to steer the result if it goes against the grain of the characters. Somehow, planning too much instead of going with the flow flattens and dries out the story for me.

So this one wrote itself, with good times and bad, favorite characters, annoying ones, moments of fun, moments of frustration, moments of grace. It won’t please everyone who took John and Ryan to their hearts in the first book, but then nothing will. (I’m amused to see ARC reviews that say what John does is both the best, and the worst, part of this story. The joy of diversity of opinions.) I had fun writing it, and hearing all these characters’ voices in my head again, together.

I’m going to give you a little excerpt below. Forewarning – it may be spoilerish for Book One.

I hope you have fun seeing the guys again.

And if you made it this far, leave a comment below, to be entered in a drawing for a free ebook copy of Life, Some Assembly Required. I’ll draw one winner from each of my WordPress, and Goodreads posts. Entries will close at midnight CST on June 8th. Thanks for stopping by to read.
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LifeSomeAssemblyRequired300

Chapter Three

They made it home from campus by six thirty. Mark, sitting between them on the
truck’s bench seat, was gloomy and silent. John wanted to say something wise and fatherly
about the fire or the band or the friend who got shot, but he didn’t know which one Mark
was worrying about. Not to mention that acting wise was hard to pull off in the eyes of a
fifteen-year-old boy.

Ryan was just as quiet. Tired? Painful leg? Dreading the looming Skype with his dad?
John decided that telepathy would be good to have, if his guys were going to go all silent
on him. When they got home, Mark mumbled something about not being hungry and took
the stairs two at a time up to his room.

John called after him, “Dinner isn’t optional.”

Ryan said, “I need to check my email. Call me when it’s ready?” He disappeared into the
front parlor that had become his office, and shut the door.

John was left standing in the entryway. “Well, hell. What am I? Little Suzy Homemaker?
‘Call me when dinner’s ready?’ Really?”

He stomped upstairs and took a shower. The hot water and the noise soothed him,
keeping him from knowing if Mark was studying or just playing three chords over and over
on his guitar again, and from hearing if Ry was swearing at his computer screen. His cell
phone could ring with news that the biggest tree on campus was down, and he didn’t know
and couldn’t be expected to care as long as he was in the shower. It took the water getting
not just cool but cold to finally drive him out.

He dressed, checked his phone to make sure that biggest-tree-falling thing was only in
his head, and then went to the kitchen. It was his night to cook. Or to arrange dinner, since
the fridge was papered with fliers from every takeout place in town. Most weeknights, they
did that. But tonight he wanted to actually make something home-cooked for his guys.

He put frozen fries into the oven, frozen green beans into boiling water, pork chops in a
pan. See? Cooking isn’t that hard. He cleaned the counter while everything was cooking and
wiped down the fridge. Swept the floor. Ryan would like that. Put out real plates instead of
paper, thought about vacuuming, and then sat down hard at the table. What the hell? Maybe
he really was some kind of frustrated housewife.

A sudden memory hit him, the first time he met Cynthia’s father. Near the end of tenth grade, when he and Cynthia had already been dating for months. Her mother had been sick by
then with the cancer that eventually took her, and her dad was doing everything. He’d looked
at John, tired eyes locked on his. “You treat her right, you hear me?” And John had answered, “I
will. Always. I promise.”

They’d gone out with a bunch of friends on a boat on the lake. The boat was big enough
to have a cabin, and three of the other couples had taken turns in there, enjoying the private
space. But he and Cynthia had stayed on deck. He’d put an arm around her, watched the way
her sunshine hair blew across her face, and felt a love and protectiveness so deep in his bones
that it hurt. And then he’d taken her safely home with just a kiss…

Ryan came in limping with one crutch and looked at him. “Smells good. When will it
be ready? We’re supposed to Skype with Dad in twenty minutes.”

Ah hell, John realized, it’s meet-the-parents-night again.

………

Life, Some Assembly Required is available for preorder on Samhain Publishing, at Amazon and on All Romance ebooks . It will release on June 9th.

Remember to comment below to enter the drawing through June 8th, for a free ebook copy.

47 Comments leave one →
  1. Isa permalink
    June 4, 2015 6:38 pm

    Can’t wait to read this. I just finished re-reading the first one. And isn’t it time for a Tony and Mac update?

    • June 5, 2015 9:49 am

      Tony, Mac and the kids at Pride? I have a little short story floating in my head but I am sooo behind on everything else, and it needs to develop a bit more. So not yet.

  2. June 4, 2015 6:54 pm

    i have been itchy for this book. I always felt there was something more with Torey

  3. June 4, 2015 7:29 pm

    I enjoyed reading their story the first time around and look forward to the continuation. I was ok with it ending with the beginning of a phone call BUT I would be lying if I said I never thought what if? Kind of glad the voices didn’t shut up😉

    Kassandra
    sionedkla@gmail.com

  4. June 4, 2015 8:58 pm

    I too battle with the voices in my head and wish I was able to write with more forethought and order. I’m with you. I tend to listen to the pushiest voice. Might be why I have about 10 works in progress. thanks for this! Excited for your release.

  5. Paula Hancock permalink
    June 4, 2015 9:19 pm

    Is it June 9th yet?

  6. Michael Thompson permalink
    June 4, 2015 9:33 pm

    Can’t wait for this one Kaje! Congratulations on the release.

  7. June 4, 2015 10:31 pm

    So looking forward to this one!

  8. Carolyn permalink
    June 5, 2015 1:53 am

    Kaje, I enjoyed this peek into how this story came about! I’m so glad Torey and Ryan (and whomever else) decided to speak up. I am not the type of reader who asks authors to write more of characters I want to spend more time with (that’s just not me), but who am I to argue with the good sense of the characters.😉

  9. Alexa Milne permalink
    June 5, 2015 2:41 am

    I am so looking forward to this. The Rebuilding Year was one of the first books I read when I got back into reading mm romance and writing my own and it has stayed with me to this day.

  10. Debra E permalink
    June 5, 2015 8:23 am

    I just finished my second re-read of The Rebuilding Year and am so excited for the new book.

    • June 5, 2015 9:53 am

      I love hearing people who enjoyed the book more than once. That’s a real compliment🙂

  11. Donna Mayer permalink
    June 5, 2015 3:07 pm

    Rebuilding year is one of the best books I’ve read. I’ve always wanted more of Ryan and John. That being said I’m scared. You wrote not everyone will be pleased that took Ryan and John to their hearts.

    • June 5, 2015 10:56 pm

      Well, I can never please everyone. I don’t think I’ve published a book someone hasn’t said they were really disappointed in because it didn’t measure up. Nothing really awful happens to the guys (I swear). People who loathed Cynthia may see more of her than they would prefer. I hope you’re one of the people who does enjoy it🙂

  12. Melissa permalink
    June 5, 2015 5:39 pm

    I read the sneak peak at Samhain and am now laughing because I see the dogs on the cover. Seems Ryan’s musing about living a gay version of his childhood may just come true, LOL. Looking forward to this.

    • June 5, 2015 10:57 pm

      The cover isn’t quite true to the story but yeah, dogs happen in there. And wow, that’s a tiny detail that you remembered🙂

  13. calila1988 permalink
    June 5, 2015 5:56 pm

    I am so excited for this book! The Rebuilding Year was one of my first M/M IIRC. Can’t wait!

  14. Veronica permalink
    June 5, 2015 6:52 pm

    I loved The Rebuilding Year! It’s great to see a sequel! I can’t wait to read it! Thank you for the chance to win this!

  15. Kira permalink
    June 6, 2015 5:50 am

    I can’t say that I hear voices, precisely, but I have this set of archetypal characters, and in my head I tend to insert one of them in a book if I feel that its characters are being obtuse for too long or the story isn’t moving along that well. To me, a great book is the one where I don’t get that urge even once.🙂

    I was overjoyed when I learned that The Rebuilding Year will get a sequel! It’s my favourite book of yours, and I’ve already planned a re-read that I should finish on 9th so I can dive straight into book two.

    • June 8, 2015 11:18 am

      LOL – I like the thought of your guys showing up to smack someone on the head for being obtuse🙂

  16. jenf27 permalink
    June 6, 2015 6:56 pm

    I loved the Rebuilding Year and am excited about the sequel. Thanks for sharing the genesis of it and giving us a chance to win a copy. 🙂

  17. Fred permalink
    June 7, 2015 9:21 am

    Really looking forward to this! I had forgotten when the book was being released, so I’m glad that I happened to come across this blog entry.

  18. Elle permalink
    June 7, 2015 10:06 am

    As I’ve said on here before, The Rebuilding Year, is one of my favourite ever books. Am so looking forward to the sequel as I felt it was ripe for one. So many questions to answer! Can’t wait Kaje, & I’m sure it’ll be beautifully written as all of your work (that I’ve read) is.

  19. Coco permalink
    June 7, 2015 3:55 pm

    Dear Kaje cannot wait to read the next part of this sweet story between John and Ryan… the rebuilding year was among the 1st m/m stories I read and held a special place in my heart ☺
    Coco from Switzerland 😉

  20. Melle Rae permalink
    June 7, 2015 5:29 pm

    I adored The Rebuilding Year…glad to see that I’m gonna get more info on what came next🙂

  21. June 7, 2015 5:39 pm

    Cannot wait!!! So glad the voices did not stop. Very glad to see that Tony and Mac is talking to you again! Have re-read John and Ryan’s story again in anticipation of this release. Read to fast so I re-read all the ones I fell in love with. Your are such a good writer. Keep them coming.

    • June 8, 2015 11:22 am

      Ah, Tony is always vocal. But most of what he tells me about is little stuff. Sending Mac to pick up a specific Christmas toy when the store is crowded… not a full story. A short someday, maybe.

      • June 8, 2015 9:50 pm

        What about Danny Boy and Trip. I know they are at the end of their love story, and I will cry buckets when they die of. So I think they are good. Now it is just Tony & Mack, Ryan & John, Rick & Travis and that whole bunch. Maybe another story for Ian & Chris?

        • June 8, 2015 9:55 pm

          I think the little coda posted here is all I’ll do for Daniel and Trip, but yeah, the array of guys in my head gets bigger all the time. Rick and Travis will get a sequel – “The Family We Keep”. Another one I’ve toyed with a bit is Lyon and Tobin, from “Nor Iron Bars.” But who knows.

  22. June 9, 2015 10:15 am

    The free book winner for this blog post is Kassandra (comment 3) – I sent you an email.

    Thanks to everyone for stopping by, and all the great comments and support.

  23. June 12, 2015 11:38 pm

    Just finished Some Assembly Required. Thank you, you did not disappoint. It was great. Please tell me there will be a third-getting rid of Cynthia and leave little Lily to them.

    • June 13, 2015 11:48 am

      I can’t rule out a third, although I’m not planning one right now. But I’m afraid I probably won’t give them Lily – one of my things was to write a book where the two guys don’t conveniently end up with the kids and a nice cozy family, but have to cope with the messy part of ex-wives and custody. So although it would be sweet for the children, and would surely add some issues to their lives raising a special needs toddler, I don’t think I’ll go that route. Probably…

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