Tuesday, July 8, 2008

When the Muse calls

In an earlier post I mentioned my standalone novel with Phaze, called Muse. I don't think any of us need to see the cover again.

Here's a little history about the book: I actually started on Muse before I began the first Dareville story. It was the spring of 2004 and I was pregnant and nauseous and fighting writer's block. I couldn't tell you exactly how the original story idea came about, but I had been reading a number of historical fantasy romances at the time, and eventually the image of a beta hero came to mind. I saw him constantly in my thoughts, this long, lanky farmer adopted into a well-to-do household of three daughters. He was a gentle man, a confidant to his master, and deeply in love with the youngest. The daughters were well off enough to marry rich men, but the youngest returned his feelings despite the difference in age.

He even had a name: Boone. I don't know if it was his first or last, but that's what I called him, and for weeks I'd sit in the back room of our cramped condo on the bay, Traffic's Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys playing over and over in my Windows Media Player, typing snatches of Boone's story. There would be conflict - for a young woman of means to marry a peasant in this world I created was unheard of, and there would be retaliation from spurned suitors, commentary from jealous sisters.

But as I wrote, I kept hitting walls. This made no sense, and neither did that. Yet Boone wanted his story told, and I couldn't tell it just yet. I shelved it, then Truth of Dare got my attention and I wrote that. In the back of my mind, though, I yearned for Boone. At one point it got so frustrating that I ended up writing in a different direction. I wrote about a writer, trying to tell a story. As I progressed, that writer became Tania, and her story became Boone's. I wrote of her frustration for telling a story, and about a handsome neighbor who moves in below her, and inspires her to write more. His name? Boone.

Before I realized it, I had a 90K word novel which combined the original book with a book about writing the book. Some writers talk about having a book of the heart. This was the book of my womb, since I was mostly pregnant through writing it. In the beginning it was not erotic, just heavy sensual. I think it should have remained heavy, but I suppose the condition of the market pressured me into heating it up at bit. Cerridwen Press had turned it down on the basis that they were oversaturated with contemporaries at the time, and Tigress Press held onto it, and held onto it and eventually stopped answering my follow-up queries. By this time I had a foot in the door with Phaze, and my editor loved it enough to contract. However...

She wanted to pare down the instances of the book within the book. That bothered me, because to me the original historical fantasy aspect of Boone was the story. It was what kept the contemporary heroine motivated enough to keep writing. My editor's suggestion was to pare down those passages and create a second book with them. Reluctantly, because I wanted to see the book out, I agreed. It was difficult to do, however, and at times I question the logic of editing what would become Muse.

Then there was the debacle with the cover. The editor, also my cover artist, couldn't quite grapple a good concept for it. I actually didn't see the finished product until I met her at a booksigning in Virginia Beach and she handed me the discs of the finished product. By this time I was just so happy to have the story out that I didn't care anymore. I promoted by heart out, and was greatly surprised when the month's reports came back.

Truth or Dare and Dare Me, both out by this time, did extremely well. Muse did not. I couldn't understand it. All three came from the same house, featured the same humourous style on which readers complimented me, and I equally promoted all three. Was it because Muse was not a Dareville story? Was it the cover? Was the level of sensuality uneven due to my attempts to heat up the book? I still ask these questions three years later, now that the expiration of this contract is looming. The "sequel" book, which I would have called Boone, should have been written by now, but in truth my heart isn't in it to finish. Sales of Muse don't inspire a sequel, and I do feel the Boone parts I cut should be in the first big book.

So what do I do? Pull Muse, restore the cut passages, and republish? Do I do it through Phaze, or go somewhere else? Do I leave Muse to languish? Do I just slap a new cover on it and hope for the best? Is it going to look like self-indulgence if I do anything to this book? I would eventually like to see it in print, but it won't happen through Phaze. The more I think about it, it may be time to let Boone rest in peace, and move forward. Perhaps once again I can revisit him in another incarnation.

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