I just submitted the ms for Small Town Romance Writer to the publisher and while it's all still fresh I thought I'd post another raw, unpublished version here. This book ran over 113,000 words by the time I sent it off, and so far I haven't heard any screams from the publisher. The average e-book romance novel runs about 60,000 words, and I'm usually contracted to only write 50,000 words. I thought this book needed more depth, and I couldn't help running over word count this time.
The basic premise of the book is literary gay author vs smutty erotic romance gay author. And even though no one will believe me, this book is not even closely related to my own life as a writer. I did take from some of my experiences, but the reason I made the two main characters so different was because I wanted to show how two different writers go through life with different POVs.
In any event, here's the excerpt. In this scene, Travis, one main character, meets someone he really likes and doesn't even realize this until he discovers the guy might be dating someone else. It shows how passive Travis can sometimes be a bit aggressive, and it's highly out of character for him to react this way.
It was evident Scottie didn’t know Ethan very well. Ethan had once had a bad haircut when they’d lived together in Iowa and Travis had told him the truth then. Ethan took his criticism so seriously that time he wound up wearing a baseball cap for the next month. After that experience Travis had learned it was much safer to lie to Ethan in some cases. Like that time he wore an ugly red shirt to a party and he asked Travis for his opinion. The shirt was so bad it made Travis cringe. But he smiled and told Ethan, “I love it. It’s the best shirt I’ve ever seen and I might even ask if I can borrow it in the future.” This made Ethan smile for the rest of the night, and he had no idea everyone else at the party was talking about the guy in the ugly red shirt. Oh, Travis had learned the hard way what Ethan didn’t know would never hurt him.
“I have to think about it for a while,” Travis said. “I can’t keep avoiding him forever.”
“You’ll figure it out,” Scottie said. Then he hesitated for a second. “I have to ask you something. When you say we’re taking things slowly and this is a casual relationship does that mean we’re both allowed to see other people.”
Travis smiled at his innocence. The poor kid was worried he would date other men. “Yes,” he said. “We are allowed to see other people. After all, this is a long distance causal relationship. It would be unrealistic for you to assume I’m not going to see other people.”
“I’m not talking about you,” Scottie said.
Travis opened his eyes wider. “I don’t understand.” He hadn’t expected this.
“This guy asked me out this morning,” Scottie said. “And I said I would think about it. I wanted to see if that’s okay with you.”
Well. It didn’t take him long to find someone else. Travis had underestimated him in more than one way. But he didn’t want Scottie to think he was upset about this, so he laughed it off and said, “It’s fine with me. We are both free to see anyone, or do anything, we want to do. No strings attached.”
“Good, that’s a huge relief,” Scottie said. “I’m kind of new at all this, and I didn’t want to go out with someone else without talking to you first.”
“What’s this guy like?” Travis asked. “I’m just curious in a basic sense. It’s not that I care or anything.” He felt a lump in his throat. He hadn’t even thought about going out with anyone else yet.
“He’s a nice guy,” Scottie said. “He’s about your age and he owns a few small coffee shops in Providence. He has a weekend place in P’town on the East End. You might even know him.”
Travis placed his palm to his chest and sat up higher. “Is his name Glen?” Provincetown was a small community, and everyone knew everyone else. He’d met a guy named Glen at a few parties and gallery receptions who owned coffee shops in Providence and had a weekend place on the East End. From what he could recall, this Glen was not around his age. He was closer to forty than thirty. He had a good body, but he dyed his hair that obnoxious jet black some middle age men think makes them look younger. And he had the thinnest lips Travis had ever seen on a man.
“Yes, his name is Glen,” Scottie said. “Do you know him?”
Travis forced himself not to groan aloud. “Does he have dyed black hair and big white teeth? And painfully thin lips? And does he have a tendency to blink with his entire face a little too much?”
Scottie laughed. “I’m not sure if his hair is dyed, but it is black and he does have a tendency to blink every now and then. I get coffee at his shop in the morning on my way to class, and this morning we started talking and he asked me out.”
“I’ll bet he did,” Travis said. He also knew this Glen had a reputation for going after younger men in their twenties. “But just so you know, he’s not around my age. I’m thirty-two. He’s more like forty-two. Maybe even fifty-two for all I know. He’s an old man.”
“Well I didn’t ask him his exact age,” Scottie said. “It doesn’t matter to me and I didn’t want to be rude. What’s wrong? You sound upset.”
“I’m not upset about anything,” Travis said. He felt like kicking the chair. “If you want to go out with that old man, who am I to say anything.” Maybe he was one of those younger guys that liked the old ones.
“Good,” Scottie said. “I’m glad I asked you about it. I have to go study now. I’ll talk to you over the weekend.”
Travis didn’t want to wait until the weekend. He wanted to know more about this Glen and what he was up to with Scottie. “I’ll call you tomorrow night around this same time,” he said.
“Call me on Friday night around this time,” Scottie said. “I told Glen I’d get back to him about dinner tomorrow night. And since you’re okay with it, I’m going to call him as soon as I hang up with you. You’re sure it’s okay.”
Travis kicked the wall. “Of course it’s okay. I’ll call you on Friday night. Have fun with the old guy tomorrow night.”
When Travis went to bed that night, he tossed and turned so much he had to get up and take a sleeping pill. He never took pills to go to sleep. He’d always been one of those people who could fall into bed and drift off to sleep without any problems at all. He kept thinking about Scottie going out with that hideous old creature with big teeth and dyed black hair that lived up on the East End, of all places. Travis owned a home on the West End, where a more residential dignified group lived. Like most gay men in his position, he cared about his address. He was surrounded by Boston attorneys and people who spent the winters in Key West. The gay couple across the street from him owned radio stations and the gay guy who owned the house behind him came from an old Boston family that had made their money in shoe laces. Travis wouldn’t have been caught renting in the East End, let alone owning a home. In his opinion, the East End had always been for tourists and those who walked through town all summer licking ice cream cones with flip flops on their feet and short that bunched up in their crotches.
By the time he finally did fall asleep, he had dreams of the hideous Glen creature dancing at the A-house with Scottie. He woke up around seven in the morning at the exact moment this Glen creature was about to make love to Scottie. He had Scottie in his arms; they were both leaning backward in the middle of Commercial Street in front of Spiritus Pizza, and all Travis could see were Glen’s big white bleached teeth moving toward Scottie’s beautiful young lips. Travis sat up in bed, with his heart racing and sweat rolling down his face, and punched the pillow so hard he bruised his knuckles on the headboard.
He spent the rest of the day trying to work. He tried as hard as he could to write that article about gender power in gay fiction, but he kept thinking about Glen’s big white choppers moving toward Scottie’s lips. He grew so frustrated he ripped a sheet of paper from his typewriter, crunched it in his fist, and stormed out of the house. He walked all the way to Herring Cove with his hands in his pockets and his head down to avoid anyone he knew.
He tried to rationalize his feelings because he’d been the one who had insisted they keep things casual. He couldn’t blame Scottie for going out with Glen. Besides, he’d said it didn’t bother him. When he realized how alive he felt, and how long it had been since he’d cared this much about another guy, he decided not to call Scottie on Friday night. He called him late on Thursday night instead.
The phone rang about six times and he almost hung up. It was after midnight and he had a feeling Scottie had decided to go home with the old man who owned the coffee shops. He felt a little silly by then, and he didn’t want Scottie to think he was a lunatic stalker.
Then Scottie picked up and said, “Hello?”
“It’s me,” Travis said, in a casual tone. Scottie obviously didn’t have caller ID. He could have just hung up and Scottie would never have known he’d called.
“Hey,” Scottie said. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Travis said.
“Well it’s after midnight,” Scottie said. “People usually call at that hour when something’s wrong. Are you sure you’re okay?”
Travis clenched his fist and took a quick breath. “I told you I’m fine. I just called to see how your date went.”
“It didn’t happen,” Scottie said. “There was some kind of crisis at one of Glen’s coffee shops and he had to cancel. He promised me he would make it up, though. He said he’d bring me up to his house in P’town this weekend. He’s picking me up on Saturday. Isn’t that great? We should all plan to get together for tea dance on Sunday at the Boat Slip.”
So now this creepy white-toothed idiot was taking Scottie to P’town for the weekend. This made Travis want to pick up the phone, hurl it at the window, and throw it into the bay. But he took a deep breath and counted to ten.
“Are you still there?” Scottie asked.
“Yes,” I’m still here, Travis said in his calmest voice.