Anyone can be a writer. We all have stories to tell, and as soon as you put pen to paper (or, more likely, fingers to keyboard) and start to tell it, you’re in the club. You’re putting your thoughts, feelings, ideas down in a permanent way. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, a song, the how is less important than the what. The equation is simple: Written Words = Writer.
Some of the best writers I’ve ever read are not authors. Because the difference between a “writer” and an “author” is that an author gets paid.
I’ve been an author since 1999 when I got my first paycheck writing a humor column for a tiny daily newspaper in Southern Illinois. In fact, I’m still writing that column. These days, it’s in a few more papers than it used to be. You can check it out online at my website, www.renaleisure.com or at www.carmitimes.com in the opinion section. You know what the going rate for a weekly column was in 1999? Three bucks a week.
But the fact is, if you’ve ever put words on paper (or screen, whatever), received compensation for those words, and used that compensation to do something like, oh, pay the light bill, you’re an author. Of all the jobs I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some good ones, being an author is the thing I love the very most. And the thing I most enjoy writing is romance.
Right now, the market for the non-traditional romance genre is aggressive and is much easier to break into than the mainstream romance market. Readers are looking for out-of-the-box stories, ideas, and characters, and that has given rise to an unprecedented demand for alternative romance. The flexibility of eReaders and the instant access they offer means readers don’t have to go to a book store or wait for a paper copy to arrive in the mail. It lets everyone try new things with little risk and no embarrassment.
I picked up my first alternative romance novel online at www.allromance.com. It was a top-rated free read, and the characters looked interesting. I’m a straight, married woman. But in my mind, love has always been less about gender and more about personality. So writing characters in alternative relationships never felt strange–although I will admit that it’s sometimes taken a little bit of research just because, well, I’m lacking personal experience with some of the equipment in question.
In “Slow Burn” and “Simmer,” I really like my characters. In fact, I forgot how much I liked them until I started writing them again. And the more I write, the more real they become to me.
There was a soft tap on the door, then hesitation before it opened. I kept my eyes fixed on the wall, arms wrapped around my knees. I wasn’t going to say a word. I wasn’t going to look. I wasn’t even going to twitch. I was a velvet hammer, and I wasn’t budging.
Apparently Griff missed the context clues I was mentally sending his way, though, because he crossed the room quietly, the mattress shifting when he sat down on it. His calf brushed my shoulder, and I thought about pulling away. I didn’t because that would have been childish. Not moving had nothing to do with the fact that the contact was maybe kind of comforting. Not at all. Not even a little bit.
Mentally, I braced myself for the lecture to start. Ear plugs. I should have gotten ear plugs. I knew Dad had some of the squishy orange foam ones in the gun cabinet. Sticking my fingers in my ears was also an option, but since I’d already committed to channeling my inner adult, I kept my hands where they were.
Seconds ticked by. My stomach roiled apprehensively, and my shoulder blades prickled. Absurdly I kind of wished Griff would just get on with the yelling. If I were honest with myself, I probably deserved it. Why wasn’t he–the feel of gentle fingers carding through my hair completely derailed my train of thought.
Frozen, half shocked, half incredulous, I let minutes tick by while Griff petted me, hands firm but sure, breath steady. He didn’t say anything. He was just–there. As the quiet of the room and the rhythm of his hand sunk into my skin, I was horrified to feel tears prickling at the back of my eyes. Oh for the love of–I heard more than felt my breath hitch. This was not happening. Nope. Huh-uh. I started to push myself to my feet. If I was going to have a mental brake down, I was not having it in front of my–whatever the heck Griff was. I’d think about it later. Somewhere else. Somewhere that was not here.
I fully intended to head for the door. Clearly, something was wrong with my sense of direction, though. Maybe we were getting ready to have an earthquake. Didn’t seismic activity mess with magnetic fields and make birds fly the wrong way? I was pretty sure I’d seen a special about that on the Discovery Channel last month. For whatever reason, instead of turning right and ducking out the door, I hung a completely involuntary left, straight into the bed. Straight into Griff.
Then his arms closed around me, and he was holding me, and I was crying into the side of his neck. And I didn’t care if the entire New Madrid fault line was getting ready to Continentially shift and dump all of the Midwest into a sink hole the size of the Atlantic, because Griff finally opened his mouth, and instead of the recrimination I deserved, he said, “I’ve got you. It’s going to be alright, Nathan.”
And idiot that I was, I thought that just maybe it would be.
END OF EXCERPT
Even if I never got another dime for writing, I’d still do it every day. I write because, well, I can’t not write. It’s not the Great American Novel. The ghost of Mark Twain probably isn’t going to come calling with accolades anytime soon. But every word I put down on screen, I am reminded of the fact that being an author–getting paid to do the thing I love most–is an amazing blessing.