A confession. I like writing first kisses.
I’d make a horrible erotica writer. I’d make a horrible romance writer (in the commercial publishing sense of the word). I’m not very interested in the follow-through, just in those few moments of discovery. So much can be contained in a kiss. There are times when I think the entire story of The Lost can be boiled down to three very different kisses.
Phoenix also has just three–two magical, one, well, that one’s magic is of a different sort. At least it is for Tucker, experiencing his first kiss: The space between us vanished, his hand traveling along my cheek, my neck, before he pulled me into a kiss. A regular kiss, but I believed it could turn my hair white, leave moonlight on my lips. I think I made a little squeak of some sort, his shirt rough as I gripped it.
Wren makes me suffer a bit. Wren has the kiss that doesn’t happen. Thwarted energy is a good thing for a novel, but it can be hell on the writer. At least it is when you know you’re setting up something that plays out over four books. All those turns, all those possibilities lost with each simple action taken.
In another book, the unwritten one, the kiss happens, and another path is taken, and the series becomes a single book whose ending comes with a white picket fence and a garden with roses in front. It would make for a wonderful life, but perhaps a boring story.
“Phoenix” is an odd story. Odd in the sense that it came from more than one place, unlike most of my short stories. It started several years ago, when I wrote a story about a teenage hustler named Gabriel. Gabriel came from the Aware novels, and that story was my way of understanding his history. Unlike “Sea Glass,” the story wasn’t one that worked well on its own, so I set it aside.
Then, last year, I spent a lot of time thinking about hope. There were all sorts of reasons for that, ranging from the state of the world to my own history of depression to the sorts of stories I kept writing. Somewhere along the way, one line got stuck in my head: The thing about stories is they’ve got to have hope.
So I had that line, and Gabriel, and that first story, and then Tucker came along. Convention with young adult fiction says it doesn’t include a middle-aged narrator, but that’s where things went with Tucker. For “Phoenix” to have hope, there needed to be the understanding that Tucker survived everything, and thrived.
Still, it wasn’t yet a story. Not until Kelsey happened by. I can’t tell you where she came from, because I don’t know. Some characters just drift into your head and take root there like dandelions. Kelsey’s one of them.
So “Phoenix” rose from the bones of an old story and the meeting of three characters.
“Phoenix” is out today! I’m going to do a separate post about the story, but I wanted to run through a few quick notes first.
The design team at Musa did a beautiful job. Editors Kayla Watson and Kathy Teel were wonderful to work with. I truly appreciate the work everyone at Musa and Euterpe put in to get “Phoenix” to this point.
You can buy it through Musa and Amazon. Keep in mind that this is a novelette–essentially a long short story–so it’s the sort of thing you can read in one sitting. The links to where to buy it will be permanent fixtures on the blog, once I do a little more widget work.
If I were a more organized person, I would have included this with the pretty picture last night.
At sixteen, Tucker has nothing but the clothes on his back, the bruises on his ribs, and the truth about what happened between him and the band teacher. He left home looking to escape his memories, but all he’s found on the road are new bad ones to take their place.
Then he meets Gabriel, a beautiful hustler, and Kelsey, a fire-obsessed girl with a head full of fairy tales. After Gabriel rescues him from a pair of drunks looking for a fight, Tucker’s happy to join him in the abandoned factory he calls home. All he must do in return is help keep Kelsey safe.
But Kelsey’s not what Tucker thinks she is, and safety isn’t what she needs from him. To help her, he’ll have to face the secret he’s been running from, and the flames she’s running to find.