Under the Rushes is out tomorrow, and, well, a little nervous.
Yes, yes, I'm always nervous. But there's a sliding scale of nervous going on here. Turkey in the Snow was about a four on the richter scale of nervous tension, because it's a small story, and because it was Christmas and you have to balance, delicately, the sweetness and the real to make a good Christmas story and there's no knowing if you did that right until the story comes out.
This is a different kind of nerves.
Turkey in the Snow was around 24,000 words. I loved that story. I loved how real Hank felt to me as he was exhausted and worried and just needed this one thing (his workout) to get through the anxiety that comes with being a new parent and how when he was deprived of that he became honest and human--for both better and worse--and how his inner drama queen snuck out to play, and Justin just picked up on that and ran with it. But no matter how much I loved it, I can't deny that Turkey was a small story. Three people, parent/parent/child---that was the core of the story, and while our families make up the greatness of the lives of most of us, it is still very small.
Under the Rushes is a bigger story. A much bigger story. For one thing, it's 130,000 words--and that's huge, but it's more than just the length. (Dex in Blue was 120 K--it was a smaller story than this.) For those of you who read the Bitter Moon stories, this is a hearkening back to that size of story--except leaned down, shaved of the extraneous matter, and of the comfort of the Moon family, and their contribution as well. Under the Rushes is my favorite theme--the Batman theme--the idea of the hero who wants to change the world, and he had the means to do it on a governmental level, but that's not personal, or immediate, or visceral enough for him, so he goes underground to make the changes stick. Rushes is set in a steampunk world-- think Victorian era with fantastical machinery and a little bit of unexplained magic thrown in. There are cravats and coat tails and giant jumping conveyances shaped like crickets and trains that are shaped like millipedes. There is a friend who is insane and terrifying and brutally masochistic (and sadistic about making our hero join in) and streetwalkers with hearts of gold (and sweet little flower mouths, for the fun stuff!) and in the midst of it all is our hero. Dorjan. Who had everything he loved--his achievement, his father, the steadiness of a lifelong friend--stripped away from him in an instant, and, ten years later, is still fighting for justice on the streets of a corrupt city. I love Dorjan. He is tortured, determined, and still, after all of that, kind. His best friend and tormenter, Areau is twisted and cruel, but also brilliant and charismatic and necessary. His lover, Taern, is young, persistent, and cocky to the point of madness. The three of them dance around each other, they tumble, they wound, they scathe, and then they minister balm and kindness. They are fascinating-- at least to me--and Goddess, I hope the world sees the same fascination as I do!
I'm nervous about Rushes because it was hard--hard to write, hard to balance, hard to conceive-- and yet, when it was done, I was so damned proud of it, I wanted the world to know. And it's always a risk, going from something sweet and small and well-recieved, like Turkey, and into something risky and large and visceral and gut-wrenching, like Rushes. I know that stories like Turkey feed the soul of many of my readers. It's such a contradiction, because writing stories like Rushes feeds my soul in the way of no other fiction. The combination of gritty romance and hardcore steampunk fantasy was a high it took a month to come down from--that dragon was not going to let go, and we all know the bloody thing can be scary-fucking-ruthless when it comes to riding my ass with a story. So I hope you love this story like I do. I do. I'm sure some people will pick it up right after having read Turkey and think, "What in the holy fuck was she smoking?"
But I know hardcore fans-- people who have been around through Chase in Shadow, and before, to Bitter Moon I and II, and even before that, to Vulnerable, will pick this up and think, "Oh! She has gone back to her roots! The edgy, scary things that make us squirm!" I hope those people love this book like I do! I hope it rips their hearts out, because I know I had to put mine back in with a plunger and a yarn needle when I was done writing.
Oh-- and about Dex in Blue. Starting on the 22nd, (so, you know, if we survive the Alpacalypse) Dex is going to be FREE for two days at ARe. Absolutely free. Free free free free free-- It's part of their 12 Days of Christmas promotion, and, well, did I mention the free? I'm actually TOTALLY THRILLED about this freeness--It's an honor to be chosen. The books that make the list get pimped by ARe on all sorts of websites, they appear on the banner for two days (and ARe sells 20% of the country's romance e-books PERIOD) so it's sort of huge that way. So, well, a lot of people who thought Amy Lane was a typo for that sign they put up in front of the McDonald's drive-thru (that actually reads "Any lane"--I had to look twice to be sure) they may realize that I write too, and THAT'S exciting! So, if you haven't gotten Dex in Blue yet--totally check it out! Free! Free! Did I mention the Free?
And, for those of you who do have a hunger for the small details of our lives-- Zoomboy's first band concert may or may not be tonight. (He doesn't really pay attention to these things. He goes to band. He practices the flute. But he doesn't really check the schedule. He's sort of the ultimate existentialist. The pleasure is in the doing. There is no ultimate reward.) So, for those of you who are Zoomboy fans out there (and who wouldn't be?) Stay tuned. Or out of tuned. Cause, uhm, folks? I've heard him practice, and frankly? He still can't get a sound out of the thing. So, well, if there's not free books or ultimate nerves about new releases, there's always going to hear a bunch of 9-12 year olds torture woodwind instruments with the absolute confidence that somewhere in there is a song! I mean, that's entertainment!