This one originally appeared HERE
A Behind the Scenes Look at "Betrayed"
"Betrayed" is unlike any story I've written. I know, I know - a lot of authors say that, and then the story turns out to be not only a lot like what they've written, but painfully so. But I really don't think that's the case with this one.
You see, way back when, in the late 1980s, I started writing a book. I began with three characters, Meldrick, his best friend Faldor, and Isabella, who was the daughter of Meldrick's old friend turned enemy. I was all of about ten then, so you can imagine how good it wasn't. I slaved over this thing night and day for years and years. I spend literally every free minute I had doing nothing other than writing. I was a pretty fast kid in school, as far as getting my work done, so I hardly ever had homework, so I had lots of time. I wrote most of the story long hand in dozens and dozens of notebooks, because I didn't own a computer or typewriter. When it finally came time to type of the finished product, I went over to my friend Lisa's house, and spent hours and hours typing it all into her computer, and saving it on a floppy disk.
I set about designing my cover art. I saved up ever cent I could and bought colored pencils, stencils, and all sorts of art books. I came up with a lovely design - which I still have - that included a castle, a coat of arms, some trees…just a whole bunch of stuff. I even went so far as to design a little decoration for each chapter heading and I kept it topical to the chapter. I had crowns, trees, moons. I really, really wanted to get everything just right.
By 1997, I had what I thought was a finished story. Full of magic and kings and knights, my story, back then titled "Isabella," was just the most awesome thing ever written, complete with a battle and a fourteen-page sex scene. Yep, even back then, I liked writing sex. And I was actually pretty good at it…but I'll go into that later. I took my disk to school, printed out a copy of my story, and handed it around to my friends to read. They loved it. Then one of them lost it. Hysterical gnashing of teeth and hand wringing commenced until I had it back in my hands, and then I never lent it to anyone again.
But having it sitting there in a box on the floor of my bedroom didn't seem to make any sense. In the summer of 1997, I gathered my courage, printed out a new copy, and sent it off to a literary agent for consideration. I waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally, in September, my beloved baby returned to me. Of course, it hadn't been accepted for publication. But the agent had included a seven page letter to me, detailing why not, what needed work, and noting - over and over again - that I did in fact have real talent, that it was quite impressive for my age (better than some adults' works, he said), and making sure I understood that he wasn't telling me to stop writing. On the contrary - he encouraged me to keep going and going, and said he knew that one day, I'd be a published author.
Up till that point, no one had taken my writing seriously. I was in Heaven. Absolute. Heaven. I took my baby out of the box and continued to work and slave over it. I made edits and changes and there was so much red ink it looked like I'd bled on the pages. Then in 1999, I met someone and fell in love. "Isabella" was still important to me, but I was dividing my time between my heart and my work. (I would later realize these are one and the same, but that's not the point right now). I moved to NY in 2001 to live with my very own knight in shining armor. And "Isabella" went back in her box and lived under our bed, and then in the top of the closet. She spent the better portion of the next five or so years gathering dust.
I felt I had to put my writing aside in order to be a parent. My husband never asked that of me. In fact, he kept asking me if I wanted to write, but I kept saying no, despite becoming more and more despondent and depressed. For some reason, I felt like, in order to be a good parent, everything had to be about the kids. I had to put myself 100% into their lives, leaving nothing for myself. In 2006, my husband had had enough. He demanded I buy a laptop and get back to what I was supposed to be doing. I reluctantly agreed, and we spent an ungodly amount of money on a fancy laptop. All I did with it, for a few weeks, was look at it. I was terrified of breaking the thing. Worse, what if I couldn't write anymore? What if I didn't have any ideas? We'd spent all that money - money we didn't really have. What if I failed and let my husband down?
So, I started a rewrite of "Isabella." To my shock, it went from a male/female romance to a bisexual romance - with gay sex! How the heck was I going to market this thing?? To top that off, one book turned into a trilogy, and then a six book set! Good grief!! I started looking for an agent in 2007, because that's what I'd been told I needed. By the end of the year, I'd found one. But nothing came of it. All she did was take my money (I know, I know. Well, at least, I know now.), and didn't really do anything else. She claimed to have sent my book to places like Tor and Harlequin - neither of which (at least at that time), handled bisexual romance. By the end of 2008, I'd fired her and set off on my own.
I sent out tons and tons of submissions, to every GLBTQ and small publisher I could find. Most of them said no. In 2009, one said yes, and even sent me a contract. I signed with them…the book did technically get published, complete with a name change. "One Year" appeared on Amazon.com for all of about a month…before the publisher went under and I never heard from them again. Now what? My book was in limbo. I had no publisher. I was not, as I had so happily boasted, a published author. All that work. All those hours. All that lost time with family and friends. All that money. All my dreams. Gone down the drain. Ripped away from my clutching fingers.
After I pulled myself out of a several-month-long depression, I re-wrote the book. Again. This time, in an effort to make it different from the contracted version. What happened, though, was something even I didn't expect. I hit the delete key more in those few months than I ever had in all my life. My sweeping, epic, light bisexual story turned into an angst ridden, dark m/m work. Gone was the female main character, the book's original namesake. "One Year" ended up being picked apart like a car in a scrap metal shop. By the time my original contract had run out, nothing of that work existed as a whole.
But again, it fell by the wayside. You see, in the time I was working on it, I was also being inspired by a whole boatload of other stories. I ended up becoming a multi-published author, with works at five different publishing houses, in all the pairings - m/f (using that original 14 page sex scene from "Isabella" - nope, not much got changed. Told you I was good at it!), several m/m, several transgender, an f/f, and a bisexual work. Many of those stories, including "Omarati" and "No Place Like Home," sprang from characters in the original six-book set. Yet, all that wasn't enough. I had to do something with that original, first story. The successes of my younger babies didn't mean much if I couldn't help my oldest baby get out there and make a name for itself.
So, I sat down with it. Again. I took out all the dark parts. Ye Gods, who'd want to publish those, anyhow? I ended up with something I liked, so I submitted it. My submissions editor turned it down. Guess what he wanted? More darkness. More angst.
I put all the dark back in, added a bunch more, and resent it. This time, he loved it. Took it right on the spot. It's had yet another name change - now it's titled "Betrayed." But the two male characters are still the same - my Meldrick and Faldor have survived a whole lot of turmoil to get where they are, but I feel like they've appreciated the journey.
So now, without further ado, and after much waiting and worrying, I give you the blurb and an excerpt from my January release, "Betrayed." I hope you enjoy it!
Two years after he lost his soul mate to the war, Faldor still pines for Meldrick. His world is turned upside down when Meldrick appears on his doorstep late one night, seemingly back from the dead. Finally escaped from a prison camp, Meldrick protects a dark secret—one that could rip their rekindled love apart if Faldor ever learned the truth. But the longer they're together, the more questions come up. What really happened two years ago? How did Meldrick escape the prison camp after so long? Is Meldrick still the man Faldor fell in love with? Can Meldrick reconcile who he is with who he was and
move beyond his treachery, or will betrayal win?
And here's a little snippet, which you won't find anywhere else:
A fortnight later, Meldrick coughed and sputtered as an ogre grabbed his hair and yanked his head back out of the bucket. Water spiked with oil of pura flower cascaded down his face, and he squeezed his eyes shut against the stinging of the acidic liquid.
Without warning, the guard pushed his head back into the bucket, giving no time to take a breath first. He struggled and kicked, but was rewarded only with the guard's heavy weight on his back, holding him down. Muffled laughter met his ears as he tried to claw the ropes that bound his wrists.
The voices became more and more distant, the light from above less and less bright as the world faded away. So, this was how it would end. Face down in a bucket. Not the most honorable of deaths, but better than some, and really, he'd passed the chance for honorable a long time ago. He would rather have met his demise on his feet, and preferably on the battlefield, but at least—
The world came rushing back as his head was pulled from the bucket again. The cage door opened and closed and the scent of amur spice filled the air. Vintik.
"Has he said anything?'
The guard by the door shook his head. "Of course not."
Vintik glared at him. "A bit less insolence, if you please." He strode over to Meldrick, grabbed a handful of hair, and yanked the knight's head back. "Bring him to my hut."
Meldrick groaned as the weight shifted off his back and Vintik dropped his head. He stood slowly, bit down on his tongue as blood rushed back into his cramped leg muscles, bringing waves of tingling pain with it.
The guards led him to a side of the camp he'd never seen. Much cleaner, the area sat far enough away from the caged prisoners that one might actually forget the wretched men existed. Vintik's hut was actually rather quaint from the outside. From its dark brown thatched roof and light brown outer walls, down to its bright red wooden door. If he'd been a free man, Meldrick might've found it welcoming.
Inside, Vintik sat on one side of a small wooden table at the back. His bed—an ornately carved wooden monstrosity covered with pillows and blankets—dominated the right side of the hut; a large stone fireplace with a cauldron hanging in its middle took up the left. In front of that was a chair and another table, this one adorned with a small mirror, comb, brush, bottles of oils and perfumes, and a bowl and ewer. The set up resembled something Meldrick had seen in the late Queen Lemyura's chamber, but he refrained from telling Vintik so.
"Untie him." Vintik pointed to a chair on the other side of the table from him once Meldrick's binds had been cut. "Please, sit."
Meldrick glanced at the guards as he lurched forward and sank into the chair, rubbing his wrists. He stifled a groan of pain, covered it with a grunt, and scowled at Vintik. "What do you want of me?"
"The same thing I always want. Your cooperation." Vintik smiled.
“Meldrick...Meldrick.” Vintik spread his arms and shook his head. “Have I beaten you?”
Meldrick bared his teeth in a snarl. Though he was loath to admit it, Vintik was right.
“And the last time I knew, the definition of rape was coupling initiated without consent. But you’ve never said nay, have you?” Vintik sat back and folded his arms across his chest. “Your victims, on the other hand, have all objected, haven’t they?”
Again, Meldrick couldn’t refute the logic. The fact he’d been forced into what he’d done didn’t make him any better than Vintik. But his silence didn’t absolve the ogre either. “I know what you did.”
“What you think you know and what the law says are two different things, aren’t they?”
Meldrick stood and placed his hands on the table, leaning over Vintik menacingly. “If you had me brought here for more torture, then get on with it.”
The guards lunged for Meldrick, but Vintik raised a hand and waved them off. “So eager for the pain.” He pointed to Meldrick’s chair. “Sit.”
Meldrick resumed his seat.
“I have a gift for you,” Vintik said. He pulled something from his pocket, plopped it onto the table with a metallic clink, and slid it across to Meldrick. He lifted his hand, a cruel smirk on his face.
Meldrick stared at the band of silver before him. They took my ring again, was his first reaction. But slowly he realized the weight of his ring still rested on his finger. A different weight—the weight of dread—began to throb in his heart before settling in the pit of his stomach. Not his ring. Faldor’s.
“Don’t you want it?” Vintik asked. “I was certain you’d be happy to see it.”
“How?” Meldrick croaked. Bile rose in his throat. Faldor would never have willingly parted with the jewelry.
CONTENT WARNING: contains scenes of torture, off-page rape, and flirts with BDSM