The book is in proofing, like I said, so it can be announced in the fall IPG catalog (which is a big deal? So I've heard?) and there's not a lot I can do to change the content. There are different charts and such in the book--it's one of the reasons the galley was put off until so late, and this edit was mostly to look at the charts. (Thank God. This book. I swear. If I have to read it one more goddamned time I'm going to change the pen name to Penelope Toulouse and pretend I've never heard of her. Oi.)
And I've asked myself several times as I've proofread, "Oh God--should I just scrap the whole project and run the fuck away? Can't change that, can't change that, don't want to--the hell!"
And then I look at what the book is actually doing.
It's giving people the best advice I have on how to write romance.
And boy, I love romance.
Right now, its romantic suspense or paranormal romance--but it doesn't matter which. I really love it. I love knowing that romance makes the personal connection between two people the most important thing in the world. It makes the individual striving--even against hopeless odds--worthwhile.
It says the fate of the average person, what's important to them, what makes or breaks their world, is just as important as the fate of kings.
Right now, as our country threatens daily to spiral into fascism, romance might just be the most important thing in the world. The idea that individuals are more important than a government that holds them in contempt is the link that holds the Wall of Moms up in Portland. It's the reason the BLM protests continue, without violence, but with sheer, irrevocable awareness that the assault on Black individuals can't go on. The belief in romance is what makes us protect our children, to the point of sacrificing their education if it means not putting their lives at risk.
Believing that as individuals, our wants and needs matter, right down to who we love, is why we will never relinquish same-sex marriage to the bloodless antagonists that hold our government hostage.
Believing that individuals matter is what holds doctors and nurses up on the front lines as the COVIDIOTS in Texas and Florida threaten to overwhelm the hospitals.
Romance, literally, will save the world.
So I can take a few bumps for relationships that have changed--the book itself is sound, and I'm proud of it.
It's one in the morning as I type this, and my youngest and I suddenly remember that we'd forgotten to water the lawns, something Mate and I typically do around sunset. At their prompting, we went outside, me to the front, Squish to the back, to man the sprinklers.
It's July in California-- the air is blistering, frequently near 100 if not hotter, and after I walk the dogs, I feel no reason to go out again, particularly since the pools are closed. Today, when I took the dog in to get groomed, the tide of heat coming off the blacktop almost rolled me over.
But tonight, the air was cooler, and a breeze had blown up from the somewhere (delta, mountains, it could be either one). The wind held a hint of damp, as well as scorched grass, and the stars were clearly strewn on the black velvet sky.
And I remembered the summer Mate and I got together, and every night we didn't work was a chance to drive off into the foothills in his Mustang and find secret places to do what young people do when their bodies are prime and the world is new. The future was so bright then--we were young, we were in love, what could hold us back?
A lot--you all know that. Shakespeare wasn't shitting around about the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, was he?
But in that moment on my front lawn, I was nineteen, a size 8, and my hair hung in a bright red rope to my waist. And I was in love with my everything.
Thirty-three years later, my everything is still here, and that smell of promise is still in the air.
So yes--things have changed. Things have changed since those stolen moments at the beginning of our romance, and they've changed since I first wrote this book.
But the core things--the things that make Mate and me us, the things that made this book worthwhile in the first place, are still true.
I'll cling to that in hope.