Ages ago, before the world went berserk, I went to Vegas.
I'm ducking now. It's a reflex.
When I hear that sentence — I went to Vegas — come out of my mouth, I cringe and duck. Any sentence regarding myself in Vegas, actually:
I'm going to Vegas.
I stayed in Vegas for a week.
I had an insane time in Vegas.
I met the coolest people in Vegas.
I'm going back to Vegas this year. Maybe twice.
Because I was taught — either directly or indirectly, I've no idea — that Vegas was a "bad place." And people who go to that city go there to do things they don't want anyone to know about. And when you do things you don't want people to know about, you're likely up to no good.
Likely, this Las Vegas fallacy was planted by my overly-opinionated grandmother — intentionally or not, I've no idea — during my primitive brain-forming years. This lady also impressed upon me that any word for flatulence other than "toot" was foul language and that it was amoral and possibly illegal to write checks or mow the grass on Sundays.
Bless her heart and God rest her soul. I digress…
At any rate. I went to Vegas in February 2020 to an insanely cool Anthology Workshop put on by WMG Publishing. A panel of professional editors was there to buy short fiction for their upcoming projects. One of those projects was Sweet Valentines.
We wrote the stories the November/December prior to the trip, and when we arrived in class, the panel would discuss each story, and the lead editor had the final say in whether or not the manuscript "fit" his or her project.
The submission for Sweet Valentines was the most challenging for me to write. I paced and fitted. Little Miss Muse paced and fitted with me. She'd give me a spark, and I'd snuff it out.
It was quite agonizing. (Agonizing in a fun way, much how football fans agonize over their favorite team losing. I don't understand why they keep watching if it causes that much pain. Likewise, some folks don't understand why I keep at this writing thing. We do it because we want to. Because it's fun agony…)
The parameters of the story were simple: The editor for Sweet Valentines Anthology wanted the following.
Until I try to write romance on purpose. Boy meets girl, then… What?
Little Miss tried to keep killing off the characters. Nope. That's not sweet.
Little Miss wanted to place it in a dark, dreary forest with a ghost. Nope. That's not Valentines. "But it could be sweet." She wasn't getting the rules of the assignment. Generally speaking, muses hate rules.
So, I did the best I could. I left the romance parts "off the page" and wrote a sweet, very short Valentine's Day tale. You didn't see anyone meet.
You don't see anyone kiss.
No one goes goo-goo-ga-ga, weak in the knees. There's very little romance. But a whole lot of it, just not on the page. It's hard to explain.
And, apparently, when the editor was reading the submissions (over 50 of them, I believe) to decide what to include in her project, she got mad when she read mine.
She also said she threw her Kindle across the room and swore at me.
Swore at me! (Not in person, and not mean. Just a few choice words of utter frustration from the sounds of it…)
Because she loved the story, but I didn't follow the rules. It didn't fit a true romance structure.
But it fit everything else.
So she had it on the maybe pile. Then the no pile. Then back to the maybe. By the time she got to Vegas, it was a no. Or a maybe. Firmly undecided, I do believe, and still very much aggravated that I didn't "write a romance."
Until the panel chimed in. The other editors believed it fit the nature of the project quite well.
So, the short story "I Remember Paperclips" made it into the anthology.
Next week, it will be featured here on the blog for the month of February as free fiction.
In the meantime (and thereafter), you can get it from WMG here until I tuck it away in a second upcoming volume of Spunk and Spice.
And then you decide: Is it a romance? Not a romance?
To remedy this "I can't write romance (or romantic elements) to save my ever lovin' life" issue, I'll be taking a class. Likely live in Vegas.
Where, in my case, what happens in Vegas comes home with me and gets a blog post…
(And all you dirty-minded people just took that last line to the extreme, didn't you? I'll send Little Miss over to your house. Y'all can deal with her for a hot minute. She's about to wear me out…)