The workshop in 2008 was looming. I had fear in my gut and no idea what I was going to do. A New York agent had 50 pages of my book. A legitimate editor had fifteen, five other editors and creatives had five pages, and I had a constant panic attack moving through my system for about a week. Then the chat group was formed by The Genius and everything changed.
She was putting the whole affair on and she put all the students in a chat group so we could get to know each other.
The Big Sister immediately said we all needed to meet up in the hotel bar before anything got started and get to know each other. We were all in this together and we were all freaking out. We needed to pull it together and we would do that with booze and comradery. She got everyone talking. The Big Sister is just like that. Within a few hours, The Roller Derby Queen busted in and took over the place.
She was funny, confident, and her first question in the chat group was: “Will there be time between classes for me to practice? I can’t go an entire week without practice. I can’t fall behind.”
She set the entire thing up for the question, so I obliged. “What kind of practice?”
“I need time to skate. I am on a roller derby team and I can’t get unsure of myself. We have a match the weekend after.”
“You’re in a fucking roller derby league?” I said. It was Shadow. At the time we figured he would be handling all interactions.
“Hell yeah, I am. We are some bad bitches. Don’t fuck with me, baby.”
I was instantly terrified and obsessed. “We have to meet,” Shadow said. “Will you be at the bar?”
“Hell yeah, I will,” she said.
“What do you write?”
“Sex,” she said.
Nothing but intrigue. She must be a romance writer but a fierce one. She described her work as “Sex” and that had to be intense. I needed to meet her and talked to Bekah about her for days. When I met her, she was nothing like I thought she would be.
The Roller Derby Queen was at least 55. Her lead gray hair was shoulder length and her body was tight. She walked in and instantly owned the place. She introduced herself to everyone and yelled out, “Where is Jesse Teller?”
I walked up to her and she smiled. “Well, you’re just a sprat, aren’t you?”
Not a small guy, but young at the time, and I laughed. “Not as badass as you, but I can handle my own.”
She wanted to get a drink but I couldn’t. I was about 30 at the time but I had lost my wallet and, though I had a sheet of paper with all my information from the DMV, it did not have a picture on it. I could maybe try to pull off a buy, but while I didn’t have a baby face, I did not look 30.
She bought me a White Russian, which she called a Caucasian, and we sat down. And I learned a few things about her.
One, she was in an elderly women’s roller derby league. They pulled no punches though, and they were badasses. I didn’t doubt it. Two, she was a traditionally published author with about eight books to her name. The man teaching the workshop was her agent and he wanted her to come to the shop because she was ready to branch out and write other things. Her books were all in an ongoing series about a man possessed by a demon who could only keep it at bay if he fucked women every day. If he didn’t, it came out to play. But she was going to go another direction, so here she was.
I am pretty sure that was what her books were about. The demon for sure. The sex definitely, but the rest is probably right. She had decided she wanted to show me the ropes.
The first dinner, she sat with me and a few other people. The Crystal Pistol was with us. And The Matron, which makes her seem a lot older than she was, but she was a soccer mom. Very well put together and well dressed. I’m pretty sure The Big Sister was there and The Goth. The meal was included in the ticket price and they had a buffet I destroyed.
The Matron wanted to know what we were reading and I told them about The Flight of Dragons. Legend said it was a book written by a zoology major as his doctoral thesis. It talked about the physiology of a dragon. Why they could fly with such thick bodies. What caused them to be able to breathe fire. Why they needed to keep a hoard for their own safety and all of that. I told them in my book I used a dragon as a setting and I needed the research to beef up the scene.
Everyone wanted to know how you use a dragon as a setting, and while I did explain to all of them, I will not tell you. Go find a copy of Liefdom. This is not a ploy to sell more books. It is just too long a story to get into in this post.
I have things to do here.
Well the first full day of the workshop Prince was born, and after his meeting with the agent he needed a breath. The Genius told him a few hours earlier that he was brilliant, but the agent had punched a hole in his premise and he needed to work it out.
He went to the lobby and found The Crystal Pistol sitting there. He immediately pulled her in. We writers have a weakness, a way for a stranger to make an instant friend of us, and though Prince did not know this for sure, it was a theory he wanted to try out.
He walked up to her while she sat in a chair in the lobby by a fireplace and he said, “You’re here for the workshop, right?”
She was a cute mom of a woman and she looked up at him and smiled. “I am.”
“Then tell me about your book.” And that was how Prince made a friend. Anytime any stranger asks to be told about our book and they sit through the entire speech, they have made a friend.
We are not a complicated people.
So The Crystal Pistol told me about her book for about an hour and The Roller Derby Queen showed up. “Jesse, come with me. I heard you got your ass kicked. We will talk it out.”
“I didn’t get my ass kicked.”
“That is the grapevine talking. Tell me they are wrong,” she said as she led me out into the blistering sun for a walk around the building. “What happened?”
“Well he liked my opening. He liked my writing style. Said it was ‘very commercial.’” I shook my head. “Of course I have no idea what that means so I kept my mouth shut to not seem like an idiot.”
“It means that your work is easily consumable. Not hard to read at all. It’s good. Means the reader can blast through it with no issues. What else?” She walked the building with me with a bit of a stomp. Her powerful personality and her hard body made a juggernaut of her and she was impossible not to feel intimidated by.
She even made Prince quail just a bit and he shook his head. “See the story is about a fairy. In my world—”
“The world. You always call it ‘The world’ when you are talking about it. Puts a little bit more badass in it and makes it less questionable.”
“Okay, in the world, fairies are the guardians of children. A child is born at the same moment as a fairy. The fairy gives it its magical immune system and keeps it pure. If the child goes wrong or the fairy goes wrong, then the fairy will warp into a changeling and the kid goes evil.”
“Sounds good. What’s the problem?”
“Well the agent says that if he was the fairy he would immediately go to the child to keep it from harm for the sake of their own preservation.”
“Because they live in a different world, kind of a surrounding world called The Veil. That is where they live and that is where they stay.”
“Well, he is right, that is shit,” The Roller Derby Queen said. “It is fixable but not easy to fix.”
They walked and Prince stepped aside and Artist came out. He did not enjoy how gruff The Roller Derby Queen was, but he took it in stride. We are sweating now and on our third lap around the building.
“Can we go in and talk about this?” Artist asks.
“No, the heat will make you think. You need a pressure cooker on that mind of yours to get it bubbling.”
Then she came up with a few ideas. None of them were right. We were not getting anywhere until she said the word gods.
Then the entire problem vanished. We figured it out. Artist spit it out at her and she liked it enough to step over instead of stomp on.
“It needs work but it has promise. Let’s get inside. It’s hotter than shit out here.”
Morning the next day and she sits with me. “Tell me about your first book,” she said.
“What do you mean?” Prince said.
“This is not your first book. It is too well developed for that. No, this is your second, maybe third. Tell me about your first.”
Artist, and he is not excited about talking to this woman again. Prince has no idea what the first book is about, but he stands close and listens intently. “It’s too long.”
“They usually are,” she said. “Too much fat. You need to chop at it, get it lean. How long is it?”
“Seven hundred seventy-six.”
“Damn. That is a door stopper. How long did it take for you to write that monster?”
“About nine months.”
“You wrote a 776-page book in nine months?” She set her fork down with the egg still on it and turned to look at me.
“Yeah,” Artist didn’t know if that was good or bad. He just watched her carefully to find out.
“Well kid, you are already a star. Just get your shit together and you will be fine.” She picked her fork back up and got to her breakfast. “Seven hundred plus book in nine months. Yeah kid, once you get your head out of your ass you will be a star. Just don’t let go. Don’t look around too much and keep chopping.
“Tell me more about this second book,” she said. She stabbed hash browns and shook her head. “No, I’ll tell you about it. The fairy lives in this fairy world and an evil wizard comes, summons the fairy using some vague magic shit, and uses its power to access this Veil place. He is messing stuff up when a few heroes come in to set shit straight.”
“Not even close,” Artist said.
“Good.” She went back to the eggs. “It’s not predictable.”
When we were at the bar and some older dude made a statement she did not like she leapt from her chair. “What did you just say?” she snapped. The entire bar fell silent. I looked at him over my shoulder and saw him wilt.
“I didn’t say anything,” he lied.
“You said writing romance was easy. Said that any idiot could do it.” She had her fists balled up and Prince jumped to his feet.
“We gotta go.” He laid an arm between her and the guy and stepped in the way.
“I am going to stomp that idiot,” she said.
“I know. He is an ass. But you don’t need a murder on your rap sheet. Now let’s get out of here,” Prince said. “Back out into that sun you like so much. We will talk about how much of an idiot he is and we will cuss.”
“If you say anything like that again I will make you part of that floor,” The Roller Derby Queen said.
And I believed she could do it. And I believed she would, too.