I didn’t mean to

My youngest child has a catch phrase:  “I didn’t mean to.”

It’s become sort of her signature song.  Break something?  “I didn’t mean to!”  Forget something?  “I didn’t mean to!”  Tackle her older sister to the ground under the guise of giving her a hug?   “But I didn’t mean to!”

What she’s saying (as I understand it) is that she didn’t intend to hurt her sister.  But, yes, she fully intended to tackle her.  In her seven-year-old mind, these events are completely unconnected.  A hug is fun! Affectionate!  A flying tackle of a hug is only more so. But, wait, somebody got hurt?  Whoa. Didn’t see that coming.

This, as you can imagine, frustrates me.  (Her sister is equally frustrated, though more bruised.)  But I gained new insight–sympathy, even–when I recently found myself in a similar situation.  

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You see, I have just today released the second book in my Blake Brothers trilogy, TALENT FOR TROUBLE. Now this trilogy was originally conceived of as a trio of straight-up contemporary romances about three brothers.  The first book, TASTE FOR TROUBLE, was the middle brother’s story.  (Imagine David Beckham, if dear ol’ Becks came up dirt poor in West Texas.  Now imagine a hot, young Mary Poppins who reluctantly takes him (ahem) in hand.  Throw in a bunch of pie, & you’ve pretty much got it.)  

TALENT FOR TROUBLE, the follow up I have just released, is the oldest brother’s story.  This would be Will.  He’s a super-smart, super-arrogant uber-alpha male who’s been brought low.  (Book one was rough on him.)  He’s rebuilding himself into the man he was always meant to be before tragedy threw a wrench in his works.  

And I accidentally made it a paranormal romance. 

But I didn’t mean to.

Honest, I didn’t.  

Taste For TroubleHere’s the way it went down:  In book one (TASTE) I had to kill off a secondary character I really loved.  Really, really loved.  It hurt, but you have to do what the story demands, & I’m a big girl.  There’s no crying in baseball.  I got over it.  Or thought I did.

So then I was writing along on book two (TALENT) and that character’s voice–his very distinctive voice–turned up in my hero’s head.  Only this voice?  It wasn’t exactly the same as it had been in book one when that character was alive.  He was recognizable still, but exaggerated.  A little more unhinged.  A little more honest.  He was..oh, let’s be real:  he was foul-mouthed, abusive & hilarious, & I couldn’t give him up again.  So I let him stay.  And now I have a…ghost story.  Sort of. 

Except that everything else about this story–everything you’d expect from a straight-up contemporary romance–is still there!  You have a complicated family situation, you have witty repartee, you have a blistering love story between two reluctant, damaged souls.  

You just also have…a ghost.  Or two.  I don’t know.  It got crazy in there for a little while.  

I gave it to a few reviewers & one of them said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “You could never have gotten this story published in NYC.”  She meant it as a compliment, & I took it as one. This story goes unexpected places, & in ways you didn’t see coming.  And while I think that’s a good thing, it does make it hard to figure out which shelf it belongs on in the bookstore. But at the same time, it still delivers every ounce of the romance & the community you expect from a contemporary. It’s a genre-bending mash-up, & I’m a little worried about it.  I didn’t intend to break any rules.  I didn’t intend to freak anybody out.  I just wanted to write Will’s story.  And I ended up writing ghosts.  

But I didn’t mean to. 

Honest.

How about you?  Have you come across anything lately that surprised you?  In a good way?  In a bad way?  How did you respond?  I’d be happy to gift one lucky commenter with a copy of TALENT FOR TROUBLE of their very own, & you can make up your own mind about how/if my little accident is working out.  Would love to hear what you think!

Interested in an excerpt?  Click here!

Hearts and Sorry images courtesy of Free Digital Photos.  Mouse over for artist attribution.

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Comments

53 Comments

  • flchen1 says:

    First of all, YAY, Susan! A huge congrats on Talent for Trouble!!! This sounds very much a delight! And LOL! An unexpected ghost story, eh? Can’t wait!

    As for coming across something that’s surprised you? Hmm… I’m drawing a blank at the moment! Is it like unexpectedly having time to hit the bakery before the kids’ fitness class is over? 😉 Because I didn’t mind THAT result at all 😀 (Apple tart, anyone? Blackberry mousse cake? 😉 )

    • Fedora, it’s no surprise that the rooster has come back to his old girlfriend! I hear he particularly likes a chocolate eclair!

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oh, Fedora, an unexpected trip to the bakery is the BEST kind of surprise! I like it when my surprises involve chocolate. Or muffins. Or cupcakes…

      Careful, though. The rooster has a sweet tooth (beak?) and he’s not afraid to use it…

  • Mary Preston says:

    TALENT FOR TROUBLE does sound fantastic.

    I go the biggest surprise the other day. My sister has not spoken to her ex for 14 years. He gets off the plane to visit their daughter, my sister reluctantly agrees to pick him up from the airport – BOOM. Love is in the air. They talked & by that evening they knew it was back on.

    Two weeks later she has sold her house, quit her job & moved up north to live with him. They are obviously very happy & I’m happy for them.

    This is a sister who USUALLY has her feet firmly planted on the ground. She says that the funniest thing is she is 100% sure that it’s the right thing to do. All the reasons they fell in love in the first place are still there.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Mary, this story just gave me the full-body goose bumps. Wow. That’s just amazing! You have *got* to keep us posted on this. We’re romance writers, after all, & this is one of our favorite themes–let’s call it lost and found love. I’m going to think about this all day & heave all sorts of happy sighs. Thanks!

  • Helen says:

    Susan

    Woo Hoo can’t wait to red this one congrats on the release and I say you have to listen to those voices in your head it is sure to make the story awesome 🙂

    Kids are wonderful aren’t they Hubby wnet to visit 2 of the grnadkids the other day while I was a twork and he took them a surprise as he normally does and when he got there he asked 3 year old Caitlyn fo a cuddle and kiss and she said NO so he said I won’t give you the surprise I bought she then thought for a second and put a smile on her face and said I was only pretending LOL so cute

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oh, Helen, kids are hilarious. And tiny little mercenaries when treats are on the line. But aren’t we all to some extent? I’ve personally sunk to discouraging depths for a well-timed ice cream cone, & I like to think I’m a decent person.

      Then again, I have voices in my head so…

  • Susan, firstly huge congratulations on the release of TALENT FOR TROUBLE. This book sounds like it’s a wonderful opportunity for you to display that fabulous snarky wit that makes us so adore you in the lair. And I love that it’s a ghost story. I love ghost stories. I have numerous volumes of ghost stories on my bookcase – went through a stage when I read them like they were going out of style. Thank goodness, they weren’t!

    • Susan Sey says:

      Aw, thanks, Anna! We’ll see how my little ghost story works out. I’m worried that it won’t be ghosty enough for paranormal fans, and won’t be romancey enough for straight-up contemporary fans, & I’ll end up pleasing nobody.

      Then again, that’s self-pubbing for you. On the upside, there’s nobody to tell you what to do. On the downside, there’s nobody to blame when you write what you want & the whole world is like, “Huh.”

      I’ll keep you all posted….

  • Maureen says:

    Congratulations to Susan on her new book! Your post reminded me of one of my favorite authors Linda Howard. Some of her books have paranormal elements but not all of them. I enjoyed both types of stories equally.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Hi, Maureen! I’m so glad you mentioned Linda Howard! I’ve been a fan of hers, too, for years! And I didn’t think of it consciously, but I’m sure she’s part of the reason I felt like I could take this chance and slip a ghost into my contemporary. She does it so well and so seamlessly. You just go with it, & never feel like you’re in the wrong story all of a sudden. She just makes it work.

      Have I accomplished that? Well, I’m no Linda Howard but I did my best. And it’s out of my hands now. We’ll just have to see what people think…

  • Caren Crane says:

    Susan, I am so thrilled Talent For Trouble is out! Yippee!! And just in time for me to read it on my Kindle, since we have a snow day here. Ha!

    This may not surprise you, but I love a touch of paranormal in a story. A voice in the head, premonitions, a ghostly or dream visitation, whatever. I think there is a bit of paranormal in our everyday lives, if we pay attention to it. It’s easy to scoff or write things off as “coincidence” or “premonition” but I choose to think it’s a little bit of magic. I love it when that works its way into a story because, to me, it’s part of life.

    Good on you for trusting your writer’s instincts and keeping the ghost (or two). I was so sad when you-know-who died in Taste but I totally got WHY it needed to happen. I am off to work (some) and read your book! 😀

    • Susan Sey says:

      Yay for snow days! So happy you’re going to get to enjoy a bonus day at home, Caren!

      And I’m with you on being open to a touch of the paranormal in our every day lives. As I’ve lain awake nights worrying about how this story is going to be received, I comforted myself with the idea that I didn’t do this randomly. My hero has a super-powerful brain–he’s a real smarty-pants–and I’ve always thought that our brains are wild & unpredictable things. The way they interpret incomplete data, fill in blanks, create sense out of nonsense is truly amazing.

      And my poor hero is struggling with some serious emotion. He likes data better than feelings, & it’s entirely possible that his brain–that big, powerful brain of his–is coping with all this messy emotion by externalizing them. By making them into a literal and separate voice of conscience.

      Or maybe he really does have a ghost in his head.

      You’ll have to let me know what you think…

  • Hey Susan!!

    First off I’m so excited that TALENT FOR TROUBLE is now out! Just ordered my copy!

    As for something surprising me, I’d have to say the movie Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit did, but only because I was expecting one thing from the plot and got another!! yippee!! I loved how the movie went!

    And I have to say when you told me there was a bit of paranormal in TALENT FOR TROUBLE, I laughed…in a good way… I thought…how cool!! and how fun!!!

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oh, Suz…I laughed, too. I was all, “Oh good heavens, what next?” But that’s the way it goes sometimes. This writing thing isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll have to let me know if you think I pulled it off.

      And I have got to see this Jack Ryan movie! I’ve been trying to see all the Oscar nominees before March but I might make an exception for Jack Ryan. Because, well, Chris Pine. You know?

      • Yep, Chris Pine. Oh and Kevin Costner isn’t so bad on the eyes in this one, either!

        • Susan Sey says:

          Yeah, you know what? Kevin Costner *is* looking hot lately! He’s in that other movie, too, isn’t he? The one about the assassin who has like ten days to do something or other before a fatal illness takes him out? (Or something. I’m no good at plot summaries.) If I’m thinking of the right movie (and the right actor), he’s looking interesting & grizzled & pretty darn hot these days. Hell-O, Kevin Costner!

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Whooot, Susan, on delivering another humor-packed blog.

    My kids always said, “It was on accident,” meaning I supposed they weren’t sorry at all, but hey stuff happens. Clearly my kids were less contrite than yours LOL.

    • Susan Sey says:

      It was an accident! Another classic. Like, “I totally meant to do this thing; I just wasn’t aware that it would lead to this other thing that you’re so mad about.” The thing that any thinking person with two brain cells to rub together *would* have seen coming a mile away.

      But it was an accident.

      🙂

  • Jo Robertson says:

    I love, love, love the genre-bending books. The story takes you where the story will, and regardless of what NY says about genres, those little niche books find their places in the cyber world.

    Can’t wait to read about Will and his ghost or Will’s doppelganger or ?? Whatever! I’m game. Congrats on the release

    • Susan Sey says:

      Thanks, Jo! I like a story that surprises me myself, but I also totally get that some people really want their comfort food. And if you pick up a book & have every reason to think it’ll take you HERE but it takes you THERE instead…well, that can be disappointing, no matter how awesome THERE was.

      So I’m really trying to be up front about the whole “Hey, guess what? Thing book has a ghost!” thing. We’ll see what people think.

      But I really really REALLY love the freedom that being an indie author has given me to take risks like this. Hopefully I’ll find my little niche in the book world but if I don’t, there’s the other gift of indie pubbing. I can try again. 🙂

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    That’s one thing I like about self-publishing. It gives the author license to do and say things she couldn’t otherwise say and do. Sometimes as a reader I get tired of the norm and want something refreshingly different. Looking forward to your book. Didn’t really answer your questions but oh, well, maybe next time.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Hey, Debbie–

      Your answer was better than my question, so I’m happy if you are. 🙂

      And I, too, love the freedom indie authors have to surprise us. I enjoy nothing better than being taken somewhere unexpected by an author. The latest indie author to grab me that way was Hugh Howey’s WOOL/SHIFT/DUST series. Didn’t seen any of his curve balls coming, & loved every last one.

      Anybody you’re loving right now? I’m always looking to expand my TBR list…

  • Cassondra says:

    Susan YAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!

    It’s here it’s HERE! *swishing sound of book flying to my Kindle*

    And that wouldn’t bother me at all–having a ghost turn up in the story. It’s part of the real world for a lot of people. You either believe in them, you don’t, or you “sort of do”–or something…everybody has an opinion on it.

    It’s not like you had a three-tailed serpent archangel octopus suddenly show up in your light contemporary.,.. Just sayin.

    Quit worrying.

    And I have to say, when said as a compliment– You could never have done this in New York— that’s high praise indeed. Some risks are just too much for them, and unfortunately we readers miss a great story every now and then because of that.

    So glad we’re getting to read yours. Okay everything must stop while I read this book Now. (I wish.)
    This will be my treat for doing something hard today.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Now you’re making me wish I’d written a three-tailed serpent archangel octopus. Because that *would* be fun.

      But you’re probably right–not the best plot twist for a light contemporary. 🙂

      But you’re right. People are far more open to paranormal stuff than you’d think. Nearly everybody has an incident in their history that they can’t quite write off, something just a little too coincidental or perfectly timed to be exactly ordinary. I love it when people tell me “real” ghost stories.

      Ooooh, have we done a blog on that lately?? I think we should!

  • Susan – This is so cool!!!!!
    I love that a character refused to die – well die in the conventional sense – and came back as a ghost. And I love that you’ve written a story that NY would scratch their head at. This is the really neat thing about indie-publishing. Hoping this sells like hotcakes.

    As to the unexpected – yeah, I fall victim to that in my writing all the time, but it’s generally the unexpected things that make the story sing. I can’t wait to read this!

    • Susan Sey says:

      Thanks, Donna! And I totally hear you on the surprises in your writing being the best parts sometimes. Do you ever play that game with yourself where, when you’re writing a first draft, you try to guess which words will make it into the final draft?

      It can totally freeze up the muse, but sometimes when I feel like I’m writing pages & pages of crap, I like to remind myself that for all the words I cut and revise and cut and revise, there are some–a decent number of them actually–that are right the first time. I write them ONCE, they’re right there in the final draft, exactly as I typed them.

      We tend to forget about those ones & focus only on the ones we got wrong at first. But I do sometimes try to remind myself that I do get a decent fraction of the right on the first try. Easy to lose sight of that & beat yourself up, isn’t it?

  • bn100 says:

    how cold it is; bundle up

  • Kim says:

    Congratulations, Susan. I haven’t been able to buy your books in a while because I only owned a Nook. I finally purchased a Kindle, so I have a few books to catch up on.

    • Susan Sey says:

      You know, I recently made the Nook to Kindle switch myself. I just fell in love with that darn paperwhite. It just feels so nice in my hands, & Amazon makes it so much easier to deal with the library. And my book habit is too extensive to only buy. I *have* to borrow, so ease of library use is key.

      Hope you love your new Kindle! If you’re a prime member, you can check my books out for free!

  • Joan Kayse says:

    People? People? Yes YOU PEOPLE!!! Run…do NOT walk…to buy this incredible story!

    I’m not going to brag…ok, maybe a little…maybe a WHOLE lot, but I was privileged to read this pre-release and can I say….I say, can I say…it is every bit as wonderful, fun, hot, sexy and yeah…that paranormal bit…scary (closed my eyes during part of that…which yes, did make it harder to read(\ :D) as you could ever wish for in a romance.

    Susan Sey, is by far one of the soaring stars of Contempary Romance AND adds a glow to the great opportunities presented with Indie Publishing.

    Now…off to harangue her to get to the next story….

  • catslady says:

    I was surprised to hear about a particular author who has written many, many historicals is now doing some contemporaries. I’ll have to wait until I read them before I know if it’s a good surprise or not lol. I do like the sound of your story since I like paranormals 🙂

  • Amy Conley says:

    Susan, A GHOST in a contempary? LOVE IT! I read Karen Robards’s last book, I think last one anyway and it to was a contemporary WITH A GHOST! Totally different style for her, but it worked. I’m pretty sure hers will be at least a 2 book series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
    As far as “I didn’t mean to” that’s a bit harder since as everyone knows I’ve spent the entire month so far, in bed sick. So I guess I REALLY didn’t mean to do it, but, you know the saying…sh#@ happens.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oh, Amy, a MONTH? Gah. That’s a bummer. I hope you at least were well enough to read. Because spending a month on your back is no fun. At the very least you should be able to read like crazy.

      And, hey, I didn’t know Karen Robards did a ghost! I’ll have to check that out! Thanks for the heads up!

      I really, really hope you feel better soon.

    • Amy Conley says:

      Wait, I did do something, but I didn’t mean to. I also didn’t tell anyone, meaning hubby, I did it. So, does that count or is it just a lie by ommision? (I spilled a soft drink all over a blanket he uses as a rug in his bedroom. He works nights so it is easier to have seperate bedrooms.) I know he’s noticed the blanket in his dirty clothes basket, but he hasn’t asked any questions about it and I haven’t mentioned it. So where is the line here?

      • Susan Sey says:

        Oh, the line between what you’re obligated tell your husband & what you can discreetly let slide? It’s a fuzzy one, indeed. 🙂 That’s between you & the DH.

        If it were me, though? I wouldn’t mention anything.

  • MAJOR SQUEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’m so happy this out. I’m off to buy it right now. Yay! Congratulations, Smoov. Love your work!

    Love the idea of a ghost. You’re in fine company. Jenny Crusie’s latest has ghosts.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Aw, thanks, Mme! You’re the best!

      I love it when JC writes ghosts! Has she put one out since Maybe This Time? That’s the last one I remember her putting out & it was a modern take on Turn of the Screw. And I loved it.

      Now I want to re-read that one. Unless there’s something newer with ghosts. Then I want to read that.

      I {heart} Jenny Crusie.

  • Becke Turner says:

    Suz,
    I’ll try this again as it didn’t work from my phone. I just finished Taste and read the teaser for this story. Will is such an interesting character and I was very comfortable w/ the ghost.
    Loved the story and the witty dialogue.

    And I’m all over yes I did it but no I didn’t consider the consequences. We’ve all been there. Done that.

    Congrats on the new release.
    b

    • Susan Sey says:

      Thanks, Becke! I too am often guilty of failing to foresee consequences. It must run in the genes, because my daughter is terrible that way. 🙂

      Now on to your teaser for TALENT…I’m curious which version of TASTE you got. When I published TASTE (a year ago), TALENT’s first chapter looked one way. When I published TALENT (yesterdayish), it looked another way entirely. I’ve been wondered if/when somebody would call me out on having completely renovated my teaser. Because if they bought TASTE any time before, say, last week, the teaser chapter no longer matches. At ALL.

      I’m going to blame the ghost. 🙂

      • Becke Turner says:

        Suz,

        I won a Kindle copy from you of Taste and absolutely loved it. The teaser I believe was at the end of the e-reader copy. Is that incorrect? I don’t think I dreamed it! It was that blasted ghost!
        b

  • Marcy Shuler says:

    I don’t mind a bit of paranormal with my romance. LOL Mia Marlowe has current historical books with ghosts, ‘The Spirit of the Highlands’ series. A contemporary series with a ghost that I thought of right away is ‘The Women of Brambleberry House’ trilogy by RaeAnne Thayne.

    I was surprised today in a good way, sort of. 🙂 I woke up at 8am when my high school aged son walked by my room. His school starts at 8am so I asked if he knew he was late. Silly mom. My hubby had already driven him to school on his way to work and found all the lights out and the parking lot unplowed even though their website said there was school. I’d slept through all that. LOL I like having my family close by when the weather is bad. If it weren’t for money I’d have liked to have hubby home too.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Hey, that’s some surprise, Marcy! I’m really intrigued by this idea of my kids as semi-adult humans, functioning independently in my home. My oldest is ten, & she sometimes fools me by appearing very tall & together. Then she does something ridiculous & I remember she’s only ten. As is her judgment.

      I’ll bet this optical illusion only gets worse the more they look like adults, doesn’t it?

  • Susan, woo-hoo! At last! Congrats on your new release, which I bought this morning.

    It doesn’t sound as though this is heavily paranormal, and I think a lot of readers are fine with a little supernatural influence in their books. A NY editor likely would’ve made you strip it out, not because she didn’t like it but because it makes Talent different from Taste. But I think readers have more flexibility than they generally get credit for.

    And you KNOW I love me some paranormal elements! *g*

    As for something that surprised me lately…I read a thriller with a paranormal element (ghost romance) and totally loved it. But I won’t say what it was since I was dubious when I picked it up.

    • Susan Sey says:

      I love to hear all these people telling me about the last book they loved that shouldn’t have had ghosts but did. It’s very reassuring!

      Also, I think you’re right on both counts, Nancy. It’s not heavily paranormal…it’s just different than TASTE. Which, yes, would’ve given a NY editor the heebie jeebies. So I’m putting my faith in the idea that readers really do want to be surprised from time to time. Not EVERY time, but you know…occasionally. Like now. (crosses fingers)