Between the lines:

the story behind the stories





Part 1: Marjorie


Sunday, February 28th, 1993  at 9:30 am, two cattle-cars filled with almost one hundred armed government agents pulled up in front of the Mount Carmel commune just outside of Waco, Texas.  They were beginning the worst disaster in American law enforcement history.


Two thousand miles north, I was just starting the first day of a new job: bookseller at Super Crown Books.  I was the beginning of the worst disaster in my employment history: slavery in reading retail.


After learning how to use the computers, one of the first things I did was an author search under my own name.  I wanted to see if there were any other like-named writers.


The system found a match:


Miss Ware’s Refusal
Lady Arden’s Redemption
Lady Jane’s Dilemma


I scowled: romance novels.  None on hand or on order, so I couldn’t check the shelves to see what they like.  I didn’t know what the M stood for, but somehow I just knew it was Matthew.  I now know that this is impossible: there are no male-named romance writers[1].


I became greatly upset: there was bound to be some confusion between myself and this “other” M. Farrell.  I had nightmares of finally becoming an established writer, and at a signing for my latest release some old grandma was going to slap down a copy of Miss Ware’s Refusal and say “Gee, I like your old stuff so much more…”


A few weeks went bye, and one day I was shelving books and found a fresh copy of one of the three.  I almost fell over.  Her name was Marjorie.  The book itself was a historical piece, I think set in Victorian England.


I must confess to never actually reading any of Marjory’s works.[2]  And as long as my own romance novel remains unfinished, I never will.



Part 2 : Beth


The closest thing to a relationship I was in at the time was with a girl named Beth.  Beth and I were not actually dating; we just flirted outrageously.  We have never kissed or even held hands.  In fact, we had been in each other’s physical presence less than ten times.


Beth was a Barbi doll in looks, and was the first to make jokes about it.  The “blonde ditz” act she did was just that: both a sympathy routine and an excuse for when she genuinely did phuq up.  In truth, Beth was extremely intelligent, and a truly sweet person. 


Beth was also deeply Christian, although I suspect that her faith was inversely proportional to her actual understanding of it.  She was open-minded, though, and was humorous enough to laugh at the jabs I took at her beliefs.  She merely replied with equally humorous orthodox jabs of her own.


Beth’s Christianity affected all aspects of her life.  She frequently joked that she was the only Virgin Barbi on the planet.  Obviously, she was saving herself until she got married.[3] One of her criteria for a boyfriend was that he had to be a Christian.


At the time, I convinced myself that that was the one and only reason she wasn’t dating me.  Well, that, and the physical distance between us.


I met Beth through her sister Tonya back at FSU, just before I graduated.  I moved to Chicago after I graduated, but she had another year left.  When she finally graduated, she spent the summer in Texas with Tonya, and then went to England to do graduate work.


We wrote back and forth constantly.  At least, I did, averaging 2 letters a week.  Those letters also served as a sort of journal, describing strange and savage journeys and people I had encountered in the Big City.  We discussed everything from God to sex to music.


Beth was truly my muse, and she inspired in my letters new heights of creativity.  She also enjoyed reading my novels in progress, and I began to write in references that only she would get.  I also wrote a number of short stories exclusively for her; several involving her (or at least her alter-ego.)  Wierd Week (five days, actually) is an example.


It was great fun, and slowly but surely we got to know each other intimately.  And slowly but surely, I fell in love with her, or at least could tell that I was about to.  I was sure we were perfect for each other.  The only problem, as I saw it, was conflicting religion.  Beth’s beliefs gave her a skewed view on what it was to be “Christian”, and that definition excluded me.  To her, a Christian was someone who had found Jesus.  It was not someone who had, but I was trying.


So I needed a way to convince her otherwise.



Part 3:  Gretta


The job at Super Crown was my first “real” job in a year.  One of the reasons I had been unemployed for so long was because I spent more time writing books and letters to Beth than I did looking for work.


At one point, I took an unannounced vacation to visit my best friend Penny.  The  trip did not cheer me up, and apparently I was such an asshole that Penny wanted nothing to do with me for a while.[4]  I came back and had the Weird Week, which I dutifully transcribed into letter/stories to Beth.


Weird Week is actually a series of letters to Beth, and yes, these events actually happened!  It is written in both First and Second Person, so “I” assumes “me” and “You” assumes “Beth.”  The flirtation is obvious, but so is the platonic nature.  The subliminal goal was to show Beth what I’m like to live with and be with in a relationship.


I was also working on several interconnected short stories, and at the end of Weird Week two of characters from one of them (Trevor and Ian) walk into the Weird Week plot unannounced.  They leave with Beth, and I cut and paste in a scrap from an old short story I’d written.  This is a segue back to the Trevor & Ian novel I was writing, (currently called First Hit’s Free!) which now mysteriously includes Beth in the cast.


Also included in the line-up was a new character called Blade.  Blade was a nickname for Gretta M. Asmodeus, and she was included largely as a feminine foil for the Beth character.  I was ad-libbing both the plot and the characters, making it up as I went along.  Understandably, I was still a bit hazy with Blade.


Blade is an amazon albino from Caandelen’s Star.  Six feet tall[5] with bleach white skin and hair.  Smoke gray eyes and full lips.  Bone thin: 35-23-35.  In my science fiction universe she prefers swords to lazers (hence the nickname.)  In her spare time she’s a sculptor.


In one of our infrequent transatlantic phone conversations, I asked Beth who her favorite character of mine was.  To my surprise, she told me “Blade.”  I was working on one of her Christmas presents, a 100-page “manifesto” called “Book for Beth,” and included a Playboy Interview with Blade.  I had some black and white pictures of Beth (she’s done model work), liquid-papered her hair pure white, and cut them to scale for the bottom of the first page of the interview.  The quotes matched the expressions beautifully.


Beth loved it and enthusiastically asked for more.  So I stopped working on the Trevor/Ian/Blade/Beth story and started a Blade novel from scratch.  This was around the time that I started working at Super Crown.


I had ad-libed several chapters and still had no clear idea of a central plot, but Beth and I were enjoying it none-the-less.  Then two events happened: Easter, and the Waco fire.



Part 4: Cynthia-ciss[6]


I had the most strange and wonderful Easter weekend that I felt the need to write about it.


Because of Beth, I had been exploring spirituality more to see if there was a way to reconcile my Beliefs with her debatable definition. 


On Easter Sunday I had a minor epiphany of insight[7] that I wanted to share with her that just might solve the problem I saw between us: definition of belief.


By this time I had discovered the true identity of FARRELL, M and was still laughing over it with everyone. 


Then I thought, why not actually write a romance novel?


And everything just fell into place.


Half way through chapter two, everything fell apart between Beth and myself.


And that is a long story in itself.


It sucked at the time, but no tears or regrets now. 


Actually, I regret that I didn’t take more extensive notes at the time, because much of the mysticism and excitement of that Easter weekend now escapes me. 


That means I can’t finish the book because I don’t remember all of what historically happened or how I planned to write it.


I stopped writing Blade to start writing the romance.


Now neither are finished.


Never got back to the Trevor/Ian/Blade/Beth story, either.


…so many ideas, so little time…


anyway, enjoy![8]




A final word of warning:



The characters in Weird Week, including myself, are as real as my perceptions of them.  Obviously my views were skewed by both literary and personal agendas.  Many (well, most) of the opinions in here were characteristic of me at the time; I can make no claims for them now.  I was a lot harsher on people back then, but I’ve sweetened since then.






Back to the Romance Page

[1] The men who do write them write under female pen-names.  The glaring exception to this is Fabio.  Fabio suggests the plot to a ghost-writer (and poses for the cover, of course) and they put his name on it.  Of course, this phenomenon is even more apparent in non-fiction.


[2] Although FireSkunk has suggested we read one to each other for laughs.


[3]I replied to this, “fine by me, but won’t your husband get jealous?”


[4] We’ve since patched up, thankfully.  She’s DynaCharcoal/La Flambeau in the Branch Floridians.


[5] Actually, she insists “I’m five feet twelve inches!”


[6] Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone named Cynthia, but I am making a phonetic pun on “synthesis” to keep in theme with naming each Part after the feminine.


[7] ...which I later discounted as bad semantics combined with good ganja.


[8] And if you’re wondering what’s up with all the footnotes, it’s to prepare you for a running joke/subplot routine in the romance.