OUTCAST MINE is a departure for Jaime Craig in more ways than one. As you may or may not know, Jamie Craig is actually a pseudonym for the collaborative works between myself and Vivien Dean. Usually we write books a paragraph at a time. And by “usually” I mean “we always do that.” But when we started OUTCAST MINE, we wanted to try something new and challenge ourselves.
We began by discussing the sort of book we wanted to write. I had just seen a movie Leonard Nimoy made in 1966 called “Deathwatch.” It’s based on a play and it’s very much an existentialistic nightmare. Nimoy’s character is a thief, and he’s in a cell with two other men. The other two men do have sex, and there’s a great deal of sexual tension between all three of them, as well as an impending sense of doom, and an ever-present claustrophobia.
Leonard Nimoy is amazing and beautiful, and I was so inspired by this movie that I told Vivien we MUST write a prison story full of sexual tension, violence, and claustrophobia.
Once that was decided, we gave each other a list of short prompts. Lines we liked from songs and poems that could work as chapter titles. She wrote the first chapter without any input from me, and then my job was to write the second chapter without any input from her, just building on the foundation she gave me. Then she wrote chapter three and we alternated in this way until we had a whole book. Discussion was limited, unless we needed clarification on a point, but we did edit and tweak each other’s chapters here and there as we read. We wrote the final chapters together, since obviously that’s where all the threads needed to be woven together. We also collaborated on the subsequent editing, which is another reversal of our regular process. We usually write together and edit separately.
Now that we have the final result, I have to say, I’ve never been more proud of or excited about a novel. It was not the easiest book to write or to edit, but all of that work really paid off. And I think it’s an excellent reminder that sometimes you must push yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s the best way to flex your muscles and to see what you’re truly capable of. I think Aleron and Jasak learned the same lesson through the course of the book, both of them reaching beyond literal and metaphorical walls to become something better.
When have you challenged yourself to move beyond your comfort zone? I’d love to read your success stories!
And a bonus excerpt from OUTCAST MINE.
Normally, Aleron wouldn’t be pleased at the thought of physically arousing a predator—especially a predator ten times stronger than him. But he trusted Jasak, the man who could break him in half on a whim. More than that, he had found a way to get under Jasak’s skin. That much was obvious. And now that he was there, he just planned on burrowing deeper and deeper until Jasak would feel him everywhere.
Aleron turned just enough to let his lips brush across Jasak’s skin. The contact was electric. Jasak didn’t stop the kiss. He didn’t pull away from it. He didn’t voice another warning, or try to remind Aleron that he was dangerous. Aleron took that as a good sign. He kissed Jasak again, this time allowing his lips to linger at the hollow of his throat. His tongue darted out, and he tasted the core—the heat and fear and sweat that had coated Jasak’s skin while he brought the old machinery back to life.
And then the warmth of Jasak’s body was gone. Aleron couldn’t stop his moan of protest as Jasak left the bed, and frustration began to bubble beneath the surface. He felt like he was starved for contact in general, but worse than that, he genuinely craved the texture of Jasak’s skin and the feel of his body.
“You shouldn’t do that,” Jasak said, his voice soft.
Aleron stood. “It’s what? It’s dangerous? For who? You or me?” He slowly stepped forward, like Jasak was a skittish bird who might fly away with a sudden rush. “All we’ve got right now is each other.”
“You don’t know what you’re asking for.”
“I know that you want me. That you want to taste me and…”
“And you smell too much like prey.”
“You should know by now that doesn’t bother me.”
“I don’t want to just use you.”
Aleron lifted his shoulder. “Use me, if you have to. Jasak…don’t you miss being close to somebody? Don’t you miss just being with somebody? Don’t you miss losing yourself and accepting what comfort you can find?”
“Isn’t that the sort of thing that got you sent to this place?” Jasak asked.
“Sure. But now that I’m here, I realize I need it more than ever.” He took Jasak’s arm, holding him in place as he touched his lips to Jasak’s throat again. “I trust you. I know you trust me. You don’t have to fight this.”
Fresh hope surged in Aleron until Jasak grabbed him by the shoulders and gently, but firmly, pushed him back. Aleron immediately opened his mouth to protest, but the words stilled on his lips when he realized what Jasak was doing. He stripped his shirt first, exposing the carved muscles of his torso and arms. A stark reminder of what he was capable of. The skin on his face felt dry and tight, and he was so flushed that he forgot he had ever been cold. He tried to respond in kind, but his fingers were, for the first time in his life, fumbling and nonresponsive. He felt like they were too fat and too cold. When Jasak pushed his pants to the floor, Aleron gave up.
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