My favorite colors are…non-colors. And that’s so me. So TTQ. I’ve never been a joiner. Hard to believe from someone who was president of a large writer’s organization, huh? You’d think a person had to be part of the ‘in’ crowd to get to such an elevated position. Except that the position wasn’t elevated, and when I entered the board room for my first term of service, I didn’t know anyone well. And only two people by name. I hadn’t run for office, and had no idea how the current president had ever heard of me or why she thought I was the one she wanted to appoint to a vacated position. After eight years of service, I came away knowing a lot more names, but only a handful of people personally.
It’s not that I like being alone. Or that I don’t want friends. I’ve just always been alone. I grew up with my nose in a book. Literally. By the time I was fourteen, I was reading a Harlequin romance a day. Throughout high school I attended class, did my homework, worked in the nursery at a bowling alley and then at Wendy’s, and I lived for those moments every day that I got to escape into my books – even when those moments had to come in the wee hours of the morning. I graduated from high school never having attended a single party or having gone on a single date.
And this is pertinent today only because I’ve come face to face with myself – with a few major differences. This mirrored image is a loner, too, no close friends, doesn’t know how to socialize, spent high school reading on the computer instead of books, but still reading. The differences? The person I’m facing is only twenty-three years old. And male. His name’s Ryan Mercedes. He’s Sara’s Son. Ryan isn’t like any other twenty-three year old guy I’ve ever heard of. When he presented himself almost two years ago, the twenty-one year old son of a woman who’d been raped at sixteen, I told him to go away. He came back. He told me that his mother had to meet her rapist. I told him he was nuts. And sent him away. He didn’t go. He just stood there. Silently for a long time. I wondered how he could wait so long without getting tired. Eventually, of course, he won. Because that’s Ryan. He doesn’t believe in losing. He doesn’t believe in giving up. He’s hard headed and stubborn and when he’s sure he’s right, he’s sure he’s right. Period.
And now we’re back to my favorite colors. They’re black and white. I’m wearing them today. I wear them many times a week. I have many many renditions of black with white shoes, white with black shoes, white shoes, black shoes, blank and white shoes – and purses – and jewelry to match. I have at least seven white button up blouses, and more black and white other shirts than I can count. I have at least five black cardigan sweaters. Three-quarter length sleeves, long sleeves, long body, short body, heavy, light. I have a black sweater for every occasion. (I get cold a lot!) And Ryan, darn him, showed me that I AM the clothes I wear. Or he is.
A long time ago someone told me once that ‘Life is not lived in black and white. It’s lived in shades of grey.’ This was not someone I knew well. It was not someone I particularly liked. And I liked the message even less. I want things to be clearly delineated. I want there to be right and wrong. One right and wrong meant for every occasion. I want to know that there is a right, best choice that fits every situation (just like my shoes and shirts are made for my black and white days) and I want to do my best to make that best/right choice every single time. Ryan again. That’s him. Exactly.
Only difference is, Ryan’s more than twenty years younger than I am. He has the ignorance of youth to bolster him. I, on the other hand, have enough years of experience to know that that person I didn’t like all those years ago, that message about life being shades of grey, was pretty accurate. Life isn’t black and white. For every situation there are multiple sides, multiple layers, multiple people with multiple needs that will be effected, and multiple choices that serve different goods. There isn’t one right answer waiting to be found. Or one best choice, either. Rather, life is a learning experience, and a choice that might seem ‘wrong’, if it teaches us a lot, could then be deemed the best choice we could have made. If we grow and progress and get a tiny bit closer to ultimate joy and happiness with that learning, to being able to bring it to others, then how can we pronounce the choice wrong?
I posed the question to Ryan. He argued with me. Adamantly. He stood again. For a long time. Staring at me from the back of my mind. But I’d learned. I knew him. I stood, too. For longer. It was an eternal stalemate. Except, somehow, while Ryan and I stood stubbornly, refusing to budge, we ended up creating Trusting Ryan. (He came up with the title, not me.) See, Ryan orchestrated a meeting between his rapist father and his biological mother in my July ’07 Superromance Sara’s Son. They went behind his back and fell in love. He couldn’t accept that. At all. And he was blaming me.
Readers, on the other hand, thought I did a good job with Sara and Mark, but they were not happy that I’d left Ryan hanging around. They couldn’t leave him behind. They wrote clamoring for more. Ryan, with an unsmiling nod, took this in stride. While he challenged me to give him his own book – his own forum to have his say. Let’s just say, the end result wasn’t quite what he’d been expecting. At all. And now, in just a few short days, you’ll all have a chance to see what happened when he and I met head to head. Trusting Ryan, the sequel to Sara’s Son, a 2008 RITA finalist, is a July ’08 Superromance.
Some say I made wrong choices when I gave my high school years to books. I missed a lot. I never learned to socialize. Or make friends. (My best friend was a girl I met when I was five who lived two states away!) I didn’t go to a single dance. I never went to prom. Or even to a movie with a guy. Bad, bad, bad, wrong choices. Yet…all of those years of reading romances instilled in me a need to spend my life with Harlequin books. I was driven to give to the world that which had been given to me. To that end, while others scoffed, or humored me, regarding my ambition to write for Harlequin, I put pen to paper. And then fingers to keyboards. For years. Over and over. I wrote many stories. Opened many rejections. And, like Ryan, I was sure about what I was sure about, I didn’t quit believing. I have no idea why. Ryan could probably tell you. I just knew that I was a writer and I was going to write for Harlequin and I had to write. And now here I am, fifty published novels later, giving you my story. Oh, wait, I mean Ryan’s story. (He made me say that.) Did I mention, Ryan’s a cop?
Anyway, we hope you’ll pick up a copy of our joint effort. And that, if you do, you’ll write and let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org. And right here, right now, tell us…black and white? Or shades of gray? What do you think?