I started writing Blindsided in Tampa two years ago this week. I know this because I got the memory thing from Facebook telling me I was at Rainbow Con two years ago this past week. I started Blindsided in the bar at Rainbow Con.
In two years time I haven't written much more than I did while I was in Tampa. I think I left it at around fifteen thousand words that weekend.
I hadn't planned to write Blindsided at all up to that point. Up to that point I was going to finish out the series in two more books. Sunday Schooled and Last Man Standing. I had covers made. I wrote half of Sunday Schooled before I realized that story was something else entirely. It wasn't going to finish the series. It was retelling the series from Bo and Dylan's POV. I stopped writing that story because I was wasting my time and needed to get the final story told. I left it at the point in Six Ways where Bo finds out Dylan is alive, but not before they are reunited.
I had planned to tell the final story through the eyes of a fourth couple. I linked that couple to the series in Offside Chance. Both of them. One had a name. The other was pure speculation.
I couldn't figure out how to go about introducing that character to the world AND take his story away from him to finish out what is Levi's story.
The whole series is Levi's story. All of it. Even Six Ways from Sunday is Levi's story even though he's not even in it.
If I had never written Sidelined there would be no further story to tell. If I had not linked Levi to Bo in Sidelined and not written this series at all... if I had not linked Levi to Bo, Levi would have no story at all. Just a quarterback without a team. He'd have no backstory. He'd just be there, get sexed up by the new coach of his old team. Figure out how to come out in post-football small town big hero way.
Sometimes I regret writing Sidelined.
I wouldn't be in this pickle if I hadn't written Sidelined. Six Ways from Sunday would be just a short story stand alone. I would never have written another football book.
Offside Chance came along and Jude with all of his resentment and baggage started screaming that everything was always all about Levi. Why can't he have something without his brother? He chose his brother's best friend to fall for. It was always about Levi. And how Levi links every damned one of them.
I wasn't going to write Last Man Standing. I was going to incorporate that one needed character into Blindsided and not deal with Angel. I didn't know Angel. Angel wasn't part of this story. Angel was just some kid who replaced Levi. He didn't matter. Sully mattered.
So I was writing Blindsided in Tampa, when I made the mistake of kidding that I killed Levi. I even said I was kidding. I got blasted. I got blasted in blistering fashion and not just by one or two people. By many, many people. So I set Blindsided aside because I was finished with that series. Offside Chance can sort of stand as the final book. There are threads dangling... but... that ending could actually stand as an ending.
It waited another six months to let the anger over that situation, my anger, die down. I don't like being told what I can and can't write. I mean, that's why Cold Shadow stayed in moth balls for five years. Because I was censured for even hinting at the possibility that I would do something so heinous as bring a third into their HEA when the Cold series isn't even a romance... I put it away and didn't take it out again because I didn't want to deal with the blowback of taking a story where I thought it needed to go. Cold was left as a HFN. It didn't need a second book. If I released the second book I'd have to finish the series and god knows y'all don't want to go down the rabbit hole that book will go down... but this is about the Scrimmage men and how I was going to finish this damned story off without pissing everyone off and still be true to the story that is unfolding throughout all of the stories. Levi's story.
How am I going to tell all of Levi's story in one damned book and pull this big huge rambling saga to a close without writing Gone with the Wind.... or worse, The Winds of War? What the hell is Levi's story anyway? I have all of these little pieces of him scattered throughout this series. I have this vision that his backstory is far more complicated than being transgendered and queer in a world where he can't be either. I have the seeds of abuse and neglect and crippling self doubt. I have... myself.
I started writing Blindsided two years ago this week and the first thing I did was kill Levi's mother. Until this point Samantha Brody was a mention or two. She was a ghost who may or may not be alive. She was nothing tangible at all to the story. Because she's my mother and I wasn't ready to purge my goddamned mother. So I killed this person in this story that I didn't know with the intention of using this death and Levi's surgery as the plot devise to push this story to an unnatural ending in which Levi has to confront his father... because that's all that was left to do in his story. Nothing else was tied together. The rape charge. Jude's resentment. Why they were pariahs in their own hometown even though they returned successful. Why... WHY!
I set Blindsided aside again to write a backstory for Levi. I never intended it to be anything but notes for me to flesh out this character so I could know him. Really know him.
What I got was a first person account of his life from the day he woke up to the harsh reality of his life, through the ending off Offside Chance. I wrote ninety thousand words of brutal backstory that included his high school lovers. The creation of the Liv persona. His drag queen mother to replace the real mother. His mother. The shadow of his father. The hints of abuse and neglect and how Levi coped with raising a brother who resented him... and Jude, through Levi's eyes, as the only person he truly loved.
When I was finished with Diva, I had no real intention of making the story public. I thought I could incorporate most of that into Blindsided and move on. I can't. It's ninety thousand words that need to be canon before Blindsided. Or Blindsided will be bogged down in more backstory than it needs to move forward.
After Diva I thought I could jump into Blindsided and pick up that final scene and go. I tied that final scene into the beginning of Blindsided. That final scene sets all of Blindsided.
I couldn't just jump in. I tried. I managed another five thousand words and knew I had to go back one more time and write Sully in. Sully couldn't just come sashaying in and say surprise. Sully had to have his own reason for being in Blindsided.
So I wrote Last Man Standing. I tied it in to that final scene in Diva, and everything in that book runs concurrent with the first twenty thousand words of Blindsided. Dylan, Tracy, Bo, Will, and Jude play small roles in that book, those same scenes where they are featured will lace throughout Blindsided until they collide.
Last Man Standing was released in August of last year. More than a year after Rainbow Con. I'd written two complete Scrimmage books in six months. In the year since those books were released they have yet to sell combined what Offside Chance sold in it's first month. I wrote two books in a popular series that were not accepted and ignored by 90% if the previous audience for this series.
I had told all of the backstory that I needed and was ready to finish Blindsided. I commissioned a beautiful cover, because I was twenty thousand words into this mess and I had the backstory told so I went ahead with the idea that I'd take a small break from the series and write something else then come back and finish it.
My mother died in October.
I stopped doing everything.
I came to a complete crashing halt.
If Levi's story is me fictionalizing my own story and dealing with my demons there was no goddamned way I was going to touch that story again. I'd killed his mother. The whole book is about Levi figuring out how to live now that he's lost everything that ever mattered to him and dealing with the demons that will never allow him to be happy until he purges them.
It's about throwing away happiness with both hands and finally hitting rock bottom.
When you're sitting there watching your own life spiral down that same rabbit hole and recognizing life imitating art and you're watching your career come to a screeching halt while your personal life becomes a living nightmare and you're grieving for something that never existed at all.
I've been there. In that rabbit hole for a very long time. Throwing away everything good with both hands and ignoring what I don't want to deal with and not coping.... at all.
I released the first half of Sunday Schooled as Any Given Sunday, I have no idea why. So that you understand the beginning, so that you'll understand the ending. To tie Bo into Levi's sordid crazy.
I released a book I swore I'd never release and I regret every second of that decision.
I have written two brand new books from scratch hoping for something light and fluffy.
I never want to write Blindsided. I know that now.
I don't want to cut open that part of me that is Levi and bleed his blood. I don't want to do it.
I will. I've made that promise.
I can't do it now. Not now. If I write Blindsided now I will never write another book again.
If I can salvage something of this mess that is my life and career, I'll have it next year sometime.
For now, I'm writing light and fluffy and playing it all by ear.
Thanks for listening,