In the creative writing class I’m teaching, I start off by emphasizing how important it is to know how the story is going to go before you start writing. We map out the Triggering Event, the Turning Points, and try to bring it all to a Tidy Logical Conclusion in the end. We do outlines and idea maps and lists and little pictures. Because it’s a lot easier to work the plot kinks out of 40 pages of outlines than out of 400 pages of text, and besides, if things change while you’re doing the actual writing—and they will—nobody’s forcing you to stick to the letter of the original plan.
But the truth is, even with an outline, and especially with a multi-book story arc, sometimes you just don’t know.
The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, the first of my series set in Victorian London, was a kind of coming-of-age story. The main character, Ira Adler, was the “kept man” of crime Lord Cain Goddard. Over the course of the story, as Ira matches wits with Goddard’s blackmailer, he uncovers secrets about Goddard’s past—and about his own, which cause him to question—and eventually leave—his cushy life with Goddard.
In Ira’s just-released second book, Turnbull House, circumstances bring Ira and Goddard back together again. The youth shelter that Ira founded at the end of Porcelain Dog is in danger of losing its building, and Ira taps Goddard for a loan to save it. Goddard is happy to lend him the money, and promptly weaves a web of obligation that will keep Ira tied to him for the next two years…or even longer, if Ira can’t find a way to pay the money back. In his heart, Ira knows better, but, as he says,
There was no need for melodrama. It was just a loan, and possibly a bit of recreational sodomy. If I kept my head, we could leave it at that.
Of course we all know neither of them could leave it at that, and it’s difficult for a man to keep his head when he finds himself in a love triangle with his two best friends, snatching rent-boys from the clutches of London’s second most feared criminal, and locked up as a murder suspect.
The third book in the series, Fool’s Gold, has been contracted, and is about half-finished. I won’t say anything more, except that Ira’s relationship with Goddard continues along its perilous path. Will they be together in the end?
Buggered if I know.
But it’s going to be fun to find out.
For Ira Adler, former rent-boy and present plaything of crime lord Cain Goddard, stealing back the statue from Goddard’s blackmailer should have been a doddle. But inside the statue is evidence that could put Goddard away for a long time under the sodomy laws, and everyone’s after it, including Ira’s bitter ex, Dr. Timothy Lazarus. No sooner does Ira have the porcelain dog in his hot little hands, than he loses it to a nimble-fingered prostitute.
As Ira’s search for the dog drags him back to the mean East End streets where he grew up, he discovers secrets about his own past, and about Goddard’s present business dealings, which make him question everything he thought he knew. An old friend turns up dead, and an old enemy proves himself a friend. Goddard is pressing Ira for a commitment, but every new discovery casts doubt on whether Ira can, in good conscience, remain with him.
In the end, Ira must choose between his hard-won life of luxury and standing against a grievous wrong.
London 1891. Former criminal Ira Adler has built a respectable, if dull, life for himself as a confidential secretary. He even sits on the board of a youth shelter. When the shelter’s landlord threatens to sell the building out from under them, Ira turns to his ex-lover, crime lord Cain Goddard, for a loan. But the loan comes with strings, and before he knows it, Ira is tangled up in them and tumbling back into the life of crime he worked so hard to escape. Two old flames come back into Ira’s life, along with a new young man who reminds Ira of his former self. Will Ira hold fast to his principles, or will he succumb to the temptations of easy riches and lost pleasures?
Excerpt from Turnbull House:
“So,” Goddard said, taking a long sip from his glass. “You never told me why you decided to contact me after all this time.”
“Well…” As I searched for the right words, he quietly set his drink on the polished wood floor. “It’s funny you should—”
The kiss came as such a surprise that I scrambled backward across the divan and almost tumbled over its rounded arm. Whiskey sloshed over the rim of my glass, splashing silently onto the Chinese rug. What remained I belted back in one go before setting the glass on the floor and wiping my shaking fingers on my trousers.
It wasn’t that I was averse to the idea of kissing him, but I really hadn’t expected it. In fact, if I’d seen him start toward me in the first place—he was remarkably quick for a man in his mid-forties—I’d have assumed he was going for my throat.
Goddard chuckled under his breath. “Sorry. Did I startle you?”
“You might say that.”
I was also taken aback by the presumption. I had always liked it when he took control, and the hard, whiskey-flavored slickness of his mouth had left me aroused. All the same, I was no longer his plaything. Part of me felt as if he should have at least asked permission.
I forgot my objections when he leaned in a second time, slowly, and cupped my face in his smooth, muscular hands. Now that I was expecting it, the kiss felt like coming home after a long, unpleasant journey. For just a moment, all of my troubles dissolved, and nothing existed except his fingers in my hair, the traces of his jasmine and bergamot cologne, and the smooth, familiar contours of his mouth.
And then as suddenly as he had moved in, Goddard pulled back, leaving me confused, disappointed, and blinking in the gaslight and shadow.
“Why did you come, Ira?”
“To ask you for money,” I said.
I know. I know. But every drop of blood in my head had surged to my cock, and I found myself incapable of the higher functioning required for either diplomacy or deceit.
Perhaps that had been the idea.
About the Author: Jess Faraday is the author of the Ira Adler series (including the Lambda-shortlisted Affair of the Porcelain Dog), the steampunk thriller The Left Hand of Justice, three book translations, a handful of short stories, and numerous nonfiction articles. She also moonlights as the mystery editor for Elm Books.
She is a graduate of the University of Arizona (B.A.) and UCLA (M.A.). Since then, she has earned her daily bread in a number of questionable ways, including translation, lexicography, copyediting, teaching high school Russian, and hawking shoes to the overprivileged offspring of Los Angeles-area B-listers.
She is currently at work on her fourth novel, Fool’s Gold, a mystery set in Victorian London and the American west.
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