Open Letter: You are not in the book. Sorry.


You all are wonderful people. I know you’ve come here from various places, either through word of mouth (mine or someone else’s) or via various links from the rest of the Internet. I recognize that you took time – a truly nonrenewable resource – out of your life to come out to my blog and read whatever’s on my mind on Thursday. I’m really grateful for all of you for doing that.

Some of you are friends and colleagues, and I want to take a second to give you a little extra thank you. You’ve had my back and offered me your support and advice and comfort and all the things that good friends and colleagues offer each other. In return, I’ve generally given you very little. But you’ve been so patient with me, and I recognize that you could have written me off when I said or did whatever I said or did that would have caused a less patient person to write me off. I do try to be worthy of your friendship, and I admire and have genuine affection for you.

All of this makes it hard to say what I’m about to tell you. 

You are not in the book.

What do I mean? This book does not contain any character based on anyone I have ever met in the real world. That includes you. You may have some doubts as to whether you are in the real world, but I don’t.

You’re not in this book, the last book, or any of the books to come.

Some of you are not at all surprised to hear that you are not in the book. That’s good! You can hop on down to the comments and leave me a nice note, and I promise to be a better friend and colleague to all of you.

The rest of you are probably in one of these two groups: people who were hoping to be in the book, and people who were hoping to avoid being in the book. Let’s take the first group first.

I kind of feel like I’m disappointing you by saying that you’re not in the book if you want to be in it. But the fact of the matter is that I am not really making up any of the characters in the book. At some point, I get a weird intuitive flash, during which I see a part of the story. Then, as I’m letting my mind wander along the path revealed by the flash, I’ll get another flash, and then another, and then I’ve got most of the storyline. After that, I’m really just getting things organized and writing them down. I don’t exercise that much control over the story. It just shows up, fully populated, begging for attention. I don’t know anyone in the story. That’s what makes all of this so exciting.

Beyond that, I make it a point to keep real life away from my stories. I started writing many years ago (when we backed up our novels by copying them onto another scroll) to escape real life. Real life is a little easier to deal with these days – in fact, it’s pretty cool sometimes – but I do like to take a vaca in my characters’ fictional world every so often. It’s a nice place for a getaway. It’s close to the real world, but it is not the real world. Putting real people into the fictional world is like taking the BlackBerry on vacation. Sure, it’s not impossible to do. But if I can choose not to do it, I don’t do it – and I can choose not to do it.

This also means that I’m never in the story. I’m just the person hearing and seeing and telling the story. To beat our vacation metaphor to death, that’s the difference between vacationing at the resort and working at the resort. Never the twain shall meet. It’s not to punish you. It’s to protect the vacation.

And now to those of you who are hoping to avoid being in the book.

Some of you would just prefer not to be in an erotic romance novel, and you know what? That is totally cool! You don’t have to want it. We’re still good! Especially since you’re not in the book anyway. Hop on down to the comments and leave me a note.

On the other hand, I know some of you think I am going to punish you in some way by putting you into the book and then doing something unpleasant to you. I have heard of people threatening their enemies with such a thing. Please be assured that I would not do that to you. At the outset, I would refer you to my earlier points about how I don’t make up the characters or the story. Whatever unresolved personal issues you and I might have do not intersect with the story, since I don’t make up the story.

I’m also not going to use my powers as the writer to include you in the book for revenge – that’s going to mess up my vacation in the fictional world. I’m not going to spend my vacation thinking about unresolved personal issues. I’m trying to dodge the real world, which, again, includes you.

Finally, if you wronged me in a way that would inspire me to consider vengeance, immortalizing you in print – even if no one else ever sees it – does not serve that purpose. It just doesn’t make sense from a punitive standpoint. I either forgot about you altogether (because I don’t want that sort of energy in my life) or I passed you and your misdeeds along by word of mouth to all my friends and colleagues. I mentioned that they have offered me support, advice and comfort earlier.

I also suggested that other writers wouldn’t have a problem writing evildoers like you into their stories in order to exact vengeance against them. Sure, I won’t do it. But I can’t speak for other writers, and I talk to a lot of writers.

Is that not reassuring to you? Well, maybe you should look into the way you treat people. This isn’t about not mistreating writers for fear of ending up in the book. It’s about not mistreating people because what goes around comes around.

Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month. I’m more excited than usual to be working on 50,000 words of erotic short stories in the next 30 days. Actually, I hope to be done by Thanksgiving, so I’ve got about 3 weeks.

Wow. That didn’t sound crazy until just now.

I don’t know what the rest of the month will bring. But I can be certain, as always, that none of you will make your way into the book, for good reasons or ill.

Leave me a comment anyway? Pretty please?


  1. WHAAAAAT!?! I’m NOT in the book? No, wait, my humdrum life? Okay, I get it. Anyway, I LOVE this post. The early disclaimer for all the comments made/to come. However, you’ve totally busted my TBA T-Shirt – Careful or you’ll be in my next book! Well, it was, after all, an empty threat. I write fantasy and I don’t actually know any dragons, fairies, mermaids, or werewolves.


    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it! You’d be surprised by how often I have to explain to folks that I don’t know in real life any of the people I write about. My suspicion is that people are just afraid to ask you if you know any dragons and fairies. 🙂


  2. ha ha! Drat and darn. I was hoping to make the cut too. But I AM a dragon – born in the year of the dragon. Maybe I’ll make it into Denise’s book?


    1. Worth a try, Sofie! What’s the worst that can happen, she says no? I think your chances are pretty good, considering that she doesn’t know that she knows any dragons.

      Good to see you — and good for you leading off at W3 with an actual wordcount!


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