The legend that characters run away from their authors-taking up drugs, having sex operations and becoming president-implies that the writer is a fool with no knowledge or mastery of his craft. The idea of authors running around helplessly behind their cretinous inventions is contemptible. -John Cheever

“So, I hear you’re involved in this WORD challenge,” he says patiently. I turn over and sigh, still not wanting to think about it, since a) it’s not November 1st yet and b) I still haven’t decided which of the four books I’m working on. So I just keep my eyes closed and pretend I didn’t hear. After all, it’s 2am and I’m tired and I know the three year old will be up in a few short hours.

“Hey, I’m talking here,” he says again. “I just want to know what your goal is. You need a goal, you know.”

I know, I know, I mutter internally. A goal that’s realistic, a goal that won’t make me panic and force Cece to push smelling salts under my nose every few seconds.

“You’re too competitive for a realistic goal,” he says and I wonder when he began to be able to read my mind. I guess it’s only fair, since I can read his. And not only is he reading my mind, he’s reading correctly, something I haven’t even considered.

It’s not that I’m competitive about the WORD group. Those are my writing friends. Sylvia’s already given the whole non-panic pep talks, but it’s comforting to know that Sasha and Larissa have already started hyperventilating. But since I won’t join the NaNoWriMo Challenge, in my mind I know I have to beat the word count I would need to win that challenge. So it’s a competition for myself. I even checked on the calculator just how many pages I would need to write to exceed NaNoWriMo’s challenge. And then I threw it back in the drawer and did anything non-writing related, like bills and laundry.

“You wrote fast for Chris’s book. Really fast. You had over 50,000 words in ten days,” he reminds me.

That had to be a fluke, really. I’d preplanned and replayed scenes from that book in my mind for almost a year before the whole thing came spilling out last December. It’s never been that easy again, even though I’ve managed to write four single titles since last September plus get halfway through about three others, and first chapters on several more. I like having a lot going on at once, and even when I try and concentrate on one project, the other characters call me, tug impatiently at my sleeve and demand my attention.

Which is exactly what’s happening now.

“It’s just that it’s taking so long to get to my book,” Jake reminds me. “And I’ve got a lot to say. Always have. But it’s time for me to get along with my life, get moving, fall in love and maybe even have a family.” He looks at me hopefully, defiantly, and his grey eyes look like smoke rising. “Besides, I want to get laid,” he says loudly.

“Sshhh,” I tell him. “You’ll wake my husband and the three year old.”

He looks unapologetic. “You should be writing now. Practicing for this challenge. It’s not going to be easy and you need to prepare.”

“I need sleep.”

“But you can’t sleep.”

I hate it when he points out the obvious. “I was, until you came along.”

“I’ve been in the back of your mind for weeks. You even wrote a chapter for me a few weeks ago. You wrote it longhand, mixed it in with Nick’s stuff, hoping I wouldn’t notice.”

I should know by now I can’t slip anything past a Navy SEAL.

“And you almost got me laid, but then you stopped and made me walk away. And I don’t think I’d walk away from an opportunity like that.”

I knew that scene would piss him off, but it’s a great scene. I’m not changing it, no matter how hard he begs for sex. I change the subject instead.

“I explained why your book needs to be third. And I told you why – I’m saving the best for last.”

Jake likes his ego stroked – that I’ve known from day one. And at first, he bought that line. Now, he just glowers, shakes his head.

“Nick’s not cooperating. He’s not ready to be in love,” he says. “It’s why he walked away from you the other day. I mean, come on, the whole Greek god thing?”

“It’ll work. I just need more time.”

“He’s not happy and when he’s not happy he can be really stubborn.”

As Alison said the other day, pot, meet kettle.

“The faster he cooperates, the faster I tell your story.” I try and bargain. It’s my last stand.

He smirked. “Nick is in hiding. He sent me here. He told me to tell you that he wants me to go first.”

“If you go first, I have to rewrite big parts of Chris’s story and I don’t want to do that.”

“What’s the big deal?” he asks a little too loudly. The three year old stirs.

“You wake her now and she’s yours.”

He looks more than a little horrified. And all I want is sleep but I find I’m now sitting up in the bed. And I’ve got the pad in my hand because the computer is too far away and too noisy. And before I know it, I’m scribbling away.

“Whatcha writing?”

“You need to leave,” I tell him. “Don’t you have something you need to blow up?”

“I’ll leave for now. But I’ll be back. Tomorrow.” He smiles, that combination of heartbreaking handsome smile and insolent grin and I know he means it. After all, the only easy day was yesterday, is canon law in SEAL-land. And in my world too now, I guess since I’ve chosen to hang out with this bunch of lunatics.

“You’re impossible.”

“Yes.”

“Stubborn, impatient, bossy and moody.” I’m still mumbling as he ambles out the door, closing it softly behind him. “I’m going to make you pay. No sex for the first hundred pages at least.”

I swear I hear him laugh and groan at the same time.

You put a character out there and you’re in their power. You’re in trouble if they’re in yours. – Ann Beattie

Steph T.