Well, a funny thing happened recently (funny to me, at least), which was: my beta reader suggested expanding another of the novellas. It is no small thing to be told, by the one other person on planet Earth who has read everything I have written, that she wants more about these characters.
The suggestion was delivered at exactly the right time, too. I had finished (to the extent I ever ‘finish’) the expansion of EXPOSURE, and am letting that sit before I do a final read-through-edit, relaunch the newly novel-length (83,000 words) ebook, and then prepare the paperback. I have a few novellas under construction, but the bulk of my mental energy has been going to the New Job (as I knew it would).
An expansion is a different animal than a new story. This particular expansion - to the novella called BEAT - presents an interesting challenge. It is another story which covers years of L.A. Stories time. And the central characters, Sam Lee and Mateo de la Cruz, are very much involved in the entire L.A. Stories universe. They are key members of my fictional semi-pro dance company, the Underground Cabaret. They are involved in the dance concert at the heart of GREEN MAN WALKING; they are involved in the two productions given page time in FACE THE MUSIC; they are involved with the movie at the heart of THE GHOST OF CARLOS GARDEL. Mateo is also a key character in my new novel CHANGE PARTNERS, which won’t be published till next fall unless I decide ‘oh the heck with it’ and toss it at the world before then. (This is not impossible.) Everything I give them to do has to tie in with the established timeline for this universe and its boatload of characters.
Mateo has been the more visible of the two. This expansion project is an opportunity to bring Sam forward and show, in greater detail, why he is Mateo’s perfect partner. Sam has a difficult back story; he’s an introvert, a quiet person, one whose capacity for love had not been given a safe place to grow. That was all clear before, but the why of it, and how he overcomes it, were not.
Anyway, one part of the challenge is that this novella originally written and published in 2014, and set between 2011-2014, is about people whose stories I now know - at least in a sketchy-outline kind of way - all the way up through 2018. In the original BEAT, a lot happened off the page, just as it did in EXPOSURE. I can now fill all this in, but I have to do it in a way that functions for the entire body of work. Not a bad problem to have.
In the novellas and novels already published, Sam and Mateo meet, separate, and reunite. They fall in love, they move in together, and they eventually get married. Along the way they become dance partners for competition (the Gay Games) and for performance. Mateo also has a female, professional competition dance partner (Elena, THE CONTINENTAL). All of that except their performance career was contained in the original novella, which came in at under 22,000 words. At the moment, the revision is about 36,000 words and there is still a lot more to write.
It is not at all unlikely that BEAT will grow to short-novel length, around 55,000 words. It may even grow bigger, because the same thing that happened with EXPOSURE is already happening here. Relationships and events that were off the page before (because a novella is what people pick up to read in 1-2 hours, not 4-6 hours, and you cannot Say Everything) are now going on the page. People who were barely referred to before are now taking their rightful place in Sam and Mateo’s lives.
Most of those people came to life considerably later than Sam and Mateo; BEAT was the fifth of the L.A. Stories, and there are now 26 (not to mention the five associated novels already published). Some of those people were pre-existing (notably Vince and Kelli of ALL THE BARS ON SUNSET) but I didn’t know they were particular friends of Sam and Mateo until I wrote FACE THE MUSIC.
One of the novellas under construction is about a barely-present character in BEAT, who became more important while I was writing CHANGE PARTNERS, and who has now been sufficiently envisioned as to become an actual person in the new expanded BEAT. He is going to get some space in the expansion because of what will happen to him (and for him) in his own story.
At any rate, it’s been lovely to revisit Sam and Mateo and to embiggen their love story. I have no target date to finish this, much less to relaunch it. When I do - as with EXPOSURE - I will load it to the existing profile so that anyone who has the original novella will be able to update to the new longer publication.
Part of the new work/life balance seems to be that I am no longer working on a single writing project, start to finish, in an obsessive spree. I am writing a bit at a time on whatever story comes to mind, still averaging better than 2000 words a day. In July I could quite reasonably have predicted that I would finish this expansion - even if it went to 80,000 words - by the end of October. Fortunately, only one person on Earth is waiting for it.