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Cold Men and the Cool Women Who Love Them

August 26, 2022

If you’ve been around the Cold long enough, you’ve probably heard the story about why a girl like me, who writes a lot of gritty, historical stuff loaded up with battles and murders and dangerous hijinks, gets all mushy when it comes to love.

You may have read a Cold essay or two about the hero of my own love story, or about my son’s dreams of love and honor.

And you may also know your own roles in influencing what I write, how I write it, and why. Especially you guys out there.

I’m a sucker for a guy who reads fiction

My singling out the guys in the Cold might seem like a bit of a head-scratcher on the surface of things. Not so much because of the actual content of what I write about here, but because I am, after all, mostly a fiction writer, and according to recent statistics, women account for about 80% of all fiction readers. Just wrap your heads around that – 80%.

I won’t get into why I believe that’s a travesty in this missive. I’ve already done that here, so go ahead and read my diatribe about men and fiction if you want. I stand by every word, and even offer a nice, long fiction reading list tailored just for those blessed with an X chromosome.

What I will get into is how 20% of the fiction reading public (here in the Cold, men actually make up about 30% of my readers) have managed to have such an impact on the way I approach my stories, plots, characters and general atmospherics.

“Could you please chew with your mouth closed?” I tell him.

He stops, looking me up and down. Amused at me this time. The archer crosses his arms and finishes chewing at leisure.

“You’re not a princess-in-waiting anymore – a mala,” he says. “I’m not sure what you are.”

“I was never a princess,” I say, moving further away. “Any more than your leader is a prince.”

He scoots closer and I move again.

“Are you afraid I’m coming down with Vara?”

I shake my head, kicking a stone. “You smell.”

The archer slides right up to me and raises his arm, pushing its sweaty underside into my face. I shove him away and gag.

“I think you’re right,” he says, sniffing himself. “I might have to bathe after we pack up tomorrow.” —a decidedly masculine scene of flirtation from Breath

Nif and Sherin as illustrated by Alex Eckman-Lawn

The reason I’m influenced by the male sensibility is simple and may seem counterintuitive. The fact is that whenever I write about history, faith, personal struggles, and especially love, my male readers are the ones who tend to write back most prolifically. “My guys,” as I’ve come to call them, have come to me with some of the most beautiful, romantic, raw and painful confessions I’ve ever heard. Long, poetic letters that have made me gasp and tear up at times, to tell you the truth.

And guys, it is such an honor for me to receive your trust in this way. Thank you.

You’ve helped me understand my husband, my son, my brother, my dad and my male characters so much better. You’ve inspired me to write men that feel real to you, yet remain solid, interesting, and swoon-worthy for the ladies. Or conjure ones who are wounded, cruel, even frightening, yet never completely unredeemable. It’s thanks to you that I’m able to write cowards who manage to tug at our heartstrings, and heroes who are indelibly human, no matter how handsome they are or what fantastic feats they might perform.

It’s also why, as I create my female characters, I endeavor to make them worthy of your love and admiration.

Thank you for that, too.

A decidedly Cold gal

As for the women here in the Cold, many of you have written to me about the men in your lives. You’ve blessed me with your love stories and told me in no uncertain terms what makes you give your heart to a man, to trust him with your life – whether that man be a father, a dear friend, or your lover. You’ve given me your confidence about your most profound heartbreaks and disappointments, too. Your grief and reluctance. How you recovered from faithlessness to find the meaning of true love.

From nearly the moment of his death, Nif feels the urge to be born just as I do.

But in the meantime, however brief, we are here.

Here there is no night sky. We are the night sky. We can take the moon in our arms, shoot arrows with Sagittarius.

Love with the power of a universe that is ever expanding.

“Soon I’ll have hands and can touch you again.”

A body has its own pleasure.

“And a heart that flutters like an angel tern each time I see you.”

That fire will be lit again. The fire of birth. Our ongoing quest. But until then, we have this. — a more feminine depiction of love from Savage Island

Nif and Sherin on the Arches of Talava of Niue, as illustrated by Alex Eckman-Lawn

And in a few short weeks, I’ll be debuting a new novel from the Breath series…another I owe to you. All of you, but especially “my guys.” Not because I wrote these stories for you, exactly. It’s more that I wrote them because of you. They are whole thanks to your imprint upon them.

You showed me how a man thinks about love. That in answering his call for adventure – to travel, to go to war, to go to work – he’s making himself ready for commitment. Worthy of a good woman and the children they might raise together. You’ve shown me your hopes and dreams, your hearts, and I hope I’ve done them justice in my stories.

A low chuckle comes from Ripley’s side of the table.

“Then what about you?” Edna says. “You were going to tell us what you love, Ripley, before Leila’s homage to her mother.”

One can’t help but smile at Edna. She has such a thoughtful, obliging nature, and her every word is sincere. She strokes my cheek, then gives it a sweet kiss. It’s a gesture of friendship that touches me.

“What I love?” Ripley says.

I take a good, hard swallow of my ale and meet Ripley’s eyes. They have been waiting for me all this time, and quite nearly take my breath away.

“I love my destiny,” he tells me as if it’s he and I alone.

“But how can you love it if you don’t know where it’ll take you?” Edna says. “What if it’s a terrible place where you find yourself bound to a rock with an eagle swooping down and eating your liver every day?”

“Ripley as the god Prometheus!” Cornelius exclaims.

Ripley entwines his fingers with mine. It is not the tender-hearted gesture we had witnessed minutes ago between the other lovers at the table. His hand grips mine, pressing our palms together as they grow hotter.

“Then I should savor the journey all the more, and the one with whom I am destined to travel it. My liver be damned.” –Coming soon…Of Sand and Bone

Nif and Sherin gazing into a campfire in the dessert, as illustrated by Alex Eckman-Lawn

  1. Judy permalink

    Great illustrations, so beautiful. Plus as always superb writing that touches my soul.

  2. Reva Parks permalink

    I would like to be on your ARC team for your next release, please?

    I so enjoy your COLD postings.

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