First off, Fred, you're probably wondering why I'm calling you Fred. It's a valid question, especially since I don't know anybody named Fred.
You see, I found Sterling's journal about our lives the other day and, although it's delightful and pretty close to the truthâSterling is delightful, as well as dedicatedly honest, unfortunatelyâI began worrying what people might think if in four hundred years somebody found his journal still in one piece in some old box or something and read it, read about me, and figured I probably should set the record straight. Straighter. Something like that.
Okay, truth time, huh? Here's the deal, Fred. For some strange reason, I'm worried about future generations thinking I'm a few bricks shy of a full load. So just bear with me because you, Fred, have just been named the star witness for the defense (of me and my mind, that is).
Not that Sterling's sweetly naive account of what's happening in our lives wouldn't take the archeologist's mind off wondering about the societal implications of stuff like the concept of speed dating or the sex life of SpongeBob SquarePants.
But back to you, Fred, if just for a moment. Sterling addresses his musings to Dear Journal, and I didn't want to copy him. That confusion thing again, you know? And Dear Diary? I don't think so! I outgrew Dear Diary a lot of years ago. Right after my mother found mine and read my poem at the dinner table (“Alone, I am alone. We live and die alone.” Something like that anywayâit would seem I've finally successfully blocked most of it). You want to see a grown woman rotate her head like Linda Blair in
? Write something like that when you're twelve and then lose the key to your Barbie diary.
Anyway. I know a lot of other writers keep journals, or diaries, or Internet blogs, but I'm not one of them. I don't write unless there's a reasonably good chance I'm going to get paid for it, which I think makes me practical and Alex says proves I'm cheapâbut he's only kidding. I'm simply frugal. So this is a departure for me, but I think a necessary one, Fred, or I wouldn't be doing it, especially since Bernie told me my last manuscript was pretty much crap (she was right, but I had a good reason, and his name is Alex), and I've got a deadline coming at me pretty soon.
Okay, enough stalling, Fred, here we go. And anybody reading thisâif anyone still reads anything written on paper in four hundred yearsâplease just skip over that first part. I was just easing my way in, you know? I'll get better at this as I go.
My name is Margaret Kelly and I am a writer (stop laughing, I said I'd get better as I go along!). I always was a writer, even at twelve, although I'm glad I gave up poetry, because who wants to get paid in copies? Also, I don't look good in berets.
Writer. Right. One with a marvelously organized brain, obviously (that's a joke, Fred).
I was born and raised in New Jersey and then got out of there as fast as I could. Not that I don't like Jersey. Jersey's greatâsand, surf, casinos, what's not to love? In fact, there's only one problem with the placeâmy family lives there. They wouldn't have minded if I wrote poetry and starved in a garret. But popular fiction? With S-E-X in it? Enough said.
So I came to New York City, naturally, and damn near starved in a fifth-floor walk-up while I wrote historical romance novels under the name Alicia Tate Evans. If I was lucky, my publisher printed three copies (none bought by my family). I mean, I bombed! The market was glutted with romance novels, and if you didn't hit the
by your fourth or fifth time out of the gate, you were history. Within a few years, I was history. But I had Bernie, bless her. Bernice Toland-James, my editor, who snuck me back in the door at Toland Books once her ex-husband had cut me.
Now I'm Cleo Dooley (What can I say? I think
's look impressive on a book cover), and I write a historical mystery series set in Regency England (that's between 1811 and 1820, Fred), starring Alexandre Blake, the Viscount Saint Just, and his comic-relief sidekick, Sterling Balder. Yes, that Sterling. Fictional Sterlingâwho's currently writing a journal in New York City. I've got your interest now, Fred, don't I? Thought so.
A little background on Saint Just is probably a good idea, Fred, just to get you in the picture. Saint Just is, you see, perfect. I created him to be perfect. The perfect Regency hero, that is. Drop-dead gorgeous, as I made him up out of the best parts of some of my favorite movie stars (can we say Val “I'm your huckleberry” Kilmer's mouth, just for starters? That reminds me, I need a new DVD of
, having worn the other one out).
Saint Just, my creation, is also rich. Intelligent. Witty. Sophisticated. Deliciously arrogant. The world's greatest lover. He can dance, fence, box, swim, shoot, etc., etc., etc. You getting this, Fred? I pulled out all the stops, created this perfect, to-die-for hero, and plopped him down in the perfect romantic era. Throw in a crime he solves while expertly bedding various gorgeous and extremely grateful young things, and, wow, I had a winner. Every woman's fantasy. Definitely mine.
I hit the
with the second Saint Just mystery, and now I not only hit the list, I stay in the top five for a good six weeks. In other words, I'm not starving anymore. Mom is
Life was good. Dull. Boring. But good, you know? And then one day a couple of months ago I turned around in my condo and there stood Alexandre Blake, dressed in all his well-tailored Regency finery. Next to him was cute, pudgy, friendly Sterling, munching on the KFC chicken leg I was saving for my lunch.
I recognized them both immediately. Hell, I'd made them, remember? It was a shock. But I reacted well. I fainted.
Alex explained what happenedâI call him Alex Blakely now and pass him off as a distant cousin from England I'd patterened Saint Just after, although Sterling is still Sterling because he'd get too confused with an alias, and he still calls Alex Saint Just. According to Alex, I'd made him very real. Sterling, too. Made them so real that they came to life inside my head, kicked around there for a couple of years getting to know the place, then decided I was a mess who needed their help, and
themselves into my apartment, into my life.
I know this is tough to swallow, but I mean it, Fred. That's exactly what happened.
! And it's still happening!
Do you know what it's like to have the perfect hero making himself at home in your condo apartment? Huh? The gorgeous, yummy, to-die-for man you created out of all your personal hopes, dreams? Okay, and desires and even fantasies. I admit it. There's that stuff, too.
Well, Fred, I'll tell you what it's like. It's not all good. I mean, you cannot know the depth of my sympathy for Dr. Frankenstein! I read that Mary Shelley was high on opium when she wrote that book, but I don't even have that excuse.
So what's my problem, you ask, Fred? For one thing, arrogant Regency heroes can be a pain in the rump. I am not a helpless female, but try telling that to Alex, who thinks his purpose in life is to protect me. Granted, I've needed a bit of protection now and then these past months, as I seem to have developed this way of... well, of tripping over murders. I think it's Alex's fault, frankly, because I never even saw a dead body until My Hero showed up.
He's really complicated my life. You try writing a love scene with the object of that love scene living in the condo across the hall and waltzing in and out of your condo all the time without warning, looking luscious in person just as you have him . . . well, have just written him into the middle of an insert tab A into slot B situation. Creepy, I tell you. Especially since I'm writing those love scenes from memory, considering the nonexistence of my own personal love life these days.
Now for the part I want to clear up for posterity, okay, Fred? You see, Sterling seems to think that Alex and I are meant for each other. You know . . .
way? Hey, I'm here to tell you and anyone who finds this, not that way, not
way! Think about it. Alex is here, no getting around that. But for how long, Fred, huh? He poofed inâhe could poof out again. And where does that leave me?
Okay, so we know where that leaves me. Lusting after my perfect hero, that's where, and knowing I'd have to be a total idiot to start something we might not be able to finish.
Steve Wendellâhe's a cop, Fredânow this is a guy I should be going nuts over, you know? Cute, rumpled, fallible, and incredibly sweet. But every time I look at him, I think about Perfect Alex. The man has ruined me for other men. I always thought that was a dumb saying, and way too melodramatic, but that about says it.
So, Fred, if you've been keeping score here, everything is Alex's fault. Everything. I'm the innocent party here, and none of this imaginary hero come to life stuff was my idea.
I just wanted to make that clear, Fred, okayâfor you, and for posterity.
P.S. You know, I feel a lot better now, Fred. Maybe I should keep writing to you once in a while, huh? You're sure cheaper than my weekly sessions with Dr. Bob. That's a joke, too, Fred. Sort of.