During the height of the Cold War, Michael Vaughan is a rogue without a guild. He survives by working for the CIA as NOC (Non-Official Cover). Shortly after the funeral of President Joe Kennedy, Jr., he is sent to Cuba to assassinate Castro. There he finds himself in a cat-and-mouse game with adepts working for Fidel.
I'm a Dude; I Don't do "Romance"
By S. Evan Townsend
On days I'm feeling more snarky than usual, I'll tell people that I love to write action sequences and the rest of the novel is just filler to get to the next action sequence. While it's true I do love to write a good action scene, the book needs to be more than just shoot-outs, car chases, and (since it's an urban fantasy) paranormal creatures fighting each other. Your character or characters need to be living, breathing entities, not just stunt dummies in a fight scene (believe me, I've read fiction where that's pretty much true). And as fully-rounded people, sometimes they fall in love.
When I wrote my new novel, Agent of Artifice, I plotted out my character's "arch." That is, the emotional journey he takes during the story. And I needed something to shock him out of his complacency. I wrote a character that was selfish, self-centered, and cowardly and I put him in situations where he had to be selfless, generous and brave. And I had him fall in love.
I'm a guy, I don't do romance. Or at least I don't think I do it well. Heck, I fell in love this morning at Starbucks. And probably will again tomorrow. But I needed my character, CIA "junior officer" Vaughan, to fall madly in love with a woman who claims to be an actress but he suspects is a KGB agent. I wrote the scene where he tells her he loves her:
We didn't promise each other anything other than mutual access to bodies and skin and tenderness whenever together. After Berlin we happened to meet in Washington. It seemed like a happy coincidence but I always wondered if she were keeping an eye on me for . . . for whomever she worked for.
I felt I was falling in love with her and I didn't even know her name--her real name. And she didn't know my real name, either.
"I'll be gone a while, too," she whispered.
I nodded. We'd seen each other when we could, almost always in Washington. She always had some excuse, a play, a television program, a commercial. She was always the actress and I was the CIA officer. I liked to believe that was true.
I never told her anything. Anyone watching me could know as much as I told her about my comings and goings. I didn't trust her yet I thought I was falling in love with her.
I kissed the tip of her nose, eliciting a soft giggle, and snuggled up closer. I had to get up early in the morning and while sleep was not my primary concern, it needed to be.
During my thoughts she'd nuzzled her face against my neck and melded her body to mine.
Maybe it was the trip I was about to take. But I felt the need to say it.
She hummed a reply.
"I'm in love with you."
I felt her body react and she lifted her head.
"No you aren't, silly."
I smiled at her.
"You're right, I'm not. Good night, lover," I whispered.
"Good night, mi amor."
Which is about as romantic as I get.
Is romance hard to write for me, being a man? I've never read a novel that was focused on romance, i.e., a "romance novel." But there is romance in Agent of Artifice as part of Vaughan character arch. Falling in love with Maria is just one more step on his personal journey to become the better man he is by the end of the book. Luckily for me, I have fallen in love (real love, not the "saw across the Starbucks" kind) a time or two. And, as my wife likes to remind me, I'm a "hopeless romantic." But I don't think I'm ready to write about heaving bosoms and ripped bodices. At least not yet.
S. Evan Townsend is a writer living in central Washington State. After spending four years in the U.S. Army in the Military Intelligence branch, he returned to civilian life and college to earn a B.S. in Forest Resources from the University of Washington. In his spare time he enjoys reading, driving (sometimes on a racetrack), meeting people, and talking with friends. He is in a 12-step program for Starbucks addiction. Evan lives with his wife and two sons, aged 17 and 20, and has a 22-year old son attending the University of Washington in biology. He enjoys science fiction, fantasy, history, politics, cars, and travel.