When you don’t want lemonade.

So today I got a second rejection on my romantic fantasy novel, Out of Time. It’s the first book in a planned trilogy. I had hoped to return to the world of traditional publishing for these books, but I’m starting to think it might not happen.

No, that’s not bitterness.

It’s resignation.

So when I’d written my polite note of thanks to the sweet editor who took the time to write my rejection (complete with a compliment on my writing and style), I started thinking about what to do with the lemons I’d been handed.

And I’ve never been much for making lemonade.

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When life hands you a slightly spotty lemon, create a still life on your bookshelf with it.

Labyrinth II continues…

Sarah woke in the darkness and her very first thought was for Davey. She sat up, an afghan sliding from her shoulders as she did so. Voices in the hall warned her and she lay back quickly. A moment later, the door opened and someone looked in.

“She’s still out.”

“You think she’s okay, though?”

Her husband and her father. She felt guilty about deceiving them, but she couldn’t really help it. She had to get to the Labyrinth. She had to find Toby and force him to return her son. That wouldn’t happen if she couldn’t get out of the house, though.

“She’s fine, son. You were right to call me.” The tone of worry in her father’s voice almost made Sarah flinch, but then the door shut and their voices grew fainter.

She sat up again, looking for her backpack. There it was, on the chair. She slipped out of the bed, found her boots and a light jacket, and tucked everything under her arm, ready to leave.

“You think all the preparations in your world can prepare you for another stint in mine, Sarah?” His voice slid from the mirror in a silvery shard.

She turned slowly, knowing she’d meet those mismatched eyes in the mirror, the ones that saw into her very soul, the only ones that could still see the frightened but determined fourteen-year-old girl she’d once been. The one who’d lost Toby in the first place because she’d been too self-involved and thoughtless to believe her own actions had consequences.

By that token, Davey’s disappearance could be traced directly back to her.

“Jareth.” She took a deep breath. “Tell Toby I’m coming for him. He can’t take my son and get away with it.”

“You once said that about a stuffed bear, if I remember correctly.” He tented his fingers below his chin in the reflection, grinning a lopsided grin at her. “You had second thoughts about that, I think.”

“Well, it won’t happen now.” She turned to the bedroom door.

“You won’t get there that way, Sarah.” He laughed. “But I can help you.”

“Why would you help me?” She gave the mirror a scornful look over her shoulder.

He shrugged. “Maybe because I enjoy the game as much as you.” His grin faded. “Or maybe because your brother has pissed me off and it’s time to teach him a lesson.”

Sarah did a double-take, hearing the sincere irritation in his voice. She turned all the way around and gave him her full attention. “I’m listening.”

What happened next…

Author’s note: I have been encouraged to continue my sequel to Labyrinth. Understanding that what I write on my blog comes directly out of the files in my head—and therefore is completely unedited and unpolished—I’ve decided to undertake the challenge this month and post the story, serial-style, right here on my blog. So, direct from my brain’s writing den, here are a few more paragraphs chronicling the adventures of Sarah and her misguided brother Toby. If you missed the first part of the story, you can find it at the end of this post: Writers write…even when they’re not at a computer.

Sarah feverishly stuffed the backpack with all the things she wished she’d taken into the Labyrinth before. Water, protein bars, tissues. Thirteen hours was a long time, and Toby would make sure the Labyrinth didn’t supply any of her needs. Quietly cursing Toby for getting her into this mess in the beginning, she shouldered the backpack and turned.

Stephen stood in the doorway, his expression concerned. “Sweetheart, there’s someone here to see you.”

She forced herself to take a deep breath. She’d already told her husband she didn’t want to see a doctor, didn’t want a sedative, didn’t want to rest. Would he never give up? Why wouldn’t he leave her alone to do what she had to do? “I won’t take any drugs.”

“It’s not a doctor.” Her husband squeezed her hand and stepped aside.

Another man entered the room after him. Older, graying, a cloud of worry hanging over his face. He summoned a little smile for her—cautious even now. After all the years that had passed between them, he still looked ready to cringe away from a fight with his daughter.

“Dad.” Sarah nodded. “Hi.” She turned back to her packing. “I’m really sorry I don’t have time to catch up right now. I’m a little busy.” She considered telling him she was going after Toby, but knew it was useless. He hadn’t believed her back when Toby disappeared. He wouldn’t believe her now.

“Sarah.” Her father spoke so gently, she closed her eyes. Why did she still want his approval? Why did it matter anymore?

In spite of herself, she turned. “Dad.”

“Stephen says you think Toby took Davey.”

“I do.” She nodded. “Actually, I don’t just think he took him. I know he did.”

“Honey.” Her father stepped forward and put his hands on her shoulders. “Your brother has been gone a long time. He…he’s probably dead.” His features twisted a little in remembered pain.

Sarah knew her father had accepted Toby’s death long before. Drugs, he thought. A tragedy, losing a son to drugs, but Toby had been withdrawn for a long time before he disappeared.

Only Sarah knew the real reason for that. Only Sarah knew Toby had gone looking for the man who’d kidnapped him as a baby, answering a call he didn’t quite understand until she told him the story of the Goblin King who took him…because she asked him to.

Damn Jareth.

She should say, Toby’s not dead, Dad. And you have to stop blaming yourself. You aren’t to blame. I’m the one who did it. I’m the one who asked the Goblin King to take him and I’m the one who went to get him back. And now he’s looking for revenge. Probably Jareth, too.

Instead, her heart full of remorse and worry and guilt, she gritted her teeth and blamed the only person she could think to blame right then. She shook off her father’s hands. “He’s not dead, Dad. He took Davey, and I’m going to get him back.” She shouldered her backpack and turned to face them. “Spoiled brat always was taking my stuff.”

Stephen caught her hand. “Sweetheart—”

But it wasn’t him who stopped her. Her eyes were caught by a face in the mirror. A face she recognized though she hadn’t seen it in more than two decades. She froze, her heart beating so wildly she couldn’t hear her father or her brother. She couldn’t even hear her own voice though she thought she called out.

Jareth.

And then everything around her went black.

Writers write…even when they’re not at a computer.

“Are you writing anything new?”

Every writer gets this very excellent question, although many of the askers don’t even realize how appropriate it probably is. Because if you’re talking to a writer, chances are, they’re writing something.

I’m writing all the time. So my answer should always be yes, but sometimes I equivocate. “Yes, when I have time.” “Yes, but not as much as I’d like.” “Well, it’s been busy with the kids and all.”

But that’s not true. I’m writing even when I’m answering the question. In some back room of my brain, I’m scribbling away at an old-fashioned desk…using a feathered quill on parchment, probably. Sunlight streams in through a yellow-paned window and the pages I’ve written litter the floor.

Yeah, that’s why I sometimes stare vaguely at a green light until somebody honks at me.

I didn’t consciously realize this about myself until the other day when I read an article about of all things, a possible remake or sequel to the movie “Labyrinth”. I was still listening exclusively to David Bowie, not really mourning his death, but definitely feeling the loss of it. My immediate, visceral reaction was a total rejection of the idea. How could you remake “Labyrinth” without the Goblin King himself?

Then I left to pick up my kids and while I was in the car, I started to write the sequel to “Labyrinth” myself. By the time I was done, I had the whole story. It even stars Jennifer Connelly. And David Bowie (computer animated?) makes a cameo appearance.

I haven’t written any of it down—not even an outline—because, you know, what are the chances that Hollywood is going to call me and ask me to write Labyrinth II? But it’s all up there in my head, scribbled on yellow parchment and lying in a neat stack in a square of sunshine. And I wrote it while in the carpool lane, while picking up groceries, while chatting with friends and doing laundry.

Am I writing anything new? Yes, I just haven’t decided if I want to share it yet.

Author’s note: The following is just for fun and about as fresh off the press as it’s possible to be (read VERY rough draft). If you are a fan of Labyrinth, you might enjoy it. You might not. It’s really just a bit of fan fic about how I’d like the sequel to start out. 

The horrible feeling that something was very wrong built in Sarah’s chest. So when she rounded the corner and saw the flashing lights, she was barely surprised. When she pushed open the car door and rushed toward the house, she was almost calm.

She saw Davey’s tricycle on its side in the middle of the road, but there were no ambulances. Cassidy sat on the front steps, obviously crying, with a police officer in front of her, writing something on a pad of paper.

“Cassidy.” Sarah spoke sharply. “What have you done?”

The fear on the babysitter’s face echoed in Sarah’s heart. “Mrs. Lawrence, I swear, I barely took my eyes off him. One second he was there and the next…” She swept her arm around the empty yard with its emerald grass and ruby roses and no laughing little boy with sapphire eyes running to greet his mother.

“Mrs. Lawrence, we’re conducting a search. We think your son just wandered off…couldn’t go far…” The voices faded into the background and Sarah closed her eyes.

It’s happening again.

She felt hands on her shoulders. “Mrs. Lawrence? Can we call someone for you? Your husband?”

She shook them off, opening her eyes and facing them. “You can call off the search. I know who has my son. And he’ll only give him back to me.”

“You know where he is?”

“God help me, yes.” Sarah glanced at her watch. How long ago had Davey disappeared? Twenty minutes? Thirty? How much of the thirteen hours was left? “My brother has him.”

She knew how it must sound. Her brother Toby—her only sibling—had disappeared ten years ago at the age of sixteen. Everyone knew about that disappearance. Nobody knew about the one that had happened when he was still a baby. And nobody knew the two were connected.

Except me. And now he’s taken my baby. Her lips curved in a little smile. She already knew the rules, she already knew the way. She knew nothing would be fair and certainly not easy. Toby would do everything he could to keep her from making it through the labyrinth. But Toby had made a mistake Jareth would never have made. Jareth had only taken her brother. Toby had taken her son.

Don’t worry, Davey. Mama’s coming.