Mare 4: Characters, Sharing Of

I worked on Agnes all day today and I’m about to go back to her, but we’re doing something with Mare that’s really different from anything I’ve done before: Eileen wants character charts, lists of things so that we know each other’s characters better. I don’t do character charts when I write alone because I discover that stuff as I write, and I don’t do them with Bob because he doesn’t care (“That’s back story,” he says, “Do not create any more back story, we’ve got too much back story already”), but Eileen and Krissie are female and they want character. Go figure.

So here are some of things Eileen asked for:
Favorite Food
Favorite Music
favorite attire choices
what their room looks like (something as a place setter, even, if you
don’t know yet)
idiosyncracies(besides the obvious)(bite nails? pick nose?)
methods of transport

And then I added:
Sun Sign?
Rising Sign?
Tarot signifier card?
Political party?
Magazine subscriptions?
Favorite Book?
Favorite TV Show?
Favorite Movie Genre?
Expression? (Jeez.)
Movie star crush? As in, I”ll go see anything with . . .
Pet? Familiar?
Creative outlet (Dee’s is painting . . .)
“In a previous life, I was . . . ”
Favorite Muppet?
Favorite Buffy character?
Favorite ice cream? Dessert?
Favorite food? Favorite meal?
The thing she’d never do?
The thing she’s always wanted to do?
Childhood toy that’s still in her room?

I don’t know how much help it’s going to be, but it’ll definitely spark discussions over dinner in New York.

And now, back to Agnes . . .

Mare 3: Nope

I know, I know, I forgot to blog yesterday. Listen, I’ve been busy. Did you get the newsletter? Mollie did most of the work but toward the end it was taking hours to get right. Plus there’s the Crusie-Mayer site she’s killing herself to get up, and I had to get her the content for that. Plus I’m writing this book with this guy who can’t write his next scene until I get mine to him, and I’m having trouble with it. And I don’t have to face Krissie and Eileen until next Wednesday, but I get an email every damn morning that says, “Book done yet?” And you know, it isn’t.

I know, I know, excuses. Which is why this is short. I gotta go write some Agnes now.

OTOH, I’m getting Mare’s plot together so that’s something. Here are the plot questions I asked Eileen and Krissie, trying to get started (yes, I am cannibalizing e-mails after telling somebody online that I couldn’t possibly do that; turns out, I can).

“1. We’re not all starting at the same point, right?
Eileen does the first scene from DeeDee’s POV? And then Krissie and Lizzie go into the workroom and Mare and I go to work? So Mare’s first scene is leaving the house?

“2. The very end is the combined climax on the mountain. But where should I have Mare end up at the end of her novella? Do they all meet back at the house for dinner? Is it kind of a resolution scene that turns into an Uh Oh It’s Not Over Scene?

“3. Because I am terrible at plotting, I break stories down into four parts or acts and separate them with turning points. So it’s Act One, big surprise/turning point: Act Two bigger surprise/point of no return; Act Three, humongous surprise, trip to hell; Act Four. So what I need to know is when do the sisters find out that X is after them? I’m assuming DeeDee finds out and tells the others. At what point in the story do you think they find out? I can work with just about anything, but I need to know in general so I can pace the rest of the story around it.”

(Needless to say, I put X in place of the actual character name in the real e-mail to keep from spoiling the story.)

And this is what I came up with for the first scene (also from an e-mail; okay, I’m shameless):

“I’m figuring Mare thinks she’s at a place where she has to choose her life. She’s 21, right? That’s when you make big sweeping life decisions and think they’re forever.

So I figure in the first scene, she’s at the video store, talking to the girl she works with and the beats are

What kind of career do I want? (Who am I?)
Which guy do I want (Because Jude and Crash both show up).
And then Who the hell am I (because career and guy choice will reflect that).

And that’s the character question that’ll drive her through the novella, that need to find out who she is and make some decisions and get her life on track. It’s not an external plot goal, I still have to figure that one out, but it’s good enough to get me through the scene’s first draft, I think.

So maybe the reason she walks out of breakfast is that she doesn’t know who she is, but she knows she’s not what Dee thinks she is. And that’s part of the conflict when they meet again halfway through? And then at the end, she knows who she is, which is one of the reasons she can defeat X, she can reject the apple X is holding out, even though it’s an identity she’s considered.”

See, I have been working. I’m just not producing anything.

Oh and those colored things behind the angel in that picture aren’t notebooks, they’re files that close with elastic so I can stick notes and pictures and collage pieces and anything else to do with the book in them. I used to do notebooks but they were too confining, so now I use anything at hand and stick it in the file box. And then when I’m ready, I spread everything out on a table and organize it, which you can’t do with a notebook. Much better.

And now, back to Agnes. Who is baking cupcakes in the middle of the night. I’ve done that.

Addendum: Double Dog Dare Accepted

It must have been the double-dog-dare: Susan zapped me a picture of her office. I’d just like to point out that I didn’t have fast food styrofoam anywhere in my office. Mostly because the fast food places I frequent are too cheap to use styrofoam. What’s wrong with a plan old paper bag, Miss I’m-Too-High-Falutin’-For-A-Cardboard-Box? And she’s kept her poinsettia alive past Christmas, which clearly means she’s made a deal with the devil.

Susan writes:

“Okay, Missy, here’s my office as of this very minute. Thank God you didn’t challenge me to take a picture of myself because the office looks a heck of a lot better than I do. I am cringing, however, at the fast food container on my desk, but I just had my very nutritious lunch of leftover salad with no dressing. (As long as I’m making you mad…) In total fairness, I cleaned up my desk 2 days ago, but even at it’s worst it never looked like— Never mind. My headache is coming back.”

“Here’s the thing. Your godawful mess of an office looks like the inside of my head ALL THE TIME, which is why I have to keep my workspace reasonably organzied. Otherwise, it would all just be too painful. That mess you work in is a credit to your amazing brainpower.”

See, THIS is why she’s my pal, even when wearing an electric bubble shirt and lying to Rod Stewart about me. Of course, then she ruins it by adding:

“By the way, I love your new cover for DON’T LOOK DOWN. Still angry that you only gave me that first amazing chapter to read. So unfair to keep me dangling like this, but then that cruel streak of yours does have its way of sticking its head up, now doesn’t it?”

So of course I’m sending her an ARC. How can I not?

I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips, bless her classy little heart.

Mare 2: Kind Of

Well, it’s been one of those days, what with Susan answering my double-dog-dare, and the new tile going in my bathroom (and it’s GORGEOUS, too) and about twenty million e-mails coming in, including one with the first review of Don’t Look Down: “This is the first collaboration between best-selling and award-winning romance writer Crusie and adventure-thriller writer Mayer, and it is a rare and original delight. Mayer’s delectably dry sense of humor perfectly complements Crusie’s signature brand of sharp wit, and together the two have cooked up a sexy, sassy, and smart combination of romance and suspense that is simply irresistible.”

God, I’m so happy, I’m doing the Snoopy Dance all over the house.

But I didn’t get to Mare this morning. Or this afternoon. When it got to be 8PM and I was still handling business stuff and e-mails, I realized I wasn’t going to get to Mare or Baby (the scene from Agnes) today. I also realized I have to get a grip on my life. I truly typed from 9:30 this morning until 8 this evening without writing one word of fiction. I did four blog entries, though. And I proofread the newsletter and did a bunch of editor and agent e-mails and an agent phone call (except we talk about everything so that’s not exactly all business) and a partner phone call (except she’s my kid, too, so it’s not exactly all business), and then e-mails with Krissie and Eileen about the anthology and the trip next week and promotion, and then there were the lists I have to keep up with, and the call from the vet because Lucy has a double heart murmur even though everything else about her is fine and I swear to God she knows it because before she went to the vet she used to jump up on the bed just fine and now she sits on the floor and looks up at me with those big eyes and does everything but clutch her heart until I pick her up . . .

Clearly there’s a lack of focus here. As if you didn’t already know that from my desk.

But I did think a lot about fiction today, including writing long e-mails to Bob about what Agnes would be doing baking six kinds of cupcakes while Shane grilled her until Bob wrote back, “TMI,” plus yesterday, I was out because of the vet et al and stopped by Home Goods and looked at their Christmas markdowns and there was this angel that marked down from $38 to $5 (“as is”), and I am not an angel kind of person but the face on this one was so amazing, plus she was holding her halo in her hands as if she’d just decided to take it off, plus there was something about an “as is angel” that really appealed to me, plus she was five bucks, for cripes sake, so I bought her and she’s sitting on my desk and I keep looking at her fascinated. I know she’s going to fuel a book. Maybe Charlotte. Maybe the one I’m going to do a couple of years from now, my verson of The Turn of the Screw. I don’t know. But since I have nothing to show for my day, I thought I’d show you the As Is Angel instead:

Isn’t she something?

Tomorrow, tomorrow I must write fiction. Argh.

Mare 1

So I’m all geared up and ready to go (desk is almost cleaned off, floor not so much) and I realized that since these novellas are interlocking, I have to figure out how Mare’s story fits with DeeDee’s and Lizzie’s.

Here’s the plan:

Eileen’s story opens the book and it’s the three sisters at breakfast. Then Something Happens, and the sisters scatter–in Mare’s case, she goes to work at the video store–and the stories play out simultaneously. So you get DeeDee’s story from Eileen and then you start the next novella and it’s Lizzie’s story but it doesn’t pick up at the end of DeeDee’s, you go back to the beginning and read what happened to Lizzie while DeeDee was going through hell. Then you get to my novella and go back to the beginning to find out what Mare was doing while DeeDee and Lizzie were fighting the good fight. So we all need to have our ducks in a row from the beginning, which means I have to double check to make sure that the plan is still to start Lizzie and Mare’s stories starting right after DeeDee’s first scene. There’s a reason we’re spending three days in New York to figure out how this works, and it’s not just because Eileen wants to see Gabriel Byrne in A Touch of the Poet although I am not going with her because, sue me, O’Neill leaves me cold.

Where was I?

Right. So I have to find out what Mare’s first scene is. Then I have to find out where Eileen and Krissie want the sisters to meet together right before the Big Finish. And then there’s this Huge Revelation that will alter events. I need to know when that happens.

Basically, because I cannot plot, I try to have four big scenes in my head: the turning point scene at the end of the first quarter (first act), the midpoint scene at the end of the second quarter (second act), the dark moment scene at the end of third quarter (third act), and the climax at the end of the fourth quarter (fourth act). So all I need to know is, which of those big scenes is the Huge Revelation? I’m hoping it’s the dark moment turning point, because otherwise, I’m going to have to follow it with a Huger Revelation and then a Hugest Revelation, and that could be tricky.

So for my hour today, I blocked out the romance which is the main plot of the novella (which Eileen pitched as a paranormal erotic romance anthology, so I have to get sex in there, too–and did I mention during Trudy that’s it’s damn hard to get people into bed in 20,000 words so Mare knows Crash from three years earlier when he almost got her killed coming home from prom–and wrote an e-mail to Eileen and Krissie with the three plot questions.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it really did take an hour.

Also, I realize those pictures of my office were appalling, but get over it. This means you, Mollie Oh-My-God-Is-That-My-Mother’s-Desk Smith, and Susan Elizabeth I-Must-Forward-This-Photograph-To-Everyone-I’ve-Ever-Met Phillips. Yes, Mollie, I know this reminds you of the house you grew up in where I often lost you in the debris, but you’ve turned out to be an amazingly strong, intelligent, resourceful woman and I’m sure it’s because you had to dig your way out of the house every morning to go to school so you owe me. And as for you, Phillips, not all of us have HGTV-gorgeous offices the size of an Olympic swimming pool with built in cabinetry and a ceiling so high that there’s a balcony off Bill/Charles’s office so he can shout things down to you at will, so let’s be kind to our lesser sisters, shall we? In fact I double-dog-dare you to post a picture of your office RIGHT NOW, no cleaning up. :p


And now Mare . . .

So I’m at The RWA National Conference in Reno last July, and Eileen Dreyer (one of my favorite people and also I’m in love with her husband Rick which is why she calls me “Mormon Wife”) sits down beside me and says, “I have the best idea for a book. The heroine is a shape-shifter but she’s a virgin because every time she gets excited, she changes shape, like into the guy’s mother.” And I said, “How much have you had to drink?” and she said, “Enough,” and we talked of other things. Fast forward a couple of months and she e-mailed me and said, “Here’s the idea: Three novellas, three sisters, all with paranormal powers that they can’t control. I do my shapeshifter, Krissie does one [that’s Anne Stuart], and you do one. What do you say?”

I said, “I’m in.” Well, who wouldn’t be?

And then it turned out Jen Enderlin was in, too, so now sometime in 2007, The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes (working title but hoping it will be permanent) will be published, which means I’m now writing the youngest sister, Mare. (There are three sisters: DeeDee, Eileen’s shapeshifter; Lizzie, Krissie’s girl who changes the shapes of other things; and my girl Moira Mariposa, better known as Mare, who moves things with her mind. Psychokinetic? I know there are terms for all of those powers, but that’s what they do.) So I’m figuring I’ll try to do Twelve Days of Mare and see what I get.

BUT I also have to do Agnes with Bob because I can’t keep him waiting. And I can’t delay Mare because Krissie and Eileen and I are meeting in New York for three days to talk this through, and I need to get a chunk of it done before then so I know what my story is about because I don’t really know what I’m doing until I see what I’ve written.

So here’s the plan: I’m going to dedicate an hour to Mare every morning. Afternoons and evenings are for Agnes, but the mornings belong to Mare. Since my mornings are really short–I usually start work about ten–and I have to answer e-mail in there, too, it should work out to about an hour a day, although it’ll get trickier once I’m on the road. Twelve days starting tomorrow ends the last day we’re in NYC, so that should make things more interesting. January tenth is going to be tricky because I’ll be traveling plus that’s Mollie’s birthday (she’ll be twelve) and we’re going to do the NYC thing, which for us usually means a great lunch and a walk through Central Park where we talk a mile a minute, but . . .

Where was I? Right. The Twelve Days of Mare starts tomorrow. As with Trudy, the posts will be short, just a way of keeping me honest and on task and probably not very interesting, so be forewarned. And if you want to know how Agnes is doing, schlep on over to He Wrote She Wrote, because that’s where we’ll be talking about that. About once a week.

Meanwhile, here’s the start of the Mare collage. It’s only the very beginning, but I’m liking it.

And now, back to Agnes.

So Here’s My Plan . . .

I made a lot of New Year’s resolutions last year and I can’t remember any of them which is good because it cuts down on the stress. But this year, I’m getting SERIOUS about this stuff. So I’m going to make a public record, thereby opening myself to ridicule and pity if I don’t follow through. So here goes:

In 2006, I will finish at least one novel and one novella. No, really.

In 2006, I will lose twenty pounds. I’ll still be overweight, but twenty pounds is doable. And I’ll be healthier.

In 2006, I will get my office cleaned. This is my office:

And this is my desk:

I’m showing these pictures to shame myself into getting this done. Then I can post the pictures of the nice clean offic. A goal. So I’ll do it today. Well, I’ll start it today. I have to write in there (see Resolution One).

In 2006, I will be a kinder, gentler person, even while on the road.

In 2006, I will stop trying to do everything at once. Patience, grasshopper.

Five things. That’s plenty. Especially since I just survived the December from Hell, so while I am sure there’s nothing but good times ahead, I’m not going to shoot too high for 2006. Survival, that’s my overall resolution.

And in January, I will . . .

Start my 2006 Journal. I’ve started at least two dozen journals in my life and I always end up wandering off, but this year, I’m keeping one so I can write down all the stuff I delete from this blog because it would get me in trouble. I didn’t put it in the year resolutions because any more than five resolutions is masochism, but goes here. Just try it for a month, Crusie. Nobody will ever read it, so you can just jot things down. No stress.

Start the Dueling Blog for the Don’t Look Down Tour, which is now called He Wrote She Wrote. We actually started it this morning, so that’s one off the list.

Work on Agnes and the Hitman. Today, I’m going to concentrate on one of the supporting characters, Baby Dupres, and try to write a couple of her POV scenes, rough drafts. She’s only going to get about 10% of the book, if that, so if I can get her down on paper, Bob can write her into his scenes. And so can I. I don’t really know who a character is until I see what I write. So today, in the time not spent cleaning the office, I will find the keyboard to my big computer and write some Baby. To let you know how bad this is, I still don’t know if she’s a Southern belle or a mob wife. At the moment she’s a Southern belle mob wife, but I’m not sure I can pull that off.

Work on Mare, the novella heroine, because I am heading to New York in ten days to meet with the other two authors of the anthology. More about that later because that one deserves a whole post, especially since I’m going to be doing the twelve days of Mare here shortly. Only not two thousand words a day. Especially since I’m writing Agnes. Okay, that grasshopper resolution needs some work.

Lose five pounds. This will involve exercise which is difficult because I can’t write while I’m on the treadclimber. I’ve tried it, it doesn’t work, I almost killed myself when I stopped to stare into space, trying to think of the right word.

And somewhere in there, I should get the proposal for Charlotte done, but I’ll be damned if I see where.

So there, I’m on the record, now I have to follow through. Probably. I’m starting after I make pork and sauerkraut for lunch because it’s good karma for Germans. I have no idea why, but thanks to my mother, I’ve been eating pork and sauerkraut on Jan. 1 for 56 years, and things have worked out pretty well, so I see no reason to stop now.

Here’s hoping your resolutions are good ones (eat more chocolate, get a puppy, say something nice to yourself in the mirror every day), and your 2006 is terrific.

Happy New Year!