Book Done Yet: Problem Solving

I’m switching The Office and Book Done Yet around because it makes more sense to follow Craft Wednesdays with talking about the book I’m writing. Also end-of-the-week for office stuff just seems more logical. Or not. Pictures of progress tomorrow; discussion of Nita’s book today.

I’m still not sold on the idea of writing the Nita book, but since it seems to be occupying my mind, I decided to take a hard look at the real problems of writing it. Of course, all of this is more fun than actually finishing a book, so I’m fairly sure I’ll be back to You Again shortly, but still, problem solving . . .

So the problems as I saw them last week:

1. The Devil as hero. I don’t do those swaggering, macho Alpha anti-heroes (see Lucifer the TV show), so just no.
2. The heroine. What kind of idiot would fall in love with the Devil? I personally feel the Devil is responsible for Donald Trump, so no, not attractive.
3. The unequal balance of power between the supernatural king of Hell and my heroine who’s a police detective. Which brings us to
4. I know nothing about police departments.
5. I have neither the time or the interest to research a city to put this in.

Then add to that:

6. Any time you’re dealing with Hell and the Devil, you’re dealing with God and the reward/punishment assumption of an afterlife, which has always struck me as a human construction. (God gives us free will to choose. Then if we choose what he/she doesn’t like, we’re punished in hell for eternity. So much for respect for free will. “You can do anything you like as long as I approve of it.” No.)
7. The thematic implications of this kind of story are cosmic; I tend to write to the personal.
8. This story falls entirely into my TV watching story sphere, which means I’m likely to be derivative even if I’m not trying to be. Lucifer is obviously one, although I’ve gotten so far from the original concept that the only parallels that still remain are the male protagonist is the Devil, the female protagonist is a homicide cop, and there’s a driveby shooting at the beginning. After that, it goes in a different direction completely. (I think. I stopped watching after Episode 3.) But the influences of iZombie and Grimmare clearly in there, too, and that’s a worry.

(I’d also have to research demons and hell and the mythology of the Afterlife, but I love that kind of stuff, so not a drawback.)

So here are my solutions so far.

1. The hero. He’s not the Devil, he’s the Devil which is an office like the President with a term limit of 2000 years. And he’s have a hell of a time because while he’s extremely efficient and has made Hell a much better place to work, he’s not a demon, he’s a dead human, and a large part of Southern Hell is really bigoted about things like that, floating rumors that he’s not really dead.

2. The heroine. She doesn’t fall in love with him, she finds him obvious and obnoxious and overbearing, which he is because he’s been running Hell for five hundred years. It’s not until he’s been taken down several thousand pegs and she really needs his help that she starts to trust him. Also, to counterbalance the ridiculously suave and goodlooking Tom Ellis who would not get out of the way for Matt Ryan (at least, not so far) I found a good avatar for her that gives me a great deadpan starting place for her. Nita Dodd: Not Impressed with Your Flash, Devil-Dog.

3. The imbalance of power. He’s a dead human. She’s has a supernatural power. He’s basically an administrator, she’s an action heroine. The only way they can save the world is if they work together, balancing their strengths. Really, the minute I made him human and dead, the power dynamic balanced on its own.

4. I still know nothing about police departments, so no fix here.

5. I don’t want to research a city, but brainstorming how all of this supernatural stuff came to be gave me the idea of an island city in North America. Maybe in one of the Great Lakes. Using Mackinaw Island and an island city in South Seas (I forget where for the moment) as models to build on. So I ordered books on what a city is and how it’s planned and on Mackinaw in particular to use as a guide, and the whole idea of an island city appeals to me and gave me a logical back story. So that worked.

6. I reject the whole idea of punishment in the Afterlife that’s not of a piece with the idea of a fair and benevolent Creator. But I can deal with idea that the spirit has to go SOMEWHERE, and the idea that the Afterlife is a place that has to be administered which is why getting chosen as The Devil is the same mixed blessing as being elected President. Huge power, itty bitty minds to deal with. So council meetings and speeches and warring factions . . . yes, the election might be influencing things here.

7. The thematic implications come way down once I made an analogy between that and Congress. It’s no longer about the Meaning of Life. Now it’s about the Meaning of Power with a not an insignificant subtext of anti-human/anti-demon bigotry. I can deal with those percolating in the background while I write story.

8. I’m just going to have to be hyper-vigilant not to fall back on the characters and plots of the TV shows I love. I pretty much lifted Nita’s brother from Ravi on iZombie, although I’m sure he’ll become his own person soon, and the whole human/Wesen thing from Grimm is a big influence in the way I’m working out the story. But then the whole human/Wesen thing comes from a basic intolerance theme, which fits nicely into the election story happening now in which one side is flagrantly racist and doesn’t see anything wrong with that and the other side is having a hard time completely wrapping its mind around diversity, too.

All of which means, the book is possible. Maybe. I’ll have to find some kind of quick and dirty source for police department basics, but otherwise, problems solved.

Here: Have a mini-collage:

Working Collage

51 thoughts on “Book Done Yet: Problem Solving

    1. *laughs*

      Maybe what Jenny needs is a co-author who wants to research the stuff she doesn’t.

      This is actually reminding me a bit of (pardon me for mentioning him) Piers Anthony’s For Love Of Evil.
      Basically, dead guy has to hold the office, is just kinda doing his job.

      1. I was thinking For Love of Evil, too. Piers Anthony was a misogynist, but the Incarnations of Immortality had some interesting ideas.

        1. Another book that has the concept of the Devil as a bureaucrat is Job: AComedy of Justice by Robert Heinlein. In this one, he’s definitely Lucifer, the fallen angel, but he’s so sick of God’s nit picky rules that he ends up running hell as just a place people live, without real punishment. Another author with problematic gender issues, of course…

  1. Hell could be a big multi-faceted faceless corporation (or has evolved into one), and if your soul winds up there you get stuck doing things like filing tax returns by social security number for all eternity (that’s the worst level of hell). Higher levels of hell inhabitants would be hired out as people who answer customer service phone numbers. The Demons who run the place and have figured out how to monetize it.

    1. Well, it’s not faceless; Nick is the Devil.
      I think a section of it could be corporate, but that wouldn’t fit everybody. The investment bankers who tanked the economy and ruined so many people’s lives, they should file for eternity, but I think it makes more sense for Hell to have states or counties or whatever. Lotta different people from a lotta different cultures heading down there.

  2. Amanita is definitely a police detective, and not a sister of a medical examiner going about her own life, but getting pulled in by him for help with solving this particular case because of her supernatural power?

    If she’s not police primarily, but getting pulled in to help the police as an outsider, you might not need to have as many of the particulars of inner police investigations/procedures to research.

    1. Yes, but then the emphasis is on her supernatural power which is very slight and not on her career. She becomes an amateur instead of a professional. I don’t want Jessica Fletcher (apologies to Angela Lansbury); I want her to be a pro.

  3. I realize you’re borrowing Mackinac Island, and not setting your book there, but I live nearby, so if you need anything, feel free to ask, and I’ll see what I can find out for you. Although the ferries aren’t running right this minute, I don’t think, so I couldn’t actually go there or anything till ice out. Also, while researching, be aware that Mackinaw City is on the mainland in the Lower, not actually on the island.

    1. I was there a million years ago on a family vacation which is the reason I picked it as a starting point. I plan on using the map and changing almost everything. The island is now the entire city, so Mackinaw doesn’t factor in.
      Having said all of that, I will most certainly get in touch if there’s something I need explained. I’ve ordered several picture books to get the idea of the place, but really it’s just a starting point to build my own island.

      1. Because you need those reference works for the book you’re not writing 🙂

        (Not laughing. Not laughing. Not…oh, nevermind.)

  4. 3. Spike/Dawn is still a somewhat popular ship, (akin to Lost Girl’s Dyson/Kenzi) so you could take cues from that relationship as to how to handle the supernatural power difference.
    Rather than giving Nita a supernatural power, I’d say going the Joss Carter route. Have her be the best of what humanity can be, and the refusal to believe that humanity can’t be better is what empowers her, and thus indirectly empowers humanity. God favors humanity over the angels, (and therefore also fallen angels) and there must be something non-supernatural to that favor. Humanity has authority over Earth, maybe we just don’t know it yet? And as Nita grows, she begins to tap into that authority.
    And then this could literally push back the apocalypse because it means we have not yet reached the time when Earth is given over to the Devil.

    Yeah, I got nothing for 4 or 5. Except that going to an isolated location, a small city, might reinforce a “Devil goes on vacation” narrative. He’s actually tired of tempting and hedonism and rebellion! (going with a cosmic family metaphor rather than a politics one) And then department policies can be laxer and quirkier, using the Brooklyn 99/Parks and Rec means of hand-waving department shenanigans.

    1. It’s integral to the story at this point that Nita has supernatural aspects to her.
      And Nick’s come to the island to investigate demon criminal activity (and because the last emissary he sent disappeared and because he needs a break from governing demons) so their investigations overlap and they eventually realize they’re looking for the same Big Bad . . .

      For once my overall plot plan is solid. But the Devil is in the details . . .

        1. Doesn’t have anything to do with the story.

          Somebody’s going to come up with The Devil Went Down to New Jersey next, but that’s not the story, either.

          The story is Nita/Amanita.

      1. Is Nita aware of her powers? I like the thought of stories where there’s not so much time and exposition spent on teaching the newbie protagonist about the supernatural. It also helps with the power differential if Nita is legitimately unimpressed with the Devil, and not just his personality, because of her experience.
        On the down-side, there’s a risk of “as you know” exposition for the reader’s benefit. But that’s where books have the advantage over visual media for including interesting explanations outside of narrative flow, so long as they maintain prosaic flow.

  5. Meh. All a’ y’all know where I stand.

    Re: Solution 6 about Afterlife and Punishment – I grok to the idea of re-incarnation pretty hard. After all, only one lifetime followed by eternity of punishment seems so wasteful.

    Re-incarnation goes with karma and that there is a Cosmic Balance within the Chaos. The Ideal state exists and we can aspire to it by acting ideally. When we do, our fruit of action (rewards) are positive. Should we act negatively, then that’s what we get.

    1. I’ve always liked that one, too. That would solve the over-population problem in Hell, too.

  6. Doggie! Cute doggie.

    (Waves from an island). Okay, not, you know, *technically* an island except after a Big Rain, but close enough. My career (har!) kept me around policing, and from what I observed they’re pretty much based on military hierarchy and the good ones offered lots of training. The bad ones do what they want. Plays into your all-about-the-power construct.

  7. Any member of the public can apply to do a ride-along with the local police department. You basically just spend a day driving around with law enforcement picking their brain. Local law enforcement may also have a Citizens Academy where you learn more in-depth over the course of a couple of months. I did both a few years ago and it was fascinating.

    1. Oh, that’s interesting. I live in a very small town, but I might try a larger one down the road.

      1. The few police departments I have gone in to ask for research help were filled with people delighted to help. Those were some of the best conversations I’ve ever had.

        1. I’m really shy (seriously, in person, I’m really shy) so that’ll be a challenge, but if I actually finish a first draft of this, I might have to do that, just to see how many mistakes I made and fix them.

          1. I did that with Unlock the Truth and the La Quinta police officer begged me to make my fictional town LQ. I told him nope, because I didn’t want to bring bad karma to my city. Ha ha. Anyway, I was nervous but ended up having the best time, and the cop kept come up with story ideas. I think he wanted to write it.

          2. I don’t know if you can use this but years ago I was going to write a murder mystery and spent an afternoon with the Mercer County NJ Proscecutor’s Chief of Detectives. Above the door was a large sign that read “All sudden deaths will be treated as homicides until otherwise proven to be other.” I really liked that.

          3. I believe you about your shyness, and I understand completely. I am not shy, but I did worry a little (only the first time I made a research visit inquiry) that they might be suspicious of my motive for the interview and think it a ruse or something equally bad. I can sometimes be a worry wart and almost always needlessly.

    2. I did ride-around in college in J school; I had the legal beat, and it was really fun. I did the 11 PM – 7 AM shift, and the officer was so great. They wouldn’t let me go to the most dangerous side of town, but we talked drug deals, prostitutes (a big problem in Champaign at the time) and a whole lot more. They guy had gold eyes. Almost yellow, like a cat, black brush-cut hair and a full, dark mustache. Sort of a stocky Germanic build. He was great.
      I then reported on police and fire for both papers I worked for. My sister is a former assistant State’s attorney, and I have a friend who works as a dispatcher. I also know two recently retired cops, one from the suburbs of Chicago and one a recently retired sheriff’s deputy in the N. Illinois region. (Oh, I also know a retired state trooper; she was shot once). Anyway, very Illinois-law centric, but depending on exactly _where_ the island is, it might not matter.

  8. What I love about your books is that I can always see a good future for your characters once it ends.

    What I can’t see in the above is once the Big Bad has been dealt with, what is Nick and Nita’s future? Does Nick keep his job as the Devil?

    How does their HEA work?

    (and maybe this is one of the things that you know but are not telling 🙂 )

  9. This is awesome! I really want to read this book that is not a book. 😉
    I really hope you do some ride-alongs (*Ahem* Castle) and then blog about your adventures!

  10. So he’s from five hundred years ago? Hmm, 1516? What country? That’s a potentially interesting cultural background to play with, in terms of his background assumptions, however much he’s been keeping up in the intervening time he’d have grown up then. Hmm. Is he a famous dead human called Nick who died in 1527?

    Do other countries/cultures have their own afterlives, or do people from Chinese and Africa all end up in European Hell with the Christian demons?

    1. He’s Pope Alexander VI’s bastard son, Nicolas Borgia (made him up, although Alexander/Rodrigo Borgia undoubtedly has more bastards). He administered all of Alexander’s secret estates, worked behind the scenes, murdered by Alexander’s enemies at 33 (somewhere around 1494). Alexander made a deal with the current Devil (Satan) to take him on as his administrative assistant, where he was so good that Satan tapped him to be the next Devil, which annoyed the hell out of some of the demons who didn’t want one of Them (humans) in charge. They’ve been plotting against him ever since. He’s been outwitting them and putting Hell to rights for five hundred plus human years but Mammon and Moloch are definitely up to something heinous on Earth now, so he’s sent two emissaries to earth to find out what. They both disappeared. So the Devil goes down to New Jersey . . .

      My take on the afterlife is that there’s one God, called by many names in many cultures, and She’s not much interested in Hell as long as it’s running smoothly, so she loves Nick, the administrative guy. She spend the rest of her time watching humanity and wondering what she did making it, but it’s like watching Game of Thrones or Clockwork Orange on a million TVs; she gets her popcorn and shakes her head and keeps watching. If things get really bad, she gets drunk.

      Hell, then, is the place everybody ends up, regardless of action or character, but there are hundreds of counties/states/circles/levels, and the neighborhood you move into makes a difference. So the people of every religion get their beliefs reinforced to a certain extent, but it’s basically like the old New York City with its ethnic neighborhoods, each presided over by that culture’s demons. Wall Street belongs to Mammon.

      I’m still working this out. I think I have to use “Hell” just because it’s a general signifier, but I might do something where it’s really Hel, since that had both punishment and paradise in it.

      1. Your vision of Hell, and God(less) is fabulous. Does she have long, kinky, gray hair?

  11. It’s pretty fascinating, watching how you approach this. It never occured to me to ask, well, any of your eight questions. Not during the whole 3 and 1/2 years I worked on Book 1.

    A question you didn’t ask, one I really struggled with in Book 1 and am now once again wrestling in Book 2, is: how does a demon convince a human who was raised in today’s culture that he is, in fact, a demon? In The Demon Deals the Cards, I solved it by making Dara the granddaughter of famous demon-fighting missionaries. She had been raised to believe in Satan and Hell, but to also recognize that most people today don’t hold that literal belief.

    Now it’s time for Asmodeus to unmask in Book 2. I keep writing right up to that scene, then jumping ship and going back to the beginning to revise. I keep thinking if I set it up better, it won’t seem so bizarre. I’ve been stuck at 70,000 words for weeks and it’s making me crazy.

    The world in the books is just as ours is today, with one tiny exception: demons are real and they come Aboveworld on missions to screw up people’s lives.

    All thoughts and opinions welcome!

    1. Without getting into spoilers (for a book I’m not going to write anyway), things happen that make it clear that either he’s the Devil or she’s losing her mind.

      As for back story, SPOILERS don’t read after this if you don’t want to know the mystery that ‘s going to happen in a book you’re never going to read anyway because I’m never going to finish it:

      The island was created by Mammon three hundred years ago as a secret back door out of Hell for demons on vacation, something that’s forbidden without visas, prophylactics, etc. so Mammon could curry political favor, build up enough resistance to depose Nick. The island is beautiful so it also became a tourist destination for humans. So six months out of the year, it’s thronged with humans and demons, and the other six months it’s pretty much the locals, many of whom have demon blood without realizing it, most in really small amounts. Nick doesn’t know about any of this, he just knows there’s something demon-hinky with the island. So when he gets there, it’s the off season and somebody’s killing Elyse Island citizens in random ways, which is what Nita and the rest of the police department is trying to figure out and stop. So they each have a mystery to solve, and neither of them has any respect for the other, until the midpoint when it becomes clear that they’re chasing the same Big Bad and the only way to defeat him before the spring crowd, human and demon, starts pouring in is to join together. It’s a basic buddy cop crime plot, which fortunately is a good framework for a romance.

      No, The Devil Went Down to New Jersey is not a good title. The protagonist is Nita.

      1. These books are magical realism because, apparently, I have to pick the hardest possible way to write a story, but you’ve given me an idea.

        “…things happen that make it clear that either he’s the Devil or she’s losing her mind.”

        I’ve seeded some incidents throughout the book to warn her that he’s not just an ordinary guy. When he comes out of his demon closet, she’ll remember those and it will help break down her resistance.


        BTW–it seemed to me, back in class, that you were pretty fascinated with the idea of writing a demon book. Maybe this is that book.

  12. Sounds like you’re having fun. You have also given me an earworm: “Armenia City in the Sky,” from a 1967 Who album.

    I have a problem I’m hoping you can solve: suddenly I can’t post here or on ReFab using my usual email–maybe because the last time I (successfully) posted it had the link to Amazon? I’m using another gmail address for now but hoping I can be rescued from the spam folder.

  13. Couple of questions.

    Does the Devil trade in souls? Are demons corrupters and evil?

    Because what you’re describing in some sense feels like the sanitized version of the Christian hell or something more like the Greek Underworld. God is passive and the Devil is just an administrator – or just following orders.

    If it’s closer to the Greek concept of an underworld with justices sitting in judgement, that makes sense to me but not a place of eternal torment. Not a place where they buy and steal souls.

    But then why is he worried about Mammon & Moloch out on their own? If they’re just bureaucrats, what’s the real worry?

    I’ll throw out in passing that double entry bookkeeping was invented during Alexander’s papcy. It would make sense to me if Alexander sold his bastard son/bookkeeper to the Devil as an administrator in return for either his own soul or his artists (Raphael, Michelangelo) or success against his enemies. His enemies already believed Alexander had sold his soul to the devil.

    Double entry bookkeeping makes modern finance possible. It created the accounting that made investing possible. Think of it as the disruptive technology of its time.

    1. It’s really just the Afterlife. There’s a burning lake but nobody’s in it. I wanted a multi-denominational, multi-culture afterlife that didn’t prioritize or demonize any religion. Every group of people has its own way of dealing with the uncertainty of What Comes Next, and I don’t think any one of them is truer or more relevant than any other one. It’s just a way of processing the unknowable.

      But if all of those souls are going to end up in one place, you need organization or the abuses will be astronomical. And that’s why Nick is so necessary when he comes along, why the reforms and accounting practices and rules he puts into place make Hell a better place. The chaos recedes, and for people who feed on chaos, that’s a bad thing. Chaos obfuscates; peace brings clarity. And clarity is the last thing a lot of politicians/demons want. So Nick has to go. Cue the rebellion.

      Whoops, missed your first question.
      No, the Devil doesn’t deal in souls because he gets all of them. He’s not Evil, he’s just the guy organizing What Comes Next. The demons work there, live there, they’re human analogs, a different race that’s immortal but sterile, and they keep the trains running, so to speak. Two worlds, two kinds of beings, demons and humans, who see each other as evil (demons) and idiots (humans). Which leads humans to kill demons and demons to swindle and deceive and sometimes kill humans. Evil on both sides, but good, too.

  14. Show of hands. How many people want to read this book?

    Could you use working on this, your fun, no pressure, just-winging-it story as a reward for progress on You Again?

        1. Sounds like “yes,” but still, hand way up. Sorry, sweetie, I’m gonna have to have this one! It’s just too damn much fun. And for so many reasons this is the worst winter in forever, so I need some damn good fun. ASAP.

  15. Your Problem 6 immediately made me think: He wants you to WANT to do the dishes. Heh. And, along with some of the other poster, the Devil as Job made me also immediately think of Anthony’s Immortals series.


Comments are closed.