Sunday Notes

So I’ve been thinking about pieces and wholes.

Take this house. It has too much stuff in it. I know exactly what I want it to be as a whole–a warm, colorful cottage–but the only way to do that is to fix the pieces, clear out each room, finish painting, clean the place, and bake cupcakes (okay, the last one is just to make me feel whole). It’s just that it’s overwhelming. So today I’m going to try fifteen minutes in each room. I think that’s a Fly Lady thing. Just some progress, that’s all I ask.

Then there’s the book I’m not writing. I e-mailed with Lani and Krissie this week, trying to figure out where the book will start, and Lani rightly said, “Okay, who’s the protagonist, who’s the antagonist, what are the goals . . .” The thing that really surprised me is that she thought Nick was the protagonist because he’s the one with the clearest goal. Nita is the protagonist, but because I gave her a negative goal, she has a blah first scene and no drive. (When I will learn to stop with the depressed heroines with negative goals? Seems like I fight this battle with myself in every book.) So I looked through some of the later scenes in the book to see what Nita’s like when she’s not suffering from poisoned doughnuts and ennui, and realized that she’s very take-charge and driven to protect the people on what she considers her island.

Which made me think about islands. If you’re a control freak cop, an island with only two ways in or out is paradise. And anything new that enters that paradise would be seen as a serpent unti it’s folded into the general concept of “my island.” Nita’s problem is that she sees the island as a whole, a thing she knows and understands completely, and then realizies there’s a lot more to it. She missed that part because she didn’t understand the pieces. Nick understands the pieces, but he keeps finding more pieces. He can handle each piece, but he has a harder time seeing the whole. Nita has a firm grasp on the whole, but she can’t see the pieces. So that’s one thing to move toward: Nick toward seeing the whole and Nita finally seeing the pieces she’s missed. Except that’s backward. Nick is the admin of Hell. He’d be a big picture guy, delegating pieces. Nita would be working with people on a one-to-one basis. Must cogitate on this.

Sort of like writing a book. I don’t write in chronological order, so I see pieces. Then at some point, I have to put them all together to get an idea of the whole. I think trying to get the beginning right is impossible without knowing the whole, but I also think that for myself, I have to get Nita’s opening at least close to right. She’s My Girl, I need her entering stage left with fury and purpose, not bitching and moaning. Nick’s wrong in that first scene with her, too; Lani pointed out that he reminded her of Lucifer from the TV show, which isn’t surprising since that’s where I started, but he’s not like that at all. Looking at them from later in the book is a big help, but mostly I just need to get a grip on who they are in the middle of the book so I can get a better grip on who they are at the beginning.

In other news, my internet is wonky today, so it’s taking forever to post anything. If I disappear for while, that may be why. Grrrr.

And now back to the middle of the book so I can rewrite the beginning. Chronology is for wimps. (Kidding.) (Kind of.) (Really going to make cupcakes now.)

68 thoughts on “Sunday Notes

  1. Mmm, cupcakes…

    I’m writing a WIP in chronological order for the first time ever and it’s terribly difficult. Although it helps a little that for the first time ever I started with a concept and not a climax. Hmm.

    Maybe I need more cupcakes in order to solve this. Although I really ought to be grading papers. Argh… May. ๐Ÿ™

  2. Just out of curiosity, about this book you’re not writing, and the fact that Your Girl is always the protagonist….is there any chance that Her Guy *is* the protagonist in a book you aren’t writing?

    I know that’s not at all your usual, but maybe Nita is Nick’s antagonist and this is mostly his story. In the end, with the community restored, we all get to be super happy to read a new Crusie that’s a bit of a twist from your other books.

    1. Nope.
      One of the many things that writing with Bob taught me is that I’m not good at writing guys. I can fake it with a supporting character but as a protagonist who drives a book? Nope.
      Plus it’s Nita’s book, the story belongs to her. I just started it wrong.

      1. Tony the bullet-headed guy in Bet Me? I know that man.

        I don’t know if I list other faves they will all turn out to inhabit books you’ve written since working with Bob Mayer. But I think you’re good at writing guys.

        I can’t write romantic male leads. Also (this is no excuse for my problem) I can’t find full-blooded male protagonists/matches-for-female-protagonists in the romances I love, except for Pride & Prejudice. You are very familiar with the genre — does romance inhibit the male match from being a well-developed character?

        1. Well, the protagonist always gets the lion’s share of development and in a romance that’s usually (but not always) the heroine.

          But I think there may also be a tendency to idealize the hero until he has a kind of photo-shopped character, the equivalent of the romance heroine who is so beautiful that her only flaw is that her breasts are too big.

          The only hero I’ve written since working with Bob was North Archer, and he was definitely not a Bob-Protagonist kind of guy (meaning the protagonist Bob would have written). I like flawed heroes to go with my flawed heroines, not morally flawed or at least not depraved (Davy Dempsey could use a little additional moral fiber), and I think that doesn’t work for many romance readers. I got a lot of complaints on Phin being callous and abusive, so he definitely didn’t work for everybody.

          Which is the risk you run if you put too much dimension in a romance hero. It’s worth it I think, but it doesn’t always work for the wish fulfillment aspect of romance storytelling.

          1. Davy needing more moral fiber? The guy gives away most of the money and re funds Clea. Tilda already rejected moral fiber. Goodness gracious. While Davy (and, I admit, Shane) are my favorites, your creation of Cal amazes me. He is physically perfect, yet has a complete personality. His previous disinterest in marriage makes sense, as does his decision to go for it.

            Thank you for clarifying what has been nagging me for ages about romantic leading men.

          2. Well, he stole the money he’s being so generous with, so there’s that.
            He also hustles pool and robs Mason’s house. We’re not talking about a straight arrow here.
            And Tilda’s trying desperately to hold onto what moral fiber she has left. Until Davy.

            I think the key to making any character real is making him or her flawed because the true key to character is vulnerability. That’s why I wrote Cal as dyslexic from a family that doesn’t understand what dyslexia is and makes him feel like he’s damaged; his flaw isn’t that he’s dyslexic, it’s that the way he feels about the dyslexia makes him defensive about his intelligence which ironically makes him do dumb things in defense.

  3. What happens if Nita sees the pieces and Nick the whole parts. Which is how I thought this might go since cops are always the ones putting out the fires (the pieces or the details) and Nick as an administrator sees the whole thing but not necessarily all the details.

    1. I think that’s the way it has to go, but for some reason, it’s happening the other way.
      Nick tries to solve this problem, which leads him to a bigger problem, which leads him to a bigger problem, which leads him to the Big Problem Of The Island.
      Nita tries to protect the island as a whole, thinking of it as her community, which leads her to taking a closer look at some of the people who live there, which leads her to take a much closer look at her family, which leads her to taking a much closer look at herself . . .
      It makes more sense the other way, but that’s the way it’s falling out.
      I’m cogitating. What I’m wondering right now is if it doesn’t move that way to the midpoint and then reverse out. But mostly I’m cogitating.

      1. It seems to me that if you live somewhere your whole life and you deal with the details every day in your job, it would be tough to see the big picture. You see a whole, but it’s not the real one. You’ve constructed this wholistic vision from the bits and pieces and you’re convinced you know the place inside and out, but the truth is you’ve misinterpreted some things because of the myopic lens you’re using. And when an outsider comes along and tries to adjust your view, you naturally resist because what can he know, he doesn’t live here and anyway he thinks he’s the Devil.

        Just some thoughts….

        Tell us more about reversing out from the Midpoint, please. I thought the reversal didn’t start until the Crisis.

        1. I agree on the seeing the place you’ve lived your whole life as a single entity. Although for Nita, it’s really two: the off-season when it’s just a small town and May through October when the tourists show up and the population of the island leaps from five thousand to a hundred thousand. Completely different place.

          Reversals can happen anytime. I shouldn’t have said “reversing out” because that was just confusing. What I was thinking was that Nita would see the island as a whole (if that’s the way I go), but then through investigating realize there are many parts she hasn’t dealt with and then take that down to the smallest part and realize the things about herself that she didn’t know, and then at the point of no return reverse that arc (not a plot reversal) and have her look at the parts of the island with the knowledge of who she is now, expanding that until she sees the community as a whole again, this time with all the new stuff she’s learned. it was just a different way of looking at character arc for this book.

        2. Nick is excellent at running Hell. Except he’s got it whipped into shape now, so he’s kind of outlived his usefulness.
          I think it may be more parallel arcs. They both have to learn to see the big whole and the individual pieces.
          But there’s also the skill set thing: They have to have different sets so they need each other.

  4. Regarding the house… I sometimes find it satisfying to tidy up one section or thing in a room. Like one desk, one drawer, one counter, etc. Not to big, just a short project, but one thing finished completely.

    1. Me too. Small goals, easily accomplished. And I usually take it room by room, so at least if I finish one, I can keep walking into it and looking, and say, “SEE.”

      1. Clearly you either choose more wisely than I do, or I have too many other people living in my house wrecking my clean area when I leave the room.

        I should clean the garage. No one goes in there.

  5. Admin types ::raises hand, waves:: new to a thing to administrate have a period of getting their heads around the whole. That involves encountering the pieces and understanding them before figuring out where they fit/delegating them. I am not, however, contrary to what some people might tell you, the admin from Hell. Most days.

  6. I empathise greatly with how you want the house to be and needing to work at it consistently.

    I’m decided to start the minimalist 21 day challenge and am formulating my “must” list in my mind. I must have a place for everything. Not having one made me lose my new SIM card pin which resulted in inconvenience of having to get provider to give it to me. My functioning ability is diminished frequently by the clutter and I’m angry and despondent all in a moody mix.

    Depressed-ish heroine with a negative goal.

    P.S. I’ll be out of this funk by Monday afternoon. I wish the clutter was as easy.

  7. Good luck with the house , I only have my bedroom to sort so my current goal is to read all the library books I have & return and not borrow or buy any books until I am done. Then I’ll actually be able to see carpet. Baby steps.

    Thanks for the middle of the book, it always cheers me to read something you wrote. Despite the sunny day it has been a bit of a dark day for me, a nap, tea and fun loving bouncing off the walls visiting children have banished the blues for now.

  8. I kept running into problems with the last book I wrote (the first Rider book) because there was something wrong with my female protagonist. I couldn’t put my finger on it until my editor pointed out that she was a Mary Sue. (ARGH! 11 books in and I wrote a Mary Sue! Have I learned NOTHING?) She was completely unequipped for a task she’d known she might face her whole life, plus she was acting like a wuss. I had to fix a bunch of minor things and then backtrack to where I’d gone wrong–which was a scene 8K in to a then 34K WIP. And fixing her reaction there had a cascading effect that meant I had to throw out or change almost everything that followed. ARGH again. On the other hand, after that, I was able to fix the book.

    At least you’re figuring out this stuff before writing the first 34K ๐Ÿ™‚ You know, in the book you’re not writing.

    1. You know, I always try to protect my heroine in the first draft. I like her. I don’t want her to be unhappy. Such a nice girl.
      Then comes the second draft . . .

  9. Just saying: cleaning aids my cogitating. My finest thinking is done when my head’s in a cupboard, discard bags and cleaning materials by my side. At the moment, I’m looking up at the ceiling light fixtures thinking that that dust has to be at least a decade’s dark accumulation.

  10. Just a quick question. If Nita’s goal is to find the murderer, why is that considered negative? It propels her into action and drives the story forward.

    And thanks for sharing the some of the middle. The image of Nita in a ninja nun outfit needs a spit-take warning. Awesome.

    1. In her first scene, her goal is to not-be-there. She whines, so there’s no reason to root for her or worry about her.
      You’re welcome!

      1. Deborah, there’s a link in the last paragraph of Jenny’s post today. Happy reading!

        1. Hey, I’m running out of WiPs. That are readable anyway.
          I figure subtle is the way to go; the Argh People know where to look.
          Deb was just distracted by her knee.

  11. Sequined ninja nun for me was *meh*, need to visualize the makeup, but the DIALOG zings. Also interaction descriptions. Whole sequence on fire.

  12. Ninja nun totally worked for me! Did we know about her sister the mortician before today’s excerpt?

    Decluttering. I live in a 1250 sf house with my husband. Too many cds, a whole lot of books, we love pottery, and we have more art than wall space. We won’t even talk about my yarn, my clothes, or my shoe collection. BUT… when we cleaned for our recent dinner party, I told myself that I was going to keep the living room and dining room tidy. No stacks of magazines on the coffee table (it is actually currently “styled,” like a decorating blog :-)) and no dropping stuff on the dining room table when I bring in the mail, or when DH brings in the groceries. It’s been two weeks, and just having those small oases truly makes me happy, and calmer, even though it means *actively* making decisions every time I bring groceries, mail, shopping, etc into the house.

    1. You would have known about her sister if I’d given you all of Act One instead of just the first half of it.

      That’s my plan, too. Once I have a place for everything, it’s going in that place. No more stuff sitting around.

  13. You know, one thing I just love about the Book That Isn’t is that Nick being the Devil is not a secret. Some of the people he encounters might not believe it, but he’s telling everyone under the sun what he is. It makes a nice change.

    1. That’s one thing Lani doesn’t like about it. “Why would he tell everybody he’s the Devil?” Because he just got shot seventeen times and there’s no other explanation?

      1. Plus it saves energy, he knows some people won’t believe him, but they go ha ha and stop asking questions.

        1. It’s like in Grosse Point Blank where he tells anyone from his old school that he’s a hitman, and of course, no one believes him. If Bruce Wayne had just thought to tell everyone he was Batman, he’d never have had so much trouble keeping his identity secret. I keep telling everyone at home that I’m a superhero; they’re not buying in, in spite of all the evidence.

          1. Why would he hide it? They can’t do anything to him. They are more likely to tell him things if they know not less.

          2. Because nobody will believe it, so he’d look like a whack job.

            He really has no good options. Before the shooting, he just kept his mouth shut. Nobody goes around saying, “Hi, I’m human,” so he had no need to identify species. Once seventeen bullets go through him, his options shrink down to one: “Hi. I’m the Devil.”

      2. First, thanks very much for answering my questions.
        Second, I don’t know where these comments should fit, and you’ve probably responded to the same remarks already. Sorry, ahead of time.
        1. The reason demons like visiting Demon Island: the titillation of experiencing human feelings, right? The fascination of playing with the natives in their habitat?
        2. What I don’t understand about Nick: why does a 15th c. guy sound and act like a 21st century one?
        3. What I don’t understand about God/Hell: If being the Devil is an administrative position, why do Mammon, Molloch, or other demons want it? I’m confused between the idea of the Devil being a non-evil administrator and the most evil of all. (Of course, the admin idea fits the Satan of the Book of Job, who was originally the Adversary who did the onsite scouting of human behavior for God.)

        1. 1. Not all demons like visiting earth, much in the same way not all people like visiting Australia. Some are happy blooming where they’re planted. The demons who like it here are looking for something they can’t get in hell, the same way that people who like Australia like it because it has a sense of place and purpose you can’t get anywhere else. (I love Australia.)
          2. He was born in the 15th century. He’s been an admin in the Afterworld for five hundred years, listening to every form of expression on earth and watch it change in fast forward. I was born in Appalachian Ohio and I started out with an accent; sixty-some years later, my accent is gone for the most part. (There is a scene where Nita says, “How come you don’t say ‘Forsooth’?” and Nick says, “I never said, ‘Forsooth,” and she says, “Why not?” and he says, “Because I was Italian.”)
          3. Mammon, et. al. want to be the Devil for the same reason that Hillary, Bernie, and Donald are out there tripping over themselves: Power. Status. Power. Fame. Power. You couldn’t pay me to be President (or Devil), but those that want it, want it for many, many reasons that have nothing to do with common sense, so you just pray whoever has the arrogance, ruthlessness, and pigheadedness to get the office is good at the job. There’s nothing inherently evil about being President, but evil has been done in that office. Same goes for Devil.

          1. Hmm. Gotcha. Thanks very much.
            Your process of posting bits of writing and thoughts is so cool.

  14. Ok, I haven’t read the WiP yet, so I have nothing to say there, but just wanted to chime in with the big picture v. parts thing and say that I don’t find it so odd that a “parts” person would fail to see the parts in “their” thing. I guess maybe the best analogy I have is when you think about the friend you grew up with, or maybe a sibling. They are a single entity to you, you think you know them fully, of course you know them fully because they are your sibling/best friend from forever, only to one day take a second look (maybe because a mutual third party says something) and realize there was a part of this person you never even knew. Though you analyze everything else, because this person has been with you forever, you didn’t analyze their parts as you do others. Or how you live in a town practically your whole life and of course you know it and all its parts, it’s not that big, and you’ve been here forever, and then your daughter-in-law comes along and finds some new restaurant/park/children’s museum and you’re wondering how you missed that whole part of town.

    I also don’t find the big picture guy discovering the parts odd, either. Actually, it might be even more understandable, because when a big picture sort of person encounters something totally new, wouldn’t they be compelled to discover all the parts so they can have everything they need to assemble the picture?

    So Nick coming along and making Nita take a second look at something she’s known forever makes sense to me

  15. Not knowing everything in a small town is true. I grew up in a town of 1200 and thought I knew everyone in town. In actuality I knew maybe several hundred people I could recognize on sight and twice that many I could identify by association although I did not know them by sight (my next door neighbor’s best friend’s grandmother, say). But even then there were several hundred people that I could not put a name or association to and I had aunts, uncles, cousins and all the in-laws of those relatives in that town. If I had been the grocer or the post office worker, I might have known more. But there were several taverns, two cafes, two small grocery stores and if a person bought out of town and had nothing to do with anyone, even if that person grew up in the town, they might fall through the cracks and be an unknown.

    1. I grew up in a town of three thousand. My parents ran their own small business, so they knew a lot of people–it seemed like my mother knew something about damn near everybody–but, yes, nobody knows everybody. It just seemed that way.
      I remember being in a friend’s car when she bumped into somebody pulling out in the school parking lot, couldn’t have been going more than fifteen miles an hour. So the cops came, and I said, “Do NOT tell my mother,” and went inside the school to call her, and when I got her, she said, “You weren’t driving were you? Are you hurt?” Because it had gone out on the police radio and somebody had said, “It’s Charlie Siferd’s daughter. She has Jack Smith’s daughter with her,” and boom, my mom knew.
      So I figure it’s like that for Nita, except she’s also a cop, so it’s her business to know everybody she can. In the off season, the town is about two or three thousand, but it explodes in the summer, and that’s when most of her cop problems arise. The island is just too small to be a good place for crime.

      1. I am surprised your call got through to her. If it happened to me at least 5 people would be on the phone calling my mom before they finished listening to the police scanner in order to be the first to call. (Hi. Mrs Smith? Did you know Jenny was just in a car wreck with Charlie Siferd’s daughter? Is she going to be okay?) And that person’s second call would be to her own hot contact (Hi. Did you hear about Jenny Smith and **** Siferd? They were in a car wreck. Mrs. Smith doesn’t know if they are going to be okay or not). Of course while this is what I loathe about small towns. The next thing that would happen would be at least 10 people bringing over something for dinner because they would worry that your mom was too upset to cook.

        1. Yep.
          It’s the blessing and curse of the small community. Nobody ever falls down and isn’t found for a week, but nobody ever falls down and keeps it a secret, either.

  16. I just finished reading the excerpt–thank you! This book is so much fun. It reminds me of Robert B. Parker’s stuff, pages and pages of dialogue with no attributions because he didn’t need them. Can’t wait to meet Dr. Mallock.

  17. Oh, boy, did you nail the description of clubbing. The whole excerpt was fun and fast-moving. And count me among those who enjoy Nick just saying he’s the Devil. It’s not only a fresh take, but also a great way to reveal character.

  18. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by my house lately, too. It’s a little bigger than yours, but not much. (Mine is 1150 sq ft, plus cellar. And I have a small yard.) I suppose I get overwhelmed when thinking of the WHOLE thing, and breaking it up into little pieces helps. Sometimes TINY pieces. I’ve gotten rid of some old clothes this week and cleand pruned the contents of 3 bookcases last weekend. Also got rid of some old stuff in the freezer that I bought or cooked in a fit of virtue months ago and have since acknowledged I will not actually eat.

    There are BIG things to tackle. There are serious problems with my HVAC, the upstairs carpet will have to be replaced with flooring (14 fosters kittens, 3 cats, and 2 foster puppies have take only 3 years to turn the carpet up here into a disaster), and I’m still trying to build a patio… and now I feel overwhelmed again. Can’t cope with thinking about big projects (and big expenses) now. Going back to small things, like going through the desk drawers to clean those out…

  19. Loved Keres and the ninja nun. LOVED “She’ll eat your liver, man!”/”She’s worth it.”

    I’m confused about how Nita was carrying/wearing her baton in clubs (seems like the sort of thing a bouncer at the door would discourage). I’m assuming it’s a police baton, though, and not the sort of Sarah Ellis purse-sized baton seen on White Collar (of course, I’m still not picturing Nita with a purse, so…maybe even a purse-baton would be weird). Loved “And I’m the carrot?”

    I really like Nick a lot–efficient, cold, ruthless, yet still charming. I like Nita, too, in her defense of Her People.

    I want mooooore!!!!

    1. The baton stuff is first draft stuff. You don’t say, “Where is she carrying that baton? What kind is it?” You think, “I can research batons later. Keep writing, don’t look down.”
      But definitely something to figure out later.

  20. My sister-in-law had a full time job and two children with special needs and one normal child and her hobby was fostering kittens and then doing the Saturday adoption event. Over her lifetime (she died at 56 from a fast moving breast cancer – get your check up ladies), she fostered over 1,000 kittens. I always stopped to see her when we were in town and she and I would go sit on the floor of one of the kitten rooms and chat and play with kittens so they would become used to being handled. I reminded myself that all the time that really I had enough cats.

  21. I love this!
    โ€œYes,โ€ Nita said. โ€œIโ€™m in the Sequined Ninja Nun Cult. We lie in wait for men who give us the code word, and then we eat their livers. The code word is โ€˜baby.โ€™ Come with me.โ€

    You still got it, Crusie. Forget what I said about wanting all the other books. You keep not writing this one.

  22. Forget FlyLady. Try Unf*ck Your Habitat – it’s a Tumblr blog, and she has an app, too, which has a built-in 20/10 timer (which is her thing – work for 20 minutes, break for 10, repeat (maybe)).

      1. UYH is great. I love you on the app you can create tasks and assign times and build a short list of things to fill 20 minutes and the feel crazy accomplished.

        Also Jenny I’m in love with Nick’s “worth it” line. That’s exactly how I feel/what I’m looking for and it killed me. This section is great, I can’t wait to read it once its published.


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