Nita’s Punch List

When a contractor gets the big stuff done on a job, she or he and the homeowner makes a punch list: a list of all the little stuff needed to completely finish the job.  Technically it’s anything that did not conform to specifications, but it’s the little stuff, too, that just got lost in the big tasks.  It’s about this time in a book that I do a punch list for all the things that I’ve forgotten or let drop, changed in one place but not another, forgot to layer in, details that are important but not addressed yet, etc.  I have a much more complex list of big issues to solve for character, plot, and theme, but the punch list is little stuff that’s still important.  Such as . . .

Chloe wears glasses
They’re a big part of her personality, so they need to stay in there, not in every mention but definitely as something she deals with.

Nick insists that he raises his voice for emphasis but it’s clearly because he’s gaining emotions.  There’s a three-beat in the first act, but then I drop it.  Have to figure out how to either make it a motif  and arc it or drop it, otherwise it’s just noise.

Nita’s got a sock thing going and I don’t know why.  I know it plays a minor but important role in Act One, but if it’s motif, I have to figure out why.   I have some ideas–Keres gives them to her for Christmas and birthdays so they’re a form of love, Nita’s always cold so they’re practical, she wears black all the time so they’re the one spot of color she indulges in–I just have to pull them together.

Cthulhu keeps turning up here, so I know he’s important and I have some thematic ideas as to why, but you can’t just put theme on the page.

March 23 to April 2
Lovecraft says that Cthulhu always sinks below the waves on Apr. 2.  I don’t know why that’s the day the Old One goes belly up, but that’s the day the book’s gonna end.

Binky the Devil Bear
Nick smites him in the beginning and that’s it.  I need him in there to show the smite, but he can’t just exist to get blasted.  Three beat there and it has to mean something.

Layer in Hotels and Dorothy Idle
They’re going to be important later, so they need to be part of the wallpaper earlier.

Nita’s bag
Nita has a black canvas bag she carries everywhere (I found it on Amazon and bought it just to make sure it was what she’d carry, and now I carry it everywhere), so it needs to be layered in, too, and to have some kind of meaning in the things she carries.

Iron at bridge and airport  
This is just a plot point that needs to be threaded through there so I can pay it off later.

Gate left open in Australia early on
This is a throwaway detail to show the importance of closing the gates.  It’s not in there yet.

Button as the new kid/red shirt
Button as a newbie, assumption is that she’s a red shirt, but she’s the most lethal thing on the island.  Layer that in.

Nita’s cracked windshield
Nita’s car gets both front and back windshields cracked and it’s never mentioned again.  She either has to drive with a cracked windshield or lose her car to get it fixed.

Rab puts in an expresso machine, Hotels go semi-dry
I don’t know why that ended up on the list, but clearly I had a plan.

Nita is cold all the time
I say this and then don’t deal with it until the baph stuff.   It has to be in there.

Nita never gets angry, just annoyed.
This really has to be in there because there’s a big pay-off later.

Leftover Chinese/Constant Food
Nick eats to fuel his facade; Nita eats to keep warm.  Lots of breakfast and Chinese, but they’d vary that.  Food in the apt. too–need a fridge–and arc that with their arcs.

Nita has a car.  Jeo and Rab must have rented one when they got to the island.  Mort has a car.  Button must have one.  Vinnie has one.   Sort those out.

Chlorophyll in blood
Get the hemoglobin/chlorophyll thing in, figure out why external iron brings demons down.

Stripe and Joyce
Make them mean something.

Rab’s romance.
The closest thing Rab has to a romance is Keres flirting with him.  Nita and Nick, Jeo and Daphne, Mort and his demon lover, Button and Max, all get HEAs right now while Rab tends bar.  That’s gotta change, so most of the hetero HEAs are going south or at least being delayed, and Rab’s gonna get a boyfriend.  I had one planned for him  (Button’s brother) for a later book, but you never save anything for a later book, and besides, I’m loving Rab’s character arc in this.     A real relationship should be part of that.  ARGH.  I’m not homophobic, I swear, I just dream in hetero.  Although I do have the OT3 of the Hotels going, so there’s that.

There’s more, but you get the drift: clean up all the details that don’t pay off, fix problems that I created without thinking, make motifs either mean something or disappear.  Punch list.






63 thoughts on “Nita’s Punch List

  1. Windshields – Banner Glass & Triple A used to come out and replace them at your house.
    But since she’s a cop wouldn’t the cops have a deal with a local auto repair place?

    Who owns the car rental and is a local Joe’s Car rental & Bait shop or a franchise of one of the bigger chains?

    Is there one or a couple of cabbies on the island? If not do the Hotels walk home? Uber?

    Why does iron stop them at the bridge and ferry if they’re in a car?

    1. The only people who have cars are island residents and they have to have permission. Everybody else comes across the bridge on the trolley (that’s in there already, Chloe thinks it). So demons arriving through hellgates would not have cars. I haven’t thought the rest of it through. The cops would have cars, but the people who live on the island who don’t have them would still need a way to get around. Let me cogitate.

      1. Are bicycles a possibility for the non demon? Because it seems like something that would appeal to tourists.

      2. on Catalina Island, most people have to use golf carts. 🙂 And even those are, I think, “one in, one out.” I suspect they have iron in them too, though! Unless there is a local specialist building them from aluminum …

        1. Non-iron is going to mean horses with rather strange tack, and weak carriages/carts lacking metal reinforcement. Bicycles won’t work, unless modern hi-tech materials are iron-free. (Aluminium? Carbon-fibre?)

          1. I think the wheels for carts, etc., would be pretty impractical without any iron for axles. NB we need engineering input here!

  2. I love that a blog post excercise that turned into the book you weren’t writing has not only developed into an amazing sounding book that I can’t wait to read, but has also presumably inspired ideas for a later book.

    And also, the fact you do care about the little details like this is one of the many reasons your books are so amazing.

  3. Yes, much appreciated: especially since I’ve just read another book by an erstwhile favourite author that’s obviously a first draft. Really bad; and yet she still sells. (I stopped buying hew new stuff years ago, but keep borrowing them from the library, in hope.)

    1. So my experience lately. Last two were by two long-published, best selling authors, and just meh. One wasn’t only meh, several continuity issues came up of the type our own JC addresses as punch list. I try not to say anything mean/bad – however correct – about authors I name, but, c’mon, loved ones or associates let ’em know. I’m fast losing patience.

      1. It really makes me wonder how most people read. Maybe if you read really slowly you expect to lose track? They must somehow not be as absorbed in the story, otherwise they’d be as frustrated as we are, and the books wouldn’t sell.

        1. I read slowly so I absorb all the details. I would think reading fast/skimming would let a person miss things. Probably it is just some people aren’t bothered by the details. However, I’m a person who gets nose deep into the details.

  4. Please emphasize Nick’s emphasis. Important because it’s his voice. And, yes. voice operates as both the real and the literary.

  5. Yay for Rab being gay and yes, please give him a boyfriend. The LGBTQ spectrum is too often ignored as if they don’t deserve a HEA also. I don’t mean you, but too many mainstream authors, if they have a gay character at all, use him for cannon fodder or comic relief. I love that you’re taking Rab seriously. Thank you.

    1. I really love Rab. Sometimes you don’t know what a character’s going to do until you write her or him, but he just came into his own.
      I’ve been thinking about why I gave everybody a romance except Rab, and I think it’s because I not only write romance from a woman’s PoV, I think romance from a woman’s PoV. Men really are from Mars as far as I’m concerned. So I can fake a romance between a woman and a man and between two women, but between two men . . . . Bob used to look at the some of the stuff I’d write for one of his guys and say, “We don’t THINK like that,” and I’d give it to him to change. I fully realize that all men do not think alike any more than all women do, but I have a feeling that there’s gender difference in romance just because of socialization. Women are supposed to be emotional, men are not, etc. And then add in the danger of being gay even now in our society, and it’s a whole new world that I do not want to get wrong.

      But I think I’ve got the perfect guy for him, and their romance will be a foil for Nita and Nick, I think, and I’m really happy about it. I must cogitate, but I think I’ve got it. Of course that’s adding another character to a cast of millions . . .

  6. I got really stuck on the chemistry – looking up chlorophyll’s formula and structure, pondering possibilities….Like how radium is so dangerous because it behaves like calcium in the body, so gets into bones and that’s what happened to the radium girls. But chlorophyll has magnesium and it’s not super similar to iron….

    I don’t automatically have chemistry help – I know chemistry, but you aren’t even wanting help really, necessarily – but I had a fun rabbit hole.

    Also, I love your work and am so excited for this book.

    1. I know. I took notes on chlorophyll and iron separately just to have a vague idea (why are demons green? more chlorophyll than hemoglobin,why chlorophyll? BECAUSE) and then just left it for the time being. Punch list.

      1. Do they photosynthesize? Hemoglobin carries oxygen in the body from the lungs to everywhere, and takes carbon dioxide back tot he lungs for exhaling. Chlorophyll is pretty explicitly used to transform sunlight into carbohydrates and oxygen.

        Horseshoe crabs have hemocyanin, which is copper-based, and blue – I think Star Trek’s Romulans have similar body chemistry. Blue flushing beneath yellow based skin would be green?

        1. That’s a possibility. Blood is red because hemoglobin oxidizes (rust).
          What I want is for both races to be nearly identical with something very basic that changes the color of their skin and eyes. Superficial differences, same species. Homo demonis or whatever.

          1. They have sunshine in hell. It’s in a different sphere, but they have a sun.
            Hell is like Earth, just better organized.

      2. Well, in the structure of chlorophyll, the Mg seems like it forms a metal-ion complex and is in the middle of things. Maybe the iron fills in for the Mg (or copper, if you do horseshoe-crab blood) and messes that up? It’s a world with demons and stuff – your science doesn’t have to be perfectly sound! 🙂

  7. I am so terribly excited to see Dorothy Idle . . . because I wonder if it references a certain frequent customer of the Algonquin Hotel? Idling stop? Ie: Parker? LOL, you don’t have to reveal your secrets yet. I’m also terribly excited to see a punch list!

    1. She used to own the Idle Hands Craft and Gift Shoppe.

      I love the Algonquin Hotel. Every time I have tea there, I think of Parker. The rooms are not luxurious, but I imagine they’re about the same as they were back in the day. The Iroquois is right next door, and I always wanted to stay there, too.

      1. (-: Oh well. Spirit of Parker and all that, anyway.

        I wanted to stay at the Algonquin when I was in New York, but I just couldn’t justify it — three times as much as my cheapie hotel. Even with the writer’s discount (and all you needed was a printed manuscript, I think it was). Still on my dream list — to stay a week at the Algonquin, and spend a little time each day writing there. Although honestly, tea would probably make me just as happy (-:. Maybe next trip.

        1. I’m fairly sure somebody else was paying. It’s the upside of book tours and business trips. The only upside.

  8. I love punch lists. I love the way they let you cross things off (with prejudice) and it always surprises me how expandable they get. More things go on mine than ever come off, and yet things get done enough and the next thing happens.

  9. The punch list is really cool. I don’t watch TV or read many American detective novels (if any, I read Ian Rankin’s Scottish John Rebus series), but it seems to me that Americans are provided with vehicles and have a more uniform appearances than Scottish or British do. If I’m right, then both Nita’s car and Nita’s canvas bag might stretch verisimilitude.

    On the other hand, those thin, snaky cracks in windshields aren’t worth the time to repair until they start extending — looks like crawling — while I’m driving.

    And why shouldn’t a detective carry a canvas bag? Sounds like she doesn’t wear a uniform.

  10. I love the idea of calling it a punch list! I keep a “revisions” file for each draft with much the same sort of information, but that seems … I dunno, like I’m labeling the manuscript as being defective even as I’m writing it. For some reason, “punch list” doesn’t have so much of a negative connotation for me.

    1. I’m in the process of assembling my punch list for my WIP right now, but hadn’t applied this term to it. I like thinking of it that way.

  11. LOVE the punch list thing – another awesome writing tip (first typed trip because well yeah that too) and greatly appreciated.

    Any chance we can get a link to the canvas bag? Not that I NEED another bag/purse thingy, but not like I don’t either if it’s that useful.

  12. Punch list = list of people to punch. I’m sure both Nita and Button have one of those.

    This is something off my vacation punch list: I’ve been looking for a padded bag for our trip next year, big enough for snacks and drinks and my camera and I think I’ve found one – a very stylish looking diaper bag with 3 padded zipped compartments on the inside and drinks holders on the ends. Best of all, it looks very stylish and indestructible. It even comes with a changing pad that will be great for protecting electronics.

    1. “Punch list = list of people to punch. I’m sure both Nita and Button have one of those”

      That was my first thought too.

      1. Same here. 😀 Honestly thinking of all the things you need to do as something to punch seems pretty cathartic…

  13. Musings:

    Re April 2: Does this mean April Fools Day (4/1) will also be a thing?

    Re Chloe/newbie: Over the top belief suspension moment? Are you saying Chloe is a newbie to the island or a newbie detective? If latter, detectives are police officers who have a lot of experience and have to take tough tests to qualify as detectives. You do not get hired as a detective – you get promoted. Chloe sometimes seems a bit too wide-eyed, ingenue-ish, although I get that it’s also her way to to disarm or fool a suspect into thinking she’s not a force to be reckoned with. But … it’s sometimes as if she has 2 personalities, not a developing one, and I have had many “huh?” moments with character Chloe so far. (Not that I don’t still love her :))

    This doesn’t mean you can’t be a new detective (unless you star in “The Last Policeman” (a fun and dark-ish read, btw)), but no qualified detective is “new” to the business of policing and making her too “newbie-ish” has been a bit of a stumper for me as I have read your drafts.

    Re cracked windshield: I really do get that one suspends disbelief (and I’m happy to do that), but a cracked windshield is a serious and fine-able motor vehicle offense for mere mortals – and no law enforcer (e.g. Nita) would ever, ever, ever have a cracked windshield, except when riding back to the station after a rather difficult shift. Nita riding around, for more than that trip back to the station, with a cracked windshield would be for me a serious “eye roll” moment as a reader. Police departments employ people to fix windshields, not matter how small the police force is. Even Mayberry and Magoddy (Joan Hess’s hilarious series) cops had someone who fixed their broken windshields 🙂

    I get that fiction is fiction and that writers aren’t and can’t be experts in all fields, as well as needing to finish books without getting bogged down in too many unnecessary details … but …

    Hmm … I’ll have to myself cogitate for a while to figure out at what point I toss aside a book unread when I reach a certain number of “argh, are you kidding me!?” moments that could easily have been flagged by a good editor. (I’ve never tossed aside a Crusie, btw!)

    Urgh. My planned short post got a little too long. Sorry about that.

    1. Chloe transferred from another town’s police department. She has a line where she says she took the partnership with Nita because she’d never get promoted that fast any other way. There are reasons why the captain wants Nita with a female partner and reasons why Nita’s the only female in the dept until Chloe and Lily get there (that’s the new captain hiring women because the former captain was a sexist jerk who got fired); it’s all in there.

      I drove around with a cracked windshield for about a week once, but yeah, that’s the reason it’s on the punch list: deal with the cracked windshields.

      April Fool’s Day: Probably not. It’s low-hanging comic fruit, I never remember it in real life, and I hate practical jokes, so April Fool’s Day has always been an annoying snooze for me when I remember it. I might have some idiot do something stupid as an April Fool’s joke and let Nita take him apart just to set the date in reader’s minds, but this sucker is already so long that I’ll be cutting out anything that isn’t essential in January, and that would probably go.

      1. Consider the possibility re: April Fools Day — no one actually pulls a practical joke, but a character convinced that some event might be a staged “gotcha” whirs action in a different direction.

  14. Totally agree with you on the April Fools pranks – and the need to cut cut cut – yikes.

    I do tho love the the Compost, Borowitz Report and Onion daily versions of true foolery. Borowitz has been brilliant lately as has Alexandra Petri (in the Wash Post), so Nita’s story world will be a completely different and welcome escape into love, laughter, demons, and hijinks.

  15. I wouldn’t even notice the cracked windshield because pretty much every one I know has one. If Demon Island doesn’t have a glass shop, she would have to go off island. Where I live the cops don’t care about cracked windshields unless the cracks are spiderwebs and obscure your vision. I realize the box does some serious damage but I’ve put literally tens of thousands of kilometres on my car with cracked glass.

    1. Yep, I have, too.
      I think the point was that it was a department car, but it wasn’t, it was Nita’s car. Because the rest of the department is guys (or was up until a few days ago) and they leave the cars a mess. Nita’s a control freak.

      1. I’m not sure that she would be allowed to use a personal car on official business. If it got damaged in the course of her job her insurance might not cover it. And given the wear and tear on cop cars she would be crazy to.

        1. Given the mess the Demon Island PD is in, I think Nita’s car might be the least of their worries.
          If it helps, she gets fired (g).

  16. I’m open to thinking of Demon Island as, in part, its own world. Once things get small, they have peculiarities. For instance, in my town (pop 1770) the plumber is also the police chief. He uses both his police SUV and his plumbing pickup on plumbing jobs. Also, the island of Deer Isle, Maine has a huge influx of summer people, but it lacks an on island police force (islanders I know are extremely critical of the mainland guy who is assigned to patrol). So, the constabulary on Demon Island can be what Jenny wants, for all that I care.

    1. A lot of this stuff is punch list stuff, coming after a Don’t Look Down draft, so I’ll look at everything again. I think the island is probably schizophrenic when it comes to the law: from November to the end of April, it’s a small town spread out over a fair-sized island, hemmed in on the north by the Nature Preserve. From May to the end of October, it’s a tourist trap twenty times its normal size, and everything is nuts. So I just need to think it through.

  17. I can easily imagine the early families deciding that they wanted all public services on island and plenty of island-born staff to ensure control. They might be comfortable with a larger number of detectives than necessary in order to nip complicated problems in the bud. This conservativism would also probably have male-empowered, strongly hierarchical, suspicious of employees who don’t fit in the mold sorts of views.

  18. How cracked is the cracked windshield? I had a small crack due to stone from truck wheel and left my windows opened a bit every day when I parked at work, till I got a cheap and reliable dude to fix it in the work parking lot.

    Windows opened prevented air from heating up inside and stopped the glass from expanding and making the crack bigger.

    1. We’re talking a week here. I don’t think it’s going to matter as long as she can see out. Windshields are pretty tough and it’s March, so heat’s not a problem.

      1. Ya know, this cracked windshield is kinda taking over. Unless it’s a plot point, get the damned thing fixed and move on.

  19. While you’re dealing with Button as newbie, I thought it worth a mention that one thing that jumped out at me in the previews you’ve given us is that there seems to be a lot of new people at the police department all at once – Nita’s boss is new (or new in the position?) Button’s new, Jason’s partner is new – that plus all the “wrong things” going on that Nita mentioned – plus murders, missing people, and Nita letting us know that the powers that be at PD consider our girl “unorthodox” – had me wondering what was going on with Island PD. I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to strike me as odd that all these changes were happening, or if I was supposed to understand it as a reaction to the wrong things or if it was just a normal structural part of the police department staffing up for the busy tourist season.

  20. I did my PhD research on chlorophyll and spent a lot of time idly thinking about making people photosynthetic, so now I am unreasonably excited for this book 🙂

    1. You are my new best friend. Do not be surprised if I start harassing you about the details of demon blood once I get this truck draft finished.
      I just wanted a reason they were green. But if you have the SCIENCE . . .

  21. About Nita’s bag, my mom carries a big bag filled with 15 smaller bags. The smaller bags are categorized, first aid bag, sewing bag, office supply bag (paperclips, binder clips, extra pens, pencils, highlighters), vitamin bag, condiment bag, etc.

    My sister, my nieces, and I do it though not to the extreme my mom does. My eleven year old daughter went skiing last week and packed a bag of band aids, gum, and lip balm.

    Oh, she also has a battery bag.
    I know.

    1. This sounds like my dream bag, but I’m not nearly as organized. I do have a tea and soup bag, and a bag o’ bags in my lunch bag.

  22. Oh, I should clarify, my mom has the battery bag. Not my daughter.

    And jenny your books make me happy.

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