After one of the most productive plotting visits ever, I have a clear roadmap for the rest of the year and it looks to be a busy one. Things that were hazy are now much more clear. Like Elizabeth’s re-release. The worry was, flying off with a floater series (as we’ve come to call it) in another genre would lose readers. I needed to realize that while it might put off some, it might attract others. In any case, they have a choice. Drifter, for instance, is in more of a mystery genre. Half is written in a style similar to 1929 and half is written in more of a noir style with detective Sloan. It’s gritty and dark and different. The beauty of books that branch off of the original is that it invites a whole new set of readers, and expands the vision of current readers. My goal is to surround the 1929 series with other books, (and perhaps more than one floater series) in many other genres. And I have more freedom as a writer to try out different styles and give new characters a unique voice that the constraints of 1929 won’t allow.
I imagine it like this. 1929 is a big bubble in the middle of the room. But the room is full of smaller bubbles that touch the edge of 1929, some more than others, and when you step back, it makes this gigantic picture of intertwined lives, stories and events. Some are visible to the central characters and some go on without their ever knowing or being affected. As each new character pops their head up and asks to be included, (though usually they demand) I realize they each have a back story. Like Victor. He may have a much darker past than we realized. Muzzy, introduced in 1930, could be alot of fun. And others, like the children in 1929 and 1930 that have terrific stories waiting to be told as they come of age in the midst of WW2. If I were to make a list of all the possibilities, I’d probably get overwhelmed. Which is why we decided to tuck away all the potential stories for now and concentrate on this calendar year, while mapping out the long term mentally.
The immediate project at hand is Drifter, which is 1/4 finished. After that, it depends on who’s talking. What I have slated to finish before New Years is Drifter, 1931 and one of the couples prequels. Two other projects I would like to work on when no one from the Depression is talking is Simply Mine from Jake’s POV and Sayan Knights (nothing to do with mid-evil times. It’s futuristic, actually.) Two that have been bugging me for a long time. All in all, it’s shaping up to be a very busy year indeed. And that’s just fine with me.
A few years ago Lisa and I went to the beach for a long day of sun and plotting on Pacific Beach. It isn’t a day I’ll forget, ever. While at the beach (actually, while sitting in a little dive bar having a burger and Jameson) we came up with the idea of Elizabeth. She only took a few minutes to materialize and then her story exploded right in front of us. We gathered up our things, grabbed the laptop (and the drink) and ran for the beach. We proceeded to walk up and down the beach for 4 hours with some amazing content flowing, scene after scene bursting out faster than I could jot things down. It was so far outside of the 1929 genre, yet fit so perfectly.
Some characters are shy about wanting to be included. Caleb, for instance. He just sort of hung out in the shadows of the doorway until I realized that Jonathan and Aryl needed something to balance them out. (It’s funny now because Caleb thinks Aryl is the one in the middle who balances the men. Little does he know…) Elizabeth wasn’t like that. She sat her crazy @$$ down at our table and said, “Guess what. Rockport needs a little suburb called Psycho. And I’m your star.”
So it isn’t like we had a choice. We quickly realized that while she had a story to tell, and that story had a lot to do with Aryl’s rescue, she couldn’t tell it. Introducing Simon. He has his own back story but mainly his job is to love Elizabeth, and all her psychosis, with every fiber of his being. And he does a good job. He’s different enough to be interesting but sane enough to tell the story. So he got the job. And, much to my delight, he’s a smart Aleck.
I wrote the first 25 pages on the beach and only stopped because the sun had set and I could no longer see.
I’m going through all of this because after releasing Elizabeth’s Heart for a very brief period of time, I pulled it off the market. I was scared that readers of nice, sane, and (for the most part) historically accurate 1929 would shy away from something that was not only set in the Massachusetts Asylum for Feeble Minds and Lunatics, but touched on paranormal. Regardless of the fact that I loved every word, every page and had the most fun writing it I have EVER had, still, I worried about genre jumping. So I chickened out.
After I don’t know how many copies of 1929 going out with the epilogue showing Aryl (or John Doe) waking up in Elizabeth’s room, I scrubbed that epilogue and replaced it with a scene from Claire’s wedding after Aryl’s “death”.
And then I found out that the file I had replaced, never went out. Somehow, (ghosts in the machine, perhaps) the original epilogue continued to go out for several thousand copies. (plus about 30K free)
Insert nervous breakdown here. We had already come up with an alternate way for Aryl to be rescued and plot a fantastic journey for him in England and Paris. Tremendous gritty fun on the dark side. And then here’s Crazy again saying, “Oh, no. It’s not that easy to get rid of me.” She simply refuses to be ejected. As we sat down and tried to figure out how to make both work, (I wasn’t giving up on Aryl’s fantastic journey to England) we realized that she was happy to live on the fringes of Rockport, touching on but not directly meeting the characters of 1929. Okay. I can live with that. What we decided was to add one single paragraph that would make it all work, seamlessly. Saving Elizabeth’s Heart also meant saving Purgatory Cove. A novella capturing the moment in time where her mind actually fractures into another personality. Which I loved just as much. And, along with those, there needs to be resolution in Crazytown. Simon and Elizabeth need some sort of happily ever after. Which means another book. I looked at Lisa and smiled. “Here we go again!” Cue the song!
I get this a lot when it comes to 1930. Three years is a long time to wait for the next book in the series. I am very grateful for those who have waited patiently. (Some not so patiently but I’m grateful for them too.) When I wrote 1929 it occurred to me toward the end of the book that there had to be another. It was just going on and on with no end in sight. Sitting down with Lisa to hammer out where to stop and where to pick up, it occurred to us that there had to be a third. That set me back a few weeks on finishing 1929. I needed a relatively clear road map on how to proceed. I actually started working on 1930 before I finished 1929. I wrote the reunion scene and the intervention scene among others. I had to be sure that our road map wasn’t steering us in the wrong direction and a trilogy was viable. So I stopped and wrote 40K in 1930. Still, it only took me 6 months to complete 1929 start to finish while working and homeschooling two boys and getting sidetracked with a plan for the next two books.
So what the hell took me so long to finish 1930!! Lots of things. Without too much boring detail, here’s a breakdown with my resolutions, (if any is to be had) to ensure it doesn’t ever take me this long again.
First, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic fatigue. It’s a real pain in the everywhere, let me tell you and there were days when I was good for nothing. I had to quit my job. I liked to say it was to come home and write full-time. While that wasn’t a lie, I physically couldn’t work full-time anymore. I tried handfuls of pills but they only made me stupid. I switched to turmeric and exercise.
(“Hey, Doc, my whole body hurts.” Doc says, “Go for a run.”) Damn quack.
I couldn’t run if Chippendales were pacing me with cheesecake.
Walking I could do for a little while. And that helped. What helps the most, ironically, is writing. Unfortunately I didn’t figure that out until a few months ago when I got serious about finishing 1930. I noticed that when I wrote for 8 hours a day, the pain relief lasted through the night and into the next day. Score!
I managed the remaining 65K words in 40 days.
Besides dealing with fibromyalgia, I went through some pretty intense depression (exasperated by fibro), put out a few other books unrelated to the series and then simply quit for a while. Looking back at my files, I didn’t write for eight months straight. During the worst of it, I totally gave up on 1929 and everything else I had planned. I deleted my website, shut down my Facebook and twitter and didn’t check my email. I just walked away. Lisa called me one night just in time to stop me from deleting the files for everything I had ever done. Yeah. That bad. What changed? I checked my email one day after months, (there were 1598 unread messages) and found some from readers that had taken the time to let me know how much they loved 1929 and were asking about 1930. Their energy and excitement was contagious. Suddenly I realized that I had put out a book with a gigantic cliffhanger and a few people, (maybe even six or seven) were waiting for the next one. I left everyone hanging. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. Guilt got me going, initially. I dusted off my mp3 player that had all my writing music. I started listening to it again. I’d get a little kernel of an idea, call Lisa and we’d roll it around. It was nothing like our energetic, spastic, giggly, wholly crap! plotting sessions, but it was a start. And it only took us a few months to get back to that. We’ve been there ever since. (giggle~spaz~giggle)
Other smaller issues that delayed me are needy cats, a special needs son, a newly teenage son, RV-ing for five months in order to save for a house, (That’s a whole crazy blog post in and of itself) husband’s career change, moving to a new state, renovating an old ‘fixer’ and reestablishing a routine.
But things have finally settled down. I have my desk set up in the kitchen where I prefer it and a computer that is mine alone. The cats are learning to deal and so are the sons. Husband’s got his own thing going on and the fixer is mostly fixed. The fibromyalgia is better in Northern Utah, which is one of the reasons we moved here. And even though I loved the green trees and being so close to the ocean in Washington, there is just something about the desert that puts my writing mind in overdrive. Book ideas come faster than I can get them out. And I promise to never take so long to put a book out again.