Sunday, December 12, 2010
Silly, Silly Me (And An EP)
It’s always a mistake for me to think I can take a few weeks—or wow, maybe a month—off from writing to enjoy a sense of accomplishment—and maybe recover a little—from having completed a novel. Turning in Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls in November looked like good timing, too, because the last month of the year is always nuts. We hosted Thanksgiving, Mark’s birthday was shortly after, then we celebrated our “Dutch Christmas” which takes the first five days of December and requires a bit of work on my part, and the rest of the month doesn’t get much easier. Our younger son has a birthday in mid-December (which we strive to make unique so it’s not lost in the holiday shuffle), and then there’s the final ramp up to Christmas and New Year’s…by the time we cross the finish line on my birthday in early January, everyone’s exhausted and definitely broke. So I was convinced that it was okay to take December off from writing. After all, I haven’t received any official contract for the last Sammys. What was the hurry, right? So I got busy writing Christmas cards instead. Silly, silly me. Late last week my editor told me that the next Sammy is due in May. May! “June at the very latest.” Good grief. My head’s barely escaped the graveyard mayhem of Night of Skulls. And The Running Dream is coming out in January! I’m going to be away on tour! How am I supposed to get a book done by May? Or even June? But having been ingrained in my youth with my parents' indelible (and often damnable) Immigrant Work Ethic, I know I’ll give it my best shot. Which means buckling down and getting started. Which means an emergency plot-talking-session with Mark. Which means (because we have no road trips planned) going for a long run. Once the broad strokes of a story are painted, it’s not hard for me to fill in the details. But I have to really understand and like the broad strokes. So even though I’ve got the basic idea for each of the final four Sammy’s defined, I need way more than that to begin writing. It’s like the pot of paint is open, but the switch plates haven’t been removed and the trim isn’t masked and there’s no drop cloth on the floor. It is definitely not paint time until everything is ready, ‘cause if you start before everything is ready the cleanup is going to be enormous, and no matter what you hope, the job won’t come out pro. So early Saturday morning Mark and I set out on a ten mile run, and we talked plot. There’s something about the rhythm of running and the inability to do anything else that makes running the perfect vehicle for tossing creative ideas back and forth. The basic idea for Sammy 15 is that there’s this (kinda loser) guy who creates a (very lame) superhero persona and makes it his mission to monitor the mini metropolis of Santa Martina for evildoers. Officer Borsch, of course, thinks he’s a nutcase and a nuisance. Which he is. Sort of. The (kinda loser) guy, however, thinks Sammy is a star. Which she is. Definitely. But she's never actually had a "celebrity moment" before, so this is all a little strange. Maybe even creepy. Anyway, that was my starting point. And it may not seem like much, but that’s pretty typical for me. Sometimes I’ll write a Sammy Keyes book from the crime out, but most often it’s from the character in. The people have to fascinate me to keep me interested, and from them I fashion an event or crime that would fit in with their sub-world or psyche. This (kinda loser) guy—who has yet to be named—fascinates me. And I know I’ll have no trouble sustaining my interest in him through 250 or 300 pages. It’s the events surrounding him that needed to be developed, but after ten miles of running through back roads I'm happy to report that I have some really great (and funny) plot ideas for the mystery thread of Sammy #15. (I also have a huge blister on my pinky toe which I'm going to break down and pop.) Now, when I say that all I was starting with was this idea for a (kinda loser) guy, that’s not really true. There is, of course, the developing thread of plot lines established in previous books. Like the mystery of who Sammy’s dad is and the set-up for the Big Reveal in Book 16. There’s also the dynamics among established characters, and how all the threads will tie together. But after 10 miles on the road, I’m feeling a lot more ready to dip the brush. Which is a huge relief. But still. May? I have a feeling I’m going to be logging a lot of miles between now and then. Switching subjects—I’d promised to let you know when our CD (make that EP) was on iTunes, and it is now. It’s also on Amazon. Just search “Risky Whippet” and you’ll find us. (I’ll post the artwork so you know what it looks like.) Hope you think it’s fun! Post questions if you have them--I'm happy to answer what I can. Thanks so much for checking in. See you next week (when I hope to have details about my tour schedule)!