Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I do love a good series, really I do

As a reader I love a good series. They are like having a good friend you can call when you need to talk. You know what to expect but there are still some surprises.

Now that I am starting my second series, the Leo and Arnold Mysteries of the Vinyl Village, I am enjoying some of the freedoms for the writer.

There are 50 pages of back story, character maps and anecdotes in my Vinyl Village notebook. Yet this morning, while I started chapter 2 and plotted out future chapters, I didn't feel any pressure or anxiety to force all of that good material into the book. Eventually all those little nuggets will find their way into one of the volumes. Never fear.

Writing a series lets me kick back and grow the text. It's kind of exciting to see where the chips will fall. Here's a few teasers:

Grandma Lily loves hunting thrift stores for furniture and refinishing it. Yet she will not give up her red Miata convertible nor will she let Grandpa Bob have the truck he has always wanted. Instead, she calls one of her daughters, much to Rachel and Susan's chagrin, with their oversized SUV's every time she finds a new treasure.

Arnold's cat Cali hates Leo's dog Bobo so much that eventually her feline reason snaps and she tries to bury the dog where it lies sleeping on the kitchen floor. The ultimate picture of impotent hatred: a cat scratching the floor in front of a dog who just keeps snoring.

Arnold has a neighbor who is a self proclaimed urban homesteader, swears that the slow food movement can save us all while preaching the gospel of whole food and recycling. The boys catch her coming home one day with sacks full of Bojangles fried chicken. I'll have to change the name of the restaurant chain, but you get the idea. I love hypocrisy in adults.

This is not a vinyl village.
Ok, enough teasers. I'm off to write some more on Chapter 2.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Random Line Friday

 “Mmmmm Hmmmm.” She made the noise her mother made on long phone calls with friends. Annie had been waiting to try it out. 

I like the way children test out adult behaviors on each other.  They are little social scientists.  Like walking around the corner and hearing two little girls having a tea party while discussing cholesterol very seriously. 

Annie wonders what Mmmmm Hmmmm does.  When she tests it out on Titus she discovers that it gets people to keep talking, even gets them to spill their guts.  She loves the power of that sound and Titus falls for it every time.  

This week's random line is brought to you by Titus and Annie Book 2 and by my new desk chair.  Do you think this chair is funky enough to break my crippling habbit of sitting cross legged in an office chair?
Smilodon trying to figure out how to nap on such a funky chair.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Art Web Update

Catherine has the week off and plans on spending the whole time painting. She's also lined up a place in Hendersonville to hang some of her work. More details to follow. Catherine also teaches at Design with Wine (http://www.designwithwine.com/ ) in Greenville, SC. Her next class is October 25th, Night Reflections.

Lisa went through 50lbs of clay this weekend but she's not stopping there. It's art show season for her. Time to load the kiln then load the van.

I stopped by her last kiln opening. She did some utensil jars with a circle pattern and a bit of color that I just love. Can't wait to see where else that new pattern and delicious blue color pop up.

As for me, I'm done with querying for a while. Titus and Annie Book One is making the rounds. Titus and Annie Book 2 is done and even got to go out on one little query of its very own.

Time to start the next book. Titus and Annie Book 3: C is for Centurion will be a fun project. Part of me can't wait to dive into that story. It's always fun to start en medias res with Annie mad at Titus. But as tempting as this is I am going to focus on Leo and Arnold for a while.

Leo and Arnold are cousins who live in the same vinyl village. Their first mystery will be The Stolen Swarm.

For me, the hardest part of a new project is the names. Blank page? No problem. Framing a plot arc? Getting easier each time. Conflict and action in the first chapter without the albatross of too much exposition? Easy peasy. Naming the characters? Eeeeeek.

I am notorious for simply naming every character Meg and forging ahead. Why Meg? Honestly, I haven't a clue. I hoped that actually naming a character Meg in Billington would get the name out of my system. Alas alack. No such luck.

So, I enlist help. My children named Titus, Annie and Julia. My husband helped me come up with last names for families who move to the neighborhood in Books 4 and 5. My sister used her lyrical ear to come up with their first names.

To kick start Leo and Arnold, I invited friends Kym and Nicholle over for coffee last week. We were fortunate to have Catherine with us that morning. It was a lot of fun building family trees and naming neighborhoods. An excellent brainstorming session with fresh new perspectives. On my own this process makes me eat Tums like M&M's. With friends, we laughed and smiled the whole time. Much better.

Putting the names down on paper plants the seeds. Now time for my favorite part of a project: organic growth. The plot arc has been mapped out for months but I don't necessarily know how those characters will get from point A to B and I haven't gotten to know their personalities yet.

In order to get to know my characters I like to start a notebook titled “Things I know about . . .” I carry it around with me everywhere, jotting down whatever comes to mind. It's a lot like lingering at the dinner table with friends long enough to hear new stories about each other.

Eventually, the notebook can't hold the story any longer. That's when I hit the computer. I highlight passages whenever I pull from the notebook. Not everything will make it in but it is nice having a home grown resource to fall back on when the blank computer screen becomes daunting.

Keep your eyes open for more Leo and Arnold updates plus pictures from Lisa and Catherine.