More in Love Than When We Started

I promised myself that I would write something different after I finished the latest Anita Blake book, Dead Ice, coming out June 9, about a month away. So, I wrote a short story set in a new world with brand new characters. It was wonderful, exhilarating, and strangely exhausting. I’d forgotten how tiring it is to forge my way through a brand new creation. It made me hesitate to do the novel that I’d thought I would do next because its also a new world with a brand new main character, magic system, and everything.  The story I just finished has made me rethink, so I decided I’d do the next Anita Blake novel, but which one?


I wrote a list of Anita plots that I’d been thinking about for a while. When I got to “Q” I stopped. I had more ideas to write down, but seventeen seemed like plenty to choose from. From the very beginning, Anita had a large list of potential book plots; I think I started with thirteen mysteries.  When I wrote that initial list I didn’t know I’d ever get a chance to pursue them all. The fact that my initial Anita contract with Penguin/Putnam (now Penguin Random House) was for three novels had thrilled me, because I knew there would be at least that many in my series. My first novel, Nightseer, had been planned to be part of a four book series, but my first publisher, ROC, had only purchased one book.  When that one didn’t sell well, like most first novels, they weren’t interested in me continuing the series. Three books was a luxury after that.


So, why did I make a list of future plots when I didn’t know I’d ever get a chance to write them? I’m not sure, but the ideas came to me and I’d learned years ago to write down all my ideas. You think you’ll remember them, because they’re so great, but you won’t.  Write the ideas down, all the ideas, so you don’t lose them. Maybe that’s why I did it, and that would make sense, but in retrospect it seemed terribly optimistic.


I’ve actually used all the original thirteen ideas that I wrote down, except for a couple. Those plots went away because of character growth, or just the logic of Anita’s world, and my magic system. By the time I got that far into the list I knew that certain creatures of legend just didn’t exist in her world, so some ideas went away on that basis alone. 


Yet, here I am with seventeen new book plots, and more I could have listed. Some of the list is just intriguing as hell. Example – Olaf’s return. That’s all, but those two words are enough to make me wonder what a fan favorite serial killer will do when he’s next on stage. There’s The British book, set in England; The Irish book, set in Ireland, where Damian’s maker is waiting; Nathaniel’s book, which is going to be a long, complex mystery; Jean-Claude’s story, but so many ways to structure this one that I haven’t even started an outline; Nicky’s book, where he goes home for his mother’s parole hearing and asks Anita to go with him; New Mexico and Edward’s Wedding, will he actually walk down the aisle; Peter’s first hunt, three bland words with so much pain and possibility; and so many other ideas and characters that want more of their stories told.  I know other writers that struggle for ideas, even novelists with their own successful book series that have fallen out of love with their main character/s. I find that idea leads onto idea and that a finished book will often give me ideas for new books. I feel about Anita, and all the people in her life and in her world, the way I feel about my real life marriage – more in love now than when we started.


What’s Next for Anita Blake?

One of my goals for this year was to work happier, so I gave myself permission to write anything I wanted, and that was great for awhile. I’ve made some notes and even chapters, or pieces of chapters in a brand new world. I’ve learned that I need dozens to hundreds of pages that aren’t for publication while I explore and world build. I’ve tried skipping this part of my process and it’s what led me to throw out 70% of the first Meredith Gentry book after the editor had already accepted it and start the novel over. The book was immensely better for it, and the world, my main character, plot, everything vastly improved, but I learned my lesson. Unless the muses give me a book opening and world whole and complete through near magical inspiration, I need to write out my world building before I write the first book in the world.

I finished a brand new Anita Blake short novel that’s even longer than Micah which was my last original paperback surprise. Eventually, I had to look at my deadlines and my goals for the year and realize it was time to get down to brass tacks and begin the next full-size Anita Blake novel. This year, 2014, will see the first new Merry Gentry novel in almost five years, 2015 will be Anita’s turn, but to make that happen I have to write the book. Funny, how they don’t write themselves.

I usually know what I’m writing next with Anita, but I did something I used to do years back, but had stopped in the press of deadlines when I was delivering two big books a year. A decade of doing that put a lot of things on hold. There just wasn’t time to do my usual process and meet those deadlines, but see that goal to “work happier”, so I was trying to recover some of the pieces that had made things more joyous for me and my muse. I used to tidy and sort my office between writing projects, but I’d fallen so far behind on that I had literally boxes of papers on the floor, and sticky notes on the wall so old the ink had faded.

I went through every file folder, every piece of paper in my office. The desktops are cleaned and ready to go for the next book, but which one? Because in going through all the notes and scrapes of paper I’ve got a wealth of possibilities. I thought I’d chosen a follow up on Sampson, the mermaid/man, and his rather dysfunctional family situation: sirens, vampires, and murder, oh, my! But I think that Sampson’s story maybe a short story, or a different book than I thought, so – not yet. I have this great opening that I wrote on the plane back from Paris a few years ago. It has Nicky featured and I thought, cool, we’ll do a book where he takes center stage. Um, no, not ready. That opening may have Nicky in a main part, but I think it’s a book more about Anita’s necromancy and the power boost/side effects from the Mother of All Darkness. (You didn’t really think all that happened without side effects, did you?) But the book isn’t soup yet, not done, not ready, so . . . Valentina, our forever five-year-old vampire, has a story to tell, and a modern spin on her own fate, and I thought that was next, but as I tried to write it . . . it slowed down, and . . . Edward’s wedding finally? No, that story isn’t ready yet, close, but not quite ready. Olaf’s return? Maybe, but not yet. Nicky will be going home to make sure his abusive mother doesn’t get parole and Anita will go with him for moral support, but not this book. (That may actually be a novelette, or short story, and not a book at all.) Bartolome trapped forever in the body of a twelve-year-old boy, has more to tell, but again he’s not ready to tell the rest of his story. I’ve got a short story/novelette with Micah doing his job for the Furry Coalition, but so not soup yet. I’ve got a Jade novelette, or short novel, and that maybe close, but not sure. I’ve got the beginning of a short piece where Jean-Claude and Asher tell an adventure they had when they were a happy threesome with Julianna. I know the whole plot there, I think, it’s more how to tell the story without running into the traps of “telling a story,” where you know the people survived, or they couldn’t be telling you the story now. I’ve got two short pieces where Richard is on stage, and one that revisits his family, his brother Daniel in particular, but that’s not even close to ready to be written. I’ve got several pages of a story about Jean-Claude, and Nathaniel, and we find out something from both their pasts that intertwine in a way that totally surprised me. That seems to be the front runner at the moment, but again it feels more like a novelette than a novel. There’s a piece that features Detective Zerbrowski and his son, and that’s close to being ready, but again I don’t think it’s a complete novel. It may even be a short story. I found notes about a visit to Philadelphia to visit Requiem in his new home. A book set in the Carolinas that was inspired by a horrible hotel room my husband, Jon, and I had in Charlotte, North Carolina once, but though a great beginning, it’s just an idea, a book length idea, but it needs another idea, or two to bump into it before I sit down and begin in earnest. That’s just a few of the ideas I rediscovered, or tidied up into folders for later.

I’d forgotten that I did that, shed ideas like flower petals in a high wind, so that the path is strewn with wonders, and curious notes. My office is clean and neat as a pin, but my imagination is cluttered with fragments of this and that idea, character, plot, so that it’s like I’ve smashed a stained glass window and covered the floor with bright, shining, pieces, but which to pick up first?

Post Book Blues, or I finished my novel, now what?

Restless as hell. Don’t want to watch anymore TV, movies, even the great book I’m reading is just irritating. If we have anymore sex we’re both going to have rubby spots. Somewhere around day three after I finish a book, I get so restless I’m almost angry. It just seems to be part of my process of post-book down time. It doesn’t matter where I go, I’ve tried the ocean, heck I’ve gone to Disney World, and still this awful restlessness takes possession of me.
The day I wrote, The End, on the newest Merry Gentry novel, A Shiver of Light, I was on such a writer’s high, it was awesome! When the high left, the tiredness hit like it always does. First full day of not writing the book, was a day of my mood going up, and down – up and down. This mood swing is also just part of the post-book process for me. I know it and I don’t let the sad rain all over everyone. I know what is happening and I just ask my husband, Jon, “Happy, sad, happy, sad; do I always do this?”
Jon says, “Yes.”
The only thing I didn’t do per usual was I didn’t have a whole day of what I call, “The little lost lamb day,” where I wander around the house, or wherever drifting from room to room, or yard, as if I don’t know where I’m going, or what I’m doing, which is pretty accurate. Months, or a year, or more, of concentrating on this one project and suddenly it’s gone. The structure to my day, the thing that consumed me for so long and it’s done, and I’m at loose ends. I think the reason that I didn’t have as much of the “lost lamb” day is that this book was so emotionally draining I was happy to be done, and happy to begin to rest up before edits come back from New York.
Now, I’m tired, but don’t want to sleep, as I said at the beginning I don’t want to do any of the things I was looking forward to catching up on, or I’ve done them for three days and enough is enough.
I’ve tried leaving as soon as I finish a book and going some place warm with an ocean view, but I still go through the same post-book process. I’m just restless and angry staring off at amazing Caribbean blue water and palm trees, instead of St. Louis in the winter. It usually just pisses me off that I’m someplace great and still can’t be happy. But I’ve finally embraced the truth, that all this emotional angst is part of me coming down from writing a novel. I wish I was one of those writers that doesn’t go through all this, but a writer doesn’t choose their creative process, anymore than they choose what ideas come to them. J. K. Rowling says in the Harry Potter books, “The wand chooses the wizard.” Well, the idea chooses the writer.
I think the same is true of how our entire creative process works, from how we gather ourselves to write a novel, to the writing of it, and the celebrating and grieving process after it’s written. Some of us struggle to get enough ideas to write, others of us have more ideas than any one lifetime can allow us to write. Some need silence and solitude to work, others need a busy cafe around them, and still others do solitude with music blasting; we are all as different as our stories.
Now, I’m going to take this restless, cranky mood and get on the treadmill, because until I work some of this energy out I won’t sleep. I almost went to gym today, but was afraid I wouldn’t concentrate well enough for weights. Next time I’ll listen to myself and do gym sooner, but for right now treadmill. Gotta walk some of this off.

Do I write my books Long Hand?

I wrote 6 pages on Affliction today. Got up to get fresh tea & had a brand new idea. Made note of it in my iPhone, because I had close at hand, if you don’t write ideas you forget them. No, really, you do. You forget them faster & more completely if you think, “This is such a great idea, I’ll never forget it.” You are now doomed to forget this idea instantly, unless you write it down.

So, I made a note & went about my day. Then later on couch resting since I’m still fighting a cold, I decided to buy my holiday ring tone from iTunes. (For those who will ask, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch) I also remembered the note I’d made earlier. I read it over liked it & brought it up on my iPad which was handy.

I now have a page of a brand new short story. All because I wrote down the idea as it came, so I wouldn’t forget & because I admit that modern technology makes it amazingly easy to share ideas over different devices. I’m actually doing most of my notes & ideas on my iPhone, or sticky notes, & starting a lot of stories & even books on the iPad. Main computer is a PC & is for main books, or once it gets over a certain page count & I know this book is actually taking off.

I’ll finish Affliction first, but I have this short story & a novelette started on my iPad. So for those who ask, if I wrote long hand, um, no, technology rocks my muse & me.

Spiders, knees (human, not spider), dogs, book, and new ideas

This week so far:

Found brown recluse spiders in kitchen and one in the hallway bathroom. Exterminator has laid extra traps, but I am unfortunately allergic to most pesticides. It’s not an infestation of the scary buggers like we had about seven years ago when we found them by me being bitten by one. (That was painful and just not something I ever want to repeat.) Then Jon and I had to go away for a week so they could fumigate the house and not poison me. We did research for Blood Noir in Asheville, North Carolina, and even sick from the spider bite we both still loved the town. Need to revisit someday.

Jon’s knee that he had surgery on about five years ago is acting up. I’ve taken him to two doctor’s this week. Just learned early today that next week he’ll be talking to a surgeon. :-(

Our Japanese chins, Keiko and Mordor, both have kennel cough, even though they were both vaccinated against it. Apparently, some dogs will get a mild case of it even with vaccinations, or sometimes because of it, but still better than the life threatening full blown illness. Our pug, Sasquatch, who is 11 years old, is fine. Pugs are the tanks of the toy dog world on most things. :-) Chins are quite a bit more fragile in a lot of ways. They tend to get sick more often, are more delicate for injuries, and how do you keep their food out of all that lovely, long hair? I swear Keiko rolls in her soft food like some dogs roll in noisome things in the yard. She ends up wearing her food, and since she has medicine in it, the texture on her curls is interesting. We love our chins, but pugs totally spoiled us with their comparable ruggedness and wash and wear ease of grooming. Still planning to have more chins someday, but first we need another pug. We all miss the dual snoring.

In the midst of all the doctor and vet visits, I have actually been trying to write more on the next Anita Blake novel. I announced the title at DragonCon this year, but never put it up on the blog, so here it goes. The next Anita novel is entitled,”Affliction.” Micah is called back home by his estranged family, because his father, a county sheriff, has been attacked and is terribly injured. Anita and Nathaniel are going with him for moral support and to meet his family under very trying circumstances. It’s an interesting book to be writing. I can’t wait for you guys to finally read it!

I had one day this week that I wrote six pages on, Affliction, and four pages on something brand new that demanded to be written. It came out of nowhere and made me go, really? It’s brand new, but I guess it contains at least two different ideas that I’ve made notes on before. I just never thought about combining them, and there were several new ideas added to the old ones, and it just worked. But first to finish the book. I don’t even know if the four surprise pages are part of a book, or a short story? It’s cooking, but whether it’s stew, soup, or something else, I won’t know for awhile. It’s kind of nice creatively to not know for a change.