The Prodigal Daughter

on August 14, 2008

That’s me. Allison (yep, I forgot my password so I’m logged in as admin.) I’m the wayward daughter, the one who has neglected this blog (as well as my personal blog.) Last week I just forgot it was Thursday, until it was Friday. I haven’t visited or commented much at all in weeks. Between Thrillerfest, deleting (on purpose) my entire book and rewriting it in two weeks, RWA, and now revisions on said rewritten book, I’ve been a bit under the gun. And not to mention that it’s summer, the kids are out of school, and I have two teen-agers who are too young to drive who need to be taken places and picked up or they make my life hell. Not that this is an excuse, because I know Jen, Natalie, Deb and Karin are just as busy as I am, but I’m just not as good as they are at juggling everything. So I’m sorry, and I’m working on managing my time better! Frankly, when the kids go back to school and have a regular schedule, I’ll be in a much better, happier place 🙂

There’s been enough said about all the conferences, so I won’t add my two cents. I do have a blog today over at Romancing the Blog about giving people the benefit of the doubt if you feel slighted, so feel free to check that out.

Remember when I talked about having my new office? It’s almost done. It’s gorgeous. I have a desk, bookshelves (almost filled) and even a mini refrigerator. When I get everything in order, I’ll take pictures, but I still have books all over the place and my couch is still in the corner of the family room because we need rugs so it doesn’t scratch the hardwood floors.

I’m still hoping that once the office is completely done, that I’ll be able to write here. I have a beautiful iMac, a lovely view, music, food, surrounded by books. It’s perfect . . . and I haven’t been able to write here. I try. It took me a week to write the first chapter for SUDDEN DEATH. Writing, deleting, starting in different places . . . it was awful. Basically, I wrote 30 pages in the time it took me to write 300 once I gave up the office and went back to writing at Starbucks. I really tried. I sat here all morning, all afternoon, and wrote and rewrote the same scene. I don’t know why I couldn’t get into the story, or why I was having such problems writing. But when I went back to Starbucks and my local bar, I thrived.

Part was the story itself–it wasn’t working. I had been wed to a specific backstory between the hero and heroine, but as soon as they got on the same page, I realized the backstory didn’t work. They didn’t know each other before these events. But I had 140 pages written, I couldn’t delete it. So I kept revising and revising and revising . . . and finally, on the plane returning from Thrillerfest, I realized that the backstory was wrong, that Meg and Jack didn’t know each other, and I had to delete most of the book. Once that happened, the story flowed. When I turned it in, it wasn’t perfect, but the story was all there, the characters developed, and the villains . . . well, let’s just say that these two have been particularly interesting because I haven’t done anything quite like this before (I hope!)

The story is different in other ways as well. First, Jack Kincaid is my most alpha hero. My other alphas–John Flynn, Zack Travis, Connor Kincaid and to some degree Mitch Bianchi–don’t hold a candle to Jack. Well, maybe John would be his equal. So it’s been hard getting to know him. I tend to gravitate to the smart guys, men like Quinn Peterson and Dillon Kincaid, who are strong, intelligent, noble, but not necessarily fighters. They would prefer to think or talk their way out of conflict, and they are exceptionally intelligent. But Jack . . . he’s not only a fighter, he’s a smart guy.

Another problem was figuring out what had kept Jack away from his family for the last 20 years. I’d set some things up unwittingly in FEAR NO EVIL when Jack came on scene to help rescue Lucy. But I didn’t know WHY Jack only returned for tragedies. Now I do, and it makes complete sense. In fact, it’s really the only reason that fits Jack’s character. It’s amazing sometimes how the mind works–I didn’t plan it this way, but some things that I said in FEAR NO EVIL led me down this final path.

Meg Elliott was easier in many ways because first, she’s a woman, and second, I was just in her head a bit writing PLAYING DEAD, the book that comes out at the end of September. She was fresh, so I could get into her head deeper. Yet I still didn’t know her backstory until I was halfway through the book and had that lightbulb moment. Now not only do I understand her and her background, I also have a much better understand of Hans Vigo, an FBI Agent and secondary character in several of my books. I have a confession to make: I’d planned to kill him off in PLAYING DEAD. I had this whole scene pictured in my mind and every time, he was a goner. But when I wrote the book, it didn’t turn out anything like I thought (and those vague “plans” really messed with my muse as I kept writing toward specific scenes that just didn’t work.) So Hans is around for another book, and I’m glad.

The last two books have been harder to write than any of my others. It honestly doesn’t get easier. I’ve said this before, so it’s nothing new. My writing is tighter, I write faster, but the story itself is harder–that wasn’t how it used to be. I know why–I’m pushing myself, and I don’t know if I’m going to push myself off the edge and crash and burn. I want each book to be better, but I don’t know if I can do it. But I also know that as a writer, if I keep writing books the same as before, the perception is I’m backtracking, not growing, and in fact getting worse. The inner stress can be paralyzing.

But at the same time, I love writing. When SUDDEN DEATH finally turned the corner and everything clicked into place, the joy of writing, the joy of telling this story, made all the suffering worth it. And I did suffer. I slept little, snapped at the kids, procrastinated, and feared I wouldn’t get it done, that I’d have to return my advance and crawl back to my old boss and beg for my job back. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do that. The book, though rough around the edges from the writing marathon, is done, the story told, and now it’s revision time. I love revisions.

I hope that the next book comes easier. I’ll be starting FATAL SECRETS the day the kids go back to school (August 25th, 11 days . . . no, I’m not counting. 😉 I know the hero–he was the hero of a short story I wrote called “Killing Justice” in the KILLER YEAR anthology. He also has a small role in PLAYING DEAD and SUDDEN DEATH. He’s Meg’s older brother. And the heroine had a bit part in PLAYING DEAD as well. Lexie, an FBI Agent. And the fun thing? I’m taking the set-up of the second book I wrote which never sold–an assassination attempt–and using it as the set-up of this book. Different characters, different backstory, different everything, but I get to keep my assassination attempt on Matt Elliott. I can hardly wait to get started.

So now, it’s off to work on revisions and apologize again to my MSW sisters. I’m back, and I think now . . . I’m in the zone.

Let’s just hope I can writing the next book in my new office.