It’s fun to be surprised…usually

I’ve started writing a new book for a new series. Which means, for me, lots of planning ahead. This is an ongoing mystery series, so there’s no over-arcing question that starts in book one and ends at the last book in the series. That’s how D. L. Cross wrote her sci-fi Astral Conspiracy series–which was awesome. It’s how Ilona Andrews wrote her Kate Daniels series–maybe one of my favorites of all time. And it’s how C.S. Boyack is writing his Lanternfish series. Even though Ilona Andrews recently came out with a new spin-off book from Kate Daniels, which makes me REALLY happy. And even though I’d love it if C.S. Boyack thought of spin-offs for his books, especially if any of them involved Serang. BUT, that’s not what I’m doing. I’m writing a series with recurring characters and hopefully, no end in sight. I’m hoping Karnie finds lots and lots of mysteries to solve for a long time.

My daughter hates the name Karnie. HH wasn’t crazy about it at first, but it’s grown on him. But I picked the name for a reason. Karnie’s dad is a butcher, and she works in his shop. Her dad’s last name is Cleaver, and he considers his career his destiny. He named his first=born son Porter because he loved Porterhouse steaks. His second son is named Chuck after chuck roasts. And Karnie, unfortunately, is short for carnivore. She’s not happy about it, but it’s not like she got a vote on it. Her dad has a quirky sense of humor, and what can she do? She will be Karnie Cleaver until the day she marries, which she hopes is never.

Both boys worked in the back of the shop, cutting meat. Karnie works the counter and spends a decent amount of time answering customers’ questions about how to cook the meats they buy. But even though the shop is a family operation, Porter was always the “golden boy.” Everything came easy for him. He’s tall and handsome. He’s smart and good at sports. And his parents always compared Chuck and Karnie to him, and they always fell short.

But Porter believed what his parents told him and thought of himself as too good to stick around. He moved to Florida and opened a seafood market of his own. He’s been successful. He hasn’t come home to visit since he left. His family and hometown are too “small” for him. He deserves more.

And that’s how I wrote him. Until….Karnie’s working at the shop, and in he walks. I didn’t have his return in my plot points. I didn’t expect it. But he’s broken up with his latest girlfriend–someone he actually stuck with for a while–and when she leaves, he wants a break. So, he comes home.

I love it when characters surprise me. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m anal about my plot points. NO character can change the direction of my main storyline. But they can act out as long as the main plot points don’t change. And believe me, they DO. And I never see it coming. But doggone it, it WORKS. Porter being Porter only makes my storyline stronger. I just didn’t see it coming.

Someday, I’m going to have to focus on Mr. Big Ego Brother, but not in this book. In book one, he can just upset everyone’s comfort zone and then move on. Back to Florida. And his fish market, and the next girl. Because he’s shallow. But he was raised by great parents and a loving family, and someday, he’ll get smart. Maybe. At least, I hope so.

The take away? I’m not even through the first quarter of my new book, and the characters are being demanding. What can I say? Sometimes, I only think I’m in charge. No, I AM in charge, but sometimes, my characters don’t listen to me!

Exert yourself. Show your characters who’s boss. And happy writing!

A Funny Thing Happened . . .

A funny thing happened on my way to Mill Pond’s book 4.   I introduced Tyne Newsome in my third romance.  He’s Paula’s assistant chef.  He’s tall, scruffy, and sexy.  He has to beat women away, but the man has tunnel vision.  All he thinks about is opening a restaurant of his own and cooking.  And he came to life in book 3 and jumped off the pages.  So, when I started book 4, how could I not let him shine?

I wrote the first three Mill Pond romances from the female protagonist’s POV.  But when I sat down to write FIT TO BE THAI’d (the working title for book 4), Tyne didn’t want to be pushed in the background.  He has attitude and opinions, and he meant to share them.  The thing is, he’s such a strong character, I worried he’d overshadow Daphne, so I needed to give her a voice, too.  So, for the first time in a romance, I’m writing the male and female POV.  And I think it’s making this book stronger.

Will I write both POVs in my next romance?  I don’t know.  It’s according to how loud the characters yap at me.

The other surprise in book 4?  I ended up with more plot points than any author needs.  Forty of them, and they’re detailed.  And I only had a few, small references to Daphne’s friend, Miriam, in any of them.  But then Miriam walked into Tyne’s kitchen in chapter seven, and that woman had just as much swagger and attitude as Tyne did.  I listened to them go back and forth and loved how they interacted.  So guess who gets a bigger role than I expected?  Miriam is a high school English teacher who doesn’t mince words.

Now don’t get me wrong.  When I have an outline and a character surprises me, that’s allowed.  It’s even encouraged.  But the characters know what their boundaries are, and they have to stay in them.  Miriam doesn’t change any turning points, but she sure enjoys it when she can steal a scene:)

A good writer friend of mine, Kyra Jacobs, experienced the same type of thing when she was working on her Checkerberry Inn romance series and her paranormal romance/dragon series.  On her blog, she wrote, “…it marked a wonderful new beginning for my writing as I stepped away from writing in first person, single point of view (female main character only) to multiple points of view.”

You can find her blog @:

Whatever you’re working on now, I hope you’re having as much fun as I am.  I’m trying to twist Kyra Jacobs’s arm to get her to do a guest spot for you here.  After all, she writes about dragons, who are shifters.  And I write about Prosper, who’s a shifter.  Okay, he’s a bear, not a dragon, but there’s something about shifters, don’t you think?  Those big, strong men who have an animal caged inside them?  And Kyra writes romances…and I write romances.  We have so much in common, except probably the way we write.  If she’s sane, she’s never done forty plot points for any of her novels.  No one should.  But, hey! Every book’s different.  I never thought I’d do it either.

twitter: @judypost

Broken’s still Beautiful

Company was coming, so things that are often neglected got cleaned at our house.  My nicknack  box with lots of small slots is tedious to dust.  So are the little figurines that fill it.  I carried them to the kitchen sink to give them a quick dip and rinse, and that’s when I realized how many of them are broken.

My mom bought me the nicknack of a small elephant with big ears like Dumbo and a thin trunk held up to say hello.  Trouble is, the elephant only has half a trunk now.  Nate was helping me when he was little.  He was thrilled to be able to handle each fragile piece.  The trunk, unfortunately, was TOO fragile.  It didn’t survive an excited boy.  I should have pitched the elephant, but every time I look at it, I remember that day.  So it still sits in its small space in the lower left corner of the shadow box.

My husband bought me a collection of mice figurines.  One’s a mother mouse rocking a cradle with her baby inside it, another’s a mouse cooking at an old-fashioned black stove, there’s a tooth fairy mouse, etc.  Ty was helping me clean these.  He put them in a bowl of warm water to get them extra shiny.  The glue that held the cradle on the painted “rag rug” melted.  I tried gluing the pieces back together, with no luck.  Now, I rinse them separately and balance them back in place–no one the wiser.

In my office, the clock master on a bookshelf, busy at his work table, only has half an arm.  A rabbit has a chipped ear.  For me, the chips and imperfections don’t detract one bit from each piece’s beauty.  Our living room ceiling has a small, round hole in it where Nate experimented with a rocket propelled by a tire pump.  The rocket worked.  Our ceiling suffered.  In some odd way, I’m almost more fond of it now.

And just like my nicknacks and ceiling, the bumps in my life, though unwelcome at the time, have taken me in directions I’d have never explored on my own.  The same goes with my writing.  When an editor I’d sent a mystery manuscript to said, “I don’t do mysteries anymore.  I’m over paranormal romances now.  Do you have one to send me?”–I didn’t even know what a paranormal romance was.  But I replied, “If you tell me what it is, I’ll try to write it.” She sent me a list, bless her.  I didn’t get it right the first time, but I was closer on my second attempt.  On the third try, she wanted to buy it, but by then, she was ready to move on herself.  Everything fell through, but I was hooked on writing about witches and werewolves, goddesses and gargoyles.   It’s not what I planned to do.  I won’t be the world’s next Agatha Christie, as I intended, but life, as usual, suprised me.  The dream of being a writer is still there, just a little chipped and glued back together.