Monday, January 16, 2012

When the Smoke Gets Out of the Box

Those who keep up with me on Twitter and Facebook will already know that I started writing Bluewater Vengeance, my next novel, just a few days ago.  I’ll take a moment to explain that I actually started working on it a few months ago.  I suspect that those of you who write will understand the difference between "working on it,"  and "writing it."  I'll try to expand on this a bit, in case those terms don't conjure up the phases that we go through when we start any creative project.  I can even draw parallels to the steps I went through in replacing the engine in our sailboat last year, but that's on the sailing blog.

I started working on Bluewater Vengeance last summer, when I was writing Bluewater Killer.  I knew that I wanted to write a series of books about some of the same characters.  I get attached to certain characters, you see, and it's hard to put them away when their role in a given work is finished.  Of course, some of them die, and that's hard.  I grieve for them, but I know they aren't really dead, any more than actors who die on stage are dead.  They're just out of the spotlight for a while.  There are some of those characters still hanging around from Deception in Savannah, in fact.  Their essence may breath life into future characters, who probably won’t share their names,  but I'll know who they are just the same. 

So, I had some characters who resonated in Bluewater Killer, even though they didn't have big roles.  One of those was Dani Berger.  She was a fascinating person to me.  A beautiful, capable young woman, she was, but all she did was get herself whacked on the head and tossed overboard.  Well, okay, she also did a few other things, but her role in the book was passive.

That was frustrating for her, and for me.  Dani just isn't a passive person.  In order to get her to play the part that I needed for her to play in Bluewater Killer, I made a deal with her.  If she behaved fairly well, she could have the run of the place in Bluewater Vengeance.  She's holding me to the deal.  We're five chapters into Bluewater Vengeance at this point, and she's definitely center stage.  Nothing passive about the gal now, and she is making this story her own. 

There were a couple of other women who played somewhat larger roles in Bluewater Killer who also caught my attention.  One of them died, but the other one, well, we don't know for sure, but several people have asked what happened to Liz.  She died.  Or did she?  I don't want to spoil Bluewater Killer if you haven't read it yet. 

Then there's Phillip's girlfriend, Sandrine, who had a small but entertaining role in Bluewater Killer.  One reader has expressed some frustration with the unresolved relationship that she had with Phillip.  I could go on, character by character, but the point here is to let you know that while I was writing Bluewater Killer, I was laying the groundwork for the next book.

I published Bluewater Killer in mid-November, and I didn't start writing Bluewater Vengeance until a few days ago.  In the interim, my wife and I finished our sailing trip to St. Martin, arriving here in early December from St; Lucia, where we were when I published Bluewater Killer.  We've frittered away our time working on the boat and visiting with friends, getting settled into St. Martin for the winter.

Not long after we got here, we learned that the drawbridge that allows access to the lagoon from the French side of the island was broken.  The man who announced this on the morning radio network explained that the problem came about when a maintenance crew painting the bridge took the cover off of a control box to paint it.  When they took the cover off, the smoke came out of the box and escaped.  He said the bridge surely wouldn't work again until they put some fresh smoke into the box. They had it on order, but in typical island fashion, it was delayed in shipment.
 
I liked the story, and as I mulled it over, I realized that it was a lot like what happens when I finally start writing, after months of turning the story over in my head.  When I start writing, the smoke that's been swirling around in confusion comes out of the box in a nice, smooth stream, right onto the screen of my computer.  The challenge is to stoke the fires at just the right rate to keep enough smoke in the box.  If it all gets out at once, it disperses before it gets to the computer, and the drawbridge between the story in my head and the story in the reader's head won’t function.
 
Thanks for reading.  I have to get back to Dani.  She's trying to let more smoke out of the box.

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