Dueling Stories

The other day, CJ teased Joe in the comments of Joe’s post about how she had just written a scene where Abe Lincoln was involved in a light saber fight just before the Enola Gay took off. Reading that comment this morning — yes, yes, I’m behind on everything right now. I blame the weather and the fact that I’ve had to pull up carpet and try to dry out several rooms of the house more times than I care to remember over the last two weeks. — I wondered when the two of them became mind readers. While that particular scene isn’t one I would ever have thought of, it is a great illustration of where my head has been since finishing my last project.

Usually, before I finish one project, I have another on the mental draft board, ready to go. Actually, I generally have the next two to three projects lined up. Now, they don’t always go in the order I initially envision, but it is usually one of the two or three I’ve been plotting out and/or researching that moves to the head of the line.

cover1 (1)Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1) threw that process out the window. What I didn’t know was it would slam the window shut and try to lock it. You see, I hadn’t planned on writing Sword. At least not anytime in the near future. But, Myrtle the Muse had other ideas and she beat me about the figurative head and shoulders until I gave in and wrote the book. I may have muttered — okay, I screamed and whined and did more than a bit of cursing  — but I gave in, assuming that I’d be able to get back to my schedule as soon as I pushed out the book.

Fast forward to a month or so ago. Sword was finished and off to my editor. I sat down and looked at my notes for both Honor from Ashes, the third book in the Honor and Duty series, and Nocturnal Challenge, the fourth book in the Nocturnal Lives series. My gut was telling me I needed to push out Challenge. It had been back burnered for a bit and the plot was finally coming together in my head.

Except — and you knew there had to be an except, right? — Myrtle the Muse had decided she liked playing with my head. Nooooo, she wasn’t ready for me to move on to another series. She wanted me to at least map out not just the sequel to Sword but the book after that. The dull thudding you heard a week ago was me pounding my head against the wall. There was an accompanying wail of “Why me?”.

Ah, but Myrtle the Muse is nothing if not fickle. After plotting out the next two books, nothing extensive but getting down a few notes on the main plot arc and some world building notes, good ole Myrtle decided that I wouldn’t work on those just yet. Head, meet desk.

Now I have three books in my head, all demanding my attention and a Muse that has decided to go digging through my subconscious looking for something else to bring forth to torment me. Myrtle is an evil Muse and gets off on making my life more difficult than it needs to be.

Seriously, even though I have three strong plots running through my head, I finally figured out what has been stopping me. It isn’t the pretty patterns of my screensaver that comes on if I let the laptop sit too long without doing something. It isn’t even writer’s block. I could write either of the three books right now but they would be far from my best work because I’m not in the right mental space for them at the moment.

No, it is simply that I have put out three (four?) fairly serious novels in a row and I need to do something lighter, dare I say fluffier, right now. (AJ, quit bouncing up and down and high-fiving Jess or I’ll think you are responsible for all the craziness Myrtle the Muse has been putting me through!) So, with the house to myself yesterday, I turned off the internet, streamed a bunch of stuff off Netflix that could run as background noise without distracting me, and gave Myrtle my head. The result was almost 15,000 words on Skeletons in the Closet.  What that means, other than the fact it means AJ and Jess will quit asking me if I’m working on the darned thing, is I have this very strong mix of Texas/Deep South voice in my head, so strong nothing else will get written until this is done.

Or until I kill Myrtle the Muse because it is all her fault.

And, just so you can see how strong Lexie Smithson happens to be, and how screwed up her family life is, here is a short snippet (unedited and from the opening of the novel).

In the beginning . . . .

All my life, my mama’s tried to raise me to be a proper lady.  No, that’s not quite right.  She’s tried to raise me to be a proper SOUTHERN lady, full of refinement and grace, dressed in lace and delicate pastels.  To hear her talk, it’s been a futile effort that’s caused her more than her fair share of gray hair.  And, where the lace and pastels are concerned, she’s right.  Still, she’s managed to get me to say, “yes, ma’am,” and “no, sir”.  For the most part, I’m respectful of my elders, even when they don’t deserve it.  I even wear clean underwear whenever I leave the house – usually without any extraneous holes in it – because Mama is convinced some rampaging bus will find me and strike me down, necessitating a trip to the emergency room.

I swear, I think it’s her life’s dream that it will actually happen.  You see, in her world, a trip to the ER has only one ending.  The handsome, rich and oh-so-conveniently single doctor who saves my life will fall madly in love with me.  What she seems to forget is that in a bus vs. me battle, the bus will always win.  So, unless the doctor is also a re-animator, he’d be falling for a corpse and, well, ewwwwww!

Besides, having somehow managed to survive a close encounter of the nearly fatal kind, the last thing I’d be interested in is finding a man to settle down and raise a passel of kids with.  Not that it would deter Mama one little bit.  Hell, she’d probably arrive at the ER with her minister firmly in tow, a marriage license burning a hole in her hand bag, all ready to fill in the blanks and make me a married woman.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, my mama rarely lets reality interfere with her plans.

Don’t get me wrong.  I can deal with Mama’s plans and manipulations.  I’ve spent a lifetime figuring out how.  All I have to do is make sure I look both ways before crossing the street.  Of course, the odds of a bus hitting me here in Misty Creek are about as good as the odds of Hell freezing over.  So I figure I’m safe – at least for the time being.

Knock on wood.

Because sure as my name’s Lexie Smithson, the minute I get married and move out, Mama will be packing her bags to join me.  It won’t matter if I want her to or not.  All she’d care about is finally being able to get away from Papa and the rest of the family.  It wouldn’t even matter that I’m the least favorite of her kids.  Like I said, reality rarely interferes with my mama’s plans.

Of course, I am an ungrateful and unobliging child.  I’ve no more found a bus to hit me than I’ve been able to keep the family skeletons in the closet.  The former I have no control over and the latter, well, I swear I don’t mean to let them out.  At least not usually.  It’s just that they make so much noise, what with all their moaning and the rattling of their bones.  Sometimes I just can’t help it.

It doesn’t help that it always seems to happen at the worst possible time.  Like when Mama’s women’s group was meeting in our parlor last Sunday after church.  Mama had just served the iced tea and lemon pound cake.  She’d even managed to make the house smell more like a garden than a funeral parlor.  Everything had been as close to perfect as was ever possible in our place.

Then Aunt Minnie decided she just had to join in on the fun.

Now I ask you, was it my fault she wanted to be a part of the meeting?  She’d been a member of that women’s group since the very first meeting more than twenty years ago.  Everyone there knew her.  Just as Mama knew she was there – how could you forget?  Besides, all Aunt Minnie had wanted was to find out what the no-account scoundrel of an ex-husband of her had been doing with the new church secretary.  Really.

I swear, those women sure did over-react when Aunt Minnie rattled in and sat on the settee next to Miss Pearl.  You’d have thought Miss Pearl had seen a ghost the way she shrieked and then fainted dead away.  Okay, maybe Aunt Minnie smelled a bit.  But we’d buried her in her best Sunday-go-to-meeting dress and it was just as pretty that afternoon as it had been at her funeral six months ago.  Mr. Perez, the local undertaker, had even been by just the day before to give Aunt Minnie one of her treatments.  So she looked pretty much like she had before she passed.  Sure, her skin sagged a bit more than it used to and she had a slightly yellow tinge, but that was all.  Really.

Besides, old Missus McIntyre was wearing enough lilac scent to cover the smell.

There’s more. Heaven help me, there is more. And Lexie is proving that, despite all her mother’s training and hope, she is not a proper Southern lady. Not the way she has elbowed every other story out of the way so I will finally write hers. Now she is demanding I get my second cup of coffee of the morning and get back to work on her story. I’ve spent enough time working on something else.  😉

10 responses to “Dueling Stories

  1. Pingback: Nocturnal Lives » I still live — I think

  2. The Story That Won’t Let Go. You’re going to have to finish this and make everybody happy. And I think that AJ is secretly meeting with Myrtle behind your back. AJ can’t be trusted and we all know that.

    • I figured it had to be something like that. Why else would I have this story in my head? Oh, and the scene that came today tops anything that you guys have already seen.

  3. Lexie!!!! Yay!!!!!!

  4. Where is the sequel to Sword of Arelion? What, next year! You are going to let Cait wait a year to find out what she needs to do? 🙂

    • Not next year, Sam. Give me a couple of months. I have the plot in my head but needed to step away from it for a bit. But I should be able to get it done in then next three months or so.

  5. I was just teasing you since you seem to have a full plate already.

    • I know but the muse is almost as loud on Dagger of Elanna (the next book in the series) as it is for Skeletons right now. Frankly, if the “voice” in Skeletons wasn’t so strong — and Southern — I’d write the two books at the same time. But I don’t think any of us want to see Cait suddenly taking like Scarlett O’Hara. 😉

  6. Walter Daniels

    That’s what happened with “The Mouse Ran Up The Clock.” As mentioned in my first n=book, The Man Who Was A Santa Claus. My editor said I “shouldn’t refer to a book that didn’t exist.” Now, it does. I hope to have illo’s in time to publish it for Christmas (late Fall). Muses are *evil.* 🙂

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