Archives for January 2014

Last Words

Did something very different yesterday before I got into the next chapter.

I wrote the final scene of Bandit’s Moon.

As I’ve been saying the past couple of weeks, I’ve known, pretty much from the beginning, how the book ends. Not so much the exact sequence that ends it, but the events that end it. And as I’ve gotten closer to that end, the outlines of the final sequence have become clearer.

Within the past few days, those outlines have filled in, and I began to actually see that final sequence in my mind. I think the final piece was the snow we had this week. I said early on that Bandit’s Moon was set in the week before Christmas – it begins on December 18th, and ends the morning of December 25th – Christmas morning (thus breaking my six days of Night and Day series time per book – this one actually runs almost, though not quite, seven days…call it 6 days, 20 hours, more or less). And what’s nicer than a White Christmas?

Santa

With the idea of snow on that final day, and the image of blood on snow, it all came together in my mind a couple of nights ago.

So I decided to write it.

It’s around 635 words in first-draft verbiage, a couple of manuscript pages. The last fifth or so of that final chapter (and right now I don’t know if that will be chapter 26 or chapter 27 – depends on how things play out in the next couple of days, how long it takes to get through what comes before those 635 words. In theory, it could be chapter 26, but I’m thinking right now that it will be chapter 27.)

I also know what will happen in the Epilogue, and could probably write that as well…but won’t, unless I find myself with some extra time. That could have gone a couple of different ways, and for a long time I was thinking of doing it one way. But in the past week, I’ve come up with a different event to stamp PAID on Bandit’s Moon.

So the destination is locked in. All I have to do is travel the road between here and there. Which I’ll continue doing today, after I get back from a trip to Costco, where I’ll stock up with the major food items I’ll need in February. Just in case I get snowed in again.

Vampire-santa3

As Santa the Cable Guy says, “Get ‘er done!”

He’s a woman, baby…

The gender reassignment surgery, so to speak, that turned Detective Buck James into Detective Becca James, was a success. And it went fairly smoothly.

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I think the reason it went so smoothly was because of Becca’s part in Bandit’s Moon. (I’ll heretofore refer to the character as the woman she is, not the man she was…) She appears in about a chapter and a half’s worth of story, spread out over three chapters. Half of chapter four, half of chapter five, and half of chapter 22. And she has specific functions to play in what is essentially two appearances. Story functions.

That made it easier to rework her – she wasn’t a new character, who might go off the reservation and take the story in another direction that wouldn’t match up with what followed. She had a role to play, and whether she was a man, a woman or a talking Shetland pony, her interaction with Welles would be about the same. She’d do her job early, step off stage, then come back on later and do another job…then leave again. Feet slapping or hooves clopping.

Also, as I said when first contemplating this, she’s the same police detective she was when she was Buck. An old friend of Welles, a plainclothes officer before the vampire apocalypse working in the same police station as Welles did before the war. Buck worked in Vice. Becca worked in Vice. The specialty of both was prostitution stings. Buck would play a customer, a john, and arrest hookers. Becca would play a hooker and arrest johns.

I did switch where Becca was from. As Buck, the character was from Arkansas, as Becca from Michigan. I could have actually let Becca come from Arkansas as well, but I decided to change it up for dialogue purposes.

The Night and Day series takes place in the south. There are, throughout the series, a fair number of people who speak with a southern dialect or southern speech pattern. In Bandit’s Moon there are even more, especially once Welles starts interacting with the racist Humans First Front. I’m in no way saying that all southerners are racists, or that racism in the US is predominantly in the American South. It’s not. But many of these particular racists in Bandit’s Moon were members of racist groups in the south (the Humans First Front was organized in an internment camp outside Atlanta).

So you’ve got all these people talking with a southern twang, so to speak. With specifically southern speech patterns. And Buck James, from Arkansas, was one of them. Now as Becca James, that’s gone.

I did add some touches to her dialogue, but I probably will do a bit more with that when I get into the first runthrough. Refine it, give her more of her own distinctive voice. That’s actually a bit easier when creating a character from scratch in the initial writing instead of reworking one as I’m doing here, because in this case I’m more or less following a script. Becca’s job is to reveal this information or that information.  Hopefully within roughly the same amount of words so I don’t have a chapter either blow up or shrink too much. So I’ll be paying some extra attention to those three half chapters when I get to rewriting and polishing, to better define her character through her words.

But today, it’s time to move forward with the story and stop thinking about Becca James. Which I’ll do after a quick trip to the tobacco store now that the snow and ice are melting and the roads are passable once more. I figure we’ll be above freezing within the hour.

Winter Wonderland

I’m basically snowbound at the moment – we got about 2 inches of snow yesterday, which isn’t much in the scheme of things, but in Alabama it’s pretty much the end of the world. The government is not really equipped for it, and the people don’t know how to deal with it.

Front

The problem where I am is that it’s hilly. I live on the side of Red Mountain. Slippery. Icy. Treacherous. Those cars you see above? They’re still there. And I haven’t seen a car come into the apartment complex since the snow stopped. I don’t think they can make it up the 35 degree hill that leads up here.

And it’s not much better on the interstate highways…

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That’s about a mile or so from here. Many tractor-trailers are having trouble going up and down the hills. People have been stuck in that for 10 hours.

Me? I don’t go outside when it’s below freezing, so I didn’t plan to venture outdoors till tomorrow afternoon anyway. And I can wait till Friday morning if I had to. Hopefully by then, the abandoned cars that litter the highways will be gone.

And what will I be doing?

I’ll be changing Buck James to Becca James. Yes, I decided to go ahead and make the sex change with the character I discussed last time. But not so much for the reasons I envisioned.

Like I’ve said, there’s a fair number of unlikeable characters in Bandit’s Moon, and their views and opinions do not reflect those of the staff and management of the Night and Day series. They’re fictional characters. They perform a function in the story. That’s about it. The female characters perform a function in the story. They all have their own thing and their own lives and their own backstory, but they’re who they are for a story reason, not because they reflect my own views on women. So if I left things as they are, I could live with that.

The tipping point for me was the idea that at this point in the series, Welles has a few associates in the police department, but they’re all male and higher up the food chain. Daryl Northport, Chief of Police Operations. Jimmy Mutz, Downtown District day shift captain. Having a female detective in the mix will be useful to the series moving forward. I may never need Becca again, but it’s nice to know she’s in the box, ready to come out if I do.

Of course, instead of moving forward and finishing Bandit’s Moon by Friday or Saturday, it will now probably be more like Monday, because I’m going back and making the changes now. Not waiting for the first readthrough/edit/polish. I don’t want to be dealing with material that’s aged (like the rest of the book) and fresh (like the rewritten Becca stuff) as I go forward. Everything should be at about the same draft quality when I start polishing around February 10th.

So that’s what I’ll be doing today – changing Buck to Becca, revising her character because she is a different character, not just Buck James in drag. I’ll get that done, and tomorrow it’s back to the final chapters.

By this time next week, I can start thinking seriously about Blood for Blood.

Misogyny and Swapping Genders

I like women and I like strong, often complex, women characters – human and vampire. And I think, overall, that’s what you’ve seen in the Night and Day series. Takeda, Sarah, and Cynthia (with all her quirks) in Night and Day, them plus Lita Martinez and Anna Thodberg in Bleeding Sky.

And now we move on to Bandit’s Moon. Because of the focus of the book (described in countless other posts), we don’t see many of the women who appeared in the first two books. There are three important female characters in the book, but one is “quirky” because of Asperger’s, one is a racist whack-job, and one is..well, loose, as they say.

So while are are, in my opinion, well written, none are the kind you’re going necessarily like. Which honestly makes me a little uncomfortable.

It’s not that I feel that you have to like all the characters. Bandit’s Moon has it’s share of unlikeable characters. In fact, I’d have to say that many of the characters are not particularly likeable (except, of course, for Welles, who you hopefully at least kind of like). And by like, I don’t mean you won’t like the part they play in the story, or how they’re written. I mean it in the general sense – you wouldn’t want to hang out with many of these people. And I can say, certainly from my own perspective, that I wouldn’t want to hang out with any of the women characters in this book.

My thoughts, at the moment, are that the current female cast of characters could make me seem mysogynistic. Which is certainly not true (the nature of an aspect of the story could also make it seem, to the very dimwitted, that I might be racist as well, but hopefully most readers can differentiate between character beliefs and the writer’s beliefs. If you’re wondering, I also do not drink blood…well, human blood…okay, I don’t actually “drink” blood, but I like beef medium rare, so I probably get some blood with my meat…). But somebody just coming into the series with Bandit’s Moon might not have the first two books behind them, and might think the “portrayal” of women in the book matches my perception of women.

I do have a way of “fixing” it – not rewriting any of the women characters because they all, regardless of unlikeability, are important to the story – but changing the gender of another character.

It wouldn’t be a huge change – well, for him it would be, but I mean in story terms. He’s an old cop buddy of Welles, still a cop, and he’s one of those unfired guns I talked about last time, who appears and does one thing early in the book, then returns and has a different role to play. I’d have to rework a scene or two and change his description (obviously), but it wouldn’t be a huge chore. A lot of what he does is cop and old friend related, and that can work as a man or a woman.

But do I want to? Is it necessary? He’s fine the way he is, and I don’t feel like I have to pander to someone who might make a judgment about me, the writer, based on the characters (little unknown fact – Shelly Hodge, Dick Nedelmann’s partner in Night and Day was originally a man in the first draft – I changed him to a her in the second draft just to mix things up a bit). On the other hand, I’d like people to enjoy the books, and if they think I’m some kind of misogynist, that might detract from their enjoyment.

So I don’t know…it’s something that’s been churning in my brain as I get into the final stretch on Bleeding Sky, and it’s nothing that I have to worry about right now. I’ll make a final determination in February when I start the editing and polishing. We’ll see what happens.

Chekhov’s Phaser…err, Gun

I’m a firm believer in Anton Chekhov’s well-known principle that “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.

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Of course, it can be a little different in a series. The “gun”, whether character or bit of backstory or whatever, doesn’t necessarily have to come into play in a subsequent chapter of that book. It can, of course, but it can also “fire” later in the series.

I do it both ways. Night and Day, for example, has a couple of unfired “guns” in it that still haven’t been fired right through the events of Bandit’s Moon. Take, for example, Tom Castle.

If you’ve read Night and Day, you might remember him. One of the regulars at Hanritty’s.

Age somewhere between forty and seventy. Graying, unkempt shoulder-length hair. Tall and thin, almost skeletal. Empty eyes.

You find out that he had been tapped hard during the war, and withdrawn into himself. Not physically damaged by losing a lot of blood to the vampires, but psychologically damaged.

And then Tom Castle just…disappears. Introduced and discussed at a length that would make you think that there was more to him and a greater place in the story further on in Night and Day. But there’s not. He never gets mentioned or seen again.

To be honest, at one stage Tom Castle did make another appearance, and did have a greater place in the story. In the chapter where Welles and Captain Jimmy Mutz were sitting in Hanritty’s, talking about what leads to follow next and discussing a trip to Camp Delta-5, Tom Castle was supposed to interject himself into the conversation, unbidden, and share some information about Delta-5. Important information.

But…it didn’t work, at least not as well as I wanted it to. Instead, I decided to go with the guy who always ate breakfast in the booth next to Welles. He shares some important information, sends them in a different direction. And though he doesn’t have a name, in Bleeding Sky we find out that he calls himself Red. And he remains the gift that keeps on giving in Bandit’s Moon.

Tom Castle, on the other hand, hasn’t been seen since Chapter 1 of Night and Day. And I almost took him out of there when I was editing the book. Because he was that gun on the wall that hadn’t been fired. But I left him in. Why? Because I will probably use him at one point or another, in one Night and Day book or another. I’ll eventually pull Tom Castle’s trigger, when the time is right. Until then, he can quietly hang on the wall.

Another gun I’ve cocked a couple of times but never fired is Father Keitaro McCray. The priest who believes the vampires are demons sent by God to test the faith of humanity. He has most of a chapter devoted to him in Night and Day, and he reappears briefly in Bleeding Sky. Yet he really doesn’t have much of an impact on either story. So why is he there?

Frankly, because I might need him. I knew I wouldn’t need him in Night and Day beyond what we saw of him. I brought him in briefly in Bleeding Sky to set up part of a discussion further on in the book. But also to set him up to eventually be “fired” later in the series. Which is not to say that his “supernatural” theory of the vampire’s origins holds water. But it will be useful to have him on-hand a little later – probably in Blood for Blood. (He almost appeared in Bandit’s Moon – when brainstorming the story, I had an incident involving Father McCray. It didn’t fit in, but will almost definitely fit into Blood for Blood.)

The reason this was all on my mind today was that Bandit’s Moon does have a couple of “guns” that appear in the early part of the story. They performed a function at that point, but I also knew that they might come in handy later, though I had no idea if they actually would. As it turns out, they did. Both in very important ways.

It’s all part of my toolbox approach to writing. Put lots of tools in the toolbox, and don’t be afraid to put extras in even if you don’t know if you’ll need them. Because when the end of the book is thundering at you like a herd of stampeding bulls, that kind of “gun” might be just what you need.