Saturday, August 14, 2010

How does your story grow?

By Janet Miller/Cricket Starr (and guest Mardi Ballou!)

A while ago I was writing a short story for Ellora’s Cave in my Hollywood After Dark series, about a vampire who took a temporary companion every Christmas to keep away the depression he felt at that time. He called that depression the Ghosts of Christmas Past, which was also the name of the story. So my vampire snatches from the air a woman who has fallen off a building, escaping her own ghosts, and the two of them have a very sensual Christmas indeed. “Ghosts” is one of my favorite short stories for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I honestly loved the hero and heroine and how they came together.

Partway through the story I introduced two additional characters, one a psychic like my heroine, and the other a werewolf named Al Lupas. A self-described “bad dog”, Al quickly became my favorite character in the story and as every author will tell you, this can be a very bad thing. When you have a secondary character spring to life that way  it is so tempting to let him run away with the story and overshadow everyone else. For a 15K story this means disaster. So I did what every other author in this situation must do, I cut Al’s lines to a minimum and promised him his own book.

But now what should I do with a slightly naughty bad dog when I finally got around to writing his story? I had to give him a heroine, but not just any heroine would do. She has to be his match, and what is the perfect heroine for a bad dog? For me it was the perfect lady werewolf.

(If you are mentally seeing an image of a scruffy looking dog with a beautiful cocker spaniel sharing a plate of spaghetti, you aren’t alone. I love animated love stories.)

And so Bad Dog and the Babe was born, out of a need to shut up my over-sexed werewolf. Al was given permission to be as rough as he wanted in the beginning and Barbara Grisloup was the perfect lady. Perfect except that she was in Al’s low-class shifter’s bar, The Dog House, looking for her missing sister and even worse she was in heat. As Al put it, she had no business being in his place of business. Al had to rescue her from a group of sexed up werewolves and the next thing they know they’re in his bed. The first several chapters of this book were a breeze to write, even the love scenes.

And then I had to deal with the mystery. I had a missing sister, and her boyfriend, and it looked like they’d been abducted. By who? Why? Is there a connection to the people at the garbage company the sister and her boyfriend were taking pictures of? Once I got Al and Babe comfortable with each other, I was able to have them following up on clues and investigating the disappearance. I gave Al and Babe a lot of help, mostly characters from the other Hollywood After Dark books so I got to visit some old friends along the way.

I was also able to play with the fact that Al and Babe had different backgrounds and attitudes about some things, which might have ended their relationship faster than a silver bullet. This is one book I really enjoyed writing from beginning to end, and I hope everyone else does as well. It comes out August 25th from Ellora’s Cave.

As it happens my book will be released the same day as a friend of mine, Mardi Ballou, so I asked her to describe how her story grew as well. She gave me this to post.
Long, Slow Ride” was my first cougar story. Though Lori was thrilled and flattered when Jeff paid attention—okay, way more than just paying attention—it took her a while to get over some insecurities and let herself enjoy the man and the ride. At the end of the story, Lori finally “got it” —and Jeff got his woman. Fun as it was to torture them both and make them work for their happy ending, I knew there was lots more about the cougar theme I wanted to explore.

This leads to my new story, “Soap Bloke.” The actual inspiration for this story came from my fascination with the fabulous TV series “True Blood.” I love the show so much, I read every bit of news I could find about its stars and was thrilled to read that Sookie and Bill, a couple on-screen, are engaged to each other in real life. Knowing that they break up in the TV series, I couldn’t help wondering how this might affect their true romance….

With these two threads as inspiration, I began to write “Soap Bloke.” In my story, Gwen and Dirk star in a vampire romance TV show. They’re lovers both on and off the screen. They first got together on another show when the writers wrote a script of them falling in love.

Gwen’s forty, Dirk’s thirty (actually, Sookie is younger than Bill). Gwen has made some enemies among the show’s producers. When they bring in Valerie, a new, younger on-screen love interest for Dirk, Gwen fears history will be repeated. Valerie is ambitious, hot and ready to do anything to move ahead—which includes flirting big time with Dirk. Gwen alternates between vowing to fight for him and bracing herself for the end.

Dirk, who really loves Gwen, is getting a little tired of her insecurities. Very tired. He’s about ready to give up on them. Luckily he finds a piece of rope at a strategic time…

This story was a lot of fun to write—so many chances once again to torture my heroine and hero. Of course Valerie’s been clamoring for her own story, which she will get soon, I keep promising her. But right now Gwen and Dirk are in the spotlight in “Soap Bloke,” a Quickie coming from Ellora’s Cave Aug. 25. I’d be honored if you get a chance to read their story, and I’d love to hear what you think about cougars and this story at

So now that we've told our stories, you can tell us... How does your story grow?


Jill James said...

Man, I don't have anything to add to that. That was so fascinating to see inside your brain of how your story grows. I loved it.

Oh, and I really love True Blood.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I've been told my brain is scary because of the people who live in it. I really have no idea where my ideas come from. For some strange reason they are there for the picking and sharing. You have a great way of processing your story. I just am not that organized. :)

Joanne said...

I'm a pantser, and my stories seem to grow on their own, layer by layer. Sometimes I wonder where my ideas and characters come from.