Expect the Unexpected

Last week at work, I was scheduled for a professional training class. SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture, if anyone is interested). It wasn’t all that difficult, but it was mentally exhausting to be in a room for five straight days, eight hours per day, in lecture. I gave that up in 1991 when I left grad school to start my first job.

Luckily, the end of the week had a bonus. Two of my Viable Paradise friends — Alison and Debra — were in town for the Romance Writers of America‘s 33rd annual conference, held here in Atlanta last weekend. The three of us plus our other classmate, Scott, who lives here in the Atlanta area, agreed to meet for dinner and catching up.

Another bonus was that Alison brought along her conference roommate Diana, another VP alum from 2006 (VPX). It was great seeing them again and meeting Diana. And dinner was awesome. (If you get the chance to try the lamb lollipops at Sear, do so.)

But the big fun of the evening was being with other writers and discussing our writing. Yes, I do that weekly, but the added bonus here was that Debra, Alison, and Diana were at RWA to pitch their ideas to publishers/agents (and each of them got multiple requests for either full or partial submissions, so yay!). So the inevitable, “So, what are you writing? Pitch it to me,” question came up. :)

Now, I have never done a pitch. Not seriously. But these are my tribe, so I said, “OK, my one-sentence version is this: It’s like Fringe with magic.” That’s not quite right, but it’s what I have. I tried to do an “It’s <this thing> meets <this other thing>” one, but I can’t ever find two things to put there. X-Files is too . . . something. And The Dresden Files is, as well. I thought of Criminal Minds meets . . . something with magic that isn’t The Dresden Files. But my mind refuses to fill in that second blank. (Everyone agrees, by the way, that comparing anything to The Dresden Files is a bad idea. I can’t really explain it, but . . . it’s like, it would be the kiss of death to compare your YA story to Harry Potter because it’s too big. Too popular. Claiming a similarity would be tantamount to saying ‘I think I’m as good as { Jim Butcher | J. K. Rowling }.’)

Anyway, they encouraged me to do the longer one, so I said something like this:

It’s an urban fantasy series that takes place in and around modern-day Atlanta, only magic works. There are no sexy vampires or sexy werewolves, and nothing ever sparkles. Magic is ‘out’ but not accepted. Nick Damon and Javier Ellis are FBI agents with magical powers who work with the local cops to solve cases involving magic.”

In the first book, Death Scene, bodies are discovered, each brutally murdered, and each scene is frozen in time at the moment of the victim’s death. Nick and Javier, along with Atlanta detectives Charlotte “Chuck” Norris and Derek Meads, are put on the case and have to move fast as more bodies are discovered.

They liked that (I know it still needs work), and asked for some clarifying information, then offered some suggestions. When they summarized Scott’s back to him, he liked it so much, he made them text it to his phone so he’d remember it. :)

We sat in the restaurant and talked for a while, then moved to the bar for a while, then found comfortable chairs in an out-of-the-way, quiet niche and talked some more until very late. Then we all had to leave because of that whole ‘becoming a pumpkin’ thing. (Read: We’re no longer spring chickens and staying up until all hours means Bad Things™ the next day.)

And it was somewhere during the ‘talked for a long time’ part that the serendipity happened. Someone asked what else I was writing, and I said, “It’s fairy tale noir. A detective solves the case of where Cinderella’s husband is going at night when he leaves the castle.” They chuckled, and we went on.

But apparently, something clicked in the back of my head. On the drive home (about 30 to 40 minutes from downtown to my suburb), the new story — discarding most of what I thought was the good stuff from my existing story — popped into my head, and I quickly grabbed my digital voice recorder and made sure I wouldn’t forget it.

The story clocked in at a hefty 11,300 words to begin with. With help from a couple of my friends and the judicious use of figurative shearing scissors, I got it down to about 8400 words, but it was still too big. I needed a way to cut it. But I couldn’t figure out what to lose and what to keep. I liked every scene. As it turns out, I will toss almost all of it except the beginning and the final scene, and rewrite all the sticky middle part. I think. I haven’t actually written it, yet, but it’s in the queue.

So, thank you, Alison, Scott, Debra, and Diana, for helping me fix a problem, even if you didn’t know you were doing it. :)

GBE2

Group Blogging Exchange 2

Today’s post is inspired by GBE2 (Group Blogging Experience)’s Week 114 prompt: Serendipity

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Comments
7 Responses to “Expect the Unexpected”
  1. I love it when ideas just pop up like that!

  2. Isn’t it funny how ideas just pop out of nowhere like that? I sometimes think that creativity is a catchable disease! Sounds like a good time too :)

  3. Frances D says:

    Murder frozen in time? Awesome. The name Charlotte “Chuck” Norris for a character? I smell a series.
    There is nothing like a brainstorming session. Magickal stuff happens.
    Glad you have a posse to share it all with ;)

    • Oh, it’s definitely a series. I have two books mostly plotted, ideas for a third, and vague notions for a fourth and fifth.

      And Chuck is definitely a favorite creation of mine. :)

  4. Sounds great! What a nice surprise in the midst of neverending meetings. :) looking forward to your stories!

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