Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April, Go She Will

Not that April didn't have its bright spots, but...well... we shall draw a veil over April, knock on wood, and look forward to a brighter May.

Most of the things I planned to do in April got steamrollered by ducks.  (You know that saying about being nibbled to death by ducks? Well, my ducks were tiny merganser "saw-toothed" ducks, who came equipped with steamrollers.)

Some of the things I meant to do can be rescheduled, but I am greatly annoyed that I never got the chance to get the new artwork style settled for The Case of the Misplaced Baroness. I needs to be consistent with the Misplaced Hero illos, but I wanted to take it to a new level. I was thinking of adding line to it, not just shape.  Also thinking of changing the color palette.

I was hoping to start off with the style already figured out, but alas, like Test of Freedom, or even the Misplaced Hero, the first few illustrations will suck, or at least not be what the series style will end up as.  Maybe I'll get lucky. I have all weekend.

Thursday I will post the intro post of The Case of the Misplaced Baroness.  I have decided, this time, not to do a webpage for the intro posts, but rather make the first blog post into an "anchor" post for the series -- with a TOC and links to related items.  And as such, I'll be changing it and editing it and adding to it over time. (In other words, treating it like a webpage, even though it's a blog post.)

In the meantime, The Man Who Stepped Up has made some great strides toward being an active manuscript.  Though the serial is the WiP for the time being.  I will be doing Sunday Updates starting this Sunday.  I have no guarantee that they will be interesting.  (One can hope....)

In the meantime, I shall take Lawrence Block's advice and try to remember to say "Rabbits, rabbits," when I wake up on May Day.

See you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Escaping Awful April - a Postponement

Seriously, last month may have been the month from heck, but April has been even heckier -- and the month is not over yet.

We're going to hope for a better May, and to that end, I am postponing the start of The Case of the Misplaced Baroness until May.  I'll do the intro post on Thursday, May 2nd, and the first episode on May 6th.

I'm also going to start posting some kind of updates again.  I'll start with an update on April at the end of the month, but thereafter I'll probably do Sunday updates.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Characters at Breakfast: Alex and Friends - Worldbuilding and Food

This is the third and final post in my series on Characters at Breakfast.  I've talked about the limitations of writing food in an historical series with Mick and Casey at breakfast, and about the relative freedom to use food for characterization in a contemporary setting with George and Karla at breakfast.

This time I'm going to talk about the third option: food in a made up world.

Cuisine is an important part of world-building for fantasy writers.  It's limited by the culture and geography of your location.  Of course, most fantasy writers base cuisine on some model in real history.  Western high fantasy is often based on Medieval Europe, for instance.  On the other hand, some science fiction writers will construct a very detailed and unique cuisine based on the other elements of the world they create.

Last summer's serial story, The Case of the Misplaced Hero (and the upcoming The Case of the Misplaced Baroness) is an Alternate Universe story.  In this case, though, the alternate world is not an intentionally built world. It's more a "dreamed" world -- based mainly on the often inconsistent way the real world is depicted in old silent movie serials and adventure stories of around 1910-1925.  It's a world that's been with me for a long time, and borrows from a whole lot of other sources.

So in some ways, this made up world gives me the same freedom as a contemporary story.  Furthermore, with that first story I wrote last summer, I added a connection between that world and this: a pair of characters from modern-day Michigan.

As a result, I have all three approaches to food going on in the story.  The nation of "Awarshawa" is made up, and though it has a certain Balkan feel to it, I can do what I want with the geography since it stands in for all those "exotic foreign lands" in adventure fiction of a hundred years ago.  And since Imperia is really a stand in for the more familiar England, I can use period appropriate cuisine there.  And for my travelers from Michigan, I have real modern cuisine.

At Breakfast in Awarshawa, Michigan and Imperia

Character Name: Captain Akio "Kosha" Rozinshura
Book or series: The Perils of Plink (The Case of the Misplaced Hero)

Location/Setting: Awarshawa, an alternate universe, cartoony country, which is always in a state of revolution. The current government is an Anarcho-Bureaucracy (a form of socialism...sorta).

Captain Rozinshura is a "District Faciliator," which means he is a bureaucrat in charge of redistributing the wealth -- a good position for eating well. He is something of an avuncular trickster, who looks after his district and his people. (Unlike many officials, he represents both the Anarcho and the Bureaucracy sides of his revolutionary beliefs.  He knows all the rules, and is very good at breaking them.)

Usual breakfast: Whatever is being served at the canteen, or made for him by his cook -- which would usually be some sort of gruel or solid mush (like polenta), cheese and fermented goat's milk to drink. Sausages if there are any (which there usually are for him - he's inmportant).  And probably some form of blootchkes, which are the national food of Awarshawa, and consist of something wrapped up in something else.  For breakfast, this would most likely resemble a tamale. (I.e. mush wrapped in a leaf.)

Oh... and beer.

What he'd make for himself: Rozinshura would never make breakfast for himself.  If he were on his own, he'd seek someone to make breakfast for him. (A more accurate description: he would help himself to someone else's breakfast ... but only in the most polite way.)

Fancy or special breakfast, Restaurant: It's a special meal if it involves chocolate or a quantity of meat.  But more often: "skillet blootchkes," which are like crepes, would be a special treat. His cook is very good at skillet blootchkes.

Breakfast on the Run:  Probably an apple. He is fond of apples. But if there were no apples available, whatever can be stuffed in a pocket.


Character Name: Professor Artemis Thornton, aka "Old Thorny"
Book or series: The Perils of Plink (The Case of the Misplaced Hero)

Location/Setting: Thorny is from Michigan, but he makes an accidental trip to Awarshawa.

Thorny is a burnt-out old professor who's just going through the motions these days.  Also a bit of a drunk. (We don't see him eat breakfast -- or anything else -- within the story, which takes place in one afternoon/evening. These answers are what he would eat in Michigan.)

Usual breakfast: Egg McMuffin.
(NOTE: this assumes he is actually awake for breakfast, which he won't be if he doesn't have to be.)

What he'd make for himself:
left-over Egg McMuffin and beer. Also, Doritos. Maybe a donut.

Fancy or special breakfast, Restaurant:
It depends on who is picking up the tab.  If he's paying, he'll order the cheapest meal. If someone else is paying, the most expensive.  He likes rich and unhealthy foods, so Eggs Benedict would probably be his favorite.

Breakfast on the Run:
Egg McMuffin.


Character Name: Alex Nichols (actually Nikolinshe)
Book or series: The Perils of Plink (The Case of the Mispaced Hero)

Location/Setting:  Alex is a college student from modern day Michigan, who also makes an unexpected trip to Awarshawa.

In Michigan -- and this world in general -- Alex is incredibly bored with everything.  He doesn't much care about what he eats.  (He is the "misplaced hero" and doesn't really belong in Michigan.)

Usual breakfast: Whatever the dorm serves.  None of it tastes particularly good, so if he's not that hungry, just toast and coffee. If he's hungrier, scrambled eggs.

What he'd make for himself:
  Cocoa Wheats.  Cooked thick, so that a spoon stands up in it.  With a little extra sugar and goat's milk.  It's one of the few foods he really likes, because that's what is Aunt Flavia used to make. 

Fancy or special breakfast, Restaurant:  Meh.  Whatever.  Well, okay, he does kinda like fancy pancakes, you know, crepes.

Breakfast on the Run: Maybe an apple.  Granola bar.  Muffin. Whatever.

(You'll note that what Alex prefers to eat has some resemblance to Awarshi food.  There is a reason for that.)


We don't really see much of Lady Pauline in  The Case of the Misplaced Hero.  But she is the central character of the main series and of the next serial, which will begin at the end of the month.

Character Name: Lady Pauline, AKA "Plink" (More formally: Lady Pauline Anne Marie Tritt-Woolsey Beethingham Smythe, the Baroness of Beethingham.)
Book or series: The Perils of Plink (The Case of the Misplaced Baroness)

Location: Pauline is from Imperia, a rival country to Awarshawa -- more or less a cartoon version of England.

Pauline has just come of age, 21, and also has just come into her hereditary title: the Baroness of Beethingham, a title she holds in her own right.

Usual breakfast: Generally the servants put out a big buffet of what we would call an "English breakfast" (an "Imprish breakfast"?).  Though she is a bit of a partier who stays up late and often wanders in late for breakfast, she is a hearty eater.  She will likely have something of everything the servants put out, but she is especially fond of the breakfast meats, and also of jam.

What she'd make for herself: Make it herself?  How jolly exciting!  She'd make...um... well ... she'd make... bread and jam!  (It's the only thing she knows how to make, but she also happens to like it very much.)

Fancy or special breakfast, Restaurant: There is nothing particularly "special" about eating at a restaurant.  It's never as good as at home .  However, she is more likely to have poached eggs.  For some reason they never have poached eggs at Beethingham Hall.  She's never asked why. (It's actually because her great great grandfather hated them, and nobody has ever questioned tradition.)

Breakfast on the Run: She's never heard of such a thing.  If you're running, how can you eat?  Perhaps some biscuits?

This post was more fun to write than the rest -- maybe because it was more speculative.  The serials here are often "bump and go" and I don't always have time to play with full details like this.  Also, since the characters are more cartoony and outrageous, that gives more room for playing with their eating habits.

This was fun. I hope you'll consider answering the Characters at Breakfast Challenge with a blog post of your own -- about your own characters or characters from favorite books you've read.   A few others ahve written posts.  Be sure to check them out: Kyra's Breakfast Post 1, and Breakfast Post 2.  James D's Breakfast Post. Watch the comments for others.

(The Case of the Misplaced Baroness is now running on this blog -- you can see the first episode here.)

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Characters at Breakfast: George and Karla - contemporary characterization

Last time for the Characters at Breakfast post, we talked about food in historical settings with my young gunslingers Mick and Casey McKee's breakfast habits

This time we're talking about a contemporary story.  And of all the stories I'll talk about, the cozy mystery series about George Starling and Karla Marquette is the one where food is the most revealing of character.

And that makes sense: With a contemporary story you the most leeway for your characters to like just about anything.  These days, even in a small, isolated town -- such as Potewa -- the residents will get The Food Channel on cable TV, and they can order pretty much anything through the internet.  And many formerly exotic foods are routinely distributed to remote locations.

Food plays a very important role in this series.  First, the local culture of Potewa County is hospitality oriented: it's a northern lower Michigan beach town.  While it's not a "destination" attraction, most of the economy is based on people coming to visit -- whether it's a hotel or resort stay, or more likely a cabin in the woods.  And when they come to that cabin, they are probably there to acquire food: hunting, fishing, mushrooming, or coming for a cherry festival.

But beyond that, food is key to showing how the characters think:

In the very first chapter, we meet George's girlfriend Gwen, who suffers from anxiety disorders (and PTSD) and who eats only childish comfort foods -- particularly cheese burgers (no pickles).  And while George has come to despise cheeseburgers, he still hovers and loyally supplies all the burgers she could possibly want.  Furthermore, when Karla first meets George, and believes him to be a secret agent, she sneeks a peek into his briefcase, and her very first concern is that he hadn't packed a lunch -- which she believes one should do if one is going to stalk and spy on others.

As you'll notice, both George and Karla see food as nurturing as well as nutriment.  Although they are very different characters with very different tastes, they are immediately on the same wavelength with food.  That's why much of the scene where they first start working together is choreographed around the making of a snack.

Karla Marquette and George Starling

Character Name: Karla Marquette.
Series Title, Book Title: Starling and Marquette Mysteries: The Man Who Did Too Much
Location: Modern Day Michigan, rural/tourism area.

Karla is a middle-aged, small town spinster, who lives a hand-to-mouth lifestyle -- she gardens and barters and does odd jobs.  But she enjoys cooking and feeds herself well.

Usual breakfast: Karla, given her druthers, would mostly skip breakfast.  She might have some cold cereal, or some leftovers, or just a glass of milk.  Or a brownie.  She'd rather just start in on lunch after she wakes up.  (We see her nuke herself some hot chocolate in Chapter 19.)

What she'd prepare for herself:
As mentioned above, she generally skips breakfast.  However, if she feels she has to have breakfast -- like she's going to have a busy day, or might have to skip lunch -- she would make waffles or maybe hot cereal. Or she'd make lunch and just eat it early.

Fancy or special breakfast, restaurant breakfast:  Buttermilk pancakes with extra bacon and orange juice.  (Which is what she orders in Chapter 13, when her uncle, Sheriff Rosie, takes her out to breakfast so he can question her.  Rosie himself has "mostly everything on the menu.")

If she were out of town at an event, and needed to load up calories, she'd probably add scrambled eggs, but not because she likes them.

Breakfast on the run: Donut.  Chocolate frosting, no sprinkles. But only if you could get them someplace that makes real homemade cake donuts, fresh.


Character Name: George Starling
Series Title, Book Title: Starling and Marquette Mysteries: The Man Who Did Too Much
Location: Modern Day Michigan, rural/tourism area.

George is a wealthy globe-trotter who lives everywhere in the world, but we only see him when he's in Michigan.  Though George is an action hero, he is also somewhat neurotic. (He has a compulsive need to rescue people, which is mostly under control.)  He was raised in Asia and tends to have a preference for Asian foods.

Usual breakfast: Whatever you're having.

No, seriously.  George is a social chameleon.  Aside from being a sophisticated traveler who adapts to local customs, he's always seeking to blend in and please people.

So normally, if he's with somebody, he'll eat approximately as they do.  However, he is also a closet gourmet and secretly fussy as hell, so he'd probably adjust his order subtly to upgrade it.  He is also happy to be a "food guide" to anyone who is unfamiliar with a cuisine.

What he'd make for himself: Left to his own devices, he'd make himself a bowl of Juk (rice gruel) or noodles, Asian style.

Fancy or special breakfast, restaurant breakfast: His mother was an anglophile, and so he considers a "proper" breakfast to be an English breakfast.  He would never make it himself, but that's what he'd order in a hotel restaurant -- but it isn't his idea of a fancy meal out. (A fancy meal is not something you have at breakfast.)

Breakfast on the run: He would prefer whatever the local equivalent is to jian bing -- which is a Chinese version of a breakfast burrito. He likes street food, but he'd rather go hungry than eat packaged fast food.

As you'll note: breakfast isn't really a favored meal of either of these characters, but as I said above they both enjoy food.  It's a form of self-expression for both of them.  But food is kind of a symbol of life -- and George really doesn't know how to enjoy his life -- except in the area of food, and even there he is a little inhibited.  Karla, on the other hand, knows exactly how to enjoy life, and she becomes George's "Happiness Coach."  George is happy to return the favor by mentoring her appreciation of exotic fare.

Next time we'll talk about four characters from the summer serial her on the blog - last year's The Case of the Misplaced Hero, and the upcoming The Case of the Misplaced Baroness. Alex, Professor Thorny, Captain Rozinshura, and introducing Lady Pauline, the young Baroness of Beethingham -- around whom the overall series revolves. (The series title, I fear, will be called The Perils of Lady Pauline, or perhaps just The Perils of Plink, as that is her nickname.)

That series takes place in an alternate universe -- but one based on a fictional version of this universe.  That allows a blend of fantasy world-building (and food can be the most fun part of that!) and historical and modern diet.

Meanwhile, you can check out the first Starling and Marquette Mystery, The Man Who Did Too Much, at:

Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Deisel, Apple iBookstore, Sony eReader, or get it in all formats without DRM at Smashwords.

(There is also a very short flash story featuring George and Karla in the collection Pink Snowbunnies In Hell.  It's called "Revenge of the Peeps" and it's available from most of the  above vendors.)

Buying books not only encourages me to write more of them, but it also supports the blog.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Characters At Breakfast: Mick and Casey - Historical

For my first Characters at Breakfast post, I'll be talking about Mick and Casey McKee, a pair of young gunslinger detectives. 

When the story is set in an historical period (even a generic version of one) the characters are often constrained by the period and location.  And an author is also constrained by what we know of the period (as well as what most people know of the period -- accurate or not).

For instance, while yogurt certainly existed in the 1870s, most readers would be upset if your young saddle bum in the American west had yogurt for breakfast.  And even if you created the more likely scenario where he comes across a visiting Turkish pasha who came with his own chef who made yogurt for him, it's really unlikely that they would sprinkle granola on the top.

Unless, of course, it was an intentional "wink wink" satire, in which the pasha was sharing his yogurt with a young John Harvey Kellogg, who was experimenting with his special healthy diet of toasted nuts and grains....

But that's not the kind of thing I do in the Mick and Casey series.  (A pasha with yogurt might someday appear, but no winking references to the present.  Except in chapter titles.)

Mick and Casey At Breakfast

Character Name: Mick and Casey McKee.
Series title, Book title: Mick and Casey Mysteries; Have Gun, Will Play
Location: American West (generic), 1876-ish.

For Mick and Casey the setting and the situation almost always dictates the food. They are saddle tramps.  They have no home or kitchen, and for the most part, they do not travel with a pack animal.  (They would in situations that call for it.)  They might carry some cornmeal or old hard biscuits -- to get them through to the next town.  But they mostly eat in town, or what a farmer is willing to sell them.

So Mick and Casey are opportunistic eaters. They eat what is given to them. or what they find or can buy, or what Casey shoots.

As a result, they have a surprising amount of variety, given the culture.  In Have Gun, Will Play, for instance, they get some rice porridge for breakfast from a Chinese grocer who has befriended them.  Later in the same book, they have a full hotel breakfast -- steak, eggs, beans, bread and flapjacks.

Usual breakfast: whatever is available (which is usually some form of  ham or steak, beans and biscuits).  And normally they'd eat at the cheapest digs in town that is also clean. Preferably a place that has pie.

What they make for themselves: When forced to rely on their own devices, corn dodgers can be cooked on a metal plate, and Casey will shoot something they can roast.

Fancy or special breakfast: Pie. (And also everything else on the menu.)  Mick is partial to pie, and will eat it any time of the day or night.  Any variety, sweet or savory, it doesn't matter.  Casey considers it kinda sissy to be fussy about food, but she'll go for some kind of steak for a treat.  And, okay, maybe some pie.

Breakfast on the run:  when you're running you ain't got time for breakfast! (They tend to interpret "on the run" literally.)  When you stop running, you eat what you find nearby, or what you got in your saddlebags.

Another note about Mick and Casey, and about much of the eating habits of the frontier: what they have for breakfast, lunch and dinner are highly likely to be the same things.  The fancier and more formal the restaurant (or the more civilized the homestead) the more likely the offerings would differ.  But many places you'd find food would be highly limited in terms of menu. They'd make what they make.

I have so many fun books on food in the west, though, I hope to talk about food again later.  It's a great subject.  (It seems to me that folks in the west were either in a phenomenal hurry... or in no hurry at all.  It made for interesting eating patterns.)

Next up: Contemporary breakfasts with George and Karla.

(NOTE: this is a blog challenge inspired by an article in The Guardian -- write about your favorite characters and what they do or would eat for breakfast. It can be your own characters, or famous characters you love in literature and film.)

If you want to check out the first Mick and Casey Mystery, you can get it in paper and ebook form at:

Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Deisel, Apple iBookstore, Sony eReader, or get it in all formats without DRM at Smashwords.

Shorter stories are also available at the same vendors: The Curse of Scattershale Gulch (a novelette) and Waiter! There's a Clue in my Soup! (a collection which contains two Mick and Casey short stories).  Soon a new novelette A Fistful of Divas will be available too.

Buying books not only encourages me to write more of them, but it also supports the blog.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Characters At Breakfast, and a Challenge

"Wienies, the Breakfast of Fandom"

Back when I was a button dealer at science fiction conventions, the phrase above was one of my best selling buttons.

The kind of conventions I attended did not have the razzle-dazzle of the professional convention, such as Comic-con.  These were fan conventions.  There were few stars (maybe a midlist author or two, and a champion gamer) and no corporate presence at all. For many fans, conventions were a lifestyle.  The fen would pack themselves in, sometimes eight to a double room, and party, and argue, and play all weekend.

And very often the only food available for breakfast, for those who were crashing on the floor of the hotel room of a distant acquaintance, was whatever was left over in the "con suite" (the hospitality room of the convention).  This often consisted of chips, pretzels and hot dogs.

Hence the button "Wienies, the Breakfast of Fandom."

Some of these people might very well eat hot dogs for breakfast at home, but most of them were just eating what was available.  (I suspect that Pop Tarts was a common meal back home.)  And yes some people brought their own Pop Tarts, and some went to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, and some would pack themselves in, a dozen to a car like clowns, and head off to find the nearest Denny's or Waffle House. Many slept through breakfast and started their day with lunch.

And all of them probably ate something different at home than what they ate at the con.

I bring this up, because I think what a person eats for breakfast -- often the most opportunistic meal of the day -- is an intersection between their character and their situation.

And these two elements -- character and situation -- are the foundation of all fiction.

What a person chooses to eat for breakfast tells you something about them.  What they choose when they can't have what they normally have can tell you more.  (And what they choose when somebody else is buying tells you more also.)  Food relates to culture as well as taste, and a person's choice will be influenced not only by the culture they are currently surrounded by, but also the culture they were raised in.

Breakfast Blog Challenge

For the next two weeks, I'm going to be blogging about what various of my characters eat for breakfast in different situations.  I'd like to challenge other bloggers out there -- both writers and readers -- to write a post about the breakfasting habits of their favorite characters.

You can write about your own characters or a famous character created by someone else.  (And you can extrapolate what you imagine the famous character would eat. You don't have to stick to the text.)

Consider these questions:

*What is a usual breakfast for this character?

*What's different in these circumstances (some of these may be the "usual," some not):

  • What sort of breakfast does a character make for himself, on his own?
  • What's a quick breakfast on the run?
  • What breakfast would the character order when away from home, in a restaurant?
  • What's a special "treat" breakfast?

You could also consider things like whether you character skips breakfast, or whether they'll eat differently if someone else is paying. Does the character see breakfast as a social occasion? Or a "health" activity? Do they see breakfast more as an ending to The Night Before, or a preparation for The Day Ahead?  How does the character relate to unfamiliar things -- a change in schedule, foreign food, social pressure? Also, are there cultural or world-building considerations from the greater story?

If you write such a post, please let me know: post a link in the comments here, or maybe tweet with the hashtag #characterbreakfasts . 

I'll be posting about my characters on the following schedule:

Thursday, April 11: Mick and Casey, whose "on the trail" lifestyle in a western setting puts some limits on what they can choose.

Monday, April 15: George and Karla of the Starling and Marquette Mysteries. Their eating habits reflect both their very different personalities and backgrounds (neurotic man of the world, and quirky small town spinster), but also the similarities which make them so compatible.

Thursday, April 18: Alex, Thorny, Captain Rozinshura, from The Case of the Misplaced Hero.  And introducing Lady Pauline whose prequel story, The Case of the Misplaced Baroness begins the week after.  These characters illustrate a little about blending made up cultures with real ones -- and how an imaginary culture influences a real one.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Story Notes: A Fistful of Divas

The Mick and Casey saga began when I decided to sit down and teach myself to write a screenplay.  To make it easy on myself, I decided to write something standard -- and old-time western.  (Of course, being me, I couldn't write to just ONE standard, I also had to mix it with a second formula of a coming-of-age tomboy story.)

That script was originally called "The Legend of Casey McKee" (later I considered calling it "Girl Gunslinger") and it got me some nice attention, including a "just missed" the quarter finals in the Nichol Fellowships.  It was about a teenaged Casey, a wild and apparently orphaned girl who was determined to join a posse led by the legendary law man, Harry Lowe.  Harry, who is as ornery as Casey, will have none of it, but the necessity of the situation and Casey's stubbornness win out in the end.

Mick was a secondary character: Harry's good-natured young sidekick. He actually did for Harry what he does for Casey - he provides the smiling and talking whenever that is needed.  Harry was no more able to tolerate social amenities than Casey is.

However, once I'd finished the screenplay, I had a problem: when you sell a screenplay, you sell the rights to the characters.  It's very hard for a screenwriter to get what is called "separated rights."  That's when you keep the rights to the character and world, and the production company just buys rights to that particular story.

And I wanted to write more about these characters.  I didn't know what, I just did.  I had some ideas of a Maverick-like TV series, where Mick and Casey ride into town, get in trouble, get out of trouble, and then ride out again.

But I couldn't help but think about writing it as fiction rather than scripts.  After all, the writers most likely to actually get separated rights are fiction writers who have an established, published series.  So if I established the series, even in short fiction....

There aren't many western markets out there, but what I really wanted to write, always, was mystery.
And that's when the series clicked too: When I decided to let Mick narrate, I realized that I had a real detective on my hands.  Mick may seem a bit of a doofus, but he's actually an observer and a thinker.  That's why Harry tolerated him, and why Casey sticks with him.  And his job is to talk - to ask the questions before his partner starts shooting.

A Fistful of Divas was one of the first story ideas I had.  Their search for opera comes from a line in the original screenplay, in which Casey's father bemoans the fact that she married Mick, and will spend her life seeing the inside of saloons, but will never see the inside of an opera house.

The Advantage of Serialization

As I mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I never finished A Fistful of Divas. It was about 3/4 done as a short story, and I had a screenplay version done, but it was just hanging out in my trunk.

I started the serial here mainly to force myself to finish it. Little did I suspect that I would rewrite the whole thing from scratch.  It turned out to be a lot more work than I expected. I kept the plot, and some of the dialog and a few good lines with Mick's interior dialog.

But what you saw here was what I call a "rough draft with benefit of rehearsal."

And that got done because a serial demands that it get done.  On time.  One way or the other.

The Disadvantage of Serialization

I feel as though a number of threads got short shrift in this version of the story, because with a serial, you have to make the individual episodes work.  And that means you have to focus in tight, and some of the larger arcs get neglected. Or at least disjointed.

For this reason, I'm going to pause to rewrite before I publish the ebook version of this.

I feel that two things need attention: one is the thread of Casey's bad day.  I think that was somewhat lost after Rufus' body is found.  The story becomes complicated and both Mick and Casey are concentrating on other things.  But for me, this story is about Mick trying to live up to being a good husband. I don't think that it's clear in this version: but Mick thinks this obsession with opera houses is coming from himself.  He's trying to prove that Casey didn't lose anything by marrying him. He doesn't realize how much it means to Casey until halfway through the story.  And that, of course, raises the stakes and gives him a shot at redemption for screwing up.

The other element that I think needs more work is, ironically, the mystery itself.  I kind of reined in the "Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Wrench" aspect because I didn't want to get too far from the central story.  But this is that kind of story. It requires more subtle and more overt cluing, and better timing of cogitation. 

So both of these important elements interfered with the other.  I think next time I do a Mick and Casey as a serial, I'll choose a more straight mystery, with less of a tangled subplot.  (Something more like "The Hoosegow Strangler.")

In the meantime, I'll rewrite this one to be a cohesive story that does what I want it to do.  Eventually, I will write the events of that original screenplay into a novel.  I just have to re-frame the background plot into a mystery.

For those of you new to the Mick and Casey Mysteries, there are several ebooks available:

Have Gun, Will Play (novel) available in both ebook and paper at: Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobel, as well as these ebook dealers: Kobo, Deisel, Apple iBookstore, Sony eReader, or get it in all formats without DRM at Smashwords.

Waiter, There's a Clue in My Soup! contains two Mick and Casey mystery shorts.  Available as an ebook  at: Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobel, as well as these ebook dealers: Kobo, Deisel, Apple iBookstore, Sony eReader, or get it in all formats without DRM at Smashwords.

The Curse of Scattershale Gulch, a Halloween novelette.  Available as an ebook  at: Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobel, as well as these ebook dealers: Kobo, Deisel, Apple iBookstore, Sony eReader, or get it in all formats without DRM at Smashwords.

And on Monday, I'll start a blog series about breakfast and characterization.  Both our habits, and how we break our habits, says a lot about a character.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Update - Month of Living Heck

Every single person in my circle of friends seems to be having their life go to hell in a handbasket.  Dying parents, major health issues, transportation issues.  Employment issues.  Disability issues.  And while several people are either available, or can drive, OR have two working legs, I am the only one in the group who actually has all three.  At least so far.

So me?  I got sick this weekend and I can't tell if it's A) a reaction to a rabies shot, or B) a sinus infection or C) because the same day as the rabies shot I spent all night in the ER with a friend.

This all after a whole week of sleep deprivation due to minor and miscellaneous causes.

And my lips are numb, which may be a symptom of a dreaded side effect of the rabies shots... or just because when I am stressed I suck on my lips and make them numb and chapped.  Probably the latter, because there is no "progression" but....

It would be really nice if Scruffy the Feral Cat would show up for brunch tomorrow to display one more time that he really and truly is not showing any signs of rabies a full two weeks after he objected so strenuously to being taken to the vet to get his own bite marks checked out.  He was in the pink on Day 11, which should be good enough, but I would really rather see some confirmation before I discuss whether I can forgo the second booster shot.

(And yes, these are boosters. I've had rabies shots before, because of bats in the belfry. And no, this is not an April Fools post.  Sigh.)

This is just one way of saying... there will be no "Story Notes" for A Fistful of Divas until Thursday.

For the rest of April, I'll be doing some light blogging - once or twice a week - before getting on with the next serial.  In particular I will be talking about Fictional Characters and their Relationships with Breakfast.

I was inspired to write about breakfast because of an article in The Guardian, about what various famous fictional characters eat for breakfast.  (The Sexiest Meal)  That article is from a reader's point of view -- finding clues about the character within the story.  And that's plenty fun.

But it's a fun thing for writers to talk about too, for two reasons:  One is that we don't always tell the reader everything we know about a character, and it's fun to reveal little "extras", such as how a character relates to food. The other reason is that considering a character's eating habits can be a great way to develop a character.

So next Monday, I'll introduce the subject, and challenge those of you who are bloggers (both readers and writers) to write about your favorite characters and their breakfasts, (or other food).  Then I'll have a series of posts about the characters from each of my series.

Then, on April 29, (make that May 2) I'll post an introduction to The Case of the Misplaced Baroness, and we'll be off to the races again with another serial.

See you in the funny papers.