Nancy: Copenhagen (and Denmark) Blues

Black Diamond on the Water. This extension of the Royal Danish Library opened in 1999. It plays a key role in Nick’s story.

As you no doubt gleaned from last week’s post, I’ve recently been an intrepid world traveler. Well, OK, I traveled to one other country, but I crossed six time zones and spent three days on each end of the trip battling severe jet lag, so it feels like it’s been quite a trek, and I’m happy to be home safe and sound and finally getting back on east coast time.

Because you can take the writer out of her cave but you can’t take the cave out of the writer, or something like that, I spent some of my three weeks in Denmark being a tall, dark, and handsome, thirty-year-old, half-American/half-Danish, mixed-race man. In my head, of course. (I might be able to pull off a lot of things, but tall and thirty are not on that list). I’m talking, of course, about my fictional character Nicholai* Jens Olesen, Nicky O to his American friends. This was my first trip to the country since I’d conceived of the Copenhagen-set mystery series, so I did my best to view it from Nick’s eyes. In addition to helping me solidify my vision of what Denmark means to this character, it also revealed important things about the character himself.

A Few Things About Nick

A Very Danish House with Thatched Roof. This is the kind of house where Nick probably spent some of his summers.

He’s much more American than Danish. Technically, as his (now deceased) father was a Danish citizen and his mother is American, I think he can still claim Danish citizenship (but it’s complicated, so more research required!). As a child, he spent a couple of months every summer and some additional weeks most Christmas vacations in DK, has visited frequently as an adult, and did some of his graduate work in the country, so he definitely has a foot securely planted in this culture. But the majority of his time has been spent in America, and when he’s placed in that character crucible and pressure is applied, his American mind-set and life approach is going to show, for better or for worse.

After his father’s death, his visits to the country will never be the same. Sadly, because of our age and the extent of my husband’s family that lives in Denmark (that’s everyone related to him except his parents, siblings, our daughter and I), every time we’ve traveled to Denmark, there are relatives we’ve lost since the previous trip. It’s especially noticeable when we cross off towns where we used to go from our must-visit list, because the loved ones we used to see there are gone. As Nick’s story begins with him being in Denmark for his father’s funeral, there are going to be lots of opportunities for him to be haunted and heartbroken by memories triggered from seeing old, familiar places. This is an important part of character development I have to keep in mind when I start the deep-dive into Nick’s soul.

A Few Things About Denmark That Impact Nick’s Story… Continue reading

Kay: Quiz for Y’all—Should I Hurt the Dog?

Here’s Trouble! from mplsmutts.com

Ladies, I need your help. I’m at the end of my book. I have a big fight scene. My villain, Vlad the Assassin, has a tire iron, and he’s swinging it like a madman. He hits my hero with it, a blow that separates his shoulder and requires five stitches.

Then Vlad hits the dog, Trouble, breaking two of Trouble’s ribs. I need Trouble out of commission (that is, off the page), and I think the best way to do that is to have the villain hurt him, because then we’ll hate Vlad even more, right? If he hurts the dog, it’s abundantly clear that he’s No Good.

I did a little research on treatment for this kind of injury. Trouble’s lungs aren’t affected, so he doesn’t need surgery. He’ll recover much like a person would who cracked a couple of ribs. Trouble just has to take it easy, and in a few weeks he’ll be good to go again.

In the final chapter, my hero and heroine jet off for a few days to get married, leaving Trouble with his best friends, the neighbors, who will take excellent care of him and spoil him half to death. He’ll be fine. Better than fine.

But here’s my concern. I just recently read a blog somewhere where a commenter posted that she’d never read another book by a particular author because that writer had injured a dog in her pages. And then a bunch of other people chimed in and said the same.

Argh! Whatcha think? Would you read another book in the series if Trouble gets hurt, if the injury isn’t life-threatening, and if he makes a full recovery? Or is hurting a dog beyond the pale?

 

Kay: Quiz for Y’all—Who Gets Run Over?

from DadsRoundTable.com

I’ve been buzzing along on the WIP, everything going pretty well, and then today, I ran into a conundrum. I could tell I was stuck, because I wrote 1,000 words today, and I knew the instant I was done that it sucked. I’ve thought about this problem all day, and I can’t figure it out. Help, please!

In this scene, my antagonist, Vlad, the Russian assassin, has stolen a car. He’s enraged because Phoebe, my heroine, has just broken into his hotel room and stolen back the data. He must retaliate.

Vlad knows where the safe house is, so he’s off to hurt someone, anyone (that’s the “blind with rage” thing going on). I want him to run over one of my characters. Who? That’s my question. (Don’t worry, nobody dies. I think nobody will even be hurt. Maybe a little.)

There’s a lot of people living in the safe house. Here are your options: Continue reading

Jeanne: Getting to Know You

StilettosRecently here at Eight Ladies Writing, we talked about our cold start processes–how each of the Ladies gets herself going again on an existing project when she hasn’t written in a while. Michaeline wrote about what I’d call a “fresh start” process–how she gets started on a new project.

In mid-February I started work on the third book in my Touched by a Demon trilogy, The Demon Wore Stilettos. I’ve been looking forward to this one, because the she-demon Lilith, who has been a minor character in the previous two books, finally gets to take center stage.

I’ve had this book in the back of my mind for a while, so I knew the general premise: Megan Kincaid, a recent MFA graduate, sells her soul to Satan in exchange for making the New York Times bestseller list. Continue reading

Michaeline: The March Lion Takes a Nap

Cold and rainy winter day, street is banked with plowed snow, and the water is knee-deep. A small boxy car chugs through the water.

Through my windshield; this guy made it through the lake, so I figured I could, too. Photo by E.M. Duskova, March 9, 2018

World weather continued to rage this week in my friend universe, but today my area finally caught a break. The skies are blue, and the temps are above freezing, and it’s beginning to look a lot like spring.

But the March lion might just be taking a nap. Goodness, it roared this week! We got a snowstorm Thursday night, which turned into rain around 3 a.m. Friday morning. Schools were cancelled, but teachers still had to go into work if they didn’t want to use up vacation days. Out in the country, the roads were fairly good, but in the city, the streets were flooded with rain and snowmelt. At one point, I drove through a short stretch where the waters must have been 14 inches (35 cm) deep. I never know how deep is too deep; but since the car didn’t die, I guess it was OK.

All praise to the road workers out there during the wet and the ick, working to keep us safe. I got a shot of one guy scooping out a storm drain (I was stopped at a stop light). It made me think of this:

You never knew what was down storm drains. Rotting leaves, abandoned puppies, transdimensional beings who took a wrong turn at Albuquerque . . . it was all in a season’s work, and Jamal Frost was good at his work. Today, it looked like an ice dam was blocking the storm drain at corner of First and Maple, turning the street into a hip-deep pond. Well, hip-deep for him. His cousin Olivia would have been up to her neck in it.

Water flooding the street and a parking lot, decorated with plenty of ice reefs.

Three blocks later, more flooding at a busy intersection. The Yellow Hat tire company must have mermen as employees. Photo by E.M. Duskova, March 9, 2018.

Jamal didn’t inherit winter magic from his father, but summer magic from his mom, and that’s just what was needed on this spring day. He gathered power from the sleeping trees that lined the street, borrowing a little from their budding spring energy. Then he sent the power down, through the cold waters and into the dark storm drain. He could Feel his reach moving smoothly through the liquid, being blocked by the ice, then melting just a touch here on the edge, and a touch there in the center, and the ice shifting to allow a small crack for the waters to escape to the gray water system. There. A whirlpool appeared, and Jamal backed up so he wouldn’t get sucked into the hole.

At any rate, it stopped raining by 3 p.m. and by nightfall, a lot of the road surface was dry again. The floods had receded everywhere I drove, and today it’s lovely.

More snow predicted for Monday, though. Ah, March. More plot twists than a romantic thriller! There’s got to be a story under all this snow, somewhere!

A road worker is digging out the snow bank that is blocking the storm drain. He's ankle-deep in water, and the puddle is starting to swirl around him.

The road worker takes advantage of a stop light and stopped traffic to attempt to clear a snow drain. Our hero! Photo by E.M. Duskova, March 9, 2018.

Michaeline: Lots of Ideas and No Plot

Pre-dawn, March 2, 2018. Outside my kitchen window, on the day after the snow. (Photo by E.M. Duskova)

It’s one of those days, when my head is swirling with ideas, but there’s no obvious (or even non-obvious) plot line. So, I’ll just lay them out, one-by-one. Maybe one of them will lead to a plot line for you.

ALMANAC: Terrible snow in northern Japan, Britain and the east coast of the United States. They have been killer storms, in that at least one person has died. The story of one of the deaths in Hokkaido is a peculiar one. An NHK television reporter on his day off was driving in the forest, hunting deer, according to the Mainichi Shimbun. Three roadside assistant workers set off to rescue him after he got caught in the blizzard, but both of their trucks got stuck. They called for a snow plow, but it didn’t arrive, so one of the workers left to the car to check his surroundings, and he got lost in the snow and died. Snow is no joke, folks. If your hero and heroine are stuck in a snowed-in cabin, don’t send them out to look for help unless they’ve got a long rope tied to the front door. And if they are arguing in a car that drives into the ditch? Make sure they clear the exhaust pipe so they don’t get carbon monoxide poisoning. Unless, of course, they want an unhappy ending.

ALMANAC, PART 2: Cheerful news! Today is the Doll Festival of Japan. Families with young girls typically set up a diorama (that can range in size from a small cabinet to a 5-foot high staircase of decoration) depicting an imperial wedding in the Heian era. The full set has all the props – the bride’s sewing kit and rice cooker, all the way up through the Ministers of the Left and Right, the musicians and three hand-maidens, all topped by the bride and groom on the top tier. It’s like Barbie on steroids, with a good dose of historical drama. Traditionally, children could play with the dolls, but these days, the fancy sets are upwards of $1500, and for display only. The dolls must be promptly put away tomorrow, or superstition says the girls in the family will have trouble finding marriage.

RANDOM JAPANESE IMPERIAL TRIVIA: Murasaki Shikibu wrote The Tale of Genji during her time in the Japanese imperial court during the Heian period (she wrote between 1000 and 1012). According to Wikipedia, Continue reading

Michille: Cold Start

HeronWe’ve been talking about cold starts this week. Mine process is a little unusual. It relates to the shamanic drumming journey I took to discover my spirit animal, which is a Great Blue Heron. Associations for the Heron are balance, exploration, renewal, and wisdom, among others. They are solitary creatures, which jives with the writing life, their stillness when they hunt lends itself to meditation and contemplation. So that leads into my cold start process. When I’m having trouble getting starting, I meditate and become the Heron. Most of the time, I’ll fly over the fictional town my story is set in and imagine what my characters are doing, how they are moving around the town, interacting with others, solving problems.

And that is a load of crap – complete fiction. I don’t do that. Continue reading