Tuesday, February 28, 2006

JENNY: Lord Help the Sister

Did I ask to have the youngest sister? I know I ended up with her but I can't remember how. I remember freaking because Eileen wanted her oldest sister in her twenties which meant, of course, that my youngest sister was going to be in her twenties and I don't do twenty-something heroines, mainly because I like my heroines bitter and experienced. And here I am with a twenty-two-year-old who's not bitter. The experienced, well, yeah, she's not shy. I remember whining about the twenty-something thing a lot and then Eileen telling me to stop crying or she'd give me something to cry for and that was that.

And I did NOT shoot Eileen down. I pointed out that the Mare (my sister) in her scene didn't talk like my Mare, to which she should have pointed out that since she hadn't seen my scene how could she know but she didn't. She was gracious. And then she told me to get the hell out of her scene, which was fair. I have deep suspicions that she was e-mailing Krissie off the yahoo list and saying, "I'm going to kill Jenny, is that okay with you?" and Krissie saying, "Yes, she's obnoxious, but she's always been obnoxious and she's going to write a third of the book, so let's let her live."

And they've got their first halves done and have had them done for weeks and I'm still going, "Uh, I don't know, this isn't right yet." So I'm finishing up tonight. Or tomorrow. Really soon.

But Eileen is right. Once we got through the first day when I was trying to impose some kind of structure on the story and Eileen's eyes started to roll back in her head, we kicked butt. And it's exciting to see the stories come together. Of course I'm the only one seeing them come together because I'm the only one who's seen all three first halves, but trust me, it's exciting. Or it will be until Eileen and I have to reconcile the scene in the video store where Dee comes to tell Mare that she thinks Rellie's in town. Eileen and I will be battling that out while Krissie hides under the bed, which she can do because she wisely decided that her sister is going into her workroom immediately after breakfast and not coming out until the next day. So every now and then Eileen and I write a "Where's Lizzie?" line into the story and then forge on as Dee and Mare have their smackdown.

I'd forgotten Krissie saying, "Does it have to be erotic?" and then going batshit on us. We had this big climax planned with the three sisters together in a storm on a mountain, and Krissie insisted that her sister was going to be having sex, then, too. I said, "Yeah, I can see it now, Dee's standing there with the wind in her hair, facing down Evil, and Mare's right beside her, and in between them is Lizzie's naked butt going up and down." I think we talked her out of it, but I'm not sure. Krissie can be very pig-headed, uh, strong-minded when she wants to be.

We should probably introduce the sisters in here next week so people know what we're talking about.

Cheat Sheet:

Dee (Dierdre Dolores), oldest sister, turns into things like owls (Eileen's sister)

Lizzie (Elizabeth something that I can't remember . . . KRISSIE???), middle sister, turn things into other things, like silverware into bunnies (Krissie's sister)

Mare (Moira Mariposa), youngest sister, moves things with her mind, or as she puts it, "the wimpiest power in the family" (my sister).

And then there are the three heroes who are about as different as three guys can be which only goes to show you that it takes all kinds to make a romance novel.

Especially one written by three kinds of romance novelists.

EILEEN: Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters....

There are two really funny things for me in doing Miss Fortunes(well, okay, there are more than two, but these I can print). One, that Sister Krissie actually called me a hoyden. I may put it on my tombstone. Irish girls are rarely called hoydens, after all. It's a word that gives you a certain cache. Irish girls are more likely to be called Little Mother or babysitter. Even better, being called a hoyden by the Superior Mother of Holy Hoydens herself.
Which brings me to the funny of the second part, which ties in nicely with the first. What Krissie said about how she's the moderate one? Here's the giggle. She really is! Who'd a thunk it? Now, I've known since Krissie and Jen and I did a fairly slanderous(and wildly funny) sketch at RWA one year, that both were sister iconoclasts. I knew we could each claim quite a healthy respect for our own opinions. I never realized we really could have been family.
Here we were setting up a novel about three sisters, and each picked the one she wanted. I gravitated toward the eldest, Jen picked the youngest, and Krissie said, "Yeah, Okay. I'm stuck in another manuscript at the moment. You guys just let me know." So, we fleshed out our ideas, and started crazy quilting them all together. Which was when we met in New York to brainstorm. It all became clear that week.
I admit it. I'm very happy writing the oldest sister. I have a life's worth of experience being an oldest sister. In fact, I'm the oldest sister of a large Irish Cathollic family(and have been the--ick!--matriarch since my 31st birthday). I think the AKC has registered us as a herding group. So, I may have had....definite opinions. I may have done a bit of guiding as to my recalcitrant sisters. I do wish to make this clear. I was not a shillelagh. At any time. I'm much too sweet and demur for that(kind of the way Sister Krissie is). And Jen, not having a strong opinion on anything herself, stood toe to toe with me when she felt she needed to(when she wasn't tossing around words like "matrix" just to see my eyes bleed, anyway)
First of all, let me say that it was brilliant. I know we'll be talking more later about the rush of real collaboration, when you're sitting in a small room spinning concepts and characters like plates on a stick to see if you can keep adding more without them falling, but, since I've never done this before, I have to say here how surprised I was. Three women with definite personalities, ideas of our own, fighting for the veracity of our characters as we stitch together plot, and I have to tell you, I can't remember when my brain fired so fast. It was, and is, exhilerating.
But the funniest thing I kept thinking that weekend (besides the fact that Krissie actually said, "does it have to be erotic?" before spending the rest of her time obsessed by how her Lizzie would get the chance to have hot monkey love out on a hill in a thunderstorm), was that we really did fall into our characters' birth order. I set up my idea, Jen shot it down(or vice versa), and Krissie found the compromise. Like I said, who'd a thunk?


Saturday, February 25, 2006

KRISSIE: Oh, They're Both Right

You wouldn't think I'd be such a little peacemaker when I'm such a brazen wench, but when I'm stuck between Miz Jenny and Eileen the Irish Shillelagh (think a big stick that whaps everybody upside the head, as opposed to an Irish Sheela Na Gig, which you really don't want to know about) I end up as demure as a saintly little nun, always agreeing with both of them because I don't dare to do anything else.
So, yup, Eileen was drinking too much champagne and even I was drinking too much champagne and there was that damned limo we were supposed to climb into before we got out in front of two thousand of our peers and made total fools of ourselves, and I said "of course" and Jenny said "of course" and here we are.
The thing is, we all have deadlines up the wazoo, we have our own distinct styles and work habits (watch Eileen's eyes glaze over every time Jenny says the word "matrix") and we're jumping into this like naked teenage boys at the local watering hole. Like tanned, lean, golden-skinned nineteen year old boys who ...
Stop it, Krissie!
You can see the erotic part won't be a problem for me.
So we're in the midst of controlled chaos, having a blast, and you all get to be witness. And you'll notice that while they pretend to be well-behaved at all times, neither of them are ever going to be confused with a nun, and I'm the epitome of restraint and perfect manners and really an absolute lady at all times, compared to those two hoydens.
I still don't understand how I ended up being the moderate one, but I guess the world of writing is full of surprises.
And we've got a lot of them coming up.
Where's the champagne?

Friday, February 24, 2006


Okay, I admit it. It started as a joke. I was at the Romantic Times Conference, and all I heard was that nothing was selling but erotica and paranormal. Well, I was in a mood(my family can tell you all about those. They cover everything from trying to shoot the TV during a particularly improbable CSI episode--even though I don't own a gun--to painting the inside of my house orange because winter is just too dull.) This mood was because I'd just found out that my suspense career was in temporary hiatus, and, as usual with my books, no one who publishes knows quite how to market them. So when I heard about all this erotic paranormal business, I reacted with what I consider to be a great amount of restraint and elegance. I may have finished my cosmopolitan in one slurp(did I mention that this happened in the lobby bar) and snapped, "Fine. You want paranormal? You want erotica? I'll give it to you. I'll write a book about a woman with paranormal powers. She's a shape-shifter. Problem is, every time she has an orgasm, she changes....into the guy's mother." I got a laugh and forgot about it.
Until the RWA conference a couple of months later. There I was trapped backstage at the marathon Rita Awards ceremony(the only good part of which was Jen winning her Rita) with alcohol and Sister Krissie. I told her my joke. Then I said we should do a book together, make it three sisters, all having different paranormal powers they can't control. Krissie, glassy-eyed from being back stage for three hours, nodded and muttered something polite, I'm sure just to shut me up.
It might have ended there, if I hadn't finally escaped back stage to find Jen in the lobby bar(do you sense a theme?) celebrating her Rita win with friends. Flushed with success, she listened to my idea and told me it was great. I, of course, forgot about it when I got home, because I have ADD, and I can never remember anything I did at a conference when I get home--especially calls I've promised to make or appointments I set up in a frenzy of enthusiasm. Besides, I was in the middle of a set of outlines I was trying to sell without much success, and a tour for my latest suspense novel, which took me across the US.
But the idea just wouldn't leave me. So I thought, oh what the heck? and emailed Jen and Krissie. And much to my surprise and eternal delight, they both said yes. The moral being, boys and girls, never throw out an idea, no matter how far fetched. You just might find two other souls brave--or crazy--enough to help you realize it. As for me, I couldn't have imagined I'd be lucky enough to be caught in a novel with those two. We're having such a whale of a time, we may just do it again. I really hope so. Next book it's Jenny's turn to come up with the layout for the fictitious town.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

JENNY: How We Started

Eileen, of course, started everything.

I was in Reno at RWA National and ran into her which is always fun because Eileen does not have boring days. I'm not sure Eileen has days, she always seems to be passing in a blur on her way from somewhere fun, heading toward some place more fun. But she grabbed me and said, "I have an idea for a book. The heroine has paranormal powers but she's a virgin because whenever she's in bed with a guy she turns into his mother." I thought about saying, "You know, there'd be some massive psychological blowback to that pretty much all around," but it was Reno and we were partying so I said, "Good one, Eileen," and we spoke of other things.

A couple of months later, she called and said, "Remember that idea I had where the heroine turns into the guy's mother?" I said, "How could I forget?" She said, "Three novellas, three sisters, each with a different power. You, me, and Krissie." Frankly, she had me at "You, me, and Krissie," even without the paranormal aspect, which I'd been wanting to try for years. I like paranormals but that's a whole nother level of storytelling I'd have to master, so I'd put that ambition on hold until Eileen showed up. When she said, "Krissie, too," well, I had to do it. Have you met the divine Sister Krissie, aka Anne Stuart? Well, then you know. She's brilliant, funny, and an excellent person to buy jewelry with because she always says, "Oh, you should have that." In fact, there's a necklace in the book that I bought when I was with Krissie; it's my sister's talisman and it just seemed right that I should use it since I think of Krissie whenever I see it.

So I called my agent and said, "I need to do this novella," and she said, "How about a NOVEL?" because it's been awhile since I did a solo book, and I said, "Let me send you this idea, just look at it and see what you think." And then I waited because my agent is very, very, very smart, and if she'd said, "This is a bad idea," I'd have passed. But she called back about fifteen minutes later and said, "This is a fabulous idea, you were born to write this, go for it." I love my agent.

So with our agencies handling the contracts and all the uninteresting clerical/legal work, Eileen and Krissie and I started e-mailing, throwing out ideas for our heroines and their back stories and antagonists and heroes and all that good stuff. We set up a Yahoo Groups list so that the three of us could talk on that which means we have a nice archive of how we got to where we are today, should we ever want to wade back through it all. We couldn't decide whether to make the sisters Irish (that would be Eileen) or Latin (can't remember who came up with that) so we gave them both, an Irish mother and a Latin father, which meant we could give the sisters double Latin/Irish names which turned out to be an interesting character builder. Another good decision: we gave the sisters all the same antagonist, Aunt Rellie (Esmerelda), a character we modeled variously on Auntie Mame, Sue Ann Niven, Lucille Bluth, and Maleficent.

And then we went to work on our novellas with one twist: We decided to make them take place at the same time. So Eileen's opened with the sisters at breakfast. Twenty thousand words later, Krissie's opened with sisters at the same breakfast, starting that day over. And twenty thousand words after that, mine opened at the same breakfast. I loved the idea of doing the first scene three times in three different POVs but I was overruled (grump, grump) so Eileen's starts at breakfast, Krissie's starts as her sister leaves the breakfast scene, and mine starts as my sister leaves the breakfast scene.

And then we decided to interweave them, at which point our novella anthology became a novel which I am SO jazzed about.

So right now we're writing the first half of our individual stories for The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes (Eileen and Krissie have had their first drafts done for weeks, I'm just finishing mine now so I'm the slug) and beginning to talk about how we're going to integrate them into the book and we're going to use the blog to keep a record of that. We'll be picking a topic to talk about each week. Next week, we'll tell you about each of our sisters, how we came up with the names, the personalities, and powers and the problems. And in later weeks we'll talk about building the perfect hero, plotting our stories and interweaving them, and why Eileen wants me to get the hell out of her story (infodump, ARGH), and why Krissie plays the peacemaker between the hot-headed Irish lass and the control freak from Ohio, much the way her sister Lizzie plays the peacemaker between Eileen's bossy older sister Dee and my reckless younger sister Mare. In short, this blog is going to be the story of how we're writing The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes.

By the very fortunate Eileen, Krissie, and Jenny.