The Magpie Phase

When you feel you are on a wrong-headed path, the quickest way to get where you want to go is to turn around, head back, and start again from the point you went askew.
William Fitzsimmons

Wise words for the start of the new year, from my newest musical crush.  Music and I tend to find each other, lately through the browse option on Spotify, which I love, and as soon as I heard “From the Water,” I knew I had found something to add to my magpie hoard for Her Last First Kiss.  I could go on about the intoxicating melodies, the raw emotion conveyed in poetic prhasing (how could I not love a singer/songwriter who can correctly and effectively use “soylent” and “picayune” in the same song?)

It’s a brand new year, this 2015, time to forge ahead and trust that I know how to do this writing-a-book thing. I’ve done it before. I can do it again, and the other stuff of life is going to have to get in line. I’m still not talking much about Her Last First Kiss (aka HLFK) at this point, because I am, contrary to my expectations (a favorite Dutch proverb states, “Man plans, God laughs.” Another favorite in that category says, “Pray to God and row toward shore,” which is also appropriate.) There are times when a story will look the writer square in the eye and say “I am more than what you think I am.” To which the writer often responds with something along the lines of nervous laughter, shifty eyes, and frantically sifting through notes because this thing was going to be all planned out, and…oh, very well.

The magpie stage is like preparing the nursery for a new baby. We’re going to need to babyproof everything, get a crib with sides that will both stay up and come down easily when needed, string up the mobile to keep baby occupied, because that rapidly growing brain is not  “doing nothing” while the kid is so young that it looks like all they are doing is lying there.  They’re doing tons, but since they don’t have language yet, they can’t tell us.  With books-in-the-making, this is the time for gathering all the stuff the writer is going to need to make this thing happen.

Notebooks and pens, yes. New file, sure. Scrivener and I basically stare at each other, as I’m still figuring that out, but one of the things I have learned from my NaNot this year is that I need to put the mechanics aside for a while. Feel the story. Know the story. Know how it feels, because I write romance. This is all about the heart, the broken, bleeding, barely beating hearts of two people who are absolutley convinced that love is not for them, because they’re too far gone. They are wrong, of course, and I can promise them a happily ever after at the end of the book. Between Once Upon a Time, and Happily Ever After, though, anything can happen. I do know what happens, but what happens isn’t enough.

How does it feel for each of them as they go through their lives? These aren’t plot points to them; to my story people (it doesn’t seem right to call them characters) this is their lives. My  hero, who really, truly, honestly believes there is nothing about  him that matters besides amusing others with his failures. My heroine, who really, truly, honestly believes there is no room in her life for joy, because she must give all to duty. They’re wrong, of course, and I can prove that, not only with the culmination of their story, which I know already, but with all the steps that lead up to it.

In this, my magpie stage, I flit about, collecting all the bright and sparkly things for this story’s nest. Historical background, yes, but here’s the thing – they don’t know they’re historical characters. The late eighteenth century is their now.  As for me, I’m here, so I have a few centuries more of resources, and even if they don’t know who Mary Chapin Carpenter or Rainbow Rowell  or William Fitzsimmons are, those creators have had a hand in stirring this pudding.

I’m reading like crazy, more outside historical romance than I had thought I would for this book, though HLFK is definitely that genre, but that deep-down heart trauma, I am going to take that wherever I can find it and let it soak into my marrow.  Dangit, this hero and heroine deserve that. They deserve everything I can give them and more. I am honored that they picked me, that they are letting me feel them, not merely acknowledge that they exist.  I am watching movies as diverse as The Smurfs (1 and 2) and Diner and Shutter Island and episodes of TV shows I’ve loved for years, and those I’ve never seen before, because there is a spark of something I can pluck from that and add to my toolbox.  There will be a Pinterest board, which will be secret, because I need current project boards to be secret; I’m surprised at that, but it’s one of the things I’ve learned about my own process, and that’s okay.

Chattering, too, as magpies do, when time and context are right.  Still learning the right balance on that one, but I do know that talking is a part of my process, which is a living thing. I’m looking forward to this new adventure 2015 will bring.

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