Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Cats Wouldn't Let Me Post

My cats have decided that my laptop is a kitty heat rock. The moment they see it, they're all like "What you doing, Jill?" "Mind if I watch?" "Mind if I help?" "That keyboard looks like a cat perch." Then I get distracted and the next thing I know I'm trying to type with a cat across my hands, and they get really upset with me for disturbing their rest. Because god forbid a cat only get 23 1/2 hours of sleep a day.

This time, I distracted them with food. We'll see how long that lasts.


I wrote an author's note for The Devil's Concubine, but I just realized it didn't make it into the Kindle version. :(  In the note, I talked about the history of DC. Since some people have asked me in direct messages about where it came from, etc., I thought I'd tell everyone here.

Every November, some of my writer friends do NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - so I thought I would try it. But you can't just sit down and start typing. You have to have some idea of what you're going to write, especially if you're going to grind out a full novel in thirty days. I came up with a few thoughts, but nothing seemed all that interesting. Then I was stuck in heavy traffic one evening and had, for want of a better word, a vision. It was like seeing ten or twenty seconds of a movie.   

What I imagined was this: (I'm not going to write it as I would for a book. This is a sketch - wandering tenses, poor grammar, bad sentence structure and all)

A tall, handsome man is dragging a steamer trunk through a town. Most of the buildings are painted bright colors and have verandas wrapping around each story, but a few look like something from Thailand or Viet Nam. The road is red dirt. A woman in a sarong with a basket balanced on her head walks past him.

He stops to wipe sweat from his temple. He's dressed in a sherwani jacket and trousers that are obviously far too warm for the climate.  As he tugs at his tight collar, he's distracted by a prostitute sitting on a white wicker chair on the veranda of a pink building. As he watches the prostitute, three men jump him, knock him down, and beat him.

No one walking past does anything. it's as if they can't see him or the men beating him. But the crowd suddenly parts, and a woman saunters through them. She's dressed as if she's from Victorian England, except that her hair is in a long, thick black braid.

The moment the robbers see her, they grab the man's trunk and run away with it.

She walks straight toward the man on the ground. He thinks she's come to help, so he says, "Help! Get the police!"

She says, "The police? You are a fresh," and steps over him as if he's nothing more than a mud puddle.

In pain and bleeding from his nose, he rolls over to watch her walk away, because he can't believe that she'd just ignore him. She stops a few steps from him and turns back to look at him. Her eyes are like a reptile's with oval pupils ringed by a thin band of bright yellow.

"Welcome to Levapur, Mister Zul."

She saunters away, chuckling. The hem of her skirt drags through the dust, leaving a serpentine trail.


Wow! That takes much longer to write than it does to imagine.

That was all I had to go on, but I was intrigued. Who was that woman? What's with her eyes? How did she know his name? Where are they? What was that all about?

I had a few clues. The plants, and humidity told me they were in the tropics. So did the buildings, but there were two very different styles going on, which made me think two cultures were living together. He was dressed in a sherwani jacket, which said India or southeast Asia to me, so he belonged with the Asian architecture crowd. She was dressed as if she were from the same country he was, but she was clearly of the same race as the people wearing sarongs, so she was from the culture who built most of the buildings - a native. He had a trunk and didn't know the town, so he was clearly an outsider.

But who was she?

That question bothered me for a week. Anyone that intriguing had to be a main character. She dressed differently than her people, so she had to be an outside among them. She certainly wasn't nice! But that's okay because what she did was far more interesting than rushing to his aid. That wasn't enough though. I had to know more.

Finally, I had this second "vision":

The man who had been attacked on the street followed a grumpy older woman up a flight of stairs. He looked hot and miserable. The blood around his nose had dried. There were two doors at the top landing. Before the woman would hand over the key to unlock one of the doors, she demanded two weeks rent.

Angry, but exhausted, the man paid her. She handed him the key and toddled down the stairs. He unlocked the door.

The one room apartment was bare, except for his trunk sitting in the center of the room, and the woman perched on top of it. He now suspects that she knew the men who attacked him and probably told them to do it. The man slams shut the door, strides across the room, and shakes his finger in her face.


But he's so furious that's all he can say.

Calmly, she watches him for a moment in silence. The corner of her mouth curves up in a cruel smile.

"Are you feeling ill, Mister Zul? Or are you always a man of such few words?"

"What are you doing here?" he bellows.

"There's no need to shout. I can hear quite well, thank you. And I thought my presence here was rather self-explanatory."

"How did you know I'd rent this apartment? How do you know my name?"

She smoothed her skirt. "I know everything that happens on this island." She rose and looked around the apartment as if seeing it for the first time. It was a dump.

"Why did you steal my trunk just to return it?"

"I have twenty witnesses who will swear I didn't steal it." 

She was obviously enjoying herself, which only made him angrier. She walked past him to the door.

"Paints and brushes. That was unexpected," she says just before she steps out.

He spins around, "You went through my trunk? Why?"

Looking him right in the eyes, head tilted as if the answer to his question deserves careful thought, she says, "Because I wanted to."


And unfortunately it ended there, but I had more insight. She was definitely not a good guy. Not intimidated by a big, muscular man yelling at her. Seemingly cold, but with a perverse sense of humor. I knew  could work with that.

The first two times I wrote this novel, the opening scene was that first vision. By the third rewrite, I realized that I couldn't use it because it happened a full year before the rest of the story. That made for an awkward jump in time. I could have used it as a prolog, but many readers don't like them, so I had the characters mention that first meeting but never showed the scene. Too bad. I still like it.

Who is that woman? QuiTai. The woman.

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