Category Archives: Characters

Robert Palmer, R.I.P

Robert Palmer, ’80’s music icon and snappy dresser, has died at the age of 54.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t mention this – I tolerated his work but was never really a fan – except I know of someone who is going to be very upset: K, of And/News. The first time Richard sees her, she’s pumping coins into a juke box in a West Texas bar and dancing to Robert Palmer songs (I never even owned one of his records or CD’s until I started writing this book – I picked up a compilation of his hits to provide some atmosphere while I wrote).

I’ll definitely have to put some kind of reference to this in the book now, but I’ll have to decide where it will go. Maybe at the beginning I could have her say something to the effect that she went for a year or two without listening to him after he died. Or stick in a line somewhere like, “I don’t get all crazy like that when people die. Like I was sad when Robert Palmer died, but I didn’t get all suicidal.”

What’s interesting to me about K’s choice of music is the fact that she chose Robert Palmer, not me. Were it up to me, I would have given her a jones for a more obscure act that I felt deserved the attention, like Brian Protheroe, Spoons, or the Weimarband. But when I wrote that opening chapter of And/News, Richard walks into the bar to see her at the juke box, and she was dancing to… Surprise! The words I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On came out of my fingers.

Considering what happened to them next, it was a perfect choice.

I should have finished the book faster. I’d like to think that Palmer would have been chuffed to learn that he was K’s favorite artist.

NP – WHLO, The Bill Hall Show


Out of Control Characters II

After a night of writing like this, it’s hard to keep from gloating. For that matter, it was hard to keep from gloating after last Monday’s session, too. I’ve been really pleased with the results. Last time Richard opened up to K in an unusual way, and tonight he identified and forced K to deal with the fact that she was in denial over her loss.

What was interesting was that I didn’t realize that K was doing that until Richard said she was.

Back in my early days, when I was researching How To Be A Real Writer, I would read accounts of writers talking about how they’d be tooling along on their latest project and then – and they’d always describe it in the same way”

“…it was as if the characters just came to life on their own, and I was merely writing down what they were doing.”

Admittedly I was something of a cynic back in those days, and I remember thinking each time I read these words coming out of the mouth of a different writer, I’d think:

“Yeah, right. They’re just saying that because it’s good publicity and it gets the audience excited over the quality of the book.”

Then it happened to me while writing A Death of Honor. You know that nifty scene about a third of the way into the book where Rodriguez puts a gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger? That wasn’t supposed to happen. According to my outline he was supposed to live another 100 pages or so and provide valuable information that would propel the end of the book.

Apparently Rodriguez had other ideas.

Actually, it was my subconscious that had other ideas. I think that’s where moments like this come from. It’s hard to explain them any other way. Although it’s certainly not as romantic as the thought of a character coming to life, out of the control of the ostensible author.

Ahh, whatever. Think of it any way you want. I’ll go along.

So when I get interviewed for And/News publicity and talk about that wonderful moment when the protagonist knew what was going on with the female lead before I did, you can smile and nod and think –

“Yeah, right. He’s just saying that because it’s good publicity and it gets the audience excited over the quality of the book.”

Today’s Scorecard
514 Pages (+10)
113,852 Words (+2374)

NP – Renaissance, Live at Carnigie Hall, Disc 1


My wife’s comment on Chapter 14: “That was weird.”

Another night of slugging away as the weirdness continues. Vic and Ray are strange characters. I mentioned that they didn’t come out quite like I expected them to, but I think the book is working better for that. In this incarnation, they’re providing the missing piece in the relationship between Richard and K – something it needed that I hadn’t thought to put in, but now that it will soon be happening, I can’t see how I missed something so important.

How is it these things work out? I can’t explain it. I know I often credit such things to a muse, but that’s style. From a substance point of view, I’d have to say that things like this are a gift from God – not via a lightning bolt to the brain, but in being gifted a brain that evidently works out stuff like this while I’m busy worrying about how I’m going to pay the telephone bill.

Pretty amazing.

And I’m still fascinated by the organic part of it all. But more on that later. It’s late.

Today’s Scorecard:
Chapter 15
497 Pages (+7)
110,004 Words (+1743)

NP – iTSP (Propaganda, “The Murder of Love”)

Richard Takes Control

Tonight I reached what felt like a natural stopping spot, checked the page count, and decided to push on. This decision was immediately followed by a series of interruptions. When I returned, I decided I was wise to stop where I did. It was getting late, and the scene I am going into is another that will require sharpness of mind in order to make a smooth transition.

It was an interesting writing session tonight because Richard surprised me. For most of the book, he’s been riding the wave of events, letting it push him along without much of a fight, other than trying to look after K in her bad circumstances. But now I see why Vic and Ray turned out so differently than I had envisioned when I brought them into the story. They had to be that way. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have pushed Richard to the point he reached tonight, where he begins to take control and starts manipulating them for his own good, rather than let them act self-servingly.

I have to wonder how much of this my subconscious worked out in advance, and how much came while my fingers were wiggling on the keys. Another of writing’s mysteries.

Today’s Scorecard:
Chapter 15
490 Pages (+6)
108261 Words (+1357)

NP – My daughter, practicing piano.