Reaching the sixth book in the Curse of Clan Ross series, I expected to make a few blunders, but this was a doozie.
All through the writing of The Lad That Time Forgot, I scoured the first five books trying to find important details that needed to be included. I swear I did. I even went looking specifically for mentions of the child or children Jillian was carrying in the Juliet book. I was almost sure she'd been expecting twin boys, but I couldn't find a word about them.
Obviously, I was blind.
Thanks to a fan of the series, who also happens to be a Muir, my big blunder was brought to my attention. I mentioned, in the new book, that Monty and Jillian had a daughter, Lucy, who was particularly close to Quinn and Jules' daughter, Emmie. But I failed to mention the twins--two more lads that Time/Lesli forgot.
May I introduce Ewan and Seumas Ross, four-year-old twins who are just 11 months older than Lucy. Even at this age, they are finding their own paths. Unlike his sober brother Ewan, Seumas hates being indoors and prefers following the animals around all day. Even in church you can find something alive and furry in one pocket or another. It has gotten to the point that Jillian has to do a TSA-style search of his person before he's allowed to get into the car on Sunday mornings.
A week ago, when the pointed little nose of a hedgehog appeared above the top of Seumas' shirt pocket during a particularly long prayer, Ewan confessed he'd been used as a drug-mule and had smuggled the animal inside the church.
Both boys were given porridge for supper--Seamus, for using his brother to further his crimes, and Ewan, for even knowing the term drug-mule. Montgomery was speechless when he was served the same meal, albeit a larger portion.
He gasped. "And just what have I done?"
"Obviously," Jillian explained, "you aren't too careful about who's in the room when you're watching your crime dramas."
Seamus stopped glowering at his bowl to laugh at his father. Ewan cocked a brow and nodded. Montgomery scooped up his spoon and dug into his oatmeal without further argument, no doubt to set a good example for his wee tormentors.
Uncle Wickham has been the only one, thus far, to notice that Ewan always seems to know where his brother is and what's he's doing, even when Seumas is outside and out of sight. The picture below is of Ewan and Emmie who have been sent off to fetch Seamus from Morna's barn--on the far side of the Ross/Mackay Burn...
Obviously, their lives won't get seriously complicated for a long while yet...
Happened just now, and I was NOT in the shower...
My brain: Ooo! I have a great idea for a story. And look... And look... And this would be very clever...
Me: No new books. Must finish this one. Deadline.
My brain: But look!
Me. Okay. I'll look, but only for a minute.
Great plot twist rears its beautiful head like a jewel encrusted dragon.
I pet the dragon.
My brain: See?!
Me: Damnit! *pours more Pepsi to lure brain back into line*
What I really need is a brain babysitter. A cow-dog to keep my attention in line.
But no. I get dragons.
Boy, it's been a while.
But before you think less of me, please note that in the past 7 months I have published 13 novels or novellas. And thanks to a couple of other writers in the Culloden Moor series, we now have 17 books up=16 warriors removed from the moor, safely tucked away in their happily ever afters. Well, mostly.
It's quiet tonight. But I'm not in the waiting room. The creaks of tight rope and complaining planks of wood come from the ship I'm on--a late 18th century galleon. And those snores you hear are from the crew and passengers tucked away beneath the deck for the night. A week ago, it was decreed that only sailors are allowed to be out and about after dark.
Obviously, Captain Titus is sick of the passengers after five solid weeks at sea. You can see him watching the last orange bump of the sun settling into the water at our backs, and the second it's gone, he bellows to the steward, "Mister York! Put the children to bed!"
They're all bothersome children now, no longer invited to dine with him. They're careful to stay out of his line of sight for the most part. And those who do cross his path, he pretends not to notice. Eye contact is a thing of the past. Silence is golden.
And now that you know where I'm spending my time, it will come as no surprise that our next Highland warrior will soon be arriving on the scene. There is a great mystery afoot, you see. And, luckily for us, Soncerae is sending Watson to help us solve it. A tall, braw lad from the Isle of Mull, Tremayne Watson has a taste for mysteries even though he never met Sherlock Holmes in real life.
But then again, none of us has...
Last night I crawled into bed at 4 a.m.
I'd just settled in, taken a deep breath, and prepared to slip into oblivion when I heard voices. The conversation was so clear it could have been taking place next to the bed. A ghost and a certain witch were talking about a scarf with little yellow owls on it.
To be polite, I would say I was frustrated. My mind needed to shut down. Didn't these characters know that I had worked until 4 and needed my sleep or NO ONE was going to get any page time the next day?
I was just about to scream at them to SHUT. UP. But I realized in that moment I would be stupid not to start taking notes. (I have a problem with regrets of omission. Can't stand them. Avoid them at all costs.)
So I reached for the notepad on the night stand. I'd jot down a few reminders, but that was all they were going to get. Unfortunately, I knocked everything on the floor searching for a pen that wasn't there.
With an angry growl my husband never noticed, I climbed out of bed and stomped to the office, turned on the light and powered up a still-warm computer.
So. This morning, when I crawled into bed at 5 a.m., I had a clear picture in my mind of a Highlander named Wyndham, why he is obsessed with a scarf covered in little yellow owls--and the young woman who wore that scarf--twice upon a time.
It's almost a battle, in and of itself, to stand my ground while so many ghostly characters come at me with their stories in their fists, or on their tongues, expecting me to type them up right this minute.
(I posted a list of the order in which the Highlander's stories will be told, but they don't even look at it! I mean, it's right there, stuck to the plaque on the memorial cairn where everyone can see it. And I know, after all these centuries, every last one of them has learned to read!)
And, on top of all this, I've just been waylaid in the shower and informed that one of the stories I planned to tell was just flat out wrong, and one handsome brunette named Ross would be happy to dictate the truth--if I promise to write it next.
Well, I'm not going to fall for that. I have a plan, damn it. I've color coded things and made charts and schedules, and I'm not going to let a wisp of Scottish fog, or shower steam, turn it all into a waste of time!
Besides, if word got out to the others, I'd never be alone in the bathroom again. And that, my friends, is not an option.
So. As per the schedule, Fraser is next.
(Just kidding. He is definitely next.)
"Mr. Ross, get back in line or I will sic a couple of Muir witches on you! And anyone stepping a ghost of a toe in my bathroom will become Number Zero. Are we clear?!"
The concept of a majority does not escape the average Scotsman. Nor did it escape the above average Scotsghosts. (Did I tell you there are 79 of them?)
Belying their patient posture, Culloden's 79 took note of their number and made a bold move. I looked up from my keyboard one day in June to discover Stanley missing along with all those lovely wing-backed, white leather chairs.
They've brought in turf and moss and heather to make their beds while they wait in turn. For a while there, they were queued up and the line went out the door. And although they don't mind standing around for a hundred years or two--they've done it before--it was making me nervous.
Getting a lot of writing done.
The ghosts have settled down, content with the fact that their stories will be told.
The first episode of Pirate Trip is almost ready, and the plot for Viking Trip just dropped in my lap.
Stanley is happy. The Muir Twins are happy.
Everyone is content for the moment.
And I'm pretty sure I need a restroom break, a Diet Pepsi the size of a bucket of chicken...and while you're at it, a bucket of chicken!
A few times a year I have a meeting with a career coach. (Actually, she's my good friend, author Diane Darcy.) A few weeks ago, we met again.
Typically, we stick our noses into each other's careers and take a good critical look at our own. Then we analyze the hell out of it before we come up with a new career plan. We leave the restaurant--I mean, meeting--feeling focused and powerful even though we know our changes will be difficult. This last meeting was no exception.
*Don't worry, Linda, Stanley is still in progress.
But I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all the sequels and plans, so I thought it would be a smart thing to put some series on the back burner--or rather, in the deep freeze, to thaw out and cook at a much later date. Boy, did I feel liberated. The pressure was gone. I had a simple plan to follow. Life was going to get a whole lot easier.
And was I wrong.
I walked confidently into the waiting room, got everyone's attention, then announced the new plan. And while everyone gasped and clutched each other, trying to absorb it all, I got the hell out of there.
I have to pause here to tell you what I meant by "getting the hell out of there." After all, this waiting room is in my head and I can't just go on functioning if I leave my head behind...unless I really leave my head behind. Which is what I did. I thought it would be a wise thing to start taking some medication to help relieve my stress levels. I was going to test the waters and see if I could actually function while taking these meds, and if I couldn't, I would stop taking them. Turns out, I couldn't write a word--whether it was just an imagined block or not, I was dead in the water.
So I stopped taking the meds. It took a couple of weeks for the stuff to leave my system and the crazy dreams to go away--for the most part. Still having some wacky events in my head at night, but I'm back to writing, which is the important thing here.
My mind arrived as scheduled and I boldly returned to the waiting room. I had my new plan in hand and was ready to call all those malcontents to order. Opened the door...and was mobbed.
Characters both alive and dead surrounded me and dragged me into the center of the room. And despite Stanley firing his dueling pistols, the chaos continued. The ghosts of 79 Highland warriors threw chairs of mist against the walls. Ashmoore glared daggers at me while patting the shoulder of a loudly-weeping Sarah who wailed she was too young to die. I protested, since I hadn't planned to kill her off, but my voice was no match for the rest of the noise.
A couple of old women stood at my elbows and explained why I deserved whatever happened though they insisted that, personally, they didn't hold any grudges...even though I planned to close their little tea shop before it ever had a chance to prove itself.
Monty was no help at all. He sat atop my desk watching the excitement while forcing Jillian and the rest of his clan to cower behind said desk. When I gave him a pointed look, he shrugged his shoulders and said the Muir sisters were right--I'd asked for it.
That was when I really started to worry. It was a dark day indeed if Monty was agreeing with The Sisters.
I gasped and pointed left, then ran to my right toward the exit.
The door disappeared.
I put my back against the wall where that exit had been and braced myself.
After a moment, the chairs stopped flying. The ghosts began righting their imagined furniture, but refused to sit.
Stanley suggested I make myself comfortable and pointed to the desk.
"Move your arse, Laird Ross," he said. "Apparently, no one is going anywhere."
I stumbled into the waiting room tonight just to have a look around. I wasn't planning on writing anything until tomorrow. (I'm at a writer's retreat and the only thing I've managed to do since I arrived is eat and catch up with some gals I rarely get to see.)
So, I thought a casual stroll through the room would get me in the right mindset so I can hit it hard in the morning. I knew that Stanley was completely aware he was next on the docket. I expected to make eye contact, throw him a wink, say "see you you in the morning", then slink out.
But no Stanley.
My gaze skimmed over the chairs.
Other characters appeared alarmed, but none of them said a word. Then I finally picked up on some no-so-subtle head gestures and turned to look at the desk behind me.
Stanley wasn't sitting in the consultation seat--he was sitting in MY seat behind the desk. Neither his slight smile nor his stare wavered. I kept expecting him to gesture toward the consultation chair, but his gaze never dipped. He simply waited.
A wink and a "see you in the morning" weren't going to buy me any time. If I made any move toward a door, I couldn't say for sure what he would have done. So I braced myself with a deep breath and plunked my butt into the empty chair, resigned.
For a long moment, we stared at each other. I think the eye contact alone made me powerless. Certainly, staring at Stanley Winters was no hardship and I could have gone on staring for a while. But he glanced down at his fingers, suddenly, like he was punishing me by rescinding his attention. He steepled his digits, then spoke to them.
"You're going to need parchment and a pen, Mrs. Muir, don't you suppose?"
Mrs. Muir? Really? Demoted is what I felt.
Inwardly, I grumbled, "Pen and paper? Are you kidding me?"
The "parchment" in question, a white legal pad, was right there by his elbow, but he made no move to hand it over.
"Yes, Stanley," I said, grudgingly. I stood and stretched, then pulled the narrow-lined pad to the edge of the desk. I excused myself and carefully slid the narrow drawer out within an inch of his elbows, snatched a pen, and closed it with a snap.
He never took his attention from his fingers until my butt was back in the seat and my pen was poised above the notepad.
"How fortuitous we are..." he said, his smile much more genuine and wholly more disturbing to any female in the room, myself and fictional characters included. "To know that we are free to work until Sunday morning."
He may as well have turned a heavy key in the lock on a rusty cell door.
I only hope he allows me a break now and then...to pee.
I can usually be found sitting at my uber cool desk at the head of the spacious waiting room. The dark pink, floral rugs keep footsteps to a minimum. Many characters get up and move around but try not to disturb me when they do it--the faster I work, the sooner their turn will come, you see.
But when one of the doors opens, either at the far left corner or the door in the wall directly to my right, I usually know it. When characters appear for the first time, it is usually "on set," but when they come into the room to wait for their own story, they come through the door on the left. When they leave to play out their own stories, they leave through the one on the right.
Of course, some characters come back through the right side door when they want a revision, when they want to stick their noses in other people's stories, or when their story gets interrupted by a book that is deemed more timely. If they are called back inside because they've been bumped, their noses are usually out of joint--all but the well-mannered Stanley.
But yesterday, I suddenly became aware that someone new was in the room. I hadn't noticed a door opening, or I'd been too deeply immersed in the final pages of Kilt Trip to hear anything at all. But the fact remains, we have a new character.
A woman, I think. She's small, wears a dark cloak with the hood pulled far forward. She stands along the left wall, but her attention isn't on me. Apparently she's in no hurry to have her story told. But I can't help worrying that one of my other characters might be in danger. After all, Mrs. Wiggs was able to remove a character from the room. So it stands to reason someone else would be able to do the same.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see...
About the room...
There are a number of rooms in my head. Behind one, there is a gnarly table covered with thick open books. If I close those and tuck them away on the shelves, my thoughts become less cluttered. I can focus on whatever is left on the table.