Tied to the Tracks

clarification, and questions

First, please excuse what may have seemed like an overreaction to Nancy’s kind words about looking forward to the next book in the series. I plead jet lag, and a virus. Second, I did start working on Queen of Swords as soon as Fire Along the Sky was finished — I just haven’t been working on it lately. I’ve got maybe 250 manuscript pages, and I’ll be going back to it relatively soon.

Generally I work on two projects at once. When one bogs down for whatever reason, I can work on the other. For the last two months I’ve been working primarily on Tied to the Tracks because that story has been cooking — which only means that things are flowing well for that story, at this moment. That will change. It always does. Then I’ll go back to New Orleans where Hannah is in a bit of a pickle at this moment. The reason the story bogged down for me is that a few new characters have just showed up, crucial characters to say the least, and I don’t have a handle on them yet. So I hope that puts everybody’s mind at ease.

Thank you all very much for taking the time to give me your reactions to Fire Along the Sky. I really, really appreciate feedback at this stage especially. I hope others will jump in. I’d be really pleased if people felt comfortable giving me specifics — what parts of the story they liked particularly, which characters had their attention, and also what didn’t quite work for whatever reason. I will answer questions, if you have any, where possible. Finally, for those who haven’t read the book and still intend to, I expect there will be some spoilers in the comments to this post, so you might want to stay away.

When I left for Europe I still hadn’t summarized my thoughts about the excursion into writing sex scenes — which I still intend to do. I also read a couple of interesting books while I was gone, which I’ll review in the next few days.

the story moves

I find this pretty funny, I have to admit. Back in November I posted about Tied to the Tracks here, saying with utter confidence that I had settled on names for all but one of the characters. Now, in May, with 150 pages of this manuscript finished, I realize almost every name has changed.

This fits, really, given the way the characters have evolved, some of them in directions I hadn’t anticipated. In surprising directions, even. Some characters I thought I wouldn’t ever much like have demanded my grudging admiration; others I thought I’d be able to write with ease are still not completely letting me into their heads. John Grant (the primary character opposite Angeline Mangiamele) is ticked at me because I keep complicating his life, and John doesn’t like complications. I can almost feel him pacing back and forth wondering how to get the best of me, so he can return to a peaceful life. Mwah-ha-ha-ha. Not a chance.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned the movies Pleasantville or The Purple Rose of Cairo (and I’m in too much of a hurry to do a search) — but I have a real fondness for movies that are successful in portraying the fluid, hazy boundary between the story, the storyteller, and the audience.

the other list

Thinking about my list of seven male characters has actually helped me quite a lot in solidifying some things about John Grant, who is the male protagonist in Tied to the Tracks. In the hope that lightning will strike twice, here’s a preliminary list of female characters who work especially well for me. Again, this is in no particular order, and I’ve put my own main character at the bottom for the purposes of comparison.

Three more things I’ll be thinking about as I try to deconstruct what makes a female protagonist work for me: (1) unlike my list of male characters, most of these women come out of traditional romance; (2) Each of these women has a male counterpart who I like a great deal, but who didn’t make it onto the other list. (3) I can think of another five female characters who probably deserve to be on this list.

Elizabeth BennettPride and PrejudiceJane Austen
Marie Du GardDanceJudy Cuevas (Judith Ivory)
Maddy TimmsFlowers from the StormLaura Kinsale
MelantheFor My Lady’s HeartLaura Kinsale
Aeryn SunFarscapeof course, of course
Hannah TrevorHearts and BonesMargaret Lawrence
Elizabeth MiddletonInto the WildernessS.D.

former lives, puppy boys, and Lily

in another life, I was a university professor. I wrote books about language and discrimination issues, and my work was well received. For the most part that is all behind me now, but every once in a while my past catches up with me. I spent Thursday and Friday writing an expert opinion for a Title VII language-focused discrimination case, which felt very odd but interesting. I did it because I felt like I couldn’t not do it.


Just before I started this project on Thursday, I sent off two things I had promised my agent: the first three chapters of the contemporary novel (tentatively entitled Tied to the Tracks) and a children’s book I have been writing, off and on, for the last year. A short thing, really, but it was fun to do. Don’t know if it will ever sell, of course. It’s called Puppy Boys.

So now I have to get back to work. While I was hammering away at linguistics, the odd thought did pop into my head. Or maybe I should say the odd character: Lily showed up to tell me something obvious I had been overlooking. It was actually a great surprise and relief and quite amusing, too.

Lily is a young woman at this pointl. She is a great deal like her mother, but she doesn’t know that yet. In matters of the heart, her life is looking very different so far than her mother’s ever did.