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Wednesday, August 1, 2007
It’s not always easy to pin-point the exact moment a story idea springs to mind, especially not if you’re someone (like me) who plots her stories in detail beforehand. Developing a story idea is usually a long, somewhat convoluted process; a matter of many little pieces coming together in a synchronistic, serendipitous fashion.

But the lightning bolt of Inspiration can hit you at the weirdest times—like when you’re driving, or when you’re stuck in traffic. And, not surprisingly perhaps, that’s exactly where I was and what I was doing when I was struck with the initial idea for Waiting for the Big One. I was sitting in traffic one beautiful Sunday morning when...

But, why don’t I let Gabby, my main character, describe it to you?
“It was one of those perfect mornings, the kind that only ever seems to happen on a Sunday. You know the ones I mean, don’t you? Just before noon, all lazy and warm.

The city of Los Angeles was steeped in sunshine, snuggled about as deep into the weekend as it could get. It seemed like everyone was laid back and happy, except for me and the dozens of other drivers who were trying to move west along Hollywood Blvd, headed toward Fairfax, going nowhere fast.

They’ll tell you Pisces is a patient sign, but you can’t really label the fish. We’re complex people. We combine the best and worst of all the other signs. And the truth is, I hate to wait.
So, there I was, stuck at yet another red light, when it hit me. It wasn’t just me who was waiting and it wasn’t just now. All of Los Angeles was in the same boat, all of us, all the time, waiting for the big one.

For most of us, that means our big break, our shot at seeing our name in a star on the Walk of Fame. It’s the role that’ll lift us out of obscurity. It’s the hit that’ll soar to the top of the charts. We’re all hopeful romantics--like Kathleen Turner, in Romancing the Stone. We’re always certain it’ll happen with the next deal we make, the next audition we go out on, the next person we meet.

Take me, for instance. Any day now, with just a little bit of luck, I could go from being plain old Gabby Browne, aspiring actress and dog walker, to Academy Award Winner, Gabriella Giacomo.
And if fame doesn’t get us, no doubt the earthquake will. That’s the other thing everybody’s waiting for, the big eight point, nine point, ten point shaker that scientists say is bound to occur. The one that’ll rock this town to its knees. Even hopeful romantics have to admit it seems inevitable. How could any place with this much surface glamour not be doomed?”

In actuality, it was November, in my world, not February, I was on La Brea heading north, clucking my tongue at the brown haze that obscured my view of the hills. But other than that...pretty damn close.

I’d like to say I rushed right home and began to plot the rest of the story but that’s not the way it happened. At that point of my life, fiction writing had been temporarily re-located to the back burner of my mind. I was busy writing and editing documentaries, special interest videos and a monthly magazine column, my husband and I had just moved to Los Angeles from New York City, I was six months pregnant with our first child and my dog had been diagnosed with a serious spinal condition.

Suffice it to say I was otherwise occupied.

In addition to that, my stories tend to be very much rooted in their surroundings (which usually mirror my own surroundings, to be honest). Or, as any good realtor could tell you, location, location, location—that’s what matters. And, speaking just for myself, the proper setting can be every bit as important to a story as fully-realized characters or a tightly woven plot.

As a result, most of my fiction, up to that point, had been based either in and around Manhattan, or in the Caribbean. I hadn’t yet spent enough time in California for my muse to find her feet there. So despite the promising opening—and the kick-ass, Peter Gabriel inspired title—it would be quite a while before the rest of the story came into focus for me.

Not that the idea ever quite went away. I played with it off and on during the intervening years. I even turned it into a rather epic poem. But it never really jelled for me, partially because I was still ‘otherwise occupied’ with two children now and a house full of pets.

So, let’s fast forward a few years...and, okay, maybe a few more...

When we next see our heroine (that would be me) she’s relocated to NorCal, having also spent some time along the Central Coast. The kids have gotten older and more self-sufficient. Her husband’s business no longer needs her full-time assistance. Her muse has finally given in and made herself at home on the West Coast (we suspect the abundance of wineries may have had something to do with that) and she is once again writing fiction.

Very long fiction, actually. In fact, I’d just finished book number eight in a nine-part series of novels (paranormal romantic-suspense) set in the fictional town of Oberon, California, and I was searching around for my next writing project. Much as I loved Oberon, and even though I was anxious to write that final volume, I needed a break.

Book eight was a whopper—250k words in length—and dark, suspenseful and somewhat tragic into the bargain. I needed something completely different. I needed to spend a little time working on something light-weight and light-hearted before I could go on to tackle book nine.

One of my critique partners, who happens to write for Liquid Silver Books, had been pestering me for some time (oh, I’m sorry, did I say pestering? I guess I meant to say that she’d been encouraging me, don’t I?) to try my hand at writing erotic romance. Now, she approached me with an idea that even I had trouble turning down: the Zodiac contest. I’m a sucker for Astrology (as more than one reviewer has noted). The Pisces spot was still open. I’m a Pisces married to a Scorpio.

How could I resist?

There was only one catch, however. The maximum length for stories in this collection was 15k. I’d never written light, short, sexy fiction and, despite all the encouragement from my author friends, I wasn’t at all certain I could pull it off. But there’s a kind of magic that sometimes occurs when you’re writing. It’s capricious and uncertain—definitely not the kind of thing you can count on. But, every once in a while, if you’re very, very lucky, there will be a book, or a character...or maybe just a single scene, or a single sentence...that seems to write itself.

That was the case with the character of Gabby Browne. I’d never planned on writing this book in first person point of view, but as soon as she started talking to me, I knew I’d have to. I fell in love with her voice. Plus, the chick just wouldn’t shut up! I don’t think the story would have ever come together in third person. Certainly not in the same way. Maybe that’s why it had taken me so long to reach the point where I could write it?

Ironically, once Gabby began ‘talking’ to me, the actual writing, took very little time. I wrote the first nine chapters in a month, hit my 15k mark square on the nose, and thought, “that’s it. I’m done.”

But I hadn’t counted on the title working against me.

“It’s called Waiting for the Big One, isn’t it? After all that build-up, how can you leave off there? We’re still waiting! Where’s the final chapter? Where’s the big finale? Where’s ‘the big one’?” For once all my critique partners were in agreement and ganging up against me.

I didn’t want to write more. I thought the story was done. I thought what happened next was obvious and clear. HEAs don’t always need to be spelled out in detail. Do they?

Yes, apparently, they do—if the reaction of reviewers is anything to go by.

Those last two chapters—which made the book, in some readers opinions—took another entire month to write and put me firmly over the word limit. In the end, my story wasn’t the one chosen for the contest. Maybe it was the length, maybe it was the point of view, maybe it was any of a dozen other things. Perhaps the timing was wrong or it just wasn’t meant to be.

Or, maybe, this book was meant to launch its own series, in its own time, which it now has done. Finally. At long last. For this story, for me, for Gabby, the waiting is over.

As Gabby would have put it: “It’s Destiny...It’s Kismet. It’s a miracle. It’s about freakin’ time...”

PG Forte


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posted by Dorothy Thompson @ 12:05 AM  
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Name: Dorothy Thompson
About Me: Dorothy Thompson is CEO/Founder of Pump Up Your Book, an innovative public relations agency specializing in online book promotion and social media marketing for authors.  Visit her website at www.pumpupyourbook.com.

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