KEYS to understanding

Last Friday, I turned in my book, BLUE BLOODS: KEYS TO THE REPOSITORY, which includes expanded character profiles, a summary of the story so far, four short stories as well as sneak peeks at BB5: Misguided Angel and the new BB spinoff, Wolf Pact. For some reason I thought this would be an easy book to write, since it wasn’t a novel, and it sort of was easier, but it also sort of wasn’t, because in order to write it I really had to *know* every aspect of the story so far, and hint at the future story without giving it away. And it was in writing this book that I realized, MAN, MY STORY IS HUGE! (That’s what she said – snarf! Okay, sorry, I am juvenile today.) But what I mean is, when I first imagined the Blue Bloods series, I imagined this large, sprawling epic with tons of characters and back story… and what I have written is a large sprawling epic with tons of characters and back story. Heh. Which made summarizing it quite a challenge. I also had to make sure that I wasn’t contradicting anything that came before, but I also took it as a chance to FIX things that for some reason or other, slipped through the cracks when I was writing the books.

A couple of things that have always bothered me about the first Blue Bloods book is that it went to print with two big contradictions: one is the age that Allegra died – did she fall into a coma giving birth to Schuyler or did she fall into a coma when Schuyler was three years old? (Both are stated as fact in book one). Originally when I wrote the first draft, I had Allegra fall into a coma upon childbirth. But then I realized that I wanted Schuyler to have some MEMORY of her mother, and also, that Allegra succumbed to the wasting illness of not taking Red Blood because something HAPPENED in her life that caused it, which was not the birth of her daughter. (What happened? Something with her human husband, of course!) But for some reason in my countless re-reading of drafts and copyedits and final passes I still didn’t catch all the references to Allegra’s coma/Schuyler’s birth. Sigh.

The other thing that I’ve always wanted to correct was the question of whether there are only Four Hundred Blue Bloods in existence or Four Hundred living at a time (again in BB1, both are stated). I had always meant it to be Four Hundred at a time, and only for the New York coven, since I wanted a large story and since these vampires were so powerful it wouldn’t make sense if there were only four hundred of them ever. Especially with some of them being taken every hundred years or so. (Heh. My editor wanted to call it “The Three Hundred and Seventy Five Ball if that were the case.) The Four Hundred figure was important to the story because several myths have said that when Lucifer fell, four hundred angels fell with him, and because I wanted to tie the Blue Bloods’ history to that of New York Society, I also wanted to tie it into Mrs. Astor’s Four Hundred – the number of people who could fit into her ballroom and therefore, the number of people who made the cut into high society. Again, I should have caught it after countless re-readings but I didn’t and that inconsistency really grates on me.

KEYS TO THE REPOSITORY fixes and explains all the contradictions and inconsistencies. Very satisfying process that is. I just noticed, for instance, that Charles is described as sixty years old in BB1 and Allegra as a woman in her 40s. And they are twins, how? Tolstoy used to call these kind of mistakes “sunspots” in that the author is so close to his story, you are almost blinded to the small details. For me, part of it is because while I write a front story, there is a back story that will only come to light after you have read all the books, so I have to make sure the back story is consistent as well.

So that’s the great part of KEYS. It’s like a do-over to set the story straight as we go forward. It’s also a fun way to get back into the story and the characters so that when you read the next book, you’ll be completely caught up. I love companion books. For instance, in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, one of the things that always bothered me was that he describes Co-Op City as in Brooklyn. Everyone who has ever lived in New York knows Co-Op city is in the Bronx. In the companion book, he explains why that happened, in a scenario similar to the one I described above. He wrote it, it didn’t get caught during the fact-checking and copy editing, and yeah, it’s a mistake, and one he’s lived with. And he said, “It’s fiction. Maybe in this world, Co-Op city is IN Brooklyn. Also in writing the series, he ditches some characters, changes the names of others (Elaine becomes Susan, etc.)  and that’s just part of the writing process.

Publishing a series while you’re still writing it is almost like ‘writing out loud’ – you’re still in the middle of the story and thinking of it while you’re writing it. But that’s exactly what I love about writing Blue Bloods, I’m never bored, it’s always a challenge, and I try my hardest to get the books in the best shape I can in the deadline given me, and that’s all I can do.

In an ideal world, I would write the books and work on them until the end of my life and then release them only when they are absolutely perfect, like JRR Tolkien, who published the Lord of the Rings in his sixties. But then who’s to say anyone would want to read them forty years from now? I am a working writer, working on a series that is continually expanding and growing but one that is still adhering to my original outline I wrote in 2005. It’s fun. It’s wild. And the coolest thing of all is that you all are reading it!

Sneak peeks to the sneak peeks to come!

Happy Monday!