As I confessed on the previous page, my daughter Emily and I were frustrations about the plots and endings of some the romance novels we had read. While discussing alternatative endings, I challenged her to pen her own...or even a whole manuscript. She countered with the challenge that I do the same. To appease her, but more so because I was intrigued, I began my foray into the world of romantic fiction writing.
From my computer in the dining room, I taunted my daughter as she read her latest novel and watched TV at the same time.
"Let's see." I said loud enough to catch her ear. "If it's a romance, I guess I'll need a boy and girl. I'll call them Dick and Jane."
"Ha ha, Mom. You can't use Dick and Jane."
"Alright. Richard and Jane."
Emily was not amused.
Since both of us are fans of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice", I decided to write a historical and Fitzwilliam Darcy's name came to mind. So, "Dick", who was renamed "Richard", became "Fitzwilliam"--but he had something to say about that decision. Read on...
"...and I suppose I need another character who'll interfere with their romance. The villian. Should I make it a guy? Yeah. I'll call him John." (Emily liked a boy named John at the time. It was an added bonus that he had a common name.)
Emily just rolled her eyes at me so I glued mine back on the computer screen. Since I'd read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander Series several times(and am anxiously awaiting the next addition to the series.), I decided to write about Scots--but in1840's England to avoid explict plagiarizing.
I "borrowed" MacKenzie, from the maternal lineage of Gabaldon's hero, Jamie Frazer, Jamie. But then John, my supposed villiain, sauntered into my head, fully realized in the personage of Jamie--Scots, tall, brawny, ruddy, noble, impassioned--the consummate hero.
Hang on... How dare John McKenzie take on Jamie' Frazer's persona! And it was Fitzwilliam who was to be story's hero. But there was no arguing with the man. He simply isn't the type of man who'll let others manipulate him.
I must have looked flabbergasted. By way of apology for pressuring me, he sighed then pointed out that he hadn't demanded to be the hero. But then he cocked his head and looked at me down then long nose of his.(it's slightly crooked, by the way.) John said that because he loves Fitzewilliam like a brother, he would abdicate te hero role to him with one mandate. As soon as Fitzwilliam had his day and got the girl, I must tell John's story in a second book, and then a third, tie up every single on of the loose ends. In regards to Book 1, John was quite insistent I do right by his cousin, Fitzy, and write him very well.
Hang on a cottonpicking minute... John and Fitzwillam are cousins and they love one another as brothers?
I hadn't even thought about Fitwilliam physicality. A blurry, wavering spectre began to form in mind but it was an outline, a broad-shouldered, tall shade of his cousin.
But how can I create the kind of conflict needed for an interesting tale if John's so protective of his cousin, Fitzy?
Fitzy, huh? Even though I hardly knew Fitzwilliam, somehow I couldn't image he liked John's term of endearment.
But who was I to think I could write a series about thee MacKenzie cousins? I didn't even know if I can write one book, let alone three? Well, I wasn't about to argue with Big John McKenzie.
Then I got to thinking about how much time I'd be spending in their company. It probably wouldn't be to terrible to bear the intimacy with two bonny Scots. (wink)
I was startled from my reverie when Fitzwilliam took a timid sidestep out from around Big John. I don't even realize he was there in his cousin's shadow. As Fitzwilliam took off his hat, I sensed his self-effacing composure. He preceded to apologized for John's intimidations.
Distracted by the way Fitzwilliam fiddled with his hat, I gave him only a smile with my nod. He returned it with a conciliatory half-grin which flattened almost immediately. The reason? Well, after a shuffling of his feet, Fitzwilliam politely requested that he be called "William" through the manuscript but conceded John some latitude.
Before I could acquiese, John grabbed William from behind and put him in a headlock. With a big hand, John tousled his cousin's hair, which was as red as his own. John released William then gave him a purposeful shove towards his fallen hat.
William scooped it up and raked his hand through his mussed hair. A sheepish shrug and glance towards John told me it was not the first time John manhandled him. And yet I saw something dark in depths of William's eyes. Was it just deep embarrassment or was he holding back years of constrained frustration...possibly resentment?
Whatever it was, it took over William. He glanced to John and something unspoken past between them. To my surprise, it was John who took a step back. He turned away and suddenly there were two horses standing behind the cousins. John busied himself by adjusting the stirrup on the cream colored bay.
William quietly admitted that he'd admired, to the point of envy, John's physicial attributes. But if I was to make a hero of William in the first story, I should know he didn't think he could ever live up to the expectations that came with such a physique. William made the point that even though they were cousins and as close as brothers--they weren't neccessary the same type of man on the outside or inside. And yet, William didn't want to be unappealing, unlikely hero.
The man began to shrink before my very eyes. William's broadshoulders, which had been John's to begin with, began to narrow slightly. The brawny arms and legs reduced to long, sinewy limbs. He continued to reduced in stature until he stood a head shorter than Big John. William still stood taller than most men but was no longer built in John's image. He smiled appreciatively as he flexed his arms and appraised his torso but his reserved manner remained.
If it was still possible, William asked, could he somehow become even more of his own man and yet, and dare he say, still be heroic? However, he certainly didn't want to, or rather, he knew he could never, compete with John's commanding nature. William looked John who seemed to sense his cousin's eyes upon him and stepped back to William's side. With familial pride, William revealed John was the spit of their common grandfather, Red Ian and when either man walked into a room, everyone knew it.
William shyly looked to John and asked if his cousin wouldn't mind if he alone had Red Ian's ruddy complexion? With a smile, John spun back to us and tousled William's now ginger colored hair and at the same time, John's red hair lighened to a sandy blond. He grabbed his cousin again but in an amiable bear hug. William was indeed a head shorter than John. He dissappeared from view within his cousin' long arms and large frame.
With a clap to William's back that would have knocked me on my butt, the men parted. John tossed a quick wink to me, then led his horse over to the roadside. He stood with his back to us and was scanning the rolling green horizons which gave his estate, High Hill, it's name.
William leaned in close. He admitted that John's gregaroius and slightly hotheaded nature had shaped his own. Overshadowed by his cousin since they were in small clothes, William had become John's opposite--reserved, contemplative--even to a fault. He preferred talking their way out of the trouble John's verbose nature got them into. But John often dug his hole too deep--especially when he had been drinking. William's face glowed with surprisiing pride as he described John as an instinctive fighter, like their Highlander ancestors who fought to free their country in the Rising of '45. I had a feeling the cousins' shared history would reveal itself to me when the time was right.
His cousin was also connected to nature in a way William didn't understand. John never got lost and despite his size, John had a grace about him. He could creep up on wildlife so quietly, he once even caught a rabbit in one big, bare hand. But it was John's carefree attitude William envied to the point of jealousy. Above the din of a crowded pub, John's warm, deep laugh could be heard. He drew men and women alike to him like proverbial moths to flame.
After a great sigh, William glanced over at John who had dropped to his haunches and had a handful of soil. He was smelling it for some reason. When William's eyes met mine, I knew he had been struggling with a hard decison. His brow was even more furrowed and his attempt to smile failed.
Maybe, just this once, William wondered, could he have an adventure without John--or could I at least sideline his cousin for a bit? And, if it at possible, William would really like to find a woman that wasn't just interested in marrying well. He was put off by shallow women only interested in the society pages instead of get her hands dirty in service to his estate in the heart of England.
His eyes brightened and his brow rose at a new thought. William had never seen the sea. If I was willing to write him an romantic adventure, might it be set at sea? He apologized for imposing but asked the favor of naming this tale, " Life's Uncertain Voyage", a line from Shakespeare.
He professed to being an insatiable bibliophile and greatly appreciated the works of William Shakespeare unlike John whose one and only literary interest was Don Quixote. William begged yet another favor and offered "Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady" for his cousin's story. Glancing back at John, it obviously pained William to voice his desire to separate himself from his cousin. I'm sure he looked upon it as a betrayal.
With a curt but respectful bow of his head, William took his leave of me. He lead his own horse over to John who was still on his haunches appraising the soil. William's hand on John's shoulder seemed to transmit the message that it was time to take their leave. John clapped his hands free of the soil and as he stood, John looked back at me. As a hearty grin dimpled his cheeks, I was surprised to see a crooked smile. There was a slight notch, for lack of a better word, in the right corner of John's upper lip.
I desperately wanted to figure out what caused that injury as well, but John's wink assured me of his confidence to use it well. The tale, their very lives, were in my hands. It was up to me to introduce them to their world and then to my world.
As they walked side by side between their horses, I watched their long legs carry them towards the sunset. William's head hung low until John threw his long arm familarily about his shoulders. At the crest of High Hill I thought they'd turn back to me but their attention was for one another.
I thought them lucky and admired their devotion. And yet, I understood William's need to stand alone--if only for a time.
So, the Scots left me and took with them the rolling English countryside. I sat alone at my computer in mid-winter Wisconsin with only the news blaring TVin the adjoining living room for company. Several hours had past and my daughter had gone up to bed.
I stared at their rough bios on my computer screen. The black letters and white spaces held a magic I had forgotten. Like Walt Disney's inept sorcer's apprentice, I had unwittingly brewed a mixture of thoughts and words. I conjured two fully formed men to life. They drew breathes, dreamed dreams, and sought the fruition of their desires--but only when I thought of them. I knew I had to tell my "heroes" tales and prayed I had the courage and fortitude to learn all I could to do right by both of cousins.
Needing time to process the magnitude of my responibilities. I shut down my computer. I wondered if the the setting--a romantic adventure at sea--was the key to giving William what he sorely needed--his day in the sun, out from John's shadow.
So now you know how it all began.
After months and months of writing, researching, and learning this craft from any website with a writer's page, I completed 2 of the three books in the MacKenzie Cousins Trilolgy. (I've already plotted a tale about their progeny). But before I penned the third in the series, I had learned from my studies that it's a good idea to set stories aside to "breathe".
But I couldn't not write. So taking to heart the writer's mantra. "Write what you know", I began my foray into Contemporary Romance. Since the only exotic locales I had visited were in the Caribbean while on a cruise, I choose it for my setting. Thus, "Hook, Line, and Sink Her" magically came into existance. Ironically, all my novels revolve around the sea but in comparison to the historicals, writing contemporary has been a breath of fresh sea air.--That's not to say that I haven't done tons of research.
It felt good to write the endings but the reality of my "first writes" is that they may never be published except as excerpts on my own sites. That might be a surpise to you but it's not to me. I'm learning a craft and just as it is for most writers, I'm serving an apprenticeship od sorts, I have signed on for the long haul and endeavor each day to learn all I can and put everything I have into pushing and guiding each manscript up the steep road to publication.