As some of you know, I’m currently writing a contemporary romance series based on my historical Malcolm and Ives families. It’s a bit of a challenge connecting them with families from two hundred years ago. There isn’t any way I can use the same family names with any believability. I can throw in an occasional male Ives since men would have kept their names, but the women have to use Malcolm as a given name, which gets a bit ugly. (Remember Susan’s blog about what goes into developing character names?) And of course, over hundreds of years of moving around the world, those connections become slimmer until they slip into invisibility. And in this particular book, my gifted cook is an orphan and has no idea of her family. She just knows she’s weird and foster families don’t appreciate weird.
Anyway, lest you think I’ve given up research to happily write contemporaries for which I ought to know all there is to know, here’s just a tiny part of my search history for this book: poisonous plants, Creole cooking, ghost bikes, contemporary slang, anise, chaparral, health food bars. . . There is no end to the things I don’t know but will procrastinate to find out. And the exasperating part of this research is that it’s usually so I can add a single line to the book. I’d like to say poisonous plants added a whole subtext to the material, but alas, that falls on anise. Because, you know, I’m pretty warped. Did you know the Romans used anise to settle flatulence after a big meal? Anise seedcakes were probably the origin of wedding cakes. Blech. They also used it for insect bites, although I think the smell should have prevented the bites to start with.
Besides wandering around the internet digging out esoteric topics, I also have to research the contents of my own books. The original Magical Malcolms series contains six books. So does the Unexpected Magic series. My 3/19 release, AZURE SECRETS, is the fourth novel (fifth in the series when counting the novella collection) in the Crystal Magic series. That means I have sixteen books of characters and magic and history to keep track of, not to be confused with the next two books I’m working on. It might seem trivial to keep documents of what color whose eyes were or which Malcolm was the artist and which had a compelling voice, but I have readers who correct my excerpts if I don’t get a detail right! I don’t want to disturb anyone’s appreciation of a continuing timeline, so I can’t forget whose family owned the commune land or even that a minor character is looking for water. Many of my readers read the books in order over a short period of time, so errors stand out. Whereas I’ve been writing these books for decades, and memory is fallible.
So here’s your chance to test your memory on an excerpt. Check out my name obsession in progress:
AZURE SECRETS EXCERPT:
Monty needed life-affirming, normal action. If the bikers had been injured, maybe he could help. As he approached the newcomer, the mutt in her backpack yapped and tried to scramble free. “Let’s go look for those bikers, okay?” he murmured for her ears alone. He rescued the dog from a tumble, and it licked his face—normal.
He didn’t have to feel as if he came out on the short end of the stick with normal women.
When she turned and reached for her dog, he could see her huge eyes were a crystalline blue shadowed by dark circles. She looked half-starved and exhausted, but he caught a glimpse of intense emotion before her face shuttered, and she glanced away.
She looked as helpless as he felt, shoring up his sagging confidence.
“The bikers! I don’t know much first aid,” she protested.
He knew shattered when he saw it. She needed normal as much as he did. “I have a first aid kit in my car.” He started walking, holding her dog for ransom.
She didn’t hesitate for long. “I haven’t paid for my breakfast,” she said as she caught up.
“Dinah accepts barter and IOUs. You can pay her later.” He opened the car door for her.
Warily, she grabbed the mutt back as soon as she settled into the front seat.
He could sense her tension in the way she held the dog. Now that his slow brain had time to process the horror, he didn’t think he could reassure her. “Where was Peggy when the Jag hit her?” he demanded, keeping his teeth clenched so he didn’t shout the fear nagging him.
The girl—damn, he had to get her name—didn’t answer immediately. She removed her backpack and set it on the floor in back, along with the dog. Then she clutched her hands into fists and leaned forward to watch the dark road. “She’d pulled off the road, into the parking lot, like any sensible bicyclist on a narrow highway,” she finally said.
That’s what he’d been afraid of. Monty practiced a mental litany of curses before allowing himself to speak again. “So the driver was either blacked-out drunk or it was deliberate.”
She didn’t reply. He glanced over and saw her nod, then scrub at her eyes with reddened fingers.
Damn. He counted to ten, letting his instinctive aggression settle before he spoke again. “I’m Monty Kennedy,” he said, returning his eyes to the road as he drove just a little too fast down the slippery ribbon of blackness. “Thank you for coming with me. I yell and punch things when mad, but I didn’t mean to take my anger out on you.”
“My heart still feels as if it will pound out of my chest,” she admitted softly. “I’m Fee.”
“Fee?” He wanted to watch her face, but the road was too narrow, and he had to keep an eye out for bikers and pray they hadn’t been bowled down like pins. “Short for?”
She hesitated again, then said reluctantly, “Fiona.” She pronounced it Fay-onah. “Only I dislike being called Fay, and most people mispronounce it anyway.”
He snorted. “You’d rather be called Fee, like a service charge, then Fey, like a fairy?”
He heard a small smile in her reply. “Well, no, I don’t mind being called a fairy, but when I hear Fay, I think of some old-time country singer.”
“Well, Fay-onah, Hillvale is the place to make changes. Are you staying for long?”
Squeezing between the seats, the dog scrambled into his passenger’s lap, and she hugged the ball of fur. “This is not an auspicious start,” she said with a decided lack of enthusiasm.
He didn’t want to tell her of more recent deaths in Hillvale. They were developing a reputation that wouldn’t help tourism. But having a normal conversation with a normal woman further cooled his fury. “Auspicious, good word. Superstition runs rampant in Hillvale, if you didn’t notice.”
“Believing in spirits and praying for the dead are not unusual, although I’ve never seen a community come together so quickly. It was. . . interesting.”
“Hang around, it gets better.” Spying the rusting gas station sign, he slowed down and swung into the crumbling blacktop lot.
I sure hope you didn’t find any errors. How much does it bother you to find a discrepancy in a series?