Ahhh, summer . . .

A picture of my pumpkins this morning.  You can see where hail damaged some of their leaves last week, but they are doing fine, and I’m hoping for some pumpkins by fall.  Last year’s never set fruit, but I’m very much a believer in that “if at first you don’t succeed, add more shi- ah, compost.”

I’ve been enjoying myself immensely this week as I sit outside with my clipboard and sketch out the next book I’m going to be working on.  I only get a chance to do this once or twice a year, and the weather has been cooperating beautifully.  It’s been lemonade and ice tea–and then a little mixed together all week, sort of reflecting what is landing on the page.  This time, my plotting is a bit different as I’m not working on just one book, but several ideas as I plan out the main structure to my next five years.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still have a couple of Hollows books to write, but with the last Madison book on the shelf, my schedule has opened up and I’ve been throwing ideas on the paper like mad–ideas that have been perking in my head for a very long time.  Some are Hollows oriented since I’ve got a novella to write before the end of the year and I think it’s going to be Hollows, some are not.

Yesterday, I finished a very rough, chapter by chapter outline on a weird stand alone that has the potential for a second or third book.  Still UF, but a very, very different feel, and I’m excited about it.  It’s using a style of writing I’m not familiar with.  I may lose the first person POV, but for now, first line: “They say on average that in their lifetime, a person swallows three spiders in their sleep.  I’d always thought it was an urban legend, until I woke with one sitting on my nose.  That was the morning Gram died.”  I never know the first line when I start a book, and this one will likely change, but it has a feeling of legend, family, and sudden aloneness that I was looking for–and I like it.

The pages are ugly, messy, and have holes in the plotting you could throw a cat through, but I’m dropping it and turning my attention today to Grace, a book I started while Dead Witch Walking was being shopped around.  It’s traditional fantasy, and I’m throwing out everything but the characters, the first 100 pages of rough draft gone, gone, gone forever.  I’ve gotten the question before from readers as to what comes first, the plot, or the character, and usually I tell them they evolve together, but if I can pull this off–yanking a character from an already established story line and put her in a new setting and let her go–then I think my answer will be the characters come first in my mind, then the story.  I wouldn’t want to try to do this with just any character.  Grace is special.  She is so beautifully flawed that she could walk down my sidewalk and I would know her in an instant.  She is who I’ve  been aching to write for years and years, and I hope that I can turn to her, but if not, she will wait for me, and I’m good with that, because I know there will never be anyone on paper like her.

So maybe ideas are like plants.  They can sit in the back of your head for years until you pull back the branches and give them light–and a huge helping of compost.


Filed under Drama Box

41 responses to “Ahhh, summer . . .

  1. Sabrina

    Uhh, Kim, there has just been released a new Coldplay single in Europe!! It’s called “Every teardrop is a waterfall”. Veeery cool! A release date for the new album hasn’t been set yet, but if there’s a single there’ll be an album soon. So excited! I have been waiting for this for quite a while now.


  2. Stephenie

    Ahh, I love your ideas on writing. I’m so excited for you. I love coming up with new ideas and it really comes across that you do also. I’ve seen you talk about Grace before, and I can’t wait to see her on paper. You put so much work into your ideas and your writing, it’s so much more polished than some of the other writers in the genre; and I think I would read it if you wrote a dissertation on the act of paper jams! 😀

    I’m starting out a detailed plot outline this week and I think after another week of two of work (since I have to work around teaching lessons) I’ll be able to actually write something again. Which I’ve really missed being out of my creative writing class.

  3. Your opening line is a gem, Kim. Whether or not it sticks, it’s a keeper for the files. Glad your punklettes survived the hail storm – we should all be so lucky when they hit, figuratively and otherwise.

    Keep on sketching and playing. Can’t wait to see what your creative juices spill next.

    • Thanks, Jennie. It is seldom that it falls together like this, with even a title coming easily. It feels good and makes the hard days easier to take.

      Fingers crossed for your own garden!

  4. jkh

    You lead by example: Put the idea on paper. Let it be “ugly, messy . . . and have holes in the plotting you can throw a cat through(!)” But get it down. You can leave it to percolate for years if needed, come back and revise, or start over with just a salvaged phrase if that’s what cooks. Does anybody else have a box full of scribbles, currently unrelated to anything, but that seemed necessary to keep? And I like the idea that both gardens and writing need lots of um, compost {:-)}

  5. Stephanie

    Just curious…I know a lot of other authors do it because of branding, etc., but if you did publish another high fantasy novel, would you publish it under Kim Harrison or Dawn Cook? Once I made the connection, I read the Truth series, and I must say, I loved it.

    • I’m not sure, Stephanie. My editor for the Hollows works with high fantasy as well, so I’d have to talk it over with my agent to see if having Kim writing in a different genre would damage the urban fantasy readership. I don’t think it would.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the Truth books! Thank you so much. Ahhh, I really loved those characters.

  6. Amy

    That opening line with the spider…oh keep it, it is utterly perfect and definitely would draw me into wanting to read more!

    We had hail yesterday and I’m in California, it is raining in June…OMG that rarely happens and a tornado warning to boot. Rain this weekend, I’m used to 95 degrees by now and now have to deal with my roses not being happy with the rain and I thought it was safe to finally plant my tomatoes but alas…no.

    • Thanks, Amy. It’s seldom that the beginning forms like that for me. I usually have to pull it together after I reach the end.

      Yikes, nasty weather! I hope it eases out for you soon.

  7. suzannelazear

    Yay for Grace!

    I hear you on the yanking out characters and letting them loose in a new setting. I’m having to do the same for a character who I, too, have had waiting a long time for her turn while I write kidlit. A character who I want so badly to unleash into the world but haven’t quite found a world that quite works. Unfortunatly, I can’t do anything about it until I can emerge from the editing cave, but your coments about light and compost give me hope that I can figure out where she belongs.

    Good luck with your story! I can’t wait to read it.

  8. mudepoz

    I like to genetically engineer plants. I would love to insert the delfin gene into roses to get blue ones.

    Isn’t Grace an angel?

    • Hi Mud. Yup, I used the name for the Madison books, but trust me, this is an entirely different character. Blue roses. You’d make a million!

  9. Yvonne

    Kim, I think that’s THE perfect first sentence to a story. I’m not a writer; I’m a reader and that draws me right in. I have to know what’s next. It gives me that jittery I-gotta-stop-everything-and-read-this-NOW feeling. I can’t wait!

  10. Vampyre

    Howdy ma’am,

    While it will be sad to see the Hollows series come to an end, it is good to know there may be even bigger and better things around the corner. I’m really looking forward to what’s next.

    You aren’t my favorite author just because you look good in a red wig. 😉 Nope. You really do know how to tell a story and capture your reader’s imagination. Your love for your craft and your readers shows in everything you write. As long as this is true, there is no where to go but up.


    • Hi Vampy. I love to begin things, but I love to end them even more. Thank you for your words. I really appreciate them. It’s been a hard week. If not for the work . . . I’d be a mess.

  11. Victoria Eskey

    Kim, you never cease to dazzle me. 🙂
    Spiders and Gram… (already shivering)….and a possible different POV……
    And it sounds like Grace is very cooperative, and I’m sure we will love her as much as you do, once she’s on paper.
    It’s nice to *hear* your excitement on the new stuff! ^_~

    • Thanks, Victoria. I’m glad you like it. It’s rare that it comes together at the beginning, making me think the ending to this is going to be a bear. -laugh-

  12. Hiya Kim.
    The thought of the Hollows ending makes my heart sink. I just can’t imagine it, 🙂 although I know eventually it has to happen. I too can’t wait to meet Grace, it sounds like she means a lot to you, and that means I can’t wait to spend time getting to know her.

    Bright Blessings…

    • That’s just it, Faith. Endings don’t bother me. I’ve seen enough in books and in life in general. They make room for new, and that’s what’s it’s about sometimes.

  13. Tim


    Glad your pumkins are doing well. As a refference to “Dead Witch Walking” about genetically engineered produce….. I am amazed at the number of fruit, and fauna that is genetically engineered today! I thought we were to have some say in the matter. But I can honestly can’t list what is “real” or not, and what has been changed in what way…. (OK… watermellons without seeds seemed a good idea a few decades ago, but they just do not taste the same…)

    I’m getting ready for teaching my 3 hour class a week class at a community college. My problem is the same as all kindergarden teachers have. Though the age of my students range from 25-65 years old a couple of students start a converstion/ arguement and then I find myself trying to yell over the whole class. Bouncing a Black Board Eraser off the head of a 30 year old worked once, but not something I want to continue with. Any ideas? Spells? Curses?
    ps: BTW… That’s great news about you starting new series!

    • Amy

      How about “Excuse me, but I thought we were all civilized adults here.” or “If you can not control yourself well enough to be civilized please leave and come back when you can.”
      They are adults after all, and should behave like adults. Maybe bring a baby bottle to class and when a student gets out of control just stick it in front of them so they get the idea they are being childish?
      Good luck!

    • jkh

      Re class arguments: Write on the board “All questions must be held until the Q&A period.” When the interruptions start, ring a bell or blow a whistle, and point to the board, saying “to continue…”

    • Hi Tim. I looked at a package this week, and it said no GMOs. Wow. What we have become, eh?

      Good luck with the class. That sounds annoying.

  14. Jenny

    I admire that you were able to scrap the 100 pages. Sounds like alot of work and thought even in rough draft form.I would like to meet Grace some day. She sounds worth waiting for.I’m glad you are enjoying your time this week.Thanks for sharing.
    ps- swallowing spiders *shudder* I keep trying forget that little fact 😉

    • Hi Jenny. That the pages were almost over a decade old made it somewhat easier, but man, she had a good story as she was. You will see Grace if I have anything to say about it. It might not be for another ten years, but you will. 🙂

      Oh, and the spider thing is just a legend. There is no truth to it at all.

  15. Antonio

    I heard it was 8 spiders.(grin) Really, one is too many.

    So much of what makes SciFi/Fantasy interesting is the ability to come at a topic at a unique angle, like someone who mixes up their workouts by shocking their muscles with a new routine. Metaphors can be used to tackle subjects that would seem daunting if approached head-on: racism, love, friendship, family, loyalty etc. However, if it is always filtered through one, and only one, character – a character that doesn’t deviate that much from everybody else’s main character – it can lose it’s punch a little bit. In UF we don’t see a lot of diversity when it comes to POV. Short stories and novellas are cool for just that reason–a new POV in a familiar universe. I wish we would see the occasional third person. I think that is what’s so dynamic about the TrueBlood television show, being able to see that world from a variety of character’s eyes–metaphors from different perspectives: good and evil depends on where you’re standing. I hope you give writing in 3rd person a shot. I can only think of one series(Barb&JC Hendee’s Noble Dead series) that has tried it.

    Your musings on your ‘Grace character’ reminds me of a songwriter, picking out a riff or page of lyrics that he didn’t know what to do with originally, but eventually finds a home with a renewed inspiration…”Maybe if I add this beat and write a new bridge, I can make this work!” (grin) Be good… 😎

    • I have a huge respect for musicians, Antonio. They do what I take a year to do in three minutes, having to balance a basketful of egos and creativity at the same time. Our house with one person in creative-overdrive is somewhat crazy. A house with four or five would be overload. At least it would be for me. I don’t know how they keep it together long enough to get it done. I really don’t. But the high from making something with other people, the joint collective coming together to make a whole from single voices has got to be a high the likes of which I will never find on my one sole voice. It has to be worth it, or they wouldn’t do it.

      Such is life . . .

  16. Lesley

    I LOVE hearing you talk about writing. Especially about how you can grab a character from an old story and just stick her in a completely different one. Once you have solid characters they just seem to drive the story on their own sometimes.

    This summer I’m unemployed, and starting my first attempt at writing a novel. Today! I have an opening line of a second story, too…I just haven’t discovered the story that goes with it. Yet! I can’t wait! 🙂 So I want to thank you again for sharing your thoughts and techniques on the craft- you have made the process far less daunting and overwhelming.

    • Thanks, Lesley. I’ve never tried to move a character before, and I don’t think I could do it if Grace had been finished.

      Have fun with your writing this summer! And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect on that first run-through. The bones will direct you on how to flesh it out when you get there.

  17. Beautifully written, as usual Kim. You have a knack for imagery that comes through on the page even when you’re simply explaining your process. The more I read your writing, the more excited I become for you. 🙂

  18. Jenn

    I absolutely love this post. And I really can’t wait to meet Grace. She sounds like someone who you will enjoy spending a lot of time with.
    Thanks for sharing how this session is going for you.