Writer’s Lair

I’m using this interlude while Underdead with a Vengeance is off being critiqued to deal with something that has been a pressing on my mind for a very long time:

I don’t have a lair.

A few months back, fellow writer Mike Schulenberg (his funny blog is here) and I were doing a little twitter brainstorming to try to solve the problem. It went basically like this:

Liz: You have a lair?

Mike: Of course I do. Where else would I hatch my diabolical schemes?

Liz: I need a lair! Volcano?

Mike: Don’t overlook the timeless appeal of a moon base

Liz: Too cold. Maybe volcanic moon of Jupiter, but that’s too far from Swenson’s Sticky Chewy ice cream.*

* The best chocolate ice cream. I don’t know why other manufacturers bother trying.

The truth is, I’ve had my eye on the perfect lair since I was twelve, or however old I was when I saw A Man With a Golden Gun.

(Imagine picture here. I took it down. Because I was getting  visitors.)

Lairspot: Ko Tapu Island in Thailand. AKA James Bond Island. AKA Liz Jasper’s sweet new Lair.

Keep.
Off.

It has everything I need. It’s warm, it’s gorgeous, it’s in the middle of nowhere, and it comes with minions. Minions who can swirl me up a soft serve and keep the tourists off the beach.

Opportunity for world domination–bonus!

I think I’ll move in this weekend. It’s been deserted for decades. James Bond fully ousted that lame squatter who drew attention to himself by trying to takeover the world. (That is NO way to treat a secret lair. He deserved what he got.)

If you have a lair, please do tell me about it. Perhaps I’ll send one of the minions over with a nice bowl of soft serve.

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Take me now, Dirk Deedlehopper!

When asked why I write book series, I usually respond with something suitably ponderous and writer-ly about character development and plot arcs. And it’s true that I like the way one really gets to know and care about characters in a series. But writing a series has an important advantage no one really talks about:  you don’t have to come up with as many new names. 

I hate naming characters. I’m not kidding.  It’s really hard for me. Most of the names that pop in my head pop in because I know someone with that name.  And that causes all sorts of problems.

For instance, imagine you’re creating your hero. He’s tall, dark and handsome or buffed, blond and gorgeous or whatever. You imagine your heroine leaning in for that first kiss. She moans, “Oh, John!”

Hold on. (And not because that’s terrible writing.) John was the name of the guy who took you to homecoming your sophomore year of high school. He had fish breath and damp hands.  O-kaaay. Not John. You rewrite. Your heroine and hero are sharing a box of Junior Mints. He puts his arm around her. She leans toward him and whispers, “Oh, Rick!”

Backtrack, backtrack, ick, ick, ick.  You have and Uncle Richard, which is awfully close to “Rick.” And don’t forget about Ranger Rick Magazine which you read as a kid. How can you possibly write a romantic scene when you think “raccoon?” I mean, how much chest hair does the guy have? Eeew. Now in your head your tall, dark and handsome hero has got a serious back hair problem.

Okay.  Time to switch gears.  Let’s name the murder victim. Okay. The victim is a female librarian in her 50s.   How about Marge? You can’t think of anyone named Marge.  Except for Marge Simpson, but since your victim is too old and square to have dyed her hair blue and too young to have a nice blue rinse, chances are no one is going to think Marge Simpson. Fine.  Death to Marge! And then your mother reads the manuscript and you get this phone call:

Liz’s mom: “I can’t believe you killed off our next door neighbor.”

Liz: “What? What are you talking about?”

Liz’s mom: “Marge! Marge Wilkinson. How will I be able to look her in the face? Who’s going to watch our cat when we go to Florida?”

Liz: [awkward pause]”Her name’s Marge?”

Liz’s mom: “What did you think her name was?”

Liz (in her head): “Mrs. Wilkinson.”

Liz (aloud): “It’s okay, Mom. I can change her name to…” (Liz looks frantically around desk. Sees ad for Glendora Cleaners.) “Glendora.” Hah. Perfect.  Death to Glendora!

Liz’s mom: “Glendora? Tsk. That’s a ridiculous name for a librarian.“

So you can see how difficult coming up with names can be.  I think we should all be glad I haven’t resorted to Dirk Deedlehopper. But if I’m honest, it’s only because my best friend used to date a guy named Dirk and George Deedlehopper doesn’t quite have the same ring.

[Note: this was originally blogged elsewhere. I’m re-posting these here. See note below. Is this an endless string of notes destined to torture you? Perhaps. Why don’t you scroll down and see?]