Monday, July 09, 2007

Debra - Monday Morning Muse on MOSSY CREEK

A year or so ago, the BelleBooks editor was kicking around some ideas for the next Mossy Creek series novel and the subject of the circus and "no room at the inn" came up. (Brainstorming often goes awry.)

Just that easily Cirque d'Europa arrived in Mossy Creek on a broken-down tour bus in time for Valentine's Day weekend with no rooms at the inn. Well, once you added romance authors to the mix, no character in town was safe from Cupid's arrow. New love, old love, crazy love, sweet love, stubborn love.

# 6 in the Mossy Creek series has arrived!

Working in a collective novel is always...interesting. With each new book we're convinced we've come up with the new, improved and painless way to do this. And shortly thereafter we discover we haven't.

This time the editor gave us our marching orders. We knew the calendar (Valentine's), the weather, the type of circus (no animals or Ringling Brothers' clowns), that our stories had to begin on Friday, include/host a stranded member of the circus, deal with romance in some way and resolve the character problems/issues by Sunday afternoon when the circus leaves town. Of course we all had to respect the general Mossy Creek universe and established character relationships. Killing off someone's character is frowned upon.

Email will fly back and forth as one author questions another. "Hey, DebS, is it okay if I give Ida [her character] some jugglers at her house because Amos [my character] really really really wants to make a few snarky comments about her ability to juggle"

You see, Amos (Chief of Police and much younger than Ida, the sexy 50-ish mayor) has a thing for Ida. She (in deep denial) has been running as fast and as hard as she can from the chemistry and age-difference between them. She's been dating a gorgeous retired colonel who everyone knows isn't right for her, but the colonel's safe.

What was Deb Smith's response to my very clever juggling set-up? She jumped right on it. And then had Ida host a juggling family with a hunky, unattached older French patriarch just to tick my character off. ARRGH! Now, Amos has to deal with TWO other men in Ida's life. Not to mention her dead husband who was the love of her life.

If that didn't make things difficult enough, he's still dealing with a parrakeet so thoughtfully bequeathed to him by author Anne Bishop whose Tweedle Dee story from SUMMER IN MOSSY CREEK had me crying so hard I couldn't see my computer screen. And knowing I was stuck with that damned bird forevermore.

The moral of this story is that if you're ever in a collective novel series be sure you aren't involved with evil authors because if you are, then it's "Katie bar the door." All bets are off.

One other time a group of us were doing an online pass-the-baton story for some website and I volunteered for chapter 4. I'd rather take a beating than write love scenes (although I write excellent ones thank-you-very-much!) I figured I was safe in chapter 4. Imagine my surprise when Sandra Chastain chortled like an evil genius as she emailed me her chapter 3 which ended in a no-way-to-get-out-of-it love scene about to happen. Of course I took my revenge on the next poor author who was terrified of comedy and left her high and dry in the middle of a comic scene.

Are authors perverse? Or do we all love the practical joke? A little one-ups-manship? What's your best evil genius moment? Favorite practical joke?


Betina Krahn said...

Okay Deb, this is fascinating. You write this "collective" book one chapter at a time, passing it from author to author? What a fun and diabolical thing to do! Where do I sign up?

Yeah, I think we all love the practical joke. . . but some of us are better at it than others. I'm not really good a it. . . not since the short-sheeting days at summer camp.

I thought one of my best evil-genius moments came in an article I did for RT years ago. . . I refuted rumors of all kinds of wild stuff about me running off with my "stable hand" and my writing being channeled from a secret device that arrived in a beam of light from a mysterious craft. And the response was ZERO. Silence. Nil. I thought it was hysterical. . . not a single guffaw, that I could tell.

These days, I stick to Ole and Lena jokes.

Betina Krahn said...

And by the way, I LOVE Mossy Creek. Those books deserve to sell like hotcakes!

lois greiman said...

This process sounds sooooooooooo fascinating. How many authors are there in Mossy Creek? I've never read one but I can see it's time.

Keri Ford said...

Deb, I'm glad you wrote about this. I've heard of the Mossy Creek books, but I didn't really know what they were. They sound really interesting.

I'm with Betina and Lois, I want to know more!!

Michele Hauf said...

Yep, sign me on to read Mossy Creek too. Especially if I can read evil geniuses at work.

I did a collaborate series with 3 other authors, and we all created a world to work in. Little did I know I'd be writing myself into an impossible ending within that world. It was such a major rule that applied across all our stories, that I didn't dare ask to change it. So I had to figure out how to make a romance work, when I knew the hero would lose his memory at the end of the book, and all memory of the heroine.

Whew! It's tough work doing those collaborations, but I think I'd like to get in on a fun one where you gotta watch your friends, cause they just might give you a parakeet!


Christie Ridgway said...

Deb: I've done a few series with other authors and it's as much fun as it is a pain to get all the details right. I found when we wrote an author-generated series that I had much more sympathy for the editors who came up with the ones I'd participated in before.

I had fun a couple of years ago at the RWA convention when the Mont Blanc (pens) people were putting together a record-breaking book written by the largest number of authors. A group of us got to each write a line. It was a hoot!

Debra Dixon said...

Betina-- Your books are so funny, I can't believe the RT readers didn't "get" that article as a send-up!!

As for MOSSY CREEK, the "outside" authors usually have earlier deadlines than the "creators" of the series. Then the editor may assign addition story business to us if some of the bits and pieces weren't picked up and used by the newer, outside authors. For instance in REUNION IN MOSSY CREEK, we had an years-old mystery to solve so the longtime MC authors had to do some of the heavy lifting for pulling together the old scandal and revealing the true events.

In AT HOME IN MOSSY CREEK, because the deadline was during my "tax prep/year-end" season, I was the last author to actually produce her story. I had the luxury of being given the book as "spliced" together by the editor and I could "insert" my scenes throughout the book. That was great fun, being able to play off what was already there or what was coming.

And don't put on that surprised face when the Mossy Creek editor emails you about doing a bit in the series! (g)

Debra Dixon said...

Lois-- We've got about 10 authors a book. One particularly memorable book had like 14 authors!! And we said, "Never again." Right now we've developed a core group of folks who've been in the last two books.

Sabrina Jeffries is a new edition to the books--coming into the fray in book 5-A DAY IN MOSSY CREEK, but she was a fan prior to that and we winkled her into writing for us. Her story was brilliant.

That book's premise was a day from the whacky events of the police blotter. Seemed like a good idea until I realized my character (Amos) was zooming around the town and finding his story within all that chaos was a job. However, we did manage to avoid arresting the mayor (barely) and got the first Ida/Amos kiss into the book.

Debra Dixon said...

Keri-- We've done pretty well with the series in terms of getting it "out there." BelleBooks is a small publisher, but the first three in the series were picked up by Berkley for mass market paperback, and all of the series has been picked up in large print by Thorndike.

Without really realizing it or planning for a "clean read you can share" we stumbled onto that as the hallmark of the MOSSY CREEK series. All the books are still in print or have gone to reprint. A small publishers goal is to create backlist that continues to sell.

We certainly aren't rivaling NY numbers (g) but we think the series has done well.

Debra Dixon said...

Michele-- Wait...I'm just scribbling your name down with Betina's for the next list of victims...uh...I mean possible authors for future Mossy Creek installments.

And I know just want you mean about knowing your doom even as you're writing! LOL! But that's part of the fun sometimes is finding a way out of that dark corner.

In the early brainstorming days of Mossy Creek, there wasn't a romance between the young police chief and the mayor planned. But 10 paragraphs into my first scene with them I was on the horn to Deb Smith saying, " it okay if Amos unexpectedly has the hots for Ida?" Everyone in town has treated her like the reigning queen and go-to-savior, but finally here was this guy seeing the woman and had had the guts to arrest the woman that hired him for civil disobedience. Hey! It wasn't my fault. Deb Smith had him arrest her in the first chapter. That forces a certain intimacy, you know?

Anyway, if you like a world where you friends can't be trusted, you need to come on over and write for Mossy Creek. LOL!

Debra Dixon said...


Absolutely I have a new respect for any of the jobs editorial has to do in pulling one of those projects off.

We actually pay someone to pull a new "concordance" at the end of each novel. Our concordance (big bible of facts, dates, places, relationships, timeline) is huge. I don't think we get everything right and some things have been fudged and massaged on reprint. Like the mayor's age. (g) We changed Amos' age for something and forgot to lower hers at the same time. So we had to quietly shrink the age difference to something manageable.

Debra Dixon said...

Oh, Michele--

Your post also reminded me of a problem that a fan found in the universe. At one of the booksignings here in town, a lovely woman came up to me and said, so sadly, "My heart just breaks for Amos."

"Why is that?" (I'm thinking, hey I'm a romance writer so I'm pretty sure we'll figure this out.)

"Well, it's the children. He hasn't had his children and I just know she won't let him sacrifice that."

LOL! We haven't settled the question yet, but Book 6 touches on the subject.

Helen Brenna said...

It does sound fascinating, Deb, and I can see how one might get into the one-ups-manship business having fun with it. You are collaborating, after all. With other creative types!!

I'm working with about 8 other authors on this HQ nascar series, but we're each doing our own books that kind of tie it together. Even there I find myself wanting to get the other authors who have characters that tie in to my books to add little things here and there, foreshadowing things in my book or reinforcing character details.

I'm guessing that if it's done well, the stories are amazing.

loralee said...

To everyone who hasn't read a Mossy Creek book, go grab one ASAP. They're wonderful stories with that comfy, small-town atmosphere and quirky characters you just gotta love. And while I'm at it, let me recommend the book Deb wrote with her dad, WHEN YOU'RE THE ONLY COP IN TOWN. My personal copy is still circulating around the Grand Rapids Police Dept.

Debra Dixon said...

Loralee ! LOL! I think its a scream that more than one cop wants to read the cop book.