Monday, January 29, 2007

Finally, Kareena

So here I am back at the coffee shop, and I figure it's about time I told you about Kareena Boudreaux. Now, for anybody who hasn't read it, SINNERS AND SAINTS is where you'll find my lovely Kareena, one of my favorite second-bananas I've ever gotten to write. SINNERS takes place mostly in New Orleans. I wanted to do a fish out of water book, in which my heroine, Chastity Byrnes, has to leave one of the premiere forensic communities, here in St. Louis, to wade through the much different forensic community in New Orleans. I think if I say "Good old boy" network, you'll get it. If I mention it might be a weensy bit inefficient, you might be able to see evidence of that, too, especially since Katrina.

Anyway, to set up Chastity's foray through a completely new community, I needed a guide. I knew that the male protagonist would be an ex-firefighter-turned-cab-driver, James Guidry(I really didn't want to fall into that "her boyfriend's a cop" cliche of discovering what was going on in the case). But James didn't have the contacts Chastity needed. But then, Chastity is a forensic nurse,one of the newest breed of forensic scientists. She is an ED liaison, who collects evidence, evaluates and testifies in abuse cases, and works with the police in a myriad of ways. And the thing about forensic nurses, is that because it's still such a new profession, they tend to know each other.

Which is how I came across Kareena. I was at a forensic nurse conference(I am trained, but do not call myself a forensic nurse, because I do not practice) in 2003, when I ran across the Forensic Nurse Liaison for the Charity Hospital ER in New Orleans. Her name is Karen Chabert, and she is not just funny, beautiful, interesting and edgy, she is a brilliant forensic nurse and an even better teacher. And she had every contact I needed for research.
"Please," I begged her. "I'm coming down to New Orleans for some forensic research. Help me."
"On one condition," she said."You have to have a character named Kareena Boudreaux from Cut-Off Louisiana, and she has to be sexy."

Well, when somebody makes a suggestion like that--that is pure gold--I gave them three good chances to change their mind. I gave her those three chances. She insisted. I wrote Kareena Boudreax.

Kareena is kind of my voice of New Orleans in the book. She knows the not-so-good stuff that happens down there, but she knows the really good stuff and good people, too. She knows how hard most of them work to do the right thing. And she knows that they're all doing it in New Orleans, which has rules and traditions all its own. Okay, and she knows the ways to circumvent them all to get the information she needs.

Karen Chabert took me through Charity, even to the morgue, which was built in the 1800s, and looked like it. She introduced me to people and drove me through the city with a forensic nurse's eye(we went back again after the hurricane, and she took me through the Lower Ninth Ward, where she pointed to one destroyed house after another saying, "One of my patients lived of my patients lived there...that's where the chaplain lived. They still haven't found his sister. We sat in a warm April sun in the middle of desolation the likes of which I had only seen in photoes of Hiroshima, and prayed for all those patients she'd lost that day. I'm still not sure whether they found the chaplain's sister).

But as much a consummate professional as she is, she's also one of the funniest, most wonderful people I know. She's a member of the Zulu krew for Mardi Gras, and has taken her comments about medicine to live stand-up comedy clubs. She's taught forensic courses and raised money for the police, and made friend with every one of them. And when Charity was lost to the hurricane, she lost not only her job, but her beloved dog, and was homeless for months.

Karen is back now. Just as I considered Kareena my voice of New Orleans, I consider Karen the face of it. Because like the city, she suffered, but she's fighting back. And she's doing it in the most amazing style. If I get her permission, I'll find my picture of her on the Zulu krew and post it. Til then, when you read Kareena, think of her. And remember that although Karen was my inspiration, Kareena is only a shadow of her inspiration.

eileen\kathleen, the evil twins

Thursday, January 25, 2007

the local coffee shop

I know, I keep saying I'm going to write about the genesis of my character Kareena Boudreaux in SINNERS AND SAINTS, and I keep meaning to, really. It's just that there are so many interesting different factors in writing, that I feel a compulsion to write about something else and then forget Kareena. And I'm about to do it again.

I'd like to pen an ode to my local cybercafe. Now, please understand that I have friends who have had their own cybercafes for years, and I have coveted their cafes. One friend, Rexanne Becnel, goes to the mother of all coffee shops in New Orleans in a historic building with true eccentrics and artists manning the tables. I have a lowly whitebread neighborhood, five tables and a fireplace(okay, there are some comfy chairs) (no one expects the Spanish Inquisition). Sorry. Couldn't help it. Anyway, it's not much as far as Hemingwayesque atmosphere. But it's mine. Well, mine and the guy who owns it and all the other people who come in through the day. But the point is that a)it's a funky little place with nice owners who treat you like friends, b) it has free wireless, and c) it isn't my house.

One thing you need to know about me is that for years my husband would regularly kick me out. Me, a pitcher of iced tea, my CD player and my laptop. I'd check into a local motel and closet myself in for four days or so in an effort to finish a deadline. And I'm here to tell you that it's amazing how much you can get written in a boring beige room with nothing but a bad print of the Grand Canyon for decoration. There must be a Chinese restaurant within a five block radius, of course. But other than that, I don't leave the room.

It's wonderful. You see, writing is a very selfish business. When the book is working, you don't want to stop for anything. Not husbands, police, children or doctors' appointments. You just want to play in the world you've created. But when you're working in your house, there's no way to avoid any of that. So I'd have trouble getting the deadlines done. Thus the motel. Well, I kept telling myself that once the kids were grown, I could skip the hotel. After all, I'd have the house to myself--with all the business work I hadn't done yet, the TV, the internet for mail and e-bay, and, of course, the evil telephone, which, as an old trauma nurse, I'm not allowed to leave unanswered. Because the one time I don't answer the phone, it will be the ER calling about a loved one in a perilous state of health, who demands my permission or referral RIGHT AWAY. Somehow that kind of thing doesn't occur to me when I'm not in the house to hear the phone ring.

So you see that the empty house thing wasn't enough. And then my cybercafe opened up. It's called Wired Coffee, and it's a cute little corner place with bright colors and soup for lunch. And nothing but my computer. I was there today because my internet went out and I had to use their wireless. And then I remembered how nice it was to write there. The music is good acoustic 60's stuff. The coffee is excellent and comes with free refills. And nobody really looks over your shoulder. I've tried writing on a plane, but nobody respects monitor privacy in a plane. And I sure don't want just anybody reading either my sex scenes or my serial killer scenes while seated next to me on a full four hour flight. In the coffee shop, nobody notices. They just know I'm working hard.

So what happens is, I get eleven pages written, just like today. I even leave in time to get dinner for my husband. I did ask the proprietor if he wouldn't mind lending me the key so I could come back about 1AM when I do my best work. I had to settle for coming back tomorrow. Which I might just do. I'll let you know. I'll drop a blog from the shop.

eileen\kathleen, the evil twins

Sunday, January 07, 2007

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Edits

Oh, if writing were a linear life. If only I wrote a book, published a book, basked in the glory of publishing a book(or the ignominious shame of not selling a book well), and then started researching the next book. Of course, if I did it that way, it would take at least twice as long for any of my books to come out.

This is January. I have a suspense that just came out in December(SINNERS AND SAINTS), a romance that came out in October(DANGEROUS TEMPTATION). I am in the process of telling you how the suspense came to be while I'm doing final page proof edits on the collaborative novel(THE UNFORTUNATE MISS FORTUNES) I did with Jenny Cruise and Anne Stuart that's slated for June '07. I'm writing the text of the second book in the romance trilogy that came out in October as I research my next suspense by taking courses in brain physiology and arson investigation. Oh, and I'm working with Jenny and Anne on setting up the website to promote The MIss Fortunes, and outlining the regency-era action trilogy I've been wanting to do for a long time and won't leave me alone.

In my spare time I'm organizing the travel for the speaking engagements and conferences I'm signed up for this spring (it will be on the website soon. But expect me in San Antonio, Seattle, Bloomington, Illinois, Cincinnati and Indianapolis). I'm sending out PR info, speech proposals, contest winnings, blogs on friends' blogs(LIPSTICK CHRONICLES), and writing the first blog for the new UNFORTUNATEMISSFORTUNES.COM website. Oh, and doing my best to map out the geneology of the mortal family who interact with the world of faerie in my next book(they all have to descend from the same great-great granfather without having three eyes and a fin).

Which is why authors are sometimes so confused when they see you at a signing or conference and you quote their latest book. That book might have only come out four months ago, but the author is already three books--and characters and crises and conflicts---past that already. It's also why it's tough for us to really enjoy our success. By the time we have it with a book--if we do--we're already hating the next book or the one after that we're stuck in the middle of with no obvious way out.

Ah, if it only happened in a linear fashion. But, alas, it doesn't. Which is why all those years working the emergency room stood me in such good stead.

eileen\kathleen, the evil twins

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy holidays

It's been a few days since I've posted. Amazing how time flies when you have twenty people to the house for Christmas eve and then another thirty five to your dad's the next day. We had a wonderful Christmas. My whole family was here, which every year is getting to be a much more iffy proposition, considering the fact that my f-i-l is 95, and my own dad is 85. But we were blessed once again.

May I extend my most sincere and heartfelt wishes for your own holiday celebrations. I think it's a wonderful time of the year, and a wise time to place some of the most important holidays, right in the depths of winter, when the human in us simply wants to curl up and close our eyes, not really sure that spring will come again. Then there are lights everywhere, and people are actually kind in store parking lots, and okay, they play "It's a Wonderful Life" on tv ad nauseum. It really does get us through these shortest days of the year with hope.

I just read an extraordinary article in the New York Times that I'd like to include.

I'm not sure if it will come through, but it's the story of a young soldier who wrote a diary to his newborn son on how to live without him if necessary. That soldier didn't come home from Iraq. This story to me highlights the special bond of the season, and I hope you'll take a moment to think of those men and women halfway across the world, who give of themselves to protect us. No matter your politics, these are our brightest and best, and they deserve our respect and gratitude. So the next time you're in an airport and see someone in uniform, reach out and shake a hand. Say thank you. I know they appreciate it. They're usually startled. Or donate to one of the many services that send small mementos of home to that distant place. Or just pray for them. My brother came home from Vietnam and was spit on for risking his life in an alien land. We know better now. But it can't hurt to take that extra step to say thank you. Especially at this time of year.

And to you and yours, a happy and healthy holiday season, and a wonderful new year.

my very best,
eileena and kathleen, the evil twins