Thursday, May 10, 2007

OUT OF THE FRYING PAN AND INTO THE INFERNO

I'm very honored to welcome Linda Howard, one of our very own Mavens, to the playground today. Over the next three months all three Mavens will be blogging with us about their new Raintree trilogy. So pull up a swing or a patch of sand and enjoy!

Instigator


So . . . about five years ago, Beverly Barton, Linda W. Jones, and I were sitting in our hotel suite talking about writing. Big surprise there, huh? Actually, they were talking and I was listening. They had both written books in multiple continuity stories for Silhouette, and they were talking about how difficult it was when the story "bible" wasn't one they'd plotted themselves, and when they didn't know the other writers involved. One thing led to another, and soon we were talking about writers whom we could collaborate with, which somehow segued into "let's come up with our own continuity." The continuity idea devolved into a trilogy, because, let's face it, three writers working together is difficult enough, much less six or twelve!

I honestly don't remember how the idea of a paranormal clan came about. I know how we got the name Raintree: from the phone book. We all liked it, and within minutes we'd each chosen our character: I had the king of the Raintree clan, Dante; LJ had the cop brother, Gideon; and Beverly had the sister, Mercy. We each named our own character. We agreed on certain things, such as that Judah, the king of the evil Ansara wizards, was practically a mirror image of Dante in their powers. Why make this easy, right? We agreed on the location of each book, which set up some logistical problems when we had to get all three of the main characters together.

Then we began researching. We researched everything we could think of: guardian angels, mythology, numerology, astrology, Tarot, paranormal abilities, the hidden meaning of names, and a bunch of other "ologies" I can't remember right now. Of course, all this research necessitated several trips to the mountains, to a casino . . . all I can say is, I feel much more creative with a good shopping day under my belt. Understand, I have an SUV; on our first trip to the mountains, we bought so much that, on the trip home, so much was packed in that SUV that all we could see of LJ was her face. Remember the scene in ET, where he was hiding in the closet of toys and his face was surrounded by all the stuffed animals? Like that. Beverly was also holding stuff she'd bought on her lap, and bags were stuffed around her legs. I, fortunately, was driving. If I'd had to slam on the brakes, all three of us would have been crushed under the impact of our purchases flying forward.

The things we do for our writing. (Picture the back of my hand pressed to my forehead.)

We worked on these books for years. Well, not on the writing part, but on the research part. I bought most of each year's Christmas presents while we were researching. I have no idea what I'll do this year . LJ wrote Haunted really fast, or at least the first draft, and laid down the timeline that Beverly and I then followed when we wrote our books. It didn't matter what the timeline was, or who set it, just that there was one.

Because the lead characters in the subsequent books would have to be total idiots if they hadn't figured out the Raintree clan was under attack after everything that happened in Inferno -- we'd agreed that the action in all three books would have to be taking place simultaneously. Oh, man, the trouble we caused ourselves with this one decision! Take my advice: don't ever, ever do this. Time zones, flight times, sunset and sunrise times -- erk! It was detail after detail after detail that didn't matter a hill of beans to the book's plot, but were crucial to the logistics of our overlapping scenes and the big ending. Not only that, but with that one decision we also prevented both LJ and me from having a big, real, final ending in each of our books. In the end, there can be only one. Ending, that is. Right? And that had to be in the last book. If the big ending was in the first book, well, then there's no point in the second and third books.

Yikes!

We had either really set ourselves up to fail, or somehow readers would forgive us and read the books anyway.

But, at last, Beverly and I began writing our own books. LJ, I'll point out, has been very gracious (most of the time) about us taking so long. It helped that she was very busy with other books and contracts (whew!) because Beverly's schedule for those five years or longer has been absolutely hellacious. I was busy with my own stuff, such as remodeling this house, gutting and remodeling an old house on the property, buying and remodeling a house in the mountains, selling it, building a new house in the mountains, taking care of family members, landscaping, building a new office behind the house . . . have I mentioned that I like construction? I do, I do, oh I do. Love the smell of sawdust.

Anyway, finally we began. We each had notebooks full of research, the mythology we'd agreed on, what each character's powers were, etc. After five years (and lots of shopping) you'd think we'd have covered each detail. You'd be wrong.

The e-mails were flying like confetti in a ticker-tape parade. One memorable e-mail from Beverly asked, "What are y'all naming your swords?"

LJ: "Sword?"

Me: "What sword?"

LJ: "I don't have a sword in my book."

Me: "Dante's not a sword type of guy. He's into fireballs."

Beverly: "There are swords in my notes! Mercy has a sword!"

LJ: "I'm not going back and rewriting this book to put a sword in!"

Me: "No, no, no, I'm so tired I can't think. I can't name a sword. The only name that comes to mind is Kitty, and I refuse to name a sword Kitty."

LJ, perking up: "Kitty? A sword named Kitty? I like that!" (Have we mentioned that LJ's a little on the bent side? No? Well, she is. I gave her Kitty the Sword, because I sure don't want it. Kitty makes an appearance in one of her future books.)

Beverly: "Y'all don't have to have swords, but I'm not taking mine out. Mercy has a sword and she's keeping it."

And so it went, with detail after detail after detail. On toward the end, our e-mails bore the subject header: "Those damn Raintrees again."

But you know what? The characters lived with me. Lorna was fiercely independent, prickly, and determined not to let anyone close to her. Dante was a complicated man, part modern, but a big part of him was very much like a medieval ruler. In the paranormal world, his word was law, and he was ruthless in protecting his clan. He could and did kill in the protection of what he held dear, and he didn't lose any sleep over it. He often overstepped his bounds, mainly because he didn't really recognize that he had bounds. One of Lorna's duties in life now (ahem) is to point those out to him, and make him miserable if he doesn't listen to her.

We had fun doing this trilogy. We talked endless hours about it. We never, ever argued, which is something of a miracle considering how different our voices, work styles, and approaches are. Our friendship not only survived, it flourished. Silhouette gave the trilogy some great covers, came up with a smart marketing strategy, and did some whiz-bang advertising. Ads usually don't make an impression on me, but the fold-out ad they did in Sci-fi magazine was breathtaking.

We lived with them for five years, but now it's almost over. Raintree: Inferno is out. Raintree: Haunted will be out in three weeks, Raintree: Sanctuary will make its appearance in about seven weeks, at the end of June.

Those damn Raintrees. They were a lot of fun. I miss them.

Linda Howard
P.S. Anyone familiar with the playground knows we love contests :-) One commenter today will receive a copy of Raintree: Inferno. Wow us, surprise us, tell us about your favorite Linda Howard book or characters...you never know what might snag our attention and win that prize :-)

36 comments:

Maven LJ said...

It makes me weepy thinking that it's done. I'll miss the Raintree plotting sessions. :-/

And yes, Kitty will make an appearance in the next book I write. Thanks again for passing it to me, Linda. :-) Bent? Me? This just can't be right . . .

LJ

Rhonda said...

Linda, I can't wait to read these books. And I can just imagine what these plotting sessions would have been like. Oh to have been a fly on the wall... :-)

Kimberlee said...

I love Linda Howard! She's the hallmark of good romantic suspense!My fave character is Blair Mallory. Raintree: Inferno sounds like a really good book! Wish I get a copy.

Problem Child said...

Welcome to the blog Maven Linda!

Like Rhonda, I would have *loved* to be a fly on the wall for the plotting. Maybe y'all should turn the emails into a "how to" book :-)

Smarty Pants said...

Morning, Linda! Thanks for coming today. I've been able to steal away a few chapters of Inferno between this packing chore and the next. It's awesome so far!

A sword named Kitty...snicker...

So, are you all considering another collaborative project (timeline free) in the future?

SP

Pat L. said...

Hi. How wonderful to have Linda here. I absolutely love your stories.

My 2 alltime favs are Sarah's Child - I recommend it to everyone - those last few pages were so gutwrenching.

I really felt for Sarah and Rome too and your descriptions really brought their faces to my mind - Rome's dark hair and his daughter looking just like him and Sarah's pale blonde hair. What a keeper.

And I cannot forget Mack. Mtn. - Mary is so sweet and Hawk so strong and loving of her.

Playground Monitor said...

Yep, yep. I'd love to have been that fly too.

I've was a LH fan before I was part of the Children. If I'm not careful I'll get all fangrrly here. I, too, love that emotional ending to Sarah's Child. I also love the scene in Lovng Evangeline where Evie tells Robert how her husband died. When I watched the movie version of LE on television, and saw how they butchered it, I was yelling at the TV. My husband came downstairs to see what was wrong. He was sure I'd hurt myself.

I too am a Blair and Wyatt fan. And a Sam and Jayne fan. And a Sarah and Cahill fan. And a... well, so many good LH books and I'm not halfway through them yet.

I've read Inferno and am impatiently waiting for the next two books.

More collaborations??? Yes, please!

Jen said...

It makes my head hurt to think of synchronising three books on a concurrent time line between three people. Oy! Wait, my head hurts anyway with my current deadine. ;-) Linda, they sound FABULOUS and I just discovered three new "have to" reads. and thanks for sharing the timeline and research (and shopping) that went into them. It's good for all of us to hear that a book brewed for five years or more.

Kathy said...

I'm glad your here, Linda! The whole process you, LJ and Beverly went through to write these books is fascinating and I can't wait to read the Raintree trilogy. (I recently got Inferno at the Luncheon and plan on taking it with my on my trip.)

What I find extremely interesting is that all 3 of you have different styles of writing. Since this is a trilogy and each of you had freedom to write your own story, did you find it difficult to collaborate on any specific ideas? Styles? Characters? I know you used astrology books and others to come up with your characters. I'm eager to hear more about the process.

Kathy

Maven Linda said...

Kathy -- we didn't collaborate on styles. I guess we took it for granted that we each had our own style, and that was that. We collaborated on the history of the Raintree and Ansara, we coordinated timelines and powers -- even the powers they didn't really use much -- but each book has its own cast of characters and the only time we collaborated on that was if there was any overlap of characters. Obviously Dante, Gideon, and Mercy were featured in all the books, BUT (obviously that's a Very Big Butt -- excuse me -- But) each of us had authority over our own characters. I couldn't do anything with Mercy that Beverly didn't agree with. She couldn't do anything with Dante that I didn't agree with. Same with Gideon. I can't imagine having it any other way. It wouldn't have worked for any of us otherwise.

OMG. The verification word is "ohhdimtm." Betcha it doesn't go.

Linda

PS: I was right. It didn't go. I hate Blogger. The new word isn't any better. It's zpaplxst. Pronounce that, if you can.

Mia said...

z-pap-lxst!!

Hi Linda
I've noticed over the last few years that your writing style has changed somewhat, with the suspense element being more front and center. Was that a conscious decision or more of a natural evolution in your journey as a writer?

I adore Midnight Rainbow, Diamond Bay and White Lies. Who can resist Kell Sabin?

Maven Linda said...

Mia -- It certainly wasn't a conscious decision. I can't even say it's anything that's evolving. The truth is, every story is different. It's its own animal. It forms, it takes on a life and character of its own, and I pretty much go with the flow.

Linda

V.word is "dxkgdh"

Anonymous said...

Testing. Having a problem again.

Pat L. said...

Hi, Hope I get this to post. Darn computers.

My fav Linda books are Sarah's Child and Mackenzie's Mtn.

I will never forget the gut wrenching last few pages as Rome connects with his baby daughter. The descriptions are so vivid that I can almost see Sarah with her pale blond hair and Rome's dark hair and his baby daughter who looks just like him.

Hawk Mackenzie was such a strong by loving man to sweet Mary.

Instigator said...

We're so excited to have you on the playground, Linda!

I have Inferno in my TBR pile right now. I'm using it as incentive to finish this book :-) I can't wait to read it.

Instigator

Bets' said...

Noooooooooooooo! Didn't you hear me screaming that about 3 am on Tuesday? That was the sound of total despair when realizing I had to wait until the end of the month, then another month AGAIN before knowing the whole story.

LOVED IT!!!

I can't wait to see how you three pull this all together. Great job!

Bets' *grin*

Ladypugs from the LindaHoward book board said...

Well its hard to choose a favorite when the entire Linda Howard book list is always your number one choice. If i had to pic one, absolutely would have to be after the night and shades of twilight. You have never written a villain as good as Jessy. She was good at being bad. And that beautiful french speaking hunk of Gray rouillard made me just want to go out there to the bayou and wait anxiously. I know your writing has evolved since then, and i personally have been able to grow with you. You have taught me alot in the last 10 years. After reading your plot about the lack of paper in Killing time, i just knew you had to have an inside secret on the future! *grin! I do hope that you have the ability and the want to get together for another session like this. Your fans like me, really enjoy them, as well as coming out to blog. Your Alpha heroes always leave an impression.

Angel said...

Good afternoon, Maven Linda! Sorry to be so late. Lots of work today.

I agree with Ladypug. My faves are After the Night and Shades of Twilight. And like Bets I wanted to scream when I got to the end of Inferno because it just... well, ended. Right in the middle of something important. And the other one isn't out yet, dang it! Guess I'll have something to read to keep my mind off the fact that I'm flying to Scotland.

I thought I heard you say you were working on another book or just finished one. What's coming up for you?

(I too hate Blogger verification. I usually have to go through it at least twice before it will post my comments. Each and every time...)

Mirmalade said...

What I wouldn't have paid to be privy to the planning discussions among you three...I'll bet it was a cross between a laugh-fest and the funny farm. I just hope we're in for more collaborations like this!!

I honestly don't think its possible to pick a favorite LH book. How can I choose between After The Night, Kill and Tell, Mr. Perfect, Shades of Twilight, or any of the Mackenzie's...? This may send me into a massive re-read to settle this question - at least for the moment. Of course, as soon as I make a decision, I'll realize that I've left one out and have to start all over again. Oh, the agony!!!

Mirm

Maven Linda said...

UP CLOSE AND DANGEROUS is coming out the third week of July, I think. I've read some "synopses" of it on-line, and I used the quotation marks because a lot of what I've read isn't accurate. I wonder how that stuff gets out there, because some of the details will be right, then the rest sort of wanders off into the wild blue yonder. Weird.

ladypugs, good to meet you! After the Night was one of those books that almost wrote itself, and they're always a pleasure. As for Shades of Twilight, Roanna touched me -- she had been hurt so many times by those she loved that she'd just given up and pulled in on herself. I do know people had a hard time relating to her because she couldn't eat when she was upset, but THAT I could relate to. People who know me know I'm not a delicate wilting flower (hah!) but when I get upset, it's as if my throat closes up. I literally can't swallow food. I don't even get hungry. When my mother was in the hospital before she passed away, my sister and I both existed the entire eight days on a bite or two of Jello each day.

Linda

Word: swdzjv

Nope, didn't take it the first time. Second word is rbrced

Anonymous said...

It was so very interesting to read what you ladies went through creating this triology.

I have to confess that I am not a huge paranormal fan. I am a huge Linda Howard fan, so I went ahead and bought the book thinking I would probably never open it. Yeah right, it sat here 4 days before I was reading the first chapter and well one chapter was never enough. Now I can honestly say I loved it and can hardly wait to get my hands on Gideons story.

Thanks Linda for all the many hours of reading pleasure. My favorites; "Mr. Perfect" and "Mackenzie's Pleasure". You just have to love Zane. I guess I should say "A Game of Chance" as well or someone who knows me will yell.

Ivory

Lis said...

lmao over the sword named Kitty.

*hangs head in shame* I hate to admit that I haven't read one of Linda's books. I thought I had one in the tbr pile, but I don't. I'm dying to read Raintree though, haven't found it yet but I'm heading to the bigger wal-mart this wknd and hoping they have it. *fingers crossed*

Smarty Pants said...

I know author's hate this question, but out of all the books you've written - which one is your favorite?

Playground Monitor said...

Sorry I've been so absent today. I'm getting ready to fly to my mom's house and have had to reschedule my life.

Y'all convinced me to pick up a copy of Shades of Twilight while I was out today. It's going in the suitcase.

And I can't wait to read about a sword named Kitty. Is that like a boy named Sue?

PM

Maven Linda said...

Ivory, I have to confess: Zane is my favorite Mackenzie. I love them all, but he really floats my boat :-)..

SP, I don't have a FAVORITE favorite. I like different books for different reasons. For instance, I cried so much while I was writing Cry No More than my eyes swelled almost shut, but I love Son of the Morning for Grace and Black Niall. I love Mr. Perfect and the Blair books because they made me laugh. All of them are different from the others, so they each have their own personality and rhythm.

Linda

Maureen said...

Linda Howard is one of my favorite authors. My favorite character of hers has to be Daisy from Open Season. What a great book. Then there is Diaz from Cry No More (I think that's the name.) It's the book where the baby was kidnapped. I could go on but congratulations on the new book. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Karen T. said...

Ugh, having a terrible time trying to my post to appear.

Anyway, Greetings. Linda.
Loved Kell, Diamond Bay, White Lies and Derek from Sarah's Child and his own book - Bluebird Winter - he was too good to be true. A sweetie.

Playground Monitor said...

I cried reading Cry No More too. I just read Son of the Morning recently and all I can say is "WOW!" As for Blair... she made me laugh too. And Mr. Perfect -- the kitchen window scene still cracks me up. I liked Dying to Please because of the setting -- being familiar with the area made it just come alive.

PM

Rhonda said...

My favorite Linda Howard book is Son of the Morning. Loved, loved, loved that book. I have read that sucker so many times it's almost coming apart. But the heroine's growth in that story combined with that wonderful, wonderful hero.

Mercy.

:::sigh:::

Karen T. said...

I want to ask who are some of your favorite authors - autobuys?

Maven Linda said...

Karen --Oh, man, I have so many. Beverly and LJ, of course. All my pals and buddies in our chapter.

Nora Roberts. I absolutely adore the J. D. Robb books.

Charlaine Harris. Lee Child. Vince Flynn. Sheila Viehl. Loretta Chasa. Jayne Ann Krentz. The Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum books. Rachel Gibson. Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Brian Haig. Rocky St. Claier. Dick Francis. So many, man more.

Linda

Ladypugs over at he LHBB said...

Maven Linda, we had a poll running and on who our favorite Mackenzie was. There was a tie between Wolf and Zane, and you just helped us break that tie! We figure if you can admit that he floats your boat, then he definetly needs the honor of first place. Thanks for spending the day bloggin with us. It was a pleasure.

KimW said...

Welcome, Linda! Loved hearing a little about the background on the stories and how they came to be and the sword tale, too. I'm looking forward to reading all of the books...especially yours. Dante sounds like my kind of hero. I can't possibly just choose just one story that's a favorite or one hero. I have many of your books in my keeper collection. I've been a fan for a very long time.

Rose G. said...

So hard to choose just one book or characters.

Chance from the Mackenzie series.

This excerpt looks very good.

catslady said...

First off I just love the cover of Inferno. Then I have to admit I have four of your books in my tbr pile - somehow I get books that are part of a series and I want to read them in order so I have to wait lol. This triology sounds wonderful and it's really interesting how the 3 of you work together.

Anonymous said...

I am such a great fan of Linda, but regretfully this story didn't work for me. Maybe because like she said "there can only be one" ending that when I finished her book it just left me unsatisfied. And as a reader and fan I can tell you that I will buy only the authors, characters and plots I like, so that leaves me with a story without an ending. You set the bar high, Linda, and the characters I want to know about are the ones you created!! Yeah, I am not happy.