Saturday, May 8, 2010

And we'll have fun, fun, fun 'til the character goes off the page...

I am a hard-working writer with a strong work ethic. I sit at my desk and write copious amounts, even when my story is frustrating and meandering. I work hard to craft my second drafts, and third and fourth... So I'm always anxious to cop a break. And that's what happens when a really fun character enters stage right and takes over my scene. All I have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

I wish I could say my protagonist Lydia McKenzie was a barrel of laughs, but she's way too earnest. She's busy pursuing killers and clues, so I need someone else around to tell her to lighten up. My second book is DEAD IN THE WATER is filled with quite a few interesting characters: a transgender prostitute, a modern dancer turned burlesque performer, and a Jamaican car service driver who's interested in becoming a PI. The D'Angelos, Lydia's Italian-American private detective bosses are back, and so is their mother, Mama D'Angelo, who would rule the world if she wasn't so busy cooking. And this time we also get to meet more of their family.

Mama always brings food when she wants to convince someone to do something for her, and today is no exception.

Buon Giorno! I have brought you all something delizioso.” Mama D’Angelo swept into the room wearing a pink tracksuit, and she brought with her the unmistakable scents of garlic and Chanel No. 5. Gold and diamond rings adorned every finger and her usual black beehive hairdo was sprayed into place. She carried a steaming tray of food with several bags balanced on top. Leo and Frankie both leapt up and lifted the food out of her hands. Lydia couldn’t tell if they were just being gentlemen or if they were really hungry.

“Mama, you didn’t have to walk all the way over here in this heat. We were going to come for lunch in a few minutes.”

Mama waved her hand dismissively at Leo. “I thought it would be better to speak here. I have some business to discuss.”

Lydia wondered if she should leave but she hated to miss the fun. Leo had a pained expression on his face, as if he was expecting the worst. Mama usually came over with food when she wanted them to do something for her. None of her favors were ever easy, and they usually involved one of their many n’er-do-well family members.

“Business? Is it something at the restaurant?” Frankie asked cheerfully.

“No. It’s la famiglia.” Mama lowered her voice suggestively.

Leo shook his head. “You know we can’t take on cases for free, Mama. The overhead here is too high. We have to pay the bills, and Lydia’s salary.”

Lydia straightened up, irritated. She earned every penny of her salary, and she resented being used as a part of their argument. Mama fed the brothers every day, and if you added up the cost of all the food it probably came to a lot of free PI help.

Mama’s nostrils flared in a dangerous way. Lydia realized she’d seen Leo do the same thing right before he really lost it. “I don’t expect anything for free. But it is your cousin Patricia we need to think about.” Mama sounded just the right mixture of offended and noble. Lydia knew the brothers were going to fall like dominos.

“You mean cousin Rose’s daughter Patricia?” Frankie asked. “What’s the matter with her?”

Mama leaned toward Lydia. “Our cousin has had a hard life. Her father left the family when she was a baby. She struggled to go to college but dropped out. Then she finally met and married a man her family liked.” She turned back to the boys. “You remember Al Savarese, right?”

Leo nodded, drumming his fingers on his desk impatiently. “I remember him.”

“Rose came to me yesterday sobbing her heart out. Patricia’s no good husband Al is cheating on her, and she thinks it’s with puttane.” Mama sat back and let the news sink in for a moment. Frankie and Leo looked shocked, although in their line of business they saw more bad marriages than good ones. No one in a happy marriage ever called up a private eye.

“Isn’t he a lawyer or something?” Frankie asked.

“He’s an insurance executive. Makes good money. And she thought he was a good Catholic, too.” Lydia wondered if Mama was going to cross herself, but instead she twisted her rings like a rosary. “Patricia must get rid of this man before he gives her some horrible disease. So Rose asks if you could take photographs of Al.” Pictures of Al in flagrante delicto Mama meant, but was too ladylike to say.

“Don’t they have kids?” Frankie frowned and shifted in his seat. Mama was reeling him in like a fat trout.

Mama leaned forward to pinch Frankie’s cheek. “They were not
blessed like me with two fine sons. Think what a tragedy it
would be to the children to learn such things.”

And so Mama wins again. And DEAD IN THE WATER will be out Tuesday, May 11th if you'd like to read more!


Gabi said...

When the characters take over, it's the best. Especially if we could teach them to type. I love Mama and she can cook for me anytime.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Great post, Meredith! Too bad you couldn't have run it on mother's day. :)

Mama sounds like she'll take over the story and anybody slow enough or hungry enough or just plain in her way. She must be very fun to write!

Good luck with the release!

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for stopping in! I didn't even realize it was a mother's day post until Sunday night. Duh! I guess I had Mamas on the brain!