How Stories Change in My Head
I spend a lot of time writing stories in my head. Which is entertaining and satisfying on its own. But occasionally I step back and reflect on my process for creating these narratives, and I’m somewhat amazed by how much things have changed.
Take the Earthbound Angels series. When I first came up with the idea for Oracle of Philadelphia, I imagined a stand-alone novel. I envisioned it as a romance between an immortal girl with soul-reading powers and the pure soul who came seeking her aid. She would go on a huge quest to save his soul—details hazy—and during the process, she would grow closer to him and his family, and learn how to be human again. In the end, he would ask the archangel Michael for immortality so that she wouldn’t have to be alone.
This sounds like the back cover copy for Oracle, but if you’ve read it, you know that this plot bears only a trace resemblance to what I ended up writing and publishing. So what changed?
Well, for one thing, the original plot was very bare bones, and I needed to do a lot of fleshing out to get it to novel-length. One of the things I decided was that Carrie needed to have friends, since it hardly made sense for her to be the only immortal creature on Earth. Since I already had some angels and demons, I decided to give her one of each, hoping I wasn’t cribbing too badly off Good Omens. As I got to know Bedlam and Gabriel, these larger-than-life creations of mine, I realized that I couldn’t fathom Carrie hanging around with these super-hot supernatural guys who knew her intimately and then falling in love with an ordinary human. So Oracle lost that romantic twist. I also decided that my angel boys deserved their own books.
“Okay, so three books,” I said. “Three books is totally reasonable, and you can give everyone a happy ending.” I sat content there for a while, but then I started to think about my other characters. “Wouldn’t everyone like to see a book about some of the other characters? I mean, the archangel Michael is prime book material,” I thought. “And you know how you want to have a series like Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld, where you explore different characters in the same world. This could be that series!” So I stuck in a fourth.
As I suppose was inevitable, I then started thinking about Carrie, Bedlam, and Gabriel again. That happy ending I gave them. Was it really all that happy? Turned out it wasn’t, which meant I had to go back and re-think things in the entire series to that point. I needed to add more narrators to each book, so the set-up for book five happened correctly, and I had to add a sixth book to settle it all. But then I was done. For real this time.
One plot point kept niggling in my head. One thread that wasn’t properly resolved. And I needed to settle it. With an epic battle and lots of interpersonal drama. But seriously. Epic battle. Then done.
This lasted for a while, and I sat content in it. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to give the series a happy ending or a sad ending, but either way, it would be appropriate and satisfying. I wrote and released my first book. I got my second accepted for publication. I settled in for a nice seven-book series.
Then one day, out of the blue, I realized there was an entire angel and demon trope that I had completely ignored. Oh, I had probably thought of it before, but this particular day, I needed to add it. And it merged in so smoothly with what I already had planned for book seven, and it gave me a chance to redeem a main character who had ended book 7 in a bad spot. But book seven had an epic battle, which meant I needed to do something at least a little heroic, so that warranted at least another three books. And since I was redeeming one character, I thought maybe I should let a couple more atone for their misdeeds…
Twelve. As of right now, I have twelve books planned in the Earthbound Angels series. If I were inclined to give spoilers, I could give you a rough plot outline for the remaining ten books, as well as my best estimates of who the narrators will be for each one, though this gets vaguer as the series progresses. I have pretty much abandoned the idea of having an absolute end to the series, at least in my head. Hopefully, for as long as readers want them, I will have stories about Carrie, Bedlam, and all their compatriots at the tip of my tongue.
Now all I have to do is write them.
Earthbound Angels - Book 2
Available now from Red Adept Publishing
The daily life of a chaos demon is delightfully sinful—overindulging in Sri Lankan delicacies, trespassing on private beaches in Hawaii, and getting soused at the best angel bar on the planet. But when Bedlam learns that the archdemon Azrael has escaped from the Abyss in order to wreak vengeance against the person who sent her there—Bedlam’s best friend, Khet—he can’t sit idly by.Only one relic possesses the power to kill Khet, who suffers immortality at Lucifer’s request: the mythical Spear of Destiny, which pierced Christ’s side at His crucifixion. Neither angel nor demon has seen the Spear in two thousand years, but Azrael claims to know its location. Bedlam has no choice but to interpret woefully outdated clues and race her to its ancient resting place.His quest is made nearly impossible by the interference of a persnickety archivist, Keziel—his angelic ex—and a dedicated cult intent on keeping the Spear out of the wrong hands. But to Bedlam, “wrong” is just an arbitrary word, and there’s no way he’s letting Khet die without a fight.
Book links: Amazon B&N Kobo Goodreads Book/Tour Page on RAP
Book links: Amazon B&N Kobo Goodreads Book/Tour Page on RAP
Bedlam – Monday, 12 a.m. GMTI bopped my head in time with Billy Idol dancing with himself as the song pealed from the juke box. I’d picked the track in hopes that Khet would take the hint and dance with me, but it didn’t work. Before the song was half over, I got tired of waiting and bopped over to the counter, where she was poring over a triplicate form.
“Khet, put the money stuff away and come dance! You’ll still have trillions of dollars even after you subtract whatever you lost on this money pit this week.”
I didn’t mean to insult the diner. Well, I kind of did. The diner was a money pit, but still, I loved it. My attachment had no rational explanation. I mean, what I generously referred to as a restaurant was a lackluster eatery in a crappy part of a city—Philadelphia—that might once have been a pearl of American society, but now was more a flawed cubic zirconium of people
obsessed with sports teams that had seen better days. Yellow foam stuck out from between the cracks in the teal vinyl benches, looking like some kind of bulbous mold, and the silver tables always had some kind of film on them. The air smelled of slightly rancid grease and too-strong coffee that had been sitting in the pot since Khet brewed it yesterday morning. And as for the food… Well, Khet had a habit of hiring cooks who’d never even seen a griddle before they
But the thing was, the diner was Khet’s. She had never owned anything like it, not in the three thousand years I’d known her, until a few decades ago. And if it belonged to her, it belonged to me too, because she had figured out a long time ago that life was easier if she let me do what I wanted. So this was more than a diner of hers and mine. It was our home.
I expected her to give me one of her usual responses about how she was “being the responsible one” and paying the bills so the gas didn’t get shut off, but she remained silent.
“Khet?” I waved my hand in front of her face. “Are you listening to me?”
Her brown eyes met mine, and I wondered if she could read anything in their demon black depths. Not that she had to. She was the all-powerful Oracle who could read my mind. And also the inspiration for the Biblical myth of Cain, though in a bizarre way that led to her accidentally destroying a town rather than murdering a brother.
“I’m sorry, Bedlam,” she said. “Did you say something?”
I swiped the piece of paper out from under her pen and beheld what appeared to be a shopping list written in cuneiform. “What in Mephistopheles’s tomb is this?”
She tilted her head to the side. “Mephistopheles has a tomb?”
I waved my hand. “Tombs, archives, sepulchers. Same difference.”
“I don’t think—”
“Not the point.” I sat down on the stool facing her. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong.” She smiled as she spoke. Someone who didn’t know her that well might have bought it, but not me.
“Wait, so something’s wrong, and you won’t tell me what?”
That could be one of two things.
No, one of one thing. I’m the one that never wants to talk about a certain brown-haired angel.
I had this epic love tragedy going with Keziel, the angel of balance. To make a long story not quite as long, Kezi created the world with some help from me and Jophiel, the angel of service, and when we were done, she granted us each any boon within her power. Since I had fallen in love with her, the only thing I wanted was to stay with her forever, but Jophiel beat me to the punch. He made her promise to marry him and serve with him forever. And since angels
can’t fall out of love, I was doomed to be unhappy without her forever. And she still owes me that boon.
But Kezi hadn’t been around. I could tell. I could always tell. Which meant Khet’s problem had to concern the angel of joy, Gabriel. I liked Gabriel. Everyone did. He had some kind of magic angel power that made everyone adore him. Even Lilith never had a bad word to say about him, and she hated all men on principle. But for someone who got along with everyone, Gabriel could be extremely clueless about other people’s emotions. More oblivious than me, and I had once given Khet a dead puppy. Long story short, no inside joke can survive the giving of a long-deceased canine, and I probably should have known that beforehand.
Khet was in love with Gabriel and had been since she’d met him two thousand years ago. It made sense. She could peer inside people’s heads and uncover their deepest secrets and desires. And Gabriel saw the world as a place full of joy and life and people trying to do good things. He had sought out Khet because he had faced concrete evidence that the world did not adhere to his sunshiny ideals. So he spent two thousand years helping people in the worst
situations he could find as if his own ideals could somehow diffuse through the population, like a celestial air freshener.
Then Keziel lured him back under Michael’s thumb by telling Gabriel that Heaven needed his help to restore the balance of the universe. And Khet surprised me by seeming okay about it, but humans are bizarre about love. Angels had romance easy. We met someone, fell in love, and got stuck that way. The connection didn’t change or get replaced by loving someone else. Other emotions could be added to it, like deep and abiding resentment and a constant desire to rip the beating heart out of her chest. But the love remained too.
But humans fell in and out of love all the time. They could love more than one person at the same time. So Khet seemed to get over Gabriel quickly, but if she had taken a year or ten years or a hundred years to get over it, it would have seemed fast. This whole time she might have pretended to be over it, and she had entered some new phase in the human getting-overlove process. Maybe it went tears, denial, weird silence, and then… Well, I don’t know what would come next.
Regardless, taciturnity and distractedness and cuneiform were not signs of a good phase for a number of reasons, not the least of which was having to explain to the people who supplied the diner with truckloads of food why the orders could only be processed by someone with fluency in a long dead script.
I placed the paper down. “Khet, I know there’s something wrong. You have that little up and down line between your eyebrows. And it’s been at least three days since you made me go on a historic tour of some brick building whose architectural style was unimpressive when it was built and remains so.”
“Bedlam, you know you don’t have to go with me if you don’t want to.” Anyone else would have snapped those words at me, but not Khet. She saw my decision to accompany her on lackluster adventures as something she needed to atone for.
I gave an exaggerated sigh. “That’s not what I meant. As you may or may not recall, I am perfectly capable of acting on my feelings when necessary. I was wondering what caused the change in activity.” I looked more closely at the paper I had set down. “Also, I don’t think that your suppliers are going to bring you three whole goats and a hundred barley cakes.”
Because someone’s going to have to eat the barley cakes, and you know it’s going to be you. Please, dear God, anything but that.
I sometimes wondered if everyone else had conversations in their head. I thought about asking Khet, but I didn’t want to add her answer to the mounting evidence against my sanity.
Khet frowned and squinted at the symbols on the form. “You’re probably right.” She slid the paper over to herself and crossed out the last three lines. “Do you think barley paste would go over better with the clientele?”
Ha! The mere existence of barley paste is a nuclear attack on the human taste bud. Even I think so, and I’ll eat anything.
Oh, no. She’s trying to distract you with humor. You promised you weren’t going to let her do that anymore.
The scars on her face—and probably the rest of her—from her encounter with the Beast a couple of months ago had finally faded, thanks to some rapid healing, but for most of the last several weeks they had served as a reminder to both of us that for all her immortality, Khet could still be harmed and could not always be counted on to take care of herself. Case in point: Last time I left her to herself, she ran off to Hell to sell her soul to the archdemon Azrael, demon of love and lust. Lucifer had forbidden Azrael from collecting on that deal, but Khet still bore the demon mark on her hand.
I shaped my features into what I hoped was a stern look. “Attempts to distract me will not work. I am going to stand here and play irritating music until you tell me what’s wrong.”
Ooh! What was that song you played all the time when you were supporting Ohio State? Ha! She still grinds her teeth every time she hears “Hang On Sloopy.”
But that didn’t mean she was going to tell me. “There isn’t anything wrong.”
I raised my hand, making a show of considering which of her least favorite songs I would select to assail our ears. (FYI, I would have picked “The Safety Dance.” For some reason beyond me, she hated it.)
She shook her head. “Fine. It’s nothing big. I’m thinking it might be time for a change of scenery.” I brightened. Only Khet could make something as exciting as a vacation seem dreary as barley. “Ooh, where do you want to go? I support anywhere with beaches. Or ski slopes. Or earthquakes.” I clapped my hands. “Or it’s college football season soon! We could go on tour!” Her black brows creased over her brown eyes. “Bedlam, if you think I am going to set foot again anywhere near Columbus, OH, with you in any year that begins with a two, you are sadly mistaken.”
I expected her to discuss her location preferences, but instead the silence lasted so long that I felt lost. My mind leapt to my biggest insecurity. “Do you… do you not want me to come with you?”
“Bedlam, have I ever not wanted you to come with me anywhere? Other than to the bathroom, and we’ve discussed that.” The slight irritation in her voice assured me more than anything else that she wasn’t trying to get rid of me.
And she was right, of course. She’d never sought my absence, not once in thirty-two hundred years, but I figured she would in time. “Then what is it?” I hoped I sounded less whiny to her ears than it did in my head. “I can’t see why you would be upset about a trip. Unless you were, like, going on a trip to some
theme park that made you pretend you were in a Puritanical society where they, like, whip you for wearing color or showing your ankles or thinking about anything that’s not the Bible.
Because I probably wouldn’t be okay with that. You know how places like that always accuse you of being a witch, and you get put in the stocks for looking at Goody Threadwell’s cow and curdling its milk. But I’m pretty sure that a place like that doesn’t exist, because if it did, no one would make any money off it because no one wants to be punished on their vacation. Well, some people, but we won’t discuss that. Plus, there probably would have been an article in the paper, though I guess I could have missed it since it’s not as if I read the Inquirer every day—” “Bedlam!” Khet interrupted my train of thought—which, now that I thought about it, might have been kind of ranty. “I have no intention of taking a trip to Puritan Land, if and should such a place ever exist. And if I did win tickets for two, I certainly would not expect you to come
I bounced on my toes as the juke box changed songs, and Madonna began singing “Into the Groove.” “Then what are you upset about? Come dance, and we can talk about where you want to go.”
She put down her pencil, and I took that as surrender. “I told you, I’m not upset.” She twirled around the counter and grabbed my tanned hand in her dusky one. “But I will dance if that is the only way to convince you.”
Khet and I were the most awesome of dancers. We’d been practicing for about forty times the average human lifespan, and we’d had the same partner since the concept of dance partners. I kept telling Khet she had to find some way to become famous so that we could go on that celebrity dancing show. She said that it would be a bit extreme to go through all the hassle of being famous to win a competition. And she would know; she’d been famous. The best I’d ever
been was infamous—had a mental institution named after me, that sort of thing.
After an hour of spinning her around the diner, I’d convinced myself that I had
overreacted to the cuneiform. She was smiling as she collapsed breathlessly into one of the cracked foam benches and declared that she needed to stop and fill out the order form if we expected to eat anything next week. As a demon I didn’t need to eat, but now that humans could make a variety of non-barley foodstuffs, cooking was fun. You could come up with infinite combinations of flavors that could complement each other in all different ways. Plus, if I stayed
in human form for more than a few hours, I got hungry.
While Khet pulled out a new order form and began to fill it out, I went up the stairs to engage in another unnecessary-to-me human habit. Sleeping was even more fun than eating. An unconscious brain could “dream up” with the most random situations, and even I, who was no slouch when it came to the absurd, could only sit back and admire.
In the middle of a particularly fascinating dream that involved the optimal way to cook a kiwi bird (frying had my vote, though I couldn’t deny the advantage of barbecuing), Khet woke me up to tell me that I was hogging the bed and muttering about “kiwi on the barbie.”
I shifted to make space for her, and mumbled something about her needing to get a California King, but I didn’t mean it. Khet and I didn’t have a romantic or sexual relationship. She wasn’t Keziel, and I was incapable of thinking of anyone else in those terms. But despite my involuntary faithfulness, and my penchant for annoying everyone I met, I hated to be alone. And in those few uncertain moments when I first woke up, I liked to have someone close to me. I
wasn’t sure why Khet indulged me in this, but even when we had lived in larger quarters, she never made me stay in my own room.
She climbed into the bed next to me. “Love you,” she whispered to me as she did every night, never seeming to mind that I couldn’t respond in kind.
I wrapped my arm around her head and drifted back to sleep.
Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. When she’s not hard at work on her next novel, Elizabeth enjoys singing, reading teen vampire novels, and making Sims of her characters. She drinks more Diet Coke than is probably optimal for the human body and is pathologically afraid of bees. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car. Author links: Website FB Twitter
(please be patient it takes the rafflecopter a minute to load)