HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Usually, here's where I introduce our guest (and today we have a terrific one) and then there's a cool essay on a topic that none of us would have thought of, which is why we invite guests to Jungle Red.
But I have to fast forward. When I read this blog by the fabulous Alice Loweecey (if you don't already know her, you will in a minute) I laughed, I felt empathy, I admired her, I laughed some more--and then I thought: WHOA. Who is THAT?
I wish I had Stephen King's phone number. Never in my life have I ever--well, see what you think.
Of Koi, Cats, and Plot Bunnies
We have a water garden in half of a plastic whiskey barrel. It has a water lily, cattails, and two koi. It used to have three koi, but we also have cats.
When the weather turned for good in November, we hauled the garden into the basement. Koi and the plants can’t survive a northeastern winter. I don’t want fishsicles for lunch.
The cats spent the summer endlessly fascinated with this fishy-smelling bubbling toy. They’re not happy with the metal grid on top of it now. Their favorite game used to be Terrorize Our Midnight Snacks.
To achieve the indoor water garden we had to Clean Out the Basement. I am happy to report we found no mummified mice or other catlike surprises.
We did find old photographs. Shoeboxes full, from our grandparents’ houses. Were any of them labeled?
(I’ll pause while you all laugh.)
Of course not.
They begin at the early 1900s and stop at the 1990s. Some of earliest photos are wonderful. Small children in stiff collars and starched dresses, staring at the camera like it’s an alien probe.
Earnest young men and women in the middle of a field. (Why? No clue.)
Older men with bizarre grins that look more creepy than happy.
The background in one of the photos—a tree, a fence, grass—is crisp and clear, but the young woman and baby in the foreground are faded and blurred.
Another young woman by a hedge has her doppelganger facing her against the same hedge. (I know; it’s a double exposure. But if it wasn’t…)
My immediate thought upon going through this treasure: Plot Bunnies!
HANK: MY immediate thought, since you asked, is to drop everything and write a short story. Just saying. Holy moly. This photo is AMAZING. Anyway. What's a plot bunny?
ALICE: If you’ve never heard the term, a Plot Bunny is a story idea that gnaws away at your brain, exactly like a bunny knowing on a carrot. Or the wallpaper. Or an electric cord.
And just like a chewed-through electric cord, a plot bunny shorts out the connection to whatever you’re working on. If anyone remembers the Cadbury Bunny and the way its teeth kept moving and moving and moving as it said “Bak-bak-bak,” that’s the correct image for a good plot bunny.
My new Giulia Driscoll mystery, Nun Too Soon, released on January 13. My next one releases in the fall. I’m outlining the third one now. Deadlines, I has them, but I also have to make time for the proper care and feeding of my plot bunnies.
When one of them sinks its teeth into my head, I save my current document and open up a new one. Then I make a bullet-point list of all the elements in my head: Characters, setting, plot points, MC, villain, conflict, magic or mystery or horror elements. Once I name the document and save it, it goes into the “Future” folder and the bunny quiets down so I can finish my current project.
I use sticky notes and voice messages on my phone for daily remembrances, but a good plot bunny deserves special treatment.
Writers, how do you care for and feed your plot bunnies?
HANK: Every book, I vow I will get a fabulous little notebook, and carry it around with me, and write brilliant and insightful and witty stuff in it. I DO get the notebook, and I DO carry it around. And then I write notes to myself on envelopes and yellow stickies. How about you, Reds? Bunnies? (Or--what do you think about the double girl?)
Baker of brownies and tormenter of characters, Alice Loweecey recently celebrated her thirtieth year outside the convent. She grew up watching Hammer Horror and Scooby-Doo Mysteries, which might explain a whole lot. When she’s not creating trouble for Giulia Falcone-Driscoll, she can be found growing her own vegetables (in summer) and cooking with them (the rest of the year).
NUN TOO SOON
Giulia Falcone-Driscoll has just taken on her first impossible client: The Silk Tie Killer. He’s hired Driscoll Investigations to prove his innocence and they have only thirteen days to accomplish it. Talk about being tried in the media. Everyone in town is sure Roger Fitch strangled his girlfriend with one of his silk neckties. And then there’s the local TMZ wannabes—The Scoop—stalking Giulia and her client for sleazy sound bites.
On top of all that, her assistant’s first baby is due any second, her scary smart admin still doesn’t relate well to humans, and her police detective husband insists her client is guilty. About this marriage thing—it’s unknown territory, but it sure beats ten years of living with 150 nuns.
Giulia’s ownership of Driscoll Investigations hasn’t changed her passion for justice from her convent years. But the more dirt she digs up, the more she’s worried her efforts will help a murderer escape. As the client accuses DI of dragging its heels on purpose, Giulia thinks The Silk Tie Killer might be choosing one of his ties for her own neck.