Home » Tales of Dunham » One day I started writing a book.

One day I started writing a book.

That day was November 6, 2013. I finished it December 8, 2013.

I haven’t done THAT since I was working graveyards at a convenience store, but Sabrina Darby kept poking at me.

Whatcha workin’ on?

NOTHING! I’M DRY AS A BONE! DUNHAM DRAINED MY WELL! I’LL NEVER WRITE AGAIN!!!! WAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

So…what’s in your idea folder?

OH, FINE. Here’s a list. I don’t know what to do with ANY of this stuff.

Tell me about THIS one. It seems most fully developed.

It’s just sketches. I have no idea what to do with it.

Hmm. *reads* So, um, why does X character do Y thing?

And that was pretty much all it took to start dumping in email at her and then I started sketching and next thing I knew, it was November 30 (end of NaNoWriMo) (no, I didn’t have any intention of doing NaNo) (no, I didn’t do it FOR NaNo), and I only had one scene to finish.

It is 95,000 words long. It has no title. It has no playlist. It has no cover. It has no release date.

But here I am telling you about it because, well… You know that scene in The Proviso where Giselle’s looking at the little blue lines on the pee stick and getting a weird feeling in her stomach?

Yeah, that.

But what it does have is a rough blurb and excerpts I’ve been posting on Facebook, but I’d rather not punish non-Facebook fans by doing that. So…here’s me naked.

So to speak.

Nineteen-year-old fresh-faced Mormon missionary Étienne Dunham LaMontagne, engineer, inventor, was always easy to love, but he was a nightmare to live with—his brilliance, pirate-king beauty, and penchant for high drama exhausted everybody who loved him. There was only one girl who could do it—seventeen-year-old budding green architect Mi-Kyung Tess Chun, with her visionary genius, flamboyant beauty, and penchant for bringing on the crazy.

Until she couldn’t.

Twenty years and five children later, her genius is gone, ground fine as talc under the unrelenting heel of life as a wife, mother, cleaning service, chauffeur, Relief Society president, and Étienne’s personal handler. It was exhausting. And she had exactly five groundbreaking buildings to her name—built with Étienne when she was young and stupid in love and bringing the crazy.

And Étienne—well, he hadn’t wanted a wife, mother, cleaning service, chauffeur, Relief Society president, or personal handler. He wanted the visionary architect and voracious lover he’d married who asked him to build things he had no idea how to build to power her buildings. He resented that somewhere along the way, she had allowed her vision to crumble in favor of dusting miniblinds and baseboards.

They part company bitterly, all that love and genius and drama wrapped up in cold divorce papers, their complaints unintelligible to the other.

Five years later, Étienne is utterly humbled after having built Whittaker House—a disaster of a building—with an average architect. The shame of it sent him traipsing around the world with his oldest—and very angry—son. Along the way, he’s learned a thing or two about functioning in the world on its terms instead of his. When his youngest daughter begs him to come home to check on his oldest daughter, he does so reluctantly, only to find himself cleaning up the mess her life has become—something he couldn’t have done five years before.

Tess’s vision has returned and she is again on top of green energy architecture, her flamboyance tempered but her vision strengthened, broadened, lengthened with time, age, and maturity. But she’s still a mother, and her now-adult children have problems of their own—serious problems. Her oldest son has been missing for five years. One of her low-maintenance children has severe antepartum psychosis. Her youngest daughter dropped out of high school.

Tess was exhausted being Étienne’s keeper, but once free of her, he’s learned how to be a normal human being.

Étienne resented Tess for letting her vision disappear, but once free of him, her vision has returned.

But even separated by distance and time, they never stopped loving each other. It’s just that sometimes . . . love isn’t enough.

Until it is.

Did I mention it’s a sobfest?

14 thoughts on “One day I started writing a book.

  1. Cool!

    Maybe someday I’ll learn to write that fast. But for now I’m stuck with the nine Muses who moved in thirteen months ago and have been eating me out of house and home, while I beat my head against The Next Great Russian Novel.

  2. I let my fingers do the walking in the Facebook pages, and took a gander. Instead of the well being dry, it looks as if the pump just needed priming. Let that be a lesson to us all.

  3. I’ve never read “War and Peace,” but it looks as if I’m out-writing Tolstoy, in this World War I novel I’m embroiled in. I really didn’t mean to, but that’s the story that’s stuck in my head, and getting it unstuck has entailed even more research than did the first doorstop I wrote. Thank the Muses it’s not actually Russian, but that’s only because I am staying the heck out of the Eastern Front. I was hoping to avoid Gallipoli, too, but an unforeseen plot twist has thrown a branch of kudzu around my ankle, and I’m having the devil of a time keeping it cut back without hacking off my foot, in the process. War is hell, and so are Imaginary Friends. I’m sure you know the feeling.

  4. And that’s advice which I gladly take. Gallipoli and the Western Front are bad enough. But WW I is only 25% of the story. The rest has to do with the hate and discontent that plagued Ireland between 1906 and 1936; the failure of the Weimar Republic, and the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party; and last, but not least, the love story (which does NOT qualify as a romance). Talk about ambitious. I may be more successful than Napoleon and Hitler were at staying away from the Eastern Front, but elsewhere in “The Passions of Patriots,” I’m at my megalomanic best.

    The thing that tripped this particular trigger was the conversation that Dillon had with Fr O’Tuathail in Chapter 30 of “Irish Firebrands.” There were also several earlier hints that I didn’t recognize as guns-on-the-sideboard when I wrote them, although I do recall wondering, “Why is this in here?”

    Were there gun-on-the-sideboard moments in your modern-setting novels that subsequently sent you down to the sea in the Dunham ship?

  5. guns-on-the-sideboard

    That’s an excellent term.

    Were there gun-on-the-sideboard moments in your modern-setting novels that subsequently sent you down to the sea in the Dunham ship?

    tl;dr ALL THE FREAKING TIME. They’re details most editors would ask me to take out because they don’t seem to serve a purpose.

    Long version:

    I have tons of those, but usually I know what they are and I leave them, even though most editors would have me take them out. When I get ready to do X thing, I’ve already laid the groundwork. Usually it’s because while I was writing the current book, I was doing alternate scenes on the side, deleting other scenes, writing little vignettes (sketches) that I’ll never publish, writing scenes for other books that tie in, so I usually know where I’m going.

    Disclaimer: I have broken canon a tiny bit or two, but only careful readings would tell you where

    For instance, when I wrote the masquerade scene in STAY, where Vanessa’s mother brings the press to ambush her, there’s a part there where Etienne is sitting with Nia (the architect) in the corner. I had already written the opening scene with Etienne and Tess (yes, they existed that far back), but I had something else in mind. But I left it open just in case.

    When Sabrina poked me, I hauled out all the off-the-screen things I’d written on Etienne and Tess. There were portions in PROVISO, STAY, and most of it in a very old, old manuscript I’d started retrofitting a while back. So I got to thinking about all that, and decided to go a different direction.

    Now, I had to work around the masquerade scene in STAY when I wrote this book, but other than timing, it flowed together so seamlessly. And because it’s from entirely different points of view, it’ll give you a different look at Whittaker House, Vanessa, Sebastian, and the pack.

    You know what’s really funny though, is there’s a running joke throughout this new book about going to Russia in the winter.

  6. “Going to Russia in the winter.” That’s funnier than you know: our bishop’s son went to Siberia on his mission.

    Your “little vignettes that I’ll never publish” sound like the “irresponsible writing” that Dermot Bolger advocated.

    I wish I could take credit for “gun-on-the-sideboard,” but I think it’s a variation on “Chekhov’s gun” that I must have run across somewhere in my reading, and which caught my imagination, although I don’t entirely agree with Chekhov. So, if I were an editor and I saw a good one lying around unused in a current story, I wouldn’t tell the writer to get rid of it. I’d ask about developing it in a related book. But I’m a pantser, and most editors are probably congenital planners. Chekhov might have been a planner, too, for all I know.

    You seem to use your guns the way others report engaging in lucid dreaming: a sort of hybrid pantser-planner. In my case, I just left the guns on the sideboard, the windowsill, and the top of the toilet tank, and now I’ve got this behemoth war story to show for it. Not exactly job security, but it keeps me off the street.

  7. I’m running behind but one sentence inn this post jumped out and bit me on the ass. “I haven’t done that since i worked graveyards at a convenience store.” I didn’t realize that you were part of that proud sorority. I did it for a couple of years…in campustown, surrounded by bars. That was in the 80′s and some of those people still recognize me!

    You are one of the most creative people I know!

  8. I didn’t realize that you were part of that proud sorority.

    Oh yes! 50 hours a week and 15 or 18 credit hours. Can’t remember. Anyway, lots of time for homework and writing.

    Also, it was an odd thing to learn that there are twenty-four hours in a day. Not intellectually, as in, the dark part of that twenty-four is for settling in and sleeping. But in practice, as in, those are available hours in which to get stuff done!!!

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