Take DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE:
(Ah, actually buy it ... please) :-)
It began with a scene:
- Samuel McCord, in chains, standing before a pompous official in Egypt. The official sneers, "You are not in Texas anymore, Cowboy!"
That scene simmered in my mind for months as I went about my other novels. It later became:
Baring’s smile was as bright as a prostitute’s promise and about as warm. He did not offer to shake hands, and I did not genuflect. Both of us seemed pleased with that arrangement.
Baring snapped at me. “You meddle in affairs of which you know nothing! You are no longer in Texas, cowboy!”
I faked shock. “Why, sir, that is certainly a relief. And here I thought I was going deaf, not being able to understand a word of what those pilgrims on the streets were saying. Not in Texas, huh? Sure is hot enough for it though.”
Baring snarled. “If I could execute you twice, I would!"
But how to get McCord to Egypt? Why would he be there? And when? Why did the official want to execute McCord?
And then, Leonora Roy, my muse, came to my rescue with her image of Meilori which became the cover.
McCord would be in Egypt for his beloved Meilori. But why would she be there?
That is where having a detailed backstory for your characters comes in very handy.
I knew that Meilori was long-lived, being from another dimension.
I have sprinkled flashes of her time as Empress of the Aztecs, watching unmoved as screaming sacrifices were brought to her.
In THE RIVAL, I showed Meilori as imperious Empress of the Ningyo race with her People in key positions in the New Orleans of 1834.
I have indicated that the Nameless Ones drove her, her sister, and the survivors of her People out of their home dimension and to Earth.
In THE END OF DAYS and CREOLE KNIGHTS, I showed those beings striving to come here to finish their ravaging of Earth and the Ningyo's here.
Meilori would come to Egypt to protect her People. A weapon. She would return to Egypt for a weapon she had secreted there ...
in the vessel in which she and her People fled the Nameless Ones ... now buried forgotten under the simmering sands.
In my research on Egypt, I discovered the existence of the Houses of Life, universities of the various fields of knowledge known in Ancient Egypt.
And there is where I found my title. The best titles stem from a paradox. And what better paradox for a House of LIFE than DEATH?
But why would Meilori discard a powerful weapon that could defend her People?
I smiled. Another paradox:
she did it for love ... for the love of McCord.
But she cast it from her in the distant past before he was even born. How did this come to pass?
An answer to be found in the book. Hey, I am not going to give everything away! :-)
Then, there was the reason for McCord's execution. Why did Baring want him dead ... other than his sense of humor?
Knowing McCord's backstory came to the rescue again:
I knew that he and Mark Twain had broken Oscar Wilde out of prison when Queen Victoria refused his plea for mercy on the playwright's behalf.
McCord had saved her life when she was a young girl. But the gratitude of Queens is fleeting.
I knew he had met Winston Churchill as a young man in Egypt, had championed Nikola Tesla when he, too, was young.
In CREOLE KNIGHTS, I had introduced Bastet in Meilori's and mentioned Ada Byron being in Egypt with McCord.
I had the major ingredients. I had the crisis. I had the skeleton of my story.
- I studied my first chapter and saw where I could make the last one evoke it both in symbol and narrative -- making of the whole a completed emotional circuit.
- And yes, Jeremy, I sat my characters down in the table of my imagination and let them tell me their story.
It veered in directions I had not expected but grew out of their natures and the evolving plot.
- The sands parted. The heavens descended. Ancient Evil unleashed.
It was fantastic fun. (For me. For my heroes ... not so much)