Thursday, July 21, 2016

Rereading Damsel Under Stress: Chapters 11-13

I suspect that doing the re-read and commentary of the earlier books in the Enchanted, Inc. series had something to do with sparking an idea for a new book, or else it just reminded me of how much fun these are to write. Working on it is almost like taking a vacation from my other writing.

So, we're at chapters 11-13 of Damsel Under Stress, where the Spellworks ad campaign is in full force, and they've realized that they've even opened a store. Yes, this is all a deliberate riff on Apple, but I should say that I'm a rather loyal Mac user. I have a MacPlus from 1990 in my closet (thinking of turning it either into a terrarium or a fish bowl), and I'm on my sixth Mac (probably soon to be a seventh, as the current MacBook is more than five years old, and that's getting into the danger zone). Mostly, all this came from the idea that the magic industry was like the computer industry, with spells being the software. At the time I came up with the idea for the series, I was working in high-tech public relations, so I'd dealt with software companies. These were the people I knew and the part of the business world I was most familiar with. When I was researching the first book, I read a few books about Silicon Valley and life inside Apple, the battle against IBM and Microsoft, etc. Since my "hero" company was the establishment, that meant the villain had to be "Apple." Plus, Phelan Idris isn't particularly imaginative, and he was deliberately and blatantly ripping off Apple because that's how he saw himself. I don't know if the "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" ads were yet running at the time I wrote this book, but that was the basic attitude behind the way Spellworks was set up.

In the planning for what to do about all this, I set up a couple of things. One was Katie volunteering to lose her immunity so they could have a "normal" person who was in on the secret. That's a progression of her character, after she spent much of the last book trying to get her immunity back. Now she's being pretty brave in offering to do it (and that sets up something that happens later). We also start getting the sense that Owen is letting his personal feelings get in the way. We've seen that he has the potential to be dangerous, and does it make him even more dangerous when he's more worried about someone he cares for than he is about the greater good?

Then we get to the dragons. This whole bit was inspired by the chapter header art from the first book, which showed a dragon twined around the chapter number. When I saw that, my first thought was, "You know all those urban legends about alligators in the New York sewer system? They're not alligators." I'd already written the second book before I saw the interior of the first book, so this book was my first chance to play with that. It was a nice fit for the incompetent and out-of-date fairy godmother subplot, since there are all those stories in which rescuing a maiden from a dragon was a surefire path to romance. Of course Ethelinda would set up something like that in her matchmaking efforts. Only, as Katie told her, dragons really aren't that romantic. Then again, it did lead to a cozy evening in at Owen's place, so maybe she was on to something …

And then Ethelinda intervenes yet again in a way that could be disastrous, or it might actually be helpful, when Katie and Owen end up getting their dinner plans hijacked so that they're sent off to a fancy restaurant -- where they just happen to see a celebration dinner between their enemies. I think this scene was largely inspired by reading restaurant reviews in the local newspaper. I'm not a super picky eater, but I'm also not a big gourmet foodie. I tend to read restaurant reviews with a sense of morbid fascination because most of the dishes they describe sound rather revolting and really just an excuse to throw together things that should never go together in the name of "innovation." In this scene, I created a restaurant that sounds like the kind of place you'd read about in a restaurant review. And then, because Idris is there, chaos ensues ...

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