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Tuesday, 28 February 2012


When Characters Take Over
Janine McCaw

If you write fiction, then this has probably happened to you. You've carefully plotted your chapters so you've got a clear idea of where you're headed in this journey you've mapped out for yourself. You know that your antagonist is scheduled to meet his maker around two-thirds of the way into your story; his own conflict being resolved with three words—Monroe was dead. 

Then you pause. You wonder if you've done the right thing, unaware that what Monroe really was, was clever. About a third of the way into your story he began to seduce you. Sure he had shown you his bad side, but every once in a while he began to throw in some charm. He's so charming in fact, that by the halfway point in your book, you're starting to think that maybe Monroe doesn't die. Maybe your protagonist gives him an epiphany so empowering that evil no longer lurks in good old Monroe.

It's the curse of writing good characters. They come alive. They dance around in your brain like multiple personalities and prey on you like your kids. They start to talk back. You try not to listen to those voices in your head, but they just won't shut-up. They take you to the left when you really want to go right.

Remind yourself about the book you initially set out to write. Go back to those initial notes and swear on Monroe's grave that you're going to take him down on page 175. Maybe he doesn't go down in a hail of bullets, maybe he goes down in just one, but down he goes—Monroe is dead.

P.S. Here's a tip I've learned from experience. Save the day of Monroe's demise for when you've had a really bad day at work. That's right. That scene will be so much easier to write when Monroe begins to sound like the person or situation that has driven you to the point where chocolate offers no comfort. It also saves you a trip to the therapist.

“The Gilmore Girls meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

Fifteen year old Goth-chic Ellie has a lot of explaining to do. She’s just moved to the small town of Troy, fought with her uptight mother Helen, met the boy of her dreams and found a dead body on her sexy “new-age” grandmother Helena’s porch. All on the first night!

But Ellie’s not alone. Helen is hiding something. Helen knows all about the kind of eerie dreams her daughter is having — the dreams that show the whereabouts of the missing children of Troy — because she’s had them herself. But she’ll never admit it. Not while Ellie’s sex-crazed friend Ryan is safely behind bars for the murders. Helen knows what it’s like to be attracted to dangerous men.

Then there’s the little matter between Helena and Gaspar Bonvillaine, the teenaged vampire who is learning to feed on young prey. Now that he’s caught Ellie, he doesn’t know whether he wants to kill her or turn her to the dark side and keep her forever. Helena should have finished him off when she had the chance.

To survive the vampire feeding frenzy surrounding them, mom Helen needs to come to terms with her own insecurities and deal with the gifts she has. Helena must learn to ground herself for the good of mankind and more importantly her own family. And Ellie has the toughest choice of all. Ellie must decide whether its time to let her own childhood go and become the woman she is destined to be, one of the ageless and timeless “Helens of Troy”.

HELENS-OF-TROY is the second novel completed by Janine McCaw.  For the Vancouver-based novelist it is the continuation of a dream, and the fruit of years of working in a different creative realm.

McCaw’s deep understanding of compelling plots, widely appealing characters, natural dialogue and strong story arcs comes directly out of her early career in the film and television industry. McCaw’s skills as an observer started early when her family uprooted from the City to small town Ontario – and she became the classic fish out of water.  Writing down her thoughts became an outlet as she scribbled her way through childhood, while she also developed her observational skills and visual eye with photography.  A die-hard hockey fan, McCaw studied Cinematography at Humber College, and was headed for a career as a cameraperson covering professional sports when she landed an internship in a broadcasting services company. 

McCaw excelled in the television distribution arena.  She joined Thomas Howe & Associates and moved with that company to Vancouver, where she distinguished herself with her talent for identifying the right product for the right market, and her people-skills in negotiating contracts. After furthering her professional development with several high-profile Canadian entertainment companies, she parlayed her reputation as a leading Cable Programming specialist into her own boutique firm.  Formed with a partner, Dark Horse Ent. specialized in finding, and selling, niche Canadian television series - entertainment, information and variety - around the Globe.  McCaw also acted as an independent executive producer on award-winning television Classic Car series,  CHROME DREAMS, and as a distributor for series including ENTRÉE TO ASIA, and AT HOME WITH HERBS.

In high demand as an insightful, humorous and engaging guest speaker, juror and analyst for festivals and trade forums around the country, McCaw also spent large amounts of time traveling abroad to television markets.  Writing relieved the stress of constantly being on the road.  Increasingly, she turned her main hobby into outlines for novels, and finished fleshing out the characters, plot and dialogue for OLIVIA’S MINE, a fictional account of a young bride’s struggle to make a life for herself against the backdrop of the disasters that hit Britannia Beach, British Columbia in the early 1900s.  The book was released in 2006 and continues to be sold at the British Columbia Museum of Mining.

HELENS-OF-TROY was released early in 2012.  McCaw is also currently developing eight other stories for novel form.  All set on the Pacific North West and in Canada’s North, they include the murder mystery A LITTLE FIRST DEGREE,  a feel-good trilogy THE INN AT HAZY WATERS (Northern Exposure meets Fantasy Island), and PUMPER an action romance that has already garnered interest as the basis for a feature film.


Author Website -www.helens-of-troy.com
Twitter: @mc_janine


 “I don’t envy him,” Helen said to Helena as she tightened a fuchsia-hued scarf around her neck. It clashed with her coat, but it was the only one she could find while scrounging through Helena’s hall closet. “Having to tell a parent you can’t find their child,” she continued, “that would be a horrible thing to have to do.” She thought about all the times Ellie had threatened to run away when she was younger.

 “It makes finding the odd body on a porch swing seem like a walk in the park, doesn’t it?” Helena said sarcastically. “I’m sure our bad days don’t even compare to theirs. I have to clean up snot all the time when I’m teaching someone how to use a neti pot. They scrape brains off of windshields after a head on collision. Neither are pleasant, but really…”

 “Okay. Don’t get so defensive. Or descriptive. I take back what I said about the police and the cereal box,” Helen said. “Neti pot?”

 “Think nose bidet. And thank you. But it doesn’t get you off the hook. You still need to tell Ellie about Willie.”

 “Who’s that plump, curly-haired woman who’s glaring at us?” Helen asked, in an attempt to distract her mother. “I’m not getting a love vibe from her.”

“You mean the one dressed in the neon pink tracksuit?”

 “Yes. She’s got to be cold in that outfit. Not to mention embarrassed. Never wear neon after Labor Day. Or ever, really.”

“That’s Betty Lachey, Ryan and Stan’s mom and our illustrious neighbor. With any luck she’ll be hibernating soon and we won’t see her until spring.”

 “That’s not very nice.”
“Nor is she,” Helena laughed. “She hates us.”

 “Us? How can she hate me? She doesn’t even know me.”

“Hate by association,” Helena said, forcing a smile and giving her neighbor a wave. “There’s a small town attitude in Troy, I’m afraid. You’ll get used to it. I did.”

“Is there a Mr. Lachey?” Helen asked, nodding politely to the woman.

 “That subject is strictly verboten if you happen to want to keep the peace. Betty got sick of him constantly hanging around the house and told him to get a hobby. Well he did. A five-foot-six Texan named Traci. She was a brassy woman with guns from the double D ranch, if you get my drift. He ran off with her two summers ago.”

“Well, that explains why she hates you.”

 Helena looked at her daughter. “For the record, I never even looked at her husband.”

Hate by association,” Helen answered.


What are you wondering, Ellie?” he asked, as if reading her mind. “Are you wondering whether it’s better for me to kill you now or later?”

 “I was, yes.”

 “And what did you decide?”

 “I was thinking later would be good.”

 “Me too.”

“So, you’re going to let me go?” Ellie asked hopefully. “We can still be friends. Maybe even go to a movie sometime.”

 “Go?” he laughed. “What ever gave you that stupid idea? I’m still going to kill you. Someday. We’re just going to take a little detour. I’m going to take you to hell and back, and then it’s off to grandmother’s house we go.”

 He pulled a switchblade from his pocket.

 “What are you doing?” she asked, terrified to hear the answer.
“You’re too perfect, Ellie.”

 “What’s that supposed to mean?”

 “They’d never believe it. The rest of them. They’d never believe that girl like you would want a boy like me.”

“Then they’d be right.”

He grabbed her arm and pushed up her sleeve. The edge of the knife was cold as he very lightly drew the blade across her wrist. No blood flowed, but it scared the shit out of her, he could tell.
“There’s this thing that happens,” he began to explain, “when one of us wants one of you. Forever. We make a nice little slice in an artery, like this vein hidden so delicately under your skin. Then we suck the consciousness from you, almost to the bitter end. But just before you take your last breath, we give you back one.”

 He saw the the terror in her eyes.

 “Which means?” she asked, her voice barely audible.

 “Which means I bring you back to life. And then you are my slave.”

 He took the edge of the knife and gave her skin a poke. Droplets of ruby red blood rose to the surface. He raised her arm to his lips, his tongue darting to the blood in a slow, deliberate lick.

She felt a warm uneasiness run through her. The initial unpleasantness was replaced by something she could only describe as anesthetic-like. She felt euphoric. Her senses were going into hyperdrive. She could see the miniscule pores on his skin. She could smell his perspiration. She could hear his heartbeat. She found none of it unpleasant.

“Does that give you some idea, Ellie?” he asked. “Of how magical it could all be?”

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