Writing methods vary by writers, for the excellent reason that we all have different preferences and quirks. Some writers work best with the “start with a basic idea” approach advocated by Stephen King in his (excellent) book On Writing. I’ve used that method a few times in short fiction, but it’s not a good fit for me. Maybe I’m more anxious or a control-freak (…..maybe?), but I far prefer to work with an outline.
Outlining varies. Some writers just get a generalized sense of direction and big plot beats. I like my outlines to be a bit more detailed – and by “a bit” what I really mean is “a shit-ton.” When I’m putting together an outline, I’m pulling in all the notes and ideas that I’ve been coming up with for the book over the past three to four months and collating it into one massive document. This gives me individual scenes, important background elements, and sometimes even specific lines of dialogue. I then go through that outline with a fine-tooth comb, looking for plot inconsistencies and weaknesses. Then I get out paper and calendar and plan out days and times – just to make sure where everything falls, and particularly how much time things are taking. This is information that almost never makes it into the book – after all, does the reader really care that Fort and Suze are in a battle for their lives on a Tuesday? Probably not. But it can help me keep track of where the weekend should fall. With the time-stamp, it helps me keep track of how long people have been at something – a personal quirk of mine is that it drives me nuts in fiction when characters have been running around for basically eighteen hours straight, killing monsters, exploding magic, banging each others’ brains out, and no one mentions that it might be time for lunch! (why does that bother me? I have no freaking idea. But there it is)
It usually takes me anywhere from two weeks to a month to put together my outline, but once I have it, I go straight into the book and don’t surface until the manuscript is complete. My outlines have gotten more detailed as I’ve gone – Generation V’s outline was six pages long, while Iron Night’s was fifteen pages. Tainted Blood hit twenty-two.
Not everything is identical from my outline to the book that people end up reading. If you look at my outline, for example, Keiko’s boyfriend never makes an appearance. That was a decision I made during the writing, since I felt like that would amp up some pressure. Other things got tweaked as I went (the name of Jacoby’s tattoo parlor, for instance) – when I do something like that, I’ll write that in on the printed copy of the outline that I’m using while I write. (that copy gets incredibly written over and dog-eared during the writing)
Finally, some elements get changed as a result of first reader comments or editorial comments. How Matt ends up at the Gage crime scene changed many times – when I was writing, I changed from him just showing up to Fort calling him over. Then my editor pointed out that this was pretty stupid long-term for Fort to do, so I switched it again in the editing process so that Matt hears something on a police scanner and rushes over because he’s afraid that Fort has been murdered. Moving Dan Tabak’s introduction from Book 3 into Book 2 was a decision I made during edits as well.
For anyone who is really curious about what my outline looks like, I’ve included a copy of the original Iron Night outline below. If you haven’t read Iron Night yet, definitely don’t read this – it’s basically nothing but pure spoiler. But if you read and liked Iron Night, and are interested in the process that turns a concept into a book, this could be interesting.
Book Two – Plot outline
September 27, Friday, 4am
* Fort & Chivalry have driven a truck of goats out to the Claiborne-Pell bridge to feed to the trolls. Part of Fort’s new duties & training. (though getting up this early is unusual)
* Fort & Chivalry return to mansion, work out & train until 9am. (this has been daily since the end of the last book. Boxing, lifting. Fort is in better shape than in the last book, but not in an overwhelming way. Primarily he’s been getting used to the new strength & speed – he now has the attributes of an exceptional human. He has some vampire speed, but it takes a lot out of him to use it – needs to be rare) (needs a reference to Chivalry’s small sailing yacht, the Firefly, which he’d like to take out for one last sail this season. The name should be a very old one – from his first little yacht in the 1890s – but Fort should give him a lot of grief about the Joss Whedon series. Maybe jokes about browncoats?)
* Fort drives back to his apartment, changes & showers, dresses for work, catches a nap. Gage (the new roommate – spend some time here establishing the character) wakes him up to go to work. Need an exchange with Gage, brief, but enough to show what a nice guy that he is. Establish that he’s going speed-dating that night (at a local bistro, ages 19 to 30, tiny tables, etc. – make clear that he’s doing it on a whim, because it ‘looks like fun’), extend an invitation. This can also give a chance to a) make the audience miss Gage when he dies at end of chapter, and b) give a chance to talk about Fort’s nonexistent dating life.
*1pm, Fort goes to work at superfancy restaurant (think ten course tasting menu). Introduce to evil chef. Go through a little of his day.
*3pm, Suzume is in his section, questioning a potential client and tormenting Fort, teasing. She always makes sure that she’s placed in his section, and the other waiters are jealous. Fort could take a pass on this.
*10pm, restaurant finally closes. Fort goes home, exhausted. It’s Friday – tomorrow, Saturday, he’ll be able to sleep in, since it’s his day off from work and Chiv & Bhumika have a standing date at a local place for brunch. Plus there’s an auction that they like to go to.
*2am, a sound wakes Fort up. His new vampire hearing has been kicking in. He assumes that it was Gage coming in, but as he waits for Gage’s routine to start up (an anti-oxidant milkshake before bed) he can’t hear it. He gets up to investigate. Something’s wrong – Gage always leaves his shoes by the door. He knocks on Gage’s door, nothing. Now there’s something tickling his nose – can’t quite place it yet. Wait, blood. He pushes into Gage’s room. There’s the body. Pale, bloodless. Hands gone, some cuts on the mouth. He’s lying on front, Fort won’t know about the genitals yet. The window has been pushed open, screen pulled out & dumped. That’s the sound that woke Fort up – Gage’s body being pushed inside. Dumper (Soli) climbed up fire escape that’s on that side. Fort goes straight for phone. Gage was human, Fort’s first call is the police. Then realizes that he’s an idiot, but call was made. Call Chivalry. Chivalry can’t come – Bhumika sick. Sends lawyer, tells Fort to call “that fox buddy of yours.” Fort makes the call to Suze. (S: Just to let you know, Fort, etiquette dictates that the woman has to initiate a booty call relationship. F: What? S: I know, it seems sexist to me, too, but Miss Manners is very clear. F: Suze, it’s nothing like that. My roommate is dead and the police are coming.)
*Police show up, plus Fort’s lawyer. (note: Scott family lawyer immediately tells Fort to say nothing to the police. The police are okay with this, because they immediately get a visit from their roused boss, who just got a call from the woken-up mayor not to bother that nice Scott boy – so no questions at all). Matt McMahon (review) has a few contacts within the police department, and he shows up and nudges his way inside, trading on that connection to Fort. There’s strained interaction, and Matt examines the body (he knows that he has to move fast – bodies & evidence tend to disappear around the Scott family). Suze arrives just as Matt is leaving (no introduction) & body is being taken away. Tells Fort to grab some clothes and come along – police are all over apartment, he’s coming to her place for the night.
*Fort wakes up in Suzume’s “spare bedroom.” Turns out that it’s Keiko’s room, and now she’s standing over him & freaking the fuck out. At the noise, S enters and she & K begin to engage. There’s a lot of tension here – K is angry at S’s closeness to F, the fact that she’s now engaging herself in a situation that she wasn’t even hired on for, and her complete disregarding of a tricky political element. But S is angry because she’s been hiding K’s relationship, and K is clearly skewing her pregnancy human for minor excuses (that won’t be overt). She won’t explain the pregnancy/relationship element to Fort yet, however. K leaves.
*Back to F’s apartment for clothing. Police are gone. This time, S sniffs around in fox form, and picks up a scent on the windowsill, where the killer rested a hand. Smells inhuman, but she can’t identify. But now there’s something unusual about the murder (they were just assuming human murderer), so they’re curious. Call Chivalry – but Bhumika’s health has taken a turn for the worse, & he can’t come, & in fact cancels future work-outs. He won’t be seen again for most of the book. Tells F to work out with S to keep up conditioning.
*F recalls that Gage mentioned speed-dating to him the night he died, even invited him along. F to computer to look, S goes through G’s stuff. She finds some info written on a stub of paper, leads them to the bistro. There, they learn that the event was coordinated by the Dreamcatching (New Age store) staff, who have been hosting a whole bunch of the events around the city lately. It nets them the cash for the night, brings business to the stores that host, plus they set up a little table with crystals and cute candles, with store cards to try to drum up business. This event was coordinated by Tomas, but Lilah was also there. That night, everyone arrived at six and left by seven-thirty. No one at the bistro remembers Gage, but they didn’t pay much attention to the group – they’re annoyed that they didn’t sell more alcohol – all they really sold were appetizers and finger food. (some of the workings of the speed dating will be covered by Lilah later)
*First visit to Dreamcatching. Meeting Lilah Doubrant, establishing interest and attraction between her and F. She is outed as a halfsie by S, F introduces himself as a vampire. Talk about Gage, F gives her his phone number in case she thinks of anything. S mocks a bit. They see Allegra, establish the pregnancy & her ¾ status. Otherwise, nothing. No big leads. Lilah does remember Gage, and notes that he got a few matches. She doesn’t remember seeing him leave – she was doing business at the candle table. Tomas is out today. F & S leave.
*No other events that day, other than the lawyer calling to assure F that no one will be talking to him. F calls Gage’s parents, who live in California, to offer condolences and offer to help get Gage’s stuff home for them to sort through. He and S (unexpectedly helpful here) clean up room, start boxing up Gage’s stuff to ship back to his parents. (note here: Gage was an only child – his parents were originally from Rhode Island) The clean-up lasts from Sat to Sunday (F & S dispose of Gage’s porn), S there both days, sleeping on the futon at night (in fox form? She’d want to spend a little time in her natural form). They watch movies (Avatar jokes!) and eat dinner together. Sunday morning S will work out with F – here there will be absolute mocking over how Chivalry has been training him. Note that he will have to use his legs, that he needs to do anything to take down his opponent, and that Chivalry’s style of fighting is relying on being so much faster than his opponent that he can take them down extremely fast – that’s not an option for Fort yet. She’ll suggest that he start getting lessons in muay thai (not the drink) – with his height, that fighting style might work well for him. It’s the “art of eight limbs” – using eight points of contact (punches, kicks, elbows, and knee strikes) instead of the “two points” – just his fists – that Fort is currently using. (note: Suze herself uses a mixture of several styles, including what she was taught in self defense as a young fox, but as an adult she’s spent a lot of time working with Krav Maga (the Israeli fighting style) because she likes its clear emphasis on finishing a fight as quickly as possible, meaning that all attacks are aimed towards the most vulnerable parts of the body (face, neck, groin, knee, eyes, joints) – since she rarely fights for show, it makes sense for her, particularly given her small size, which means that she is almost never fighting at a distance. She also works very hard with both her switchblade and a pair of long fixed knives (think Legolas) that she can wear in thigh sheaths and hide under a long skirt, while still having quick access) Maybe a trip down to the gun range? Fort will be working on his aim with both the .44 (put a model on that one) and his new toy, a shotgun (Ithaca 37, pump action shotgun that he has sawed down. It carries four shells that are loaded into the front, same place that they are expelled from. Fort will be working on getting his reloading faster and faster. Work with a 20 gauge, but note that the lower the number, the larger the size of the bullet. Fort will also be trying to work his way down to a 12 gauge, but he has to get his arms used to the kickback from that.). S has called Atsuko, but neither know any kind of critter that would want to cut off someone’s hands, though plenty would’ve drained the blood. (S: “Sometimes there are weird supernatural killings too. I mean, humans don’t have the market cornered on crazy and random. Plus, there are some critters out there that are like great white sharks. It’s not personal – you just get unlucky. It’s really just bothering me that they dumped the body.” – here’s another reason that S has stayed over for two nights, and moved F the first – she was worried about his safety)
*Movers come by to pick up boxes from Gage’s room, packing them onto a truck to take back to California. The room is stripped down to the mattress again. F is both sad about Gage’s death and really irritated over the thought of having to start yet another roommate hunt.
*F goes back to work, S heads home. Matt contacts F, saying he needs to talk to him privately. They meet up that night after F gets out of work, at F’s apartment. Matt has been working all weekend. The tattoos on Gage linked to a missing person’s file that Matt has had for about six months, Rian Orbon, since the police wouldn’t call it a homicide the parents turned to him (note: this guy was the actual first murder, 9 months ago – for Allegra’s pregnancy). He’s also, through a police connection, rustled up another disappearance (Brent Jung) (3 men total – none older than 30 – there are actually 4 guys, but they won’t have that last name until the visit to the tattoo parlor) in the last few months that match in a lot of ways. Through the family of the hiring family, he has the promotional card for the tattoo parlor (Heart of Darkness Tattoos) (F feels its pull). Matt also called the coroner – while he’s still trying to get his hands on the coroner’s report (important that he doesn’t’ have it yet), he was able to talk with a connection and find out a few details that the police haven’t released – namely, that in addition to the hand loss that Fort saw, Gage was also missing his tongue and his genitals) He wants F, who generally matches victim descriptions, to go to parlor and check it out. Matt will be staking it out. (Matt is planning to tail F – suspicions from last book are alive & well) – There’s a lot of strain and undercurrent to this conversation. F is eager to help out – both because of the lead on Gage’s murder, and his desire to placate Matt about what he might know. He wants their relationship to return to what it was before, and (most importantly) for Matt to be safe.
*F calls S right after meeting (this is evening), gets her to agree to meet him the next day. She drops by that night instead, they talk about what’s going on. She sees the promotional card on the counter (F: “That is the best designed card I’ve seen in my life. I mean, I look at that thing and I actually start thinking that a tattoo is a good idea”), recognizes the glamour. Still early explorations, but now they’re on alert for elf involvement (elves at Dreamcatching, elf glamour on the tattoo card). She’ll ride along with him tomorrow. (S: “With how you were reacting to that glamour, I have to keep an eye on you. Otherwise you’ll have a butterfly tramp stamp the next time I see you.”) S makes an appointment at the parlor for “her boyfriend.”
*F & S drive over together to the tattoo parlor (Heart of Darkness Tattoos). Matt is across street in a Starbucks – F calls him (first mention & exchange about S).
*F & S go into the tattoo parlor. While they’re waiting (tattooist busy getting high – note that there should be a mixture of alcohol and drug abuse here – tattooist’s name is Jacoby Anderson – see other file for Jacoby’s arm tattoos), F flips through the design book. He stops at the tattoo that Gage got – that page is riveting. It’s been glamoured, and it’s compelling to regular guys, too. Tattooist is a changeling halfsie, with no loyalty at all to the elf community (called The Neighbors). He’s bitter, with a drug problem as a result of his childhood trauma. He’s willing to do anything for money, which S picks up on fast. For cash, he’s happy enough to reveal what his involvement was. In exchange for money, he gave a woman several of his promotional cards (note: Soli’s skin at this point was a hot Latina woman) (Jacoby: “No, she wasn’t an elf. I don’t know what the fuck she was, but she paid enough that I didn’t give a shit. But when those guys came back, they all gave me cards that had been glamoured up like crazy. Not one of the Neighbors, either. No one I know could do a glamour like that. For that, you’d need one of the big guys, one of The Crowd. (spits) The glamour was specific, too. Young men would like it.”) The men who came back carrying those cards were the ones who he was paid to keep an eye on & tattoo. The design page was also provided, pre-glamoured (“yeah, you’d know if I put the glamour on it. No one would fucking buy it. Maybe they’d look back at it once or twice, but that’s it.”) The page is compelling, and then he can talk the right guys into getting it, throwing in a discount if he has to. He was also supposed to write down their names & info, so that he could get paid his bonus. For another round of cash (cleaning out Fort), he hands over the list of names. Four names total, leading with Gage’s. This is one more than Matt found (the last guy, Franklin Litchfield, was supposedly killed in a car accident, which is why Matt didn’t pick up on him). (important – the list has to be handed to Fort, S won’t look at it, just ask him. This way she won’t pick up on the Lulu/Litchfield connection until she actually looks at the files later) Last thing – the tattooist was supposed to make sure that all the guys left with a glamoured flier for the speed-dating.
*F walks over to the Starbucks to see Matt while S goes over to the car. F tells Matt about design, gives him list with the name of the car accident guy, but leaves out everything else. Matt says that he’ll keep staking out tattoo parlor. F joins S in car, he’s driving. On drive to Dreamcatching, F catches sight of Matt’s car, realizes that Matt is tailing them. Doesn’t tell S yet. Worried.
*F & S go back to Dreamcatching, question Lilah. With the info about the tattooist (she knows him), the glamours (she sees the promotional card and confirms that it was placed by one of Themselves – not Nokke, but maybe Hobany or Amadan), and sending the guys to the speed-dating, she’s alerted and unhappy. Also introduce changeling stockboy, Felix Ortiz, at some point. There will only be a partial conversation about the earlier stuff – enough to convince her. Lilah will have to hurry them out of the store, not wanting this to get the owner (Tomas)’s attention, but promises to call F – to arrange meeting. L calls F about 5 minutes later – S is driving. (some undercurrents here – he clearly likes her, S is stepping back a little) L & F arrange to meet at his place that evening, after each gets out of work. (S: You know, I think I still have my old boombox in a closet. You can borrow it. F: Huh? S: You know, to hold up outside Lilah’s window. F: You’re nuts. S: I can already see you composing your mix tape. Don’t forget to put ‘In Your Eyes’ on it. Chicks dig that one.)
*F to work. Don’t go into detail. S takes off to handle some fox stuff.
*F & L meet up at his apartment. S is not there – she’s made an excuse about being busy (“I’ve got whores to the left of me, gigolos to the right” F – yes, that’s exactly like Bob Dylan described). F & L talk & bond – L mentions that she is suspicious about the Neighbors’ intentions (descriptions of her family life here), pledges to help, but not wholely sure what to do. At some point S will come in the window – she was eavesdropping from outside (on the tree? On the fire escape? Either way she was using fox tricks to remain undetected by passerbys – didn’t have to bother for F & L – “You two were distracted”) She has a suggestion – that they see if the tattoo artist had anything he was still hiding. They agree to break into Heart of Darkness. (“Crime!”)
*F & L & S break into the tattoo parlor. Looking around, they don’t find much else. Clearly he really was willing to tell everything for cash. They find lots of drugs, changeling has destructive habits. While they’re searching, Soli (the skinwalker – she’s wearing the skin of a cute Latina woman – matches description tattooist gave) walks in on them – she was coming by with more of the special inks. L was going through a broom closet when Soli entered – at one point in the fight F sees her there, crouching and looking freaked out, he gestures for her to stay down – it’s clear that she is in no way prepared for this fight, and F also realizes that it’s probably important to conceal that they have a connection to the elves. Soli has no intention of being questioned – she sniffs out intruders, and there’s a tussle. Soli needs to be really, really good at fighting. Good enough that S and F are having trouble, even with S’s great hand-to-hand and F doing pretty well. Soli knows that vampire involvement is a problem – and she recognizes Fort. At some point S gets a blade out and manages to cut her – revealing part of her true form. Recognition of skinwalker. Things are getting problematic – Soli manages to get S out of it for a second (damage here?), and now it’s her against F, and he’s overmatched and knows it. Then Matt comes in, armed. He shoots – Soli is too fast, dodges, & retreats. She’s clearly pissed at Fort.
*Now there’s a BIG problem. A human is in the room. Matt & F engage (words), but S has pulled herself up, sneaks up on Matt, and knocks him out. They have bigger problems here – skinwalkers are not allowed in Scott territory – they’re problems who leave high body counts behind them. They can keep Matt under cover for now, but F has to call home. F calls Chiv, is told to get to the mansion, NOW. L is still on board (after her courageous huddle), she’ll go home and try to get more info. S will take Matt back to her place (L needs to help (S: Yes, it would be nice if you contributed) – they use Matt’s car). F drives home.
*The mansion, late night, early am. Madeline (agitated), Chivalry (worried), and Prudence are all in attendance. Madeline needs to be noticeably older than in Book One – slightly weaker, too. (feeding F so often is taking a toll, as is general age). Madeline’s orders are immediate – Prudence is to set up a residence in Providence and immediately start helping out. F is to remain point on investigation (Mad pleased by his work so far), Pru is to provide FULL support & backup. The skinwalker is the priority – it needs to be executed, and if someone employed it, they need to be made an example of. There needs to be a suggestion here that those in the territory are picking up on Madeline becoming weaker – that is a large part of why this is happening now (P: Elves with some kind of plan. The kitsune numbers increasing. More movement among lower creatures. They sense your weakness, Mother). Pru is grouchy, but obeys. Mad makes F take a full drink from her (F sees that this is making her weaker, but Chiv at one point holds his head down, making him continue & obey – even Pru agrees with this action here), then he’s sent home. Pru meets him in the parking lot – discussion. Unusually amiable, for them, that is. At least she isn’t trying to kill him this time – she’s interested in him right now. Trying to weigh how Grace’s death has changed him. She needs to pack, then she’ll be setting up in ritzy hotel – gives him her phone number (important here). (reminds him to call her if he needs to – not to hesitate. A skinwalker is nothing to play with)
*Back to Providence. F to S’s house. Matt is tied up in the living room. Keiko is also here – completely irate. They are using fox tricks to keep M from overhearing – S & K are filled in by F – S wants to get some more foxes to help (list off about four cousins (Hoshi, Takara, Rei, Mio) suitable – better to have more than less with a skinwalker involved), K shuts her down. “Now isn’t the time to remind the vampires of our numbers.” K pushes F, he admits and repeats Pru’s comment – S explains it (“When the kitsune first came to Scott territory, it was only Atsuko. A generation ago, it was Atsuko and her 4 daughters. Now those four daughters have produced twenty granddaughters, all in our prime, and my cousins are at an age to start having families if they want. There are three great-granddaughters already, bringing the total today to twenty-seven foxes, and the floodgates are just opening. We’re stronger than we were when Atsuko negotiated her treaty with Madeline. To a suspicious mind like Prudence’s, I can see how this would be threatening.”) K angry that she explained honestly (indication of S’s relationship with F), & the twins fight about politics – K pulls trump card & says that she’ll call Atsuko – no foxes on any side – S’s presence is dangerous enough. With Pru and F both involved, there’s already too much danger that S will side with one over the other (and obvious that she’ll side with F) – with just one, she can be dismissed as a rogue. Five foxes would be a declaration of allegiance, especially if Mad is getting weaker. S gets one last shot – if K doesn’t want to be involved, she should go stay with the boyfriend (“I know you haven’t broken up. You shouldn’t bother trying to lie to me.”) K leaves. S doesn’t want to explain to F – shifts discussion by telling him to deal with Matt.
*F talks to M (tied to a chair). This is a difficult conversation – F admits to his involvement on the Grann incident, but keeps the supernatural stuff hidden. Manages to convince M that he really wants to find Gage’s killer. M agrees. S has brought in his files, spread them out on table, been taking notes. M asks if she’s found anything – she says no. Maybe there’s a link at colleges – three victims were undergrads or grad students. M agrees that he’ll follow up on it. Leaves.
*F knows S better (it should be notable that he can now tell when she’s lying). Asks what’s going on. She hands him the list of victim names – the same one they got from the tattoo artist, but that she didn’t read. Goes into her own office (very Suz, but with a surprisingly professional element) pulls out a file folder. Pulls out an article – the article about Dr. Lulu’s fertility practice. S recognized the one boy’s family name (Franklin Litchfield – the car accident victim) from the feature – they were interviewed, since their son had just been accepted by Harvard – the ultimate success story. Reference here to coroner files (Matt got them, Suze read them), and how Gage’s wrists, tongue, and gonads were all removed while he was still alive, and with surgical precision. The coroner was able to tell that the killer used surgical tools that cauterize as they cut, which is how he lived through the removals. They also learn here that from the marks on Gage’s ankles, he was tied upside down and then his throat was cut, draining his blood down with gravity. The cut was careful, though – not a big gash. He bled out from it, but it probably took him twenty minutes or more. Matt was busy today – he also got copies of the accident reports from the Litchfield wreck – Franklin Litchfield’s body was damaged by fire, but he also was missing at least hands (with the fire damage it is hard to determine the rest). They have a first target now. It’s 3am now – they’ll get 3 hours of sleep, then head out. Notify Pru (she is unusually complimentary). Bed. (Fort put in Keiko’s bed again)
*F & S to Lulu’s office. Pru meets them there. (note on Pru/S interactions – S is very careful around Pru, treating her like a rattlesnake). They go into clinic, pushing past the scheduling nurse. Lulu is in the wind, but they do snag her witch, Mitch (Mitch the witch!). They get incinerator’s use out of the witch, along with the fact that he’s been cooking up a roofie-like drink for Lulu, not for use in the clinic. (It will fog drinker’s memory and mind, but make them highly obedient, and willing to do things that they would never do under normal circumstances. He has no concerns about cooking it, or any interest in what she did with it. What he cared about was that it was something different than the constant fertility magic, of which they have racks of. A few of which are missing, by the way. But it wasn’t unusual for Lulu to take that home – it was common to use whenever they bred any of the Neighbors – a lot of times they were breeding people who didn’t want to have to try more than once for results). Mitch is very clear that he did not provide whatever new ritual they’re using now. They don’t kill him, but tell him to leave town and not have contact with the elves again. Pru scares him enough that he does it. F is behind that decision (Pru points out that “he’s the point”) – by pointing out that witches can be useful, (and easily bought – useful when you need them, and hard to locate – not a lot of them) that’s why doesn’t kill. P agrees with the decision, is pleased with him. There’s that balancing act that F is hitting here. They go through the files here (Lulu has had them scanned – they bully the scheduling nurse (Maureen – human) into printing them (interesting here – all four have files – better yet, all four were inseminated with elf semen, but were recessives, no elf traits). Pru needs to go back to hotel to wait out sunlight. Phone call with M – he’s working through colleges, trying to find patterns. Call from L – she’s at Dreamcatching, and she’s found something. F & S drive over.
*Allegra went into labor, Tomas is with her, and changeling stockboy (Felix) is at school (high school senior). With coast clear, L has been searching owner’s office, found some useful stuff (also found out that he cheats on his taxes). F & S show her the files they pulled from Lulu’s office. L is confused – it’s clear from the files that the four men were recessives, not changelings – and that should’ve been enough for them to be ignored their whole lives. No one has ever found a use for them (she will point out the coding in the files – the elf’s semen who each was created with – “They’re like prize stallions. There’s serious semen storage going on. The Neighbors are terrified of what would happen if any of Themselves were killed. So there’s just crazy storage going on”) Note: Felix is one of Nokke’s sons, which technically means that he’s a half-brother to Lilah. She looks out a little for him, but the truth of the society is that family really only means who was raised as a sibling. But there’s another speed-dating scheduled tonight – this one is located at a bookstore (independent bookstore – book sales for them, cash for Dreamcatching). Suggests that F & S check it out (hands them free coupons – because it’s one man & one woman, it won’t throw off the numbers, just be one extra table). With Tomas busy with Allegra, L will be the only coordinator there.
*F calls M on his way to work – gives him partial info, asks him to stake out the tattoo parlor. Anyone with those tats is in danger. From last night’s info, all the guys who got them are dead – any new victims still need to be tattooed.
*F goes to work. Half shift. Cuts out early to go to speed dating (boss very not happy). Call to Pru – she’s hunting Dr. Lulu. F & S at speed dating. There’s early amusement and merriment (also some business with L not being thrilled seeing F do the dating), but no breaks. None of the tattoos they’re looking for (they’re checking the women, too, just to be sure), no elf presence other than L in her coordinator position. Toward end, Soli (now wearing Beth’s skin) shows up, inserting into schedule so that F suddenly faces her across the table. Smug & taunting (dangers of Facebook!) – and F can’t do anything. Public place, surrounded by humans. S across room – she can’t interfere. Taunts are personal here. Some hints of info (answer the question of why Soli dumped Gage’s body in house rather than disposing of it in the incinerator or an accident – Soli has a nasty sense of humor. Liked the idea of a vampire dealing with a drained body. Knew that the vampires would cover up everything, making an easy evening for her. She wanted to cut out early and hit a bar, not stage an accident or sit around waiting for the incinerator to do its work. A line also about Gage being tied upside down: “Impressed? I was a Girl Scout. Got a badge in knotwork.”) Soli slips out of place before F can follow. He runs out, but she’s gone. She got into a car, so S can’t track her. S & L both react.
*F & L & S in car, discussing. L has been making calls – no answers, but there are hints that something big is going on with Themselves. And Allegra had a son, and there was a lot of excitement – more than usual, even for a ¾ giving birth. Note: What Lilah knows here is what everyone not involved in the murders has been told – that Allegra’s pregnancy was a ¾ and ¾ mix. Learn here about elf reproduction – the changelings were comparatively easier to create – human DNA seems to stabilize the elf problems, though there’s still only a 7% success rate. ½ to ½ are fine, with all offspring being active halfsies, but it was only after Lulu involved witch magic 30 years ago at her clinic that they were able to get a larger stream of changelings, and that 25 years ago there was the first birth of a ¾ cross. Before that, crossing a halfsie and an Ad-hene (Themselves) (one of the politer terms used by the Neighbors – the elves themselves prefer Sidhe or Tuatha de Danann) invariably resulted in nothing. The first generation of the 3/4s are in reproductive age now, and while they cross well together (just like halfsies, in fact), they’ve hit a wall again on reproducing with the Ad-hene – and in this one, even the witch magic hasn’t resulted in the 7/8th pregnancy that they’re hoping for. Allegra’s birth happened that afternoon. (Discussion on why Lilah won’t ask her parents for help. S: Fort, Keebler has a point. Her mommy fucked PopPop, and not in a Kathryn Harris The Kiss kind of way, either. Total premeditation and intent. We probably shouldn’t ask this woman to question her loyalties. F: Suze, don’t be like that. They did an insemination, obviously. That’s different. L: (silence) F: Uh, Lilah? L: (quiet) F: You mean, your mom really—L: I don’t know, okay? F: How can you not know? L: That’s kind of a zero-sum question to ask your mom. ‘Did you fuck your father’ has a really collosal downside. I’d rather just assume insemination.)
*F & S hit a hotel room. Two beds, one room. S doesn’t like how much Soli seemed to know about him, and isn’t willing to sleep in the apartment, or even her place. (she calls K, tells her to stay at the boyfriend’s and keep an eye out). L back to her place (S doesn’t worry about her. Plus, since the elves are employing Soli, she’d probably hesitate to do anything to L, even if she’s figured out that L is involved with the investigation, which she probably hasn’t, thanks to L’s incredible duck and cover routine at the tattoo parlor). F calls Pru, she thinks she’s closing in on Lulu. F & S try to get some sleep. (some early convo about after all this whining about reproduction S is grateful to be a kitsune. F: Why, how do you guys manage it? S: You meet a guy in a bar, you get laid, a few months later you have a litter of kits. Easy-peasy, and you even get a few free drinks in the deal.)
*F has the skinwalker nightmare about Beth’s death. S wakes him up. They talk. She tells him the kitsune story (the wife, the dog, the son, returning every night), to explain a little about the kitsune & relationships. F eventually falls back to sleep, S watching over him.
October 3, Thursday, am
*F wakes up because someone is knocking on the door – S is sleeping next to him in fox form (save human form for Book 3; She’s occupying his pillow – his head has been completely pushed off). It’s L with breakfast – she’s a little cautious at first – there are undercurrents, but S stays in fox form the whole time (eats breakfast that way), and L relaxes, starts warming up to F again.
*They’re finishing up breakfast when F’s phone rings. Call is from Matt – he’s been staking out the tattoo shop. A guy just came out with bandages in right spots, accompanied by Soli/Beth. He took a photo – emails it to Fort’s phone (all the bells & whistles from Chiv after Book 1). L recognizes Felix from Dreamcatching, good wtf & shock moment. Matt has now lost them in traffic. (Soli being careful this time).
*L is flummoxed – makes no sense, but she’s scared for the changeling boy. They need answers. Call Pru – she’s hit a dead end on Lulu – woman is wiley, has gone to ground. F asks L if there’s anything she can do. Hard decision, BUT (because she realizes that changeling is in danger) – Lulu would come out if there was enough incentive. And L can create that incentive.
*F & S & L go to L’s apartment. There, L calls a woman she is friendly with in the elf community (Peggie), but who has completely uncompromised loyalty to Themselves and the population. Lilah tells her that she is preg by a ¾ guy (Cole, Neighbors have been trying to set them up forever), but has been hiding it because she wasn’t sure what she was going to do, if she’d keep it. But now she’s having cramping, and is scared. Says she’s at her apartment. (knows that the woman will track Lulu down wherever, and this woman is utterly loyal – Lulu would trust, and there’s too much desire for ½ and ¾ crosses to not come – 5/8 aren’t ¾, but they’re better than 1/2)
*F & S & L wait at the apartment. Half an hour later, Dr. Lulu hurries in. Gets jumped by S & F, who were hiding. Tied to chair. They try to interrogate, but nothing. Lulu is a fanatic – really mad at Lilah (but Lilah is holding firm – more horrified that they are now hurting not just humans, but their own changelings. Lilah will also at some point say the ultimate heresy – that they’re all frantic to breed back to the full elves, but maybe they should just be freaking content with the community they’ve created and stop trying to recreate the past, which has never sounded that rosy to her in the first place). This section covers most of the afternoon – F realizes that they aren’t getting the info they need – calls in Pru. Once it is dark enough (4:30) Pru arrives – now Lulu is scared, and with some ‘encouraging’, spills the whole story.:
When the witch magic wouldn’t create the 7/8 that they’d been trying for, a few in the community who were trusted more closely by Themselves for this task (known to be fanatical) started looking to even darker stuff, and Tomas located the fertility ritual for Lulu – now F/S/Pru learn about how this is an enormously powerful ritual. Now they learn the details – the hands and gonads have to be eaten by the man (the elves have no problem with that – they like it), the tongue by the woman, and they have to have intercourse in a rain of the sacrifice’s blood. The witch’s roofie drink was used to drug the girls enough to do anything. The ritual starts just after moonrise, and ejaculation had to happen while the sacrificial man was still alive.
The sacrifices, the connections, and the breeding to ¾ females. We learn here that Allegra was the first time they used this ritual, and the baby who was just born is the 7/8 cross that they’ve been striving for. With that baby, though, and its promise – yesterday Themselves got excited, and made the decision to start using active changelings, with hopefully even more spectacular results. The first sacrifice is planned for tonight. Horrifying, but they get the location of the sacrifice (the fairy circle outside the entrance to Underhill – Lilah knows the spot) out of her, as well as the time (moonrise – 8:09pm). (L: Who are you using [which ¾]? Lulu: You should know [implying Iris, Lilah’s 19-year-old sister]. L: No, no – my parents would never agree to that. Lulu: They are loyal. They didn’t question us, just agreed to give the girl the brew, have her ready for Tomas to pick up.) Prudence kills Lulu after she’s told everything, and Fort is okay with it. (Pru: You’re point, Fort. What do I do? F: Kill her. (impressing Pru)) After all, Lulu just admitted to multiple murders, with no remorse, and was the one who cut off the hands & genitals, cut out tongues, sliced open the men’s arteries. All of men she’d delivered as infants.
*F & S & L to car. Pru to her own car.
A note on Underhill: Underhill is located in Lincoln Woods State Park – close to Providence (95 N to Rt 146N, to exit marked with signs) No entrance fee, open sunrise to sunset, gates open year-round, though. 627 acres with freshwater lake, equestrian trails, hiking and climbing. (history) The elves, with severely declining numbers, were locked in Underhill in 1845 – the year the Potato Famine in Ireland began. That’s when their halfsie offspring (all Irish at that point) fled to America, ending up in Boston & Providence. It took sixty-three years for the halfsies and the few elves locked out with them to open a gate – they managed it in what would become the park. Worried about long-term security, they made deals with Madeline Scott that went beyond their settling deals that led her to use her political influence to influence the creation of the park around their gate in 1908.
*They are all rushing to the fairy circle – the time needs to be close enough that they have to rush, and even then will only get there after everything has been set up and the ceremony has just started, with them just waiting on the arrival of Lulu. F calls M’s cellphone, gets voicemail. (M is actually tailing them right now.) They arrive at park entrance and park. L will direct them to a secluded place to park. F has the Ithaca 37 hidden in his trunk – in a locked container, along with the .45 from last book, which will be his backup now. He’ll also put extra shells & ammo in his belt. S has her own long knives, plus grabs the tire iron. Pru will be working with bare hands. Lilah – well, she takes a smaller gun (that unregistered .38 that Suze keeps throwing in her duffel just in case), but mostly she is going to focus on getting her sister and the changeling out of there. (so brave – so very unprepared – she’s clearly still dealing with Lulu’s death – even though she agreed to the necessity)
*Big throwdown. Map out in more detail when closer, but important elements are: at the fairy circle, the 5 big elves will be there. At seeing F & Pru and realizing the vampires are coming down, two (Beron & Hobeny) will cut and run, leaving Amadon, Nokke, and Shoney. There are also 6 ½ elves (including Tomas), 1 ¾ elf (Cole, that dude that they were trying to set up L with) actively helping – relatively easy to engage with – no training. Plus Soli – big threat – able to engage with Pru. There’s also Iris (drugged to gills, sitting naked in an inflatable kiddie pool that has been set up underneath where the changeling is hanging). They were waiting for Lulu to arrive to start. S will slice with knives, catch one elf (Nokke?) really well with the tire iron. Pru will rip one elf’s head (Shoney) head completely off his body (kill move!), slices up some halfies. A few halfsies have guns. F gets one elf with a shotgun blast to the body (Amadon), shoots at least two halfsies. Fort will also have a direct engagement with Soli, and in some way neutralize her or drive her backwards (she’s for hire, after all – she isn’t here to die). Matt will also show up at some point – early enough for Pru to see, but when the tussle could go either way. F threatened? Lilah directly threatened? He followed them, sees that these people are NOT human. Learns truth. In a moment where everything is obvious, he’ll have to trust F completely (despite everything), and will. Will shoot at a couple of elves – cold iron. Will be injured and on the ground at some point at end of fight. (not critically, but enough to take him down). Maybe Soli injured him, then F drove her back? (YES) Pru ends up chasing Soli after she disengages and runs – they disappear into woods. Eventually the halfsies are scattered and on ground, Iris & changeling have been grabbed by Lilah (standing in front of them with gun), Shoney is dead, Soli has fled, Amadon is full of cold iron and not doing great (Suze gets a few good hits with the tire iron on this one), and Fort has the shotgun aimed right at Nokke. Nokke raises hands, agrees to surrender. Talks with Fort, accepts him as Mad’s emissary, agrees to accept whatever judgement Mad decides on. (at last minute, when everything is agreed on, Fort will shoot Nokke in the kneecap. Just getting in a small moment of vengeance for those who died – showing also that Fort is harder now.) Grabs Amadon, they disappear into Underhill, leaving the remaining halfsies alone. Shoney’s dead body left, swarmed by hysterical halfsies (whoever left alive), who are no threat at all.
*Moment where everything seems okay, then Pru returns with Soli’s skin. Says that the skinwalker is dead, approves of Fort’s actions. No need to wipe out elves – Shoney’s death and the injuries to Amadon and Nokke – Pru is very much approving. Then suddenly things are problematic again – Pru walks over to where Matt is on the ground – he’s seen everything, and Pru knows that he knows. She also clearly knows who he is – calls him by name, says that he’s been a problem for long enough. Goes to kill him, but Fort moves with vampire speed and puts the shotgun muzzle against her head, tells her to stop. Tries to argue that this is a decision for Mad, but Pru realizes that he wants M to live, even knowing what he does. She’s upset. Forced back from Matt (F: Don’t push me, sister. Remember what happened to Luca.), points out that it will be Mad’s decision, but who will present their case to her first? Runs to car. Suze goes Matt, tells F to go – she’ll handle this. F runs to car.
*Car race to Newport! Back & forth, but the both peel into the driveway at the same time. Pru pushes F down, he skids and bounces on the rock driveway, runs ahead. He gets up and follows, leaving the guns in the car. Knows that Mad is inside, but Chiv is not – worrying. Runs inside, but Pru isn’t heading upstairs, where they both know Mad is. Instead, she’s going for Henry. F chases her, not knowing what she plans, but nothing that it can’t be any good.
*The polishing maid has been thrown aside, injured, not dead. F runs down the stairs. When he gets downstairs, he sees that Pru has also pushed aside Mr. Albert. He arrives just as Pru rips open the door to Henry’s enclosure – a huge example of strength. But Henry is fast and strong – he’s past Pru in an instant, going straight for his target – Mr. Albert, hurrying behind Pru, trying to contain. Henry moves close, close enough that Mr. Albert uses a stun-gun, but Henry is already ripping into Mr. Albert’s throat with his teeth. Even the stun-gun just jolts him, but he’s still ripping, ripping open Mr. Albert’s chest. He’s trying to eat him – F stops in his tracks, horrified, but Pru has pulled around now. She grabs at Henry, he pulls away. F yells, asks what she’s doing. She says something to indicate that she’s going to kill Henry. F is in shock, but he tries to stop her – he left the gun in the car, he is bare-handed. Pru slams a hand in his chest, he’s thrown hard against the wall, smacking his head. Slides down, head swimming. Pru catches Henry by the neck, and is pulling her other hand back to strike & kill him. Pru’s hand is caught by Mad, who is enraged – first time that F has ever seen her blue eyes completely black (neither he or Pru saw her enter – but Mr. Albert managed to hit the panic button). (M: My will was clear. Why have you crossed me? Pru: (still holding onto Henry) Whether it is sentimentality or ego that holds you back, it is enough. Fortitude’s transition has been held back for two decades, and I am saying enough. Perhaps it’s too late, maybe he’s ruined – more human than vampire. But I am putting a stop to your games.) Mad swipes, and Pru has to drop Henry, who lies still. He’s injured in a few places (maybe he and Pru actually had some kind of engagement?) Pru and Mad lock hands, each pushing. For a minute, Pru is winning. Then Mad grunts, her black eyes actually start to glow, and she pushes with full strength. Pru forced down. Pru is down, but this has to clearly take a lot of effort out of Mad, and her eyes bleed quickly down to blue, and don’t gleam with her usual strength. (Mad: (gently, the anger is gone) My darling, my dove, my daughter. So strong, and almost ready to leave my nest. (quick move, damaging Pru) But not today, love. (another injury) And not tomorrow. (a third move, gruesome, leaving bones sticking out, damaging even more) My will is still your law. (then leans down and strokes Pru’s face lovingly, with weird pride on her face) But soon, dearest. Now go. (Pru can’t walk, so she crawls, past Fort, who she glares at – the old hatred is doubled – this betrayal was worst)
*Now Mad checks on F, then Henry. Clicks her tongue disapprovingly (Mad: Ah, Henry. Such trouble you are.) Drips her blood into his wounds, wounds slowly close. Henry breathes easier again. She is visibly weakened, orders him back into cage. He struggles against command for a second, then gives in and obeys. He goes and sits, then looks at Fort. Note: With Mad in the room, Henry is puppet-like – F has never seen him with Mad in the room. Now Mad bends and touches Mr. Albert on forehead, sighing. (Mad: Oh, Albert. Faithful to the last). Now she goes to Fort, who was pulled himself into a sitting position. They will have the conversation about why she made him different (survival, adaptation – humans are a danger. In the 1800s, there was a significant uptick in the hunting of vampires. Rarely dangerous, but those with slow reproductive cycle (Mad realized) needed to be cautious. This was also the era where human-caused extinctions were starting to happen in the animal world, and be noticed by naturalists for the first time. She took note of that, plus the new theory of Darwinism, and decided to make a change), and the results. Prudence’s host parents were killed at her birth, which was usual. Their blood was her first meal. She is everything that a typical vampire should be – and that most parents would be proud of. But that’s not what the species needs. So when Mad made Chiv, she killed his father at birth, but she also experimented by leaving his host mother alive until he was 15, which she found held back the transition significantly. Chiv is different than most vampires – more capacity to love, less fixation on his own self-interest, his devotion to his wives, even though it leads to their deaths, is notably different than typical. Both were entirely raised by Mad. With Fort, though, she made significant changes – she wants him to have self-control, but also an understanding of humans that she, Pru, and even Chiv lack. Now Mad is clearly very weakened, F has to physically carry her upstairs to her own room. There’s a long blood trail leading to Pru’s suite of rooms.
*F sets Mad up in her own room (Mad: Much to do, my darling), then brings up what he and Pru were speeding here to discuss – Matt. There’s some discussion. Mad isn’t pleased, tapping her fangs with her fingertips – she knows of him. She and Pru have discussed him several times. Long wait, but in the end, Mad allows Matt to live – but to Fort: “You are close to an adult. I will let you make this decision – but remember that he and his actions are your responsibility now. If Mr. McMahon is dangerous to us, you will have to kill him. Not me. Not even your brother.”
*F leaves the mansion. Chiv is coming in when he leaves, but F tells him to help Mad, keep an eye on Henry and Pru – he can’t stop to talk. F calls Suze. She brought Matt to F’s apartment. F drives there – completely exhausted, yet unable to even imagine sleeping.
*F asks, and S leaves them alone. Matt is tied to a chair (again – make a lame joke here), and bandaged up. F tells Matt everything – the truth about Jill & Brian’s deaths, what is at stake, the world that Matt didn’t even know existed. What was behind the Grann murders months ago. Matt listens to it all, not speaking. F unties Matt at the end, and Matt just looks at him. Matt leans forward, pushing his hand gently but insistently into F’s mouth – F knows what he’s looking for. Says that he doesn’t have the teeth (which Matt saw on Pru when she was about to kill him) yet, but he will eventually. Once he transitions. Matt abandons him – this has to be harsh, but at the same time with justification.
*S walks in – she didn’t listen, but was waiting in the parking lot. She saw Matt leave. Fort sits on the couch, shattered. S takes him by hand, leads him to bed, settles him down, gently, with great care. Tells him to go to sleep – that it will be easier to deal with in the morning. He takes her hand as she starts to leave, asking where she’s going. She says she’s going home – there’s no more danger. It was taken care of. While he was driving, Chivalry already called all of the elf leaders left – laid down Mad’s punishment. Won’t tell him what it was tonight – just that it was harsh. No one is going to dare come after him. He can’t believe she’s leaving – she looks at him (full poker face) – tells him that Lilah had to take her sister & Felix home, but that she’ll call him in a few days. Leaves. F can’t quite get it. But sleeps.
Aftermath (over a period of a few days)
*Next day, F gets voicemail – he skipped out of work the night of the throwdown, not even thinking about it. He’s been fired. Again. He has to job hunt and find a new roommate – again.
*Chiv calls, tells him that in a few days they’re going out on the Firefly with Bhumika – no discussion. F tries to get out, saying that he has a lot to do. Chiv forces it, and (still bruised and sore from last night’s throwdown), F agrees.
*A few days later, L shows up at F’s apartment. (NOTE: Suze has not shown up since she tucked him into bed. She is deliberately keeping distance, though she should have sent some kind of silly gift his way – pajamagram?) Her sister and the changeling are safe – no one is particularly happy with Lilah right now, especially not Nokke, but she’s okay with that. She’s quit her job at Dreamcatching – will be figuring out how to live outside the community again. But suggests that maybe it doesn’t have to be like last time – asks F on a date. A lot riding on this – F is in the moment of decision, has to really weigh this, understand that Lilah really would be a good person to be with. But F chooses – he says that he’ll always be L’s friend, always be there to keep her company, but he isn’t going to date her. L blushes, asks if this is about S. F nods – he isn’t going to sugarcoat. L nods, then says (with grace) that she does hope that they really do stay friends.
*The day of the Firefly yacht ride – cool but sunny, a good last sail of the season. They’re on the boat, sailing in crisp October air in Narragansett Bay – and it’s clear that this will be Bhumika’s last trip on the boat. Sadness, worry about future. Toward end of day, there needs to be one small conversation between Chiv and F (about Mad’s decline, Pru’s challenge to their mother, worries about future. At least one mention that Chiv wants to make sure that F has the Matt situation under control – that Chiv would have chosen to kill Matt in that situation, though he would’ve done it quickly and painlessly) (There will also be the conversation here about Fort being ready to police alone – needing to cover for Chiv a while during Bhumika’s last months, but also an acknowledgement that after the elf incident he’s confident that F can handle himself (he negotiated when he could, he was willing to fight when negotiation failed, he made allies, and he was willing to make hard choices, like killing Lulu) He gives F his first solo assignment – a group of selkies are sinking local fishing boats that haven’t paid ‘protection’. Look into it, locate ringleaders, stop it)
*F goes home after boat ride. He is still leaving calls with Matt, but Matt won’t answer or pick up. He’s starting to look into the selkie incidents (there does need to be that solo confidence here). He’s also doing job interviews, hunting for work, putting up fliers for roommate, but at the same time he’s doing it halfheartedly – always waiting for S to show up. She doesn’t. Finally, one evening he gets irritated (glancing at window all evening long) and drives to her apartment, rings bell. She answers, looks surprised. He is standing on the doorstep, just blurts out his decision with Lilah. She’s surprised – teases him a little, but he can tell that she’s pleased. He then hands her a mix cd he made (as a joke on her earlier mix tape dig), and he’ll also end by asking her to partner up with him on the selkie run – and implied, in future. She gives him that slow, foxy smile, and says, “Sounds like fun.” and invites him in. He walks inside, knowing that something has changed between them, again. Ends with this element of commitment going forward – hint at romance. But the equality and respect is most important to emphasize on way out.