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March 27, 2010

Hello, Sweetheart. Get Me Rewrite.

By Sarah

Now that I've turned in this heavy duty manuscript (which will need yet another heavy duty rewrite), I've been thinking a lot lately about my original heroine, Bubbles, and what it would take to bring her back. Bubbles  Not a day goes by where I don't get at least 10 emails either begging or threatening me (literally!) to resurrect my girl or else.

But what a different world it would be for her. And when I say "different," I mean, "boring."

Bubbles is a hairdresser in a steel town who finds she has a knack for investigative reporting when she lands a job at the local newspaper. Right here you can throw down the pencil: no steel factories around. No newspapers, either.

In Bethlehem, PA, the inspiration for Bubbles's town of Lehigh, the old plant is now a casino and the building in which my father churned out the "daily miracle" of the Globe-Times was converted to a video store. Though, now that video stores are obsolete, it's probably something else. It's like two Kevin Bacons away from modernity.

Also, Bubbles used to take rewrite and obits. This was the starting purview for many rookie reporters and I did my share for years. Funeral directors, cracking gum or smoking Marlboros, would call up after closing hours and recite the lamest life descriptions on the planet all while charging their poor grieving clients oodles of money for the privilege. I learned to go around them, straight to the family, and get a far better story - much to the chagrin of Zymanwinksi & Sons who didn't want it publicly known that, when it came to local papers, there was no mystery to publishing an obit.

Look, EVERYONE has a story, even - or, maybe, especially - the housewife who, according to the funeral director, did nothing more with her life than be a daughter, a nee, marry, raise four kids and serve as a member of the Order of the Eastern Star (surprising how many there were of those). He would have given her three paragraphs. I would give her ten, including tales of her award-winning strawberry jams and how she once saved the life of a neighbor boy by rescuing him from the creek and performing CPR.

But I digress.

The point is the days when reporters used to stand outside pay phones after the local sewage district meeting and call in stories to rewrite have disappeared. They just email the article from their laptops.Pay phone   Ditto for funeral directors. Bubbles used to have to frantically find a pay phone to call for Stiletto and, humorously - or so I deluded myself - never have quite the correct change and would have to beg the operator not to cut her off. With an iPhone in her pocket, though, no need for change. No need to deal with a cranky operator. Stiletto would be on her "favorite" list, one depression of a long pink nail away.

Consider Shutter Island - a freaking fantastic book that I've had on my shelf for ages and couldn't read because there's some kid-jep in there. But now, as a mother of teenagers, I find quite enjoyable :). One of the beauties of Lehane's story is the sense of total isolation: a hurricane hits so all communication from the island where the criminally insane live is cut off. Today, Teddy could whip out his cell and call for backup.

Or could he?

The days when Stiletto needed to get his film developed, also gone. Digital. One press of the button and it's already cropped and on the Web. Fuggedaboutit. Maybe this is why Sue Grafton keeps Kinsey Milhone in the dark ages. It was far more fun.

So, how to handle this dilemma. Should I keep Bubbles back in the 80s, early 90s or whenever that was? Or should I bring her to the modern age? And what do you miss about those days?  Jukeboxes. Record Bon jovi  stores. Busy signals?

No matter what, one truth stays constant: Jon Bon Jovi is still on tour and is hotter than evah!

Maybe, that's enough to wake up my girl.

Sarah

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Comments

Kinsey Millhone has been locked in 1978 forever and, despite that, Sue Grafton has managed to sell a few books.

On an unrelated topic, I wanted to tell you how proud I was of the open-mindedness of all of the ladies on The Lipstick Chronicles when I saw this headline in Yahoo this morning:

Sarah Palin's Alaska series to appear on TLC

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100325/ap_en_tv/us_people_palin

One evening back in the late 80's, we had some friends over for dinner. After dinner, a movie was chosen: FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE was the consensus. In the opening minutes of the film, Bond's pager goes off, he picks up his car phone and calls in. I started laughing. When asked what was so funny, all I could say was, "Perspective. This was made in 1964. In 1964, pagers and car phones belonged to the World of James Bond."

With the demise of The Telephone Booth, what does Clark Kent do when he needs to change clothes in a hurry?

Napoleon Solo carried a small, compact device in his jacket pocket. With it, he could reach anyone or be reached by anyone anywhere in the world. (This is why my cell phone ringer is the UNCLE Communicator Tone; the concept of instant communication was the stuff of secret agents on TV.)

There's a remake of THE ROCKFORD FILES coming. When I heard the news, I thought, "What about the Answering Machine messages? VOIP/VM isn't going to be the same. Is Jim going to 'Tweet, or will he get Text Messages from his dentist/mechanic/librarian? Will his dad Rocky say stuff like, 'In my day, we had videotapes, not these new fangled Blu-Ray DVD things.' Angel running cons on FaceBook?"

Part of the charm of Bubbles is the time. Lock her into the 1980's and let her do what she does best....

Have you seen the ads for "Hot Tub Time machine"? With every passing day Bubbles moves closer to historical fiction. $700 VCRs, $2000 CD players. CD boutiques! Arnold the actor, Ron the President. Keep her there.

She could even be an older lady telling tales of back in the day while getting her nails done at the salon. Consider, most of the Sherlock Holmes stories are told by Dr. Watson reading past files about his friend.

You could even get in a few digs. Consider Bubbles hearing on the radio the Royals/Yankees broadcast as that new kid from Cape Girardeau (MO) stumbles through his first play by play and someone says Limbaugh ought to go back to doing farm reports.

Cue the Pat Benatar now.

If Bubbles has to compete with Jersey Shore types, keep her in the past. Her style will become the new retro.

Maybe you can make Bubbles a total techno-klutz and inflict a massive power outage on Lehigh. Let the Luddites triumph!

Honestly, I don't know why every single book has to take place now. There were charming aspects to every bygone era, and clearly, Bubbles' legion of fans think she and Stiletto are part of that charm. In fact, they enhance the appeal of a pre-cell phone time.

Sue Grafton still has five books to go to finish the alphabet. (Which is truly remarkable, when you think about her starting that second book, implying she was going the distance for a series of 26!) Surely, Bubbles can manage at least another one or two stories before she teeters off on her sky-high heels to obscurity. I'm just sayin'.

I always thought that Bubbles was originally current as of the date of Bubbles Unbound (was that around 2001?), and that subsequent Bubbles books were each a few months later than the one before. So, the last one occurred less than a couple of years after the first one, but still in the aughts.

I would update it. Bubbles would still be Bubbles, but she would have a whole host of new troubles, as people still do.

I agree with Josh. Bubbles was fun because she was Bubbles, dealing with the world. I'm sure she'd find a lot in modern times to muddle her way through.

That said, I don't care if you time-travel her back to 1902 - she'd still be fun to read. In fact, it would be a blast to see how the people then would react to our Bubbles. :)

I am about as far as you can get from an expert on marketing, but I think bringing Bubbles current would have appeal--the Bubbles Is Back thing. And she could have a Bubbleberry, right? Wait. Does that sound dirty?

I like Sheila's idea of portraying a techno-klutz, or at least someone for whom the technology revolution has not provided significant benefit.

Hmm. That's a good question. Just brainstorming:

1. If you allowed to to be older, how old would she be? And how would she handle how the world is now? Would she love it? Maybe you wouldn't have to "deal" with it at all. If you made it "today," it would just be "today."

2. If you kept her in her era, might that feel strange for you to write? Since you'd be contantly saying to yourself: why doesn't she get a GPS? Or something.

3. Maybe it was all a dream. :-)

3 1/2. Alan P, as always, has some great ideas.

4. If you sat down to write it, what would come out? My vote: write that.

(PS Yes, Rod, we took a vote! Did anyone see the photo on the front page of the NY Times this AM of Sarah Palin and John McCain? I think they might be looking at a check. Does that deserve a caption, or what?)

I think that this could be a tough decision Sarah.
You have created a classic...Bubbles has already become iconic in my opinion.
I think that you could continue to keep Bubbles in the earlier era.
Fans love Bubbles. They are reading her to escape and have fun.
When we watch old The Thin Man Movies and Rosalind Rusell movies we are caught up in the time and personality of the characters of that era.
We also remember Nancy Drew, of course, with that little roadster.
We don't need no snapping, beeping cell phones.
We need BUBBLES!!!!

I think Bubbles should be assigned a feature article on Sarah Palin and spend an entire book working on it.

May I also say that one thing that hasn't changed is the hair salon? Yes, the smells are better, the decor has been updated, but women of all ages, sizes and socioeconomic backgrounds still spend a truckload of time and a chunk of change to pour their heart out to the men and women with their fingers in their hair. It will always be the town square and a hotbed of intrigue.

I think you'll know the answer when you start writing. I'm thinking that her age and era are working for her, and unlike us mere mortals, she has the option of freezing time, age, situation . . . so why not stay young, even if she'll have to muddle on without a laptop? However, she could get older and still be impetuous and daring if you want her to. Fiction is so wonderful that way!

Funny how we are with time. My sister hasn't worked in an office environment for 25 years, but the other day, when she said something about using e-mail at work, I said, 'wait, there wasn't e-mail 25 years ago!', and she said, firmly, confidently and with the air of finality only the 'big sister' can pull off: 'No, we had e-mail, I used it all the time.'
I chose to stop there . . . no point arguing.

I love Bubbles, and I'd be glad for a new installment of her story--since I didn't grow up in steel country, all the back story is fascinating to me--but I'm pondering what it would be like to update Bubbles & Stiletto; would he be a couch potato, or a still-dreamy National-Geographic-ish statesman with greying sideburns . . . and what would Bubbles be like? Count me as undecided about staying in period or updating.

I have my husband reading Sue Grafton's latest novel U IS FOR UNDERTOW and he likes it.
I'm reading Harley's DATING DEAD MEN and Wollie has some snappy dialogue and funny situations..I love her!
I guess the base such as Wollie's greeting card shop is the anchor for the story. Harley is a great writer and I want to read more of her novels.
So, as long as the book is entertaining it doesn't matter about the props..to me it's the characters.
Now back to my reading.

Okay I just lost my comment. If you find it in cyberspace please return it to me.

Wow! Rod starts out first at the gate with William in second and Alan P. right behind. Josh is coming in fourth but still in the running!
Way to go Manly Men of the Blog!
I think Bubbles should stay where she lies, er...lyes? Is.
I mean you could put a tee there to mark the location where she was but then drive her (yes a nine inch hard driver, Rod.) to today over the sand trap and have her have all the flustered with the new fangled technology fun she wants.
Best of both worlds.
I remember when I was a senior in high school and the WFUN radio corespondent for MSSH. I did weekly minute phoned in (on my pink princess phone with a cord attached)reports as to what was happening in our school. You know...Anchor Club selling mum corsages for homecoming...Drama Department performing Mad Woman in the auditorium this weekend...sex education class to see the birth of a baby in living color Wednesday...Chris Stiff chosen to be Jr. Debs sweetheart...the things you needed to know when you were 18.
And I know this comes as a surprise to some of you but I was also the captain of the varsity cheerleaders. I had to run from our halftime "Miami Springs says Hello to you" welcome cheer to the other team all the way to the to the Milander Park Auditorium to the pay phone to phone in the halftime score.
Bubbles could do that I'm sure.
As for Ms. Palin...another reason I don't have cable.


Bubbles Lives!

Today, tomorrow, yesterday - makes no difference, because it's Bubbles your readers love, Sarah, not her setting.

Go get 'em, Tiger.

So, Miss Sarah, is this a serious discussion with more Bubbles on the way, or are you just teasing us?

Has anyone heard how Jeff is doing today? I hope Nancy and he are happily laughing at jokes.

Yes, that's a h-u-u-u-ge question.

Got this comment from Avis Crane via FB - she couldn't post. Typepad sucks.

"I'd love to see more of Bubbles. I don't care whether the stories take place in their original time frame, or whether she is aged to the present, or even if she picks up where we left off with "today" as the background. For example, Temple Barr (Midnight Louie series by Carole Nelson Douglas) continues her life day by day through 21 books so far, starting in 1992, while her Las Vegas milieu in each book is always whatever is current when the story was written. It's not noticeable."

Bring Back Bubbles! This may sound familiar since I say it all the time. Keep her in the 80s or wherever she was - it will be like totally cool retro. Besides, do leopard minidresses ever REALLY go out of style? No, they do not.

Sorry I am so late to the party today. It was all Indiana, PA basketball and college application results today. I'm exhausted, but we had some great laughs.

Here is a sweet story that many of you will understand. Rachel, my daughter Kate's best friend since Pre-K and winner of the Jeopardy Teen Tournament and THE National Scholastic Writing Award (that would be first in the nation - they are going to read her work in f'n CARNEGIE HALL in June) did not get in to some of the colleges to which she applied. For a girl who isn't used to not winning, this was a tough couple of days.

Another friend, Alec was in town and is staying with us - I told Kate and Alec I was going to pick up Rachel to do fun stuff, I never expected to return to the house and see both of them in their "Team Rachel" shirts. I had to go outside so I could cry. Is there anything more wonderful than good friends?

I love that, Kathy. But you guys should tell Rachel that everything happens for a reason. Wherever she ends up, she will excel and thrive. I have no doubt about it!

This IS a sweet sweet story, Kathy.
Thanks for sharing!!

More Bubbles please. Anytime, anywhere. I'd pre-order it now if I could.

Kathy, I love it, and concur that the Universe was just eliminating the colleges that wouldn't have been sufficiently nurturing for her. If we manage a TCL gathering, we should ALL wear Team Rachel shirts (or if it's too hot for long sleeves, maybe buttons will do?)

And the comments keep rolling in - here is one from Debbie - she couldn't post on Typepad either.

And here I am...even later.

Me wants more Bubbles!!!

I don't care when, where, how or anything. I never even stopped to consider what era she was happening in, other than that I am sort of near Bethlehem. So I say...I will take and read Bubbles any way that I can get her!!!

:)

I was so excited to read this! I'd love to read more about Bubbles and all the other characters, no matter the setting.

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