Words that careen off the beaten path
Yeah, that’s a cliche, but it’s true.
I’m not big fan of happily-ever-after, rom-com madcap cozy mysteries where the improbable happens and the characters go along with it because, well, it’s a story. And the ending gets buttoned up in a way that NEVER happens in real life. (Not to be confused with fantasy, in which case I expect to be taken for a damn good ride.)
When I got my turn in the saddle (thanks to going a few rounds with NaNoWriMo), I discovered that my mojo comes from a strong plot, witty dialog, lots of black humor and situations that are painfully real and riotously funny. Because life is like that.
Right now, I am hip-deep and wide-eyed over two novels I am writing at the same time.
The Secret Life of Sarah Sweet
Single mom, sexy, and 35—Sarah Sweet has a secret, and uses fantasy to keep her dreams alive. When reality interferes, Sarah must walk the blurred line between truth and lies. This is a dark tale told through the lens of obsession, addiction, and loss.
I started this book about 15 years ago, back when I had a job that had nothing to do with writing. I’m not sure how I ever got hired (another story, another time) but within months I thought I’d go crazy. I joined a critique group, where we had to chug out 2,000 words a week. While I made good progress for about six months, I caught the dreaded disease called Sagging Middle. I knew how the book started, and had a vision for the final scene. But how to get there? Eh. Dry well. Eventually I gave up.
Thanks to my outstanding writing coach, Jessica Morrell, she never let the story die. Every time she saw me (once every year or three) she asked about Sarah Sweet, telling me she couldn’t get that gal out of her mind. Finally, in a drunken moment (blame a garden party where wine flowed like words) I told her I would write it…if she would edit it. This was quite cheeky of me, if you have followed her career. But that’s the success story behind every creative. We talk big and then have to write bigger.
One pinky swear later and I was on the hook for the 2016 NaNoWriMo. I finished 50,000 words three days early. I can’t tell you how good it felt to go from zero to 50K in 30 days. Two months later I shoved it past the 90,000-word mark and considered it “done.”
Jessica read the draft, and offered a few…suggestions. To wit: an 11-page single-spaced “memo” and 462 line edits.
“You want me to re-write it,” I said, dumbfounded.
“No, no. It’s a great story. You’ve taken some fabulous risks. The edits,” she waved her hand. “One or two sentences here and there, and you’ll be done.”
We were both right. Each edit took one or two sentences to address. Multiply that by 462 and you have a re-write, one I completed in three months. As of this writing (Nov. 2017) she is reading it again. Maybe we’ll wrangle the changes down to 234. I have my hopes, and my goal is to have Sarah Sweet “agent-ready” by early 2018.
Gemmy (Book 1 in the Crossword Mystery Series)
Now this is flat-out ambitious, right down to the title.
This might come as a surprise, but I didn’t WANT to rewrite Sarah Sweet.
So I procrastinated, until I gave myself a case of writer’s block. To get unstuck, I assigned myself a character sketch, based on the lyrics to the song, Little Acts of Treason (Carlene Carter). Next thing I know I have this 20-something gal named Gemmy who uses crossword puzzles to solve mysteries.
“Write it,” Jessica said.
“Okey-dokey,” I replied.
But there’s only one teensy-tinsy problem. I have never, ever completed a crossword puzzle in my life. Never mind written one.
And if you think I have clue one about how this nifty-keen idea is going to float through not one–but, oh, a few–mysteries…you’ll have to join me on my very own real-life, madcap, cozy mystery journey, because I can’t wait to see what I do next.