Monday, March 21, 2016

Coming to the End of a Manuscript: What to Do Next.

Good morning. Welcome to the second day of spring. It's a Monday, not a Sunday, but the sun is shining, and even though there's a major snowstorm headed this way later in the week, I know the cold will soon be gone for a few months, and we'll  have flowers and plenty of sunshine.

Yesterday, I typed "THE END" on my latest manuscript, a paranormal, suspense romance titled Hello Again. I'd been working on that story once a week ever since the middle of June 2015, writing scenes of less than 1500 words based on a particular word, for a Tuesday Tales blog, Once a month, the other authors involved and I use a picture and limit ourselves to 300 words--not always easy to do, but I enjoyed the challenge.

At Christmas time, we decided we'd spread our wings and some of us wrote short, short stories with a holiday theme. Mine originally called "Where There's a Will" went on to become the novella, Forever and Always, published by Solstice in February as part of the Adventures in Love anthology. The novella, which went deeper exploring what happens when all your hopes and dreams crash to the ground, was released on its own on March 2, my son's birthday. I figured that would just bring my book baby good luck.

Why did I change from writing a scene a week in Hello Again as I'd planned to do until the end of the book? Quite simply because I hit a block in the book I was working on, Wedding Bell Blues, and was waiting on second round edits for Hidden Assets, my second inspirational suspense romance for Anaiah Press, due out in November 2016.  With nothing to do and unable to get past the roadbloack, knowing I still had to write nearly every day, I opted to go and work on Hello Again. At that point, I had no intention of actually finishing the book, but my muse got the better of me, and the rest as they say...

When I started Hello Again, I wanted to write a story about a woman who'd lost her husband and had to move on. Since women in non-traditional jobs is a big thing these days, and I'd taught with a female mechanic, I decided to make my heroine, Charlotte, aka Charley, Winters one. I've had close friends widowed, and I knew their pain.Some were able to move on, others not. John's heart issues the previous year had scared the daylights out of me, and since heart disease doesn't go away, I wondered how I'd feel if anything happened to him. Because I like suspense in my stories, I decided I needed danger, and since I've always admired the RCMP and their Red Serge, I thought I'd toss one into the mix as my hero. I was determined this story would be set in Canada like Fire Angel and Echoes of the Past. So, I wrote the first few scenes. Trouble with biker gangs in the news gave me my crime and brought in the RCMP hero I needed, Sergeant Bill Murdock.

John and I had traveled across Canada a few years ago, and had visited Regina where one of John's friends lived. We hadn't seen them since university, and had a great time. We visited the RCMP museum while we were there, as well as their cottage, but it was so hot, we couldn't spend the night by the water as planned. We went back to Regina and its AC--hence the heat Charley encounters and the bad storms. We didn't come close to a twister, but communities in the Amrican midwest and farther north in Alaberta and Saskachewan did.

While out west, we visited Moose Jaw, Medicine hat, and a few other places with unusual names and spent the night at a bed and breakfast that was a working ranch. We also saw many signs indicating a First Nations and Metis presence, so I wanted to add that to my story. I'd enjoyed doing so in other books I'd written.

I was sure this personal experience would add to the story, but my muse, who rarely lets me down, had so much more in mind. The weird stuff started. Suddenly, Bill, my hero, needed to resemble my heroine's dead husband, and the paranormal elements were born. Shirley, whom I envisioned as a wise women with a sense of humor, morphed into a gifted shaman with a personal stake in the outcome of the romance between Bill and Charley. She is a beloved and essential secondary character, one who is a catalyst for much of what follows.

So I wrote a scene each week, weaving my story around those elements and those who read the growing manuscript seemed happy with it. When I decided to edit what I'd written, I had no idea how much stronger the paranormal elements would get.  But, since I'm a pantser, that's part of the joy of writing--not only do I surprise you, I surprise me.

I did more research on Sintaluta and the Carry the Kettle Nakoda band. I found an online dictionary that let me translate English into Assiniboine, the traditional language they use, and I found a site with Sioux myths. I'd enjoyed using and adapting the Mohawk myth in Echoes of the Past,, soi I thought I'd do the same here. Unfortunately, I didn't find one that was esxactly what i needed, so I adapted it. The myth about the abused wife and the chief of the wolves is a genuine one, but I changed the ending to add the curse. Just like that, everything fell into place and the story expanded, writing itself.

 I've been asked how much of myself goes into my books, and I'd have to say this one is more me than any other. I'm sad it's finished, but I feel good about it. Now, I have to decide what to do with it. I have options, choices, which for now I'll keep to myself, but  be assured, the book, with its beautiful cover designed by Danielle Doolittle will be released. Right now, I can't say when because there are still edts to do, but before the year is out, Hello Again will be available. Will this be "the one?" I don't know. I can only hope.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Happy Birthday, Ruth!

Every now and then, something absolutely wonderful happens and the world is a better place because of it. A number of years ago, my good friend Ruth was born, and the world is a much better place because she's in it.

Ruth is more than a friend; she exemplifies the expression "grace under pressure," and despite the fact that she's recently been handed a raw deal, with the lemons she has, she's made the sweetest lemonade. 

The only person I know who could've done so well was my mother-in-law, Jean, who would've been 100 years old on Friday. 

Every now and then, we are gifted with kind, beautiful souls, like Ruth and Jean, and for those of us lucky enough to get to know them and be part of their lives, that's a special treat to cherish. 

Ruth has been and continues to be my spiritual guide, my minister, and believe it or not, my inspiration. If you've read some of my more gruesome suspense romance novels, that might be hard to understand, but she seems to say exactly the right thing at the right time. She makes me a better writer because she encourages me to go out there, just a bit farther, in search of the perfect image, the perfect clue, the perfect hero, and of course the perfect villain.

Ruth knew exactly who was the Fire Angel in my first novel by that name because she was privy to an inside joke. If it hadn't been for that faux pas on her part, the villain might've had a different name. 

Today, because it was her birthday, we went out to lunch with a few close friends, after attending church. This was not the church I was used to attending, the church where she'd preached and filled me with inspiration to get through the week, but Ruth suggested I try it, and I'm glad I did. It's very different from the subdued Presbyterian worship I'm used to, but I enjoyed it. The evangelical style is far more relaxed, but the music and the message were uplighting. People were warm and friendly--no one was pushy, and eveyone was willing to say hello and shake my hand. No one appaeared to be judging anyone. Come early, come later--no problem--just come. I felt welcomed. Most importantly, my granddaughters, who came with me, loved the Sunday school program and want to go back.

Will this be my new church home? I don't know. I need to think about it, pray about it, but after three weeks of not going to church, I can honestly say. I feel better for having gone today.

So, in conclusion, thank you, Ruth. My muse is chomping at the bit to write a new story inspired by today's message and Ruth's comment. Picture it--a romance novel about a person who refuses to accept love. The possibilities are endless. So, as I've said before, Happy Birthday. Without you, I'd be Ruth-less.