We all are susceptible to falling into routines. Whether its work or school related, even downtime can become a pattern that may be difficult to break. As a writer, I am always in pursuit of the next great story idea, the next great character, either hero or villain. Yet there are times, I need a little nudge to move me in a new direction. To take a chance. To try something different.
Back in the fall, Melissa from Inkspell Publishing sent out a note to the team of talented authors in her house that she was interested in another short story collection. A couple of years ago, I wrote “Stealing Haven” which was included in the vacation collection called “Once Upon a Summer”. But the idea of coming up with another Jamie Richmond tale didn’t immediately take shape. Then one of the crew mentioned the idea for a paranormal story.
My sarcastic brain kicked back “Paranormal? Hell, I’m abnormal.”
And just like that, something with a twist kicked in. Primarily I write mysteries and some mystery/romance, but I’d never tried a paranormal story. About this same time, I’d been trading emails with Elle Nina Castle, an author in Australia who read “Why 319?” and thoroughly enjoyed it. If I was going to embark on a new area of fiction, perhaps some assistance would be in order. I pitched the idea of collaboration on the story.
Her first response was “Me? You want to write this with me?”
“Why not?” I said. “No guarantees, but it might be fun.”
So we bounced a tale back and forth, a twist on a classic children’s story, and then as Jackie Gleason used to say “Away We Go!”
We each would write a scene, then share it for feedback. Gradually we plotted out what was missing and figured out who would write specific sections. Several months later, we hit the target of 26,000 words. Both of us reviewed the manuscript, made a few edits and additions here and there. Then it was the moment of truth. I submitted it to Melissa last Sunday night.
Monday evening Melissa responded with a contract.
This kind of reaction doesn’t happen to me. Maybe to guys like Stephen King, James Rollins and Greg Iles get responses so quickly. Of course, they’re probably under a multiple book contracts for years.
But not me.
Elle is probably still floating two feet off the ground.
I’m in a state of amazement and wonder. Did we really do this? Two people who have never met, let alone even talked on the phone, have written a story that is slated to be published in July. Thanks to the wonders of technology, this is actually going to happen. As Chuck Berry would say, “You never can tell”.
Who am I to argue with the father of rock and roll?
Thursday this week saw the first issue of my newsletter. It’s got details about writing, an interview with a great new author, bits about music and movies and the chance to win an e-book copy of one of my novels. Check it out. And if you’re interested in getting a monthly copy right in your email box, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Since I mentioned Jamie above, it seems only fitting to include an excerpt from the short story “Stealing Haven”.
The passage begins with Jamie and her best friend, Linda, on vacation in South Haven, which is a lovely resort town on the shores of Lake Michigan.
I didn’t want to move.
Moving might convince me that I was no longer asleep, that the cool breeze caressing my bare skin was not the touch of some mysterious lover who appeared when the lights went out. That despite the presence of others he was treating me like a princess, understanding how the slight nuzzle behind my knee was having a very unladylike effect on me, how with just tiny encouragements the little bits that I was wearing would disappear in a heartbeat. How…
“Jamie! We have to get moving,” a sultry voice said. “You’re going to sleep away the day. We could have stayed home and done that.”
I waved a hand to push her away. Maybe the guy who’d been caressing my knee was still there. He was. I could tell by the wet tongue that stroked my leg. I jerked awake and rolled over. Instantly I was greeted by a mass of fur and several sloppy kisses. Satisfied, the dog moved away in pursuit of someone else to bother.
“Linda, can’t you control Logan?”
She flopped down beside me. “Of course I can. He was simply following orders. There are miles of soft sandy beach out there, just waiting for us. Blue skies and enough wind to fill a sail. Who knows how many handsome men may be pining for us at this very moment?”
I pried open both eyes to see if she was serious. She was. Then I took a good look at her. Part of me wanted to smack her, just because. She’d gotten the same four hours of sleep I had. Yet Linda could have stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine. Her luxurious dark curly hair was pulled back with a headband, the waves sweeping across her shoulders like gentle wings. Two weeks into June and she was already sporting a bronzed tan that I could never achieve. Her curvaceous body and shapely legs have caused even somber men to stumble. But it’s her angelic face that always closes the deal. She rarely wore makeup. She didn’t need it. Giving my head a shake to chase away the remnants of my dream, I realized she was already dressed for the beach in a modest red bikini with a white lacy blouse as a cover up. Like that would reduce the attention she’d draw.
“Come on. We’re wasting sunshine.”
“How long have you been awake?” I mumbled.
“Fifteen minutes. The coffee should be ready.” There was no disguising the enthusiasm in her voice. “Get ready, or I’m tempted to leave you behind.”
“I need more than coffee.”
“There’s an adorable little bakery between here and the beach. I’ll buy you a muffin.”
“What the hell.” I slid off the bed, trudging to the bathroom.
God, she can be so annoying. She’s as gorgeous as a Hollywood icon and able to bounce out of bed ready to face the world with minimal effort. I could hear her talking with the dog as I splashed cold water on my face and raked a comb through my red locks. Shedding the camisole and panties I’d worn to bed, I stepped into a bright green bikini. From my bag in the room I dug out a threadbare man’s dress shirt and slipped it on as a cover. Exiting the bedroom, Linda handed me a cardboard cup of coffee. Over one shoulder was a large straw bag filled with a beach towel, sunscreen, a floppy hat and a book. I had one just like it sitting beside the door. I grabbed mine as we walked outside.
Logan was sprawled in the shade. Sitting on a camp stool was a short, stocky man with a weathered face. Thin wisps of grey hair danced in the breeze from the lake. In front of him was an easel with a tattered canvas. He turned slightly as we approached.
“Do you mind watching the dog while we’re at the beach, Uncle Jake?” Linda asked.
He pointed the end of the paint brush at her. “Nah, the dog’s better company than you two. I’ve trained him to fetch me a beer.”
“You can’t be serious,” I said.
Jake winked a pale brown eye at me. “About which part?”
“The beer. You love our company.”
“Shows what you know.” He twisted toward Logan and made a clicking noise with his false teeth. The dog jumped up and trotted to the corner of the house. He stuck his nose into an old galvanized tub then pulled back with a can of beer clutched in his mouth. Logan came over and stood beside Jake. Chuckling with delight, Jake eased it from the dog’s mouth. From a pocket of his paint splattered shirt, he withdrew a dog biscuit. Logan took the treat and returned to his spot beneath the tree. With a grin, Jake opened the beer and took a healthy slug.
“It’s eight-thirty in the morning and you’re drinking beer. You’re corrupting my baby,” Linda said. It was obviously a struggle to keep her tone serious.
“The dog’s a Golden Retriever. It’s in his blood to fetch.”
“Don’t give him any beer,” Linda admonished.
Jake fluttered a hand at her. “Go on. Have fun. And don’t be bringing any lecherous boys back here with you. Dinner’s at six.”
Linda winked at me. She leaned in on Jake’s right side. I leaned in on the left. Simultaneously we kissed him on the respective cheek. I noticed the sparkle in his eye as we headed out.
Music this week comes from Chuck Berry.