A Glimpse at Our Works in Progress

Kate Flora here. There has been a lot of discussion on the blog lately about everyone being on deadline for new books. Since I’m always looking ahead for my next good read, I’m hoping some of you will be willing share what you’re working on right now….

Lea Wait:  OK; I’ll bite! I’m working on the next (the sixth) in the Maggie Summer Shadows Antique Print Mystery Series; it’s due to my editor April 1; publication will be in spring, 2013. Maggie’s on Cape Cod this time, and not to give too much away, the working title is Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding. Of course, there are murders. And, yes, a wedding. (And, no, I’m not saying whose!) Some of Maggie’s friends that readers met in earlier books are back. Questions about her personal life are beginning to be answered … And, of course, there are antiques and prints. And, I hope, a few surprises …

Kaitlyn Dunnett: I don’t usually talk much about work in progress but a week or so ago I experienced one of those “what if” moments that was just so typical of what happens during my writing process that I was considering blogging about it even before this group topic came up.

Starting a new book is always the hardest part of writing for me. I’ve never been able to visualize very far ahead in the story. I can churn out the required synopsis for my editor, and I usually know who’s going to be murdered, how, and who dunnit, but beyond that the details stay sketchy until I actually start to write. In the case of this book, which is due to be published in August of 2013, I fumbled around for my usual several tries, attempting to find the best place to begin the story. I rarely start in the right place the first time. Having cleared that hurdle, I plunged onward in the (VERY) rough draft, plotting ahead by a couple of chapters at a time. After a few chapters, I was very aware that if I didn’t come up with a few more complications, this was going to turn out to be an extremely short book. According to my contract, I’m supposed to hit between 75,000 and 90,000 words. I usually manage (barely) to hit the bottom number. Without some fresh ideas, I was going to fall far short of it.

I have a tried and true method of dealing with this problem. The first step is to go back and read the first three chapters again. Chances are, the seeds for everything that comes after have already been sown somewhere in them. Step two, is to keep asking “what if?” This time it took awhile for the technique to trigger a response, but as it almost always does, inspiration struck. My subplot has to do with family responsibilities. It is to help her aunt, Margaret MacCrimmon Boyd, that my amateur sleuth, Liss MacCrimmon, once more gets involved in crime solving. What I hadn’t figured out in advance was how dysfunctional family relationships could also come into play.

My ah-hah moment for this book was when I suddenly realized that two characters who previously had no connection to each other were actually father and son. Many of their actions, some of which hadn’t entirely made sense to me until then, were clearly the result of that unacknowledged relationship. The complications caused by keeping it secret also provided me with a new suspect in the murder case, one whose innocence Liss wants to believe in.

With that breakthrough, it’s now full speed ahead on the WIP.

Barb Ross: Kaitlyn–It is so heartening to me to hear–all of this. For years the metaphor in my head about first drafts was that I was making the clay and the revision process was making the clay into something useful. But lately that metaphor has kind of broken down for a variety of reasons, and now I see it more like the sketch I will put layers and layers of paint on. Like you, I find the story is all there, but there are connections I haven’t seen and often the solution to one problem is the solution to many.

As for me, I’ve just submitted a short story and now I’m finishing up my second novel. I’m at the point where the big rewrites are finished and I’m following specific threads of character and plot through the novel to make sure they hang together and progress consistently. Just little tweaks. Of course, in light of recent news, I don’t know what’s going to happen to this book, but I’ve found it’s always good to have inventory and it’s so close to done…All this needs to be finished by the end of the month to clear the decks for the new series.

Kate Flora: Unlike some of you, who find terror on that blank page, I find it full of possibilities. There isn’t anything I love more than starting a new book. It’s like someone is telling me a story and I’m getting to follow along. I sometimes say that when I’m deeply into a new story, and have to break for something like fixing dinner, that I can’t wait to get back to the keyboard. It’s just like when I’m reading a good book and can’t wait to see what happens next, only this time, I’m writing the book. One year, with two different plots in two different series warring in my head and unable to choose between them, I decided to sit down on January 2nd, type “Chapter One” and see what happened. What happened was Redemption.

I created the Stalker Chick, pictured above, when the seventh Thea book came out and I invited my readers to join me on The Journey of a Thousand Books. Now I’m about to sit down with the eighth Thea Kozak mystery, Death Warmed Over, and I’m very curious to see how that will go. Usually, like Kaitlyn, I have the basics of the plot outlined in my head–a process I call “cooking the book”–well before I start to write. This time, I’m flying by the seat of my pants. But that’s what is going to happen starting on March 12th. Sit down, type chapter one, watch Thea driving down the street, arriving at the house a realtor is going to show her, and discovering an absolutely horrific scene inside. The Thea Kozak books rarely begin with violence, so this is a departure. Where I go after that? Hopefully, experience will show me.

Paul Doiron: There are times in an author’s career when you really shouldn’t talk publicly about a book in process because you don’t want to get ahead of yourself (let alone your agent!). So all I will say is that I’m working on the fourth book in the Mike Bowditch series.

That said, I am thrilled to announce that my third novel, Bad Little Falls, will be out on August 7 from Minotaur Books. It picks up nearly a year after the events of my previous book, Trespasser, with Mike Bowditch having been transferred to Washington County, Maine’s real-life graveyard of game wardens, sadly.

I think the novel is awesome, and you should preorder it now.

But that’s just my opinion.

Julia Spencer-Fleming: I see the cover Gods have blessed you with another terrific cover, Paul. If that doesn’t entice browsers across the floor at Sherman’s Bookstore I don’t know what will. Obviously, the perfect book to read while one is vacationing in Bar Harbor or Camden or Boothbay.

I’m working on the eighth book in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. My original title was Seven Whole Days, since the action takes place during the course of one week, but neither my editor, my agent, or the booksellers I tried it out on liked it very much. I’ve been leafing through my hymnal, looking for something else that will fit the work. After reading Kaitlyn’s post yesterday, I’m thinking of Tajemstvi dvora Millers Killovcu. (The cover would feature the Rev. Clare Fergusson dressed in revealing strapless vestments, cradling a cat wearing a bishop’s mitre, of course.)

Titles can be tricky for a work-in-progress; I find it essential to have some sort of title in order to get a handle on the story, but you can’t get too wedded to it, because the aforementioned editors, etc., are going to have their own opinions. I once read a scholarly critique of my work that focused on the role of Christianity in the series. The author went on about the title A Fountain Filled With Blood — why had I used this hymn, with its explicit message of substitutionary atonement? Was it to imply the Rev. Fergusson’s theology was more Evangelical than would seem by her actions?

Well, no. The marketing department at Minotaur didn’t like Just As I Am, and I had to come up with something “more lurid and gruesome” to make sure readers could tell it was a mystery. A Fountain Filled With Blood was one of ten possible titles I emailed to my editor, the late, great Ruth Cavin. She picked it out. Certainly makes me take everything I learned in my college lit courses with a grain of salt…

Gerry Boyle: A bit of juggling going on. Late revisions to ONCE BURNED, the 10th Jack McMorrow novel. At same time I’m switching back to Brandon Blake No. 3. No title yet. A seed of an idea has started to grow. Spent yesterday sketching as fast I could as characters came to life. Great feeling. I’m very psyched about this one.

Also, taking a look at a novel I wrote a few years ago. It was supposed to be “a novel novel” set mostly Down East. But even without Oxycontin addiction the characters just couldn’t stay out of trouble. I call it a romantic crime novel. May give it a rewrite and see if I can sell it. Would you read a romantic crime novel, with a woman protagonist, a political fixer sent to Maine for the first time, hates the place and the people until she falls in love with one of the latter.

Anyway, it’s fun to look at something you’ve written but had almost forgotten about and think, “I wrote that? That’s not bad.”



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4 Responses to A Glimpse at Our Works in Progress

  1. John Clark says:

    Such fun reading this joint post and imagining all the literary goodies coming in the next year. I just finished Redemption and am pushing it at the library as I am all of Julia’s series. Our book discussion group read the first Port City book last month and the sequel hasn’t been on the shelf for more than a day since. As to whether a political ‘flatlander’ can find love down east? Why the heck not. If you get stuck, have someone go overboard in “Old Sow” and turn up on the shore of Grand Manan.

    • MCWriTers says:

      Well, with that encouragement, I’ll pull the unpublished novel from the folder (modern counterpart of the traditional bottom drawer) and look at it with critical eye. Mystery with romance. A change of course, though most mystery writers are romantics at heart.

  2. MCWriTers says:

    Thanks for sharing this, folks. Julia…I assume you have a hymn book by your side at all times. At a memorial service last weekend, I found a zillion things to blog about in the songs and prayers. Had forgotten all by the time I got home. And we don’t have a hymn book handy. Note to self: must get one. I do have a title for the fourth Joe Burgess…And Grant You Peace. And Julia, you can’t have it!

    Yes, Gerry…we would read a romantic mystery, look at Julia’s books…even though my husband keeps saying it’s romance that’s the flaw in what I write, I like the complexity of the personal and professional. It lends interest and tension.

    Marvelous cover, Paul. I’m jealous. I really didn’t like the Redemption cover until I saw the actual book, but I’m not sure that it will draw readers from across the room.

    Meanwhile, I’m imagining covers for Barb’s new series and Lea’s new book. And Kaitlyn…you seem to get really good covers…I’m sure the new one will be no different, once you get them characters all sorted out.


  3. Margaret Franson says:

    Looking forward to reading all of the works in progress when they are published.

    Margaret Franson

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