Kate Flora: These days, it seems like my mind is a hodge-podge of random thoughts and my focus is all over the place. Besides deadheading my flowers and finding great new recipes to cook, (salmon burgers, anyone? https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/salmon-burgers-with-pickled-cucumbers-and-watercress Or NYT recipe for shrimp and corn beignets?) I don’t seem to be very productive. Indeed, I’m more like a creature attracted to bright and shiny objects, or at least bright and shiny ideas. This one, for example.
The other day, I was out walking and ran into my neighbor walking his dog. We chatted for a bit and I asked him about his business, which owns a number of small hydro-electric dams around New England. I had recently read Susan Hand Shetterly’s book, Seaweed Chronicles, a Christmas gift from my husband. The book opens with a group building a fish ladder, and so I asked my neighbor if his dams were a problem and he was under pressure to build fish ladders. He then told me about a dam in Benton, Maine, where they have a fish elevator.
A fish elevator? I asked how he got fish to use an elevator, and he described how when the gates open, the outrushing water is, for the fish, like swimming upstream. He then told me that either last year or this past spring, the elevator, coupled with a counting system, showed that they had transported 5.5 million alewives upstream. Pretty darned amazing. If you’d like to learn more about how this works (and it doesn’t look anything like the elevator in a building) here’s a video that shows more. https://www.newscentermaine.com/article/sports/outdoors/springtime-surge-of-alewives-brings-new-life-to-maine/97-2a32241d-d97f-4a75-9cb7-c9071e92fe96
The rest of the time? Well, there’s some reading, of course. It’s summer and part of one’s job is to sit outside and read, right?
And then, of course, there is writing. I’ve been in kind of a slump about that, but gradually, in part because you good-hearted readers keep asking for the next book, I am easing back into the eleventh book in my Thea Kozak series, Death Sends A Message. For many years, I’ve alternated between a book in my Thea series and one in my Joe Burgess series, with other books tucked in around the edges. For the past few years, I’ve been trying to write some stand-alone mysteries, including a dark serial killer book set in Portland, The Darker the Night, with a new and different protagonist, and a police procedural with a female protagonist with a dark and damaged past called Not What You Think. They haven’t found homes, so now I’m back with Thea, and very very late to deliver the new book to my publisher.
With the series books, I am required by the publisher to furnish the first chapter of the next book to go at the back of the current book. I often come up with these chapters on the fly, without the time to actually sketch out a plot, so when I come to write them, I sometimes can’t remember what I was thinking when I wrote that chapter. That’s where I’m sitting now, trying to figure out the plot of the next book, and too aware that because of Thea’s character arc, I have some complications to deal with that make the ordinary course of a book seem easy.
Over the course of ten books, Thea and Andre have battled their way to a relationship and a marriage, complicated by the fact that they’re both rescuers, and she’s an independent woman who doesn’t want an over-protective husband. Now, married and happy, they want a child, and I, foolish author, made Thea pregnant in book ten, Death Comes Knocking. As an aside here, as an attorney who used to represent the Maine Department of Human Services in child abuse cases, I’ve always been critical of how some writers handle their character’s children. And now, darn it, I’ve given my characters a child and need to handle it right.
So as I’m working through the details of the plot, I’m also having to remember what it’s like to have an infant, and write Thea through the struggles of sleepless nights and the terrifying responsibility of caring for someone so small and vulnerable.
It’s going to be a challenge. At least I am back at my desk, writing my thousand words a day, and bumping into walls and furniture the rest of the time as the plot begins to consume me.
So, go make salmon burgers, or track down that NYT recipe—fresh corn and shrimp? What could be better. Maybe I’ll see you next spring in Benton, watching the alewives? And I’m off to write a thousand words. Maybe two thousand, now that the plot is heating up. After all, right now, a baby is missing, and I need to know that it will be all right.
Hope to see “Not what you think” in print.
Kate so excited that the next Thea book is “gestating” nicely. I just finished Joe Burgess’ attempt at vacation – great mystery and very real angst in Joe’s challenges being job-centric. So relatable. So – to cooking (doing all things Amaranth now – think I will add Salmon burger and amaranth to the list) and 2000 words a day.
Thanks! Just what I needed to hear as I also feel “slumped.” And your thousand words a day? I needed to put a big sign on my wall to remind me on that. Doesn’t matter if it’s Icky. And yes, you are right, the plot starts to pick me up like a slow building wave. Thanks so much!!!!