HOW DO I WRITE THEE? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS!


Laughing Gull
Laughing Gull (Photo credit: surrph)

06-19-2012

What do a harried travel writer, an aggressive reporter, and a 1950’s screen star stricken by Alzheimer’s have in common?

They’re all characters in my murder mystery, By Her Daughter’s Hands.

As the title may imply, the mother gets offed by a daughter. But which one? The “only” child shocked at Momma’s secret? Or the adoptee who finds out that her birth mother did not “go to a better place”?

Well, that’s for me to know and for you to find out when you finish my book. A book to come out some time in this lifetime. Providing an agent and an editor fall in love with it.

In January 2009, the germ of the idea formed during my flight home from the Laughing Gull Workshop in Port Aransas, Texas. Although I had read few mysteries, other than those of Mary Higgins Clark, I became intrigued with the genre after attending two presentations. One on poisons. Another about weapons: guns, knives, explosives. By the end of the day, I learned about the significance of blood-splatter patterns and weapons and poisons guaranteed to kill people deader faster.

Since then, I have fallen in love with the mystery, suspense, and thriller genres and developed a voracious appetite for the works of other mystery/suspense writers: Joy Fielding, Karin Slaughter, Lisa Gardner, and Tess Gerritsen, to name a few.

A published poet, I’d never entertained the idea of writing a mystery. But, as I sat on the plane, notepad and pen in lap, I began to brainstorm. By the time I returned to DFW Airport, I had the most rudimentary of plots in place:

A woman caring for her ailing mother — hmmmm….make that Alzheimer’s — is accused of murder when the mother is found poisoned. The culprit: a grapefruit-juice chaser taken with her blood-thinner, Coumadin. Ooooh…a real blockbuster, right?

I think not.

Okay, then, picture this. When the mother and daughter become ill, a sympathetic neighbor plies them with home-made soup. When the mother dies, authorities testing the soup find botulism. On second thought, make that arsenic.

Back to the drawing board.

Bottom line — in three years, I have hammered out more versions, more scenarios, than I have fingers and toes to count. With each draft, the plot takes on yet another evil twist, rather like an episode of “When Roller-Coasters Go Wild”.

Ah, but this time, I know the direction I want the story to take. So here it is:

When travel writer Karen Keystone returns to her childhood home to fulfill a deathbed promise, she finds angry letters from a secret sister. As she grows closer to finding that sister, she finds herself in danger from an unexpected source. Only one person knows the whole truth. Does he also know the connection between her sister and the enemy?

Last month, I pitched the premise of this book to an agent who asked to see a synopsis and the first chapter which I sent, last Monday. Although I still have beaucoup to do, I have only to wander into my office, among the tower of drafts threatening to collapse upon me, to see how far I’ve come.

Before the DFW Writers Conference, I chose the best possible agent for my women’s murder-mystery novel. Any day now, I will hear whether or not she wants to represent me.

In my next entry, I will let you know. Until then, keep me in your prayers.

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