Confessions of a Closet Novelist

I’ve read copious volumes of how-tos on writing, publishing, writing a proposal and diving into social marketing. Call me a rebel with a cause but I find most of it a bit dreary and a buzz kill.  Still, I shuffle on to some ever-present voice suggesting subtle innuendos.

I once attended a fabulous workshop for Mystery Writers.  At the time, I was more interested in the fluffy side of things….you know, fantasy, happy ever after stuff.  But I threw myself into a milieu of fairly creepy individuals for three days and three nights.  Yes, wine was involved after 5.  It was a grand experience in climbing out of one’s zone and into another.  Hey, there was even a class entitled, “How to commit murder and get away with it.”

I’m not at all implying that the class about getting away with murder was a how-to per se.  But I have to tell you, the attendees jumped in with both feet.  What I concluded is that we all have parts of us that meander into some pretty freaky realms.  So I sat in the back and listened.  That room was filled with “what if” specialists.  A good mystery isn’t worth a damn without surprises and twists and turns.  That is the business of a “what if” specialist.  For the first time in all my writing years, I was in the room with people who definitely climbed out of their boxes on a daily basis.

One of the best workshops was a dialog with someone from the CIA sitting opposite another person from the FBI.  Priceless!  It caused a stirring, not in my loins, but in my what if? o meter.  I started me thinking about writing a thoroughly creepy novel.  It toys with me to this day.  It will not write itself unless I am in a room full of creative writers and have a prompt.

The first page started in a precious group of women seeking joy and peace.  As we proceeded around the room to read our treasures, I wondered if I would be thrown out for sheer shock of what I had on the paper in front of me.  They had read about their search for self, climbing of the obstacles of being a woman and the general healing of female comradery.  I, on the other hand had written something that was a cross between a spy novel and a potential murder mystery.  When I read it aloud, I looked up.  Their faces were shocked but a good shock.  One of the writers asked, “How on earth did you write that cool thing?”  I responded, “I haven’t a clue”.   She then asked, “What happens next?” I answered: “I haven’t a clue”.   And so my career as a mystery writer is still on the outer edge of possibility.

I try to surround myself with “what if” specialists but I guess it is up to me and my muses to keep going on this one.  Recently, I met a woman in her fifties and I paused and stared. There she was!  I couldn’t help myself and commented.  “Wow, you look exactly like the main character I am writing about.”  The woman is a very serious medical doctor with a minimum of creative humor.  She said, “What on earth do you mean?”   I bowed my head and said, “Forgive me, but I am writing a mystery novel and you fill the part of the protagonist.”  True to form, she smiled dimly and walked on.

So here I am, wondering.  Will my babe in question be an MD with a secret, one that will get her killed, or will she in her flowing cape save the world?  I’ll answer again, “I haven’t a clue.”

Back in Scotland, when I was writing my Merlin novel, I had the habit of going to the pub of an evening.  In defense, it had wi-fi.  It also had the best fish n chips and draft brew in all of Scotland.  I would stare out at the waves and write.  The publican, also a writer, would ask me to read to her.  I did so but softly so not to disturb the locals.  One night, one of the locals asked:  “Where is Merlin now?”  I smiled.  He had actually heard me reading.  I responded:  “He’s been riding his horse in the middle of the night for three nights.  I can’t figure out how to get him off the horse.”

One day I had lunch at that auspicious pub.  Again, I was reading to my helpmate who would suggest things to me.  A fellow over to the side spoke. “I know where you can get that published.”  I smiled.  “Really?”.  He gave me the name and I wrote it down.  I then, the scientific side of me said, “Off hand, why this person?”  The fellow went into somewhat of a lengthy story about the frugality of Scots.  I finally stopped him and asked, “Sorry, I don’t get what you are trying to tell me.”  He smiled. “The publisher lives very frugally and loves your kind of writing.  I know him.  He will love your book.  And by the way, he is the one who took a chance on Harry Potter.”

Now you’d think I would have grabbed him and got his name et al.  I didn’t.  I just sat there and loved the moment.  Call me naive.  Call me a dreamer but I plan to hand deliver my manuscript to that very publisher this summer when it is done.  Oh and it is a mystery fantasy so I’m still dealing with the what ifs.

Maybe what I have learned is writing is a journey.  Like little Red Riding Hood (Writing Hood????), I follow the bread crumbs along the path.  Maybe that was Hansel and Gretel. Hell, I don’t remember, but bread crumbs along the path are actually clues and I am wide open to clues.

This summer, I’ll jump back into that mystery gig of 4 days.  THIS time, I’ll be one of them.

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