For those of you who haven’t read my mystery “Heart of the Wheat Shaft – Mystery in Nebraska Wheatland,” you really don’t know what you are missing. There, I’ve said it. The following are the initial lines to lure you in:
“I hesitated at the beginning of the dirt drive that ended at the small house. The dwelling separated waving wheat fields from one another as if a barrier to determine its importance. And now that I was here I wondered why I had dropped everything to come when Grandmother called me. I accelerated along the dusty road determined to get this over with as soon as possible.
She knew I was coming, and yet when I knocked on the weather beaten ash door, there was no answer.
‘What are you standing there for?’
I turned to see Grandmother and reverted to the small child she raised, attempting a half smile in her direction. She shook the edge of her grease-spotted apron allowing dirt to flit from gnarled hands. Though I was on the raised porch she appeared to loom over my five foot five stature. Her face resembled rocks where water dug trenches and wove intricate designs. I noticed tightly braided hair greyer since last time I saw her eleven years ago.
‘Hello, Grandmother,” I said.”
The tale spells out a mystery that keeps Elizabeth Blanton longer in Pineville, Nebraska than originally planned. She is determined to find out why her much-loved grandfather, Alex Blanton died so suddenly. Before called home by her estranged grandmother, Sally, she had no idea he had not died of natural causes. Near mishaps plague her at every turn and suspicions accumulate until she reaches the answer that shocks her.
(amazon: kindle and paperback.)
Have you picked up a book that caught your interest because of the title, as well as the genre you like? I look at titles first since that is what first grabs me only, at times, to find when I read the first paragraph I already want to put the book down. Why? It is because the story begins with an overload of scenery descriptions, back story or just doesn’t grab me enough to make me want to continue reading.
When I write a mystery (my favorite genre) I begin with a paragraph that will draw the reader into the scene, the character(s) first presented which of course, includes the protagonist, and characterizations that will let the reader have an idea of how the mix intertwines. All of this is done with wording that is brief but to the point. The reader will then move on to the next page and all the pages after that because a momentum has been established early on and continues until the last sentence.
Sometimes I start with the crime itself without giving clues away. I pick out a paragraph that will stun the reader and then continue with the story and how the characters reached this point.
I use alliterations once or twice in the book for diversity and fun; try to give the reader enough to not tell it all, but to allow the reader to imagine being a part of the story. Many readers have told me when they read “Heart of the Wheat Shaft – Mystery in Nebraska Wheatland” they couldn’t put the book down. That is the highest compliment a writer can receive in my eyes. (amazon.com)
My next book will be the first of a series called The Beatrice Chandler Mystery Series. The first book is titled “Disappearance in Plain Country.” The story centers around a small Amish child who is kidnapped at an Amish Quilt auction. All settings for the series are in Missouri, my home State.
(excerpt from upcoming book:) “Shock registered with me like an unexpected current zigzagging through me with no shut-off switch. Reuben’s voice quivered. Tears fringed his eyelids. I edged closer and my eyes wandered around the small group of Amish for a little boy who I knew in my heart was not there.” (“Disappearance in Plain Country.”)
For anyone who wakes up in the morning and finds his or her mind a blank blob you will know what I mean when I say it happened to me today. Outside, it is semi-sunny and the air is packed with humidity. That’s how I picture my mind. It seems to be packed with a haze of humidity or something that is blocking my thinking process. I would be happy to just plop on the couch for the day but knowing by afternoon I would hate myself for wasting a day like that keeps me upright.
I try to remember the cliches about writing: ‘just do it,’ ‘you’re not a writer if you don’t write,’ ‘writing is not a hobby,’ and etc. So should I just go do something physical and hope that creative juices will begin to run? It worked quite by accident not so long ago for me. I cleaned out a big closet, shredded unnecessary papers for an hour (yes, I had that many in the closet) and discovered treasures among useless things hidden away. I separated useful stuff for someone else to be taken to Good Will, empty boxes that went to recycle and the rest was headed for the trash bin. You may question empty boxes. At the time of storage it made perfect sense. If I moved they would come in handy. I know, it sounds lame but it made sense at the time.
And, now I look around to see what else I can do that is meaningful. Oh, never mind. My mind is awakening and I have found several ideas to write about. And I didn’t have to take a long walk through humidity with summer heat creeping in. A huge relief for me. I am not a fan of summer.
The word stranded has multiple meanings in that one can be stranded in a variety of ways. As for me, I find myself stranded on the border of Arkansas/Missouri and sitting in the lounge of a car dealership waiting for car repairs. After a wonderful visit with my sister and brother-in-law in the beautiful Ozark mountains of northwestern Arkansas I stopped at the border for snacks and to fill the car tank with gas only to find the car wouldn’t start again. Someone jumped it for me to no avail. While I sat there and pondered, in near panic mode, I made phone calls to my daughter and others who may feel sorry for me and come to my rescue.
Not that they wouldn’t have, but I had the dilemma that if anyone rescued me and took me to the comfort of my home three hours away my car would still be sitting here. That would mean more transportation back and forth to rescue my car. I had the car towed across the four-lane highway. The tow truck driver offered to take me to the motel down the highway where I had made a reservation so I took him up on that. Lugging two pieces of luggage and my computer down the highway didn’t appeal to me so I will never forget him for that offer. (I was going to ask him to do that anyway, but so much nicer that he offered first.)
I didn’t realize how helpless I could be without transportation. I consider I have been stranded for a 24-hour period at this point and my car won’t be ready until around two p.m. and then I can get on the road and hibernate in my own home and recoup. Being stranded turns me into a different person. At first, panic followed by frustration and then the shock of being hit with a major car repair bill. That’s why I need to recuperate again and who knows I may never get on the road again.
On the other hand, I’m sure I won’t go to that extreme. I do notice I still have a view of the beautiful Ozark mountains from where I sit and wait. That’s soothing and provides me a time to meditate and get my mind off what’s going on out there in the garage. I don’t want to look in that direction. Watching rain clouds clear out and showplace the peaks is enough for me right now, and getting a car that runs again.
For a few years while nourishing my addiction to writing I wondered why anyone would want to ghostwrite. Didn’t that mean the other person gets the credit and the writer doesn’t? Yes, it does mean that. And so in the last two years of freelance writing jobs the idea nagged at me off and on. Then one day I saw a job posted on the freelance site I use that wanted a ghostwriter for a short story. The theme wasn’t something I wanted to write about but the fact the story was to take place in the late 1880s lured me in. I found through research of that era in the territory of Wyoming was more than interesting and so I sent my proposal in and got the job. Since it wasn’t something I was interested in writing under my own name I found it very satisfying. Don’t get the idea it was anywhere near a demeaning theme, not by a long shot.
That client hired me again and soon I found I was looking at jobs for ghostwriting. In the meantime I was working on getting my own book in the mystery genre self-published and successfully did that this past February 2014 (“Heart of the Wheat Shaft – Mystery in Nebraska Wheatland”) and now working on my second one, the first in a series.
I still take on ghostwriting jobs and put as much effort into that as I do my writing that appears under my own name. I like the diversity of subject matter. I like it that I can pick and choose. When I see something posted for a contractor that is something I want to write about under my own name, I pass it by.
I’m not planning to give everything away when it comes to my addiction. But I have to say I find ghostwriting is a liberating exercise. It takes me outside my comfort zone and that’s not a bad thing.
This morning I’m listening to geese who are lagging behind their counterparts winging their way back north for the summer. They call to each other in encouragement and in perfect form they soar ahead. They have a purpose and a goal to reach and in that sense they don’t lag behind. As seasons change, they adapt and move forward.
Such is a writer who is purpose-driven. We stick to our goal even when life in general tries to divide us from it and causes us to lag behind. Our lives may take different turns along the way but a writer keeps his or her goal tucked neatly where it belongs. We allow it to surface again and again and let it take a grip on us like any other addiction. We find ourselves lifted into a world that swirls around us like a current that sucks us in and we love it. Imagination and curiosity overtake everything else and we put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard and are surprised when we reread what we have written.
Writing is more than wanting a bestseller from our efforts. It is the ability to express thoughts, enhance reality and make it a fantasy and so to please the reader. It is a gift that we impart to someone who wants to become the sleuth or the problem-solver in the story, who wants to leave their own worries and concerns and sink into a world the writer has created for him or her.
That is the goal of a writer.