While waiting for my beta readers to finish, I like to occupy my mind with something other than the current project. So in the last month, I helped a fledgling author with some editing on his first novel and was thrilled to be asked to be a beta reader for one of my favorite mystery and suspense authors. Both required my focus and kept me out of trouble for several days.
However, I also use the down time to review story ideas for the next books. Book 7 and probably 8 of the vampires is a given, and I’ve been screwing around with a really terrific story idea for a standalone. It’s been on my desk for a while, but I have actually set it aside twice now. I’d like to blame it on the timing of the novel since some of the subjects are topical. It’s tough to write something about one of the cartel leaders who’s been on the run for years and make that part of your plot, only to have the damn authorities in Mexico actually capture the bastard. Pissed me right off. Two of my male characters figured they’d never be allowed to marry in Arizona, but wonder of freaking wonders, that changed too. More freaking re-writing now. But those are pretty minor problems – this is really about me not committing to what should be a great freaking book.
Sometimes, my failure to trust my instincts about a story simply astonishes me. And when I fail to trust my instincts… stupidity usually ensues. Then I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to fix things and stewing about them. Let me give you the short version what happened.
It began when I had lunch with some friends from high school that I hadn’t seen in more years than we should mention. Kit plays viola for Symphoria in Syracuse, New York, and Becky is an orchestra teacher in the Liverpool School District. We reconnected through Facebook and while they were in Phoenix visiting family, they took the afternoon to drive down and visit with Mr. Scott and me.
It’s always interesting to reconcile the perception of an individual with a living breathing person and find out just how far off you can be. I’m not sure what I thought a symphony musician would actually be like. A man who wears a tuxedo and bow tie, protects his hands, intellectual, focused, and a dozen other things flitted through my mind. And an orchestra teacher – what on earth would I ever find to talk to Becky about? I know nothing about the things that provide them their livelihood and feeds their passions. What do I have in common with either of them but a shared history of high school?
It turns out that I have a lot in common with them. They’re still the same great folks that I went to school with. Fun loving, brilliant, wickedly funny (although Kit tells me all the raunchy jokes came from the brass section), and passionate about their family and lives. We had a great lunch at a local brewery and a wonderful time catching up, and then, we came back to the house. My very old dog Nina came to sit by Kit and in lifting her paw to shake, she managed to scratch his hand and drew blood. I freaked out – my dog wounded a professional viola player. I’m grabbing the peroxide and gauze and Kit’s just smiling and unconcerned. It wasn’t deep, but I was worried about it getting infected. We cleaned up the small scratch, and he informed me that he’s not one of those guys that wears gloves or refuses to do things. He does a lot of home repair projects and is willing to do pretty much anything that doesn’t involve sharpening a running chain saw.
And there it was… the first glimmer of an idea. A fish out of water story. Kit and Becky were barely out the door before I was making notes with questions and the plan came together. What happens when a guy who spends his life in the world of the symphony winds up on a ranch in southern Arizona? What would bring him there? Death, murder, witness protection? What would keep him there? Being hunted by the murderer? Maybe love? How do the ranchers react to him? He should be a down to earth guy like Kit. Willing to participate and earn his keep, but wanting his life back. How do they change their preconceived notions of each other? Humor and food. My musician will have to cook. How do they manage their differences – both politically and emotionally? They’ll think he’s a bleeding heart liberal and he’ll think they’re all gun-toting right wingers. Border issues from the ranchers side, caring about the arts from the musician’s side.
I had the idea and I wrote the first part of the book in less than a week, but then I stopped when I ran into some issues. I needed to ask a lot of questions.
My premise – my musician is in Phoenix when he witnesses a murder. He can ID the shooter and the shooter knows it. He’s in protective custody when the shooter plus a few come for him, killing two of the men guarding him. The surviving detective opts to have him disappear until he can arrest the murderer. But this goes much deeper with cartel hitmen and dirty cops who knew where they had my musician stashed to begin with. The detective takes him to the family ranch near Tucson to keep him safe. Musician meets detective’s sister at ranch.
Problems: I know diddly about ranches/horses, musicians, or actual murder/drug/cartel investigations. I’m happy to know what weapons the ranchers and cartel people carry. The musicians… not so much.
Solutions: Watch Castle (he and Beckett know everything), ask my rancher, musician, and cop friends questions, and drink Jack Daniels.
End result: Shelved book when I realize that my clue meter may not equal my desire to write a quality book meter.
How do I write a book about something that I know nothing about? Not that anything so trivial as having a clue has ever slowed me down before. All I ever really needed was a Holiday Inn Express and a little more whiskey.
Solution – Rewrite: Change all the names and make the sister the detective who brings him to her brother’s ranch and stays there to protect him. Add in the kingpin of the drug cartel coming for musician. Less about the murder investigation, more about the ranch stuff.
Problems: Blech – I don’t want to write a romance. It’s not as good as the first damn story. With the exception of the evil cartel guy (who scares me to death) the story is weaker and lacks the punch and drama of the first story.
Solution: Go back to the first story, but bring in the drug kingpin and rework the issues.
MAJOR PROBLEM: I think I “wrote over” the original without first saving a copy.
What the hell is up with that? NEVER, EVER, EVER DELETE or WRITE OVER. Save a copy and call it No Go or Failed Plan One and stuff it in a folder. I spent an entire day digging through folders and searching, but to no avail. It was gone.
Or was it?