LUCY BURDETTE: I told you during the last What We’re Writing week that I was working on KILLER TAKEOUT, the seventh Key West food critic mystery, coming out April 5, 2016. This book takes place during Fantasy Fest, a giant, crazy costume party running over the week leading up to Halloween.
But on my last assigned WWW day, I fell ill with a vertigo attack and Hallie kindly filled in for me. So I’m taking today to tell you what I would have said. I’ve just turned the draft into my brand new editor, now comes the nail-biting wait for comments. (Here’s my other editor, Yoda. He says: You’re going to make this pile of notes into a book?)
|Jennifer paints John's base coat|
While I was doing the research for this, John and I participated in one of my favorite Key West events, the zombie bike ride. And where I go, of course, Hayley goes. We went to get our faces painted by a professional face painter—Hayley does too.
This is a very crazy scene—10,000 people on bikes, most of them dressed up and made up like zombies. I made the decision early in the draft that the crime should occur during the bike ride. I had no problem setting this up. The questions came later, when I was trying to figure out what kind of murderer would attempt such a thing in an enormous crowd—and how! And why?
You might think it ridiculous that someone would begin writing without those answers, but I assure you that I do it every time. And interesting to me that Nathan Bransford (former literary agent, now novelist, and yes, the namesake for Hayley’s detective heartthrob) addressed this very question in his recent blog. His advice (which thank goodness I was already stumbling through) is first to identify what you’re trying to solve, and then create some structure around it. What needs to happen before you can reach that solution? Break it all down into manageable steps and it starts to feel possible.
|zombies have brains too|
We got onto our bikes and began to pedal. The crowd pressed in on either side. I dodged a wobbly elder zombie on a three-wheel bike to my left and three tricycles loaded with the Andrews sisters zombies on my right. A radio in one of their baskets played a tinny version of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. I snapped photos to the left and the right, and held my phone up to take a short video of the crowd following behind me. Two very drunk zombie girls in black dresses whose hems fluttered dangerously close to their bike spokes approached from either side of me ringing their warning bells.
“Zombie on the left!” cried one.
“Zombie on the right!” said the other.
“Zombie down!” came another call from behind.
“These people are having too much fun. They have to learn to pace themselves over the week,” I muttered to Connie. “You go on ahead, I think it’s safer to ride single file.” Not that I hadn't done my share of partying back in the day, but I'd learned my lesson. There was a good reason that one of the liquor stores in town was called The Lost Weekend.
I spurted ahead of the others, staying to the right of the pack, concentrating on not getting run into the curb.
“Zombie down!” echoed a call through the crowd.
This time, the “zombie down” was not a cry of wolf. I stopped riding and spun around to see what was wrong. A zombie was splayed out on the pavement. The two tipsy girls swerved past, barely missing the figure in the road.
“Zombie down!” the shouts grew louder and more shrill as the costumed revelers passed their call up the slow-moving bicycle cavalcade to the front of the parade, like a twisted version of telephone.
As none of the zombies around me were stopping to help, I got off my bike and crouched beside the person on the ground. Her face was painted mostly white, with patches of black and red almost the opposite of my pattern. She was dressed in a flowing white gown that made the most of her buxom figure, streaked with the requisite blood stains and red glitter. Her headdress, which looked like a Cinderella tiara, zombie-style, had been knocked off her head and scattered a foot away. I snatched up the crown so it wouldn’t get trampled and shouted over the noise around us.
“Are you all right?” I asked. “Can you get up, or should I call for help?”
She answered with a low groan. My gaze flicked over her body, her arms splayed out, her legs akimbo. So much fake blood had been painted on the costume that it was hard to tell if she was really in trouble. I took her hand, which was cool, bordering on icy. Her pulse was racing.
And then I noticed a froth of red in the corner of her mouth. This problem was no fake.
Killer Takeout will be out on April 5, 2016, but you can pre-order it now!
And thank you again to my friend Hallie for filling the hole!