Sunday, September 29, 2019

What We’re Writing by Jenn McKinlay

First, last week’s winners from our guest bloggers are…

The winner of Ellen Byron’s FATAL CAJUN FESTIVAL is – Ramona Long!
 and
The winner of Nancy Coco’s FUDGE BITES is – Jamie Gillespie!

CONGRATS, Readers, the authors will be in touch!

JENN McKINLAY: Revisions! Revisions! I have no idea why but I can’t speak these words. Oh, no, they must be sung out loud to the tune of “Tradition” from Fiddler’s Roof. Why? Because I’ve been on a writing bender for the past two months that would have turned a demure church lady into a drunk, like, pirate Jack Sparrow drunk. Seriously, pass the rum! 

Normally, I love revisions. It’s usually a tweak, a twist, a tightening of the screws. Not this time. This was like shearing a sheep in possession of a donkey kick with only a rusty pair of toenail clippers. And no, I am not overdramatizing the situation! 


In two weeks, I removed ninety pages (90!!!), jigsaw puzzled the remaining chunks that were left, and then wrote a brand spanking new sixty-five (65!!!) pages to stitch it all together. And now we’re gearing up for round two. 

The book in question is PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA, coming out in July 2020. It is my first stand alone, a rom-com that I love as intensely as only a mother could. 

In short, it’s a story of self-discovery as our protagonist Chelsea Martin is forced to confront the reality that she has become a raging workaholic with no life when her widowed father announces he’s getting remarried. At her sister’s suggestion, Chelsea decides that in order to find herself again she must go back to the year she spent abroad and find the three men she once loved – Colin in Ireland, Jean Claude in France, and Marcelino in Italy – and try to reconnect with open hearted, happy young woman she once was. Basically, she's looking for a life do-over. 

Here’s an early look at the opening of PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA:

Chapter One
     “I’m getting married.”
     “Huh?” 
     “We’ve already picked our colors, pink and gray.”
     “Um...pink and what?”
     “Gray. What do you think, Chelsea? I want your honest opinion. Is that too retro?”
     I stared at my middle-aged widowed father. We were standing in a bridal store in central Boston on the corner of Boylston and Berkeley streets and he was talking to me about wedding colors. His wedding colors.
     “I’m sorry, I need a sec,” I said. I held up my hand and blinked hard, while trying to figure out just what the hell was happening.
     I had raced here from my apartment in Cambridge after receiving a text from my dad, asking me to meet him at this address because it was an emergency. I was prepared for heart surgery not wedding colors! 
     Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. I wrestled the constricting wool scarf from around my neck, yanked the beanie off my head, and stuffed them in my pockets. I scrubbed my scalp with my fingers in an attempt to make the blood flow to my brain. It didn’t help. Come on, Martin, I coached myself, pull it together. I unzipped my puffy winter jacket to let some air in, then I focused on my father. 
     “What did you say?” I asked.
     “Pink and gray, too retro?” Glen Martin, aka Dad, asked. He pushed his wire frame glasses up on his nose and looked at me as if he was asking a perfectly reasonable question. 
     “No, before that.” I waved my hand in a circular motion to indicate he needed to back it all the way up.
     “I’m getting married!” His voice went up when he said it and I decided my normally staid fifty-five-year-old dad was somehow currently possessed by a twenty-something bridezilla.
     “You okay, Dad?” I asked gently not wanting to set him off. “Have you recently slipped on some ice and whacked your head? I ask because you don’t seem to be yourself.”
     “Sorry,” he said. He reached out and wrapped me in an impulsive hug, another indicator that he was not his usual buttoned down mathematician self. “I’m just…I’m just so happy. What do you think about being a flower girl?”
     “Um…I’m almost thirty.” I tipped my head to the side and squinted at him.
     “Yes, but we already have a full wedding party, and you and your sister would be really cute in matching dresses, maybe something sparkly.”
     “Matching dresses? Sparkly?” I repeated. I struggled for air. It was clear. My father had lost his ever lovin’ mind. I should probably call my sister. Dad needed medical attention, possibly an intervention. Oh, man, would we have to have him committed?
     I studied his face, trying to determine just how crazy he was. The same brown-green hazel eyes I saw in my own mirror every morning held mine, but where my eyes frequently looked flat with a matte finish, his positively glowed. He really looked happy.
     “You’re serious,” I gasped. I glanced around the bridal store that was stuffed to the rafters with big, white fluffy dresses. None of this made any sense and yet here I was. “You’re not pranking me?”
     “Nope.” He grinned again. “Congratulate me, peanut, I’m getting married.”
     I felt as if my chest was collapsing into itself. Never, not once, in the past seven years had I ever considered the possibility that my father would remarry.
     “To who?” I asked. It couldn’t be...nah. That would be insane.
     “Really, Chels?” Dad straightened up. The smile slid from his face and he cocked his head to the side which was his go-to disappointed parent look. 
     I had not been on the receiving end of this look very often in life. Not like my younger sister, Annabelle, who seemed to thrive on “the look”. Usually, it made me fall right in line but not today.
     “Sheri. You’re marrying Sheri.” I tried to keep my voice neutral. Major failure as I stepped backwards, tripped on the trailing end of my scarf and gracelessly sprawled onto one of the cream colored velvet chairs that were scattered around the ultra feminine store. I thought it was a good thing I was sitting because if he answered in the affirmative I might faint. 
     “Yes, I asked her to marry me and to my delight she accepted,” he said. Another happy stupid grin spread across his lips as if he just couldn’t help it.
     “But…but…she won you in a bachelor auction two weeks ago!” I cried. “This is completely mental!”


So, how about you Reds and Readers, have you ever had a time in your life when you wanted a do-over?


51 comments:

  1. Oh, Jenn, this is wonderful! I already like Chelsea and I really, really want to know what happens next . . . .

    Oh, I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve wanted a do-over. There ought to be a way . . . .

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    1. I’m with you, Joan! I have list of do-overs I’d like to do, mostly ill advised hair cuts!

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  2. Hasn’t everyone had the if only I had known thought? More like knowing then what I know now. I would have gotten out and enjoyed my college years more. At least those in Austin. It was a cool place back then.

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    1. I would have lived in HI when I had the chance. Darn it!

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  3. This is going to be such a fun read, Jenn!

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  4. NO FAIR! NO FAIR! I so want to read the rest!!!

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  5. Wonderful Jenn! Those revisions make what I’m doing sounds like peanuts!

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    1. I have to say I find structuring mysteries so much more logical than other types of fiction!

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  6. Jenn, I love it and want more!
    Oh yes, I've wanted a do-over. More than once as a matter of fact.

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  7. You got me, I want to read what's coming next.
    I've spent my life looking forward. The do-over(s) fell onto me along the road and I did my best with those. I do not harbour regrets .

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    1. Regrets are rather pointless but sometimes a solid pivot is a good thing!

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  8. Darn it, Jenn, you big tease. This sounds like a blast.

    It's been fun following along with your progress on this one. But wow, that's a metric buttload of revisions!

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  9. I'm sure the ripping up of pages you put so much work into can't be a fun feeling, but I suppose if it ends up with the book becoming stronger for it, then it all works out in the end!

    Have I ever wanted a do-over? Oh yes indeed. I'm sure there are plenty of times that call for a do-over in my life.

    Of course, the difference is that I know there won't be one forthcoming so I generally let them go. But I will say that there are some things I haven't or won't let go of. This probably holds me back on a personal level but as Bill Murray says, "That's the Fact, Jack!" (Or Jenn has the case is here this morning).

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    1. LOL - my list of desires life do-overs is short but significant and, yes, very hard to let go of some.

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  10. Do over? I learned to say no. After the youngest left for college, I started beating my body at the local rec center gym and writing mystery stories. And we took a long-awaited trip to London.

    Congratulations on steady progress with your revisions.

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    1. Sounds like you were just preparing to launch. Good for you, Margaret!

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  11. Holy crap! That is a LOT of work in just two weeks, Jenn! May I share this post with my college writing students?

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  12. Jenn, you are fabulous! And I cannot read to read this book. As for your revisions, I can’t believe it, but that is just exactly precisely what I am doing. In this revision of this new book coming in August 2020, I have slashed thousands of words, taken out one entire character, and I’m writing brand new things. Whole chapters! It’s… Quite jaw-dropping. But so far, it is —finally—kind of working… I am so shocked! But quite overwhelmed. Good luck! And keep us posted! Xxx

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    1. It’s like the Tetras of writing - not at all my normal method! Hopefully, it proves out.

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  13. On do-overs: nope. I'm a firm believer in the concept of learning lessons from whatever happens.

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  14. Jenn, my writer's heart bleeds for you!! But one of my editor's favorite comments is "I don't think we (as in royal "we") need this here, do you?" This can apply to a sentence, a paragraph, or whole scenes. In Garden of Lamentations I know we cut at least sixty pages. For A Bitter Feast, I was so frazzled I lost count. Just keep at it and it will be fab!

    Adore the excerpt--cannot wait to read this!!!

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    1. Thanks, Debs! LOL on the royal we and editor’s catch phrase.

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  15. Shalom Reds and fans. I would love do-overs. However, I am not sure that even knowing what I know now, if the outcomes would get any better. I like the person that I am now and much of that depends on the grief and heartache that I have caused for myself through the years. Good luck with the rewrites.

    My dad got married when he was about 30 years old. He eloped with my mother. Fifty years later, he married again and that time he also eloped. Everyone got notices in the mail after when it was a fait accompli.

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  16. Jenn, I feel for you. I remember a friend had to cut X many pages from his dissertation--and his wife sat beside him and went through page by page: "How about this one?" until it was done. But unlike that example, you can create something new to rebuild your story, put it together in ways you didn't foresee from the beginning of the journey. So kudos!

    And I feel like a snail, reading my way through the library series now--with how many other series and genres zipping out of your creative mind??

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    1. LOL - my brain definitely operates on a high frequency of chaos! Thank you for reading the library series!

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  17. “But…but…she won you in a bachelor auction two weeks ago!” I cried. “This is completely mental!”
    Oh, my!

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  18. Wow Jenn, sitting on my deck in glorious Fall sun and laughing, laughing, not many books produce that laughter from me. So my wish is for you to be sure and have this done, dusted and out so I can read the rest sitting by my lake next summer. Just wonderful. But you do have my sympathy on your edits, the horrors of which I’m learning from Julia. Do overs; well I got married and moved to the USA, for good as it turned out. It has turned out well too. Why the do over? Well I was on the point of launching myself toward a new career, looking for my own place to live, considering the single life. All that, and I was in my mid twenties. But I gave it up for loove. Still together, I may have mentioned Golden wedding in another comment, so there it is.

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    1. Thank you, Celia! That is quite the significant life do-over. Congratulations on the Golden Anniversary - well done!

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  19. I want to see in my mind Chelsea and sister in sparkly flower girls dresses. I cannot wait to read this book. Like the book already.

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    1. Thank you! Despite copious revisions, it has been a blast to write!

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  20. Jenn, now that is a book I want to read! I love that there are three different men in three different places in Europe! Since I am partial to stories set across the pond, I want to read PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA. There has been too many times in my life when I wish I had a do-over! I learn from these experiences and try not to make these mistakes again.

    Diana

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    1. Thank you, Diana! It was so fun to write a character who actually attempts to do a do-over :) Cathartic!

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  21. Oh, Jenn, this was a great teaser! I can't wait to see how this wedding plays out and how Chelsea's own love life unfolds. I have to say that I'm glad Chelsea has a sister to get through the dad's wedding with. What a shock! This book is going to be a must-read for many.

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    1. I have a feeling her sister Annabelle is going to need her own book :) She turned into such a force of nature character!

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  22. I actually wrote something a couple hours ago but it got stuck when I tried to preview it, so I hope I can remember what said because I'm sure was absolutely profound, she says with a wink and a nudge. ... Your revisions are probably my frogging on the blankets I'm crocheting for Christmas gifts, though I doubt my one or one and a half rows is the same as a chapter but if it turns out to be a whole skein or color change, that might be a chapter. And, yes, there have been I would love that 20/20 hindsight but then I would wonder how my "do over" would affect the others around me. The new book sounds intriguing, just what is that Sheri up to?

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    1. I'm positive it was profound. As a knitter, I understand exactly how you felt. Yarn work has taught me patience and that it's worth it to rip it out and make it writer even if it hurts :)

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  23. Jenn, all I can say is, when you're done revising PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA, I hope you write a short story about the bachelor auction and the two-week courtship. Cause now I want to read that as well as Chelsea's story!

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  24. This book starts off so well I’m intrigued. I wish it were available right now to read. I hope you continue on the stand alone path for I’m sure there are a lot of great books from you to come!!

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  25. I love the first chapter and look forward to reading the whole book. You should be proud of yourself because The Fans of Jenn McKinlay and I are.

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    1. Thank you! I am so honored to have such lovely readers!

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