Monday, June 17, 2013

On What We're Writing...

LUCY BURDETTE: Okay I'm writing madly, frantically down the home stretch to my June 30 deadline, trying not to fall into plot holes and character stereotypes. So the idea of coming up with a creative blog topic had me quivering. Until I had the idea--yes--let's tell the tiniest snatches of what we're writing. We promise you, these words are likely to change--for the better hopefully--but here's a sneak peek into what's whirling in our brains.

From MURDER WITH GANACHE, coming February 2014:

"This is the Key West police. Come out with your hands up," shouted a fierce voice, its volume magnified by a megaphone. "Trained police dog here. Put down your weapon and come out or we let him run."
    The man in the room with us fired his gun through the door and both Daisy and I screamed. I pressed her to the ground, my body shielding hers, my ears ringing painfully in the silence after the blast.
    "Back off or I kill them both," our man yelled.

(Me Lucy again--can you tell I'm using what I learned in my Citizens Police Academy?)

HALLIE EPHRON: Wow! Love it, Lucy. (But what are they having for dessert??)

So here's the opening of my novel, working title NIGHT NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT, coming out some time after I finish writing it...

Arthur Unger slides open the glass door and steps out onto his flagstone patio. He's had a few drinks but he doesn't feel them. It's late at night, and though the sky is clear and there's no moon, there are no stars, either. There never are. Between ambient light and air pollution, he'd have to drive to Mount Baldy to see Orion's Belt. The sky is . . . he gazes up at it. Opaque? Pitch black? Inky? He shrugs. His ex-wife wrote their scene descriptions. He was always the plotmeister, architect to her decorator, though at that moment he thinks it's obvious what's going to happen next.

RHYS BOWEN: I have just started a new Royal Spyness book (Queen of Hearts) this week so anything I share here is subject to being ripped apart and substituted but here is my current opening paragraph.

I was sitting in white wicker chair under a spreading chestnut tree on a manicured lawn. Behind me the stately battlements of Kingsdowne Place, seat of the Dukes of Eynsford were reflected in the perfect mirror of the lake, its surface ruffled only by a pair of gliding swans. Before me was a tea table, groaning under tiers of cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches, strawberries and cream, eclairs, Victoria sponges, petit fours and scones with clotted cream. It was about the most perfect afternoon one could wish for, one of those rare English summer days when the only sounds are the buzzing of bees among the roses, the clickety clack of a distant lawnmower and the thwack of ball on bat at the cricket match down in the village.

LUCY BURDETTE: Oh, I love these! Hallie, you don't usually write in first person, do you? And Rhys, can we all come for tea? I'm sure that beautiful scene is going to be blasted to smithereens soon though...(and PS Hallie, they are having chocolate ganache for dessert in my book, of course...)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Well, THE WRONG GIRL comes out in September, and I am so excited! But I am in the midst of what MIGHT be titled TRUTH BE TOLD. And this opening is EARLIER than a first draft. It's just--MAYBE what it might be.

(And it is incredibly fascinating to see how different we all are!)

“I know it’s legal. But it’s terrible.” Jane Ryland winced as the Sandoval’s pale wooden bedframe hit the tall grass in the overgrown front yard and shattered into three jagged pieces. “The cops throwing someone’s stuff out the window. I mean, please.  It’s right out of Dickens, you know? Eviction? There’s got to be a better way.”

Terrible facts and great pictures.  A perfect newspaper story.  She turned to Casey. “You got that on camera, right?”

Casey didn’t take his eye from the viewfinder. “Rolling and recording,” he said.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: You gals are much braver than I am. I would never dream of showing any early versions to anyone.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Here's part of a scene from To Dwell in Darkness, due out sometime in 2014. This is in my "Unplaced Scenes" in Scrivener, so not sure yet where it will go, or even if it will stay in the book, but I like it.

--Wren. The girl from nowhere. Too thin, although they didn’t suffer lack in the flat in the Caledonian Road. With her wispy brown hair that never stayed in place and eyes the color of dark honey, she did make him think of a small brown bird. Her movements were quick, too, and often eerily quiet. When he’d asked her, early on, if that was her real name, she’d just smiled and said, “I was given it,” leaving him to wonder what she meant.
She never talked about herself. Not that everyone in the Caledonian Road gave out a potted history—and even if they did it didn’t mean it was true—but Wren said less than anyone. But they shed clues just as they shed skin and hair, unconsciously. A word here, a word there, a reference to a mother or a father or a sister or something that had happened at school. But not Wren.
He started to watch her, first with a copper’s curiosity, because she was a challenge, a puzzle to be solved. She was a Londoner, he was sure of that from her accent. Middle-class. But then they were mostly a middle-class bunch, living in pseudo-squalor, and he thought that any of them could have gone home to beds more comfortable than sleeping bags on the flat’s old board floors. Except Wren.
And then he began to watch not just out of idle curiosity, but because he realized he liked her. They all had motives, this bunch, they always did. Rebellion, idealism, a need to be different, a need to be noticed. But Wren, Wren simply was, and he thought he’d never known anyone with such a talent for living in the moment.--

Rhys (Debs here again,) I want to live in the opening scene from your Georgie book:-)

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Well, I have just barely begun working on the 9th Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne book. I've been spending lots of time researching popular culture and policing as they were in 1952 and 1970, and trying to figure out the crime - always the hardest part for me! I usually start with an image and work out from there. The picture in my head for this one (tentatively titled HID FROM OUR EYES) is the body of a young woman left naked in the middle of a country road in the small hours of the night. How she got there and why, I have no idea. Yet. The (also tentative) beginning:

It always starts with a birth. And a death. The old man held the paper in his hand and weighed the two ideas in his head. Birth. Death. He had known some hippy chick back in the day who’d been into Indian religions. She had told him the goddess Kali was the goddess of both birth and death, because every life brought into the world carried its own ending. What she didn’t say – and hell, maybe the Indians had already figured this out and she just didn’t know it – was that every death was also, potentially, a birth. A new life for somebody. Freedom, money, the end of guilt and shame – there was a lot of stuff came through the back door when the body was carried out the front.

He folded the paper and stood up slowly. He had arrangements to make. It was time to go home.


  1. Okay, ladies . . . thank you so much for the wonderful sneak peeks. Now we just need all of you to write a bit faster so that we can read the rest of each of your books. Waiting is sooooo hard . . . .

  2. “Are we holding a dinner here or not?” A peremptory voice resounded from the wide doorway of the barn at Produce Plus Plus Farm. Irene Burr seemed to fill the space despite her petite size. Back as straight as a tomato stake and not a silver hair out of place, she wore her signature cream-colored slacks, a sweater in pale peach, and a shimmering woven shawl.
    Cameron Flaherty gulped. It was the first Farm-to-Table dinner at her farm, and here she was flirting with the chef in the temporary kitchen he'd set up in the barn instead of tending to one of her most irritable customers.

  3. So much fun to see the process as it happens. There isn't a book here that I wouldn't continue reading.

  4. What Joan said!

    And, Rhys, I hope Georgie actually gets to eat something! It seems that whenever she is finally around decent food, the company is so august that manners keep her from ever getting to eat, and I worry about her health. ;-)

  5. My books usually change A LOT between where I am now with this draft and the final copy. But the opening, more often than not, stays the same.

    Love Debs's opening line: The girl from nowhere.

  6. Yay, we also have Edith's opening for her next Local Foods mystery! I hope any of the other back bloggers who have a book or story in the works will share as well.

    I'm fascinated by how different all our styles are. Hallie, is that opening in third person present? That's an amazing style but hard to maintain. Are you using it throughout NIGHT NIGHT SLEEP TIGHT?

  7. Oh, and echoing everyone else: I want to live in Georgie's world as well. I suppose there are still bees and roses and the sound of cricket bats in England today, even if one has to forgo the army of servants who were undoubtedly responsible for the tea-time spread.


  8. Oh Oh Oh - I am loving these sneak peeks - thank you!

    Here's mine (VERY, VERY rough first draft. VERY rough)- the next WHIMSEY.

    Olivia's artist's eye didn't miss a detail from the bright green shoes Bay and Ethan Tatnall's new little baby wore on the tiniest feet Olivia had ever seen, to the pink and red strappy stilettos Emma was wearing. Pink and red stilettos with a vintage wedding gown. Who but Emma could carry it off, let alone even consider doing it. But carry it off she did. The Madeleine Vionnet ivory bias-cut crepe de chine gown skimmed Emma's tall lean body as though it had been made for her, but Olivia remembered it as being one of the many dresses carefully stored in the attic of the big house. When Elizabeth Calhoun had the house built one of the things she took great pride in was having an entire section properly fitted for the many trunks of vintage clothing she had collected during her long, and somewhat outrageous, life."

  9. Loved reading today's blog! I love to see how opening scenes come together. I'm one of those folks who has to be grabbed right away otherwise I close the book. And all of these got my attention.

  10. Oh my, today's blog is a reader's heaven! Thank you so much, ladies. Really, Thank You.

  11. “Green, green, green! We are green for the Rolex 24 at Daytona!”

    All eyes in Daytona International Speedway focused on the 54 racecars sweeping under the green flag. As they crossed the start/finish line, the official Rolex clock began its twenty-four hour countdown.

    I watched the camera feeds in pit lane from the front of a crowd three deep. Any Sandham Swift Racing team member not on top of the pit cart crowded around our bank of monitors. Pressing forward. Straining to monitor every twitch and bobble of our two Sandham Swift Corvettes as they negotiated the melee.

    I exhaled, feeling the release of tension up and down pit lane as the field negotiated the narrow, tricky Turn 1 with no accidents.

    (from the in-progress Kate Reilly Racing Mystery #3 ... maybe called BLACK FLAGGGED?)

    (And I love the peak into your ideas and process--thanks for sharing!)

  12. Thanks for inviting our friend to post too Julia, I meant to, but brain is fried!

  13. OMG, "peek," not "peak." (That's mortifying.) I blame the lack of caffeine.

  14. Oh, this is so fascinating! TaLk about voice..each one is completely dinffernt.

    Tammy, I think BLACK FLAGGED is wonderful!

  15. Oh, such fun!! I love them all, and everyone's is so different!!! We should have had a contest:-)

  16. You are so smart, Julia! I'm using it in the opening because Arthur is a screenwriter... and thinks present tense which is how screenplays are written. For reasons that I won't spill, the rest of the book is NOT present tense.

    Wondering if your "old man" continues narrating in the book or if, like my Arthur, not.

  17. Love getting the sneak peeks into everyone's WIP! I want to read them all NOW. And Julia, you gave me shivers with the line--"there was a lot of stuff came through the back door when the body was carried out the front."

    This is the current, probably-to-be-changed opening of what might be called EVERY HIDDEN FEAR, which has a looming deadline that's giving me headaches--even though I know I'll make it...

    I had dead leaves and cobwebs in my hair and stuck to my face. I couldn't wipe them away because my glove-covered hands were digging wet leaf slime out of the gutters while my tough old grandmother scolded me for letting my house get into such bad shape. I'd had better afternoons chasing down murderers.

    I'd planned on a quiet, restful day for a change since Brian was off with friends. I'd thought I might read a book for pleasure or sit on the front porch and knit in the unseasonably warm weather. Until I caught that hardheaded old woman up on a ladder, getting ready to clean my gutters. Eighty years old and climbing a ladder as if she had no more sense than a squirrel! So nothing would do but to give up my peaceful afternoon and climb up to do the job myself with Her Toughness holding the ladder steady and calling out orders, complaints, and warnings.

  18. Once again Georgie doesn't get to stuff her face at the tea party, due to an unforeseen interruption. How we make our characters suffer--but since she's about to cross the Atlantic in first class she's not complaining too much.

    And I love all those opening scenes. Write faster, everyone!

  19. Teasers, appetizers...I don't know what to call them, but I can't wait for the finished products!

  20. All of the teases make me want to read every book.

    This is the beginning of the first book in my new series, the Second Chance Cat mysteries, written as Sofie Ryan.

    "Elvis was sitting in the middle of my desk when I opened the door to my office. The cat, not the King of Rock and Roll, although the cat had an air of entitlement about him sometimes, as though he thought he was royalty. He had one jet-black paw on top of a small cardboard box, my new business cards, I was hoping."

  21. That was awesome--to see established novelists in pre-pub action like that. Thanks!

  22. OMG! These are also good! Wow! I can't wait to read them all.

    And, Rhys… Steve just brought home smoked salmon. Guess what we'll be having this afternoon. xo

  23. Speech-to-text fills me today… should read:

    "OMG! What a great idea for a post when you're super busy Lucy/Roberta. These are all so good! Wow! I can't wait to read them all.

    And, Rhys… Steve just brought home smoked salmon. Guess what we'll be having this afternoon. xo"

  24. oy giving up on this speech-to-test today

  25. It's a the best thing for the ladies. Any time depending many other things.