Thursday, February 6, 2014

What We're Writing--In which Hank takes a step forward

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Imaginary transcript of an actual conversation:

HANK: This is never going to work. I’m not kidding. This is the worst thing ever.

HUSBAND JONATHAN: Honey, you always say that. And the books are always wonderful.

HANK: Well, thanks, but this could be the time it actually doesn’t work.

Jonathan: You always say, that, too.

Hank: (considering) I do? (considering again) But this could be the time it actually doesn’t work. I mean, there’s got to be a time that it doesn’t, and it could be this is it.

Jonathan: You always say that, too.

HANK: And he’s right, I know I do, thanks to my Sue Grafton-inspired writing diary. On January 27, 2012, I wrote in that diary: “I GOT NOTHIN’” (Yes, in all caps.)
And nine months later I had THE WRONG GIRL. (An Agatha and LCC nominee!) So, yeah, proof I was wrong. I love to be wrong.

In January 2013, I wrote in the diary:  “What if I can’t do this?”

Nine months later, I had TRUTH BE TOLD. (Which I LOVE. And which will be out September 30! I am sure, ahem, you will hear more about this...)
Now, in January 2014, I am 15 pages (hurray hurray hurray!) into WHAT YOU SEE.

 I am trying to balance my terror and my excitement, trying to balance my eagerness to see find the story in this book with my absolute knowledge that I have NO IDEA what happens. Pantser city.

Now, I would never do this, usually, but we are all in this together. So here is a true first draft—no, this isn’t even a first daft. It is the crazy banged out work of a person who is just trying to get the words on the page.

 I will fix it later. And nine months from now, we can talk about it again. 

As for now, Reds:  Can you picture his scene?  Hmmm...I haven’t really described anyone. Do I need the word  "replied"? I don't think I need "replied." “Absurdly?”  How should I replace “visitor magnet”?  “Red and white” seems too easy.

Who knows how much of this part of WHAT YOU SEE—if any!--will be the same, nine months from now.  But that’s the exciting part.

                                                      Chapter  1
“Somebody saw something. And most of them took pictures of it.”  Detective Jake Brogan watched the uniforms try to corral the chaos of tourists and brown-bag toting Bostonians as two crime scene units unspooled parallel rolls of yellow tape.  Sirens wailed as three EMTs leaped out of their red and white ambulance, the beeping walk signal insisted clustering pedestrians should cross Congress Street, angry drivers honked their disapproval as newbie police cadets in orange webbing signaled them to stop.
Jake had heard screams through the plate glass front window of the Bell in Hand, left his carry-out roast beef sub on the counter, ran half a block. Found this.  Lunch hour, now placed on hold by murder.  
 “Wall-to-wall spectators, the good news and the bad news.”  Paul DeLuca replied, shaded his eyes with one hand. Scanned the shoulder-to-shoulder circle of onlookers. The two detectives, partners four years now, had split up to grab lunch, D opting for the corner Dunkins. DeLuca still held his iced coffee, third of the day. “Who called 911? Anybody run?”
“What we’re about to find out,” Jake said. “Most cases we catch, nobody saw anything. Here’s the opposite. Almost too many witnesses. That’s a new one.”  
In the center of the sidewalk, in the noontime shadow of the burnished bronze knee of the Mayor Curley statue, some poor soul in a white t-shirt lay face down, his running shoes splayed, a navy blue Sox cap teetering on the concrete, the hilt of a knife protruding absurdly between his shoulder blades.
The medical examiner had radioed Jake she was minutes away. They’d need to dispatch the cleanup team, too. With the fourth of July a month away, the new mayor would go ballistic over the growing puddle of red now staining this concrete pathway along the visitor-magnet Freedom Trail.  So much for the beginning of tourist season.
Across the street, the teeming marketplace behind Faneuil Hall, persistent vendors pushing Sam Adams tri-corns and Boston Strong t-shirts and cheap plastic lobster souvenirs. The visitors who had been unlucky enough to witness this noontime stabbing had just received a souvenir they might want to forget. But not until Jake picked their brains. And their cell phones. 
 “I want names. I want addresses. I want their phones and I want their cameras.” From moment one, Jake knew this would be a mess. Some of these people would lie, some would make stuff up, some would see things that never existed, some would have something to hide. Some would run. Complicating it all, he and DeLuca technically needed a warrant to seize property against a person’s will. If these onlookers knew the law, and gave them grief about it, it’d be even more of a shitshow.  He pointed his partner toward the cadets. “D, you wrangle the new kids. Tell ‘em, don’t let anyone leave.”
“Where’re we gonna put ‘em all?” DeLuca sucked a hit of coffee through a clear straw.  “The Garden? Maybe they can watch Disney on Ice while we get their deets.” 
DeLuca had a point, and even the bleachers of nearby Boston Garden sports arena were not the solution. How could Jake keep fifty or so witnesses, from little kids to one guy in a wheelchair, essentially in custody while a group of inexperienced cadets tried to collect personal information and possessions?  If they’d gone to lunch at Santarpio’s over in Eastie, where Jake had suggested, dispatch might have sent someone else to handle this.

HANK:  SO?  Reds? Does this have possibilities?


  1. Wonderful possibilities. Love the crowd of witnesses and the questions that raises. (Why won't they immediately ID the killer? Why didn't they catch him or her? What if there are people in that crowd who are not finished murdering?)

  2. With an opening line like

    “Somebody saw something. And most of them took pictures of it.” Detective Jake Brogan watched the uniforms try to corral the chaos of tourists and brown-bag toting Bostonians as two crime scene units unspooled parallel rolls of yellow tape.

    AND Santarpios (best pizza ever - also great grilled sausages) how could it not?


  3. OH, hurray hurray.As writers, you guys know how much difference this makes..oh, reassurance. WHy can we never get enough?


  4. Full of possibilities Hank. I already want to know more. ;)

    Can't wait for Truth Be Told, What You See and every book that comes after...

  5. Can't wait, Hank! At first I thought, she's not going to write about the Marathon bombings, is she? Relieved you didn't. Just too heavy, still. Plus, it's not fiction (unfortunately).

  6. Disney on Ice! (Choked on coffee while laughing at that) But seriously, great stuff.

  7. Please, keep writing . . . I definitely want to find out what comes next.
    I loved the opening line and the way the reader is drawn into the initial activities surrounding Jake's investigation. Can't wait to read more!

  8. Jack, in fact you gave me a great idea. Fixing now.

    Nope, Edith, not that. Wonder if they'd refer to it, though? If this book takes place in 2015...

    And yes, Susan, always have to be careful of contemporary references, of course. What if there's no Disney on Ice in 2015? Naw...

  9. Hooray for charging through the fears. And remember, #fixitlater. (Not that I'm telling you this needs fixing; it looks great!)

  10. “Somebody saw something. And most of them took pictures of it.”


    and - I'm hooked! Truly!

  11. It's great -- we jump right into the action, and I love Jake's voice and attitude. I read "Air Time" last week, and noticed something that I have seen in all your books -- a wonderful word motif.

    In "The Other Woman," it was OTHER; in "The Wrong Girl," it was WRONG; in "Air Time," it was ELSE. I wonder what this book's word will be? Do you plan those word patterns?

    As for the queries: instead of "replied" I think it should be something like "informed" or "told."

    What about leaving out the word "statue" when referring to the bronze knee?

    KEEP WRITING, always!!

  12. I love that these characters are coming back in another book. Eagerly awaiting the September 30th debut and glad it's not stopping with a trio.

    My only question is -- what about the lights on the ambulance? The benefit of being married for a firefighter/EMT for two decades. They'd probably use both lights and sirens to get to the victim as quickly and safely as possible.

    As for "red and white" ... maybe the red and white flashing lights complement the paint job?

  13. Does it have possibilities?
    Are you serious? How could it not? Geez, now I've got to wait until *2015*?

    I think you can ditch "replied." I like the image of "absurdly," but I don't know about the word itself. I almost see "oh look, a guy splayed on the pavement. With a knife in his back. Well that's unexpected."

    I kind of like "visitor magnet" or "tourist magnet." But that's just me.

    Brava indeed!

  14. Hank OMG, what a great opening scene. I love the conversations between you and Jonathan that you share with us. It's no wonder you're a great writer if you can make smelling bad milk a tour de force.

    I can't wait for What You See and Truth Be Told.
    I'm sure like Jonathan said it'll be amazing just like all the other novels were. :)

    a fan from the beginning

  15. Oh, HANK! There are so many things I love here. That first line is a keeper. You can’t put it down without reading on to see what he’s talking about.

    Thanks so much for putting yourself and your emotions out there. It makes those of us following behind you feel oh so much better to know that even HANK PHILLIPI RYAN (picture that in marquee lights) has her doubts. Which are totally unfounded and you should abandon immediately. This is great stuff!

    Also, I think “shitshow” is my new favorite word.


  16. Corner of Congress was McD's. Guy in wheelchair " essentially in custody"?? Civil rights? A warrant ? Okay to not have one ? Sliced between the shoulder blades? The restaurant before " Bell in Hand" was a horrible place where I got food poisoning. ( The small long tailed rat moving along the wall should have been my first clue).Police officers now wear Seattle green vests.

  17. Yay, Hank! Possibilities galore!

    And thanks for sharing the pre-firsty first draft in all it's not-so-messy glory.

  18. Oh, most definitely!
    I want more (and right now!) and I think that is a good indicator.
    Go forth and write. We are waiting.

  19. You are a brave woman! I started Chapter 1 page 1 three days ago. There are so many XXXs marking spots to go back and fix it's like an advertisement for a dirty movie. This is great!

  20. Great start, Hank! Lots of possibilities with this and the cameras set up so many things that could happen! Nice!

  21. The scene is so immediate and made me feel like I was standing at Jake's shoulder feeling the weight of the crowd and the work to be done. Awesome!

  22. Great beginning, Hank! Great first line! And you're a very brave person to put it out there--the world's biggest writers' group:-)

    Can't wait to read more!

  23. Well, well, now. This turnedo ut to be unexpectedly wonderful. Thank you! There's much to be said for sitting down at the computer to continue a story people seem to like, right? The extra juice that kind words provide?


  24. Denise ANn, you are talking about one of te wonders of the universe.

    DO I "Plan"? No, not at all. But do I see it happening? At some point, in every book, I do. Sometimes it's not until I'm finished.

    I adore it, every time. I'm always baffled and delighted with what the universe of our subconscious seems to create.

    Aren't you?

  25. Debbie Haupt..yes, indeed, we are in it together, sister.

    And Tammy K! #fixitlater ! I say it to myself EVERY DAY.

    LynnDee...xoxoo :-)

  26. As a reader and not a writer, just this little bit seems so familiar and draws me in. Can't wait. Hurry up and finish!

  27. I have come back and re-read these commments too many times. Just saying..

  28. Hank, I love the conversation between you and your husband. How nice to have a calming hand when one is being unreasonably frantic (because as your husband and we readers know, everything you write reflects your dedication to the highest quality writing and storytelling). I use my husband as a sounding board for the worst possible scenarios, too, and he calmly refutes such outcomes.

    It's so exciting to know that we have two more great books on their way to our reading nooks.

    Possibilities? Oh, yes.

    “Somebody saw something. And most of them took pictures of it.” Detective Jake Brogan watched the uniforms try to corral the chaos of tourists and brown-bag toting Bostonians as two crime scene units unspooled parallel rolls of yellow tape.

    Such a great opening. And, of course, you had me, a lover of alliteration, at "corral the chaos." Police often lament the unreliability of eye witness accounts, and you have magnified that problem tenfold. Now, that's interesting. Jake Brogan is so cool. I hope your doubts have been squashed.

    Oh, and I just saw where I won North of Boston, and I will send you my address, Hank. I have this one on my Amazon wish list as one of the books I wanted to order next. Excited I am!

  29. You pulled me right in with that first line, Hank, and I didn't want to leave that scene.

  30. Wow, Hank! That's a terrific not-even-first-rough-draft. Just finished The Wrong Girl and LOVED it!! So eager for the next installment :)

  31. Oh, gee! I find that I NEED to know WHO called 911! There you are with the suspense already, Hank! And I also got a creepy feeling about all the people who would take pictures of a victim; it seems so cold.

    I can't wait to read the entire book.

  32. And somebody took picture of it . . .

    And as your cops and cadets try to collect it, it is being posted on net as we speak.

    Sounds fantastic! Terri

  33. "This is never going to work. I’m not kidding. This is the worst thing ever."

    I love that even Hank Phillipi Ryan-who from where I sit has everything going for her-still has moments of doubt.

  34. Fantastic, Hank! And as soon as I read Jake's name, I was already hooked...can't wait for another book in this series!! :)

  35. Thank you so much, you all! My fear and trepidation are completely erased! For today at least.. :-)

    And I am incredibly grateful for your enthusiasm and encouragement. You've given me good ideas and much reassurance.. I am so grateful..

  36. OK, I'm hooked - can't wait for the published (and signed, hint, hint) book!

  37. Love it, Hank, but I'm still puzzled over why Jake left his sandwich if it was "carry-out"? Nowhere to stuff it? Almost done? Deluca clearly didn't get so strung-out that he left his coffee..and he seems to be taking it all pretty much without stressing over it. Great dichotomy of characters there, but maybe something to show the dilemma (Fish or cut bait - take the sandwich or leave it, one more bite? maybe it's not so good? I think I'd have him take it, even if he doesn't get to eat it anymore - can have him throw it away later, sad to do so, such a waste, you know.)