An idea kept tugging at me for a second mystery. Actually, it was an idea a friend gave me, and I’ve been wanting to use it since Ralph shared it with me. When I first decided that I’d like to write a “house flipper” mystery, I had no idea there were already some out there. I always buy my favorite authors and I’ve looked at a few others–found Jenna Bennett’s Southern Belle mysteries and love them, but didn’t know she wrote a Do-It-Yourself series as Jennie Bentley until I stumbled on one. I’d never watched Hallmark mysteries either until other friends recommended them. And guess what? There’s a fixer-upper house amateur detective on those, too. It’s fun to see how other writers mix niches with murder. Guess it just goes to show that every idea’s probably already been taken, so you just have to write what you want and put your own spin on it.
For my first mystery, I came up with a set-up, a few plot points for each fourth of my book, and an end. Then I sort of winged it. I like how it turned out, but I did a lot of rewrites. This time, I want to take my time and have 40 steps to keep my story afloat. Our friend, Ralph, used to buy old houses and fix them up to rent. He can answer any questions I have about house repairs. I invited him for supper one night–yes, a bribe, and he knew it, so I had to spring for ribeyes–and he had lots of ideas that I would never have thought of.
He said that once, he worked on a house for a few months to divide it into an upstairs and downstairs apartment, and he watched an old man across the street leave his house at the same time every day, walk down the street, and return about an hour later with a grocery bag from the local butcher shop. And then one day, the man didn’t didn’t leave, and Ralph worried about him. He didn’t see the old man for the rest of the week, and he couldn’t believe how relieved he felt when someone dropped him off, along with a suitcase, and the old man returned to his usual routine. That idea stuck with me. So I played with it and came up with an idea for a mystery. I’ve fiddled with that until I have a set-up for the first fourth of my new book.
I like to have a subplot for my books, too, so I’ve mapped out one for Ansel, the contractor who just moved in with my female protagonist, lucky girl. And for the moment, that’s as far as I’ve gotten. But it’s time that I zero in on the criminal. What does he want? And what makes it worth killing for? How is he going to interact with my characters? Can you hear me rubbing my hands together, plotting away?
Ideas aren’t tumbling out of my head, but that’s okay. They’re stewing, and eventually, they’ll end up making a tasty whodunnit.