Here’s What I’m Working On

I’ve talked about Not A Ghost of a Chance so much that a few people are curious about it. I sat down on Monday and went through the questions I use when I write a mystery to get characters and motives straight in my mind. It made a BIG difference. I can see how things are lining up now. I’ve listed the questions I use before, but here they are again in case you missed them. They help me. Might not help you.

Things to Think About For a Mystery:

1.  Who is killed (at least, the first person) or what is the crime?

2.  Who commits it?  And how?  (step by step so no holes or confusion)

3.  WHY Is it committed?

4.  Who are the suspects and why?  (At least two, more’s better)

5.  Any witnesses?  Does someone see something that looks suspicious?  Any innocent bystanders?

6.  What’s the ending?  (I always know this before I write)

7.  Any special clue or red herring?  Any alibis or fake alibis?  Accusations?  False arrests?

8.  A subplot (something going on with a character other than the crime)

9.  A smaller subplot.

Fun if you can add:

1.  Someone who lies.

2.  A strong antagonist.

3.  A really interesting villain.

4.  Something that LOOKS like one thing but is another.

Anyway, the plot finally fell into place for me. But I thought it would be fun to share the first chapter with you to see what you think about it. So, here it is:




Chapter 1

Loretta Thomas sipped coffee at the small table in her kitchen that overlooked the backyard.  She watched a squirrel scamper down the maple tree and cross the grass to the bird feeders.  She’d filled a net feeder with unshelled peanuts and watched him pry one out to eat—a pleasant distraction from the horrible newspaper heading on the front page.  A retired police detective had been shot to death in his own driveway.  Criminals were so brazen these days.  The roaring twenties were over.  Mobsters didn’t run the streets.  Who’d go to a former cop’s house and shoot him while he was walking to his car?  It was disgusting.

She finished her coffee and started upstairs to get dressed for the day, admiring Ira’s art collection as she climbed the steps.  Her husband had loved impressionist painters, and he was rich enough to buy some of the best of the day.  She missed him, bless his heart.  But then his heart was the problem, wasn’t it?  It gave out on him.  They’d come home from a cocktail party two years ago, and he’d died climbing the stairs to the front door.  Just keeled over. 

Sighing, she walked down the long hallway to her bedroom.  She was going to attend a meeting for the fine arts today.  That would make Ira happy.  He believed the arts enriched a community.  Should she wear her silk shift or her linen pantsuit?  Decisions, decisions. 

Ira had left her extremely well off.  He’d always sworn that he trusted her business insights more than most of his associates’.  He said she had a natural acumen to make a profit.  The dear man.  He thought everything she did was wonderful.  And she thought the same of him.

She sat on the bed to pull on nylons.  She couldn’t get used to the idea of bare legs with a dress.  That’s what the young girls did these days, but at sixty-three, she didn’t want to.  She stood to yank the hose over her hips when suddenly, something shimmered in front of her, started to form, then faded, then shimmered again until a translucent man was standing in front of her.

The nerve.  How rude.  “Excuse me!”  Her grandmother had been a spiritualist, and she’d assured Loretta that ghosts couldn’t harm the living, but that didn’t mean she wanted to bother with one.  “What are you doing in my bedroom?”

The man looked flustered, then cleared his throat.  “I’m so sorry.  I wasn’t paying attention.  I was concentrating on trying to form.  I’ve wanted to make myself known to you for a few hours.  I’m new at this, couldn’t manage it downstairs.”

She tugged her robe over her slip, then raised a dark eyebrow.  Her lush, shoulder-length hair was still shiny and black.  She had a few lines around her eyes but no serious wrinkles yet.  She’d been praised as a beauty.  That’s what caught Ira’s eye, and she was still attractive.  At least, that’s what men told her, but she didn’t pay much mind to their compliments.  Her heart had, and always would, belong to Ira.  Hands on hips, she demanded, “Who are you?  And why are you here?”

Even as a ghost, the man was rumpled, not tall and elegant like her late husband.  Probably five-ten and stocky, he looked like he’d been tossed in a burlap bag and rolled about.  His salt-and-pepper hair was thinning, and his chin and jaw jutted out, reminding her of a bulldog.  “I’m Detective Deadeye Harrison.  I knocked on a building’s door to question someone, and the man who opened it shot me.”

She frowned.  “I remember you.  You were the star of the city’s police force, solving more cases than anyone else.”

“Until someone murdered me.  Don’t know who.  I looked at the gun instead of the man’s face.  And now that the cops are reopening the old case my partner and I were working on, someone killed him, too.”

“The retired detective who was walking to his car?”

Harrison nodded.  “That’s when I was called back.  One minute, I was in bliss.  I can’t remember where or what I was doing, I just know I was totally happy, worry free.  And then I was standing over Jorgenson’s body in his driveway.  His Ruth was crying, and a cop was standing with her, trying to comfort her.  The scene of crime guys were already working, and neighbors had come to stand in their front yards to watch.  But no one could see or hear me.  And then I was here.”

Loretta stared, confused.  “Why here?  I don’t know you.  Did you know my Ira?”

“Ira.  That must be it.  When I stared down at Jorgensen, I remembered Ira Ransburger was the last person I talked to when I was alive.  I came here, to your house, to question him about who was on his board of directors.  I left to follow up on what he told me, and I died at your husband’s office building.”

She took a deep breath, her brows furrowed.  “Do you think one of the men on Ira’s board of directors shot you?”

Harrison held up his hands in surrender.  “It could have been a janitor, for all I know.  I don’t remember that much about the case we were working on.”

She pursed her lips in thought.  “Whatever it was upset Ira.  So did your death.  He wanted to know if someone he trusted killed you, and he tried to talk to your partner, Jorgenson, but that didn’t get him very far.  He even hired an outside person to go over the company’s books, but they were in good shape.  He finally gave up.  He couldn’t find anything to connect the company to your death.”

Harrison floated aimlessly around the room.  “That means no one was skimming the books.  What else could connect someone who worked for your husband to my murder?”

She gave an unladylike snort.  “You’re asking me?  That’s what Ira used to do, come home and brainstorm.  Let me think.  My husband did a lot of imports and exports.  Maybe someone was using that for nefarious purposes?  Illegal drugs?  Arms?  Information?  A spy?  Human trafficking?  Oh, please don’t let it be that.  Ira would just die.”  She paused.  “I mean, if he wasn’t already dead, but that would be the lowest of the low to him.”

Harrison smiled, listening to her.  “You had a great marriage, didn’t you?”

“One of the best.  He wanted me to be happy, and I wanted him to be happy, too.  He was a wonderful husband, but more than that, he was an honorable man.”

Harrison grew quiet, thoughtful.  “I remember that about him.  When I questioned him, I knew he was telling the truth, and I knew if someone was misusing his company, he’d want to ferret out who it was.”

“And then someone killed you.”  She glanced at the clock on the nightstand.  “Oh, lord, I have to go!  I have a meeting in half an hour.  We have a security system for the house, so you shouldn’t have even been able to get in.  But then…”  She paused.  “Cameras must not pick up ghosts.  Go watch TV or whatever ghosts do when people can’t be with them.  I have to get dressed and leave.”

His image flickered and he looked uncertain.  “I don’t know what ghosts do.  I’ve never been one before.”

“Sorry, but you have to figure that out on your own.  Get out of here so I can get dressed.  I’ll be back late this afternoon.”

“Can I come back, too?”

She sighed.  “If you must.  Ira wouldn’t be happy if I left you hanging.”   Then she had to laugh at herself.  “But that’s what you do anyway, isn’t it?”

He gave her a deathly stare.  He was too new as a ghost. 

She yawned.  “Not very impressive.  You need to work on that.”

Darn woman!  She wouldn’t give a ghost a break.  “I’ll be going now.”  And he blinked out of the room. 

She wasn’t sure where he went, but she didn’t have time to worry about it.  She pulled the silk shift over shoulders, patted on a minimum of makeup, and hurried out of the house.

9 thoughts on “Here’s What I’m Working On

  1. I like your questions for plotting a mystery. Ack, reading them makes me realize what a planster I am. One of these I should give something like your list a shot and maybe I won’t be pulling my hair out at the midway point of writing, LOL.

    Nice intro chapter. Not a Ghost of a Chance looks like it’s going to be a fun ride!

    Liked by 1 person

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