For Better or For Worse

My HH (handsome husband) and I celebrated our anniversary in August.  47 years together, and we still like each other.  A few of the couples we get together with have already hit the big 5-0.  When our friends got married, they signed up for the long haul.  It didn’t work out for a couple of them, but it’s not because they didn’t try.

I always say that I’m not an especially romantic person.  HH is.  He loves to buy me flowers, loves it when he finds jewelry he thinks I’ll like.  (I can only wear rings anymore.  Metal makes my skin itch and swell.)  He buys cards that drip with sentimentality.  Me?  I love to cook for him, to see him happy.  But mushy?  It’s not in me.  When I wrote romances, though, it was fun watching two people who were drawn to each other work to get it right.  There were missteps, of course, and false starts, but by the end of the book, they’d worked things out.  And they only had one book to do it in.  Each novel had to end with a happy ever after.

Now that I’m writing a mystery series, I can take more time.  In Body in the Attic, Jazzi and Ansel work with each other.  He has a live-in girlfriend, but when she says Jump, she expects him to ask How high?  Ansel’s an easy-going guy, but he has his limits.  And Emily pushes them.  When she finally pushes him too far, Ansel’s a free man.  And a drop dead gorgeous one, too.  At six-five with white-blond hair and blue eyes, he’s one of Norway’s best exports.  By the end of the book, (and this won’t ruin any great surprise), he and Jazzi move in together.  He wants to get married.  She wants to wait.  She thinks she’s just the rebound girl, and after he licks his wounds for a while, he’ll move on.  But, hey, in the meantime, why not have a little fun?

If you’ve read Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series or Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson novels, you know that it takes a few books for the hero and heroine to finally get it together.  For a lot of readers, once the protagonist and her love interest make it official–one way or another–the stories get even better.  It’s fun to see them working as a couple.  But not for everyone.  For some readers, making the two a couple takes the edge off both of their personalities.  To each, his own.  But for me, endless flirting and misunderstandings get on my nerves.  I get tired of the mating ritual and want them to get it right or move on.  But then, as I said, I’m not a romantic.  And I guess I’m not all that patient either:)  But throwing Jazzi and Ansel together was fun.  And I don’t have to resolve everything in one book.  I have more in the series to go . . .

Happy writing, everyone!


Chapter 35’s up

Chapter 35

Wouldn’t you know it?  Just when things opened up for him, Randie was busy.  When Lucas got off work on Monday night, he called his brother, Dylan.  December had started out mild, not even the hint of a snowflake.  But it never lasted.  The weatherman was predicting two inches of the white stuff later this week, which reminded Lucas that Christmas was right around the corner.

“Don’t know about you,” Lucas said, “but I haven’t bought the kids’ Christmas presents yet.  Want to come with me to shop for them, and then we can grab something to eat?”

“I just got home.”  Dylan sounded rushed.  He must have just walked through the door.  “Give me a minute to change before you pick me up.”

“See you soon.”  Lucas spent a few minutes playing with Hercules, tossing and tugging on his braided rope, before feeding him and heading to Dylan’s apartment.  The chihuahua hated it when he came home and then left a short time later, but Lucas wouldn’t make this a late night.  He and the dog would be on the sofa, watching TV in the early evening.

It was only a fifteen-minute drive to Dylan’s.  His brother lived in an apartment complex close to Toby.  The real reason for him living there, though, was the nearby city park.  Dylan loved being outdoors and in Nature.  Lucas had tried to talk him into buying a piece of property outside of the city, but Dylan had decided it would be too lonely.  In the city, he could walk nature trails and still be around people.  Not that he’d ever interact with them.  He might like to see other people, but he tended to avoid them.

Dylan’s apartment felt claustrophobic to Lucas, but his brother rarely spent time there.  He was usually out and about, alone.  Lucas often wished that Dylan would find his Miss Right, someone who was as warm and caring as he was, but who enjoyed solitude.  He had no idea how that could happen, though, when he mostly kept to himself.

When Lucas pulled in front of Dylan’s apartment, his brother walked out the door, pulling on his wool coat.

“Getting colder,” he said.  “Supposed to get snow later this week.”

“Got anything in mind to buy the kids?” Lucas asked.

“Dulcey told me she’d bought them a few big things, and she was hoping we’d buy a lot of stocking stuffers and small things for them to open.”

With a nod, Lucas headed to the outdoor mall on the southwest side of town.  There were a few stores that would have toys.  The bookstore was there, too, and he thought he’d buy them a few books and some puzzles and games.  On the way, it occurred to him that he’d like to buy Randie a present, too.  Not jewelry.  That was too serious.  And no candy or flowers.  Too mushy.  And then he thought of it.  She talked about cookbooks with reverence.  There was a new one she wanted but hadn’t bought yet.  He’d buy her that, along with a few cooking magazines.

Dylan startled him out of his thoughts.  “I met a really nice woman today.”

Dylan?  A woman?  “Where?”

“I’m plumbing this new house—a huge place—and the owners hired Amelia to paint three murals on the walls.  She came to see the spaces and take measurements.”

“How old is she?”  He shouldn’t get his hopes up.  Amelia was an older name.  Maybe she had gray hair and eight grandchildren.

“Early thirties?  She has this short, sandy-colored hair that bounces around her face like little springs.  It looked like if you pulled on one, it would curl right back again.”

When had Dylan ever described a woman’s hair before?  “Is she nice?”

“She almost felt other-worldly, like she didn’t see things the way the rest of us do.”

“Is that a good thing?”

Dylan smiled.  “I liked it.”

“Would you ever ask her out on a date?”  He was treading on thin ice, but he could at least throw the idea out there.

“A date?”  Dylan looked startled.  “No, but we’re going to meet by the big sycamore tree at the park.  Amelia’s never been there and she wants to see it.  She paints and sells a lot of nature scenes.”

“So, she probably tromps around as much as you do?”

“She goes out every weekend to take pictures of different things that strike her fancy.  Then if they tug at her, she paints them.”

“Every weekend, huh?  She must be single.”

“I guess so.”

Lucas ticked things off in his mind.  Curls.  An artist.  Single.  “You’ve gone to a lot of odd places to hike. I bet you have some ideas she could use.”

“We talked about that.”

Lucas decided to leave it alone.  If he pressed too much, he might scare Dylan off.  They moved on to work topics before he pulled into the entrance to the mall.  They spent the next hour and a half shopping.  When they finished, Jordy and Beth would have lots of things to unwrap under the tree and some fun gifts in their stockings.  Lucas was especially happy with yoyos that lit up when you used them.  And he’d have a present for Randie he thought she’d like.  He’d ended up buying her four cookbooks and as many food magazines.  She’d told him she loved to flip through recipes.

They stopped at Five Guys to buy a quick burger before Lucas drove Dylan home.  When he finally got back to his own place, he was feeling pretty satisfied with the world.  Nothing might come of Dylan meeting Amelia, but then again, it might.

He and Hercules settled on the sofa, content to watch mindless TV and chill together.  He wouldn’t see Randie again until Sunday, but after that, they both had some free time.  Soon, school would be out and she wouldn’t have to get up to go to work in the mornings.  He usually had down time the week before Christmas, too.  People didn’t schedule repairs when their kids were home for the holidays, and any new building projects could wait.  If he played his cards right, maybe he could talk her into spending the night.

Not Enough

I got notes back from one of my critique partners.  More red than usual.  I wasn’t surprised.  I was trying to change an old–and not so wonderful–writing habit.   I’m more than happy to write:  She smiled.  He frowned.  And more times than should be humanly possible: He sighed.  A friend at writers’ club called me on it.  “We can do better than this, can’t we?”

Yes, yes, I can, but only if I work at it.  The problem?  My brain only seems capable of concentrating on so much.  In this book, I wanted to step up my tags and step up my pacing.  And as usual, things I normally do fairly well sagged a bit from neglect.  Not the end of the world.  Red ink circles show me what I need to fix.   Thank you, Mary Lou!

On my next book, my learning curve should go more smoothly.  The old and new should blend better.  AND, I should have enough ideas, witnesses, victims, and suspects to reach 70,000 words without panicking.  Plotting mysteries, for me, takes more than plotting romances.  Now, I know, I’m addicted to plotting when a lot  of my friends don’t even have to bother with it.  But for my mysteries, I’m not plotting enough.

I’m not sure why, but if I came up with 40 chapter ideas for the urban fantasies I wrote a long, long time ago as Judith Post, I could pound out 80,000 words if I wanted to, no problem.  Urban fantasy craves more description, battles that escalate the longer the book goes, and strong characters.  All things that demand words, so that word count grows organically.  It just happens.  It flows.

When I switched to writing romances as Judi Lynn, I used the same format–40 plot points, but this time, I only needed 70,000 words.  For romance, characters interacting with each other made up the majority of the words I used.  And 40 plot points morphed pretty well into 70,000 words for me.  The same hasn’t held true for mysteries.  I sang a sad dirge when I reached the end of this book’s first draft and was 10,000 words short.   I struggled to hit 70,000 words for my first mystery, too.

Now, I have friends who can cough up 100,000 words with no plot points with no problem.  And yes, I’m jealous.  They’re wonderful people, or I wouldn’t like them anymore.  But every writer’s different, and for me, starting a book with no plot points is like traveling across country with no maps or GPS.  I’d be lost all the time and take a winding, unusual route.  I might never reach my destination.

When I write mysteries, I’ve found that my chapters are shorter.  And I need more subplots.  I also need more suspects.  In this book, I introduced a perfect suspect and then didn’t do anything with him.  I gave him an alibi before I found the next body.  Shame on me.  When I figured out I’d made a mistake, I had to go back and add him in more scenes, and then, I had enough pages.  But going back and threading in scenes is a pain in the derriere, so I don’t want to do that again, if I can avoid it.  So, for my next mystery, I want to have 50 plot points before I forge ahead with the book.  And I want to list the victim/s, family members affected by the murder/s, witnesses, suspects, and anyone who might interfere with finding the killer.   And who knows?  Maybe I’ll end up with more words than I expected.  But at least, I’ll have plenty of material to work with.

Whatever you’re writing, and however you write, have fun with it!  I’ll be deep into editing this week.   Happiness is making words better!

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