Well, here’s something new for me — working on two books at the same time. One is a work in progress and the other is a novel I wrote a long time ago. There’s a good reason for it, and I don’t mind saying it’s fun to be plunked into two different worlds.
The first book is Killing the Story, the fourth in the Isabel Long Mystery Series. Isabel Long, my protagonist and the rather sassy narrator of this series, has been hired to solve the death of the editor and co-owner of a small town newspaper.
Years ago, Estelle Crane slipped on some ice walking home one night from the newsroom and died from the fall. Everyone thought it was an accident. But then her son, who took over the paper, recently found a briefcase with papers that makes him feel otherwise.
I will share a secret: I solve the mystery along with Isabel. No outlines for me. That’s what happened with my other books. And although two-thirds of the way through, I am still figuring it out.
Could it be the town’s crooked police chief that has a history with Estelle’s family? How about his son, who’s on the force, or the nosy newcomer who was after Estelle to dig up some dirt via anonymous letters? Maybe it’s somebody else that Isabel — and me — have overlooked.
With my job as editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper, this book is taking me longer to write. To catch up on the gaps in writing, I print out a hard copy and get out the red pen.
But I have set myself a deadline of April 1, so full speed ahead.
Now, to the second book, Northern Comfort, which I wrote in 2007. My agent then came really close to getting it published. Sigh.
Northern Comfort, which I would call a literary novel, is about the dark side of a rural “New England town, holding onto its traditions of making maple, playing old-time music, and keeping family secrets.” That’s from the query letter I wrote.
It’s a heavy book that begins when a child dies in a sledding accident. His death brings together three people: his mother, the man whose sled killed him, and the father who had abandoned him.
When I picked up Northern Comfort recently, I found myself moved by the story. Yes, it is my work, but it had been a long time since I had read it, and I had forgotten my characters and the weight of the words I used. Although it is set in Western Massachusettes, it is nothing like the Isabel Long books. I have a printed copy and am going over it with a red pen. Actually I found just small things here and there to change.
My aim is to pitch Northern Comfort to publishing houses that focus on literary fiction and don’t require an agent. I have a top choice, that requires a query letter describing the book and the first 50 pages, which I’ve been editing. I showed it to two friends and I am almost ready to mail it out — the company only does snail mail.
So, here goes. Wish me luck.
ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: The exterior wall at Satchel’s Pizza in Gainesville, Florida, which we recently visited.