Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Reading, Writing, and Coincidence

Can a writer really go on vacation? I can’t seem to accomplish that. Characters from both books travel with me, whispering in my ear. Readers send messages asking when the next Caitlyn Jamison mystery will come out. And I thought Caitlyn and Ethan were due a vacation. Wrong.

The suspense story featuring Alaina Carter and Denton Parker is developing nicely, but with interest and encouragement from readers in another Caitlyn Jamison adventure, I’ve started research on that next book.

I’m excited about the plot line I’ve come up with and only hope Caitlyn and Ethan will be as well. It’s fun to see where the characters take my idea. I’ve learned to not try to control the story, just go along for the ride.

I read. A lot. Mostly mysteries, but some non-fiction, and because one of my neighbors, Hope Ramsey, AKA Robin Lanier, is a best selling USA Today author, I am reading and enjoying her romance books.

In a previous blog I wrote about serendipity vs coincidence and how each of my Caitlyn Jamison plot lines just happened to turn into important environmental or social issues. This morning I had chills as I read about the horrible accident at the NASCAR race yesterday that seriously wounded driver Ryan Newman. I got chills because yesterday afternoon when reading Hope Ramsay’s 2011 book, “Home at Last Chance” where on page 227 she wrote a scene that was almost identical to what happened to Mr. Newman yesterday. Her character, Tulane Rhodes is a race car driver, trying for a win when his back bumper was hit and he went flying. As I read the paper this morning, I thought, “Gee, I just read almost the same scene yesterday in a book. Except Ms. Ramsay’s character, Tulane, came out much better than Mr. Newman. 

Coincidence? I have no idea . . . 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Character Development

West end of Forsyth Park, Savannah, GA  
The setting for my new suspense story is Savannah, Georgia. The protagonist, Alaina Carter lives around the corner from where this photo was taken. Her house is one of the many Victorian "mansions" that line the north side of the street bordering the park. When she gazes out her second story home office window, this is the type of view she has, large trees with clinging Spanish moss. There is one way traffic around the park.

Over the last few days, I've been better developing Alaina's back story as well as that of the antagonist, Peter Doyle. I realized that poor Peter was just a stick figure with no flesh to be seen! I've been giving him a lot of thought and realized that the reason for his actions had to be more than power. There had to be something deeper driving him. And it was personal. I've reworked the first chapter, fleshing Peter out so that readers will be able to connect with him. I learned early on that even "bad" guys can have good attributes.

Monday, February 3, 2020


Each one of my Caitlyn Jamison mysteries has been serendipitous. In An Unexpected Death I wanted environmental issues as my main plot line. At first I hadn’t defined what that issue would be, but as my characters were developed, and the story took shape, I started to see articles about hydraulic fracturing. Since my mystery was set in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York, following this environmental issue was a natural. Between articles in the Economist and the local New York papers, I had plenty of material from which to draw.

Then I embarked on my second book, Fatal Dose. I wanted to do something different. The opioid issue was beginning to be a social issue, so I chose that. Again, as the characters and plot line were developed, the opioid epidemic exploded and was all over the news. Again, a lot of research material.

For the third book, The Death of Cassie White I wanted to deal with a little known topic in which I could educate my readers. I mean, how many people knew about the vast uranium deposit in southwestern Virginia? I thought that would be a unique plot line. And it was. Except. When I was well into the book, an article appeared in our local Fredericksburg, Virginia paper describing how a mining company was trying to get the uranium ore mining moratorium put in place by the Virginia legislature in the 1980s overturned. Yikes!!! Serendipitous.

Well over a year ago I decided to write a suspense story. The setting would be Savannah, Georgia. Maybe I’d work in some ghosts. I needed an interesting, but scary plot line. My mind went back to about 2005 when I attended a library program on pandemics. The presentation was by a local doctor who was part of a team consisting of doctors in Western Connecticut and New York to educate the public and develop plans for - not if but when - a pandemic hits. The talk was fascinating. Dr. Dworkin explained how sickness would be a domino effect as truck drivers fell ill (cutting down on delivery of goods), water treatment plant employees not coming to work, the number of potentially ill people needing hospital beds versus how many actual beds are available in area hospitals. It was eye opening and scary. I went home and started my pandemic pantry, which Dr. Dworkin suggested hold enough food for three months. This, of course, would include all supplies you might need, medicines, pet food, etc. 

Over a year ago I decided this subject would be the plot line for my new book. 

Is it serendipitous that as I am well into my story we are faced with a possible pandemic from the corona virus? 

Lesson learned - be careful of future plot line decisions.