Red Pencil Thursday
Today we’re doing something a little different. My volunteer is prepublished mystery writer, Lynn Holt. I have very little experience with crafting a straight mystery, but some of my books do have a puzzle for my hero and heroine to unravel. In Touch of a Rogue, Jacob and Julianne solve her husband’s murder which was intended to look like a suicide. And in How to Vex a Viscount, Lucian and Daisy follow a trail of archaeological clues to an ancient Roman treasure.
But I’m going to be relying heavily on the RPT gang to weigh in on this opener, so be sure to leave a comment, suggestion or encouragement for Lynn after the post. I’m also out of volunteers for next week, so if you’ve ever considered taking the hot seat, now would be a terrific time. Check out the details here. I look forward to reading YOUR work.
Sunday is for Suspects
You can’t go home again.
That’s what they say. Sometimes, though when there’s no place else to go, you just sort of flip on the auto-pilot and find yourself heading home without meaning to. That’s how I ended up driving half-way across the country and back into Coldwater at 6 o’clock on a Sunday morning.
Mia: I like the tone. It’s confiding and straightforward. Wondering a bit about the Thomas Wolfe quote. Is it foreshadowing how your protagonist will find home changed and unwelcoming?
Lynn: Changed yes, but she won’t see it at first. Unwelcoming, mostly no. But I’m wondering if the first sentence is strong enough.
Mia: We’ll ask the RPT gang. What say you?
Coldwater is a quiet little town tucked into the southeast part of Oklahoma where the Ozarks roll a rumpled blanket of hills and hollows over the state line. It’s one step up from rustic, about a hundred steps down from trendy. And the last place on earth I ever thought I’d live again.
Of course, I never thought I’d ever get anyone killed either.
Mia: Ooo! Good embedded hook. You, my dear, get to be inducted into my Happy Hookers Club.
It’s too early to pop into my parents’ house, even if I thought I could bear their smothering. Mom needs her “beauty sleep” until seven at least. While Dad might be pottering about in the kitchen, making his execrable, but hell-for-stout coffee, if I tried to slip into the house now, his booming voice of welcome would disturb the dead in the cemetery next door.
Besides, I don’t deserve a welcome.
Mia: I like the short peek into her psyche and her relationship with her parents. Be careful she’s not too self-flagellating. The purpose of the hero/heroine is to provide the reader with a body double of sorts. We want them to try on our protagnist’s life. Make sure the shoes don’t pinch too tightly too soon.
Lynn: Point taken, but don’t you think we need to see that she feels guilt over getting someone killed?
So I tool around the narrow streets, taking stock of the changes in Coldwater since I was home last. There are none.
The lights are on in the Green Apple Grill down on the town square and my stomach rumbles, a reminder that I haven’t eaten since those stale Twinkies in Peoria. I pull up in front of the “hurt-your-eyes” green door. Still no parking meters on the square around our Victorian jewel of courthouse, so I get out, lock my Volvo out of force of habit, and go in. A trio of bells strategically placed over the lintel tinkles as I enter.
Mia: Good collection of details to set the scene without being over-descriptive. You’ve managed to touch on sight, taste, and hearing to place us in the setting.
“Have a seat. Be with you in a minute.”
I can see the guy who belongs to that rumbling baritone. He’s just on the other side of the half wall that separates the kitchen from the rest of the place, but his broad-shouldered back is turned to me. The grill hisses from a quick scrub-down with a damp rag.
Mia: You don’t need to tell us ‘I can see.’ Just describe what’s there. We know whose eyes we’re looking through. Or rather we don’t. Is there a way to get your POV character’s name in sooner? A little conversation would be nice too, though that’s hard since she’s alone unless she talks to herself.
Lynn: Maybe I could give her a cat in a carrier who’s not too happy with the whole driving across country thing.
I slide into the nearest booth, hoping they still have Belgian waffles on the menu. My mouth starts to water just thinking about melted butter and powdered sugar.
“Lacy? Lacy Evans, is that you?”
I look up to see Matthew Taylor peering at me from the kitchen. Superstar half-back, homecoming king, voted most likely to succeed—he was Mr. Big Stuff when we were in high school. Never thought he’d still be in Coldwater, much less behind the Green Apple’s grill.
“Hey, Matt. How’ve you been?”
“Can’t complain. Besides, no one would care if I did.”
I doubt that sincerely. Matthew still has that devastating dimple in his left cheek and a mega-watt smile. He always left a flotilla of broken hearts bobbing in his wake.
Mia: You’ve given us a sense of who Matthew is, but I’m not getting the ‘flotilla of broken hearts’ metaphor. Can you think of something that fits better with Green Apple Grill setting?
Lynn: Good idea. I’ll work on that.
“What can I do you for?” he asks.
“Coffee, and—please, God—waffles,” I say. They aren’t listed on the plastic covered menu affixed to the wall.
“For you, anything.”
That was Matt Taylor’s gift. He made you feel special. The only trouble was, he made everyone feel special.
Mia: Jock, dimples and the man cooks. Be careful you don’t make Matt too perfect.
Lynn: In the next couple paragraphs he steps around the half wall and Lacy learns he lost his left leg from the knee down in Iraq.
Mia: A wounded warrior. We love him even more. Now I need to ask the RPT gang a question because this is out of my field of expertise. Is the pacing right for a mystery? So far we know that Lacy feels responsible for someone’s death, but we haven’t seen any dead body or even any inkling that there is a mystery attached to that room temperature person. What do you think?
Lynn Holt’s Bio: After being an avid reader for years, Lynn is trying her hand at her first mystery. She’s a wife, a mother and die-hard Castle fan. Join her each Wednesday on her blog as she shares her journey to publication.