As I wrote the final chapter in Book 20 last night (yeah – I thought I’d just lead with that – voila! I’m right on target), I flashed back to November, 2012. I was eight months from finishing my Master’s Degree and had spent the previous four months trying to figure out what was. I had given myself some runway. The last thing I wanted to do was go to work for someone else, especially after twenty years of owning my own business.
There were options in front of me and I was considering all of them, but self-publishing was quite tantalizing. I read book after book about this wonderful new way to get your stories published without fighting with big publishers and facing rejection letters in the mail on a regular basis. I read and absorbed everything from why I should write and self-publish to the actual nitty gritty processes of doing the work.
That all began for me in June of 2012. While I was in the middle of writing more papers for my coursework than I’d ever written in my life, I hashed out a story line that grew more and more interesting to me.
Polly showed up in a very different story setting than we know now that June. She was twenty-one years old, her last name was Mason and she’d just moved out of her parents home to a new apartment about four hours from them. Her parents were both still alive and four sisters and brothers still lived at home.
On November 2nd, I recognized that time was running out and I had to either start doing something or give up my dream. A friend pressed me to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which happens during the month of November. I didn’t want to, knowing that so many other things would demand my writing time, but I had to begin somewhere.
I wrote my first chapter that night and Polly came alive for me. On November 28th, I wrote the last chapter of “All Roads Lead Home.” I was exhilarated. For the first time, I’d started and finished something that came from my heart.
Then I wrote the first Christmas short story. This was really happening.
In January of 2013, I hit the button to publish All Roads Lead Home and it was suddenly live on Amazon. I panicked. What had I done? I still can’t believe I took that leap, but thank goodness I did.
During these last five years, I’ve had ups and downs and worried myself sick over every single aspect of the publishing process. I’ve met incredible people and poured more of myself out on paper than i could have ever expected. The only thing I wish I would have done differently was to have started much earlier. I can’t believe the fun I’m having.
While I was looking back through Evernote (which holds all of my notes, thoughts, stories – everything), I came across these two little bits.
The first I sketched out on November 2, 2012 – just before I wrote Chapter 1:
Now, the mystery is cool stuff. Polly is my main character. She has left New York City to come back to rural life. Everyone thinks she’s nuts, but she’s just done with the craziness. She’s meeting great people and it’s not her fault there’s a damned dead body that washed up on her land from the river. But, it brings a lot of activity and she’s just that snoopy. Since she’s new, no one really knows her, but now when she goes into town, people recognize her and just start talking to her. It’s freaking her out because, living in NYC, she was always keeping to herself, never making eye contact. No one just talked to her. Now, she has to know people and talk to them and answer questions … and crap, the guy who died was a local veterinarian that everyone knew because he was always in their barns and taking care of the animals.
His wife is a terrible bitch. They have three kids and those kids are tied up in knots because the old hag has run them around all their lives. The two oldest boys have long since left home, but the youngest went to college at a local university and has come back to help his dad with the practice. The bitch has decided that she now hates Polly, simply because of the circumstances, so she is making up stories about Polly and spreading rumors.
Polly – cozy mystery
It will be a ‘cozy’ mystery. Polly opened a cute little shop in the small town, selling crafting and knitting materials as well as having a little bookstore / library and a wifi coffeeshop. Kind of a one stop place for the women. She only sells coffee and some baked goods, but it’s enough for people to come in and settle in to unwind. She sells a few books and some supplies every once in a while and she is doing some writing, too.
The second I wrote on November 3, 2012 – just after finishing Chapter 1. My mind was working through the entire story. You can see some of my original character development. And then? Then they took off and decided to tell the story by themselves. They didn’t need me any longer.
Polly – some thoughts
Quite some time ago, I had an idea about a story set here in Iowa. It was pretty undeveloped, until last night – or maybe Thursday night late when I started thinking about the story again. Yah. Because last night I emailed a little bit of what I had in my head to Rebecca and then it began exploding. I drove past the school house in Luther and realized that would make a great location for the story. I really need to think about the town’s name. I don’t want it to be Stratford, but I want it to be a lot like Stratford. I don’t want it to be Luther, because there really isn’t anything going on there. I do want it to be in this neck of the woods because I want to have access to all of the larger communities … ok, probably some of the smaller communities as well. I know these roads and I know the towns and I know what Iowa people are like. How can I possibly go wrong?
I’ve been in enough little town schools, I think I can pull off the redecorating. And yes, I believe that it will be a school rather than a re-claimed church. I just can’t make that happen in my head.
The school will be far out on the edge of town, almost in the country. Because of this, there will be a lot of land around it. Polly will buy up a bunch of the unusable land. She’s going to put a barn out there and probably have some livestock of some sort. Goats, maybe. A couple of sheep. Maybe not. Maybe horses. Alice can help me with that … and so can other friends that I have.
The first death of the series will actually happen in her unfinished house. I think she’s going to have to get a dog. It will either be a Great Dane or a German Shepherd mix. Maybe a lab / shepherd mix. That would be awesome. The dog will come home with her from the shelter and when they get there, it will be on a Saturday. She’ll walk in and find the body hanging in one of the downstairs rooms. Oh yeah … that’s going to go over really well in the town when she tries to promote it. It will be not only the murder house, but the murder room.
I’m going to have to think about what Polly will do with that room. She’s going to take advantage of it, that’s for sure. I think it might be the little cafe. Yeah. People are going to have to eat there.
Of course, there will be a kitten that shows up. No, I think the dog will bring it home some night in its mouth. Mewling little thing, all in a mess with fleas and stuff. A lot like TB. We’ll slowly but surely build up animals around Polly. She had lots of pets when she was growing up on the farm, but they were always outside pets.
She’s going to need a fence around the property and then a fence for a pasture for her animals. She might have to hire a farmhand type of guy. A young kid – maybe one of the kids of the girls. He’ll do the chores and take care of the outside of her school, mowing and moving the animals between the pastures, etc.
She’ll meet the veterinarian once – when she takes the kitten in to get all of its shots, etc. He’s the one who will be dead in her house.
I’ve barely touched on Sylvie. We’re going to save her story for another book. Her husband just took off one day and left her with two kids. That happened about eight years ago. Her kids are now twelve and fifteen. She’s only forty years old, but the stress makes her look older.
Speaking of … I think that I’m going to make Polly be 31 years old. I’m going to have to think about former boyfriends. Maybe there was an engagement that broke up and that’s why she left Boston. He’s going to probably show up at some point, trying to find her, especially now that she has money. Lydia will absolutely hate him. And, by the way, so will the dogs. He’ll move into her house just as things are getting crazy, telling her how much he loves her and wants her to come back to Boston … toss everything out that is here.
He’s a dentist.
That will be part of the plot, her questioning her decision to be in Iowa. Maybe she made it too quickly and it was a bad decision. She said she had enough money to recover from a mistake and maybe she will be able to find someone to buy the schoolhouse for less than she bought it for and invested in it, so that she can go back to Boston where she belongs.
You can see how things changed and transformed as the story spun itself out. That is the great joy of being creative for me – allowing what I think should happen to be molded and re-formed into a story that wants to be told.
Thank you for being part of this crazy life I lead. I’m thankful that you have given me so much along the way, making it easy to keep telling my stories.
Five years has passed more quickly than I ever expected and it’s only the beginning. I’m just getting started and so is Polly. Who knows where it’s heading next!
Book 20 will publish on Christmas Day, December 25th. The Christmas short story will publish on January 1st, 2018.
Now I just need titles and cover art, but that comes together when I focus.
I’m getting artwork together for my Nammynools Christmas card. Bec Schreiber has been at it again – showing off my cats in all their glory. After Thanksgiving, I will ask you to send me your mailing address if you’re interested in receiving one of these. Not yet, but soon! I can’t wait.
This Friday, November 17th is Creativity Friday! Watch for a post on the Facebook Bellingwood page. It will be a fun day of celebrating what we’re grateful for together. We’ll do one more in December