Tuesday, December 11, 2012

There's A Dead Guy in My Cellar (Pass the Cookies)


A few years ago I got this bright idea – yes, I know, I get a lot of them – for a story. There was this character knocking around in my brain. Her name was Cecelia McGill, called Cece for short, and she reminded me a lot of, well, me. Cece is a woman of a certain age, as they say, and she is single. She's an old hippie who is an accomplished needleworker who loves to knit but has also spent years sewing, weaving, gardening, canning, baking – all the things a lot of us old hippies are fond of. In her youth she was a bit wild but then life butted in and she had to straighten up, get a job, and at least try to act normal. Until she decided to kill someone.

For nearly two years this story has nagged at me when I was working on other projects. When I would be in between stories, Cece would show up and say, “Hey, writer lady, what about me?” So, once I finished writing The Whiskey Bottle inthe Wall, I returned my attention to Cece. It's been four months now and yesterday I finished the first draft of a 28k novella that I'm calling The Monday Night Needlework & Murder Guild.

The story revolves around a group of women in their forties, fifties, and sixties who have been meeting regularly on Monday nights to work on their needlework and discuss murder mystery novels. The organizer of the group, Miss Serena Pitts, is an elderly spinster who owns a lovely house in Pitts Crossing, a coastal Massachusetts town. Being invited to join Miss Serena's Guild is a sign of social prestige in Pitts Crossing and women vie for invitations. But, when Miss Serena kicks the bucket at the age on ninety-seven, the group is faced with a disappointing situation. None of them have a living room the size of Miss Serena's and they don't know how they will keep their guild together. This is when Cece takes it into her head to have the cellar in her 17th century home finished and transformed into a meeting room for the guild.

However, as the cellar is being worked on, a new problem arises. There is a guy in town, something of a good-for-nothing but relatively young, relatively handsome, and very good at flattery, who is causing problems among the ladies of the group. Cece finally decides that enough is enough and takes matters into her own hands. Right from the beginning we know that Cece has put an end to the guy's misbehavior but the why and the how is what makes the story happen.

I LOVED writing this story because, while it is essentially a crime story, it is the psychology of each of the characters in it that made it interesting to write. How can one guy get away with what he does? How indeed. And how is Cece able to be immune to him? Well, that's what the story is about.

I finished the first draft yesterday and I'll do a rewrite before I pass it on to test readers but, so far, I've really enjoyed working on it and I think Cece is one of the most psychologically interesting characters I've ever written about. And, despite its gruesome content, the story has a lot of humor in it.

Sometimes I wonder how other writers get ideas for stories. Mine just seem to show up and say, “Write about me please.” That's what Cece did along with all of her friends. I've said it before but I'll say it again, Writing is magic. I have no idea how it comes about most of the time. The actual writing itself is hard work and often challenging. But the ideas for writing are always a mystery to me.

So, maybe by the end of January The Monday Night Needlework and Murder Guild will be ready to go live. In the meantime I'm hard at work on The Crazy Old Lady's Revenge. I don't know how this happened either but I have to keep writing to find out.

Thanks for reading.

2 comments:

Peter Spenser said...

Kathleen,

I love the idea of The Monday Night Needlework and Murder Guild. I think that you have a potential winner there.

One thing bothers me, though, and it bothers me a lot: “Pitts Crossing.” If it does not get changed to “Pitt’s Cossing” I probably won’t be able to read the book. Call me O.C.D., call me anal, I don’t care. What I am is a reader of your writings, and that spelling of that name is something that bothers me.

I know that the most recent naming rules for geographic entities say to eliminate all punctuation marks, but (as with so many things) just because the government says so doesn’t make it right.

In any event, good luck your story.

Kathleen Valentine said...

Thanks, Peter. The town was founded by Captain Ezekial Pitts and it is his great-granddaughter, Miss Serena Pitts, who founds the Guild so I do not think an apostrophe is appropriate.

Thanks for your good wishes.

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