The Art of Rewriting Fiction

Right now I’m working on a new short story called “The 9th Street Gang,” part of my calendar mystery series set in Kansas City starting in January 1899.  Here’s the cover for the story that about twenty of my friends and kin helped me with.

Now I’m revising the story itself. And it’s taking me longer than I expected thought it would. Why I should be surprised I really can’t say given the length of this hand-out, one of my favorites from when I taught writing at the college level. This particular version that I prepared for a post NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) workshop focuses on fiction, especially the novel. But really you can use it for any kind of writing you do. Reviewing the handout today is helping me out, so I thought I’d share it with you, too.

Congratulations! You’ve completed the first draft of your novel and the joy of creation still surges through your veins. But don’t rest on your laurels too long, for now you have to rewrite. No I don’t, you say. I just run the spell checker and shoot it off to an agent, right? Besides, did Shakespeare rewrite? Apparently not, but his contemporary and friend Ben Jonson said, “Would that he had blotted a thousand lines.”

So now comes the time to get busy “blotting a thousand lines” (or more) because rewriting is a vital part of writing, the part that “makes the work come alive,” to quote Nancy Pickard, author of several popular mystery novels including Kansas Book of the Year, The Virgin of Small Plains. During rewriting, you “re-envision” the work and bring it closer to your original intention, obscured or lost in the heat of creating the rough draft.

Though often the writer comes up with new material during the rewriting phase, generally this last stage involves more analysis than creation, less the right side of the brain than the left. While new writers often think they can’t write unless they get it right the first time, most professionals rely on rewriting to bring their work up to par.

Effective, interesting, and vital writing is clear, coherent, concise, concrete, correct, and varied. Rewriting helps you give your work these qualities.

Okay, okay, I’m convinced, you say. So how many revisions should I do? As many as it takes, the mentor answers. If you’ve completed a work that you first drafted largely in your head, such as a flash fiction short story, you might not need many overall revisions. On the other hand, many pros freely admit to doing up to twelve major revisions of their novels. The average romance author does two and a half to three drafts, but Nancy Pickard says that she rewrites virtually up to the day of publication.

To rewrite a piece of fiction, you cut, add, change, move, and combine. But verily I say unto you, the greatest of these is CUT.

In rewriting, concentrate on these areas in this order: content, style, and mechanics. Why this order? you ask. Simple. It makes sense to get the content right before you spend hours polishing a sentence (paragraph, scene, chapter) that you might have to cut later–or worse, refuse to cut (though it no longer fits the work) because you worked so hard on it. Take the advice of Tony Hillerman who used to labor over his first chapters until he discovered that later chapters changed the first ones too much for him to use them. (He claimed to have had a drawer full of discarded but wonderful first chapters.)

On the other hand, if you’re rewriting the content of your novel and notice a sentence you can improve quickly or an error to correct, go ahead. Similarly, if you think of a great new bit of dialogue in a later stage of revision, by all means add it. (But be sure to reread this added section carefully, for often errors abound in such passages.)

ADVICE

1) To keep up your momentum and improve your chances of completing your novel, work on it everyday.

2) To minimize the number of corrections to make later in the process, initially format your manuscript in the correct form for submission later on to an editor or for production as an eBook or POD.

3) Follow the rules of punctuation like putting periods and commas inside quotation marks, etc.

4) For ease in rewriting, make separate files for all the chapters of the work.

5) If you use Microsoft Word, go to the Authoring and Proofing Tools in the Preferences menu, and in the Spelling and Grammar menu, click on “Show readability statistics.” Run your spell checker on each chapter as you complete revising it. The information will be especially valuable to you in later phases of the revising process. This document, for example, has 4% passive voice (much higher than my usual fiction percentage of 0%), 63.1% Flesch Reading Ease (considerably lower than my usual fiction reading ease of 85%), and 8.7 Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. No, I’m not related to that Kincaid, and my fiction averages from 3.5 to 5.2 grade levels.

6) Cultivate good stylistic writing habits like avoiding passive voice and employing showing writing instead of telling writing.

Still, generally, as John Braine advises, it’s best to write the rough draft as fast as you can and take as much time as you need for revision. Danielle Steele, for instance, takes six months to research a novel and six months to rewrite, but she blasts through the rough draft in a month of crippling twenty-hour days.

REWRITING FOR IMPROVED CONTENT

When you’re ready to start rewriting your novel, be patient and don’t just dive into revising. Instead, sit down and read the book through. Then skim it and take notes on what you see and patterns you notice. For instance, does your novel have a clear “Who wants what?” established very early. Does your protagonist clearly “drive the plot car” overall? Is the outcome clear at the end?

Especially pay attention to the big issues of structure. For instance, does your novel have a clear beginning, middle and end? That is, does it have a hook in the opening and a plot point near the end of the beginning part to set up the major story line? Is there some sort of important development in the middle section of the novel, that is, about halfway through? Is there a plot point near the end of the middle part of the book that sets up the end of the book? Do some math to see where these plot points fall in relationship to the overall length.

Consider your narrative line. Once you start your story, do you continue in a straightforward line or do you switch back and forth in time, from past to present to future to past? Think about your audience and this maxim: The larger the market you want for your novel, the easier you want to make your novel to read. That is, employ the K.I.S.S rule especially when you’re writing popular fiction and want lots of people to read your book.

Consider the type of novel you’re writing and reader expectations for that genre. If you’re writing a categorical romance, for instance, do you have at least one love scene? If you’re writing a mystery, is there a body or at least a crime?

On the basis of your observations, prepare an outline or write a narrative synopsis. Advice: Do not consider your outline or synopsis as engraved in stone.

As you write a second draft and concentrate on content, you might want to CUT all or part of ground clutter (action that leads nowhere), sections of dialogue that run on too long, unneeded characters and everything related to them, sections of description that run on too long, scenes that contribute only slightly to the plot, extended sections of background or exposition, unneeded transitions between scenes, sections that tell the reader what to think instead of letting them draw their own conclusions, unneeded or overlong passages of thought, unneeded material between the climax and denouement, and any element that impedes the pace.

On the other hand, you might need to ADD details that explain later action, descriptions to make a character or setting come alive, character development and motivation, background information, more dialogue, significant action, reminders to the reader, foreshadowing, clues and red herrings, symbols and metaphors to highlight theme, and transitions between scenes.

Often you will want to CHANGE from telling writing into showing writing, from indirect to direct speech, from indirect to direct thought, or from one point of view to another.

Sometimes, too, you might find that, in drafting, you got in a rush and tried to do everything at once. So you might need to MOVE introductory exposition to later in the story, exposition closer to the action it relates to, and thematic commentary or epiphanies closer to the end. You might also need to move scenes and plot points.

Finally, you might need to COMBINE one character with another or one scene with another.

GETTING FEEDBACK

Once you have the content about right and can think of nothing much else to do to the work, let gentle, sympathetic, knowledgeable people (preferably not family members) read your novel and give you feedback on what it’s like to experience the work for the first time. When you get your novel back from your readers, look over their comments and rewrite to improve the content at least one more time.

Once the content seems about right, move on to the next phase of rewriting, the PEP phase. Advice: At this point it’s often best to put all your chapters into a single file at this point, so you can also spot glitches in formatting for your eBook or POD versions of your novel as you edit.

REWRITING FOR IMPROVED STYLE

Now, you will P(olish the style), E(dit for grammatical correctness), and P(roofread for misspellings and typos).

Verily, again I say unto you, the greatest of these is CUT. Overall, including cuts for both content and style, try to make your final version at least ten percent shorter than earlier drafts. (Some writers draft very long and cut out nearly half.)

For concision, CUT redundancies; one, two or even three adjectives out of every three; there is/are, which is/are, it is . . . that; excessive or elaborate dialogue tags; and most adverbs.

For clarity and coherence, you might need to ADD transitions and dialogue tags.

For clarity, vitality and ease of reading, CHANGE long sentences and paragraphs into shorter ones; big, fancy words into smaller ones; uncommon words into more usual ones; over-used words into less common words; passive voice into active voice; states of being verbs into action verbs; progressive verbs into straight present or past tense; general into specific; abstract into concrete; unclear pronouns into nouns; and fuzzy word choices into just the right words.

For clarity and variety, occasionally MOVE phrases from their usual spot into more unusual ones.

For coherence and variety, occasionally COMBINE many short sentences into longer ones and many simple sentences into compound or complex ones.

But as Strunk and White say in The Elements of Style, break any of these rules rather than commit a barbarity.

REWRITING FOR CORRECTNESS

Always edit a completed manuscript with extreme care because mechanical errors and misspellings betray you as an amateur to agents, editor and readers. If you can’t spell, learn! Use a spell checker (but still proofread for homonyms, like “too,” “to,” “two”). If you don’t know how to punctuate, take a review course. And no matter how sharp your editorial skills, always proofread your material several times before you submit it or publish it.

In the PEP phase, you might find it helpful to read your manuscript aloud. (James Michener and his editor read one of his big novels to each other five times.) Run your spelling/grammar checker and get your overall stats on readability, etc. It’s also good to use “find and replace” to locate your personal trouble spots (one of mine is over-using the word “then”). If you have fellow writers who proofread well, you might ask them to proofread our work. Or you could hire a professional proofreader or copy editor.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PROOFREADING

As Jack Riley topped the final rise before town, he saw the buzzards circling above him. Not this time, he thought, a half smile on his face. He had just been through eighty miles of the roughest dessert anywhere . . .

 

Charming historical mystery reduced price one week only

Fatal February, the second book in Juliet Kincaid’s historical mystery series, is only $0.99 January 31 through February 6, 2018, at www.amazon.com/dp/B01781JHM and £0.99 at www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B017081JHM. (And it’s always free on Kindle Unlimited.)

It’s February 7, 1900, and a young woman has gone missing from a Kansas City garment factory. Price Investigations has been hired to find the girl, who may have come to harm. Minty Wilcox longs to help, but her boss doesn’t approve of women sleuthing. He also forbids any office romance at all, especially with the dashing Daniel Price. When Minty defies her boss, George Mathison, and goes undercover to find the girl, Daniel helps. But he also hinders Minty with outrageous flirtation and other ploys. And as she digs into the case, Minty comes into danger herself. Will Daniel rescue her? Will Minty even let him try?

Excerpt from Fatal February

Just then the door to Mathison’s office from the outside hall opened and a fellow shuffled in. He wore a loose, black jacket that came down to his mid thighs and brown corduroy trousers that bagged around his ankles. As the man sauntered toward them, he pulled a black, visored cap off his head.

“It’s getting cold out there,” said Daniel Price.

“Why, Mr. Price,” Minty said. “I didn’t recognize you in those clothes.”

He stopped, held his arms wide and looked down. “Like them? These are my workingman’s duds.”

“Fetching, Mr. Price, though they do look like you stole them from a larger man.”

“Not exactly. I bought them second hand or even fourth hand. Who’s to know? At any rate, these duds suit the work. And by the way, Miss Wilcox, I like your pretty hair ribbon.”

“Why, thank you, sir.”

“Enough of your banter, you two,” Mathison said. “It’s about time you decided to come in, my boy. I hope your efforts paid off better than Miss Wilcox’s.”

“But, Mr. Mathison, I discovered quite a bit . . .”

Praise for Fatal February

In the year 1900, Minty Wilcox has been hired by a private detective agency, her on again/off again beau’s employer, as a stenographer. For this spunky gal, typing and taking shorthand aren’t enough. She wants to be an operative. So, of course, author Juliet Kincaid, accommodates her protagonist by letting her delve into a missing person/murder case, sometimes sanctioned, but often not, by her boss. The ins and outs of the investigation, Minty’s romantic ups and downs, and her inside out family situations are fun to follow. It’s also interesting to learn about the physical layout and the social customs of Kansas City at the turn of the last century. Good follow-up to January Jinx, the first mystery in the series.

The calendar mysteries by Juliet Kincaid tell the story of plucky Minty Wilcox and detective Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago.

Job Hunting Jinxed in Old Kansas City

Buy January Jinx, the first book in the Calendar Mystery series, now at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4

The first chance Minty Wilcox gets in January 1899, she sets off to find a stenographer’s job in Kansas City. But her search is jinxed from the start. And in spite of her efforts to clear her name, bad luck spreads like a nasty cold from Minty to her family and to Daniel Price, their mysterious boarder as well. Minty feels that she brought all these troubles to her family and friends, so she must set things right. This won’t be easy in Kansas City that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago.

From January Jinx . . .

Mama slammed the kettle down onto the Grand Windsor Range. “What were you doing in the West Bottoms, Minty?”

Mama only banged the pots and pans around when she was truly agitated. The gas sucked the flame from the match and Minty jumped, but she kept her gaze on her hands twisting a napkin into a wet noodle. “I was looking for work. Besides, I didn’t actually get to the West Bottoms.”

“You were headed there on the stairs! And if you had made it to the bottom of the stairs, what then? Would you have crossed the tracks on foot? Oh, Minty, don’t you know how dangerous that is?”

“I’m sorry, Mama. I didn’t think it through.”

“I guess not. And why didn’t you take the car? Don’t tell me you went off this morning without a penny to your name?”

“I had fare both ways. I gave the soldier a nickel for breakfast at Mrs. McLean’s Up-to-Date Café. He looked like he was starving, Mama.” Minty recalled the soldier as she’d first laid eyes on him that morning. Slight of build, he stood near the fence along a Ninth Street mansion that needed paint. His sand-colored shirt, with gold cloth edging collar and cuffs and gold buttons down the front, had reassured her. How could she have known so much harm could come from her generosity? “All the soldiers who fought with Teddy Roosevelt at San Juan Hill are heroes.”

“Of that I have no doubt.”

“The sheriff took the other nickel.”

“That sheriff sounds like a common thief to me, making off with Uncle Edward’s watch like that. Are you sure he’s a sheriff? What’s his name? Where is he the sheriff?”

“He said he’s Sheriff Clayton Cole of Campbell, Kansas.”

“I never heard of Campbell, Kansas.” Across the kitchen, Mama flung open a cabinet so hard the door smacked into the next cabinet. On tiptoe Mama felt around the second shelf, but their maid Gerta had obviously pushed the plates too far back and out of Mama’s reach. “Where’s the stool?” Mama asked. “Oh, yes, the children took it into the parlor.”

Earlier, in the parlor, Mr. Price had impressed Mama with his credentials, with his arrangements for employment in town, and most of all with the thirty dollars deposit, a full month’s rent in advance. Then he left his satchel in the big bedroom upstairs and went off somewhere. He didn’t say where. A bit of a mystery, he was, with his unstated destination, his magician’s tricks and his new overcoat from Emery, Bird, Thayer, right downtown in Kansas City, though he claimed to have only just arrived from Chicago. Not that his goings-on interested Minty . . .

Praise for January Jinx

The delightful, creative, and charming January Jinx introduces a terrific character in Minty Wilcox, a good old-fashioned cozy mystery persona who will surely be able to carry the planned-for series. It’s Minty who drives the readable narrative, and author Juliet Kincaid keeps the pace steady and fast at the same time for quite a readable experience. The writing is appropriate for the historical setting without ever being gimmicky or archaic . . . The unique setting of 1899 Kansas City is full of flavor that never overwhelms the story and the characters. With a terrific, original, but still comfortable series concept, there are certainly big things afoot for Juliet Kincaid and Minty Wilcox’s Calendar Mysteries.

 

 

 

Writers’ New Year’s Resolutions

Like many others, I’ve been looking ahead to the new year and trying to settle on some goals for my writing. At times, this seems like an invitation for me to gallop off in all directions, as the saying goes, or worse yet, spin my wheels in familiar ruts. So I’ve asked for help from my writer friends. (Thanks, everyone!) Here are their resolutions in order of receipt.

Peg Nichols, a dear friend and fellow knitter, offered this charming resolution: Sitting, knitting, gives me space to dream up plots, invent characters, construct grammatically-correct sentences and paragraphs, but because of snide, snarky criticisms from my so-called friends—who are just jealous of my New York Times bestsellers successes (or will be if ever I get there)—I am limiting my knitting goals to only those articles I can achieve with the garter stitch. If you can’t understand why this will greatly simplify my knitting (as opposed to purling) and encourage my writing, ask any of your other knitter friends. Also, I’m going to be more diligent about keeping my ink well full to the screw top, and my quill pen sharpened. (I gave up trying to find more ribbons for my typewriter several years ago.)

Mark Scheel, author of The Pebble: Life, Love, Politics and Geezer Wisdom and the blog series on The Grant Journal and Scriggler, said, Well, sounds like fun. I don’t make resolutions anymore as most I’ve fulfilled. Those few I haven’t I’ve given up on. Ha. But try this one: “To not yield to the lazy temptation of allowing day-to-day distractions to override one’s writing schedule or the focus on one’s present writing project.”

Theresa Hupp, author of historical novels Lead Me Home and Now I’m Found and the forthcoming Forever Mine, all set in the American West, gave these three New Year’s Resolutions (goals) for 2018: 1. Publish my third historical novel, Forever Mine (a first quarter goal). 2. Draft a fourth historical novel (the first draft to be written and reviewed with my critique group by the end of the year. I only have a vague outline done now) 3. Invest in my writing by marketing my books more vigorously, including with paid advertising based on a budget (throughout the year, and I’ve already started!)

Denise M. Hartman, author of Killed in Kruger and the Blanche Binkley mysteries, resolves to start a new murder mystery in 2018 after releasing the last Blanche Binkley book in March of 2017. It is time to begin again!

Well, I guess I’ve passed the buck long enough, and so I must offer my New Year’s resolution. Juliet Kincaid resolves to have something new, free, or discounted available for my readers every month in 2018. So far I’ve lined up specific projects through August and I hope to launch the first book in a new series this fall. Sounds like I’d better get cracking, don’t you agree?

What’s your resolution for 2018?

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

For mystery and romance in old Kansas City—that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago—try Juliet’s calendar mystery novels and short stories. Click on the Calendar Mystery page for details.

Free Short Story

Here’s a snippet from “The Barn Door,” a prequel story to my calendar mystery series, set in old Kansas City, that features an old gent named Hector Jones in need of a detective.

The elevator operator had started to close the door when someone shouted, “Wait for me” from outside and a clean-shaven man of medium height stepped onto the car. He didn’t remove his dark blue cap. “Thanks for waiting, Robbie,” the man said.
“Sure thing, Mr. Price,” the elevator operator said. “Going to the Ninth Floor, as usual?” he asked before he shut the elevator door.
Price? Hector Jones thought.
“Yes indeed,” the man said, now standing near the front of the car on the right with his back to Hector.
Hector lowered his gaze and studied Price from the heels of his brown boots, the left one scuffed, to his dark gray mixed Kentucky jean pants, baggy in the seat. A pair of sturdy farmer’s suspenders crossed a patch of his white shirt a little darker with sweat than the rest of it.
The attendant turned and looked at Hector. “Which floor you going to, sir?”
“As it happens, I’m going to the Ninth Floor as well, to Price Investigations,” Jones said.
The man in front of Jones turned and took off his cap. “I’m Daniel Price,” he said.

Take a break from expensive Christmas shopping and also get a change in the weather a lot cheaper than flying to Bermuda, and read my calendar mystery short story “The Barn Door” set on the July 4th weekend in 1898. This prequel story to my calendar mystery novels is FREE 12/08/17  #FreebieFriday through  #ShortStorySunday 12/10/17. Enjoy mystery and some possible romance in old Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago by getting “The Barn Door” for FREE at www.amazon.com/dp/B073G7ZXMP.

It’s NaNoWriMo!

Just a quick note to say that I won’t be around a lot November 1 through 30 because it’s National Novel Writing Month. Best, Juliet

New Calendar Mystery Story!

TWO BIRTHDAYS

An Old Kansas City Story

June 22, 1899

Price Investigations Office

Kansas City, Missouri

The office door opening that afternoon startled Minty Wilcox and she almost looked up to see who it was. But then she thought, I’d better keep my head down and look busy. It won’t do for Mr. Mathison to catch me reading a mystery novel when I’m supposed to be hard at work. Indeed, George Mathison, the manager of the Kansas City branch of the Price Investigations Agency, was quite strict about the office staff keeping busy, especially Minty, the newest member of the staff.

Not that there was much work to do at the moment, no one there to take dictation from, no operative reports to type, no papers to file.

Still, Minty closed the black book, a favorite of hers that she liked to reread that time of year, and hid it in her top desk drawer. After that, she began typing furiously at her ancient blind-strike Remington typewriting machine. As a precaution earlier, she’d loaded a blank piece of paper in the typewriter. A quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, she typed. A quick . . .

“Where’s Mrs. B?” a man asked.

After Minty lifted her hands from the keyboard and looked up, her heart started going pitty pat.

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Two Birthdays, an old Kansas City story

After Minty Wilcox has worked for six months or so at Price Investigations as a stenographer/typist, the dashing detective Daniel Price appears in the office and carries her off to take notes on a new case the agency has been hired for. But once he starts filling Minty in on the details of the case, some of the information sounds strangely familiar. And she begins to wonder what he’s really up to on her twentieth birthday, June 22, 1899.

Praise for January Jinx, Book 1 in the Calendar Mystery series

The delightful, creative, and charming January Jinx introduces a terrific character in Minty Wilcox, a good old-fashioned cozy mystery persona who will surely be able to carry the planned-for series. It’s Minty who drives the readable narrative, and author Juliet Kincaid keeps the pace steady and fast at the same time for quite a readable experience. The writing is appropriate for the historical setting without ever being gimmicky or archaic . . . The unique setting of 1899 Kansas City is full of flavor that never overwhelms the story and the characters. With a terrific, original, but still comfortable series concept, there are certainly big things afoot for Juliet Kincaid and Minty Wilcox’s Calendar Mysteries.

“Two Birthdays,” a Calendar Mystery short story featuring Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price getting to know each other, is now available for your Kindle for $0.99 (and always free from KindleUnlimited)* at www.amazon.com/dp/B076JS3D2Y

*This fun story will be available for free to all on October 20 through 22, and October 26 and 27.

 

 

Nancy Martin’s Miss Ruffles

A JKWryter Fav

Long a fan of Nancy Martin’s Blackbird Sisters Mysteries, recently I came upon her stand-alone mystery, Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything while trolling the mystery section at my local library. I’m very glad I checked it out because this mystery has all the elements I’ve enjoyed in Ms. Martin’s other work, plus more.

1) A resourceful, kind, likeable female amateur sleuth. In this book the lead is Sunny McKillip who becomes a dog’s caretaker. Miss Ruffles is a small, feisty, noisy cattle-herding dog, as yet untrained, that clearly shows her opinion for all she meets. If you pass approval, you get licks. If you don’t, you get growls and nips.

2) Spot-on observations like this one: “enough flowers for a royal wedding.”

3) Top writing skills: I really admired the way Ms. Martin introduced the major suspects of the mystery in Chapter 1 at the funeral of the very wealthy Honeybelle Hensley and then the supporting characters when Sunny walks Miss Ruffles home through the town.

4) A lively well-constructed mystery plot that climaxes in a hilarious, laugh-out-loud big scene with plenty of surprises along the way. (Miss Martin’s books aren’t formulaic.)

5) A manly, yet imperfect possible love interest.

To this mix, Ms. Martin added some fresh elements.

1) A setting different from her usual East Coast, Philadelphia area: a little Texas town called Mule Stop and its inhabitants.

2) A protagonist/narrator who’s an outsider, not an insider: As Sunny struggles to get to know the strange culture in which she finds herself, she casts a sharp eye on its foibles and the secrets of its inhabitants.

3) The dog is great.

I really liked Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything and highly recommend it.

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Juliet Kincaid writes the calendar historical mysteries set in Kansas City, a place that could get deadly a hundred years ago or so and the Cinderella, P. I. fairy tale mysteries for grown-ups featuring a favorite character twenty years, three kids and a few extra pounds after the ball. These stories and novels are available as eBooks and trade paperbacks from Amazon. Here’s the link to Juliet’s Amazon Author’s Central page: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Juliet+Kincaid&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Juliet+Kincaid&sort=relevancerank

Minty Wilcox to the Rescue

Lost Dog

An Old Kansas City Story

Tuesday, July 5, 1898, shortly after noon

Kansas City, Missouri

As Minty Wilcox hurried home, she mentally reviewed the symbols from Mr. Gregg’s shorthand system she’d studied that morning at the Kansas City Business College. A pretty woman of nineteen years, she wore a white jumper dress with navy blue trim around the square neck—over a shirtwaist of course for modesty—that gave the dress a nautical air. A jaunty seersucker sailor hat with a blue and white band sat on top of her light brown hair and she carried the old waterproof black bag she’d used in high school over her shoulder.

She’d just crossed Tenth Street when shouts up ahead on the avenue pulled her out of her reverie. On the steps of a vast white Victorian pile near the other end of the block, a woman in black held up a broom as if it were a baseball bat. It looked like she meant to take a swing with it at two children standing on the sidewalk below.

“My gosh!” Minty said when she recognized the children as her youngest siblings and the woman as their neighbor as Agnes Shackleton. Minty promptly lifted her skirts to mid-calf and ran sprinted the rest of the way down Penn.

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In this prequel short story to her calendar mystery series that feature mystery,  romance, and touches of humor here and there in old Kansas City, Juliet Kincaid introduces Minty Wilcox, her female protagonist. Intent on gaining the skills she needs for a career as a business girl, typing and taking dictation in short hand, Minty nevertheless runs into considerable interference with her goal. A mean-spirited neighbor accosts Minty’s younger brother and sister and a sweet little lost dog. Minty’s mother doesn’t approve of her daughter’s plans to have a career. And several flirtatious gents distract Minty from her tasks.

Read the story as an eBook for only $0.99 (or for free on Kindle Unlimited) at www.amazon.com/dp/B0752SWBG1