“Write Stuff Down”

An Indie Author Reflects on Senior Moments

Three of us dedicated senior hoofers have gathered near the back of the exercise center after class. We’re all 60+. (Well, to be honest, in my case, it’s 60++.) We’re all normal weight and short but not stooped over from osteoporosis. We all take at least three classes a week, so we’re far more active than the USA norm.

But still the issue of senior moments comes up. “Why . . . ,” says J. “My husband told me something yesterday and a half hour later I couldn’t remember what he said, so I had to ask him again.”

I almost parrot something I heard on NPR or read in the AARP Bulletin about the nerve endings or whatever in our brains not holding onto information like they used to. But frankly I don’t recall enough of it to talk about it, so I keep my mouth shut.

Friend D says, “I write stuff down. That helps me remember. I write stuff on calendars, things like that.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I don’t say since that would be rude. I do say, “Jess and I keep a calendar on the kitchen wall.”  My daughter and I put our appointments, classes and meetings on the kitchen calendar, a sort of plan for the household. But I also put my appointments, meetings, and classes on the engagement calendar Jess gives me every year. I put my daily to-do lists on that calendar, too.

The mention of calendars sends my friend J off into a lovely riff about the calendars her daughter gives her every year with pictures of the grand kids at Christmas, at Easter, probably summer vacations too though if she says it I don’t hear it because I’ve drifted off into a memory accompanied by considerable self-flagellation on the subject of writing things down. (I do that a lot.) Besides jotting down my daily to-do lists on my engagement calendar and print-outs of monthly calendars, I often put to-do lists in the journals I’ve kept since January 1986. Recently I created a checklist to use to track my social media activities.

And then I keep special lists, sort of like flow charts, of steps in the processes of doing new things in my journal or the backs of printouts of my work. For example, recently my daughter helped me with the cover for the paperback version of my most recent work, Old Time Stories. Specifically she told me how to work with some basic Photoshop tools. Before she started, though, I said, “Wait! Wait! Let me write that down.”

So, I wrote down her instructions in my journal, or at least I thought I did. The next day when I tried to work on that cover without her help, I couldn’t find those instructions. What I did find in my journal were many to-do lists, mostly of the same six things over and over again. (You know, some times you can go too far with writing stuff down or following any good advice, for that matter.)

So, I thought that maybe I wrote it on one of the pieces of paper littering my desk. No luck there either because I had a little throwaway party the other day to clear my computer desk. I must have had a mental lapse (aka a brain fart) and put the notes in the recycle bag.

Regardless, I had to take up my daughter’s time for her to repeat the instructions. This time I did write clear notes in my journal. What’s more, I made a frigging tab with a sticky note so I wouldn’t lose those notes. I also transcribed the notes into my typewritten log to help me remember those instructions the next time I need them.

So what’s the big deal?

It’s like this. Senior moments like these strike terror in my heart that I’ve begun that long slide into oblivion. But maybe I haven’t . . . When I was weeping about forgetting the instructions my daughter gave me, Jess said, “That’s not a senior moment, Mom. It’s a technical moment. Anybody can have them.” Thank you, sweetheart.

Here’s the cover for the trade paperback version of my new book (currently in process).  It’s the first one I’ve done more or less on my own. You can pre-order the eBook version from now until its publication on August 29, 2018, for only $0.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F4JL8D5

 

New Story Collection

From fireworks on the 4th of July through a surprising streetcar ride and a troublesome gang to an unusual honeymoon and a haunted house, the six tales in Old Time Stories delight and entertain. This collection also includes a dozen nonfiction pieces about the real people and places that inspired Juliet Kincaid to write her historical Calendar Mystery series that tells the story of business girl 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.

Here’s a review of “Lost Dog,” a prequel story to the Calendar Mystery series that features business girl Minty Wilcox. “What a delight to find myself in ‘old’ Kansas City again with such wonderfully drawn characters. I feel I know them and would love to follow them along the street while looking for the lost dog’s owner and I could just push that old neighbor back into the bushes after rescuing the poor dog from her vicious beating. Oh, this author brings them so alive and that is what keeps me reading her stories.”

Old Time Stories, a collection of fiction and nonfiction by Juliet Kincaid, is available  as an eBook for the reduced price of only $0.99 between August 29 through Labor Day, September 3, 2018 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F4JL8D5  (And it’s always free from Kindle Unlimited.)

 

 

 

Summer Camp

My daughter and I still have a home phone in addition to our cells, but Jess has fully employed the “Caller Blocked” function. Besides that, we keep the sound off unless we’re expecting a call from the plumber, for instance. So we rarely hear the phone ring. Occasionally, a man starts talking to us out of the blue from the phone, but we know it’s the machine from the pharmacy telling our machine a prescription is ready “for Juliet” or “for Jessica.”

But a few weeks ago, a woman’s voice started talking from the phone, a rarity in itself. So I scampered to the phone, snatched it out of the cradle, and said, “Hello. Hello. I’m here.” The caller turned out to be a woman I’d probably last seen maybe around sixty-five years ago at Marshall University. But I’d known her longer than that because when we were around thirteen, we were in the same confirmation class at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Huntington, WV. We also later became somewhat related, when my brother Dale married Gloria’s cousin Carole. But after college we lost touch with each other. In time, Gloria Moeser became Gloria Noll and Jet Willman became Juliet Kincaid. Here’s Gloria in her college yearbook. And here I am in mine a year later.

For several summers in the fifties Gloria, I and a bunch of other kids from St. Paul’s went to summer camp together. After my dad and mom got the first car I remember them having, a cute little blue and white, Chevy two-door, Daddy drove us. The rest of the time the place was Camp Caesar, a 4H camp, but during two weeks every June, Lutheran youth from all over the state converged on this place way up in the mountains in Webster County and it became Camp Luther.

Going through some old photos, Gloria came upon a cache of snapshots that she’d taken a couple of those years we went to camp. She also had carefully recorded the names of those pictured and where the pictures were taken. Gloria remembered how much fun my dad was and how he let us sing on the way there and back. She even remembered one of our camp songs and sang it to me on the phone all the way through. Amazing. The best I can do is get part of the way through “Kumbaya.”

I do remember dancing like Anna and the King of Siam around and around the gym in the arms of a guy whose name I’ve forgotten now as we sang, “Shall we dance? Ta tum ta tum.” (Just watched the clip from The King and I with Yul Brenner and Deborah Kerr. OMG! Be still my heart.) One year I did have a boyfriend, sort of. We walked around camp hand in hand or sat side by side in rocking chairs on the porch of the main building. We never kissed though. His name was Hank and he was a sweetie.

Now where was I? Oh yes, the pictures Gloria later mailed me. Here are some of them.

The one on the left is from 1956. I’m on the left with the cute cat’s eyes glasses and longish hair. I’m holding one of those lanyards we made at camp back then. The girl in the middle is Carol Richards and on the right is Nancy Heinsohn, who also was in our confirmation class.

The shot on the right, from 1957, shows Nancy and me acting up with a couple of girls I don’t recall at all. Same glasses, but that year I got my hair cut just after the recital, so it would grow out by the next year and I could put it up in a proper bun as my dance teacher Mrs. Nestor required.

Here’s another picture of Nancy and me. The camp site had lots of rocks and a fairly rugged terrain. I still have the scar on my right shin from when I tried to climb a boulder half the size of a house. At camp we also went swimming, played soft ball, studied the Bible of course, and sang “Kumbaya” and other songs around the camp fire.

Good times. Good times. What sorts of fun things did you do in the summers of your youth or right now for that matter?

 

 

FREE MYSTERY SHORT

Two Birthdays

An Old Kansas City Story

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.

For instead of George Mathison, Daniel Price, one of the agency operatives, stood in the open door. A young man of medium height, he wore a straw boater, a white shirt with a black straight tie knotted under its stiff collar, a white vest, and white trousers.

“Oh, Dan . . .” Minty caught herself in time. Mr. Mathison was ever so strict about employees maintaining proper decorum. He had also forbidden employees to fraternize with each other during business hours—or at any time, for that matter. It certainly wouldn’t do for the agency’s most newly hired employee to err in that respect.

“Why, Mr. Price,” Minty said. “Mrs. Bradford took the afternoon off. She said she had an important errand to run.”

Daniel Price took off his hat and ran his hand over his reddish brown hair, parted in the middle. His neatly trimmed beard and mustache were also reddish brown. “Golly,” he said. “I really need someone to help me.” He closed the door behind himself and hung his boater on the coat tree next to Minty’s parasol.

“I’m sorry that Mrs. Bradford isn’t here,” Minty said. “Is it something I might help you with?” Minty stood up, went around her desk, and took a couple of steps toward the door.

“Perhaps.” He brushed his beard. “You see. I have an appointment with Mr. Ferd Heim, Jr. at the brewery across town.” Daniel fumbled with the gold chain that crossed his vest and pulled out his pocket watch along with a couple of keys.

Minty looked down at her pendant watch at the end of a light chain and pinned to the front of her shirtwaist, white with garnet red pin stripes. She flipped her watch over and read the time. “Why, it’s already half past four.”

“And my appointment with Mr. Heim is for five o’clock. Well, you will have to do, Miss Minty.”

 

And so Daniel Price lures Minty Wilcox off on a case that starts to sound strangely familiar as he tells her about it and she wonders what he really is up to.

Click here to get “Two Birthdays” for FREE from June 20 through June 24: www.amazon.com/dp/B076JS3D2Y

The Father of My Child

Right now I’m putting together a collection of Calendar Mystery short stories that go before, between or after the first three novels in the series. These books, January Jinx, Fatal February, and Mischief in March, feature business girl Minty Wilcox and dashing 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.

Along with the stories, I’m including nonfiction pieces about the people who inspired the characters in the works of fiction. Recently, as I worked with the collection, tentatively called Old Time Stories, I realized that I hadn’t written about the inspiration for Daniel Price. And I’d be remiss if I left him out though generally I’m not comfortable with talking about my private life in public. Still, here we go.

Physically, Daniel Price looks pretty much like my former husband George David Kincaid, who died in 2004 from complications of COPD. In fact, I was going to give Daniel the middle name of David before I realized that  my character’s middle name must be Alan after his grandfather, Alan Price, a character I based on Allen Pinkerton.

Daniel has David’s height and build: around 5’8” and 150 pounds with a sturdy physique. They have the same brownish, blondish, reddish hair. David liked to wear brownish reddish tweed, as does Daniel. David’s hair had a nice wave to it, but Daniel’s is fairly straight. One difference: David had beautiful hazel eyes with long lashes that made for the sweet, gentle butterfly kisses writing this has made me remember. Our daughter inherited both her father’s eye color and the lashes. (My series protagonist Minty Wilcox has hazel eyes, too.) But I’ve given Daniel Price deep dark brown eyes like mine. David was very near-sighted and usually wore glasses. Daniel doesn’t need them.

The fictional Daniel and the nonfictional David don’t resemble each other much in character, at least not right now. Daniel might surprise me as I continue writing the series. Daniel has his dark side, but he’s devoted to Minty and regularly defends her against other men’s derision. In fact, an early reader of January Jinx said Daniel was too indulgent with Minty. But he was quite smitten with her and most of us view our loved ones through rosy colored lenses at first. Plus Minty saves Daniel’s life in that book.

And there is a scene in Mischief in March where Daniel asks Minty, “Who’s the boss?” In other words, “Who will make the decisions once we’re married?” This was a question that David often asked me early in our marriage, in fun or apparently so.

Minty, I’m pleased to say, doesn’t put up with it for even a second before she says, “Why, Daniel Price, I’m flabbergasted that you even ask me that. We’ll make all the decisions together of course, except maybe for what sort of soap to buy.”

Daniel points out, “That’s not the way it is in most marriages. The man’s the boss of the household. He makes all the decisions, especially where money is concerned. As for soap, I insist on Palmolive.”

Minty responds, “And I prefer Ivory. But anyway, back to decisions, in my family Papa’s the boss on the ranch. But Mama’s the boss in town. And that includes decisions about how the household money will be spent. Besides, you and I are not most people, Daniel. In our marriage, you and I will have an equal say, about the important things anyway.”

Good for Minty, I say. I didn’t have that sort of spirit. But then as I’ve already said, my husband wasn’t the man that I insist Daniel Price will be. For one thing, fairly early on in our marriage, I learned that talking back to D very well might earn me abuse.

Here’s an example. In the early summer the year I was pregnant with our child, Dave and I were driving to a wedding reception. When he stopped the car at a light, I said something that he took amiss and he clubbed me in the back of my head with his fist. Right then, the driver of the car behind us started honking his horn before he swung his vehicle around ours onto the shoulder, and, obviously furious, he started shouting. For one thing, I was surprised that someone else would find David’s behavior so offensive. (By then I’d become used to David’s occasional abuse.) The light changed. D put the Volvo in gear. And we drove on. We never talked about this incident, ever.

My fictional Daniel is smart and clever and at times outrageously funny. And so was David except David’s humor usually came at another’s expense, a habit I abhor having grown up listening to my mother constantly rag and belittle my wonderful dad, whom I adored from the get-go. As a nurse my mother knew the cost of physical abuse, though not the psychic cost of verbal abuse. My husband didn’t have that restraint. He never sent me to the hospital, but he might have given time.

While Daniel has a fairly even temperament, David was bipolar. His typical reaction to stress was to become a maniac: loud, arrogant, up till all hours of the night until he’d had enough to drink that he could sleep. He was also supremely confident that he was in the right in any situation and I was wrong. In that household I was only entitled to my opinion if it matched his. And he claimed complete expertise on every subject including doing the laundry, as if he ever did it. Put simply, he wore me out when he was up and occasionally smacked me around. I took advantage of him when he was down, something I didn’t like about myself.

But there was a time toward the end of our marriage when I had one final glimpse of David as the man he might have been without the ups and downs.

At the time we lived in Lexington, Kentucky, where our daughter was born. David was going to graduate school on a full ride scholarship in Math. He was on an even keel, doing well in his classes and giving me no grief. But then he went off kilter again and plunged into depression. (This might have been partly due to Post Stress Syndrome Disorder from his serving in the Navy in the late 60’s. He went to ‘Nam though he only saw action from the distance as a non-combatant.) He started getting C’s in his classes and lost his scholarship. Luckily he got a job with the phone company in Wheeling, West Virginia. This unfortunately set him off into a prolonged manic spell.

I won’t go too much into the rest of that time of our lives except to say that the fall we went to Wheeling I had a vision of my life ahead. David would lose that job. And indeed he did because they couldn’t rely on him to be at work on time. And I would end up getting a really basic job in an office somewhere instead of becoming the college professor of English I aspired to. (By then I had a master’s degree and had taught writing and literature for a couple of years at Marshall University.) Meanwhile D would stay at home, smoking, drinking, and reading Playboy, a pattern of behavior he’d learned from his father. I would pay all the bills, take care of our daughter, do all or most of the household tasks except prepare the entrée for an occasional meal, and if I knew what was good for me, I’d provide him with sex at his demand.

My mother once said, “People don’t change. They just get worse,” a paradox I’ve come to see a lot of truth in. So I thought, Fine. If I have to do all of those things, at least I don’t have to spend the rest of my life having my child watch her father grind her mother down. And so I took our daughter and left him. Three months later some wag in the Records Office put February 14 on the divorce decree. But I don’t care. Leaving David is one of the smartest decisions I ever made, maybe the smartest.

But here’s a little scene the three of us together back in Lexington during our daughter’s first year when D and I were so pleased with her, the spitting image of her father when he was that age. Her crib was in the back bedroom that Dave used as his study. He’d lean over the crib and peek in at her. He called her “Woolly Bear” because of the fuzzy little onesies she wore. “Bear,” he’d croon. And she’d wiggle with delight and gurgle, and I’d smile to see them together. So that essentially is where Daniel Price comes from, from the man the father of my child might have been but rarely was.

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January Jinx is now available as a Kindle eBook for only $0.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4.  It’s also available in print as are Fatal February (available as a Kindle eBook at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM) and Mischief in March (www.amazon. com/dp/B06XR1STRN). My daughter, the very talented Jessica Kincaid, did the covers for all three of these cozy historical mystery novels.

 

Honeymoon Plans Go Awry

After resolving the mysteries of MISCHIEF IN MARCH, Book 3 of the Calendar Mystery series, newlyweds Daniel and Minty Price set off on their honeymoon. But due to a number of unforeseen circumstances, a Harvey Girl, and a would-be Sherlock Holmes,

 

 

they come to fear that they won’t have a honeymoon at all, in “Detectives’ Honeymoon,” the latest short story in the Calendar Mystery series featuring mystery and romance in old Kansas City. This story is now available for you to pre-order for only $0.99 (and free on Kindle Unlimited) at www.amazon.com/dp/B07D8H9JXN

“Detectives’ Honeymoon” begins exactly where Mischief in March, Book 3 of the Calendar Mystery series, leaves off. Here’s a sample.

A young woman, hands folded over her chest and ice blue eyes staring at the ceiling, lay on the bed that Daniel had bought for their new home. Fully clothed from shoes to a white bow ribbon in her blond hair, the woman wore a simple black dress with a long, white bib apron over it. Her white collar looked clean and freshly starched.

“Is she dead?” Minty asked.

Daniel bent over the bed and felt the woman’s wrist. “Yes, she is. Very dead.”

“Oh, dear,” Minty said. “Poor girl.” She covered her mouth with her hand, shaking slightly, and then dropping it, she said, “You know what, Mr. Price? I think she’s one of Fred Harvey’s girls.”

“I believe you’re right, Mrs. Price,” Daniel said.

 

 

 

 

International Women’s Day: Strong Women in Fiction

Recently, I was with a group of women fiction writers, and someone mentioned International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018. The authors at this meeting realized we all write about strong women. So to celebrate the occasion this year, each of us agreed to post an excerpt from our writing featuring one of our strong female characters. And we want to share all our characters with you.

I’m sharing the start of “Lost Dog,” a prequel story to my historical mysteries that introduces the series protagonist, Minty Wilcox, along with several other continuing characters in the stories and books. So here she comes to the rescue of . . . Well, read on and you’ll find out.

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 dress with navy blue trim around the square neck 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 a black school bag 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 big white Victorian house 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 the rest of the way down Penn.

Just after Minty reached Eddie, a slim, brown-haired boy in a white shirt and knee pants, and Peach, a little blonde who wore a plaid dress of mixed browns and tans, Miss Shackleton said, “Get off my property.” She swung the broom at Peach.

Minty caught the bristle end of the broom only an inch away from her youngest sister’s head, wrenched the broom out of the woman’s hands, and threw it in the street.

Off balance, Miss Shackleton stumbled down the steps onto the walk. “What do you think you’re doing?” she said.

“How dare you take a broom to my sister?” Minty said.

“But, but . . . ,” the woman sputtered. Then, perhaps recognizing Minty’s anger, she turned, retreated to the middle of the stairs and turned to face Minty again. Tall and gloomy in a black dress with huge leg o’ mutton sleeves several years out of date, Agnes Shackleton had gray hair split by a center part. As usual, her long, bony face wore a sour look. “She was on my property,” she said. “The boy, too.”

“My brother and sister are on the sidewalk now,” Minty said. “And it’s public property.”

“They were on my steps before and they were attacking me.”

Minty might have laughed at that if she hadn’t been boiling mad. “I doubt that very much,” she said.

Miss Shackleton gave Minty a long hard stare before she said, “Well, that girl is most impertinent.”

Minty could see how some might find Peach impertinent because she often spoke before she thought. But Minty wouldn’t concede anything to Miss Shackleton who said, “I suggest, Miss Wilcox, that you control these gutter snipes that your mother allows to run wild on the streets making noise at all hours of the day and night.”

Her back decidedly up, Minty said, “My brother and sister aren’t gutter snipes, Miss Shackleton. And I will thank you to quit calling them names.”

“Minty, what’s a gutter snipe?” asked Peach, so dubbed at birth by their father because she was such a peach of a girl.

“Somebody who’s not very nice,” Eddie said. An earnest boy of thirteen, the youngest of Minty’s four brothers limped up to Minty. He wore special shoes for the clubfoot he was born with that later was repaired, at least in part, by several surgeries.

“How come they’re not nice?” Peach said.

“We’ll talk about it later, Peach,” Minty said, her breathing and heartbeat finally slowing. She turned back toward Miss Shackleton. “If you’re talking about last night, lots of people were out and about to see the fireworks. So what if they set off a few firecrackers? Lots of people did.” Including me, Minty added to herself. It was so much fun, but then Miss Shackleton seemed to have lost the ability to have fun—if she’d ever had it, that is.

Miss Shackleton sniffed. “I shouldn’t be surprised at their behavior. Your mother runs a disreputable establishment with people in and out all hours of the day and night.”

“She does not,” Minty said. “Our boarders are very respectable. And Mama has a rule that everyone must be home by ten, even the grown-ups, except for special occasions like Independence Day.”

“Well, they were shouting at me,” Miss Shackleton said.

“Probably for good reason, Miss Shackleton,” Minty said. She turned her head a little before she said, “Eddie, what’s going on?”

Before Eddie could answer, Peach said, “She was trying to kill the doggy. Maybe she did already.”

“What dog?” Minty asked.

To read the rest of “Lost Dog ,”  click on the following link. (It’s only 99 cents to buy and always free on Kindle Unlimited)  www.amazon.com/dp/B0752SWBG1

For the posts from the other women authors in our group about their strong women characters, please follow the links below:

Joyce Brown, author of cozy mysteries  http://www.joyceannbrown.com/blog/international-womens-day-strong-women-in-fiction

Darlene Deluca, author of women’s fiction and romance: https://darlenedeluca.com/2018/03/07/international-womens-day-strong-women-in-fiction/

Pamela B. Eglinski, author of suspense and historical fiction

Theresa Hupp, author of historical fiction

If you like the excerpts these authors have posted, then let them know in a comment on their blogs. Writers always enjoy hearing from readers

Happy International Women’s Day!

New short story

“The 9th Street Gang,” Juliet Kincaid’s latest calendar mystery short story, is now available for only #99cents at www.amazon.com/dp/B079YYVTTX or a penny less than a pound at www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B079YYVTTX but it’s always free on Kindle Unlimited.

“The 9th Street Gang,” an Old Kansas City Story

Happy to be wearing her old brown coat that the wet snow wouldn’t hurt and galoshes over her boots because of the slush underfoot, Minty Wilcox marched along 9th Street at Daniel Price’s side.

Daniel had bundled up in his tan overcoat, pulled his brown fedora down over his forehead, and wrapped a black muffler around the lower part of his face, so she could see only the red tip of his strong, aquiline nose and one dark brown eye squinting against the snow.

He’s my fiancé, Minty thought. We’re engaged! In just a few weeks time, I’ll be Mrs. Daniel Price. And I’ll be in on that secret married couples keep to themselves. Just thinking about solving that mystery set up a tingling in her lower parts . . .

In their first case together as a detective couple, newly engaged Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price pursue a gang of thieves plaguing Kansas City in February 1900. Distractions include the objections of their boss to any show at all of their affection for each other inside the office and out, Minty’s growing attraction to Daniel, and her wayward thoughts about the secret married couples keep to themselves. Join the fun, mystery and romance of this Calendar Mystery short story and along the way meet the son of a famous outlaw.

Praise for January Jinx, the first book in Juliet Kincaid’s 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.

Click on this link to learn more about Juliet Kincaid and her publications and how to buy them: https://www.amazon.com/Juliet-Kincaid/e/B00DB4HWRG/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

 

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 . . .