Do you ever wonder where authors get their ideas?
It seems to be a reader obsession. Stephen King got the question so often that at one point, whenever people asked, “So where do you get your ideas?” he’d say, “Wal-Mart.”
(At least I think that was him… just got super distracted trying to track that one down, it’s probably in his masterpiece On Writing.)
(NOTE: If you just want the update on Murder Feels Crazy, jump down here.)
SO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS AT WAL-MART?
But I did get one idea on a hike in the Virginia Shenandoah Valley, on a mountaintop not so different from the one that begins the first Mark and Pete adventure, Murder Feels Awful…
The day was sunny and bright, the sky was blue and clear, and high over my head, like a carefree bird, a white glider sailed serene. No engines, no fuel, no noise, just that silent soaring, so calm it felt almost still.
And it came to me…
The pilot could be dead.
That could be a corpse in there.
We wouldn’t even know.
How nice. And I wasn’t even planning on writing a mystery.
THE GLIDER HAD A CORPSE??
No. I mean, I hope not.
But I prickled all over, staring at this lovely craft that, unlike a normal plane with an engine, might drift on for miles long after the pilot died. (At least, for all I knew.) I could be watching a flying coffin.
The moment lodged and stayed.
And much, much later, when I decided to write a mystery about a empath detective, it transmogrified into this… a scene on a rather similar mountain and day…
This guy did not make eye contact.
I tried three times.
On my first two quick glances, he was apparently way more interested in either watching his step or observing the fascinating local flora.
The third time, he was staring up, craning back his head to see the sky.
This seemed so obviously avoidant that I didn’t think to look up too. Besides, he was more interesting.
Even with his head back, his eyes burned a brilliant blue. They were luminous, the kind of eyes that shine so bright you might fall in. Almost unsettling.
He was also rocking a red-blond mustache, solo with no beard. That was unsettling. Because it actually kind of looked okay. I can’t explain it.
Maybe he was good-looking enough to burn some points on eccentric facial hair? He had a powerful, athletic kind of face. But who knows? I have no clue what kind of look girls actually go for.
I pegged him at mid-thirties, although it was hard to be sure because his reddish-blondish-grayish hair was thinning big time. A large expanse of scalp openly gleamed, and the hair he had left was all fringy and shaggy in the breeze, like the last few months had seen other priorities besides hair care. He wore a ratty T-shirt and thrift store jeans, but he did wear them well.
He tramped around us in awkward silence. Ceci and I put the courteous kibosh on our conversation to make space for obligatory pleasantries, but somehow even Ceci couldn’t muster a “good morning”. And this is a woman who can dump bedpans for sixteen hours straight while sporting the aforementioned cute smile. Somehow, this guy exuded silence like a force field.
Without a word, we went our separate ways.
Then, behind us, he gasped.
Hard. Like he’d been hit in the stomach by a freight train.
Ceci and I shared a glance of mutual what-the-hellitude, then whipped around to see.
The dude was slumped against an old oak, shuddering like he was freezing and fighting to breathe. He looked shocked, even horrified.
Ceci sprang into Nurse Mode, peppering him with medical questions as she leaped down toward him.
But he winced and rasped, “She’s dying.”
I went cold all over. I felt like I’d walked into a car crash. “Who’s dying?” I called, as I stumbled after Ceci.
Still wincing, he nodded … up. Toward the sky.
The sky was blue, cloudless, and totally empty of dying people. A lone white glider sailed serene.
Was this guy hallucinating? Not good. We were alone in the woods, and he looked fairly ripped, like he worked out. A gazillion Blair Witch type scenarios flashed through my head and twisted my gut. If things went sideways, I wasn’t even sure Ceci could take him, let alone me. At least she had a sporting chance, and I could grab his feet or something.
He groaned and writhed in pain. The rough bark was chafing his bare arms, and his triceps were trickling red.
“Where does it hurt?” Ceci said.
But he roared, his blue eyes wide and blazing with panic. I’d never heard a human make that noise, it ripped into you like the death wail of a tortured bear. He arced against the tree in a final spasm of agony. Then he collapsed.
“Sweet Lord,” Ceci muttered. She crouched and felt for his pulse. The swift moves made her an instant nurse, as if this were now a sickbed and she was in scrubs instead of shorts and a sweaty Piano Guys shirt.
He didn’t seem to be breathing.
Then he coughed, sat up, and leaned against the tree. “Sorry,” he said, in a deep growly voice that sounded, for the first time so far, sort of like a normal human being.
With that tone, the crisis dissolved instantly. My butt cheeks began to unclench.
He flashed us each an appraising glance with those searchlight eyes. “It’s fine, I’m fine,” he said. “Sorry. But I’m pretty sure she’s dead.”
“Who?” I snapped, reclenching.
“No idea,” he said. “Up there, I think.”
The sky still spread clear and corpseless above the trees. The glider plane was soaring. It must have been flying solo for awhile, because the tow plane that would have launched it was nowhere in sight. Everything looked perfectly normal.
Then the glider nosedived.
THAT’S COOL, BILL… BUT I ALREADY READ MURDER FEELS AWFUL!
AND THE FREE PREQUEL ORIGIN STORY!
AND MURDER FEELS BAD!
Seriously? You’re amazing, thank you…
SO WHAT ABOUT MURDER FEELS CRAZY? I THOUGHT THAT WAS FINALLY COMING OUT THIS MONTH!!
Right. Murder Feels Crazy. Um. About that…
OH, NO! DON’T TELL ME…
I won’t… not now. 😄
The good news: I’m still pushing hard to release Murder Feels Crazy by the end of October. I’m working on this full-time.
The baddish news: I might not quite make it.
Remember how it set me back when I found out I was totally wrong about guns? I had to rethink entire scenes…
And now… after finishing the draft… and getting top-notch beta reads by my fellow writers…
Well. Now I have to rethink entire characters.
I’m telling you, this book…
The good part is, I think I’ve figured out what I need to change, and even though it means a lot of rewriting, so far that writing’s coming well.
I won’t lie, though. It’s pretty frustrating to get this far, with all my fantastic extra plotting prep, and still miss gigantic problems.
Maybe I’ll tell you about it another time… I would have this occasional twinge that all might not be well… I need to learn to listen to that twinge.
Anyhow, all that really matters is, I’m already much happier with the rewrite. This book’s going to be a gazillion times better for it.
So that’s the Murder Feels Crazy status:
Determined Rewrite In Progress, May Be Slightly Late, But ABUNDANTLY WORTH THE WAIT!
Thanks so much for reading this! I still have everyone’s fantastic emails from the last several months, and your kind words of encouragement keep me going. Thank you.
See you soon, and happy reading!!
P.S. I kind of slipped this in, but did you notice you can start reading Murder Feels Awful for free on Wattpad? I’m just discovering Wattpad; I’ll say more about it later, but if you’re already on Wattpad, could you pop over and give the first chapter of Murder Feels Awful a VOTE? Thank you!