Monday, November 5, 2018

Midnight Ink--The Second Time Around

By now the news that Midnight Ink has decided to end its mystery line has spread through the mystery reading and writing community, and we have moved on to other topics. This is the second time this has happened to me (and probably a few others on the MI list). In 2016 Five Star announced it was dropping its mystery line just as my fourth Anita Ray novel, When Krishna Calls, was coming out. This time Midnight Ink made its announcement a month after my first Pioneer Valley mystery was released, Below the Tree Line. I was just about ready to send in the second book in the series, due the first week in November, when I read the news on Facebook.

The first time this happened the news hit me hard because I was excited about the fourth Anita Ray book. Krishna seemed to achieve something I'd been working toward for a few years, and to have it dropped was especially disappointing. But I got over it and moved on. Now I face a different question. Will Felicity O'Brien and Tall Tree Farm continue? I hope so, but I'm not holding my breath. I still have a fifth Anita Ray sitting on my bench of projects, right in front of my desk, and the second Felicity O'Brien will now sit right next to it.

In May, while waiting to hear back from a Beta reader, I wrote the opening scene of a stand-alone mystery that has been floating around in my brain for several months, perhaps over a year. I had several other things I was doing, so I gave myself the task of writing a scene a day until the other manuscript came back from my reader, and after it did, I kept on writing a single scene a day until I reached the end, at sixty-five thousand words. I put it aside to work on the second book in the Pioneer Valley series, to meet the approaching deadline.

Over the following weeks I occasionally thought about the "other" novel I'd started, about possible story lines that could be added or a character who could be more fully developed, and I began fine-tuning the draft, because it really was only a draft. The wordage grew, the ending surprised me, and I saw a story and shape I hadn't intended. Meanwhile I finished book two in the Pioneer Valley series.

I don't know if my agent will like this new story, or if she'll be able to sell it. This is not the kind of thing I usually write. It's first person, and more of a suspense story than a traditional mystery novel with an amateur sleuth. Still, the plot flowed once I started writing, and I didn't censor myself. I wrote out of curiosity, so the story has perhaps less of a tight shape than I'm used to, but so what? I made it from beginning to end.

Years ago when I was just starting out I came across a short piece with advice to writers. The main point was this: Editors play musical chairs every five years. The meaning was this: there is no security in this business; be ready for change. It's good advice. 

A small press has asked to see the fifth Anita Ray or the second Felicity O'Brien, or anything else I'd like to show them. I'm thinking about it. But I'm thinking more about the new direction I've been on for the last several months. This is a good time to try something new, and if changing direction can help me grow and improve as a writer, then I'm glad to give it a try. I don't know where I'll end up in another year, but I hope this time my novel will find a publisher that will stay in business for a while. I like having a home.

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  1. I hope the standalone is a big success, Susan. And I hope Felicity finds a new home - I really liked the first book. It's a crazy business, isn't it?

  2. This biz is truly crazy, insane, irrational, whatever adjective works. And you lost a home for your Quaker midwife series also. I hope she too finds a new home. What a saga.

  3. Both series deserve to be around for a long time! Such a strange, uncertain time in publishing. I guess there is nothing to be done but continue to write these great stories and have faith they will find a home!

    1. Marian, it really is a strange time. As a reader, I'm frustrated that a lot of stories I enjoy will be disappearing, and as a writer I'm equally frustrated to know that a lot of my work may now disappear.