December 5, 2011

Secrets, Lies, & Love

By Roseanne Dowell

I've always had a love for Victorian Houses, Queen Anne Victorian to be exact. Something about that tower room fascinates me. My dream used to be to own one and renovate it. Alas, a dream that didn't come true and at this stage in my life, I'm beyond wanting to renovate anything. Not to mention, I certainly don't need a house that large anymore. It's enough to keep my five room house clean.

But, I still love them and they still fascinate me. Sometimes I think I lived in one in another life, probably as the  mean old nanny. Anyway, I often use these homes in my stories. I'm not sure how I came up with the idea for Secrets, Lies, & Love, but I had no doubt it was set in a Queen Anne home.

This story took me over two years to write, partly because I was blocked the better   part of those years. I took the advice of someone who spoke at our local chapter of RWA. She said if you've never plotted a story and wrote a synopsis first,  we should try it. Now, I'd already written several novels and I never plotted one of them and I always wrote the synopsis after the book was done. It's just the way I wrote. But, I figured what the heck, I'd try it once. And believe me, once was enough. When I sit down to write, I generally have an idea for a story. I know the beginning and the end, what comes in the middle is as much a surprise to me as it is to the reader. The first thing I do is work up a character worksheet. I know the hero and heroine inside, outside, backwards, forwards and then some before I start.

But this time, not only did I know my characters, I sat down and wrote a synopsis of what I wanted to happen and then I plotted my story. Okay, I was ready to start writing. I was doing pretty good until I hit a snag. Something didn't feel right. My characters didn't like the way the story was going, I guess. I couldn't make them do what I wanted them to do. So, I put it away and worked on something else.

Eventually I came back to it and reread what I'd already written - I do this with all my work to familiarize myself with it and I tried to write. My mind went blank. I knew what was supposed to happen, I just couldn't get there.  Again I put it away. This went on every couple of months when I pulled it out and tried to move on. Sometimes I wrote a couple lines or paragraphs, but the story wouldn't move forward.
It wasn't until I finally tossed the synopsis and plot. By then I pretty much had forgotten everything but the ending. Suddenly, I was able to write and the book took a completely different turn than the original plot.
I will never again write a synopsis or plot a book before I write it. If you're a panster, don't listen to someone tell you to try plotting. If that works for them, fine. It doesn't work for everyone. Don't let anyone pressure you into trying something different.

I'm glad I was finally able to finish this story and it's so much better than what I plotted.

Secrets, Lies, & Love will be available from Books We Love Publishing Jan. 4th. 

Meghan Shelby is excited that she got a job her very first day back to Littleton. What doesn't excite her is that her boss is none other than Patrick MacShaunessy - her secret crush from high school. Just seeing him again makes her tremble. Could she work for him every day and keep her secret?

Meghan isn't prepared for the run down condition of the family home. Obviously her aunt let it go to pot. Shutters were hanging, the porch was rotten, windows broken, and the lock on the door no longer worked. And she certainly didn't expect to find a dead body in the living room.


Meghan loved this time of year, though a little too hot to start school in her opinion. Why they felt the need to go back in August was beyond her. She remembered her mother complaining about it years ago. “What was wrong with starting after Labor Day like they did in my day?” Her mother used to rant and rave for weeks before school started. Even got on the School Board. Not that it changed anything. School still started the last week in August. Meghan smiled at the memory.
Now that she thought about it, it was silly. Like they took the last week of vacation away from the kids. Bet the teachers didn’t like it either.
Meghan pulled into the school parking lot. Not much had changed here either. New landscaping, new windows, but that was about it. The old building looked pretty much the same.
Her footsteps echoed in the empty hall. She’d never been in the school when it was empty before. The strong odor of wax and other cleaning products prickled her nostrils. The clean smell lingered through the first few days of school.
It had been a long time since she’d been to the principal’s office and she stopped outside, took a deep breath and held it. Here goes nothing. Mr. Duncan said look for Mr. Mac.  He must be new in town. It wasn’t a name she remembered. So what was the worse he could say? Letting out her breath, she hurried inside, before her nerve left her. A man stood with his back to her, unpacking a box of books.
“Excuse me. I’m looking for Mr. Mac.”
 “I’m Mr. Mac.” He turned toward her.
Meghan’s breath caught in her throat. “Patrick!” The word slipped out of her mouth, before she could stop it. The love of her life stood in front of her, even better looking and sexier than she remembered. Her heart skipped a beat, her legs turned to jelly, and she grabbed the edge of the desk to steady herself.
Patrick smiled at her. That easy smile she remembered from long ago. The smile she used to love. It lit up his eyes.
“Little Meghan Shelby. Not so little anymore I see.”
Heat burned her cheeks as Patrick looked her up and down, apparently taking in every inch of her. He remembered her. After all this time he knew who she was. Would wonders never cease?
“Uh, um...” Oh crap. Now wasn’t the time to get tongue tied. “You’re the principal here?” Lord, could she work for him. See him every day?
“Yes, I am. I heard you were back in town. Are you staying then? Do you want to register your child?”
“Huh?” Her child, was he nuts? “Uh no I’m here about the secretarial position. Mr. Duncan was supposed to call you.”
“Really? You want the job?”
“Yes, didn’t Mr. Duncan call? He told me to come right over.”
 “If he did I didn’t hear the phone. I’ve been in and out of the office.” He nodded toward the stack of books. “Too busy around here this time of year.” Patrick grinned and motioned her into his office. “So tell me about yourself. What qualifies you for the job?”
Qualifications? Think damn it. What was the matter with her? She’d lost all train of thought. “Well, I’m computer proficient. I’m good with math. And I love children.” What more could he want?
“I see. So why do you want the position? Tell me about your education.”
His deep voice sent shivers down her spine. Meghan couldn’t take her gaze from him. All sense of reason flew out the window. She had the most God awful urge to reach up and push his dark hair out of his eyes. “I’m a former Math major, have two years of college. I’m a quick learner.” Finally, she looked away.

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Win a prize - leave a comment with your email to be entered in the drawing. This week's prize is Kohl's Cares Good Housekeeping "A Very Merry Christmas" Cookbook. It "features hearty dishes, mouthwatering cookies and traditional table centerpieces the entire family will enjoy." I'll draw a winner for it next Wednesday, Dec. 7th.


Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Roseanne. Thanks for being my guest today. Love the excerpt and learning about how others write. I don't plot for the most part either, but have learned that it does help the process sometimes.

Roseanne Dowell said...

Thanks for having me today.

Karen Cote said...

Hi Ro! Lovely seeing you here today! Fabulous excerpt! I'm so glad this story finally emerged. I know exactly how you feel. I am a total pantser. Outlines are a killer for any story I write. The excitement goes away, the mystery for me is deflated. I do admire those who can plot, however, but it's not for me. Love your writing dear friend. How many books is this now?? You go.

marybelle said...

Thank you for sharing your writing journey. I'm so glad to got there. Loved the excerpt.