Friday, October 29, 2010

I Needed Something to Read, So I Wrote This Book

“Never have I felt such menace.”
That was the first line of my first mystery.Chilling, n'est pas? I had no idea what to say after that.
The main character was threatened by something—but what?
Where? Immediately, the public library that had been a favorite hangout of mine sprang to mind.(Very Hitchcock-like. Shadow of a Doubt-ish. An ordinary person trapped in an extraordinary experience.) What could be more innocent than the stacks of a public library? But why would anybody feel menace? Something supernatural? I discarded that right away. I don’t care for fantasy novels, and I especially don’t like mysteries that feature ghosts, aliens or other such unnatural beings. It feels like cheating, somehow. No, my mystery would have real people experiencing real menace, with a real world explanation for the feeling.

I know! The villain would wear a particular kind of scent that only my heroine (I decided my main character would be female) could perceive. Or maybe she was allergic to something that was connected to the villain. Okay, she’s in the library and she gets the hives or something whenever…Naah. (Sound of crumpling paper.)

I tried again. My heroine would go to a college reunion. That’s the ticket! Years ago, Julie’s sweetheart, Cal, died from a fall right before college graduation. His roommate, Jeffrey, is also at the reunion. Jeffrey is the author of a famous novel called The Thing With Feathers that has become a classic, but he has never produced any more books. Eventually we learn that Cal was the actual author of TTWF and that when Jeffrey accidentally killed Cal in a scuffle, he decided to publish the roommate’s book as his own. Jeffrey is secretly remorseful over this and the climax of the story takes place on the roof of one of the Gothic campus buildings, with Jeffrey clinging to a gargoyle. (The campus was surprisingly similar to that of my own alma mater, Huntingdon College, in Montgomery, Alabama.) The story was coming along fairly well when a TV movie came out with virtually the same plot. Who would believe I had made the idea up myself? Nobody. (Crumple, crumple, crumple.)

(That wasn’t the first time Hollywood has stolen an idea of mine. I wrote a fanciful short story about a woman who encounters her younger self—a little girl—and learns a great deal by bringing her home and introducing her to her own children. This idea came out of the wistful wish that I could have known my own little girls when I was a child. It was a great story, but Bruce Willis came out with a movie right about that time called “The Kid” with the very same story line. Ah well!)

It’s surprising how many false starts you can come up with before you get rolling with a plot. Back to the public library. Tossing out the “Never have I felt” sentence, I decided to use that venerable building—the old one I grew up using, of course—and planting a corpse there. Things started to pop then. As the setting, I would use the hometown I grew up in. Of course, many changes have taken places there since I went away to college and never really returned, but I ignored those. This town would be the one of my memories, with the same streets, the same old silver diner, the same high school building, even the same ferryboat. (I changed the name of a few streets, because I didn’t want people writing me, saying, “You should know that Brinkerhoff Street doesn’t end at that block any more.”)

My working title was Dear Hearts and Gentle People, which I considered heavily ironic, because some of those people weren’t so gentle at all. The song by Johnny Mercer has always been a favorite of mine. (I was copying Mary Higgins Clark, who liked to use song titles for her books.)

My main character was to be a high school English teacher. I’m not sure why, except that I always imagined I’d be one someday. I’d spent some time substitute teaching in my daughters’ high school, and was relatively familiar with what went on. Amelia Prentice came to life on the page gradually. I’d had several teachers in high school who never married. One had devoted her life to an invalid parent. Amelia had that kind of self-sacrificing character, but in the story she was now on her own, her parents having died.

I was well into the story of Amelia when my real-life aunt began taking chemo. To amuse her, I started sending her chapters as they came out. She would telephone me with critiques, which were quite helpful. The best thing she said was, “This story needs a little romance.” I fished around for somebody to match up with Amelia and remembered that I’d mentioned the newspaper office. A newspaper editor would match well with an English teacher, but since I’d never been a huge fan of romance novels, these two wouldn’t simply fall into each others' arms immediately. Besides, a story is better with a little romantic tension. (Gil was named after a student teacher I’d had in 5th grade and his last name, Dickensen, came from the poet, first name, Emily.)

Amelia needed a sidekick, a foil, and I patterned her neighbor Lily in part after my (aforementioned) aunt. Attractive, sassy, prone to gossip, Lily sprang to life immediately. In fact, her personality was so strong, it threatened to overpower Amelia’s. It took a lot of effort on my part to hold Lily down to Second Banana, but I managed.

So a pattern emerged. I would frame a situation and the appropriate people would appear and take on form. Amelia is knocked unconscious in the public library and encounters a policeman, Dennis. The fun part about Amelia is that, as a teacher in her early 40’s, she has taught almost everybody in town who is younger than she is. Dennis was one of her first students. Lily and Amelia travel on a ferryboat across Lake Champlain. On this ferryboat, they meet up with eccentric Professor Alexander Alexander, whose life’s work includes a search for the famous Lake Champlain Monster. (Since there really are people searching for the monster, nicknamed Champ, there was a lot of crypto-zoological material from which to draw. Fun.)

Humor seemed to come out of the situations themselves. I must have a fairly strong sense of the ridiculous, because I enjoyed seeing Amelia take shelter inside an old-fashioned circular clothesline or watching Lily trying to politely avoid a clearly smitten Professor. I made myself laugh when Amelia, while babysitting, submits to being made up like a clown, then has to welcome a puzzled Gil into her home.

I read a valuable writing suggestion once: “When you’re stuck with your plot, have them get in trouble or eat something.” It works! I used that suggestion when I wanted to move things along, and I had Vern (more about him at a later time) call Amelia on the telephone after he has witnessed a shooting. It’s this situation that eventually draws Amelia and Gil back together and moves their relationship forward. At one point, Amelia stops in at a local diner and encounters a suspect. That came out of this very bit of advice.

Mind you, there were many, many false starts. I wrote several terrible romantic scenes between Gil and Amelia and one really ineffective climax scene. While it is heartbreaking to have to delete huge hunks of writing representing untold hours of work, streamlining is worth it. Another excellent slogan is, “If it doesn’t move the story along, delete it.” In the beginning, I had to delete several pages that lovingly described Amelia’s neighborhood, as she remembered her happy childhood. There was really no reason at all to have that in there, so pfft! (One thing to be thankful for: it’s much easier to take stuff out on a computer than it was when one wrote on a printed page.)

Next week, I’ll talk about Vern, villains, titles and beyond. I hope this inspires somebody to undertake to write something they’d like to read!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Dearest Face

There are times in my life—and I hope in yours—when I have experienced a certain jolt of joy: that of spotting an especially beloved face from far away. Perhaps the person is in a crowd, or at a distance. Maybe they’re in a choir, or a marching band, or simply in a photo, but the sight of that dear, dear face puts a smile on yours.

I saw this happen to my infant daughter when she spotted her Granny’s face in a mirror. It happened to me when I saw each of my daughters in their respective college choirs. Seeing my husband at a podium giving a speech gave me the same feeling. A few months ago, I found an old photo where my late daddy’s contagious smile shone out from among a group of soldiers. There’s a sense of blessing that stirs in your heart and a thankfulness for the very existence of that person. I pray that most of you readers have had that particular experience.

For quite some time now (and I promise this isn’t a change of subject), I’ve been reading a “Through the Entire Bible in Two Years” book (not the actual title). It has selections from Old and New Testaments in fairly digestible hunks, not necessarily in order, along with short prayers and study suggestions for each day. I really like this book. I am ashamed to admit that while I’m fairly well-acquainted with the Word, I haven’t actually gone through the entire Book, word by word. Recently, this book has led me into a place in Scripture I had heretofore found unintelligible, even frightening: Revelation.

To my surprise, as the days go by, I’ve become enthralled with St. John’s exciting description of the events to come in the End Times. Is it allegory or actual? To me, it rings true. A great deal of the Bible is beyond my ken, but one can read it over and over and find new insights each time. This time, it’s like watching a wonderful movie, with fearsome special effects. In the midst of these images is “One Who is like a son of man,” with hair “white like wool” and eyes “like blazing fire.” Feet like “bronze glowing in a fire” and a voice “like the sound of rushing waters.” “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”

St John continues his description and includes amazing beasts and terrible and certain justice for those who have defied God and persecuted His people. My eyes were wide as I read, imagining these scenes, and there was a sense of fear in my heart—an awestruck fear—but along with that was another feeling, a familiar feeling that surprised me began to grow. In the middle of all the fear and wild catastrophe, I saw a dear, dear face, one that lifted my heart and gave me joy.

In the middle of it all, in my mind’s eye, I could see my Friend. The fearful “One Who is like a son of man” is also The One who loves me more than anybody else does. The One who gave his life for me, and Who rises with me every morning, walks with me every day, and listens as I pour out my heart.

Jesus was there! And He saw me! And we smiled at each other. And I knew everything would be all right. Even unto the end of the earth.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Ten Answers to Every Writer's Favorite Question: Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

(A few years ago, I participated in a writer's night at the local public library, where about a dozen writers were given twenty minutes each to talk about their writing. This is how I stayed within the time limit.)

In No Particular Order:

1) Let odd impulses lead you.
I got the idea for the pivotal clue (“UDJ”) in Irregardless of Murder from a license plate. Sitting in traffic, I started mentally tinkering with what those letters could mean. Turns out, the letters have several meanings, and it became a tantalizing part of the ultimate puzzle in the book. Don’t trust your memory when these ideas strike, though. In a coat pocket, I recently found a long-forgotten paper packet of Splenda with the words “You’re killing him!” scribbled on it. It was to remind me of a plot twist I thought of for the second book in the Miss Prentice series, Death Dangles a Participle. If I hadn’t written it down, it would have lost forever in a matter of minutes.

2) USA Today.
If I were teaching writing, I’d have my students take that back page from today’s USA Today—you know the one with the thumbnail news stories, designated by state?—and have them pull an idea from the stories there. There’s at least one good story idea per day, guaranteed. One was about a guy who was arrested for throwing baseballs at passing cars. A writer asks himself the question: Why? What led this man to do this? Is there a humorous or a tragic reason? Where did he get the baseballs? Is he a former player? Or a fan? A disappointed wannabe? There’s GOT to be at least a short story in that!

3) Suggestions from friends and family.
“You gotta write about that!” Whether it’s a distant long-ago relative who made a dramatic escape from marauding Creek Indians after the Fort Mims Massacre or a local criminal with a colorful M.O., sometimes your family members have great stories to tell, especially (but not always) the older ones. My daughter suggested that I base a story on a particularly colorful drug dealer who was caught while we were living in Texas, and I ended up with the basic idea for Another Think Coming, my Texas novel/mystery.

4) Research your past.
When I was a little girl, I loved riding on the Lake Champlain ferryboat that ran from NY State to Burlington, VT. I inserted that enjoyable experience in Irregardless. For drama, had one of my characters fall in the drink. But what would the crew do in such a situation? Fortunately, while on a visit to my parents, we took the ferry once again and I was able to get information from a prominently displayed poster on emergency procedures. I looked a trifle strange, taking notes before a sign reading “In Case of Man Overboard.” The information I gained, though, helped add verisimilitude to the scene.

5) Take a class.
A number of years ago, I took an online mystery writing course through AOL. I found the information extremely helpful. I was in the process of writing Irregardless, and expressed to the teacher that I had difficulty “getting into the head” of my villain. I just couldn’t identify. He responded with some very valuable advice: “Just remember,” he wrote, “a villain NEVER thinks of him/herself as a villain.” It was just what I needed to create my villain and make it believable. Not all writing classes are as helpful. You need to find and instructor who is familiar with the genre you wish to write in. Someone who specializes in romances may not be much help to a person who wants to write science fiction. Still, a basic course is a great help if you’ve never tried your hand at writing before.

6) Model your characters on real people, sort of.
Initially, the character of Lily Burns was based on my late, beloved Aunt Nellie Ruth Lynn, but as I wrote, Lily’s character took on her own unique qualities. Lily was more sarcastic than my aunt, more self-centered, much sharper-tongued. But Nellie Ruth did provide a starting place as a chic, attractive middle-aged widow. Currently, I’m working on Murder in the Past Tense, the third in the Miss Prentice series. My character, Nimrod Rabideau, an Adirondack hermit, is based on John Favreau, an actual hermit who wrote a book about his life in the North Country. Needless to say, the real man never tried out for a musical on Broadway or wrote about witnessing a heinous crime as did my fictional hermit, but again, he was a starting place. In reading about the real man, I learned that it’s possible for such an individual to be articulate, well-read and self-educated.

7) Check out your own area.
About seventeen years ago, the only supermarket in our tiny Texas town, Eastland, burned to the ground on Christmas Day. That is a genuine fact. The acrid, black smoke could be seen in the sky for miles around. Much of the town’s population abandoned their holiday hearths to gather and observe the admirable but fruitless efforts of our volunteer fire department. We took pictures and speculated what an amazing thing it was that the only day the store wasn’t open all year was Christmas! Coincidence? Mebbe? Mebbe not!
I haven’t used that incident in my writing yet, but I might.

There are all kinds of crazy weird things to write about in your town, big or small. In Birmingham, AL, there really is a huge statue that stands above the city and literally moons half the population. You can read about it in the hilarious works of Anne George.
Check around. Find out why that big old farmhouse just off highway 55 has stood abandoned for so many years. Or why there’s a post office window in that very old feed store in Carpenter, NC. (These are all actual things I’ve observed.) Can’t you just feel the wheels of your imagination start to turn?

8) Plagiarize, sort of.
When I worked as an advertising copywriter, I had a boss who highly approved of plagiarism. By that, I mean, if somebody hadn’t written something very, very similar in a successful commercial, it hadn’t been road tested and wasn’t valid. Needless to say, the creative department found this frustrating, but it is true that virtually all plots are based on a handful of basic ones. One source I read said there are only 15 basic plots. Think about it; Alice in Wonderland and Bob Newhart are both based on a very basic plot, one that I call “The Only Sane Man in the Room.” I’m sure you can think of others that have this same premise. The basic plot of my novella, The Applesauce War, was based on a musical comedy called The Fantasticks, which in turn was based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Sure, many of these plots have been used before, but as a character in Sunday in the Park with George remarked, “But not by you!” Just make sure you put your own spin on things, and they will emerge fresh, no matter where you got your idea.

9) Draw from personal experience. (Duh.)
Everyone, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Lauren Weisberger (The Devil Wears Prada) has written about their own experiences. It’s especially helpful when you’re stuck for an idea. For instance, I needed a kind of old-fashioned disease for my heroine to experience in The Applesauce War. Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) I had once come down with a rip-snorter of a case of Pertussis (whooping cough) at the age of  twenty-two. This totally freaked out the university infirmary staff where I was at school, but they consulted the CDC for information on how this nearly-eradicated disease was currently being treated in Third World countries and I recovered. Thanks to this, my character Verity had a medically accurate experience. (The trick with whooping cough is to remember that eventually, after you’ve coughed like mad for about three minutes, you’ll eventually get a chance to breathe, so try not to fight it.)

10) Write, and let the ideas come to you.
While working on Irregardless, I decided that my character Amelia would call a taxicab. I only intended the taxi driver to be an incidental character, but once I named and described him and gave him a couple of lines to say, I learned that he was related to another main character and that he had much to contribute to the story. Vern Thomas, grad student, part-time cab driver and nephew of Gil Dickensen, is now a continuing character in the series.

Writing fiction can be like that. There are times when I can’t wait to see what I come up with next!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why I Love Mysteries--and Why I Write Them

I love mysteries, don’t you?

It’s the same with many of us female mystery readers. From my 11th birthday, when I received The Secret of the Old Clock as a gift and read it straight through, my pillow propped up and a flashlight in my hand, I was hooked.

Of course, Nancy Drew was hard to identify with. She was about 14, drove her own little blue roadster—didn’t they have drivers’ licenses in the ‘30’s?--and in the illustrations wore lace-up, heeled black shoes exactly like those of my grandmother. Add to that, she never had to ask permission to go anywhere, and you have pure fantasy. My mother kindly fed my habit, purchasing new Nancy Drews as they came out. The were only $1 apiece, imagine that!

Two years later, I discovered Hercule Poirot in Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, and my fascination accelerated. Sure, the little Belgian was no more realistic than Nancy, but he had panache, the writing was more sophisticated and the puzzles Agatha Christie devised were far more complicated. And Miss Marple reminded me a lot of my beloved, aforementioned grandmother. As years passed, I managed to read every single thing Agatha Christie wrote, and liked them all, except for Endless Night, which (in my opinion) had an unsatisfactory conclusion and Death Comes As The End, which was set in ancient Egypt. (I couldn’t identify with the characters at all.)

Oh, and Ten Little Indians, beloved of so many junior high English teachers? I hated that one, too. But I adored The Man in the Brown Suit, whose villain was based on a real person, and They Came to Baghdad. (Romantic.) Who wouldn’t love The Alphabet Murders, her tour de force The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Pale Horse, which actually saved a man’s life when a real-life nurse read it and compared her patient’s symptoms to that of the victim.

Inevitably, I ran out of reading materials. I’d exhausted my supply of Patricia Wentworth novels and those of Dorothy Sayers and a host of other geniuses. Agatha went to her reward shortly after the movie of Murder on the Orient Express came out, so that source was gone. I tried contemporary mystery writers and was enchanted by Charlotte MacLeod’s wonderfully deft wit, but they, too, eventually ran out. One day, I bought a paperback mystery novel by an unnamed academy award-winning actor (okay, it was George Kennedy) and was so disgusted by the poor quality of the book that I actually threw it across my kitchen. “Even I,” I snarled, “could write a better mystery than that!”

(I will write of the “evolution” of my first book another time. The focus of this blog is why we love mysteries.)

There are reasons why some readers prefer mysteries and I have several theories on that subject:

Theory 1) Mysteries give us resolution.
Just as many of us prefer a resolved musical chord, a resolved problem, we love a resolved story, where all the loose ends are tied up. This happens so seldom in real life—especially on the news—that it’s a pleasure when it happens in a book. (Many of the earlier mystery writers—ie. Chesterton, Sayers--were Christians. What could be a better resolution than God’s plan of salvation through Christ?)

Theory 2) Mysteries show good triumphing over bad.
Very few mysteries have no real villain. Our world is so full of evil triumphing (temporarily, I believe) that we crave some victory somewhere.

Theory 3) Mysteries are enjoyable puzzles that challenge your intellect.
Lots of books are classified as mysteries that don’t fit these criteria, but those written by the Great Ones of the Classic Golden Age of the Mystery all did.

Theory 4) Mysteries adhere to The Rules.
Again, there are books called mysteries who don’t, but the mysteries I love all:
            a) Play fair—all the clues are there in the text of the book. Subtly hidden, of course.
b) Never introduce the villain at the end—we will have been introduced to him/her/it early on in the story.
c) Never leave loose ends untied. A famous mystery writer once said something to the effect: “If you introduce a dagger in the first scene, you’d better use it by the last!”
d) Never let evil triumph. Lots of writers break this rule, but I hate it when they do.

Anybody? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone have an opinion on this subject? I’d love to read them in the comment section.

Next time: Ten answers to every writer’s least favorite question: “Where do you get your ideas?”

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let Your Characters Tell You Who They Are

First, two quick stories:
1.) I’m not very athletic, and have never played basketball with a straight face, so when the need for a technical basketball term came up in my mystery novel, I was a little worried about accuracy. The term I’d used for a certain position--was it correct? Or did it make my main character sound ignorant? I fretted about this all one day and into the night. Finally, as I was about to drift off to sleep, I remembered a comforting thought: "There’s always Vern. Vern Thomas played basketball in high school and would know if what I wrote was wrong. He wouldn’t let me get away with using an inaccurate term. Good ol’ Vern."
The next morning, I awoke to a jarring fact: Vern was a character in my book and only did what I told him; the ultimate yes-man.
2.) Recently, while I was manning my husband’s booth at an international waterworks convention, a short, handsome man with a strong French-Canadian accent introduced himself as a member of the organizing board and pleasantly asked for our suggestions to improve the convention next year.
I couldn’t think of a thing. My mind was too busy whirling. I tried not to gawk. There he was, in the flesh, right down to the heavy diamond pinky ring and the suave manner: Steve Trechere, the Millionaire from Montreal, a pivotal character in my mystery, IRREGARDLESS OF MURDER! I had countless questions to ask the man, but how do you tell a person, “We’ve never met before, but you’re in my book.” I mercifully allowed him to disappear into the crowd.
It’s my opinion that a writer does his best work when he becomes so involved with his characters that, on some level, he relates to them emotionally. They seem real. It matters to him what happens to these people and it matters to him what they do.
In the climax of IRREGARDLESS OF MURDER, Amelia Prentice faces death at the hands of a selfish and ruthless villain, and experiences what any of us might in this situation: shock, disbelief, fear, bitterness, helpless rage. It is a very angry scene. In the first draft, I was strongly tempted to have her use profane language to express her feelings, but the scene just didn’t feel right that way.
I went back over what I knew about my protagonist: she was a proper, ladylike teacher with a large capacity for compassion and a strong sense of justice, stemming from her belief in God. Would Amelia, at the moment of her death, be likely to use irreverent language just before she was to meet her Lord? Most assuredly not. How, then, would she handle the situation? Since the story was in first person, I had Amelia explain it herself:
"No! You rotten--” Vile, hateful, blasphemous names for[the villain]
bubbled up from my throat. I swallowed them. I was determined that those
would not be my last words on earth.
Now it worked. I had been true to Amelia. I could almost see her nodding approval as she read over my shoulder.
Many writers like to devise intricate back-stories about their main characters. They have file cards filled with personal minutiae, height, weight, hair and eye color, hobbies, etc. I tried that, but it didn’t work for me.
When I meet a person in the flesh, I don’t immediately know everything about him, and it’s the same with my characters. Only through conversation and contact did I gradually learn that someone like Lily Burns (one of my favorite secondary characters) is vain about her looks, but fiercely loyal to her friends. During the writing of IRREGARDLESS, Lily came to vibrant life, full of wisecracks and gossip. In fact, she was such a vivid person, she threatened to upstage Amelia and drag the plot down an unnecessary rabbit hole. This was when I was forced to exercise my writer’s super-power and pull the sassy blonde back into line. I shortened her times on the page and strictly limited her input to plot-enhancing scenes. This would have probably infuriated Lily, but hey, who was writing this thing, anyway?
In my second novel, ANOTHER THINK COMING, it was necessary to build an entirely new population of characters, in a totally different section of the country from IRREGARDLESS (which is set in northern New York State). I wanted to base the plot on the true story of a flamboyant drug dealer who managed to prosper in a sleepy central Texas county for a surprisingly long time, even going so far as to taunt the authorities in local newspaper want ads. We had lived there for eleven years, so I knew a good deal about the situation.
The real Ranger Bandit, as he called himself, was a pretty rough character. I couldn’t identify with him. I needed another, more sympathetic character to tell the story. A family member of one of his victims, perhaps? One with good reason to hate the Bandit. Someone with enough time on his/her hands to plan retribution. A woman, I thought. Obviously, I could identify more easily with a woman.
How about a God-fearing Texas woman who turns her back on all she believes and decides to kill/assassinate/execute the drug dealer who was responsible for the death of--whom?--her husband? her child? her grandchild? What kind of person would she be?
Gradually, Esther MacBride moved out of the mists of my mind and into full view. She would be in her seventies, a widow (a living husband might talk her out of her crusade of revenge) and deeply devoted to her grandchild. The dead child would be a boy, I decided.
Esther would be moderately well educated, enough to be articulate and to use mostly proper grammar, peppered with colorful local expressions. She would not be a native Texan, but would have moved there when she married. That gave her enough perspective to make observations on the uniqueness of Texas and Texans.
The grandson would be a teenager, I decided, with access to drugs. Perhaps he worked for the Bandit? (Or the Desperado, as I re-named him.)
I began the story in medias res (Latin for “in the middle of the action”), when the family receives the news of the death of Nipper (the grandson) and then I just let Esther tell her story. Her personality quirks emerged as the story moved along:
Esther’s a good housekeeper and makes dynamite coleslaw.
She’d been devoted to her now-deceased husband, Jon, and often recalls his wise sayings.
There is an emotional block between her and her daughter-in-law, Paige, a style-conscious, brittle woman who was raised by rather cold-blooded parents.
These and many more details came out naturally, and thanks to the wonder of computer word-processing, I was able to go back in the story and plug in extra background facts where they were needed.
By the time I finished ANOTHER THINK COMING, I still didn’t know the color of Esther’s eyes, but I did know the important stuff:
The woman has unknown depths of courage, makes a wonderful coleslaw and keeps her promises.
She has learned that planning a murder is more difficult than she imagined and that God is not mocked.
If it’s important for the story for the reader to know the color of her eyes, I’ll reveal that fact. Otherwise, I’ll leave it to your imagination.
But if I ever spotted Esther in the grocery store, I’d recognize her like a shot. I’d walk right up and ask for her recipe for slaw.