No one is more surprised than I to report I am meeting the milestones I set for myself in this last big edit of my novel, WHERE YOU WILL DIE. But darned if I’m not finishing up the third of my 12 week schedule with a completion rate to (almost) match The book is 68 short chapters. I’ve finished 20 as of today. The goal is 24 done by Sunday. So I’m just in the range to be a third done in chapters when I’m a third done in time.
To celebrate (hey, why not?) I thought I’d take the chance of appearing immodest and share a little bit of where things are. I’ll post other snippets as things progress. Here, I’ll see if I can’t hook you with the opening few paragraphs:
The spirit of Ruth MacKenzie was visible everywhere in her shop except her body.
Any other Thursday morning for forty years found Ruth at her desk on the mezzanine above the display floor of Ruth’s Reveries, the largest and best stocked antique store in the tiny foothill town known as Eden Ridge. On this bright morning in late May, she was not at her desk. She lay sprawled beside it, legs and arms frozen at grotesque angles possible only to contortionists and cadavers. A pool of blood, black after hours in the open air, formed an ugly halo around her paper white hair. The once-precious fluid stained the rolled collar of her favorite taupe cashmere sweater. Her eyes, open and glazed, stared unseeing over her shoulder. She seemed alert for customers even in death.
A few minutes past eight-thirty the bells over the entrance door chimed, but Ruth did not hear them. A retired couple entered and strolled the aisles, perusing the aged and rare items lining the many shelves of the cavernous store. The woman was drawn toward several Victorian-era display cabinets of hand-carved oak and walnut. Within, shelves of marble quarried in far-off lands bore set after set of delicate, floral patterned china. The man stopped near the door, mesmerized by the large, multi-shelved display Ruth called “The Boy Trap”. Locked behind beveled glass panels, the circular shelves could be rotated to reveal dozens of items sure to appeal to males of every age. One shelf overflowed with knives and razors. Another bore box after box of patches, badges, buttons, and medals. Boy Scout merit emblems and detective’s shields lay in tight formation with posthumous Purple Hearts given away by widows who could not stand to wet the cameo of General Washington with one more tear.
“Hello?” the woman called out. “Could someone give me a price on this?” She pointed to a lone Blue Willow gravy boat she needed to replace the one shattered long ago by a now-grown son. “The cabinet’s locked. Can someone help me?”
If the couple had arrived twenty-four hours earlier, Ruth would have descended the steps from the mezzanine with a large, clanking key ring in hand, bidding good day, and offering tea. As she passed The Boy Trap, she would unlock it and smile at the man, her quick steps and bright eyes belying her three-score-ten-and-more years on Earth and four decades as a savvy businesswoman. She would have opened the china cabinet and chatted with the woman, certain she’d be ringing up the full asking price for the gravy boat, throwing in a well-worn camp knife at half-price.
Hearing no answer, the woman sighed and made for the door, silently motioning her husband to follow. He nearly protested, spying a vintage Buck skinner he coveted, but fell in line and followed his wife, again setting the bells ringing happily.
Ruth would have fired any clerk who offered such shoddy service.
Margaret Atwood says that a novelist’s one job is to keep the reader’s attention, from the beginning to the end. That means every chapter must make you want to read the next. Every page must make you turn it over. Every paragraph, every sentence, every word must draw you forward to the next and the next until you reach that last, empty page and close the cover.
So, if you ran your finger along the spines of paperbacks in a bookstore, and opened this one, would you turn the page?
More to come. thanks for reading.
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