Monday, March 26, 2012

Writing Monday: From Inspiration To Novel

After several days on various blog hops and more looming straight ahead, I've got a few days in between to kick back and offer up information about various topics related to writing or reading.

Many people ask me questions these days and I try to answer them as best I can but it's not always easy.  Some of what I do is creative auto pilot and so I have to stop and think about the process.  But with a new release coming out within days, I thought I'd try to break down the process from the first sparkle of inspiration to the finished product.

My next release is Miss Good Samaritan from Rebel Ink Press.  I'll share the blurb and then get into the mechanics of its development:

Robin Cavanaugh's ordinary Saturday goes awry when a wounded man leaps
into her car at a traffic light and refuses to go to the hospital. Robin's
first instinct is to take him to the nearest police station but when he
tells her his name, she realizes he's a member of her church. He swears
he's one of the good guys and Robin feels inclined to believe him. So she
takes him home and tends his wounds.

When his condition worsens, she even uses his cell phone to contact what
turns out to be his brother, the local medical doctor. Robin soon learns
that Gray is no criminal but an undercover agent whose life may be in

As their relationship develops and Gray heals, Robin becomes part of the
action, too. When she gives him her heart and accepts his marriage
proposal, Robin has no idea if he'll survive his last undercover operation
or not.

One day, thinking about urban traffic and a particular roadway in Tulsa, a place I love to spend some recreational time, I "saw" an image of a man dressed in funky punky Goth leathers running through a green space.  With the small spark I began to figure out who was he and why was he running and where would he go.  I can't explain how the ideas build but within fifteen minutes, I knew he was Grayson Holcomb, an undercover law enforcement officer dressed as Spike McGee, his undercover alter ego.  He fled a drug bust gone bad when the local police moved it and afraid of blowing his cover, Gray ran and was wounded in the process.  He sees a car stopped at a traffic light and jumps inside before the light changes.  When it turns green, he tells the young woman behind the wheel to "hit it" and she, against her better judgement takes off.

The title came next - which doesn't always happen but since Robin Cavanaugh decided to help the injured stranger, I thought about the good Samaritan.  Since my Samaritan is female, I came up with "Miss Good Samaritan".

So I started writing with no more than that - I tend to be a pantser, not a plotter most of the time (although my new WIPis plotted straight through) and the story grew.

Just for fun and to tease potential readers, here's an excerpt from the opening chapter of Miss Good Samaritan:

Robin spotted the man and wondered just what in the world he was doing. He ran at furious speed, racing across the open spaces between the electrical substations as if his life might be in peril. She couldn’t imagine what else would inspire anyone to run so fast or so hard.  Curious, she kept her eye on him to see where he went or what he did.  Until now, her Saturday had been as ordinary as faded denim jeans, the same old routine as Robin ran her weekly errands, ten minutes late for her hair appointment. Dirty laundry piled high filled half the back seat en route to the Laundromat. As she slowed for a traffic signal behind a long string of vehicles at one of the highway interchanges, the runner she’d noticed reached the sidewalk traveling alongside the road. His diagonal path took him front of her car so to avoid hitting him Robin braked hard enough to bring the car to a sudden stop, a vehicle length behind the others at the light. At the last moment, he veered, switching course and instead of passing in front of her Buick, snatched open the passenger door and climbed inside. Before she could scream or protest, the light turned green, and he spat out two words,

“Hit it!”

She almost didn’t but the truck behind her blared its horn and after a brief hesitation, she drove forward, heart beating with a rock and roll rhythm. Every bone in her law-abiding body screamed something must be wrong. Although the sun was shining, the air held the first chill of autumn frost. Her passenger’s sweating face gleamed too pale and his eyes glittered with misery. He gasped for breath as if he’d been running hard for a long time and when she sneaked a closer glance, she noticed blood dripping in short, staccato rhythm from beneath his leather jacket.

“You’re bleeding,” she said, shocked. In her comfortable world, people didn’t bleed from anything besides minor cuts inflicted while slicing fresh vegetables, a stray sewing needle, or skinned knees when you were three. “Are you hurt?”

“I got shot,” he barked, each word requiring a harsh drawn breath. “Just drive, okay?”

“Shot?” she echoed. “You’re shot?”


Robin clamped her fingers tighter around the steering wheel as her body stiffened with nervous tension. Whatever he was involved with she had no part in it and couldn’t get involved.   He looked terrible, paler by the moment and she knew he must be in some terrible trouble.  Still, she couldn’t just abandon him.

“I can take you to the hospital,” she said. “That’s all I can do. Hang on and we’ll be there in a few minutes, just as soon as I figure out if we’re closer to Hillcrest, OSU, or St. Francis,”

He closed his eyes, shuttered tight against the pain but at her suggestion, he opened them and glared at her.

“No hospital,” he choked. “They report gunshot wounds,”

Disbelief cut through her anxiety so that she spoke without thinking,

“Are you telling me you don’t want to go to the hospital?” He must be insane, Robin thought. He needed immediate medical attention. Those drops of blood she’d noticed were now a stream flowing down the seat and puddled onto the floorboard. “You need to get help – you’re bleeding all over the place.”

His eyes narrowed as he glared at her.

“I know but I can’t go to the hospital. The law requires them to report any gunshot wound and if they do, I’m a dead man. Drive faster. I don’t think they saw what car I got into but they might have.”

“Who saw you?” Robin asked, afraid to hear the answer.  The way he’d been running, she figured it must’ve been the police, drug dealers, a gang or maybe organized crime.

“I think maybe the cops did,”

Her attention strayed from the road as Robin wheeled around to stare at him, realizing for the first time that he wore black leather pants, leather jacket, and a black T-shirt.  His hands displayed half-leather gloves while studded bracelets circled both wrists.  His long hair curled around his neck in back but he kept it close cropped in front.  The hair on top must've been spiked with gel although it wilted, flat after his run.  Robin couldn’t decide if his getup represented a biker look, pUnk, gothic, or what but his fashion statement stretched way outside her comfort zone. He must be a criminal, she thought and in an effort to remain calm, she asked,

“Were the police chasing you?”

Her voice emerged shrill and frantic but he didn’t appear to notice.

“Yeah, they were. They shot me.”

She braked hard and pulled from the road into a discount store parking lot.

“I ‘m sorry about this,” Robin said. “But I need to take you to either the hospital or the police station. I can’t help you if you broke the law.”

Beneath his mussed hair, his sweat-slimed face relaxed and he grinned, looking younger and vulnerable.

“I’m not a criminal and I’m innocent. I promise you I am.”

Robin pulled into a parking space far away from any other vehicle and turned to him, hands shaking, with a major headache in progress.

“Let’s see if I understand,” she said, with slow precision. This impossible scenario couldn’t be happening. Her reputation and record were washday clean.  She’d never been written a single traffic ticket and now a fugitive from justice might be bleeding to death in her car. “You were pursued by police officers, they shot you, and you don’t any medical treatment because they’ll report it and then authorities will arrest you.”

“That’s about it.”  He sounded serene despite his injury and situation.

Robin wasn’t calm at all, as words tumbled from her mouth. “What am I supposed to do with you? I’m getting my phone out of my purse and calling the police. I can’t do this. I’m a law abiding citizen.”

A dry, harsh sound burst from his mouth and it took more than a minute to realize he was laughing, even though his bleeding increased.

“Go ahead,” he said in a raspy, thin voice. “They’ll charge you with aiding and abetting a fugitive from justice. It might lessen the charges a little because you called but the fact is you’ve picked me up and drove around with me in the car. The old innocent until proven guilty thing doesn’t always apply.  If it did, I wouldn’t be bleeding all over your car. I really am innocent.”

He sounded so convincing Robin wanted to believe him but doubt reared up with a powerful surge. Wondering just how she ever got into this mess, Robin sighed and rubbed her forehead as her headache expanded. By now, without this twist of fate, she’d be at Ci Ci’s Curling Iron, relaxed in the beauty chair.  Right now she should be getting her hair done, not dealing with a fugitive and a headache pounding like a bass drum in a football homecoming parade, all at the same moment.  

What I should do, Lord, she prayed and waited for an answer but no clear one came so she sighed and tried to find some way out of this mess.

“I don’t even know your name.”

Her passenger tried to grin. “I guess you want the real one.”

His nonchalance sent her headache into a new dimension of pain.

“It’d be nice,” she told him, unable to keep the bite of sarcasm from her words. ““I’ll tell you mine – Robin Cavanaugh.”

He laid his head back against the seat and nodded.

“I know. I remember you from Living Love Chapel. I played bass guitar there a year or so ago. Some people know me as Spike Joe Magee but I’m Grayson Holcomb. Most of my friends call me Gray. I thought you’d remember me.”

Robin’s mouth widened and stayed open as she stared at him, trying to see past the leathers and the pUnk fashion to see Gray, the bass guitarist at Living Love. If she squinted and tried hard enough, she recognized him but he’d changed from the quiet, talented man making music in his faded blue jeans and button down Sunday shirt.

“You look different,” Robin said, shutting her mouth as she tried to assimilate this man with the one she’d known by sight at church and spoke with a few times.

“I guess,” Grayson said. “Do you have anything to stop the bleeding? I’ll tell you whatever you need to know, when I can, but I feel like I might pass out.”

Miss Good Samaritan coming April 3 from Rebel Ink Press
Available at AllRomance Ebooks, Amazon, Bookstrand, Coffee Time, Barnes and Noble and more!

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