I'm not a fan of winter. I used to hunt in November and ice fish through the end of March, but physical issues and loss of friends took their toll on those, so I had to come up with other ways to stay sane while snow covers the countryside. Fortunately, I'm a reading addict, I've read 84 books thus far in 2014 and have a TBR stack that's going to keep me going until at least August.
All that reading has helped in another way. Since I review almost every book I write on the CMLD Librarian's Blog at http://cmldbookreviews.com/ I've learned to read and assess simultaneously. Doing that has enabled me to look at my own writing in a much more professional way. I've now written seven books and am eyeball deep in number eight. This one was completely unexpected. It started with my musing about why someone would want to get a tongue stud. I won't go into detail about where that took me, because that's good for another complete post somewhere else. From there, I started thinking about how many themes have been repeated multiple times in YA fiction in the last couple years. For example, I've read at least five books recently where one of the main characters has leukemia. When I was a medical librarian and one of the professional staff had me do a search that came up empty, my standard reply was, "You just found an opportunity to get published."
That started me thinking about what aspects of illness haven't been covered in YA fiction. Since my background includes 27 years in mental health, I started thinking about what aspect of teen mental illness hadn't been done yet. Ten minutes later, I was going 100 MPH creating a new book idea. I couldn't stop. My next project was going to be a juvenile mystery called Shear Pin Summer. In fact, I've been fleshing out the characters, the setting and some of the hooks since the idea came to me at the New England Crime Bake last November. Well, Finding Ginger, the working title for my latest effort, kicked poor Shear Pin to the curb. I got the idea three weeks ago and as of last night, I was approaching the 40,000 word point. I've added a synopsis below. In addition, I'm ready to send off my two short story entries to both the Al Blanchard and Level Best mystery contests. I'm submitting a story called ATV about a mildly retarded kid from Palmyra who outwits an unusual kidnapper and Posh Digs, a story set on Mt. Desert Island that has a double twist at the end. I'm pretty happy with both of them.
[Synopsis] Twyla was fourteen when she had her first psychotic break. The plunge into a near-lethal depression scared and scarred her terribly. After her fourth hospitalization, one that followed two extremely traumatic events, she realized that her parents were never going to understand what prescribed medications did to her soul. She used her mother's bank card to withdraw $600 and vanished, making sure she covered her tracks well. After a stay in Boston crashed and burned, she ended up in Bangor, Maine. She's getting by on money she finds in the mall parking lot along with what money she gets from the returnables she digs out of trash cans and snowbanks. She's living in the Goodwill donation box at the edge of the mall parking lot and when there's no money, she dumpster dives behind the food court at the mall.
Abel grew up in Greenbush, a small town north of Bangor. His parents barely got by and had no health insurance, so when he was born with a deformed eye, he never received proper treatment. His eye got so bad it had to be removed when he was five. He started kindergarten while waiting for an artificial eye and the class bully overpowered him on the first day, taking his patch so everyone could see the empty socket behind it. When he got a donated eye several months later, it wasn't the same shade of green, causing him to become even more self-conscious. He's now nineteen and has never had a girlfriend or much of a social life. Despite his history, Abel is smart and compassionate. He's an avid reader and has had some short stories published. He works the late shift at the KFC in the mall food court and recently realized that someone is going through the trash at night, looking for something to eat. He's started making sure he leaves something safe and nutritious at the top of the last bag he deposits every night.
He goes out to leave an extra bag of trash one cold March night and finds Twyla crouched beside the dumpster, eating the chicken breast he'd left earlier. When she pulls out the switchblade she keeps handy to defend herself, things could go either way, but each of them sees something in the other's expression that starts them down a most unusual road.
I know how the story ends, but I'm having a terrific time getting them there.