Spooky Halloween Weekend

Halloween was one of my husband’s favorite holidays. He enjoyed wrapping the stepladder in an old white sheet to make a ghost in our yard and setting up a sound system to play eerie music when kids came to the front walk. He’d sit on the porch swing, shrouded in a hooded cape and make more scary noises, to see which kids were brave enough to make the long walk from the public sidewalk to our porch.

Part of my husband’s delight was in seeing all the kids out having such a good time, back when so many kids went door-to-door to trick or treat.

The other part was the fact that this holiday kicks off the fall/winter holidays, which he loved so dearly.

It’s now been seven years since my husband died, and I have finally been able to enter into this special time with more joyful anticipation and less pain. As anyone who has lost a partner who was part of one’s life for years can attest to, those first few years of holidays without are excruciating.

Because of the COVID 19, this is going to be a very strange end of the year for holiday celebrations. First of all, my doctor advised that I stay away from close contact with people, so I won’t be giving out treats on Halloween or sharing the excitement with my neighbors who will be outside.

Sadly, I may not be gathering with any of my kids for Thanksgiving. We’ll just have to see what the next few weeks bring.

Christmas? It’s probably way too soon to speculate on that, so I won’t.

It’s been a while since I showcased the mystery, Doubletake, that I co-wrote with Margaret Sutton, so I thought I’d share a bit about how we came to write the story on the blog today.

While I’ve written most of my books and screenplays alone, there have been times I’ve shared the byline with someone else, and I must say, I enjoy the collaborative process. Two creative minds are sometimes better than one, if those creative minds can put egos aside and focus on the story. That’s what Margaret and I were able to do when we wrote, Doubletake, a police procedural mystery featuring a female homicide detective set in a fictional suburb of Dallas.

When I first met Margaret and we decided to write a book together, all I could think of was “The Odd Couple.” Not that either of us matched the personality types of Felix and Oscar, but we certainly were as opposite as opposites could get. I was a mom, a homemaker, and a humor columnist, known as the Erma Bombeck of Plano, Texas. Margaret was a successful business woman whose writing experience included invoices, business letters, and a single sale to Ellery Queen’s Mystery magazine.

How could we turn out anything even remotely appealing to fans of hard-boiled crime fiction?

Somehow, we managed to do it.

Right off, we realized how much research we needed to do. Collectively, we knew zip about law enforcement – speeding tickets not withstanding – and we had no clue how the criminal mind works. We were lucky in that we both had connections to people in law enforcement, and those people were happy to help us get it right.

Readers really do hate it when authors don’t get it right.

After the research and brainstorming sessions, we did a broad outline of the story, and we each chose sections to write. Usually, that was determined by who came up with the original idea for that part of the plot, and I was amazed at how effortless that process turned out to be. We would then meet once a week to trade pages, adding our touch to the other’s work.

When Margaret read my first attempt to get into the killer’s mind, she just gave me a look as if to say, “Really?”

My narrative was… well, how should I put this…so nice. But what did she expect from a mom? She put the pages down and said she doubted that any killer would have “Gosh, Golly, Gee” running through his mind as he was contemplating killing someone. Maybe he’d go for something with a little harder edge.

Margaret took me out behind her barn and made me use words I’d never even heard before. She made me say them over and over until she thought maybe I’d gotten that harder edge, and when I moved on to writing my own mysteries, I was grateful for that lesson.

A writing partnership that is a complement of talents is a real gift. In the two years we worked on Doubletake, Margaret’s strengths bolstered my weaknesses and my strengths bolstered hers. We each brought something unique to the process, and I couldn’t look at a chapter now and tell you specifically who wrote which section. I may know who started a chapter. Margaret does have a wonderful way of setting up memorable secondary characters-the introduction of the irascible Dr. Davis is uniquely hers-but beyond that, the lines blur; which is a very good thing. Even though quilts play a central part in the plot, I’d hate to think the book resembled one.

If you haven’t read this mystery, check it out at Amazon for Kindle versions and Draft2Digital for other e-reader versions.

Two brutal murders rock the quiet community of Twin Lakes, Texas, and Detective Barbara Hobkins must catch the killer before becoming the target of Doubletake. First published under the pen-name Sutton Miller, the book has been revised, updated, and re-released as an e-book and paperback.

“You’ll hate to put this one down until you have read that last word. Highly recommended by a satisfied reader, and I’m looking forward to the next book by this author. Enjoy.” Anne K. Edwards

That’s all for me for now, and I’ll be taking a few days away from the Internet. I’ll check back in on Wednesday to see who the president is, and hopefully the election will go smoothly with no violence.

What will you be doing on Halloween? Whatever you have planned for the weekend, be safe and be well.

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