“Ice,” the girl panted, leaning over the diner’s green marble countertop. “I need ice -“

“Sorry, lady, we’re closed.” Paul didn’t even bother to stand up. He continued stacking clean glasses under the counter for the morning rush.

And with that, an entire story bloomed in my mind’s eye on Sunday night.

On Point is the second draft of a novel I worked on for last year’s NaNoWriMo. Sounds familiar? That’s also how I Believe You, my five-star debut novel, began. One horrible first draft, a limping-but-better second draft, and a third draft that proceeded rapidly to publication.

On Point welcomes a new family into my stories, the Russo brothers. Brothers Paul and Ray are originally from Long Island, New York, and have relocated to rural Fayetteville, Virginia, a tiny fictitious town in Bedford County (which is real, and near the Blue Ridge Mountains). Paul owns the Timepiece Cafe, a historic diner along the town’s touristy Main Street.

One snowy, bitterly cold night just after Christmas, a beautiful woman blows in with the wind, demanding ice. Ice on a freezing cold December night? It turns out she is Sandra Martinez, a ballerina with the visiting dance troupe scheduled to perform the following day. The ice maker at the Best Western Hotel in town is broken. She needs to soak her aching feet after a full day’s rehearsal for the Nutcracker.

Paul is smitten. Despite swearing that he’ll never see a ballet, he promises Sandra Martinez he will see her perform the following evening.

But Sandra won’t be dancing that night. She won’t dance, ever again.

Paul is thrust into a mystery that swirls around the town of Fayetteville like the snow tumbling from the sky on that bitterly cold evening. With his older brother, construction company owner Ray, Sheriff Charlie Lutz, and the diner’s quirky cast of characters, On Point will keep you on your toes as the hunt for Sandra’s killer commences – and leads right back into the heart of Fayetteville.

As I’m working on the next draft of On Point, I haven’t forgotten The Red Boy House, the next Majek Family mystery. I originally started that story from the perspective of Joshua (Josh), the middle child of the Majek family, but found myself faltering as I attempted to think and write from the perspective of a 17-year old boy. I’m just not that familiar with modern teens, and felt I wasn’t really getting his character perspective ‘right.’ I shifted the second draft to a mixture of David/Josh, alternating chapters, and that still didn’t feel right. And darned if Tibor didn’t come charging back into the story like a runaway stallion, snorting and tossing that mane of hair of his and demanding that the family host Christmas Eve dinner with the traditional Czech Christmas carp. (It’s a real thing. Trust me. I verified it with my Czech neighbor).

I’m finding more and more that the story in the Red Boy House is starting to turn into a story about Tibor and Josh, just as I Believe You was more a story of David and Eddie. When I felt I couldn’t write any more on the Red Boy House, I set it aside, took a ‘writer’s retreat’ day on Saturday, bought a cappuccino at Baines Bookstore in Appomattox (and an excellent cappuccino it was), and sat with my German shepherd dog on a park bench people watching for an hour. You may laugh at this, but it’s that quiet, contemplative time outside of my normal routine that tends to get my creative juices flowing, and when I returned home, I felt the strange inner prompting to write again that drives a writer’s days. The following Sunday, I pulled out my laptop and decide to just let a story evolve. The results became On Point, which I quickly realized was the second draft of the original Salt + Light (which has now been renamed – but I may still use that title elsewhere. I just love that metaphor).

Creative writing isn’t linear. I use my linear writing skills daily as I craft marketing copy for my clients and write business reports, website copy, and all types of professional sales and marketing documents.

But when it comes time to craft a story, the inner prompting to write comes after a long, sustained period of inactivity when I step outside my normal boundaries. It can be as simple as walking my dog along a quaint Main Street, watching people enter and leave a florist’s shop, and suddenly see a work in progress coalesce before my eyes.

I hope you enjoy the book when it finally reaches publication. In the meantime, I’ll share updates on its progress and on all things Chez Grunert.

P.S. I know that “point” as in “pointe shoes” is spelled with an “e” on the end. There’s a reason the title is spelled On Point and not On Pointe. Trust me on this one.

 

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