Ends And Odds

While the rough draft of Death Out of Time remains with my alpha readers, I’ve been more than busy. A brand new house needs a lot of work—like establishing a yard. Thus, a short post today.

ybEven when temperatures are hovering around 90 with miserable humidity and endless clouds of gnats, sometimes you need to be out watering the new grass seed. If you’re my husband, you also want to start laying out planting beds before the grass takes hold in those areas. It’s a heck of a lot easier if you don’t have to dig out well-established root systems as you go.

Ends

Even with the house and yard work, I’m still working on the writing. The outline of the new manuscript is taking shape. And with the help of two wonderful blog buddies, I’ve tightened up the plot for it. As a result, I now know how the story ends. Amazingly, the opening chapter foreshadows the ending. Writers are told a good story does this, but don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s easy to do! Honestly, it was sheer coincidence in this case.

Odds

Last week, my husband and I were in DC at an awards banquet for a colleague. While having cocktails and hors d’oeuvres before dinner, we talked with another couple. We had never met before. But as we talked, it became clear that the other man and I must have crossed paths in Honduras back in the 1980s. I’ve never had such an encounter before or heard four people say variations on “I can’t believe this” so many times in one conversation! Honestly, what are the odds? I doubt it could have happened anywhere else.

And really, what a great opening for a novel…. Hmm… What do you think?!

46 thoughts on “Ends And Odds

  1. Exciting to hear about the outlining of your new project. Isn’t it wonderful when you’ve had a good day and you feel like the project was meant to be? I tend to vacillate between the two extremes — oh, my gosh, I love this! (on the good days) and I need to just stop writing because I suck (on the not-so-good days). Great to hear about your first chapter foreshadowing the final one, even if you stumbled into it. That’s a pretty good writing day.

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    • I love those good days. But those bad ones are tough—and too frequent. Honestly, I know exactly what you mean about those feelings! If I ever publish a novel it will in spite of myself! Once the new manuscript is drafted and I start talking about it more openly on the blog, I’ll probably do a post about just how surprising it was that the foreshadowing could ever have come about… 🙂

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  2. I love coincidences like that. A few years ago I discovered that a guy I was working with had gone to the same secondary school as me, and we’d been there at the same time, with me being the first year (aged 11/12) and him in the final year (aged 17/18) – the school had been in North London and we were now working in Canterbury, so a completely different city. The way I look at it though, if you think of the millions of things going on every day around the world, and everything that everyone does and says and thinks, and everyone’s interactions, it’s actually not surprising that things coincide now and again!

    Glad the new manuscript is taking shape too 🙂

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    • It really is a small world! I’m just surprised that a coincidence like this happened to me. After all, the odds might be the same as hitting it big in the lottery! Of course, now I’ve probably used up my luck on beating such odds, so there’s probably no chance I’d ever strike it rich with a ticket. Sigh. 😉

      It’ll be interesting to see if other commenters have similar experiences like ours to share. Maybe I’ll find that such a thing is more common than I thought. 🙂

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  3. Definitely a great opening for a novel! Encounters like that always make clear why we have the cliche “It’s a small world.” Indeed it is.

    Love that your opening chapter foreshadows the ending without you intentionally planning it. I’m more aware of that now, too, and have tried to do it in my 2nd and 3rd novels. But it’s really nice when things fall into place that we hadn’t planned for. I think that means our structure must be pretty good. 🙂

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    • It was so odd. I mean, if he was another archaeologist and we were at an archaeological conference, I could see it happening. But he wasn’t. And the awards banquet wasn’t for archaeologists. So it amazes me how two people from such different backgrounds would intersect—and have such an uncommon shared experience.

      I can see something like this as the opening to a thriller or intrigue type of mystery. Except, one party views the other as potentially (but innocently) bringing to light something that s/he didn’t know was meant to be hidden! Alas, I’m not the person who could write that story. 🙂

      And I hope this means the structure is good for the new WIP. I started drafting sketches of potential scenes yesterday. 🙂

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  4. It’s hard work getting a brand new garden started, but it’s very satisfying to see it take shape and mature.

    That does sound a great opening for a novel – I can just begin to imagine the interwoven threads coming together!

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    • I’ll bet my husband would love to have you add your digging skills to the yard! But you might find the wear-and-tear on your claws to be too much. I’ve never seen so many rocks in a yard before! But that’s the nature of the soil out here. This yard will definitely be a challenge to create.

      I wish I had the “chops” to write that novel! It could be an exciting one….

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    • Thank you, Carol! The yard will be a challenge with the rock-filled “stuff” that is generously called “soil” around here. Of course, we shouldn’t expect anything less living not even 2 miles from a mountain. As we settle in, though, I feel more like writing, and that’s a good feeling. So far, I’m 2 for 2 days in June, and I hope to reach at least 20 days of writing in the month. Maybe the word counts will be in the low hundreds, but that’s still slow and steady progress. And I do like this newest WIP….!

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  5. JM, the house thing is never-ending! But it’s nice, isn’t it? Your new digs look lovely. Isn’t it weird when have a seemingly “accidental” meeting with someone from your past. It would make a good hook in a book. Good luck and nice to hear your writing and having a great go of it once again.

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    • We are definitely a bit exhausted on the house front. But we’re also really enjoying it. And our fingers are crossed that this one takes us through many, many more years. Keeping a nice yard will be a challenge, though. I think we’ll be going heavy on native plants that can handle these rocky “soils.”

      Maybe someday I can work that chance meeting into a story…. It’s wonderful to hear from you, Brigitte, and I hope you’re doing well with your life and writing.

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    • Thanks, Andrea! It’s a nice neighborhood in a lovely setting, even if the “soil” is rocky and not very good for most plants. We’ll be going heavy on native plants that can handle the tough conditions, I think. I hope it doesn’t take as long to write this story as the first two did. Maybe having an outline and better idea of what needs to happen will help!

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  6. It’s great you’ve started on another WIP already, JM. I have a tendency to wait while my current work is being read. Funny enough, I don’t have trouble working on more than one writing project at a time. It’s just that waiting-for-feedback time that seems to slow me down.
    What fun (albeit it a lot of work) to have a brand spanking new house to make your own.

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    • This WIP is one I started some time back, but I quickly had a hard time with it. That’s when I knew it would take more planning than I had ever done before. Now I have a basic outline of the story, and I’ve started sketching out more scenes. I’m hoping that momentum will carry through to a completed story before too much time passes! We’ll see what happens when my alpha reviews are all in. Will I go back to Death Out of Time right away? Or will I keep going with the new one? Can I juggle the two? I’m not sure….

      Right now, we’ve just discovered that starlings are setting up a nest in a second-floor vent. And we don’t have that big a ladder!

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    • In real life, a lot was happening there (and in Central America in general) at the time. 😉 I think my mother was petrified the entire time I was there, but I was truly in a safe setting! If I wrote thrillers or suspense, I could draw so much inspiration from the time and place. Alas, that’s not my genre! But someday it might be fun to try, just for my own entertainment. 🙂

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  7. “I’ve never had such an encounter before or heard four people say variations on “I can’t believe this” so many times in one conversation! Honestly, what are the odds? I doubt it could have happened anywhere else.” Hmm, sounds like a good time travel storyline! 🙂

    I’m fighting with my gardens. It’s not easy to begin anew. I have trouble with wild raspberries. I do manage several bushes in the far end of our backyard, but they seem to like to travel and they’re showing up in my flower gardens. Because they’re thorny they slow my weeding process down. But, I’m having fun with the butterfly garden regardless, and I wish I had more time to devote to it. May and June are so busy for me with kids’ sports and end-of-school year activities.

    Your yard looks really sweet and inviting. I bet you’re having fun with it.

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    • We writers are a creative lot, and I’d bet that could be the opening to a story of so many different genres. Given the time and place, espionage and intrigue jumped first to my mind 😉

      I’d love to have fresh berries, but I’m afraid to try for exactly the reasons you mention! I’ve heard that given the slightest chance, they can take over a yard. And ours isn’t that big to begin with—which is fine with us. Mowing is not one of our favorite things to do! 🙂 We’re planning on lots of natives like coneflowers and coreopsis and other bird, butterfly, and bee friendly plants. We have to put down some decent soil for them because ours is rocky and low in nutrients. Not the setting for fussy exotics!

      I hope you’ll get to spend more time with your gardens come July!

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  8. Looks like you’ve landed in a nice spot (and the water will drain away from the house…recent events seem have raised that importance HA HA)
    Can’t believe your weather is hotter than ours – (we’ll hit that shortly in a few days). Get that yard done so you can go inside and word play! (It’ll be too hot and humid shortly anyway…not to mention those annoying bugs)

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    • We’ve now cooled off and had a healthy few days of rain. We’re only in the 60s now, which is a far cry from last weekend. One bad thing about our location is that we’re at the bottom of a rise, so in heavy rains a lot of water runs through our backyard before getting into the storm sewers and catchment basins. Getting a grassy root system (and roots from other plants) established will definitely help. But it will take some time in these rocky, old soils.

      Two good days working on the new WIP to start June. Today won’t be so good, but hopefully I’ll pick up again tomorrow. I’d love to again hit the stride I did back in January and February. And stay away from those dratted gnats. We have tons of swallows, but we could use a lot more!

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  9. It’s always exciting to start in on a new project – whether that’s a new novel or house and yard. That sounds like a great opening. Maybe one character could be suspicious of the other and wonder if he’s even telling the truth at all. Then there could be flashbacks to Honduras to try to figure it out. I’m getting excited to read it already so maybe you should ignore the yard for now! 🙂

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    • Wait—that isn’t the story I’m working on! 🙂 Maybe in the future, but I don’t think I could handle an intrigue/suspense/thriller type of novel. But never say never, right?

      We need some drier weather before we can do much more in the yard, so the writing has a chance to take precedence for a bit—when I’m not having to go into the office, at least! 😉

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  10. Sounds like a *great* opening for another novel, JM! ❤ I'm imagining two people having a connection from the past and then learning they are on the track of some same mystery…or they're on opposing sides of a conspiracy, and have to duke it out/race to the finish before the other! (You lead a breathlessly exciting and globetrotting life, in this scenario.) I do like the progress on the house, though. 🙂 That's more my speed of adventuring, these days. 🙂

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    • There are so many possibilities to imagine from that meeting, aren’t there? And all would be far more breathlessly exciting and globetrotting than my real life! Like you, I’ll stick to simpler adventures closer to home these days. 🙂 I’ll leave the international intrigue and conspiracies to the characters in my reading! And I should focus on this new mystery that’s been patiently waiting on the back burner for far too long. 😉

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  11. Good luck with the yard work, JM! I give you and your husband props…I’d have a million excuses not to work outside in humid, ninety-degree weather. Congrats on your writing work too. It’s amazing how the subconscious can put a coherent story together!

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    • I’m with you on those million reasons! 😉 The heat and humidity can be bad enough, but the gnats just drive me crazy. I’m seriously thinking I need to wear netting when I spend any time outside! Now, to get centered on the writing again after a bit of a derailment the last couple of days….

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    • I think the gnats are the worst. Really, I’m thinking of getting something like a beekeeper’s hat no matter how ridiculous I look! I’ll swear the bugs weren’t this bad in Honduras. Okay, so we had scorpions. But surely not this many gnats! 🙂

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  12. That’s an awesome opener for a story, JM. Chance encounters are so interesting and make for great stories. It’s getting quite balmy in the Smokey Mountains as well. Matter of fact, Mathair and I were likening it to the tropical storm seasons in Florida. We’re native Floridians and it always gets muggy and rainy this time of year down there, but it seems like that climate has shifted up here. haha We wish you well wishes with both your yard work and your novel. 🙂

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    • We are definitely getting that hot and humid southern air far earlier than normal. And setting records that I’d have been happy to see stand. I’m home today and mowed the lawn at 8 am because it’s been raining in the evenings. Even that left me dripping! I’m hoping it stays dry this evening so my husband can do the weed whapping. Now to find the energy for some writing! 🙂

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  13. I agree that this would be a great opening for a novel! Sometimes coincidences in life are so amazing that you think no one would believe it if you told them. I remember reading a newspaper article about a young nurse who saved a little boy’s life after he was hit by a car and then thirty years later (they were strangers to each other) he saved her life when she suffered a heart attack in the street. Stories like that are so inspirational.
    Best of luck with the new house – it looks fabulous! 😀

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    • Can’t you just see an agent or editor reading a story about that nurse and saying “too unrealistic”? And yet things like that do happen. Granted, a writer shouldn’t “pile on” too many events of this kind, but I think they make a great opening for a larger story.

      The front yard is taking shape. Once it’s done, I’ll probably write a post about it with a lot of before and after photos. Nothing as exotic as all your fruit trees, alas! 🙂

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  14. Maintaining a house is a lot of work as is a garden but worth it when you see the hard labour you’ve put in.
    Fantastic to hear about your latest ms and how you are progressing. And reacquainting with an old colleague, hmmm… I think the Universe is at work here.

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    • The soils here are terrible, so I hope the plants we’ve chosen will be able to handle them. Lots of native varieties, but they don’t have a lot to work with when it comes to nutrients.

      That chance encounter is sticking with me, and just maybe the Universe is working on a new story in the back of my mind…. Just not before I finish the existing ones, please!

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  15. With all this work, we really hope the yard will take. But soils that developed from Triassic rocks aren’t exactly high in nutrients. 🙂 We’ll see!

    I’m sure there’s a novel in that encounter. But what it is, I don’t yet know. That’s okay—I do have some other projects at hand. 😉

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