Being involved in what you write is one of the keys to being a good writer. But it can get out of hand. When I started the first book of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, Murder is a Family Business, the story included finding a kitten. I discovered I couldn’t write those scenes without becoming a little misty-eyed. I think a lot of that was due to the fact the feline in the story was based on my cat, Tugger, whom I loved and adored. He’s been gone to that great catnip haven in the sky for over eleven years, and I still love and adore him.
The scene where Tugger was found by our protagonist in an abandoned phone booth in the rain, a frightened, drenched kitty, could never be written with completely dry eyes. This stayed with me no matter how many rewrites. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but hoped it was an indication that I was a true writer rather than needing therapy. And I’m sticking to that.
Fast forward. As I was writing the 3rd book of the series, Death Runs in the Family, both Tugger and another cat, Baba, are catnapped. In the story, they’re put into their carriers, placed into the back of a station wagon, and are being driven to Las Vegas. As I write cozies, they would, of course, be rescued. That was the plan. However, before I could write the rescue scenes, something happened in real life that took me away from the computer. For three long days! I was good the first two. I would tell myself, this is just a story. But no matter how often I repeated the phrase, each time there was this little ping that would strike at my heart.
In the middle of the third night, I sat bolt upright in bed. It was three am. I had done nothing but toss and turn. I had to face it. I wasn’t going to get any sleep until I did something about the cats. My jerky movements and noisy sighing woke my husband up who wanted to know what was wrong. I said, “I have got to get those cats out of the back of the station wagon. They haven’t had any food or water for three days!” “Whatever you say, honey.” Then he rolled over and went back to sleep. You can’t be married to a writer for long without learning their ways. So I got up, went to the computer, and wrote the chapters where not only are the cats rescued, but they get salmon, water, and lots of cuddling. Within the storyline it had been probably six to eight hours. But in my heart it had been three long days. I went back to bed at seven am wondering how Eric Knight wrote the story Lassie, Come Home and managed to get some sleep.
I thought (hoped) this affliction only surfaced when there were animals in my stories. Unfortunately, not so. The 4th book, DEAD…If Only, has several chapters taking place on a thirty-foot cabin cruiser in the Gulf of Mexico during a hurricane. Many’s the night I would wake up seasick from the ten- and twenty-foot fictional waves pounding the boat. The 5th book, The CEO Came DOA, revolves around a Columbian drug called Devil’s Breath, a drug which reportedly takes a victim’s will power away and even kills in strong enough doses. You can succumb to this drug through swallowing, inhalation, or skin absorption. In short, pretty versatile, pretty lethal. Naturally, as I was writing this book we went on a Caribbean cruise that docked in Columbia for a day. I was a nervous wreck. I almost didn’t get off the ship. After hubby finally talked me into going ashore, I clung to him like a three year-old child to a teddy bear. This was a little difficult when one of us had to go to the baño or bathroom. I’m not sure what I did to international relations, but we took solace in the fact I was only there for one day.
I am currently writing the 8th book of the series, The Drop Dead Temple of Doom, set in the Guatemalan jungle. Woven into the story is the Yellow Dart Frog, one of the most poisonous amphibians in the world, and the Fer de Lance viper, one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. I threw in some pumas and jaguars just to round things out. Lately, I have been quite careful when I step outside my front door. You never know what’s going to pounce.