I cut what I had thought was the best opening line ever written, making a major change in my work in progress, the eighth Mae Martin psychic mystery. A critique partner loved the line, too. It was fun, attention-grabbing, intense, and colorful. But the event had nothing to do with the mystery or with either of my lead characters’ goals. It was an external imposition that required a reaction, and I couldn’t make it work as a thread in the story. The advice to authors to “kill your darlings” is so wise. Cutting that line (and all the forced plot turns it required) was like pruning an overhanging branch that was blocking light on the real nature of the story.
Now I’m reconsidering an important question: where does the book really begin? Is the whole first chapter necessary? Maybe chapter three in the current draft should be chapter one. It was, before I got so attached to that opening line.
After a certain number of revisions, I reach a point where I question every scene in the book and every angle of the plot. I’ve saved three earlier versions in case they’re actually better than I thought. But as I reviewed my notes on the first version, I realized why I cut and changed so much of it. The odds are, what I decide to remove or alter now, I probably should. With several of my books, only the characters, the setting, and the basic nature of the mystery—a missing person, a family secret, art fraud, fakery in spiritual healing, and so on—stayed the same from first draft to final. The work in progress is set in a New Mexico ghost town. The mystery is about paranormal investigation and a woman who claims she’s being haunted. Everything else about the book may be different by the time I finish.
Free and Discounted Books
I’m sure a lot of us are reading on a tight budget and will be for a while. The first Mae Martin Psychic Mystery, The Calling, is still free. Prices have been lowered to $2.99 on the other books in the series. You can also read them through Scribd, an unlimited reading subscription for e-pub e-books, which is offering a free one-month introduction. If you’re not going out much, you can do quite a bit of reading in a month. Stay well.
Removal Services: A Genre-Confused Mystery Series
Many of my stories are genre-confused. As the
author, obviously this is my fault. If I would stay in one category, then I
could easily describe my work by genre: Mystery or Science Fiction or Fantasy.
But my brain doesn’t work that way, which is why my first published murder
mystery was in a hard science fiction magazine. When I write, my brain sometimes
jumps into the future, or throws in ghosts, or creates impossible technological
inventions. Doing all of those things at once resulted in the Bad Vibes Removal
The Bad Vibes series began with a short story set
in the near-future, featuring Montgomery, a genius inventor, entrepreneur,
lawyer, and private detective. He’d invented scanners to find sound wave patterns
left in walls at the atomic level. His invention could detect and identify a
record of conversations and noises left in walls. While he was working on this,
Montgomery found another set of patterns, absorbed emotional imprints from
pain, anger, depression, joy, and a host of other emotions.
Montgomery can uncover conversations between
criminals and detect deceit where things are hidden. But, he can’t sell his
equipment to law enforcement if courts won’t accept his findings as evidence. Since
he could both read and obliterate the patterns left in walls, Montgomery
created a side business to make his inventions a household name and speed
acceptance by law enforcement. Bad Vibes Removal Services was born.
Who needs Bad Vibes Removal Service? Everyone who
ever moved into a pre-owned house or apartment. Does your new-to-you home feel
creepy? Sad? Anxious? Maybe the previous occupant was going through a divorce
or serious illness.
One of Montgomery’s employees at Bad Vibes Removal
Services is a history graduate student named Lea who grew up seeing ghosts. She
could always sense the history of buildings as a lingering emotional imprint or
via sudden visions, echoes from the past. So, she enjoys making homes more
livable for people who are sensitive to emotional atmosphere. By infusing
static into the walls, Lea can reset the atmosphere in a room, erasing the
lingering history, making the space comfortable again… most of the time.
Resets fail when a ghost, the source of the
emotions, is present. Then, Lea communicates with the ghost while she and her
coworker Kamika help Montgomery investigate. Crimes are uncovered and villains
are revealed. Sometimes spirits are helpful. Sometimes, they’re malevolent.
From one short story, this genre-confused series bloomed
to include (so far) eight short stories and two novels. The first novel, The
Walls Can Talk, is set in an Irish castle that’s been moved to central
Texas, resident ghost included. The second novel, Degrees of Deceit,
was just released and is set mainly in a haunted dorm on a University of Texas
When people ask me what I write, I tell them ‘mysteries’
to keep it simple. If they ask for more, I get to explain my genre-mashing
tendencies. Generally, I call the Bad Vibes series ‘paranormal mysteries’ and I
enjoy writing them. If you like a spooky chill along with a mystery, maybe
you’ll enjoy reading them too.
Degrees of Deceit
The Bad Vibes Removal Services crew is back in a
sequel to The Walls Can Talk!
A college prankster is making life hellish for the
freshmen residents of Dellonmarsh Dorm on a University of Texas campus. The sleep-deprived
students are spooked by the time Montgomery Investigations arrives on the scene
to track down the prank-playing vandal who comes and goes like a ghost. Rumors
say a benevolent ghost haunts the residence hall, but these treacherous tricks
are anything but benevolent. As the pranks escalate from obnoxious noises in
the night to poisons and more dangerous threats, investigators Lea, Kamika, and
their boss, Montgomery, work to identify a perpetrator who lurks in the shadows.
N. M. Cedeño currently lives near Austin, Texas. She writes mystery short stories and novels that vary from traditional to romantic suspense, and from paranormal to science fiction. She is active in Sisters in Crime, Heart of Texas Chapter, having served as chapter vice president and president. Ms. Cedeño has written several standalone short stories and novels as well as the Bad Vibes Removal Services paranormal mystery series.