TAIL WAGGING TALE
I’d readily say that getting my second book in the Bridget O’Hern series rewritten was a major triumph. It was a case of dogged determination, and perspiration--not inspiration. Why on earth would anyone rewrite a 72,000-word story that had already been revised umpteen times?
The answer: To keep a small and loyal group of readers, and all of them owners of Norwegian Elkhounds, also affectionately known as “moosedogs.”
It began innocently enough . . ..
My first mystery novel was DEATH STALKS THE KHMER (DSTK) and featured Bridget O’Hern, a series sleuth. I gave her a pet, a dog named-Narvik, to add depth to her life. Narvik was patterned after our own family dog of the same name. The real Narvik was loyal and wonderful throughout her 16 years with us. I’ll always believe Narvik helped our son through a serious illness by sleeping with him and giving him comfort. So it was natural to have a fictional Narvik helping my protagonist who was recovering from a severe depression.
A few months after DSTK was released, I started on DEATH COMES TOO SOON (DCTS). In the meantime, readers as far away as the UK and South Africa who had read DSTK began to write me. They said that they were absolutely delighted to find a beginning mystery series that had “not just a Northern breed dog, but an actual Norwegian Elkhound.” I was even asked to do a book signing at the Puget Sound AKC Dog Show.
Finally, it dawned on me that I had a problem. I had completed DCTS, but had left Narvik at home in chapter one with Bridget’s sidekick! In the story, Bridget goes out of town to the Oregon coast to work with an art league, and it didn’t make sense to have her take the dog along.
However, leaving the dog would never do, not if I wanted to keep and appeal to this niche of readers.
So I rewrote the novel and had Narvik accompany Bridget, which threw off the narrative. I had to remember to feed the dog, bring it inside and outside, and clean up after her from one chapter to another. Sometimes, I had Narvik attend meetings with Bridget (well, not many). After about six chapters, I got into the swing of things and had Narvik cozy up to the Interim Police Chief who was giving Bridget a hard time. The plot took some unexpected twists (characters do get away from me). To my surprise at about chapter nineteen, Bridget and Narvik find a stray cat . . . in a burned-out building, yet!
By the end of the novel, Bridget has solved the whodunit and she and Narvik are headed home to St. Mary’s Corner, an actual historic spot in Washington State. Of course, the cat is with them, too.
It was easy to figure an appropriate name for the cat that “rose from the ashes.” If you think you can guess it, too, drop me a line or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re correct, I’ll send a small prize.
Yours in mystery and writing,