Novella Update

Barb, suffering away in lovely Key West. (Okay, not really.)

In August I announced that I was writing a Christmas novella for Kensington. At the time, I brimmed with optimism. Since my short stories are always too long, and my novels always too short, I thought the novella might be my natural home in the fiction world. In my blog post, I said I would check back in.

Since the novella is done and due on Friday, I thought this might be the time.

First things first, a cover reveal.

Eggnog Murder Comp

What do you think? I really like it. It fits with Leslie Meier‘s covers, and also quite nicely with the previous Christmas collections Kensington has published featuring Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine and Leslie. I am thrilled to be included, along with Leslie and Lee Hollis. I love the little skull floating in the eggnog cup.

I enjoyed working on the story very much. Before I wrote it, I read a bunch of Christmas crime novellas. They seemed to fall into two groups. Some authors used the structure of the traditional longer mystery–a victim, a pool of people with means, opportunity, and motive, and a sleuth who interviews them all and looks for clues to solve the crime. Other authors went a different route using more of a short story-like structure to write not so much a whodunnit?, but a whattheheckisgoingonhere? I went with the latter.

The most fun about the novella was that it was the first time in a long time that I wrote a book in the season in which it took place. This holiday season was crazy warm in in the east, even in Maine, and my story takes place in New York City and Busman’s Harbor during a more traditional early winter. So I couldn’t run outside to soak up the atmospherics, but I could run down the road to do research. Need a reminder of what L.L. Bean’s holiday decorations look like? No problem.

matchingpajamas21I loved incorporating the holiday traditions of my little town in Maine into the novella. For example, the Boothbay Harbor Pajama Party, when everyone gets up at six a.m. and Christmas shops in their pjs. (No kidding. I’ve written more about it here.) I incorporated other holiday traditions l’ve loved, including my cookie baking day and a festival of trees. Boothbay Harbor has one of these, but for the novella I borrowed liberally from the one Vida Antolin-Jenkins used to take me to on the naval base in Newport, RI when we were young mothers. Highly fictionalized, of course.

The length, 25,000+ words, a hundred or so pages, was, indeed, a natural one for me.

You’ll have to wait until next fall to tell me what you think, but I’m happy to be turning this tale in on Friday.

34 Thoughts

  1. The whole time I was reading this blog I was wondering how did I miss this book by 3 favorite authors. Well now I know I have a Christmas book to look forward to.

  2. Write what you know–it works, right? I think it’s smart that you’ve got a bundle of novellas. Berkley Prime Crime made a stab at shorter works a few years ago, but on their own they didn’t go much of anywhere, so they dropped it, I think (they’ve been known to make bad decisions!). Did you writers collaborate with the stories, beyond the general theme?

    1. Hi Sheila-

      No. Each of the authors was given the single word, “eggnog” and off we went. I’m dying to see the results, especially since all three authors write series set in Maine. Will the stories be similar? Different? Our editor has seen our synopses, so only he knows.

  3. Congrats, Barb! Looking forward to reading all three! Maine Christmas mysteries seem to be “in” — I’ve written one, and am scheduled to write another later this year. (How many traditions can we have??!)

    1. I was worried about “tradition-fatigue,” too, Lea, but I didn’t use them all in the novella, and now we have happy news ones like the Maine Botanical Gardens.

  4. Your mention of Naval Station Newport’s Festival of Trees immediately brought tears to my eyes. I spent many years volunteering for it in various roles! But taking our children to see the trees and speak with the Talking Tree was a particular magic. Thanks for the “way-back machine ” mention!

    1. Obviously it had a huge impact, that I’ve remembered all these years. Do they still do it? Can you still get on base? Maybe we should make a plan to bring the granddaughters one of these years.

      1. Barb, unfortunately they don’t do it there but I see that there is one in Providence. They do one in Yokosuka, Japan on the base as well. We could substitute the National Arboretum ‘s holiday display here in DC.

  5. I can’t wait to read these! I loved the other collections and have missed them the past couple of years.

  6. So cool, Barb! (Just now getting to this since none of us 80 jurors was empanelled…) I like hearing about your process – write it like a novel or like a short story? And of course because I’m pretty clueless I never thought about the difference… Can’t wait to read your story, and the others, too.

    1. Thanks, Edith. There are people (Sheila Connolly for one, Kathy Lynn Emerson for another) who can fit a full traditional mystery plot into as little as 5000 words. I am not one of them. I had a story in mind, but I had to figure out how to tell it.

      1. Thank you, Barb–that’s a real compliment! Shorter works scare me a bit, because each part has to carry more weight–character, setting, plot. On the other hand, we’ve probably all had great ideas that we knew could never sustain a full book, but we hate to lose them.

  7. Sounds like a real winner to me. Looking forward to it. Keep us posted on the release date.

  8. Guess my ability to remain patient will have to come into play if this charming book won’t be ready for us until the end of the year. Having been a New Englander all of my life, I know a bit about quirky traditions but have never met a group of people all of whom shop in their PJ’s, but it sounds as if the ones who do that regularly would not be out of place that particular day. 🙂 Wishing all of the writers a great 2016. Looking forward to more great reading from all of you ladies. Thanks for all the enjoyment in my life so far.
    Cynthia Blain

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