by Amy Atwell
Huge congratulations to Angi on the release of her second Intrigue®, .38 Caliber Cover-Up. As part of the celebration this week, I thought it would be fun to reveal some of the background behind this story.
Angi and I became friends way back in 2004. Oddly enough, she had written a rough first draft of the opening of a new book—a book that would eventually become .38 Caliber Cover-Up. I was sketching out the opening of my Cosmo Fortune trilogy in those days. But, as often happens, we both had other projects, so these pages got filed away to work on later.
In 2006, we arrived at a national writers’ conference where we shared a room. For two days, we holed up and plotted out those stories we’d started in 2004. From the beginning, Angi created a dynamic undercover DEA agent hero, a modern equivalent to the classic Western gunslinger. Her heroine was a cop, a woman who had never gone undercover in her life but now had every reason to don a mask and catch a killer.
In those hours of creation, the basic elements of the story were reduced to phrases written on Post-Its and stuck to the wall. I’m sure the hotel housekeepers thought we were crazy. Or maybe at a writers’ conference, every hotel room looks like that.
Fast forward a couple more years. Both Angi and I signed with agents, and both of us sold. As a quick follow-up to her successful debut, Angi sold .38 Caliber Cover-Up based on one chapter and a loose synopsis. Her editor loved the concept—except for one sticking point where she asked Angi to change the identity of the villain. Yeah, just one small thing, right? Then she gave Angi nine weeks to write the book.
In case you’ve never written a book, nine weeks is precisely enough time to give you a serious case of doubt.
But Angi, being Angi (and if you don’t know her, she’s a goddess, who gives from the heart) not only dove into drafting the book. No, she scheduled knee surgery in the middle of the deadline. I’m thinking they didn’t tell her exactly what those pain meds were going to do to her productivity.
So, I promised you behind the scenes. Here are some clippings from emails Angi and I sent back and forth last summer while she was writing this fab book.
June 27, 2010 (before the surgery) from Amy:
Here's Ch 5 back. Don't panic when you see my 10,000 comments. (I swear, the chapter is in great shape, but you want to know where to tweak for emotion, so I'm just telling you what I think as a first time reader.)
June 27, 2010 response from Angi:
THANKS AS USUAL. Managed 10 pages today. Now I'm wondering if the chapter's too long to go where I needed it to go. ACK. LOL Whatever, I'll be able to use the dialogue.
June 27, 2010 from Angi:
What if she laughs, but says... Just when I was beginning to trust you. And the chapter ends. And then 5 begins with her saying, **CONTENT DELETED TO PREVENT SPOILERS.** Would that make her look better, build the trust (which needs to be there)?
June 28, 2010 response from Amy:
OMG--YES. Yes, it would. It tells us she recognizes that he puts on a mask. So, from Erren's POV, he expects his partner to tell him the WHOLE truth. From Darby's POV, she expects her partner to be REAL with her, and not some character.
July 6, 2010 from Angi:
I'm working my way through chapter 7, trying to get it in order to send for critiques. My brain is still fuzzy from the meds. Still out of it a great deal.
July 6, 2010 response from Amy:
Sorry to hear the recuperation is dragging out. Do send Ch 7 whenever.
July 7, 2010 from Angi:
Got time to convince me chapters 4, 5, & 6 are the same book as they bought (chapters 1, 2, & 3) ???? LOL -- okay, not really laughing,
July 8, 2010 from Angi:
Okay -- I'm ditching my current chapter 7. I had a wow moment and don't think I'm still on painkillers. LOL I couldn't move forward because there just wasn't any tension and absolutely NO action. In plain speak --totally boring. So I needed an outside force to act upon the characters.
**CONTENT DELETED TO PREVENT SPOILERS.**
YES, it's almost totally different than the synopsis. But I think THIS works. The words started flowing tonight...just hope I have time to get them all on paper. Thanks for the encouraging words today. I appreciate them.
July 8, 2010 reply from Amy:
I'm not surprised you're having to diverge from the original synopsis--remember, you changed who the killer was. It was a pretty quick decision, and now you're learning that what you jotted down doesn't really play out.
July 9, 2010 reply from Angi:
Robin still thinks that the motivation for the breakdown isn't strong enough. I'm going to sleep on it and see tomorrow.
July 11, 2010 from Amy:
I found the sparring scene felt sort of forced. I gave a ton of suggestions at the end of the file for a potential way to adapt it that would keep Darby emotionally wound up so her breakdown would come more naturally. See what you think. Of course, if you hate it, pitch it in the trash.
July 11, 2010 reply from Angi:
Thanks for the scene. You said everything I've been wanting to say, but just couldn't get out. Of course, the way YOU do it doesn't seem cliche, like every time I put those thoughts on paper. It also helps the emotion in the next two chapters. Excellent. Anyhoo. I've put my spin on it. You're terrific and I hope to help you like this one day.
July 11, 2010 reply from Amy:
LOL--glad to help. After reading, it just HIT me. You had a perfectly good conflict going between them; it just got buried. I'm sure you turned it into a *much better* scene than the shorthand drivel I gave you. But you make it really easy to envision your characters and conflicts. That clarity is why you sold, and why you will continue to sell.
July 11, 2010 reply from Angi:
I combined a lot of Erren’s sexual tension & experience together. Hopefully. But you realized something was still off, too. I did—that’s why I sent it to you yet again. I’m one of those writers that really needs to set it aside for a while, and there just isn’t time. THANKS so much for the help—the clarity.
July 14, 2010 from Angi:
If I skip from the cabin directly to the hospital, **CONTENT DELETED**....are you going to be tremendously bothered?
July 14, 2010 reply from Amy:
No, not bothered at all (based on having read 7).
July 14, 2010 reply from Angi:
Terrific -- cuz it seems to be working now. Yay
July 17, 2010 from Angi:
KNEE STATUS: Drained and cortizone shot.
BOOK STATUS: Made my trip to the Morgue and figured out everything. YAY - still working now.
July 18, 2010 from Angi:
Just hit send on the first 8 chapters (115 pages) to my agent. I am really hoping it works for her. Why do I have a sinking feeling in my stomach?
July 20, 2010 from Angi:
Just checking in with you... I'm up to almost 1500 words today...need at least 4500 -- insane, I know.
July 20, 2010 reply from Amy:
I'm over 2500 words, but the Allie scene kicked my butt. I had to write it 3 times, and now I'm stuck. All I need is an end hook. Literally. Just. Need. Like. One. Sentence. Everything was sounding lame.
Then I realized I hadn't eaten since before noon. I was hunched in my chair like Emma Thompson in Stranger Than Fiction. If I'd had cigarettes, I would have been chain smoking. Want to read a 1200 word scene and tell me what I need to do to end it?
July 20, 2010 response from Angi about my scene:
I didn’t remember you using the name Darby. FUNNY...I know I took the name from a kid my daughter knew in Junior High...and of course, one of the Intrigue heroines this summer is named Darby. LOL
As for the scene, I BELIEVE you already have your great hook...you just need to rearrange a little.
July 20, 2010 reply from Amy:
Thanks, doll. I literally stared at it for a straight 30 minutes earlier today, thinking, "It's not right. It's THERE, but it's not right." And I just didn't know how to fix it. But YOU did. Grateful. --And yes, I pulled the name Darby from an early draft I was reading for you! LOL
July 21, 2010 from Angi:
I know one thing about my writing...you get where I'm going even if I don't. YOU my dear...well, as much as you can read as possible. That's all I'm hoping for or keeping my fingers crossed for. But that's the reason I'm sending you these chapters which aren't spot-cleaned and may be in that charming bass-ackward way I think and talk. LOL In other words...KICK MY BUTT as soon as you can.
July 22, 2010 reply from Amy:
Got your note. Should be able to read the three chapters by tomorrow night. I'll send them back as I get to each of them. And don't let the uncertainty weigh you down. You're doing a fab job with this book!
July 23, 2010 reply from Amy:
Here are the next two chapters. I'll say it again--follow your instincts. The hospital scene was fabulous. You truly have a gift for writing tense action sequences. And the hook at then end of Ch 11 was a great twist!
Once you see Erren's black moment and his HEA, I think it will be clearer just how much tweaking you might have to do in earlier chapters. It's a fine line between the physical attraction and his calculated decision to use her until he can get her to reveal her secrets. I love it.
July 23, 2010 new chapters from Angi:
First draft with one read through. Don't kill me if reaction or emotion is missing...just please notate so I can make certain to include it on the final version.
July 25, 2010 from Angi:
Applying crits today. Just had to say that your crit of Chapter 10 & 11 made me have confidence in myself again. THANKS. I know it's hysterical how much I DON'T have confidence, but I AM a writer. LOL Moving onto chapter 12... then new writing--14 didn't exactly head where I wanted it and I needed to let it brew.
August 1, 2010 from Amy:
Here are my latest comments. You are SO close to sending this off. Send me any final chapters, I'll do my best to read tomorrow night, late. It was fab seeing you, and I'm so proud of you and your GH win and all the hard work you did to deserve it.
For the record, Angi did get a 2-week reprieve on her deadline, which allowed her to do most of the final tweaks and polishing on the manuscript. She had very little in the way of content edits. But she impressed me with her determination to work through so much of RWA’s national conference (in the heart of Disney World, no less!), maneuver about the hotel and conference center on crutches, and be upbeat when I know she was exhausted, in pain, and nervous about the deadline.
Oh, and the last email I wanted to include was this little gem I got from Angi in October. At her request, I had deleted a chapter she’d sent me at the top of July, just after her surgery. This is why:
Oct. 2, 2010 from Angi:
This is Angi on drugs… Okay -- most of you got a look at the chapter I wrote while on pain killers...affectionately known as Angi in Wonderland.
I was cleaning out my Yahoo email. It's a junk mail catchall and what I use for PayPal. So...I'm looking through the Paypal info and find a charge from July 2nd (day after surgery) and an invite to join a YahooGroups loop. I'm ROTFLMAO... I signed up for an on-line class. Not Kidding. While on drugs, I thought I could write more than half a book, take an on-line class, and make an August 1st deadline. Glad my daughter was here to keep me from driving.
Thanks to Angi for being willing to share this behind-the-scenes look at what really goes on when creative process meets hard deadline. And thanks for all the help she gave me when she had every opportunity to tell me she was too busy. Congratulations, Angi, on the release of another stellar book. Here’s to many more!
Amy Atwell worked in professional theater for 15 years before turning from the stage to the page to write fiction. She now gives her imagination free rein in both contemporary and historical stories that combine adventure and romance. Her debut romantic suspense, Lying Eyes, is now available from Carina Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When not writing, Amy runs the WritingGIAM online community for goal-oriented writers. An Ohio native, Amy has lived all across the country and now resides on a barrier island in Florida with her husband and two Russian Blues. Find her online at www.amyatwell.com, What’s The Story? and Magical Musings blogs, Facebook, Twitter and/or GoodReads.
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Question for today. Do you work with a critique partner? Any experiences to share?