Here it is…the cover for Dash Away All, the third book in the Merry & Bright Handcrafted Mystery Series, and my ninth book with Henery Press.
In Dash Away All, Merry Winters is taking a break from her hometown of Season’s Greetings–and all her problems there–and heading to Indiana to become the on-site crafter for a Christmas movie. The tidings of joy are short-lived as she finds herself becoming a referee, dealing with a raging Ebenezer, participating in a bucket brigade, and finding evidence in a “murder.” Is someone trying to stop the production or is it tied to a secret someone has on Luna Carmichael, the queen of Christmas?
When Marie, Luna’s assistant, stumbles away from a car accident and dies, Merry believes the accident wasn’t quite so accidental. Was Luna or Marie the target? Merry finds more questions than answer and one thing is certain: everyone has an ulterior motive for being part of the production—including Marie. After another murder, Merry wonders if the deaths are tied to a baby born long ago and then abandoned. And more importantly, will Merry live long enough to find out?
I had a love-hate relationship with writing Dash Away All. I loved the story: the plot, taking Merry out of hometown and away from her family and friends, Christmas movie setting, some of the scenes (which caused some of my problems). It was a new challenge to write Merry without using the other characters I had grown to love in Not A Creature Was Stirring and Better Watch Out. I found I missed them a lot and Merry’s reasoning for getting involved just wasn’t strong enough without her having a personal tie as her love for her friends and family is her strongest driving force. In the fourth draft, I brought in a personal connection for her: Marie is Paul McCormick’s cousin.
And then there were the scenes I loved. Capital L.O.V.E.D. That made it really hard to get the right flow for the book as I wanted to use these chapters so badly I was forcing them into the story…which is probably why writing scenes as they come to me isn’t the method of writing for me. My love of a scene even had me starting the book at the wrong point. I wanted this scene so much but it made no sense at the beginning. If that scene took place there was no reason for the production to continue so it couldn’t be the reason for Merry’s investigation, so back to the typewriter. I rewrote the first quarter of the book four times before I finally found the right start for the book. And, I evidently had to concede that one scene I adored had no place in the book anymore. It was so hard to pull it out.
There was also another part of the story I struggled with and even when I turned in the book I still wasn’t quite happy with the ending but it was time for me to stop fighting with the manuscript (I had my deadline extended while I wrestled with it). The main problem was I have a few will-not-ever-do/write rules in my head. There are just some things I like steering clear of but these self-imposed rules placed restrictions on the story and didn’t allow it to flow naturally. By forcing the direction too much, it took out the emotion in the book. Everything was just happening because I wanted/needed it. (I’m keeping this part vague as I don’t want to give away a big part of the story.)
Fortunately, I have a wonderful editor who is patient and understanding of my angst and helped me get over the hurdle I created for myself and encouraged me to see that there was nothing wrong with “breaking” one of my rules. I’m now very happy and excited with this story, and I love it. It’s more authentic to itself–and all because in the end I said screw it and broke a rule.