I’ve decided to set aside the Enoch Wilkins stories for the moment and work on a thriller, The Suspect, to be finished by the end of May and put up for sale on Amazon. It wasn’t really a sudden decision. A few days ago, I had this dream, woke up and realized I could make a good novel out of it. That has happened once before, with the short story Arrival, which turned out okay. It’s worth giving a novel a shot.
It helps that I’ve already got the image for the cover: a photograph I took on January 9, 2012, on the 112th Street Bridge in Troy because of the dramatic shadows and light (note: unlike other photos of mine posted on the blog, this one carries a traditional copyright, all rights reserved; it’s up on Flickr that way, too).
Here’s a very, very general synopsis of The Suspect:
Laura Simpkins is a white middle-aged spinster from upstate New York, a newcomer to Alabama, having moved there permanently to confront her personal demons after her father’s death. She works at home as a medical transcriptionist, and had to rent a duplex in what seemed a fairly decent, mixed-race neighborhood. However, a few months after she moves in, the character of the place changes. She believes it has been taken over by one of the big national gangs.
Then, in 2000, terrorists attack the Statue of Liberty, holding tourists hostage. Authorities have to totally destroy Ellis Island, killing the innocent hostages along with everybody else, as well as ruining the statue, though no one knows why at first; later on, it’s leaked to the press that the terrorists had biological and chemical weapons and were about to deploy them.
Very gradually, over a period of months, Laura realizes that her new neighbors probably helped those terrorists. Although very frightened, she goes to the FBI, but they won’t answer the door. She ends up at the local police station, and tells them her suspicions. She is later questioned by someone from the department’s WMD department, but nobody tells her anything and she is allowed to go home, to face her neighbors.
While enduring indirect threats (notes left under her door; rowdy young men congregating near her door late at night, etc), Laura starts getting episodes where she suddenly gets sick or very dopey, and then just as suddenly gets better. Eventually she realizes she is being gassed and could be killed at any time. She also develops panic attacks, something she has never experienced before. Her computer is attacked in multiple ways.
She sees signs of surveillance, so realizes the authorities know what’s going on. She wonders why they don’t contact her. Laura is naive. She finally assumes they are using her as bait to draw out the bad guys and she tries to stick it out. Eventually, though, it reaches the point where she can’t stay there any more and she flees, first to a different apartment in town (she is estranged from her local step-family and knows nobody), and then when her work program is sabotaged and she no longer can support herself, she is driven to a homeless shelter, but heads back up to New York state when her friend up there sends her a bus ticket. Still, the threats follow her. With her friend’s help, she is able to get back on her feet financially and ends up back in medical transcription.
At this point, a couple years have passed, and Laura is very distraught, thinking that all the national gangs have collaborated with terrorists and the entire nation is at risk, but something happens which reveals to her that these attacks on her have been coming from the authorities. Unfortunately, she can’t prove this, and after telling someone and not being believed, she ends up scared and frustrated. She has overcome her inner demons during all the tumult, though. With peace inside, at least, she decides to just continue on with her life, come what may, and starts making plans for bankruptcy and then for building up her resources again.
At this point, Ray enters her life. He’s cool and attracted to her, though a very private individual, and they start dating. He is a very good guy, Laura decides, but there is something bothering him, and he won’t tell her what it is. Of course, she keeps her own troubles secret, too, and so hesitates to pry or to get too involved. Still, things really click between the two of them. Then it’s revealed that Ray is an undercover cop. Laura also realizes that the authorities took her information seriously back in Alabama but also believe that she was involved with the terrorists (one of the bad guys down there bought himself a deal by fabricating a story in which she did what he actually did as part of the conspiracy, and it cannot be proven otherwise now).
I’ll just stop there for now, merely saying that I’m a bit old-fashioned when it comes to endings.
In a way, it’s science fiction, since with a major terrorist attack like that in 2000, there’s no way the 9/11 attacks could have happened. Of course, the destruction of the Statue of Liberty and loss of innocent lives would have a similar impact on the nation and the world.
This is a quite a project, and I’m going to help myself along with it by blogging the entire thing, except the ending. It won’t be a pretty process, but my main goal is to get this baby finished and self-published on Amazon at the end of May, so I can really relax and enjoy Vesakh this year (am taking a 3-day weekend for it, as I usually work all of Saturday and part of Sunday).
My MT work is from roughly 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, with some coverage of Sundays, so I will be working on this in the middle of the day. Each day, I’ll post what I’ve completed, with comments disabled until the first-draft chapter is complete. Then I’ll turn the comments on, and you are invited to dig in and tell me what you like about it, don’t like about it and don’t understand…you’ll be the editors. I’ll do that right up to about the middle of the last chapter, and then I’ll turn into a strumpet and post the link to the finished book on Amazon.
OK. That’s the basic plan here. I’m going to have to really cut back on my other writing, which probably means no more Helium for the duration. I will keep going on the Civil War updates, of course, and if the spirit moves me, also do random-thoughts posts.
Upcoming: Roughing out a general calendar of work. Sure, such organization probably does inhibit creativity for some people. It motivates me – I work best with a mild case of deadline desperation.
Thanks in advance for your interest and eventual participation!