Handling my muse has never been easy. Aggie Mundeen showed up unexpectedly in a class. Meredith Laughlin, the twenty-three-year-old protagonist in my suspense novel, Nine Days to Evil, was taking her first liberal arts class in graduate school, waiting for the professor to delve into Shakespeare’s Othello, when Aggie Mundeen drew her attention:
“One woman in Meredith’s row near the window didn’t match the others. Meredith guessed she was in her late thirties. Her blackish hair, parted in the middle, puffed downward and covered her ears, immobile, like a Brillo pad. Her turquoise crocodile eyes, heavy-lidded, darted stealthily around the room. A diminutive nose contrasted with her classic features. Her lips, outlined larger than their natural curve, were a garish red that matched her long, manicured nails. Meredith imagined her with a softer hairstyle and less lipstick, wearing a perfectly tailored Chanel suit. But she wore a nylon turquoise warm-up trimmed with wine-colored piping that screamed at her lips and nails. She sat, her hands resting on the desk and a sneaker-clad foot crossed over her opposite knee. She evaluated the professor as he fumbled with books and papers on his cluttered desk. “Okay,” her body language said, “show me something.”
Aggie’s actions and words, usually amusing, somewhat cynical, caught my attention. She became permanently stuck in my brain. I found myself waiting to see what she would do or say and chuckling at her antics. She eventually shared her background, not an easy one, and demanded that I write a book about her. Or maybe a series.
I thought about it. She was older and wiser than Meredith, with a varied background and a wry view of life. She was serious but humorous, smart, dangerously curious and determined. I thought the many facets of her personality could sustain a series. I would enjoy watching her infiltrate Detective Sam’s investigations and come close to driving him crazy. I liked her fearlessness, humor and dogged determination. I was hooked.
Aggie has been showing me something ever since. Single, approaching forty and terrified of middle age, she wrote a column advising people how to stay young. Having recently moved from Chicago to San Antonio, she found it necessary to shape up before anyone discovered she was “Dear Aggie” who wrote the column. So she signed up at Fit and Firm Health Club. Unfortunately, a murder occurred there. Fortunately, Detective Sam showed up to solve the crime. Naturally, Aggie dove in to help him. (Fit to Be Dead)
The summer after Aggie survived the health club fiasco, Meredith received discounts to vacation at the BVSBar Dude Ranch in exchange for writing articles about the place. She asked Aggie to go, and they talked Sam into accompanying them incognito, which was fortunate. When an expert rider was tossed from a horse, they suspected foul play. Against Sam’s insistence that she butt out, Aggie managed to stir up a hornet’s nest of cowboys. Who knew Home on the Range meant murder?
(Dang Near Dead)
Having survived outdoor living, Aggie, appalled by the prospect of a precipitous descent into middle-age decrepitude, poured her heart into writing “Staying Young with Aggie.” When she heard a professor would teach a course linking genes to aging, she blasted off to the local university to study genetics and DNA. Unfortunately, she discovered a dead body. Detective Sam reminded her not to help with the investigation. But dangerously curious and programmed to prod, she raced to solve the crime, wound up the prime suspect and was on target to become next campus corpse. When she barely survived, and Detective Sam got over being apoplectic, her close call made him realize he loved her. He wasn’t sure he could trust her to stay out of trouble. (Smart, but Dead)
In River City Dead, Aggie and SAPD Detective Sam Vanderhoven plan their first rendezvous at a San Antonio River Walk hotel during Fiesta Week…a vacation from crime and reset for their tumultuous relationship.
With Aggie, nothing goes as planned. Murder descends on Casa Prima Hotel. Disturbing revelations surface about the Fabulous Femmes, Aggie’s new friends holding their convention, and calamity plagues Aggie’s debut dance performance at Arneson River Theater.
Even in idyllic River City, crime complicates relationships.
Is your muse as troublesome as mine? Does she get you into trouble? How do you handle her/him?