This relates to project Mirabelle Series Book One
First Assignment: Mirabelle must discover Peter’s secrets to save her life and return home.
Second Assignment: Peter appeared from nowhere, his charm gripped the town and Lakeside College. His marriage to Mirabelle revealed the monster beneath the veneer, but only to her. When Mirabelle asked for help against Peter’s viciousness, he sensed it and returned home early to stop her. Before strangling her, he killed the dog who tried to save her. But she lived and fled the town he held in the palm of his hand. He her stalked her to finish the job. His past lives weren’t as good as the one he’d carved out for himself in Thomasville. She wasn’t going to ruin it for him, he’d make sure of it.
Third Assignment: create a breakout title (List several option, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed.
Fourth Assignment: Develop two smart comps for your novel Who compares to you? And why?
Louise Penny’s Series is a direct comparable to my series because both are cozy-esque with a harder edge. My heroine, Mirabelle, is older, somewhat flawed but esteemed for intelligence and determination as is hers, Gamache. In addition, her series deals with the ever present conflict of French vs English cultures and the morals involved thereof. My series deals with the morals of intrapersonal violence, the bread and butter of a forensic nurse. Both Penny’s protagonist (Chief Inspector) and mine are caught in the machinery of their trade, hers chewed by the police system, mine ironically marries an abuser and unable to get help. Our main characters are both better for and tortured by these experiences throughout the series.
Julia Spencer-Fleming’s series is another comparable Rev. Clare Ferguson series. Her heroine’s tough background lends a rough edge to the cozy genre without the sex, gore or foul language which is very similar to my Mirabelle series. The setting in an out of the way town is also similar, trouble comes to her. And as in the Penny series, morals play a constant role.
Just as a forensic nurse evicts her new but abusive husband he attempts to murder her, erasing from her memory the clue to his criminal past which she must solve to reclaim her life.
Quilt and self-recriminations will torture Mirabelle because she did not recognize that Peter was a potential abuser, indeed a criminal, before she married him. She is a forensic nurse and should have known better. This is compounded by the fact that she is a forensic nurse and thinks she should know better. She feels anxiety over the effects the relationship had on her son, Bryan, even though he is grown, Peter came between them. While in hiding Mirabelle constantly fears Peter finding her and second guesses the motives of the few men around her.
Mirabelle has decided to surprise her girlfriends in Boston during their traditional pre-Christmas shopping trip. Presumably Peter knows nothing about the tradition. (but he’s stalked her friends and found out in an earlier scene).
Mirabelle, hears has an overnight bag and a dress slung over her shoulder as she ascends the hotel escalator. She hears her friends chatting in the lounge over drinks. At the top she can see Anne and imagine the feel of Anne’s hug, a welcome sensation after two months in hiding.
But she hears an all too familiar sound. A man clearing his throat and the rustle of a newspaper. It’s eleven at night, hardly a customary time to read the paper!
Her heart thudded in her chest as she turned her head. The paper lowered as the man turned the page revealing Peter’s medium brown wave and creased forehead.
At that moment Anne’s voice called out, “Irene! What are you …” (note Irene was her name prior to going into hiding)
The paper crunched to the floor. Peter jumped to his feet.
Mirabelle threw her dress at him and ran around the mezzanine to the down escalator cursing. Taking them two at a time.
Peter thrashed at the dress, cut himself on the hanger, made the top of the escalator as Mirabelle ran to the circular doors. “Stop! Stop!”
The bellman was still in her car.
“Please, please. I have to go. Now!”
“What the …?” But he jumped out.
Mirabelle put her car in gear as Peter bounded onto the scene looking back and forth.
Another car pulled in and the bellman headed towards it. Peter waited for the driver to emerge then pushed both aside and screeched after Mirabelle.
Mirabelle noticed the car behind her closing in, making the same turns. Could it be Peter? God no! She couldn’t just head back to Maine. I-90 was ahead. She turned right, west. She’d lose him, then head back.
But the Trans Am was on her tail, so close she could make out his silhouette in the mirror.
She changed lanes. He changed lanes. The highway was full of trucks. They were in front and on both sides of her. She was stuck. With Peter on her tail.
He was so close now.
Bump, bump. Sparks flew between their bumpers.
Her heart beat so fast and loud it sounded like a fog horn.
The sparks stopped for a moment. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Then started again. Bump, bump and the sparks. And the horns again, too. Peter backed off. Now she heard sirens and saw flashing lights.
Suddenly Peter wasn’t behind her anymore. She caught a sight of the car racing across an emergency turnaround and heading back east.
Her own speed reduced to the point she needed to move to the right lane. She looked to the right and the trucker there gave her a thumbs up. He hit his horn three times quickly, three longer and three more quick beats. SOS
Mirabelle let out a breath she didn't know she was holding, the trucker must have called the highway patrol. She returned the thumbs up and accepted the truckers proffered space to the right lane.
Secondary conflict involves Mirabelle’s shame and relationship wither friends. Although she has done nothing wrong, Peter manipulates her friends, most of whom she cannot contact during the major part of the story.
There are also direct conflicts between Sam and Anne, Mirabelle’s helping friends at home, and Peter, the antagonist.
The Nursing Department was abuzz as professors rushed to get their grades in. Peter made sure Anne was alone in her office but he left the door open on purpose, it would increase his pleasure and her discomfort.
Anne sat with her back to the door thoroughly engrossed in paperwork. “Tossing the knife on her desk he greeted her, “Good morning. “Putting a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t get up. I just dropped by to return something of your husband’s. SG, correct?”
Anne glanced at Sam’s knife and cringed remembering that he went for a walk the evening before, perhaps to Irene’s?
Peter leaned close enough she felt his morbid arousal. “Tell Sam turnabout is fair play. I know where he lives and I may take something of his someday.”
Seventh Assignment: Here are some of the major settings
A The first scene opens in Mirabelle’s packed school bus colored SUV on the highway in a loud nighttime thunderstorm as she flees. She drives stuck between semi-trucks in at claustrophobic speed far faster than her comfort zone. Forced into the fast lane the storm throws a fire ball, the phenomenon of St. Elmo’s fire to the median. The air smells metallic air after lightening and her cat screeches from a carrier in the back, fur floating over the seat. Exhausted from nearly being strangled, her reflection in the rear view is a ghostly purple revealing a dark necklace of bruises.
The storm keeps her on the road far longer than she wants. But she’s afraid of not going far enough, mileage signs to Philadelphia appear through the blurry windshield. She’s terrified of driving, the trucks drift and her car drafts too close to them. But there are bright red NO VACANCY signs at motels exit after exit.
Finally at an establishment with a room, she digs deep into her purse for the precious cash for a flakey, seedy motel, normally rented by the hour. Its bed vibrates for six quarters. Doors open and close outside for hours into the night. She curls on top of her rain coat over the thread bare, orange bedspread.
B The storm is a pivot point to Peter escaping potential consequences of his attack, until he knows the coast is clear. He lands in a truck stop motel. We see his fancy car, hear country & western music, his emergency run kit, readily available alcohol and porn (nothing explicit), plastic cups to offend his delicate tastes, greasy diner, complementary computer access to avoid cluing anyone into his location
C Mirabelle hails from a small college town in Ohio, fictitious but is modelled after a real town. Significance is that everyone knows everyone, the college pretty much feeds the town economy, technology is way behind the times in law enforcement. There is no privacy. Male dominance is rampant. There is also a townie vs gownie syndrome, “those smart folks” yet their money is essential to the economy. People walk everywhere, leave their doors unlocked, unless they have something to hide or fear. The streets are lined with deciduous trees, the sidewalks old and swollen from harsh winters. You can walk across town in ten minutes. The campus has a party hardy mentality and the sports teams bring in revenue and attract about half the student population.
D Mirabelle stops at the Jersey shore. It is rich is allegory for thought, wind, sun, sea. Families, children congregate and give her pause to question herself and her future. From her she decides to hide along the sea where she used to live as a young woman.
E The drive up the coast to Bar Harbor is full of rich fall color providing flash back triggers to relate events that precede her flight. A night at a B&B in Camden, ME is filled with sights, smells of the tall ships, shops and life in a B&B. The allegory of a upscale Maine town is perfect to put a question in her mind as to how much had Bar Harbor changed in twenty-seven years.
F Bar Harbor ME during off season is a very quiet place with few establishments open including a single restaurant, the drug store, grocery, library and hospital Adding color to the story are a general store/tourist shop, The Maine Event, which attracts local youngsters during its erratic hours and the Song of the Sea stays open long enough to fill Christmas orders. Amy’s Diner, located two doors from Mirabelle’s apartment plays a role as a meeting place. It’s a classic old diner with chrome swivel stools with cracked vinyl, a counter that feels greasy to the touch no matter how clean it is. There’s no smoking except pipes. Old high backed wood booths along one wall have hooks for winter coats and the white and black linoleum on the floor is cracked. Amy wears a light pink uniform with a scalloped white apron (her grandmother Amy owned it too). The wooden phone booth in the back corner actually works with coins.
G Mirabelle’s apartment is located over Elsa’s Finer dresses which is closed for the season. The steps to her apartment are outside on the side of the building between the drug and dress stores. It’s a one bedroom with a claw tub in the bathroom and a tiny alcove for a kitchen. Elsa left furniture for her, the same stuff the weekly renters get during the summer. There’s an avocado phone, fridge and stove. The phone is for local calls only and stays in Elsa’s name. Elsa’s from New York and took cash up front no questions, she was in a hurry. Mirabelle qualified for the apartment by not being a fisherman.
H Bar Harbor proper has only about 3,000 year-round population. No one locks their doors. But from Memorial Day to Labor Day the populations swells tens of thousands and more when cruise ships are at harbor for hours at a time. She is long gone by then.
I Livingston is a locked (two locked doors thank you) residential psychiatric facility located deep in the woods along a country road. This is where Mirabelle finds work as an RN to get her through her time in hiding. It was once a state facility and still has one long-term resident from those days, Adeline Sommers. This old lady lends an air of frivolity and mystery to the place. As in most small Maine communities, its staff is fairly stable and very quirky. Staff dresses in street clothes as it is more comforting to psyche patients. All patients are required to get up and do something at specific times. No laying around in bed. The first person you see is Eden, the clerk, with short red curly hair, cat-eyed rhinestone glasses looking over the nurse’s station. A large heavy TV blares off to the left, in front of it two residents are constantly arguing over which program to watch and three others a waving at them to get out of the way. Another patient blows his breath on the window and draws curliques. An old woman with a walker pushes her way through the line of patients line up to the side of the station. In turn they open their mouths and stick out tongues to show they’ve swallowed their pills. The old lady crashes into a scrawny fellow at just his moment eliciting a stream of expletives from his bloody mouth. She takes advantage of the distraction and pockets three cookies from the lunch trays that had just been parked on a cart a few feet away. A black bouffant
J The central plateau of Haiti is where Bryan, Mirabelle’s son, is on internship and effectively in hiding from Peter. Colorful clothing, customs, and contrasts in wealth and happiness are alluring respite and additional isolating aspects to the book. The drumming and singing link to Mirabelle’s drumming in her apartment and the bits of “knowing” that both of them have. Bryan also knows the key clue that leads to finding out about Peter’s past but he doesn’t know it right away.
K Naples graveyard in a light breeze rain, about a hundred people present graveside when Mirabelle’s mother is buried. Bryan has also come from Haiti. Peter found the obit online and is lurking behind an angel monument. It is sweltering hot but Mirabelle still feels cold.
L Tess’s kitchen on Christmas evening, a narrow galley style room with two doors. The turkey is in the oven and Mirabelle has just arrived to reclaim her dying cat, left in her carrier by Tess’s front door, and have a holiday dinner with Tess and Steve who are elbow deep in flour and spices. Pie ingredients are on the counter. An iron skillet is on the stove for the vegetables in a few minutes. There’s plastic wrap, measuring cups, a pie tin and scissors are scattered on either side of the sink under the window. It’s dark outside and little light comes through cottage window because the main house blocks the street light. The fluorescent overhead light flutters erratically. (This is the setting for the Peter finds Mirabelle scene, all elements are in place.)
M A rare sunny April afternoon in Coupeville on Whidbey Island, Washington, just outside Emily’s Sweets and Treats. There’s a light breeze creaking the placard “Expresso Baked Goods” back and forth over the landing. All Mirabelle could think of was the red velvet cupcake and a latte, aromas that wafted out the open door as she leaned her bike against the side of the entry landing. Luckily it was warm and she worn a light sweater or she wouldn’t have felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. (This is setting in the Epilogue when Mirabelle learns Peter has been shot trying to escape prison, again!)