My second thriller in the ER crimes, MERCY, was the hardest one to write. Like every middle child, it got ignored a lot.
OVERDOSE came out with a bang. I obsessed on it like a mother on her first child. Nothing else mattered. I made sure no harm would come to it. I combed through it again and again. I changed my mind a hundred times. About the title. About the cover. About the narrator. I put it out for preorder three months early. I reviewed it seven times. I marketed its every coma.
I thought it would be my only book.
I was wrong.
The morning after I published it, I found myself wondering what happened next. Where did my characters go? What did they do? What happened to Emma? To Taylor? To Umber?
I had to find out, so I looked for the sequel. There was none. I had to write it.
I sat down with my old friends, looking for the answers.
The beginning was easy. I knew the characters. I knew the place – did I know the place! I knew the problems. I started writing. It was like going home after a nasty shift and telling your spouse stories about your day.
It took about fifty pages for things to turn bad. I was running in circles. Nothing was happening. I didn’t know how to make it happen. I was stuck.
That’s what they call the sagging middle. It’s an affliction common to writers and beer lovers. Not to me. I don’t drink beer. Like Emma, I drink wine.
I muddled through the doldrums, struggling to put down my fifteen hundred words a day, no matter what. I wrote things I didn’t want to read. Even I found it boring.
Then, all of a sudden, it came to me. I knew who had to die. I just had to kill them. The end was fun. The fights were awesome. I went back to the beginning to plant the seeds, making everything fall into place. I made the villains worse and the heroes better. I wrote in old memories: the rocking chair, the dog leash, the knife. Even the fries.
What was the best part? Getting my old friend, Gypsy, back. I’ve been hurting since she left us. Having her back, even if only on the page, gave me solace.
The worst part? Emma had to suffer. A lot. Looking back into your pain isn’t easy. It hurt her and it hurt me. But it made Mercy a better book.
The first draft finally over, I put Mercy away to ripen.
Since I had to have something to do, I wrote Poison. That was a joy to write from the beginning to the end. I pushed Emma and Taylor even harder. The greatest surprise was Amber. She became real, threatened, and human. And, in case you never played computer games, so you don’t know, killing villains is a lot of fun.
So, since play is play and work is work, I put Poison away and I got back to Mercy. Like every neglected child, it misbehaved. The sagging middle kept sagging, so I had to operate. In case you don’t know, I’m not a surgeon.
I cut out the boring parts.
It got too short.
I cut out the slow transitions and unnecessary words.
It got rough and hard to follow.
I started over. I smoothed the corners, softened the transitions, killed a few more. It looked like I was on my way.
Six drafts later, we got there.
The heroes are heroic. The villains suck.
The ER is still the ER. Traumas, dramas, codes, JCAHO. They can’t have drinks on their desks, they don’t get time to pee, and they’re pissed with the administrators. By the way: Any resemblance to real places or real people is purely coincidental, OK?
I hope Mercy gives you joy. Thank you for reading it. If you love it, please leave a stellar review. It makes all the difference in the world. If you don’t, pretend it never happened.