I was nearing the end of The Widow’s Walk League, my fourth Regan McHenry Real Estate Mystery, when it felt like someone tapped me on the shoulder. I looked, but no one was there. The next day the same thing happened again. When the sensation returned on the third day, I spun toward the empty space above my right shoulder and yelled, “Leave me alone. I’m trying to finish my book.”
A disembodied voice replied, “Write fast. I’m eighty-three years old so who knows how much time I have left. I have a story to tell and I want you to write it down.”
For me, writing mysteries is a disciplined affair. I need a timeline so I can remember who knew-what-when. Even though I know the storyline, an outline to help me give the reader clues without giving away the identity of the murderer is helpful. And I don’t have my protagonist do all the talking; I write in third person. But it was clear, if I was going to let the voice in my head speak, all that was going to change.
When I finished The Widow’s Walk League, I stared at a blank computer screen. I had no outline and no idea what I was going to write. It was my turn to speak. “OK, I’m listening. Who are you and what do you have to say?”
Writing Mags and the AARP Gang” was an adventure. I’d get up every day not knowing where the story was going and anxious to find out what would happen next. I’ll let Mags tell you a bit of her story starting with the first words she said to me: “My name is Margaret Sybil Broadly Benson, née Spencer, but you can call me Mags.
“You took so long getting back to me, I thought you forgot about me. I’m not complaining, though. In my eighty-three years I’ve learned there are advantages to being overlooked. Sometimes people make assumptions about the elderly; imagine they know how we think, what we’re capable of, and more importantly what we aren’t capable of. Take me and the AARP Gang, for example. Our mobile home park was about to be foreclosed and we were about to be kicked out of our homes, all political and underhanded what was going on…oh, don’t get me started. Bottom line is it was assumed that at our ages we wouldn’t have any fight left; that we’d just be nice little old ladies and gents and go off quietly to live with family.
“What people didn’t realize is we were already a family and that after a lifetime of living and reaching our eighties, none of us were quitters. No wonder we decided to rob the bank that held our note and pay off our mortgage with the proceeds. We liked the irony of that, besides, the bank was within walking distance, which was handy because most of us don’t drive any longer.
“We devised a masterful plan that made the most of our assets. My cohorts disguised themselves as old people (yes, I know we are all already old people, but they still needed disguises) making the most of the unobtrusiveness of age, while I used my rather formidable-if-never-used-on-stage acting talents to become our distraction, keeping people’s eyes busy so they wouldn’t see what was going on behind their backs.
“I was doing my award-worthy impression of a dear old lady who had lost her wallet and pleading with the people in the bank to help me find it when Melvin, who managed to bring along a rifle that none of us knew he had, got upset with a teller, brandished it, lost his balance, and fired the weapon, accidentally shooting one of the overhead fire sprinklers. That happenstance caused all the other sprinklers to spurt in sympathy and automatically call the fire department. Oh, my! So much for our carefully rehearsed plan.
“Did we get away with it you ask? Well, I am writing from home instead of from a jail cell, but it took quite a bit of complicated maneuvering, a whole novel’s worth, in fact, to get from being soggy in the bank to where I am today. Melvin—oh, he’s a hard man to control—in drag didn’t help my case much, not to mention all the trouble Batty Betty with her early onset Alzheimer’s caused what with remembering exactly what she should have forgotten.”
You can read the whole story about Mags and her colorful friends in Mags and the AARP Gang.
Find Megs on Amazon
Learn more about Nancy Lynn Jarvis from her Amazon author page.