Saturday, July 26, 2014

Writing Strong Female Leads

By P.J. MacLayne (Guest Blogger)

I come from a long line of strong women on both my father's and mother's side. Both of my grandmothers raised large families without a lot of money to spend, but made it happen with a lot of hard work and a lot of love. I'm thankful that work ethic has been passed on to me.

So I guess it's no surprise that I write my female characters to be strong. Harmony Duprie, the main character in my new book, The Marquesa's Necklace, has the rather unusual occupation of doing historical research for a writers' cooperative, a job she invented. That means she spends much of her time with her nose buried in a book or staring at a computer screen. That may not seem like hard work to some, but it takes both skill and intelligence to track down long-forgotten details of daily life of years gone by.

The weekly self-defense class Harmony participates in helps her stay physically in-tune. Of course, she doesn't expect to ever use what she learns, because nothing bad ever happens in Oak Grove, the small town she lives in.

Yeah, right. She didn't believe that anymore after spending a night in jail accused of drug trafficking.

As Harmony tries to put her life back together, she learns that sometimes being strong means letting other people help you., as in the excerpt below.

The folded, bright orange paper that must have been stuck between the screen door and the main door caught my eye. I almost dropped my laptop bag when I snatched it from the clutches of a sudden gust of cold wind threatening to send the sheet sailing. But I managed to hang onto it with my free hand, using my hip to push open the heavy wooden door.

Curious, I set down my laptop and purse and unfolded the paper without even kicking off my shoes first. Totally not like me. I sank down on my old brown couch.

A crudely drawn skull and crossbones adorned the top half of the page. On the bottom half, scrawled in red ink, were the words “You got lucky this time.” I took a deep breath, picked up the landline phone, and hit memory five—Detective Thomason's direct line.

I was sitting at the bottom of the stairway, patting Piper, and practicing breathing exercises to calm my nerves when he arrived in a squad car, sirens wailing. To my shock, Piper didn’t even growl. The uniformed cop with him dashed up the stairs, his hand on the butt of his gun. The detective sat beside me and pulled the evidence out of my still-shaking hand. He flipped open the sheet, glanced at it, and folded it in half. His lips tightened into a thin line as he stared at the crack in the concrete beneath his feet. We sat there, not looking at each other, until the policeman came stomping down the stairs.

“It’s clear.”

Detective Thomason grunted. “Ms. Duprie, have you met Officer Clearmont?”

I recognized the face if not the name. I’d probably seen him around the station. “I’d like to say good to see you again,” I said, “But unfortunately it’s not.” Wow, I was really slipping, cranking out a line like that. Under other circumstances, I would have been ashamed of myself.

“I’ll dust for prints on the door, but I don’t expect to find any,” the officer said, his expression not changing. “Except for yours, ma’am,” he added, acknowledging me.

“And we have hers on file at the station, so they will be easy to match up.” Detective Thomason noted dryly. “Bring back an evidence bag for this too.” He waved the guilty piece of paper in the air.
“Although I doubt we will find any unknown prints on it.”

The Marquesa's Necklace is for sale at major ebook retailers.

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