"No thinking, that comes later. You write your first draft with your heart."*
Claudia Jean "Cici" Onofrio buttoned her uniform shirt in the locker room.
The beginning of a new manuscript, with new characters and story line. In the "old" days a blank sheet of paper stared back, mockingly. Today, in the lower left corner of the screen - "Page 1 of 1 Words: 0." Not even a title and only the barest plot idea. The best moment of the entire project. Oh, except when Marci Baun, Wild Child's publisher, says "We'll publish that." Okay, that's better. Go with me, though.
I write about police officers because I know them, have met hundreds - perhaps thousands - over the course of my thirty-three year career. Many of them have found great success. Several are dead. All of the cops have contributed something to my understanding of what it is to be in law enforcement at the turn of a century, a time when our profession is changing. Men cops are interesting characters to write. But, the women.... Fabulous. Why?
Here, I offer a apology. I'm going to indulge in gross overgeneralization, and at some point offend. I mean to slight no one, and offer apologies in advance.
Men are, as a whole, interesting in the nuance sense. Guys will stand around in groups, or sit at a table for coffee, and talk about the same things. Ask a group of guys a question or, almost as bad, get one male cop alone and ask - "What have you gotten out of a law enforcement career" and I get one of about three answers. One - "Just about as much ass as I've ever wanted." Two - "Drive fast, point guns...hoo-ah!" Three - "I thought we were talking about the Broncos."
Ask women that same question, sit back and listen. Struggles with day care, being taken seriously in a profession where the informal reward system favors "male characteristics," the uneven support they get from each other and the difficulties men have dealing with women at work in general. I've filled notebooks with quotes, quips and anecdotes. The greatest accolade I've received as a writer was a reference to the main female character in my first novel - a reader who "loved her" and I'd better not kill her off in the sequel! My friends, the ones who will drop everything to talk to me, are responsible for that compliment. I just record their insights and report them as "Karen's."
The above sentence in italics is the opening of a new novel, with a working title of A More Perfect Union. Who is Cici?
I'm not sure, yet. She's young, relatively new to policing. She works in a rural environment, in a made up county that is basically Arapahoe County, Colorado. She has friends, divorced parents and she's not sure law enforcement is for her. Tall, attractive, athletic. A vegetarian. Shy, socially a bit awkward.
She faces several challenges at work, the big one a split with her beat partner about.... A more perfect union, which is part of the preamble to the constitution. Only neither of them realize that.
And drones. Drones are in the news, here in the States as well as in war zones around the world. I need a drone mom. McKenzie Patrick, Brigadier General, US Air Force. Short, older, divorced. Academy grad. Had something of a mishap in a fighter and ran afoul of the service as a result.
Gotta have a guy, someone for Cici to meet. Kevin Cross, USMC. Platoon leader, base security. Recently back from Afghanistan. Tall, gangly, trying to do his job.
Twenty-seven thousand words in and I'm still trying to decide.
Who is Cici?
Who do you think she is?
*William Forrester (Sean Connery), Finding Forrester, 2000.