The Story of Scraps of Paper
A murder mystery by Kathryn Meyer Griffith
I’ve been writing for over forty-one years and have gone through a lot of frustrating or downright infuriating situations with publishers and editors. Since 1981 I’ve had eight of them. I’ve suffered 4% royalties, dreadful covers, bad editing and shoddy proof-reading, confusing statements, late royalty payments (or nonexistent ones) and other near-criminal acts committed against me by publishers and editors I’d so naively put my trust into over the years. Now days I like to look back at those occasions, write about them; smile or even laugh over them, though they weren’t so funny when they were happening. This is one of those smiling times…because the conception, writing, publishing and, finally, self-publishing of my murder mystery Scraps of Paper has had such a long vexing journey.
On January 15, 2013 I self-published it as an eBook, for the first time, on Amazon Kindle Direct, after waiting ten long years as it languished beneath a terribly unfair hardback contract with Avalon Books that had a sell-off limit of 3,500 hardcopies. Ten years where they claimed it barely sold (no joke…their asking price was ridiculously high at $26.00) and that it didn’t sell one copy in the last two years of its contract–though the book was on sale everywhere on the Internet. I never received one royalty statement and had to beg in yearly emails to be told how many copies had sold that year. Of course, since the totals never got near the 3,500, , they said, I would get no royalty statements. And I never did. Not one. Ever. Last month my book was finally mine again and I was free of that atrocious contract and now, after a revision and commissioning a new stunning cover from my cover artist Dawne Dominique, I’ve released it into the world without the publisher’s shackles to imprison it. Fly little bird, fly!
Originally I wrote it be the first of a series set in this quaint, quirky little town I tongue-in-cheek called Spookie. I mean, most of my books before were horror novels and I was basically considered a horror writer, so the town’s name was the tip-of-the-hat to my horror roots. It’d be my first venture into that genre, which I’d always loved. Sherlock Holmes. Murder She Wrote. Detective Frost. Miss Marple. I wrote it and then, quickly after, a second in the series All Things Slip Away for Avalon Books. I got a modest advance up front for each one.
It was 2002. I’d come out of a lengthy publishing dry spell. My seventh paperback novel, Zebra’s The Calling, a ghost story with an ancient Egyptian theme, had come out in 1994. Then they dumped a lot of us mid-list horror writers, me included, saying horror was dying; and for eight years I couldn’t sell another book. Well, living my life got in the way during some of that time. I’d lost my long-time good-paying graphic artist job in 1994 and had to find another one. The pay was a lot less. No good for my budget or my standard of living, which really fell. I went from one of five bad jobs to another over the next six years…each worse and lower paying than the one before. Each more demanding. I needed to make money. No longer could I live with pie-in-the-sky literary dreams. I had to face reality. So I stopped writing for a while.
When I finally came up for breath and my head was back on straight again I decided to write something different…a mystery. I’d always loved mysteries. I began writing Scraps of Paper. About a woman, an artist named Jenny, whose husband has been missing for two years, and who’s just learned he’s been dead all that time–a victim of a gone-wrong mugging. She begins a new life and moves to a small town full of fog, quirky townspeople and mysteries. And right away she’s drawn into one of her own when she buys, renovates, a fixer-upper house and uncovers hidden in it scraps of paper written by two young children who once lived there with their mother, and who supposedly drove away thirty years before and were never seen again. The town thought they simply went someone else; began a new life. But Jenny suspects they never left the house; suspects they’d been murdered. Then she finds three graves in the back.
Of course, with her history of a missing husband she develops the overpowering urge to find out what happened to them. The scraps of paper she continues to find makes the bond, the desire, stronger. She forms a friendship with an ex-homicide cop, Frank, and together they try to solve the mystery. Only thing is there’s someone still living in the town that just as desperately doesn’t want them to. Someone who’d kill to keep the murderer’s identity secret.
When done I was proud of it. Thought it was good. I sent it to Avalon Books in New York. They loved it and bought it. I signed the contract, though I didn’t like some of the things in it. But I was desperate. I hadn’t had a book published in so long and, as my mom always said, beggars can’t be choosers. I sold them the second in the series, hoping it’d help sell the first. They got great reviews. But I came to regret signing both those contracts more as every year went by because I never received one penny more for either book for the next ten years. I know, it sounds impossible. But it happened to me. I’m sure it happened to a lot of their authors. Probably one of the reasons Avalon Books sold themselves lock-stock-and-barrel to Amazon Publishing in June of 2012 and, without their authors’ knowledge or permission, including mine, sold away their authors’ contracts from under them as well. I guess you live and learn. I was just lucky Scraps of Paper’s contract had run out. I took the book back.
But, all that is in the past, and my revised Scraps of Paper-Revised Author’s Edition is now available, on sale for $3.99 (much better than $26.00), at Amazon Kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B1W4A2K And I hope people will have the chance to read it this time around and like it.
EXCERPT of Scraps of paper-Revised Author’s Edition
by Kathryn Meyer Griffith:
Abigail Sutton began driving with no real destination in mind. It’d been years since she’d done anything as spontaneous, not since before her husband, Joel, had walked out of their apartment late one night for cigarettes and hadn’t returned. She’d loved her husband more than anything in life, and he her. Joel hadn’t merely run out on her, she knew that from the first. He wouldn’t have done that, wasn’t that sort of man. They’d been happily married for twenty years and were about to begin building their dream house. Had the land, it’d been cleared off and the building would have commenced the following week.
Then Joel had disappeared and for two and a half years he’d been missing. Until last month when the police had phoned one morning to inform her his car and his body had been found in the middle of a ravine deep in the woods outside of town. Joel was dead. Victim of an ill-fated mugging, the police said, left lifeless and robbed, in his stripped car in a remote place no one had found until now.
It was ironic. She’d remained alone, in the cramped apartment, for two years, waiting, believing he’d stroll back in one night just as he’d walked out. Believing she’d get a phone call from him, a message, anything. It hadn’t happened. Her life had been frozen and sad. For so long. Too long.
She’d lost her graphic artist job at the local newspaper last month, which was partly her fault. She’d quit, sick of producing ads and inserts among a group of overworked and frantic people always fighting with the computers. Too many deadlines. Not enough employees. It’d been coming for a long time. Losing Joel had changed her. She wasn’t easy to be around, she knew that. Angry or melancholy all the time. Obsessed with finding Joel she kind of went nuts. Her co-workers ended up ignoring her and it hurt. With all those people around, she’d never been so alone. It’d taken her a while to figure it out but there was more to life than some lousy job and an empty apartment. Joel’s official death certificate sealed that belief. Now she was acting on what she’d learned.
The asphalt road before her car was shimmering in the summer’s heat and the steering wheel under her hands felt good. She was in search of a new life because the past was unchangeable, but the future wasn’t.
Traveling the main highway for over an hour, she veered onto an exit and a side road that wound into woods and ended up in a town the map called Spookie. She was searching for a sleepy hamlet; a certain feeling or magic remembered from childhood, of summer innocence and safety, a picturesque and welcoming village where she could start over. Because for the first time in a long time she was free. Free to reach out to other people, open her heart and her life, live, reinvent herself. She wouldn’t be moody and reclusive any longer. She was going to be happy.
With her savings she’d have enough to buy a fixer upper house, move in, and just live for a while until she got another job. If a job was what she had to do to pay the bills. She had this crazy idea of being a freelance artist, of selling paintings and drawings, and not ever again having to work locked up all day in an office. A crazy idea of living cheaply; of a simple life. But it’d been a long time since she’d drawn, illustrated, anything, because computers had replaced her creative skills, and she hoped she hadn’t forgotten how.
How peaceful the country roads and the surrounding woods were. She stopped the car on the shoulder and tramped into the damp grass alongside an old wooden bridge where the light, pale shades of tawny gold and delicate vermilion, seemed softer.
She began climbing, using slim trees to help her upwards. At the top of the rise, she paused. The countryside, all hills and tree-dotted valleys, was laid out for miles around her and the sky above was a palette of pinks, blues and wispy whites. The breeze, lifting her brown hair gently about her face, seemed to sing to her. Here you will find home.
There was a miniature town nestled in the center of a clump of woods below, pretty as a picture postcard, and so cloaked in fog it was barely visible. She studied it, fascinated. From where she was it appeared full of tiny houses, tiny buildings and tiny roads. But real people lived in those houses and buildings and lived their lives out among the woods and the mist. The town was calling to her as if she belonged there. Home is here.
About Kathryn Meyer Griffith...
Since childhood I’ve always been an artist and worked as a graphic designer in the corporate world and for newspapers for twenty-three years before I quit to write full time. I began writing novels at 21, over forty years ago now, and have had seventeen (ten romantic horror, two romantic SF horror, one romantic suspense, one romantic time travel, one historical romance and two murder mysteries) previous novels, two novellas and twelve short stories published from Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, The Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books/Eternal Press and Amazon Kindle Direct.
I’ve been married to Russell for almost thirty-five years; have a son, James, and two grandchildren, Joshua and Caitlyn, and I live in a small quaint town in Illinois called Columbia, which is right across the JB Bridge from St. Louis, Mo. We have three quirky cats, ghost cat Sasha, live cats Cleo and Sasha (Too), and the five of us live happily in an old house in the heart of town. Though I’ve been an artist, and a folk singer in my youth with my brother Jim, writing has always been my greatest passion, my butterfly stage, and I’ll probably write stories until the day I die…or until my memory goes.
All Kathryn Meyer Griffith’s Books available at Amazon.com here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Kathryn+Meyer+Griffith