Last night, I finished the first draft of my latest novel. The rain was falling outside, and my dog was quietly snoozing in the bedroom as I reached “The End.” When I checked the time on my computer, it was 11:34 p.m.
I don’t actually type “The End” when I finish one of my books, but there’s a sense of finality and accomplishment whenever I finish the last page of a book. Granted, there are still edits, revisions and other additional work to be done before it’s published, but it’s like traveling from point A to point B where you’re glad to be at the finish line.
One thing crossed my mind after I finished Creampuff of the County, the latest novel in the Zachary Gagewood Mysteries. This was not the first time I’d finished a book under the cloak of darkness. In fact, there were a number of times that it was either very close to midnight or sometime after.
What is it about the night that allows creativity to flow so freely? Is it because the blackness serves as a blank slate where writers can be the architects of their stories? Is it because we’re more likely to engage in other activities when there is daylight and not consider writing until after the sun goes down?
It’s definitely quieter at night. During the day, you have people calling you on the phone, mowing the lawn next door, driving along your street. At night, the traffic is lighter, and more people are asleep. In short, fewer distractions.
Sometimes it might take me a few days to finish the last chapter in a book. A couple of times, I was able to finish the entire chapter in less than 24 hours, and I remember one occasion where I wrote a chapter and a half in the span of two days. It all depends on whether the path to “The End” clears up suddenly or requires cutting a swath through the jungle of imagination.
Not every writer has a predetermined time of midnight to finish work. Not every writer has a predetermined finish time, period. I can’t explain how I manage to finish a lot of my books in the dead of night, but it’s definitely a curiosity. It might even be fodder for a future book or short story. Any little thing can spark the imagination, even the stroke of midnight.
Although I’ve reached “The End” of Creampuff of the County, there’s still much work to be done if I’m going to publish the book by July. In the meantime, here are the first few pages of the new book.
It wasn’t immediately clear to Zachary whether Agnes Portman, president of the Gresham Ladies Society and treasurer of the Shawano County Fair board of directors, was merely expressing delight after tasting a delicious creampuff or if she’d discovered her G-spot. The fair board had been sampling the tasty treats cooked up each year by Fletcher Burgess for the ladies society to sell in their booth, and when the seventy-year-old woman bit into hers, she let out a cry usually only achieved by Hollywood actresses around the age of twenty when they were in hot and steamy scenes with naked leading men that had pulsating muscles all over their well-oiled bodies. When she did that, everybody in the tiny meeting room on the fairgrounds stopped whatever they were doing, even if they were in the middle of biting into their own creampuffs, and stared at Agnes like she was possessed.
Agnes looked at Fletcher, the other fair board members and Zachary—who had come to take publicity photos of the fair—and blushed fiercely as she dabbed her mouth with a napkin and breathlessly said, “Delicious.”
Fletcher put his hands behind his back. “I think she liked it.”
“What was your first clue?” Zachary asked sarcastically before looking at the viewfinder on his camera, which showed the last photo he’d snapped right when Agnes cried out in ecstasy. Sure enough, Agnes looked like she was being taken again and again like the women in a cheesy romance novel, with a smile that parted the wrinkles on her face and her eyes rolling up inside her head. Zachary wondered how much trouble he’d get in if he sent that photo out to the local media when the fair board issued its press release.
Agnes, still a little flustered, stood up. “Fletcher, you’ve outdone yourself. These creampuffs taste even better than last year’s. Did you change your recipe?”
Fletcher shook his head. “No, ma’am. It’s the same recipe that my family has had since my grandmother was alive.”
Agnes frowned, seeming a little disappointed by Fletcher’s answer. “Maybe you found a different kind of cream for the puffs. That must be it.”
“Nope. Same kind of cream. I make it from scratch.”
“There must be something different with the puffs. I’ve tasted your creampuffs every year for almost twenty years, Fletcher, and these tasted like they’d been touched by God.”
Zachary had to cup his mouth to keep from laughing out loud. Agnes might have thought the creampuffs were touched by God, but that scream sounded like she’d been ravaged by the devil.
“Anyhow,” Agnes concluded, “I think these puffs will be perfect for the Gresham Ladies Society to sell, as always. Thank you for generously bringing in samples for the board to enjoy.”
Fletcher beamed. “It’s my pleasure, Ms. Portman. The creampuffs have always been a fan favorite. I’m just glad that y’all allow me to continue being the official baker for your organization. I know there are plenty of other bakers out there who would kill to have my job.”
One person immediately sprang to Zachary’s mind. Scotty Glenn, who’d been operating a bakery in Gresham for years, always started moaning at this time of year that Fletcher must be paying off the fair board, noting that his own pastries were twice as tasty as Fletcher’s. Scotty swore every year that he’d find a way to top Fletcher’s puffs, but he had failed every time.
“Well, I’d say your puffs are the killer this time,” Agnes declared. “I must have another taste.”
The second cry of ecstasy was more ear-piercing than the first. Zachary was surprised the windows didn’t shatter.
“Agnes, should I get you a cigarette?” asked Beau Madsen, the vice president for the fair board.
Agnes started fanning herself with her napkin. “No, no. I should be all right. I just hope the folks who visit the county fair next week have strong tickers when they buy these amazing puffs.”
“Fletcher,” Zachary said, “promise me you won’t offer your creampuffs to Sigrid to put on her menu. My bookstore is right across from her supper club in Gresham, and the last thing I need is for the place to sound like Caligula’s palace and scare away potential customers to my business.”
“Well, if you think I shouldn’t.” Fletcher looked sad. He obviously didn’t realize Zachary had been joking.
“Relax, Fletcher. I think they only cause orgasmic screams from Agnes. I think the rest of the county should react normally.”
Agnes shot Zachary a dirty look. “You just wait, Zachary Gagewood. Someday, I’ll pass away, and when I do, I’ll haunt you every moment of every day.”
Zachary imagined hearing never ending, elderly orgasmic moaning. He wasn’t sure if he should be tickled or terrified.
“Well, Fletcher. Let me snap a few more photos of the plates of creampuffs before the fair board polishes them off.”
After snapping about two dozen photos from multiple angles, the nine members of the fair board dove into the creampuffs, snacking and chatting. Zachary put his camera in his black case and slung it over his shoulder. He had other tasks to deal with at the fairgrounds, so he told Fletcher and the fair board goodbye and left the meeting room.
As he stepped outside the fair office, he looked around the almost empty fairgrounds. There were a few vacant shacks and a large open field in his line of sight, but in just a few days the field would be filled with carnival rides, and the shacks would be jam packed with volunteers from numerous Shawano County nonprofit organizations and cooking up a variety of fair food, from cheese curds to funnel cakes to deep fried Oreos. Zachary loved county fair time, remembering the joy when he was a child entering animals and other exhibits.