WRITING TEENAGERS by Maggie Sefton
If you’ve been reading the Kelly Flynn Knitting Mysteries, then you’ve discovered that I’ve introduced several teenaged characters in the books on different occasions. Most recently, in CLOSE KNIT KILLER, I introduced a young twelve year old, about-to-be teenager, Cassie Wainwright, café-owner Pete’s niece, who joined the cast. Cassie has gone on to become a cast regular in YARN OVER MURDER. Curt Stackhouse’s grandson, Eric, also joined the cast in that book. Cassie and Eric—both now fourteen years old—will be in this year’s June 1015 release, PURL UP AND DIE.
Like all my characters, Cassie simply “walked onstage” one day, and I knew she was meant to be in the Kelly Flynn books. That’s the way it works with my characters. They don’t ask, they simply show up and demand to be on the page. Actually, I had a hint of Cassie a couple of years before she showed up. She didn’t have a name or any description then, but she was simply “out there” in the sky, circling. All I knew was she’s a teenaged girl. I was delighted when the character Cassie finally showed up and turned out to be a delight.
Glancing around her small table beside a window in Pete’s café, Kelly noticed Cassie clearing tables close by. “Hi, Cassie. How’d you guys play against Wellington last night?”
Cassie looked over at Kelly and broke into a big smile. “Oh, we beat ‘em. Beat ‘em bad,” she bragged. “I hit a triple!”
Kelly laughed softly at the sound of young teenage exuberance. “That’s great. Steve and I were both working in Denver so we couldn’t see the game.”
“We’re playing Longmont tomorrow, Saturday morning at Rolland Moore Park.” Cassie gave the table a thorough wipe. “Where are you guys playing?”
“Steve’s playing a morning game at Rolland Moore, and my team will play in the afternoon game at City Park ball field. So I’ll definitely be able to catch your game. I’ll just hop between fields at Rolland Moore.”
Cassie emptied another table of dirty dishes onto her tray. “I love City Park. It is so pretty. I hope we play more games there. All those tall trees. Pete says they’re oak trees, and they’re really going to be pretty in the Fall.” She wiped this table then lifted the trayful of dishes.
“Can you carry all that?” Kelly asked, pointing to the tray. “It looks pretty heavy.”
“Oh, sure,” Cassie said. “Funny, but it doesn’t feel that heavy anymore. I remember last summer I couldn’t carry a tray like this, the way Jennifer and Julie do.” She shrugged. “I guess I’m stronger now.”
“That’s because you’ve had two summers and a fall worth of batting practice,” Kelly said with a grin. “You worked hard with the ball machine. You’re batting really well now because you’ve gotten stronger. Funny how that works together. No wonder you hit a triple.”
“Do you think I can ever hit a homer like you do?”
“Sure, you will. In time. You’ve got a lot more growing to do. Look how much you’ve grown in little over a year since you’ve been here. Must be three inches.”
“Three and a half,” Cassie corrected, wide smile lighting her deep blue eyes.
“Three and a half. And I predict you’ll probably grow another inch before this year is over.”
Cassie’s eyes popped wide. “You think so! Awesome! I hope you’re right.”
“Your legs have gotten a lot longer, too. That’s why you can run so fast. You run almost as fast as I do, I think.”
“No way!” Cassie scoffed.
“Oh, yeah. You’re like a jack rabbit racing around those bases.”
Cassie gave a giggling laugh that made Kelly laugh just hearing it. “Jack rabbit. I love it. I gotta tell Eric.”
“Well, you can tell him that he looks like a really tall, skinny jack rabbit. And he runs even faster.”
“He’ll love that,” Cassie said, shifting the tray. “Talk to you later, Kelly.”
“If it’s Friday, then you’re going with Lisa to the Sports Clinic. Bring back some of Lisa’s PT secrets, okay?”
“Lisa’s secret is she’s got magic hands,” Cassie said as she headed toward the kitchen area.
Magic hands, huh? Kelly recalled how skilled Lisa had been when she helped Kelly recuperate from a broken ankle years ago. Cassie was one smart kid, she thought, as she pulled her laptop from the briefcase bag.
Young Eric is also an enjoyable character. And it’s fun to write about young teenaged boys slowly moving into manhood, just as it’s equally enjoyable to write about teenaged girls making their way carefully as they blossom into young women. In the upcoming Kelly Flynn release, PURL UP AND DIE, both Cassie and Eric are fourteen and it’s great fun to show their moments of maturity and their sudden lapses into “younger kids.”
Here’s another excerpt from PURL UP AND DIE—-
“Hey, Eric. How’d your game turn out?” Steve called to the teenager.
Eric smiled. “We beat ‘em by five. I got a couple of doubles, too.”
“Good job!” Kelly congratulated Curt Stackhouse’s grandson. Same age as Cassie, but taller and skinnier. Fourteen going on high school.
“C’mon up here and join us,” Steve beckoned. “Cassie’s gonna bat next. Meanwhile, you can catch us up on what you’ve been doing.”
Kelly watched the even skinnier and faster jack rabbit Eric step effortlessly over the bleacher rows. Way longer legs. Clearly in a growth spurt like Cassie. “Your parents keeping you busy over at their ranch?”
“Oh, yeah. And I’ve been helping Grandpa Curt every day, too. Learning the cattle business, he says.” Eric settled on the bleacher bench beside Steve.
“Boy, you’re gonna be a heckuva rancher some day,” Steve said, grinning at Eric. “Alpaca and sheep business with your mom and dad, and the cattle business with your grandpa. I’d say that’s a dynamite combination.”
Eric flushed just a little with Steve’s praise. “I like it. Tell the truth, I like working with the cattle even more than sheep and alpaca. But they’re good, too.”
Kelly thought she spotted Eric’s quick glance toward Steve’s pizza slices sitting on the plate. Steve must have noticed, too, she figured because he spoke up.
“Listen, Eric. I can’t finish that pizza. This hot dog is doing it for me. Why don’t you take the pizza?”
Eric’s eyes lit up. “Really? Wow, thanks! I’m getting pretty hungry, but I wanted to see Cassie bat first.”
Steve handed over the plastic plate with pizza. “Go for it. You’re in a growth spurt, I can tell.”
Eric fairly inhaled the pizza, half a slice disappeared in ten seconds. The second half went like the first. Gone. Much to Steve’s and Kelly’s amusement.
“I was about to ask for a bite,” Kelly teased.
Eric stopped then swallowed. “Um, sorry. You want some?” He offered the last bite.
Steve held up his hand. “Nope. You’re a teenage boy in a growth spurt. You need it. Megan’s bringing Kelly a hot dog. Besides, she’s teasing you.”
Eric screwed up his face. “How can you tell? I can never tell when girls are teasing. They’re weird.” He wagged his head in the manner of boys growing to be men. It was an Age-old question.
“You’ll learn. And, yes, girls are definitely weird. They’re inscrutable.” Steve took a deep drink of soda to chase the last hot dog bite.
Kelly smiled and kept her mouth shut during this “mano a mano” exchange. Man talk. Also as ancient as Time.
Eric looked out toward the field. “Inscrutable. That was one of our vocabulary words. It means hard to figure out.”
Steve gave Eric a pat on the back. “That’s for sure. See Kelly, there?” He pointed. “She’s smiling. But you can’t tell if she’s smiling because she’s watching a starving teenager eat, or if she’s secretly laughing at us and our inability to figure out girls. Inscrutable.”
Kelly just held her inscrutable smile, and pointed to the field. “Cassie’s up. Let’s all hope for a triple.”
Since I have been blessed with four wonderful grandchildren (two grandsons and two granddaughters), I have had ample experience watching these young ones blossom. The teenaged boy O’Leary appears in the upcoming PURL UP AND DIE. But he first appeared as a full-of-himself thirteen year old with a cheesy grin in FLEECE NAVIDAD. Kelly and Jennifer wanted to help out over-worked Hilda and Lizzie who were handling the local Catholic Church’s Christmas pageant. Before they knew it, both Kelly and Jennifer (the two lapsed Catholics in the Lambspun group) found themselves in charge of a group of 13 year olds who were staging the pageant. And my then-13 year old grandson Matthew unknowingly provided a great deal of “inspiration” for O’Leary. Oh, my. . .was that fun to write. J
An example from FLEECE NAVIDAD—-
Then came the sound of doors opening at the back of the church sanctuary, followed by young male voices. Changing voices. Cracking high, dropping low. Kelly turned to see three young teenaged boys stroll up the aisle. The missing Wise Men, at last. The sandy brown-haired one in front looked familiar.
“Coach Flynn?” he called as he and companions drew near. “What are you doing here?”
“O’Leary?” Kelly exclaimed, recognizing her favorite baseman, best hitter, and all-around troublemaker from last summer’s baseball leagues.
“In the flesh, Coach,” he said as he and Kelly clasped hands in a jock handshake. “You runnin’ this show now?”
“Let me guess, you and your friends are the Wise Men, right?”
“That’s us, Coach.” O’Leary and his buddies wrapped arms around each other’s shoulders and mugged with cheesy smiles. “Three Wise Men. We got the goods.”
The shepherds spread on the steps surrounding the altar groaned as did the Narrator.
Kelly grinned. “Goods or not, guys, if you’re late again, I’ll kick your butts.”
“Hey, she can hit it outta the park, so shut up,” O’Leary said.
“Awesome!” the third boy exclaimed.
“Hey, Coach Flynn, when are you gonna have tryouts for next year? O’Leary said you straightened out his swing.”
O’Leary made a dramatic swing with an invisible bat. “Home run! Outta the park!”
This time the entire pageant cast sitting on the altar steps groaned.
Kelly just laughed. “They any good?” She nodded toward his friends.
“Oh, yeah. Not as good as me, of course,” he said with a swagger.
“Gonna hurl!” Narrator warned.
Kelly laughed out loud this time, as did Jennifer. “Tell you what, guys. Do a stand-up job with this Nativity scene, and I’ll watch for you in the tryouts. I’ll even put in a good word with Coach Townsend.”
Jennifer handed them scripts. “Three Wise Guys is more like it.”
“Hey, that’s good,” O’Leary said, incapable of insult.
“Wise Guys, one, two, and three,” Jennifer said, pointing to each.
“Get on up there,” Kelly ordered, pointing toward the steps. “No more mouthing off. O’Leary, that means you. And keep your buds in line.”
“Got it, Coach,” he said as he walked toward the steps.
“Do we have to wear those stupid bathrobes,” Wise Guy Two asked as he followed O’Leary.
“Yeah, they’re so lame,” Wise Guy Three said as he sank on the steps beside the teenaged girl playing Mary. She gave him an Annoyed Teenage Girl stare, only used when trying to ignore annoying teenage boys.
“Well, if you guys have a costume or something that looks like a robe, go ahead and use it,” Kelly said.
“My mother is making my costume,” one of the angels announced, tossing her blonde curls over her shoulder. “She’s even making wings.”
As if on cue, O’Leary and his buddies grabbed their stomachs and heaved. Loudly. Shepherds One and Two convulsed on the steps. Even Mary smiled.
PURL UP AND DIE
By Maggie Sefton
Berkley Prime Crime
on sale June 2, 2015