What do you do when a project flops? If you’re a masochist like me, you move on to the next thing. While I await the fate of my most recent story submission, I’ve started a new story and new direction. This will be more romantic and less mysterious. It also means, sadly, I have decided to cancel any remaining Lerxst Johnston stories I had planned.

Hurts to do it, but when something doesn’t stick to the wall you need to reach for a better glue. I enjoyed writing Rock Deadly and Rock Til You Drop – I don’t think I ever had as much fun with a character as I did with Lerxst. I don’t have a son, but I would definitely have welcomed a young man like him into my family. Would I want Lerxst to one day date my daughter? Well…

Anyway, for those of you who did read the first two books – thanks for taking the time. Hope you enjoyed them. I’m sorry to disappoint anybody who hoped for a longer series, but the sales history doesn’t support a third book. If a miracle happens, maybe I’ll revisit Lerxst at a later time, like Agatha Christie did with Tommy and Tuppence.

If you’re curious, I had planned to set the third story in Central Virginia, in wine country. I never detailed the actual mystery, but the story would have involved the family of Lerxst’s late mother – and this grandmother is the complete opposite of Grandma Johnston, perhaps the one person in Albemarle County who doesn’t approve of the Commonwealth’s agri-tourism efforts, to say nothing of Chad Johnston’s personal life.

Normally Lerxst wouldn’t visit his other relatives, but their desire to meet granddaughter Jules brings them into the story. They would have been like the Westboro Phelpses, only a tad lovable. Lerxst’s aunt, disapproving of her sister’s choice of husband, would have scoffed at her nephews, particularly Lerxst’s long hair. Her son, affectionately nicknamed “Sling Blade” by Lerxst and Chad, is the apple of her eye and can do no wrong, so naturally Lerxst will assume he’s the bad guy. Lerxst’s father would be deep in a relationship with the lady detective (now leaving the force to pursue her dream of owning a bakery) from the second book, something that irks his younger son.

Grandma Johnston’s friend owns a winery and is co-hosting a festival similar to the popular Floyd Fest, which would explain Lerxst, Diane, and Jules performing there. I hadn’t decided who would die – it wouldn’t be anyone in the family, but Grandma’s friend would have been held under suspicion by local authorities.

I had jotted down some sample dialogue to use early on in the book:

“Chad,” I said, “if you let me tell Grandma Swathmore that you’re gay I will give you one thousand dollars.”

“What, and cancel the flash mob musical number I’ve been planning all year?”

It would have read funnier in the final draft. I had envisioned the opening scene to mirror some part of my own life:

“Just to warn you,” I told Diane as I slipped the ring on her finger, “I don’t intend to retire.”

My new fiancee fanned her hand out in front of her face, admiring the bright yet small sparkle of the green stone that once belonged to my mother. “That’s perfectly fine. I’ll Skype you from Hawaii.”

“I’m serious. Retirement equals death. Look at Charles Schultz.”

She glanced over her shoulder. “Is he here, too? I figured he’d be haunting some golf course in Pebble Beach.”

“The day his final comic runs, he drops dead.” Seriously, look it up. So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, good grief. Missed that last football and kicked a damn cloud.

There’s more, but I forgot it.

So, puritanical grandparents, a goofball cousin or two, a murder, and a wedding at the end. I won’t detail too much, because I may go back one day and weave some of this into flashbacks for a book. For the most part, everybody is happy and healthy.

I can’t say much for the characters in my next book, though.