Sometime 40 years ago this month, I first penned the words that begin the Operation Quickline series. “I live with my boss.” The sentence now reads, “My name is Lisa Wycherly. I live with my boss.” And I made that change very early in the process if I’m reading my original manuscript correctly.
Operation Quickline is the adventures of Lisa Wycherly and Sid Hackbirn two people with opposing value systems who work together as undercover counter-espionage agents. The books were supposed to be spy thrillers. They turned into romances with espionage intrusions.
I don’t know which day in September, 1982, I actually began That Old Cloak and Dagger Routine, but I do know when I finished it: January 30, 1983, at 6:21 p.m. It’s written in after the last line in the book. I’m trying to remember if that was the first time I’d done that. But all my first drafts after that each end with the date and time I finished it.
I do not know why I don’t start that way, but I don’t.
How Operation Quickline helped
In some ways, this series saved me. Writing it showed me that I could write the mystery genre. It gave me something to relax with while I was working on my master’s degree (and what will be book twelve, when I get that far, is a tribute to those years). As I refined the stories, I got more confident in my ability to write. From there, I wrote several other books, and finally hid in those stories as my first marriage crumbled.
I moved on, got remarried to my current husband, and kept picking up the series here and there, refining, rewriting. My publishing journey started with Fascinating Rhythm, the series that’s set in the 1920s. I re-wrote that one and the second, then wrote books three and four. That’s when I decided to put That Old Cloak and Dagger Routine out as a blog – a serial. Kindle Vella before Amazon thought of it. I created a whole new series, the Old Los Angeles series, based on some of the work my husband was doing as the archivist for the City of Los Angeles.
In March 2020, as the pandemic was getting going, I was blogging book five, Sad Lisa, and realized I’d have to get book six, These Hallowed Halls, rewritten if I was going to get it ready for blogging. That’s when Sid and Lisa took over. For the next year and a half, I was obsessed. I finished the re-writes on the original novels, then wrote two more. I re-arranged plots with abandon, but the essential character conflicts remained, and even deepened.
Operation Quickline is how I got through that horrible time. My husband was home and got heartily sick of me bouncing plot ideas off him in the middle of the day. But, dang, I loved being able to do that.
There were originally thirteen books in the series, including one with several short episodes, which I may or may not publish. If you sign up for my newsletter (in the box at the right, or by clicking here), then you can download one of those episodes, Sid’s Mistress, for free. It’s one of my favorites, since it shows a lot of Sid’s difficulties as a veteran and how he got out of it.
They may only exist in my fevered imagination, but Sid and Lisa are pretty real to me. As I’ve grown, they have, too. And it all started with some scribbled lines in a wire-bound notebook 40 years ago this month.