Friday, April 18, 2014

Caught in the Author Web!

I was snagged to participate in a spider web blog challenge. Janet Greger snagged me; Ilene Schneider snagged her; and I snagged Sandra Bremser. You get to meet some bloggers you might not have encountered as we play this game! Additionally, you find out more about this blogger and her work as an author. Check the bottom for links.

Each of us has the same four questions to answer. Here I go! Tag! I’m it!

I am deep into two novel sequels, a romance short story for an anthology, and revisions of a mystery short story for a contest submission. The two sequels are Sex for Sale, sequel to Streewalker, my erotic romance series and Prime Rib and Punishment, sequel to Mission Impastable, my culinary mystery series.

In Sex for Sale, my protagonist, Carrie, and her business partner, Harlan still run their Upper East side brothel, but Harlan is distancing himself more and more as he develops his photography interest. Carrie is trying to get out of the brothel business and find more legitimate ways to sell sex as she opens an erotica art gallery and restaurant. Relationship misunderstandings interfere with their developing romance. Stuff happens. Will they part forever?

Prime Rib and Punishment picks up a couple of months after the end of Mission Impastable and finds the newly-minted personal chefs still struggling financially. They take part-time teaching jobs at a new culinary school but the head chef, forced to hire them by his boss, hates Alli and Gina. Unfortunately for them, that makes them prime suspects when he ends up dead. Filled with recipes, this two-fer, mystery and cookbook, will keep readers guessing as they try to solve the mystery alongside Alli.

In addition, I am writing a short story, “Just Say Something” (tentative) for a romance anthology to be published in October.

I am in the process of edits for an historical suspense romance, Lucinda, that I really want to publish later this year.

And for fun this summer, and as a break, I plan to finish my play about a single guy moving into a retirement community. Hot Dishes refers to the food the women show up with and how they view themselves.

I write in a wide range of genres because I let the story unfold. Sometimes that means paranormal, sometimes romance, and sometimes something else. I have to say I love writing culinary mysteries just as much as historical fiction or as much as erotic romance.

Each genre teaches me something more about the craft of writing as I struggle to master different genre elements. I think writing in a variety of genres is the sign of a healthy imagination rather than a sign of a dilettante who can’t focus! Right?

My protagonist, Alli, struggles with commitment and suffers from huge personal issues traceable to being abandoned as a youth. She is a hard worker, but Alli questions authority, and that hasn’t sat well with her dozens of employers over the years. She lives in the backyard casita of her friend from 2nd grade as part of her friend’s extended family.  She is a natural cook who finds measuring anathema. Her business partner in their newly-minted personal chef business knows they have to be more mindful of the details. The women struggle, not with their cooking, but with the business aspects of their chosen line of work.

I can be a pantser, a plotter, or (as one speaker identified in her session), a puzzler. A pantser lets the story roll out on its own. Sort of like mid-wifery. Just helping along a natural process. I am also, with some of my novels, a plotter (and I go into more detail on that). But at times, I am a puzzler. At a workshop recently, Lexi Post/Alexis Walker said that folks who don’t write chronologically, rather they write scenes out of order, are puzzlers. The pieces will fit together somehow.

I always work on more than one piece at a time. That shotgun approach staves off writer’s block. I also find that working on different genres helps me stay fresh with writing as well, as described above.

I start with a situation, question, or character and then play “what if?” to find plot lines to explore. “What if their first client died of food poisoning?” “What if Alli had a police officer boyfriend?” and so on.

I do major character sketches. I have the characters tell me, in first person, who they are, what’s important to them, what scares them, and so on.

I write the ten key events for the novel. I put the events spaced within a 40-line grid leaving grid spaces on either side to fill in as scenes. What happened before and after each of the ten? Then on either side of those. Each line of the grid includes who is in the scene, where/when is the scene, the point of the scene, and other stuff that needs to be there. This plotting does not restrict me (I veer off on side paths frequently), but it gives me a compass for finishing the novel.

However, as the puzzler, I have also written novels where I capture scenes that I write down and then weave together later. I write scenes from any place in the book. I’m afraid if I don’t get them down while they are pressing on me, I’ll lose them.

The spider who caught me in this web was Janet Greger. See her at  She was caught by Ilene Schneider. See her at She was caught into the web Sandy Fairfax. See her at I snared Sandra Bremser into the web. See her blog at   

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dump Your Critique Group!

Oh, boy! At my Left Coast Crime workshop, there was quite a reaction to the adamant directive that we should not be in writing critique groups. (I work with three throughout the year, so my ears perked up!)

This mandate came from Jan Burke (workshop leader) and Sue Grafton (guest author) during my day long, preconvention workshop. Jerrilyn Farmer (co-leader) moderated her response by saying it might be okay with the right people for a short time.

But no one of the three highly-successful writers thought that staying with a writing group for long periods of time helped make you a better writer.

In fact, the opposite.

Though none of them used the term, I connected their words with “learned helplessness” from my educator days. Learned helplessness is a condition of learning welfare that occurs when the student is given so much support to succeed that she cannot continue learning without the support. She abrogates her responsibility for learning, knowing she won’t be allowed to fail.

How does that relate to writing groups? My understanding of the views of Burke, Farmer, and Grafton is that they believe that writing groups hold authors back from being the best they can be. And, in fact, a writing group is the resort of the “lazy author” (my words as I interpreted theirs).

Sue Grafton said words to this effect: Why would you listen to other people who may write the same or less well than you? How does that make you better? It is YOUR job to know when something isn’t working in your manuscript, and you shouldn’t expect other people to do your job. Do the work. Put in the time. Brutally evaluate your own output. That’s your job if you call yourself a professional writer.

I can see both sides to the argument. (Of course I can. I’m a wishy-washy Libran.)

I realize that I do depend too much on my writing group colleagues to find and help fix my manuscripts. That is going to change. I am going to take more responsibility for being the professional I want to be.

By the same token, a part of me thinks that my critique groups also represent my potential readers. So isn’t that input helpful? To know what works or doesn’t? What is left out or extraneous?

"Nah," Sue Grafton, Jan Burke, and Jerrilyn Farmer would say. "That’s your job."