Archive for Works in Progress

Writing Retreat 2016: Day Four

Bad, bad manuscript.

Oh, the run-on sentences; using five words when one will do; the wretched passive voice…

I don’t know who created this list, but guess what stage I’m at right now?

The Creative Process

1. This is awesome

2. This is tricky

3. This is shit

4. I am shit

5. This might be ok

6. This is awesome



Writing Retreat 2016: Day Three

Have I mentioned how much fun I’m having?

Writing a book is hard. Reading one is easy, which is why so many people think that writing one must be a cinch, too. Writing is challenging (good books need to be coherent, well-thought-out, and keep the reader’s attention), butt-numbing (all of that sitting), frustrating (Oh, crap, what color were his eyes again? Great, none of that five pages I just wrote is going to work in the final draft. Gah! How am I going to fit in this Really Important piece of information?), time consuming (you can put a lot of words on the page fairly quickly, but do they translate into a good book?), and sometimes all-consuming. Until this morning, I hadn’t left the house for two days. I’m pretty sure I brushed my hair before going to the grocery store, but I’m a little sketchy on the details…

But that all-consuming part? It’s also one of the good aspects. When I read a good book (Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, the entire Harry Potter series, to name a very few), I am IN that world. It takes over and suddenly I am a time-traveler, a cowboy, or a boy wizard. How cool is that? And when I write, I get to see all of these things unfold. I get to create worlds, people, and situations. Sometimes, I’ll be struggling so much, I think it’s never going to happen, this book is terrible, no one is ever going to want to read it, but that’s okay, because I’ll never actually finish the dumb thing anyway. Then one small thing will click into place–an idea, a piece of dialogue, a plot point–that tiny puzzle piece I needed for the rest of it to make sense.

That happened today. I had one plot point toward that end that I needed to make everything else before and after it make sense, but the reasoning I had for it didn’t work. I could tell I was trying too hard to make this one thing happen without a good reason. Then, after much struggle, the right reason popped out in the middle of a few terribly worded sentences. I wrote for about five hours straight after that, because everything now made sense.

I actually don’t need to be a boy wizard sometimes, because writing itself is magic.

Writing Retreat 2016: Day One**

Any day that I can get writing done is a good day, so yesterday–a day dedicated to working on Tasty Dish–was heaven. It always goes slower than I hope (I usually have myself finishing the damn book on the first day of my retreat!), but I made a lot of progress, and not only added new scenes, but plumped up some sparse ones. I also fleshed out a secondary character that I’ve grown to love. She may need to make an appearance in another book.

She speaks her mind, doesn’t care what people think of her, has a blue mohawk, and is married to a guy who looks like Viggo Mortensen’s character in GI Jane. I may or may not have spent a lot of time researching that character’s appearance.

It’s all to improve the book, people. I sacrifice for you…

** I swear I didn’t crop the above picture specifically for that…area. It’s all WordPress’s doing, but I do find it amusing.

Cookie's husband Urgayle


Writing Retreat 2016: The Weekend

I kicked off my annual writing retreat by sharing the weekend with my fellow critique group members, Tracy and Cary, at Tracy’s house. We dubbed it Oasis, a true getaway, and dedicated the entire time to writing. From Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, we wrote; consumed many, many snacks; discussed what a crazy/wonderful business writing is; bonded; and helped each other through some difficult places in our manuscripts where we felt stuck. This included finding the perfect name for one of the characters – a very important endeavor.

After a full day glued to our computers, a little dazed from our single-minded focus, we did go out for Mexican food on Saturday night (yum!), watched part of an exciting bike race with a course that ran through the middle of town, and played “Marrying Mr. Darcy,” the card game (you read that right) for some entertainment.

But then it was back to the editing/creating. My focus right now is the third book in my “That’s Entertainment” series, Tasty Dish. This one follows Teresa Steplowski, who was introduced in In Concert, as she enters a reality TV cooking show contest and tries to make smart decisions in the face of backstabbing fellow contestants, hostile judges, and two very tasty men pursuing her.

At the end of this week, I’ll be doing a cover reveal for Tasty Dish, so stay tuned!

Here’s the current first paragraph, which may or may not end up in the final draft:

“Instead of dreading Sunday dinner with her ultra-conservative family, Teresa Steplowski brought along her pregnant, unmarried, hippie friend to shake things up. Instead of toning down her outfit, Teresa wore blue cowboy boots, a red floral handkerchief dress and denim jacket. Instead of outright bravery, which she’d been trying to incorporate into her life, she chose passive aggressive behavior.”

Writing Retreat 2014: Day 1


It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since my first writing retreat, when I gave myself a week off from my day job to finish a current manuscript. That book is making the rounds of agents, and I’ve been working on its sequel, but in the meantime, a couple of other novels that needed polishing have languished. I’m working on those, and if there’s time after their completion, I’ll move on to the sequel or…maybe whatever the muse suggests.

Re-reading that paragraph, it sounds as if I zip right along and finish a book quickly. I laugh at this. And cry a little at the same time, because even though I’ve gotten faster, I’m still a slow writer. I can, however, do a polish fairly quickly, and that’s what I’m hoping for with these two.

So I spent the day two days ago cleaning the house, baking gluten-free, sugar-free cookies (link to recipe below – they are yummier than they sound), and lounging about with a good book. I do this to be sure I can remove as many potential distractions and excuses as possible for when I finally sit down to write. So what happened yesterday? I could NOT get motivated. I dawdled. I lingered. I wondered if the bathroom needed to be cleaned again.

It wasn’t until I started up the playlist of songs based on this novel that the ON switch got flipped, and I was unstoppable. Editing until about 1:00 a.m. But I finished that round, and now I’m on to the final polish. There’s something about music, and especially connecting certain songs to my characters and their conflicts, that gets the wheels spinning for me.

This is one of my ongoing motivations…

* The cookie recipe is from the Against All Grain blog. I double the recipe, and use this insanely expensive sugar substitute called Lakanto, but it’s really the only cookie I can eat, considering my diet.




Tasty Dish: Out of the Ether

I’ve been taking notes for awhile now, setting up an outline and figuring out back story at the same time. It took me forever to get to it today, but once I did, the ideas started floating up out of the ether. It’s like magic when that happens, and it’s one of the rewards of writing, one of the reasons I keep going. Sometimes I question these ideas (“Really? Where did that come from?!”), but for the most part, I have a private little smile, and thank the part of my brain they came from.

For instance, who knew that Gabe’s editor was once on Wall Street – it sets her up as the perfect person to know one of his secrets, and to help him with it. But it also fits. Can you imagine having a former wolf of Wall Street (erm, not the Leonardo Di Caprio or Gordon Gecko kind so much, thank you) working out book deals for you?

I pondered names for awhile, and came up with Andrea, which led to…well, I’m dating myself here, because it reminded me of Andrea (ON-drea) from the original Beverly Hills 90210. So why not name his editor Ondrea? Her friends call her Onnie. I like it. We’ll see if it sticks, or if something else come up out of the mist to replace it.

Tasty Dish: Progress Report

I suppose I should say “no progress” report. I got waylaid with a nasty cold/sinusy-y thing and my energy is currently going toward getting caught up at the day job, as well as with Christmas present shopping (can it really be just a week before Christmas?!).

So nothing new on Tasty Dish, but it’s always in the back of my mind, as I absorb information around me (food, catering, reality TV cooking shows, journalism, etc.) and let it simmer in the background for use later when I’m ready to do some actual writing.

Tasty Dish: A Real Fine Place to Start*

I’m pretty linear, so when I’m starting a new book, I tend to go from beginning to end in a (relatively) straight line. If I really want to work on a scene I know is coming up, I’ll do that, but for the most part, I like to discover new things right along with my characters. This can make for slow going, though, and many revisions.

I may experiment with outlining with Tasty Dish, but my real starting place for this one is to read what I’ve already written, and see if it’s worth saving or not.

My re-read has been slow over the past week, what with Real Life getting in the way (anyone else experiencing their first colds of the season this week?) and there is some true first-draft ick-what-was-I-thinking in there, but also a lot of fun. And one scene I’m very proud of and will definitely keep. It’s my main characters’ first meeting, and was a challenge due to circumstances (in the book) I can’t yet discuss (don’t want to give away too much too soon!).

Looking forward to digging into the rest of it this weekend…

(*Also the name of a real fine song by Sara Evans)







Starting a New Book

I love starting a new book. All of the possibilities, the research (yes, I love doing research), finding just the right first line (which is changed many, many times over the course of many, many re-writes, but it’s still fun to come up with those first few) and to watch the story unfold as I learn about my characters and their choices and their journey together.

Technically, Tasty Dish, my latest, isn’t brand new. I have about 50 pages written, but I set it aside to finish and polish two others and now I’m looking forward to picking it up again and finishing.

For those who love competition cooking reality shows, like The Next Food Network Star or The Great Food Truck Race, Tasty Dish goes into this world. Teresa Steplowski and Gabe De Luca are each looking for a change in their lives, but neither one is quite prepared when their lives intersect on the show.

Writing Retreat: Minor Interlude

I’ve reached the section of my manuscript that has been most troublesome for me all along. Lots of re-writing and new scenes here, still learning the ins and outs of this one character (she’s super-mysterioso on purpose, but this makes getting into her head that much more difficult).

As a slight reprieve I watched the funniest moments from Despicable Me. For those of you who love Agnes, “It’s so fluffy!” starts at the 5:20 point.

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