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Coffee & Chat

Coffee & Chat #10 – Recipe for a Perfect Fall Weekend Outing?

Happy Monday!

It’s been awhile since our last Coffee & Chat. Over the summer I got caught up in writing and the work that accompanies writing. Writing is more than just sitting on a window seat waiting for inspiration to strike. ๐Ÿ™‚ There’s a whole side business side to writing add to that the actual writing time, the time needed to spend outside gardening and everything else that needs to get done, there’s precious little time left for anything else. I’m hoping now that we’ve entered into fall and I’m back on a routine I’ll be able to continue our Coffee & Chats on a weekly basis. I have a full cup of coffee so lets get chatting.

A perfect fall weekend outing includes a few things:

A cool, sunny day. A day when I need to add a layer to ward off the chill but still need sunglasses because the sun is bright. I look forward to those beautiful days of fall. I love pulling on a flannel shirt or vest. I enjoy a day in the mid-60s where I can walk and walk and walk and not be weighed down by humidity.

There’s no timeline. We can take our time, not be rushed. We have the flexibility to veer off course, take a road we didn’t plan on and see where it leads. Don’t you just love when you come across a shop or a restaurant or a farm stand you weren’t expecting to find? Traveling without having to be somewhere by a certain time is freedom.

Being disconnected. Ditching electronic devices for anything other than taking photographs allows me to be in the moment. No emails. No texts. No calls. Whether it’s antiquing or hiking, being present right there and then is why I left the house, to experience something different.

Good company and good food. Both are essential for any outing. After all, who wants to go somewhere with someone who’s a grump and eat bad food?

Full tank of gas and a GPS. ‘Nuff said. ๐Ÿ™‚

Weekend outings are fun, even if it’s just a trip to a local farm to find the perfect pumpkin. Getting out and enjoying the fall season in all it’ splendor is truly a gift. Nature puts on an amazing show for us to see so we shouldn’t be stuck inside and let it pass us by. Autumn is more than pumpkin spice everything.

Iโ€™m going to finish my coffee now. Please feel free to share what you need for a perfect fall weekend out.

Have a great day!
Coffee & Chat, Writing

Coffee & Chat # 9 – Do you outline your plot?

Happy Monday! I’m hoping to get back to our regular Coffee & Chat visits. Between life and work it’s been a little cray-cray around here so I’ve needed to limit my time on the computer when I’m not writing. One of the questions I’m asked often is whether or not I outline. So today I thought I’d answer that question. I have a full cup of coffee so lets get chatting.

There are a few schools of thoughts on outlining. There’s a group that doesn’t outline. There’s a group that does outline. And there’s a group that does a combination of both processes, which means they loosely outline so they have an idea of where the story is going. Me? I outline. The outline for the Uninvited Corpse was about 20 (single-spaced) pages long and the outline for book two came in at 23 pages. I cannot imagine writing either book without outlining. Just typing that gave me the chills.

Why do I outline? Outlining gives me a clear direction of where the story is going and lays out the plot which includes twists and turns and defeats and triumphs for my amateur detective, Hope Early.

How do I outline? I begin with Michael Hague’s six stage plot structure. This method also serves as a template for writing the synopsis of the novel. Yes, even after selling your first book you need to be able to write a synopsis for your next book. Lets look at an example of how I incorporate this structure into my outlining.

Act One: First 25% of the novel

0-10% – The Ordinary World

This part of the book is her ordinary world, it’s Hope’s life before the murder and where I hope that readers will connect with her and want to follow her along the journey. I usually just write a few sentences with very few details.

Here’s what I wrote for the book I’m currently working on (the second in the Food Blogger Mystery series):

Hope Early is the publisher behind the growing food blog, Hope at Home. Her current project for her blog is a series on stress-free meals so sheโ€™s developing recipes for slow cookers and pressure cookers. Sheโ€™s also continuing to remodel her antique farmhouse and the big project now is building a new garage on her property. The book opens with Hope arriving for the first day…I’m not giving any more away. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now I’ll continue to go through the whole six stage plot structure and when it’s complete I’ll set it aside for a few days. When I return to the document I’ll add a few spaces to each section and elaborate on what is happening at that particular point of the story. Each section now will have several sentences which are a bit more detailed and the basis for the next step of outlining the novel.

When I begin outlining I include the chapter number, the scene number, the day in the story, the time of day, and the location. I also include all the details of that scene, snippets of dialogue if they come to me as I’m typing, descriptions of characters or locations or objects, and links to online research sites. My outline is jam packed with a lot of stuff. Here’s a snippet from the outline I’m currently using:

Day One โ€“ late afternoon

Hope arrives at home and is greeted by her sister, Claire Dixon. She didnโ€™t expect Claire to be waiting for her or having to explain why sheโ€™s late getting home. Bigelow, her dog, comes racing to welcome her home. Claire is in a huff because…you’ll have to read the book to find out why she’s upset. ๐Ÿ™‚

Writing the outline can take weeks and I honestly don’t remember how long it took to write the outline for book 2. I completed it last spring. Some writers feel writing an outline sucks the joy out of writing the novel. They’re not surprised by anything when they sit down to write the novel or they feel the outline structure is too rigid. Valid points. However, I don’t feel that writing an outline hinders the novel writing process. The outline isn’t carved in stone and can be adjusted accordingly as I write the story. During the draft writing process (I usually go through 4 drafts) I have changed things such as eliminating a scene – I did that in the first draft of book 2, the scene was flat and I was totally bored by it so I cut it and brainstormed a new scene to replace it – or adding a character or re-arranging scenes. Doing any of those things can be nerve-wracking for a writer but since I have a detailed outline that is guiding me, it’s like a safety net, I can make those changes on the fly.

If a new writer asked me if he/she should outline I would say “yes” and share my reasons why. But does a writer need to outline? No. Every writer writes differently and no one should impose his/her practices on another writer. But I think writers should outline. ๐Ÿ™‚

Coffee & Chat

Coffee & Chat – So what’s the title of your book?

Happy Monday! I’ve been getting a few of the same questions since I announced I sold my mystery series so I decided to share those questions and their answers today. Ready?

What’s the title of your book? I’m happy to be able to share with you that the title of the first book in the Food Bloger mystery series is The Uninvited Corpse.

What’s it about? Former reality TV star Hope Early thought her biggest problem was driving traffic to her food blog, but discovering two dead bodies and clearing her sister of their murders have Hope trading her Google analytics for amateur sleuthing. When thereโ€™s an attempt on her own life, Hope has no choice but to uncover the murderer before she becomes the next corpse du jour.

How long is is? About 300 pages.

How long did it take to write? About ten months.

Do you have an agent? Yes.

When will it be out? April 2018.

Who’s publishing it? Kensington Publishers.

Are they in New York? Yes.

How much did they pay you? I’m sorry, I don’t discuss my finances.

Are you working on another book? Yes. I have a 3 book contract so I’m currently writing book 2.

What’s book 2 about? Since I’m currently working on the first draft I prefer not to say what the plot is at this time.

There you have it, the 11 most asked questions about my first book. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. If you don’t have a question please feel free to say “hi” in the comments section.







Coffee & Chat

Coffee & Chat – Five Questions

Happy Monday! I know, I’ve been MIA for a few weeks. Life and writing kind of took over for a bit but now I’m back and I decided that for today’s Coffee & Chat I’d answer 5 questions. That’s right. 5 questions. I have my coffee so lets get chatting.

Where would you fly right now if you could hop in a plane? Costa Rica, baby. The reason? To visit the Sloth Sanctuary of course. I keep seeing videos online and I want to go and hang out with the sloths.

When did you learn how to swim? Never did. My uncle did try to teach me but I was certain I was going to drown. I really wasn’t a very good student. But I do love the water. I just can’t swim.

What did you do the summer after high school? I worked as a secretary for a scale company. Yes, it was as boring as it sounds. They sold scales to commercial businesses and medical practices. I remember the owner bragged that his neighbor was Joan Jett, like that was suppose to impress me. It didn’t and I didn’t last long at that office.

Have you ever used a typewriter? Oh, yeah. I was in elementary school when I got my first typewriter and I graduated up to an IBM Selectric typewriter (remember those babies?) it was the Cadillac of typewriters. Then I upgraded to a PC and I haven’t looked back. Though I think it would be cool to own an antique typewriter. Maybe I’ll find one at a flea market one day.

What is your favorite thing to do on a cold day? I like to curl up with a good book and a cup of coffee or tea. I also love to bake on a cold day. Cupcakes or cookies are usually my go-to for cold day baking. Then I venture outside in the cold, wintry weather to deliver the treats to my neighbors (otherwise I’ll eat them all). So, reading does keep in inside all toasty warm.

There you have it. Five questions answered. ๐Ÿ™‚ Iโ€™m going to finish my coffee now and Iโ€™d love it if you’d like to answer one of these questions.

If you prefer not to answer one of the questions, please feel free to say โ€œhiโ€ in the comments section!


Coffee & Chat

Coffee & Chat – Do you wander when you go shopping or are you focused on a prepared list?

Happy Monday! Can you believe that it’s the 16th of January already? This month is flying by. Weren’t we all just ringing in the new year and committing to a resolution? I’m not going to ask if you’ve broken your resolution yet. ๐Ÿ™‚ Rather, we’re going to move onto our Coffee & Chat question, which is “do you wander when you go shopping, or are you focused on a prepared list?” Since I’m writing a food blogger amateur sleuth I’m going to focus on grocery shopping. Hope Early, the food blogger/sleuth in the series does a lot of grocery shopping and we do share the same method of shopping. I have a full cup of coffee so lets get chatting.

When I go weekly grocery shopping I do have a detailed list. I am a list maker. Always have been. For grocery shopping I use a steno pad and I break up my list by categories. Produce, canned goods, pasta, beverages, butcher department, diary, frozen, breads, personal care, etc. My grocery list is based on the design of my local Stop & Shop. I also include a brief menu for the coming week. I cross off the items I’ve added to my cart as I go through the store and make notes if I need to pick up an item at a different store. One time a sweet lady approached me while I was waiting for a couple of steaks and admired how organized I was with my list.

Here’s a look at one of the pages in the steno pad from a shopping trip.

I can’t imagine not having the list with me. I can’t. My goal is to get into the store and out as quickly as possible. Round trip, it usually takes me an hour to buy the groceries. And I do prefer self-checkout so that I can bag the groceries the way I want to. I do admit I’m a little OCD when it comes to the way the bags are packed but it’s really about being able to unpack the bags and put the groceries away quickly. Probably the least favorite part of grocery shopping is putting the groceries away.

There you have it. You now know how I grocery shop. ๐Ÿ™‚ Iโ€™m going to finish my coffee now and Iโ€™d love to know if you’re a list maker or not.

If you prefer not to tell the world if you’re a list maker or not please feel free to say โ€œhiโ€ in the comments section!