Thursday, June 3, 2021

What We're Writing @LucyBurdette #giveaway


LUCY BURDETTE: Another one of these writing weeks has rolled around, and I am in yet one more muddled middle. Last time I wrote a post for this event, I was very excited about all the possibilities for food critic #12. I am still excited, and maybe I even know who committed the murder, and I definitely know why. The problem is drawing the lines to connect the dots from that exciting opening to a satisfying ending. 

I participated in a Princeton alumni event last month with Nancy Herkness, a friend who writes romance novels laced with suspense. (You can listen to the YouTube video if you’re interested, we sure had a lot of fun!) You’ll meet her later this month. She was astonished to hear that as a mystery writer I don’t plot thoroughly in advance. I told her I would if I could! But the motivations and possible murderers simply don’t emerge until I write my way into them. Often as I get well into the book, it becomes easier to outline what I believe happened. And that helps me write the second half of the book faster than the first, with fewer revisions.

When I was a fairly new writer, I never would have guessed that my process would turn out this way. I felt very firmly that Mystery Writers should Plan Things Out. I understand in my writer's cortex that this would make things easier. But my writer's heart balks. 


For today, I will share a snippet from the middle of the book, in which Hayley and her neighbor Miss Gloria have revisited the scene of the crime. You'll notice that Hayley is asking many of the same questions that I am. And here's a photo of the actual shrimp tacos they ate, which were amazing...





The waitress returned with our dinners—huge platters of soft tacos smothered in salsa, cheese and sour cream, with a side of rice and black beans and a handful of homemade chips. I knew the crunchy Key West pinks waited for me underneath the toppings.


 “What else can I get for you? More drinks? Hot sauce? Napkins?”


“All set, thanks.” I bit into the first taco with anticipation. 


“These are incredible,” said Miss Gloria. We ate in silence for a few minutes, enjoying the view over the lagoon to the edge of the small trailer park. The cement retaining wall was lined with small motorboats. If you didn’t mind the noise of the bar and the music coming from the Fish Camp, it would be an idyllic place for a camper. I wondered if the Sheriff’s department would have canvassed all the residents about the murdered man.


“What do we know so far?” I wondered aloud when we were done with dinner. The waitress returned, and once again we declined a second round of drinks and I asked for the bill. “Davis confirmed what we already knew from reading the news over the past couple of years, that Gerald Garcia was a bully. I will be interested to meet his wife and extended family, if he has one.”


“How are you going to manage that?” Miss Gloria asked.


“I forgot to tell you, my mom and Sam want us to help with the funeral reception on Friday. It's at the Woman's Club.” 


“Put me down for that as well,” she said. “People always say more than they ought to at a funeral reception. Emotions are raw and every slight feels fresh. And filters seem to switch off in the face of grief.” Her expression grew distant and sad, as if remembering something in her past. She’d never talked much about the days and months following her own husband’s death. I waited a few beats to see whether she wanted to say more, but she remained silent.


“I would imagine this event will be quite tense since the guy was murdered and then buried on the beach. It wasn’t a death that the family would have expected,” I said. “I wonder how he was killed? I suppose it could have been accidental, but then why bury the guy? That makes me think it had to have been intentional. And what did they do, dig a big trench in advance because they planned to murder him? How the heck did the killer get the body to the beach? This person must have been strong, because Garcia was not a small man.” 


The vision of the two brightly colored kayaks that we'd seen next to the trailer down the road flashed to my mind. It wouldn't have been so hard if you brought the body under cover of darkness in a boat. Especially if you knew something about the tides. And what kind of evidence would be washed away by morning. 


How about you Red readers, are you suspicious of a mystery writer who doesn't plot ahead?


That's all from me folks! A SCONE OF CONTENTION is scheduled for its launch on August 10. And THE KEY LIME CRIME has been chosen for the WLRN Sundial Book Club for June. You can join that conversation here.


EXCEPT...to celebrate the impending release of Scone, Lottie and I have a lovely ARC to give away to one of our commenters today...



And one last thing, waiting for reviews is murder on a writer's nerves. So I'm psyched about the first big review of A Scone of Contention from Kirkus: 

A scone-by-scone tour of glorious Scotland. Foodies and Outlander fans will rejoice in the references to both in this not-so-mysterious paean to Scotland. –Kirkus

119 comments:

  1. Oh, now I want to know more about the guy who ended up buried on the beach!

    Am I suspicious of a mystery writer who doesn’t plot ahead? Certainly not . . . I’m not at all good at planning ahead, so I see no reason to be suspicious of anyone else who doesn’t plan. In fact, I’m a bit surprised that you say any part of your book-writing is a struggle since everything is your stories seems so perfectly put together.

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    1. That's so very kind of you Joan, just ask any of us--almost all of it is a struggle at one point or another:)

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  2. I know some authors who can get away with writing like you are talking about, and discovering the plot as they go along with their first chapter. On the other hand, I've read some books where it is obvious the author didn't really know what they were doing and just wandered all over the place. Of course, sometimes, that's the same author in two different books.

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    1. You read a lot Mark, so you can probably pick these things out...

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  3. Did I miss in the excerpt where Hayley and Miss Gloria were eating? I looked twice. I always like to see if I've eaten at where they eat, and that plate looks and sounds delicious. What a great idea, too, to have someone buried in the sand, actually dead and buried! I'm really looking forward to finding out more about the dead man and how he ended up where he did.

    I think I hear more writers say that they don't plan than do. I really don't care if they plan or not, just as long as the great stories keep coming, and I always get a great story from you, Lucy.

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    1. Thanks so much Kathy! They are eating at the Fish Camp in Geiger Key. Don't miss it next time you visit!

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  4. I'm right with you in not being able to plot, Roberta, except maybe three scenes ahead of where I am.

    And I love the excerpt!

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  5. Well, Roberta, the thought of a mystery writer plotting out everything in advance is almost creepy! THOSE are the people to be suspicious of!! I like the idea of you discovering things as you go along.

    I’m looking forward to to this book and to A Scone of Contention.

    DebRo

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    1. Deb, you made me laugh out loud with that comment! So good to see you here...

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  6. I want those shrimp tacos!!!

    My process changes from book to book, but I do plot out the bones of the story. I think of my plot as a cross-country road map. I know I have to hit points here and there to keep going in the right direction, but the side excursions are so much fun! And they do result in some changes to the route from time to time.

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    1. I want them too Annette:). You describe it very well, and it's true, sometimes figuring things out late means going back to tweak. But that's okay, I'd be tweaking any way!

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  7. I just started the Key West food critic series and loveeee it. Definitely keep the series going pleaseeee.

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    1. Thanks for reading and thanks for visiting here today! I will keep writing...

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  8. I am not suspicious of a mystery writer who doesn't plot out their book in full ahead of actually writing it. Everyone works differently and the only thing that matters to me is that the finished product is great.

    As for me, I've been working on some music articles. I've submitted a couple of pieces for my Cassette Chronicles and I've been working on some reviews of albums I bought from a record label called Perris Records.

    Nothing earth-shattering but it keeps me occupied.

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    1. In my earlier writing years, I felt I had to plot because I didn't trust I would get there otherwise. Very glad to hear you're working on reviews Jay!

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  9. Looking forward to reading this next book, Lucy. Always enjoy the Key West crew and their dining out too.

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  10. ROBERTA: I am also craving those shrimp tacos!
    Pantser or plotter, whatever works for the author to create a great read is fine with me.

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    1. The trouble with those tacos is that they are in the Keys and I am now in CT. But it gives me something to look forward to in the fall! and thanks for the vote of confidence...

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  11. I agonize over the plotting, mostly because it keeps me from actually writing, but I do it. I find a basic chapter-by-chapter outline really speeds things along once it's done. But like you, Roberta, I often find my characters doing whatever they darn well feel like, with me following along like a faithful Watson to their Holmes.

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  12. I honestly don't care if the writer plots ahead, as long as the story is good. Now I need shrimp tacos.

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  13. Congratulations on the WIP, the new book and Lottie's first birthday! I don't know how you do it. Jut having a pandemic puppy has taken up most of my time and a fair amount of my energy this year. If I were to write, and I'm not gonna, I don't think I would plan ahead either. That feels too constrictive. I prefer spontaneity and love the idea that the author isn't altogether sure what the next chapter will bring

    I'm craving shrimp tacos about now, and I haven't even had my Cheerios!

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    1. Lottie has been a lot of work, but lots of joy too! I can't say we've got her completely trained. She barks at absolutely everything that moves outside and thinks any visitor must want her in their lap...thanks for the kind words Ann.

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  14. Roberta, great snippet!! I wonder how this murder victim is connected to Hayley. I just love the way you incorporate real meals into your stories. I'm a bit envious of Hayley that she gets to eat them all. I showed Irwin the photo of the tacos at breakfast this morning and told him that you go to restaurants to do research for your books. I said it was better than writing about a chimney sweep. He laughed and said visiting restaurants is much better than visiting chimneys!

    I cannot wait for Scone of Contention to come out. I am dying to see how Hayley and Nate's honeymoon turns out, and since so many others are going with them, they can take me along, too. Also, for me it will be another visit to Scotland which was a fabulous trip for us the same year that you went.

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    1. Oh thank you Judy! Now someone is bound to write a chimney sweep mystery:)

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  15. Great snippet - now I'm wondering if the Mexican Restaurant just before the entry road to Stock Island is still there. Can't remember the name. We ate at it often when we lived on Cudjoe.

    I'm a firm believer in using the process that works for you. There is no right or wrong way to write. I forced myself to become an outliner (and my idea of outlining is bullet points for each chapter, not a 50 page synopsis) because when I first started writing, I also worked a full-time job. I had to have a quick way to orient myself. Even with that - surprises are welcome and occur. Characters take over and lead the way. Your process works, don't mess with it - keep writing your way into the story and we'll keep reading.

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    1. thanks for the vote of confidence Kait--you were so smart to outline with your busy schedule. I think you must mean Chico's? We haven't been there in a while.

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    2. Chico's yes. That was it. They had a fabulous vegie fajita and their special habanero sauce - yum! Thank you!

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  16. I love the snippet - can't wait to read more. I leave all the plotting and the necessary steps to the author. They know what works best for them.

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  17. Not at all suspicious of the writer not plotting and planning ahead. What matters is that the story produced engages my imagination, entertains, maybe enlightens. In short, a good mystery novel is like laws and sausages, best not to know how it is made.

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  18. I love this series and can't wait to dig into it. And of course I'd love to win the copy, too!

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  19. I am so overdue for a key west trip. Your books fill that void. Can't wait to read the latest book!!

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  20. You know me, I have never plotted in advance! And like you, I certainly wish I could…
    I laughed in empathy, though, because there is always in my books a place where the main character tries to figure out what’s going on — and asked several analytical questions or summarizes what’s happened so far. . And I recognize, every time, that that is actually me trying to figure it out.

    And I think it works!

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    1. I think it works too Hank, maybe I learned it from you LOL

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  21. As long as the story works, I don’t care how the author works it out

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  22. Brilliant! . . . and huzzah for knowing what works for you, and the discipline to turn questions into delectable books!
    Now, craving shrimp tacos . . . for breakfast? in Missouri? I'll have to defer that wish, as I wait for more of the mystery. <3

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    1. thanks Mary, I think we're craving those tacos across the country!

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  23. I’m a panther, too. Your books and characters are so entertaining, the process, obviously, works for you. Can’t wait to read the new one.

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  24. Ah Lucy...I can't WAIT for your next book! During the lockdown I went back and read your books and it was like being back in Key West! Thank you!

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    1. I love hearing that, best feedback a writer could get. Thank YOU for reading!

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  25. Love those Key West mysteries and Hayley! Cant wait to read #12!

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  26. Eagerly awaiting #12. Shrimp tacos for dinner tonight. Hope there is a great scone recipe coming too

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  27. I may or may not be suspicious of a mystery writer who doesn't plot ahead. It all depends on how well the author plots without any preplanning.

    Nancy
    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

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    1. Fair enough Nancy. I had a good writer friend early on in my career, and it always astonished me that she didn't plot. But my process has evolved and now I'm in her camp.

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  28. Before I knew any mystery writers it did not occur to me that it was possible to write that genre without an outline. The Reds and others have taught me differently.

    Very exciting, to anticipate A Scone of Contention and the all-inclusive honeymoon, Hayley-way.

    And shrimp tacos are my favorites! Having a rare lunch out today with my mother, maybe they will serve some at the restaurant we chose. Fingers crossed.

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    1. No shrimp tacos, but the best turkey BLT I've ever had. So, good enough.

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  29. Congratulations on your new release! I make a fluid outline, write the first draft, and then assess the broad structure for "tent poles" holding up the plot in the right place. And then re-write again and again...

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  30. Cute cover and congrats on your new release.

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  31. As a non-author member of Sisters in Crime and a dedicated crime fiction reader, I know that there is room for both plotters and pantsers among mystery writers. Personally, I know I would be a plotter if I were a writer, but I'm intrigued by writers who are confident enough to start with a basic idea and then let their characters tell them how to proceed!

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  32. Always anxiously await your next book! Love the series! I like escaping to Key West, even for a murder. I find Key West pinks (frozen) in the grocery stores here in Washington state. Yum, tacos tonight.

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    1. Charlene, that's so interesting about finding pink in Washington!

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  33. I've never been able to tell if an author is a plotter or a pantser.

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    1. That's good feedback! Either way, the story has to hang together and the characters intrigue...

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  34. This sounds like a book I would love to read. Thanks for the chance to win!

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  35. I've read so many comments from mystery writers that say the characters take over with personality already formed,so that would make it difficult to plan ahead. No matter how the writer works, if it's good, I'm happy.
    I can't wait to read this, I'm of Scottish heritage and love anything about Scotland.

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    1. Thanks so much Kathy, hope it lives up to an expert's opinion!

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  36. Well said on the subject of plotting on the fly or planning all the way. I doubt it is a choice- we have to learn what works best for us ( or works at all) and go with. Possibly unwillingly!

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  37. Soooo looking forward to a cute culinary cozy mystery!

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  38. Looking forward to the next book!

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  39. LOVE this excerpt!! Food and mystery is the most perfect combination, especially in your hands, Lucy!

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  40. I’m like you and Hank, Lucy. I create characters and then see where they want to go
    And Lottie is do big now!

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  41. Now I can't think of anything but those shrimp tacos! You always make me hungry, Lucy, and the mystery is a bonus! I love it when characters are thinking it through, basically working it out for the author. Like Amy, I usually have some idea what I think happened in a story, but how to get the characters there is the challenge.

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    1. thanks Debs. Yes, it's figuring out a way to get the story moving in the right direction that's key...

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  42. You had me hooked with the shrimp tacos. No matter your writing method, the end results in the Key West Food Critic series has always been a delightful and thrilling reading experience!

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  43. Lucy,

    Loved, loved, loved the ARC of Scone of Contention. I think that is going to be my favorite from your series since the story setting is in Scotland. The winner is in for a treat! I already preordered your book from my local independent bookseller.

    Question: Do you decide who the Murder Victim is Before you start writing or does it evolve while you are writing?

    Wondered because I am writing my first cozy mystery and I already have in mind WHO the Murder Victims are and I am still at the beginning stages.

    These tacos look yummy though I would get fish instead of shrimp. At my first Malice Domestic in 2016, I had fish tacos at the hotel restaurant since it was on the Happy Hour menu that day.

    Diana

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    1. thanks Diana, you're the best! And congrats on starting the first mystery. I almost always know who was killed, working out the suspects (more than one of course), and motives evolves with the story.

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  44. I'm traditionally very much a pantser (or as I prefer, an organic, versus organized, writer.) But foe the book I'm working on, I'm using an outline technique Jessica Ellicott/Jessie Crocker taught me. It's comfortably loose, and I'm only doing an act at a time, but it does seem to be helping me move forward without constricting me (which is what happened the last time I outlined a novel.)

    We'll see how it works!

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    1. Now I want to hear more about that technique Julia! I wonder if she'd visit the blog to chat about it?

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  45. This is one of favorite series. Can't wait for the next installment of Hayley and Miss Gloria's adventures. Thanks for a chance to win a copy

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  46. I think you are all miracle workers because you can write these wonderful mysteries that I love to read. i don't care how you get there and I can't tell which one of you is a plotter or a pantser.
    The fish tacos look divine. I can't wait to read more and look forward to Scone.
    Thank you all for continuing to enthrall me.

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  47. Looking forward to reading this book. Will add it to my hurricane supplies for this summer.

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    1. that's a wonderful way to think about it, we are honored to be in the supply cabinet:)

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  48. Sometimes it's just as much fun to see where the story and characters take you, no plan needed!

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  49. Not at all! All I care about is the end result. Sometimes the characters tell you to choose another path for them! I like authors that aren't solidly married to their original ideas.

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  50. I don't mind at all because I love your books just the way they are! In fact the characters are so real to me that on a recent trip to the Keys I was disappointed not to get to meet Hayley a, Miss Gloria, Branson and all the rest.My sister said to me, "Rita, you know it's FICTION, right??" So unkind! But I practically swooned when I got a cup of cafe con Leche at the Cuban Coffee Queen! And people probably thought I was crazy getting my husband to take a picture of me in front of the sign!!! Can't wait for the next book. Keep up the good work!!!

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  51. My name is Rita Wilmshurst and I'm at Dearita@aol.com

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  52. I have not read any of your books yet , but having read the snippet I will definitely look for them at my library immediately! I love reading about Scotland , Key West , beaches anywhere , and good food !!!

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  53. I don't care how you do it, just as long as the book gets written!

    Wow! Look at how long your hair has gotten. Pandemic "cut"?

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  54. Those shrimp tacos look amazing. I don't care if a writer plots ahead or not. I just admire their ability to write a book.

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  55. Scotland is one of my fave places on earth! While there, I learned about the Great Scone Controversy. Round or triangles. :) And I'd describe myself as a plotter ... but I know what you mean about writing your way in. Usually about 1/3 of the way through, new possibilities begin to emerge.

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  56. Seems as if there is a constant stream of advice on how to do things nowadays. As an older person, I often think I've been doing this X years and it's worked or I haven't died. A chef on TV told the right way to peel a banana, which wasn't the way I've been doing it. Hello! Many bananas eaten so
    job done! Just keep doing what works for you.

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  57. Delicious excerpt! Keep writing your way, it works.
    Thanks to you I visited Key West and met Ron, the inspiration for Lorenzo. Much fun.

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  58. As always can’t wait til the next one. Love your books!

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  59. Sorry for being SO late, just one of those days.

    The term "plotting" sounds so weird, almost as if the process was drudgery. But if non plotting works for you, who am I to question your process. It works and we get visit with Miss Gloria again. Can't wait to visit Scotland with Miss Gloria and the honeymooners. This is the honeymoon trip, isn't it?

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  60. I would love to be the lucky winner!

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  61. Plotting when writing is something each writer does differently depending on what method they find works best for them. Much like the saying no two people are alike, I have found no two writers use the same method for writing their books. As to being suspicious of a writer who uses a different method to plot out their book, I can't say I am. It is whatever works for them and also supplies readers with a great book in the end.

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  62. Love your books so much! Keep doing what you’re doing bc it works!

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  63. Becky Sue EpsteinJune 4, 2021 at 10:03 AM

    As a former restaurant reviewer, I can't believe I didn't know about your books. Starting them nowW

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  64. Great excerpt and I am looking forward to this next adventure! The shrimp tacos look pretty darn good! Thanks!
    JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

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  65. I can't plot ahead either, Lucy. My characters plot the story for me. If I'm surprised, the readers will be surprised.
    And is that a Havanese?? He/she looks just like my girl, Stevie. Same coloring too.
    Excited for your book! Yay!!

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  66. Thank you for sharing your writing process. I love this series!

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  67. Hi there, love your books and would love to win the ARC copy of "A Scone of Contention"! Thank you!

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  68. Mego is the winner of A Scone of Contention! thanks to everyone who read and commented. xox Lucy

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