A New Identity

Since the countdown for my food critic mystery series launch is under a year, I’ve decided it’s time to start switching over to my new identity: Lucy Burdette. Lucy has a new website now (though admittedly the content is a little thin–I’m working on that:) with some gorgeous artwork, and a fan page on facebook. And miracle of all miracles, you’ll even find her on twitter! Actually Twitter is kind of fun–though I’d like to have more tweethearts. It’s cool to spread the word about a book or recipe without spending much time on it.

Hope you choose your poison and stop by to say hello!  Lucy (AKA Roberta)

Thanks to all teachers!

I’ve finished up my yearly pilgrimage to teach eight fifth grade classes about mystery writing. These are drive-by teaching sessions, lasting only an hour each. The program is funded by a grant that pairs suburban classes with city schools–and the contrast is quite remarkable. The physical surroundings vary enormously, and so do both the teachers and the students. Though I must say that a dynamic teacher who keeps good control of his class can work wonders with 28 kids from a less affluent city school district.

I really love seeing the kids “get” the idea of shaping a main character or developing a story. In some classes, the questions come faster than I can answer them. I always leave with a sense of gratitude for full-time teachers. What a job! Wonderful work, but demanding and exhausting. Makes the work of a writer look almost easy…

Scranton Library (Madison CT) Needs You!

Scranton Library’s Parade of Parties invites you to “The Secrets of an Author’s Mind!” on Wednesday, October 27, 7 to 9 pm

Have you ever wondered where an author gets her ideas? Or whether her plot and characters are based on real life? Or whether she knows the ending before she starts to write? Join us on October 27th to hear six writers discuss these questions and many more–and then enjoy dessert and champagne. Authors will include Katharine Weber (TRUE CONFECTIONS), Ann Hood (THE RED THREAD), Kristan Higgins (ALL I EVER WANTED), Hallie Ephron (NEVER TELL A LIE), Sandi Kahn Shelton (writing as Maddie Dawson, THE STUFF THAT NEVER HAPPENED), and moderator Roberta Isleib (ASKING FOR MURDER).

Seating is limited. Tickets are $25 per person; $100 Bestsellers and $250 Classics patrons have preferred seating. Classic patrons also receive a signed book of their choice.

All proceeds go to the Parade of Parties fund which supports Library services including book purchases and book club services. With the town budget cuts this year, the library needs our help!

R.J. Julia Booksellers will be on site to sell books from the panel. 10% of the proceeds will go to the Scranton Library’s Parade of Parties.

You may pay either using PayPal or by writing a check made out to Scranton Library (note that the check is for the book club event.) and deliver to or mail to Scranton Library, P.O. Box 631, Madison, CT 06443.

Or call 203-245-7365

Wanna Write with James Patterson?

So last night’s room at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park was jammed with members of the New York chapter of Mystery Writers of America–all salivating to hear from best-selling author James Patterson. (And yes that is me standing next to him. Note he has his fingers around my neck–we were discussing the psychology of golf. Photo courtesy of Ang Pompano, introduction courtesy of Chris Grabenstein!)

Patterson talked about his long career, noting that one gift he possesses is the power of imagination. (Something Hollywood and the publishing industry could use, he added.) “Whatever you may think of my books,” he said, “I’m very involved with all of them and doing the best I can.”

In advertising, the movies, and television, work is done with teams of writers. Why shouldn’t this be true with novels too, he wondered. He knows his strengths lie in generating ideas and spinning stories. He’s okay at writing but doesn’t love to do it. So if he has a cowriter who is a good stylist, they end up with a good story and good style.

So how does the co-writing work? He generates the basic idea and a detailed chapter by chapter outline. Then he asks his co-writer to contribute to the outline and begin writing. He looks at the progress of each book about every two weeks and they discuss anything that he thinks is going off track. Why wait until the end of the draft (as most often happens with traditional publishing) to address problems? The co-writer gets a big check and Patterson himself writes any subsequent drafts.

So where do you sign up? That’s the bad news–right now there are no openings. Hmmm, wonder if I could work my way into his golf foursome?

One good thing about fall

The one good thing about the arrival of fall (losing the steamy heat will be one more) is the peaches. I’m about to go buy our fourth bushel from Bishop’s Orchards. I’ve had sliced peaches every morning with homemade granola, and baked peach pie, two kinds of cake with peaches and whipped cream (one came out so flat, I had to save it for family,) and an incredible peach cobbler. Here’s the recipe before the season is over. I didn’t use the nutmeg and cut back some on the sugar. Everyone loved it!

The Growing Season

img_0210In spite of the seriously dry conditions in our neck of the woods, we’ve had the best garden ever. Fabulous crop of green beans, amazing peppers, decent collection of okra, and heading for a banner year of tomatoes. And this is the first year our blueberry bushes have produced without the birds eating more than we have.

I’ve been more quietly productive, about 2/5 of the way through something I’m hoping will turn out to be a thriller. My agent has two projects out and we’re hopeful, even in the midst of what still appears to be a lousy climate for publishing. What other business has so many talented people working on spec? But do I wish I was doing something else? Never!

This has been my week to wrangle guests and think up posts over at Jungle Red Writers. We have a terrific line-up, she said modestly. Alexandra Sokoloff was on the site yesterday talking about screenwriting tips for novelists. And today we’re talking with business and life coach Jill Crossland. And standby on Friday and Saturday for two amazing crime fiction writers, SJ Rozan and Laura Lippmann. If you’re not a regular reader at JRW, you should be!  Okay, enuf said–back to the WIP…

Jewels in the Gulf

I was in Tallahassee, Florida recently to visit my elderly father. My sister, her husband, and various of their friends often take me on nature adventures when I’m down there–expeditions I would never entertain on my own. With the oil steadily encroaching on the Gulf coastline, they are particularly cognizant of how fleeting these moments might be.

Last week, the adventure involved scalloping. We motored out to a shallow grassy area off Keaton Beach and anchored in about 3 feet of water. Then we plopped overboard with snorkel, fins, and mesh bags. The scallops rest on the sand or the grassy flats, looking for predators with a half-circle of brilliant blue eyes. scallop-4They can propel themselves quickly by squirting water with their muscles. (This photo was taken by photographer David Moynahan, who collected the largest sack of scallops and then returned over the weekend to capture them on film.) Because of my mixed feelings about killing these creatures and several sighting of a giant ray (yes the very ray that killed the TV nature star with sting to the heart,) my adventure was abbreviated.

My fellow hunter-gatherers filled their sacks–a bounteous harvest in comparison to my dozen and a half. And all of that bounty made for a long, long afternoon of cleaning. And scraping the guts out of hundreds of shells left me yearning for something other than seafood for dinner.

We ordered a vegetarian pizza…

The Rich and the Dead

Each year Mystery Writers of America chooses a celebrity editor/writer to put together an anthology of short stories based on a theme of the celebrity author’s choosing. Next year the anthology, THE RICH AND THE DEAD, will be edited by Nelson DeMille, published by Grand Central in April. I’m very psyched to report that my story “The Itinerary” was chosen to be included. I’ll be in terrific company–the authors who were invited to participate were: Ted Bell, Peter Blauner, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, David Morrell, Twist Phelan, S.J. Rozan, Jonathan Santlofer and Angela Zeman. And these writers had their stories selected for the remaining slots: K. Catalona, Tim Chapman, Frank Cook, David DeLee, Joseph Goodrich, Daniel J. Hale, Roberta Isleib, Harley Jane Kozak, Carolyn Mullen and Elaine Togneri.

In “The Itinerary”, Detective Jack Meigs (from the Rebecca Butterman series) has been sent on a forced vacation to Key West after his wife’s death. Of course he has no interest in playing the tourist and he gets drawn into the puzzle of woman who goes missing from her cruise ship.

Can’t wait to see the finished product!

Happy July

strawberrycreamcakeHappy fourth and fifth of July–hope everyone had a great weekend! This was my masterpiece–a light yellow sponge cake covered with whipped cream and sliced fruit. The blueberries came right out of the garden and the raspberries from the farmer’s market.

It’s my week to come up with content for Jungle Red Writers so stop over all week and enjoy a variety of posts. Tomorrow we’re talking about energy independence–are we headed that way, or will we wait until we’re forced into changing by the price of gas? Make a comment to enter your name into a drawing for Unspoiled: Florida Writers Talk about the Coast.

On Wednesday, come meet writing newcomer Sophie Littlefield, who’s taking the mystery world by storm. And then we’ll finish up the week with my favorite topic on Thursday and Friday–food, glorious, food!

Fun at the Edgars

Had a fantastic two days at the Edgars–Wednesday night was the MWA agents/editors party. img_0156Here’s a photo of MWA president Laura Lippmann, along with the incomparable Mary Higgins Clark, and Hank Phillippi Ryan, who chaired the committee to choose the Mary Higgins Clark award winner this year. The award went to SJ Bolton for THE AWAKENING. img_0158

This photo shows two of the nominees, Nadia Gordon and Hallie Ephron with MHC and Hank.

On to Saturday and the Edgar awards banquet. Judges were given a private reception with the nominees–so much fun to meet Kathleen George, Jo Nesbo, and John Hart, along with many other mystery luminaries! This is me with John Hart and my co-presenter CJ Box after John was revealed as the winner of Best Novel for THE LAST CHILD.30788_398548946590_664301590_3922507_6445619_s (PHOTO courtesy of Margery Flax.)