Bird of Paradise: Romantic Suspense Novel Set on the . . .

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 15, 2013 Under Uncategorized

. . . West coast of Mexico!

Finally! After all the proofreading and all the formatting and all the figuring out how to get Palace of the Blue Butterfly on Amazon Books and Goodreads, I‘m starting to revise my second romantic suspense novel Bird of Paradise.

This is sort of what I look like these days—only no fishbowl, no fish, no green branches, just me staring out into space.

Any normal person would wonder what I’m doing.

Well just FYI: Yesterday, my imagination took me to a beach on Mexico’s Pacific coast. I felt the sand on the soles of my feet, the wind in my hair, heard the waves, the shells being pulled out to sea, and in this trance, characters emerged from nowhere, for example, the French guy— Francois Richter. Where did he come from? He wasn’t in my first draft. But Bee, my main character, opened the door of the van, and there he was in the front passenger seat. I’ve spent my insomniac hours between 2 and 4 am trying to figure out who he is, what he’ll do.

I suppose the rest of you have real jobs, right?

Bird of Paradise started a long time ago when Dave and I took a trip to the west coast of Mexico. Our plan was to hit the funky beach towns around the Bay of Melaque for a few days and then luxe it up at Costa Careyes before heading east to Oaxaca, San Cristobal and Palenque.

Unfortunately, the first night in Barra de Navidad, I came down with a horrible flu—fever, coughing, absolute misery. In desperation, Dave went to the local pharmacy in search of some Mexican version of Nyquil and returned bearing a brown glass bottle, retrieved, it appeared, from some sorcerer’s den. “I don’t know about this,” he said, holding the bottle up to the light to see if it had congealed. “The guy got it from the back of the store. It was covered in dust.”

Since the bottle came with no instructions, I figured two tablespoons would do it. Boy did they. I think I hallucinated for a week; everything I heard or saw—the vacationing pot growers from Humbolt County, the surfer dude expats, the beautiful Europeans at Costa Careyes, swathed in gauzy, white pareos, who punctuated everything they said with the words “tu sais, tu sais” regardless of what language they happened to be speaking — charmed me.

It — the place, them — all seemed larger than life, mythic, iconic. Wow was I stoned!

Tropical beach in Mexico

Anyway, I never forgot them. Neither have I forgotten the stunning woman —an American travelling alone— writing in a notebook as she lay on her chaise lounge in front of the small cove of Playa Rosa, lifting her binoculars every now and then to look at birds.

Who was she? I wondered. What was she doing there alone?

Bird of Paradise is my answer.

Mexican Beach

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Romantic Suspense Novels: How I Plot Them

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 4, 2011 Under Uncategorized

Here’s a secret.

I don’t.

Not at first.

All novels, and Romantic Suspense Novels are no different, start with characters. Period. Characters.

Amanda Hocking, the young cause célèbre who just got a six-figure advance for her self-published novels, made a very astute remark. I’ll paraphrase what she said:

The reason my books sell is because they are about characters. Most novels I read are about ideas in search of characters.

I’d venture to say that if you’re not a writer, you haven’t read these kinds of novels. They don’t get published. If you’ve been in writing workshops, if you’ve gotten an MFA, you’ve read a ton of them. Hey, some of the ideas are really cool, but . . . vague. You know? No characters.

You’re going on a journey when you read. You need a guide. Sometimes that guide is just a voice, but it’s a character’s voice.

For me though, my books start with setting, with place. A few years ago, I took a workshop on Story Structure with Robert McKee, a famous screenwriter whose past students include 21 Academy Award winners and 141 Emmy award winners.

Here’s a Youtube link of Mckee on setting:

I’m including this just so you’ll see what goes on in my mind, what I think is fun. Just imagine yours truly as one of the eager faces in the crowd. In the Youtube he stresses the importance of setting to characterization and plot. Setting, he tells us, imposes creative limitations.

A place will have certain characters. A funky beach town on the west coast of Mexico has certain characters. Right now that’s my creative limitation.

I really love all stages of crafting novels—in my case Romantic Suspense Novels—and right now I’m working on a new draft of an old novel Bird of Paradise. A new character just inserted himself into my story, and I have to do the whole thing all over again. I’m back at the very early stages of developing a character and, depending on what he does and who he is, the plot will develop.

It was perfect timing actually, because Dave and I just took a long road trip through Utah and Colorado and Arizona. We stayed at lodges and hiked during the day. A fabulous vacation. Just look at the fields of wildflowers near Gothic, Colorado!.

There’s nothing like hiking at 10,000 feet—maybe it’s the shortage of oxygen—to put you in a trance-like state for drafting.

Another thing I kept in mind as I hiked in the mountains was Christopher Vogler’s four-act story structure. It’s based on the work of Joseph Campbell in which, like the old myths, the beginning of the character arc is the Call to Adventure. In Vogler’s paradigm, Act One ends with Crossing the Threshold.

Anyway, there’s nothing like lying awake in the middle of the night in a room that has no personal attachment for you, the blackout curtains pulled and the air-conditioner droning, for creating your character, for beginning the Call to Adventure.

Nothing like sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of the El Tovar looking out over the Grand Canyon to get you thinking about Crossing the Threshold.

El Tovar mountain panorama

When I started this blog, I swore I wouldn’t write about writing. BO-RING for most people. I’m just including this little glimpse into my reality…kind of like a potter showing you what the clay looks like in it’s glob-like form.

Next week, I’ll give you a recipe. Something you can use.

Seared scallops drizzled with warm tomato beurre blanc on mache tossed with Green Goddess dressing and a garnish of fried potato “toothpicks”. It’s what I had for my birthday dinner at Soupcon in Crested Butte, Colorado.

I came home and reproduced the dish.


Stay tuned.

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Riviera Maya: My Reward for Meeting my Goal

Posted by admin on Thursday Jul 14, 2011 Under Uncategorized

Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 17

See the place above? Sometime after hurricane season in Mexico and before the spring wildflowers arrive here on the ranch, that’s where I’ll be, diving into that incredible water. Yes, it really, really looks like that. I swear.

I have always wanted to stay at this hotel— the Maroma— set on a deserted beach fifteen miles down a bumpy, dirt road off the highway to Tulum. This year I’m going to do it, my reward for getting my novel out of the closet and into the world. On this post, I’ll be reading the very last episode.

Here’s the plan. Dave and I rent a car in Merida, and we drive to one of those wonderfully restored henequen plantations like, well, like the one on the right.

From there, if we can peel ourselves away, it will take a day to drive to the coast where we’ll head south from Cancun toward Tulum. Maybe we’ll stop at one of the cenotes along the way. (see below left)

When we were younger, with child in tow, we stayed at some pretty rustic places, like the one below on the right. Great when you’re in your twenties and thirties, but uh, now . . . no.

Still, we did have some fabulous shrimp dinners in a little beach shack under a palapa roof. Stay tuned for the recipe in next week’s post.

But first a little secret . . .

There’s a reason I “published” Palace of the Blue Butterfly as a podcast first, and here it is. I was told I wouldn’t be penalized by large publishing houses for podcasting a novel in the same way I would be for self-publishing an e-book. I would still be considered a debut novelist. Okay. Whatever. I am so over all that.

An e-book is on the way. Right now, I’m working with a book cover designer who tells me she wants to create an image which is as “sexy and mysterious as the novel itself.” Go girl! will be doing the formatting, and, hey, in a few weeks to a month . . . presto zingo voila! An e-book.

No 60 or more agent queries, no publishing house fiascos, like your editor leaving, no waiting two years for your book to see the light of day, no $24.00 hardbacks you have to figure a way to sell if you ever want to pay back your advance. No fame and fortune either, but a writer’s real chances of that are what, really? I’ll just buy a few lottery tickets.

By self-publishing I get to work hand in hand with super-creative people like the cover designer, like the lovely freelance editor who went through several iterations of this novel with me, my website designer, and all the very cool people who are facilitating self-publishers like me, like the folks at

Then, of course, there’s you, gentle reader. For a $0.99 e-book on Amazon or B&N, you get to be both agent and editor. You get to decide. Spread the word.

Meanwhile, I’ll be dreaming up one of my next Romantic Suspense novels on the Mayan Riviera.


[wpaudio url=”″ text=”Episode 17 – click and listen” dl=”0″]


Download instructions

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Mexico Trilogy Graphic Link