Workshops, Contests, and Fur Ball Fever

(Originally published May 16, 2007).

My life has been so hectic lately, I nearly forgot to post my blog entry today.

Last week, I delivered a half-day workshop at a local writers’ group. I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciated the warm welcome this group of women gave a new author and the insightful questions they asked. In the workshop, I discussed many of the beginners’ mistakes I had made, those nasty little suckers that books don’t begin to explain. I also made a few points about goal, motivation, and conflict (a la Debra Dixon) with an example of Dire Consequences thrown in for good measure, using my own book (The Jaguar Legacy) examples as an illustration.

So, in addition to being in a tizzy for a few days preparing for the workshop, I also volunteered to judge the Ottawa Romance Writers of America contest — 10 pages of the First Meet (the scene where the hero and heroine meet for the first time) and a synopsis of the entire book. I had expected 8, maybe 9 entries. To my dismay, we received 12. Gulp. Each entry takes a good 3 – 5 hours to judge. I figure it is not good enough to merely criticise an entry, so try to make some positive suggestions. Sometimes this amounts to giving an example of conflicting goals within the context of the story. Not so easy.

Hopefully, I can get back to my writing soon. In between contest judging and workshop delivering, I am plugging away at the first draft my second book, ‘Fur Ball Fever’, a comic romantic suspense, represents the first salvo in the Condo Capers Mystery Series. Whirlwind action alternates between the seamier side of Atlantic City and an upscale Jersey Shore condominium complex called Saltwater Village, proud sponsor of a hoity-toity charity extravaganza called the Fur Ball.

Sporting a dwindling bank account, an overwhelming debt load, and her family’s censure for a lifetime of impetuous mistakes, renegade Grace Donnelly faces catastrophe. Her aunt’s beloved poodle and last year’s Fur Ball winner disappears, the apparent victim of a dastardly dog-napping. How can she launch her new career as private investigator if word of her incompetence spreads? Unless she nails the perp, Grace faces not only the loss of a furry companion, but also the humiliation of failure and bankruptcy when yet another career bites the dust.

Grace’s suspicions focus on several candidates: a neighbor’s trophy wife, a slick televangelist, and her former flame, Nick Jackson, finest PI east of the Rockies. Her persistent investigation nearly blows Nick’s cover in his quest to nail the phony preacher whose corruption resulted in an older brother’s death during Desert Storm. To salvage his case, his sanity, and Grace’s skin, Nick sees no choice but to join forces with the sassy crusader who rubs him the wrong way — and so many of the right ways.

Their joint investigation leads the reluctant couple into unexpected romance against a wacky backdrop of animal politics, drag queens, a dominatrix or two, the swinging scene, and a fascinating underworld of fetishism and bondage. The two cases converge in a zany roller-coaster ride of murder and mayhem, culminating in a Fur Ball extravaganza the locals will never forget.