First things

This blog is about process, and for me, the process has many steps, many paths.

One thing I often do now, just to satisfy my inner child artist and creative monkey, is to make up a dummy cover for my manuscripts. Much like choosing music to listen to while I write, it’s an inspirational thing, designed to keep my mind focused on the book that will be.

Here’s the one I created for “Finding Vivvie’s Shoes”

Finding Vivvie's Shoes

Not to put too fine a point on it, the footprints allude to finding her path, while the shoes to the right are the actual shoes she has to hunt down.


As for what the book is about, here is the description from my grant request:


In November of 2009 I began a novel about five sisters on a road trip, one that might be their last. It began as a trip to reminisce, visit old dance students, participate in a book fest, hunt antiques, and take photographs. Somehow, by the time I finished the first draft in May of 2011, a motorcycle rally, six Amish men, a quilt museum, a nude beach, and a wild country song figured into the story.


The five sisters are the DeMilles. Their mother, entranced with her married name, named each of her daughters after movie stars. Vivvie for Vivian Leigh, Billie for Billie Burke, Claud for Claudette Colbert, Frankie for Arlene Francis, and Rhonda for Rhonda Fleming.
Claud and Billie are twins and designers. Frankie is an artist. Rhonda is a dancer and instructor. And Vivvie writes mysteries. She is the baby of the family, but it is at her behest that the women set off on the sort of family trip they used to take as children. Only Vivvie knows this might be their last such trip, and why.

In working on the book, I used notes on yellow pads, scrap sheets, and card stock. I used software that allowed me organize, outline, and write — my favorite tool, Scrivener, as well as another favorite, NoteTaker, which allows you to create a virtual notebook with links to all your other materials. Finally, I also used Word.

I tend to be a moody writer, totally affected by sounds and sensations and smells when I write. So, I may decide to draw circles with labels in green marker on huge paper, or I may sit down and pound away at my computer – anything that helps me pay attention to my work. Occasionally I still sit at the kitchen table, pen in hand, doodling on the legal pad until I find the word I was seeking. I figure the medium in a rough draft doesn’t matter, and if it helps me get the words on paper, — well, why not?

Such is my process.

Working Backwards…

Most writers do their research before they write their manuscript, or maybe they do some research while they are writing. Unintentionally, I’m doing mine after the fact, backwards.

Thanks to a Regional Artists Project Grant from the North Carolina Arts Council and the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County , during 2015 I will be able to replicate the road trip that is the plot of my WIP,  currently titled “Finding Vivvie’s Shoes”, a story of five sisters re-settling their relationships during what may be the last family road trip they will ever take.

Writers like Marni Graff (The Nora Tierney mysteries) who write in specific settings – her books are placed in Oxford – know the importance of getting setting right. In fact, Marni often talks on this very subject. She studied in Oxford and makes return trips there to refresh her memory and absorb more of the atmosphere in order to recreate it in her readers’ minds. While the Internet is great for research – did you know you can take a virtual helicopter ride over parts of the country? – nothing compares to reality. With that thought in mind, I knew that if it were at all possible, I wanted to take the very road trip my characters were going to take. Come this fall, that is exactly what I am going to do.

During the first part of  the year, I will be revising my existing manuscript in an effort to have it ready for any refinements or new material that arises out of my trip. I will be consulting with places and people on site during the trip — eg, seeing if my ladies are able to drink too much at the Biltmore Vineyard, or how authors are handled at Southern Festival of Books, as well as drinking in scenery, culture, and local residents’ eccentricities.  Some of the revisions depend on other in-depth research that I can do in advance — eg, researching military exercises or Amish customs.

As I develop the various layers of the novel, as I revise and solidify my characters and the  relationships amongst them and their families, I will blog about what I discover and how the manuscript – and I – change.

So, welcome to Finding Robin’s Story – a blog about my work in a profession that is intertwined with who I am.