Thursday, November 6, 2014

POTLUCK: My Plan to Win NaNoWriMo

The entry that won my National Novel Writing month contest at Write on Sisters was Potluck
book three in my culinary mystery series. In that post, I showed you what I was going to do to plan Potluck for NaNoWriMo success. Here’s some of what I did before November 1st to plan my novel. I completed all the steps described in the link above.

Book Blurb (~250 words)
Making food mixes to infuse with medical marijuana seems the perfect way for Alli and Gina to supplement the income from their personal chef business. Complications to that plan arise when someone dies and Alli is accused of the murder. Alli still wonders where she belongs and who she is as she lives with a surrogate family, visits her jailed biological brother, fends off a romantic
relationship, and anticipates a visit from someone from her past. Potluck contains recipes to add medical marijuana to as well as recipes for large-portion dishes for neighborhood potluck dinners.

Creating mixes for ganja foods gives Alli and Gina’s personal chef business a boost that goes up in smoke

Family is fundamental but what constitutes family is a shifting landscape.

1.    Insecurities affect relationships and interactions.
2.    The search for identity can be uncomfortable.
3.    Impulsivity has both good and bad sides.

Character Sketches:

ALLI WESSON and Gina, her best friend since 2nd grade, are partners in a personal chef business that is still struggling to support the two of them. Alli always has ideas of expanding that strain their relationship. Alli is a cork-screw curled dyed red head whose impulsivity leads to as much trouble as her creativeness leads to brilliant successes. Abandoned by her parents as a teen, she moved in with Gina’s family and lives in a casita on the property. Her brother Cal showed up in the last book and is in prison for murdering his and Gina’s boss at the hospital.

GINA SMITHSON admires Alli’s contrastive personality until they clash over just how far to go. Still, the bond between them is strong and loving. Gina’s husband died so she lives with her mother for financial, emotional, and caregiving reasons. Maria helps with Nicky and Carrie’s childcare and general housekeeping. Gina is wound tight. She needs to be in a relationship but has had trouble letting go of her dead husband, Nick. A tall, thin streaked blond, she is attractive but doesn’t play to her assets.

MARIA MARTINI is Gina’s language mangling mother who took in the teen Alli when her parents deserted her. They share a bond and a passion for cooking that Gina is jealous of. In Potluck, Maria’s arthritis triggers her getting a medical marijuana card for chronic pain. She hides it from the family for a long time. Maria can be interfering but it always comes from a place of love. She is about as tall as she is wide with graying black hair.

EVAN KATZ is now a homicide detective on the Glendale police force. He and Alli have had an on-off romantic relationship for years. He wants to make the relationship permanent, but Alli is resisting. He knows she loves him, but she won’t commit and that puzzles him.

CAL WESSON wants a sole relationship with his sister Alli and resents her having a boyfriend or living with Gina’s family. He claims the murder he was imprisoned for was accidental, and while Alli wants to believe that, she is uncertain. Cal holds out the hope that Alli can be reunited with other family members that Cal claims to be in contact with. He knows family is important to her and uses her need to control her.

PEARL is Maria’s best friend and as a former hospital supervisor, she got Gina her job there. However, she was very supportive when Gina and Alli started their personal chef business. She helped Maria navigate getting her medical marijuana card through a doctor she knew to be an easy prescriber.

MOS SAENZ is a high school friend of Alli’s who owns Mos Taco, a biker bar and grill in a shady part of town. He’s always been in love with Alli but their timing for getting together has never worked. He puts Alli in touch with Bodie, a local grower to help with her questions. Tall, athletic, there isn’t a part of Mos that isn’t tattooed or pierced. Maria never liked Alli hanging out with Mos’ older crowd in high school. But Mos is a softie who loves to cook and serves his mother’s recipes at his place.

BODIE, Mos’ friend who grows pot to supply local distributors, is a ganja expert on varieties, doses, and ways of medicating. He has both legitimate and illegitimate business associates. He has more enemies than friends because of their interactions. A botany major in college, Bodie is the premier grower in the Valley. He finds Alli attractive and hits on her.

DR. FINNAGILL is a doctor who generously prescribes for medical marijuana cards, especially if you slip him some extra money. His patients are mostly men in their 20s who want to buy street cheaper marijuana but with a card that says they can have the drug legally. He also gets marijuana from local growers by recommending them as suppliers to the distributors. He gets kickbacks from both. Except Bodie. Bodie resists paying the money. The doctor threatens to stop recommending the purity of Bodie’s products to distributors and promoting the products of others unless he get a kickback.

NURSE ZOEY STEVENS is Bodie’s girlfriend. She thinks he’s seeing someone else because he’s so busy all the time. She knows about doc trying to screw Bodie over distribution, milking Bodie for money. She plays both sides.

REPRESENTATIVE NATHAN WILLIAMS is an outspoken foe of the medical marijuana legalization in Arizona. He fought hard and used the issue as his main platform plank for re-election. The problem is he is a drug addict beholden to his supplier, Bodie. If his addiction is made public, he loses everything. Bodie has indicated that if Williams changes his mind on the legislation and offers protection, that would keep him quiet about the Congressman.

DONNY BUTCHER  is another friend of Mos’ who is a druggie known for petty thefts. He robs local growers in small quantities so he won’t be caught. But Bodie confronts him with evidence and threatens to call the police. Donny, who uses more than MJ, gets very angry and threatens Bodie as well. He also knows about the Congressman’s addiction.

SETH STEVENS, a rival grower, is jealous of the success of the varieties Bodie is growing and mixing and providing to suppliers. He knows Bodie is doing something underhanded and files charges with the police to interfere with Bodie’s business, but he can’t gather enough evidence to convince the police. Bodie also was romantically involved with his sister while he and Bodie were initially in business together. They separated over ethical issues. Seth knows that the doctor is putting the screws to Bodie over distribution issues.

BELINDA FRIDMANN, cousin of Evan (but Alli doesn’t know it); journalism grad student writing thesis; enrolled in cooking school to do investigation, hates cooking and is bad at it ; helped Alli solve murders. Graduated now and working free lance doing investigations and articles.

Key Events:
1.    Maria’s arthritis is so bad she gets a medical marijuana card for chronic pain and a customer can’t inhale marijuana so Alli and Gina create recipes. to add MJ to leading Alli to want to market the MJ-friendly mixes.
2.    Alli wrestles with her relationship to her brother Cal, just released from prison and with Evan her boyfriend.
3.    Through a high school friend who distributes marijuana, Alli finds a grower as a resource for recipes and dosages.
4.    While visiting the grower, she observes a threatening note, overhears a phone conversation, and witnesses a confrontation.
5.    The pot grower is killed.
6.    Alli receives a mysterious letter and afterward acts distant and testy.
7.    Alli is arrested for killing the pot grower and her recent behavior seems to point that way.
8.    Out on bail, Alli begins to track down various suspects to uncover the real murderer.
9.    Alli is kidnapped by the killer but manages to save herself and get him arrested.
10.Alli reveals a high school pregnancy and that her child wants to meet her.

Point of Scene
What Happens
Maria, Pearl, Dr. Finnagill, Nurse Zoey. Bodie
Medical Marijuana Clinic
Morning, early Sept
Maria gets med MJ card to treat arthritis; Bodie arrives with shipment, argues with Doc; see neighbor as leaving
There early so maybe no one will see them; Pearl and Maria talk about how to hide from family; concerned MJ will not be available because of what heard; decide to get different devices and use at Pearl’s
Alli, Gina, Ms. Peterson
Peterson’s kitchen
Same morning
Woman undergoing chemo wants to adjust meal plan
A & G concerned woman can’t eat but must. Plan a bland diet with lots of nutrients; woman asks if they’ll help her put MJ in food; shows them a food (recipe)
Alli, Gina, Maria, Pearl
Maria’s kitchen
Labor Day
Potluck neighborhood party makes Maria worry about discovery
Gina and Alli overhear Maria talking to Pearl about being outed at the potluck (recipe)
Alli, Maria
Family room
Early next afternoon
Alli discovers Maria is hiding her pot use and confronts her
While doing Internet search, Alli finds pot sites; smells pot on Maria; pot to eat
Alli, Maria
Alli’s kitchen
Late afternoon
They try to make a food product and both get too buzzed
Alli and Maria try to adapt a (recipe) for Maria to ingest her med mj so no one else in the family knows
Alli, Gina
Next day, morning
Alli tries to get Gina to agree to make mixes for Med MJ
Gina appalled at the idea; has no idea Maria needs it, too. Refuses Alli’s idea without more research; don’t know what they’re doing; fixing casserole for dinner (recipe)

I continued this way for 40 scenes, which printed off, were glued to 5x8” cards for me to turn over each day as I work my way through the scenes.

Well, back to turning over scene cards. Onward to NaNo winning! Oh, and my word count stands at 14, 111--ahead of schedule! So far.


  1. I'm a plotter too, Sharon, but there's no way I could compete with the number of words writers produce each day in their NaNo writing. Very impressive!

    1. Never say never, Pat! And, you know, I don't think there are NaNo losers. If all you get done is 16, 667 words, well, that's more words than you had on October 31st. Everyone who participates, if they write anything at all, is a winner! It's a great way to jumpstart that next book. Try it next year. Just for fun!

  2. Very interesting approach and the story sounds so fun!

    1. It is fun! And more importantly, it is clicking along at a nice pace. Thanks for checking in. See you later this month on these pages!