Book Review

I just finished a mystery/thriller by a New York Times bestselling author,nyt courtesy victorfarmington someone whom I’ve read sporadically over the years, usually quite happily. This particular book is set in the 1980s but was published not long ago, so it’s not one of the author’s early works. Yet reading it was a slog when her technique and years of writing experience should have made it a slam-dunk.

We all know the phenomenon that happens when a book is truly good — time is suspended as we enter… Continue reading

Time to Edit — Tips from the Web

Across one of my bookshelves, there’s a line of fat white notebooks, each one bearing a zippy, call-to-action name: “How to Write Compelling Dialogue. “Building Blocks of Great Fiction.” “How to Create a Page Turner.” ”The Secrets of Deep POV.” Many readers will recognize these titles as courses offered by some of the best in the wordsmithing business — Pat Kaye, Virginia Kantra, Steve Alcorn, and Mary Buckham, among others. When I decided to transition from jack-of-all-trades writer to mystery author, I sopped up every drop of information these folks could give me. Now, as I’m headed for… Continue reading

Some Seasons are Murder

The first of my Endurance mysteries comes out in November of this year. It’s called Three May Keep a Secret, and it is set in the tiny town of Endurance, Illinois. The novel begins in June, ends in July, and has a postscript in October. Two seasons in the Midwest, summer and fall, are utilized in this first novel. The second novel, which I’m currently writing, is totally different. It is set in Endurance, but now it is January and the Midwest inhabitants are shivering under snow, sleet, and windy conditions. These seasons definitely affect my characters, as well as… Continue reading

UnBlock Us!

I’ve done some thinking recently about writer’s block, the self-inflicted wound that almost all wordsmiths endure at least once in our careers. So much has been written about the subject that it almost seems presumptuous to add anything more. Indeed a Writer’s Block cottage industry has sprung up, complete with books, audio tapes, even counselors who specialize in the phenomenon. Nonetheless, I’ll throw in a few more paragraphs in the hopes that they might be of help to anyone battling the wretched affliction. For, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that there can never be too… Continue reading

Using Backstory

Backstory is one of those topics that we hear a lot about.  Too much backstory or an info dump can slow your story – or worse, the reader gets bored and stops reading altogether.   Not enough backstory and the reader isn’t grounded in the world and invested in your characters.  Lots of articles and advice on that.

We generally love our characters – and we want everyone else to love them too.    So the dilemma is what to do with all this great information we have that can’t make it into the novel.  And sometimes there’s a really interesting… Continue reading

Let Them Speak!

I must have at least thirty books on writing, some about mysteries, some about romance, some about horror, but most are on the art of writing. My latest acquisition is called Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror edited by Laurie Lamson.  It‘s one of a series of Now Write anthologies filled with pages of excellent writing tips from successful writers and writing teachers. One of the things I love about it is the length of each author’s contribution, only a few pages including an easy exercise at the end. My attention span for How-To books tanks after about ten… Continue reading

No Time to Write?


Our lives are filled with responsibilities: family, work, and if we’re lucky enough, play. When do we have time to write?

In my first attempt at writing a mystery, I couldn’t find much time, certainly not on a regular basis. And, my work suffered. Each time I’d get back to the story, I’d have to re-read chapters to remind myself where the story had gone and where I wanted it to go. More importantly, I had forgotten all about my characters and their motivations. I found that trying… Continue reading

This Writer’s Owners

I believe that the affinity that cats and writers have for each other is because we are both introspective, sensitive to nuances, and can sometimes be loners. You have all heard about Ernest Hemingway and his famous cats, but did you know that T.S. Elliot had cats and wrote a poem called The Naming of Cats about them? You can listen to him read it here. According to MentalFloss, his book of light verse Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats was the inspiration for the musical Cats. Patricia Highsmith… Continue reading

Say what?

I had the hardest time the first time I joined a critique group back in 2004. I am not originally from the U.S. and I used words I was familiar with – like lounge (living room), queue (line), phone (call) – and my critique group didn’t like any of them. They said it took them out of the story. As soon as I explained the words they were okay with them. But this is the kind of thing that pulls a reader out of a story. As as a writer, you don’t want the reader to be pulled out of… Continue reading

Gender Conumdrum

An odd thing happened on the way to publishing my first book. I wound up writing it in Male First Person Point of View.

There are lots of books out there by women writing from the male perspective, but not so many I could find who’d gone the next step and carried it into the first person. In the same way, writing courses now abound on Male POV but are just beginning to incorporate the special challenges of writing cross- gender in first person.

Why is that?

I think intimacy is the key.  We can all learn… Continue reading