Saturday, April 26, 2014

Writing a Series

by June Shaw

If you're writing a series, how do you know when to continue with it or conclude it?

Much of the answer lies with sales. If you write books that readers keep buying and wanting to read, the response is normally to write more of them. You'll probably also write more books in a series if your publisher wants more and will pay you a decent advance.

Another decision in writing more books in a series is the genre in which you write. Some mystery authors continue to pour out stories through numbers or all the way through the alphabet. Their readers love them, and series authors find knowing their main characters well gives them a boost. The only need to plot (okay, none of writing fiction is really easy) and create additional new characters.

Romance readers LOVE series. They snag one book, and if they enjoy it, will grab all of the rest, anxiously waiting for the next one to be written. These readers often want stories that bind the characters. Notice all those that share the name of a place. The (whatever) Brothers is also a popular hook.

Do you like to read a series of books? If so, in what genres? If you write series, have you known when it's time to step back and change directions? I'd love to hear from readers, including authors.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


by Jackie King

Rule-breaking goes against my nature. However, the older I get, the less sure I am that rules and regulations in regard to writing shouldn't sometimes be broken. I’ve seen too many dictates followed without success, and too many broken with astonishing success. It’s advisable, of course to learn the rules until you follow them without conscious thought. Then it's okay to break them.

When you do something contrary to textbook writing rules and then delete that sentence, you may have made a serious error. So be cautious when you decide to discard a paragraph. Leave it for the moment and make the judgment later. (Unless you’re on deadline, when you do whatever is necessary to finish on time.)

Today is one of my uphill-writing days. If I ever had a muse, he’s off shooting pool somewhere. Certainly he’s not sitting on my shoulder whispering words into my ear.

The thought I woke up with this morning on how to continue my current story-in-progress, breaks all of the rules. I can actually hear my old writing teacher’s voice in my head shouting, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT!”

The best writing, IMO, is when an author puts her (or his) heart on the paper. If this sounds messy, it’s because it is. Very. And hard. And exhausting.

I've mentioned to other writers how tired I am after writing. Most agree. The average person, husbands, wives, etc., don’t get this, and there’s no reason they should, unless they also write.

Back when I taught fiction classes I told my beginning students to commit themselves to writing 30 minutes a day. The important thing was to write every day, I assured them.

Several hands always went up. “But, I love writing and want to write for hours and hours,” students would say and most of the class would agree.

“Just make sure you clock 30 minutes. It’s harder than you think,” would be my answer.

The next week at roll call, I’d ask, “Did you write every day?” Few could answer, “Yes.”

No one knows how hard it is to put your heart’s blood on paper. Not until you've actually done this in a consistent manner.

In each class there would always be one or two who ‘got’ what I was saying. Those were the students who became selling authors. You just have to stay with it. You have to plod through the days you wonder what on earth ever made you think that you could write.

Usually I follow the rules. Today I think I’ll break them and see what happens.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Los Angeles, earache and raunchy beans.

By Bill Kirton

Just two bits of writing-related trivia this week.

We quite often hear about novels that have been optioned by one of the big studios and then months, years go by and nothing more is heard of them. So it’s best to be forewarned about the casualty rate, just in case you strike lucky. Even then, however, when the luck does come along, you can’t help feeling that this time it’ll be different. All of which is to introduce the news that I recently got an email from a small film company in Los Angeles asking permission to adapt one of my short stories for the screen. Note that it’s not one of the big boys and, if it happens, it’ll be a short film. But that hasn’t stopped me having a big smile on my face a lot of the time since I read it. Also, from my hovel in Aberdeen, those magic words ‘Los Angeles’ lift me, by association, directly onto a red carpet wearing something by Marchesa, naturally. (Can you get Marchesa stuff in Walmart?) Seriously, it’s very exciting but, equally seriously, I know that lots of things can happen which may turn it all back into a dream. But at least I have an email from Los Angeles.

And the letter I wrote in reply giving permission to adapt the story produced a typo (fortunately spotted before I sent it) which reminded me of another which I’d previously intended to include in a trivia-type blog. You see, for some reason most of my ‘best’ typos involve the keys in the middle of the bottom row – v, b, n. In this case, it was the story’s title, Love Hurts, which in my hurry (and because I have fingers like sausages), became Lobe Hurts – no doubt a romantic tale about either earache or the devastation  occasioned by an overenthusiastic nibbler. The previous one which I was going to mention, though, was much raunchier. I don’t remember what I was writing but it involved something about food and, when I read through it after I’d finished, it had taken on distinct erotic tones because among the other things on the plate were ‘naked beans’.

A writer’s life is full of such simple pleasures.

Monday, April 21, 2014

For the Birds

By Mark W. Danielson

My wife and I love looking at the birds explore our yard.  We are fortunate to see bluebirds, cardinals, humming birds, hawks, jays, roadrunners, scissor-tailed flycatcher, blackbirds, vultures, and many more.  Recent experience has shown a great disparity among birdbrains. 

Let’s start with hummingbirds.  One would think these adorable tykes would have short range at the rate they flap their wings, but they actually migrate to Central America by flying across the Gulf of Mexico.  Impressive as it is, they are as short on brain power as they are in height.  Days after a friend told me about getting trapped in his hangar because their only way out is “up”, we had one get “trapped” in our own hangar.  Bear in mind, the large garage door that let it in remained open.  After trying to attract it to bright colors, flowers, and trying to coax it with a large net, the dingaling kept struggling to find its way out through the roof.  I finally raised the hangar door hoping the setting sun would attract it.  Thankfully, it did.  Unfortunately, as I write this, there is another dingaling in the hangar doing the same thing.  Again, I opened the hangar door and hope it’s gone by the time I close it.

Now let’s talk about a larger bird.  The northern mockingbird.  Three times the size of the hummingbird, but has the same pea sized brain.  I make this claim because one managed to get trapped in our small covered entry.  Bear in mind there are open windows on two sides as well as the open main entry available for it to fly out at any time.  But no, this dingaling kept trying to fly through the roof, as it were.  Fortunately, this area is smaller so I was able to chase it around with the pole net until it wore down a bit and dropped altitude.  Finally, it flew out the door. 

Then there are the cardinals who I will describe as birds of a higher power.  The reason they are featured as Angry Birds is they have attitude.  You see, the pair in the above photo have been checking out our house for a while and seem to like it very much.  They approved the courtyard and the front yard, so it was no surprise when they decided to explore the front entry.  But make no mistake, these two were there by choice.  Prime real estate for nesting.  Easy entry/exit.  Dry and protected.  What’s not to like?  So when my wife went into the entry and disturbed them, they looked down from the hanging lamp and scowled.  Yes, scowled.  Thankfully, the interruption proved enough where they left the same way they came.  No raising the roof.  No desperate struggles.  Just a fly away with looks of disgust.  Yes, we love our cardinals.

Perhaps this is why they hold such a special place in the Catholic Church.  Birds of universal appeal and wisdom.  It seems fitting to feature them the day following Easter.       

And yes, the hangar hummingbird did leave before the sun set.  (You're welcome.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Recharging your batteries...


Every morning I walk along the bike path by the Willamette River with my dog, Trillian, whatever the weather: sun, rain, fog, snow, wind, anything but ice. The fresh air, the sounds of birds, the exercise, all give me energy that takes me through the day. I'm very lucky to have such a beautiful place to walk so close to home.

Here are some recent pics taken along the way.

Willamette River

Fawn Lily

Grasses--the reason for the sneezin' season

vulture--fuzzy because I'm not a very good photographer

There's the occasional mystery, such as, who built this?

 And one happy dog:

I get home ready to start the writing day.

How do you recharge your batteries?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Tribute to Peggy Moss Fielding-Teacher and Writer

Jackie King and Peggy Fielding

Peggy Moss Fielding has taught a multitude of Oklahoman’s how to put words on paper in order to create articles, short stories, essays, and books. She didn’t stop there, she also taught those of us who were lucky enough to be in her classes, how to sell what we wrote. I was especially blessed to become more than her student. I also became her friend and colleague.
Life as I knew it came to a grinding halt in the late 80’s when I was faced with an unexpected divorce. After taking stock of my circumstances, I decided that what I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. Our local community college offered writing courses and I noticed that a woman named Peggy Fielding taught most of them. So I enrolled. That day was one of the luckiest days of my life.
 Set in 1889 Oklahoma Territory
Romantic adventure set in 1889 Guthrie

This woman taught me the craft of writing and consequently she changed my life. I will forever be grateful. She was first my teacher, then mentor followed by friend. In 2006 we became colleagues with the publishing of CHIK~LIT FOR FOXY HENS, an anthology of novellas. Both of us told true stories based on our unexpected divorces. (Except for the perfect heroes that we made up to complete the required HEA (Happily Ever After) ending. Most perfect men in our age bracket were already married. When a good man was widowed, I never dared be interested for fear of being killed in the stampede of single women who seemed to appear out of thin air.)
Romantic Adventures for Women of a Certain Age

My tongue-in-cheek novella in this anthology was titled FLIRTING AT FIFTY. Peggy called her story, GIVING UP PANTYHOSE. You can tell by the titles that these were humorous tales. There is nothing quite so healing as laughter.

This is my only published fiction without someone being murdered in the story. Mysteries have always been my favorite read, and that’s what I write.
Peggy Fielding is now in the hospital with heart and other problems. In the past when she was hospitalized, she spent her time handing out bookmarks and flirting with any man who came into her room. The whole staff has always been charmed by her effervescent personality.

This time things are different. She’s annoyed that dying is so hard. “I’d just die, if I knew how,” she told her daughter Suzy.
This is so like Peggy. I’m surprised she didn’t say, “I’m no longer well enough to write or to teach. Not even to read. It’s time to move on and see what’s on the other side.”

The medical team says she will probably go into hospice when she is stable enough to leave the hospital.

I don’t know how many days she has left on this earth, but one thing I do know. During her 86 years on this earth, she taught a huge number of people to write and sell their books.

She will be missed. Most of all by me.
Adventure, Mystery and Romance

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Even crime writers write for children

By Bill Kirton

My attention seems to have shifted onto children’s stories. Maybe it’s because I  had to spend time getting Rory the Dragon and Princess Daisy ready for publication. Whatever the reason, though, my thoughts have gone back to Stanley, my misanthropic fairy, of whom more later, and a short novel I wrote for children many years ago. It’s called The Loch Ewe Mystery and it’s an adventure story. I entered it for the Kelpies Prize, awarded by Floris Books. It didn’t win but the publishers asked if they could keep the MS because it was a possible for their lists. In the end, nothing happened but that told me that it was worth hanging on to it.

It’s for and about kids but some of the events in the story are taken from my own experiences. An editor expressed doubts that anyone would ever build a sailing dinghy in a study. But that’s something I did and the characters here have the same anxieties as they wonder whether the finished article will be too big to get through the door. They also sail on Loch Ewe, which is one of my favourite places on earth. I spent many summers at cadet training camps there teaching sailing. We sailed 27 foot Montague whalers and it’s hard to convey the magic of sailing those lovely old boats surrounded by those wonderful mountains. I sailed through a shoal of mackerel and was caught in a squall like the one that hits them in the book, the only difference being that my dinghy was dismasted while theirs got to the island. That particular trip was the one where the friend who was crewing for me rediscovered religion – if only briefly.

Updating and rewriting it for publication now (on Kindle and in paperback) meant that I had to revise some of what I wrote to match a world in which mobile phones have made it almost impossible to cut people off from help, advice and the rest. At several stages in the adventure, access to a cellphone/mobile would have resolved the difficulties very quickly so, while I acknowledge they exist, I make sure the adventure happens in an area where reception’s terrible. (Sorry if I’m maligning you, Ross-shire. Please forgive the poetic licence.)

As promised, back to Stanley. The interesting thing there (to me anyway) is that my nephew Joe’s ideas of how he’d draw him have made me rethink some aspects of him and invent others. I’ve grown to like the blue, dome-headed version a lot and now Joe’s adding accessories that suggest extra details and idiosyncrasies that need explaining.

For instance, Joe liked the idea of him wearing football boots. That would never have occurred to me but now I face the challenge of finding out why that’s what he has on his feet. I’ve got a sketch of him in a Noel Coward type dressing gown and another where he’s wearing a bright flowery shirt and smoking a cigarette (obviously a no-no because of the cigarette but mainly because he’d NEVER wear a bright shirt, certainly not one with flowers on it).

We haven’t yet decided which publication route to take. I have to investigate whether it’s possible to format text and illustrations in a way that’s compatible with Kindle and other e-readers but, mostly, I want kids to have him in book form. It still seems to me the more natural way for them to enjoy stories. But then, I’m from the pre-computer age.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Lesson in Humility

By Mark W. Danielson
I recently underwent hand surgery to repair a trauma injury.  The surgery went fine, the pain was manageable, but the lessons learned will always stay with me.

Being right-handed, losing use of this hand posed many challenges, and throughout each of them I kept thinking about our wounded warriors.  Of course my situation was temporary, but for them, getting by with missing limbs became their new reality.  Throughout my experience, the simplest tasks such as showering, combing hair, flossing and brushing teeth, buttoning pants and shirts, slipping on coats and shoes were extremely challenging, especially since I had a club hand.  Surprisingly, putting socks on was one of the most frustrating events.  Wearing boots eliminated any troubling shoe laces.

My wife constantly offered her assistance, but each time I thanked her and reminded her that this was a great lesson in humility.  It was important for me to bear with my struggles to get a smidgen of understanding about how difficult it must be for these young kids and their families when they return home mangled from a futile war.  Yes, our wounded warriors are the forgotten ones.  They don’t get counted in death tolls, and wait months or years to get benefits while our government throws money at foreign countries and illegal immigrants.  No doubt some will say these soldiers knew the risks when they signed up.  I say they deserve far more respect and financial aid than we give them.

I have had the privilege to hear some of these wounded warriors speak and am always impressed by their dignity and pride.  They do not whimper publicly or place blame.  Instead, they speak of being lucky to have made it back alive.  Most take accept their condition and take on new challenges.  Some even learn to fly specially modified airplanes to free them from their bonds.  Don’t feel sorry for them.  Embrace them and learn. 

I salute these veterans and wish them my best.  Each and every one of them faces tough battles ahead.  Please remember them, and consider donating to the Wounded Warriors, USO, Homes for Heroes, or other worthy veterans organizations before they are forgotten.


Homes for Heroes:

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mark W. Danielson's Spectral Gallows

Mark, how did your latest novel come about?

Oddly, this story was never envisioned, but rather came to me in my sleep.  What kept me awake was the paradox of how people accept drunken behavior, but shun the notion that the same mental state exists when you have been denied rest.  Exploring this notion gave birth to a down-and-out Vietnam Vet whose haunted past keeps him from sleeping, and has no credibility because of his drunk-like state.  His inability to persuade a friend that the actor who died in 1970 in the basement of Fort Worth’s Scott Theater was hanged, rather than the suicide the police claimed it to be, infuriates him to no end.

Enter Homicide Detective Maxx Watts and partner Blain Spartan where they are instantly drawn in as the two men argue over murder.  Further eavesdropping compels them to visit the Scott Theater where an unexplained voice whispers murder.  Other oddities convince them they must look into this case and resolve the question of murder once and for all.

Not being a paranormal or Quantum Theory expert, I solicited help from real ones.  Their expertise ensured my story was accurate while playing believers and non-believers against each other.  And rather than give the story away, I’ll leave you with some spectral thoughts.  Although I have never experienced anything paranormal, my wife has.  And by coincidence, I received the following from a dear friend who is also one of the most credible people I know.  Read his words carefully, and then try to sleep without thinking about who might be watching.   

“When the grandkids come over, I get turfed into the guest bedroom. There, I have witnessed three magnificent apparitions walking through the walls, completely benign and, in fact, kindly.  They are of Civil War times.  I think they had a house on this spot where our subdivision house is.  They wander around looking puzzled.  A housemaid with ironed folded linens across her arms (you can smell the warmth), she wears what I'd call a little Dutch linen headcap, kind of like the Amish.  She has a spotless apron and red dress.  She goes into the closet and disappears....  There is a boy about 16 years old, wearing a long leather apron that makes me think of a butcher's apprentice.  The apron is workmanlike, with half inch stitching along its edges, I think its cat gut.  Then there's the guy I want to tell you about.

I was again banished to the guest room when I awoke suddenly, sensing someone was there.  It did not bother me, for it had already happened a few times since we moved in.  I opened my eyes and looked where "something" had made a depression in the bed.  And then there he was, this bald man with a rim of spotless white hair, the loveliest blue eyes one could see anywhere, wearing a three piece suit with a watch fob on his waistcoat, a couple of buttons loose for comfort over his paunch.  He was looking at me, puzzled, like, ‘What are you doing here?’  No malice, just bewilderment.

This time I was prepared.  I closed my eyes, slowly counted to ten, and then opened them again.  This time I was spooked as the old chap was still sitting there looking at me!  After that, he literally dissolved, vanishing from sight.  Neither my wife nor I have seen any of them since.”

The above implies that my wife and friend are better spirit mediums than I, but since I cannot explain how Spectral Gallows came to me, wouldn’t it be ironic if the Scott Theater’s spirit subliminally planted it?  After all, the Scott Theater is only an hour away . . .   

Mark W. Danielson is an international airline pilot and novelist.  Spectral Gallows is his fifth published novel, and second in the Maxx Watts detective series.  I encourage you to visit his web site at for information on his writings and worldly travels.

You can learn more about Mark Danielson and his books at: and

Excerpted from Mysterious Writers blog.
Submitted by Jean Henry Mead

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Left Coast Crime

by Carola

 I was lucky enough to be on a wonderful panel in Monterey, all of us with names people hesitate to speak aloud...
photo by Robin Templeton
Manors and Manners: GM Malliet (Gin), Me (CAH-rull-ah), Catriona (CatREEna) McPherson, Rhys (REES) Bowen.

It was supposed to be something about Downton Abbey, but as I've never seen the show, Catriona, as moderator, forbade everyone to mention it more than once.

I didn't go to many panels, but I had lunch with my editor, helped man the LCC 2015 booth (It's going to be in Portland next year, quite close to home) and hosted a table at the banquet. And of course I talked to dozens of people I only ever see at conferences or on Facebook.

A friend and I went to the Aquarium to see a fabulous display of jellyfish. She took lots of pics which she'll send me eventually, but these are borrowed from Wikipedia. Both were on show.
Moon jelly & sea nettle
(The Aquarium would be a great place to stage a murder!)

 Even better was a free show put on for us by a wild sea otter. We stood on the end of the pier for ages watching him dive for shellfish, then float on his back bashing them on a stone balanced on his belly until they cracked. A seagull floated in close attendance, waiting for scraps.
Sea-otter-morro-bay 13.jpgThey are adorable!!