Thursday, April 28, 2016


By Jackie King

There’s a certain creative energy that fills the air and actually permeates the cracks and crevices at Writer Conferences. Speakers vary, technical techniques evolve, markets wax and wane; but the atmosphere is always the same. Pure electricity. I’ve been attending different conferences for a good many years and I always come home physically exhausted (who wants to miss anything?) but mentally refreshed. New ideas seem to spring alive and old ones freshen. Or in plain Okie-speak: I’m again ready to hit that keyboard for another year!

This year I’m planning on attending the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc., scheduled May 8 and 9 in Oklahoma City.

The keynote speaker will be Steven James, national bestselling author who writes page-turning Thrillers. Suspense Magazine has named James’ book THE BISHOP as their book of the year. This publication claims that James “sets the new standard in suspense writing.” Publishers Weekly calls him a “master storyteller at the peak of his game.” And RT Book Reviews promises, “the nail-biting suspense will rivet you.”
Steven James
Steven James
 Product Details

If you’re one of those whose heart cries out to put words on paper, accept that you’re one of God’s scribes. I’m not talking about religious writing; I’m talking about telling stories about the world you live in. Honesty is what readers want; but we must remember that my truth may be quite different from your truth, but that's okay. There are a wide variety of readers in the world. Our work will not be everyone’s cup of tea. But we will each find our audience.

The writers at this particular conference are unbelievably generous-hearted. Authors with over 50 published books to their credit will listen to a beginning writer and make helpful suggestions. Publishers and agents are available for appointments, or if you missed that opportunity, you can catch them in the hallways. “Anywhere but the bathroom,” one quipped.

If you write or if you want to write, don’t hesitate to sign up for this event or another like it. I guarantee that you’ll come home just like me…tired, happy and ready to write.

For more information contact the fee is a reasonable $200. and includes two banquets.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Writing on Deadline

By June Shaw

I've never had to write a book with a deadline from a publisher, I recently realized and wish I'd had that experience.

Many writers today put out two or three or even more books a year. How can they? I can't imagine doing that--but then, I don't write quickly.I could. I have the time now--something I thought I never would say--but somehow I don't get the words down too much faster than when I was teaching.

Okay, that's not true. I write more now that I am retired and my five children have grown and left home. Thank goodness, they're not far away.

It's just that I'm not certain what I'll be writing now that I ended one mystery series and wrote standalones in other genres and now I'll write to contract with a different series and publisher. And this one has given me deadlines to meet. They like the first book and the brief synopses I came up with for the next two.

I told the editor I didn't write fast and suggested when I could probably have the next ones done. To have more time to advertise, they suggested alternate dates. I agreed. Now I'm concerned. But I guess instead of keeping my fingers crossed that I'll get book two finished in time, I should get those fingers hitting on keys.

Okay, I'm doing that now. I'll let you know how well it goes.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Tired of Writing a Mystery Series?

by Jean Henry Mead

Some serial mystery authors have grown tired of writing about the same characters. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle grew bored with Sherlock Holmes and killed him off although he later resurrected the infamous sleuth. Agatha Christie also grew to hate her arrogant little detective Hercule Poirot and wanted to end his career as well as his life. My own Logan and Cafferty mystery/suspense series became tiresome after I had finished novel six, Murder at the Mansion. However, after starting a standalone suspense novel, I began dreaming about my senior sleuths, Dana Logan and sidekick Sarah Cafferty. In my dreams, both women seemed to plead with me to continue the series.

I have to admit that, after six months of not tuning into their conversations and adventures, I missed them. They had become old friends. In fact, they were patterned after my best friend and I while we were still both young, single and adventurous. My sixtyish amateur sleuths have gotten themselves into some unusual predicaments but have managed somehow to survive.

I eventually decided to write a serious seventh novel but my sleuths refused to fit completely into serious mode. Dana’s friend  Sarah has an innate sense of humor that can’t be tamped down, and Dana usually goes along with her antics, no matter how much I try to discourage them. However, the novels’ subjects are serious:  drugs, terrorism, adultery, anarchy, romance, theft, gray wolves, RV park intrigue, a tornado, flood, and, of course, murder. But Sarah always seems to make light of or exaggerate the problems which present themselves.

Emotions are the most important elements in novel plots, so I’m grateful to have a quirky character like Sarah to make the novels come alive. No cardboard characters for me.

My current work in progress, Logan and Cafferty #7, is titled Mystery of the Black Cross and features Sarah’s laser-burned face and the murders of two women in the cosmetic surgeon’s office. I researched the novel by suffering through a similar burn myself. I then came across an anarchist’s group dating back to the twelfth century. The research has been fascinating. I tied the two subjects together by having the killer paint a black cross on the house the two women share. A deadly warning or a prank? I’m afraid you’ll have to wait to find out.  : )

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Are Critique Groups Worth the Bother?

by Jackie King

The short answer is, "Yes." Finding a Critique group that is a perfect fit is more complicated.

Locating the right critique group can be a bit like dating. I can be time-consuming, frightening and emotionally painful. You may have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. But if you’re persistent, the results can be a wonderful enrichment to your life. Only you can decide if it’s worth the investment of your time.

A good critique group is a valuable tool to any writer, but if you’re a beginning writer finding the right one can be a harder challenge. This process may take courage and determination. Many of the best groups are by invitation only. Some of these groups include multi-published authors who may seem intimidating to a tyro. But as writer Jodi Thomas often says with a laugh, “I was a 15-year-overnight success.” That’s true of more published authors than not.

To get started, begin hanging out where the writers of your genre are: their author pages on Facebook, writer groups, and writer conferences. Most writers are wonderfully friendly and helpful people. The money I spent attending writer’s conferences has put me in contact with many authors.

Remember, you can always start a group of your own. Take a writing class at your local community college and invite the students you meet. Look for an online group. I just Googled “Critique groups for Tulsa writers,” and found several opportunities. Two were local writer’s groups and one was an online writing group. This is the way you start.

Years earlier I was invited to join a group that has changed a great deal over the years, and because the participants were kind hearted, I’ve stayed. There are now only two founding members remaining in this group, but this group has morphed into the gem of all critique groups. I trust these writers to tell me the truth and to tell it gently enough that I won’t want to go home and throw my computer out the window.

If you’re starting you own group, set up guidelines to begin with and stick with them. One of the rules in our group is that we must always be kind as well as honest. Some groups have a rule that you must either bring something to read for critique or a writing information handout for each member.

These things are learned by trial and error. Don’t be discouraged if meetings for your first group begin to fizzle after a few months. Keep encouraging each other, and above all else, keep writing.

Monday, April 11, 2016

What Is Jonathon Caine Thinking?


Ben Small

In one fell swoop, Jonathon Caine is fired from his hedge fund, has his assets frozen and faces probable criminal indictment for securities fraud. Then, piling on, his trophy wife leaves him and throws him out of his penthouse apartment. With nowhere else to turn, Jonathon is forced to move to his hospitalized father’s house, where he attempts to sort out his life and analyze the mistakes he’s made.

To clear his head, Jonathon decides to attend his twenty-fifth high school reunion. There, much to his surprise, Jonathon makes a connection with the prom queen he’d always found untouchable. She’s married to their high school quarterback, an abusive, drunken brute. 

Despite the black cloud of ruin hanging over Jonathon’s head, it’s his burgeoning relationship with Jackie Williams that puts his very life at risk.

Adam Mitzner is a master of suspense. Page after page, Jonathon’s ruination grows, tension building with each new development. As a reader, I was mesmerized, lost in a string of possibilities none of which a solution to Jonathon’s plight. As a lawyer, I was shocked I never saw the end twist coming. Frankly, if you enjoyed GONE GIRL, you will love THE GIRL FROM HOME. For the first time in years, I read this book in one sitting. Just could not put it down.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Make Every Word Count

by Jean Henry Mead

One of my early writing instructors stressed the need to make every word count. He said each word needs to pull its own weight and every unnecessary word should be culled from the plot. Good advice that I've followed over the years, although, coupled with my journalism training, I'm sometimes too brief, leaving out desirable descriptions.

I've found that writers need to engage readers, not simply enlighten and entertain them. Creating strong word images that readers can relate to is preferable to forcing them to fill in the blanks. For example, a military Hummer conveys a much stronger image than having a protagonist ride to the rescue in a Volkswagen bug. Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone was a notable exception.

Strong verbs are necessary to give one’s plot a dynamic, energetic tone. Words such as hurried, leaped and flew as opposed to passive words like walked fast, made his way or became airborne. And as we’ve all been told, stay away from the verb to be in all its forms because it’s the weakest of words. But I confess that I still use all forms of to be in dialogue. Some rules are made to be broken, often at your own risk.

Adverbs that end in –ly also weaken a writer's prose. Use them sparingly. On the other hand, strong specific verbs give writing vitality. I’m reminded of my interview with A.B. Guthrie, Jr. who said, “The adjective is the enemy of the noun and the adverb is the enemy of damn near everything else. Writers use too many descriptive words." As for adjectives, author Lois J. Peterson once said, “One well-chosen adjective can be more effective than two or more, which used together might weaken the idea or image.” I agree.

Do we really need adverbs? Not unless it's impossible to come up with strong verbs. Eliminate the adverbs in a second draft and replace them with muscular verbs. As for adjectives, the rundown house can be rewritten as a hovel or shack. That's why every writer should have access to a thesaurus, including an electronic one.

Word choices affect the plot’s pace. If every symphony movement maintained the same pace, the audience would fall asleep before the finale. So writers need to think of themselves as conductors, controlling the pace with word choices, syntax and variety. Long sentences and paragraphs slow the pace and seem introspective while short, choppy sentences are much more dramatic and conducive to action scenes. So, in order to keep someone reading, sentences and paragraphs should vary in length.

Sentence rhythm is important, so reading one's work aloud before committing it to a final draft can prevent clumsy sentence structure. Some word choices bring a sentence to an abrupt halt and should be rewritten or replaced, along with all unnecessary words. The musical analogy is a good one (not my own) because sentence flow is so important.