Wednesday, February 24, 2016


People who are not writers (the kind who get paid for what they write), think writing is easy. After all, we all learned to write in grade school if not before, and, even if we never wrote a novel, we’ve written lots of other things. Letters to friends and relatives, and countless stories, or essays, for school projects.

But “real” writing is hard. Take a novel, for instance. First, you have to know what it will be about, such as the great white whale in MOBY DICK. Then you must put characters in it, and you must know those characters, and what they think about the subject of your novel. They must also know the other characters in the novel, and, preferably, have a different opinion than that of the others.

Your novel must be set somewhere, and you’ll have to describe it, so that your reader has a mental picture of the place, such as the Southern town in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Plus, if a character goes somewhere, you’ll have to describe the “somewhere” she goes, and, perhaps, how she gets there, such as Atlanta, and, perhaps a train.

Which brings us to time-setting. Is your book set in today’s world, the 21st century, or the past, or the future? Books, as you know can be “contemporary,” like GONE GIRL, or “historical,” like GONE WITH THE WIND, or set it some future time, as most science fiction novels are. And, as the author of this book, it’s your job to decide the answer to all those questions.

That’s just the beginning. In order to have a reader read your book, you have to provide a plot for your story. If you want a reader to finish reading your book, and say, “That was a fantastic story. I couldn’t stop reading.” you’ll have to write it in such a way that that’s what your typical reader will say.

In addition, you need to write characters who take part in your plot, and some of them might not agree with your main character about the plot’s worthiness. In fact, the most important thing you have to write is how and why your characters disagree. It’s called “conflict,” and every book worth reading has conflict in it. Even a romance novel, where the characters fall in love and end up together, must have a time in which the reader doubts that will ever happen.

“Okay,” you say, “I won’t write a romance novel. I’ll write a mystery where a sleuth will figure out who the guilty person is and bring him to justice.” Remember “conflict”? The stronger the conflict in your mystery, the more exciting your book will be. Can you write a book like that? Try writing out a plot where your sleuth stumbles upon a dead person and must figure out who killed him, and why. It’s hard.

But don’t let me stop you from trying. All of us writers were faced with those problems, and we managed to answer those questions so well that our books were published and we earned money as well as congratulations from friends and relatives. I’ve written, and had published, nineteen romance novels and now four mysteries. My greatest thrill is reading an Amazon review where the author says, “What a great story.” I hope you have moments like that, too. Just remember, it’s hard to do but you’ll be rewarded when you accomplish i

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Okay, you’re right. It’s been two weeks since I put up a post on my blog. But I’m still recovering from the stroke I had in January. And where are the physical therapy sessions they promised me? Huh?

But this week my favorite blogger, Anne R. Allen, has posted an article about-authoring books by Melodie Campbell, and, since I wrote one like that myself not so long ago, I’m inspired to respond to it.

The first bit of advice Melodie gives is to find someone whose style is simiar to yours. Right? No, wrong.

I met my co-author in a writing class and quickly realized we had different writing styles. I write fast–I called it “down and dirty”–and Carole writes slowly, using lots of adjectives, similes and metaphors. It occurred to me we should combine our styles, and when I telephoned Carole, it turned out she felt the same way about me.

So, since we lived in the same town, we got together and brain-stormed our first book. That gave us an outline for a romance novel, and we were off. Since our styles were so different, we took advantage of that. I wrote the first chapter, “down and dirty,” and gave it to Carole. She added all those great words, plus similes and metaphors, all the stuff I coudn’t do. We not only finished that book, we wrote two more together, one a straight mystery and the other a romantic-suspense.

Then tragedy came calling. Carole bought a new computer (different from mine) and my husband retired, so we moved 500 miles away. We decided that, since Carole still worked and I didn’t, that I would send our books to agents and editors, and Carole would send me postage-money from time to time. And I sold our first book, SOUTHERN STAR, to Avalon Books, a well-known romance publisher. That came nineteen years after we first wrote it. Lesson: never give up.

But the publisher, who had already paid us a nice advance, went out of business, and guess who bought them? Amazon! So, SOUTHERN STAR is now a Montlake Romance and they sell copies for us reglarly.

Carole and I kept in touch, slightly, but eventually, we found ourselves able to write together again, so we did. We polished our remaining books and sold another one, the straight mystery, EYEWITNESS, which came out this past October from Coffeetown Press. Our third one is keeping some editor’s desk warm right now, but they can’t win. They’re destined to buy it (says I).

So, even with two completely different styles, we forged a writing bond. We haven’t written any more books together, but Carole left her job and writes books, both romance and romantic-suspense, and I’ve learned to use words, even similes and metaphors, much better. Carole has sold three more of her books, and I’ve sold fourteen of mine.

But, one thing Melodie said in her article is definitely true. Trust between partners is very important, and Carole and I definitely have that down pat. When we do get together, even our husbands get along.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Recently, I’ve read a few articles about how to write a wonderful first sentence for a novel. My choice, which is from my favorite book, REBECCA, by Daphne du Maurier, is, “Last night I dreamed I went to Manderly again.”

None of my opening sentences are like that, but here are some:

COLD APRIL, a romance novel set on board the Titanic. “Throngs of people crowded the docks at Southampton. Passengers just disembarking from the ship, and visitors who came to welcome them, shared the space with automobiles and even a few horse-drawn vehicles. Elizabeth Shallcross hurried through the crush.”

BEATING THE ODDS, A romance about a horse that wins the Kentucky Derby. “The hairs along the back of her neck rose; a cold wave swept up her skin. Someone was watching her. Kerry Frayne told herself there was nothing to be afraid of, but the feeling returned, stronger than before.”

DANGEROUS CHOICES, a mainstream novel about painters flying to an art show in Honolulu. “Exactly an hour and fifteen minutes after taking off from Los Angeles International Airport, First Officer Reg Humboldt felt the strange vibration. For a split second, a tremor of fear clutched at him, tightened his gut. The DC-6 was heading to Honolulu at 22,000 feet, and the last thing he wanted to think about was trouble.”

DEAD IN THE WATER, A mystery with humor, set in the U.K. “No one murdered Edward Mason. At least I didn’t think so. Since he was eighty-two years old, he apparently died of the usual ‘natural causes.’ However, the case of his forty-years-younger wife, Noreen, was a different matter.”

EYEWITNESS, a romantic-suspense novel, which takes place in Kentucky. ”He was going to have her killed, and there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it.
‘Come on, Babe, smile. This isn’t a funeral.’”

FINDING AMY, a romantic suspense novel which takes place in London and Paris. “As if it weren’t depressing enough that Sabrina sat alone in her Chicago condo on a Saturday night, her father telephoned with bad news. ‘Your British grandfather has died.‘”

That’s only six, and I’ve had nineteen books published, so I’ll do this again soon. By the way, all the books I listed above were published, so the first lines I used didn’t hurt, and maybe helped.