Category: Writing (Page 1 of 8)

Wrong Turn Anthology Coming Out In September

Where have I been? Writing of course. But now it’s time to warm up the blog again because I’ve got some news.

So excited to announce that my short suspense story “Hitman Walked into a Romance” will be published in the next Desert Sleuths AnthologySo West:Wrong Turn. It will be released in time for our annual WriteNow conference around September 22, 2023. Stay tuned for details!


#amwriting Five Writing Craft Books for Your Favorite Writer

Let’s take a look at five books about writing, any one of which may be perfect for your favorite writer.

Disclosure:  I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

1. On Writing by Stephen King (2000)

Stephen King is a consummate storyteller and it shows throughout this book. Part memoir, part how-to manual, I came away with some treasures about writing. He is a huge proponent of reading as a way to inform your writing. He talks a lot about the “writer’s toolbox,” which are the skills you need to develop in order to write, like expanding your vocabulary and improving your grammar. He is also very candid about how some of his more famous books came together and how some almost didn’t.

Favorite quote:

If there is one thing I love about writing more than the rest, it’s that sudden flash of insight when you see how everything connects.

Stephen King probably couldn’t have written a straight how-to manual without including the memoir portions because writing is so much a part of his identity. That said, he gives very practical advice.

2. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

This slim volume is a compilation of essays Annie Dillard published about writing over the years. She has had a rich writing life. She has a powerful, commanding voice and she has written some amazing books.

Rather than detailed how-to, the sections are about the writing process and what price tag it might have. It’s more about whether or not to give writing a try.

It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So you might as well write Moby Dick.

She devotes a good number of pages in the book to the physical places where where she has written, such as in a college library after hours, a pine shed in Cape Cod, or a cabin on an island in the Puget Sound. What writer wouldn’t like to get away from it all like that? How many of us can actually achieve it?

Tips more toward intimidating than inspiring at times.

3. This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

If you are looking for wise, warm, and clear advice on how to get the writing work done — especially for your first novel — this is the book for you.

The process of writing a novel is like taking a journey by boat. You have to continually set yourself on course…It’s not like a highly defined train tracks or a highway; this is a path that you are creating, discovering.

Walter Mosley covers the key points of writing a novel — such as which point of view to choose — very concisely. He also examines the revision process.

His main advice is to read, particularly poetry, and also to write every single day until you have a novel.  Reading this book just might inspire you to do that.

Best for the first time author who is eager to get started.

4. Write Away:  One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life by Elizabeth George

Elizabeth George is a renowned author of mystery novels. Her ideas and pointers are at a deeper level than some of the others and this book might be better for someone who has some writing experience. That said, she has some wonderful suggestions.

  1. She recommends keeping a writing journal about writing your novel. She’s not the first author I’ve heard suggest this, but she gives actual quotes for her journals at the beginning of each section. Seeing how it works has inspired me to start my own writing journal and I’m finding it highly beneficial. I use it to keep focused, keep organized, and it also helps me to see the progress I’m making. Try it!
  2. George gives many concrete examples of her various points. For example, when she proposes getting ideas for novels from challenges, she gives two examples of novels she wrote when other authors said that format was too hard to pull off, that it couldn’t be done.

In any case, a great reference that you will likely return to again and again.

Note:  authors don’t always agree on all points. For example, Walter Mosley says “dialogue is action.” Elizabeth George writes that “dialogue is character.”

5. How to Write a Mystery: A Handbook by Mystery Writers of America edited by Lee Child and Laurie R King

This is a collection of essays and short pieces by famous mystery and thriller authors about writing in their genre. It is filled with excellent advice, each contribution is a polished gem. Brilliant!

On the other hand, when you have a basket full of colorful gems, it isn’t easy to pick one or two to use. How to Write a Mystery might work best once you have a first draft and you have concrete questions. That way you’ll know what gems work best for you.

#amwriting Mystery with a Pinch of Humor

Do you love your mysteries with a dose of humor? Want to find more about how to write them?

This week I discovered a wonderful webinar called Mirth & Mystery with Diane Kelly at Triangle Sisters in Crime.



First Diane sets the stage. As she explains, humor often doesn’t get as much respect as other genres, even though it is incredibly difficult to write. There is only one award for humorous mysteries, the Lefty (the archives is a great place to find books to add to your reading list).

That doesn’t mean it is impossible. Diane gives the names of several popular mystery authors known for their humor. Of the authors on her list, my husband is a huge fan of Carl Hiaasen, I love Janet Evanovich’s  Stephanie Plum series (previous post), and my son is a mammoth Dave Barry fan. What does that say about our family?

Next she delves deeply into the numerous ways that humor can improve your writing, from making your manuscript stand out to agents and editors, to  adding to the emotional range. If you have your readers biting their fingernails with tension, rather than charging forward with more,  provide a bit of relief via a lighter, comedic moment.

I’m not sure how long the video will be available, but this webinar is a gem. Seriously.

Here are Amazon Affiliate links to the two humor writing books she recommends (mainly so I remember to pick them up).

The Comic Toolbox: How to Be Funny Even If You’re Not by John Vorhaus

The Eight Characters of Comedy: Guide to Sitcom Acting And Writing by Scott Sedita


Then a few days later I found a webinar by mystery author Kathy McKintosh on “Humor in Mysteries.”  Is the cosmos trying to tell me something?

Look for it at Bear Canyon Library on YouTube (link).  Unfortunately sharing was disabled, so you will have to click through to watch it.

Do you have a favorite mystery author who incorporates humor in their novels? We’d love to hear about it!

@DesertSleuths anthology SO WEST: LOVE KILLS Coming Soon

Interested in mysteries? Like to read anthologies?

A short story I wrote is featured in the latest Desert Sleuths anthology, So West:  Love Kills*, arriving 9/10/2021.

(*Amazon affiliate link)

Here’s the blurb:

Betrayal. Deception. Greed. Love Gone Wrong. Brothers and sisters. Lovers and liars. Fathers and daughters. Mothers and sons. From the wilds of Arizona’s Rim country to its dusty lowland deserts, you’ll find it all within the pages of So West: Love Kills. Bonds forged and broken. Covenants kept and cast aside. Love nurtured and left to rot. Not everything is as it seems. Not everyone can be trusted. But one thing is for certain—love hurts. Sometimes it even kills!


Contributing authors:

  • Shannon Baker,
  • Mysti Berry,
  • Meredith Blevins,
  • Patricia Bonn,
  • Lauren Buckingham,
  • Susan Budavari,
  • William Butler,
  • Patricia Curren,
  • Meg E. Dobson,
  • Beverly Forsyth,
  • Denise Ganley,
  • Roberta Gibson,
  • Katherine Atwell Herbert,
  • Tom Leveen,
  • Susan Cummins Miller,
  • Charlotte Morganti,
  • Julie Morrison,
  • Claire A. Murray,
  • Kris Neri,
  • Karen Odden,
  • R K Olson,
  • D.R. Ransdell,
  • Kim Rivery,
  • Elena E. Smith.


Lead Editor: Maegan Beaumont.

Co-Editors: Deborah J Ledford, Susan Budavari, R K Olson, Shannon Baker, Meg Dobson

Cover Designer: Maegan Beaumont.

E-books available for preorder now. I’d love for you to check it out!

#amwriting Gleaned from Virtual Classes This Week

April has been a month jam-packed with virtual writing classes.  I wanted to take a minute to jot down a few notes about what I’ve learned (making an effort not to infringe on someone else’s work).


From ProWriting Aid’s Crime Writer’s Week

First class:

The Elements of a Crime Novel by Leigh Russell, who has a long-running series featuring DI Geraldine Steel.

Leigh Russell spoke about her writing process. Two things that struck me were that she admitted she wrote the first book mainly for her own enjoyment, so she decided her protagonist would be 39 years old. Now she’s writing the 18th book in the series, she regrets not making her protagonist a bit younger. She says she has to fudge Geraldine’s age or her protagonist will be well past  retirement age before Russell finishes the titles she has under contract. Nice problem to have.

She also moved her setting from a fictional city to a real one because she feels this gives her a built-in audience. Other authors have suggested creating a made up setting if you are going to feature a lot of violent crimes because real world tourist boards do not appreciate their town being the host to a serial killer. Bad publicity. In direct contrast, Russell says people delight in seeing their community in a novel and become devoted fans.  Regardless of what the tourist board thinks, people will realize that your book is a work of fiction. Good to know!

Second class:

Editors Anne Hawley and Rachelle Ramirez spent some time explaining the fine points of the different subtypes of crime novels. Although I was well aware of the differences between mystery, thriller and police procedural, I was less familiar with the caper/heist  subtype. A novel I read recently, Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano (previous post), falls into this category.

Rachelle also presented a four act structure that works well for mystery novels. I was most taken with the suggestion that the protagonist may have a fear rather than a flaw. A fear can be a weakness and a motivation. Useful idea!


I’m not sure how long this video will be posted, but I thought Vaseem Khan had some incredibly insightful things to say about writing so I hope you get to watch it. Also, I’m going to look for his books, which he says are fashioned after on of my favorite mystery series, The Number One Ladies Detective Agency.

Edit:  Check out about 30 minutes! His take on writing the other (“otherwise we’ll all be writing autobiographies”).

Newsletter and blog at his website.

#amwriting Writers’ League of Texas

Looking for some inspiration and camaraderie? Check out the Writers’ League of Texas.

I know, I know. There are too many online opportunities already, but you can tell this is a fun group from their welcome video.

See what I mean?

They have:

Let me know if you decide to give it a try.



#amwriting Couch to 80K Writing Challenge Rocks

With all the analogies comparing NaNoWriMo to running a marathon, I wasn’t surprised that the aptly named Couch to 80K Boot Camp with Tim Claire was good way to condition my writing muscles. What did surprise me was that his advice might have saved my novel.

The “Boot Camp” consists of listening to and participating in six sessions per week over the course of eight weeks. Each session lasts roughly 20 minutes, including ten minutes of guided writing time. The first exercises are deceptively simple, like making lists of character names. Each step builds on the previous. Gradually, you learn craft, sometimes without realizing you are learning.

At first I thought it might be too much to do both challenges together, but the timed Couch to 80K sessions were just what I needed to get the words flowing each day for NaNo.  The synergy was perfect.

After “winning” NaNo, however, I found myself stalled on the novel. The ending I had planned was dull and cliche, but I didn’t see any realistic fixes. I worried the whole thing was headed to the drawer.

In desperation, I went back to the Couch to 80K. I hadn’t finished all of week eight, largely because he said to use the time  to write scenes and I was already past that stage. Because it had worked so well during November, however,  I sat down and listened to the last few from beginning to end. At the end of the very last lesson there it was. He mentioned that to have a truly fresh novel you have to do research. Real, deep research.

Of course, what had been eluding me like a fluttering butterfly came into focus as if through a macro lens. NaNo conventional wisdom is to put off research and simply write, so that’s what I had done. I got into the habit of not doing research. N-o-n-e. Research was wasted time. No wonder my novel was flimsy and floundering. I delved into research and it is so refreshing. I already have a bouquet of new ideas. Although I feel like an idiot for not figuring it out earlier, I was smart enough to see the solution when it was handed to me.

Thank you, Tim Claire.


Tim Claire also has the 100 day challenge. Anyone up for working on it with me?


#Mystery Writing with Megan Collins

We’re finding so much wonderful info for readers and writers online right now. For example, there’s a free series from Gotham Writers called Inside Writing.  In this episode we see author Megan Collins talk about writing her novels The Winter Sister and Behind the Red Door.

Favorite parts:

  • Megan reveals she is a fan of true crime. She considers listening to podcasts like My Favorite Murder as research for her novels.
  • Her agent Sharon Pelletier says a big twist at the end should be believable and satisfying, not simply a big surprise.
  • Sharon also says the little details have to be accurate/realistic or it will put off readers.
  • Megan suggests tuning out the pressure to create something completely new and fresh because it can be paralyzing.  Tell your story.
  • Sharon doesn’t want to see the ending/answer to the mystery in the pitch.

The Winter Sister* by Megan Collins

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Persephone died sixteen years ago and her murder remains unsolved.

When her sister Sylvie returns to her hometown to care for her mother, the mystery of what happened to Persephone is forced into her life again. She must deal with why her mother rejected her after her sister’s death. She also runs into Persephone’s boyfriend, who was the last to see her alive. Can she face the secrets kept all those years?

#Amwriting October 30: Ready to Write

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts Sunday November 1, but our preparation series ends today. Hopefully you have honed your tools and are ready to write. If you get stuck at any point, help is just a click away in the resources linked below.



Can you believe we’re finally at the starting line? Frankly, I’m a bit excited and frightened at the same time. I’ve done NaNo before, but this feels like it’s going to be an important year. Hope it is for you, as well.

Time to take a breath and get those last few things accomplished. I’m going to leave you with a list of a few writing  resources  in case you need assistance while in the throes of writing.

My last bit of advice, however, is to also be willing to ignore the advice. The most important thing is for you to write is your own unique story.


Visit the 30 Day Novel Prep Page for the links to all the posts in the series. Tip:  I’ve pulled out all the writing books I recommended in the various posts and have them together on a close-by shelf for ease of grabbing

My friend Shan Hays has some great suggestions about how to get into the writing habit. I’m going to try a few, like when I stop for the day I’m going to prepare a sticky with notes about where to start the next morning. Such a good idea. Now I’m wondering why didn’t I do that before?

 Blogs to Visit:

Anne R. Allen -writing and marketing tips by a variety of authors (plus awesome resources page)

Writer Unboxed

Jennie Nash Book Coach – often has free tips and resources in addition to her services

**Helping Writers Become Authors with K.M. Weiland – extensive resources on all aspects of writing, especially for the beginner. Excellent!

Darcy Pattison has a ton of writing advice that work for all writers, not only for children’s book authors.

Podcasts to exercise by (or do the dishes by):

Writing Excuses podcast  is like eavesdropping on a bunch of extremely talented writer friends.

The Bestseller Experiment podcast

Example podcast:


Write Minded – about inspiration and process, for example  NaNo prep with Alexis Daria

I’ve tried to keep the list short and to the point.

Do you have any writing resources you would recommend?


Note:  I’ve been keeping these NaNo posts and some additional notes in a Scrivener file. I just looked and they add up to 49,986 words. With this post I will have written over 50,000 words about NaNo this month!

You can write 50,000 words, too. Now go do it!

Thank you for reading. Please stop by and let us know how you are doing through the month.




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