Tag: writing mystery novels

Writing Life With Donis Casey, Vicki Delany @vickidelany and Ann Parker @TheSilverQueen

Over the weekend I attended a fabulous writing panel discussion with prolific mystery authors Donis Casey, Vicki Delany, and Ann Parker. All three women have books published by Poisoned Pen Press, which is a local Arizona publisher that specializes in mysteries. Donis Casey and Vicki Delany post at the collective mystery author’s blog, Type M for Murder.

The women talked about many different aspects of writing mystery novels. It was interesting that both Donis and Ann, who write historical mysteries, say they write in spurts (often motivated by a deadline.) Donis writes in the afternoon and Ann at night after work. In contrast, Vicki said she writes every day when she’s at home, starting at 9:00 a.m. She doesn’t write, however, when she travels. They all admit that their schedules have changed during different stages of their lives.

All three suggested new writers make an effort to attend writing classes, conferences, and critique groups. They agreed that they benefited not only from what they learned, but also from the opportunities to network. Great advice!

After the discussion, they all signed their books and we got to talk to each author individually. It was a lovely afternoon

The authors’ recent books:

Donis Casey writes a historical mystery series (Alafair Tucker Mysteries) set in Oklahoma in the early 1900s. Her main character has 10 children. Donis reported that she intended write 10 books in the series, each featuring one of the children more prominently. Her tenth book, Forty Dead Men, came out in February.  We’ll be excited to see what she decides to do next.


Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (February 6, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1464209391
ISBN-13: 978-1464209390

Vicki Delany has authored several series, including the Lighthouse Library Mysteries under the pen name Eva Gates.

Her most recent title is a cozy, The Cat of the Baskervilles: A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery (February 2018)


Because I’m interested in police procedural novels, I chose the first in her Constable Molly Smith series, In the Shadow of the Glacier (2008).


Set in the fictional town of Trafalgar, British Columbia, the novel features newly-hired Constable Molly Smith and veteran Detective Sargant John Winters as they investigate the murder of a prominent businessman.

I have to admit that I came home from the event and basically devoured the book in one sitting. I will look for more titles in this series.

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (March 15, 2008)
ISBN-10: 1590585585
ISBN-13: 978-1590585580

Author Ann Parker has a day job as a science writer, yet she has managed to write Silver Rush Mysteries set in Leadville, Colorado during the Silver Rush of the 1880s. In her sixth of the series, A Dying Note (April 2018), her main character Inez decided to move to San Francisco. Ann says it surprised her, too.



Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (April 3, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1464209812
ISBN-13: 978-1464209819


Have you read any novels by these prolific authors? What did you think?


colorado vicki delany

#Amwriting #Mystery: 5 Tips For Making Revisions Less Painful

You’ve blasted out the first draft draft of your novel and have patted yourself on the back for a job well done. But is it done? Looming large is the abyss known as revisions.




Here are five tips for getting the most out of revisions as painlessly as possible.

  1. Get fresh eyes on your project.

Although writing a novel is perceived as a solo enterprise, realistically you should have a support network of experts and fellow writers to give you feedback and make your novel shine. Look for reading and writing groups through libraries, bookstores, writing societies, and online networks like Meetup. Friends and family may be convenient readers, but ask them for help only if they have the expertise to make your writing better.

If you are the type of writer who slaves over every word, critiques can be difficult at first. Remember that you don’t have to make every change, but if you are open to suggestions, people will be more willing to offer their honest opinions in the future. Provide paper copies, if possible, so less vocal readers can mark your work with comments to be read in private.

Another benefit of participating in a writing group is that you get experience reading your work in front of an audience.

2.   Make sure each chapter ends with some tension.

Imagine your reader is comfortable in bed reading your book. Your reader says, “I’ll just read to the end of this chapter and then I’ll turn out the light.” If you ramp up the tension or suspense at the end of the chapter, you will entice your reader to move on to see what happens. Sometimes leaving a question unanswered is enough to get the pages turning.

Now you have your draft finished, turn to the end of each chapter and ask yourself, “Would I turn the page or turn off the light?”

3. Attack your personal writing imperfections with the “Find” function

Once you start having others critique your work, you may find you have quirks or issues that pop up again and again in your writing. For example, in my case I use “I think,” “He decided,”  and other thought verbs too often.

What I write:  I think I’ll go to the store. She decided to go to the store.

Much stronger:  I went to the store. She ran to the store.

If you are like me, the thought verbs are so ingrained I don’t even notice them when I read my work. To get brutal during revisions I used the “find” editing tool and looked for every “think” and “decided.”

Another writing trap is to use the same descriptions again and again. “She shrugged, he nodded, he wrinkled his nose.” Use “find” to get an idea how often you use a given phrase and decide if you need to generate some fresh ones.

Once you locate the offending words, rewrite the sentences to make them stronger. Do this again on the finished draft to make sure your personal quirks haven’t slipped back in.

4. Walk through your characters’ world to strengthen descriptions

I recently had the opportunity to meet with a wonderful writer who shared his techniques for making his scene descriptions specific and clear. Rather than simply visualizing events in his head, he actually stood up and acted them out.

For example, character A meets character B, who is much younger and has her eyes on her cell phone. How does character A get character B’s attention? The written description of the actions became more realistic with a little play acting. Enlist friends and family to play charades with some of your trickier scenes and see how they work.

5. Have your computer read your novel to you.

As a final step, if your software has a speaking or reading function, have your computer read your work to you as you silently read the text, preferably from a paper copy. The computer will have a measured pace, which allows you to find double words, words that were left out, spacing issues and all sorts of other flaws that are easy for you to overlook while reading silently.

The revision process is a necessary step for making your novel the best it can be. Hopefully these tips will help.

Do you have any tips to make revising easier? If your choose, please share them.


How to Write a Great #Mystery (From NPR)

Interested in writing or reading mysteries? You might want listen to an interview from Talk of the Nation (NPR) with Tana French, author of In The Woods and The Likeness,

and Louis Bayard, author of Mr. Timothy and The Pale Blue Eye.

I love Tana French’s statement about how crime novels are a barometer of society.

You can find a transcript at the NPR website.

What part of the interview resonated with you?


Photo via Visualhunt.com

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