Friday, November 27, 2015

Wriiting: Guest Interview at Suspense Sisters

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I sort of hate to see the Christmas shopping season start so early, but if you're taking a break from the Black Friday activity, I think you'll like this, especially if you're a writer.

Last week I talked about this book, The 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing. Today, on the Suspense Sisters blog, I'm interviewing one of the editors of that book. And there's a chance to win a copy of it by leaving a comment. Check out the site. And come back here next week for more of my Random Jottings.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. The day means different things to different people. To some people, it means turkey, dressing, and Mom's sweet potato casserole. For others it's a day spent in front of the TV set watching football. To many, it's a day to be with family.

Unfortunately, for some it's another day of wondering where they'll sleep, what they'll eat, how they'll stay warm and dry. We are blessed people. Give thanks, but also plan to do something for someone less fortunate. Pay it forward. You'll be glad you did.

May I wish you and yours a wonderful and meaningful Thanksgiving. I'll be back Friday.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


I thought I'd give readers of this blog a sneak peek at the first chapter of my latest novella, Silent Night, Deadly Night. It's available on Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Readers of my newsletter have already had a preview, but I wanted everyone to know about it before the prices go up. Right now, the Kindle version is $1.99, the print version $5.99.  The Kindle price goes up a dollar after Thanksgiving. (End of commercial message).

     Here's a preview:

It was a scene that made you want to sing “Silent Night”—or at least hum a few bars. A full moon shone on the blanket of snow covering the yard of the home. Drapes at each side of a picture window were drawn back to display the holiday decorations within. Although Christmas had come and gone five days earlier, the tree’s colored lights still burned, reflecting off the ornaments and tinsel scattered through the branches. Holiday lights on the eaves of the house at Redman Lane cast a multicolored glow over the scene. 
The only false note was the front door of the house, standing wide-open and spilling light onto a narrow path across the porch. 
Officer Adela Reyes of the Hilton Police Department slowed her cruiser to a stop at the curb. An open door at three in the morning indicated either trouble or a careless homeowner. She scanned the scene before lifting the microphone from its clip on her patrol car’s dashboard. Reyes pressed the button to transmit. “This is Officer Reyes. I’ve got an open front door and lights still on at 7710 Redman Lane. I’m going to check it out.”
“Roger. Are you requesting backup?”
“I don’t think so. It’s probably just someone who forgot to lock up. I’ll call in if I need help.”
She flipped on the car’s strobes to warn anyone coming up on her cruiser, although she doubted there’d be any traffic on this residential street at this time of night—or rather, of morning. With one hand on her holstered Glock, a five-cell flashlight in her other hand—both for illumination and a use as a club—she carefully approached the house, slogging through the undisturbed snow of the front yard. 
When she reached the front porch, Reyes knocked loudly on the frame of the open door. “Police. Anyone home?” She repeated this several times before she walked inside. She’d learned that houses give off vibes when they were occupied, and her gut told her this one was empty. Nevertheless, she went through each room, calling out, scanning every hiding place. When she had satisfied herself that the house was unoccupied, she keyed the microphone secured to the epaulet near the collar of her uniform. 
“This is Reyes again. That house with the open door seems unoccupied.” She paused to think about her course of action. “I’ll push the button to lock the door when I leave.”
After shutting the door, she walked back to her squad car, when she noticed a peculiar mound of snow off to one side of the path. The little hill was about three feet by six, roughly the same dimensions as a grave. There was nothing unusual about snow piling up in mounds and drifts, but this one looked different somehow. Reyes was curious about what might be under that mound. Was it a toy of some sort, left in the yard and covered with snow? She decided to give it a look. As she approached, the flashlight in her left hand, her right hovered near her holstered weapon.
Reyes edged over and kicked a bit of snow away from the mound with a booted foot. She aimed her flashlight downward to see what she’d exposed, then stepped back and gave an almost-silent gasp. Up from the hole she’d made in the snow stared a pair of eyes—eyes in the face of a dead woman. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Writing: Twelve Fatal Flaws

I rarely do book reviews on this site, but I recently had the opportunity to read a pre-release copy of a book I think should be on every writer's bookshelf (or e-reader). It's The 12 Fatal Flaws Of Fiction Writing. It's a multi-authored book, which means you get the collective wisdom of editors C. S. Lakin, Linda S. Clare, Christy Distler, Robin Patchen, and Rachel Starr Thomson. And they do a masterful job of weaving everything together into an understandable work that I found very helpful.

The book not only talks about each of the flaws, but also gives examples of them and how to correct or avoid them. The chapters include Nothin' Happenin', Too Much Backstory, and Pesky Adverbs and "Weasel Words," among others.

In the section on showing and telling, the editor talks about an author who is told they should reveal backstory through dialogue--but instead of jettisoning their precious words, they simply put them in quotation marks. Rather than simply saying, "Don't do this," the editors go on to provide examples of what not to do, then how to correct these flaws.

In several places, the Rule of Three is invoked. It not only makes good sense, it's easy to remember. One application is that, when a character speaks three lines of dialogue, the writer either switches to speech by another character or inserts an action beat. Good advice, and it works.

The section on adverbs and weasel words is one I bookmarked for that final review of a manuscript--and we writers know how important that can be.

For those who think novels spring, fully formed, from the keys of an author's computer, this book will be eye-opening. For authors who are sweating out a manuscript, whether their first or fiftieth, this book serves as an excellent review. I highly recommend it.

I'll be doing a follow-up interview with one of the editors of this book on the Suspense Sisters blog in a week, and there'll be an opportunity to comment and win a copy. Stay tuned.

My question for you: What fatal flaws have you encountered in either reading or writing? I'd like to hear.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Resolving Conflicting Stories

If you follow this blog or my posts on Facebook, you know that I enjoy golf (although the game Jerry and I play might shock purists--we don't keep score). As some kind of reward--I don't even recall what I bought--I get a complimentary subscription to Golf Digest. And the most recent issue contained an interview with writer James Patterson, one that raised an interesting question.

It seems that Patterson's books are published in both Great Britain and the US, and through circumstances that aren't important, the British book was released first. Patterson didn't like the ending, so he rewrote it for the US book. That's all well and good, but it left Patterson with a dilemma. This was a series, and the plot of the new one depended on the ending of the preceding one. How did Patterson handle this? He didn't say.

So here's your chance to be a writer. How would you resolve this conflict? I look forward to reading your solutions in the comments section.

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