Thursday, December 4, 2014

Crazy November is over!

This month has been a crazy one for me. I finished NaNoWriMo - and actually got 50,000 words of my next novel written during the 30 days of November. This would be Book #2 in the Em Ridge Series, The Bitter End.

Look for it in early summer 2015. 

This month I've been interviewed over on Carolyn Rowland's blog. Click here. Come on over and visit and leave a comment or two. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

These long, long days sitting here at my laptop...

In the olden days—the olden days being five years ago—what I did as an author was visit bookstores. Every town we went into, every vacation we took, always part of that time was spent searching the Yellow Pages to find bookstores. Then, my most recent novel in hand I would visit bookstores, talk with managers, and often hand them a copy of my latest and suggesting—nicely—that they might want to consider maybe putting my book on their shelves.

Now, in the brand new world of publishing I no longer do that. First of all, nobody uses the Yellow Pages any more, and second, my writing is online. My entire writing business is online. And yes, it is a business. I used to be a writer and "other people" took care of marketing and book covers and reviews. Any problems and I would just "get my agent to handle it." Now, it's all up to me, and work is darn hard. But it's oh, so rewarding to be my own

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. What I need now, what all authors need, are reviews, and specifically Amazon reviews. Come the new year I will be doing some specific advertising for Night Watch, and did you know that advertising sites look at your Amazon reviews and their ratings to even decide if they want to take your money and advertise your book? So, that's why I need those reviews. That's why I need to be way up there in the Amazon rankings. That's why I have spent long, long hours here at my computers looking for and querying reviewers and book bloggers. 

This fall has been an incredibly busy one for me. I have gone through Indie review sites and sent off review requests by the dozens, whoops, I mean hundreds. But it's beginning to pay off. The reviews are beginning to come it. So Part 1 of my Night Watch Marketing Plan is starting to pay off. 

So, if you are thinking of becoming an author/publisher there are just a few groups I wanted to share. 

  - Indie Author Group:  . This is a great Facebook group of Indie writing friends. You can ask any stupid question you have, and someone there will have an answer

 - The Alliance of Independent Authors -   This professional organization is just what I was looking for after I let my membership to the RWA and MWA lapse. There's a lively Facebook group, plus many, many resources - videos, blogs, etc. Plus, everyone is so darn friendly there! 

One of the by-products and great fun things about all of this is meeting new people. I've met so many wonderful people online, other mystery writers like myself, and we're carrying on some great online discussions of books, life and all the rest. Stay tuned to spring 2015 for Season 2 of my Author Interviews where I'll be introducing some of my new friends to you.

I was just reading somewhere that they say that constant sitting in the same position (for example, when for hours at a time when you're leaning into your computer, squinty-eyed from reading a gazillion book blogs) is worse than smoking. 

And a special and hearty congratulations to Muriel who won the Amazon gift card and to Lois who won a free copy of Strange Faces!

Want to know how you can be involved in future contests, giveaways and book news? Just join my newsletter email list.

But the rewards are there. This past weekend was the physical book launch for Night Watch. It was such a wonderful time in the large and lovely and river front home of friends. Here are a few of the lovely friends who joined me.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Visiting with Author Lyn Cote today...

I'm visiting author Lyn Cote's blog today, and I'd love for you to come on over, visit and leave your comments there.

To be eligible for the draw for STRANGE FACES, (as mentioned on her blog) sign up here for my newsletter. That draw will take place at the end of November.

And yes, I have two contests running during the month of November for my newsletter subscribers.

And now - I will get back to outlining and getting my thoughts together for the NaNoWriMo. One more week until it begins.

Anyone else joining me?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

3 Non-Technological Reasons We Get Tripped Up on Technology, a guest post by Donna Fitch

I am so pleased to offer you this guest post today by my friend and technology whiz, Donna Fitch.

I’m in the midst of a 10 Weeks of Technology Blog Tour, writing on a wide range of subjects related to technology. I’m especially focusing on problems people have with technology and suggesting ways to overcome them. I realized just the other day, though, how easy it is to trip over our own human frailties in trying to help others. Do you ever have trouble with these, whether technology-related or not?

Imprecise wording
My friend, whom I’ll call Gwenaëlle*, is putting together a virtual blog tour for her book, and she wanted confirmation that she had it right. She was doing some written blog posts and some audio interviews. She asked, “Do my interviews count in that as well or is that a separate deal? Can we combine them into one to keep it simple?” I responded, in what I thought was a straightforward answer, “I would think if you've already got interviews, use them as blog posts. That would make it much easier.” But Gwenaëlle said, “Okay, I’m confused. When Imelda interviewed me I thought it was for the virtual book tour. Same with my blog for Svea. The interview with Mattie Hunfrid was also about the book... so...?” Her next question showed that I was missing her point. “So it doesn’t matter if it is either a blog or an audio?”

Instead of clarifying by the explanations I used, I made it more confusing for her. It’s easier to see in retrospect, but when we use an informal method (such as Facebook Chat, which was what I used here), it’s easy to just type in the first words that come to mind. The shorthand that works in my head doesn’t work for the person who’s confused. If I’d understood right away that she was confused about using audio files in the same way as a typical written blog post, I could have been more precise in my wording.

Mental blocks
When helping explain something to someone else, whether technology-related or not, I’m prevented from completely understanding because of the way my head is wired. The key to this issue is the phrase, “It never occurred to me that...” If I’m helping my friend Gwenaëlle in the example above, the unspoken phrase is “It never occurred to me that she didn’t know that a blog post could be an audio file as well as a written file.” Because it didn’t even enter my thinking, I phrased my responses in a way that just confused her.

When helping someone with a problem, we would do well to step back and examine our mental blocks, so that the answer becomes about their needs rather than our limitations. What is it that prevents me from seeing why the other person is asking for help? What looks like a big wall may just be a block we can easily shove out of the way to see clearly the other’s needs. Whether a mote or a beam, it’s still an obstruction. This topic goes hand in hand with the next one. 

Erroneous assumptions
When I responded to my friend’s question, not only did I have a mental block and phrased my answer imprecisely, I made an erroneous assumption that, because she recorded those interviews, she knew as much as I did on the subject. Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt is important, but when I assume too much, I make the assistance about what’s convenient to me rather than what’s helpful to her.

The bottom line in this somewhat rambling post is aimed squarely at me. I will be much more helpful to someone else if I keep their needs in mind. I must phrase my advice in a way that doesn’t talk down to her, but brings her along to a common point. I need to be aware of the obstacles that prevent me from not seeing her point, and those that distance me from her actual needs.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful. For other stops along my 10-week journey, see my schedule at

I love the Random Name Generator at

 Donna K. Fitch, Master of Library Science, Master’s Certificate in Web Design and Development, is the founder and CEO of Maximum Author Impact, creating beautiful WordPress websites, training webinars and other resources for indie authors. She is the independent author of Second Death, The Source of Lightning, and The Color of Darkness and Other Stories, and a member of the Alexandria Publishing Group, aimed at raising the level of professionalism among indie authors. In her day job, she is the digital communication specialist in the office of marketing and communication at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tidbits, giveaways and a NEW RELEASE

Yesterday, my long-awaited (well, long awaited for me, anyway) mystery Night Watch went live on Amazon as both a Kindle ebook and a trade paperback book. 

Night Watch has been a long time coming for me. Poor Em Ridge has been a part of my life for quite a while. Before I wrote six books for Harlequin, I wanted to write a series of mysteries which featured a female boat captain. Back when I was writing Dark Water and Black Ice, she was there. She was in my thoughts during the first Bouchercon mystery conference I ever attended. I had the idea for Em Ridge (a
nd her name and her backstory have gone through various permutations through the years) for a long time. She was there in my mind, begging to come out, asking me over and over to tell her story, get it down for you, the readers.

But a whole lot of other things got in the way and it’s only now – now that I’m an author/publisher, that I am releasing her to the world.

Em Ridge is a boat captain. She’s not a huge container ship captain taking goods and containers all over the world, nor does she helm ferries or tugboats (although she could – and maybe in a future book she will.). She’s not in the military or Coast Guard. She’s not a police force boat captain. What she does is deliver boats. She’s someone who gets hired by people to take their boats (usually luxury yachts) from Point A to Point B.

Normally, a fun job. You get to spend time on other people’s fancy boats! But in Em’s life, mystery, murder and mayhem always follow.

Night Watch is the story of her first captaining job after getting her Coast Guard license. Having the billionaire’s daughter go overboard on this first job is not a good sign. The sailboat is new, state of the art, her crew on this trip include two close sail­ing friends. But an unknown fourth, who can’t even tie a bow­line, and the unruly owner’s daughter turn the idyllic trip into an adventure not wanted.

Two years ago Em buried her husband, her soul­mate, her sail­ing buddy, and with him she buried a secret. As hours on the open seas slide by, secrets are res­ur­rected tying Em’s past to a present, awash with mur­der and deception.

In November - during NaNoWriMo I plan to write The Bitter End, Book Two in the series which will have Em wandering around the Bermuda Triangle with a crazy conspiracy theorist on a fast cigarette boat.

Anyone here joining me for crazy NaNoWriMo where you sign up to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days? Let me know and we can tear our hair out together. Right now I'm in the outlining phase on Scrivener. 

In case you want to listen to my voice, which I don't particularly, I was recently interviewed by Selaw Ministries about my spring release Strange Faces. This interview was supposed to occur early in the summer, closer to the May release of that book, but Arthur intervened. That's Hurricane Arthur.

Giveaways? Ah yes, that was in my title wash't it and I made you read all the way to the bottom to get to the 'good stuff'. However, giveaways are only for my Very Special Friends. I don't give away stuff to just anyone. But to join the ranks of the Very Special Friends, all you have to do is sign up for my newsletter here.

Next week there will be a newsletter with details of how you, too, can win a trip to Hawaii. 

Well, I'm lying about the Hawaii part, but it could be something you might want to take to Hawaii. So, does that count?

Until next time - 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In the Interview Room...

Today I'm being interviewed by Terry Odell over on her blog about my newest release. Go
on over and visit and join in the discussion.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

You mean I have to do…that? (or—how I spent my summer vacation)

While a whole bunch of wonderful Indie short story writers visited my blog over the summer (And if you missed reading these great interviews please refer to the archives), I was writing, reading-over stuff, finding mistakes, editing, writing, finding more mistakes, reading again, re-writing whole sections, reading the whole durn thing aloud until my voice got hoarse, moving paragraphs from here to there, making corrections, having my Mac Book read it to me, and making more corrections, having my tablet read it to me. (How the heck did I miss that ending period the last 50 times?) Repeat the above process a few more times, and you will know get a bit of an idea of how I spent my summer vacation. 

In two weeks I will be releasing Night Watch my very first full-length mystery novel as an Indie author. If you are a blog reader of mine, you will know that I released Strange Faces, my collection of short mystery stories on my birthday this past May as a bit of a trial foray into the Indie world. Actually, it was sort of a birthday present to me. 

This Indie journey? It's not what I expected. It's way more work. Since the early 90s, I have published 18 novels with traditional publishers, and here is a list of all the things I never had to think about before:

Covers: That didn’t stop me from mightily complaining when my publisher came up with a cover I didn't like, but the buck stopped with them. Not me. If readers rolled their eyes at me and said, “What about that cover of yours?” I merely nodded knowingly. It was them, not me. Now, however, it’s me. Scary. 

Editing: I knew enough to hire an editor and a good one right off. 

Copy-editing: Oh my. This is still ongoing. Two weeks out from when Pre-Order turns to Order on Night Watch, and I’m sure there are errors - still. This, basically was my summer. (Read first paragraph. Re-read it. Now re-read it again. Get it?) As a full-fledged Indie author, the buck stops with me. If there is a misplaced comma, it’s my fault. If I’ve left off the ending period or quotation marks at the end of speech, it’s my fault.

Back cover copy: The what? You mean I have to write that? I’m terrible at that! That’s not my gift. Not my calling. I want to retreat to my turret and write the Great Canadian novel. Well, hello real world. 

The book description blurb for sites like Kindle and Kobo: See above paragraph.

eBook formatting: Since I am married to a professional book formatter, I can wipe my hand across my brow and say, "Whew! Got that covered." He, actually, has taken all of my OOPs that I’ve been able to get the rights back to, (Ongoing. Stuff of another blog…) and put them up as eBooks. 

Marketing and Promotion: Since traditional publishers also demand this of authors these days, I had a bit of a clue when it came to this. However, (and a big ‘however’) I have no one to blame but myself if plans fail. 

If you are a reader of books, (and you're probably not reading this unless you're a reader of books),  this is a little behind-the-scenes look into what we go through. It's not all writing anymore. Two thirds of the actual time you spend on the book will be all this other stuff. But as a famous Canadian comedian has said, “Keep your stick on the ice because we’re all in this together.”

Even with all of this, I can't think of anything else I would rather do. I get to sit here in my pajamas all day.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Summer Short Story Spectacular, Season 1, Episode 18 - BEN SOLOMON

With this blog, the Summer Short Story Spectacular ends. Season 1 has come to a close. Tuesday marks the Fall Equinox, a beautiful time of colorful trees here in the east. It has been a joy and fun for me to meet so many short story writers and share their stories here. I hope you have enjoyed this summer with me. 

Next summer? Yes, there will be a Season 2. For spring and summer 2015 I plan to interview fiction writers who write about the sea, or sailing, or set their stories on water. Lakes, brooks, creeks, the ocean—doesn't matter. 

Why am I doing that? To commemorate the birth of my new mystery series. Shhh. Keep tuned to this blog for more. Starting next week my blog will once again go into writing about My Indie Journey. 

For my final spectacular short story author, I am pleased to introduce you to Ben Solomon. 
Ben grew up with Picasso, Cagney and Beethoven. Classical arts training, comic books and Hollywood's golden age rounded out his education and provided inspiration for a lifetime. He's worked across many disciplines, attempting to capture the heart and soul of music onto canvas, translate oils and celluloid into words.

Solomon's passion for the tough guy world of early gangster and PI flicks led to the creation of "The Hard-Boiled Detective," a short story series starring a nameless gumshoe in a throwback era seeking truth, justice, and sometimes a living. He launched the ongoing series online in February 2013, offering three yarns a month to subscribers. His sleuth has appeared in e-zines across the web as well as the 2014 anthology "The Shamus Sampler II." Another adventure is scheduled to appear in an upcoming anthology published by Fox Spirit Books.

What is your all-time favorite short story and why?

I'll pitch you the one that always comes to mind: "Red Wind" by Raymond Chandler. One of the best opening paragraphs I've ever read. An opening I'm sure even Elmore Leonard found a worthy exception to his "Ten Rules of Writing." In five short sentences Chandler creates the yarn's universe, its laws of nature, its tone and sense, its voice. Simply masterful.

What is the most difficult part of writing short fiction?

The voice trips me up a lot. Most of my work's written in first person, and that makes the narrator's perspective and attitude crucial. The voice makes it play, sing. Gives it heart and soul.

What piece of advice would you give to a prospective short story writer?

Write your ass off and make it your own.

Which of your short stories should we read first and why?

What a swell opportunity for a plug. The Hard-Boiled Detective 1 just came out in paperback and soon hits the e-shelves. This volume is a collection of the first 11 adventures from the monthly series I began in February 2013. I've been writing three stories a month for this subscription series. With 57 tales and counting, I figured it was high time for the first book. So sure, start out with the daddy of 'em all, "Statement No. 1: Pierre-Louis Leblanc." Each yarn is a stand-alone, but there is a progression to the writing and characters without getting into subplots and backstories.

Where can writers find you, Ben?


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Summer Short Story Spectacular, Season 1, Episode 17 - JA MENZIES

It must have been the early 90s when I first met J.A. Menzies, (Or N.J.) I was enroute to Toronto for a writer's conference and she was the designated driver who picked me up. I think, also, we did a short skit for that conference. We've kept in touch ever since following each others' careers and life. 

J. A. writes contemporary mysteries in the Golden Age style. Her novels include the Manziuk and Ryan Mysteries (Shaded Light and Glitter of Diamonds which many reviewers have compared to the best of Agatha Christie. Library Journal called J. A. a “master of plotting.” Her third mystery, Shadow of a Butterfly, will be out soon. J. A. is a member of a number of organizations for writers, including Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, and The Writers Union of Canada. J. A. Menzies is the alter ego of award-winning author and speaker N. J. Lindquist.

Okay, JA, you know the drill. Here are the questions. 
What is your all-time favorite short story and why?

It’s not really my favourite—I don’t think I even like it—but the short story that has stuck in my brain and is always the first one I think of when I hear the words “short story” is “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. I think I was in elementary school when we read it for English, and it was probably my intro to horror writing. The build-up and pacing is just perfect. I hated it and loved it at the same time. 

As for my favourite, that might be “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Anderson. I was given both Andersons and Grimm’s fairy tales when I was very young, so they kind of molded my tastes. I later loved the stories of O’Henry. I just love twist endings, although I prefer them to be happy ones. ☺

What is the most difficult part of writing short fiction for you? 

Narrowing the story down to fit the word-count. My Manziuk and Ryan mysteries are 130,000 words or longer, with multiple point of view characters and complex sub plots. For a short story, everything has to be smaller. You’re baking a cupcake, not creating a six-layer wedding cake. So you need a limited number of characters, either a single plot-line or a main one with one very small sub-plot, and only a few scenes—sometimes only one scene. I usually struggle to find an idea small enough, and to believe that what I have is enough to make an interesting story.

What piece of advice would you give to a prospective short story writer?

Read a variety of stories from different genres and addressed to different audiences, and determine what you like or don’t like about them. At the same time, write at least 10 or 20 short stories of your own before you start worrying about getting published. Think of it as you would if you were learning to play the piano by playing a variety of short pieces. You’re practising your craft. Honing your skills. Discovering what you do well. Identifying what you need to work on. I also highly recommend The Elements of Fiction books on developing characters, setting, plots, etc. 

Which of your short stories should we read first and why?

Probably “The Case of the Sneezing Accountant.” 
It will introduce you to my series’ characters, detectives Paul Manziuk and Jacquie Ryan. If you want to know who they are, Publisher’s Weekly said "Ontario police detectives Paul Manziuk and his new partner, Jacqueline Ryan, make an odd team—he's white, an abrupt, patronizing veteran, while she's a recently promoted, vivacious black woman—but in [Menzies'] debut mystery the two rub elbows and tempers to captivating effect.”

This short story will be free on Amazon from September 17-19. 

Where can readers find you?

Amazon author page

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Summer Short Story Spectacular, Season 1, Episode 16 - MELISSA YUAN-INNES

Today I welcome to my blog short story writerMelissa Yuan-Innes!

She is an emergency physician, writer, and cheerfully married mother of two loud children. They wreak havoc outside of Montreal, Canada. Her latest Hope Sze medical mystery, Terminally Ill, was hailed as "utterly likeable" by Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and hit the Kobo Top 50 bestseller list.

Time for some questions. Melissa, What is your all time favorite short story and why?

I kind of hate picking out my favourites, but when I was growing up, I would re-read "The Most Dangerous Game" and "The Monkey's Paw." Danger! Thrills! A satisfying ending! As an adult, I've read almost all the Best of Fantasy and Horror collections, and one of my favourites is "Gestella," by Susan Palwick, about a werewolf who falls in love with a man, except like dogs, she ages much faster than him...

What is the most difficult part of writing short fiction for you?

Sometimes, I write a very quick bite of a story that satisfies the poet in me, but the only to have the editor respond, "This story's just getting started." So I have to decide if I want to keep the story short and savage, or develop it into a more complex tale.

What piece of advice would you give to a prospective short story writer?

Work hard and have fun. 

Sounds like great advice, Melissa! Readers are going to want to know which is your short stories should they read first and why?

I have a soft spot for "Indian Time," featuring a Mohawk man newly released from jail who's trying to get to know his two sons again, only his white mother-in-law stands in his way. Publishers Weekly called it "impressive" and "moving" and named it one of the best short stories of 2010.

On a more personal level, I talked to some students at St. Lawrence College about it, and Tesha Sunday, one of the Mohawk students, had made my infant daughter a ribbon dress, "because you wrote about my culture, and you got it right." I had my daughter wear that dress until she ripped the sleeve!

Melissa's links:

Indian Time
And her latest novel: Terminally Ill

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Summer Short Story Spectacular, Season 1, Episode 15 - LINA GARDINER

Even though the calendar still says we're officially in the season of "summer," here in eastern Canada we have had our first "frost warning." Yikes. Does  that mean snow is around the corner? Maybe not for a little while. Autumn is really a beautiful time of year here, despite frost. Usually it's warm and unbelievably colorful, a near-perfect season.

This is a special blog for me today. I'm so pleased to introduce my very good writing pal, Lina Gardiner who is an amazing writer. If you haven't read her books, you owe it to yourself to do so, but I'm not here to talk about all of her works today, I'm here to introduce you to her shorter works - since this is Summer Short Story Spectacular. 

Before we get to the questions, let's get to know her a little:

Lina’s first book was published in 2007. At every point along the way—before 2007 and since—she enjoys the daily routines of being an author: from conceiving an idea to writing and revising, from networking with other authors, to attending workshops and learning sessions and, of course, holding that bright and shiny, newly published book in her hands—always the best experience ever. 

Being a writer is a dream come true for Lina, but the friendships she’s forged with fellow authors and readers are the main perks. Those friendships make that solitary job a richer and more rewarding experience.

Lina belongs to several writers’ groups and has served as a board member and in several chapter positions.

On the home front, Lina Lives in New Brunswick, Canada, a hot spot for legendary ghosts, tall tales and odd happenings which probably add to her love of a good mystery. The spooky stories her grandfather told his grandchildren in the "parlor" when their grandmother wasn't paying attention also sparked the wonders of imagination and a love of storytelling.

It didn't take long for Lina to be "noticed." Her Jess Vandermire Vampire Hunter Series are not to be missed. She's also garnered a number of awards - The  Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Paranormal-Time Travel-Futuristic, the Prism Award for Best First Book, from FF&P (Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal Chapter of RWA), and she was a nominee both for the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Best Book Awards, and  the Paranormal Romance Guild Reviewers’ Choice Awards.
Her books have been well received by such reviewers as Kirkus Reviews and USA Today’s HEA blog, including a 4.5-star rating from RT Book Reviews.

Let's get to the interview questions: Lina, w
hat is your all-time favorite short story and why?

In answer to your question, I’d have to say my favorite short story of all time is “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a wonderful psychological thriller. Not an easy task in a short story. Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart perfectly portrays the inner workings of a madman in a very short time.

A number of my summer guests have chosen that book as an all-time favorite! W
hat is the most difficult part of writing short fiction? 

I guess the most difficult part of writing a short story is keeping it tight and concise. While sub-plots and subordinate characters enrich a full-length novel they don’t have enough room in a short story. Writing a short story means implementing all of the same plot points necessary in a full-length book: Introduction of characters, location, theme, turning points, big-black moment (also known as dénouement) and resolution.

What piece of advice would you give to a prospective short story writer?

Write your story without thinking about the short stories being difficult. Often times, writers instinctively put in all of the necessary elements. (Even the beginners) After all, we’ve read for years and we have a feel for how the story should play out. Now, there’s a lot more to writing than that but it’s the best starting point. Write, write, write. 

 Which of your short stories should we read first and why?
I’ve only written 2 short stories. A Moment of Truth (free story). It was a test to see if I could do it.  and the second was a book that I’m eventually going to write a sequel to…. Dangerous Exposure from Wild Rose Press.

Where can readers find you, Lina?


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Summer Short Story Spectacular, Season 1, Episode 14 - MARGARET DALEY

As September begins to wind down, I'd love for you to meet Margaret Daley, an award-winning author of ninety books (five million sold worldwide.) All I can say to that is Wow! Great work Margaret! 

 She has been married for over forty years and is a firm believer in romance and love. When she isn’t traveling, she’s writing love stories, often with a suspense thread and corralling her three cats that think they rule her household. 

Here are my questions for Margaret:

What is your all-time favorite short story and why? 

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe I love that story because of the way suspense was created in it.

I agree. That's one of my favorites, too! I'd advise any short story writer to get ahold of that story and study it. 

Margaret, what is the most difficult part of writing short fiction? 

Flushing out the main characters to add depth to the story.

What piece of advice would you give to a prospective short story writer? 

Learn to write tight. Watch your adjectives and adverbs.

Which is your short stories should we read first and why? 

Deadly Hunt and Deadly Intent are novellas (part of the series Strong Women, Extraordinary Situations). I wrote a short story for Love Inspired Suspense for the Harlequin website. It's called Guarding His Child. Click here to read the story.

You can learn more about Margaret's books here:

Buy Deadly Hunt links:

Buy Deadly Intent links:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Summer Short Story Spectacular, Season 1, Episode 13 - LYN COTE

For my first September blog post I'd like for you to meet Lyn Cote. Lyn has been an online friend of mine for a long time. She's a prolific author and just a really nice person!

Since her first Love Inspired romance debuted in 1998, Lyn Cote has written over 40 books. A RITA finalist and a Carol Award winner, Lyn writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense and historical. Her homepage blog features "Strong Women, Brave Stories." 

Lyn, What is your all-time favorite short story and why? 

That’s easy O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” I love that the young couple love each other so much they are willing to give away what is most dear to them. And love the twist at the end. 

What is the most difficult part of writing short fiction? 

Packing so much meaning into each word. I tried to sell to several magazines and most wanted only 1500 words. That’s very tight!

What piece of advice would you give to a prospective short story writer? 

Concentrate on nouns and verbs and the shading of meanings. Keep your thesaurus handy and pick out just the RIGHT word.

Which of your short stories should we read first and why? 

Well, I never play favorites with my “children.” I love each of them equally :-) But after reading my Amazon reviews, I find many readers like the “twist” at the end of “A Diamond in the Rough.”

Where can readers find you, Lyn? 


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Summer Short Story Spectacular, Season 1, Episode 12 - VALERIE DOUGLAS

Today I welcome multi-published author and friend, the very versatile Valerie Douglas. I first met Valerie, as most authors meet each other these days—online—but I can say that she's become a friend. 

Valerie is a prolific writer and a genre-crosser, much to the delight of her fans. A fan of authors in almost every genre she writes classic fantasy, romance, suspense, and, as V.J. Devereaux, erotic romance.

Happily married to the love of her life and her best friend, she's also companion to two dogs, four cats and an African clawed frog named Hopper who delights in tormenting the cats from his tank.
Here is her guest blog post which I'm sure you will find interesting. 

It’s weird, there are times when I look at the words on a page, and I don’t remember writing them. I know I did, but I’m a pantser – I write by the seat of my pants – so I just write, transcribing what’s happening to these people and how their world works. There are times when these characters who have become as close as friends, if not closer, make me laugh or smile, and times when the tears pour down my face even as I type.
But I always say, ‘if I’m not feeling it, my readers aren’t feeling it’ and that seems to be true, judging by my reviews.
An old canard of the writing profession was that you had to write and publish short stories before you could get a publisher to take you seriously. Unfortunately for me, I could never quite manage to write short. Every time I tried, it would get longer and longer – and in some cases, very long. 
Some characters stay with you, though, and in some cases they stay with readers. In this case, beta readers.
I had written one novel – The Coming Storm - with a prologue detailing the events that would lead to the main story, but I quickly realized that the prologue was mostly what writers call back-story, and not necessary to the novel. 
Being a smart writer, though, I wasn’t silly enough to delete it, I just cut and saved it under another name.
However, my beta readers asked how two of the characters got together to precipitate the events that followed. I wanted to know, too… and suddenly, I found the ability to write a short story that explained how that relationship came about. That novel became Not Magic Enough.
That brought up another question – in The Coming Storm, three of the main characters clearly have a history. Although it’s mentioned in the main book, like any memory, no one goes into any details. I wanted to know how their unlikely friendship developed.

I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to write more short stories – there’s this story based from another series that I thought would be short, but it already looks like it will go longer than I anticipated. *laughing* Not exactly a bad thing….

For more information visit:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer Short Story Spectacular, Season 1, Episode 11 - J.M. DAVIS

As  the summer winds down and we begin to come to the end of Season 1 of the Summer Short Story Spectacular,  I'd like to introduce you to short story mystery author, J.M. Davis. 

Tell the  readers a bit about yourself, J.M.

After I retired, I began writing a family newsletter. Prior to that, all of my writing had been factual material pertaining to my career, technical agreements, patent applications, and company polices. In each family newsletter I added one story based on some event that happened during my youth. My brothers and sister told me they really enjoyed reading those stories. Apparently, the only part of the newsletter they actually liked.
In 2001, I decided to try writing fiction. I wrote for nineteen hours straight, only taking short breaks. Writing fiction gave me the kind of enjoyment I had from circuit designs during my early years as a young engineer.

A few years later, I began attending the writers conference held in Oklahoma City each year. Two of my short stories won third place in the categories in which they were entered. The following year, my novel won third place as well. I continued to write mainly for my own enjoyment, until I learned I could publish my stories in digital format.

I published my first short story on March 5, 2013. So far I have published five short stories, one suspense novel, and one romantic comedy. I plan to  continue writing short stories and novels until my mind gives out.

What is your all-time favorite short story and why?

A short story that has stayed with me for decades is The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, the pen name for William Sydney Porter. I was a young boy the first time I heard that story, but I understood the theme. When I was older, I read the story and thought it was even better than I had remembered it from my youth.

The Gift of the Magi is the story of a poor, young couple who love each other so much they sacrifice the most important things in their lives in order to get enough money to purchase their spouse a gift for Christmas. The gifts then turn out to be useless because Jim sold his watch to purchase a set of combs for Della's long flowing hair, but Della sold her hair to get enough money to purchase a chain for Jim's watch, handed down to him from his father, who had gotten it from his Jim's grandfather. 

J.M. you are the third Season 1 author to talk about that story. Readers, if you want to read it, flip back to my blog with Teresa Leigh Judd, in Episode 9. I put a link in that blog to the story in its entirety.  J.M., what is the most difficult part of writing short fiction?

For me, the most difficult part of writing short fiction is including enough information to convey the story clearly, without writing so much detail it drags the pace down. My first drafts often leave out a few things the reader needs to know to fully gasp the theme I want to convey. Writers understand why their characters do certain things, but if those reason are not made clear to the reader somewhere within the story, the reader may not fully understand the character's motives for certain actions.  

What piece of advice would you give to a prospective short story writer?

I recommend getting the complete story down first, and then go back and start revising it. I have found that works best for me. Paragraphs and scenes can be switched around later. The final versions of my short stories are generally far different the original drafts. 

Which of  your short stories should we read first and why?

My initial thought was to recommend one of the free stories, but after more thought, I decided to recommend the short story, As Tough As They Come. This story is about the bond formed between a mother and her son, that was never broken, even after he was abandoned by his mother when he was eight years old.

The story starts out like a murder mystery, with the main character in a courtroom on trial for a murder he did not commit. When it appears the defendant has no chance of walking out of the courtroom a free man, his mother shows up to save him from a guilty verdict. Before he can ask her why she never came back for him, twenty years earlier, she goes back into hiding.

During his quest to find her, he is charged with a second murder and becomes the most hunted man in the country. While trying to find his mother, a nationwide manhunt for the main character intensifies, and it appears his days of freedom will soon come to an end. With the authorities closing in on him, he has one last chance to find the truth.        

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Summer Short Story Spectacular, Season 1, Episode 10 - BOBBI CHUKRAN

Mid-august and still as hot as ever, even though here in Canada, summer is—dare we say it—beginning to wind down. (Oh! Say it isn't so!) Although where my next writer guest lives it's probably hot as ever! Right, Bobbi?

I welcome short story author Bobbi Chukran today to Summer Short Story Spectacular, Season 1, Episode 10. Hard to believe there's been 10 episodes already! If any of you have missed any of the episodes, just click on the links to the side of this blog and you'll get caught up on some great reads!

Bobbi Chukran is a native Texan, born in Ft. Worth. She grew up in Grapevine then moved to Austin to earn a B.A. degree in Studio Art/Design. Her first article was published back in 1982. Bobbi wrote and published non-fiction for over 25 years until she finally turned her attention to fiction. Her first historical mystery novel, Lone Star Death, was published in 2006 and she launched her contemporary Nameless, Texas short story series last year. 

Bobbi lives in a small town outside Austin where she has numerous opportunities to observe strangeness and quirkiness---all fodder for her fiction.

What is your all-time favorite short story, Bobbi and why?

It's hard to choose just one if you're talking about stories written by others. In general, although they aren't mysteries, I love Bailey White's stories. I love small town stories about quirky, sometimes funny people wrapped up in suspense, and to me, hers are suspenseful in their own way. I always wonder how they'll turn out and that keeps me reading until the end. Her characters are so familiar to me. For years, I wondered why that was and finally realized it was because my grandmother was born in Alabama and passed along a lot of that "Southern-ness" to me---although I'm a native Texan.

My favorite story that I wrote is a new one, The Passing of Big Mama Mayhall. It's based on my memories of kinfolks' funerals and some quirky characters I've known (and have been kin to). Although it's come very close a few times, at this time, it's still unpublished. I'll probably include it in a collection of my stories I'm putting together now. It's one of my more "Hitchcockian" stories and those are the kinds I love to write. Small town tales of revenge seem to be my thing.

What is the most difficult part of writing short fiction? 

The writing of short fiction comes easy to me for some reason. Probably because I see the story as a short movie playing in my head and frequently see the ending before I start. Maybe because I've been writing short stories since I was a young child. At one time, in a previous life as a non-fiction author, I wrote thousands of short profiles of artists and business-people. I also write short plays and many of those are just ten-minutes long-—about the size of a short story. So I think that length is sort of ingrained in my mind. 

Another thing is that I watched a lot of television growing up, and many of those shows were 30-minutes long. Somewhere along the way, that length became, to me, to be the perfect way to tell a story.

One of the hardest parts, I suppose, is that I want to write mystery and suspense, and my quirky, funny writing sometimes doesn't lend itself to a story where murder is the centerpiece. So it's a fine line juggling those two things. I've tried being more serious, but I'm afraid at this point it's impossible for me to change.

Secondly, I know I need to write something longer, another novel, in order to get the attention I need as an author. That's more of a marketing thing, though.

What piece of advice would you give to a prospective short story writer?

Commit to doing the work and don't expect to get rich writing short stories. So many new writers just don't want to do the work required.  Read thousands of short stories in all genres and especially any that really attract your attention. Track down and read the vintage pulp stories if you're interested in those. They're readily available these days. And there are thousands of older stories online that you can read for free.

Read "how-to" books on writing short fiction (although I have found very few really good ones) and none that talk specifically about writing mystery fiction. 

Realize that a short story is not just a novel that's shorter—the structure and whole purpose of the story is different. Then, when you're ready to submit your work, start small. Swap stories with author friends you respect and take their advice. There are lots of online 'zines out there, and many of them will publish crime and mystery stories. There aren't as many outlets for traditional (cozy) mystery stories, unfortunately. Many authors I know write in several genres, making it easier to market the stories.

And the old adage of "writing what you know" applies to short stories, too. I call this "authentic writing." Some of my best stories are those set in small towns about quirky characters that fall into trouble through no fault of their own. Most of my stories were inspired by things that really happened, snippets of conversation, or people I've observed. Use those observations, because they are a gold-mine for short stories. TAKE notes!

Which of your short stories should we read first and why?

I have a handful of short stories online that can be read for free, and I have my Nameless, Texas series for sale on Amazon as e-stories

My favorite free story is "Sadie and the Museum Lady," published in the excellent online 'zine, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. 

Well, Bobbi, I read Aunt Jewel and the Poisoned Potlikker and even though I'm a northerner through and through  it was positively delightful! There are some things that are universals, and small towns wherever they may be all have certain things in common. Where can my readers find you, Bobbi?

My links:

Amazon author page