Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Time to Get Serial

by Bethany Maines

This week (12/9 – 12/13) one of my short stories, Oh, Holy Night, is being serialized on Frolic – the site for all things romance.  Oh, Holy Night is a Christmas romance involving bank robbery, coffee, and best friends. And while I’m always ecstatic to sell and share one of my stories, I have to say that I’m a little more over the moon about this story because of the significance of serialized stories in the history of writing.

Most people think of Charles Dickens when they think of serialized stories.  And although A Christmas Carol was not serialized, his Pickwick Papers (1836) was written and shared in nineteen installments, each costing a shilling.  Partially, the success was due to the format of bite-size, cliff-hanger segments sold in a time when people couldn’t dash off and find entertainment on their phones.  But, let’s think about that for just a moment.  Now that we can dash off and find entertainment at any moment of the day, wouldn’t now be the perfect time for bite-size, cliff-hanger segments of a story?  The old adventure movies captured this idea in the early days of film with short movies that were meant to keep you coming back next Saturday or at the least for the next reel. Have you ever wondered why some movies (ex: James Bond) will give you a 15 minute opening adventure before cutting to the credits? Thank the early days of film when complete reels were 15 minutes long and the projectionist needed to hustle to change reels. Current television has captured this format with long story lines and cliff-hanger episodes and then broken the mold by allowing everyone to binge watch all the episodes at once. The idea of writing extended stories that leave the reader wanting more with each chapter is a unique skill that is hard to master. One that I’m sure I haven’t mastered it yet, but one that I’m excited to work on. 

If you Pop over to Frolic to read Oh, Holy Night for free and check out my effort at a serialized story!

Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

'Tis the Season

By AB Plum

A few weeks ago, a friend told me jubilantly, "The date's set."

December 3—the date for her husband's hip-replacement surgery.

They'd waited for over six weeks for a definite date …  because of Thanksgiving and the approaching year's end. A scheduled time was still up in the air.

And that detail was driving her husband crazy. He was fretting over every possibility.

  • ·        What if the hospital set the time and then changed it?
  • ·        What if they had to arrive at oh-dark-thirty?
  • ·        What if the time got postponed after they arrived at the hospital?
  • ·        Why couldn't the surgeons change their routine practice of epidurals and put him under?
  • ·        What if he became nauseated after the anesthesia?
  • ·        What if he couldn't manage the post-surgical pain?
  • ·        How would she get him from the car into their ground-floor apartment?
  • ·        What if they couldn't manage the shower without help?
  • ·        What if his adult kids didn't understand why they couldn't travel for Christmas?
  • ·        What if he was totally immobile during the holiday?
  • ·        How would he get his Christmas shopping done?
  • ·        How disappointed would everyone be because he couldn't smoke the turkey?
      Somehow, the fretting didn't drive my friend nuts. (Her patience borders on saintly). She said part of what helped her stay centered was avoiding the non-stop Christmas ads and parties and implied demands that Christmas required a nine-course dinner with twenty guests and a house decorated by Martha and a new BMW or Lincoln or Range Rover parked in the driveway as the gift du jour.

My friend's husband came through the surgery with no problems. He's exceeding expectations with the physical therapist who comes to their home twice a week. He manages the pain with a third of what his surgeon allowed.

His fretting about Christmas gifts and the Christmas dinner and decorating the apartment takes center stage fewer and fewer hours of every day. To keep my friend's stress manageable, they've agreed on thirty minutes or so of fretting-debrief after she comes home each evening. She'll unpack a few ornaments this weekend while he makes eggnog and queues up Miracle on 34th Street.

'Tis the season to fret because social and mainstream media never let us think we can finish everything that needs to be done. Stress—the noun equivalent of fret—piles up as we struggle to be perfect. Running faster and faster blocks the question: WHY?

This year I'm downshifting. I'm a reluctant shopper at best, but I'm boycotting Amazon.  Too easy to succumb to buying more stuff. I've contributed to favorite charities to honor the people on my list who really don't need more stuff.

And, I've decided on a unique gift for a couple of family members and friends. I got the idea from Through Rose-Colored Glasses, the February release of my second Ryn Davis mystery. Check out the book if you're interested.

Here's wishing one and all a fret-free season—or as close as you can get to fret free.


AB Plum lives, writes, and plays just off the fast-lane in Silicon Valley. A broken hand in October caused a bit of fretting about getting her second Ryn Davis mystery to market, but she's ready to hand [pun intended] off the ARC and feeling light as snowflake and ready to enjoy the holidays.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Brainstorming on Paper and Thinking on Paper for a More Exciting Novel

by Linda Rodriguez

The great technique of freewriting  (setting a timer and keeping your pen or fingers on the keys moving until it goes off) is one I use often as I build my novels. It helps me dive deeper into the characters to develop the often-conflicting motivations that will drive the plot. Freewriting for character work is not the only way to develop ideas and plot elements for your book, however. This same technique can be adapted to several other forms of planning your novel.  Other ways to use the basic freewriting concept are as brainstorming on paper, as a rapid listing tool, and as what I call thinking on paper, a free-form exercise in analysis, questioning, and creating possible alternative solutions.

I have stressed so heavily that you do this in writing because it is too easy to believe we are thinking our way through something, only to find, when we have to write that scene or book, that we were really sort of daydreaming about it. Writing is thinking on paper. The very act of writing out our questions and thoughts leads us to answers and new possibilities. Successful speculative fiction writer, Scott Westerfeld, has explained it the best I’ve seen yet—“You see, paper is magic: Making marks on it changes your brain. So, don't sit around trying to think your way out of problems, write your way out of them. The best place to find answers is on a piece of paper or a glowing phosphorus screen.”

For brainstorming on paper, you begin with a blank sheet of paper and the timer and a problem or question that you are considering. You set the timer, and you fill the blank sheet of paper with as many possible solutions or situations that have the potential to develop solutions as you can. Everyone is probably familiar with the technique of brainstorming in a group at work or at school. This is brainstorming by yourself on paper, but you will use the same rules. No idea should be rejected. Every idea that comes to you should make it onto your list, no matter how wild or crazy. The time to look at the ideas and sort out the usable ones comes after the timer goes off and you have finished your brainstorming.

Try your hand at brainstorming on paper. Make a list of scenes with great emotional conflict and intensity that you would like to use in your book, even if you have no idea how you could fit them into the narrative as you currently envision it. As with all brainstorming, let the ideas flow without censoring any that seem ridiculous or impossible. Get at least 15 ideas for emotionally intense scenes down before you go back and make any judgments about them

For creative listing, you will use a similar technique. Set the timer and make a list, refusing to reject any item for the list until after the timer goes off and you are in edit mode. The difference is you will have a more specific goal in mind for this list. For example, you could make a list of potential scenes, full of action, drama, and emotion, for your work. Or you could make a list of potential actions that subsidiary characters could take to help or hinder your protagonist's goals. Creative listing is a technique that can be used in many ways. It's quite simple but extremely effective.

The final technique I suggest is thinking on paper, a free-form exercise in analysis, questioning, and creating possible alternative solutions. Thinking on paper is the most sophisticated of these many ways to use the technique of freewriting. In this form, you use freewriting to range between questioning, listing, some deep character work, looking for possible solutions to problems, and developing alternatives. You want to keep asking yourself questions about the problem areas of your book.

This is a wide-ranging technique with a lot of depth and potential for you to use in many ways as you write your novel—and later as you revise your novel. It is best if you build up to this technique by beginning with basic freewriting, moving into the deep character work, brainstorming, and creative listing. Then, all of those aspects of this technique are brought together in thinking on paper.

Do you find yourself already using some of these techniques in your writing?

Linda Rodriguez's 11th book, Fishy Business: The Fifth Guppy Anthology (edited), was recently published. Dark Sister: Poems is her 10th book and was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, an anthology she co-edited, were published in 2017.  Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery featuring Cherokee detective, Skeet Bannion, and Revising the Character-Driven Novel will be published in 2020. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, Every Last Secret—and earlier books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Native Writers Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Learn more about her at

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thankful for Readers

by Sparkle Abbey

The holidays are upon us and it's a crazy busy time of year. It's also the most wonderful time of the year and for us a time to reflect and be grateful for all the wonderful things in our lives.

That doesn't mean life is perfect. In some cases it can be anything but...and we have to say in a lot of ways this year has been a tough one. Still, as we pause to think about the end of another year, life has been good.

We are so thankful for the writing community and especially for readers. You are what keeps us going and we appreciate everything you do in support of authors. Whether buying a book, writing a review, sharing a post, or just telling a friend about our books. It helps and it makes a difference!

We love hearing from you and we wish you grace and hope for the holiday season and for the coming year.

Happy December and thank-you!
Mary Lee (Sparkle) and Anita (Abbey)

Sparkle Abbey aka Mary Lee & Anita write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder. (But don't tell the neighbors.) The most recent book in the series is The Dogfather.

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