Monday, June 18, 2018

Checking Out Some Great “How To” Writing Guidelines

by Paula Gail Benson


Lately, I’ve been coming across a number of online articles that express succinctly how certain forms of genre fiction should be written. Here are a few I’ve discovered:


Dennis Palumbo wrote “Taking the Mystery Out of How to Write a Mystery” ( He lists three important elements: : “1) establishing the unique character of the protagonist, 2) making narrative use of the world in which the story takes place, and 3) planting clues (remember, only a few) that derive from the particular aspects of that world.” Palumbo recommends that writers consider what makes them unique and their own backgrounds in developing their protagonists and settings.


Chuck Wendig provides “25 Things Writers Should Know About Creating Mystery” ( He describes a mystery as an incomplete equation. Even though readers know the answer will be revealed by the end, “[a] good story traps us in the moment and compels us by its incompleteness.” Readers want to be part of the process. “[S]ometimes creating mystery is not an act of asking a question but the deed of providing a clearly incorrect answer. Let the audience seek the truth by showing them a lie.” And, it’s important for plot and character to be intricately intertwined. “Plot, after all, is like Soylent Green — it’s made of people.”


Ginny Wiehardt gives us the ten “Top Rules for Mystery Writing” ( Her article is written about mystery novels, but the suggestions are easily adapted to short stories. She points out that people read mysteries for a “particular experience.” They want the opportunity to solve the crime and they expect all to turn out well in the end. Reading many mysteries to see how “the rules” have been applied in those stories will be helpful to a writer, and understanding “the rules” in order to better meet reader expectations will help a writer craft a better mystery story. Among her recommendations are to introduce the detective, culprit, and crime early and wait until the last possible moment to reveal the culprit.


Peter Derk explains the “The 8 Keys to a Good Heist Story” ( “A good heist has a planning stage, execution stage, and an escape. They can be in different proportions, but if your story is missing one of the three, it won’t pass muster.” Derk says there must be complications and a reason to root for success. Also, he suggests taking care in putting the team together and having a reason behind the operation that is greater than monetary gain.


Dr. David Lewis Anderson gives a good description of “Time Travel in Science Fiction” ( He offers a historical analysis of science fiction stories that have used time travel, but he also explores the elements writers have developed through those stories.


In his “6 Secrets to Creating and Sustaining Suspense,” ( Steven James evaluates how to add suspense in mystery, thriller, and literary stories. He suggests the key is to give readers something to worry about, then explains how to do that.


Finally, Jan Ellison offers “9 Practical Tricks for Writing Your First Novel” ( Two of her recommendations that I found interesting were to set writing goals that are completely within your control and keep working on a poem while writing your novel. The poem allows you freedom of expression and provides a way to get started with your writing.

Have you read any writing “how to” articles lately?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Finding Your Writers Tribe

My friend Dianne Freeman visits the blog today. We met through a miracle called Authors 18, an online group of writers who are all debuting novels in 2018.  I'm so pleased she's here to talk about finding, or sometimes making, your own writers tribe. --Shari Randall

Before the ink was even dry on my book contract I had a crisis of confidence. I must be crazy, I couldn’t do this. It took almost two years to write my first book and they wanted the second in eleven months. What if I couldn’t do that? And they wanted an outline. I never wrote an outline. And publishing, and promotions, and all the things I didn’t even know about yet. How was I going to get through this? I needed help—lots of help! 
I decided to look for writers who were in the same position as me—new to publishing and not really sure what we were getting into. I didn’t know any local authors, so I turned to social media. There was already a group for authors whose books released in 2017, but so far no one had formed one for 2018. Unless I wanted to go through all these new and slightly terrifying experiences alone, I’d have to form one. 
I started stalking agents on twitter, waiting for one to announce a book deal for a new client. I poured through the deals section of Publishers Marketplace. Once I’d found a debut author, I’d have to make contact—would you be interested in joining my group to help prop each other up while we go through this publishing experience? Please? I was so relieved whenever they said yes. It finally dawned on me to post a notice on Twitter for debut authors to join us and member by member, Authors 18 was born.
That was March of 2017. Now we have 120 members in our Facebook group and I don’t know how I’d get by without them. We are one another’s fans, confidantes, advisors, and sounding boards. Those who published earlier in the year were able to share their experiences with the rest of us. When one of us finds a new marketing tool or promotional opportunity we share it with the group. If someone is having a crisis there’s always another member to talk it out. From cover reveals to launch parties, copy edits to cover blurbs, we have friends on this publishing journey who know what we’re going through, and I think we’ve all gained confidence from that.
Writing is a very solitary occupation, but you don’t have to go it alone. There are so many writing groups online and maybe even in your neighborhood. The camaraderie and support a group can provide is priceless. They can also be a source of critique partners and beta readers. If you can’t find an existing group that fits your needs, form one. It was the best thing I ever did for my writing career and my sanity. More importantly, it brought some wonderful new friends into my life.
Dianne Freeman is a life-long book lover who left the world of corporate finance to pursue her passion for writing. After co-authoring the non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, she realized her true love was fiction, historical mystery in particular. She also realized she didn’t like winter very much so now she and her husband pursue the endless summer by splitting their time between Michigan and Arizona.

Her debut novel, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder is scheduled for release with Kensington June 26, 2018.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Women Empowering Women by Juliana Aragón Fatula

A collection of photos from my writing workshops and women I admire.

Women Empowering Women Writing Workshops
this link will open to forty-nine photos and quotes on writing.

When I write I listen to music, it plays in the background, setting the mood for my characters. My writing style comes from playwriting and screenwriting and poetry. I see my characters in my head on a movie set and hear the soundtrack playing. So many great mysteries have been made into movies that began as great books. 

This morning as I write in my sun room, I’m listening to Rickie Lee Jones sing about Chuck E’s in Love. Since most of my leading characters are strong women, I listen to the great voices like: Tina Turner, Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Minnie Ripperton, Janis Joplin, and the incredible Chavela Vargas. If you’ve never heard these women’s voices or heard of them, give them a listen.

Today I’m working on my m.s. the part I love most, the revision process. First, I write the story. Next, I polish and edit the story. I have worked on my m.s. since 2011! I also spent much of those years reading my favorite mystery writers, studying master writers and reading their “How to Write a Mystery” books.

I studied, underlined, took notes on the books recommended by master writers. When I reflect on how long I’ve been working on this m.s. I realize, first I studied, researched, learned how to write a mystery, and I realize I’ve just completed a master’s degree in mystery writing and completed my first mystery m.s.! Whew! All while maintaining my daily responsibility of being wife, mother, and teaching Bridging Borders young ladies writing workshops. Whew! I’m tired. No wonder I’ve taken seven years to finish my book!

I’ve also attended great writing workshops in San Antonio, Salt Lake City, and Las Cruces. I’ve worked with writers who have Ph.Ds. and teach writing at universities, and with writers who are starting to find their voice and writing for the first time. I fall somewhere in between. Sometimes I feel intimidated by writers with Ph.Ds. but then mi esposo tells me, “Who’s a big girl and wears big girl panties and published two books? Who? You, that’s who.” We laugh, and I realize I’m a life long learner and have been studying my entire life. At sixty-one, that’s a lot of reading books, taking notes, and teaching my students what I’ve learned. My son says, “Mom, you should have a Ph.D. by now. You’ve been studying and going to college all of my life.” Well, son, I’m proud to announce I’ve decided I have an honorary Ph.D. in life.

Great mentors have shown me the way. Now it’s my turn to light the path for the next generation of young women writers. I’m proud. I’m not only writing books, I’m creating new writers who will pay it forward etc.

I’ve lived a good life, a bad life, and a mediocre life but, today my life is frickin’ fantastic. I love what I do. When I hand one of my books to these young ladies and tell them my story they realize I was them and I survived. I made my life meaningful and they can do the same.

When one of those girls tells me they read my book, Crazy Chicana in Catholic City or Red Canyon Falling on Churches and they could relate to me, I realize I’ve been successful and my heart soars! If I help just one child to feel hopeful, I have my goal in life, but I know from feedback that I’ve helped dozens of young women and young men to dream of a better life.

If a poor Chicana from a small town in Colorado that was the KKK headquarters in the early 20’s can find her voice, if a young writer of color can tell her story and get it published, anything is possible. The moon, the sun, the stars. My riches are these young ladies’ faces, not dollar signs, but I’m richer than I’ve ever imagined I could be. I am loved, respected and that’s why I keep writing, studying, researching, mastering my craft, so I can be a master writer, so I can write not a good book, but a great book!

I have a new student t I’ve begun mentoring. It’s a special relationship. I taught her in seventh grade Language Arts and teatro and now I’m mentoring her as a twenty-one-year-old adult. I’m blessed; I’m blessed; I’m blessed and couldn’t be happier to have the good and bad experiences in my life. They made me who I am. And I’ve discovered my purpose in life. It’s not be a housewife, ha. It’s to mentor young women and pass on the skills I’ve acquired on this road called life.

When I’ve finished this book and share it with my mentees, I will be able to say, “I studied and learned how to write. I taught myself from the greatest writers how to write a great novel. I can be proud and share my tools of the trade with them and in that way pay it forward.

I don’t write for fame or money. I write because I have stories to tell and I share them with my unique voice. I write the book, only I can write. I create art. If I wasn’t meant to be a storyteller, why do I have gifts like: imagination, creativity, soulful, spiritual gifts from the Cosmos? To waste my gifts would be sinful.

When I face a deadline and feel pressured, I remind myself, “Juliana, you are exceptional, you can do anything you set your mind to do. You can help others who struggle with family dysfunction, alcoholism, drug addiction, incarceration, suicide, mental illness, sexual assault and abuse because you’ve survived all these trials in life and come out a much better person.”

Thank you, sisters: Gloria Anzaldúa, Linda Rodriguez, Sandra Cisneros, Denise Chavez, my Mother, Louise Mondragon Aragon, Dolores Alarcon, Emma Medina, Irene Aragon, Lynette Aragon, Aimee Medina Carr, Tracy Harmon, Judy Noel, Eva Balerio, Maria Melendez Kelson, Corinne Espinoza, Crissy Red, Lois Red-Elk, Debra Gallegos, Yolanda Ortega and my teachers too many to mention but especially Mrs. Durbin my seventh-grade language arts teacher who instilled in me a love of words, of books, of writing. So many wonderful women have helped create me and now I continue the mission statement: Women Empowering Women, mujeres muy mujeres!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Against the Undertow

by Bethany Maines

It's release day for Against the Undertow! I'm so excited to bring this book out into the world. The San Juan Island Murder Mystery Series is a little like Matlock went to the beach. It features a cantankerous ex-CIA agent, Tobias Yearly, and his granddaughter, Tish, as they solve mysteries from their home on Orcas Island in Washington State. It's funny, it's romantic and it's full of twists and turns. This semi-cozy series has been a joy to research (mmm... food research) and write (I <3 my characters) and I hope that all of you enjoy it as much as I have.

You never know what will drag you down.
Former actress Tish Yearly is determined to turn an old Orcas Island homestead into the premier wedding venue in the San Juans Islands of Washington, but money, skill and her grandfather, Tobias Yearly, are all standing in her way. Tobias, the septuagenarian ex-CIA agent, wants them to become private investigators. Tish might be able to ignore her grandfather’s whims, except that her one time love interest and current friend, handsome Sheriff’s Deputy Emmett Nash, was just accused of murdering his ex-wife’s boyfriend. Now Tish and Tobias are on the case, and it should be easy—after all, who could really think Nash was a killer?—but the further they investigate, the more people seem to be threatening her life: the police detective on the case, Nash’s angry ex-wife, his psychotic ex-girlfriend, and a strangely venomous group of hippies. Almost everyone on the island seems determined to stop her. Tish is swimming against the undertow, but it might not be enough to save either Nash or herself.

And this month you can also pick book 1 - An Unseen Current - for ¢.99.

You never know what’s beneath the surface.
When Seattle native Tish Yearly finds herself fired and evicted all in one afternoon, she knows she’s in deep water. Unemployed and desperate, the 26 year old ex-actress heads for the one place she knows she’ll be welcome – the house of her cantankerous ex-CIA agent grandfather, Tobias Yearly, in the San Juan Islands. And when she discovers the strangled corpse of Tobias’s best friend, she knows she’s in over her head. Tish is thrown head-long into a mystery that pits her against a handsome but straight-laced Sheriff’s Deputy, a group of eccentric and clannish local residents, and a killer who knows the island far better than she does. Now Tish must swim against the current, depending on her nearly forgotten acting skills and her grandfather’s spy craft, to con a killer and keep them alive.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, Tales From the City of Destiny, 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 fourth degree 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 YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.