Welcome to our Blog about Writing

Welcome to our blog! Find out about our current projects and excerpts of our new books and short stories. Check the sidebar for this month's FREE, 99c books, bargain books and giveaways. For aspiring writers, we will also be including some posts about writing fiction. Please also visit our web page. To learn more about our two series and upcoming releases visit our Jeff McQuede and Ardis Cole Mystery blogs.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

An Interview with Author John King

Vickie Britton interviews  author John King and special offer to read HAT TRICK: 3 Novellas: Tales of Love Gone Wrong for free on Kindle May 7 through May 11.

Author John King

Q:  When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

A:  At the very least by ten years old. In fifth grade they asked us to write poems about the seasons and I loved it. Somehow—I guess from seeing the Beat poets reciting on TV—I knew a poem did not necessarily have to rhyme. My poem was a success and printed on the first page of our “book.” I immediately felt like I’d discovered the path I wanted to take.

Q:  How long does it take you to write a book?

A: I’d say about a year of real work with a lot of downtime in between. I was lucky to be able to write the first drafts of my novels in two weeks each, but then I spent months rewriting them.

Q:  What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

A:  I’ve become a morning person. That’s when I have the most energy. Three hours a day satisfies me in the initial creation of something. But if I am rewriting, then the work can go on all day, and well into the night.

Q:  Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

A:  Sometimes it can begin with a question that pops into my head. A “what if” situation. Others times someone might tell me of an event that they heard about or which happened to them. A few times it’s been hearing about a true crime which strikes me hard for its audacity or tragedy.

Q:  What do you like to do when you're not writing?

A:  Reading of course. I like to read so much it can prevent me from writing. At other times in my life I’ve been obsessive about studying French, painting, playing the tenor saxophone, and working out.

Q:  What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

A:  I like when I am rereading something and forget that I wrote it. That I can capture myself so to speak, and find myself wondering, “Where’d I get that idea from?”

Q:  Can you visualize your book as a movie?  Who would have the starring roles as your characters?

A: Yes, I think much of my work could be written for the screen, especially my novels, The Big Mouth and Maid of Honor. As far as casting, I don’t know. Elmore Leonard, whose work has been brought to the big screen many times, said he didn’t like to describe what his characters looked like. Let the reader imagine them for themselves. However, when I was trying to imagine who would make a good Lena, the wife in The Big Mouth, I thought of Diane Lane whom I like a lot. But, my wife disagreed, so there you are.

Q: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? Do you have any suggestions to help aspiring authors become  better writers? If so, what are they?

A: I’ve published four books so far. I think Maid of Honor is my favorite because the lives of its characters have stayed with me more than the others. Sometimes I wake up hearing them speaking their lines. They are very real for me.

As far as becoming a better writer, I’d say, read books on the craft of writing. Analyze the books you like and the books you want to write. Try to figure out why they work.

Q:  What do you think makes a good story?

A:  Conflict, mystery, and suspense. What makes people stop what they are doing and concentrate on something else? An altercation of some kind. They ask, “What is this all about? What’s going to happen next?” The thing is not only to create conflict, mystery, and suspense, but to resolve it in a satisfying way for the reader.

Q:  Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

A: No. Each reader takes away what they will and I can’t control it without being heavy-handed. If I were, then I think they’d tire quickly.

Q:  How much of the book is realistic?

A: I think everything in all my work is realistic. Believability is very important to me. You’ll never find anyone dodging machine gun bullets in my stories. Not that you’ll find any machine guns. I write about real people. It’s important for me that their actions and reactions ring true to the reader.

Q:  Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

A:  That would be telling, but of the three novellas in Hat Trick, I’ll say one began as hypothetical question, one was spawned from a tragic story I heard, and one was a imaginary take off on a personal experience.

Q:  What books have most influenced your work most?

A: I have many favorite authors. Too many to name, but John Fowles’ The Magus is one which I read thirteen times, spent many hours researching, and have written about. I even went to Greece to retrace the steps of its protagonist. I was under the influence of this novel when I created the narrator of my second novel, Maid of Honor. They are both cads.

But I also have to mention Ruth Rendell as an inspiration. Some years ago I became an avid fan, but it was in reading her short stories that I realized that simple narrative tales of suspense written for the mystery magazines could transcend the genre and become art. It was like an epiphany for me, bringing home the most important truth: “Tell a story, stupid!”

I also want to mention Elmore Leonard, whose narrative style influenced my first novel, The Big Mouth.

Q:  What are your current projects? work?

A: I’ve got a few things going right now: a non-fiction piece on two of my favorite novels, another book of short stories, and hardest of all, my third novel.

Q:  What was the hardest part of writing your book?

A: Coming up with a complete plot that goes beyond the initial idea. Many projects just fizzle up because I don’t know where they are going or can’t answer the questions I set up for the reader. An example would be sitting down to write a mystery and not being able to solve it yourself.

Q:  Do you have any advice for other writers?

A:  Read everything and watch everything. Listen to people. Ideas come from all over. But read the types of things you wish to write and read books on the craft of writing. They will open your eyes to issues you might not have thought about. 

Click this link to download Hat Trick  free on Kindle May 7 through May 11.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Importance of Pacing Suspense by guest blogger Jean Henry Mead

Murder at the Mansion by Jean Henry Mead 

Writing a series can be an asset as well as a hindrance. An asset because your readers look forward to each new novel and your continuing characters. But you can become bored with your character(s) as Agatha Christie did with Hercule Poirot. In fact, she came to hate the arrogant little detective.

My protagonists have become old friends that I enjoy tuning into each day to listen in on their conversations, no matter how scatterbrained they happen to be. But I've also become bored at times writing about my two older women amateur sleuths, who get themselves into situations that I have a difficult time writing them out of.

I don't outline, unless it's a nonfiction book, and my characters have free rein, so they lead me on some wild adventures. Murder at the Mansion is my wildest novel to date, with my protagonists, Dana and Sarah, running for their lives from Wyoming to Texas, Alaska, Colorado, and back again.

The more I get to know my characters, the more I trust that they won't paint me into a corner or refuse to do what I want them to. In my new release, some of the people they helped to place in prison return to seek revenge, and Sarah decides to dissolve a hasty marriage that she regrets. None of these things occurred to me when I sat down to write, so I blame the devious minds of my two protagonists.

Combine mystery, humor, romance, murder, a quirky character or two, and you have the Logan and Cafferty series, which I hope to continue writing for quite some time.

by Jean Henry Mead

Jean Henry Mead
Bio: Jean Henry Mead is a former news reporter and photojournalist. She’s the author of 21 books, half of them novels, which include the Logan & Cafferty series, Hamilton Kid’s mysteries, Wyoming historical novels, and nonfiction interview and history books, one of which served as a college textbook. She has also served as a news, magazine and small press editor, contributor to the Denver Post, and has been published in magazines domestically as well as abroad.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


The first chapter is the most important chapter in the book because it is the first chapter your readers will see. It must have the power to draw them in and interest them in the rest of the book.  The first chapter also determines the voice, tone, and atmosphere of the story.

Developing a strong first chapter is often a matter of trial and error.  The first chapter is usually the one that is rewritten the most.  Here are some tips to help you get it right the first time.

Start with Conflict or a Point of Interest

While the first chapter doesn’t have to start with soap-opera drama, but it must have enough action the interest the reader.  Many writers choose to begin their story at a point of conflict such as at a place where the hero is in immediate danger.  For example, the logical place to begin a mystery would be with the discovery of the body, not the detective commuting to work or reading the morning newspaper.

Providing Background Information

Many instructors habitually advise their students to throw away the first chapter.  Should you?  That depends.  Many writers make the mistake of including far too much background information in the first chapter.  This is because they are anxious to set the groundwork for the rest of novel. They want readers to know everything about their character from the start.

You need to start where the action begins, not with a lot of who, what and where explanation about your character and how he got in this mess. The first chapter should provide only the bare essentials in background information.  For example, it might be necessary for the reader to know where your hero lives, but not, at this point, where he went to school, how many kids he has, whether or not he gets along with his mother.  These points can be introduced if and when they become pertinent to the story.  Though additional information is necessary, it should not all have to be crowded into the first chapter.  If there is too much explanation, most of it can be discarded, and what is essential should be threaded into to a later part of the book.

What goes in the Middle

Now that you have gotten their interest, you must develop the chapter by deepening the conflict.  If you have started with a point of action, now is the time to bring into focus the details of the event, and the character’s reactions to the event.    

End with a Question or Cliffhanger

Just as the first chapter begins with a bang, it should not end with a whimper.  The final lines should pose a question that draws readers into the next chapter.
If your book is a mystery, have the detective discover an unusual lead or clue he plans to follow up on.  If your story is a romance, cut the first chapter off at the point where the boy asks the girl for a date, not after the reader already knows her answer.  If you are writing a thriller, stop the first chapter with the hero hanging on the ledge of the building, not after he has jumped to safety.

By the end of the first chapter the reader should
*be introduced to the main characters
*know where the story takes place
*Have a feeling for the atmosphere of the book
*be introduced to the main problem or conflict and some kind of mental or physical excitement

More Writing Tips:  Fiction:From Writing to Publication