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.

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

Friday, January 23, 2015

Common Plotting Problems and their Solutions

Scenes that just don’t work, uncooperative characters, plots that take a wrong turn...what's a writer to do? Any of these situations is enough to make a writer be tempted to toss their manuscript aside.  Yet, many common plotting problems can be remedied by a little thought and revision.  Here are some suggested solutions.

When The Next Scene Doesn’t Work

Many writers do not know until they begin the actual writing that a certain scene or planned event just isn’t going to work.  The idea for the scene may sound fine in the plot outline, but in the actual writing it may backfire because the author hasn’t thoroughly thought it through. 

For example, Mike sees an employee steal something at work. The employee  begs him not to tell.  What is Mike going to do next?  The plan was to have him turn the employee in, but that seems too simple a resolution.    

 Solution: Try alternatives.  Pull the plot along by making two or three rows of different scenarios.  Each different choice produces a different outcome.  Mike tells the boss, but the employee turns the tables and accuses Mike of the theft; Mike is tempted to blackmail the employee with his knowledge; the employee threatens Mike and says if he tells he’ll get even.

Writers must keep thinking up alternatives until the right one comes along.  When stuck on a particular scene, it sometimes helps the author to take a break or sleep on it. Sometimes the subconscious mind will work overnight and right path will appear clear in the morning.

The Characters Won’t Cooperate

The writer has decided that Joe, a minor character, is going to get into a fatal accident in Chapter 9, but Joe has other plans.  He refuses to die or be written out of the story.     

Solution: An author should always listen to the characters when they speak.  They usually are trying to tell something important.  The subconscious mind often works in strange ways.  When an event feels wrong, the writer shouldn’t be afraid to explore alternatives.  Maybe Joe doesn’t die but everyone thinks he’s dead. An alternate course of action, something unexpected, might deepen the plot.

The Plot Takes a Wrong Turn Somewhere

Many writers think they have their plot pinned down to the last twist and curve, only to find in the actual writing that the entire structure has fallen like a house of cards.  Not only doesn’t the next scene work, the entire book is unsatisfying and doesn’t come to any good conclusion.

Solution:  There is something wrong with the plot structure.  The author must go back and find the place where it went wrong and takes steps to remedy it.  First, the author should take some time off to distance himself from the manuscript.  Identifying the place where the book veers away from its best course is often easier to find after some time has passed.  Reviewing the story's key events can be of help in determining whether the novel has enough goals and conflict, and if they fall in the right place.