Friday, June 29, 2018

Cross My Path - a New Blackie and Care Mystery by Clea Simon #FridayReads #CleaSimon @Clea_Simon

In the Blackie and Care series, best-selling author Clea Simon treads a darker path than she has followed before. In Cross My Paththe third book in the series, readers find the young seeker, Care, going from one dangerous situation to another, her conscience, bravery, and youthful fervor pushing her forward—often at considerable risk to herself—to help those who cannot or will not help themselves.

The books are narrated by Blackie, an aging black cat whom Care rescued from drowning. We find out along the way that Blackie was once a man who may have had some connection to Care in his human form. This bit of information intrigued me and made me want to read the first two books in the series, The Ninth Life and As Dark as My Fur, to make sure I had a complete picture of the world Blackie and Care inhabit. Here we get bits and pieces, enough to know Care lives in a dangerous city and that her work puts her at particular risk from the nasty men who seem to run the world she and Blackie inhabit. But the focus of this novel is narrow, gritty, and intense, so we know little of the larger, dystopian universe the duo inhabits. This gives the novel an almost claustrophobic feeling, which is well-suited for the unsettling, edge-of-your-seat atmosphere Simon creates for her protagonists.

The story opens with Care suddenly finding herself hired to pursue two new cases in one day, a rare circumstance indeed in the economically constrained times in which she lives. And both clients have cash, an even rarer occurrence. As she pieces together disparate bits of information, Care realizes the two seemingly separate cases may, in fact, be intertwined. But is that a mere coincidence or part of a larger plan?

Blackie worries constantly about the young girl and tries his best to keep her from harm. But her determination often places her directly in the path of danger, and nothing Blackie can do will sway her from her course, especially if she believes a friend is in trouble.

The ending wraps up the main storyline in a satisfying way while carrying other threads forward to the next book. It is an intriguing way to create continuing interest in the series. Readers who enjoy mysteries featuring cats will be particularly drawn to Cross My Path, especially as it is narrated by a cat who is struggling to remember if he once had a human form.

Connect with Clea Simon on Twitter, and follow the conversation about #CrossMyPath 

Reviewed by Patricia B. Smith. Pat is a journalist who is the author of 11 published books, including Idiot’s Guide: Flipping Houses, Alzheimer's For Dummies and Sleep Disorders for Dummies.

Pat is also an experienced professional developmental editor who serves as an Editorial Evaluation and Developmental Coordinator for Five Star Publishing. She works with private clients as well and has helped many authors land their first publishing contracts. Many of her clients have achieved notable success, including two winners of the Missouri Writers’ Guild Show-me Best Book of the Year Award.

Connect with Pat on Facebook or Linked In.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Clichés in Plots and Description

Background image by airpix, via Flickr. Credit:
Clichés.  Books are full of them, both in the plots and writers’ descriptions. Yes, I know, there are only seven major plot themes, and all stories evolve from one or a combination of them. So they say. I found a great explanation with examples in this post by Len Wilson

Overcoming the monster
Rags to riches
The quest
Voyage and return

I never thought about the seven plots when I wrote my books. I didn’t even know about them until I kept hearing how there are only seven basic plots. I found the idea rather defeatist and didn’t want to look further for fear I might quit writing altogether since I was sure everything I’d written had been written before. When I finally read them, I found the definitions to be broad and generic, with enough latitude to erase my anxiety.

It’s a writer’s job to find nuances in plots that make them as original as possible. Some genres adhere to formula. Cozy mysteries usually have an amateur sleuth stumbling on a body. Detective novels have a world-weary, sometime alcoholic PI or cop. In romantic suspense novels, the  heroine and hero usually dislike each other in the beginning. Many times their animosity is misconceived or misinterpreted. Other times it’s dredged up from a past experience that went sour. But without a doubt, by the end of the book, they’ll either be in love or in bed, usually behind closed doors.

is not a romantic suspense in the classic definition because of the ending. The male character is a sex-crime investigator; the female is a very expensive, retired call girl. He blackmails her into working for the police to find a murderer or she's off to prison on a tax evasion charge. They dislike each other for what they are until over the course of the story they get to know who they are. I know this is not the only novel where the cop falls for a lady of the night, but I hope it's different enough to stand alone.

One reviewer complained the characters in my romantic mystery, Murder Déjà Vu, fall in love too fast. Well they like each other―tough. He spent fifteen years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit; she endured the same time in an abusive marriage to protect her sons. Because of plot demands, they don’t have time to dislike each other.

My alter ego’s erotic romance, The Escort, a book about a wealthy retired colonel blinded in Iraq who hires an escort to help him navigate a tricky meeting with two soldiers under his command, sounds like a book written by another author long after my book was published. That was the first time I saw a book described that sounded close enough to one of mine that it threw me. Surely, there are more. I doubt writers think about those seven plot lines when constructing their stories. We develop a story idea and run with it, adding our own ingredients into the recipe.

Overused descriptions are a big bugaboo of mine. The ones that drive me batty are not exactly clichés, but I’ve read them often enough for them to qualify. I’ve used some myself, which makes my complaint hypocritical.

…she said through gritted teeth.
…his lips formed in a straight line.
She squared her shoulders.
One corner of his mouth tugged upward.
She straightened her spine.
He rolled his eyes.
His smile didn’t reach his eyes.
I released a breath I didn’t know I was holding.
Cleansing breath, ragged breath, calming breath, sighing every which way, etc.

You get the picture. These are all good descriptions. We know what they mean, and maybe once they were original, but they’re overused now. I'm reading a book now that I swear has them all. As writers, we look for new ways to say the same thing. Sometimes there aren’t that many choices, no matter how hard we try to find one. We stalk thesaurus sites online, searching for a fresh approach, a word no one has ever used before―unlikely―and we spend too long on a phrase or paragraph, striving for originality. Whenever I come across one of those overdone descriptions, I grit my teeth, square my shoulders, and bang my head against the wall―sorry. Every time I read a word or description that is clearly strained because the writer is stretching to be original, it stands out to me like a sore thumb―sorry again―and takes me right out of the story.

I write genre fiction. When I read over what I’ve written, if it doesn’t sound real, if it doesn’t sound like someone speaking naturally, I rewrite it. (Or as Elmore Leonard says in his ten rules: "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” Thanks, Elmore.) I don’t want my readers to stop reading because I’m working too hard to make it sound important or lyrical or unforgettable. Exquisite prose is not natural to me as a writer. I wish it were, but it’s not my strength. Getting into my characters’ heads is. I want my readers invested in them. I want my readers to care enough about my heroes and heroines to turn the page to learn what happens to them. I want readers to be afraid, to cry, to sympathize, and to think about my creations after they close the book. I strive to create the most original plots I can with unusual characters filling the pages. I hope my readers don’t roll their eyes and think they’ve read my books before by other writers, because, you know, there are only seven basic plots.

Polly Iyer is the author of nine novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, June 21, 2018


Peter de Vries, novelist and satirist, said, "Every novel should have a beginning, a muddle, and an end." The muddle is the conflict. It’s what drives the plot and turns a recitation of facts into a story.

Conflict arises when forces or desires are in opposition. It can be man against man, man against nature, man against himself, or man against God, with all kinds of variations. The purpose of fiction is to arouse the reader’s emotions. This requires conflict. The reader must care. Put a character the reader likes or cares about in a bad situation and it will create interest. The great writers know this. Elmore Leonard said, “Aim for the heart.” William Faulkner (Nobel prize acceptance speech) said, “The only thing worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat, is the heart in conflict with itself.”

Conflict may also be called the problem, thwarted desire, opposition, or similar names. Without it, the story will be boring. Without conflict, there is no story.

Conflict requires three things:

• Dissatisfaction (with the status quo)

• Desire/Aspiration (must want something badly/aspire to something, such escaping an intolerable situation, finding the truth, clearing a loved one's name, saving a life)

• Choice (every character must be faced with a choice)

The major conflict is the big, overriding problem that isn’t solved until the last possible minute in the story, but there are smaller ones to be solved along the way. Depending on the length of the story, there may be one or many. Avoid solving even the minor conflicts until another one is introduced—a sort of leapfrog effect. This creates the cliffhanger at the end of the chapter.

Every scene should have a purpose. The reader may not be consciously aware of the purpose, but she will be interested in seeing what happens if the character has a problem to resolve. The main character in the scene should want or need to accomplish something. It can be as subtle as receiving (but not opening) a mysterious envelope, or it can be heart-pounding dramatic action, such as trying to elude a psychotic killer. Throw in obstacles. Before a conflict is resolved in the scene, another problem should surface.

If the story sags, add more conflict. Think what the reader or main character would most like to happen; then take it away or deny it.

Strong conflict is based on strong motivation. Why does your character react in a certain way? Whatever it is, the motivation has to be worthy of the struggle. Would your protagonist rob a friend because she wants new shoes? What if her child was being held by a madman?

Before beginning the story, plan the conflicts and give the characters strong motivations. If the motivations are weak, it’s much harder to maintain the conflict in a believable manner. If the conflict drags, introduce a new problem—a car wreck on the way to the hospital, mustard on the shirt just before the big event. Determine what the reader wants most, and then take it away; give the opposing character or force the means to prevent it from happening.

Without conflict, there is no suspense. Suspense, according to Sol Stein in Stein on Writing (one of my favorite books), is achieved by arousing the reader's curiosity and keeping it aroused as long as possible. Keeping it aroused means not relieving the suspense by telling what happens until the last possible minute. Don't give the outcome away before it happens. Keep the conflict alive.

Ellis Vidler dreams in Technicolor of characters in fraught situations. She studied English and art and now does her own covers, sometimes before the book is written. A former editor and fiction teacher, Ellis now directs most of her effort to writing, where she aims for action, adventure, and heart. The McGuire women series features members of a family with a psychic streak. In the Maleantes & More series, a team of security consultants tackle a range of cases. Her short stories are southern fiction. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and her website is

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Towering TBR: My summer reading/research

Summer is the perfect time for reading!

Well, actually, so is winter (while staying all snuggly and cozy inside).

And spring.

And fall.

Okay, any season is the perfect time for reading.

Right now, I'm thrashing through materials on historical San Francisco, trying to firm up an idea for my next book (oh, I am sooooo slow!). All the fascinating stuff I’ve bumped into so far is 15, 20 years previous to my time frame, which kind of depresses me. But I know that nugget is out there, the one that will jumpstart my plot. I just have to keep looking!

What the photo below shows are just some (! just some !) of the books I plan to deal with this summer. These to-be-read (TBR) piles are towering next to my desk at home, under a looming 1881 map of San Francisco. (Everything is looming and towering, reminding me that time is ticking and I darn well better start writing a synopsis.) More piles hunch on the table(s) and chair(s) and lurk on the floor.

My stacks are a chaotic a mix of fiction and non-fiction in no particular order (rather like my mind right now!). The two TBR piles pictured here are good examples of that. Many of the books are for research (including Chronicling the West for Harper’s, The Making of “Mammy Pleasant, The San Francisco Irish 1848–1880). Some craft books (Mastering Suspense, Structure, & Plot, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus) appear here and there. And of course, there are fiction/nonfiction books “just for fun” (The Ensemble, Death of an Unsung Hero, and The Glass Universe, among others). For light reading, I also have Raven Black (not pictured) that I must finish in the next couple of weeks for a mystery book club that gathers once a month.

My gut feeling is that summer will not be long enough to READ all of these. Maybe I should rename the piles to TBCPT&T (to be considered, paged through, and tabbed).

So what’s on your TBR (or TBCPT&T) list for summer?

Ann Parker authors the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series published by Poisoned Pen Press. During the day, she wrangles words for a living as a science editor/writer and marketing communications specialist (which is basically a fancy term for ìeditor/writerî). Her midnight hours are devoted to scribbling fiction. Visit for more information.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Moving Body Parts

Hello my dearies. I'm greeting you on behalf of my cousin, The Style Maven. And in case you're wondering, I'm not her, pretending to be someone else. Rather, I'm her snarky cousin in charge of policing errant body parts - eyes and other parts that are sometimes asked to do things that...well, seem to be a bit of a challenge, to put it politely. Not so politely, I'd say to the writers, "What the hell were you thinking?"

So, before I totter off to lunch with my bingo friends, let me set forth a few of the most irritating things I stumble over whilst trying to enjoy a good story.

Let's start with eyes. How many times do you see them rolling when they shouldn't roll? I cringe when I see them struggling to do the bidding of an author. You could say I'm super sensitive to this and should take an allergy pill before opening the next book I hope to enjoy, but why should the onus be on me, the reader?

Really, my darlings, consider from whence my sensitivity arises. I once had a writing instructor who, after reading a scene from my story, mimed taking his eyes out of his head and rolling them across the floor like a pair of dice.

Boy, did that make an impression.

If I could, I'd demonstrate for you, but, alas, I'm stuck on the other side of this screen and cannot get out. You will just have to use your imagination as you read the following examples. The sources, or the writers, will not be named, but I will name you if eyes roll in your latest masterpiece.

"She rolled her eyes out the side window of the car."

Oh dear! That could be quite a disaster.Thank goodness she wasn't driving, but, still, she may have lost her eyes forever. Even if they stopped to look for them, imagine how hard it would be to find two little eyeballs in the high grass along the side of road.

"His eyes rolled up the building."

Gosh, they must have defied gravity don't you think? Then did the eyes stay there or roll back to him? Obviously, they did because in the same scene, same paragraph:

"His eyes drifted up to the window."

Oh. I pictured two little eyeballs nestled on the back of Tinker Bell who floated heavenward with her gossamer wings beating slowly and magical, taking the eyes to the proper window. And then what did they do? Did they open the window and roll into the room, or did Tinker Bell bring them back?

There was only one conclusion to be made from reading that. The author believed that those eyes could do lots of strange things.

So, my dear ones, the next time you are writing and you want a character to show disdain for another person, perhaps you would consider something else besides eyes that leave your characters head. Something more unique. Something that wouldn't make one toss your book across the room along with those rolling eyes.

Oops, my doorbell just rang. It's my bingo partner, Betsy. Come to carry me off in her chariot. Ta, ta for now, and try to keep track of your eyes.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well, it seems like the cousin ran off before getting her post up. Thank goodness Maryann saw it languishing in the draft queue and was able to make it live.

Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. She won her first writing award at age twelve with a short story in the Detroit News Scholastic Writing Awards Contest and continues to garner recognition for her short stories, books, and screenplays. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Page  read her  Blog  and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

My Cure for Writer’s Block and Procrastination

Everybody has a cure, right? A way to pull yourself out of the doldrums and get back to being a writer who writes. We try them all from setting timers and typing gibberish to practicing with writing prompts until an idea kicks in. Maybe we try three morning pages every day, pretending we’re journaling when we’re really writing a story.

Or maybe we just set aside an hour a day to sit down at the computer, place our fingers on the keyboard, and then stare at the monitor.

Last year I needed something more drastic. A new approach to motivating myself. I pondered. I thought. And then I made a decision. I warned my critique group that I would be submitting work that would not follow any rules of writing. All they needed to look at was transitions from one scene to another or from one character to another.

They were instructed not to pick on things like head hopping or point of view changes midstream unless they got lost and didn’t know which character I was talking about. Long passages of narrative and backstory were okay. Author intrusion was perfectly acceptable.

I expected the group to get frustrated and invite me to kill that project and get serious. Instead, they went along with my crazy idea and offered great suggestions along the way. I guess sometimes it pays to throw caution to the winds (I have cliché’s in my piece as well) and just write without all that fretting about rules.

At the beginning I called my “seat of the pants” project Bobby Stryger Will Die Today, but later changed it to One Day at the Cat’s Claw Pub. In the rule-free exercise, I have about 13,000 words and a new idea for making it into a real novel.

I stopped working on it when I got an idea for a second Sangamon Village novel and used NaNoWriMo to get that real manuscript going. I’m  writing again, following the important rules, and am doing fine.

So if you’re stuck in the middle of your work in process, can’t decide what you want to write next, or are merely sidetracked by so much busyness that you can only spare fifteen minutes a day to write, try this.

Make up a crazy title.

Start typing about a random character and what happens next and who else is there and DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE RULES.

I wrote stuff like this:

Author intrusion and foreshadowing

You’d think a man would be happy getting out after ten years, wouldn’t you? Especially when he was sentenced to three forty-year terms to be served consecutively. That’s because you don’t know the rest of the story, at least not yet.

He is using a fork for this task and has not yet noticed the big butcher knife he’d used to cut up the raw chicken earlier in the day is missing.

Head hopping from one character’s point of view to another

Curtis makes eye contact with the bartender, checks her out from head to toe--her red hair and big green eyes—then shakes his head at the mental comparison to his wife’s less spectacular looks. He pauses for just a second to watch his wife march away, then slides off the stool to follow.

Still grinning, Bonnie turns her back on the couple and rearranges a couple of the beer bottles on the back wall. She watches in the mirror though, waiting to see if Curtis looks back at her. He does not.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. It’s not wasted time if you weren’t writing anyway. For me, it pulled me back into the writing habit and triggered new ideas. So if you’re stuck, what have you got to lose? Break rules, have fun, and write.

For more reading about writer's block and procrastination, try these Blood-Red Pencil posts:
No One Loves Writer's Block
How Do I Procrastinate?

Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy (aka Doggity), and brown tabby Katie (aka Kitty Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was recently interviewed for a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers podcast that you can find at the RMFW website.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Tale of Two Boxes

"DO" Box
Once upon a time, a young woman sat down to write a book. Her delight overflowed when her best friend, a well-known and loved author, offered to help her start her story. On arriving, he gave her a beautifully wrapped gift. He said all the tools she needed resided within the large package. Smiling, he then kissed her on the cheek, wished her success, and left.

When she opened unexpected present, she found two boxes inside. One was labeled "DO" box, and the other was labeled "DON'T" box. Curious as to their content, she pondered which one to open first. Reasoning that she needed to know upfront the taboos of authorship, she gingerly opened the one marked "DON'T."

Expecting to find a "Pandora's Box" of all the evils to be avoided in writing her book, she frowned at the contents.

1. Don't write fragments.
2. Don't create run-on sentences.
3. Don't use singular verbs with plural subjects.
4. Don't write paragraphs that go on and on and on.
5. Don't overuse forms of "to be" (is, are, was, were).
6. Don't neglect the importance of proper punctuation.

Her frown grew into a scowl as she continued reading the list. Why, it offered little more than the writing rules she had learned in school.

Eyeing the "DO" box with growing skepticism, she stepped back and stared at it. If it were no more helpful than the contents of the first box, she would be sorely disappointed in the value of her friend's gift. Of course, the mechanical reminders did prompt recollection of some rules she had forgotten, and they reinforced others that might slip her mind in the throes of the writing process. Still, they were of far less help than she had expected from a professional writer, especially one who was also a dear friend.

Despite her reluctance to open it, the "DO" box beckoned her to explore its treasures. Treasures?
After being so completely let down by the apparent uselessness of Box Number One, she resisted the temptation to give it a chance to "wow" her.

She turned to walk away, but something held her back. Against her better judgement, she reached down and untied the ribbon that locked its contents inside. The top popped open like a Jack-in-the-box and invited her to explore its bounty.

She blinked, rubbed her eyes, and blinked again. Unfamiliar terms and definitions reached out to her. One by one, she lifted them up, reviewed them in the light of her story, nodded, and carefully placed them back in the box.

1. Hyperbole - extreme exaggeration.
I'm so hungry I could eat a horse. The spider was the size of a basketball.
2. Irony - an expression that is opposite what you mean.
Of course, I'll have time to do that. I'm only working seventy hours this week, and it's my turn to cook dinner, do the dishes, and clean the house.
Irony doesn't carry the hurtful connotation of sarcasm and can make a point that might be missed if stated another way.
3. Metonymy - substuting one thing for another.
The press did not receive an invitation. (Reporters were not invited.) The theater opened its doors fifteen minutes late. (The theater manager opened the doors late.) The F.B.I. came to my door. (Someone from the F.B.I. came to my door.)
4. Metaphor - calls one thing something else.
His eyes were empty windows. She's a gem. He's a pig.
5. Onomatopoeia - a word expressing sound.
Bees buzz. Wind whistles. Snakes hiss. 
6. Paradox - apparent contradiction that states a subtle truth.
He works harder at not working than anybody I know. She can't carry a tune, but she sang an entire score when the police questioned her. 
7. Personification - attributing living qualities to inanimate objects.
The engine hummed a sweet song. The story spoke volumes. The raging river dared us to cross it. 
8. Simile - says something is like something else.
The clear night sky sparkled like diamond dust on dark velvet. Although he'd just eaten lunch, he gobbled down the sandwich like a starving dog.

Suddenly, she smiled. The gift began to make sense. The "DO" box offered varieties of expression she might never have considered, but which could bring color and flavor to her story and help define her characters. Even the disappointing "DON'T" box sharpened her awareness of the important role played by writing mechanics in the overall effectiveness of her work. No matter how exciting a story might be, poor mechanics can ruin it for a reader and potentially cost her a fan who won't be buying her next book.

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and romance. You can contact her at websites: and

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Ten Tools for Crafting A 3-D Setting

Recent negative press about social media and the internet aside (with some foundation for concern), there has never been a better time or place for writers to meet, to share, and to help other writers.

There are many wonderful resources you can utilize to bring your story setting to life, from thesauruses, to blogs, to classes.

Here is a short list.

1. The Story Building Blocks Build A World Workbook approaches the many layers of worldbuilding through a series of questions, with places to take notes and add images. Available in print and e-book.

2. Writers Helping Writers has a series of thesauruses (settings, emotions, traits) among the prolific number of helpful books, articles, and free advice.

3. The Writing World website has many resources on all aspects of writing, including their article on Four Ways to Bring Settings to Life.

4. has a 25 Different Sci-Fi Settings list.

5. 101 Writers’ Scene Settings: Unique Location Ideas & Sensory Details for Writers to Create Vivid Scene Settings (Writers' Resource Series Book 3)Mar 16, 2016 by Paula Wynne

6. Creative Writing: The Craft of Setting and Description Course by Weslyan University: In this course aspiring writers are introduced to techniques that masters of fiction use to ground a story in a concrete world.  From the most realist settings to the most fantastical, writers will learn how to describe the physical world in sharp, sensory detail.  You will also learn how to build credibility through research, and to use creative meditation exercises to deepen our own understanding of our story worlds, so that our readers can see all that we imagine.

7. Writers Digest University: Description and Setting: You’ll learn the elements on how to write setting and description from Ron Rozelle’s Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting. This book explains how description can bring a story to life and includes examples from well-known pieces of fiction. Master the basics of fiction writing and create believable people, places and events through setting and description! There is no instructor for this workshop. You will not receive feedback on assignments. You may review the lessons and exercises on your own schedule.

8. Professional Writing Academy: Fiction Skills - Setting: Well described settings bring invaluable atmosphere to any story — and when you create an effective sense of place, it can feel as though another character has been added to the narrative. This four-week online course, run by our partners at Faber Academy, guides you through key techniques for building convincing story worlds, and explores how different writers use location to bring their characters and stories alive.

9. Writers Digest University: Worldbuilding in Science Fiction and Fantasy course.

10. features Location and Setting Generator tools. These look really fun for times when you are stuck for a setting or just want to spin the wheel and see what happens.

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to resources (free and at cost) available to writers on the world wide web. I believe you can use any tool for good or ill. The internet is just another vast cache of tools. You can use them to learn and grow or just watch cute kittens.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.