Skip to main content


Showing posts from June, 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 Path ,  the 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 a

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 Comedy Tragedy Rebirth 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 myste


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. C

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

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 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 passag

A Tale of Two Boxes

"DO" Box DON'T 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

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 Deta