The Seasons in Your Novel

Writers are always told that they need to write what they know, a frustrating piece of advice for someone who is writing fantasy or science fiction, or those who long to escape to somewhere other than where they are current living and wish to use their writing skills as a road map. One of the…

Terry Pratchett’s Final Book: The Shepherd’s Crown

Sir Terry Pratchett’s death in March 2015 left a huge hole in the hearts of fantasy readers. Pratchett had been entertaining us with his wonderful Discworld series since he wrote The Color of Magic in 1983. Pratchett’s Discworld was populated by delightful characters such as recovering alcoholic Sam Vimes, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Nobby Nobbs,…

I’m an Adult, and I read Young Adult Novels

A couple years ago Slate published an article by Ruth Graham in which she criticized adults for reading Young Adult novels. The Young Adult market was designed for teenagers, but a surprising thing happened on the way to the bestseller list. Research has shown that 55% of Young Adult novels are purchased and read by…

Writing a Modern Romance

A friend of mine recently approached me about her plans to write a romance novel. Many writers get their start with romance novels. It is a genre that never goes out of style. A lot of aspiring writers denigrate romance writers, assuming that it is simply a matter of writing soft-core porn (harder to write…

Why Aren’t You Writing?

I have often heard people who want to be writers complain that they could get more writing done if they didn’t have to work at a normal job, didn’t have to finish all their school work, didn’t have so many activities that take up their time. When I talk to them I discover some interesting…

Using Real People as Characters

The issue of using real people as characters in your stories or books comes up frequently in writer workshops. The reality is that we frequently use aspects of a person whom we have known or aspects of our own personalities in our stories. We often write about our own personal experiences. After all, especially in…

Read Everything

Photo is of the public library in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo was taken by Jonathan Moreau. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonathan_moreau/ I read between 150 and 200 books per year. I’ve actually read over 100 already this year, but this is an unusual year for me. It is a matter of how a person spends his or her leisure…

Real Events in Fiction

Photo is “Tornado,” taken by Vincent Parsons. Tornado was on Highway 210, heading toward Orrick, Missouri. https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrtickles/ One of my earliest published stories, “Transplanted Roses,” was based loosely on when my maternal grandmother died. It was told in first person, describing a large family who was falling apart because their matriarch had been diagnosed with…

Give Your Characters a Pet

I tend to worry about the dog. It’s probably a knee-jerk reaction for a childhood spent reading books like Zachary Ball’s Bristle Face, but if there is an animal in a story, I’m worried about what is going to happen to it. I don’t want anything bad to happen to it. Kill off half of…

Character Development in Mystery Novels

Photo is of the first hall of the Temple of Ramses II, taken by Dennis Jarvis. A well-designed plot with unexpected events can sell a mystery, but for a writer to produce a successful mystery series he must create characters that are so vivid and realistic that readers feel they know them as well as…

The Significance of Setting in Mystery Novels

Photo is of Shadows-on-the-Teche by Joseph Shadows-on-the-Teche is located in New Iberia, Louisiana, and mentioned frequently in James Lee Burke’s mystery novels featuring his detective Dave Robicheaux. The setting of a mystery novel has often been used to mirror the novel’s plot or to express the inner conflicts of the protagonist as he or she…

Military Slang: Language of the United States Armed Forces

Photo of U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds was taken by Don Sullivan Note: The following article contains language that may be offensive to some. Although I do not swear very often myself, and I use swear words sparingly in my fiction, the article is posted because most civilians have little knowledge of military slang. If a…