Category Archives: books

Writers are always turfing up plot ideas

Creative inspiration is everywhere. The writer’s trick is to filter the chaff from the sublime.  And sometimes it takes a while to realize the merits of an idea that’s fallen from heaven.

Does the new idea fit or blend into another plot that’s on the agenda? Does it provide a needed twist or fillip to the ending you’ve planned? Mull it over for a bit.  Sometimes quiet manual work gives the brain opportunity to concentrate on inner thoughts. Forget housework! I have in mind potting plants, raking the yard or walking alone on a trail with no obstacles so your mind can wander.

Sometimes a new plot idea can serve to take a series forward. I already have two full plots for books that will follow “The Murders at Elk Bend” which was published in November. A series brings new writing challenges, but endless opportunity to try new story lines.

I suspect plots need to be edited just as words do. They need to be kept fairly simple, driven competently to a finale, but with spice thrown in.

As a writer, I tend to overcomplicate a plot trying to weave in more story lines than necessary. On the other hand, as a reader, I know I don’t want to guess the action too far in advance. I like a full cast of characters and I don’t want to know, without some initial puzzling, what’s going to happen too easily. I appreciate a little weaving and bobbing on the part of the writer.

And I very much appreciate the effort it takes an author to provide a terrifying twist or two!  Readers will keep coming back to a writer who surprises them.



Can a writer be productive when tired, weary?

Writing a dream novel on a part-time basis has plenty of challenges. Keeping all the characters sorted, staying true to the planned plot, getting to the keyboard every day present my top three hurdles.

But when life gets complicated, the day job gets demanding or someone in the family falls ill, the insurmountables seem to stack up.

How can a writer stay on course to completion?

One solution seems to cleave to a routine — like a sheepdog focused on the sheepfold. Get those words, and sheep, in there, pronto! Just herd ’em right in there! Every day.

But if one is tired, grumpy or in just plain need of rest, there is no shame in taking a break for a day. Getting outdoors relieves most people’s ennui and rejuvenates the thinking bits upstairs.

A deadline can trump all distractions when it needs to. Writers seem to flay themselves when the clock is narrowing the window of writing time. The ability to focus that intently on the work, to meet a strict deadline, is the hallmark of the professional.

Pants on chair + fingers on keyboard = completion almost every time. Good luck, there, writers!

A novel’s setting is vital, in my book


As a writer of mysteries, I think the setting of a novel is just as important as the main characters.  Think of the mood a writer can set by constructing well-crafted descriptions of a street, town or countryside.  Is it a dark and brooding place? Are the town’s streets wide and comfortable? Complacent, perhaps?

Characters don’t operate in a vacuum. The place in which they live and interact influences their movements.

In my new murder mystery, ‘The Murders at Elk Bend,’ the setting is a mountain town, an old resort that has seen a hundred years of returning visitors each summer. At the height of the season, it is a bustling, crowded place of busy commerce and leisurely pursuits.  But in winter, tourists vanished, it is a different town. Empty streets, a very slow pace of business, and closed shopfronts greet the occasional arrival. “See you in Spring!” declare the signs in store windows.

Extremes of weather visit the town, depending on season. The first of my Elk Bend novels takes place at the peak of tourist season, and action is capped by a violent incident on the Fourth of July. The sun is fierce overhead, and the runoff of melted snow has been as violent as anyone remembers. Shops along the river running through town have used sandbags to avoid flooding.

The terrific roaring of the river is a sound I know to be true, because I was at a location similar to my setting during a high-runoff year. The color of the foam, the tornadic spiral of the water as it thundered through hidden boulders is not to be forgotten.

It is the details of a setting that give versimilitude to a writer’s tale. Try to experience the setting you are attempting to recreate in your book. Readers will be glad you did.

Chatting about characters… From where do they come?


Book writers unwittingly have a store of characters sitting in their heads.  All their lives they observe, remember, mull other people’s behaviors. When they sit down to actually create a character for a book or novel, a picture of the ‘new’ person may be fully formed.

Some writers have described their stories as moving through their minds like movies. They can see the beginning, middle and end of a book plot, as if it moves reel by reel. Writers who sit down to record the movie in their heads have challenges making the keyboard keep pace with their mental pictures.

I would imagine there are writers who start a book with no idea where they are going to go with it, but that certainly doesn’t work for me.

I think several plots ahead, just as if I’m playing chess or 6-wicket croquet, in order to move characters toward the more distant goal as well as the immediate.

Are there other interesting work-ways employed by writers of novels?

‘The Murders at Elk Bend’ for Amazon Kindle readers


A copy can be downloaded at the link below.

Newspaper reporter India Banks has returned to an old mountain resort in the Rocky Mountains where she spent many youthful summers. She brings her big-city investigative expertise to this small town where a series of killings is causing a crescendo of fear.

The Murders at Elk Bend for Nook readers

Nook readers can download 'The Murders at Elk Bend'

Nook readers can download ‘The Murders at Elk Bend’

Readers with Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-readers can enjoy ‘The Murders at Elk Bend’ by downloading it at this link:

Coming in 2013: “Wherever’s Benjie? An Elk Bend Murder Mystery” . . . News reporter India Banks and the newsroom crew of the Elk Bend Daily Mountain Bugle investigate a child gone missing from an upscale summer camp. The uproar begins, and a bright light is shone on an old, traditional establishment.