Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Time for Celebration

This is the time of year for looking back on things we've accomplished in the last 12 months, and  we're happy to report on the "birth" of a pet project we had been discussing for several years. It's great to watch a project finally come to fruition.

Sue and Becky are the proud “parents” of Dottie, the Writing Mouse, who made her appearance this year in the form of two teaching books for beginning and intermediate writers.
We named her Dottie as she loves those three little dots when writing and we couldn’t very well call her “Ellipsis.”  That’s no name for a cute, lovable mouse.
Anyway, with Dottie in mind as the teacher, we put together the lessons we had created for our many on-line classes and organized them in DIY form and called the whole series, Let’s Write a Story.

The first book, Seven Ways to Plot, came out at the beginning of the year and can be found on Amazon in both print and ebook formats.  
Dottie’s second book, Creating Memorable Characters,  came out in the summer and is also now available in both formats and up on Amazon.
It was amazing to us how much time it took to give “birth” to Dottie. We had thought it was just a matter of putting together our lessons we had written, edited and perfected over the years in various writing classes.
But no, many other steps were involved--all of which took months to do. In actuality, it was sort of like taking lamaze birthing classes. Covers, as well as back covers had to designed, decisions on what the formatting layout should look like, ISBN numbers to buy, editing and proofing to do and redo as simple as sometimes the “trees in the forest” got overlooked or misplaced.
And now, that a new year is upon us, we look forward to announcing the imminent birth of Dottie’s third child, with lectures drawn from our most famous and well-know teaching class The Plotting Wheel.
Conceiving the idea was pretty simple, but like going through the pregnancy it was a long and difficult process. Many hours were spent on getting the information written just right so there can be no misunderstanding from a would-be writer picking up the book and setting out to use it as a learning tool. Once that was done we had to work on editing the book and that has taken loads of patience and consideration. Needless to say, we're still working on it.  
But never fear, just as a 40 week pregnancy finally comes to an end, so will our work on The Plotting Wheel book. It should be available this spring. We hope you'll watch for it. It’s a bundle of information that will help any writer, in easy steps, with plotting their book.

We hope your year has been busy with writing projects and we wish all our readers the best in the New Year.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Joy of Brainstorming

There is nothing in the world of writing that can beat good-old-fashion brainstorming session with another writer when it comes to creating ideas for a new book.


Take for example the next subject we are working on for our Dottie series of teaching books.  Villains. That’s right. Villains. How to create them, how to give them interesting personalities and how to kill them off.

But, and isn’t there always a but, we were stymied on how to explain the differences between a full-blown, really nasty villain such as a psychopath and a run-of-the-mill villain, such as a petty criminal. Then there are the antagonists and the anti-heroes who might play a role as villain. How does one tell the difference between all these levels of villains?


The answer: we brainstormed the problem over a tasty breakfast at our favorite working/eating restaurant.
First we stated the problem which was how to explain the different types of villains and how they were created. Of course that is two problems, but they are interconnected or at least they seemed to be.
SUE: I think we should divide the villains into two groups. Start with the classic villains such as sociopaths, mentally unstable folks and throw in the witches, aliens and monsters. Then we can put the lesser villains such as the antagonists into their own group.  

BECKY: No, I don’t think that is the way to do it. Let’s look at how these villains can to be villains. Were they born villains or did their environment turn them into villains? Think about the monsters, beasts or aliens - they have no choice. They are simply born that way, but the others, such as say a terrorist or even a bully, were they really born that way or did their environment and other disturbed people turn them into villains?
SUE: Hmm. Interest point. We should start at the beginning. Ah, I’ve got it. Let’s start with a lump of clay.
BECKY: Clay? You’ve got to be kidding.
SUE: No. Clay. Let’s take this lump of moldable clay and see what we can do with it. Okay?
Here we go. Clay is clay right? So we can safely say that some villains are like clay. They are simply born or create that way from the get-go.
BECKY:  Got it. This would include aliens, beasts, witches… all those villains that can NOT changed or those where NO change is possible. And let’s throw good old mother nature into this category. She does what she does because she is born that way.
SUE: Right. But now we take that lump and put it into a nasty or evil environment and what happens. The clay turns into a nasty or evil villain.
BECKY: But there are other factors that influence our formation of a  villain. Science and technology and other people. Environment, it seems to me, is only one factor in molding this villain into what he/she will become.
SUE: Right! Some villains are born evil, while others, may be born with evil tendencies, it depends on their surroundings, which include both environment and people to nourish these minds and turn them into villains
BECKY: And depending on the level of rage or hate thrust upon our lump of clay, this will determine their level of evilness.
SUE: By George, I think we’ve got it.
And we did. That's how we'll be working on categorizing our villains.  Brainstorming depends on the give and take of the writers and the ability to change directions, open their minds to new ideas and in general, to simply go with the flow.
Look for our next book in the Let’s Write a Story series, Creating the Villain, which will be out in the winter of 2017.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Different Approaches to Getting Organized

Everyone has their own way of writing. There are the plotters who love to do detailed outlines of their ideas before they start writing. And of course there are also, at the opposite end of the writing scale, those who write by the “seat of their pants” or in other words, they just start writing and usually follow the needs, wants and desires of their characters.
Writers also organize their working areas in a variety of ways.  We have always talked about how we approach our writing in different ways—Sue is a careful plotter while Becky works the second way—just starting out and writing scene by scene.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that since we are so different in our plotting methods that we also approach the organization of our work in different ways as well.
Sue: I have only one computer, and one desk, but I do have a whole wall of shelves with notebooks that contain my notes or typed books.
Becky: I have three different computers and write in several areas and often take one of my laptops to coffee shops or libraries to write. I also keep a bunch of individual notebooks for each of my fiction stories, but they are small and portable so I can take them with me wherever I go.
Sue: My concern in organizing my work is that I have many on-going projects. Besides the teaching/writing series Becky and I are working on, I have several individual books in progress and another whole series of how-to books. I am definitely a plotter as whenever I start a new project I start a new notebook
Becky: I too have several writing projects going at one time--both fiction and non-fiction, and that is partially why I use different computers. Besides our writing projects I blog on a regular basis and keep my pictures for those blogs plus for Twitter and Pinterest on my desk top computer.  I keep my fiction writing projects on my laptop and a couple of thumb drives so that I can be prepared to work wherever I am.  I work in several rooms at home, depending on my mood, so I need to have my laptop handy and ready to unplug and take with me wherever I plan to write. There are times I even move outside to write on the patio. I also like to be prepared to write anytime and anywhere I might be.  I have always kept a small notebook in my purse and another in my car so I can write a scene while I am having lunch or even while I’m waiting to meet someone.  If I hit a rough spot in my writing, a change of scene is often just the right prescription to get me  back on track. I sometimes go out to lunch just to sit in a coffee shop or restaurant and write. 
Sue: But back to organizing. I love my computer and how it stores all my files. I have files inside files and often I spend too much time trying to find the right file and as I am a visual person my wall shelves are filled with notebooks, actual real, turn the pages, notebooks. One for each project, one for each book, one for each I’m-going-to-do-that-someday ideas. And of course, notebooks with almost completed books that probably will never see the light of day.
Becky: While I am writing in lots of different places I have always managed to pull all my files together into one main file location eventually, usually on a weekly basis.  I often use those handwritten notes to get me started writing in the morning. Just copying them into my computer gets my mind working so that I can start to increase my word count every day. By revisiting my written notes I get pulled back into the story.
Sue: Our point being, no matter what you write, where you are in your writing career, you need some kind of a system to keep your ideas, notes, research and whatever in some kind of order… something that works for you. Not your spouse, not your kids, and not your mother-in-law. Grin.
Becky: Right. You can read all the organizational tips you can find, especially on Pinterest or listening to your other writing friends or in writing groups, but whatever you do, find your own way and then use what makes the most sense to you.  Forcing yourself to do it the way someone else organizes can often leave you frustrated and confused.

And please note, our new book, Creating Memorable Characters, Volume II, in the Let’s Write a Story series is now out, both as an ebook and in print. And we have added a FREE worksheet  bundle for those who love to organize their stories through written worksheets.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dottie Goes to Print

Six months ago the first book in our Let's Write a Story series was published as an e-book on Amazon. Seven Ways to Plot was an introduction to various plotting methods, and it was aimed at helping aspiring authors to figure out the best plotting method for them and their books. It was a good beginning, but now, our baby has grown up! It is available in print as well.

After the birth of an ebook, it takes a bit for the baby to become an adult print book.

How long? Well, it depends.

While that might seen like a wishy-washy answer, it really does depend on many factors. The following three are the basic items you need to consider in order for your print book to make it into the real world.

Carefully consider:
  • Back cover
  • Formatting
  • Finance
Let’s take ‘em one at a time.

Back Cover

In order for a “print” book to develop, especially if the contents have first been an ebook, there has to be a back cover and a spine.  

Covers and spines are needed if the book is to be bought by libraries, carried in book stores and easy to physically handle if viewed and used by a reader.

Of course something has to go on the back cover. Because in a bookstore, the consumer will, after picking up the book, flip it over and read what is on the back cover
The problem is what to put there. A blurb about the contents, an image of the authors, and of course, a bar code will be needed. Who is going to get the bar code? Who will supply the ISBN which all print books must have.

Does the author want her picture on the cover? Or perhaps a bit about how the book came into existence?  And should there be a short review of what’s in the book, because now, the potential reader in a bookstore will likely turn the book over and read what it contains.  Well, after a lot of work -- here is how it turned out:


    Getting the file ready for printing means a “new” formatting has to be done, as the formatting for an ebook is different from the formatting for a print book. And someone has to do it.
    Neither of us know how to format. I suppose we could learn, but we simply don’t have the time, the energy or the desire to take a class on formatting.
    Getting back to setting up the book for printing, formatting is different from formatting an ebook, so you need to be careful in finding the right person who has experience in this area. A good formatter costs money.

  • Of course everything cost money in self-publishing.
    • the Bar Code usually costs about $25 but the ISBN number that goes on the bar code also costs
    • someone has to do the layout of the back cover. This also costs money, usually around $100, but this varies greatly
    • more formatting. Once again someone has to do this. This cost usually is figured by the number of pages depending on the expertise of the formatter.
    Becky and I are proud to announce that our “baby” in the Let’s Write a Story series has left the ebook nest and has joined the “print” world. It seems like no matter how much we enjoy writing and finishing a book and getting it published, there is still nothing quite like holding that printed version in your hand and knowing it will be put up on someone's bookshelf soon.
    Seven Ways to Plot  is available in ebook and print at and we will soon be publishing the next in our Let's Write a Story! series -- Creating Memorable Characters.  It will also start out as an e-book and then progress into print.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Let's Create Characters

Where do we get ideas for our characters?
An interesting question.  We’ve all seen lists of ideas on how to make the characters in our books into real people. In fact we have one coming out in a few weeks also, but still, how do we come up with that special character in the beginning?

Sue: For my villain in my first Meg mystery, I thought of my first boyfriend. He and I were hot stuff in high school, but once we were in college he dropped me like the preverbal hot potato. So was I hurt, you betcha. Now it was get even time. I delighted in not only making him the bad guy but I even went so far as to give the villain his real first name. Oh, how I loved it when he got

Becky: Right. I too take people I have known or even parts of myself and turn them into fictional characters. Usually it is just one little thing or an incident that I might pull from someone around me. For instance in my romance, Home Fires Burning, I took a line from my mother and the story idea from her romance with my dad. The line she always repeated, from the first time she saw him as a young teen, was, "I'm going to marry that guy some day." She fell for him from the moment she laid eyes on him and I took that love story and built it into my romance. I set the whole thing on a Colorado ranch, which was where they met.

 Sue: Other characters somehow just appear in one’s mind. Where they come from, I’m not sure. My theory is that the brain, while sleeping, those gray cells are working on possible characters for you to use. 

Becky: I'm also always looking for special characters who can play off each other. For instance in my Dead Man's Rules, I have two characters in a small New Mexico town who have both spent time living in Los Angeles. All Cere my heroine can think about is how to cover a big story so she can redeem herself in her boss's eyes and get back to the city. But for Rafe, it means serenity and peace. He loves the small town that he has chosen as a refuge from the dangerous big city.
Sue: While other characters come from life. I use friends and relatives and sometimes just people I met or see in my daily travels. I might take the gray beard from the guy who sold me new tires, or the bent nose from the butcher who sold me my meat. Another character I used was from one of the neighbors down the block and how she was always butting into everyone’s business. I made her a nosy sister-in-law that needed a good telling off. Lots of fun.

Becky: I do the same. I'm always observing people and picking up little bits and pieces from them that I find fascinating. As writers it's something  I think we need to foster in ourselves. Be observant and pay attention to everything around us.
You never know when you will be meeting your next fictional character.
We hope you'll watch for our new Dottie book on characters, Let's Write a Story: Creating Memorable Characters, coming soon. It can help you learn how to make cardboard cut-out characters into actual story people your readers will love.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Two Minds -- One Blog

How many writers does it take to write a great blog?

Depends on the writers… grin…Unlike the light bulb joke, where it is deemed that only one writer is needed to change the damn light bulb, i.e. write a great blog, it often depends on not only the writers, but on who the readers are going to be, and of course, what the blog is going to be about.

Sue: Both Becky and I have, over the years, written our share of individual blogs, but it was only recently, when we started teaching and writing “teaching” books together that we began writing blogs together.

Becky: Right. The beauty of having two writers is that they keep each other in check. Sue is great at coming up with ideas and often gets to her writing much faster than I do, but she has no grasp--sorry, Sue--of computer stuff, like putting up blogs, getting a web site organized, etc.   While I know just how to work the technical aspects of getting our blogs up and running, sometimes I get sidetracked and don’t always write get things written that fast.

Sue: That’s so true. I would be completely lost with Becky’s help getting our words up so others can read them.

The bottom line is… two sets of creative minds will work well together if:

   they totally agree with each other’s ideas

   they totally disagree with each other’s ideas

   or… they sort of agree and disagree on certain aspects of the subject being discussed, BUT, they respect each other’s views.      

Becky: Absolutely correct. There has to be a strong foundation of mutual understanding between the writing partners. Because there really aren’t any two strong creative minds that will TOTALLY agree on all aspects of living and writing.

The best one can hope for is “like minds”… that is minds that at least somewhat think alike… and the individual “weak” points are off-set, edited and corrected by the other’s “strong” points.

Sue:  Two sets of gray cells that actually work well together can create magic!

We’re continuing to work on new writing books and we’ll have a print version of our Dottie book on characters ready to go soon, as well as a new Dottie book on characters.  We’ll announce that as the date of publication nears.

Becky:  For now if you have any questions on creating characters, plotting or writing with a partner, please ask.  And if you have any blog subjects you would like us to tackle as partners, please ask.  We’ll put our brains together and come up with an answer.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Developing Our Characters

Both of us write fiction… mysteries… although Becky has romance in her books while Sue's are cozies with little or no romance.

But we both need to create characters that “fit” into the story line.

Becky:   My characters pop into my head and I find myself starting to develop them as the story goes along.  Sometimes I don't know them completely until I have finished with the first draft of my book.  I keep a blank character profile handy and as I find out something about a character I will write it down.  Often by the time the book is done, most of the blanks are filled in.  Then I can use that profile as I edit, to either deepen the character or make certain he/she doesn't go off the rails somewhere.

Sue:  I have a pretty good idea of my character even before I start writing. But as Becky says, they develop during the writing both physically, mentally and of course, emotionally. Sometimes when I get to the end of a scene or chapter and when I know what has to happen for the plot to progress I find that I have to “give” some new aspect to the character.

 Becky: Right. When I first start out I really don’t have a great grasp on how my hero/heroine is going to react until the first problems start to pop up. This comes quite often as I am writing.

Sue: I agree. When the protagonist sees the dead body or example, how do you want this character to react?

Becky: And when they first kiss, what should the reaction be so the story will continue? Do I have them get all mushy and lovey-dovey and suddenly, if this is a romance, the story is over on page 15? Well, of course not.  I am going to throw come conflicts and other roadblocks in the way. I want them to have to work to make that romance become a total reality.

Sue: Absolutely. Here is where you have to deepen the emotional and mental aspects of the character, whether the good protagonist or the villain. So I keep a three-ring notebook by my computer. Each character has his/her own page where I am careful to note first their physical appearance and then add personality traits and emotional responses as I develop them in each scene. Little did I know when I started working on my latest cozy that one of the main characters needed to have an eidetic memory…but by the time I got half way through the first draft I realized the plot wouldn’t work unless he could remember certain happenings. 

Becky:  And little did I know when I first started writing my Dead Man Series that I was going to have one peripheral character who got under my skin and started demanding a bigger role in the story. The funny thing is people who have read the book tell me that he's gotten under their skins as well.  I was already halfway through writing book two, so while he plays a role in it, he wasn't the main character. Now I am working on book three, and telling his story.

So speaking of characters... we would like everyone to know that we are in the final stages of editing our very own character ebook in which we have pulled together all the various elements and factors a writer needs to consider when building and develop his/her characters for their next book.  It's in the final editing stages at the moment, so please watch for it on Amazon… it has this catchy title, Creating Memorable Characters, and it will be available sometime in March.

After that, our next ebook is The Plotting Wheel, and every writer who has ever stumbled over a plot problem will love this book. Watch for it sometime this summer.