DSC_6334_smallWelcome to my writing pages!  The main focus of this page is to explore ways beginning writers can find inspiration.  You’ll also find information on my published works and the ones in progress. My schedule for posting is:

Monday Sparks: Writing ideas to fan your creative flame

Thursdays – Writing tips based on a monthly theme

You may also find me on Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Featured post

The Long Way Down by Edward D. Hoch

Because this month’s theme is short stories, I was faced with the delightful problem of choosing one to feature. Over the years, I’ve read so many great stories, from a variety of genres, penned by accomplished writers. I decided to go with “The Long Way Down” by Edward D. Hoch, the latest short story I’ve read that made my jaw drop with astonishment at both the plot twists and the expertise in which the author crafted them.

I read “The Long Way Down” last spring when my husband surprised me with the anthology, The 50 Greatest Mysteries of All Time, complied by Otto Penzler. Since it’s considered one of Mr. Hoch’s best short stories, I was surprised I’d never read it before in other collections. A word about Edward D. Hoch. The man was a master of short stories, writing almost a thousand of them before his death in 2008. Although he wrote in several genres, crime fiction was his specialty, and his specialty within that specialty was impossible crime stories.

Published in 1965, “The Long Way Down” begins with the main character McLove, chief of security for the Jupiter Steel and Brass Corporation, walking to work in Manhattan through the fog on a March morning. He goes to his office on the twenty-first floor, where the executives are waiting for the president of the company, Billy Calm. Billy has been out of town, working on a merger, and is supposed to return that morning for a meeting, announcing his success in getting it.

While in Billy’s empty office, McLove hears voices in the hall. He comes out just in time to see the door close to the meeting room. A crash from that room brings McLove, the secretary, and the executives into it on the run. They find a shattered window. The secretary says, “Billy jumped.”

McLove races down the elevator to the ground floor and runs outside but finds no body. Neither do the police. No one can figure out how a man could leap off a skyscraper and not hit the earth.

While McLove and the secretary take lunch in a nearby diner, a commotion draws them back to the Jupiter building. A crowd surrounds Billy Calm’s smashed body. He hit the ground three hours and forty-five minutes after he jumped. As one executive puts it, he took “the long way down.”

Not only is the mystery memorable, the solution left me reeling but agreeing that it made perfect sense. The reason it all works so well is that every component of the story has a purpose, even down to the names of the characters and the weather, which I didn’t realize until the last line. If you want to write mystery short stories, this is one you can study to learn how to write lean and mean while still delivering plenty of punch.

For more reviews of my favorite short stories, click on the stories below

“A Scandal in Winter” by Gillian Linscott

“The Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse” by G.K. Chesteron

“Owls Hoot in the Daytime and Other Omens” by Manly Wade Wellman

“Summer Job” by Amanda Witt

“The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries” by Otto Penzler

What are your favorite short stories?

Prompts for Short Stories

This month’s theme is short stories. I loved reading them and writing them! My prompts for short stories provide inspiration by asking who, what, when, where, how, and why questions.

Today’s prompt is a setting. Answering the questions below gives me the beginning of a story.

What?–A well-kept room in an old family mansion

Where?–A small midwestern town.

When?–A dusty, hot August afternoon.

Who?— An elderly woman, who lives alone in the house, and a young woman, who cleans her house.

Why?–The young woman knows a mystery surrounds the elderly woman’s family and has found something in the attic that might be connected to it.

How?–The young woman shows the elderly woman the object and tells her what she thinks it has to do with the mystery.

For another setting prompt, click here. How does the photo inspire you to answer the questions?

One Woman’s Romance is Another Woman’s Farce

Michelle L. Levigne is guest blogging but not as a speculative fiction author. To read those posts, click here. Today, she’s put on her romance author hat (I supposed that would have a broad brim with lots of feathers or flowers) and writes about her latest romance series and how one woman’s romance is another women’s farce.

A writer I used to know had a tagline something like, “When Love Is A Laughing Matter.” It made sense to me, because what’s the fun of romance that’s all angst and struggle? Yes, a good story has conflict and goals — but if you can’t laugh along the way, what’s the use?

Which brings me to my newest romance (sigh, published last year, but a new one in the series coming, promise!): A Match (not) Made in Heaven. Book 1 of the Match Girls. What’s the premise that ties them together? Gertie Foster, a wacky old lady armed with a computer program and determined to find them the love of their lives — whether they want one or not!

Enter Dinah Clydesdale, overworked and underappreciated church secretary who is fired because of church politics. At Christmas, no less. That sends her to a Christian job-matching service, run by our hero, Zach Foster, and his elderly Aunt Gertie. Dinah declines to sign up for A Match Made in Heaven dating service, but Gertie does it for her anyway. That puts Dinah on a collision course with a domineering woman determined to get her slightly creepy son married off, whether the bride is willing or not.

Can you see the comedy potential here?

The next book will be, Making It All Up, about Reggie Grant, Dinah’s best friend, head of the makeup counter at the local department store, and Gertie’s next target.

Too busy to read? I’m in the process of producing the audiobook of Match. Keep an eye out for updates on my blog or website. If you like clean, slightly snarky romance, you might just like Dinah, Reggie, and Gertie’s other future victims — umm — clients.

Great to hear about your audiobook! I’m sure that’s an adventure in itself.

*****

Buy at Amazon or Mt. Zion Ridge Press

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On the road to publication, Michelle fell into fandom in college and has 40+ stories in various SF and fantasy universes. She has a bunch of useless degrees in theater, English, film/communication, and writing. Even worse, she has over 100 books and novellas with multiple small presses, in science fiction and fantasy, YA, suspense, women’s fiction, and sub-genres of romance. 

Her training includes the Institute for Children’s Literature; proofreading at an advertising agency; and working at a community newspaper. She is a tea snob and freelance edits for a living (MichelleLevigne@gmail.com for info/rates), but only enough to give her time to write. Want to learn about upcoming books, book launch parties, inside information, and cover reveals? Go to Michelle’s website or blog to sign up. You can also find her at www.YeOldeDragonBooks.com , www.MtZionRidgePress.com . Facebook, and Instagram.

What’s the Relationship?

What’s the relationship between these two characters? Most people would say a grandfather and grandchild, but I’m imagining a great-grandfather with his great-grandchild. In my YA mystery, my main character’s great-grandfather is a major influence within her dad’s family. Another character was raised by his great-grandfather until he was eight years old.

I only met one of my great-grandparents, my paternal grandmother’s mom, and don’t remember much about her, except for a visit when I was preschooler. Grandma Irene had had part of an arm amputated almost forty years before when a drunk driver hit her while she walked to church. I remember asking her how she lost it.

So it’s been enjoyable exploring this relationship in my fiction. I wonder if having great-grandchildren gives you a new connection to your own childhood. What do you imagine this great-grandfather and grandchild are discussing as they walk?

For all the prompts from this month, click here.

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