Welcome to my writing pages!  The main focus of this website is to offer writing tips, prompts, and inspiration to writers, no matter what their genre or skill level. You’ll also find information on my published works and the ones in progress. My schedule for posting is:

Monday Sparks: Writing prompts to fan your creative flame.

Thursdays – Writing tips based on a monthly theme

You will also find me on AmazonFacebook, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Featured post

Plot Story Starter

For this week’s prompt, use the above photo as a plot story starter. I always find inspiration for plots from my characters and settings. Using the same technique I suggested for the character story starter and the setting story starter, write down what you observe about this photo without analyzing it too closely.

My observations are:

  • Two elderly men
  • Could be chatting, could be arguing
  • Looks cold, they’re wearing warm clothes
  • The bicycle and hats make me think European

Here’s my opening to a story:

I heard them before I saw them.

Mort and Lester’s raised voices could be heard a block away this early in the morning when most citizens were just crawling out of bed. Every morning, except one, since I’d taken the job as a security guard at the university, the two old men would meet at the corner of 12th and Broad Street and usually end up yelling at each other and stalking away. After a night on patrol, I really didn’t want to listen to another confrontation. Not that they paid much attention to me. All my “Good mornings” had been met with grunts. I called them Mort and Lester because they reminded me of my grandpa and his brother. But Gramps and Uncle Lester didn’t cuss each other out every time they met.

I ducked down the alley between the empty house and the pawn shop. The voices died away. They were probably stalking away now.

As I stepped onto the sidewalk on Townes Street, a shout reached me. I jerked toward it, then picked up my pace. It had sort of sounded like one of the old men, but the cry seemed more like a shout of surprise. And not a pleasant one.

I reached 12th Street, looked to the intersection with Broad, and ran. Mort, the one who always pushed a bicycle, lay on the ground moaning. Lester was nowhere in sight.

For more plot story starters, click here.

First Podcast and First Audiobook Giveaway

In keeping with this month’s themes of beginnings, I’m posting about my first podcast and first audiobook giveaway.

Murder, Mayhem, and Mystery Laced with Morality

I was very excited when author Dr. Katherine Hutchinson-Hayes agreed to let me be a guest on her podcast. I met Katherine at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in 2020 and then reconnected with her on Instagram. Below are a few things I learned while preparing for and doing the interview with Katherine.

  • Radio experience helps. I’ve done a couple radio interviews with librarians from a local library. The set up was very similar. Katherine called me and recorded our phone conversation using the Anchor app.
  • Ask for questions or topics to prepare. Katherine sent me her questions well ahead of the interview. I wrote my answers and reviewed them before she called me, but …
  • Don’t read your answers. Like I said above, I reviewed them so they’d be in my mind, but I didn’t read them. I sat the answers to one side, so I could glance at them if I needed a prompt, but I knew if I read them, I would sound unnatural and boring. Katherine didn’t use all of the questions, and sometimes asked ones that weren’t on the sheet, but having done the preparation ahead of time really boosted my confidence and helped me when we veered slightly off topic.
  • Smile while you speak. It made me feel more confident and, I hope, I sounded pleasant. Katherine is much more natural in front of the microphone, but I hope I will sound that way if I have the chance to do more podcasts.

To listen, click here to go to Katherine’s website. Or listen Apple podcasts, Spotify, or Google podcasts.

First Audiobook

When my publisher told me they were going to do an audiobook version of my novel, A Shadow on the Snow, I was thrilled. But when it became available, I was hesitant. What would it be like? I had no idea what to expect and was afraid I wouldn’t like it.

After my husband helped me overcome some technical difficulties, I finally got the audio version downloaded to my phone. And I fell in love with the narration of Shellie Arnold. Although she now lives in Ohio, she has a southern accent, perfect for the first-person point of view of my main character Rae Riley, a nineteen-year-old who grew up all over the South but has recently moved to Ohio. Shellie does such a wonderful job bringing the text to life that I almost forget I wrote the novel.

To celebrate the audiobook version of A Shadow on the Snow, I’m giving away three copies, which you can access through Authors Direct, to the first three people to comment on this post. If you enjoy audiobooks, you’ll love Shellie’s narration of my winter cozy mystery.

Character Story Starter

This week’s prompt is a character story starter instead of one for a setting, like I had last week. Who is this girl? Or is she a woman?

Again, like last week, right down your first impressions without analyzing them.

  • Careful of her appearance
  • Fashionable but not trendy, individual taste stands out
  • Thoughtful
  • Stunned and trying to hide it
  • Disturbed
  • Masking strong emotions

Here’s my opening to a story with this character:

So that’s why Mom’s been so secretive. Well … more secretive than usual.

Pressing against the restored train depot, I tugged at a stray hair as Mom bent her head toward the mouth of a man who was dressed better than I was and might have been old enough to finish his undergrad degree.

“Hey, Ava.” Sydney Townsend popped up in front of me, blocking my view of Mom and her new boyfriend. “What’re you doing at the park? I thought you hated fresh air.”

Forcing on my cool expression, I said, “I decided I hadn’t given fresh air a fair chance, so I came out here today. But I was right. It’s as horrible as I thought. I’d better get home before too much contaminates me.”

I ducked around her. Mom and Boyfriend were gone, but they couldn’t have gone far. I walked as quickly as my high-heeled boots let me in the most likely direction.

Begin Writing a Story Without A Beginning

What if you have a great story idea–characters you love, settings that you can help readers live in, and a plot with plenty of twists and turns–but you have no idea how to start? Most books of writing advice emphasize the importance of the first chapter, the first paragraph, and the first sentence. All that importance can make you stress out. Or, if you’re like me, you think of the climax long before the opening scene. Or you know there are key scenes you want to include but you don’t have one to kick off the story. Don’t worry. You can begin writing a story without a beginning. Try these tips for getting around this form of writers’ block.

Write the Climax

If you can see the climax as clearly as you do one when watching a movie, then write it down. And write it as if there’s a complete story ahead of it. Don’t throw in a bunch of backstory or explanations. Write it as the payoff readers would love.

Write the Scenes You Like Best

Again, if certain scenes are crystal clear to you, write those. The first part of A Shadow on the Snow that hit paper was a scene I knew would go in the middle. I could see it so vividly and enjoyed watching it so much that I had to write it. I also had to write to stop it from replaying in my head. I’ve noticed that if I have a scene or conversation or confrontation I thoroughly enjoy but it keeps looping endlessly in my imagination, I have to write it in order for my mind to move onto something else.

Write Your Main Character’s Ordinary Day

Now before someone leaps up with an objection–yes, I can see you–yes, you in the back row, straining to contradict me–let me explain. I don’t think any story should start with your main character’s ordinary day. I’ve read too many published stories that start like that, and the beginning is always boring. But if you can’t get your story started, write out a typical day for your main character. Seeing his or her daily routine in print may give you an idea on how to find a hook for your beginning.

For Shadow, I started with my main character Rae receiving the first nasty anonymous note. The first lines of the novel are:

I’M NOT FOOLED, RAE. YOU’RE JUST LIKE YOUR MOTHER

I stared at the sheet of copier paper in my hand as the note fluttered in a gust of January wind.

Then readers follow Rae to her job at the library, meet her friends, colleagues, and eventually family. So they learn about her ordinary day. But because of the note, Rae introduces these characters while wondering if this person or that sent it to her. Her ordinary day is no longer ordinary.

For more advice on writing beginnings, read this article from Go Teen Writers.

What are the best beginnings you’ve read?

Setting Story Starter

Welcome to 2022, and the new theme for my blog, beginnings. This month, I’ll focus on all sorts of beginnings related to writing. And my prompts will help you kickstart a story. The first one is a setting story starter. Without thinking too much, what are the first words that leap to mind?

Here’s my list:

  • Old
  • Abandoned
  • Ancient
  • Creepy
  • Dracula
  • Decrepit
  • Mysterious–could hold a hundred secrets

Here’s how I would start a story with it:

Tucking my thumbs under the straps of my backpack, I peered at the crumbling stone buildings through a fine mist and believed every tall tale and legend I’d heard or read about the abandoned Krimm estate. Up here on the ridgeline, all sort of horrible deeds could be committed, and who would know about it?

I tightened my jaw and stepped onto the first crumbling step that scaled the steep slope. Even if the place was packed to the rafters with ghosts, vampires, and werewolves, I couldn’t turn back. Mace had said he was heading this way. If I was going to find out what happened to him, I had to get up there.

Place your list or the opening paragraphs of your inspiration in the comments below.

Click here for more setting story starters.

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