Book Release and Book Deal

Just in time for the holidays, here’s a book release and book deal! I have a new short story releasing in a new anthology! Ohio Trail Mix is an anthology of five short stories, all inspired by literary sites found in Ohio.

Ohio is full of literary connections. Libraries, museums, homes of authors, historical sites.

Did you know Superman was born in Ohio?

Did you know Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in the Cincinnati area?

Check out the Ohio Literary Trail, compiled by Ohioana, for more interesting facts.

But before that, we invite you to enjoy some stories inspired by visits to a handful of Ohio Literary Trail sites in the last year. Your imagination might be sparked. Or at the very least, your curiosity!

“Mazza Mystery” by Bettie Boswell: Just who was the woman pretending to be a known artist? Why?

“Bovine” by JPC Allen:  An elitist author comes to a backwater Ohio county, thinking he’s found the perfect setting for the perfect crime.

“Between Semicolons and Plot Twisters” by Rebecca Waters: An author finds more in common with Harriet Beecher Stowe than she ever would have guessed, when modern-day slavery comes close to home.

“The Mask” by Betty Kulich: A gift of true love is passed through the ages.

“Books: Caged and Free” by Michelle L. Levigne: On a moonlit night, old books come to life to share their stories.

My mystery was a lot of fun to write. It takes place in my fictional county of Marlin County, Ohio, but my teen detective is a minor character. It’s an inverted mystery, which is a mystery in which readers follow a criminal as he commits his crime. So has is that mysterious? Instead of being a whodunit, it’s a how’s-he-gonna-get-caught. One of my favorite TV shows is Columbo, and every episode of that show is an inverted mystery. It almost always starts with an arrogant, wealthy murderer thinking he has committed the perfect crime. Then rumpled Lt. Columbo shows up, and I relish watching this unassuming cop pick apart the supposedly fool-proof scheme.

But wait! There’s more ….

Give the gift of books

If you have audiobooks lovers on your Christmas list, here’s a deal for you! Click here and browse Mt. Zion Ridge’s collection of audiobooks. If you like mysteries, check out the audiobook of my novel, A Shadow on the Snow. Narrator Shellie Arnold brings my teen detective to life in a wonderful way that I never could have anticipated. I couldn’t have picked a better reader1

Formula of a Climax

You’ve written a great hook at the beginning. You’ve put twists and turns in your middle. Now comes the end. You’ve got to pull out all the stops for the climax as a reward to your readers for coming this far into your story. But how? Using Star Wars: A New Hope, I’ll explain the formula of a climax because (1) almost everybody knows the movie and (2) after spending the past six months enveloped in its universe since my oldest became a fan, I should put all that I’ve learned from him to good use. I would love to dissect the climax to one of my mysteries but (1) my publishers would not appreciate me revealing the ending and (2) nothing is worse for a mystery fan than a spoiled ending. But the anatomy of A New Hope will work in any genre.

Components of a Climax

The whole beginning and middle are establishing viewers expectations of the climax, if a writer has done her job. By the time the plans for Death Star get in the hands of the rebels, viewers are expecting three things in the climax:

  • Some kind of rebel assault on the Death Star. The Death Star is the symbol of the evil Empire, and the Empire is the antagonist so it must be involved.
  • Luke Skywalker plays a critical role in the assault. He’s the protagonist, so he must have the main role in confronting the antagonist in the climax.
  • The Force figures into the climax. After all the talk about it, if it wasn’t involved, viewers would wonder why it was included in the first place.

There’s the formula for your climax: Antagonist x Protagonist x Theme = Climax. Or A x P x Th = C. (My youngest has been drowning in Algebra lately, so I might as well put that to good use too.) I’m using multiplication because usually when you multiply, you usually get a greater answer.

Digging into the Formula

The antagonist. Not only must the Empire be involved in the climax, it must be an active participant. It has to make things happen in the climax, not just have action happen to it. In A New Hope, the Death Star is positioning itself to destroy the rebel base. Very good. But even better is when Darth Vader gets in his fighter to personally shoot down rebels ships. The antagonist is making things happen in the climax.

The protagonist. The same rule applies to the protagonist. The climax can’t happen to him. He has to make things happen in the climax. So Luke engages in the small-ship assault on the Death Star and ends up being the last ship capable of firing the potentially fatal shot.

The theme, The use of the Force, for good or evil, is the underlying theme and it must be a critical factor in the making the climax happen. So Luke uses it to aim the fatal shot. Not every story has a theme. Sometimes, the genre acts as the theme of story, tying other elements together. Which brings me to …

One More Variable

I need to add one more variable to our formula for a climax. And that’s G=genre. Your climax needs to follow the rules of the genre you’re writing in, or your readers will close the book disappointed. A New Hope is a sci-fi/fantasy epic. The climax must have epic stakes–death of a whole planet, death of most of the rebels opposing the evil empire. If I put on the back cover that my novel is a mystery, and then my detective never uncovers the culprit, readers will throw my book against the wall.

So now our formula reads: (A x P x Th) + G = C. Or (A x P) + G = C.

Next time, I’ll write about the very difficult task of freshening the formula of a climax while still fulfilling the rules of your genre. For another post on endings, click here.

What book or movie had the perfect climax?

What About a Less Than Happy Ending?

What about a less than happy ending for today’s photo prompt about writing endings? I don’t mean a complete downer–life has enough of those. But how about one that is not totally upbeat, maybe an ending that has both positive and negative elements? When I came across this portrait, it got me to imaging how this woman could fit into an ending. And she doesn’t look happy.

Here’s what I created for a less than happy ending.

Amy, Rachel, and I descended the steps of the police station. I zipped my coat as a sudden gust tore down the street.

“It’s all over,” Rachel sighed.

At the bottom step, I said to Amy, “I’m glad I had the chance to help you, no matter what happened, to prove how sorry I am.”

Amy had been gazing down the street as fat flakes collected on her hair. Now her head swiveled to me, and I knew that stare. I’d seen it since we were kids.

“What makes you think you’ve proven anything?” she said in that ice-cold tone that sunk into me better than fangs.

“He nearly died saving you,” Rachel shouted. “If that doesn’t prove it, nothing will.” She blinked. “That’s the truth, isn’t it? Jake can’t reconcile with you because you won’t let him. Not because he doesn’t want to.”

That was the truth. All these years, I had thought I hadn’t tried hard enough to make up for the way I treated Amy, and it really came down to Amy didn’t want to forgive me. She liked wielding the power of unforgiveness.

I drug in a deep breath of frigid air, shoving my hands deep in the pockets of my coat. “If you ever want to act like a real sister, Amy, I’ll be ready.” I headed down the sidewalk, Rachel falling in step beside me.

“You were never a real brother to me.” Amy’s quiet voice sliced through the snowflakes.

I stopped. “Not when we were kids. But I am now.”

“You got that right,” said Rachel, giving me a tired smile.

We turned the corner at the end of the block, and I didn’t look back.

For more photo prompts to inspire endings, click here.

Three Elements That Every Ending Must Have

No matter what genre you write, the three elements every ending must have are the climax, the denouement or wrap-up, and the last lines. If one of these three things are missing, readers walk away unsatisfied, perhaps not realizing why, just aware that a particular story let them down, and they will tell their friends that it “didn’t have a good ending.”

Since I’m focusing on endings this month, I’m reposting the explanations for these three elements of an ending so that in future posts, you’ll understand what I’m writing about.

The Climax

My Webster’s dictionary defines the climax as “the point of greatest intensity in a series of events.” As I wrote to the climax of my novel, A Shadow on the Snow, I had to make sure that I kept building the tension by raising the stakes for my main character. Half way through the novel, I have an action sequence that puts a big twist in the plot. I wanted to make this scene suspenseful and exciting, but not more than the climax. It’s like a fireworks display. It’s all right to set off some really big fireworks in the middle, but I need to save the most impressive ones for the end.

The Denouement

Or the wrap up, where the loose ends of the plot are tied up. This is especially important in a mystery. In the climax, the detective reveals who the culprit is. In the denouement, he must explain how he solved the mystery. The danger with this part is I will write on and on, drawing out the ending, deflating the thrill of the climax. 

That was a complaint of many people who watched The Return of the Kingwhen it came out in 2003. The climax was when the One Ring was destroyed in the flames of Mount Doom. The movie continued for fifteen or twenty minutes, resolving character developments and plot points. I didn’t mind because I’d read the novel and expected these scenes. But other people thought the denouement dragged on too long.

On the other hand, I don’t want to end too abruptly. We’ve all watched shows or read books where the storyline doesn’t so much ends as quits, as if the writer lost interest. My kids pointed this out when they watched The Rescuers Down Under. In this Disney cartoon, a little boy is kidnapped by a poacher, who is hunting a rare bird. The boy is rescued, the bird saved, but my kids felt they should have shown the boy being reunited with his mother. It was a loose end left dangling.

Last lines

I struggled with this in my novel because it’s so important. It’s literally the last thing people read and probably one of the things that sticks with them. Whatever mood, message, or feeling I’m trying to convey throughout the story should be there in the last lines.

For my short story, “A Rose from the Ashes”, I wanted an ending that would leave a smile on the face of readers. The climax is very emotional as my MC confronts the three men who could be her father and the one who tried to murder her mother. I wanted the last lines to be lighter but still carry the deep meaning of Rae finding her father. 

I was inspired by the way Alfred Hitchcock ended The Man Who Knew Too Much. Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day play American parents, unwittingly involved in an international assassination plot. Their son Hank is kidnapped, and they chase the criminals across Europe, thwart the scheme, and rescue Hank unharmed in England. A few of their English friends have been waiting for them at their hotel. When the reunited family walks in, Jimmy Stewart says, “Sorry we were gone so long, but we had to pick up Hank.” I like how that line is perfectly honest, but the audience knows the true meaning while the friends only take it at face value.

What books or movies have great endings? Which ones have lousy ones?

How Could This Scene End a Story?

Since December’s the last month of the year, this month’s theme of crafting endings seems more than appropriate. My photo prompts will be selected to inspire endings. But how can you write an ending without a beginning? It’s easy if you’re brain works like mine, although I wouldn’t wish that on you. Climaxes or wrap-ups are often the first thing I think of when I start to formulate a story. I’ll write more about that later this month, but for now–how could this scene end a story?

Here’s my inspiration. Please put your inspiration in the comments below.

I placed Noah on the sled. And he sat there. He didn’t leap off with an alarmed look on his sweet face. He just sat, waiting, trusting me.

It had taken deathly threat to get here, but it was worth it.

A lump clogged my throat, but bursting into happy sobs would confuse or even scare Noah.

Swallowing, I picked up the rope tied to the sled and broken into a huge smile. “Ready to ride?”

Giggling, he nodded and bent over the steering wheel, and we were off.

Fore more photo prompts about endings, click here.

Powered by

Up ↑