Category Archives: Blog


Transitions don’t just lead into the next thing; they make an impact.

My mom spent the last several months in the hospital—not improving—not able to care for herself at home anymore.

I went to the hospital to see her before Christmas. I brought her a red Poinsettia—her favorite color to brighten her gloomy room. But it was the Diet Coke I sneaked in that brightened her eyes with excitement. I inserted her straw and helped her hold it. She gripped it tight and sipped like a delighted child. Until that moment, she’d been moaning and depressed.

Mom and I experienced another transition before I left. She told me to give her a hug. When I bent forward, she grabbed me like the coke bottle. She pulled me into a deep, tender hug and, for the first time, I felt the love she’d withheld from me all my life. In this one instant, every hurt and doubt about her love for me vanished. She held on tighter and kissed me, then said, “I wish I could go home with you.”

Teary-eyed, I told her, “I wish you could too.”

My brother and I sorted through her belongings and transitioned her to a care facility.


Have you reflected on all the transitions your life has gone through this past year? What were your reactions like? Did you stay in control? Were you unemotional?


Read back through the major transitions in the life of your character/s and make sure they react emotionally, like a real person. Make your readers emote and feel connected to your characters.  

Discovering Michael Shirley’s Land

When I began writing Defiance on Indian Creek, in 2008, all I found on Michael Shirley’s land came from a Google Book copy of Oren Morton’s book, A History of Monroe County West Virginia. Listed on page 82 under Surveys under Botetourt County in 1774, in the following format: Shirley, Michael–527–Indian—L—Mar 24.

However, I didn’t know how to find the deed online for the correct location. I printed a map of Indian Creek and learned the creek’s course into the New River. After locating the predominant frontier forts, I decided on a location for the fictional story.

Eight years later, I submitted my manuscript to White Bird Publications. While waiting for the book’s completion, I wondered about the accuracy of my character’s trek toward Cooks Fort.

I emailed the West Virginia Historical Society and contacted the Cook’s Old Mill historian Fred Ziegler. His reply to my inquiry shocked, thrilled, and caused panic at the same time. “…Mary could have walked to the fort in five minutes.”

I called my publisher. “Should I totally rewrite the story plot to fix my blunder?”

My publisher said, “No. It’s a great story, and it’s fictional.”

I’m happy to say book four, Palisades of the Heart, (Work in Progress) places the Shirley family in the correct location for the important romance between William McGuire and Mary Shirley.

I’m not making life easy on them, however. There are major issues to resolve.

Check out Fred Ziegler’s excellent non-fiction book: The Settlement of the Greater Greenbrier Valley, West Virginia. The People, Their Homeplaces, and Their Lives on the Frontier. Buy on Amazon

To sigh or not to sigh

I found this interesting article:

  Why Do We Sigh? | Psychology Today

My question: Should a first-person character tell us they sighed? 

Sighing is an audible and visual reaction. But maybe a first-person character would only observe this in others. Would a first-person character just express the frustration in dialogue (internal and audible) and in physical actions?

I’d love feedback on this from fiction writers and those who read fiction.

3 Reasons Authors Need Critiques

Have you ever been shocked and disappointed by a big-name author’s book and thought, I wish I could have critiqued that for them first?

If seasoned authors still need trusted critique partners to say, “this is boring”, I certainly do.

And I’m happy to say I have.

While working on my fourth book in the Dangerous Loyalties series, I asked for a first chapter critique from someone not familiar with my previous work. I received a great reality check on the arrogant thought, I’ve nailed it.

What went wrong?

  • I didn’t mention my POV character’s name until the second page.
  • I started with the character traveling and reflecting too long on backstory.
  • Because of the reflection, my character’s emotions became erratic.
  • My reader couldn’t distinguish the character’s goal.

Yes, I knew better. So why did I choose to ignore sound story structure advice from the beginning?

Because I love my darlings. Thankfully, the critique exposed the truth, “They’re evil and must die.”

Rather than stay bummed out and whine, “I’ll never write again” I reassessed the mess and develop an alternative plan. I embraced the opportunity to make corrections on my blueprint before continuing with faulty construction. I also repented from judging the famous author’s boring best seller.

3 Reasons Authors Need Tough Critiques

  1. Reader reviews will be brutal if you cause buyer’s remorse.
  2. Writers need their weaknesses revealed in order to improve.
  3. You’re not as great as you think you are.

Even after working with critique partners, beta readers, and editors, odds are, critical reviews will come, and fans will turn. Don’t let this truth be an excuse to quit or become cocky.

Stand up straight, pull the dagger from your heart, continue receiving help, and get back to creating.

Are the reasons I’ve missed?

5 Challenges to Guest Blogging

I’ve followed author, editor, and writing coach, C.S. Lakin for years. I’ve matured as a writer from her critiques, classes, and books. She loves helping writers at all levels.

When I emailed her on a personal matter, she responded with sweet understanding, then shocked the heck out of me. “Why don’t you write me a blog post sometime…the #1 way to get new fans and traction on your books is to guest blog on top sights…”

So, I did.

But first, I dealt with these 5 challenges:

1. Fear–What do I know?

2. Imposter Syndrome–People will know I’m lame.

3. Write–Okay, I’ll try.

4. Revise–See, I can’t do it, but I’ll try again.

5. Release–Yay me, I did it. Followed by #1 and #2.

Have you guest blogged? What were your challenges and results?

My post category is Novel Structure. The title: 5 Steps to Write Thrilling Historical Fiction for Teens.

Read on C.S. Lakin’s informative website:


Time to Write

How strong is your desire to write?

In a 1964 interview, Harper Lee said, “Writing is a process of self-discipline you must learn before you can call yourself a writer. There are people who write, but I think they’re quite different from people who must write.”

I’ve added this topic on my vlog.

Character History: Research and Organizational Tips


A writer discovers characters by inspiration or by accident. Their stories are so incredible or inspirational they must be shared. The blessing of imagination allows characters to share their personal histories with the writer who becomes the ghostwriter.

As a writer of historical fiction, my research requires discovering descriptions, timelines, and eye-witness accounts of real-life men, women, and children. Thankfully, names, ages, maps, photos, non-fiction books, and documents are a click away. Occasionally, I visit my local library.

However, most of this awesome information won’t be used in my character’s story. Some of the facts will give way to the fictional plot with history used as needed for believability. The fun is in blending the two, much like an abstract painting. I love adding flesh to the bones.

How do seasoned writers keep track of all the information gleaned?

Here are a few I’ve learned through the years. Share your methods in the comments below.

10 tips for researching, organizing, culling, and utilizing your character’s story

  1. Research begins by discovering who your characters are, what they will do, and where the story is set.
  2. Create a project folder on your computer. Add subfolders such as characters, settings, backstory, maps, calendars, resources used, and deleted scenes.
  3. Search online for needed technical, historical, or world building resources.
  4. Copy and paste needed information into a document with the website link and source credit for a later reference or to use in a blog post.
  5. Save documents in the appropriate subfolders in your project folder.
  6. Print documents if preferred but slide them into plastic sleeves. Keep them in large, white three-ring binders which have the clear plastic on the front and end that allows you to slide in a custom label. Add tabs between subjects as needed for quick reference.
  7. Use character development worksheets which include physical descriptions, personality types/disorders, fears, passions, greatest desire, and morals or lack of.
  8. Find or create worksheets to help brainstorm what is going to happen. What will force your characters out of their usual routines? Who or what is threatening to kill, steal, or destroy their greatest desire? What is at risk? Will they win?
  9. Write your story using only what you need from your research to create sensory and emotional scenes.
  10. Blend in bits and pieces of the main character’s past as needed but keep the story moving. Readers want to sympathize with your main character and experience thecurrent action of the story.
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