Sunday, June 15, 2014


Dialogue can be fun to write, like putting words into your characters mouth. I try to have my characters lay out the scene through dialogue whenever possible. It doesn’t always work in the first draft but when done right, it brings life to the scene.

Another purpose of dialogue is to give insight into a character without committing the dreaded act of “telling.” In the following excerpt from my novel, FOR EVERY ACTION, no words describe the detective’s effectiveness, yet certain of the character’s attributes stand out. As a reader, would you have confidence in the detective’s ability to handle his job?

The man wore a sports jacket of navy-flecked tweed, slightly frayed around the cuffs. Fine dust coated the tops of his shoes and he wore no hat. He removed a small notepad from an inner pocket of his jacket before glancing around the room.

“How may I help you?” Mr. Jaedelle asked.

“Sergeant Robertson, detective with the Homicide Division,” the man said, offering a business card. “I’m looking for a . . .” He stopped to consult his notepad. “I’m looking for Miss Bibeau. I understand she works here.”

“I’m Pepper Bibeau.” I stepped toward him with my hand outstretched.

After a slight hesitation, the detective reached over and gave me a firm handshake. But before he could say anything further, Gloria walked out of her office.

“Why are you here, detective?” she asked. “This law office doesn’t handle homicides.”

“I understand your concern, ma’am.” The detective removed a wallet from his inside breast pocket and displayed his Chicago police star.

Gloria made a show of examining the badge, then gave him a disapproving frown. He waited for her to step back before continuing.

“Unfortunately, it’s necessary for me to discuss details of a case with Miss Bibeau.”

Here are some links to other articles/book that deal with the use of dialogue to illustrate character traits:

How to show character through dialogue

Write Good Dialogue

Dynamic Dialogue: Letting Your Story Speak by William Bernhardt

If you have a moment, please check out my Pepper Bibeau mysteries on Amazon:


Tuesday, June 3, 2014


It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group blog posting. IWSG was created by the awesome ninja captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and you can find a list of all the other members of the group here.

After writing and self-publishing three novels in my planned Pepper Bibeau mystery series, I allowed “second thoughts” to erode my confidence in writing a fourth. My marketing for the third novel never really got off the ground. I lost faith in my writing, in the worth of the stories, and in myself as a writer. It was easier to promote authors more imaginative than me and novels containing more important characters than mine. 

A lot of soul-searching followed the publication of my third novel. 

* Why had I chosen to set my stories in the near past (beginning with the late 60s and early 70s) after reading that such novels didn’t sell? Maybe it would be better to write stories occurring in the present. 

* Why was my protagonist a female with a backstory of service as a nurse in the Vietnam War? I had never been in the military, and current bestselling novels focused on action in Afghanistan or other parts of the Middle East. 

* Why did I think the life of an insurance investigator would play well in the Mystery genre? Such a career could never carry a series. 

Once I formed concrete questions to get a handle on my concerns, I considered answers to possible solutions. In November 2013, I used NaNoWriMo to test the theory of boosting my confidence by setting stories in present time. I wrote 50K words of a novel set in 2012. My main character’s backstory and career differed from my original protagonist. The surge of excitement I felt while writing the story compared to eating a new flavor of ice cream or wearing a new red silk dress. The macadamia nut chocolate swirl ice cream delighted my taste buds. The color and feel of the new dress affected most of my other senses. 

What the ice cream and dress didn’t do, and what the new protagonist didn’t do, was to satisfy my core wants and needs. My first love is vanilla ice cream: French vanilla, Country vanilla, Simply vanilla. Ready-to-wear clothes in tranquil colors suit me best. I relish the research required in developing a character whose story spans the years missed while I was “too busy living.” 

This insight resolved my concerns about why to write something “they” say won’t sell. 

For me, appreciation of a good mystery set in a familiar location generates motivation. My goal is to write mysteries that evolve in personally meaningful settings, for the enjoyment and entertainment of readers with similar interests. Book Four is now underway and I am more eager than ever to write the next Pepper Bibeau mystery.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Any Publicity is Good Publicity

Amazon has this relatively new promotion (Jan. 2014) called Kindle First. Each month, four upcoming kindle releases are offered for $1.99. I always look forward to reading the synopsis of each novel, understandably biased as it is written by the book’s editor. My choice for June is The Fracking King: A Novel. I might have leaned more toward the mystery, Supreme Justice, except for two reasons. 

The first reason is that I’ve followed the news about fracking within the United States and look forward to reading the author’s treatment of this controversial practice. The second reason involves a “review” submitted by someone who believes the author of The Fracking King: A Novel should do more research due to the spelling of a word in the book’s title (for the record it is spelled correctly.) The comment has led to a “review discussion.” 

First, let me say it is not my idea of entertainment to read critical remarks or faint praise meant to discredit an author’s work. Having been on the receiving end, I know the potential damage such a review can cause to an author’s self-esteem or credibility. Low-star reviews offering no substantiating insight, however, reflect the mindset of the reviewer far more than they reveal the worth of the book being reviewed. 

A reviewer’s opinion falls under the heading of free speech, a constitutionally guaranteed inalienable right. Opinion connotes view, estimation, belief, judgment, attitude, and outlook. Opinion does not signify fact, absolute, dogma, or law. 

Granted, at times I have decided against purchasing a book when credibly written low-star reviews outnumbered axe grinding low-star reviews. On the other hand, a large number of high-star reviews suggests to me that the author has succeeded in reaching their target audience, something all authors aspire to and admire in others. In that case, my responsibility is to determine if the book targets my interests.

A high-star review has never convinced me to buy a book that didn’t interest me, and no low-star review will ever stop me from buying a book I want to read. Therefore, are reviews worth anything more than unlimited entertainment and insight into the human psyche? Definitely!

Reviews confirm that people are reading the book and sharing their opinions with others. Contrary to popular belief concerning the “word of mouth” theory, not everyone who hears an opinion agrees with it. Some people like to form an opinion based on their own criteria. Whether they ultimately agree with the “word of mouth” opinion or reach a different conclusion, one thing still holds true.
Any publicity is good publicity.
This is my opinion on book reviews and publicity. I would love to hear yours.