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Sunday, October 15, 2023

Do or do not...the story behind the stories

cj Sez: I’ve been saying for a long time . . . way too long a time . . . that I’m trying to learn how to write a mystery. In fact, sitting in front of my keyboard staring at my WIP, I said it just the other day. Then I saw this meme:

  It reminded me that it has always been my habit that if I want to learn how to do something and have set an achievable goal, I have done what’s necessary to reach it. In other words, if I really want to do something, I will do it.

  I once had a wild hair thought and decided I wanted to go white water rafting. When I was 50, I took six weeks of swimming lessons and then
spent 5-1/2 days sleeping on the ground with 12 strangers on an Outward Bound rafting trip on the Yampa River between Colorado and Utah. I had a great adventure, made some interesting friends, and still don’t know how to swim. (That adventure is part and parcel of my novel “Choosing Carter” which I revised/re-edited/self-published as DEATH ON THE YAMPA.)

  When I first wanted to learn how to write, I enrolled in a creative writing class at a local community college. I flew to San Francisco and spent three days immersed in Robert McKee’s Story screenwriting workshop. I grabbed a bunch of how-to books. I read mystery novels and read some more of all genres.

  Over time, I discovered I was drawn to the books of Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard, John Grisham, James Lee Burke, Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series. You know the kind, heavy on the action and adventure with a smattering of sex. When I relocated from Detroit to Mobile, I took a continuing education class at the University of South Alabama (“Storming the Walls of the Publishing Industry”), wrote seven paragraphs based on a prompt from the instructor, and, with a positive response written on the paper, decided I was ready to write. (Those seven paragraphs eventually became “Deadly Star”, which I revised/re-edited/self-published as THE DAWGSTAR.)

  Writing in vacuum doesn’t work. I thought my premise was wonderful, the words and structure perfect. I wrote crap. There was no brilliant beginning, middle, or end. There was only a quasi-beginning, a sagging middle, and an unsatisfying end. And I couldn’t even edit out all the punctuation errors because I would read right past them.

  So, I joined a writers’ group and a critique group – a couple of critique groups, in fact, in order to get the kind of varied writer/reader responses I would get should my novel be on a library shelf. I went to conferences and writer retreats and workshops. My first short story was published in an anthology 2008, my first novel in 2013.

  At first, my stories and novels were traditionally published, but understanding that the publication world is a fickle place, I took an intensive class in self-publishing and bought tons of back-up/how-to reference materials. And you know what? It feels very good to know that I prepared myself for the option because I requested my rights back from Simon and Schuster then re-edited and renamed the novels and self-published them in 2021. I continue to submit my short stories to publishers.

  The point I’m trying to make is that, whatever it is you want to do, you have to make your “want to” a real goal in order to succeed. To be achievable, perhaps the goal is a first step. For me, that means reassessing my want-to. I must own the task. I will either do or do not.

  Reader or writer, today’s lesson: Set a goal and write it down. You might be surprised at how far you can go.


  Readers: This fourth installment of the Mobile Writers Guild PIECES anthology series is a perfect complement to the first of the upcoming holidays. .  . 18 pieces of work by 17 authors.

   “Once in a Blue Moon” is a paranormal short story that was my first effort in that genre.

  The book is readily available in paperback or ebook—Kindle is $1.99.

  Writers: National Novel Writing Month is on the horizon. Get more info here:  


  Okay, that’s it for today. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. Raising prayers for a happy and safe you.


Now a note from my sponsors:

  THE DAWGSTAR and DEATH ON THE YAMPA are fast-paced, thriller/suspense stories with sassy banter and a smidgen of sweet romance. (Perfect diversions for a quick weekend getaway.)

  The books are available on Amazon or through your favorite eTailer and bookstore. Got a library card? You can read the ebooks free from Hoopla.

  Little note: The Haunted Book Shop has some signed copies of my books in stock. TO ORDER, contact:  If she happens to be sold out, I have a small stash. Angela Trigg, the awesome owner and a RITA Award-winning author in her own right (writing as Angela Quarles) will be happy to ship you any book(s) by any author of your choice.

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