Writers: We shouldn’t always say what we think

Today my guest is Linda Shenton Matchett, an author, speaker, and history geek. A native of Baltimore, Maryland she was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry (of Star Spangled Banner fame) and has lived in historic places all her life. Linda is a member of ACFW, RWA, and Sisters in Crime. She volunteers as a docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and as a trustee for her local public library.

I’m not going to ruin it, so I’m not going to say too much because the topic of this post kind of says it all. Here’s what Linda has shared with us.

Last month I attended Crimebake, a mystery writing conference held outside Boston which is about a two hour drive from where I live. My husband and I currently own only one car, which is not usually a problem because we work walking distance from our home. But when either of us goes out of town for an extended period of time, we rent a car so the other person isn’t stranded.

Being the “frugal” person that I am, I typically rent the compact (read: cheapest) car option. Not typically a problem. However, this year I was in charge of the conference game for the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime. We decided on a twisted version of “Pin the tail on the donkey” called “Pin the wound on the corpse.” I purchased a 4’X2’ piece of foam insulation, wrapped it in gray fabric that was supposed to look like pavement, and had a friend of mine who is an artist draw the chalk outline of the victim.

Fast forward to the day I was leaving. My husband drove me to the rental car agency in our SUV. (Can you see where this is going yet?). The representative offered me a couple of vehicles to choose from, one of which was a Kia Soul. Not familiar with the car, I looked at my husband and blurted, “Do you think the corpse will fit in the back?”

The woman gasped, and her hands froze above the computer keyboard for a fraction of a second before she cleared her throat and continued to type. Even after my explanation, she looked skeptical and perhaps a tad bit nervous. Or maybe that was my imagination.

Next time, I’ll keep my question to myself.

Yeah, she sure had me, gotta love it.  Here’s some links I hope you will check out.





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Last Minute Christmas Gifts

Is your Christmas shopping done? That would include the last minute gifts you might have forgotten about, or any little extras, just because you felt like it.

For a little shameless self-promo, if you need a gift idea, spoken as an author – buy someone a book! Better yet, buy a book by Gail Sattler.

Then after Christmas, if it’s one you haven’t already read, ask to borrow it. I’m a big Kindle reader, and most books can be loaned out by the buyer to a friend’s Kindle. For free. Gotta love it.

To make it easy for you – go to and in the search box, first select KINDLE from the options, and then put in me – Gail Sattler. Or, another favorite author. That’s okay.  * insert smiley face here * .

Merry Christmas as you finish up your shopping.

My next, and last post before Christmas will be by my guest Linda Matchett.  And then, we’re almost at the end of 2018.

Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas.

How Seeds Grow Into Stories

Today my guest is Naomi Musch.  Naomi is an award-winning author who crafts her stories from the pristine north woods of Wisconsin, where she and her husband Jeff live as epically as God allows near the families of their five adult children. She enjoys roaming around on the farm, snacking out of the garden, relaxing in her vintage camper, and loving on her passel of grandchildren. Naomi is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Wisconsin Writers’ Association, and the Lake Superior Writers. Though she has written in a variety of venues, her great love is historical fiction. Her new novel, Mist O’er the Voyageur, released from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in October.

Naomi had a lot to say about how she develops and grows a story.

When one asks what goes on in the mind of a writer, nine times out of ten, the question is tied to the simple curiosity of wondering how a story idea evolves. If I had a dime for every time someone said, “I don’t know how you come up with these stories,” I’d…well, I’d have a lot of dimes.

The fact of the matter is that story ideas arrive from many places, and they usually come as a seed or a mental germ that does a little dance through the writer’s mind, until it slowly gains substance. Then more bits and pieces are added to it until if finally comes out fully fledged, ready for plotting or writing. That is the light bulb moment that excites a writer.

For instance, there’ve been times an idea came flitting through my head while paddling a river in a canoe or sitting in a deer stand as snowflakes wetted my eyelashes. Others stir thoughts while foraging for berries or cooking over a campfire. These experiences provoke visions of what it might have been like to doing these same activities one or two hundred years ago. The activity itself drops seeds of an idea into my writer’s brain. A great deal of my newest release, Mist O’er the Voyageur, grew out of those outdoor experiences as well as a love of colonial and frontier history.

History, you see, and the study of it, greases my wheels. It might be more appropriate for my little analogy to say history waters my seedling ideas. As I research, my brain gets so full of possibilities it can become difficult to determine which to use and which not to. Sometimes I have only to do a little research for another entirely new story idea to emerge.

Then there are the ideas that birth through spiritual evaluation. While reading my Bible or listening to a sermon, some spiritual theme or question will often rear up, begging to be applied. It’s quite natural for me to want to transfer those questions to a character in a difficult personal situation, time period, or setting. One of my current WWI books, The Deepest Sigh, from my Echoes of the Heart series came to me out of the Old Testament story of Jacob and his love for Rachel, though he ended up marrying her sister Leah.

Sometimes titles spin around in my writer’s brain like puzzle pieces that settle into place and fit together. If I hear or read a phrase that would make a perfect title, a book idea might grow from that alone. I wrote a book called The Love Coward based on reference to an individual, and another called The Casket Girl based on a reference in the index of a history book.

Sometimes a story births in the mind of a writer as a dream—literally—a dream. I wrote one entire novel based upon a film unrolling in my head while I slept. It was full of angst and moments of personal heroism, and when I woke up, I was amazed to discover it had a plot that didn’t unravel.

Someone writing a memoir may say, “I have a story to tell” because they’ve lived through an experience that is rich and full and ready for telling. Any non-fiction writer looks at a complete idea and decides how to explain it. These types of writing, while they can be creative and definitely take a great deal of organization, do not require the sorts of invention that take place in the fiction writer’s brain. Fiction writers deal with the yet-unknown. The full story isn’t revealed to them right away. It’s opened to them in pieces as they mull and let their imaginations loose. They experience their stories not as something that happened and they must report, but rather as something that is currently happening just as they are writing it, with only the possibility of a plot outline to follow that is “known”.

So yes, fiction writers really do have a lot of concepts, characters, and adventures going on in their heads. Our brains are constantly story-forming, even while we aren’t in the act of writing. Sometimes the biggest difficulty isn’t coming up with ideas, but is in finding the time to write them all down.

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Writing about… panic mode

As Christmas draws near, I’ve looked at what I’ve written in the last few weeks, and I have to say, it’s not much. I recently had a knee replacement surgery, and I’ve been barely mobile so one would think I have had lots of time to write. I have, but I haven’t been writing. To tell the truth, I’ve been playing a lot of games and spending way too much time on Facebook. But now that I’m finished the heavy-duty drugs, it’s time to get back into writing. The truth of today’s writing world is that more than every, a writer needs to keep writing, and not drop off the face of the earth, or rather, not drop off the face of Amazon dot com.

Which brings me to look at what I’ve done recently. I’ve submitted applications to teach at a couple of local writer’s conferences. That means I’ve written some proposals and teaching notes, but I haven’t written any actual writing.  I’ve also caught up on a lot of email. Which also isn’t real writing. I’d like to count grocery lists, which have been necessary because I haven’t been able to shop yet, so my husband has been doing the shopping. He does a great job, but he needs a list, despite the fact that he buys way more stuff than I usually do.

I’ve been working on keeping my blog current, which is more work than I thought it would be, but it’s fun to read all my guests’ contributions.

But I really should be writing. I have a six book series I’m working on, well, allegedly working. I need to catch up and get moving on that. My plan is to give the first one away for free and then put the rest of the series on Amazon.

Okay,… onward…. after Christmas…

Writing about the human qualities we all share

Today my guest is another Gail – Gail Kittleson. Like me, the writing bug bit Gail later in life, but she’s hopelessly addicted. Hey, also just like me. But Gail Kittleson writes historical fiction. Her World War II fiction honors women who made a difference despite great odds. Her second love, teaching, leads to facilitating writing workshops and retreats where she loves cheering others on. Her latest project is Kiss Me Once Again,

Here is what Gail Kittleson would like to share on what goes on in her mind, as a writer.

This week I came across quotes from two of my favorite authors, Roald Dahl and Charles Dickens. They wrote in times different from ours, but with the same human qualities to cast into believable characters.

Roald Dahl writes, “I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it.”

He may have referenced his own life, but I see this enthusiasm in his characters, too. My granddaughter and I read Danny The Champion of the World last summer. The story enthralled her, as it did her mother thirty-odd years ago. Why? Because the main characters come across as REAL.

That’s what I aim for—believable heroines or heroes. Since I write historical women’s fiction set in World War II, I’m always seeking facts, figures, and quirks that shout REAL!

 Because the war affects my characters so much, they might be tempted to give up or become bitter. Huge obstacles often block their way. Dickens comes in at this point: “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

My characters experience terrifying dangers, huge doubts, and make great sacrifices. They may fall into despair or bitterness at times, but don’t we all, if we’re honest?

Historical records of men and women who gave so much for the cause instruct me. Many survivors returned wounded, yet forged ahead with tenacity, refusing to allow past misfortunes to control their futures. Readers need such role models, so my mind is always seeking…seeking.

You can also see more about Gail Kittleson at:

Christmas shopping, and Christmas watching

It’s December! That means Christmas is within a month away. Besides Christmas shopping, something that always goes on in the mind is, Christmas writing. Is there time for writing in December? But as a writer, we can’t just not write, just because life is busy.

If I were better organized, I’d take notes. I can see it now. Out shopping in the mall you look to the side, and there is a strange person, madly typing into their phone. But this person isn’t texting because they never get any replies. Or failing a phone, maybe that person actually writing down notes on paper. The person looks around, their eyes go wide, then they keep typing even faster. It kind of makes you wonder, is that person writing something about me? I check to make sure I don’t have something embarrassing on my jacket, or worse, a sock sticking out of my pants.

And that person keeps typing, looking around and typing more. That makes you look around to see what that person is looking at. Then you start to notice stuff. People who are intent on something. Others who are wandering around looking lost.

There is a story behind everyone in the mall. Now to make notes on what that could be…

This entry was posted on December 5, 2018, in Gail's BLOG.

A Writer’s Mind – Observation Mode

Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past, and ENGAGED: Surrendering the Future. She also shares her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. Her latest releases, YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL, is a book for girls ages 10-100, written with her teenaged daughter, Hannah, and A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER is a boxed set featuring Julie and some of the authors from the Inspy Romance blog. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read, as well as monthly with Inspy Romance. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities.

As a writer, like many of us, Julie Arduni has a different way of watching the world around her, and interacting with it. Here’s what she has to say

My husband once joked that I never see a parking lot. Always in observation mode, that normal parking lot to most people is a possible crime scene to me. Perhaps it’s a makeshift landing strip. As a romance author, that lot might be a first meet between hero and heroine. It also might be the scene for a goodbye. The bottom line is I don’t see anything “as is.” I’m always thinking about the possibilities.

A recent example was when I took a tour of Castle Noel, a Christmas-themed tourist attraction in northeast Ohio. During the guided tour we saw exhibit after exhibit of movie props from Cindy Lou Who’s bedroom in Ron Howard’s The Grinch, to Cousin Eddie’s RV from Christmas Vacation. Guests even have the opportunity to slide down the exact slide Ralphie clung to when he found the nerve to tell Santa he wanted a Red Ryder BB gun in A Christmas Story.

I tried, I really tried to focus on the Christmas magic and the movie trivia as we traveled from room to room. The battle was in my mind where ideas were forming. As several traveled through my active imagination, one question stood out that didn’t let go, even after the tour was over. What if you worked at a Christmas-themed place and hated Christmas?

The blessing is I was able to answer that question quickly as Kimberly Rose Johnson invited Inspy Romance authors that were able to participate in a Christmas boxed set. This was a dream of mine, so I jumped at the chance and started creating.

My writer’s mind was able to take that question and create twists, turns, and conflicts to place the reader on a journey. The result was Restoring Christmas, and it is included in the boxed set, A Christmas to Remember. Instead of Ohio, I used Upstate NY as a setting, basing Geneseo Valley off the real Geneseo, where I graduated from college. The Christmas Mansion is a staple in the community, but Holly Christmas left the area as soon as she could. She resented the time her parents spent at the mansion, and after her mother passed away, her father worked even harder at the mansion. When Holly has to return, a child discerns the truth about Ms. Christmas. She hates the holiday.

All that came from a simple visit to a Christmas attraction.

With a parking lot!

I have a feeling the next time I go into a parking lot, I’m going to keep my eyes open for anyone watching me, and I’m going to be wondering what they’re thinking. And for sure, I don’t hate Christmas.

There are a lot of ways to find Julie Arduini









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Do Writers Give Books For Christmas?

Is your Christmas shopping done?

Mine isn’t.

A lot of people think that writers give books for Christmas. I can say that most of us do not. That is because books given as seasonal gifts are not usually appreciated. If an author gives a book as a gift, most people appreciate it. Who doesn’t appreciate getting something for free? But the point of that is, most people think that our own books don’t cost the author anything. That’s not true. Yes, most publishers will give a certain number of books with a contract, but we’re supposed to give those books away for promotion and reviewing. Not freebies for our friends.  I know authors who buy lots of books for various purposes. They’re not free.

If I give someone a book for Christmas, I’m more likely to give away a book not written by me. Not even necessarily a friend’s book, but a book that I don’t know the author, and just think the recipient will enjoy that book.

It’s a total thrill for me as an author when someone buys a book I’ve written, then comes to me to ask me to autograph it for a friend.

I’ll never forget the first time that happened to me. I was at home, I’d gotten the kids off to school and went back to bed because I had worked the night before and hadn’t gotten to bed until approximately 2:00 am. I was only dressed in ratty sweatpants and an old t-shirt, I hadn’t combed my hair, and I certainly wasn’t wearing makeup. I don’t even remember if I was wearing socks. The doorbell rang, so I answered it. It was the mother of a friend of one of my kids. She’d bought a few of my books, and she came to my door to ask me to autograph one of them because she was giving it away as a birthday gift to her sister.

Not a moment of glory, but I did sign the book and write a nice birthday wish.

No, writers usually don’t give their own books as Christmas gifts. But we sure love it when others do.

Cute Meets, Contrariness, and Compelling Beginnings

My guest this week is Amanda Cabot. Amanda Cabot’s dream of selling a book before her thirtieth birthday came true, and she’s now the author of more than thirty-five novels. Her inspirational romances have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists, have garnered a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and have been nominated for the ACFW Carol, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers Best awards. You can see more about Amanda Cabot on FacebookTwitter – and visit her blog.

There are many standard ways to make things work in books, but once started, authors’ minds go in a million different directions. Here is what Amanda Cabot says about that.

How does a writer’s mind work? If you asked my husband that, he’d probably say something about convoluted ways, and he’d be right. Here’s an example. As writers, we all know the importance of a compelling beginning. When I started writing, more years ago than I’m going to admit, conventional wisdom said an author had three pages to hook an agent, editor, or reader. Now, thanks to what I call the Twitter Phenomenon, attention spans are shorter, and we have no more than a page to convince readers to invest their time and money in a book.

How do you do that? If you’re writing romance as I do, one proven technique is the cute meet.   You know what I mean, don’t you?   Cute meets are a staple of novels and Hollywood. We’ve all seen the couple that bumps into each other – literally – or is trapped on a stalled elevator. They gaze into each other’s eyes and instantly fall in love. Oh, there will be snags along the way, times when they’re convinced that it wasn’t meant to be, but neither of them can forget the immediate connection or the sense that this is the one and only love for them.

Cute meets are a time-honored technique for one very good reason: they work. I could have started A Tender Hope, the book that’s releasing next March, that way, but here’s where contrariness comes into play.   I didn’t want to use the cute meet.   I didn’t want Thea and Jackson to know that they were meant for each other, at least not at the beginning.   And so I started asking myself what I did want for their first meeting, and my brain – moving in the convoluted ways a writer’s brain does – started asking “what if” and then giving me answers.

Here’s what I came up with. When Thea arrives at her new home and finds Jackson standing on the front porch, a baby in his arms, she’s horrified. The pain of losing her own baby is still so fresh that the absolute last thing she wants is to care for a baby. And then there’s the fact that when she climbs out of her buggy, Jackson, a Texas Ranger who’s searching for the female member of a notorious gang, looks at her with shock and disappointment. What’s that all about?

Does this not-cute meet work? I hope so.

Well, I think it works. Of course now I have to wait until March to find out.

Does weather inspire a book?

There is definitely a tie between books and weather.

As a reader, when do you want to read a Christmas story?  While I am sure that most of us rabid readers have all read a few Christmas stories in the summer, the preferred time to read a seasonal story is in the season. Valentines Day books. Christmas books. There aren’t many that I’ve seen, but Eastertime stories. Thanksgiving (slightly different if you are in the USA or Canada). Summer vacation. The list goes on.

But here’s the thing.  It takes time to write a book. Then time to get it edited and proofread, then formatted. It also takes time to get a good cover designed. Add all these things up, and chances are, a writer is not writing a book in the season in which it is written.

I don’t know if I’ve ever written and completed a book in the season in which it was published. I’ve written a number of Christmas books, the most recent for Harlequin, The Best Man’s Holiday Romance. It was written mostly in the summer. Outside, on the back deck, in bare feet and wearing shorts. My iced tea was the only thing cold.

I’ve also written summer themed books in the middle of winter, when it was snowing, and I would rather eat wieners and beans for supper than go outside and do the grocery shopping. Thinking about the summer weather was no more than wishful thinking.

So my answer to that question is, yes, weather does inspire a book. Because most of the time, it’s wishful thinking. And that’s the most inspirational of all.