Rules can be broken

I’m almost to page 400 in John Grisham’s SYCAMORE ROW.  I’d probably have it finished by now if I hadn’t lost time to my troublesome stomach, but I have to admit, I needed a kick in the pants to pick the book up to read every night.  It’s good.  But I’m not used to Grisham’s style of writing, and after all the pages I’ve read, the book still feels like set-up to me.  Everything’s interesting.  The characters are great, but there’s still no crunch time, no ticking clock, and I’m getting the feeling that’s not going to happen.

The truth is, I’m so used to genre writing, his style feels alien to me.  He does a lot of the things that my writers’ group tells people NOT to do, but it works.  For him.

  1.  Show don’t tell.  My group repeats this like a mantra.  Showing pulls a reader into a story, makes him feel part of it.   Grisham sets a scene–like Jake walking into the coffee shop where everyone gathers to learn the latest news and gossip–and TELLS us what’s happening.   I’ve never been bothered by telling as much as some writers.  Author intrusion?  Eh, it works once in a while.  Jenna Bennett uses it here and there, and it adds an intimacy to her stories, like she’s talking just to you, the reader.  It’s efficient, too.  Showing takes space.  You have to let a scene play out to make a point.  Telling…well, you just say what you want the reader to know.  It creates more distance between the reader and the story, but it gives the reader a quick feeling of everything important in fewer words.  Still, all in all, most writers try to avoid it.  We try to show instead of tell.
  2. POV.  My groups’ view is that there’s singular POV or multiple POV, and you don’t mix more than one POV in a scene.  You wait to jump from one person’s head to another’s.  Grisham eliminates that worry by using a sort of omniscient POV and focusing in on one person and then moving to another.  It’s not one bit confusing.  It works.  But again, it creates more distance.  The reader’s not following one person or a few important players from place to place.  We pop from Jake’s thoughts to Lettie’s to someone’s in the coffee shop.  I don’t read enough thrillers to know if this is the norm for the genre, but it very well might be.  That’s the thing about genres.  They don’t all follow the same rules.
  3. Pacing.  My group focuses a lot on keeping the reader turning pages.   We build tension and conflict into every scene we can.  We have pinch points and turning points.  And everything keeps geting worse.  Grisham concentrates on his story and lets it unfold.  It doesn’t feel rushed.  It has more of a literary feel where the characters develop more than the plot.  I’m happy to roll with that, except I have to admit, as a genre junkie, I wish some key plot point was moving a little faster.  But that’s my own hang-up, and I know it.
  4. Would I change my advice to people who come to Scribes?  No.  Because show, don’t tell works for most writers.  So does POV and pacing.  But Grisham is talented enough to pull off his style.  His sales speak for that.  But most mere mortals have better luck following the rules.  It’s hard enough finding an audience, so why push your luck?

Whatever you write, however you write it, good luck.  And happy writing!

My webpage:

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Twitter:  @judypost







The Last Chapter’s Up

This is The End for LUCAS’s story.  I hope you enjoyed it!

If you did, you might want to check out the six romances I’ve written for Kensington.

Have a great weekend!



Sorry I’m late with a blog this week.  Something kicked my stomach around all day Friday and Saturday morning.  My daughter drove up on Saturday to help me cook for our annual Oscar party.  And everything cleared up in the afternoon.  Good riddance.  We made all the desserts Saturday night, then hit the cooking hard on Sunday.  We took the beef tenderloin, pork tenderloin, and chicken kebabs out of the oven when the first guest arrived.  The party was awesome, but I fizzled on Monday.  Not worth anything.  So I’m behind.  And off schedule.

That would usually make me a little crazy, but I turned in my manuscript already, and I’m just playing with ideas for the third book right now, so I have some breathing space.  I don’t want to rush planning this book.  I want to play with lots of what-ifs.  Since it’s a mystery, I’m tempted to make a list of possible suspects and witnesses.

I’m still trying to catch up with things, but I have one piece of good news to report from my fellow writer Julia Donner.  So I’ll end this week’s blog with that.  She’s put her Regency romance, THE RAKE AND THE BISHOP’S DAUGHTER, on a book tour with a giveaway.  You might want to check it out:       And happy writing!

The Rake and the Bishop’s Daughter

by Julia Donner


GENRE: Regency Romance



Society’s beloved wastrel, Sir Harry Collyns, pushes his popularity past the point of acceptability when he poses for a statue that creates a social uproar. People line up for blocks to see Handsome Harry in the nude, sculpted by a female artist! Bored with the fuss and scandal, Harry hitches up his fastest team, heads for the country, and a near fatal curricle accident. When the bandages are removed from his head days later, he discovers the angel-voiced widow who’d cared for him is neither elderly nor as mild as her tone, but a straight-laced do-gooder unimpressed with his flamboyant past and dashing good looks. Head-battered and heading for a broken heart, he falls into love with Widow Olivia St. Clair, who might be the one woman in England that Harry can’t charm into loving him back.



After the horses had lost some of their quarrelsome energy with a gallop down a narrow lane, Harry directed them back to the main road and held them to a collected trot that allowed faster moving conveyances to pass. The team showed him they didn’t like it by tossing their heads and leaning into the bits when they couldn’t give chase.

In retaliation for being held in check, the horses tried to shy at a sedate couple walking their mounts. He couldn’t be sure, because his eyes were strained and blurring, but he thought he’d passed them earlier, riding from the other direction. Harry acknowledged them with a nod as he passed and resolved to do what could be done with his deteriorating eyesight—yet another sign of how quickly time passed. Hard to believe he was on the downhill slide to forty, eyes going and patience shredding. Next, he’d be in a bath chair. Still, he couldn’t imagine giving up driving. He’d have a team hitched to the blasted chair when he reached that point.

Lowering the reins a bit, he allowed the horses into what he hoped would be a sedate canter, but at the same moment, a gust of wind bounced an object across the road. Both horses tried to bolt from the fluttering ribbons of a lady’s hat, which unexpectedly sprang up and struck the most fractious of the pair directly in the face. The gelding reared while the other lunged in the opposite direction.

A loud snap sounded the break of something vital the instant before he went airborne, sailing through the air. He landed in a hedgerow, tumbling down to land on his side and crack his head on a stone. The last thing he heard was a woman’s voice calming the horses. Fear for her rushed through him at the thought of the physical damage a slashing hoof could do. A dense blanket of black smothered the thought and the world went dark.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Julia Donner (aka M.L.Rigdon) grew up in historic Galena, IL, USA, and spent most of her time in the museum of her aunt, who encouraged her interest in history and understood the need to cherish a dream. She started writing in secret in her teens and never stopped, merging it with her mother’s encouragement to study theater and music, which led to performing in the Midwest, California and as far away as Austria.

Donner never forgot what it was like to write alone as a girl and is a happy member of Summit City Scribes. Concern for the failing educational system led her to develop Your Futures in Ink, a panel of local and regional authors, who go into to schools to encourage students and answer questions about writing.

THE TIGRESSE AND THE RAVEN, first book in the regency Friendship Series, is an RWA contest finalist. The ninth book in the series, A ROGUE FOR MISS PRIM and the tenth, AN AMERICAN FOR AGNES, are available now. A LAIRD’S PROMISE will be released by Spring 2018.

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML





Book Link:




Julia will be awarding a $30 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.











I made my poor critique partners work harder than usual on my last manuscript.  I had a lot more red ink to swim through when I got my pages back, which means they had a lot more mistakes to deal with.  Red ink doesn’t depress me anymore.  It means my friends have found ways to make my manuscript better.  And the pacing and storyline worked really well, so overall, I’m happy with how this book turned out.

Somewhere near the end of all the changes I was making, I spent an entire day in my office chair, plowing through lots and lots of fixes.  At the close of the day, I only had 14 more pages to go, but my brain took a hike, so I thought I’d finish things up the next morning.  Except–when I went to look at the last chapter I’d worked on–none of the changes were there.  I scrolled back.  Not one change showed up for the entire day.

I panicked.  Okay, truth time.  I cussed and fussed, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t find the changes.  All that work–gone!  Finally, I did the smart thing and walked away from my computer to make a late supper.  I visited with my hub, watched the evening news and Wheel of Fortune, then came back to my computer.

This time, I typed The Bodies in the Wetland in my search program, and lo and behold, there was a new version stored under Windows C.  How it got to Windows C, I don’t know.  I’ve never done that before.  But when I pulled it up, there was all my work.  I don’t think I did anything different when I saved each section I finished for that day, but I do know I was sailing through “Save As” on auto pilot.  No more.  From now on, I’ll look to see WHERE I’m saving my work.

Anyway, I got lucky.  I didn’t have to redo what I’d already done.  And it was a wake-up call.  The good news?  I finished the last of the rewrites today!  I already have ideas for Book 3 and even a slim idea for Book 4.  Time to take a breather tonight and celebrate.  Hope all of your writing’s going well!


Author Facebook page:

Twitter:  @judypost

Chapter 35’s up

Chapter 35

Wouldn’t you know it?  Just when things opened up for him, Randie was busy.  When Lucas got off work on Monday night, he called his brother, Dylan.  December had started out mild, not even the hint of a snowflake.  But it never lasted.  The weatherman was predicting two inches of the white stuff later this week, which reminded Lucas that Christmas was right around the corner.

“Don’t know about you,” Lucas said, “but I haven’t bought the kids’ Christmas presents yet.  Want to come with me to shop for them, and then we can grab something to eat?”

“I just got home.”  Dylan sounded rushed.  He must have just walked through the door.  “Give me a minute to change before you pick me up.”

“See you soon.”  Lucas spent a few minutes playing with Hercules, tossing and tugging on his braided rope, before feeding him and heading to Dylan’s apartment.  The chihuahua hated it when he came home and then left a short time later, but Lucas wouldn’t make this a late night.  He and the dog would be on the sofa, watching TV in the early evening.

It was only a fifteen-minute drive to Dylan’s.  His brother lived in an apartment complex close to Toby.  The real reason for him living there, though, was the nearby city park.  Dylan loved being outdoors and in Nature.  Lucas had tried to talk him into buying a piece of property outside of the city, but Dylan had decided it would be too lonely.  In the city, he could walk nature trails and still be around people.  Not that he’d ever interact with them.  He might like to see other people, but he tended to avoid them.

Dylan’s apartment felt claustrophobic to Lucas, but his brother rarely spent time there.  He was usually out and about, alone.  Lucas often wished that Dylan would find his Miss Right, someone who was as warm and caring as he was, but who enjoyed solitude.  He had no idea how that could happen, though, when he mostly kept to himself.

When Lucas pulled in front of Dylan’s apartment, his brother walked out the door, pulling on his wool coat.

“Getting colder,” he said.  “Supposed to get snow later this week.”

“Got anything in mind to buy the kids?” Lucas asked.

“Dulcey told me she’d bought them a few big things, and she was hoping we’d buy a lot of stocking stuffers and small things for them to open.”

With a nod, Lucas headed to the outdoor mall on the southwest side of town.  There were a few stores that would have toys.  The bookstore was there, too, and he thought he’d buy them a few books and some puzzles and games.  On the way, it occurred to him that he’d like to buy Randie a present, too.  Not jewelry.  That was too serious.  And no candy or flowers.  Too mushy.  And then he thought of it.  She talked about cookbooks with reverence.  There was a new one she wanted but hadn’t bought yet.  He’d buy her that, along with a few cooking magazines.

Dylan startled him out of his thoughts.  “I met a really nice woman today.”

Dylan?  A woman?  “Where?”

“I’m plumbing this new house—a huge place—and the owners hired Amelia to paint three murals on the walls.  She came to see the spaces and take measurements.”

“How old is she?”  He shouldn’t get his hopes up.  Amelia was an older name.  Maybe she had gray hair and eight grandchildren.

“Early thirties?  She has this short, sandy-colored hair that bounces around her face like little springs.  It looked like if you pulled on one, it would curl right back again.”

When had Dylan ever described a woman’s hair before?  “Is she nice?”

“She almost felt other-worldly, like she didn’t see things the way the rest of us do.”

“Is that a good thing?”

Dylan smiled.  “I liked it.”

“Would you ever ask her out on a date?”  He was treading on thin ice, but he could at least throw the idea out there.

“A date?”  Dylan looked startled.  “No, but we’re going to meet by the big sycamore tree at the park.  Amelia’s never been there and she wants to see it.  She paints and sells a lot of nature scenes.”

“So, she probably tromps around as much as you do?”

“She goes out every weekend to take pictures of different things that strike her fancy.  Then if they tug at her, she paints them.”

“Every weekend, huh?  She must be single.”

“I guess so.”

Lucas ticked things off in his mind.  Curls.  An artist.  Single.  “You’ve gone to a lot of odd places to hike. I bet you have some ideas she could use.”

“We talked about that.”

Lucas decided to leave it alone.  If he pressed too much, he might scare Dylan off.  They moved on to work topics before he pulled into the entrance to the mall.  They spent the next hour and a half shopping.  When they finished, Jordy and Beth would have lots of things to unwrap under the tree and some fun gifts in their stockings.  Lucas was especially happy with yoyos that lit up when you used them.  And he’d have a present for Randie he thought she’d like.  He’d ended up buying her four cookbooks and as many food magazines.  She’d told him she loved to flip through recipes.

They stopped at Five Guys to buy a quick burger before Lucas drove Dylan home.  When he finally got back to his own place, he was feeling pretty satisfied with the world.  Nothing might come of Dylan meeting Amelia, but then again, it might.

He and Hercules settled on the sofa, content to watch mindless TV and chill together.  He wouldn’t see Randie again until Sunday, but after that, they both had some free time.  Soon, school would be out and she wouldn’t have to get up to go to work in the mornings.  He usually had down time the week before Christmas, too.  People didn’t schedule repairs when their kids were home for the holidays, and any new building projects could wait.  If he played his cards right, maybe he could talk her into spending the night.

Not Enough

I got notes back from one of my critique partners.  More red than usual.  I wasn’t surprised.  I was trying to change an old–and not so wonderful–writing habit.   I’m more than happy to write:  She smiled.  He frowned.  And more times than should be humanly possible: He sighed.  A friend at writers’ club called me on it.  “We can do better than this, can’t we?”

Yes, yes, I can, but only if I work at it.  The problem?  My brain only seems capable of concentrating on so much.  In this book, I wanted to step up my tags and step up my pacing.  And as usual, things I normally do fairly well sagged a bit from neglect.  Not the end of the world.  Red ink circles show me what I need to fix.   Thank you, Mary Lou!

On my next book, my learning curve should go more smoothly.  The old and new should blend better.  AND, I should have enough ideas, witnesses, victims, and suspects to reach 70,000 words without panicking.  Plotting mysteries, for me, takes more than plotting romances.  Now, I know, I’m addicted to plotting when a lot  of my friends don’t even have to bother with it.  But for my mysteries, I’m not plotting enough.

I’m not sure why, but if I came up with 40 chapter ideas for the urban fantasies I wrote a long, long time ago as Judith Post, I could pound out 80,000 words if I wanted to, no problem.  Urban fantasy craves more description, battles that escalate the longer the book goes, and strong characters.  All things that demand words, so that word count grows organically.  It just happens.  It flows.

When I switched to writing romances as Judi Lynn, I used the same format–40 plot points, but this time, I only needed 70,000 words.  For romance, characters interacting with each other made up the majority of the words I used.  And 40 plot points morphed pretty well into 70,000 words for me.  The same hasn’t held true for mysteries.  I sang a sad dirge when I reached the end of this book’s first draft and was 10,000 words short.   I struggled to hit 70,000 words for my first mystery, too.

Now, I have friends who can cough up 100,000 words with no plot points with no problem.  And yes, I’m jealous.  They’re wonderful people, or I wouldn’t like them anymore.  But every writer’s different, and for me, starting a book with no plot points is like traveling across country with no maps or GPS.  I’d be lost all the time and take a winding, unusual route.  I might never reach my destination.

When I write mysteries, I’ve found that my chapters are shorter.  And I need more subplots.  I also need more suspects.  In this book, I introduced a perfect suspect and then didn’t do anything with him.  I gave him an alibi before I found the next body.  Shame on me.  When I figured out I’d made a mistake, I had to go back and add him in more scenes, and then, I had enough pages.  But going back and threading in scenes is a pain in the derriere, so I don’t want to do that again, if I can avoid it.  So, for my next mystery, I want to have 50 plot points before I forge ahead with the book.  And I want to list the victim/s, family members affected by the murder/s, witnesses, suspects, and anyone who might interfere with finding the killer.   And who knows?  Maybe I’ll end up with more words than I expected.  But at least, I’ll have plenty of material to work with.

Whatever you’re writing, and however you write, have fun with it!  I’ll be deep into editing this week.   Happiness is making words better!

My webpage (and I put up chapter 33):

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