The Three Acts: Act2, Part 1

C.S. Boyack is giving a great explanation of the three act play for writing on Story Empire. Thought I’d share.

Story Empire

Hi, Gang. Craig with you again with a continuation of my series about Three Act Structure. Many of you enjoyed the post about Act 1, but if you missed it, here is a link.

By the end of Act 1, we should have the setting, main character(s), problem being faced, and stakes well defined.

I’m going to start today’s post with motion. While it isn’t completely required, making your character enter a strange environment adds tension and obstacles to the adventure. This happens somewhere late in Act 1, or early in Act 2. I milked the Godzilla mythos pretty heavily last time, but let’s visit it again. Your character has to deal with this issue in Japan, does not speak Japanese, and has no idea how to get around. He might be reduced to pointing at the distant destruction and yelling to go there. Might not be too productive…

View original post 859 more words

Need a Little Magic in Your Life?

It’s October, time to reach for stories with a little magic, and one of my favorite authors (both as a writer and as a blog friend) wrote a collection of short stories that I grabbed the minute the book came out. Mae Clair’s writing has a certain elegance I admire. I’m happy she agreed to visit my blog today to tell you about THINGS OLD AND FORGOTTEN. Take it away, Mae!

Hi, Judi! Many thanks for hosting me today and allowing me to share my newest release with your readers. Although my preferred genre as an author is mystery and suspense, most of my work includes an element of myth, the supernatural, or a beastie from urban legend. With Things Old and Forgotten, I’ve chosen to focus on magical realism, fantasy, and yes—creatures of myth and the paranormal.

The title relates to various elements of the book, including unique spins on the legends of King Arthur, Robin Hood, and Taliesin. Tales harken back to the day (erm, decade) when I wrote fantasy, speculative fiction, and magical realism almost exclusively. You’ll discover redemption in the desert, a man in need of a ghost confessor, courage when facing a deadly leviathan, and a sorcerer whose power wanes with the dawn.

The title of the book comes from a poem I wrote many years (erm, decades) ago which explored my love for things old and forgotten—a passion I’ve had since childhood. I won’t repeat the entire poem here, just these few verses.

If I build a mountain from memories alone,
there is no Phoenix to rise from the pyre,
no rebirth of vision on Icarus’s wings,
nothing to recall Camelot’s fire.

Taliesin sang in the halls of kings,
Tristan waited for a sail of white,
Merlin played our hearts like strings,
but Arthur held the candle’s light.

Beneath the moon the fen lies barren,
Taliesin’s ballads forever survive,
the bard weaves magic in ancient tales,
keeping things old and forgotten, forever alive.


A man keeping King Arthur’s dream of Camelot alive.
A Robin Hood battling in a drastically different Sherwood.
A young man facing eternity in the desert.
A genteel southern lady besting a powerful order of genies.
A woman meeting her father decades after his death.

These are but a few of the intriguing tales waiting to be discovered in Things Old and Forgotten. Prepare to be transported to realms of folklore and legend, where magic and wonder linger around every corner, and fantastic possibilities are limited only by imagination.

Photo by Pixabay on

As with any collection of short fiction, selecting a few stories here and there is perfect for a lunchbreak or coffee time. And don’t forget relaxing with a glass of wine in the evening or a short tale to wind down the day. 

Thanks again for hosting me Judi. In honor of my love for autumn—a fantastic time to curl up with a book—Things Old and Forgotten will be on sale for .99c through October 31st. Thank you again for helping me celebrate today.



Connect with Mae Clair at BOOKBUB and the following haunts:

Amazon| BookBub| Newsletter Sign-Up
Website | Blog| Twitter| Goodreads| All Social Media

FREE, Oct. 22nd to 26th

Just wanted to let you know that POSED IN DEATH, my darker mystery, is free now.

Laurel is a widow with grown children, and she suffers from empty nest syndrome. She fills in her time by doing volunteer work, and she’s become a close friend of Maxine, who volunteers with her two days a week at the Botanical Gardens. Maxine’s husband spends as little time as possible with her, so she’s suffering from loneliness, too, after her youngest son starts college. When Maxine’s car is in the repair shop, Laurel stops to give her a ride to the gardens, only to find her dead, an apparent victim of the Midlife Murderer. Maxine fits the killer’s usual agenda of killing attractive women in their forties who have long lush hair, but his victims usually cheat on their husbands, and Maxine never did. Or did she, and Laurel never knew?

I based the character of Maxine on a woman I met when I used to go to our local, dinner theater to see every play. Not so much to see the performances, but because my friend’s Aunt Betty and her friend Fran sat at our table, along with four other older ladies, and they were all vibrant, intelligent, opinionated, and FUN. All widows. I’d come home to tell my husband (who worked second trick at the time) that I wanted to grow up to be just like them, except I’d let HH stick around:) Aunt Betty spent hours volunteering at the SPCA. Fran was in her eighties and was a seamstress for all of the local theater groups. She was always busy. Maxine isn’t as vivacious as Fran, but she sews for all of the local productions, too. Those ladies inspired me.

Anyway, POSED IN DEATH is darker than my usual cozies, so I thought it might fit the October scarier theme. If you try it, I hope you like it.

I love being a critique partner!

My fellow writer friend and I exchange manuscripts. We’re a good match, and that’s not so easy to find. There are many, many wonderful critique readers out there, but only a few that click with me and what I write. M.L. Rigdon/Julia Donner and I appreciate each other’s style and stories. I sharpen my red pencils to read her manuscripts, and she gleefully bloodies mine…but only gently and generously. We’re fans of each other’s works and only mark things that trip us up or don’t work for us. I don’t want her to write like I do, and she doesn’t try to change me..

Right now, she’s given me her next Regency romance to critique. I love Regency novels, both romances and mysteries. I love historical settings. So I’m a happy reader. And the truth is, I just plain enjoy Julia Donner’s writing style. So this doesn’t FEEL like work to me. It feels like I get to be naughty and peek at the book before anyone else gets to see it. Score one for me!

My daughter, Holly, reads my manuscripts, too. But what’s nice about her feedback is that she reads them as a READER. I know, that may sound odd. But readers notice things that writers don’t. We have different hang-ups. Holly tells me when she loses interest and puts the pages down for a while. She tells me if a character didn’t pull her in. It doesn’t matter if the writing and the words all work. She just wants to be pulled into the story and stay there. She wants to be disappointed when the book ends. M.L. marks when I tell, don’t show, when I go off track and my tension sags and she loses the storyline. And that’s sometimes the same. But Holly doesn’t care as much about skill as she does story. And occasionally, that’s a different thing.

For me, I think I’ve found a perfect balance. I get to read M.L. Rigdon’s/Julia Donner’s books, and I have a writer AND a reader who read my stuff. Once in a while, I get lucky and Kathleen Palm lets me see one of her manuscripts (horror or YA or Middle Grade), and once in a while, she’ll read something of mine and give me feedback. She reminds me to focus on feelings/descriptions/internal dialogue. I rarely look at anyone else’s work or ask them to look at mine. Honestly, I just don’t have the time, but recently, I read Jennifer Bee’s soon-to-be released thriller, THE KILLING CAROL, and it was a great read. I hope it has huge success when it’s released.

For the moment, I’ve found a happy fit for my work. Finding the right critique partner/s is a wonderful thing. If you’re a writer, I hope you find your perfect fit. The right person helps you catch things you don’t see and he or she does his/her best to make your writing as good as it can be.

Short stories

I love short stories. I love reading them. I love writing them. That’s why every once in a while, I post one on the blog. I think of an idea that I just can’t say no to. So I write it and put it up here. I just finished reading Mae Clair’s short story collection, THINGS OLD AND FORGOTTEN.

I invited Mae to my blog to talk about it later this month, (on the 26th), but I couldn’t wait to tell you how much I loved the collection. It has a little bit of many things I love. Some fantasy, beautiful language, and stories that wriggle into your brain to stay a while. And right now, it’s only 99 cents.

I’ll let Mae tell you more about her work when she stops by, but for now, I’m just saying, I haven’t bought anything for less than a buck that I’ve enjoyed so much for a long time.


I recently read D.L. Finn’s post on the Story Empire blog. It was about retaining the child in you and putting the fun back into writing. I admire people who can keep the enthusiasm and joy of their youth. I’m not sure I ever had it to begin with, though. According to my mom, I was born a skeptic and a somber sides. And she didn’t say that just to bug me. I believe each child comes out of the womb with their own personality intact, and all parents and adults can do is work with what they get. Mom swears I was born “an old soul.”

Now, I’m not saying I don’t enjoy life. I do. I take pleasure in all kinds of things–my flower beds, cooking, kids and friends. I’m a happy person, but not a carefree one. Fun is for special occasions. And I’m fine with that. My husband says I think too much. And maybe I do.

My kids loved to visit one of the neighborhood moms, because she was FUN. She was sort of a kid herself, always up for a good time. Lots of laughter. Playful. The same kids loved to hang out at our house, because I was always there for them. We each have our own strengths. But D.L. Finn’s post, which obviously stuck with me, made me think about childhood.

I had a mom and dad who loved me. I had two sisters who were my best friends. Our lives were secure. Good. The nine kids who grew up across the street from us were mostly neglected and left to their own devices. The boy who lived next door to them had a mom who chased him into the front yard when she was angry, knocked him down, and kicked him until my mom would go out and yell, “Stop! Now. Or I’m making a call.” And all of those kids grew up fine.

I thought about them when I was reading another Louis Kincaid mystery by P.J. Parrish, THE DAMAGE DONE. Nothing in Louis’s childhood was happy. His life didn’t get better until he was twelve. The focus of the book is on childhood abuse and things from the past that get so deeply buried, they have to be dug up to be released. Only then can a person be freed from them to move on. When I realized the book’s theme, I was worried. Like me, Louis isn’t a carefree type of guy, and unlike me, he usually ends each book disappointed by something in his life. It was a nice surprise when Louis actually works through some of the baggage he’s been carrying for a long time. Each person on his new cold case team has emotional baggage, and my hope is that each book in the future deals with how each of his colleagues frees himself from his past. It might be too much to hope for, but it would be nice.

I taught elementary school for six years before I had my girls and before the rules changed so that I couldn’t go back to teaching. (I got my Master’s Degree and priced myself out of the job market. Maybe a good thing or I would have never started writing. Who knows? Maybe it was destiny, but I wasn’t too happy about it at the time).

Anyway, I taught fist grade twice, second grade twice, and fourth grade twice. And I learned this. Some kids are going to succeed no matter what the odds are. Some kids have all kinds of brains and talent and don’t care. Some kids have wonderful parents and make a mess of their lives. Some have horrible parents and rise above them. But boy, each disadvantage stacked against a kid just makes it that much harder for him. It’s not impossible. It’s just hard. In The Damage Done, Louis and his team have all been damaged by life, but they all have the means to put their pasts behind them. Not true of the villain/killer in the story. He’s damaged beyond repair.

A SPOILER ALERT. STOP NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW. The killer’s brother doesn’t think so when it happens, but he gets lucky when their father rejects him and gives him to someone else to raise. It leaves a terrible scar, but the brother has hope at the end of the book. Maybe. The villain thinks being his dad’s favorite is a blessing. It’s not. And sometimes, life is like that, isn’t it? What looks good isn’t, and what we curse, ends up saving us.

Surviving the C-word

First off, we got lucky. My sister went in for a routine annual check-up. Since she’d had pre-cancer two year ago, her doctor ordered a C-scan just as routine. The scan came back with a blob near a lymph node and two dark spots on her lung. He was going to be on call and couldn’t see her for a week after that, so she chose to go in for a PET scan and then waited to see him until early this morning. She asked me to go with her, worried she’d fall apart if she heard bad news, so that I could ask questions and drive her home.

It’s been a miserable time while we waited. But when we went in this morning, good news! The blob is a benign cyst and the spots are nodules of some kind. We were elated, but by the time my sister left this morning, I was exhausted. My husband and I talked for a while, then I plopped my fanny in my writing chair to get some word count for the day. And I actually made some progress, but by late afternoon, I crashed.

The worry has worn me out. I haven’t slept very well. Neither has she. I’ve tried to do more with her….just in case. At two-thirty, I grabbed my blankie and took a nap. Tomorrow, I go to writers’ club, and I’ll probably be tired again. I thought I was coping well, and I was. But the effort took a toll.

I know it could have been a lot worse. We went through the whole chemo and radiation routine with my cousin who has cerebral palsy. My sister’s C-scan showed up in the exact same spots. I’m so glad the outcome is different! Cancer survivors are so brave. The people who support them are so wonderful. The people who treat them deserve praise.

HH’s best friend is in Indy right now, fighting blood cancer. My dad died of that. They took out his healthy white blood cells, then killed all of the ones that were left, and soon, they’ll inject his healthy white cells back in him. In the meantime, he has NO immune system. None. He’ll have to get all of his baby shots again for mumps, measles, whooping cough….you name it. He’s facing the whole ordeal with the most positive attitude I’ve ever seen. And hopefully, it will buy him another ten years of health.

My sister, HH’s friend, and I have stayed as positive as we can. But once their ordeals were over for the moment, I took a nap. Being positive made me tired. If I had a magic wand, I’d wish you all health, happiness, and writing success. But I only write about witches, and even with magic, they have struggles of their own. I write about murderers, but not about diseases. Those are almost scarier. But for the moment, my sister has a reprieve. Once I catch up on sleep, I’m going to enjoy that.

Three Act Structure: Act I

Awesome post on writing! Thought I’d share.

Story Empire

Hi, Gang. Craig with you again today. It occurred to me that I’ve mentioned Three Act Structure several times on this site, but never posted anything about it before. That ends today.

This is a great way of plotting your stories, but it’s so much more than that. It will keep you on point with word count, and make sure you have a structure others can follow when they read. I use it along with my storyboards. I may slip a comment about storyboards into this series, but they aren’t required for you to take tips and tricks away.

Act I Climax

Since there are three acts, I intend to have four posts. It makes more sense that way, and you’ll see why when we get to Act Two. Act One is 20-25% of your story. Act Two is 50% (Why the extra post), Act Three is 20-25% of your…

View original post 711 more words

Throwing SHADE at Your Sentences

Staci Troilo wrote a great post on writing technique for Story Empire, so I thought I’d share it with you:

Story Empire

hooded man

Ciao, SEers! Yeah, I know “throwing shade” is an insult. I promise, that’s not what I mean. I just wanted to get your attention. Do I have it? Great!

When I was in school, we learned about the four types of sentences:

  • declarative (statement)
  • interrogative (question)
  • imperative (command)
  • exclamative (exclamation/shout of surprise)

Our teachers told us we could remember these by the first letters of the words: DIIE, or the elongating the word “die” as a mnemonic device. I didn’t think a mnemonic device was necessary for four simple concepts, especially one that didn’t really work, but it made them happy, so whatever.

Today, I think we all know those four sentence types about as well as we know our own names, without any memory tricks. (Especially ones that don’t quite work.) But I want to discuss five different sentence types that we use in our fiction, and I…

View original post 678 more words

Suggestions (because there are no rules)

Okay, the first thing to say is that every writer is different. What works for one person doesn’t work for the next one. But there are things that work more often than others. That still doesn’t mean they’ll be right for you. So here’s a list of suggestions for writers I’ve met recently:

  1. Just Write. We all have to start somewhere, and the more you write, the better you’ll get. Usually. (Almost all the time). I wrote a few un-brilliant books before I started reading self-help “How To Sell Your Books” or “How To Be a Better Writer” books. My favorite is still Jack Bickham’s SCENE AND STRUCTURE. My second favorite’s Dwight Swain. I loved Stephen King’s book because…well, it sounded like Stephen King. I liked Elizabeth George’s book on writing for the same reason. I bought Donald Maas’s book on how to be a bestseller and agree with him. High stakes and emotional impact bring more readers. I’m glad I waited to read those books, though, and just wrote what I wanted for a while. I was all the better for it. Because if I hadn’t been struggling with how to organize a book, how to show not tell, how to balance everything etc., those books wouldn’t have resonated enough with me.

2. It’s easier if you know your genre. I stuck to the advice, Write What You Know. But not the way you think. I wrote mysteries because I READ a lot of mysteries. I’d read so many of them, I knew the structure, the rhythm, what was out there, what was selling at the moment. And I got wonderful rejection notes back from editors, telling me they liked my writing, they liked the story, but they couldn’t buy it. Because the market was glutted.

3. If you’re beating your head against a wall–STOP IT. And this is a VERY personal piece of advice. But I can tell you this from personal experience, not everything is about how well you write. If a market takes off, and every publisher wants one horror/cozy/thriller/sci-fi for their list, and you’re the next author who sends one in, your odds are good. If you’re the 50th author, good luck to you! You probably won’t sell. The market is GLUTTED. Every slot every editor has for that market is full. Try writing something else. Your odds will be better.

4. You can write more than one thing. Yes, your first love might be cat mysteries like Lillian Jackson Braun’s where Whiskers and Stripes talk to each other and figure out how to help their human. They’re fun. But if you write a good one that doesn’t sell (even though you get good feedback on it), and the next one doesn’t sell, and the one after that, maybe it’s time to change things up. Try to write something out of your comfort zone. And yes, you can. Just study it and know what works.

5. Advice is a wonderful thing. I still love to read writing blogs about what other writers do and what works for them, but not all of what they say is right for you. I have a fellow writer who’s a friend who takes EVERY piece of feedback or advice seriously. NOT a good idea. Every person likes different things. I could read the best noir anyone ever wrote and not like it. It’s not my thing if it’s too dark. I’m not a true P.I. fan either. So if I read a manuscript, my advice might actually make the story WORSE, not better. Feedback is just that. One person’s opinion. It took me a while to find critique partners who worked for me. The first time I gave my manuscript to someone, there was so much red ink, it looked like my manuscript had bled to death and died. I was ready to shoot my keyboard and give up UNTIL I realized that my critique partner wanted me to write exactly like she did. I loved her writing, but I’m not her. That’s not what feedback is for. It’s to make YOUR writing and voice shine. All feedback does is offer ideas about what worked and what didn’t work–for that person–in your manuscript. I mark what I liked and what I didn’t like so much, and know that the author might not pay any attention to me. And that’s the way it should be. BUT, if you show it to a few people, and they all have the same problem, then you might want to take a serious look at their comments and think about them. But even then, you have to do what’s right for you.

6. When I first started writing, people kept telling me to “just write the whole thing, whatever comes to you, and then go back to edit it. and do rewrites.” That does not work for me. I’m a lazy person by nature. Looking at a manuscript full of mistakes was too overwhelming. Once I started to edit as I go, my writing improved dramatically.

7. Don’t curl up and die when you get too many rejections. First, a rejection just means that an agent or editor can’t sell what you sent him. For many reasons. He might have sold three cozies in the last month and has hit up all the editors he knows that buy those. He hates children’s books and won’t like yours no matter how good it is. Your style of writing just doesn’t click with him. He’s waiting for a sci-fi novel about a paranoid android and your android’s too perky and self-confident. Writing and reading is SUBJECTIVE. Editors look for books that fill slots. When they get an urban fantasy, they want a book that follows the rules for the genre, but then add a new twist to it. Break the rules at your own peril. Ilona Andrews has written many blogs with great writing advice. She got more rejections than people would think when she started out. Here’s her blog on writing:

8. My last bit of advice is personal, because it’s what works for me. And I’m thinking about people who are gearing up for NaNoWriMo. Plan ahead. I’m a plotter. I write a brief paragraph for every chapter in my book to know what I want it to accomplish. I often end up with 40 -45 plot points. And those notes save me a LOT of time. I still let my characters go off track and surprise me AS LONG AS they keep to the basic plot points and don’t change them. NONE of my writing friends outline like I do, and they ALL write great books. But they all have some idea where each book is going before they start it. It saves them a lot of rewriting.. M.L. Rigdon/Julia Donner writes down four twists that will move her plots forward. As long as she hits those goalposts, she knows she’s on the right track. Her characters motivate her more than a plot does, so, like Mae Clair, she’s more of a plantser. Find what works for you, but know, pantsers usually have a lot of rewrites.

9. Trust yourself. Find what works for you and try it. If it doesn’t work, try something else. And have fun writing!