AI Writes Novels?

Three years ago, I wrote a blog about the probabilities of writers being replaced by artificial intelligence apps that would write faster, better books. I cited an article in The Guardian stating that AI’s capability to write creative, coherent novels was still decades in the future. I slept well after reading that article.

It now appears “decades in the future” is shrinking to basically being around the corner.

This past December, Ammaar Reshi used readily available computer apps to create Alice and Sparkle, a children’s picture book. He has not hit any best seller lists and the book is controversial, especially with graphic designers who feel portions of their work can be plagiarized since the apps use composites of what is online from designers who created the digital art from scratch.

Jennifer Lepp writes paranormal cozy mysteries under the pen name Leanne Leeds. She completes a manuscript in 49 days. “This pace,” she said, “is just on the cusp of being unsustainably slow.”

Recently Lepp was behind schedule, and she turned to Sudowrite¹, an app designed for fiction writers, to complete her novel by her 49-day deadline. She pasted a few paragraphs of her novel into the app, added instructions, and was so amazed by the results, she tweeted exuberantly about the experience.

Lepp quickly learned to steer the AI by outlining a scene, pressing expand, and letting the program do the writing. She edits the output, pastes it back into Sudowrite, and prompts the AI to continue. She is more productive than ever and continues to use the app though she claims to keep it on a short leash.

Obviously, I’m not sleeping well after reading articles on the adaptation of AI for increasing an author’s productivity. We’re not speaking of going from handwritten manuscripts to the typewriter to a Word document. It’s about an assembly line using a word-smithing computer robot.

Call me old-fashioned, but AI enhanced novels are not what I want to read. And I certainly don’t plan to use computer enhancement in my own work.

Yet the technology will continue to improve, and I can envision a time, not too far away, when authors will rely more and more on AI. I can also envision an Orwellian not-too-distant future when robots will develop more creative stories than the writers themselves using these apps. Or AI will write for the AI universe while humans merely clean and dust the abodes of fully conscious robots.


¹Amit Gupta and James Yu, developers turned sci-fi authors, designed Sudowrite.

About Kathryn

Kathryn Lane is the award-winning author of the Nikki Garcia Mystery Series.

In her writing, she draws deeply from her experiences growing up in a small town in northern Mexico as well as her work and travel in over ninety countries around the globe during her career in international finance with Johnson & Johnson.

Kathryn and her husband, Bob Hurt, split their time between Texas and the mountains of northern New Mexico where she finds it inspiring to write.


Kathryn’s Latest novel:






Photo Credits:

Alice and Sparkle – Public Domain

Illuminated manuscript photo by Kathryn Lane

Stolen Diary Book Cover by Tim Barber

New Year’s Resolution: Read a Short Story a Day

by Paula Gail Benson

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope it has been healthy, comfortable, and prosperous for all.

Barb Goffman

If you are still considering resolutions and have any interest in short story craft, may I suggest a recommendation by well-known, award winning writer and editor Barb Goffman? Why not read a short story a day? Debra H. Goldstein has already made an excellent suggestion to get started: the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime’s latest anthology, Hook, Line, and Sinker. In addition, there are plenty of online and periodic publications to choose from, all featuring outstanding authors. Many of the Sisters in Crime Chapters have organized and released anthologies to showcase their members and give newer authors a chance not only for a writing credit, but also to learn how to promote their work.

Even if you are not interested in writing the short form, seeing how it is put together can help you strengthen skills for longer efforts. With a short story, characters, setting, and mood must be established quickly, in only a few carefully chosen words. It has to be wrapped up concisely, without leaving loose ends or unsatisfied questions. Those elements are important for novellas and novels, too. Figuring out how to develop a story and keep a reader engaged is a primary focus for shorts.

If you are interested in writing short stories, please consider the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable’s Annual Short Story Contest. This year, submissions must include a holiday element, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. They must be 2000 words or less and submitted as provided in the description of rules. An entry fee of $15 is required for each submission. The top awards are: First Place, $200 and publication in the Bethlehem Writers Group’s anthology Season’s Readings; Second Place, $100 and publication in the Bethlehem Writers Group’s online quarterly, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable; and Third Place, $50 and publication in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable.

Maybe the best news about the contest is that this year’s celebrity judge is Barb Goffman. Here’s a link with an interview where Barb talks about the most appealing aspect of writing short stories, how her careers as a journalist and lawyer have influenced her writing, what some of the most frequent mistakes she sees writers make, and what’s her best advice for submitting to an anthology or contest.

Start you New Year right: reading and writing shorts!

Bethany Maines drinks from an arsenic mug

Rewrite Time

Time for a Rewrite

With Christmas just past and the long stretch of post holiday free time ahead (that’s a joke, there’s no free time, just more gray skies) it must be time to launch into a new project.  Or perhaps just rehash, reimagine, and rewrite an old one. I’m mid-way through turning my Christmas novella Winter Wonderland into a feature script. With plenty of Christmas magic and romance it’s a Christmas love story with missing diamond and a mystery in the middle. Which I think would make a great not-quite Hallmark movie.

So How Does That Work?

So how do you turn a novella into a movie? Rewrite! Not everything in a book can go directly into a script. The reason we love an actor who can convey a full range of emotion and the internal workings of their mind with just their face is because we don’t get to hear what’s going on in their heads the way we can in a book.  So for a script I have to find ways to translate some of those internal moments into external dialogue and events.  And sometimes that means changing up events, adding characters or giving existing characters some new dialogue.

Other People Have Thoughts Too

I’m still exploring the world of scripts and figuring out the process, but one of the things I have learned is the need to determine who I want to produce my script and then tailor it to meet their standards. Hallmark has pretty specific thoughts on swearing (no!) and Christmas (put it in every scene!).  But the format it’s filmed for can also affect the script.  If it’s intended for TV I might want to look particularly hard at some of the scene endings to make sure they’re a little bit of a cliff hanger to pull people back after commercial breaks.  And all of this means that my perfect little gem of a novella will need… (you guessed it) rewrites.

And How Does That Make You Feel?

Well, I can’t say that rewrites are something I look forward to. But sometimes they offer an opportunity to rethink something I wasn’t quite happy with, or flesh out a side character that didn’t get the time they deserved. Trying to reconfigure a story for a new format can be a challenge, but it can also be pretty fun. I’ll let you know what this one turns out to be.

Learn More About Winter Wonderland

When a Marcus Winter, a photographer with a bah humbug take on the holidays, meets Larissa Frost, a set designer who loves all things Christmas, sparks are destined to fly, but when a famous diamond goes missing from the shoot they’re working on Larissa finds that Marcus may be the only one who can keep her from being framed for a crime she didn’t commit.



Bethany Maines drinks from an arsenic mugBethany Maines is the award-winning author of action-adventure and fantasy tales that focus on women who know when to apply lipstick and when to apply a foot to someone’s hind end. She can usually be found chasing after her daughter, or glued to the computer working on her next novel (or screenplay).  You can also catch up with her on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

They Can’t All Be Red Herrings, Right?

By Lois Winston

I’m currently writing my 12th Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery. This one is tentatively titled A Crafty Collage of Crime. As some of you may remember, I moved from New Jersey to Tennessee a year and a half ago. Since then, many people have asked if Anastasia will eventually make the move south. My answer is an emphatic, “No!” Anastasia is a diehard Jersey Girl and will remain firmly planted in the Garden State.

However, I have decided that in this book, Anastasia and Zack will take a trip to Middle Tennessee wine country. Yes, there are wineries in Tennessee. Who knew? Certainly not me until I moved here, but it turns out that there were quite a few wineries in the area before Prohibition, and after Prohibition ended, the wine industry slowly began to revitalize. It’s now once again thriving.

Anastasia and Zack find themselves in Tennessee because Zack has accepted an assignment to photograph the local wineries for a spread in a national wine publication. Anastasia travels to Tennessee with him. Of course, she immediately discovers a dead body. (Doesn’t she always?)

Now, here’s my dilemma: I have a basic plot and characters fleshed out, but I have so many potential suspects, that I’m finding it difficult to choose which will be the killer. Any one of them would work. I’m thinking I may have to write the book several ways, with a different killer for each version, before I settle on the real killer. That’s a lot of extra work. So I’m hoping that as I continue to work on chapters, the killer will eventually reveal himself to me.

If you’re a reader, have you ever read a mystery where you thought one of the other characters should have been the killer? If you’re an author, do you always know right away who your killer will be, or does the killer sometimes change as you write the book?

Death by Killer Mop Doll, the second book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, is now available as an audiobook through Audible, iTunes, and Amazon. If you’d like a chance to win a promo code for a free download, post a comment.


USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website where you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.

Best Advice: Do You Know or Do You Think You Know?

By: Donnell Ann Bell

Years ago, I belonged to an online mystery critique group in which I met my good friends Annette Dashofy, Rosemarie Szotak, as well as various critique partners in Australia, Canada, and beyond. There was one individual in our group who was a terrific writer and well versed in geography and military affairs. His protagonist was a military officer, and he and his sidekick went everywhere to complete their missions.  In fact, his first working title was, “To the Ends of the Earth.”

I confess I’m not a world traveler. The most international travel I’ve done has been as far as Canada and Mexico. So, I was rather intimidated when he wrote about places like East Timor, Somalia, and Egypt.

The reason I mention my writing colleague is he often challenged me when reading my work by saying, “Is this true?”  “Do you know, or do you think you know?”

That always gave me pause and made an impression. Perhaps that’s why when I research, I double check and often triple check facts from alternate sources to get my story as correct as humanly possible.

Which sadly can be a challenge. I don’t think it’s any secret that the world is a v-e-r-y opinionated place. Thanks to social media, twenty-four-hour news cycles, and provocative information designed as clickbait, it’s so easy to read a headline (that often has little to do with the article), peruse said article, and believe we’re coming away with the truth.

I watch The Good Fight (admitted fictional entertainment), and on a couple of episodes it showed how easy it was to post videos on the internet that appeared well-documented and authentic. It’s astounding how much data comes at us daily. Time is money, sensationalism sells, and media outlets have more competition than ever—professionals and amateurs alike—are writing, filming, and posting. Breaking news attracts viewers and boosts algorithms. Readers copy links. Others forward to their friends and family, and so on, and so on . . . .

I believe my first job as a storyteller is to check my research. I may be writing fiction, but I’m not writing fantasy. What I publish should believable fiction. Often, if I’m unsure, I’ll abandon articles and seek out experts.

Back to that long-ago critique partner, when emailing our chapters back and forth, I admitted how little I knew about world geography. He responded with, “Go get your globe.” I did, then via email, he said, “Now using your finger, follow my lead.” That method was better than any geography class I could have taken. To this day, when reading international articles where I’m unsure of the location, I enlist my globe.

My critique partner’s advice, “Do you know? Or do you think you know? influences my writing to this day. Have you received a  piece of advice that has stayed with you for years?

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell is an award-winning author, her latest work, a series, includes Until Dead: a Cold Case Suspense, released in 2022, Black Pearl, a Cold Case Suspense  2020 Colorado Book Award finalist. Donnell’s single title books include, Buried Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and the Past Came Hunting, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers. Currently she’s writing book three of her cold case series.





Growing as a Writer: My Trek Down Memory Lane

Author Donnell Ann Bell

By: Donnell Ann Bell

Years ago, when I left my newspaper job and turned to fiction, I was forced to become educated in a short amount of time. I also can assure you during that period, the self-assured nonfiction writer was humbled (Please note:  I’m already pretty humble!).


There is a huge difference between fiction and nonfiction.

In journalism we’re taught not to editorialize, even when we are outraged, the topic turns personal, or we are particularly moved. While in fiction, we’re encouraged to do the opposite. Develop interesting characters, express their points of view, and show emotion on the page. Whether you’re writing science fiction, historical, fantasy, mystery, romance, the list goes on, in fiction, if your reader can’t relate to your character (or to put it bluntly—couldn’t care less), you’ve lost your reader.

To stress my point, as a new fiction writer, I once entered a contest in which New York Times Bestselling Author Suzanne Brockmann was my judge. She scribbled on my entry the following words, and trust me, she got her point across. “You write well BUT HOW DO THEY FEEL?”

There’s this thing called genre

Quite soon after I switched to fiction, I was told I should join a local writing group. To become a member, however, I would need to join the parent organization Romance Writers of America®. Both organizations during my tenure were stellar, and I credit both with my early fiction education. During my time with Pikes Peak Romance Writers, I attended something known as Open Critique (an avenue provided to writers not in a person’s regular critique group to provide fresh insight.) Here, I discovered another anomaly about fiction.

Fiction is broken into genres. To complicate matters, subgenres are often attached to the genre, oftentimes subs attached to the subgenres! On one Sunday afternoon, I submitted my perfectly written chapters, waited for the accolades, only to be met by the confused faces of my peers. “Why is this person skulking about? Who is he, and why should we care?” the OC leader demanded.

“I’m writing a mystery,” I stammered. “I can’t tell you that yet.”

That’s when I learned I was surrounded by romance writers who didn’t read my favorite genre. Further, they obviously couldn’t relate to what I was writing. One by one, in a chorus of agreement, members of the critique group asked me to explain upfront what my character was up to. Hardly conducive to my mystery plot. Imagine in The Cask of Amontillado, if Montressor had to reveal his plans for Fortunato in Chapter One. Edgar Allan Poe’s distinguished career would have been short lived, indeed!

Fortunately, I found a romantic suspense chapter in RWA® and remained in that group for many years.

But then I learned . . . .

Genres and subgenres evolve.

Much like society, authors change their mores and preferences. Romantic Suspense, which I enjoyed writing (and still do), began heating up the pages. Readers obviously adored the added sizzle, and publishers and their marketing departments noticed. Management conveyed those statistics to their editors. Editors spoke to the agents, and naturally my agent listened closely.

She asked me to spice up my unpublished novel, which back then was winning awards. The unpublished title was Walk Away Joe, and as an aspiring author who wanted to sell, I did my best.  Unfortunately, I found I didn’t enjoy writing hot and steamy; I preferred suspense. Don’t get me wrong, if my book called for a sex scene, I was all in. I just didn’t enjoy writing copious amounts of it. Further I don’t do gratuitous anything—whether it be violence or sex.

Around this time, my agent and I parted ways. By then, my second unpublished novel, DEADLY RECALL Deadly Recall | Romantic Suspense Thriller | Author Donnell Ann Bell, finaled in a major contest, and I queried BelleBooks, who is my publisher to this day. Pat Van Wie bought the book and would become my first editor. Still, in my editorial letter she told me to get rid of so much sex. We’re buying you because of your suspense. Not very flattering about the added sex scenes I’d worked hard to include. But truth be told, I was vastly relieved.

Walk Away Joe became THE PAST CAME HUNTING. It still includes a couple of sex scenes, and the chapters are loaded with romance and sexual tension. In my opinion, though, I left the critical scenes that belong in the book.

Years have passed since my debut book was published, but it remains one of my most popular books. And . . .  as it turns out my publisher has put it on sale for .99, but the sale ends tomorrow, November 15! So, if you’re interested, grab yours quick!

These days I belong to Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. My editor is Debra Dixon, one very smart woman and the touted expert on Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. I write task force suspense and single title romantic suspense and my learning trek continues every day.

As I close out this blog, I’m curious about my fellow Stiletto Gang authors and others who may be weighing in. Was your journey anywhere close to mine? What early lesson(s) did you take away that led to what you write today? In other words, how have you grown as a writer?

Till next time!


Creating (and Eliminating) Secondary Characters by Judy Penz Sheluk

Delighted to welcome Judy Penz Sheluk as my guest this month. The characters in her books are always so realistic and fun that I was thrilled she picked them to talk about. Enjoy! – Debra

Creating (and Eliminating) Secondary Characters by Judy Penz Sheluk

Several years back I had the pleasure of attending an event that featured Giles Blunt, author of the much-lauded Detective John Cardinal mystery series (if you haven’t read him, or watched the TV series, Cardinal, based on his novels, you must). At one point in the evening, an audience member asked Blunt why he’d killed off Cardinal’s wife, Catherine, in By the Time You Read This, the fourth book in the series. Blunt had laughed and then said, “Truthfully, I got tired of writing about her.”

Maybe it’s “fourth book syndrome,” but I felt the same way about the cast of secondary characters I’d created for my Marketville Mystery protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable as I started to write Before There Were Skeletons.

If you’re not familiar with them, they included: Misty Rivers, a self-proclaimed psychic; Chantelle Marchand, Callie’s best friend, also a personal trainer and budding genealogist; and Shirley Harrington, an archives librarian. All three of them served important roles (with varying degrees of involvement) in the first three books, but with the last book (A Fool’s Journey) released in 2019, it just seemed to me that by 2022 their lives would have changed.

Of course, I didn’t ditch them without a mention—that would be unfair to the characters, as well as to followers of the series—and unlike Blunt, I wasn’t ready to kill them off. After all, I might want to bring one or more of them back some day. And so, I gave Misty a very small, but important role, allowed a glimpse into Chantelle’s new life, and retired Shirley (literally), sending her to winter in Florida (hey, she’s Canadian and snowbirds love Florida).

Dispatching those characters felt liberating, but it also left me with a hole to be filled. Enter a tech-savvy twenty-four-year-old woman currently employed as a waitress at her stepbrother’s diner, Eggstravaganza, and, thanks to an ex-boyfriend who drained their joint bank account, is also living in an apartment above the diner.

What this new character lacks in investigative experience will be made up for in her enthusiasm to learn from Callie while doing boring grunt work, like digging through newspaper archives. This works well in two ways: it frees Callie up to tackle more interesting avenues, and since the story is told from Callie’s point of view, I can also spare readers the tedium of the archival research.

In addition to creating a past and a present for my new character, however, I also needed to come up with a name. I had the last name, Hopkins (in homage to a late friend), but hadn’t quite come up with a first name. And then, while reading the closing credits of Yellowstone, I spotted the name Denim Richards (a fabulous actor who portrays ranch hand Colby Mayfield).

Denim Hopkins, I thought. No reason Denim couldn’t be female. In fact, it was perfect. And her half-brother, the one who owns the diner? Levi, of course. As Denim explains to Callie, “I guess you could say my mama liked the blues.”

Early readers of Before There Were Skeletons seem to like Denim, and as an author, I can envision several directions to expand on her role in the future. What those directions are, only time, and my imagination, will tell.


About Before There Were Skeletons: The last time anyone saw Veronica Goodman was the night of February 14, 1995, the only clue to her disappearance a silver heart-shaped pendant, found in the parking lot behind the bar where she worked. Twenty-seven years later, Veronica’s daughter, Kate, just a year old when her mother vanished, hires Past & Present Investigations to find out what happened that fateful night.

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is drawn to the case, the similarities to her own mother’s disappearance on Valentine’s Day 1986 hauntingly familiar. A disappearance she thought she’d come to terms with. Until Veronica’s case, and five high school yearbooks, take her back in time…a time before there were skeletons. Universal Book Link:


About the Author

A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the bestselling author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including the Superior Shores Anthologies, which she also edited.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she served as Chair on the Board of Directors. She lives in Northern Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior.


Photo (if you choose to use it) is of Denim Richards, the inspiration behind the name of Denim Hopkins.

NaNoWriMo 2022

Let’s All NaNoWriMo… or Not

by Bethany “NaNoWriMo” Maines

NaNoWriMo Wha?

I don’t really believe in NaNoWriMo AKA National Novel Writing Month.  Partially just because I object strenuously to the clunky abbreviation.  But also because the goal of writing fifty thousand words in a month reduces novel writing to a very basic component—words. Writing fifty-thousand words is an accomplishment of a sort, but having the right fifty-thousand requires a bit more of a skill.  However, the NaNoWriMo community supplies great camaraderie and inspiration to a multitude of writers, and if an artificial deadline and contest get some people to put fingers to keyboard then I raise my glass in cheers.  And usually that’s it.

Soooo why am I doing this?

This year the fates have conspired to arrange my projects to have a novel that needs to be written this month.  I would really like to put out the next trilogy in my Supernatural paranormal romance world next summer.  The Rejects Pack is a fun, Indiana Jones / The Mummy inspired series featuring more wolves, warlocks, romance, and an ancient Egyptian artifact or two.  Also maybe a mummy that comes back from the dead.  (Shhh.  Don’t tell anyone.)  And with Book 1 out to my beta readers already, you would think I wouldn’t feel the need to rush book 2 and 3.  Butttt…. I keep eyeballing the amount of plot I’m intending to shove into book 3 and I’m just a little bit worried that my trilogy is going to become a tetralogy.

Tetralogy means a four book series. In case you don’t want to have to google it like I did.

And then…

And then there’s the fact the holidays are almost here (YAY!!!) and I have a new novella coming out this month!  I’m busy is what I’m saying.  So I’m trying to hedge my bets and leave myself time for a book 4 by cramming book 2 into November.  And of course it will be fun to watch the NaNoWriMo communities progress.  You can keep up with my progress and learn about Killian and Moira and their hunt for the long lost Library of Alexandria on Facebook and Instagram.

But Speaking of Christmas

If you’ve got a hankering for a Christmas mystery rom-com check out Winter Wonderland!

ORDER (all retailers):

WINTER WONDERLAND: When Marcus Winters, a photographer with a bah humbug take on the holidays, meets Larissa Frost, a set designer who loves all things Christmas, sparks are destined to fly. But when a famous diamond goes missing from the shoot they’re working on Larissa finds that Marcus may be the only one who can keep her from being framed for a crime she didn’t commit.



Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of action-adventure and fantasy tales that focus on women who know when to apply lipstick and when to apply a foot to someone’s hind end. She can usually be found chasing after her daughter, or glued to the computer working on her next novel (or screenplay).  You can also catch up with her on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and BookBub.


So You Want to Write a Book – Part 7

By Sparkle Abbey

We’re back this month for another chapter of So You Want to Write a Book!

Saying on stone Edit without mercy

If you’ve followed along on this journey so far, you know that we’ve covered how to get started, getting to know your genre, brainstorming, and revision. This month we’d like to talk a bit about editing.

Step 1 – Self-Editing

The first step is self-editing. That means reading through all those words you’ve written with a critical eye and fixing issues. Even if you’re a very polished writer with few grammatical errors, perfect punctuation, and clean and lean sentences there are things to fix.  Here are some ideas that might help:

Read Out of Order: We find it helpful to do this self-editing out of order. In other words, don’t read your manuscript from beginning to end. It’s far to easy to get caught up in the story and miss things. Maybe start with the last chapter and work backwards.

Use a Checklist: If there are particular words you tend of overuse or punctuation that often trips you up put those on your checklist and keep a lookout for them as you edit.

Learn from the Pros: There are different approaches to the editing process and you have to find the one that works best for you. Some resources we’ve found helpful are:  Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Reedsy’s Book Editing Checklist, and Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell.

Look at Your Story Differently: At this stage you’ve read this story SO many times. It can be great to do something different. Read it aloud, print it out, download it to your Kindle. You’ll be surprised at the things you catch that you’ve overlooked on previous passes.

Step 2 – Get Help

Mostly the writing life is a solitary pursuit, but if you’re writing for publication, you need outside help at this point in the process. Having new critical eyes on your work is absolutely essential. You may decide to use multiple methods to accomplish this, but here are some ways that many authors use to make sure their story is ready for prime time.

Critique Groups: If you have a critique group that’s wonderful. Depending on how your group works they may have seen all or perhaps just pieces of your book. Ask them if they’d be willing to do a read-through and mark problems they see.

Beta-Readers: Beta readers are not editors or proofreaders but they are your test audience. A beta reader may be a friend,  an acquaintance or a reader who you’ve connected with. The important thing is that it should be someone who reads in your genre. They need to love to read the types of books that you write. This may also be a good time to ask a subject matter expert to read through for potential errors.  Many authors find that their beta readers catch things that have gone unnoticed by other writers. It’s also important to communicate to your beta readers what you’re looking for in terms of feedback.

Professional Editing: None of the above can take the place of a professional edit. If you’re under contract and working with a publishing house you will go through several rounds of edits there. If you’re not yet under contract or are choosing the indie publishing route, you will need to find a freelance editor. A word of caution here – do your research. Ask others in your writing groups/organizations for suggestions, check out the editor’s credentials, and above all make sure you understand how the editor works and what they will provide. Most all professional freelance editors will ask for a sample of your work, provide you with a quote, and give you a timeline for your edits.

Well, that’s it for this month.  As always, if you have questions don’t hesitate to reach out. Happy writing!

Sparkle Abbey books

Sparkle Abbey Mysteries

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder. (But don’t tell the other neighbors.)

They love to hear from readers and can be found on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, their favorite social media sites. Also, if you want to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the website


“Thrilling and Unpredictable” – Where a Writer Got His Ideas

I’m delighted to welcome author Terry Ambrose as my guest to discuss his new series in the blog “Thrilling and Unpredictable” – Where a Writer Got His Ideas. I’ll be back next month – Debra 

Readers often ask writers where their ideas come from. In my case, the ideas are usually driven by a confluence of events. The Beachtown Detective Agency series idea was different in that the series concept came to me while we were on a weekend getaway to photograph two San Diego area piers.

My interest in piers started when my wife gave me a copy of Piers of the California Coast. After discovering San Diego had several piers, we decided to stay near Pacific Beach. It was a centralized destination with a nice B&B. It seemed like the perfect spot to stay because I was just starting the Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mystery series, and that made the B&B location a double win.

We walked into Pacific Beach the first night, wending our way through residential streets until we found ourselves approaching a funky little town with a boardwalk. This was in the days prior to Covid-19, so we didn’t worry about crowds or getting close to strangers. It was nearing 5PM as we made our way along Pacific Beach’s boardwalk. The place wasn’t just alive; it was positively chaotic!

People of all ages were everywhere. From kids to seniors, joggers and walkers to small groups hanging out. From the smell of coconut oil to marijuana, the energy consumed my attention. It reached out, grabbed me by the muse, and shook me with a fervor that demanded I write about it.

Almost on the spot, I began crafting a character who eventually became Jade Cavendish. Jade is twenty-six years old, spunky, and not quite ready to become an adult. She’s also forced to take over the family business when her father announces his sudden retirement.

I eventually moved the location of the series to Carlsbad, which is much closer to home. Carlsbad has a different energy. Where Pacific Beach is constant chaos and manic, the Village in Carlsbad is laid-back and quirky. But, as I integrated the change in location into the book, I realized that energy fit perfectly with my long-term goals for the series. The result was a book that Kirkus Reviews called, “…thrilling and unpredictable.”