Tag Archive for: #LynDee Walker

What Makes Excellent Writing?

Makes Excellent Writing?
Saralyn Richard

I’ve taught creative
writing off and on for years. It was an elective for upper class students in a
large suburban Chicago high school. Part of our curriculum was to produce a
literary magazine each year, and we entered our work in a National Council of
Teachers of English contest. Oftentimes we won awards for our content or
layout, and quite a few of my students went on to become successful writers.
Now I teach creative
writing to adults aged 55 or older at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
I’m finding the learners to be extremely motivated. The problem for them is not
choosing what to write about, but choosing which of many ideas and experiences
to write about first. My learners are serious, thoughtful, observant,
experienced, and well-read. Their responses to assignments are creative and
clever, worthy of being submitted for contests or publication.
I’m often asked what
makes excellent creative writing, and when I consider possible replies, I find
the same things apply to both high school writers and adult writers.

The first element of fine
writing, in my opinion, is the ability to imagine and bring to life one or more
relatable characters. These characters do not have to be alter-egos of the
author who creates them. They don’t even need to be the same gender, race,
creed, or age. They don’t need to be perfect; in fact, perfection would be a
detriment to being relatable for readers.
How do authors come out
of themselves enough to paint a realistic word-portrait of characters who are
unlike them? The process for me is similar to what an actor does in assuming a
role for a play. When I’m writing about a character, I immerse myself into the
body and mind of that person. I lose my own identity as I write the scenes
where my character speaks and thinks and acts.

Another fine point of
excellent writing is awareness of theme. I use the term “theme” to mean the
overall purpose for the story. When the author consciously crafts the writing
based on a specific purpose, all of the narration, exposition, description, and
dialogue fall into place, unifying the readers’ experience. I’ve read many sagas
that took me across generations and geographical locations without tying the
chapters and sections together, and they’ve left me wondering about the
author’s intent. My favorite tales lead me to some truth, some higher awareness
about life or people.
Of course there are many
other important strategies and methods in a writer’s toolkit. As a creative
writing teacher, I encourage my students to practice them all. As a writer,
myself, I strive to do the same. The two books in the Detective Oliver Parrott Mystery
series, Murder in the One Percent and
A Palette for Love and Murder, have
thoroughly imagined characters and (hopefully) articulated themes.

I’m excited to discuss
these and other topics with the Stiletto Gang readers. Whatever questions you
have about creative writing, I’m interested. 


Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard, is a
writer who teaches on the side. Her books, Naughty
, Murder in the One Percent,
and A Palette for Love and Murder,
have delighted children and adults, alike. A member of International Thriller
Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing at the
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and continues to write mysteries. Reviews,
media, and tour schedule may be found at

Follow Saralyn at:

 “A compelling story of worlds in collision, A Palette for Love and Murder plumbs the depths of love and the
human heart.”

Kent Krueger
, author
This Tender Land

“Delightful! Saralyn Richard weaves a deeply twisty mystery around
vibrant characters that will leave readers looking forward to more.” —LynDee
Walker, Agatha Award-nominated author of Front
Page Fatality

“Smart, stylish and sexy, this art world caper
delights with its verve and wit. The character studies are wonderful, and
Oliver and Tonya Parrott are an irresistible pair.”                                           – Ausma Zehanat Khan,
author of 
A Deadly Divide

Learning to Walk in Heels

The Stiletto Gang welcomes LynDee Walker, author of Front Page Fatality.
by LynDee Walker

I see it every day: women strutting around confidently in
three-and-four-inch stilettos that could double as works of art, as
un-tottering and sure-footed as if they were wearing Nikes.

Until a couple of years ago, I had no idea how they did it.

When my friends were learning to walk in gorgeous shoes, I was
curled up somewhere with my nose in a book, seeing no need to put anything on
my feet that would make me stick out more than I already did. I’m almost 6 feet
tall, and while I’ve grown to appreciate that, in high school it was the bane
of my existence. I was taller than half the boys in my class, and always,
always the tallest girl. I had absolutely zero desire to accentuate what I saw
as a flaw.

Then I grew up. I figured out that some boys like tall girls.
I learned to stand up straight and hold my head high in a crowd. I focused on
the good things about my height: I can reach things other people can’t (if I
had a dollar for every time a little old lady has asked me to get something off
a high shelf at the grocery store, hubby and I could retire right now) and I
can keep an eye on my little ones more easily in crowded places.

With my newfound appreciation for my height, I browsed the
pretty shoes, but still never bought any because I was afraid I’d teeter until
I toppled right over on my face.

So when I started writing fiction after leaving my reporting
career to be a stay-at-home-mom, my heroine could not only wear the shoes, she
could run in them and kick butt in them, too (I didn’t believe this was
possible until I saw a dear friend of mine do it. I still kind of think it’s a
superpower, but she swears that when you wear heels every day, you can do
anything in them).

Nichelle is as tall as I am, and she wears her eBay-gotten
Louboutins with confidence, which is one of many things I love about her. So
when I finished writing Front
Page Fatality
, I settled on a pair of killer stilettos as my celebratory

I took my shoe superhero friend with me to pick them out, and
fell in love with a pair of peep-toes with four-inch heels. She stayed in
Macy’s shoe department with me for two hours, teaching me how to wear them
without falling. I’m not sure what made me feel more accomplished: writing a
novel, or wearing those shoes out of the store.

With three small children, a household to run, and a writing
career that’s just taking off, I don’t wear them every day. I definitely teeter
a bit for the first few minutes when I do put them on. But when I get the hang
of walking in them, I channel a bit of Nichelle’s confidence and stand up


Excerpt of
Front Page Fatality:

I paused outside Bob’s door, where Grant Parker was chatting
with the features editor about the baseball season. I couldn’t remember ever having
spoken more than a dozen words to Parker, an almost-professional pitcher who
was regarded around Richmond as just slightly less than Zeus’ son, but the
column he’d talked about in the meeting caught my attention.

I cleared my throat lightly and he turned his head, his bright
green eyes widening a touch when they met mine. He was tall, but in my heels, I
was almost nose-to-nose with him.

“What can I do for you, Miss Clarke?” He flashed the smile
that made most women here channel their corset-bound ancestors and swoon—and
sold a fair number of newspapers, too.

“I wanted to say thank you,” I said, shifting my file folder
to the other arm. “For the column you’re doing today. My mom is a breast cancer
survivor, and it’s nice you’re writ- ing about it. The sports section isn’t
usually where you’d look for a breast cancer story. So thanks.”

“You’re so welcome.” His eyes dropped to the square- toed
perfection of the shiny blue stilettos I’d shoved my feet into between my early
morning body combat class and my mad dash to the meeting, then raised back to
mine. “Nice of you to say so. I didn’t know you read my column.”

“I don’t.” I smiled. “But I will tomorrow.”

“I guess I’d better be on my A game, then.” He ran a hand
through his already-messy blond hair and grinned at me again.

“I guess you’d better.” I took a step backward. “I’m told I
can be tough to impress.”

“I do love a challenge.” He raised his eyebrows and twisted
his mouth to one side.

“I bet you do.” I shook my head, making a mental note to call
my mother as I turned and headed for my ivory cubicle, Parker and his
too-perfect smile forgotten. Charles Bronson. Dead guys. The nagging feeling
there was something beyond the obvious on the murdered dealers got stronger the
more I thought about the scattered details I’d heard on the scanner.


LynDee Walker grew up in the land of stifling heat and amazing
food most people call Texas, and wanted to be Lois Lane from the time she could
say the words “press conference.” An award-winning journalist, she traded cops
and deadlines for burp cloths and onesies when her oldest child was born.
Writing the
Headlines in
mysteries gives her the best of both worlds. When not writing or
reading, LynDee is usually wrangling children, eating barbecue or enchiladas,
or trying to walk off said barbecue and enchiladas. Her debut novel, Front Page Fatality, is an
amazon top 10 bestseller. She and her family live in Richmond, Virginia.  You can visit her online at

Headlines in Heels Mystery (Henery Press, January 29, 2013)
Get a signed copy and support a wonderful
independent bookshop: Fountain Bookstore
Twitter: @LynDeeWalker
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Amazon author page: LynDee Walker
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