Monday, October 21, 2013

Finishing the Book

 "Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both,
but move on. Do better next time."
~Emma Coats of Pixar~

I've always loved the song "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park With George. I understand the artist's compulsion to make it as perfect as possible and his drive for completion. My issue is that once the book is finished, I experience a whole raft of emotions—some terrific, others not so.

We finally completed our latest book The Memory Keeper, a historical novel set in San Juan Capistrano between 1820 and 1890. Our protagonist (and the title character) is a Juaneño Indian. We've spent the last two-plus years with him. During that time, we've grown to love him and his family as well as the city of San Juan Capistrano itself and its historic mission.
 Larry has done most of the research. The completed book will contain pages and pages of bibliography. Pamela Hallen-Gibson, the official historian of San Juan, was our first beta reader. We sent her Chapters One through Three over a year ago. She provided a number of great suggestions.

Jacque Nunez, herself a descendent of the Juaneños, local school teacher, and storyteller, spent hours with us describing the native lifestyle. She provided some vocabulary which added a great deal of depth to the story.

Several others, including the Lagunita Writers Group, read and critiqued the chapters. At this point we feel the book will be ready to submit as soon as we run the final chapters by the group on Monday night, incorporate their final suggestions, and send the completed manuscript back to our beta readers for final comments.

Once that is done, the withdrawal will begin. Having lived intimately with these characters for so long, and loving them as if they were family, letting them go will be hard. Since they won't be back again with other stories, I feel like the parents of the early pioneers must have felt as they watched their children disappear over the horizon knowing they would not be back. Losing these precious beings feels a bit like a death, and we are starting to mourn them.

Of course, we are excited to start sending out queries and to work with a publisher. We can't wait to actually see the book in print and listed on Amazon. We look forward to sharing this very special story with others, particularly those who also know and love San Juan.

Fortunately, I have three or four other projects waiting to be started or completed. One of them has been annoying Larry since it hasn't gotten my attention, so perhaps we will do that one together.

We're not finished writing, but we need to go through the process of allowing this one to find its way before we begin again. It's a bit like handing your teenager the car keys for the first time and letting them drive onto the street and out of sight. Once the book is submitted, it is no longer a work-in-progress. It is finished and needs to find its own audience.

Meanwhile, we'll continue to visit San Juan and remember what it was like in the nineteenth century when our characters 'lived' there.

Do other authors share these feelings?

Monday, October 14, 2013

John Wills, Writer

Today my guest is writer John Wills. We met recently at a writers’ conference and I was very impressed with him. He won several awards at the conference.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up one of six children on the south side of Chicago. Our parents worked long and hard to afford to send all of us to Catholic schools. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that education was priceless.

What kind of childhood did you have? Were there siblings? Where were you in the birth order? Did it affect you?
I am the second oldest of six kids. We didn’t have a lot of money, as would be expected in a large family. All of us wore hand-me-downs, even my oldest brother. He got them from cousins. I had a wonderful childhood—lots of neighborhood kids to play sports with. We rode our bicycles everywhere: school, parks, the store, and as long as we were home when the streetlights came on, life was good.

When did you first realize you could write? Did you always enjoy it?
It was early on in grammar school. I did enjoy it, particularly, the process of writing—putting pen to paper and actually writing, not typing. When I got older, creating a story, whether fact or fiction, appealed to me.

What other jobs have you done during your life? Did they influence your writing?
I served in the Army during Vietnam. It was a difficult time in our nation’s history and an unpopular war. A military career did not seem attractive to me at that point. I came home and joined the Chicago Police Department and served for 12 ½ years. I left the CPD to become an FBI agent, and retired in 2004.

Writing was an important skill in the Bureau. Being able to document a complex case from beginning to end, in a concise, complete manner was absolutely essential. Once the arrest was made, it was time for prosecution. The U.S. Attorney’s office had little time for agents who had poor writing skills.

What was your first book? Was it published? Is it still in print?
Chicago Warriors Midnight Battles In The Windy City. The book is still available and is the first in the trilogy of the Chicago Warriors Thriller series, featuring Chicago Police detectives Pete Shannon and Marilyn Benson.

Many of us (yours truly included) have a stash of unfinished or simply older manuscripts siting around. Do you?
No, but I did have some short stories taking up space on my hard drive. I decided to collect them, and some poetry, and create an anthology. I named it after an award-winning story I wrote. The Nightstand Collection is available on Amazon.

How did you come up with the protagonist in your latest book?
He is based on a friend of mine, as well as some of my experiences throughout my law enforcement career.

How do you name your characters?
Since much of my writing involves real-life, I often use friends and family in my stories. If the character is a nationality I need to fit a certain role, I will usually use a name generator engine on the internet.

Does the setting for your book resemble where you live?
Yes, and I have a wide range of venues to choose from since I’ve lived in the Midwest, the South, and the East Coast.

Do you include any of your family members or friends among your characters?
Yes, and they seem to enjoy the effect.

Before you leave, tell us a little about your new book, The Year Without Christmas.
I shed a lot of tears writing this one. The book tells the story of a small town family’s peace being shattered when a tragic accident sends them plunging into the darkest times they have ever known. The members struggle with their new reality, as the husband disappears and his grandson faces a life-threatening disease. It’s a tale about loss and unwavering hope, and demonstrates the power of love, faith and a family’s will to survive.
Thank you for stopping by today. We look forward to seeing you again in person. See my review on Amazon.  Lorna

John M. Wills is a former Chicago police officer and retired FBI agent. He is a freelance writer and award-winning author in a variety of genres, including novels, short stories and poetry. He has published more than 150 articles relating to officer training, street survival, fitness and ethics. John also writes book reviews for the New York Journal of Books and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. His book, Women Warriors, is available online and at the National Law Enforcement Memorial Gift Shop in Washington, D.C. John’s October 2013 release is The Year Without Christmas: A Novel. Visit John at:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Who is Lorna Collins?

My dear friend and fellow writer, Marilyn Meredith, is my guest today talking about me as well as my alter ego in her latest book, Spirit Shapes. Be sure to enter the contest, and next time she may write about you!

Who is Lorna Collins?

In real life, Lorna Collins is many things: wife, mother, writer, techie and good friend to many, including me. We share our birthdate (though I’m much older than she is) and have learned through our friendship that we have many traits in common. I won’t list them here, but at times it can be rather amazing.

One thing I would like to mention though, is both of us like to write about ghostly events. She created a wonderful ghost character in her latest, Ghost Writer. Not all the supernatural entities in Spirit Shapes are as friendly.

Lorna won my last contest and has a character named after her in Spirit Shapes. Lorna Collins, in this latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, isn’t much like the one I know.

My character, Lorna Collins, is a ghost hunter. My friend has had many jobs and interests, though I don’t think this has ever been one of them. The character is tall with white hair; my friend is short with an abundance of dark hair.

What the two do have in common is no fear of ghosts and the ability to take charge in a bad situation.

My friend, Lorna, is hoping that Lorna Collins, the ghost hunter will turn up in another Deputy Tempe mystery. That might happen. I don’t know right now, but it is certainly a possibility.

Spirit Shapes: Ghost hunters stumble upon a murdered teen in a haunted house. Deputy Tempe Crabtree's investigation pulls her into a whirlwind of restless spirits, good and evil, intertwined with the past and the present, and demons and angels at war.

To buy direction from the publisher in all formats:

Also available directly from Amazon.

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award-winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area, including the nearby Tule River Indian Reservation. She does like to remind everyone that she is writing fiction. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and follow her blog at


The person who comments on the most blogs on this blog tour will have the opportunity to have a character named after him or her in the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

Tomorrow I’ll be visiting at: