Saturday, September 20, 2014


When I wrote my first novel, The Life We Bury, I didn't feel like a I could call myself a writer as I felt more like a lawyer writing a novel (and as I've learned since, that’s what most lawyers apparently do). I’d spent nearly two decades learning and practicing and studying to prepare myself for this adventure and when the time came, my words flowed out at an easy pace. I had no deadline. I was in no hurry.  Writing was fun.

With novel number two, I felt no need to have a product out by a particular deadline either. I began novel number two when I was in the dreaded agent-query process. If you are in that part of the process now, I highly recommend that you start your next novel while you query. The time between sending out a query letter and hearing back can take weeks, sometimes months.  Writing another novel will distract you from wanting to check your empty email every five minutes.

But when I submitted my second manuscript to my publisher, I decided to ask for a three-book deal. I had ideas for all three books, and their stories worked together in a nice arc, so why not. Well, my request was granted. I received the contracts in the mail and signed them with the high-minded feeling that I was no longer a lawyer writing books, but rather a novelist who also practiced law.

Now it’s time to write novel number three and it seems as though I haven’t any time. With The Life We Bury coming out in less than a month, I have been inundated with tasks I hadn’t expected. It never occurred to me that I’d be writing so many interviews for bloggers and reviewers. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing Q&As. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to get a Q&A request from bloggers.  Then there are the articles for Writer’s Digest and The Big Chill. On top of that I have been fortunate enough to have events scheduled that put me in touch with many potential readers and fans. In short, I am busy and completely loving it.  I would devote every waking hour to spreading the word about The Life We Bury if I could.

But then I remember that I have another novel to write (and a law practice to run). I
have novel number three outlined and a couple chapters written. Lucky for me, I had my second manuscript finished and sold to the publisher before The Life We Bury hit the store shelves. That means that novel number three won’t launch until the fall of 2016. Where before, I could write when the feeling struck me, I now have to be more disciplined and schedule time in advanced for writing. I hope to never box myself into a corner where I don’t have the time that I want (or need) to write the quality of novel I want to write.

I used to think that if I had to write, I would not enjoy it as much as I did when I wrote because I wanted to write, but I am finding that that is not the case. I’m writing this blog post on a break from my morning’s work and as I finish this piece, I can’t wait to go back to my manuscript. It’s a lovely Saturday morning and I’m sitting on my deck with my laptop on my lap. It’s a good day to write a novel. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Thank you, Emily Carpenter, for tagging me in this Writing Process blog tour. Emily is a new friend who gets to share the amazing talents of our mutual literary agent, Amy Cloughley, from the Kimberley Cameron Agency. Emily is a writer from Atlanta, an award winning screen writer and can be found at


What am I working on?

As I write this blog, I am taking a break from doing revisions on my second novel, tentatively titled, IN THE PATH OF THE BEAST. It is a little more plot driven than my first novel, THE LIFE WE BURY, which will launch on October 14 of 2014. Both novels are mysteries, although IN THE PATH OF THE BEAST has a thriller element to it.

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

Answering this question is a lot like answering the question of how my child differs from other children. There are many similarities between THE LIFE WE BURY and other books in the genre, which allows me to put my novel on the shelf with other mystery novels. But at the same time it is different in some key ways.

First, my protagonist is a college student. He has no special training and, much like the main character from a Hitchcock film, he is pulled into a situation not fully of his choosing.

Another distinction is the internal plot. in THE LIFE WE BURY I have a strong relationship between my main character and his autistic brother. I feel that this pairing gives the story a bigger heart than one finds in most mysteries.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what I do because I enjoy it. I took up writing for the creative outlet and the fulfillment I found in crafting a good story. I continue to write because it makes me happy. If that ever changes, I will stop writing what I do.

How does my writing process work?

I am a strenuous outliner. I can’t begin writing until I have the plots and subplots down on paper. I know the point of view character for every chapter and I know what information will be fed to the reader when.  I don’t let the outline prevent me from taking a detour or tangent, but if the story veers too far from the outline, I stop and redo the outline so that I know where I’m going.

I write around 5000 words a week, either completing one long chapter or two shorter ones. I save one entire weekend day to edit what I wrote that week before moving on to the next section. During the first draft stage I stay pretty close to that schedule.

When I finish the first draft I revise until I’m happy with it. Then I give it out to a few trusted beta readers, incorporate their ideas. I then send it to my agent and get more editorial suggestions before it goes to the publisher.

That’s it for me.

Next week please read up on the writing process of a pair of talented mystery writers whom I admire.

Mickie Turk, and Pat Dennis.


Mickie Turk has worked independently and commercially in film, photography, and journalism for the past 20 years. She wrote, directed, and produced films—both short and feature-length narratives and documentaries. Her travels to Cuba produced a film on the religion Santeria and Havana Nights, a locally screened shorts film festival. Early educational and employment experiences included adult mental health services and juvenile community corrections. Mickie has written novels, screenplays, and a variety of short stories and memoirs. Most recently, she is a film curator at Edina Film Festival and Vice President of Twin Cities Chapter of Sisters in Crime

Pat Dennis is the award-wining author of Hotdish To Die For -- a collection of six mystery short stories and 18 hotdish recipes.  Pat Dennis authored The Witches of Dorkdom, a middle school novel.   Her numerous short stories and humor have appeared in Hotdish Haiku, Minnesota Monthly, Woman's World, The Minnesota Crime Wave's Resort to Murder, The Minnesota Crime Wave's Silence of the Loons, Once Upon A Crime Anthology, Writes of Spring, Who Died in Here? Pioneer Press, Sun Current, Hartford Journal, Impressions and Anne Frasier's Deadly Treats. Pat is also a stand-up comedian with over 1,000 performances at comedy clubs, Fortune 500 companies, Women's Expo, and special events. She has appeared on the same venue as Lewis Black, Phylis Diller, and David Brenner.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


As 2014 begins, I find myself in that wonderful place where anticipation and hope hold hands. I will soon be doing the final edits on THE LIFE WE BURY, and the countdown to my first book launch in November ticks away. I attended a writers conference in November taught by Christopher Vogler, James Scott Bell and Donald Maass.  I came away with a deeper understanding of some important aspects of writing, many of which I had been doing intuitively but didn't fully appreciate. If you are a writer and have an opportunity to catch this program, I recommend it.

As I sat in that conference room, contemplating character and Joseph Campbell's seminal work THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES, a thought struck me. I realized that the characters and themes that Campbell (and later Vogler) wrote about are concepts that can transfer from one character to another. For example, a novel needs a protagonist--a hero that the reader can cheer--but that hero is a concept that can jump from one character to another. Similarly, a villain can change stripes so long as the reader has a new person to fear or despise. 

For example, in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, Hannibal Lecter is a truly fearsome villain in the beginning.  However, as the story progresses the reader warms up to Lecter because he treats Clarice Starling with more respect that her peers do. As the reader begins to like Lecter, the specter of Buffalo Bill rises to take over as the one to be feared. The antagonist is not bound to a particular character, rather, the concept of the antagonist can move from one character to another, so long as the concept exists in the story. 

This idea intrigues me. I have put this notion to a test in my next novel, which I just sent out to my beta readers. So far, the reviews are coming back great. I am looking forward to getting feedback from my agent and editor.