The Worst Book I Ever Read

This article is part of the Rolling Mystery Blog Tours rolling tour for Friday. Other bloggers who participated in this roll are listed at the bottom of this page, past the article. John Hines started off today on the subject of Worst Books. His article can be found at If you haven’t already visited his site, please take the time out today to stop by and take a look.

And now, on to my article: The Worst Book I Ever Read

This is sooo easy. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb

It goes like this: Girl has lousy cheating dad. Parents divorce. Girl gets fat. Girl gets raped. Girl attempts suicide. Girl gets counseling. Girl orchastrates a marriage with a jerk.

Are you bored yet? Sick of ‘oh pity me?’.

It goes on for a million years, just one supposedly tear-evoking scene after another until the end when she finally finds peace.  The character is pathetic. The story is written in a voice that says ‘Whoa is me’ for so long that I just wanted to shoot the lead character and put her out of my misery, all 465 pages of it. I mean really, I’m fat. My dad was no angel. I had a rotten marriage. But there were moments in there…moments when I could smile…could look past the bad stuff and see some good, if not in my own life, then in the lives of others.

If Wally Lamb thought his lead character in She’s Come Undone was depressed, that is nothing compared to the way I felt when I read this book. I bought it because it was an Oprah’s Book Club Pick. Sorry, Miss O, but this one should have been flushed down the sewer. I read it because…well…I was younger then and I thought when you started reading a book, you were supposed to finish it. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

Nowadays, if I read a quarter of the book and it sucks, it goes to the thrift shop. Life is too short to torture myself with crap. On the other hand, I have learned something else. How much you enjoy a book has to do with your state of mind at the time. I read The Crystal Cave in my teens and thought is was the best book ever written. I re-read it two years ago and decided it didn’t belong on my ‘keepers shelf.’ Dido for a Jane Austen book I used to adore but I now find kind of boring. On the other hand, I read Jane Eyre every year and never tire of it. I hope I didn’t bore you with my rant.

Our roll today consists only of John Hines and I as our partners are dealing with sick children and deadlines. But hopefully several of our partners will return next Monday when the new roll will start right here with the subject of The Writer’s Cave.

My Favorite #Reference Books

This is the third blog of the Rolling Mystery Writer’s Blog Tours roll for Wednesday. The two blogs on this roll before mine were Nancy Lauzon’s and Katherine Wagner’s. If  you haven’t yet visited their blogs, the addresses are below, along with the other blogs featured today on the subject of Reference Books. 

And now, on to my article:

I have a lot of reference books, and I plan to list most of them at the bottom of this article. But I do have a few that I depend on for every novel I write.

First, I have an unabridged dictionary, a thesaurus, Allen’s Synonyms and Antonyms, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, and Body Language by Fast. I don’t use these every day, but I know I have them, and they are vital on those days when my brain doesn’t function well. I think every writer needs these basic reference books.

Then there are my absolute must have favorites:

1. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.  I’m not a good plotter. But this book helps me to create a very nebulous skeleton of a plot. Others take more from it, and learn to plot according to mythic structure.  In addition, it has some great descriptions of mythic character types that help me shape my characters into believeable people. It has great examples, including the break down of several classic films/books to show exactly how the mythic journey works.

2. 45 Master Characters, Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. To really round out those characters of mine, I use this book as well. It explains the mythic models, and adds supporting character types, gives examples of what those characters look like by use of book, TV and movie characters, and shows how characters change, according to their type.

3. The Writer’s Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook by Kenyon, with Blythe and Sweet. A character’s name is important. Both the given name and the family name. They speak to the character’s history and age, and sometimes personality. This book is indespensible.

4.Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. This books helps me take all the information I’ve gathered from the previous three, and create a strong plot and believeable, three dimensional characters. It discusses areas where the writing profession has grown and changed, allowing writers a freer hand in the creation of novels that used to be considered too complicated or out of the acceptable norm for publishers. It teaches advanced plot structures. Can’t do without this one.

5. The Power of Point of View, Make Your Story Come to Life by Alicia Rasley. This book helps me decide who’s pov to write in and what type of pov to use. It’s great for those who want to deepen the experience of the reader, to help the reader really get into the mind of your characters.

6. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, How to edit yourself into print by Renni Browne and Dave King. Once I have that first draft done, this book helps me edit thoroughly. It reminds me of all those things that are so important to the polish and preparation of a manuscript.

These six books sit in a basket beside my desk, within arms length along with a few specialty books on language and mystery writing, which I will list below. The  basket also holds a few gold nuggets, primarily in the form of notes from classes I’ve taken from some of the best writers and teachers I’ve ever known.

Here is an additional list of books that help me on occasion, especially if I’m having issues I can’t solve:

  • The Plot Thickens, 8 Ways To bring Fiction To Life by Noah Lukeman
  • Novelist’s Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes by Raymond Obstfeld
  • Conflict, Action & Suspense by William Noble
  • The Crime Writer’s Reference Guide, 1001 Tips for Writing the Perfect Murder by Martin Roth
  • Cajun Vernacular English: Informal English in French Louisiana by Louisiana English Journal Special Issue 1992
  • Writing Mysteries, A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America

There are writers out there with MFA’s and others with perfect memories, and some that just seem to have so much talent they don’t need guidence. I don’t fit into any of those catagories. I’m, for the most part, self taught when it comes to writing. The simple art of putting sentences together has always come easy to me. Storytelling is one of my natural abilities. But novel writing is a whole other animal that requires a lot more than what I have naturally, or as a result of education. I’ve found that I need a lot of help, and I’ve found that help in the books listed here.

Below is a list of the participants in today’s blog roll, which ends with John Hines. His blog not only has a great article on this subject, but also a plethera of articles, ideas and opinions. Please stop by and check it out. For information on previous blog rolls, see the other articles on this site dated July, 2011 and newer.

Nancy Lauzon–
Katherine Wagner–
Ryder Islington–
John Hines–

Genre Bending and Blending

This post is part of the Rolling Mystery Blog Tour. My blog was third on this list for this roll, which started with John Hines, who was followed by Kathleen Kaska. All of the participants of today’s roll are listed at the bottom of this article, and all have written articles on the subject of Genre Bending and Blending. Please take time today, or this week, to visit all the blogs on the list. And now, on to my article on Genre Bending and Blending:

This topic wreaks havoc with writers, especially unpublished writers. We plot and plan, write and revise, polish and submit, and our manuscripts are often returned for the simple  reason that they don’t really fit into the category the agent or editor represents. I have a friend who is in the midst of writing a wonderful story. It has a literary feel, but with mystery, and unending sexual tension. So, what genre is it, really? I don’t think it will pass for a romance, though it has hot spots. It might be a mystery, but not the typical who-done-it. It’s not a cozy, or a thriller. If we can’t name it, put it in a nice, neat slot, does that mean it deserves to sit in the slush pile for ever? If the storytelling is wonderful, the writing is crisp, and the plot is intriguing, if the characters are well-rounded and interesting, and the script has been polished to within an inch of its life, but it doesn’t fit anywhere, does the writer deserve to go on being unpublished just because her writing is unique?

Fortunately, there are small presses out there that are willing to take a chance on those of us who have trouble fitting our writing into preconceived notions of what is and isn’t publishable. And with the advent of ebooks, and the ease and availability of self-publishing, almost anyone can get a book published. The kicker is, readers need to be able to find your books, no matter what you write. So if your writing doesn’t readily fit into a genre, how will readers know what to expect?

As the publishing industry continues to go through growing pains, and readers become more open to the bending and blending of genres, it will get easier for those of us whose writing doesn’t quite fit the molds out there. But until that time, writers may have to hold on to those manuscripts they have worked so hard on, or else, compromise their writing to fit into the stereotypical genre of the week.

There has to be an answer to this problem. There must be a way for writers who bend and blend genres to let readers know what to expect from their writing. One way is to blog about it, and to set up their platform so that it praises the newness, the uniqueness of the writing. We need to find words that fit our writing and use them to put our names and our work out there for readers to find. Celebrate your uniqueness, and then make sure readers are able to find that uniqueness and celebrate it with you.

The next stop on the Rolling Mystery Blog Tour for this roll is Mollie Cox Bryan. Mollie has a great blog and her articles are full and fun. Below is a  list of blogs participating in this roll of the rolling blog tour. Please enjoy the articles on Genre Bending and Blending at each of the blogs.

#Writer’s Block

This is the last blog of a mystery rolling blog tour for Wednesday, July 20th, on the subject of Writer’s Block. Below is my article on Writer’s  Block, followed by information on  the other blogs in this roll. If you haven’t already, please take a moment  to visit the other blogs listed and let us know what you think. Comments are always welcome.

I’ve had times when my brain just would not cooperate as I tried to write. It took me a long time to figure out a way to get around this problem and continue to write. I learned to choose other things to write. If I’m writing a mystery, and my mind refuses to concentrate on the manuscript, I do what one of my writer friends calls ‘pre-writing’. I work on little stories about characters that help me know the character better. Or something about the location. I may describe the hotel in town, or the casino, right down to the color of the carpets and drapes in the rooms. I may concentrate on employees, people who will probably never appear in the book at all.

If all else fails, I choose another book all together, maybe even something in a different genre, and start laying the groundwork for that novel–character profiles, plot outline, research on location and weather.

There’s always something I can write, even if it’s something like this, a blog article. But on those rare occasions when even these things are hard to write, I go to two things: how-to reference books on writing and promoting, and fiction in my genre. Reading will often trigger ideas about my own writing and get me over the hump and back into the groove.

I’ve heard lots of writers who say there’s no such thing as writer’s block. I wonder if that means they have never encountered a time when words just wouldn’t come, or if maybe they overcame it with their own tricks, and because they were able to overcome that ‘delay or thought’, they decided it was never writer’s block in the first place.

Writer’s block is real to me. And I think it’s source, at least sometimes, is the pressure we place on ourselves or others place on us to meet deadlines and set quotas. I realize those things tend to encourage us to keep up the work, but I think there are times when that pressure is just too much and the mind goes on strike.

If you’ve never faced writer’s block, good for you. If your mind ever does go on strike, you might want to try some of my ideas. Or you might just want to give in a take a vacation. What ever you do, just don’t give up. If there’s a book in you, it will come out, and I’ve found that after a little bit of ‘pre-writing’, my mind kicks into overdrive and my fingers can’t keep up.

I hope you have enjoyed my article on Writer’s Block. Below is a complete list of the other blogs participating in to day’s rolling blog tour.

  1. John Hines–
  2. Mollie Cox Bryan–
  3. Kathleen Kaska–
  4. Ryder Islington–

Please join us again Monday when we will be blogging on Genre Bending and Blending. Monday’s roll will start with John Hine’s blog:

Solstice Publishing Interview of Ryder

Solstice Publishing asked for a Random Interview and then asked that I post it on my site while they post it on theirs, so here it is:

Random Interview Questions With Ryder Islington

1. Where can we find you? My blog is and I love to hear from people at my email:

2. What is the link for the best review you have had?

3 Why did you choose Solstice?

4. What’s your favorite cover you have seen recently? (feel free to add a picture but please try to keep it pg 13 lol!)

5. What catches your attention with other books?

6. Do you treat a book as a book, for the story inside, or do you judge a book by the author and or the way it’s published? I used to never even consider the oversized paperbacks with the shiny covers and less than 350 pages because I thought they were either self-pubbed or done through some vanity press, etc., probably not quality writing, and also, too short. I like the longer books in general. I was being uppity with my opinion. But I learned my lesson twice, once when I was drawn to a cover that ended up being a really good book, and the second time when my book was pubbed in that format. I learned that different fonts can really make a difference in page count. My book is about 104K words, but only 300 pages. And publishers choose the cover. Now that I see my debut novel, Ultimate Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery with that shiny cover, I am humbled.

7. Ebooks VS Books (Feel free to explain) I think the older generations were raised on books—things we can hold in our hands and feel, while younger generations are attached to electronics and would likely choose ebooks. The good news is that ebooks are great for the environment, and people can afford them more easily than traditional book formats. I have over 500 books in my library and I love them. I don’t own an ereader—yet.

8. If you can have anyone read your book and give you feedback who would it be and why? Greg Iles. I love his writing. His books are not breakneck speed, but that’s fine because he delves into his characters in a way that makes you want to stay with them.

9. What is it that addicted you to your genre? I worked at a major metropolitan sheriff’s department. I studied administration of justice. I love the law. I watch cop shows, serial killer shows, etc., Love it when the good guys win.

10 Your favorite author. This is tough. How about Irisgregjames Johansenilespatterson?

11. Favorite color. Scarlet

12. Something your bio’s won’t tell us.

13. Advice to others? The first draft is always ugly. I once spoke to an author of 57 hits who said she prints out her first draft, sits down with a red pen and makes a mess. You can’t revise a blank page, so write the really bad stuff and then fix it.

14. If you have a day job how do you balance everything.

15. What does your writing schedule look like. Schedule? Uh..are we supposed to do that? Okay, I’ll bite. Whenever I can write, I do. Sometimes that means ten minutes a week. Sometimes ten minutes of every hour for as many hours as I’m awake.

16. Do you find that writing keep you sane?

17. If you could bring one of your characters to life, would you, and why? Ooooh! Trey Fontaine! He’s yummy! Wait. I’m married, so I guess that would be a bad idea, sorta like sending a chocoholic to See’s Candy Shoppe.

18. If you had a magical power what would if be? To heal the sick and injured.

19. Do you believe in magic? Not magic. I believe in blessings and miracles.

20. If we were to play rock paper scissors what would your first choice be? Rock.

21. If you could control one of the elements what would it be? Light—the freakin’ sun! If I could just turn it down a few degrees! Of course I say that in the heat of the summer when going outside makes me sick. If I were answering this question in mid-winter…well, who knows?

22. What annoys you in books? In novels, colons and semi-colons. They make me stop and think when I just want to get on with it. I hate it when big name authors are so important that they are no longer edited and end up doing things we all know are wrong. Not just wrong, but…well lazy.

23. Have you ever came across a book you don’t know why a publisher published? Yes. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. I mean, really?

23. Are you a grammar nazi, or do you find yourself more intertwined with the story to deal with the editing part. I’m more of a comma queen. I find that proper grammar sometimes gets in the way of the story, especially in deep third person and in dialogue.

24. Do you believe in self publishing? Yes. But only for niche genres where no publisher will touch it because it doesn’t appeal to the masses. There are thousands of small press publishers out there. If you polish enough, and send it out enough, you’ll find the right publisher.

25. Make up a question and have at it J

26. Tell us a joke. What’s the difference between a lawyer and a catfish? Answer: One’s a cold blooded, scum sucking bottom dweller, and the other is a fish.

27. What is the weirdest thing you have come across in your writing career?

28. Randomly tell us what you thought as you were reading these questions. This is very freeing. I liked being able to pick the questions I wanted to answer and not be pressured to answer ones that I didn’t think were interesting. (or were too hard—hehehe.)

29. Are you a believer in Karma. I believe that what goes around comes around. Karma is part of a religion that I don’t follow, so I don’t call it that. Halfway through my writing journey, I met some wonderful people who helped me in ways I didn’t even know I needed. I now have the obligation to help others who need help. I don’t feel like I’ve ‘made it’, but I’ve come a long way because of the help I received. So if newbies out there need help, give them my email addy.

30. Give a shout out to another writer, you can include their links work ect.

Anne Hamilton’s remarkable tales of her travels to Bangladesh, which led to the forming of the charity Bhola’s Children. The charity is a direct beneficiary of all sales of A BLONDE BENGALI WIFE. You can read an excerpt, see the cover, and purchase the book in paperback or ebook format at

My debut novel, ULTIMATE JUSTICE, A Trey Fontaine Mystery came out June 24th and is available in paperback or ebook format at and Amazon. If you like drug addicted FBI agents, serial killers, detectives at their wit’s end, and gruesome details of murder, you might want to check this out.
Posted by XchylerConn at 8:33 AM
Labels: Random Question Interview’s

ryderislington said…

Since you forgot to add the link to the best review I’ve ever had, here it is:

July 18, 2011 9:45 AM

What Is Your Method Of Plotting?

This is the first article in a rolling blog tour of Mystery Blog Tours Ink.

Today’s subject: What Is Your Method Of Plotting?

I wish I knew! I’m struggling to plot my second novel in a series. I’ve read The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, The Marshall Plan and The Snowflake Method and tried to use them. I do pretty well until I get to about page 100. Then I’m kinda lost.

This is when I get out a handful of 3X5 cards and start trying to fill in the blanks. If Trey has to do XX by the end of the book, what has to happen to get him there? I do this for each character, and then see if I can get the characters working against each other. Sometimes it works. Sometimes I’m pulling my hair out.

I tend to come up with a title first: Ultimate Justice. What does that mean to me? What is the Ultimate Justice? And what kind of characters would people a story like that? The  beginning and the end quickly follows. but the road in between is a rough one.

I’ve been a pantser for ten years, learning to create that skeleton of a plot a little more with each book I write. I’ve written thousands of words that ended up trashed because they didn’t fit into the story–or rather, they didn’t lead to the ending.

So now as I’m writing book two, I know the beginning and the end, and the characters. I’m working hard at filling in that middle with valuable scenes. I keep looking at the Hero’s Journey, trying to use that model to fill in the blanks.

I intend to read all the blogs in this roll and see what others are doing that might help me be a little more successful at plotting. Being a pantser is fun, but not so conducive to cranking out a first draft. The good news is, my less than perfect method, if it can be called that, got me through book one, and according to reviews, it’s doing well. I just hope that I can develop a better, stronger, faster method. A sort of six-million-dollar-woman method. Yeah, I like the sound of that.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I hope you will take the time to visit the next
blog on the rolling blog tour:

Below is a list of the participants in today’s roll. We’d love it if you could
stop by each of them and learn more about Plotting Methods. Another roll is scheduled for Wednesday, and with any luck we will just keep on rolling!

  1. Ryder Islington–
  2. John Hines–
  3. Nancy Lauzon–
  4. Kathleen Kaska–

How To Stay Worry Free

This post is in conjunction with the Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour, a fantastic blog hop that brings together bloggers of all genres, backgrounds and locations. I’m posting this Friday before sundown to be part of Saturday’s hop. So starting Saturday, the blog featured before mine is “”. The blog featured after mine is the fascinating  “. Do stop by and say hello plus some of us are having giveaways and contests. Enjoy!

So now for the subject of HOW TO STAY WORRY FREE

I think the most imortant thing to remember about worry is that it is abolutely useless. Worry accomplishes nothing. There are some things that are out of our control and our inclination is to worry about them. But we know that worry doesn’t change the problem. So I stay worry free by remembering that there is someone in charge. He knows the reason things happen and I have no power over some things. So for the things I have control over, I plan, I manage, I organize. I do the best I can with what I have, and then I let it go.

Everytime I give this answer to someone, the inevitable response is that it’s easier said than done. That’s true. But most good things don’t come easy. And this particular thing is life changing if not life saving.

Find something that helps you relax and get out of the anxious state of fear, anger, or frustration. I find that focusing on my breathing for a moment and telling myself ‘life’s too short to spend it going crazy’ helps me a lot. Once I have relaxed, I take a moment to think about the problem that is making me worry. I try to figure out if there is anything I can do to make it better. If there is, I put that on my list of things to do. But if there is nothing I  can do about the problem, I give it up. Sometimes I have to go through this process several times before I give up the worry permanently. Sort of like a dog learning a new trick, I have to repeat the process until it comes naturally.

You don’t  have to be religious to make this process work. You just  have to be able to separate the things you can control and the things you can’t, and then work at coming to the realization that worry does more harm than good and that you have a life to live. You can choose to be miserable, afraid, nervous, angry. Or you can choose to let those things go, take a cleansing breath, and get on with doing what you can to have a life of content.

Thank you for joining me today. I hope you take the time to visit the other blogs with articles on this subject. These blogs are listed below for your convenience.

Have a great weekend!

1. Janki –
2. Shelley –
3. Karen –
4. Dora –
5. Roy –
6. Shaeeza –
7. Ryder –
8. Karen –
9. Dora –

Blog Tour Anyone?

Last week I participated in a blog tour and I really loved it. I loved it so much I will be participating in another soon. But I have my own ideas about a blog tour and I’d love to create a rolling blog tour for this year–yes I said this year.

Here’s the plan: I want to find at least fourteen more mystery writers who are williing to participate in a rolling blog tour. We will choose one day a week on which to submit an article. And each week one member will choose the topic of the tour and start it off as the first blogger. All participants will introduce the blog of the person next in line on the tour with a single line or paragraph as well as giving a complete list of participating blogs at the end of their article.

Articles don’t have to be long. Every participant can put their bookcover, bio and where to purchase their books on their front page so every week people will see it.

Participants can decide as a group if there will be any limitations on the kinds of topics we write about, though I personally like to write about writing, and reading, and books.

I’d like to get started with this in the next few weeks and aim to keep it going once a week for a year. If you want to participate but can’t do it every week, or can’t commit to a year, that’s okay. I’m hoping to get enough responses so that no one will have to participate every week. Maybe we can make it ten bloggers each week, some other arbitrary number that works.

If you are a mystery writer, published or not, I’d love for you to leave me a comment here if you’re interested in this idea, or contact me at

What Does Freedom Mean To You?

Today’s post is in conjunction with the Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour, a fantastic blog hop that brings together bloggers of all genres, backgrounds and locations. In today’s hop, the blog featured before Ryder Ilsington’s Blog is “”. The blog featured after Ryder Ilsington’s Blog is the fascinating ” “. Do stop by and say hello plus some of us are having giveaways and contests. Enjoy!

So now, back to freedom, and what it means to me. I think we American’s have lived under freedom for so long that we take it for granted. We are free to work at any job we are qualifed for, and we have the freedom to receive an education regardless of our color, sex, gender, or political affiliation. We are free to go where we want, eat what we want, live where we want.

I’m always shocked by documentaries showing how oppressed the citizens of some countries are. In North Korea the citizens do not have internet access. Their newspapers, television and radio stations are owned by the government. This is unfathomable to citizens of the U.S. We expect, even demand, that our government not be involved in the process of religion, the free press, the or the rules we have in our households regarding sex, discipline, smoking, drinking, etc. Sure, there are limited laws to protect children from abuse, but overall, parents have the freedom to raise their children as they see fit.

Freedom here  in America allows me, an author, to write about anything I want. I can protest against any part or member of the government, in writing, or the streets of Washington, D.C.. When I hear about people of other countries being murdered because of their political beliefs, or because they tried to tell the truth about women’s rights, or birth control…well, it makes me sick. It makes me angry. It makes me cry. And then it makes me appreciate all the freedom I have.

Below is a list of all the blogs on this blog tour. Please put them on your list of things to do and see.

1. Sonia Rumzi –
2. DK Levick –
3. Dora –
4. Karen –
5. La Vonya –
6. Simon –
7. Jim –
8. Jennifer –
9. Lucy –
10. Shelley –
11. Ryder –
12. Janki –
13. Tosh –
14. Dennis –
15. Karen –
16. Dora –