Monday, July 6, 2015

The Rollercoaster and the Collision

Two of my major influences are Clive Cussler and Mary Higgins Clark.
I credit them, along with Walter Farley, for giving me a vision of how I wanted to write.
I've talked about Walter Farley before. He's the first author I ever read that made me stare at his name on the books and think, "How did he do that? How did he drag me into that horse race."
With him I could smell and see and hear all that was going on around me. His wrote action that moved and I was right in there with it all happening around me.
But I know I've said that before and I'm sure I've mentioned Cussler and Higgins Clark, but I want to try and go into a bit more detail about them and why I consider them influences.
And btw, why I think the best way to study writing is to read great books instead of reading 'How To Write' books, 
Of course it took me ten years to get a book published, so what the heck do I know, huh???????
First Clive Cussler.

Clive Cussler begins all his books in a style that is, to me, almost completely unique. I can't think who I've read who is like him.
Cussler usually takes three or four stories, that honestly seem to have NOTHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER.
It's so random. But at the same time, they are all gripping stories. 
President Lincoln being kidnapped.
A red moss spreading across the ocean from Africa.
A cave found deep in the ice in Antarctica
A plane crashing into a lake in Colorado in the 1930s
Now these are different random things not all from the same book. But you get the idea. Random. Each exciting.
And these stories build through a chapter to a cliffhanger. 
The the next chapter JUMPS to another story. And the reader is mentally screaming, "No, don't leave him there hanging from that cliff."

The the next chapter starts and you REMEMBER THAT A PREVIOUS CHAPTER LEFT SOMEONE ELSE HANGING FROM A CLIFF and you are OFF, reading madly until this NEW chapter builds into a cliffhanger.
Then JUMP again.
This style of writing is so fast paced, so exciting, it is almost impossible to ever put the book down.
I tried to imitate this in some of my books, but one thing you HAVE to remember is, EACH STORY HAS TO BE AS POWERFUL AS THE OTHERS.
I've read other books that do this jumping thing and found myself only liking ONE of the story lines. Then you just spend your life impatiently wanting...even get back to the story that caught you. And if you're doing that, then the story if a failure.
Cussler builds and builds and jumps and jumps until finally all his stories COLLIDE.
All the sudden your eyes are wide open, you see exactly why the Titanic sinking has something to do with an obscure doctor in Ireland. And at the moment the story just explodes and all the separate parts just zoom along together.

Now to Mary Higgins Clark.

Her style has a similar impact but she doesn't take four random stories, rather she'll jump to other parts that are clearly from the same story. But she does the same thing. She'll have different characters, all in their own trouble, cliffhanger after cliffhanger.
With her books I honestly always felt like she grabbed me by the front of my shirt and dragged me onto a roller coaster.
I would finish one of her books at about 4:30 a.m., disgusted with myself for not sleeping AGAIN and just try to figure out how she did it. Not just the brilliant writing, but they way she'd make me feel like there was NO escape. I had to read the next chapter. I had to know what happened next.

I've learned to hook chapter endings.
Try to make subplots as compelling as the main story.
Try to use the senses, combined with action to keep ahold of a reader and allow them NO ESCAPE.

I guess my very brief advice amounts to, "Who do you love to read?"
Who writes books that grab you and tear your heart out, or make you laugh, or make all your sense come to life?
You can also think about books that HELD you, then somehow lost you. What happened? When did they get boring? When did they let you slip out of their nets?

Read those books for entertainment, but then THINK. Re-read them. Study them. Figure how how they grabbed you and hung on.
Is it action like it is for me? I love romance of course and I also love books that make me laugh.

Or is it tears? How does Karen Kingbury do that? What...and I mean clinically....WHAT is she doing to make you cry your head off.
Tell me what books catch you, then let's talk about WHY and how you can tap into that appeal for your own work.

Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for Now and Forever....CURRENTLY #5 ON THE CHRISTIAN BOOKSELLERS ASSOCIATION BESTSELLER LIST!!!!!!!!!


  1. Mary, I just flat love to read. Numerous genres and authors. Everytime I try to figure out what I like about an author I get so caught up in the story I forget that I'm supposed to be studying!

    On the whole I like fast paced suspense. When I'm feeling bad I like lighthearted contemporary romance.

    Somehow I think I totally missed the mark on my comment, but I know what you're suggesting and it is great advice.

  2. I take your point about learning to write fiction by reading great fiction, not just by reading how-to books, and I give that advice myself. But I do make two additional points:

    1. You have to read modern fiction as well as the classics to understand what readers want today. Writing like Charles Dickens isn't likely to appeal to the modern reader the way it appealed to the 1850's reader.

    2. The books about writing give you a language to discuss issues with what you've read--and what you're writing. For example, I loved Jodi Picoult when I first read her, but I couldn't articulate why. I've since learned it's because of the way she uses point of view to bring me right inside the head of the character. You do the same above--you talk about the hook. If I hadn't read writing books, I'd be wondering what fishing had to do with this.

    But, yes, authors need to read. As Stephen King says, if you don't have time to read, you don't have the tools to write. (And I learn as much from books I don't enjoy as from books I do).

  3. I used to read for enjoyment. These days I read for enjoyment and education. Some books are so good I consider them textbooks. I not only read them for story. I read and study how the author did what s/he did and why it works so well.

    I could name a host of authors whose work I learn from, but it's late here in California, so I'll limit myself to the first ones who come to mind. Sarah Sundin's WWII romances are must-reads for me. I normally don't read that era, but her stories are so rich and her characters so well drawn that I eagerly await each new story. Karen Witemeyer's characters draw me in the same way, as do those crafted by my fellow LIH authors Renee Ryan and Linda Ford. When I'm in the mood for a contemporary romance and have time to read one pretty much straight through, I grab one of Candace Calvert's medical romances. They're page turners with characters so real and dangers so prevalent that my heart gets a good workout.

  4. I love it when a story has momentum. I just want to keep pace with it by turning the pages.

  5. Mary's here!!!!! Oh, happy dancing, rejoicing, party in the streets!!!!!

    Good morning, Seekerville!!!!!! I love Connealy days, because then if I tweak her a little, I KNOW SHE'LL BE HERE TO SEND MY SHOTS BACK ACROSS THE NET!!! #wimbledon #tennisrocks #USAWINSWORLDCUP

    Okay, back to writing!

    Mary and I have similar methods of soaking info. We garner from authors, not instructors. I think you've got to find what works for you in this biz, and I'm a school of hard knocks, gal, clearly grossly under-educated... but on the other hand, let me remind you that Warren Buffet quit college and went out to make money.

    I love Mary Higgins Clark. Genius. Connectability. Depth. Seamless weaving.


  6. Biggest influences, Jude Deveraux, Jennifer Cruise, Lee Child, and Mary Higgins Clark. This is a great example of why I am always confused.

    It's like eating chocolate chip, carrot muffins.

  7. And I think Mary needs to have a grandchild named Ruthy because I have one named Mary Ruth and that means SECOND BILLING for me.



  8. Tina, I have a tray of chocolate coated carrot cake balls in the fridge. Right now. They're amazing.

    We can eat and think outside the box and No One Has to Die!

    Love these choices!

  9. Ooooo.... Iola, you made such a great point about classics vs. modern.




    You said it best, so I'm not going to belabor it, but you rocked it.

  10. Hi Mary,

    Congratulations for being #5 on the best seller list.

    I'm a huge Mary Higgins Clark fan, and I've lost sleep every time I've picked up one of her books. She writes tight and gives the perfect amount of details to pull you in without boring the reader.

    Great post today! Thanks.

  11. Jude Deveraux is the 'that' author for me. I read one of her books in 24 hours. It took me that long because I had to stop and sleep, but it was the first thing I did when I woke up!

  12. I agree with Iola, I think most people need both. I learn a lot from Seeker posts, books such as "Save the Cat" and my crit partner. I go back and forth between things I need to learn and work on. I've been working on structure for a while because some of my earlier work had a lot of "tea scenes" and when stuff did happen, I didn't know why. So I worked on my NANO and SPEEDBO story and made sure it had a lot of structure, tension and cliff-hangers. (If you call escaping from a convent at midnight after impersonating a nun so you could find your long-lost child a cliff-hanger. When the Mother Superior is on the phone to her mobster brother.) But I realized I had the bones of a good story but the characters were flat, so now I'm working on that. So I'm layering in character development.
    I read a lot and like cozy mysteries, police procedurals and Christian fiction -- women's, historical and romance. I'm on a Lisa Wingate kick right now and using her example to help me with the character development. I also like Sarah Sundin, Angela Hunt ("The Offering," best treatment I've seen of the fertility issue), Elizabeth Camden ("Against the Tide," harrowing in its description of the heroine coming off opium), Eva Marie Everson ("Sunset Key"), Melody Carlson ("The River Trilogy", expert exploration of the effect of place, the river is almost a third character), Jane Kirkpatrick and Melanie Dobson (write well about my obsession, the Oregon Trail), Myra's Post World War I series, anything by the other Seekers, and for total immersion in a place and time I still go back to the Thoenes and their wartime Europe. Oh, and English murder mysteries. Since I got serious about craft I'm looking at craft as well as having fun reading, but it's still more fun than NOT reading.
    Kathy Bailey
    Musing and discoursing in New Hampshire

  13. Mary, no wonder I love your action! My brother introduced me to Clive Cussler more than 15 years ago, and I've been a big fan of Dirk Pitt ever since.

    My reading history is pretty eclectic. For the last couple of years, I've immersed myself in romantic historical fiction, but I've had my cozy mystery period (Diane Mott Davidson) and my suspense phase (James Patterson, J.D. Robb). While Mary Higgins Clark spins a great tale, she head hops a little too much for me. Not a Stephen King fan because he scares the pants off me. I rarely read contemporary romance unless it's written by friends like Sandie Bricker, Ruthy, Tina, and other Seekerville residents.

    I've been up since 5 a.m. so I'm off to down more coffee. ;-)

  14. Great start to the week with MARY in the Seekerville house! I love the suspense and perspective of Ted Dekker. I do enjoy those wild rides that leaves me breathless and wanting more. Thank you Mary for taking us along this fun and exhilarating journey.

  15. Love this post Mary.
    The authors that popped to my head as I read mark me as a sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast. Isaac Asimov, Orson Scott Card, C.S. Lewis, Marion Zimmer Bradley...
    I got hooked on Anne Perry's Thomas & Charlotte Pitt books too. Of course Sir Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes were MUST reads whenever I came across them. Hmm, sci-fi and mystery... what does that say about me???? *off to go ponder while working...*

    Confession: all of the Seeker books I've won/bought keep me up into the wee hours of the morning reading. It's very hard to put any of them down. Maybe it's because I'm learning about romance stories (since my youth reading didn't really go there...)

  16. I don't often have time to just sit down so I find myself taking little chunks (5 minutes here, 15 minutes there); because of that I like shorter chapters with a good pace. Terri Blackstock does that really well. Thanks for the info and giveaway!

  17. Deb, I never read much romance either although most of the mysteries and women's fiction I read had/have strong romantic threads.

    Mary, great post! I like Mary Higgins Clark but I think sometimes she has too many POV's. (I'm being very critical today.) Love her stories.

  18. Cara Lynn James, we have been brainwashed to believe that now, don't you think?

    Remember when it wasn't a huge deal?


  19. I do love to read. On one of the street teams I am on, the author asked our help in reading the first chapter of her wip. Something in reading that caused me to rework the first chapter in my wip. It was like something clicked in my brain and I could see what I had done wrong.

    I recently read a very powerful book by Cathy Gohlke. Saving Amelie gripped me on so many levels. Then to discover it is one of the finalists for the Carol Award this year

  20. Oh, if we're naming influential authors.... Francis Hodgson Burnett, Katherine Patterson, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Harper Lee, LaVyrle Spencer's single titles, Mary Connealy, James Herriot, Deborah Smith...

  21. Duh, Frances... not Francis. #needmorecoffee #stophoggingmarysblog

  22. Terri...right up front...I'm glad your comment is first because what you said is so TRUE and so fundamental.
    I read for fun, not to study. I'm the same, absolutely lost in a book. How do you STUDY during that.

    I've learned to not bother the FIRST time. But then re-read it if you love it. Especially re-read scenes that are vivid in your memory...the scenes you still think about the next day. Then ask yourself how did they hit the emotional buttons.

    I think many many times for all the action and fast-pace, it comes down to emotion. They awaken your emotions and make you FEEL

    Go find those scenes and try to analyze. It can be word choices, the way they describe facial expressions, some universal element that tugs hard on your heart strings.

  23. Mary, thanks for the reminder. In February of 2014, I attended a writing conference in Asheville, North Carolina. The keynote speaker was Steven James, my all-time favorite writer. I took my copy of The Rook and The Knight to have him autograph it. I enjoyed how the twists and wondered how I didn't figure out who the bad guy was in The Knight. Well, I have been studying the structure of the book and had written through the whole book. There were post-it sticking out with words like first clue. Ramped the tension here. Anyways, you get the idea. When I approached Steven with the truly loved book, he paused to see what I did to his story. He was impressed that I was studying his writing style. Steven.pulled out his phone and took a couple of pictures of my scribbles on his phone. Then proceed to have someone take a picture of me and him with my copy of The Knight. Then we talked for a while about what I was trying to do when I studied his story. I believe we should all study why certain books grip our attention. Thank you.

  24. I just thought of a perfect example of this.

    Have any of you scene the movie Armegeddon? Bruce Willis, asteroid, drilling, Ben Afflect, Liv Tyler, willis's daughter......

    At the very end of that movie, Bruce calls back to earth to talk to his daughter and say he's the one who will stay behind, detonate the bomb, while his friends fly away on their space ship to safety.

    He is telling her good-bye, I'm giving my life to save the whole world.

    This phone call is very powerful but it doesn't make me cry (I'm not easy when it comes to crying, so it takes a lot). Then he hangs up and he pushes the detonator and before the asteroid explodes there is this MONTAGE of pictures, Liv picturing her childhood, flashes of a child on a swing, I don't know what all, flashing pictures of the world, children running, flags waving, flash, flash, flash, flash....this montage makes me cry.

    In fact it so RELIABLY makes me cry that I've watched it several times trying to ANALYZE what that combination of flashing pictures contain that push the buttons.

    It may be the combination so I can't discount it, but I think there is a scene, just seconds long with a waving American flag and maybe children running carrying flags. (I should go rewatch it, I'm not sure)...but I think it's the flag.

    Somehow this just hits exactly right with me. Patriotism, self-sacrifice, father/daughter love.
    I know self-sacrifice pushes my buttons. And of course that's HUGE under everything else going on. And there is a Christ-like quality to the whole thing. I mean who do we know that gave his life so we might all live? So that's got a powerful underlying punch for me, too.

    Anyway, I love re-reading powerful scenes in books. I'll be going about my life and I'll remember an old lady dying in a nursing home, trying with all her Christian might to convince a young nurse that her marriage is worth saving.

    That's one of Karen Kingsbury's Red Gloves Series. I cried so hard in that book....but why?
    This comment is getting to be it's own post.

  25. I limit myself to one book a day (which my husband thinks is ridiculous), but otherwise I would get nothing done.

    I love humor, but the writing has to be clever - Mary Connealy, Jen Turano, Terry Pratchett (of the satirical Discworld books), Leonard Wibberley (of the satirical Mouse That Roared books). But I also love thick, long, kind of slow historicals, like Tamera Alexander's To Whisper Her Name - no villain and very little physical danger, yet captivating all the same. Or Laura Frantz and Lori Benton, where one is immersed in the setting, with equally entrancing character development and plot.

  26. Kelly, love your comment! Cool! :)

    I'm trying to figure out what makes me fall in love with a story. I think it boils down to a well-executed great story idea. You can have one or the other, but when a writer is talented enough to take a great idea and write it in such a way that everything unfolds like a movie right before your eyes, that is powerful.

    And, on that note, I finished Tina Radcliffe's novella "No Time for Love" in the With this Kiss Contemporary Collection. It's a novella without subplots and/or multiple story lines like Mary describes, but the next day I thought about that great "movie" I'd watched the day before, then with a jolt I remembered it wasn't a movie, but a book. Nary a sentence was out of place. Seamless. Beautiful. Read it and study it.

  27. Iola, what you say is absolutely correct.
    There is a language to writing that is....someone's effort to put into words something that is just inherently DIFFICULT to put into words.

    I VIVIDLY remember when I had no idea what POV was.
    Someone put that in a judges comment in a contest and I had no idea what it meant.

    When I say I've never read a 'How-To' book on writing, I should stress here that I did take online classes. I went to conferences and sat in on sessions. I learned from my critique group and from judges contest comments. I did study hard. But 'How-To' books just didn't appeal to me for some reason.

    I have read On Writing~A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King but that was way late in the game after I was published and mainly he's discuss craft and I'd just nod. "Yep, I've been minimizing my '-ly' words for a while now."

    I had an editor considering my work once who asked me if my stories are plot driven of character driven. I was already published by that time and I still wonder if this was what I should have said to him, but I said,

    "I think of myself as a story teller. Story comes first with me so maybe that means I'm plot driven, but the plot is so interwoven with the characters that neither exist without the other. I think (Mary--this is me still talking to that editor, I feel now like I was almost lecturing him--cringing! LOL) ...a lot of phrases like Plot Driven or Character Driven are just us trying to put into words things that are inherently difficult to put into words. I can't write a story without a plot and I can't write a story without characters. So how am I one or the other? The plot twists and turns depending on how the characters act and the characters are set so deeply in the plot that neither the characters nor the plot work without each other."

  28. Mary, you're asking questions I've been trying to answer for years. How did my favorite author do that? It's extensive brain work to be sure, but well worth it. I've only been able to figure out a couple of techniques. And THEN, the big project is trying to translate that technique to your own writing.

    Color me frustrated most of the time : )

  29. Keli, thanks for the list. Excellent examples!!!!

  30. Mary Preston, did you ever get the book I sent you? Australia is a LONG WAY AWAY.
    Let me know when it arrives!

  31. Iola said: And I learn as much from books I don't enjoy as from books I do

    Oh my yes!! Unless a book is completely offensive, I will finish every book I begin, even if it's boring, slow, confusing, etc. for exactly your point. I don't want my books to reflect the current disaster I am reading.

    I know time is short for everyone, but reading poorly written books is just as important as reading the bestsellers. One suggests what we should do; the other screams what we shouldn't do.

    Gotta learn it all!!!

  32. RUTHY!!!
    Warren Buffet quit college?
    I'm from Nebraska. I would have thought I knew everything about Warren!

  33. Well said, Mary! I enjoy reading both Cussler and Clark for fun, escapist fiction.

    I have to say, though, that every time I've read a Mary Higgins Clark novel in recent years, I've been struck, first of all, by the fact that she breaks a lot of the "writing rules" that we hammer into beginners.

    And second, that even though sometimes the rule-breaking bothers me and I'm thinking, "Really, Mary, your editor lets you get away with this???" it isn't enough to make me quit turning those pages!!!

  34. Tina...Lee Child....but how to you bring Jack Reacher to life?

    He's such an ODD, UNIQUE Character and he really works for me at the same time he's not a guy you'd want hanging around honestly (which is good because he wouldn't). He's famous for being lousy at romance. He'd save you, but I am so rarely in danger (outside of when I'm driving in heavy traffic) that he just ... well, he's a mystery.

    Lee Child is one of my very favorites.

  35. Ruthy I'll pitch your name, but we have a little bit of trouble with that because I have a SISTER named Ruth. So if they name one of their children RUTH isn't there an implied promise to name all the children after a sister? Of which I have FOUR!!!!

    Especially if some boys get mixed in that's asking a LOT of my children.

  36. Armageddon is one of my all-time favorite movies. So many characters that have unique and definite background and information to share. I've watched that movie more times than I can count.

  37. Mary, when are you going to do another one of those Web talks from your living room?

  38. Mary, I wish I knew what authors have done to suck me in until I can't put the book down! I'm still trying to figure it out. But my guess would be (based on a YA fantasty I was reading over the weekend) is that the character is someone I can relate to and pull for. So I have to know she gets her happy ending--which seems impossible as the story goes along.

  39. Tina, I needed a spew alert on your chocolate chip carrot muffin comment!!!

    But you made me thing about going back to some of my old Jude Devereaux books, which were the ones that sucked me into reading and then writing. And to also re-read some Deb Smith books, because hers always made me cry and whine that I'd never be able to write like that.

  40. Jackie I've read dozens of her books and what always gets me is, her heroines are almost always so VULNERABLE, something terrible has happened to them, and at some point in every book you spend serious time wondering if THIS TIME the heroine really IS the villain but she's so fragile, borderline break-down, that even she doesn't know it, like a split personality doing the bad stuff.

    I mean I KNOW the heroine is ok, but still, Mary Higgins Clark manages to set things up so carefully. It's brilliant.

  41. Rose so is she still doing the Taggarts?

    I was so into them at one time and now I haven't read one in a while.

  42. Rachael, that's a good point. Books that really ground you in the setting can suck you in, making you want to live there and be a part of that life.

  43. Montana Sky by Nora Roberts is a story that pulls me in every time I read it. I love the idea of putting post-it notes in a book seeing how, why, when I reacted or when I first noticed I was pulled into the story, etc. There are movies I will watch over and over for the same reason. Why did that scene make me tear up? Why do I feel so connected to that character? Thanks for this great post! Now to apply these to my story in progress...

  44. Kathy, first of off>>>> love this! LOL>>>>>>>>> (If you call escaping from a convent at midnight after impersonating a nun so you could find your long-lost child a cliff-hanger. When the Mother Superior is on the phone to her mobster brother.)
    Oh, I would read this book in a heartbeat.

    And second I LOVE that list! Especially your explanations of why each one grabs you. Excellent.

  45. Mary, you just sucked me into your story about talking to the editor about whether you're plot or character driven! Now you need to tell us what the editor said. :)

  46. Rose, I'm glad there's another Devereaux lover here! :)

  47. Kathy B, Lisa Wingate is another for me who draws me in and holds me. Her characters are so real!

  48. I'm a huge Angela Hunt fan. I still love that one with the woman who'd raised the gorilla, lived with it, taught it sign language. Unspoken that's the title.
    It's cruising along like a regular romance novel, a good one, then BAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Angela is brilliant.

  49. I've tried to study while I read, take notes about great bits of writing. I always start out well, but I never make it even halfway through before I chuck the notes and just enjoy the story. Then I have a hard time naming the stuff I liked or didn't.

  50. Barbara, I'm with you on Stephen King. Too scary and that's just not what I want for entertainment.

    I've read 2 1/2 books by King. Carrie, Firestarter and Misery (that's the 1/2, and I read the first 1/4 and the last 1/4. This two inch thick MIDDLE seemed to be mostly torture so I just leapt forward.

    I onetime said to someone that I thought the reason King got so huge was because he was FIRST. He was the GUY who proved horror would sell big. He mainstreamed it.

    And the response I got to that statement was, "That's not the reason he's big. He's NOT big because of horror, he's big because he makes you CARE in the middle of horror. He's big because Carrie can kill hundreds of people, good guys and bad guys alike and at the end you still wish she could have a happy ending. Wish she could survive and thrive.
    He drew her character so perfectly that you were WITH her when her rage broke free. He could make her commit mass murder and still be a sympathetic characters.

    Which was true. So it was a great point.

  51. Caryl, great example. And how fun that we all have different angles on this.
    I love it.

    Do you find your work influenced by Dekker? There is NOTHING wrong with that. Do you ever study him and try to figure out HOW he drags you so deeply in????

  52. DebH, what a fun list. How cool compared to Patterson and Dekker and Deveraux and Lee Child. I am loving reading all your answers.

  53. HI LORAINE! I like short chapters, too. I think they speed a book up and keep the reader hooked. Good for you for finding those few minute chunks in your day and writing!

  54. Cara you're the second one to mention head hopping. I don't even notice.
    It's pretty unusual these days to head hop but it used to be so normal I don't even think about it while I read.

    I once went to a speech given by Nora Roberts (a world class headhopper) and there was a Q & A and someone said, "There's so little head hopping these days. Do you ever consider changing? Picking one POV character per scene?"

    Her response was just so COOL, so CONFIDENT. (and why wouldn't she be, huh?) She said, "It's alright to head hop if you do it well."

    That was it. Next question. LOL

  55. Wilani isn't that neat that your reading inspired your writing? I think as writers we spend a lot of time thinking, What if?
    I do that in movies. I'm always so FASCINATED when a movie takes and unexpected turn because honestly they are mostly just CRAZY predictable.

    And I do that while I read and watch. "What if, instead of they kissing right there, he had said THIS and someone had just said something similar to her that hurt her and she slapped him and he had no idea why and...blah, blah, blah.

  56. RUTHY I love James Herriot. I haven't read those books in a long time. I should go find them and re-read them.

    All Creatures Great and Small...stories of a small town veterinarian in a rural area of England set around WWII

    They are just perfect, probably four books, All Things Wise and Wonderful, All things Bright and Beautiful, and The Lord God Made Them All.

    Huge hits and so DIFFERENT that the usual books.

    How great that you actually sort of tore his book apart and wrote all over it, then MET HIM. I'm sure he was sincerely and deeply honored by that.

  58. Mary, what great excuses to read more!

    I know I have been drawn in completely by a book when I actually miss the characters after I've finished reading the book. Especially after a series, but it sometimes happens after a single book. That is some great character building! I need to study up on that!

  59. Rachel you limit yourself to ONE BOOK A DAY? You mean you read one whole book everyday?

    I actually re-read books constantly, skimming, pausing over beloved scenes. But a NEW book is trouble because a NEW book I can't put down. So then I can't SLEEP.

    I've been reading Michael Connelly lately. I read through his whole Harry Bosch series and just now I've started reading Micky Haller (the Lincoln Lawyer, the movie? That's a Connelly book)

    What I've found with these books Haller not Bosch, is that for me they start slow. I can read for a chapter, even just a few pages and if I'm tired I can lay it down and sleep, no problem. But then at some point it just catches fire for me and I power through the whole rest of the book in one reading, stay up until 4 a.m. or something stupid like that.

    So it'll be three, four, five days of reading the book, then BAM and I'm through it. Also most of these books also have Harry Bosch in them as the cop Haller is working with. And I always love the Bosch scenes MORE than the Haller scenes until I hit that blast-off point.

  60. Ah, Pam that's so nice about Tina's books. One of the very wonderful things about being a Seeker is I can honestly say I love Seeker books.

    We're NOT all the same at all, but I can just slide right into a Tippens book or a Ruthy book or Glynna or Myra, all of you. I love that Audra Harders just had a new Indie release. Julie, there's someone who puts emotion on the page. Debbie mixing suspense with Amish and Military...that's just brilliant.
    And Janet...I can't wait for your new release. Pammy your books are so FUN. So well done. I want dozens of them to read. Cara, the way she set her stories in those beautiful times and locations. Sandra...who am I not mention?

    I love to be connected to such talented ladies.

    And now I will return to being a snark.

  61. Audra, I know what you mean...and mainly because often what you love about an author is all tied up in their VOICE. And you have to be true to your own voice. So how to translate a powerful book rooted in a police procedural with short, terse, suspect questioning that are gripping.

    How does that work with a cowboy????????????

  62. Ooh, Audra great point.

    I remember Erica Vetsch saying to me about some OTHER authors book we'd both read. "When he did this and we knew that, it was too soon and it completely drained the tension out of that book."

    Well, I knew the end had been lackluster and it never occurred to me WHY. Erica could see that though. I have a few beloved authors that have, I believe, in recent years run out of ideas but they've got contracts and churn out a lame book a year. And I can point right to what they're doing wrong and it mostly boils down to laziness. They tell me what to feel instead of making me feel it. Because that's fast and easy. And they just cash their generous checks and then take ten months off and then when the deadline looms they crank out another story. Most of them end up on the bestseller lists too based on their name.

    I read reviews and lots of people say, "Who wrote this book? It's not her work."

    And my mental response to that is, "If I was going to hire someone to write my books, I'd darn well hire someone GOOD! If this book is bad then of course it's hers."

  63. Myra I was reading someone the other day, really famous, really successful and the first chapter was just terrible. Utter set up, no action, little character development.
    In many ways the ultimate NO NO of having the heroine, driving in a car, musing over all that had come before.
    I kept reading because it was someone I trusted to tell a good story, but while I was reading that dreadful first chapter I just kept thinking, "You would NEVER get this published if you weren't a name. Stop being lazy. Shame on you!"

  64. Mary, I re-read too. That's why I get upset when my local librarian culls the shelves, how dare she, but then I try to get to the book sale and see if I can "own" any of my old favorites. I also find in re-reading I can see more of how it was put together, whereas in the initial read I am usually caught up in the story.
    MY LIST: I forgot Lauraine Snelling, although I have to admit I merely like her contemporaries, while I LOVE her historicals, especially Red River of the North. Especially the very first one where Ingeborg and Kaaren have to keep the farm going on the prairie after their husbands die. That grips me every time. You can feel every snowflake and every move of Ingeborg's chapped hands, but you also get into her mind and you go through the crucible with her. I'm not a huge Gilbert Morris fan but I love his first "House of Winslow," "The Honorable Impostor," for the same reason. It takes you through the Pilgrims' first winter, bit by painful bit, but it also explores his hero's journey, insight by painful insight.
    MARY, I'm glad you like the plot arc in my WIP and I have to admit that one was influenced by you and your theory of having a gun go off in the first chapter or whatever. I guess I can talk about it since it's not up for any awards or anything, it's still too raw to send out. This was one I decided to pull all the stops out on. It STARTS with Julia being informed by her former pimp that the child they had together, which she thought died at birth, is alive somewhere in Greater Manhattan, and it goes downhill from there. I'm trying not to make it too comic-book-ish, thus the dial-back to look more closely at characterization. I know who Julia and Henry are and what I want them to feel, I just need to show it along with all the pyrotechnics.
    I need to get back to my day job.
    Talk to you soon,

  65. KAYBEE, Kathy, I think we do those usually with a first book in a series. So I can hide from that for a while.

    My blood pressure just went up THINKING ABOUT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    PS I have a youtube channel, intriguingly names Mary Connealy, I think.
    I have about 180 videos posted,mostly 15 second videos of baby calves taken with a shaky camera. It's pretty danged riveting I'm sure. But buried in there somewhere are these little chats (Little??? Are you kidding? They're like an HOUR LONG).

    You really like those huh? I have book #3 of the current Wild at Heart series in October, so book #1 of a series called Cimarron Legacy comes out next spring. Maybe then.

    The hero of No Way #1 of Cimarron Legacy???? Heath Kincaid the little 'discovered' half brother we meet in Swept Away. He's a cowhand falling in love with the beautiful young daughter of his boss. And he missed his family and wants to go home, after wandering for years. But he can't leave beautiful Sadie, especially when people start trying to kill her.

  66. Missy have you ever read The Invitation?
    Three novellas in one book, they are all good, but the SECOND one, I believe the title is The Matchmaker, competes for my favorite book of all time. For pure hilarity.

    There's one sex scene in it and honestly it's wasted pages because well, the book is crazy and it's one of the few books I've ever read that I really wondered if she shouldn't stay single because this little heroine, an author of best selling murder mysteries, is a force unto herself. Her books, all huge bestsellers, are just her literarily killing off the people that bug her in real life. She goes to a dude ranch as a guest with some woman who wouldn't give her the time of day before she got famous and she keeps thinking things like, "She couldn't have ever read one of my books or surely she'd have recognized herself when I blew up the whole cheerleading team. Of course with her hair and eyebrows burned off in an open casket, she might not have recognized herself."

    It also contains what to me is one of the funniest lines ever written, thought by this cranky, isolated author who pretty much hates everyone, is..."I have always fantasized about being likeable."

    I can't read that an not laugh out loud every time.

    And yes the hero, a Taggert I think, is amazingly tall, dark, handsome, cool, sweet, wounded and of course RICH, but that feisty little author woman is going to give him all he can handle all his life. He doesn't see real worried about that.

  67. I have to be more aware when I'm reading a story that really captures me what it is about it that does so.

  68. Sally I don't do the post-it notes but maybe I should.
    I guess I always hope skill in those books is seeping in by osmosis.
    But last night while reading I thought for the thousandth time, get back into your book document and PUT EMOTION ON THE PAGE.

    It reminds me of Vince's Rewards Per Page. You just need to not waste words if they aren't powerful. This is the stuff that works it's way to life in revisions. When you realize that instead of acting out her fury, you just said, "She was so angry."
    Wasted opportunity.

  69. Missy as for the editor..........they made an offer............and someone else made a better one.

  70. In Jr. High, I made it a goal to read all of Walter Farley's Black Stallion books - in order. I did. And I still love them. :) You're right, he sucked us right into the story. After reading all those, I moved on to James Herriot. Now there's a man I'd like to write like. He brought characters to life like few writers can.

  71. Andrea, me too. That's why I wait for a book to haunt me and then go RE-READ IT, to figure out why.

  72. Good morning, Mary! I used to read Stephen King in high school, before my faith kicked in and when my parents didn't care what I read.... He is brilliant, and I'm pretty sure he has something to do with my overactive imagination. :-) Now, I love stories of faith but also emotional tear-jerkers as well as action. It's too hard to choose a genre! That's probably why my suspense is laced with emotionally-charged relationships.

  73. DONNA!!!!!!! Thank you for that. Yes, I read compulsively because it's PART OF MY JOB!!!!!!


    I am so totally down with that. I need to make sure My Cowboy husband understands.

  74. I've always heard that in order to write well you have to read well. I add the words "and deeply" to that advice!

    I read as much as I can, across most genres (Not horror. Can't do horror. Not erotica, either.) and both fiction and non-fiction.

    But like you said, when an author evokes a mood or emotion, I have to go back and find out why. Why did I have to turn that page? Why did I laugh? Why did I cry?

    Lately I've been noticing good descriptions and scene settings. Some authors can set a scene in two sentences, and suddenly you're right there in the room with the characters. How do they do that?

    And I call my hour of reading "work" and schedule it into my "work day." That way when the family wonders why supper isn't ready on time, I can say, "I've been working. Whew. Busy day at the office!"

  75. YAY Kathy is shooting people now. What a great and DANGEROUS plot. I mean as far as selling it.

    A former hooker? An illegitimate child.

    I TRUST YOU! You can make this work!
    It's perfect that you're digging deeper, get the story told then go back, revise, develop characters. It's all part of the fun, difficult, wonderful process of writing.

    I used to start a new book, back when I was writing unpublished book after unpublished book, but looking at that pure white computer screen, empty, open Word document and laying my hands on that screen and praying and thinking. I'd say to myself, "Remember everything you know. Everything you've learned. And God please make my story say more than I am capable of saying. Bless what I am trying to do."

    And then I'd set out to write a story so good ... the best story in the world ... so good that a contemporary Love Inspired editor would look at my 100,000 word historical western and think..."We HAVE to publish this. Break all the rules. It's too good."

    I did that twenty times LOL.

  76. Becky I don't want anyone to stop having FUN when the read.
    That's why I save the thinking for when I re-read. Why is this book still in my head? What did she do?

  77. Hi Pegg, the trouble with James Herriot is HE is the story. HIS LIFE is the story.
    Can't you just picture him, slogging through mud, wrestling with sick cows and horses? Did he ever think at that time he was doing something that was book worthy?

  78. Hi Mary:

    My wife will tell you that the best thing about Mary Higgins Clark is her short chapters. An author can bounce around all she wants but it is dangerous to do this and stay away too long.

    I noticed on my Kindle that David Baldacci's John Puller books follow what I have termed 'the 1% Rule' -- that is, each chapter equaled 1% of the book. Chapter after chapter it was always the same. If I was into 10% of the book, I was on Chapter 10. (I notice these things.)

    My wife asked me why all authors don't write short chapters. I said, "It's very hard to do that. Instead of having to come up with 14 chapter hooks and cliffhanger endings, you'd have to create 80 sets of these in an 80 chapter book of the same length. That's just too hard for many authors."

    It also requires authors to think like screenwriters who may have to write short 2 to 3 minute scenes. For example: "Midnight in Paris" runs 91 minutes and has 60 different scenes. (I notice these things). I really think it would be best if all writers began their studies with a screenwriting class.

    Besides, if this were easy to do, as my old boss would always say, then anyone one could do it and you wouldn't be getting the big money.


  79. Hi Ruth:

    "The problem with the school of hard knocks is that by the time you graduate, you're punch drunk."

    Craft books are fine if you have a writing problem and you go to the book and it shows you how to successfully deal with that problem. In this case the book can work wonders; better yet, the solution to the problem becomes a part of your skill set and it stays with you because you learned and used it in a meaningful context.

    Other than the above, craft books are like diet books: they are great to read when you don't feel like dieting or writing but don't expect them to do much good.

  80. James Herriot is the hero, no doubt. But I love how he portrayed the people he interacted with. The old farmers, the eccentric Mrs. Pumphreys, the farm wives in their kitchens. They are so real I can picture them. But you're right, he turned his life into something beautiful. Smelly boots and all. ;)

  81. Hi Mary. Always great reading your posts. I also enjoy Mary Higgins Clark. I have never read Clive Cussler and I have never heard of Walter Farley. Authors I always enjoy are Angela Hunt and Lisa Wingate. When I read books I wish I could have written I really try to study them.

    I am working part time at a book store and my boss wants me to read the jacket cover blurbs on the books to get familiar with them. The bad part of that is they all sound interesting! I might be finding some new authors.

    I had to laugh at your comment, Mary, about Ruthy knowing more than you about Warren Buffett. (OK I just had to look up how to spell his name! Not a good Nebraskan, am I?) Anyway, my uncle from Phoenix was back recently and telling us all kinds of things about Warren Buffett that I didn't know. He seemed to be quite the expert.

  82. Mary
    would you happen to know the authors of The Invitation? You've mentioned this before and now I want to find it to read those three novellas (particularly the second one) because I seem to share your brand of sense of humor. Just wondering. Googling or searching on Amazon isn't helping me.

    *sigh* I'm so easily distracted...

  83. Hi Mary:

    One thing I noticed by reading Maeve Binchy, Lee Child and David Baldacci all at the same time is that they all provide frequent 'insights' that can amaze the reader and make the reader feel smarter for having read that page. John Puller and Jack Reacher can face a fresh crime problem and rule out nine or ten possibilities by their deductive reasoning and thus narrow the solution down to one or two viable alternatives. It's like Sherlock Holmes on steroids. I often wonder, as I'm reading, how these authors can possibly know so much.

    Maeve Binchy does this same thing but not with crime deductions but rather with keen observations and insights into the universal human condition. While quite normal things may be going on in a very ordinary Irish village as the story progresses, the constant insights make you want to read on in order to learn more. Again the reader can feel like she is getting smarter as she turns each page.

    All the above authors were doing the same thing. They were just using somewhat different materials.

    Writing like this takes an author who is an exception student of the world. Maeve writes that she once fell off her chair in a restaurant trying to overhear someone's conversation at another table.

    Here's the key: delight your readers with sparking gems of wisdom that make them feel smarter.

  84. Mary, you nailed it in your comment about a 'lazy' author: "They tell me what to feel instead of making me feel it." Great observation. Great post today.

  85. Mary, excellent reminder to study the books that gripped us most and hopefully learn how to do that with our own stories. I learn from reading both novels and How To Books. Probably need both because I'm a slow learner. :-)

    Congrats on Now and Forever's #5 ranking on the CBA bestseller list! This may be my favorite Connealy book! Though I may have said that before. LOL I loved the characters' growth and the romance and faith threads. The suspenseful plot kept me turning pages.

    LaVyrle Spencer's historical romances had a huge impact on me. She wrote when head hopping was accepted, which bothers me now, but I still love her stories. She had an amazing gift for writing wonderful characters, strong emotion and description. Her books remain on the shelves of my mind. I keep hoping she'll come out of retirement.


  86. Kelly, what a fabulous experience to have an author you admire take pictures of your comments in his book! Wow!


  87. I'm reading Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason right now -- just getting into it but I'm already committed to the O'Learys for the long haul. Susan has fleshed out the characters so well that I've already made alliances, decided who I'm going to love to hate and I'm turning into that antsy, rabid-reader who just has to gobble the story up to see what happens (and certain somebodies get their comeuppances) So, I guess you could say I'm emotionally engaged but I don't know how the author did it. I'm having too much fun reading to stop and try to figure it out. LOL

    Don't enter me in the draw because my book should be in the mail any day now according to the ever so efficient Chapters online store. Can't wait to read it.

  88. Vince, you always have important things to say. The first, reading about a goal, instead of actually doing it, is a sly trap we can fall into. Makes me wonder about all those Self Help books.

    The second nugget, readers appreciate an author revealing insights that make them feel smarter. I think it's time to reread a Binchy novel.


  89. Besides, if this were easy to do, as my old boss would always say, then anyone one could do it and you wouldn't be getting the big money.

    Vince, you are soo funny today.

  90. MARY: "When you realize that instead of acting out her fury, you just said, "She was so angry." Wasted opportunity." wasted opportunity: something else to think about today. Thank you! I don't want to have wasted opportunities to draw readers into the story. Can't wait to get home this evening and dig into my story!

  91. I felt that way when I read Safely Home by Randy Alcorn. He had a story going on in China and in Heaven that really pulled at the emotions and kept me wanting to know how things would turn out for the characters.
    There are other books that kept me up all night, but memory fails right now. If someone sent me one of those chocolate carrot muffins, I might remember more.

  92. Great advice! I finished my current read and am pondering my next (I try to give my brain/emotions a day or two to rejoin the 'real world' between books). I will go back and find a book I haven't read by my one of my favorite authors! Thanks!


  93. Hi Mary

    Great post and I so agree the way to learn writing is to read. Back in my day when I first began reading romance, there was no Christian romance. Then I found Barbara Cartland and could read one of her little books during my lunch period over a couple of days. I loved the heros in her books. They knew how to treat a lady, and the heroines were ladies. For Christian romance there isn't any better than Jeanette Oke and Lauraine Snelling. They taught me how to write a series. And Phyllis Whitney taught me how to build suspense. And Mary Connealy, Erma Bombeck, and Bill Bryson taught me everything I know about humor.

  94. I go to work and there are 70 new comments.


    Oy. Oy. Oy.


  95. Warren was pretty sure he knew more than they did.

    He was correct.

  96. I love your answer to that editor.... I think you're right, a good story has to weave them both so well, plot and characters, that you can't imagine one without the other.

    For Whom the Bell Tolls

    Bells of St. Mary's

    Winds of War

    The stories may be set in time and place, and the things happen, but the character's make-up/archetype is what makes the choices, right?

    It's like love and marriage, horse and carriage and Oreo cookies.

    You can't have one without the other!

  97. I've been taking lessons (or trying to) from MARY CONNEALY about cliffhangers and bringing in other viewpoints that shine a different perspective on the story. Like seeing things through the villain's eyes. Or a secondary character with a related storyline.

    Actually, at the moment, I wish somebody would walk onstage in my wip and shoot somebody because I'M STUCK!!!! Except none of my characters has a gun handy!

  98. Horse and carriage and Oreo cookies.

    Scratching my head here, RUTHY.

  99. Meghan, Karen Kingbury is who makes me cry. I recognize the brilliance but I don't like crying. So I quit reading her.

  100. JAN I know what you mean about scene setting and also physical descriptions. It can be done so well that with a few very brief words you see them physically and also learn about them emotionally and, if the description is coming from some else's POV you can also learn about the POV Character from how they describe others.

    It's so much more than just a description. You can talk about a bird flying overhead or you can say
    An eagle screamed with freedom and defiance, as it swooped and soared through a sky so blue it was nearly painful to look at. The emerald green pine forest, it's rich scent surrounding her climbing up to mountain peaks with caps so pure white, so staggeringly high, they could be the foot rest of God.

  101. DebH, it's Jude Deveraux. That second book breaks so many rules. It's almost all in first person from the heroine's POV, but the hero has a POV too, but it's in third person and it's SHORT. It reads like Jude forgot to write three books for this novella collection and the deadline was past and she just hammered out everything that could ever annoy an author, no holds barred, for 80 pages.

    Like maybe she did it in a weekend, exhausted, loaded up on caffeine and trying not to tear someone's head off. Her agent, her editor, her parents, men, friends, enemies.

    It is close to the funniest thing I've ever read.

    The THIRD book, I bet you'll love. It's a western. A beat up gunfighter. A spinster who needs a husband FAST.
    Cash changes hands. It's supposed to be fake. They end up married. She never stops insulting him in the weirdest, sweetest, most ruthless ways possible.

    He can't stop himself from rising to the challenge. To prove he's NOT a washed up gunfighter. And now that his right hand has been shot while saving HER, he really is pretty washed up. So while he seethes, he also worries.

    And then her trouble comes and he starts to really admit he cares about the prickly little thing who so obviously needs help.

    And then they KISS to prove to someone they are in love. And their worlds ROCK, so she wants out of this marriage because clearly they are NOT going to be platonic. And he convinces her all kisses are like that................while now he's desperate to marry her because NO kisses are like that..............

  102. Vince I agree with the short chapters. I usually make mine 3, 4, 5 pages in a single spaced Word document but sometimes they stretch out and it's just HARD to break up a scene.

    I love that your wife noticed the short chapters, that really could be key. You don't have time to forget the cliffhanger from the chapter before. This is a great inside.

    And I didn't know that about a movie having so many SHORT scenes. I'm going to try and be more aware of it.

  103. Pegg even when Herriot is making gentle fun of crazy characters he works with, his affection for them and his love of his life and the animals comes through.
    It's what makes those stories brilliant, that affection shining through him.

  104. Sandy, Walter Farley wrote The Black Stallion books a long series. I loved them. I was a voracious reader as a child and teen and I read and re-read many books, many times.
    Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, The Black Stallion.
    Just anything I could get my hands on. I was a big library freak and so were my brothers and sisters.

  105. I have read Maeve Binchy, I think, but not for a long time.
    When I stray outside Christian fiction these days it's usually authors who write suspense type books.

    Vince Flynn, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Sue Grafton, Fay Kellerman. Many more.
    I will give Baldacci a try. I just ordered Zero Day, John Puller book #1. Why does the paperback (it's not used) cost LESS than the Kindle? That's just weird.

  106. Hi Davalyn! Davalyn and I are in a Novella collection together this summer. It's called The Twelve Brides of the Old West Summer Brides.

    HOWEVER (it gets complicated) that book is ONLY in Walmart. But it has also been repackaged so our books are in other collections that are available online.

  107. Janet, YOU'RE a slow learner? After It took me 20 books and 10 years to get published????

  108. HI KAV! I have Susan Ann Mason's book in my too be read pile.

    I need to find it and get into her troubles with her. :)

    Thanks for buying my book. I really appreciate it!

  109. Pam I love that, too, what Vince said. "If this were easy, then everyone would be doing it!"

  110. Sally, I feel that way too. I need to get back into MY wip and find wasted opportunities!

  111. Janet Ferguson, there's one we haven't talked about before. Great reference. Randy Alcorn!

  112. Stephanie T. I agree that you can read books to fast. To the point you really can't remember what you wrote.

    I just recently read a series by Nevada Barr about a woman who is law enforcment for the National Park Service, Anna Pidgeon. And I read them FAST. One after the other, as I so often do when I find a series I like.

    And the bad thing about that was Anna kept getting in terrible fights. I mean fist fights and she'd get beaten up but she'd somehow still come out the winner. But it got to be PAINFUL to watch Anna get beaten up like once a week for sixteen weeks. I really started to feel awful for her. But I think it wouldn't have impacted me that way if I'd read ONE BOOK A YEAR right from the beginning.

  113. Ah, Janette Oke. She began it all. Those books are just PERFECT, the first ones, Love Comes Softly. She hooked everyone on her own books and on Christian fiction.

    Those books made me cry, too.

  114. I'm late joining the party—that darn yard! :-)

    I loved Mary Higgins Clark from an early age, and I still do.

    Mary, I would say you learned very well.

    I just finished Swept Away and I loved it!!! From the moment the wagon began to tilt and Ruth hit the water headin' down stream, I couldn't stop reading. Mind you, nothing much keeps me up past my bedtime—but I stayed up late to read, and the closer I got to the end, the faster I was reading.

    By the time I finished the last page, I was hungry and had to have a midnight snack before I could go to sleep!:-)
    And the gunfight scene close to the end—have you actually been in a gunfight? I would swear you had ( if I was uh'swearing lady ).

    I love Palo Duro Canyon and have been there many times. And Fort Worth is my old stomping grounds. It's fun to read about places you've been and know.

    Great post!! :-)

  115. Elaine, I'm a big Phyllis Whitney fan, too.
    Is she still alive and writing? I haven't read one of her books in forever!

    I looked, she died in 2008. Her last book in 1997. I wonder if I've read them all.
    She perfected Gothic Romance.

    and btw 'Rebecca' might be the best but Daphne Whoever (terrible name to spell) okay, I looked it up du Maurier, I never just sat down and worked my way through du Maurier's books.

    Wow, did you know that Daphne du Maurier wrote The Birds, that ended up being the Alfred Hitchcock movie?

  116. Hi Ruthy, welcome back.
    Thanks for the afternoon snack!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  117. Ruthy a book I read once, title forgotten, that I guess you could call character driven, about a young girl, coming of age, gifted training her families hunting dogs but never appreciated by the family she virtual supports with her incredible gift.
    I guess it was fascinating. But really pretty darned PLOTLESS. We just went on this journey with her.

    I can't even remember if the journey ever ended. :( Clearly NOT on my re-read list!

  118. Myra, c'mon girl. Back up a little ways and arm somebody!!!!

  119. Myra let's just say Ruthy brought the Oreos for the snack and move on. LOL

  120. Mary Hicks, I'm glad you enjoyed Swept Away. I love that book. It is FREE right now on all ebook formats. GO GRAB A COPY!

    You know what's funny about free ebooks? You start to get MEGA reviews. I suppose because many people are now reading it.

    And the reviews are seriously pretty hilarious because they are all over the place.

    Best Book Ever

    Worst Book Ever

    Too Much God

    Not Enough God

    Too sexual

    No romance at all

    You're getting readers who don't even read westerns, or historicals, or Christian fiction, or romance. Just people giving a free book a try...which is the WHOLE POINT.
    But I have learned to read them for entertainment. Sometimes if you can keep your emotions out of it, you can even learn something.

  121. Hi Mary:

    The last book that made me cry was a romance that could have had a 'stand-up-and-cheer' ending by simply tying up all the obvious loose ends into a heartwarming ending compounded by an even more warm and fuzzy epilogue.

    But it didn't!

    It just ended -- loose ends and all! There were more opportunities lost in writing that romance than a pessimist with a pocket full of winning lottery tickets who doesn't even check to see which tickets won.

    Oh what could have been!

    I just wish romance writers would stop and ask themselves after finishing the first draft: I've met the needs of the novel now is there any way I can enhance the reading experience for the reader? What could I still do to make the HEA happier and longer lasting?

    I felt like crying a river of sadness.
    A great HEA is a terrible thing to waste!

  122. Vince! It wasn't one of mine was it. (don't post it here if it is!) :)

  123. WOW, MARY ... it sounds like I need to read Clive Cussler because YOU hooked ME with that description!!

    You do have a lot of scene-ending cliff-hangers in your books, girl, which is one of the things that makes them so fast-paced (along with all the shooting ... ;)

    TINA SAID: "Biggest influences, Jude Deveraux, Jennifer Cruise, Lee Child, and Mary Higgins Clark. This is a great example of why I am always confused.It's like eating chocolate chip, carrot muffins."

    LOL ... that is too funny, Tina, and VERY true!! Uh, about the different styles being confusing, not you being confused ... ;)

    Oh, and SUPER CONGRATS, MARY on the CBA Bestseller List, girl -- you definitely deserve it!!


  124. Thanks, Julie. I'm #5 but PAM HILLMAN IS #1 with Claiming Mariah. YAY PAMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  125. MARY SAID: "Karen Kingbury is who makes me cry. I recognize the brilliance but I don't like crying. So I quit reading her."

    LOL ... uh-oh, that means you have stopped reading my books or they don't make you cry. I LOVE to cry ... and laugh (which is why I love yours) ... and swoon (also why I love yours!).

    Mary, can you tell me the name of the Jude Devereux western you were telling Deb H about? I'm confused. Sounds like she's somebody I need to read, but I'm not sure which one to start with.

    VINCE, I also agree with the short chapters, but I can't seem to do it. Started to in the Heart of San Fran series, but fell behind ... :)


  126. Well, I thought Swept Away was a perfect balance of everything. :-)

    And thank you, Audra for the generous give away for the WE—I won a copy of The Rough Road Home and, I can't wait to read it!

    My writing should certainly improve if reading good books does help one to write better. I just read Melissa Jagears wonderful book, A Bride At Last and Mary's Swept Away and next on my list is Sandra Leesmith's Love's Promises.

    As I wait for Audra's. :-)

  127. VINCE SAID: "The last book that made me cry was a romance that could have had a 'stand-up-and-cheer' ending by simply tying up all the obvious loose ends into a heartwarming ending compounded by an even more warm and fuzzy epilogue. But it didn't!"

    VINCE, I can't tell you how many times that happens for me with romance as well, so I'm crying in that river of sadness right along with you, my friend. :|

    And, NO, Mary, it wasn't one of yours -- impossible!!

    Gosh, I may need to duck because I am not much of a Mary Higgin's Clark fan, although I was in the house of one of her relatives once, who lived next to my millionaire sister. :) I only read one or two, so maybe I need to read more???


  128. Oh, PAMMY, FORGIVE ME!! #1 is definitely not something to be overlooked!!! HUGE, HUGE accomplishment in this industry, my friend!!


  129. It is interesting to learn that you've read and learned from Walter Farley and Mary Higgins Clark since I've read most, if not all, of their books. I haven't read any of Clive Cussler's. You've certainly learned well. Your books can have me laughing one minute and the next minute I'm having to read as fast as I can to see how the characters are going to get out of the predicament you just threw them into.

  130. Great post, Mary!
    I grew up reading Phyllis Whitney books (yes, was sooo sad when she passed away a few years ago) and there was just something about her writing style that appealed to me.
    I'll admit I've never read Clive Cussler, but after reading your post I plan to.
    My dilemma is that I'm not a super-fast reader - - and have a habit of going back and re-reading certain parts of a story that really appealed to me. No wonder my TBR stack is getting close to toppling over, LOL.
    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom (and I mean that sincerely - - you are a very wise--and funny--lady!). :)
    Hugs, Patti Jo

  131. Wow, It sounds like a great book to read. I love the old mysteries. Thank you for the giveaway.

  132. Oreo cookies cannot be separated and be the same.

    Horse and carriage

    Love and marriage

    Oreo cookie, outside and creamy middle.

    Now I have to go eat Oreos.

  133. Julie I'm talking about 3 novellas in a novella collection titled Invitation. The western is the third one. Right now the title of that novella escapes me.

  134. Julie, I love your books! I'm just not a crier!

    And people tell me my books make the cry and I'm like...really? When?

    My own books certainly don't make me cry!

  135. Thanks Mary Hicks! I saw your really nice review on Amazon, too. I really appreciate it!

  136. Hi Pam. Well, start at the early books. Cussler's more recent books aren't written by him.

    And yeah, I wish I could get that deal. Someone else could write my books. How lazy would I get then???????????????????????

  137. Patti Jo, you said I 'shared my wisdom'.

    And yet I wander around feeling drastically UNWISE most of the time!

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

  138. HI TAMMY! You're in the drawing. Thanks for stopping in and commenting!!!!!!!!

  139. Ruthy, thank you for clarifying. :)

  140. Mary, thanks for another post that made me think about some of my favorite books and why they are my favorites. I love to read, and one nice thing about going to conferences is my stack of to be read books. I grew up reading Trixie Belden, and I read a lot of Agatha Christie in high school. I love James Herriott books and read all of them, loved the TV show, too.

    Tina, I love Jennifer Crusie novels and Jude Deveraux. I remember when I was in college and I went to the county library. I found a Jude Deveraux book and read it, not knowing it was part of a series but thinking she should really write stories for the siblings. Then I found out I had picked up the third in the series.

    Today I read a lot of romance, but on vacation, I read a really good light anecdotal biography of Harry Truman. And I always love a good cozy mystery (Dorothy Cannell, Charlotte MacLeod, and Carolyn Hart have always been three of my go-to mystery authors).

  141. "I guess my very brief advice amounts to, "Who do you love to read?"
    Who writes books that grab you and tear your heart out, or make you laugh, or make all your sense come to life?"

    The answer to that question is Mary Connealy. The book? Petticoat Ranch. That's the first MC novel I read and still my favorite. I guess it's time to pull it out and go through it with a fine tooth comb to see how she does it! :)

  142. Hi Mary, Late to the party, but loved your post. My favs now are Seeker books of course. Like JAN mentioned above, yours are top on the list. Congrats on being #5 on bestseller list. No big surprise. smile

    I like your books because they are action packed, have kick-a** heroines, make me laugh, great romance and just plain fun to read. Keep doing what you are doing because it works.

    Happy writing.

  143. Oh yes, I love Clive Cussler books. He's from Arizona you know. My Dad was a big fan of his. smile

  144. Hi Mary:

    Now I have to answer or people will think it was one of your books. No it was not your book.

    BTW: Did you know that Louis L'Amour wrote five Hopalong Cassidy books when Clarence E. Mulfold retired? Louis denied this for decades and then eventually acknowledge it and reissued the books under his own name and I bought all five of them. They were probably the best written Cassidy books.


  145. PATTI JO, I loved Phyllis Whitneys. I agree, her books are wonderful.

  146. VINCE I"m dying with laughter at your comparison to writing craft books to diet books. You are sooooooo right. I never thought of it, but I read them just like I read a diet book. Tooooooo funny.

  147. Vince, I did know that about Louis L'Amour.
    As far as influences go, as far as lingo, attitudes of the old west, clothing, horses...all of one is bigger with me than LOUIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  148. I read a bio about him and how he HATED writing Hopalong Cassidy books because they just weren't his style and of course the publisher insisted he be true to all of Hopalong's style.

    The one thing I remember is L'Amour said he never named his horses. Cowboys just didn't do it. And he HATED having to call Hopalong's horse by it's name. So one book, first think he has the horse come up lame, left him behind for Hopalong to pick up later, and gave Hopalong a new horse with NO NAME. LOL

  149. Mary - spot on about emotion being key. I feel like I have a voice in my head constantly telling me to add more emotion. Just FYI, the voice sounds a lot like the wonderful Linda Goodnight.

  150. I absolutely love Mary Higgins Clark and I know what you mean about being pulled in and then not putting the book down. To be able to write similarly would be fantastic!