Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mary Higgins Clark's Roller Coaster Fiction

The first time I read a Mary Higgins Clark book I vividly remember closing that book at the end and just staring at it and thinking, "How did she do that?"

I mean this in both a Fan Girl way and as a lover of writing…though I wasn't writing yet.

She took me on a roller coaster ride and I wanted to figure out how.

How do you make WORDS move? Grab the reader and drag them along for a ride and never let them go.

That's what her books are like. I read everything of hers I could get my hands on, The Cradle Will Fall, Stillwatch, Where Are the Children, A Cry in the Night, All Around the Town and many more...everything. As I read them, even back then with my unawakened writing desires, I was being analytical.

I'll tell you what I decided…and it's basic…but then she's brilliant so I'm sure she does BASIC really well.

Cliffhanger chapter endings and two stories at once on a collision course.

That's it. She writes along shoving her heroine off a cliff and just as she flies over….BAM new chapter.

As a reader I'm thinking, "NO! DON'T YOU DARE DO THIS! DON'T LEAVE THE CHARACTER (and me) HANGING!!!!

Then you start reading the next chapter and BAM you remember she left some OTHER character hanging from a cliff and you're immediately CRAZED to read the next chapter. "Oh My Gosh! I forgot all about the HERO hanging from a cliff."

Then you're reading along until Clark shoves the hero off ANOTHER CLIFF and BAM new chapter. Back to the dangling heroine.

And as a reader I'm thinking, "NO! DON'T YOU DARE DO THIS! DON'T LEAVE THE CHARACTER (and me) HANGING!!!!

I read two words and remember I was DYING to find out what happened to the heroine and I'm gone for another chapter.

But here's the real trick. You've got to make these dueling stories MATTER.

They need to be equally important or the reader is just annoyed and impatient while reading the less important story. And that’s what’s tough. I just finished a story by an author who shall remain nameless and she had at least three stories on a collision course like this. Except I only found one of the stories engaging. The rest were just filler. The weird part of that is, the one I was really engrossed in was a backflash. It wasn’t even the main story. But it was really well done, a really intense time in the heroine’s backstory and I was wild to find out how she got out of whatever it was and how that made her the messed up head case she was today.

I’ve decided that I, the author, can tell if I’m succeeding by how much I care. I usually jump in and out of the bad guy’s head, but most of us don’t really CARE about the bad guy. We may want to know what he’s up to, but we don’t root for him. Making complex, interesting bad guys isn’t really the same as having dueling stories of significant interest to the reader.

This isn’t a story telling technique with too much relevance to category romance because we usually have two POV characters and they’d usually together. But for longer books it’s a great technique. I struggle to do it. I think I came the closest to succeeding with the Sophie’s Daughters series and Mandy’s secondary story being pulled through the first two books. And I think it’s because I personally CARED about Mandy. I’m trying to do it better. Trying to give my subplots their own weight and appeal. It’s something to strive for.

My goal is to someday come close to the master roller coaster creator Mary Higgins Clark.

Can you think of a book you’ve read that left you amazed. Left you in awe of the author’s accomplishments. A book that taught you something….I’m talking novels here, not How To books.

To get your name in the drawing for a copy of a great How To book--Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maas leave a comment about a great book that inspired you to reach for excellence.

I've been working on my series guide and character guide on my website.
If you want to go have a look click on my name above and it will take you to the guide. See if you like it...or understand it...I'm open to suggestions.
Go look but then come back HERE and Play With Us!!!


  1. I remember the first MHC book I read, "Loves Music, Loves to Dance". I borrowed it from my aunt because it had the word dance in it. I was hooked from that moment - I have read every book she has written - she is truly a master! Now in the same genre I have some new favorites - Brandilyn Collins, Colleen Coble, Robin Caroll... - the book right now that makes me think, "Could I ever attain that?" is "Exposure" by Brandilyn Collins - that book is unbelievable... I had to read the ending like 4 times!!!

    ryanx6 at msn dot com

  2. While I've loved Mary Higgins Clark for years, one of my new faves is Lisa Jackson.She writes twists like you wouldn't believe! And somehow, in the end, it all makes sense. I wish I could figure out how to do that!

    sadiekate2001 at

  3. I've read Pride and Prejudice about 20 times and my first novel was called 'Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits', haha! I just love how shs takes so many different characters, doing so many different things, and makes us CARE. And why do we lvoe Mr. Darcy when he's so, SO mean in the beginning? (Oh, that's right... besides the big house and lots of money- he's sort of shy! Irresistable!)

  4. I've never read a MHC book! Now I want to read one.

  5. Camy,
    Thanks for saying that. Me neither and I've wanted to!

    Mary - thanks for making us think! Good stuff here.

    Recent read was The Twelfth Imam by Joel Rosenberg. I not only enjoyed the story, I learned some techniques. However, the ending was NOT satisfactory. He left you REALLY hanging... for the sequel, which I found unfair.

    Sandra Byrd cautioned me against doing that in my own work and I thank her so much for it. I had the best of intentions but it really is frustrating, now that I've experienced it. Give me SOMETHING for some closure before starting the next book please!

    Now that the film is about out, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is another that springs to mind. Could not put it down. I devoured every word (with the exception of that 20 page or so soliloquy by Galt that I scanned) in three days. Amazing read.

  6. In honor of St. Patrick's Day, click here for a "wee" note from May and me. ;D
    (hope that works!)

  7. never read any of her books either.
    I like the guides weren't luther and Buff in Doctors in Sharpshooters when they went to see Mandy?
    don't enter me I'm not a writer.

  8. I've read the MHCs as well and I'm remembering now how fast paced they were. I think it's the shorter chapters and the switching back and forth of the two plot lines.

    Okay I have to stop now or I'll be comparing my WIP to her books and that's not going to work. But - I think they're a good reminder about pacing.



    And I'll most likely fall in the mud, but I'll do it for you!!!

    Love this, Mare. You've shamed me into reading them. Stopping by library today.

    And I brought a fine Irish breakfast for you all: Fried ham, nice and thick, sausages, well done, potatoes O'Brien, a fine bit of carbs there!, sweet breads consisting of scones (not dry ones, either, yuck), pancakes (as light and fluffy as angel hair), muffins and raspberry filled breakfast bread.

    Jump in, help yourself to coffee, enjoy!

    Tippin' me cap your way, prayin' that the road rises up to meet you on your travels this day, and that until we meet again, the good Lord who made heaven and earth holds ye' ever so gentle in the palm of his hand!

  10. Mary

    Enjoying your website info.
    Some have me a little confused (though I've not read them all, I've read 5 I think, or 6)

    book 5 - says Glowing Sun is heroine books 6 and 9 but those don't use the term Glowing Sun...

    and a few others were like that - so check that out!

    Might be nice to have one of those charts like family trees have. That might help with the larger families anyway! :) You have a good start!

    ...and I like the way you hover over and it helps you with the characters and where they show up - color coded no less!

    Another thing that's puzzling... What's a Roller Coast? Another day and time we might have had some earthquake humor here, but these aren't quite the days for such. Our prayers are with all who are suffering, and those trying to respond.

    Thanks Ruthy for the marvelous breakfast! Dancin' a jig with Snoopy today!

  11. Liz Curtis Higgs' Scottish Lowlands series kept me hooked from page one through book three. I kept thinking; I'll just read one more chapter, and then that chapter would end with such a hook I'd be reading until the end of the book. This series and her new series both left me in awe at how much I cared about the characters and how she pulled me back in time and in their sitting rooms.

    The website is looking good, Mary!


  12. I'm with Camy and KC, I've never read a MHC book.

    Jude Deveraux's Wild Orchids was a page turner for me. I couldn't put that book down. Also, The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.

    Don't enter me in the drawing, I have that 'how to' book.

  13. Morning Mary,

    You are an amazing writer and your books are tough to put down. I think you do quite well in capturing the roller-coaster ride.

    Haven't read your mysteries though nor MHC. Not a mystery fan. I read the end of the book so that kills a mystery. LOL

    The author's that had the most impact on me were James Mitchner, Kathleen Woodiweiss and Janet Daley. I loved the long descriptive passages and historical elements in Mitchner's and how he tied the stories through the centuries and generations.

    Great fixin's Ruthy Lassie. Top "o the mornin' to you too.

  14. Good morning, Seekerville!

    I'm reading this book now that's a real cliff hanger. Tom Linscott was clawing his way up a cliff of sheer rock to reach Mandy Gray. Loved the battle between them when he made the top. Powerful writing, Mary!!

    The author who impacted me most--outside of the classics--was LaVryle Spencer. I was blown away by how she brought characters and setting alive on the page, evoking powerful emotion in the reader. She switched pov often, something that bothers me now, but I wanted to be her. Write the way she did. I still do.

    I brought apple fritters. Comfort food. LOL


  15. Janet, ditto what you said about Lavyrle Spencer! And Deborah Smith's books always make me cry and wonder why I can't write like she does. :)

    Another thing I've realized I love to read in books is a secondary romance. I had one of those (a senior romance) in His Forever Love. I think I'd like to do that again sometime.

  16. The thing I love about Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter Carol's books is that they do not use vulgarity and profanity in their books. Carol told me that they made the decision long ago that they decided they could tell a good story without using vulgarity and profane language. I totally appreciate that. As a Christian, I do not want to read profanity and vulgarity in a book. I tried one of Lisa Jackson's books once and on the first page she had used the 'f' word, and I put that book down and I won't read her books again. I don't want to have that garbage input into my spirit.
    I have read MHC since she published 'Where Are The Children?' in 1975. Her daughter Carol's books are awesome, too. When I pick up a new MHC book and open it and read the first sentence, I feel at home somehow and the words just nourish my reader's heart. By the way, I feel the same about Mary Conneally's books. :)

  17. I think I'm going to cry. I just wrote a huge long comment about all my favorite writers and blogger ate it! I hate you, Blogger!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH

  18. Boy, Mary, after reading this blog, I'd say you're a quick study, girlfriend, because you do this in every one of your books ... especially in Wrangler in Petticoats where you ended a chapter with Mandy's water breaking while she was in a precarious situation. I can honestly say -- other than the back of Twilight when they had a sneak peek at the first chapter of the next book and Bella cuts her finger at her birthday party at the Cullen's -- I have never wanted to throw a book more because you reeled me in and then cut me off, you bad, bad woman!!! But, as your blog so deftly points you, this makes for a good, good writer!!

    I only read one Mary Higgin's Clark novel, but like Camy, you make me want to read more ... and definitely more of Mary Connealy!


  19. Hi Mary,

    I haven't read MHC since I was a teen or my early twenties. I'll have to go back and read one now, and pick up tips!

    Thanks for the lovely ecard, KC! I love those kind.

    And it's happy birthday, to my cat, Riley today. (Nice Irish name!).

    Happy St. Paddy's day everyone!


  20. Good morning, Mary!

    I'd say you've mastered this technique. How many times have you left me hanging off the cliff alongside Sophie, Grace, Mandy, et. al? Only to remind me I'm also dangling alongside Clay, Daniel, Wade, Red, Tom, etc.

    You're rockin' it, girl! I devour every one of your new titles, and as fast as you turn them out...I want more!!!!!!!!!

    BTW, I just loaned my SIL three more of your books. She was very :D!

  21. Mary, I have felt the same way before when I read a book. How did they do that? I don’t honestly read a lot of books that when I close it I think “wow”—I think it’s usually more with a scene that is written really well.
    Some of the same book influenced me as everyone else—Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre. More recent books? Hmm. That’s tough! I have to admit that I haven’t been able to get hold of most of the Seekers books—I’ve been wanting to read ANY of the Mary’s books for a long time now. I will eventually break down and buy them. At the beginning of the year I did read Julie Lessman’s A Hope Undaunted. It was the first book I read by her. I was really just in awe. I hadn’t read a Christian romance like it before. So I guess that was my most recent “how did they do that?” book moment.
    A couple other books that just amaze me are Tryst by Elswyth Thane and Bamboo and Lace by Lori Wick. Worlds apart in story! But both very good and have been read several times.
    Mary, your idea for the Character Guide is great and I understand it! : )

  22. Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone! I'm cooking corned beef and cabbage today--for real. No green beer, though.

    I especially loved the first MHC books. She's a great storyteller and her chapter endings are real cliffhangers. I think that's an art. Very hard for me to come up with hooks every time I need one. Maybe I should reread a few of her books.

  23. Good morning. I'm slow getting around this morning. Not sure what IMP made me press the snooze button on my alarm clock. I NEVER do that...and when I say NEVER I mean something other than NEVER now don't I?

  24. Was trying to think of just one book, but couldn't. There have been good books that got me thinking about my writing. However, there have been some poorly written books that gave me inspiration as well.

  25. I love Mary Higgins Clark-especially her earlier stuff. I used to bring it with me when I had to fly because I hate takeoffs. When you are reading a MHC book you totally forget about takeoff, the plane, landing..everything.

  26. I slept in as well. Good to know I am in good slacker company!

  27. I haven't read any of MHC's books either, but I'll sure have to pick one up on the next library trip! Sharpshooter in Petticoats is at the top of my TBR pile...can't wait! I just have to finish Jan Karon's new one first. A lovely read, especially for St. Patrick's Day (it takes place in Ireland!).

    My favorite all-time author is Tolkein. I re-read paragraphs - just get lost in his descriptions. And then the complexity of the stories...

    Doing lots of laundry here today, getting ready to drive north to visit my dear husband tomorrow! We've been together for one week since early October, and I'm ready to spend some quality, one-on-one time with my favorite guy...and two of our sons, and our daughter, and her best will be great!

    And please enter me in the drawing!


  28. I want to emphasize a point here about MHC. She is brilliant. It's all well and good to say, "Chapter Ending Hooks" or "Cliffhanger Endings" but man oh man she does it with such excellence.

    She has this GIFT for ... I'm generalizing but she makes you so many of her books...that maybe the heroine is guilty of whatever she is inevitably guilty of.

    You KNOW the heroine can't have really killed her children. But MHC does such a great job of making you WONDER, really WONDER. Could she have done it?

    One that I remember (though not clearly so I'm maybe fumbling this) is a heroine with a split personality (Like the book Sybil)
    And I seriously had to wonder if one of her EVIL personalities was the killer.

    But it's been so long since I read that, now I can't remember did she HAVE a split personality, but all of the people living hin her head were innocent of murder? Or did we just WONDER if she had a split personality and did someone else living in her head really do it.

    I can't remember. Maybe another one of my personalities who is in charge of memory, will come out and play later and tell you more.

  29. And Ruthy, thanks for the food. I've got Diet Coke (not chilled, but if you're really thirsty you'll drink it) and walnuts.

    I know that's not exactly a FEAST. But walnuts are tasty.

  30. And here is a personal theory of mine.

    A lot of authors will tell you they got their start when they read a dreadful book, threw it against a wall and thought, "I can do better than that."

    I can remember books like that.
    I can remember one when it was over just thinking, "Wow, this author has compromising photos of SOME acquiring editor.

    But I think one of the very best ways to learn writing skills is to read GREAT books. Read the masters and try to figure out the gift that makes them so respected.

  31. Spot on Mary - I've always been told that you have to READ well to WRITE well!

  32. KC, that Glowing Sun/Abby thing!!! Good catch. I guess I'll just call her Glowing Sun/Abby for the sake of the website.

  33. Ausjenny...I forgot to list Luther and Buff in a book. Honestly, those two were in more books than anyone except (which i find kind of funny) Tom Linscott.

    Who'd've thought he'd become such a mainstay.

  34. Got it, KC
    Roller CoastER!!

    Duh, I had to wrong on my blog, too. All fixed now.

  35. Hi Mary:

    I think you have MHC down pat. This was very useful information.

    People can learn something about writing without even reading MHC. Just flip through her books and see how short her chapters are. I’ve never read an author who wrote more chapters in books that are often very long.

    I think very short chapters are essential to story switching. You can’t allow enough time for the reader to forget just what is happening with the second story.

    Also essential is having extra sympathetic characters. MHC style is very, very hard to do. It is easy to say “write short sentences” but when you try it, it can read like a first grade reader.

    Look there is Jane. See Jane run. Dick sees Jane. Dick runs to Jane. Spot the dog runs, too.

    This same type of staccato rhythm happens with imperfect short chapters. I think it is too hard to copy MHC's style. It would be necessary to have your brain think like hers. This is why I really admire her work.

    A book that left me amazed and that years later I still feel as if I've just read it is:

    Talk Before Sleep
    by Elizabeth Berg.

    I’ve read it several times and I’ve listened to the tape of the book twice. The story is about a woman dying of cancer and her women friends. This is the ultimate friendship book.

    In the romance category the books that left me most amazed are in the “Sisterhood of the Dropped Stitches” by Janet Tronstad.

    This is a quartet about four teenage girls (each getting her own book) who have survived cancer. They form a sewing group to continue on as a support group after their official support group comes to an end. This was their therapist’s idea and she drops in now and then to keep the group going over the years.

    The author uses a unique modified first person point of view for each of the girls that I have not seen used before. The story called for this POV treatment and it is amazing how well it works.

    The “Sisterhood” books are part of the Love Inspired Café line. (I think the Café label may have hurt them). As such they are not 100% pure romances. In fact, in the first book, I believe I was 75% into the book before I had a clue who the hero was going to be. Each additional book becomes more traditionally romantic. These four books are the most inspiring Inspirational books I’ve read in the Steeple Hill line. (I think of them as required reading for aspiring romance writers.)

    I’d like to have a chance to win the Workbook. I’d use a magnifying glass to read that book. (But I won’t to read fiction.)

    Great post.


    vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

  36. Rose? The Five People You Meet in Heaven? Seriously?

    I guess there was an actual roller coaster in it. But I hated that book.

    I thought the title should have been, "It's a Mediocre Life"

    Kinda like "It's a Wonderful Life" only written by some guy with not such a good life.

    I read a comment about it once, some reviewer saying it left the reader to wonder, "Who would my five people be?"
    but that's not what I wondered. I was left to wonder if I'd ever killed anyone and didn't know it.

  37. Hi Mary:

    “I’ve never read an author who wrote more chapters in books that are often very long.”

    I better clear this line up.

    MHC writes short chapters. Some are just a page long. This would make sense in a very short book. Maybe a child’s book. But MHC does it in books that are long. That’s one heck of a lot of ‘cliff-hangers’ to come up with!


  38. I have to join the crowd who hasn't read any Mary Higgins Clark! I guess I need to rectify that, eh?

    I like Karen Heitzmann for the same reasons you like Mary Higgins Clark. Definitely complicated plots and subplots interconnecting, pulling apart, weaving all around the main characters until the reader is practically dizzy and then BAM Heitzmann pulls it all together and you can finally breathe an 'Aha!'

    Mary -- your series and character guides made me dizzy. LOL. Do you get a special tingling feeling when you see them all lined up in a row like that? Such an accomplishment. I think it's a great idea to keep a 'who's who' record. You should put them all on a bookmark and hand them out at your signings! Oh and I like KC's suggestion of a family tree.

    KC and May -- thanks for the St. Patrick's Day wellwishing. Too cute and of course I loved it because it features a dog.

    I'm adding Irish Soda Bread to the spread because it just wouldn't be St. Patrick's Day without it!

  39. Short chapters? I didnt' notice that about MHC. Hmmmm.... great idea.

  40. I do, in each book, usually have a few intense action scenes that I will often snap back and forth between POV characters.

    An example: in Wrangler in Petticoats, when the bad guys find Logan and Sally finally, they're coming, Sally, Logan and Wise Sister are running, Luther and Buff are riding to the rescue. It's really short scenes, sometimes only a few paragraphs,

    Sally running, bad guys burning the house, Luther racing to teh rescue, Sally running, bad guys burning the house, then going after Sally, Luther coming, coming, coming.....

    I kept that up a long time.

  41. I think my first MCH was...The Cradle will Fall. But I read it as a Reader's Digest Condensed Book. I think they messed it up. How can you CONDENSE a book that is as finely crafted as MCH.

    But it's Where Are The Children that haunts me.

    Stillwatch, excellent. All of them are just guaranteed riveting.

  42. *not an entry I have this book*

    Fun post Mary!! You've definitely learned from Mary Clark, because I can see the "no don't leave the character (and me) hanging!!" I have actually been known to stay up past my bedtime with your books, hard to do because I get up at the crack of dawn. :-/

    Ya done good! :)

    Thanks for sharing the post. :)

  43. Mary:

    Sorry about missing coffee duty. Here's a fresh pot.

    Greetings from Branson. Visiting youngest son on his birthday.

    Years ago I read a pile of MHC, but I haven't read one in ages.

    Enjoyed looking at your series guide. Are you coding this yourself? Using an editor? What?

    I've thought often about buying that Maas workbook but have never gotten around to it. Sounds like a great tool.


  44. Mary oh Mary - are you kin to Gary Larson and The Far Side?!

    I tell you - you crack me up as much here as you do in your books. Love it!

    I can remember books like that.
    I can remember one when it was over just thinking, "Wow, this author has compromising photos of SOME acquiring editor.

    You're welcome on the card. Yew betcha y'all dawg (and critter) lovers! May is always ready to play, though she'd really have to get a head start with the Wolfie, don't you think? ;D

    and interesting about St. Patrick too. Looking forward to meeting him in Heaven - maybe he'd be one of my "five" huh?!

    Ok Mary, no problema... It's astounding how I can proof other people's work and not my own. ugh.

    Thanks for the coffee Helen. It hit the spot with an afternoon cookie! Yum!

  45. I too have never read MHC. I will put her in my TBR stack.

    Janet - great book you've got there! One of my faves!

    Mary - I think you do this well. I stayed up way too late reading Mary-fic a number of times.

    We were driving near Denver yesterday and I saw these houses and thought 'that looks like someplace Mary would stick someone and get them snowed in for the winter'. ;)

    Now to get back to my own MS before lunch with Jordyn Redwood =D.

    carol at carolmoncado dot com

  46. Everyone who puts MCH on their TBR pile, please put her FAR UNDER any books of mine.

    I'd just as soon not be compared to her back to back. I will surely suffer from the comparison.

  47. Janna, I love Robin Caroll's books! She wrote some great Love Inspired Suspense books, but her B&H books gives her more room to develop the villian's pov.

    As a matter of fact, when I wrote the villian's pov in Stealing Jake, I modeled him after Robin's villian in Deliver Us from Evil.

    No, I didn't plug her contemporary day villian INTO my suspenseful historical romance, but I learned a lot from his story arc that helped me develop my villian more.

  48. Wow, Mary, I love your Character list on your site. How long did it take you to get all of it sorted out? Whew! That is a tangled web!

    I remember thinking about YOUR books in that way, Mary. do you do it? You have such great chapter ending hooks that keep me turning the page. And I really love getting into the bad guy/gal's head. It makes them seem real.

    I haven't read MHC, but I do believe she needs to be in my TBR pile. Right under your next release...neener, neener, neener! (I'm sure in a comparison, you would come out really well!)

    p.s. Don't put me in the drawing. I have that wonderful book!

  49. Love Mary Higgins Clark. Haven't read her recently, though. Must get one of her more current works and "study" her scene/chapter twists. Great insight, Mary!

    I recently read THE KITCHEN HOUSE for my book club and stayed up much too late for a number of nights. Totally hooked on the story.

  50. Waving to Janna!

    So good seeing you in Seekerville!

    Thanks again for all your help on my ad for the RWR!!!

    In case you didn't know, Janna is a talented graphic designer.


  51. Ah, forgot to wish everyone a Happy St. Patrick's Day. I'm wearing green and have a sparkling shamrock on my shirt!

    Cara, may I come for dinner? Corned beef and cabbage!

    Ruthy, any shamrock sugar cookies left from yesterday?

    May the winds always be at your back...

  52. Kav, I've read one of Karen Heitzmann's books and enjoyed it. Can't remember the title. About a guy who renovates an old house in, I think, Sonoma. The heroine wants to turn it into a B&B. Nice writing.

  53. KC,
    Good to know you liked The Twelfth Imam. I read Joel Rosenburg's first book, The Last Jihad. Well done!

    Augjenny, love your new pic!!! Was that taken at home or while on vacation? You're beaming!

  54. I heard that she never knew how the book ended until close to the end which meant she must have been a panster. Interesting post, Mary!

  55. Big cyberwave to everyone on Seekerville. Wanted to thank you for the hospitality you gve Annie and me yesterday.

    We can't thank you enough.

    Mary--you have your unique and wonderful style. And I love Glowing Sun!

    MHC couldn't be a better author to want to learn techniques from.

    I read MHC's The Shadow of Your Smile last year--and yep, she juggles two plots so well.

    Authors who sing to me like MHC does for you are Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Kirstin Heiztmann and Susan Meissner. And I'm just a fool for Lee Childs.

    Ruthie--your breakfast sounds wonderful and so Irish. I missed it, but I'm picking up s cup of coffee.

    Thanks again to everyone at Seekerville!

  56. Just throwing this out there: Susan Snodgrass rocks.

  57. Slept in???

    SLEPT IN?????






    And yes, the Ruthinator filled out her brackets provided nicely and for now charge by

    Doing a family bracket pool is tradition here. Too many boys.

    But you slept in?????

    Oh my stars.

  58. I we all list authors who have influenced us, and whom we love...if we emulate them because we love them, or if we love them because we emulate them.

    Does that make sense.

    Maybe I read MHC and then try to be her.


    Maybe I'm drawn to her work because that's already who I am...writing style-wise.

    So if you love LaVyrle Spencer then maybe it's because that's the book that is in your heart.

    But if you love a thrill ride like Mary Higgins Clark, it's because you're inclined toward a story that solves all it's sagging points by shooting someone.

    The longer I write this comment, the less sense it makes.


  59. Bracket?

    Excuse me?

    Isnt' that the little [ mark on the typewriter?
    [isn't it?]

    Or maybe bracket is the noise a newborn baby Boy makes.
    boy + racket = bracket

    So this is about basketball, right? Or tennis. They play tennis with brackets.

    This has nothing to do with St. Patrick's Day or writing, Ruthy.

    Have some green tea and calm down.

  60. PS I heard all the leprecauns couldn't ignore the price of gold, so they sold out their pots and are now giving away treasury bonds if people follow the rainbow and catch one of them.

    Just a rumor

  61. Ah, yes, more cookies have just arrived.

    Freshly frosted.

    With dark green sprinkle. (Christmas sale)


    and today in upstate NY the sun is truly shining on our faces. And 65 degrees.

    Basking. Basking.

  62. Hmm, Mary. You may be on to something about shooting people to solve story problems. Or am I thinking about a round of Whack-a-Mole?

    Maybe the appeal of MHC and other mystery writers is that we feel a need to "fix" the problems of this world and boy, offing the bad guy will certainly do that!

  63. George R.R. Martin.

    I hate science fiction/fantasy as a genre in general *apologies to any fans/writers who love it* but when my friends who aren't really readers at all kept raving about it, I checked out his work after I saw they were making it into a TV show.

    I read the first three chapters available online to A Clash of Kings, and am now reading the whole series hehe. There were times I had to refer to the massive character guide at the end of the book to keep them all straight, but WOW, that book had me on energy drinks half asleep at the day job and ignoring my own writing for the two weeks it took me to finish it. (The trade paperback is almost 900 pages lol).

  64. Hi MHC Fans:

    I checked a few books to refresh my memory about the number of chapters in HMC books.

    I Heard that Song Before, 480 pages; 84 chapters & an epilogue.2007

    No Place Like Home, 555 pages, 80 chapters & an epilogue. 2005

    The Second Time Around, 483 pgaes, 51 chapters & an epilogue. 2003

    Dashing Through the Snow, 269 pages, 43 chapters, NO epilogue! Written with her daughter. 2008

    Note: these area all large print books.

    I tried to rewrite one of my WIPs like this and it was impossible for me. You can’t just divide up your current chapter. You have to stop a chapter at a ‘chapter-worthy’ location. You also have to start the next chapter at a ‘chapter-worth’ location. Don’t try this at home! : )


    P.S. Mary: I love what you did on your website to show characters in your books. However, my guy, Sidney Grey, is missing. ; (

    P.P.S. Please note: there will soon be no TBR piles. With eBooks, the new term will be BAR or Books Awaiting Reading. I mention this to help avoid Future Shock.

  65. BAR?

    Vince, great! I'm adding it to our First-Seen-In-Seekerville Dictionary.

    Additions so far:

    Printer outer

    Favorited--did I get that right? I may have to reread yesterday's blog comments.

    And now BAR: Books Awaiting Reading

  66. Hear me munching Ruthie chocolate??


    Got my bracket up to date, too.

  67. Vince, oops, you're right about could I forget him?

    I'll add him...the next time I update.

    I guess I could write a book...a prequel...that is Sidney's story and explain how he came to be such a louse.

    He is a VICTIM.

  68. leprechaun

    That looked so badly mispelled to me I went and checked. And it's RIGHT. But it looks so so so so wrong.

    Also, instead of BAR, which frankly Vince, has some connotations involving...let's say ... imbibement ... that I'd rather avoid.

    Let's a TBR list
    as opposed to TBR Pile

    TBR Queue
    read that as too bee quooooo 2-B-Q

    That sounds kinda fun.

  69. BAR, not bar, Mary! :)

    2 B Q? Hmmm? Sounds like a Star Wars character.

  70. An author I've loved and admired is Mary Stewart. She wrote 19 or so romantic suspense novels, the Merlin trilogy, and some YA. Whenever I pick up a book that doesn't hold my interest, I go back to one of hers and try to figure out how she made me love her heroines so quickly! I don't know if she follows the "rules" pertaining to description and back story . . . I just know when I first started reading her romantic suspense stories as a teen, I was hooked!

  71. It's St. Patrick's Day?! well no wonder foodtv had all that nasty looking green food! I thought that was last week!

    I've read 2 of Mary Higgins Clark's books - Loves Music Loves to Dance and Remember Me. I enjoyed both but too on the edge for me - I like nice nearly brainless feel good reads usually though some of those are becoming more and more 'in depth'.

    off the top of my head I can think of 4 books in what I call the 'serious' category that I still remember - My Name is Asher Lev and The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok - read a few others of his but none grabbed me like Asher's stories. And Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers and
    The Color Purple by Alice Walker(think that's the author) both drove me to such anger that I've never felt reading a book.


  72. Hi Mary:

    Great about Sidney!

    I thought he was going to be saved by the love of a good woman. He was a classic ‘fixer-upper’. In my mind, Sidney faked his own death, like on Criminal Minds last night, because he saw the light, repented for how badly he had behaved and discovered that he had so much love for his wife that he wanted to free her to marry Tom. He also knew Tom would be a much better father than he was.

    About BARs

    I was thinking that BAR might only apply to eBooks. So you could say, “My TBR pile stands at 121 and my BAR stands at 2,311" (I have a lot of free Kindle books.) And my TBR list amounts to 2433.

    But you know, there is still the audio books yet to hear. That would be a TBL or TBH. I’ll have to work on this.

    Of course, after having to carry one, a BAR will always be Browning Automatic Rifle to me.


    P.S. DEBBY: thanks for your support of BAR.

  73. One More Thing I Forgot.


    Does your middle name start with "H"?


  74. I haven't read any MHC, so thanks for summarizing her writing style for us Mary.

    I am reading Emma by Jane Austen right now and it is amazing how this book is a classic and so many people love it and yet it makes all the mistakes we as writers today are told not to make: lots of back story, dialogue without movement (no action tags), a ton of narrative where you can hear the author's voice, etc. Makes me wonder...

    Anyway, Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

    Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

  75. Helen, that's my girl!!!

    And I think I actually won a few of the early ones...

    SUHWEET!!! ;)

    I knew I loved you!

  76. 2 B Q....

    Oh, yeah, Star Wars comes to mind Deb. Good job pegging that.

    And Susanna...

    I felt that way about Angela's Ashes. (shh, don't tell Frank McCourt) and my sister was astonished...

    She said, "Ruthy, how could you not love it, it was JUST LIKE THE WAY WE GREW UP..."



    Exactly. Why on earth would I read something that tugs me backwards when I've worked so hard (with God's help and grace, and I'll sing those praises forever and ever, alleluia! Alleluia! Sorry, a little Handel slipped in there)

    I do believe I threw the book across the room, then tossed it out so as not to inflict that pain on an unsuspecting person at Good Will.

    But isn't it funny how differently siblings react to stimulus? There's a psychology lesson for you.

    Ooo.... Nolan's 4 year old birthday and I made Ruthy-cake.

    White cake, tender and moist, home-made chocolate frosting, you know that great glossy recipe from Hersheys????

    And sprinkles. Because little boys like sprinkles.

    Dig in.

  77. The author that leaves me hanging is Barry Eisler. I love the way he builds suspense in his novels.

    Like Camy (and some others), I've never read a MHC book. Will have to.


  78. Cool, great advice! I will have to check out a book by Mary Higgins Clark!

  79. Uh....yeah, sure Vince. My middle name starts with H

    Mary ..... uh ..... Halice Connealy

    Yeah, that's the ticket.

  80. Walt, my husband loves Mary Higgins Clark. She is NOT just for women.

  81. Mary, my wife just opened her first romance novel. I realize that this means she's only begun to read it. However, it's a start.

  82. Great post as usual, Mary.
    I LOVE the way you write! And want to learn to write cliffhanger-chapter-endings.

    I literally have a cliff-hanger chapter ending (chpt 2) of my speculative fiction. That was fun!
    But two at once. What a thought! I'm going to have to do a double-take of a few of my fav books to see the double story :-)

    I just finished reading Liz Curtis Higg's new book, Mine is the Night. FANTASTIC! The characterization and plot were brilliant (of course). My review goes up tomorrow, but just let me say, you invest so much time with these well-written characters, their struggles, their desires, that you feel the story.
    And though there weren't any literal cliffs, there was a whole lot of emotional cliff-hanging.
    Beautiful story!

    Thanks for the post, Mary! Wonderful food for thought.

  83. If she likes it, Walt, she'll have guaranteed entertainment now for YEARS. She's got some catching up to do.

  84. Not to toot your horn or anything, Mary - but I'll write here what I told you during my first email to you almost TWO years ago.
    When I read Petticoat Ranch, I realized for the first time what I wanted to write.
    I grew up on Grace Livingston Hill, then read Christy (which I LOVED) - but when I read the humor, adventure, and romance in Petticoat Ranch, I KNEW I'd finally found a niche for me and my crazy writing style.
    It was WONDERFUL! And that's why I had to email youa nd thank you.
    I'm so glad I did. You've put up with my bothersome nature so well :-)

  85. I read Asher Lev, but all I can remember is the character's name. Of course, I read it centuries ago. :)

    Vince, if I had a Kindle, I could have a BAR!!! I'm just saying...

    Maybe for my birthday...or Christmas.

    Walt, your family is unique. You--the guy--had to convince your wife--the gal--to read romance. You need an award! At least a star! Way to go.

    May I take a moment to affirm our two favorite men in the Seekerville family? Walt and Vince, we love you!!!! Hugs.

  86. Free Kindle Book on Amazon

    I just downloaded the below book and I have not read it; however, since it is free, I think romance writers would benefit from at least some of the ideas in this book. These free books are sometimes only up for one day so you might look soon.

    Total Flirt: Tips, Tricks, and Techniques Every Girl Needs to Get the Guy [Kindle Edition]
    Violet Blue


  87. I'm really late visiting Seekerville, but still wanted to jump in. Great post, Mary...and now I'm wanting to read a Mary Higgins Clark book (or several!). ~ The first time I read a book by Brandilyn Collins I felt that I HAD to keep reading because I wanted to find out more--it was great! (and scary, I might add). ~ Hope everyone had a nice St. Patrick's Day. ~ Blessings, Patti Jo

  88. Loved Covenant Child by Terri Blackstock. That's the one that made me say, "how'd she do that?"

    I'm a newbie fiction writer, so I'd love the giveaway book...just sayin' is all!

  89. Hi Mary:) Like alot of other people "Pride and Prejudice" I've read over and it! I love the way Jane Austen makes her characters come to life:)

    please throw my name in the hat for the book draw!


  90. Mary,
    A great post! Mary Higgins Clark will have a new release in April. I love her books. I met her at a book signing in New York. She is an elegant and nice lady, too. I read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I love her books, too. I also feel I can grow as a writer as I read her book. Please enter me in the drawing.
    Linda Cacaci

  91. While I've read several MHC books, the novel that made me fall in love with reading all over again was Beyond a Doubt by Colleen Coble. I couldn't read enough of her books. In fact I am currently reading her book The Lightkeeper's Bride. I have her to thank for stirring my reading & writing desires up again.

    Would love to be entered into your drawing. Thank you for the chance.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.