September 12, 2016

Rainy Days and Sundays–Learning the Discipline of Writing

Sleeping At WorkOn beautiful crisp days when the sun is shining, it’s often hard to pull out the computer and plug away at that masterpiece. Our friends are going out biking or hiking up a magnificent mountain. Rainy days are a much better alternative. But, if you only write when it rains, it’s going to take you a long time to finish that book. Discipline is one of the hardest tasks of the writing world. Writers by nature aren’t disciplined. They love to play and live in the moment. If you go to a writer’s conference and look around, you’ll see a lot of relaxed people with long hair, some with tats, and most in casual clothing. They don’t look too disciplined.

So, what’s a writer to do?

It’s like any other job. If writing were fun and games, more people would do it. More books would be written. Yeah, there are lots of unfinished manuscripts, but I’m talking finished books.

Sometimes writing means getting words on paper and then doing the hard work of editing. Yes, the muse comes, but for me it comes while I’m working. I can tune out the beautiful, beckoning world around me and keep going. But, I’ve got to get started and I need goals to do that. What are your goals? How do you hold yourself accountable to those goals?

Many writers have full-time jobs. Obligations that pull them away from writing throughout the week. We know what those obligations are. We must work around them and find time between the obligations.

I block those out. Often on the weekends. Sundays are great writing days. Even for those church-going writers, Sunday afternoons provide a good block of time. Other writers like to write early in the morning before the world awakens. The trick is finding the time, dedicating yourself to that time and then write.

Set clear goals. Don’t simply say, I’m gonna write today. Make clear goals either by word count or by time at your computer or by pages.

Be accountable to those goals. By that I mean, find a writing partner. Someone who will hold you to your goals. When I was thirteen, my sister and I went on a diet together. We both lost weight. How? No fad diets. We simply held each other accountable. We guarded the cookie cabinet. You need someone like that to help you keep your goals.

It takes discipline to write a book.

What tips have worked for you to help you be a more disciplined writer?

The Woes of Writing that First Chapter

In the old days, that was the case. Back when Trollop and Jane Austen were writing, they had at least two chapters before readers gave up on them. Many of today’s literary writers have the luxury of several chapters before readers give up on them. But, most of us must capture our readers in the first sentence! There is so much that has to be done in that initial chapter. Action, yes. But also some explanation of action.

They want to know why, but they don’t want a lot of exposition. Geez!

Typewriter closeup shot, concept of Chapter one

Here’s the rub. When I’m writing my book, putting those words on paper for the first time, I don’t have a full idea of what the story is about. My creative process evolves as the story and the characters evolve. I may start out with a story idea but it could change completely before the final chapter is written. Usually I have a good idea of where the story is going once I’m about half-way through it. But, when I’m writing that first chapter, I’m as clueless as my readers.

That means I must go back and re-work that first chapter over and over to capture the essence of the story and to hook the reader. The work involved in doing that is almost more strenuous than writing the 80,000+ novel.

Here are some things your first chapter must do:

Opening Hook–That all-important first sentence that tantalizes your readers. The hook needs not only to create questions in the reader’s minds, but also give them an idea of who is talking. Who is telling this story?

Starting the story in the middle of something. No story starts at the very beginning. If we are in the middle of something, then the reader wonders what went before and what went after.

A clue about setting. Some excellent writers begin with setting. Most of us need to simply sprinkle a little locale information in the first few pages to let the reader know where they are and in what time period. If you’re writing in the 19 Century, you can’t wait until Chapter 2 for the readers to find this out.

An inciting incident. This is the event or incident that starts the story rolling. What happened (in the middle of wherever you are) that incites the story?

The main character’s intentions and goals and dreams. We can’t go into a lot of backstory in the beginning. So, when we talk about intentions, we need to understand what the character plans to do (as a result of the inciting incident) and give small hints about why they are doing it (deeper desires). We don’t tell all here. If we do, why go on reading?

An element of mystery. Even if you’re not writing a mystery, you need to have something going on that keeps the reader reading. The element of mystery, not knowing all the answers to something, is what creates mystery.

All of these elements must be accomplished in the first chapter in a way that keeps our readers turning pages. We can’t give away too much information and yet we must share just enough. The crucial questions that all writers ask are how much is too much and how much is enough?

What are your experiences? How do you manage to tweak and perfect those first few sentences in order to hook your reader?

Take a peek at e-Murderer. Book 1 in the Jenna Scali mystery series.

People People Your Books–Eyes Wide Open!

Surprised businesswoman with wide opened eyes touching glasses.One of the best habits you can cultivate as a writer is the power of observation. People all around you give you amazing content. Whether it’s the obnoxious barista that won’t even look at you or the friendly cashier at the local market. Everyone you encounter provide a wonderful panoply of characterizations. The only thing you need to do is step back and observe. Recently my step-granddaughter, who is a budding writer, told me she was working this summer as a lifeguard. I asked her what she enjoyed most about her job. She said, “The people are so interesting. I take notes about each one to develop characters for my stories.” My guess is she’ll be an excellent writer.

So here are some tips to keep your eyes wide open:

This might be the hardest part of any interaction. When I taught people how to deal with difficult people, I suggested they take themselves out of the confrontation. Imagine standing beside yourself. When you do that, your emotions are held in check. The same is true for us writer-observers. When we take ourselves out of the situation and “stand next to ourselves,” we see a lot more. We begin to imagine what it must be like to be that person in front of us. Our own feelings and emotions that cloud our vision fades.

My husband it quite good at this. We will be driving along a country road and he will see an old ramshackle house. He’ll start talking about the people who live in that house, making up stories about their lives. What they do, what’s important to them, what their children do, where they are from. The deeper you go into your imagination, the richer the character becomes.

Remember we have more than one sense. Sometimes we only think about the visual, but there’s also hearing, smelling, touching, tasting. Think about everything your senses pick up. How does the person sound? What distinctive odors surround that person? Again the deeper you go, the better.

If you wait too long, you’ll miss the moment. The actual aura of the moment creates a great opportunity to create. Your mind is ripe for the picking. Perhaps you don’t want to carry a little pad everywhere, but you can make some notes in your Smart phone.

These are some of my tips for Keeping Your Eyes Wide Open as a writer.

What are some of your tips? Share! I know there’s a writer or two out there who has some great tips for our readers. Let’s hear from you.


Creating a Narcissistic Personality When Creating Villains

These are people who display a lot of cunning and very little empathy. They may appear as sociopaths, but their tendency to want recognition for their bad behavior suggests a tendency toward a narcissistic personality type. The Norwegian man who shot and killed 77 people (many young kids ages 14-17) several years ago believed he was starting a movement. He thought he’d have followers (he didn’t). This kind of thinking tends to suggest a big ego. Hitler had a big ego. Was he more narcissistic or sociopathic? The Orlando shooter believed he would be famous for his act.Portrait of a businessman looking at himself in the mirror

The diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder include at least 5 of the following characteristics. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) says: “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning in early adulthood.” A narcissist…

  • has a grandiosos sense of self importance (e.g. exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance beauty or ideal love
  • believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high status people or institutions.
  • requires excessive admiration.
  • has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectation.
  • is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
  • lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  • is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  • shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

As our political world heats up, these characteristics might be worth re-visiting. Hitler indeed fit the Narcissistic Personality and he was elected by popular vote. Had the German people realized what they were getting, history might have been different.

When writing our villains, it’s a good idea to study the particulars of mental disorders. The DSM-IV manual also suggests that Narcissistic Personalities tend toward mood swings and do not take criticism well.

What kinds of villains do you write?

Check out the e-Murderer. Was he a sociopath or a narcissistic personalty? You decide.

How do you know when you’re done?

Artists tell me it’s hard to know when a painting is finished. One told me that if she works on a painting for too long, she ruins it. This reminds me of my writing. I tweak and tweak and then tweak some more. Was it better before the last tweak or after the first tweak? Am I tweaking too much? One reader says, “You need more information about the main character” or “We need to know more about where the people live.” Another says, “You tell us too much in the first few pages.” or “Cut that statement of place because it’s distracting.”

Geez. How do I know when I'm done?

Geez. How do I know when I’m done?

This is where I want to throw up my hands and shout, “Help!” How do you know when you’re done? When do you need to leave what you’ve written alone?

Here are some tips I’ve found helpful:

Include enough to balance opinions. If you get mixed messages, you get to choose. For example, if someone says, they love the character’s name and another says they hate the character’s name, you can decide. But if everyone says they hate the character’s name, it’s time to toss that name out.

Work on other things. Pay attention to your husband and kids whom you’ve ignored while working on this masterpiece. Then go back. A clean perspective will give you lots of information. I’m always amazed when I’m stumped on the daily crossword, when I walk away from it and come back, everything falls into place.

If everything in you is fighting the criticism, you may be too close to judge. Find someone you trust to read the scene. Someone who hasn’t read it before. If that person says what others are saying and what you’re rebelling against, give up and do it. Okay, if you’re Stephen King or Mary Higgins Clark, you can do whatever you want and the readers will come. But, for us small-time, every day writers, we must listen to our readers even if we’re trying something revolutionary.

If you were a teacher, what grade would you give this work. If you give it anything below a B-, you’re not done.

These are a few of my tips for trying to figure out when I’m done. What tips do you have?

Be on the look out for my newest book (which is done!), coming out in September. Murder on Moonshine Hill is the second in the Jenna Scali series. Here’s a taste:

When Jenna decides to go to a friend’s wedding, she expects to dredge up old secrets and old hurts, and she expects to see people from her past, but she doesn’t expect to stumble on a dead body. 

Jenna’s friend is arrested. The wedding is cancelled. And Jenna’s tendency to stick her nose where it shouldn’t be leads her into the path of the killer. 

Set in the serene mountains of North Carolina Murder on Moonshine Hill is filled with suspense, humor, and a quirky cast of supporting characters.


Tips for Underwriting your Overwriting

As a writer who creates something from nothing, I often catch myself overwriting. If you are a big name writer, editors leave your overwriting in your books and readers learn to skim and sigh. If you’re not so famous, you must catch your own overwriting and learn to under write. By under write, I mean write with a minimalist hand.Red cat and pile of books on leather chair, close up

Here are some tips for learning to Underwrite your Overwriting.

That fabulous simile or metaphor that you were so proud of, might be superfluous. Ask yourself, what would my editor do to this?

Omit every “ly” words and see how the scene reads. If it reads dry or doesn’t convey your message, put the adverb back. My guess is you’ve already said what you needed to say and the adverb can stay out.

Omit the exposition and see if the feeling and mood of the scene remains.

Do the readers already know this? The maxim in public speaking is Tell ’em what your gonna tell them. Tell ’em. Then, Tell ’em what you’ve told them. We have to do that in public speaking because people’s minds wander so much. It’s a way to bring the listener back. But, reading a book is different. If you tell ’em too many times, the reader will get frustrated and possibly stop reading.

When we create our early drafts, it’s natural to overwrite. Most of us, who write fiction, are not sure what is going on. Our characters are leading us here, there, and yon. But, once the scene is completed, we do know what we wanted to convey. At that point we should go back and use that red delete pen and X-out everything we don’t need. Even if we love the writing.

If a character plays a minor role in the story, we don’t need a long description. Most of us write bios for our main characters. We know those people very well. But our readers do not need that much detail. Be careful to ask yourself, what does the reader need to know and what can I omit.

These are a few tips to help writers learn to under write their overwriting. What tips do you have?

If you like a story with clean, crisp writing, you’d love e-Murderer. Check out the official book trailer.

What to do When You’ve Run Out of Things to Say

Here I am facing another Wednesday and time to publish a new post. I’ve written about writing fiction and nonfiction. I’ve looked at the way authors develop their characters and come up with character names. I’ve examined the pros and cons for pantser styles and outliner styles. I’ve looked at grammar issues and non issues.Snooze

As for readers, I’ve explored reader styles and habits. We’ve looked at the pros and cons for reading paper books or e-books, the value of writing reviews and the way we find our reading material. I’ve posted reviews of the books I’ve read to give my readers a clue about what I like and dislike.

And here it is Wednesday again and I’ve got to think of some new angle that might engage my readers. Here are some tips for what to do when you run out of things to say.

Look at the different angles they take and see if that sparks something for you. Comment on their posts to get you started on developing ideas for your post.

Imagine what they want to read about today. What do the current tensions in the world suggest? Once you put yourself in their skin, start writing. You could even try to do so from the point of view of your reader.

If you posted on the value of writing outlines, post a new article of how to write without outlines. If you posted on the importance of showing and not telling, write a new article of the value of telling. Guess what, there is value in telling–just not too much of it. For example, at some point I can turn this post upside down and write one on what to do when you’ve got too much to say.

. The next time you go to your book club, ask members some questions. Develop a short questionnaire ahead of time with things like, 1) When do you find time to read 2) How much time a day do you read for pleasure 3) What’s your favorite format for pleasure reading 4) What types of books to you tend to enjoy the most 5) What hooks you in a book 6) What makes you stop reading a book. These are some examples, but from the responses, you could blog for decades!

Put questions out there on Twitter and Facebook. See what kind of answers you get. You may have to beg them to respond, but the responses will set you up for lots of new posts.

Maybe it’s time for a break. Take that break. Let your readers know you’re on a short holiday and when you’re rested, come on back.

What tips do you have when you’ve run out of things to say?

Check out my exciting #booktrailer for The Clock Strikes Midnight.


5 Tips for Eliminating Redundancy in Writing

Not long ago I read a novel in which one of the male characters had long eyelashes. In the author’s first description of the character, we heard about the long eyelashes. Later, we heard about them again in dialogue. In fact, we heard so much about the long eyelashes on this character, I was ready to scream.

We write in intervals. As for me, I write 500 words a

Retro effect and toned image of a fountain pen on a notebook. Handwritten text Repetition Repetition Repetition as business concept image

day. That’s about 2 pages. But, a reader might read three chapters in a day. That reader will pick up on more redundancies than I will as the writer. So, how can we go about eliminating the redundancy in our writing to make sure our readers don’t scream at us in frustration!

As writers sometimes we believe our readers won’t remember things. We think we must tell them over and over. Not true! They have memories like elephants. Many a reader will correct us when we make a mistake. Once you tell the reader what someone looks like, a mental image forms in their minds. There’s no need to tell them again and again.

Tip #2: I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again (not to be accused of being redundant) 

That helps me more than anything else to catch redundancies. Suddenly I’ll realize, I said the same thing several pages back. Reading it to myself doesn’t have the same impact.

Even in the early stages of a draft, a set of new eyes on your work can pick up redundancies. If the new reader says, “I didn’t know he had long eyelashes,” well… you’ll need to say it again.

Not only do we make errors in redundancy when we describe our characters, but often we do so when we describe the major events. For example in my newest manuscript, there’s something hidden under the frame of a painting. My characters are all talking about this. Do I really need them all talking about this hidden item? Maybe not. I plan to go through the manuscript to make sure I haven’t driven my readers crazy.

Sometimes we get so hung up on what we have written, that we can’t bring ourselves to hit delete. Believe me. Your editor will hit that button with relish. I’ve often deleted something I really wanted to keep, just to see how it might sound when gone. Geez. It sounds so much better.

What tips do you have to keep readers from tossing your book across the room?

3 Tips for Creating Suspense

I’m to the kind of reader, however, who avoids too much suspense–meaning, if it gets too scary, I’m outta there. Granted some readers love that kind of heightened suspense, but me, I like enough to keep me turning the pages without so much that I have to put the book down to take a breath. But, then again, I’m a chicken. I close my eyes during the scary parts of movies.

How do I keep the reader wanting to read more to reduce that fast heart beat and that fear for the characters or the situation? Recently I saw the play Wait Until Dark.  Some of you may remember the movie, starring Audrey Hepburn. She played a blind woman, alone in her apartment and being staked and later attacked by very bad guys. There’s one terrifying scene in the movie where our heroine believes she’s killed her attacker, but suddenly he pops up, knife in hand and scares the life out of all of us viewers. That scene was eliminated in the play. Nonetheless, the play created a lot of suspense. Let’s look at how.

It’s important that the readers do not believe that the character created their own trouble. Trouble just happens to them. At first the character seems incapable to getting out of the bad situation. Sometimes more trouble happens. That intensifies the suspense. So you have likable character that did nothing terribly wrong but steps in a bad situation that gets worse. That creates suspense.

In Wait Until Dark this was the helpful friend who suddenly showed up to visit the protagonist’s husband. The character relied on him as she began doubting others around her. But the writer revealed this character’s culpability to the readers before the main character. So, we as readers panic. Oh, my God! He’s in on it, too. That’s more trouble for the main character.

If you main character does nothing to try and resolve the problem, except whine or scream, the reader will get frustrated and the suspense lessens. Instead, have your character try things. They don’t always work, but they seem believable and possible. Each failure heightens suspense.

When you read your next suspenseful novel or even true adventure story, ask yourself, what kept you reading. How did the author create enough suspense that you continued to turn the pages?

If you like a book full of suspense, try The Clock Strikes Midnight. Take a peek at this book trailer.

MJ LaBeff Creates Suspense in her new book MIND GAMES

She’s written a number of books, including her newest release, MIND GAMESLet’s learn more about M.J. the writer, and her books.

re-worked 3_16 (2)JC: What made the “girl next door” start writing suspense stories?

MJ:  I’d always been a big fan of mysteries and then discovered suspense, and I was hooked. The suspense novels were gritty reads. I was riveted when the author took me into the victim’s and antagonist’s minds, and I loved the thrill of the chase and pulse pounding action and obstacles the protagonist(s) faced.

JC: Yes, that kind of excitement makes for wonderful page-turner reading. But, going from reader to writer isn’t easy. Where do your story ideas come from?

MJ:  Mostly from dreams. I’m a deep sleeper, even if I only get 5 to 6 hours, I sleep hard. I dream in color and it’s like watching a movie. Some nights I wake up in a panic with my heart pounding, and on the rare occasion, I’ve also been jolted awake by tears. There are times when the dream feels so real it takes me a few seconds to realize it was only just a dream! Like most authors I’ve got pens and notepads scattered about my house. I reach for pen and paper, not bothering with the lights, and write down everything left over from the dream.

JC: Wow! Your dreams sound wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever dreamt like that. I usually wake up wondering what was going on and wishing I could replay it. I noticed that animals play a role in your stories.  I love it when authors talk about the animals in their characters’s lives—not doing unanimal-like things, such as talking, but acting like animals. Tell us about the dogs in your books.

MJ:  I’m also a fan of books with dogs in them just behaving like dogs. I have three big dogs and each one has a unique personality and intelligence. That might have also been my natural inclination to write a dog in some of my novels.

King showed up in Haunting Lyric a novel that hasn’t been released yet. He’s an Eskimo dog bred for the harshest of weather conditions but living in the desert in the fictitious town of Chillicothe, Arizona. He’s very protective of his owner Lyric, a woman on the run from a cult with dangerous practices. He puts his own life on the line to keep her safe from the Serpentariuns. Lyric is a real loner, no family, no friends, and no place to call home. She’s tough but confides in King, making it easier to showcase her vulnerability. I felt like she needed a dog to help soften her a bit.

Jupiter is a Doberman, featured in all four books of the Last Cold Case series. Last Summer’s Evil the first book releases later this year with Muse It Up Publishing. Homicide detective, Rachel Hood and FBI agent, Nick Draven solve crimes and catch criminals with Jupiter on the scene. Jupiter has a special connection to Hood and will do whatever it takes to keep her out of harm’s way.

JC: Those dogs sound like great “characters.” My mystery series has two cats and they, too, play important roles. I believe animals are a skillful way to show character. It sounds as if you’ve done that well with King and Lyric as well as with Jupiter.

Now, back to you. I noted on your website that you work in financial services. I’m assuming full-time. When do you carve out time to write? And what kind of writing goals do you set for yourself?

MJ: I feel like I’m not any different than so many other authors. I work full-time during the day, and I write full-time during the night. When I first started writing in 2007, I was very rigid about my nightly writing schedule. It was butt in chair promptly at 7 p.m. with the commitment to write a minimum of 500 words. I’m a word counter, but that’s 2 pages double spaced. I don’t trust myself to write in the mornings, despite being a morning person, because if the muse hits I hate to stop writing and then I’ll be late for work!

My original writing goal had been to write 1 book per year. I can finish a full length novel 100k words or so in 9 months. My new goal is to write 2 books per year. Not sure if I’ll pull it off this year. I’m a big believer is setting deadlines for myself, and I’m pretty tough on me.

Recently, a few authors I met on Twitter invited me to join this 1k/1hr writing challenge, and I love it!

We’ve all heard this, but it’s worth repeating.

The more often you do it, the stronger the writing muscle becomes, and it’s amazing how much you can really write.

JC: Congratulations on those goals! I, too, am a word counter and pretty disciplined. I think writers need to be disciplined to finish their projects. I’m not sure I could maintain the 1K/1hr writing challenge. Good for you!

Speaking of challenges. What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?

MJ: Balancing work life with family life. My husband and I don’t have any kids, but it’s still hard working full-time, writing, trying to get published, accepting one literary agent rejection after another. My novel Haunting Lyric.  garnered over 40 agent rejections as did my novel MIND GAMES.

I remember seeing this tattoo of a pair of boxing gloves hanging from a hook and the sign above it read: NEXT. That’s what I would think of every single time I got a rejection. And, no I do not have the tattoo!

I feel so fortunate to have signed the Last Cold Case series with Muse It Up Publishing! I just finished my first round of edits on Last Summer’s Evil and am so grateful to my editor and can’t wait to see this story really come to life.

JC: How have you overcome those challenges?

MJ: I’m not sure I have! I’m a work in progress. Having just signed with a publisher, I’m learning an entirely new schedule with editing plus writing and promoting my current novel MIND GAMES. Of course, I’m also shouting out about signing with Muse It Up Publishing and Last Summer’s Evil coming fall/winter 2016! This has been a really exciting time for me. You have to understand, I wrote my first novel in 2007 and since then have written nearly 8 books. I’m writing the 4th book in the series now and am just past the halfway mark.

JC: It sounds as if you have met those challenges. The best medicine for dealing with rejections is to keep writing. Apparently you did.


Click to Order on Amazon

Let’s talk a moment about your new book, MIND GAMESTell our readers what to expect when they pick up your book.

MJ: MIND GAMES is about a woman, Sparrow Von Langley, whose repressed memories come back to life as haunting visions, and she discovers the unethical practices of her father, Dr. Theodore Von Langley.

The good doctor is a well-respected, nationally recognized behavioral therapist. I like to think of him as Dr. Phil gone wrong. Sorry, Dr. Phil, love your show, but you got me thinking about the “What ifs…” My sister also worked in the area of psychology and was helpful when I was developing the character of Dr. Von Langley. However, I must say, she chastised me a lot, insisting I couldn’t do this or that, and I just kept begging her to come to the dark side! I’m pretty sure she’ll never write a book.

Sparrow Von Langley has had a privileged life. She grew up in the fictitious town of Crystal Cove, CA an elite suburb of L.A. An only child, her parents doted on her but showed little affection. Cora Von Langley was a socialite who has fallen prey to severe depression. This is the catalyst that brings Sparrow and her closer and draws Sparrow closer to the truth about her father.

Tormented by these frightening visions brought on by a series of mysterious deaths, Sparrow is determined to search for the truth behind the tragedies and reconnects with Dr. Sloan.

Derrick Sloan has been searching for his missing sister, Kathlyn “Kat” Sloan since her disappearance 10 years ago. He believes she fled their home town in Colorado for California where they had spent a few of their teenage years during the time their dad, an engineer, helped to build the community of Crystal Cove. Derrick runs a concierge practice and a mobile health clinic RV. He recognizes the need for a mobile clinic in the L.A. area and also decides that is the best place to search for Kat.

Sparrow pulls together the pieces of her traumatic past with the help of a hypnotherapist, and her repressed memories reveal the twisted truth behind the mysterious deaths and Kat’s disappearance. Shocked to learn about her father’s possible involvement, her hunt collides with Derrick’s search for Kat, and she is forced to decide if she can trust him enough to follow the evidence trail or risk losing the man she loves.

Will the only daughter of the respected doctor prove his guilt or innocence in his quest to change lives?

JC: Wow! That sounds like an intriguing story. You mentioned talking to your sister to research your book. In what other ways do you conduct research to make sure your characters ring true?

MJ: I really enjoy talking to law enforcement professionals if the opportunity presents itself and asking them questions about processing crime scenes and dead bodies. By chance I met a retired homicide detective from NYC. I also have some friends who are retired deputies. Recently, I met a private investigator and border patrol agent.

The Investigation Discovery channel is a wealth of information and TV shows like Dateline NBC and 20/20 are also helpful to see how a crime scene is investigated, how a criminal is interrogated, and what the investigators have to say about working the case, uncovering clues, and what led them to the victim and criminal.

Of course, there is the internet where you can find law enforcement professionals who are willing to answer author questions, and blogs devoted to authors writing crime fiction.

Readers can find MIND GAMES on Amazon. And you can find out more about MJ LaBeff on her website.

Thank you MJ for visiting my blog today and good luck with all your writing projects!