Category Archives: guest posts

Guest Post From YA Mystery Author Jade Varden: Where Do You Get New Ideas?

Many mystery authors start at the end of the story and work their way to the beginning from there, because it’s helpful if you know who the killer is before you start to write. But this sort of reverse storytelling can be taxing…especially when the idea well is running dry.

The Mystery of the Good Idea

Where do you get your ideas? This is a question every author is going to have to answer, and sometimes the answer is I don’t know. Ideas come out of nowhere for many authors. A TV show, a song, even a single word might spark something and suddenly, a whole world is springing up in your head. The reverse side of this power is clear: sometimes, those ideas don’t come. Sometimes, you’re going to have to go searching for them.

Weird Searches

When your next great idea is taking too long to arrive, try a few tricks to get the creative juices flowing again. Mystery authors are in a unique position, because they can pull inspiration from many more places than authors who focus on other genres. As a mystery author, you can take advantage of the wide, multi-faceted world of true crime.
If you can’t find inspiration from reality, you can’t find it anywhere. Go to your favorite search engine and try a few scary searches. I like phrases like strange murders, unsolved murders, unsolved disappearances, weird murder stories and strange crimes. Restrict your searches to news or blog posts if you’re getting too many useless results. Reading about weird crimes and unsolved cases might give you lots of inspiration to craft your own intriguing mysteries.

TV Movies

Yes, it sounds a little crazy but it works. When you need some good ideas for a mystery story, turn on the TV or open up Netflix and start looking for one of those made-for-TV movies based on someone stalking someone or some murder in a pleasant subdivision…you’ve seen them before. Start watching, and start getting some ideas.

Manner of Death

Many great mystery novels revolve around a mysterious death. So when you need ideas, start thinking about death (it’s not morbid if you’re a writer, I promise). Write down any manner of death that comes to mind, from the mundane (heart attack) to the extreme (shark attack).

If writing about death doesn’t start giving you some ideas for stories, try to focus on the killer instead. Single out just one element of the story and put your focus here until more ideas start to come. Good ideas don’t always come at random. Sometimes, you’ve got to force them into existence.
About the Author
Jade Varden writes young adult novels for teen readers. When she’s not crafting mysteries inJadeCartoon her books, Jade also blogs practical writing tips for authors who self-publish. Follow her on Twitter @JadeVarden. Visit Jade’s blog for reviews, writing tips, self-publishing advice and everything else you ever wanted to know about reading and writing books.
Jade is the author of the Deck of Lies series, the story of a girl whose entire identity is ripped apart by lies, money and family secrets that won’t stay buried.
Get the Deck of Lies series FREE during Blogger Book Fair!

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Skidding in Sideways on Jennifer Becton’s Blog

Hi all! You may remember that I interviewed mystery/historical-fiction author Jennifer Becton last month. Well, yesterday I guest posted on her blog, talking a little about finding an audience as a writer. I discuss three challenges I faced and how I overcame them. Read the post here.

Also, you can still download my medieval mystery book The Jester’s Apprentice for free at Smashwords until March 10! Click here to get your copy.

How to Kill a Character in 5 Easy Steps Guest Post

So I’m blonde (not technically, but I certainly behave like it sometimes) and thought my 3-part guest series at The Hot Author Report was this weekend, but it already came and went last weekend. I had such a good time writing my guest post, How to Kill a Character in 5 Easy Steps, that I decided to share it today. There’s also an interview and 5 things you don’t know about me post, if you’re interested.

So that’s that. Bring on the weekend!

Photo by Brandie Heinel


Today, we’re joined by YA sci-fi author, S.C. Harvey, who I interviewed a little while back about her debut novel, Sand Castles & Seashores. She talks about her love of math and how it affects, and coincides, with her passion for writing.

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I find it funny when people are shocked to discover that I’m a writer as well as a math geek, it seems counterintuitive to some. But I think the opposite is true. There’s a lot of artistry in the field of mathematics. When you look at a mathematical proof and see it in its entirety, it’s a thing of beauty. Math isn’t just about numbers meshed together in a secret code intended to confuse the general public but a logical progression of steps and procedures in order to arrive at a solution for that problem. That goes beyond the realm of just math. It can be applied to most fields. Think of it as looking through a mathematical lens.

Before I write any story, I have firmly in place the characters. I know them inside and out, how they behave, how they react, what they would and wouldn’t do, what makes them tick. I think it’s important to the reader to see this. It’s usually seen when I do flashbacks into the character’s past just so the reader can see where the characters are coming from and what has happened to them to where they are now. A logical progression of procedures in order to arrive at a solution can be rewritten as a series of events that got them to where they are now. There should be a bell going off, (ding!), there it is.

For me, it’s fundamental that the characters are firmly established. It gives them believability and the reader can get behind them and cheer for them, if not empathize with their struggles and go on that journey with them.

Character creation is only half the equation. The other half is the story itself. I generally start by asking myself some important questions: What is the purpose of the story, thus the purpose of the characters? What is their mission? What struggles would be inherent to such a mission? What creative solution can they come up with to get them out? Why is it important to the characters to see it through? Is the journey compelling? Will this be as entertaining on paper as it is in my head? Gee, I hope so.

Because the plots are largely character driven, they’re unique to those characters. Character development is seen when I write. Each main character is morphed because of their experiences. They’ll change and grow, but not beyond recognition. I guess you can say there is a psychology to my story writing – that added depth as it were. I largely write with series in mind and so the element of depth is necessary otherwise you wouldn’t care enough to keep reading. I know I wouldn’t.

There you have it – my basic approach to writing. My belief is we can be both left and right-brained with the right attitude because the two complement each other harmoniously. And we all possess a measure of both the logical and the beautiful. Both are needed to write a good story.

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I was born during a time of unrest for Cambodia and my family fled to Thailand where we were detained. In time, we came to the United States and lived in Texas, but eventually my mother, brother and I settled in Southern California where I attended grade school and high school, which was where my love of learning began and flourished. Not long after graduation, I made my way to Massachusetts and have since married a wonderful husband. Married with one amazing daughter and a couple of cute pets, I continue to write.

Learn more about Sand Castles & Seashores and S.C. Harvey at her new Facebook page.

How Writing Changed the Way I Read

Today’s post comes to us from one of my favorite people on Twitter, Jennie Ivins, better known as Autumn2May. This is her perspective on how writing her own novel has altered her view of reading. Enjoy!

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Reading and writing have always gone hand in hand. One really can’t learn to write without knowing how to read. So then knowing how to write well must make reading easier, right? Well, sort of.

I started writing my book in October of last year. I had never written before and really didn’t know what to expect. After finishing my first rough draft, I discovered two things about writing. The first is that writing is just as addicting as reading and the second is that once you start writing as a serious pastime, reading is never the same again.

The whole time I was working on my first draft, I completely shunned all reading. I didn’t think I had the time and some part of me thought that if I started reading again, that my work would start sounding like whatever book I was reading. Luckily both of those things turned out to be false, but that’s another story. However, when I finally picked up a new book in January I was surprised by what I discovered. My perspective on the writing itself had changed dramatically!

Every once in a while I would notice a really good paragraph or phrasing and wonder if the author had a hard time writing it or if it was created in one of those moments where the words just flow out exactly the way you want them too. I also noticed the patterns of how the author wrote and words and phrases I could tell they used a lot. I had never noticed things like that before I started writing, and I think it made me appreciate the work itself more than I did before.

It was actually very similar to when I became a chef. I appreciated a well made meal more because I knew how easy it was to mess up and how hard it was to get it just right. I noticed each ingredient separately and noted how they mixed together to form the finished food rather than just focusing on the overall taste and whether I personally liked it or not. Reading after being a writer is very much the same. You appreciate the bits and pieces of the writing more even if the whole book isn’t really your cup of tea. It does however making reading pieces that aren’t written quite as well a bit harder. You tend to see the errors more and analyze what you might have done differently, even when you’re trying not to.

But there is also more of a sense of understanding for the author. Bad or good someone put their blood, sweat, and tears into the story and that deserves a certain amount of respect. It certainly gave me a lot more respect for anyone that can get a novel published. Putting your heart and soul into something then releasing it to be critiqued by the world is a scary proposition, whether you are a famous writer for the Big Six or just indie published your book yesterday.

Overall I think that being a writer has made me a more mature reader and given me a greater love and admiration for truly well written stories. And if you ever think you have a story in you, don’t be afraid to let it out. All stories deserve to be told.

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Jennie Ivins is a stay-at-home mom with three boys (one set of twins & one singleton) who for some reason likes living in Central New Jersey. She married a geek and enjoys watching other geeks discuss their geeky ways. In her pre-mom life, she worked as a chef’s apprentice and a retail store manager. She loves taking pictures and cooking, but her other loves include art, science, music, computers, history and anything else shiny that happens across her field of vision. She is currently writing her first series of fantasy books and enjoying it more than she thought humanly possible. However, she has found writing about herself in the third person to be a rather odd thing to have to do. If you’d like to say hi, you can usually find her on Twitter or as Autumn2May. 🙂

Photos by Matt Jiggins & Glory Foods