I read somewhere that fear of public speaking is the most common fear–more people are afraid of public speaking than of dying! That’s sort of crazy but that’s what I read. Whether it’s true or not, I’m not sure but what is true is that lots of people hate the thought of public speaking. That certainly was true in my case.

When my first book was published I discovered that public speaking is part of being an author. YIKES! Not a good thing as far as I was concerned. After a few miserable attempts–at least miserable on my part–the audience seemed to enjoy the experience, I came to a conclusion. If I was going to be an author I had to learn to deal with public speaking in a calmer, less stressful way.  Or quit writing books. And since I loved writing stories, I had to figure out a way to overcome my fear so I did. Here are 3 things I did to overcome the fear of public speaking.

  1. BE PREPARED. Have a plan. I developed a few different themes to talk about and then wrote out the actual speech, then I would read it and read it again–several times. Sometimes I would actually take a binder up with me and use it to keep me on track. As I became more comfortable, I moved to index cards with the main ideas.
  2. TRUST YOUR AUDIENCE. The audience is not your enemy! They aren’t waiting for you to make a mistake so they can attack you. They came to hear you. They’re on your side. One thing I started telling my audience is that I didn’t like public speaking so to be patient with me if I fumbled the ball a bit now and then. Then if I made a mistake, I’d remind them I’m a writer not a speaker. That usually got a few chuckles and relaxed me and the audience.
  3. IT’S ALL ABOUT PERSPECTIVE. Even though my day job was a speech pathologist (therapist), I also considered myself a teacher. And what does a teacher do? They talk and talk and talk. At some point when I was panicking about my next public speaking event, I asked myself, ‘What am I so worried about? I’m a teacher and talking is part of what I do every day.’ After that I started thinking about my speaking events as a teaching event and that made all the difference for me. You may not be a teacher but I’m sure there’s a different way for everyone to look at the speaking event so that you can be more comfortable having to do it.

So after reading this wonderful advice, you may have the idea that I do public speaking all the time, right? Wrong. I had become much more comfortable and was expanding my speaking engagements when I was diagnosed with my brain tumors. After having to cancel two major speaking events because of my physical health, I stopped booking speaking events but… I’m feeling so much better now, I might just give it a whirl again.

YOUR TURN: What tips can you share about public speaking?




Writing Tip Wednesday: EXPLOSIVE ENDINGS

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It’s been a few weeks since I posted writing tips so just as a reminder, I’ve been talking about my sure-fire way to publication: best beginnings + marvelous middles + explosive endings = PUBLICATION! We’ve gone over the first two and today we tackle explosive endings.

One of the keys to creating an explosive ending is to resolve all the story plots, not only the major one. Readers have invested time and emotion in your story. Don’t cheat them by not giving them the resolution they want. It’s not fair to leave them hanging and wondering.  If it’s a series, it’s fine to give a hint to an upcoming story but it’s still important to finish the current story.

For example in my Sisters By Choice series, in BETRAYED there was a main character whose son was kidnapped by his father but it had nothing to do with the story plot. It was simply a fact of the character’s life. But at the end of the story readers just know that Jamie can’t resist helping her new friend.  And that becomes the basis for my about to be released book, REDEMPTION.

In a Christian romantic suspense, there are usually three main areas that need an ending along with any subplots. First we have the suspense plot, then the romantic thread, and finally the spiritual arc.

A famous quote from Mickey Spillane says it all. The first chapter sells the book. The last chapter sells the next book.

Your ending will either give you a satisfied reader who will want to buy your next book and recommend it to others or one who won’t read another book you write—ever. The choice is yours.

Many books actually have two endings—mine usually do. Often the crucial resolution scene (stopping the murderer—rescuing the damsel in distress) happens in the next to the last chapter and the final chapter is used to tie up all the other story lines in a happy little bow. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a good plan.



Marvelous Middles!

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Just as a little reminder, in an earlier post I gave you my formula for writing a publishable book. BEST BEGINNINGS + MARVELOUS MIDDLES + EXPLOSIVE ENDINGS = BOOK CONTRACT. Today we’re going to talk about those marvelous middles.

Avoiding the sagging middle syndrome is crucial if you want to write an excellent book. So what exactly is the sagging middle syndrome? It’s that part in the story when you’re searching for something to write before you get to that great ending you’ve planned. It’s also the point where people start skimming your story instead of reading it.

And that’s not a good thing!

We want to keep our readers completely engaged in the story. But how? The key to marvelous middles is to keep the tension high, make the reader want to know what happens next.  Here’s a few ways to ensure MARVELOUS MIDDLES:

  1. Introduce a new character. If they have a secret—even better!
  2. Blow something up (or have another murder).
  3. Add a ticking time bomb to the original problem.
  4. Add a red herring, give the reader several choices for the murderer. That will keep them guessing, and that means they want to know what happens next!
  5. Avoid all that back story you are dying to write. No matter how much you love it—it doesn’t move the story forward.

Here’s the key to writing marvelous middles, if you’re feeling bored or that the story is in that ho-hum stage, then do something to shock yourself and the reader. Keep doing that, and you will certainly avoid that sagging middle syndrome!

Whew! Now you’ve got your best beginning and a marvelous middle, so next time will look at  EXPLOSIVE ENDING that will wow that editor and have them clamoring for your manuscript.






This is Writing Tip Wednesday so as promised, we’re going to talk about best beginnings. The writer’s first task is to hook the reader. Starting with a murder is always good, but it’s not the only way. The key is to arouse the reader’s curiosity so they will want to turn the page to see what happens next. So I thought I’d give a few dos and don’ts for writing Best Beginnings for your book. Let’s start with the don’ts:

DON’T start with the main character sitting and pondering life. Today’s readers want action! And they want it from the first page.

DON’T start with description. There’s a place for description, but it won’t do much to hook the reader. Save the description for later.

DON’T start with a sunset–no matter how beautifully you can write about it. Or any other type of weather either! Unless you’ve placed your character in the middle of a blizzard or a hurricane and the reader sees the character fighting to stay alive.

DON’T start with back story or genealogy. Save it until after the reader cares about the character then scatter it in a sentence or two at a time–not a whole chapter at once.

DON’T start with a dream–no matter how exciting it is! Agents/editors list this as one of their biggest pet peeves. So don’t make them mad on the very first page. You want to hook them into the story so they keep reading.

On to the DOs:

DO start with action! More action and even more action!  Today’s mystery/suspense readers don’t have time or patience for characters sitting around pondering life.  They want action! Here’s a little secret–the beginning action doesn’t have to be directly related to the main plot.

DO surprise or shock your reader. You want a hook to draw your reader into the story. A big surprise or shock will do just that. It could be something your character says or does. I’m partial to having the main character say something shocking.

DO introduce conflict as soon as possible–even a little bit of one. Something to get the reader’s blood pumping.

DO have more than one character in the scene. As the saying goes–the more the merrier. And that’s true with writing. By having at least two characters in the beginning scene, you have more flexibility with creating action and conflict.

DO place the reader firmly into your story world. Help the reader to visualize what’s going on–but doing it sneakily. That means you do need some description but  keep it to a minimum.

In my upcoming release, REDEMPTION, the book begins with a conversation between  twin sisters. It starts like this:

You’re retired from the spy business. Remember?‛ Patti stood with hands on her hips, demanding an answer.
“I was never a spy and…”  Jamie paused. Nothing she said would satisfy Patti. “I don’t want to discuss it.”

It’s not every day you hear someone say they are retired from the spy business. I think that’s enough to make the reader want to read a little more to find out if she was or wasn’t a spy.

So got any questions about BEST BEGINNINGS or do you want to share the first 2 or 3 lines from one of the stories you’ve written? Go for it.






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These 3 steps are guaranteed to bring you the brass ring you’ve been reaching for–publication! If you’re a fiction writer, sooner or later you are going to want people to read your stories. There are lots of options out there these days for getting published, thanks to the electronic revolution. But if you’re like me, you want to be published traditionally. Until I was published traditionally, I didn’t feel like a real writer! Don’t yell at me all you indie–pubbed writers. I didn’t say you weren’t real writers. I’m saying I needed to get a traditional publishing contract for me to feel like a real writer.

Anyway…it turns out it’s not all that easy getting a contract by a traditional publishing house. It took me 15 years of writing to get that! But I did and I’m glad I kept trying. Again…don’t yell at me!

Anyway, let’s get to the 3 steps to publication: As I’m sure you know all stories have a beginning, a middle, and end. If you want to get published you need to write the BEST BEGINNINGS, MARVELOUS MIDDLES, and EXPLOSIVE ENDINGS. Succeed with those three easy steps and you’ll have a contract before you know it.

So the perfect formula for  writing a great book, meaning publishable is: BEST BEGINNINGS + MARVELOUS MIDDLES + EXPLOSIVE ENDINGS = Great Story (and a book contract).

OK—maybe they aren’t all that easy. It took me years to learn the writing craft, and I’m still learning! It may take you longer than you wish as well, but if you keep learning, practicing and don’t quit you’ll get there!  Oops–I just added 3 more steps so…let’s try this again.

STEP 1–Learn about the craft of writing.

STEP 2-Practice  writing what you learn.

STEP 3–Learn and practice to write BEST BEGINNINGS.

STEP 4–Learn and practice to write MARVELOUS MIDDLES.

STEP 5–Learn and practice to write EXPLOSIVE ENDINGS.



Steps 1, 2, and 6 are self-explanatory so in the next few weeks we’ll take a closer look at Steps 3,4, and 5. Next week we’ll take a closer look at writing BEST BEGINNINGS. By the way, did I mention DON’T QUIT?


PS. If you haven’t entered for a chance to win Deadly Communications, there’s still time. Skip down to the DEADLY COMMUNICATIONS post and leave a comment! Thanks.






Writing Tip Wednesday–Description

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Okay, so far we’ve covered three of the BIG FIVE areas for fiction writing: Point of View, Show vs. Tell; and Dialogue. Today we tackle the fourth one–description. In all fairness I need to tell you–I don’t like description. Not when I read or when I write. A little bit–yes. But any more than that and I get bored. And that means I skip that part of the story.

So when I write, I do the same thing. So much so that during my many revisions, I usually devote one of my revisions solely to adding description. I suppose some genres tolerate and even want more of the flowery descriptions, but I write suspense. That means, the readers are all about what’s happening not what the sky looks like in every chapter!

But having said all that, I still need to say that description is important–even crucial to your story!

The reader can only see and know what we tell them. So…every scenes needs some description. Or how will the reader know that the house is a log cabin in the woods rather than a palatial estate? Or how will they know the main character has beautiful red curls instead of a short blonde pixie cut? So you can see now that description is important.

I’ve seen some writers begin their chapters or scene with a paragraph or two of description and then start the action. That’s one way to do it but it’s not usually the way I do it. I weave in description through the dialogue, the action and a sentence here and there that will help the reader picture the scene in their own mind.

Another thing to keep in mind is to use all the senses as you describe a scene. Instead of relying on sight and sound only, include what the character is smelling, touching, and tasting? Those can add an extra layer of depth to your manuscript. But a note of caution, don’t include every sense in every scene. As with salt, a little bit of sensory description goes a long way.

My last point about description is to think about how important a character, a  location, or whatever you are describing is to your story. If it’s important, then take more time with it. If it’s not that important a sentence or two will be more than enough to place the reader in the scene.

Oops, I have another last point about description–we’ve all seen sunsets!

For some reason, writers love to spend oodles of time describing sunsets and sunrises. But it’s not necessary. A sentence or two is all that’s needed. In days gone by, readers and editors may have tolerated the one to two page descriptions of a sunrise, but not any more. Readers want action not another description of a sunset!

So for the writers out there, do you like description? What’s your advice to other writers about description?




Writing Tip Wednesday–Dialogue

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It’s Writing Tip Wednesday again and today we tackle nother one of the big five. dialogue is considered to be one of the big five when it comes to writing. So far we’ve talked about two others of the BIG FIVE, showing not telling and point of view. So today we are going to “talk about talking.” Get it? Okay, it wasn’t that funny. But maybe a small smile at least.

Anyway, not to toot my own horn, I think I’m pretty good at dialogue. Or at least I hope I am. After more than thirty years as a speech pathologist, I know a thing or two about talking. Here’s a few dialogue dos”

1. There must be a purpose to why the dialogue is happening. It must be relevant to the story and the scene. It must move the story forward.

4. Dialogue can be used to give crucial information to the reader. But it must be done in a way that makes sense. In real life and in fiction, the talker wouldn’t give information to a conversation partner who already knows the information. Meaning you can’t have your character give her background information to her mother. Because her mother already knows it. (That’s just one example.{ 

5. Dialogue can add to character development. If your character is illiterate then they shouldn’t talk like a college professor and vice-versa.

6. Dialogue can add to tension. One way to do this is to remember that people lie to each other, avoid answering what the other person is really asking, people mislead other people.

7. Dialogue must be believable. People don’t talk perfectly all the time and the dialogue you write shouldn’t be  perfect either. We don’t talk in complete sentences all the time. Don’t be too formal. Don’t be to polite.

8. Cut the small talk. Readers want action, not small talk. Save the small talk for your real life. When you write dialogue keep it interesting.

So, that’s a few pointers now let me give you an example:

The phone rang. Lil answered, “Hello.”

“Hi, Lil. This is Ronny. What are you doing?”

“Nothing. What are you doing?”

“Nothing. Okay, see you tomorrow.”

Now, that’s a riveting conversation–NOT. Let’s try again. We’re going to add in some of Mary’s thoughts and spice up the conversation a bit.

Lil stared at the ringing phone. That better not be Ronny. After what he’d done, she never wanted to speak to him again. She picked up the phone.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve calling me.”

“What…what  do you mean? What’s wrong?”

“You know exactly what’s wrong.” She should just hang up the phone. That would teach him a lesson.

“I…I don’t know. I was just calling to make sure our date’s still on. You know for tomorrow night.”

The homecoming dance was tomorrow night.  If she refused to go, that would really teach him a lesson. “Sure, I’ll see you tomorrow night.

I’m not saying that’s a perfect example but it does move the story forward and it adds tension along with some worry about what was she angry about and what might happen tomorrow night at the dance.

One last comment about dialogue To say or not to say! That is the question. This is a debate that never seems to stop.

You have some experts that believe “said” is the way to go. Their reasoning is that it’s basically invisible to the reader and allows the flow of the dialogue to go unhampered without author intrusion. On the other hand you have all these writes that want to show how creative they are and use a myriad of other terms. Sometimes to the point of being ridiculous.

Examples: He snarled, He barked; He shrilled; He lamented; He moaned; He …..on and on and on.

What’s my stance? I fall on the side of said–most of the time–but sometimes I can’t help myself and throw in a snarl or a whisper now and then!

Got any questions about dialogue? What’s your opinion about said versus more interesting terms?



Writing Tips–Show Don’t Tell


It’s Writing Tip Wednesday so here goes…

Show don’t tell is the first rule of fiction writing! So, why wasn’t it my first writing tip instead of second? I haven’t got a clue other than POV was on my mind. Anyway…show don’t tell is what will bring your story alive for your readers. It will put them in the middle of the story so they are experiencing the story rather than have someone telling them the story.

Showing:  Brings the reader into the action. They experience what the character is experiencing

Telling:  Telling is a summary of the event. It’s the way you tell someone about a movie or something that happened to you.

A good writer uses both showing and telling.

A great writer knows when to use showing and when to use telling.

One of the things I noticed with novice writers is that they often bring the reader to the point of a crisis, then suddenly transport the reader to an innocuous scene, such as at the kitchen table sipping coffee. Then the character thinks back to the crisis event and what happened.


That robs the reader of all the emotions of the scene. You never, never, never want to use telling during the pivotal action scenes. That’s when you want to stretch out each agonizing detail. Bring in all the senses, not just hearing and seeing. Try to include smell, touch, and taste. And don’t forget to add in emotions as well.

One clue that you might be telling when you should be showing is if you find yourself writing a flashback to an earlier scene so the reader knows what happened. Chances are you should go back to that scene and show it not tell about it later.

NO-NO: Telling: Her wedding was story book perfect except for the fact that her husband-to be-passed out before they could be wed.
YES-YES: Showing: Her little sister tossed the rose petals from side to side. When she reached the front she turned and waved. This was the moment that Allie had been waiting for her whole life. She tightened her grip on her father’s arm and slowly proceeded down the aisle. Tears filled her eyes as she saw all her family and friends watching her and smiling.

She looked up to the front of the church. She smiled at her handsome husband-to-be. He smiled back but then swayed. In slow motion, he crumpled to the floor.

The key to good writing is to find the balance between showing and telling. Too much showing makes the book too boring. Not enough showing makes the book too boring. And the way to find the balance is….practice–practice–practice.

Hope this helps!

Please share with the rest of us if you have a question or want to share your own examples of showing and telling!







WRITING TIPS-Understanding Point of View


I’ve decided to introduce a new segment on the blog–WRITING TIPS. So each week (or I hope so), I’ll introduce a topic and give some advice about it. Along with my advice,  This is supposed to be an interactive segment. So if you want to add your two cents worth, go for it. If you have a question about the topic, ask it! I’ll try to answer it or find someone who can.


This is a crucial skill that all writer’s must master  if you want to write excellent book. And isn’t that what we all want!

Point of View refers to the person whose head you are in as you read the scene. You hear what they hear, you see what they see, you feel and smell what they do, and you can ONLY know what their thoughts are.  So when your POV (that’s point of view) character says a snappy comment, we can’t know what the other person thinks about that. The POV character might guess at what the other person is thinking but that’s as far as it goes!

The current writing rule is one POV character per scene. If you bounce from one character’s POV to another in the same scene that’s called head-hopping and that’s a big no-no these days. That wasn’t always the case, but it is now. Once upon a time we would know what each character in the scene was thinking, planning, scheming or feeling but no more.

The trend could change, of course, and it wouldn’t bother me a bit if it did! I read a book by a very–very–very famous writer and he did a lot of head hopping. I’m not sure if that’s the case with his other books, but I must admit it did take away from the enjoyment of the book. At least for me.

Here’s a very quick example of head-hopping and how to fix it:

NO-NO:  Lil hoped Ronny would love the cake she baked. After all it was his mother’s recipe. She handed him the plate and watched as he took a bite. Ronny couldn’t believe what he was tasting. It was horrible nothing like his mother’s.

FIX: Lil hoped Ronny would love the cake she baked. After all it was his mother’s recipe. She handed him the plate and watched as he took a bite. Ronny scooped a huge bite and popped it in his mouth. He smiled, then chewed. After a moment, he grabbed up his napkin and spit into it. What had she done wrong?

Can you see the difference in the two scenes? In the first you have thoughts from both characters. In the second, you only have Lil’s thoughts. But you can still very clearly know what Ronny thinks about the cake.

Now, it’s your turn to share your thoughts about Point of View or to ask a question if you have one.







Internet Overload?

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I don’t really have much to say, but I feel like I’ve been ignoring Tiaras & Tennis Shoes for way too long. And since I am a writer I should be able to find something to talk about, right?

So, let’s talk about writing.

I love to write stories, but it seems in the current times, that’s not enough. We have to blog, market, twitter, and don’t forget FB updates to name only a few of the ways to keep writing.

It seems as if more and more of my time, energy, not to mention creative efforts are being sucked away from my stories and into the Internet.

What’s your thoughts about that?
Do you feel all the crazy attention being focused on building an Internet presence is worth it or a time waster? I’d love to hear what you have to say about that.

God Bless & Good Reading!