Author Archives: CLW

Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee

When it comes to writing, you have the freedom to do whatever you want.

Build worlds with little green men with big floppy hats. Create characters that are so flawed you wonder how they get out of bed in the morning. Love stories that make you question if your own relationship could be that romantic.

But how much is too much? When does it turn from Great! Amazing! to Overload! Really? Why?

I’ve been rewatching the TV series Game of Thrones with my boyfriend. He’s never seen the show before, so it’s  nice to see his face when a favorite character dies. His favorite WAS Rob Stark, up until the Red Wedding.
But I’m also watching and I’m thinking ‘Really?’ a lot. Even though I adore the show and the characters, sometimes I wonder if it’s too much.

George RR Martin is a bestselling author, so maybe it isn’t too much.

But do I need all of this in my story to make it a bestseller?

Do I need to overload my reader?

And I think the answer is sometimes and sometimes not.

I just finished writing my third {Full} novel a few months ago and there is so much happening, yet so little happening. I’m torn. Where do I add the good pieces? Where do I make the novel sing?

Writing is amazing. There is so much freedom and so much possibility.

But writing is hard and confusing and I find myself wondering what I’m doing.

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Three Things Thursday


I can’t decide if this is Three Thing Thursday or Three Things Thursday.

What do you think?




My latest idea in character development is using the 36 “love questions” to understand my characters better. You may have heard about this experiment in articles such as this one:

Basically, the experiment was to take two strangers and have them ask each other increasingly personal questions, then at the end, have them stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes. The developer believes that by doing this, he can make anyone fall in love.
Now, of course, there isn’t a particularly high marriage rate as a result, but most who participated reported feeling a deep personal connection to the other person. I would guess that this is because we often have superficial relationships and therefore judge each other on easily measurable criteria…looks, charm, wit, etc. But when we learn about the trials and struggles of another person, we realize how similar they are to us.
So, back to our characters. I answered these questions for both of my main characters. And what I discovered was that not only did I grow to love and respect them, but I realized what it was that they loved about each other.




Once in a while, if I’m “down” on myself about writing, I need advice, encouragement and perhaps a good laugh, from other writers. Just in case you need some encouragement, here are wise words from a few writers:
Adele Malott: “Writing is a job as much as an art. It can be a fun job, but if you have chosen writing as a profession, you must work at it by trying to learn something new each day, by attending seminars, by reading good writing, by using what you learn.”
Anne McCaffrey: “I wish someone had told me to stop trying to make myself the heroine of a highly unrealistic and, I’m sure, ridiculous gothic fantasy.”
Barbara Kingsolver: “There is no perfect time to write. There’s only now.”
Thomas F. Monteleone: “Finish every project (even if it’s a dog — perfecting the habit of discipline to complete projects is most important.”
Celeste De Blasis: “Be prepared for the postpartum depression that comes after finishing a book. I’d thought all I wanted to do was complete the story, but when I did, I felt so sad and lost that I thought I was going crazy. Now I understand that it’s just part of the process and is probably as much physical as mental — the letdown after a long period of living on tightly wound nerves and adrenaline.”


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Fifteen-Minute Monday

This morning I thought of coming up with ideas in places that may be a little unusual.

Peace like a River, that title, comes from Isaiah (I think–yup! Isaiah 66:12).

What could you take from scriptures?

The True Colors of Caitlynne Jackson was inspired when I saw a woman punch her kid in public.

What can you pull from what you witness?

I was watching Chopped when I heard someone talk about his grandparents and their story.

I contacted Ann Dee. We’re gathering information for this book now.

What can you pull from watching Realty TV?

Listening to the news, I heard about a murder–a grisly murder–that I realized would go perfectly with the line “I let the wolf in.” This is a line has been in my head for months. Now I have a novel to write because of both the line and the news story.

What murders😦 can you draw from?

Someone wrote a book that I thought was . . . well . . . wrong.

Now I’m writing a series with a friend to see if we can sell an idea inspired by wrongness.

What do you know that is wrong? How does ‘fixing’ it by writing a novel inspire you?

My youngest is playing softball for Timpview High here in UT.

She loves it.

And I love watching her love the game.

There is a kernel of an idea about a girls’ softball team.

Not sure what will happen, but I will be ready with it begins to sprout.

Remember Virginia Euwer Wolff and her terrific novel Bat 6?

What sports idea can you come up with?

Look around. These ideas are waiting for you to pick them up, dust them off and run!



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Filed under CLW, writing process

Three Thing Thursday



Nine Things You Could Add to Your Scenes Today

  1. a family joke
  2. the names of your three favorite cousins
  3. your deepest, darkest secret
  4. your favorite song
  5. something you make up from nothing–like your own Proverbs
  6.  make up your own horoscope for you character that she always checks the day after (Ann Dee did this is the book we wrote. She is so danged funny.)
  7. Your own riddles that play toward the plot in some way
  8. I always add a tiny something from my core beliefs. When others, who believe the way I do, read the book, they can wonder about me.
  9. let your character do something you’ve always wanted to do




How To Take a Compliment
We are all “delicate flowers” (as my mother used to say) when it comes to critiques. Some of us get over it. Others give up writing. Some get better. Some get vindictive, lose their perspective and argue rather than critique.
What kind of “delicate flower” are you? Can you take a sincere compliment, without down-grading it to the point that your friend/fellow writer gives up trying to make you understand how good she thinks you are? Do your family members make you cringe if you read something to them?
And how do your characters accept or reject compliments? How do they know which are sincere, which are for nefarious purposes?
I often find when a person has some sense of self-worth, he or she can take a compliment with a simple “Thank you” without belaboring it. Someone who is less sure of himself/herself may react in a negative way, be derisive of the person who made the comment, plunge into depression, or what have you.
Think about this as you give “critiques.” Or get them. Or write a character into your story who needs building up, but gets torn down. How does he or she react?
Think about these things as you give critiques, as you write your characters.  How can you make “compliments” within your story which will wound or heal your characters?
When it comes to writing, I’ve found  the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t even know what I don’t know. There are so many things to think about, so many concepts to combine. We are literally creating worlds. We have to have an understanding of art and science, of human nature and psychology, of politics and government. To create our worlds, we have to know everything about everything. Then we have to communicate that knowledge in the simplest of terms. It has to be done in a way that the reader doesn’t even realize they’re learning it. We need to combine knowledge with storytelling, and weave them flawlessly together.
Sometimes it just seems impossible. The story I have in my head is never the one that makes it onto the paper. In my mind, the characters are living, breathing entities but on paper they become flat. That witty dialogue becomes stale words on a page, the brilliant descriptions are overwrought and unimpressive. Nothing is as it should be.
But I keep at it. Why? Mostly because I don’t have a choice. If I could do anything other than write, I would. If I could get these characters to just SHUT UP in any other method than writing them down, I would. But I can’t. So I continue on, held hostage by the voices in my head.
To be a writer is to be just a little bit crazy. I’m okay with that.

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Fifteen Minute Monday

Today is the first real day since my last day of class. I gave myself the weekend to rejoice and even slept in this morning (I didn’t want to, dang it.).

I love teaching. LOVE IT. But I want to take some time to write–without other worries. (Hahahahahaha!)

Three Things I Plan to Do this Summer.

  1. Spend time with Carolina.
  2. Spend time with my momma.
  3. Spend time writing like a crazy dog. (Imagine crazy dog gif here)

This 15 minutes, though, has to do with how we write.

I’ve talked a lot about the way I write.

So here’s how a friend writes. Cheri Earl. She and I are writing an Adult Mystery Series together. (I know, right?) We’ve already figured out each book of this series of three. We know who the murderer is (sort of), in each book, know the bad guys, the good guys. Before Cheri and I met on Saturday, I’d even written the first chapter setting the novel up and introducing a body. I was raring to go. I felt we knew enough to write on.

But Cheri writes differently.

She went through each character asking questions.

What does he do for a living?

What about these women?

Where does she live?

Why did the first fella kill?

What is his job?

What are his quirks?

What do our main characters love to do?

What is everyone’s names?

Where do they live?

Are there children?

Why? What? Who? Where? When?

Cheri went through and asked all sorts of questions of every character. She questioned until our time ran out.

We argued about some things. Laughed about a lot more. She jotted down notes (I think it helps her process. She asks questions and writes at the same time). We  threw out ideas for the way the book would look, how it would clip along, how we would add detail and texture to the page.

“Is this how you always write?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she said.

It was cool to see her in action.

We have the direction for the first book in our series. We have the character descriptions. We have motive. We have a first chapter and even the first line of the 2nd chapter. We know where the series is headed. We even know plot points for books Two and Three. And how to keep the series going if readers like it.


Every book is written in a different way. (Even by the same writer. Each book demands its own way into the world.)

For this mystery I knew we needed to know more than I usually do when I start writing. In a mystery, says my dear friend Alane Ferguson (who won the Edgar for her first mystery novel, Show Me the Evidence), you have to know the end before the beginning. You must know who done it and why. So I’ve known this.

But rarely do I know any of that other stuff when I write a book on my own.

In fact, I usually start a scene knowing nothing.

I discover with the reader. (Sorta)

What is your preferred method of writing a book?

Let us know.




Filed under CLW, Plot, writing process

We’re Back! Three Thing Thursday!


Last night I dreamed Ryan Reynolds installed the new granite countertop in my kitchen.

He knew how much I loved him so he surprised me by being an installer!

He was funny!

And super-cute!

It was a great dream. Far better than the one the night before where I dreamed my daughter was swept out to sea by a giant wave and there was nothing I do to save her and I knew she was going to die because the sea was so rough. Yes, the Ryan Reynolds dream was great.

Plus–guess what?! I wasn’t even looking for him, and I found RR on Twitter! (His wife was in photos with him, but I didn’t look at her.) It was so weird, just happening upon him on Twitter. Like I was walking along in a new neighborhood and found out where my crush lived.

The Twitter thing was all about Deadpool, and I couldn’t decide to follow him. Do I? Don’t I? Do I? Don’t I?

I know how I am.

I might take a Xanax for a migraine and wake up the next day to see that I’d tweeted 8 billion messages to him like:

I know I am old but u r cute. I write books. Do you read?


Could you be keynote at WIFYR? Pay– $300. (Only 30 minutes. I heart you.)


Do you mind flabby/chubby/balding/funny/older women? Teeth okay.

At this point I am NOT following Ryan Reynolds on Twitter. But yes, I still pause the moment he is naked with Sandra Bullock in THE PROPOSAL.

And FYI–what you have just witnessed here is exactly how I write.




If you’re anything like me, then one of your favorite fantasies is becoming an award-winning author right out of the gate. Can’t you just picture it? All the highest awards, every accolade available, all of the critics universally agreeing that your debut is the greatest ever written.

But I remember hearing Shannon Hale speak once. My favorite novel of hers was her first, The Goose Girl. Someone else in the audience felt the same, and asked her why that one didn’t win a Newbery like her later novel, Princess Academy.
She replied that she was actually glad that it didn’t win. She felt that if it had, she would have felt so much pressure to have the same success that she might never have written another novel. The moderate success and the loyal fanbase was exactly what she needed to motivate her to continue writing.
Shannon Hale went on to say that Kate DiCamillo had a great deal of difficulty writing her next novel after The Tale of Despereaux won. J.K. Rowling felt she had to write under a pen name after Harry Potter. Harper Lee didn’t write another novel for decades. Stephen King stated that he always feels a bit hurt when someone says that his best novel was The Stand….does that mean that nothing he’s done since then has been good? Is his best long gone?
So perhaps instant fame and fortune isn’t the best method. Maybe writing careers, like story arcs, need time to build to a climax. Isn’t it wonderful to think that your best is yet to come?
Oh, the lasting effects of a thoughtless comment.  As I was re-reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones (yes, I’m still on that path through the woods), she told about a childhood experience.  Playing her cousin’s piano in Brooklyn she was singing along with it “In the gloaming, oh my darling . . .”  Her cousin, nine years older, screamed out “Aunt Sylvia, Natalie is tone-deaf. She can’t sing.”  From then on she never sang, listened to music only on rare occasions, but learned the words to all the Broadway songs from the radio.  She never tried to imitate the melody.
My own long-lasting childhood bruise was when I was playing with a younger boy cousin.  We were only 3 and 4.  My aunt Virginia had a beautiful, knit afghan which we were using as a “dress-up” item.  I wrapped it around my tummy, and twirled and twirled.  Weldon wanted a turn, but I was bigger, older and wouldn’t give him a chance.  When he began to cry, Aunt Virginia stormed in, rather upset with me.  “Brenda, why are you always so selfish?”  She whisked him away into her bedroom, bedecked him in a long flowing skirt of many colors and a cowboy hat with a shiny brown bead that slid up a cord to secure the hat to his head.  Needless to say, I wanted a turn with those items: the afghan puddled around my feet, and had lost it’s glamour.  And I believed for many, many years that I was “always” selfish.
What lost opportunities did Natalie miss out on for enjoying music?  What guilt did I carry with me well into my adult, even mothering, years?  Be careful what you say (or what you make/let your characters say): “Children will listen,” and bear the scars.
What are your characters’ childhood scars?  Still festering?  Ingrained?  Somehow, still debilitating?  How may those scars be healed or overcome?
Carol Again:
Just found a site with Ryan Reynolds pics.
Just saying.

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Be Very Afraid

So a week plus ago, Ann Dee and I sent in the book we wrote together to our agents. The rewrite. It’s ready for submission. Woot woot!

Before we started our project, way back when, we decided we would write something we had never done before.

We would take some risks.

We had three pages (maybe) of a dark dystopian with elements from history. (That we still need to write. And we will. I think.)

Then Ann Dee sent me a new beginning and we wrote a middle grade novel exactly like the things we would both write on our own.

I love it.

It’s hilarious. And sad. And delicious. There’s lots of talk of food.

(Ann Dee is one of the best writers in America. Yes, I believe that. How did I luck out getting to write with her?)

GingerBelle Co. That’s the title. For now.

For me, it seems perfect for a sequel.

And a sequel to this kind of book is exactly the kind of thing Ann Dee and I write.

We’ve spent plenty of time giggling about how we were going to write something different and how we did exactly what’s comfortable to both us.


As we got closer to the end of the novel, I started bugging the lady with the five babies under the age of four, about our next book.

We sent each other ideas.


Wondered out loud.

Went for a treat and talked.

“It has to be different than what we’d normally write,” Ann Dee kept saying.

And I kept saying, to every idea, “No. We write that already. We write that already.”


Why should it be different?

My dear friend, a writer I love and admire, Matthew J. Kirby, told me that I should write the book I’m afraid of. Matt knows I’m terrified to even think a thought that may include a fantasy element.

He’s right.

Fantasy? I can’t even think a fantastical thought. (And when I shared my one fantasy idea with Ann Dee she said, “My heart’s just not in that.” She wanted to laugh. I could tell.)

Fantasy is different for me.

It’s scary.


I’ve done it a few times. Written what I was afraid of: THE CHOSEN ONE.  GLIMPSE. THE HAVEN. Those topics all terrified me.

What happened when I let myself explore these scary ideas?

I ended up writing books in new ways. At least new ways for me.

That meant anguish. Fear. Tears. And some joy. Joy because I succeeded.


After going back and forth for about a month, throwing ideas at each other and keeping Matt’s suggestion to be afraid of the next thing we write, Ann Dee and I may have found it.

Our new project.

It’s absolutely terrifying.

Historical. A terrible time in history.

A different culture.

I’ve been thinking of this idea less than 24 hours and I am afraid of it. Really afraid of it.

But if we add a dose of what we love, things Ann Dee and I are comfortable with, we may be able to pull this off. Things like family. Love. Sisters. Humor. Sorrow.


So what absolutely frightens you?

I really want to know.




Filed under Ann Dee, Character, CLW, Family, Life, Plot