How It All Began

I’ve never quite figured out why some of us become writers. Oh, I don’t mean writing a message on Facebook, twittering a tweet, or even writing a blog. I’m talking about that strange compulsion that comes over some of us to write a novel. To look at a blank page and know you have to fill it with words about what happened to someone who doesn’t exist in circumstances that never happened. You have a story to tell.

Dying For A Change was my first novel. I’d had a few short pieces published,  so finally got up the courage to do what I always wanted to do. Write a mystery novel. Only, where to start? When I was in school, creative writing was not on any class list I ever found. Creative anything wasn’t. You were supposed to learn what was put in front of you and question nothing, not even why you couldn’t understand algabra. The art of putting words on paper to make a story was foreign to me. Luckily, I didn’t even realize back then that it was an art. If I had, I might not have blindly tried it.

I had been to a couple of writing seminars at the local college and one universal piece of advice was “write what you know.” So, as I sat up in bed with a legal pad on my lap and a mug of coffee beside me, I pondered. What did I know about? Real estate. Horses. Kids. I knew a lot about kids. Divorce. Starting over. I had chosen to do that in a small town on California’s central coast. A town that was about to get a Wal Mart, a fact that did not make everyone happy. I knew about that. I thought about conflict and knew I had a plot.

It wasn’t that easy, of course. I have never, to this day, found a dead body in any of the houses I’ve shown. I’ve never seen anyone who has been shot. I’ve never had an Aunt Mary. Those things I had to make up. Actually, I had to make it all up. Once I had the outline for my main character and the primary conflict that would run through the story,  it started to unfold, admittedly in fits and starts, but unfold it did and was it ever fun.

I worked on that book until my eyes crossed. The first several versions were not what I wanted, only I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. Several people helped me, made suggestions, and I went back to school. UCLA has extension classes that they often hold as week-end seminars and I was more than willing to make the drive to LA. I learned, among other things, that writing is a craft and you have to  learn the basics. Then I wrote it again.

Eventually, it was a finalist in St Martin’s Malice Domestic contest, got published by another company but got published, and got really great reviews. Library Journal and Publishers Weekly both loved it.

So, now I’m hooked. I love writing these books. Not only has Ellen grown and changed through the four books I have written about her, but so have I. Murder Half-Baked is the fourth Ellen mystery, and while she’s had a lot of adventures through those books, found a lot of bodies, solved a lot of mysteries and even sold a little real estate, in Half-Baked, she gets to do something she’s been slowly moving toward. Ellen gets married again.

Dying For A Change is back. It is out on Kindle and Nook, where you can find all of the Ellen books, and from now until the end of November, you can buy the first one for .99. Meet Ellen, and follow all of her adventures, including her wedding which didn’t come about smoothly.. I hope you have as much fun reading about them as I have had writing them.