Joeseph Finder’s Tips for Writers

I recently had the pleasure of attending a lecture at The Center for Fiction given
by Joseph Finder, The New York Times Best Selling Author. He shared his story
—a fascinating one—of how he went from working for the CIA to writing thrillers.

51e-V7ZwpwL._AA160_He also shared his10 Tips for Writers from which he believes every writer can benefit. Here’s a summary:

1. Rejection can be useful. It can prompt you to do more work and get it to the right      editor.
2.   Be stubborn but be smart about it and be persistent.
3.  Learn to value criticism. It can give you good feedback.
4.  The best fiction is about character, not plot. The plot should arise from the character.
5.   Avoid backstory dump. It takes people out of the story.
6.   Every scene should do some work Ask yourself why is it there.
7.   Reveal. Surprise. Cut out the slow parts.
8.   Never underestimate your readers. Surprise them rather than fool them.
9.   Just write the book. Don’t get hung up in the prose or the words.

10. Get lucky. Hopefully get in front of the right people at the right time.

I’ve read several of Joe’s books and have enjoyed them all very much. His last thriller, THE FIXER, a stand alone, certainly proves he takes his own advice.

How about you? What, if any, rules do you apply to your writing? We’d love to know.

Sunday Sentence

I’m participating in David Abrams’ project, Sunday Sentence, from his blog, The Quivering Pen, in which, “Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.”

“Poets, like detectives, know the truth is laborious: it doesn’t occur by accident, rather it is chiseled and worked into being, the product of time and distance and graft.” 

Source: Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann; Random House NY 2015.

BTW, Colum McCann will be reading from, discussing, and signing this book in Huntington, NY, at the Book Revue, on Saturday, December 12, 7 pm, at 313 New York Avenue (Colum’s tour originally lists December 11, but it has been changed to December 12th, as per Book Revue).

Thirteen Ways of Looking

Anyone else wish to join in with their favorite sentence of the week?

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Literary Gifts for the Holidays

If you stepped into any retail stores on November 1, you probably noticed the holiday jpg_pumpkin_vector_image_031citems already available for sale, and holiday decorations adorning said stores as well. We barely blew the candles out in our jack-o-lanterns, or sorted through the Halloween candy, while the stores were busy changing over from Halloween to Christmas and other December holidays. They’re not even waiting ’til after Thanksgiving!

Shopping Choices catalogs 1Also, my letter carrier has been delivering catalogs every day. Most offer free shipping if you place an order of a certain amount by a certain date.

Every year I promise myself I will start preparing for the holidays early, and then be able to enjoy the year-end parties and gatherings instead of shopping and wrapping.

Here’s my chance!

I’ve been perusing some literary gift sites and thought I’d share them with my fellow Women of Mystery and our dear readers.

The Literary Gift CMugompany offers literary gifts, and then specifically, gifts for writers.

Etsy, of course, has unique literary gifts. has 142 items listed on their site when searching “literary gifts.” has over 1,700 items listed as Literary Gifts and Merchandise. posts, “50 best literary gifts for a modern-day book lover.”

Do you plan on ordering holiday gifts online, shopping in stores, or both? has pages of literary gifts!jpg_FHH0208

Do you plan on ordering holiday gifts online, shopping in stores, or both? Happy shopping!


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Stay At Home Writer

A month and a half ago, I left my full-time job. Woo hoo, I thought, now I’ll have more than enough time fojpg_BPA0225r full-time writing and I’ll finish my new novel in a New York minute. Well, not so fast.

Even though the whole day is mine, stretching out before me like the road to Oz, there seem to be so many other things that muscle in on my writing time.

There are errands and food shopping—a person has to eat, right?

Or catching up with friends who were always worried I’d be too busy for a conversation.
And of course, the triple threat: Email, Facebook and Twitter. They reach out to me the moment I sit down at the computer. I could justify all this attention paid to social media as beneficial input rather than procrastination. Sort of.

There seem to be hundreds of obstacles that get in the way of writing my work in progress, including writing about not writing it.

I guess I’m still getting used to finding a routine. When I was working, I got everything in, including writing time. Maybe it was because I knew I had to make it fit; that my opportunities weren’t as numerous as the day is long

So how about you? What’s your writing routine and how do you make it work?

Shepherd’s Crook by Sheila Webster Boneham

Terrie: Hi All. My pal Sheila Webster Boneham recently released her latest book, Shepherd’s Crook. If you know Sheila at all you know that animals are her passion and so is mystery. If you need proof just look at the cover of her newly released book .

Shepherds Crook HR

Before Sheila says hello, let me give you a description of Shepherd’s Crook, the Animals in Focus Mystery #4

 Animal photographer Janet MacPhail has just arrived at a sheep-herding competition with her Australian Shepherd, Jay, when she learns that a flock of sheep has disappeared. Police think the animals have wandered off in search of greener grass, but Janet sees and hears things that convince her the sheep’s owners are right—the animals have been stolen. Janet knows she should leave the snooping to the police while she attends to her own problems—new living arrangements, her mom’s wedding plans, puppy and kitten antics, and extremists bent on keeping people from having pets. But when a livestock handler turns up dead and the sheep’s owner disappears, the police and a pair of thugs pay Janet way more attention than she likes. She sets out to find answers, putting herself and those she loves in the killer’s crosshairs.

Let me introduce Sheila so she can tell you a bit about herself and how she wound up writing the Animals in Focus mystery series. Thanks for stopping by, Terrie

Sheila: One of my favorite cartoons ran in The New Yorker years ago. Created by George Booth, it shows a man staring at a typewriter surrounded by dogs of all shapes and sizes. Lots of dogs. His wife is in the doorway, and she says, “Write about dogs!” I understand the sentiment!

My own writing career began with magazine articles about folklore and world cultures (I have a doctorate in folklore), but in the early 1990’s I shifted to writing about dogs and cats. I wrote for many of the major pet publications of the time—Dog Fancy, Cat Fancy, Dog World, and others. I also had started showing dogs, beginning with obedience (still me favorite sport) with my goofy big chocolate Lab, Raja. Once we earned Raja’s first title, I was hooked. I showed horses (hunters and jumpers) in my younger days, so I think of my venture into dog sports as a sort of “downsizing.” Here’s my lovely Rowdy earning a special award for high scoring veteran (older than seven) in obedience.


In 1994, I founded a rescue group for Labrador Retrievers and helped found another for Australian Shepherds. That experience prompted me to write the first book on running a rescue program—Breed Rescue: How to Start and Run a Successful Program (Alpine Publications, 1998) won the Maxwell Award for General Interest Nonfiction from the Dog Writers Association of America. From there I went on to write sixteen more nonfiction books about dogs and cats, including Rescue Matters (Alpine Publications, 2009), which expanded the ideas in the earlier book to include all household pet. A number of my books have won Maxwell Awards and, in the case of my three cat book, MUSE Awards and Awards of Merit from the Cat Writers’ Association.

I should add that while the ribbons and titles and other prizes are lovely, what really attracts me to animal sports and to writing is the (mostly) fun work of learning to be better. Part of the pleasure is the challenge, because every dog (or cat or horse or book) is different, and a good trainer and competitor has to adapt to the individual animal’s strengths and quirks. But mostly, training with modern non-coersive methods builds a bond of understanding and trust between person and animal that deepens the relationship. After all, every five-minute run in competition comes after hours—months!—of training. It’s great for dog and person alike. And as I think about it, I realize that it’s not unlike writing, or any other artful skill we choose to pursue. Whatever our goals, we’re lost if we can’t enjoy the journey itself.

Each of my Animals in Focus mysteries takes my 50-something protagonist, Janet MacPhail, to one or more venues. In the first three books she and her Australian Shepherd have competed in obedience, agility, and tracking, and her friend Tom’s Labrador, Drake, has refined his retrieving skills. In Catwalk, Janet’s cat, Leo, competes in his first feline agility trial (yes, there really is such a thing). And now in Shepherd’s Crook, the fourth book, Janet and Jay have entered a herding instinct test. Jay has no problem handling the sheep, but Janet…well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out how she does. This much I can tell you—sheep herding can be murder!

Over the past decades I’ve been involved with dogs outside of competition, too. I used to breed Australian Shepherds, and my pups have earned championships and titles in many sports—obedience, rally, tracking, agility, herding, flyball, and more. My Jay, who inspired the protagdog in my books, was born into my hands, and competed successfully in multiple sports. First and foremost, though, my dogs (and cats) have always been my companions and best friends. As such, they have volunteered with me as therapy dogs in schools, libraries, hospitals, shelters, and nursing homes. This is the real-life Jay’s mother, Sage, a champion and obedience titled Aussie and registered therapy dog, during a visit to a school for special needs children.


My dogs have been my hiking companions, and they’ve accompanied me to book signings and readings. They’ve brought many human friends into my life, and I like to think they’ve made me a better person with their fine examples of loyalty, courage, grace, and love. Naturally, they’ve inspired many of the scenes in my books. And they’ve snuggled up with me while I read or just rub bellies.Boneham_Sheila_and_Jay

How do animals make your life richer?

Banned Books Week

BBW-logoBanned Books Week runs September 27-October 3, 2015 this year.

Banned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read.

Follow @BannedBooksWeek on Twitter, or “like” the Facebook page. The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association is also on Twitter @OIF.

Over at, enter the sweepstakes to win a selection of banned YA books.

Consider participating in the Virtual Read-Out, or check out these additional free events during the week.                                                  The Call of the Wild

Click here for a list of Banned Books That Shaped America, such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (1884), The Call of the Wild, by Jack London (1903), and The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger (1951).


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Brooklyn Book Festival

September 2015 marks the Tenth Anniversary of the Brooklyn Book Festival. The week long celebration of literacy and literature ended on Sunday with the lovely green plaza  filled with readers, writers and publishers and surrounded by Brooklyn Borough Hall, Court Houses and the Post Office .Book_Festival_market I was lucky enough to have a story in the most recent issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and luckier still that I got to sign copies for eager readers while hanging out with Senior Assistant Editor Jackie Sherbow, Emily Hockaday and some of the other fabulous staff at Dell Magazines, home of Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, Asimov and Analog magazines.


Terrie Moran, Jackie Sherbow and Emily Hockaday

Terrie Moran, Jackie Sherbow and Emily Hockaday

We had a grand time at a wonderful event. Congratulations Brooklyn! May the Brooklyn Book Festival last for many decades to come.


Writing Tips from E.L. Doctorow

image via

image via

The world recently lost a great literary master, E.L. Doctorow (Edgar Lawrence Doctorow ~ his parents named him after Edgar Allan Poe ~ lived from January 6, 1931, until his death at age 84 on July 21, 2015).

Here, Doctorow is giving an interview about his writing processWriting Clip Art

One of Doctorow’s most famous tips about writing: “I tell them it’s like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

From one writer to another, Doctorow said, “Perseverance is all.”

Doctorow had many quotes about writing, including: “Good wriragtime-novel-e-l-doctorow-paperback-cover-artting is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader — not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”

I was fortunate to have met E.L. Doctorow at the Southampton Writers Conference in 2006. He autographed a copy of The Book of Daniel for my nephew, Daniel.

Do you have a favorite E.L. Doctorow quote? (Mine is: “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”)

How about a favorite book? (Mine is Ragtime).


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The Cultural DNA of “To Kill A Mockingbird”

In the L.A. Times, Michael Schaub writes how “46 times ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ echoed throuTKAMgh pop culture,” which includes movies, TV, celebrity offspring, music, shopping, and more. Look for the Etsy links for TKAM-related items for sale, including this bookmark. The literary masterpiece by Harper Lee was published in 1960 and won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961.

Tequila Mockingbird by Tim FederleAlso, check out Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by @TimFederle.

In another article, Michael Schaub writes that after an expert examined the manuscript in a safe deposit box used by Harper Lee, he determined that no third novel will be forthcoming.To read further on this issue, visit an article by Laura Stevens and Jennifer Maloney in The Wall Street Journal.Go Set A Watchman

Lee’s second novel, Go Set A Watchman, is on Twitter @GSAWatchmanBook.

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Happy 218th Birthday, Mary Shelley

391px-RothwellMaryShelleyMary Shelley (née Wollenstonecraft Godwin), the author of the Gothic/Horror novel, Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, was born August 30, 1797, in Somers Town, London, England — 218 years ago today. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, a feminist and philosopher, died eleven days after giving birth.

Mary was raised by her father, William Godwin, a philosopher and author. During her younger years, she was tutored by a governess, and also attended a boarding school.

Mary bore an illegitimate child at age 17, with Percy Bysshe Shelley, a married 22-year-old man, but their prematurely-born child died. Mary married Shelley, an English Romantic poet, in late 1816, after his first wife, Harriet, committed suicide.

Mary Shelley’s most famous work was created in Geneva, Switzerland, during a rainy vacation in 1816, when the couple spent a summer with Lord Byron, John Williaa39da6923869bf6582fad67280b08b75m Polidori, and Claire Claremont. Lord Byron suggested they each write a horror story.

Frankenstein was published anonymously in London in 1818. Her name appeared on the second edition, published in France in 1823.  Mary and Percy’s second and third children died, but their last child, Percy Florence Shelley, survived to adulthood.

Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned when his sailing boat sank during a storm in 1822.

Mary would later publish more novels, short stories, biographies, and travel writings.

Mary died in London, England, on February 1, 1851, at age 53, from a brain tumor.


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