Thursday, January 12, 2017

How to find a plot hole


8 basic steps in a murder mystery

The Problem:

I've been writing book 4 in the Caleb Cove Mystery Series. Doing well--I thought - until I reached about 18,000 words and realized. I had solid characters, lots of action, BUT no danger, no suspense, no tension and now where to go that was interesting in terms of a mystery story.
Major missing pieces.  **BIG SIGH**  

For the last two nights I watched old mystery series and crocheted, my go-to for keeping front mind busy so underneath can brainstorm. No real progress on the story ( did make 2 hats.)

Return to the drawing board:

This morning I decided to forget my location, action and characters and go back to the basics of a murder plot. In other words, backing up and looking at the big picture which needs to include these for starters.

Killing, killer, victim, discovery, reporting, sleuth and solution.

My brainstorming tool of choice:

 -- a mind map. (See Tony Buzan & Mind Mapping)

I started with the bodies, asked questions and fanned out around the central point. And bingo, I found my missing link and wrote down a BASIC plot line. (On left of diagram.) The long curvy arrow is the missing link.

What I found is not visible (x marks the spot) because that would be a spoiler for the book. (Came Home From the Grave - coming in 2017)

 The Result: The Plot

1) finds bodies, 

2) investigates, 

3) learn secrets, 

4) gets found out by killer before telling secret, 

5) ends up in mortal danger , 

6) escapes OR is rescued or a bit of both

7) reveals and catches killer

8) gets reward


Steps 3 and 4 were the missing pieces.

Now I know where to put all that action and character development and what to add to make things worse, to increase tension, and to enhance the mystery.


What is your go-to tool for solving writing problems - plot, character or other?



Saturday, January 7, 2017

How to deal with reviews

The Review challenge

One challenge for self-publishers is getting reviews. Right up there with getting them, is giving them. Reviews can be fun to do. However, if the author is a person who did a review for you, or they are a friend/fellow-group member, it can be difficult. How honest can you be? How objective? Even if the writer is unknown to you, how harsh do you wish to be?

As a reviewer, it’s important to be true to your objective-take on a book. If you always give 5-Star reviews, folks start to doubt the value of those reviews. On the other hand, no one wants to be hurtful or discouraging to fellow writers.

The 5-star rating limits choices. Sometimes a book is a 3.5, or the writing warrants a 5, but the story evolution isn't as stellar. A book can be an enjoyable read without being a 5 Star book.

Additionally genres differ. A reviewer might not “like” a book simply because of the genre even thought it has a story and skilled writing. So what is that assessment worth in the overall scheme of ratings?

 Most writers have considered the pitfalls of this review process and state that consistency in your reviews is important. Know why you like or don't like a book and translate that into an objective review each and every time.

More than one writer has defined a personal system. One way to help understand a reviewer's system, read other reviews they've written. Having a pre-determined system makes reviewing easier. I've read other defining commentaries on ratings and have devised a system I use.

  • 5 Stars – Excellent story, well-written, worth every penny, drew me through the story fast enough to turn off my internal editor
  • 4 Stars – Great book, satisfying read, skilled writing, well-crafted story/plot, would read more by this author and highly recommend it
  • 3 stars – Good overall, generally well written, easy read, has at least one strong component (writing, plot or characters)
  • 2 Stars – Mildly decent story premise, moderate writing skills, possibly predictable or boring, would not read another by this author.
  • 1 Star – Difficult to read line-to-line writing, unlikeable or boring characters, hard to finish or not finished at all, would not recommend it

Based on this ranking tier, I consider a book with a 4-Star review and positive comments well worth buying--strongly recommended. For example this one for Came Home Too Late.

By BMCBookBabe on September 1, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition
CAME HOME TOO LATE is the 3rd book in Mahrie G. Reid’s Caleb Cove Mystery series and I think it's the best so far. The heroine, Emily Martin, is a well-developed, sympathetic character, and the hero, Harvey Conrad, is strong and smart, like a great mystery sleuth should be. The hint of a potential romance between the two adds a little somethin’-somethin’ to this modern cozy but in no way detracts from the plot. The author drops you into the intrigue right from the start with a woman on the run from an unknown threat and works her pacing to keep the reader on the edge up to the very last page as the mystery unfolds. The beautiful Nova Scotia setting is again front and centre with the unique cultural references woven in with a light hand. Anyone who enjoys small town cozy mysteries in an updated Murder She Wrote style is sure to love this series.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

5 resaons resolutions fail and how to fix it


It bears repeating...

As during 2016 I: 

- wrote and published book 3 in the Caleb Cove Mystery Series - CAME HOME TOO LATE
- helped plan and participated in panels at When Words Collide
- signed with a publisher to write an historical book set in Nova Scotia and then researched like crazy
- plotted, planned and outlined book 4 in the Caleb Cove Mystery Series - CAME HOME FROM THE GRAVE
- went under the knife and got myself another titanium knee! 
- designed and presented two, full day workshops for ARWA
- lived my life and had fun!

New Year’s Resolutions?

Run, run fast in the other direction...

Modern society has taken up goal setting and making New Year’s Resolutions with a vengeance. Almost everyone talks about that resolution list. Either they make one or they declare they are not making one.

Looking back over the years I recall more failures to follow through (both mine and others) than I do accomplishments. Weight loss maybe the #1 resolution, or within my writing world,  finishing a book tops the list.

Why we fail: Our resolutions are:

  • Overwhelming large (Save the world, buy a house, write four books….)
  • Non- specific ('I want to be thin' instead of 'I want to lose fifteen pounds.')
  • Not task/action oriented (Break that “lose fifteen pounds” into steps you can DO)
  • Too large to chew. (I will write three hours every day – if you go to work and have a family, this might be more than can be managed.)
  • Stated in words that let our brains off the hook. (I will lose fifteen pounds leaves your brain saying – oh no worries – 'will' is in the future - she wants to do this later.)

How do we fix that?

  • Step back and make sure you have a resolution that is an achievable goal. Be realistic about your life style, the people around you and the temptations that will accost you. One small step achieved is more effective than one giant leap that misses the mark.
  • Break it down. Start with the end goal and then back it up.  If you want to publish a book, start with that as a fait accompli and ask what happened right before you published. Maybe it is ‘up-loaded book to Amazon.’ Then ask: What did I have to do right before that? Completing edits received from you line editor might be the answer. Work backwards until you get to that which is manageable now. For me that is writing free-fall pages for fifteen minutes every day.
  • Make sure it is an action step. “Losing weight” is a goal. “Drinking two glasses of water before every meal” is an action step.

Now let’s get to the “Bite sized habits."

  1. Write down 12 things you need to do this year to reach your overall goal.
  2. Prioritize them.
  3. Assign one to each month.
  4. Tackle one new task a month
  5. At the first of each month add the new task for that month.

 8 Helpful concepts to keep you on track:

  • Tackle one task at a time. Maybe you alternate: writing one month and health the next.
  • Realize that it takes 30 days to hammer a habit into place. Keep at it for 30 days.
  • Be aware that consistency is more effective than volume.
  • Figure out your “bite size.”  Set a manageable time for writing or exercise or piano practice piano. Find what works for your life and your brain.
  • Be aware that some days you might fall short and be prepared to forgive yourself. Too often we miss for two days and our thinker says ‘you can’t do this – you might as well quit.’ Tell your thinker to buzz off and to get back at it the next day.
  • Use positive phrasing. I AM WRITING fifteen minutes a day. This sets your inner gyroscope to get at it! (Check out Shad Helmstetter's material. A free PDF download)What To Say When You Talk To Yourself
  • At the end of each month reward yourself.
    • Make a list of rewards when you set up your plan.
    • Make sure you do use the rewards. You don’t want your brain saying “Hey – you didn’t give me that reward you promised – why should I help you next month?”
  • If you know you are going to have days you can’t fit things in – schedule that as a planned day off. And then take it off so you stay honest with your brain.
  • Pick tasks you like or tasks you can live with. I dislike running but enjoy my bike and free weights.

Setting small, daily habits supports our life and goals. 

Doing these does not mean you don’t do more. It simply means that these are agreements with yourself that you can meet. Small success create a foundation for bigger ones. Making your tasks a daily choice leaves room to quit. Make it a daily habit – like brushing your teeth- and don’t think


 "Your life works to the degree you keep your agreements." Werner Erhard 

And this includes the agreements you make with yourself.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Stress-free Christmas at our house

 It is Christmas time again....

  Lots of folk are still running around, buying, baking and decorating. I'm done. I send three packages this time of year, one to each set of grandchildren. This year they were all in the mail by November 24th. (I had surgery on the 25th- only reason for the earliness.)

However, it has been relaxing to have it done. Here in our home we place a few ornaments on the shelves and call it a day. Both my husband and I have had less the stellar Christmases at times. We both find it less stressful to stay quiet, watch a couple of movies and wish each other Merry Christmas without a turkey dinner or a tree, or even presents. Out gift to each other is the calm, stress free atmosphere.

This is Dad and Mom the last Christmas they were both alive. Dad, who had dementia, played Santa in the care home and managed to stay in character for the entire event. Mom was so proud of him she gave him a big kiss. It made the day for both of them--at least I like to think. When I was young, Christmas was huge and busy for my clergyman father, With miscellaneous guests coming for dinner, mom was just as busy. They did give me and my brother a great Christmas morning, no matter what.

If the grandchildren were close enough to arrive at Christmas, that would be a different bundle of mistletoe. For them we have, and would again, put out the fixin's and brightly wrapped gifts. Children in the house make a difference and spread excitement and joy to all of us. 

Remember, Christmas for some is stressful and perhaps even depressing. For them we wish a good day. Others, like us, enjoy being quiet. But don't feel sad for us. We are happy at this time of year. We are content to be here with each other and we are delighted that those of you who love the tinsel and glitter get to enjoy it--in your own way.

To all of us:

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

however we choose to celebrate.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

3 things learned from leaving Facebook

Taking a Break From Facebook

When I joined Facebook several years ago, one of my daughters warned me I'd find it "as addictive as crack." In many ways she was correct. Eventually, I found myself diving into FB numerous times a day, liking posts willy-nilly and taking part in quizzes designed (supposedly) to test general knowledge, vocabulary level or history recall when in truth, although fun, they are time wasters.

Not to say that there are not good uses for Facebook. Getting to know other authors on various writing groups, getting photos and video clips of grandkids far away, chatting with friends and learning their opinions, and following links to useful writing articles is all good.

Fish Beta Reader

Time is the issue. 

For some of us, it can become addictive, and if one is to be writing, pursuing Facebook is a detriment. I started to analyze what I was getting from and doing on FB.  First, I stopped liking most posts. Then I hid everything that was an ad. And finally, I closed my account (with an option to return). I went without for a total of 44 days. 

1) Did I miss any great and wonderful news? 

Not in the least. People who wanted me to know things sent emails or used Messenger which was functional on its own. It turns out that I do not NEED what comes in on Facebook. (As interesting as it seems.) I wrote more personal emails to several people instead of assuming they'd see my updates on their News feed.

2) Did I have withdrawal symptoms? 

Without an active ICON to tempt me into its pages, Facebook almost never entered my mind. I found myself doing other things: more brainstorming, more reading, more (necessary) housework and more writing. When I give my brain a bit more time on its own, it comes up with some pretty unique ideas.

3) Will I go back to using Facebook? 

Yes, I already have. It does have benefits such as keeping in touch with the writing community, family and friends and letting them know what's going on in my world. (Especially bigger events like a new book coming out / mine or others/ - or a spectacular sunset or sunrise - two of my weaknesses) FB also has distractions and those I need to ignore..

 However, I keep in mind that balance is needed.

FB won't melt, disappear in a puff of smoke, or disown me if I don't visit five or six (or more) times a day. Balance people, balance. Once in the morning and once after supper (sort of like dessert) is plenty for me.

And a great big hello-type hug for all those who put up with me on Facebook.

QUESTION:  What does FB do for you? Are you addicted? Or a casual user? Thoughts and comments welcome. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Why take a break from social media?

Today's Indie / self-published author must be writer, author, marketer, publisher and more. Sometimes you have to separate the functions and stick to only one for awhile.

Writing is most important. 

If you don't have stories and books you don't have anything to fill the other areas.
When you feel overwhelmed - it's best to let folks know that you're knocking off a few of the functions for a short period of time. IT IS OKAY TO HIDE AWAY AND WRITE. (As long as you remember to return.) 

I'll be back!
with - Home From the Grave

Meanwhile - check these blogs from the past.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Platform building and use for the newbie or clueless.

The Writer’s Commute - Platform building when you don’t have a clue.

(First published in Opal Publishing, August 2016 )

Going to Work

Going out to work, you have a commute to make the transition. Working at home, it’s difficult to leave home duties and settle into writing. To help me, I developed my Writer’s Commute. It happens in my office, on my computer.

What the heck do I do with this Social Media?

As a woman of a certain age, computers are not my natural habitat. I know the basics and can find articles that tell me what to do. The thought of building a platform overwhelmed me. I was advised to start small and expand slowly. I took an orientation course offered on-line by a member of my writing group. It could have been called: Platform Building for Dummies. Lorraine Paton was patient with us and assured us that slow was fine.

First I formed goals for my platform.

1)      Expand name recognition.
2)      Learn and share about all things writing.
3)      Support other writers.
4)      Promote my books when they are first launched.
5)      Stay up-to-date with the world of Indie writers.

Decide what social media sites will accomplish this for your market.

Over of a year, I hammered out a process I call my writer’s commute. All commutes need coffee, so that’s first. Then I visit, in no particular order:

  • ·        Emails (2 accounts – personal and author link)
  • ·        Facebook – Profile and Author Page and Groups
  • ·        Twitter
  • ·        Blog/webpage
  • ·        Internet in general

Learn how to use the sites you choose.

Tasks to do on each site

It is not necessary to do every single thing, every day.

  • I review both personal and writer accounts and respond to items requiring short answers. 
  • If a writing newsletter arrives, read it and make a short comment. 
  • Most sites have a place to put your website. Be sure to add it.
 If it’s a social chatty email, I come back to it and respond in depth at the END of my writing day (or at lunch).


I use Blogger from (Where we are right now.) I find it user friendly and simple enough that even my older brain can grasp it. I played with it before hitting publish. The layout and content on the blog expanded as I became more familiar with the layout function. There is no rush. Take your time to learn.


       On my blog homepage, I post bi-monthly blogs. Choose a frequency you can maintain and a  content based on topics relating to your stories, your life and your hobbies.

    I have additional pages to this blog one. (See the other tabs above. About me, Why Writers Write) Set up a permanent sidebar or similar. It is best (so I’ve read) to be consistent and to set a schedule you can maintain. I alter my content between items for readers and those for writers and do interviews with writers launching books my followers might like. (

    Tweet, twitter, tiddly winks     

    One day, I bit the bullet and added a Twitter account. It confused me. However, I followed along and got the hang of it. (@MahrieGReid)

      Twitter –you don’t need to check every day.

    Tweet about your new blogs or book launches. Pre-write six posts and post them through the day with links to your blog or book. Otherwise, scan the tweets and re-tweet interesting posts. If you click through and read an article, retweet making a specific comment.

    Go to notifications and see who has retweeted or followed you. Check them out. Follow back if you like. The ones that want your business, you don’t have follow. Do tweet thanking all followers and re-tweeters using their Twitter address. Be polite

    Internet Browsing

    • For the general internet, I decided on topics and went searching. As I found sites I liked, I added them to my save-list. If a site offered an email link, I often chose that option.
    • If you see groups you like, ask to join them. That way their posts will show up in your feed and cut out the task of going to the group. I belong to a few private groups and several public groups. Follow sites you'd like to be in touch with. (Other author pages and so on.)  

    • Scan profile news list quickly. Many posts are cute but not helpful to a writer’s career. Pass them over. Read short writerly articles and comment. Personal items can be left for later.
    • Check Author Page and answer any messages plus respond to comments even if it is only a “like.” Post a new message once or twice a week. Promote books by other authors and/or add a teaser with a link to your newest blog post. Post any launch information for your own books. ( )
    • Visit a couple of your writer/author groups a day. You can follow on an irregular schedule. Reply, share or comment on a post that catches your eye. Become known as a contributor. 

    The Internet

    If you have time left – pick one of the sites on your saved-list and click-in to check out their most recent articles. Again, here’s where you can leave a comment and a link to your information. Participate Positively

    When 1 hour is up 

    I’ve reviewed in-coming information, responded appropriately, and liked, linked or commented. Most important my brain is transitioned to writing. I open my Word or Scrivener, or grab pen and paper and get to the writing. Give it a try and good luck in designing a writer’s commute that works for you.