Monday, July 18, 2016

How to use the 5 senses for more vivid writing

Using the five senses enriches the setting, enhances character and shows your reader the story.

Used wisely and folded into the world of your characters, the senses ground your reader in a unique location, add textures and atmosphere to the story, and draw your reader in.

The five senses at work.


What does you character see in the surroundings? What is unique to the current location?

Trees crowded the road but here and there squares of cleared land sported buildings. On the inner side of the island he saw a house with an outbuilding and a circle of trees at its back. The clearings on the left, the ocean side, often left gaps and he caught glimpses of water, dark, rolling and cold looking. Some of the houses were older two story places— weathered and over-painted, houses of time and displayed character. (A glimpse at Dane's Island and Caleb's Cove in the Caleb Cove Mystery Series.)


Are the sounds those of a city, an ocean, a mountain? A city boy at night in the country will be aware in a different manner than a country boy in the same spot. How does your character react to the sounds around them? What memories or anticipations do those sounds trigger?

Frank tipped his head against the tree and closed his eyes tuning in to the sounds. Two birds nattered above him. A slight breeze brushed the tree, the sound not soft enough to be a rustle, not sharp enough to be a clatter. He'd spent years drunk, sleeping in parks and culverts in good weather and heading to the homeless shelters in bad. Back then he wouldn't have noticed the birds or the breeze. He'd have been too consumed with locating the next drink.
A cough echoed around him, and he jerked up. He checked the open area, the rock pile off to the right and the bush on the left. There was a second cough. Tension drained away. Some poor slob was behind the bushes. A drunk who couldn't or wouldn't get sober. (Excerpt from Came Home to a Killing, Book 2 in the Caleb Cove Mystery Series)


This is much more than a hand on an object. It is the brush of air against a cheek or the chill seeping into toes about to freeze. Air can be perceived as soft or harsh, breezy or still. The elements, air, water, fire, and earth create touch.

She breathed in. There is air. I won’t smother. She rolled onto her knees and felt with her hands. One hand plunged in the water. She lost her balance, rolled and hit the ocean's cold, gasping, she sank under the surface. The shock stopped her breath for a heartbeat. She kicked and came up sputtering and clawing at the ledge. Fright once again had her by the neck. (Excerpt: Came Home Too Late, Book 3)


The odors of a farm yard are very different from the local bus terminal. Smell evokes the strongest memories and reactions. Use it to your advantage when portraying your characters.

He sipped his coffee and savored both it and the pungent salt odor of seaweed roiled by the storm and the damp, old smell of the dock soaked by the waves. (Came Home Dead)


This gives you a wide area in which to play. Can we taste the air? Experience city grit when rain hits our tongues? Does the freshness of ripe cherries burst over our senses when we kiss our lover?

Additionally, food eaten is different cultures and areas of the country can add to the texture of the setting. Hodge Podge, a mixture of baby vegetables topped with a butter and cream sauce, followed by a dessert of Blueberry Grunt is a meal indicative of the South Shore of Nova Scotia. (Find the Blueberry Grunt Recipe in last week's blog below.)

Mix and Match

The senses can be combined in various ways. The odor of BBQing pork precedes the taste and texture of the meat on our tongues. The sight of a field of ripe, plump blueberries can bring back memories and summon taste experienced from the past. A vivid mix of senses intensifies the experience of a character.

Heat filled the trailer and voices echoed in the campground and, in one final, jerky movement, Emily sat up. Her hair straggled around her head and strands stuckto her cheeks. Her shoulders ached and her P.J. collar, damp and clammy, clung to her. Her mouth was once again that telltale dryness that followed being drugged. Pounding filled her head and tightened her scalp. One hell of a night. (Came Home Too Late.)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Have you made Blueberry Grunt?

What do you do with your blueberries? 

This year the blueberries are luscious. On the South Shore, Nova Scotia the folk make Blueberry Grunt. If you have never had it, you're in for a hot, steamy, blueberry treat that rivals blueberry muffins.


(From the Pages of Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens, collected by Marie Nightingale, 1975 printing)

The Sauce:
1 Quart of blueberries
1/2 cup of sugar (more to taste optional)
1/2 cup of water

Put berries, sugar and water in a pot, cover and boil gently until there is plenty of juice.

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon shortening
1/4 to 1/3 cup milk

Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a bowl. (I put it in and whisk it.) Cut in the butter and shortening and add enough mile to make a soft biscuit dough. (A bit dampish)

Drop by spoonfuls onto the hot blueberries. Cover closely (tightly) and do not peek for 15 minutes. Serve hot.

For a TASTY BLUEBERRY MUFFIN recipe, go to JOANNE GUIDOCCIO'S BLOG for today, July 11-2016 - National Blueberry Muffin Day.

Monday, June 27, 2016

How to Stumble into Writing a Series.


Photo by Destination Halifax
As readers, we tend to love a series. Getting to know characters and having the ability to re-visit them in subsequent books makes for happy reading. Originally, I'd intended this series to be in Toronto. However, the South Shore of Nova Scotia kept popping into my head and we have The Caleb Cove Mystery Series.

My first book ever (I was about 8 or so) was set on Tancook Island off Nova Scotia. A mystery with an old house, hidden rooms and a ghost, the story starred twins, Pam and Penny. A few years ago, I followed my inner urging and returned to an island off the East Coast for my first published grown-up book. After reading it, a sister-in-law said, "Why don't you write a three book series like Jayne Ann Krentz does?" Off I went and wrote the first three books in the series. (They are not necessarily as well written or romantic as Jayne's.)

I write what I like to read. 

My books are traditional mysteries with a touch of suspense and sometimes incorporate the voice of an evil antagonist. Written in a style blended from my favorite authors, Mary Stewart, Dorothy Gilman and Dana Stabenow with an underling hue of Agatha Christie, they are "clean" reads suitable for anyone from an older teen to grandmother.

Series that Grow After the Fact: 

I had plots for three books and they became linked as I wrote. However, one original character fell off the grid and his sister took his place. She's quite a demanding character and has insisted on her own book. Therefore the Caleb Cove Mystery Series will continue in Book Four. There are also rumblings from the cast for a five and six as well. It's fun to return to a known group of characters in order to throw in a stumbling block (usually a murder). How they handle it is sometimes a surprise to me.
For example, in book three they have formed a club called The Touched by Murder Club. I had not seen that coming.

My advice to writers:

 If a your characters want their own stories - go ahead and create a series. But do start recording details early so you know who is in town when you start the next book. If about book three you realize things will be ongoing, backtrack, re-read your first books and get that character/setting Bible up to date!

The first three Caleb Cove books are the Came Home books as in ...Dead, a a Killing and ...Too Late. I am looking for a set of titles for three more with a different prefix. (Suggestions welcome.)


Caleb Cove Mystery #3
Please enjoy the current release--Came Home Too Late, (Monday, June 27th, 2016) and if you haven't already done so, check out books One and Two as well. They can be read as stand-alones, but if you'd like to meet the recurring community start with the first one, Came Home Dead**.

What do you like best about a series? 
How many books do you think should be in one series? 

**For an explanation of the term Came Home Dead, visit my interview with Makenzi Fisk on her blog.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

3 mystery/thrillers with a truly evil, female antagonist.

If you like strong, evil and female antagonists, then you need to read the Intuition Series by Makenzi Fisk. Today I'm featuring this mystery/thriller writer, and getting answers to some of the questions I've been meaning to ask her.

Makenzi Fisk, Author

Makenzi Fisk's novel, Just Intuition, earned her the distinction of Golden Crown Literary Society Debut Author as well as Mystery Thriller Finalist. Her books take readers to crime's gritty underbelly, northern-style, where few can tell the bad guys from the good ones, and a little bit of intuition always helps.

Retired from urban policing, Makenzi currently lives in Calgary. She looks forward to her summers in the ruggedly beautiful Canadian Shield, the inspiration for her backwoods thrillers. 

Welcome, Makenzi,

Q. Your first three books have a strong thriller element. When you started the intuition books, what was your intent for the story? for the number of books? How did that change, if it did, as you wrote?
A. When I began to write Just Intuition, I did it out of an overwhelming need to tell a particular story. The catalyst was the antagonist, who was a combination of a number of pathologically toxic personalities I had been personally impacted by, either in my professional career as a police officer or in my private life. All the worst qualities of those people were rolled into one character who wreaks havoc on every person with whom they interact. I'm always interested in the psychology behind human motivations and that is why I wrote the antagonist in first person. I needed to understand and I also wanted readers to have insight on the thought process of a developing psychopath.

My intent for Just Intuition was to get that story out. Partway into the writing process, I realized that this antagonist would not be so easily contained. There was more substance here than could be confined in a single novel, or even two. Three novels felt right and the Intuition Series was conceived.

Q. What is your "work" schedule when you are in the midst of a book?

A. My schedule is relatively inconsistent. There is a lot of humming and hawing and foot shuffling before I reach my stride. I start and stop and then do it again. When I finally get into it, I can't wait to get out of bed in the morning because I'm eager to write the next part of the story. On those days, I write around 3000 words, and usually don't slow down until I'm done. As soon as I type The End, I take a short break and then I'm eager to start revising and editing. I want to polish the story until it feels right.
Q.  Are there times when your characters seem real to you and do you ever get creeped out when you realize your characters aren't real? Do they "live on" after the book, and do they demand more story time? How do you handle that?

a. I can't say that my characters ever feel real to me. Some of the actual people who are influences come to mind but I don't usually write a character very close to an actual person. I find that even when if I have a particular person in mind, a cranky boss for example, the character becomes quite different as  write them.
That being said, it may seem different to others. When I've discussed characters during a brainstorming session, I once heard my daughter remark that it sounds like I'm talking about real people.

Q. You have solid characters in your first series. Will you continue their story in a book four? If so, what can you tell us about book four?  OR - what is your current project and what can you share with out about it?
A. The Intuition Series is complete and there is resolution at the end of book three, Fatal Intuition. I did enjoy creating a female FBI character from that book and will spin her off into her own adventure in my current work-in-progress, a thriller set in Northwestern Ontario, tentatively titled Smoke and Murder. I plan to finish writing that novel on location this summer.

Thanks for joining me, Makenzi. 

I read your books "in progress" and again once they were published. All three kept me glued to the page to find out what happens. Your criminal is as delightful (to read about) as she is evil. I will be watching for your next release - Smoke and Murder (if that stays). Enjoy your summer writing in your northern Ontario hide-away.

Connect with Makenzi at:

Friday, June 3, 2016

How to find a book you'll love.

Finding books in a digital store.

Positioning books for sale on any of the digital sights is a different way to market. As authors and readers, many of us still think in terms of brick and mortar shelving. We think about browsing for books with attractive covers, filed under categories and authors' names.

Not so in the digital sales world. 

Topic or key word lists are the first consideration. Books might show up in best seller lists, lists by genre and category and lists by also-read. Readers go to the lists and use the search bar (see the top cell with 'mystery books' entered) to plug in key words for the type of book they want. The might also go to the lists on the left to refine their search: mystery, thriller, Canadian and so on.

It is therefore important how a book is posted--title, blurb, key words and more to determine where they will show up. Sales will affect place in best sales lists, but that's not something the author can influence directly. They can influence key words for list sorted by relevance.

Readers, through experimentation, can learn which key words find them books they might like. The can search best selling mysteries or mystery with other components like cozy, traditional or suspense.

What tags are good for my books?

I write clean mystery with suspense, and sometimes, a thriller component. Mystery involves the clues scattered through the book. Suspense is keeping the reader guessing, preferably about serious harm to the characters. The thriller component is when the bad-guy shows up with a point of view section and the reader knows, before the character, what terrible things are planned. The reader's questions become-when will the bad things happen and will the character survive and how? And, of course, how and when will the villain be caught.

Keys words for my type of book would included mystery, suspense and thriller. I found this out by looking at dozens of similar books that showed high in the lists for the general category of mystery. When you use the search bar, you gets books sorted by relevance to your search words. Also Came Home Mysteries or Caleb Cove Mystery Series work to find my books. If you want to find books in a series you are reading, put the name of the series in the search bar without "the".

Two other lists may show up under a book you bought. These are "suggested for you" because of your earlier purchases and "Customers who bought this item also bought." These help you find books similar to ones you've read and liked.
Additionally, my descriptions contain words that tell the reader they are a "clean" read. That is, no gratuitous sex and no horrible, bloody murders and no f* bombs. However, stalking, kidnapping and the occasional "damn" might be included.

Another category I'd like to highlight is "Canadian Mysteries" since mine are set in Canada. The first series is set on Nova Scotia's picturesque South Shore. My planned series will move to other provinces.

My question: 

If you read mysteries and look for them on digital sales sights (like Amazon, Kobo etc).

What search words do you put in the search bar? 

Thanks for participating.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Do you go in caves?

Underground, over the waves, or along the trail - visit 

  Nova Scotia's Inspirational South Shore

The Atlantic coast line offers a multitude of shops, restaurants, sightseeing locations and beaches for visitors and locals alike. They inspired my layout and buildings for Caleb's Cove--the setting of my first series--The Caleb Cove Mysteries. Whether you are a spelunker, a cycle fan, or a water baby, there is something for you.

Under the ground

Caves play a big part in Book #3 - Came Home too Late due out in June 2016.

Caves, islands and beaches line the shores of Nova Scotia and the South Shore has an abundance of all three. Tancook Island, featured in last week's blog in one of the islands. Below are two of the attractions that portrait the feeling and history of the area. Whether you want to go under ground or over the waves, this area offers something for all. If you want a more leisurely tour, try one of the several bike routes available.

Hayes Caves Near Bridgewater, Nova Scotia

"One of Nova Scotia's most interesting geological features, long known to local area teenagers, lies hidden in the gypsum cliffs of South Maitland: Hayes Cave. Hayes Cave is one of only two known caves Kris and I could find any information on, but what a doozy!" 

  (Both quotes  and picture are from TrailPeak's review of the Hayes Caves)
"Exploring Hayes Cave made me wish there were more interesting places like this in the province-- off the beaten path. It helps to remind me that there is still plenty to see in Nova Scotia if you're willing to get dirty."

The Ovens, Riverport, Nova Scotia

The sea is a power beyond the comprehension of many. Over the decades the Atlantic ocean has carved caves into the cliffs at Riverport, Nova Scotia. Take the tour and experience the
roar of the ocean and the power of waves.

Browse the Shops 

Stop along your way and browse for gifts for friends and memorable items for home. Stroll through the antique shops and stop for tea or ice cream in one of the shops. Chester and Mahone Bay offer a great selection of antique, art and gift stores.
 The Village Emporium gift shop is located at the corner of Queen & Pleasant Streets in the seaside village of Chester, Nova Scotia. Surrounded by an eclectic variety of local businesses, breathtaking scenery and friendly residents, we are proud to be a member of this thriving community.

The Village Emporium
11 Pleasant Street (Corner of Queen)
Chester, Nova Scotia

(FYI - You can buy my Caleb Cove Mystery books here.)

 Suttles & Seawinds

 466 Main Street, Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

This Nova Scotia outlet is one that I've liked for over three decades. Their items represent cottage industries and local crafts. Their story is inspirational. Check them out by clicking on their name above.

Over the waves

 Creaser's Cover Boat Tours
Riverport, Nova Scotia

  Start in historic Riverport, settled in the 1600's. Sail the ocean, search for whales and get a taste of salt air. Captain Tom Drake and crew are ready to take you sailing.

"The "Sea 'U' Rattley" is a 43' Coastal Fishing Vessel, which was launched in September 1996. The vessel is equipped with state of the art communications, navigational and safety equipment which has been government inspected and approved. (Quoted from the Creaser's Cove Boat Tour Web site found by clinking on the name.)"

On a bike...

Bikers will enjoy the 119 km long Rum Runners Trail running from Halifax to Lunenburg.

 Find all you need to know at 

Nova Scotia Bicycle Tours -Freewheeling Adventures

WHAT'S YOUR CHOICE? Or would you like to try it all?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fictional World Building

How to build a fictional world?

1) Ask your characters what type of community they want.
2) Find inspiration in places with ingredients your character likes.
3) People the world with family, friends and enemies.
4) Provide jobs on main street; homes on side streets; add beaches, parks or bowling allies as required
5) Draw a map of the village or town.

For Caleb's Cove, I looked to Nova Scotia's south shore islands, ocean-side markets and beaches. I sprinkled in hurricanes, boats, history and ghosts.

 Inspiration #1 - Greater TANCOOK ISLAND, Nova Scotia


Writers can be inspired by characters or an event, but as the story evolves the characters need a place to live. Setting is a character is it's own right and often dictates direction in the story. Some writers set books in real places. In a large city, this works. However, using a smaller, limited population creates privacy issues and limits events. The solution is to create a fictional community to showcase the story. Caleb's Cove in Came Home Dead and Came Home to A Killing is a created community inspired by three real-life geographical locations including TANCOOK ISLAND.

Although a contemporary setting is easier to create than a fantasy world, it's still necessary to define geography, to understand and remember the residents' philosophy and to know who in "town" your characters can trust.

Inspiration # 1 - Tancook Island, Nova Scotia, Canada 

Three real locations provided inspiration, visuals and ambiance for Caleb's Cove. However, all people and story events are products of my writer's imagination and other than the awesome ocean setting, bear no connection to any real person in the three background communities.

Tancook Island started it all. I've had a fascination with Tancook for decades. My sister-in-law's mother worked on Little Tancook and I loved her stories and the name. At eight I thought it a great setting for a mystery and wrote (longhand in a Hilary Scribbler) The Mystery on Tancook Island.

Accidentally, or at the bidding of  my unconscious, my first published novel is set on an island off Nova Scotia. Additional details and ideas for Caleb's Cove came from Tancook and two other Nova Scotia locations. To follow Tancook Island on FB for some great ocean shots, go to: Tancook Island on FB
For more on Nova Scotia visit: Nova Scotia's South Shore.

Sweeping his gaze from left to right Greg checked the altered sandy strip, the docks and the rocky protrusions. The waves still arched and crested against the land, splashing through gaps in the boardwalk and sucking back to display the damage. In the harbor beyond, white caps revealed the sea’s continued turmoil. The rhythmic roar and whoosh was primal. He’d wait for calmer seas before launching the dory even if she was designed for rough waters. And you? What are you waiting for?
Tancook Island-dock in winter

Came Home Dead 

Readers, what location would you like to see in a book? 
Writers, what location inspired a book setting for you?