Retooling Thrice Burned

Adjectives that describe Portia Adams

On the advice of my lovely new agent, I went back and really thought out the motivations for all the characters in Jewel of the Thames. It was a very useful exercise, revealing a couple of potholes that I would fix if I were to do it all over again. BUT the good news is I have lots of other books to apply this new policy to.

So for book 2 (currently called ‘Thrice Burned’) I’ve been pulling apart the characters and doing an outline of their actions and motivations through each chapter in the book. In doing so, I’ve <I think> strengthened the plot and made it that much more believable that my characters are capable of doing the things I write about them doing.
Here’s an example:

Chapter 1: Portia is feeling alone and betrayed in her new knowledge of just who her family really is so she isolates herself from people and throws herself into a series of arsons plaguing London. ACTION: Avoiding Baker Street, walking the arson scenes all over London.

Chapter 1: Feeling guilty for her part in deceiving Portia and angry at her former-lover’s exposure of their secrets, Irene Jones plots her next steps in regaining her granddaughter’s trust. ACTION: Avoiding Baker Street, licking her wounds in Edinburg.

Chapter 1: Able to separate the emotion from the action, Sherlock Holmes gives Portia the space and time to absorb everything she has learned, choosing to not worry about the development in their relationship, and instead planning how to help his granddaughter become the best consulting detective Baker Street has ever had. ACTION: Avoiding Baker Street, going about his usual business.

Chapter 1: Unaware of what has transpired over the holidays in Edinburg, Brian Dawes has missed his beautiful landlord and wants to catch up with her, and perhaps take their relationship to the next level as he’s been working up the courage to ask her out. He senses that something has happened, but can’t get Portia to open up and tell him about it, which is frustrating and does nothing to add to his courage. ACTION: Waiting for Portia, trying to get a moment alone with her, at Baker Street.

Open call for the topic of the next Video!

What's next for One Fictitious Moment?
What’s next for One Fictitious Moment?

Okay guys I could use some help from the blogger ‘hive-mind’ today. I’m looking for topics for my next few ‘One Fictitious Moment’ video shorts – what do you guys think?

Kat suggested a video about World-Building might be interesting… and I was thinking about an episode on ‘showing not telling’ because it’s something I am working on in my own writing.
If you haven’t seen the first two videos by the way, you can see them below in blog posts or on my YouTube channel here:

Any other ideas?

One Fictitious Moment: Writing Detective Fiction

I’ve been writing a few articles for various publications recently and as part of one of those assignments, I decided to create some YouTube videos about writing. This is the first episode, and it’s about how I construct a detective story. Hope you enjoy it!

You can Subscribe to my new channel here by the way:

Revisions, revisions, revisions

Revisions, revisions, revisions
Reading Book 2 through for the first time in a few months: “Hey… this isn’t half bad…!”

So, if you hadn’t read at some point in this blog, Book 1 of A Portia Adams Adventure went through several versions before making it into your local bookstore.
Fourteen versions to be exact.
And since I wrote books 1,2 and 3 in quick succession, this means that version 1 of book 2 is a little out-of-step with the 14th version of book 1.
In plain English, I need to update everything in book 2 AND find a more compelling story arc to wrap around these next three casebooks. Oh, and having learned so much in the versioning and re-versioning of Jewel of the Thames, I need to look for some of my tells (like my habit of ‘saying’ something instead of ‘describing’ something) and fix them.
That’s where I am in the writing process.
I feel like I just climbed a huge mountain (publishing book 1), skipped down the other side (book launch, love from friends,family and fans) and at the bottom, looked up to see another huge mountain in front of me.
So who’s with me for another climb?

The Writing Process Blog Hop with Author Joe Mahoney

A quote to live by

I’ve been tagged by friend and author Joe Mahoney to participate in a Blog Hop (who in turn was tagged by his sister, author Susan Rodgers).

The way this Blog Hop works is he asks me a bunch of questions, which I answer here in my blog, and then I somehow convince two other bloggers to do the same for me.

Here are Joe’s questions and my answers:

1. After working at the CBC for many years, and with a bright future ahead of you there, you made the incredibly courageous decision to give it all up to focus on your writing, even though at the time you had no publishing contract. How were you able to do that? Do you miss the day job? What advice do you have for other aspiring writers dreaming of taking the same path?
It didn’t feel courageous at the time, I promise you that. It felt foolish and a little selfish to take such a promising future leading digital strategy at CBC Radio and put it aside to follow a dream. But at the same time, and you can attest to this Joe, for the first time in my life it didn’t feel like a choice. I was being pulled so strongly towards the writing, towards Portia that I knew if I didn’t give it and her my undivided focus that I would regret it for the rest of my life. I am so glad I listened to the voices in my head and parted ways with the full-time job. I am also so glad I could do it with (I believe) grace and my head held high. From the time that I was a little girl I knew I wanted to work at the CBC, and I did, for a decade and a half. I will never forget that place, the accomplishments or the great friendships I made there. I guess my advice would be to do the same – to listen to the voices in your head, and try to trust them.

2. Jewel of the Thames is your first novel. What have you learned about the craft of fiction during the writing of this book? Is there anything you know now you wish you had known at the beginning? Can you describe your writing process?
Oh good gosh I’ve learned so much it would be hard to get it all down. I learned a lot about my own writing style – that I prefer action to description and dialogue. I learned that often what people don’t like in your novel has nothing to do with you or your writing, but comes from their own preferred style of writing (something I keep in mind when I grade my student’s papers now!). I don’t think there’s anything I wish I had known when I started this process, I just learned <I think> in the natural order of things. My writing process is pretty simple, I write long-hand in moleskin notebooks, generally starting with a case I want Portia to take on and then expanding from there. I do my full first drafts that way, and then do a lot of editing while transcribing from notebook to laptop.

3. What are your future plans for detective Portia Adams? Do you have any other projects in mind that don’t involve her?
Portia has many more casebooks in her future (seven more casebooks are written, and I’m writing the eighth and ninth right now), but I also have a time-travel series that I’ve started and a dystopic YA short-story that I’d like to turn into a full novel. So lots of writing on the go!


Here are the bloggers I’ve tagged:

Christine Plouvier

Miss Christine!

Christine Plouvier was reading and writing at age 4. Her early career included manufacturing in the electronics and automotive industries, and she is a Navy veteran. She raised three sons and a daughter while earning an Associate of Applied Science in Nursing, a Bachelor of Science in Health Education/Community Health, and a Master of Science
in Healthcare Administration.Christine worked eighteen years as a Certified Childbirth Educator and more than twenty years as a Registered Nurse. Her prior works include several crochet patterns published by two magazines, and two privately published self-help
manuals. Now she writes novels: in 2013 she released Irish Firebrands (a contemporary romance that crosses five other genre lines).She is now producing an audiobook of her first novel, and is writing her second, The Passions of Patriots (about the early 20th century Irish wars and the First World War). Her interests include the life transitions that can drive – and be driven by – the hidden agenda of the mind.She lives in Indiana with Oliver, a white cat that has black spots, soft fur and a good disposition, but which chooses to answer only to “Kitty.”

Off topic on my own blog

As I am writing this post that title is exactly how I’m feeling. Jewel of the Thames just came out day before yesterday, and the book launch is on Friday, so most of my attention and writing have been focused on promoting it and the events around it. Thing is though, I had to share a bit about the new casebook I started while in France two weeks ago.

My husband has a thing for World War locations, so the first four days in France were spent travelling all over Normandy, from Vimy Ridge to Juno Beach. Suffice to say, as much as I enjoy museums and such, climbing into trenches and imagining the bloody warfare is not so much my cup of tea.

The stairs leading up and out of the mines and into the surprise attack!

That is until we got to Arras. If you don’t know the story (and don’t be embarrassed, I didn’t know it either), Arras was a key battlefront for the British/Allied forces. The Brits decided to take advantage of the chalk mines beneath the city to tunnel their way into the German’s backyard and catch them unawares. Yes, I believe it was as crazy as it still sounds.

What this meant was that a crew of mostly New Zealand miners tunnelled under Arras, linking up chalk mines for six months, averaging 80 metres a day. Their amazing hard-work eventually allowed for 24,000 troops to amass under Arras waiting patiently until they emerged in the early morning of April 19th, 1917 to begin the battle of Arras.

I got to thinking about these mines and all those men down there, and a story started to form in my mind about Brian Dawes finding himself trapped down here almost 14 years later in the abandoned passages. I’ve tentatively called it ‘The Constable’s Case’ and it’s told from his point of view.

In the order of casebooks, I’m placing it after casebook 10: Clear as a Bell.

What’s in a name – part two!

New Name!
a new name for Gregory Charles!

If I haven’t said it before, let me say it now: I have an amazing publisher in Fierce Ink Press.

Last week they asked me to flesh-out my synopsis for book 2 in the Portia Adams Adventures, and I have to tell you, I find writing synopses MUCH harder than writing casebooks.

They were super-patient and helpful, teasing out the bits that really draw a reader in, and teaching me a lot about how to ‘sell’ your story.

But the most interesting thing that came up was the paragraph about Portia’s new boyfriend – the brilliant coroner I named Gregory Charles. They were as unimpressed with his name as I have been through the course of writing about him (here’s my post from last year about my issues with his name) and in talking out what his significance will be to Portia’s story arc over the next few books, we all decided he needed a new name.

He has that kind of dark-cool-sexiness that reminds me of Mr. Darcy or Spock or Sylar from Heroes.  I started by listing out some words that describe him: dark, cool, sexy, mysterious, brilliant, restrained, closed-off, intimidating.

After going back and forth about his character and how he develops over the casebooks, and using some baby name sites to brainstorm we settled on Dr. Gavin Douglas Whitaker (no more Gregory Charles!).

What do you all think of that?

Writing YA Romance: how NOT to suck

The Precious: Still a better love story than Twilight.

EDIT: Since publishing this, it has appeared on the NY Editor’s post about how to market your YA book!

Ha! Ok, maybe I’m the only one who got that slightly Fang-y dig at Ms. Stephanie Meyer whom I know has sold more books than I ever will. You thought I had all the answers to this didn’t you? Well, I have put a good deal of thought into it, but like any well-thought out argument, I researched my butt off.

Here are some links to posts I read to come to an intelligent conclusion on this topic:

The truth is that YA romance sits in that uncomfortable area we all lived through that is defined as first base – there’s lots of flirting, lots of day dreaming, but the culmination of these feelings (at least on the page) are the kiss, or as Harry describes his first kiss with Ginny: “After several long moments – or it might have been a half an hour – or possibly several sunlit days – they broke apart.”

How much you actually describe on the page differs from one end of the YA spectrum to the other, but at the point at which you’d feel uncomfortable reading it aloud to your 13-year-old son seems to be a good standard.

I treat writing about romance the way I treat how I dress, I leave something to the imagination. Maybe that makes me old-fashioned, but I think it makes my books readable for any age, including the 50-year-old mom who also has a Shades of Grey side.

Romance should develop over time, closer to real time than many media force us to move. Less Jack and Rose and more Darcy and Elizabeth. And what I read over and over again in my research (and which I swear I will remember as I write these scenes) is to put yourself in your own teenage body – remember the awkwardness, the weird feelings, the ridiculous jealousies, the over-analysis of tiny little details. That is a key element of teenage romance, and really, romance into your early twenties as my Portia is discovering.

Avoiding cliche is something we should all do in every scene we write, but avoiding the cliche in romantic scenes is also something I pulled from the research as high priority for me. Patricia actually described it perfectly so I’m quoting her directly: “It should not consist of the so-called love interest being cute/hot/mysterious and some weird reaction of the main character’s body.” Amen sister.

What I discovered in my own writing is that the attraction between my two main characters was TOO subtle. My editors actually suggested I raise the heat a bit, and I did, with more one-on-one scenes, and awkward moments.

I hope I managed to write some decent romance, but I guess you guys will tell me (be gentle!) when you read Jewel. Let me know your thoughts on writing romance (in all genres) in the comments below!

Also, I love this meme, so here are a few more… (SORRY Ms. Meyer!!):


Daily Prompt: Walking on the Moon

You’re gonna make it!

When I read this morning’s prompt from WordPress, I smiled because that’s an easy one: “What giant step did you take where you hoped your leg wouldn’t break? Was it worth it, were you successful in walking on the moon, or did your leg break?”

Last summer, when I was close to finishing book three in the Portia Adams Adventures, I quit my full-time job of 14 years to focus on writing instead. I left everything I knew, and a place I love (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and jumped into the ether.


I can’t underline that enough. I know I have a husband who was behind me 100% and I will admit that made it a tiny bit easier. But leaping into a world that had been entirely a hobby, and now was going to be my ‘job?’ YIKES.

Happy to say that eight months later, my first of those three books is about to be published by an amazing Canadian publisher (Fierce Ink Press) I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time, I’ve made incredible new friends in this field and all my friends from CBC are so proud of me.

Jump. Be scared. Just Jump.