The Psychology of Writing

Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to whether authors are really telling stories about themselves or people they know.

Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now. Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017 and was a finalist for best canine book of the year in the Dog Writers of America annual writing contest.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop entitled The Psychology of Writing. It was designed primarily for writers but was attended by beginning writers and those who were interested in the subject. I was fortunate enough to be on one of the panels. Our topic was events in our personal lives that spilled over in our writing. We had a variety of experiences shared and a variety of ways we treated them. Putting a personal experience on paper can be nerve racking. One of our participants wrote a book about her son’s almost fatal bout with brain cancer. Painful, yes, but also cathartic for her. He agreed to share his story, and a great book that would be helpful to a lot of people was born. But other experiences are just too personal to be laid out on paper the way they happened, and they often are just that, experiences. They are not a story.

Case in point. A number of years ago I attended an intense writing workshop that lasted a couple of days. One of the women in the group had an experience she wanted to make into a book. It seems she had been in a cemetery where a number of her family members were buried. One of her ancestors had fought in the Revolutionary war and she believed that one day he spoke to her. He asked her to write his story. She wanted to know how to go about writing it. The easiest way, and probably the best way, was to fictionalize it, but she didn’t want to do that. She also had very few facts about his life and wasn’t sure how to get more. I don’t know if she talked to a ghost or not, and it really doesn’t matter. What does is, she didn’t have a story. She could have written her experience in an essay form for her family or made an entry in her diary but as a piece of either fiction or as a piece of history, her experience stayed just that, an experience.

Which brings me to my next point. A fiction writer, at least this one, doesn’t use personal experiences as they happen. He, or she, weaves them into a story as part of the plot, changing them as needed. For instance, in my first series, the Ellen McKenzie real estate mysteries, I introduced Ellen as a woman in her early forties, freshly divorced, new real estate license in hand, trying to start a new life. I had been divorced at about that age after twenty five years of marriage and five kids. It was a traumatic time in my life so I could understand how Ellen felt. However, she wasn’t me, a fact that made us both happy. Some of her experiences as she learned her new profession may have shown what my life as a real estate agent was like, but the facts of the experiences were different and I was very careful to pattern no characters after anyone I knew. I did know what someone like Ellen would feel, what her fears were, and the uncertainty she would feel as she started a new career and that I used. What I never experienced, however, was finding a dead man in a closet. I’m never found a dead man, or woman, anywhere.

Authors often use their own experiences, or those of people they know or have read about as a sort of jumping off point, but change the circumstances so that they cannot be recognized by the people who have gone through them. It’s the same with people. I am often asked if a character is so and so. It’s not but we all have certain personality traits, weaknesses, strengths, and quirks.  Authors will observe and file away these little traits then pull them out when needed. No one I know portrays anyone they know. First, it’s hard to write about a real life living person. You really don’t know them, what they are thinking, what they feel, but you know the ones you write about. They think, act and react the way you want them to. Mostly. Second, you don’t want anyone to think they will end up in your book as the villain. There isn’t one of my friends or relatives that thinks of themselves as an ex murderer and wouldn’t appreciate it if I portrayed them that way. But assigning those little quirks we all have to our on the page characters help to make them real. They give the characters depth. The retelling of experiences that have left the author with some kind of emotion give the story a reality that may not be possible otherwise.

Is that psychology? In one sense, I think it is. But what I’m sure of is that understanding what makes us do something, how we react under stress, what makes one of us fearful in one situation, another brave in another, what makes us love and what makes us hate, makes us better writers.


Cover Reveal: Guardians by Lindsay Chamberlin


by Lindsay Chamberlin
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Release Date: October 31st 2018



Riley had spent her entire life terrified of the shadows and
darkness that followed her everywhere she went. They ruined her
chances at a normal childhood and tormented her throughout
her teenage years, labeling her the freak in her hometown, but
now was her chance to start over. After receiving her acceptance
letter from Bradford University, a chance at a new life and new
friends in a town far away from home filled Riley with such
hope for the future, but never had she dreamed of meeting the
most gorgeous guy on campus. Not only was he attractive, but
the shadows were chased away whenever he was near. Riley
hoped she could hold on to him, but how could she hope
for so much when she had only ever had so little?
Reymend may look like just another student at Bradford University,
but his world was greater than any mortal could understand. He
was blessed by the Light, trained to be a Guardian, a warrior against
the shadows of Midnight that plagued Touched souls in the
never ending battle of Light and darkness. It was his duty to protect
those souls, and his next Charge was Riley. She didn’t understand
the shadows that followed her relentlessly, but one day, she was
going to be stronger than any Guardian in the history of
the Light, if the darkness didn’t claim her first.
About the Author
Lindsay Chamberlin is an author who is self publishing her own works. She grew up in Northern Virginia and has been writing since she was a teenager. She would constantly write in a journal, including her day to day life and random thoughts that she found noteworthy. 

When she graduated from high school with English Honors and Math Honors, she knew her life would go in one of two ways. She would either become a writer or work in finance. 

Finance won. Until recently, she did not think her dream of being a known author would ever come true, but thanks to self publishing, she is finally able to get her work out to the public in hopes that they will enjoy her short stories, novels, and select poems. 

Her wish for her readers is that they will find themselves within her novels, living out every scene with the characters as if they were there with them.
Author Links:


Cover Reveal Organized by:

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver #bookreview #tarheelreader #thrunsheltered @b_kingsolver @harperbooks #unsheltered

It’s been a long time since I read a Kingsolver novel but,
thanks to Jennifer’s review, I think I may have to try Unsheltered.

Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader


Happy Saturday! Today I have a review of Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver and publishing on Tuesday via Harper Books! I’ve only read one other Kingsolver book, The Poisonwood Bible, which I deeply enjoyed. If you visited my blog yesterday, you saw my First Line Fridays post featuring this book. I ended up finishing it tonight and figured I would go ahead and post my review because next week looks pretty busy! Please read on for my thoughts on Kingsolver’s newest effort!

My Thoughts:

Willa Knox is the epitome of a responsible wife and mother. She has always put her family first, and when she reaches middle age, she is shocked to discover her life is not exactly what she had planned for her efforts. Her historic house, Vineland, is a money pit, her once successful job has dissolved, her husband’s career ends abruptly, she is behind on her bills, her…

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Book Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Dust by James Lovegrove

Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Dust
James Lovegrove
Titan Books, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-7856-5361-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

It is 1884, and when a fellow landlady finds her lodger poisoned, Mrs Hudson turns to Sherlock Holmes.

The police suspect the landlady of murder, but Mrs Hudson insists that her friend is innocent. Upon investigating, the companions discover that the lodger, a civil servant recently returned from India, was living in almost complete seclusion, and that his last act was to scrawl a mysterious message on a scrap of paper. The riddles pile up as aged big game hunter Allan Quatermain is spotted at the scene of the crime when Holmes and Watson investigate. The famous man of mind and the legendary man of action will make an unlikely team in a case of corruption, revenge, and what can only be described as magic…

Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock Holmes’ landlady, asks for his help when a friend is suspected of killing her lodger and he and Dr. Watson are happy to jump in, having no idea what they’re about to get into. When the legendary Allan Quatermain, the Victorian version of our Indiana Jones, comes on the scene, everything becomes a great adventure.

The murdered man had, by his own telling, recently been in a civil servant position in Calcutta but Sherlock quickly determines that to be a lie and that he was, in fact, in Africa. Moreover, Sherlock questions the man’s very identity and, even more intriguing and disturbing, a stranger follows Holmes, Dr. Watson and Mrs. Hudson when they leave her friend’s house. That individual is soon revealed to be the aged Allan Quatermain, famous big game hunter in Africa, and he delivers a warning that delving into the mystery of the murdered man is very dangerous and should be dropped.

Naturally, that warning falls on deaf ears and Holmes and Watson are soon deeply involved in the case beginning with a fruitless trailing of Quatermain. Deducing that a journalist is somehow involved, the pair are off in pursuit of the truth behind the lodger’s murder.

The setting of this story really evoked the Sherlock Holmes era and environs plus it offered a strong sense of the reach and effect of the British Empire. James Lovegrove is an author with a special interest in Sherlock Holmes and he has developed a very credible pastiche with a variety of novels. He has a fine touch, an understanding of Holmes and of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s style and creative bent; I’m going to check out his other Sherlock Holmes offerings.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2018.

Book Review: Shares the Darkness by J.R. Lindermuth

Shares the Darkness
Sticks Hetrick Murder Mystery #7
J.R. Lindermuth
Torrid Books, September 2016
ISBN 978-1-68299-196-1

The title of this interesting crime novel is from a line by Edna St. Vincent Millay, quoted in an opening page just before the novel opens. Flora Vastine, a police officer about to leave for duty is interrupted by a neighbor who complains that her adult daughter, Jan Kepler, is missing. Jan is a teacher at the local school and an inveterate birder. But Mrs. Kepler is very worried. Flora agrees to check at police headquarters.

The novel spins through a number of crimes in the small town of Swatara Creek and Officer Vastine is at the center of most of them, while the search for Jan Kepler continues. Expertly interspersed with the crimes, perhaps a few too many for such a small town at once, are some personal relationship crises which serve to balance the crimes and provide readers with a sometimes intensive look into the workings of small town police departments and of small towns more generally.

The pace is generally leisurely and insightful but readers will be compelled to follow the characters and the developments in a realistic small community where the final solution to the murder reveals more about the living than it does about the dead woman. An excellent and thoughtful novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2018.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: The Negotiator by Brendan Dubois

The Negotiator
Brendan Dubois
Midnight Ink, August 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5401-7
Trade Paperback

The Negotiator by Brendan Dubois brings an interesting new anti-hero to our attention. The protagonist, who uses many names but we never learn any of them, has an uncanny gift of estimating the market value of anything, like a handful of stolen diamonds or a pallet of merchandise that fell off a truck. This useful ability has allowed him to earn a living in the shadows of the crime world, where he is the middleman between a potential buyer and the hopeful seller, the cost of his services being part of the final agreed-upon purchase price. While he himself has committed no crime, those he does business with have and, since he knows one murder more or less means nothing to them, he takes appropriate steps to protect himself. Among other rules he has instituted, he won’t wait long for either party to arrive at the appointed time and place, and he never goes to a private residence to arrange a transaction.

The promise of a very large commission makes The Negotiator break his rule when he’s asked to serve as the go-between for the sale of what appears to be an authentic Old Master oil painting. He and his bodyguard show up at a nice house in an established neighborhood instead of a public place, where they are greeted by an older couple with an offer of lemonade and cookies. Lulled into accepting the situation for what it appears to be, The Negotiator is completely off guard when the older man pulls a gun and kills the bodyguard. The Negotiator escapes, barely, and sets off to discover who the killers are, to understand the motive for the unexpected attack, and to obtain revenge. Like the opening scene of the eventual bloodbath, many of the characters are not who or what they seem to be and sorting them all out takes every bit of skill The Negotiator can summon.

The Negotiator is a fine, fast-moving story with plot twists aplenty, right up to the last page. This book is especially for anyone who misses the Parker saga by Donald Westlake writing as Richard Stark or enjoys the Wilson series from Mike Knowles. While The Negotiator isn’t quite as cold-blooded as Wilson or Parker — he prefers to avoid guns — he can still toss an inconvenient character under the proverbial bus without a qualm. I am hoping for a sequel.

Reviewed by Aubrey Hamilton, September 2018.

Book Review: Star-Crossed by Pintip Dunn


Title: Star-Crossed
Author: Pintip Dunn
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication date: October 2, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult


Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Entangled Publishing


Pintip Dunn
Entangled Teen, October 2018
ISBN 978-1-63375-241-2

From the publisher—

In a world where nutrition can be transferred via a pill, and society is split into Eaters and Non-Eaters, seventeen-year-old Princess Vela has a grave dilemma. Her father, the king, is dying, and only a transplant of organs from a healthy Non-Eater boy will save him.

Vela is tasked with choosing a boy fit to die for the king, which is impossible enough. But then Carr, the boy she’s loved all her life, emerges as the best candidate in the Bittersweet Trials. And he’s determined to win, because by doing so, he can save the life of his Non-Eater sister.

Refusing to accept losing the boy she loves, Vela bends the rules and cheats. But when someone begins to sabotage the Trials, Vela must reevaluate her own integrity—and learn the true sacrifice of becoming a ruler.

Although Star-Crossed is reminiscent of The Hunger Games with its trials, Ms. Dunn has added a dollop of freshness with the concept of people being divided into Eaters and Non-Eaters. Woe to the Non-Eater who loses a trial because the consequences are dire but the truth is no one has a comfortable position in this world that’s focused on fighting off starvation. One facet of the society’s attention to food made me think of how certain “improvements” in our own food supply has led to our acceptance of a loss of taste in some instances. For example, the food gods apparently decided that watermelons need to be seedless but have you really compared the taste of seedless (which is not truly seedless) to seeded, the kind with those big black seeds that are great for spitting? I have to say I have very little interest in the seedless variety because they just don’t have any flavor, a perfect example of improvement gone awry.

At any rate, Vela and the rest of her people are colonists on a distant planet and their original supplies were destroyed, making food the most critical need. In an odd scientific endeavor, they developed a genetic change that enabled some people to consume copious quantities of food and process it to share with others in the form of pills. Now, a new problem has arisen in that the king, Vela’s father, may die and the succession is in question. Vela has to find a way to save the boy she cares for from the ultimate sacrifice while at the same time securing her place and future and her compassionate nature makes her choices even more difficult.

The real question is, when is sacrifice taken too far with the cost being so high that the intended benefit is no longer enough? The young princess is faced with dilemmas that are nearly impossible to resolve without possibly losing a piece of her soul and I empathized with her completely. I simply can’t imagine having to pit the survival of my father against that of the boy I loved but becoming a true queen worthy of the title does require a surrender of personal wants and needs.

I’ve enjoyed Ms. Dunn’s work before and this is no exception; as a standalone, there won’t be any sequel but I’ll eagerly await her next book, whatever it may be.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2018.



About the Author

Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Pintip’s novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. Her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the Tome Society It list; and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her other titles include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, STAR-CROSSED and the upcoming MALICE.

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Goodreads // Amazon // Entangled Publishing


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