Saturday, October 14, 2017

Friday, October 13, 2017

SMFS Member Publication News: Peter DiChellis

My crime-horror piece “Stegmann’s Basement” is free to read at Spelk Fiction.

Storyline: After a botched robbery a young criminal flees into a creepy basement.

For those not familiar with this market, Spelk is a popular U.K.-based site that accepts flash up to 500 words (all genres, literary). Non-paying, but seems to yield wide exposure, including via social media.

Peter DiChellis

Monday, October 2, 2017

SMFS Member Publication News--John M. Floyd

In addition to his short story, Knight Vision, in the current issue of Flash Bang Mysteries, John is again in Woman's World. This time he has Charlotte in Charge is in the current (October 9) issue of Woman’s World. He also sends word that his short story Travelers is in the anthology Visions VII: Universe (Rogue Star Press).

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Little Big Crimes Review: Do Not Pass Go by James Blakey

Little Big Crimes: Do Not Pass Go, by James Blakey: "Do Not Pass Go," by James Blakey, in Mystery Weekly Magazine, September 2017. I admit it.  I am a sucker for this sort of th...


The latest issue of Flash Bang Mysteries is now up and features work from SMFS members.

The Last by Michael Bracken
School Spirit by Larry W. Chavis
The Hitchhiker by Herschel Cozine (selected as the Cover Story)
Knight Vision by John M. Floyd
Fishing For An Alibi by Earl Staggs (Editor's Choice)

Friday, September 29, 2017

SMFS Member Publication News: Diana Deverell

My mystery "Blown: A Dawna Shepherd Short Story" was reprinted this month in FICTION RIVER PRESENTS: Writers Without Borders.

"Blown" is also included in the BIG BUNDLE OF SHORTS . . . STORIES available from Bundle Rabbit.

The story originally appeared in the Kobo Special Edition of Pulse Pounders, the January 2015 issue of FICTION RIVER themed anthology magazine.

Very pleased by these reappearances!

Catherine Dilts Reviews: Blasts from the Past

Catherine Dilts Reviews: Blasts from the Past

SMFS Member Publication News: "The Greatest Escape:Halloween Short Story" by Gail Farrelly

Houdini (he died on Halloween in 1926) has always fascinated me, so I thought it would be fun to write a short story about him.  What if he came back from the dead and ended up in modern-day NYC? Result? My publication at Kings River Life Magazine, "The Greatest Escape:  Halloween Short Story."

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Saturday, September 23, 2017

SMFS Member Publication News: Fatal Flaw by Cathi Stoler

My story "Fatal Flaw" featuring Nick Donahue is up today at Kings River Life Magazine. It's a tale of an International gambler who helps a beautiful woman in distress and pays the price.

The story is start of my NICK OF TIME novella, which continues Nick's escapades.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Little Big Crimes Review: Cabin Fever by David Edgerley Gates

Little Big Crimes: Cabin Fever, by David Edgerley Gates: "Cabin Fever," by David Edgerley Gates, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine,  September/October 2017. This is the fifth...

SMFS Lunch at Bouchercon - Oct 13th

 As announced on the list on September 9th, SMFS member Madeleine Callway has organized a lunch for SMFS members attending Bouchercon in Toronto next month. Below is her message to the list. I have taken the liberty of removing her email address so as to not spread her contact details around the internet. If you are a list member, please access the list and see the message from her so that you can contact her and let her know you are coming.    

Greetings from Canada!

The venue for the SMFS lunch at this year's Bouchercon in Toronto is now set. We will be meeting at Shopsy's Deli, Friday, October 13th, at 12 noon. (Appropriate!)

Shopsy's is located in the Sheraton Hotel where the conference is taking place so travel won't be an issue. Mike, the manager, is delighted to have us and we will have an area in the restaurant reserved for us.

Shopsy's has typical deli food and prices are reasonable. it's a Toronto classic.

Welcome to Toronto!

Madeleine (M. H. Callway)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Friday, September 8, 2017

SMFS Members Published in Where Crime Never Sleeps: Murder New York Style 4

Where Crime Never Sleeps: Murder New York Style 4 is a new anthology from the New York/Tri-State Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Published by Level Best Books,  the anthology was edited by SMFS member Elizabeth Zelvin who also has a short story in the book titled, “ Death Will Finish Your Marathon.”

Editor Elizabeth Zelvin reports that the following SMFS members also have short stories in the anthology:

Joseph R.G. DeMarco, Vincenzo's Head”

Nina Mansfield, “An Actor Prepares”

Anita Page, “The Cousins”

Cathi Stoler, “Every Picture Tells A Story”

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

SMFS Members Published in Black Cat Mystery Magazine

Today the first issue of Black Cat Mystery Magazine came out courtesy of Wildside Press. This first issue features short stories from a number of SMFS members including Michael Bracken, John Floyd, Kaye George, Barb Goffman, Alan Orloff, Josh Pacter, and Art Taylor.

Make sure you check out the interview with Editor Carla Coupe that appears today on the Sleuthsayers Blog courtesy of Barb Goffman.

SMFS Members Published in Mysterical-E: Summer 2017

The latest edition of Mysterical-E is now online and features work by three SMFS members. In fiction, Bern Sy Moss has a tale titled The Perfect Patsy and J.R. Lindermuth offers Yoga Kills.

Also in this edition, Gerald So has the latest roundup of news on movies and television in his column, "Mysterical-Eye on TV and Film."

You can read the current issue here. Make sure you check out the back issues as well for more solidly good fiction.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Great Train Robbery: Mystery Short Story by Michael Bracken

The Great Train Robbery: Mystery Short Story by Michael Bracken went up yesterday as part of the August 19th edition of Kings River Life Magazine. Michael has reported to the list that the tale was originally published in Mike Shane Mystery Magazine in June 1985. At that time, it was his fourth publication in the magazine and his seventh published mystery overall.

You can read the tale here.

Judy Penz Sheluk remembers B. K. Stevens

Just shares this interview she did with B. K. back in September 2016.

Catherine Dilts remembers B. K. Stevens

Catherine Dilts shares....

I am saddened to announce the passing earlier this week of a great mystery author, B. K. Stevens. She left us too soon. Rather than posting my usual short story review, please read this author's work and form your own opinion. A Derringer Award winner, her mysteries are of literary quality. She appeared frequently in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. I wrote her a fan letter for her story, The Last Blue Glass. B. K. responded that she saved all her fan letters, to re-read at moments when she was discouraged. You can find the link to The Last Blue Glass here. I have no doubt she will be remembered.

Catherine Dilts
Stone Cold Blooded - A Rock Shop Mystery 
Unrepentant Sinner - AHMM May/June 2017
Derringer Award Finalist: The Chemistry of Heroes - AHMM - May 2016

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Jay Hartman remembers B. K. Stevens

Jay shares....

B. K. was an author who signed on with us very early on in the foundation of Untreed Reads. I remember being so thrilled that she was willing to take the chance on a new publishing house to place her work. We ended up publishing two of her short stories as standalones, and she supported us and both of them as if they were full-length, NYT bestsellers. She had a great wit, was incredibly sweet and genuinely cared about the success of everyone involved in her publications. A true joy to work with.

Jay Hartman
Untreed Reads Publishing

Friday, August 18, 2017

SleuthSayers: Remembering B.K. Stevens

Several SMFS members are currently at work on their remembrance posts for the SMFS blog as B. K. Stevens was also a major presence in our SMFS group. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends in the wake of her sudden passing.

SleuthSayers: Remembering B.K. Stevens: By Art Taylor On Monday, B.K. Stevens —an award-winning mystery writer, a member of the SleuthSayers family here, and a great friend t...

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Little Big Crimes Review Publish or Perish by Kevin Z. Garvey

Little Big Crimes: Publish or Perish, by Kevin Z. Garvey: "Publish or Perish," by Kevin Z. Garvey, in Mystery Weekly Magazine, July 2017. Every twist ending is a surprise. Not every s...

SMFS Member News: Diana Deverell

"Shut Your Eyes and You'll be Fine" by Diana Deverell is in Mystery Weekly's August issue

Like the story's protagonist, Diana spent 18 months in war-torn San Salvador. She's tried many times to turn that experience into fiction, but no sale. The MW editor's acceptance of this brand-new effort suggests that 35 years might be enough distance.

Diana tells more to thriller writer Rick Reed in an interview published in the August issue of The Big Thrill the-door-by-diana-deverell/

Monday, July 31, 2017

SMFS Members News— JULY 2017

The members below reported their publishing successes this month: 

Melissa H. Blaine, “The Devil's Standable”  in the anthology, Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse, (Editor Kaye George) Wildside Press. (July 2017).

Michael Bracken, “Last Good Day” at Tough (July 24, 2017); “Smoked” in Noir at the Salad Bar: Culinary Tales With A Bite, Level Best Books, (July 2017); “Long-Distance Love” in True Story (July 2017); and “Beach Body” and “Three’s A Crowd” in True Confessions (July 2017). 

Craig Faustus Buck, “Honeymoon Sweet” at Trigger Warning: Short Fiction With Pictures: Issue 10 (July 2017). The author notes that his Macavity Award winning story was illustrated with original artwork by John Skewes. A signed copy of the illustration was provided to the author as that is done with all published by the site.

Larry W. Chavis, “On The Hook: Mystery Short Story” at Kings River Life Magazine (July 22, 2017).

Lauryn Christopher, “Lemonade and Larceny” in Fiction River: Editor's Choice: Volume 23, WMG Publishing (June 30, 2017) and “Backstage Pass” in the Crimes, Capers, and Rule-Breakers bundle (July 2017).

Diana Deverell, “Con Prince of Copenhagen,” in the Crimes, Capers, and Rule-Breakers bundle (July 2017) as well as “Black Powder Boogie: Mystery Short Story” at Kings River Life Magazine (July 15, 2017 and “The Real and Recent Wars Behind My Fiction” in Mystery Readers Journal: Murder In Wartime: Volume 33, Issue No. 2, Summer 2017.

Peter DiChellis, “Darkness, Darkness” in Mystery Weekly (July 2017 Humor Issue) and “Hostile Plans” in Switchblade Magazine: Issue Two (July 2017) as well as “The All-Night Zombie Channel” at The Higgs Weldon comedy site (July 27, 2017).

Patricia Dusenbury, “Cold Turkey” at Flash Bang Mysteries: Summer 2017 Issue (July 2017).

Gail Farrelly, “For Pete’s Sake” at the Yonker’s Tribune, (July 5, 2017). Part Two appeared on July 12, 2017, with Part Three following on July 19, 2017, and the concluding Part Four on July 26, 2017.

John M. Floyd, “Ace in the Hole” at Flash Bang Mysteries: Summer 2017 Issue (July 2017) as well as “The Sandman” in Noir at the Salad Bar: Culinary Tales With A Bite, Level Best Books (July 2017) and “Mr. Unlucky” in the August 7, 2017 issue of  Woman’s World. John also reports he is in the June –Sept issue of The Strand Magazine with his story “Crow Mountain.”

Kaye George, “The Darkest Hour” in the anthology, Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse, (Editor Kaye George) Wildside Press. (July 2017).

Debra H. Goldstein, “A Golden Eclipse” in the anthology, Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse, (Editor Kaye George) Wildside Press. (July 2017).

John Lindermuth, The Tithing Herd, Sundown Press (July 2017).

Paul D. Marks, “Blood Moon” in the anthology, Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse, (Editor Kaye George) Wildside Press. (July 2017).

LD Masterson, “Picture Perfect” in the anthology, Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse, (Editor Kaye George) Wildside Press. (July 2017) as well as “Deadly Dinner” in the anthology,  Noir at the Salad Bar: Culinary Tales With A Bite, Level Best Books (July 2017).
Alan Orloff, “Togas and Toquesin the anthology,  Noir at the Salad Bar: Culinary Tales With A Bite, Level Best Books (July 2017).

Mary Reed, writing as Eric Reed, Ruined Stones, Poisoned Pen Press (July 2017).

Jude Roy, “Santa is Dead” at Flash Bang Mysteries: Summer 2017 Issue (July 2017).

Jacqueline Seewald, “Morgan’s Mountain” in Hypnos: Volume 6: Issue 2: Summer 2017 (July 2017).

Judy Penz Sheluk, “The Cycopaths: Mystery Short Story” at Kings River Life Magazine (July 29, 2017).

Jennifer Soosar, Gary Deserves Reward” at Flash Bang Mysteries: Summer 2017 Issue (July 2017).

Cynthia St-Pierre, “The Girl with the Mangled Breast” at Crimson Streets (July 23. 2017). 

Cheri Vause, “Black Monday” in the anthology, Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse, (Editor Kaye George) Wildside Press. (July 2017).

Friday, July 7, 2017

Guest Post: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Murder by SMFS Member Peter DiChellis

It has been awhile, but SMFS member Peter DiChellis is back today with some thoughts about humor in mysteries…

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Murder
By Peter DiChellis

I enjoy reading and writing mysteries peppered with humor. Counterintuitive as it might seem, fictional tales of appalling crimes and their life-crushing consequences are often enhanced by hoots and yuks from humor. How can that possibly be? For me at least, there are several reasons.
1. Humor provides breathing space, a touch of comic relief from the so-often dismal themes in mystery and crime stories. To paraphrase an old political saw, these stories ain’t beanbag. Humor can deliver a welcome break in the tension.
2. Humorous passages give camouflage for clues. This is your brain on humor: Giddy and giggly and distracted, but not focused on rational analysis. Could you overlook an important clue during a bout of head-shaking, eyeball-rolling chortling? Count on it.
3. Humor is just flat-out entertaining. Among the many splendid reasons to read a good mystery, or any engrossing fiction, is simply to enjoy an entertaining diversion. Humor amps up the entertainment.
4. Humor creates likeability. In real life, we tend to like and appreciate good-humored people who can make us laugh. Why wouldn’t we feel the same about fictional characters and stories?
5. Injections of humor might help a story stand out in a crowded field. By definition mystery and crime stories, like all genre fiction, typically incorporate common elements that readers have come to expect. Humor is one way to add a distinctive element that helps a story stand apart.
6. Humorous incidents can erect unusual and revealing obstacles for characters to overcome. Fictional detectives already endure wily suspects, unreliable witnesses, contaminated evidence, and other impediments to success. Frustrate them with some funny stuff too and see how they handle it.
7. Mysteries provide lots of creative opportunities for humor. The cast of characters, from detectives to sidekicks to suspects to witnesses, is rich with eccentric possibilities. Strange clues and weird circumstances abound. Settings range from seedy barrooms to stately mansions, from trailer parks to office towers.
Finally, I hope those who enjoy humorous mysteries will take a look at the July issue of Mystery Weekly, an extra-large humor edition. The issue includes my story (“Darkness, Darkness”) about a blind man who witnesses a murder and offers detectives a peculiar assortment of puzzling clues.

Peter DiChellis © 2017
Peter DiChellis concocts sinister and sometimes comedic tales for anthologies, ezines, and magazines. He is a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society and an Active (published author) member of the Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. For more, visit his site Murder and Fries at

Saturday, July 1, 2017

SleuthSayers: Mags and Anthos

SleuthSayers: Mags and Anthos: by John M. Floyd The other day R.T. Lawton and I were e-chatting about the new issue of AHMM --this isn't the first time he and I ...

SMFS Members among 2017 Macavity Award Nominees

The Macavity Award is named for the “mystery cat” of T.S. Eliot (Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats). Each year The Macavity Awards are nominated and voted on by members of Mystery Readers International, subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal, and friends and supporters of MRI who all nominate and vote for their favorite mysteries in four categories. The winners will be announced at opening ceremonies at Bouchercon in Toronto, Thursday, October 12.

We have four members of the Short Mystery Fiction Society nominated this year in two categories.

In the category of  Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel:

Edith Maxwell for Delivering The Truth, Midnight Ink.

In the category of Best Short Story:

Craig Faustus Buck for Blank Shot” in Black Coffee, Darkhouse Books.

Paul D. Marks: Ghosts of Bunker Hill” in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Dec. 2016.

Art Taylor forParallel Play” in Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning, Wildside Press.

The full list of all the 2017 Macavity Award Nominees can be found on the website. Congrats and good luck to all the nominees and especially to those members of the SMFS!

Friday, June 30, 2017

SMFS Members News— JUNE 2017

The members below reported their publishing successes this month: 

Michael Bracken, “Wedding Day Disaster” in True Story (June 2017) as well as “Baseball Daddy” and “Summer Skeevy” in True Confessions (June 2017).

Diana Deverell, Open the Door: Nora Dockson Legal Thriller #5,  Sorrel Press (June 2017).

Patricia Dusenbury, “Family Man” at Mystery Tribune (June 8, 2017).

Gail Farrelly, “Double Trouble: Mystery Short Story” was published in Kings River Life Magazine (June 17, 2017).

John M Floyd has three stories out this month. “Witness Protection,” in Woman’s World (June 19, 2017) as well as “The Rare Book Case” in Woman’s World (July 3, 2017 issue) on sale now. He also has “Trail’s End,” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, July/August 2017. He also has a piece on short story writing, “Long Story Short” at FundsForWriters (June 16, 2017). 

David H. Hendrickson, Huram's Temple, Pentucket Publishing (June 2017).

Martin Roy Hill, The Butcher's Bill (The Linus Schag, NCIS, Thrillers Book 2),  32-32 North (June 2017).

Steve Liskow, “Look What They've Done to My Song, Mom” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, July/August 2017.

Sandra Murphy, From Hay to Eternity: Ten Devilish Tales of Crime and Deception, Untreed Reads (May 2017).

O’Neil De Noux, “The Magnolia Murders” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, July/August 2017.

Alan Orloff, “Happy Birthday” at Shotgun Honey (June 15, 2017). 

Jude Roy, La Valse du Bayou Serpent (The Bayou Serpent Waltz), Amazon Digital Services (June 2017). 

Jennifer Soosar, Parent Teacher Association, Black Opal Books (June 2017).

When, and only when he makes the call onlist, email news for next month's post to SMFS President Kevin R. Tipple (KEVINRTIPPLE at VERIZON dot NET).

Monday, June 26, 2017

Guest Post: IN THE BEGINNING by Jan Christensen


So you want to be a writer. So did I. I've probably written my million words--about eighty short stories and ten full-length novels, and a couple dozen articles, some published, some not.

To be a published author takes perseverance and a tough skin. I seem to have both. But not in the beginning.

It hurts to get that first rejection. It's discouraging to get the first dozen.

Baby steps are needed. A baby learns to walk by practicing every day, and that's what a beginning writer should do. You learn an awful lot by simply doing. But it doesn't hurt to read a book a month about writing, some of the better writing magazines, and now blogs.

Read best-selling authors' autobiographies or self-help books. Stephen King in On Writing said you should read an hour for every hour you write. You can learn a lot by reading the current best sellers and widely in the genre you're particularly interested in.

The ONLY way you'll ever get published is to write. Thinking about it, talking about it won't get you there. You have to go to that quiet spot with your writing tools and just do it.

Good luck!

Jan Christensen ©2017

Jan Christensen lives and writes in Corpus Christi, Texas now, after living on the road in an RV and writing wherever she happened to land. She concentrates on mysteries, both short and long. More about her here:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Little Big Crimes Review: Short Story by Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta

Little Big Crimes: Short Story, by Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta...: "Short Story," by Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta, in Matchup, edited by Lee Child, Simon and Schuster, 2017. I'm not a...



If you ever took a journalism class, you know the basics of writing nonfiction for newspapers and magazines. However, these basic tools can also help you hone your fiction into tight, sharp writing that is both clear and complete. This is, of course, especially important for short story writers.

The basics are: who, what, where, when, why, and how. Every journalism student has to memorize those words. Usually in that order. Sometimes one or more can be left out, but it should be a conscious decision with a good reason. Not long ago, for example, our local newspaper had an article about making the city greener, and explained about an organization giving away free trees in a few days. They did the who—the name of the organization. The what--a giveaway of three trees to anyone who showed up; the when--the date; the why--to make the city green. And the how--go and get the trees. They left out one vital fact, however. The where. No address, no clue about the location of the giveaway. So, both the reporter and the editor missed something really important. Oddly enough, they reported on the event after it was over (I believe this is yearly and they always give away the trees in the same location), told how many trees were given away, and—you guessed it, the location where it all took place. In this case, NOT better late than never.

The reader of fiction almost always needs all these elements, too, for the story to make sense. Leave one vital part out, and you’ve lost her. A good rule of thumb is to be sure you have them all there when you are finished with all your edits. Because you may have put them all in when you wrote the piece (or you may not have), and you may take something out that was really needed, or miss that something was left out in the first place. But if you look one last time for each element, you should be fine.

Jan Christensen ©2017

Jan Christensen lives and writes in Corpus Christi, Texas now, after living on the road in an RV and writing wherever she happened to land. She concentrates on mysteries, both short and long. More about her here:

Monday, June 12, 2017

Guest Post: STAGES OF WRITING A SHORT STORY by Jan Christensen


The steps below help me keep on track when writing a new story. Through trial and error, I've come up with these ideas to stay organized.

1. Get idea.  Get excited about your idea.  Start outlining, mental planning--whatever you do to get going.  I always just dive into the writing.

2. Start writing the story. Open a second document on your computer.  I name mine [NAME OF STORY] notes.DOCX.  Keep it open whenever you're working on this manuscript.  In it note each new character's name and description as you write about him or her, and any descriptions and names of specific places.  If you’re in flow and would rather wait until the end of your writing session to put this info down, that's fine, but it will take you longer to find it again to copy and paste.

After the list of names, do what I call a "post outline."  In a few sentences, write down what happened in each scene.  You will bless yourself later for this when you are revising, writing your query letter, and submitting

In the next section of your notes, copy and paste or type in research you did and other items as they come up. To keep good track of your research and to make it easier to go back to it, include the links to the material if you found it on-line.

3. Revise.

4. Submit. In your notes document, make a table to show where and when you submitted the story and the results of the submission. If you need to write a cover letter, first write it in the notes doc, edit it carefully, then copy and paste it into an email submission or into an on-line form if that’s the way submissions are handled by your target.

5. Instead of waiting to see if it’s accepted, get to work right away on a new story.

Good luck!

Jan Christensen ©2017

Jan Christensen lives and writes in Corpus Christi, Texas now, after living on the road in an RV and writing wherever she happened to land. She concentrates on mysteries, both short and long. More about her here:

Monday, June 5, 2017

Guest Post: WHO SAID THAT? by Jan Christensen

It is the first Monday of June and Jan is back today with some simple advice that is often ignored these days….


I really want to know. All the time. In real life, and when reading.

Nothing makes me more ticked off with a story than not knowing who’s speaking. And it’s rare anymore for me to read a book where I don’t find places where I have to reread to figure it out.

Please, don’t do this to your readers. I notice it happens most often near the end of a story when things are winding down, answers to questions provided, and lots of characters are talking. Just when you really don’t want to stop to figure out who’s saying what. Did the writer get in a hurry and leave off the attributions? Did the author figure that her characters’ voices were so clear by now the reader would automatically know who was talking? (Doesn’t happen with me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.) Has the writer bought into the idea that writing “he said” or “she said” is breaking a rule?

See, you don’t want me wondering about this when I’m reading your story. You want me to glide through it, to never have to stop to puzzle out something so simple as “who said that?”

I’ve been reading and writing for a long time now. A decade or so ago a very popular author suggested that a simple “he said/she said” was the best way for the reader to know who was talking instead of using modifiers or such attributes as “he hissed,” or “he growled,” or said with an adverb, “she said softly,” or “he grumbled loudly.” This decade, someone else “ruled” that you should not only not use attributes at all, but instead use small actions to show what the character is doing and thinking while speaking. Thus, you may notice a heck of a lot of coffee being drunk now in what you read. Or tea. It’s so easy to use “Jenny took a sip of coffee” that many writers do use it. Over and over again. After Jenny takes a sip of hers, John answers and adds cream to his. How does this add one bit of information or interest to the story? It doesn’t. Instead, it’s often distracting. Very distracting if the author only uses this device.

What to do? Mix it up, of course.

1.      Have some characters use certain tics to show they’re upset (fingering a necklace, tapping a pen, etc.)
2.      Have the occasional character hiss (be sure there’s some “s” sounds in the words he utters, however) or roar or whisper.
3.      Use “he said” or “she said” when you want fast action along with the dialogue. Any reader older than ten is used this and won’t even notice. But they will miss it if they cannot figure out who is speaking.

And they will be ticked. Trust me on this.

One more bit of info about this. With e-readers, things can get even worse when the attributions are left out because of wonky formatting. Which is exactly what happened to me just before I wrote this rant--I mean-- advice. Near the end of a novel by an extremely famous and popular writer, she left out a “he said” where the formatting got messed up (big NY publisher, too) and two paragraphs ran together. Or I think they did. I had to go back to re-read it because at first I thought one person was speaking, but when I got about four or five paragraphs farther, I thought it might have been the other character. I’m still not sure I ever got it right because it went on for eight paragraphs without telling who was talking. There was a small action in there, but it didn’t help identify the character speaking. In fact, it made it harder to figure out. What do you suppose I’m going to remember the most about this novel?

Jan Christensen ©2017

Jan Christensen lives and writes in Corpus Christi, Texas now, after living on the road in an RV and writing wherever she happened to land. She concentrates on mysteries, both short and long. More about her here: