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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Juggling Life, Genres, Series and Marketing--Linda O. Johnston

Linda O. Johnston will be the guest speaker at the next SJ SinC meeting.

Linda O. Johnston's first published fiction appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for Best First Mystery Short Story of the year.

Since then, Linda, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, has published more short stories, novellas, and 39 romance and mystery novels, including the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime.

She currently writes the Superstition Mysteries and the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink, and also writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries for Harlequin Nocturne.

Where: Yosemite Falls Restaurant Ashlan, West side of 99

When: Saturday, Aug 1, 2015.

Latest book:


It has been a while since we caught up with Linda O. Johnston. The last time she visited us she was in the middle of writing her Pet Rescue mysteries. In the last year she has started two new series. This is everyone’s chance to get in at the beginning – you can watch the characters develop and bloom as they are replanted into new careers, lives and loves.

Lost Under A Ladder (A Superstitious Mystery #1) features Rory Chasen and Pluckie (a mixed breed rescue dog). Rory is a skeptic but becomes obsessed with finding out the truth about superstition when her fiancé is killed after walking under a ladder. She visits the small Gold Country town of Destiny where every business has a link to some superstition (Knock-On-Wood Furniture, Falling Star Gallery, and Rainbow Inn) to find out the truth. Is there something to the old practices that insure good or bad fortune?

Taking an exploratory walk around the town, Rory finds Martha, owner of the Lucky Dog Boutique, in a semiconscious state. Rory has experience managing a pet store and allows herself to be drawn into keeping the business running until Martha recovers. Soon after a local bookshop owner is found dead and Martha is the number one suspect.

Will Rory and Pluckie find the killer before their luck runs out? Read the Book and learn the answer!
Johnston does a nice job plotting her books. Her current and previous cozy series have a protagonist with a rescue dog. I freely admit that I start thinking about wanting to have a dog again – she makes the girl and her dog relationship almost irresistible. Don’t tell the cats I said that!

--by Terrel Byrd

And look up Linda at or on Facebook. She loves to hear from readers and would be happy to friend you

Yosemite Falls Restaurant On Ashlan, West side of 99 EARLY START at 10:00 am
SATURDAY Aug 1, 2015. – Please come early by 9:45 am so we can start on time.
Members $15 Visitors $20

**NOTE: We will be served a choice of Patty Melt Burger, Crispy Chicken Salad or Spaghetti & Meatballs with Bread


RSVP by Wednesday before the meeting
If you can, we highly encourage you email your reservation instead of phoning it in, Thanks.


NOTE: please put your lunch choice on subject line

Do not log on to the website, simply send email to the above address.

IF YOU CAN NOT EMAIL Please call 559-431-0360
AND LEAVE VOICEMAIL with your name & choice of lunch.

Dial carefully, there is no greeting announcing SJ SinC.

We need everyone's assistance to make the sign up and payment for lunch as simple and smooth as possible.

****After paying, please sign up for your lunch choice and take the appropriate colored card and take it to your seat.

****If you need to write a check, please make it out to Yosemite Falls Café.

****Also, we ask that members and guests enter the restaurant and banquet room from the front. We ask that only those with a load to bring in come through the back door of the restaurant. We will, of course always welcome the disabled to use that entrance if they need to.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Our Recent SJ SinC Meeting

At our recent San Joaquin Sisters in Crime meeting, Christopher Allan Poe and Bonnie Hearn Hill gave a wonderful presentation on Hooks. Some of the tips they came up with were things I hadn't even thought of as hooks, for instance:

The first two hooks are the title and the book cover.

Next comes the first line. Start the reader off with a question that pulls them into the story.

Next come the first couple of paragraphs.

Again, asking questions the reader wants to keep reading to find the answers.

Right away, will the reader know the time frame?

Voice of the protagonist.

Writer's style sensed right away.

First chapter must hook the reader into continuing on.

The popularity of genres seem to cycle.

Bridging Conflict means taking an unrelatd event that will take the story to leading conflict or story question.

The story question should appear right away. Characters should continue to grow.

Don't have a wishy-washy story question.

When the answer comes, that's the end of the story.

External conflict makes people turn the page.

How long does it take to get to the conflict? One character wants one thing, the other doesn't. Conflict needs to escalate. Reasoning, bargining, enticing away from main argument. Threat and big escalation.

Every sentence should push the story along.

The hook should be pulled close to the POV character.

Don't tell how the person reacts, show it through facial expressions and the body.


There was a contest--who wrote the best hook, and here are the winners:

First place with Bonnie and second place, Sunny Baker with Chris.

They had some stiff competition.

Thank you, Christopher Allan Poe and Bonnie Hearn Hill--excellent information!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Toxic Eight: Editing pitfalls for novelist

(Here are some wonderful tips from our upcoming speakers at the SJ SinC meeting.)

By Bonnie Hearn Hill & Christopher Allan Poe

Don’t let toxicity take over your manuscript. Before you begin submitting, study it with a critical eye. Readers will tolerate an error or two. Maybe three. After that, you fall into the pit of amateurs. That’s the desolate, frigid region, where lost souls waste unthinkable amounts of energy and money on promotion because they didn’t bother to learn the difference between your and you’re. Don’t end up in that pit of despair. Here are some of the most common copy mistakes to watch out for in your manuscript.

Ellipses…well...they really do slow your pace… Besides, they do not substitute for dashes or periods. They’re meant to indicate missing words from a quotation. You can also use them to show that the character is interrupted in mid-speech. Be careful though. Every sentence can’t trail off into a haze of dot-dot-dots. Too many probably indicate that you’re relying on punctuation to prop up weak writing.

Exclamation points. These poor creatures get tacked at the end of any sentence that can’t stand on its own. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”
He’s right. Use them rarely.
Your language should be strong enough to convey meaning without the punctuation crutch.
This also applies to our friend, Mr. Caps Lock.
“YOU STAY AWAY FROM ME,” she shouted.
That type of behavior is fine for Facebook, but it has no place in fiction. Come to think of it, don’t do it on Facebook either.

That damned very
Mark Twain said it best. “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write “very.” Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
Twain was one smart man.

These delightful little gems have a tendency to pop up when we’re not thinking about them, like when Pops used to make popcorn for you. Echoes draw attention to themselves and can cause the reader to wake from your story. Your goal should be to use the most important words once—not just in the same paragraph, but also on the entire page if possible.

Low-impact words and phrases. We’ve all been guilty of using words that don’t sing on the page. Instead, ramp those babies up. Use words and images that punch the reader like rifle slugs. Whenever possible, you should always replace limp words with their high-octane counterpart. Punch. Slugs. Octane. Limp. See what we mean?
Blade is a lovely word, but an X-Acto knife conjures a stronger image. Did the couple drink wine or Pinot Noir? Was the flower fragrant, or did the carnation smell like exotic spice? The more specific your language, the more real your setting.
The Old Words Home. Some words and phrases are just too old. William Saroyan could use “commenced” and did so frequently. Not such a great idea today. If you still do, send it to the Old Words Home, the place where tired words and phrases go to live out the rest of their days. Don’t worry. They’ll have nurses and shuffleboard, and you won’t have to deal with those words in your writing.

Clichés. Even if your character is cool as a cucumber and ready to give the devil his due, you have the chops to kick it to the curb and come up with something fresh as a daisy. Well, maybe not, but you get the idea. The first author who described someone’s eyes as jade green might have been original, but the term should now be retired. Silken loins might have been sexy once, but it sounds like something at a butcher shop and it’s been used too many times to conjure a fresh image in the reader.

Adverbs, adjectives, and no-sh*t Sherlocks.
Stephen King nailed one part of this problem when he said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Cut them wherever you can, or replace the weak verb they’re modifying. If your protagonist walked quickly, the correct verb might be ran or jogged. If he spoke loudly, yelled or shouted work better.
Adjectives can be equally redundant. The worst are the dark-and-stormy night variety. Jane was sad and depressed. She should have been grateful and optimistic. You use two words dark-and-stormy style here because you sense unconsciously that neither is strong enough to satisfy the reader. Keep searching. Better yet, put yourself in your character’s head. Jane felt like throwing herself out the window.
Also check for no-sh*t Sherlocks. He wrapped his fingers around Jane’s throat. She was terrified. No need to tell us that last part. We get it. 
When you’re in the heat of a first draft, you’ll find yourself tossing around these words and phrases like confetti. That’s exactly what you should be doing in the first draft. Your first job is to slam that story down in any form possible—because you can fix anything but a blank page.

Bonnie and Chris are the co-authors of DIGITAL INK, a guide for fiction writers in the digital age, regardless of whether they are published traditionally, with independent presses, or self-published. The book is a creative writing text at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California, where Bonnie and Chris frequently lead workshops.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July San Joaquin SinC Meeting

Next meeting, July 11, 10 a.m., Yosemite Falls Restaurant on Ashland. 

July will be a presentation by a SJSinC favorite duo:  Bonnie Hearn Hill and Christopher Allen Poe.  The topic will be "Fishing for Jaws:  How we hook you."  This will be a talk for readers and writers on the famous (or is that infamous?) hook - the first sentence or paragraph of a story that catches the interest of the reader.  There will be examples from classic and modern literature, fiction and nonfiction as well as tips on how to construct a good hook.  

ALERT:  There will be a contest, open to members only.  Bring your best hook - typed (single space okay) - with you to the meeting.  Bonnie and Chris will select a winner and award a prize.  For readers - you may bring one  (not longer than a paragraph) from your favorite author - SJSinC will have a second prize if there are enough entries from readers only.  Need clarification?  Please call Terell at 288-2018.  Need help with typing your entry?  Call Terell!

LATE BREAKING NEWS FLASH:  Bonnie has just offered to give a sample (depending on time) of their talk entitled "Conflict in Fiction: More than a fist in the face!" 

See you all there!

Bonnie Hearn Hill, Bio:

Bonnie has written, co-authored and taught fiction writing for many years. Her next supsens novel, If Anything Should Happen will publish in the UK in July and the US in the fall.

A second in the series, Goodbye Forever will publish January 2016 in the UK and four months later in the US. One of her earlier novles has been optioned for film and is in pre-production. 

With Christopher Allen Poe, Bonnie co-authored igital Ink, a guide for fiction authors.

Christopher Allen Poe, Bio:

Christopher Allan Poe is an author and touring musician from Los Angeles, CA. He writes paranormal fiction, The Portal  and Dark Sight with an emphasis in themes that shed light on social problems for women and children. With Bonnie, he co-authored Digital Ink, a guide for fiction authors. A popular writing conference presenter, he is currently working on a television screenplay.

To learn more about upcoming releases and other exciting news, please sign up on his mailing list at: