The Best Place to Write

I’ve always thought the best place to write was outside (something about being in a place without walls makes me feel like there’s no walls on my imagination). Autumn has definitely arrived in the Ozarks; before long, I won’t be able to write outside at ll.

For now, though, it’s pretty nice under my favorite writing tree:

Writing a Mystery – The Most Essential Rule

I am now in the midst of writing a mystery. I’ve been working on this for several months now, and I had to share the one thing I wish I’d done from the get-go. The thing I will always do, every time I write a mystery from here on out:

Write the Crime First

I don’t mean some one sentence “Professor Plum did it in the kitchen with the candlestick” either. I mean write the crime as a story. Do not include the detective or p.i. or cop or amateur sleuth or whoever is going to solve the thing. That’s not part of this at all. This is the crime. From the point of view of the person who did it. Write it as a story. Doesn’t matter how long–a short story, novella, novelette. Write how this person manages to steal or kill or abduct or whatever it is they’re guilty of. Write why. Write what brought them to it. Write how they carried it out, and write how they covered it up.

Then, after you’ve written the crime, and have full understanding of it, write the mystery. Introduce your detective who will now try to solve it.

Seriously–write the crime first. You’ll thank me.

Write in the Midst of a Busy Life (Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo)

Even all these years in, I still go through periods when I think it: that I’m too tired, too frazzled, too worried about something to be able to write properly.

And then I tell myself to just shut up.

Everybody works differently, and there’s no one right way. But for me, I do better if I carve some time out each day. I no longer swear by daily marathon writing sessions that used to make up the bulk of my day. I just plain can’t write for ten-plus hours a day. There’s too much going on in a busy household. Dinners and dog-walking and lawn mowing and license plate renewing and…

You know. You have all the same stuff to do.

But I’m better off if I carve out something, like I said. Half an hour, even. There’s usually some section of the day that’s quieter, even in the most chaotic of households. Maybe really early in the morning. Maybe around lunch. Maybe mid-morning, after you drop the kids off at school. Maybe in the afternoon, while the kids are doing homework and before you have to put dinner on. In my own house, it’s post-dinner. I can actually get a few hours of work in, between about seven and eleven (when my dog needs his last round of meds for the day).

When you write in short bursts, the hardest part is keeping your train of thought going. The best way I’ve found to keep my momentum going?

Write Out of Order

Write scenes. Don’t worry about the order of events. Don’t worry about the narrative thread linking it all together. Just write scenes. Action scenes. Love scenes. Scenes of characters meeting. Write all the pivotal events.

Do a NaNoWriMo-Style Challenge

It’s coming up anyway, but why not do your own NaNoWriMo-style challenge? Tell yourself you’ll write 40-50K words of scenes in a month. The point of NaNoWriMo is to just get it down, right? Great! Draft your scenes. Do it in a month. Then slide the pieces (ahem, chapters) into place, linking them all with a narrative thread. (Tip: This part works much easier in a writing program like Scrivener. I haven’t drafted a book in Word in ages.)

The Point Is…

Every house is loud. And busy. Laundry baskets are always full and cars are always leaking oil. There are always repairs and chores. It’s true for everyone, even professional writers. There is absolutely no perfect time to write. There just isn’t. But there are plenty of great snatches of time in the midst of all the chaos, when you can write some surprisingly lovely stuff.

Current WIP: Play It Again

When I re-released Playing Hurt, I got some incredible, fresh feedback on the book–so much so, it gave me all sorts of ideas for tightening up Play It Again. I’m really excited about this new chapter of Chelsea and Clint’s story.

I’ve got the book formatted, and I’m now doing line edits! It’s always so exciting to see a book laid out in InDesign.

More to come on this project soon…

Working Through Writer’s Block

The thing is, I don’t get writer’s block. At least, not in the way you usually think of it. I am never without new ideas for new books. And I actually love revision. (I’ve never felt I couldn’t work my way through a revision.)

BUT: throughout the past few years, I have hit periods in which I have a hard time focusing. It happens during periods of social uprising or political maelstroms.

I have to admit, lately, I’ve had a hard time focusing on my WIP, Play It Again (the Playing Hurt sequel). And it has everything to do with the images on my nightly news, the papers I read.

It’s tough–and because it’s ongoing, I don’t have any real solidified thoughts about it. I just wanted to let everyone who’s feeling the same way to know they’re not alone. I’m slogging through it, too.

I’m taking lots of walks.

I’m outside with my dog.

I’m trying new recipes.

I’m reading new books.

I’m doing my best to introduce the feeling of play in my work.

I’m sending out good writing vibes to all my fellow writers…

Thankful for Readers – A Play It Again Cover Reveal!

This Thanksgiving weekend, I’m so incredibly thankful for my readers. It’s been such a rough year for all of us, and I can’t tell you how truly amazing it is to hear from you. I have so enjoyed receiving your messages about the Ruby’s Place Christmas Collection. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your reaching out to shoot me a message. And, I am thoroughly enjoying hearing from some of you about Play It Again!

I don’t have an exact date of release yet, but since I’m getting a few questions, I did want to share a bit of the book with you…the cover art!

It’s so much fun to spend time with these characters. I can’t wait to share this new installment with you!

Juggling Multiple Writing Projects #WritingTips #DraftYourNovel

Coronavirus has thrown the entirety of the publishing world into confusion. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read lately trying to work out whether you should submit, whether agents are reading, whether editors are acquiring, what kind of reading landscape will exist when we come through the worst of the pandemic, etc.

One thing you can always do–no matter the state of publishing–is write. Easier said than done, of course, these last few weeks. We’ve been homeschooling, cooking, and let’s face it: worrying about our financial situations and the health of our families.

One thing I’ve done during home isolation is juggle multiple projects. In the past, that really got me into trouble. Mostly because “juggling” amounted to starting projects and abandoning them in the middle. This time around, I’ve been more successful with it.

A big part of that success is that I’m not pushing to meet a quick deadline. That’s really one of the most important aspects–or so I’ve found. You really can’t be concerned with finishing a project quickly if you would like to try juggling.

BUT: It’s been great for me lately. Here’s why:

Juggling Projects Allows for More Think Time

Basically, right now, I’m writing four different books. (Sounds nuts, I know.) I’ll admit that it requires a ton of outlining and planning–I draft a few chapters of one book, then outline or brainstorm the possibilities for the next few chapters before bouncing to another project (whichever project is calling to me at the moment). But I never forget about the first project. It’s always there, in the back of my mind. The extra think time gives me room to come up with additional possibilities for structure, events, conflicts, etc.

Ideas Become More Important than Sentences

This goes back to the whole quick deadline thing. When you’re on deadline, it’s all about meeting insane word counts. You don’t really have the time to brainstorm for a week and a half when you need to knock out 50K in a month.

With the juggling method, though, I feel like I’m far more concerned with the ideas. Like I said, I outline like crazy. When I come back to a project, I review my outlines. I may think they’re weak. I may decide I need to brainstorm all over again. I may do nothing but re-outline and brainstorm, then bounce to another book.

Don’t underestimate how important that is: As a reader, I feel concepts stick with me, and make a bigger impact, than pretty turns of phrases. Whether or not I enjoy a book is primarily about an author’s ideas, most times. And this strategy can really help with idea generation.

Juggling Creates a Sense of Play

This is the big one. I’m not alone in saying joy is essential for good writing. When I sit down to write, I go toward whichever project my heart wants to work on. I might switch projects mid-day, and I might stick with one for a week before bouncing. Because I’m writing the project I’m most excited about, I always feel like I’m playing rather than working.

I can’t tell you really how much fun this juggling is–of course, the true test will be in the finished products!

More to come…


Holy moly, it’s been a long time since I blogged. More than a month! This, in all honesty, is the reason why:


I had to take Gus in for his neuter. I know, I know: it’s something the vast majority of pet owners do. It’s surgery, but it’s routine. Only, Gus’s wasn’t so much. He had a testicle that didn’t descend, so I really had no idea how it would go. On occasion, if the missing testicle is in the abdomen, it can require some exploratory surgery. (!)

Of course, Little Miss Type A spent more than a month Googling random testicle facts and watching cryptorchid neuters on YouTube. Long story short, the vet did an incredible job, the testicle was easily located, and we wound up with only one incision. Gus has completely recovered, healed beautifully, and is fully back to his zoomie-running, escape artist, silly, rambunctious puppy routine.


Once it was all over, I began to feel like I’d finally gotten my brain back.

It really is amazing how worry can hijack your own thoughts–in a way that you don’t even fully realize at the time. It’s not the only emotion that taints a writing session, either. Frustration can. Disappointment. Even uncertainty. I’m a big, BIG believer that tapping into joy is key for good writing. Now, looking back on the last few weeks, I can definitely see how worry was impacting my ability to tap into the joy and fun of writing. And how that was impacting the work.

It’s not the easiest thing to tackle, though, is it? Far easier to carve a few minutes out of the day to get some writing done. You can’t exactly just stop being worried, turn it off so you can work.

All I can say for now is that it’s definitely something I want to pay more attention to, keep track of. Kind of an early 2020 resolution…


I’ve always been a big proponent of making time, especially where my writing is concerned. I mean, if I were to sit around waiting for the perfect time to write–a time completely free from distractions–I’d maybe write three or four days a year. Any adult life is just fraught with responsibilities and obligations. And those responsibilities are not necessarily burdensome! We have responsibilities to friends and families and pets and side-jobs we love. We want to do right by the people in our lives…

aaand we also have lawns to mow and laundry to do and dinner to cook.

Okay, so some of those daily obligations are burdensome.

Regardless, I’ve learned to write in early mornings and late at night. I’ve brainstormed in back seats. I’ve thumbed new chapters into my phone while waiting in line at the DMV. I’ve dictated while driving. I keep little mini spiral notebooks in my purse. I have an old Alphasmart NEO that can keep me going during power outages (it’s Missouri–there are plenty of power outages, let me tell you).

I write every day, no matter what’s going on–doctor’s appointments or author visits or traveling or even mundane daily chores like grocery shopping. No matter what else has to be done, I get some writing done too. Some days, it’s eight hours of writing. Some days, it’s twenty minutes. But some sort of progress gets made.

I learned a long time ago that it’s the only way a book gets written. You just write. Even in the most imperfect of situations.

But what about ART???

This one’s far harder for me. I’ve been determined to carve out more time for it, but I fail at this one more often than not. I get started writing a new project, and suddenly, I realize days have gone by and between life, marketing, and writing, I haven’t even thought about plugging in my Wacom.

It’s no excuse, though. It can’t be. I know plenty of writers who are also artists.


This is part of my Skyping corner. That blue picture of fairies? That’s a Carrie Jones. Proof that a writer can incorporate time for artwork in her day…

One thing I know for sure is that it does not work to wait until the end of the day and try to squeeze in some artwork. I’m tired. My brain doesn’t work anymore. All I want to do by the time I’m officially done with all writing-related work is read or (if I’m really fried) watch an hour of TV (I’ve just recently discovered Homeland).

But I’m going to take a page from my writing life. I’m going to put a sketchbook (or my drawing tablet) off to the side. During longer writing days, when I need to take a breather, I’m going to do a bit of sketching. There are so many things I want to work on: my line work, improving texture and use of shadow, etc., etc., etc. But those things will never improve if I don’t work on them. Ten or twenty minutes a day doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can really add up. My writing life is proof of that.

To try to keep myself honest, I also plan to post some of my work on IG. You can follow along here: