Tag Archives: #amwriting

Meet Author – Donna Alice Patton

 Donna Alice Patton is a gardening enthusiast from the Midwest who has won numerous donna-alice-patton-1trophies and ribbons for her flowers and vegetables. In the winter, when she can’t play in the dirt, she soothes her creativity by writing instead. She’s the author of five books for children including: Saddle Up!  – based on a real-life California horse camp, and a finalist in the 2017 Silver Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America, as well as Snipped in the Bud: A Tale from the Garden of Mysteries.

 What is the title of your latest book? The Mystery in the Maze – Book Two in the Maggie and Em series. When a friend tells them about an overgrown maze and a Donna 1missing treasure in gold coins, the twins are off on another adventure!

Blurb: What do ten silver dollars, an invasion of annoying relatives and a cackling voice in a mysterious, overgrown maze have in common? Eleven-year-old Maggie Brandenburg! While most of the US suffers through the Great Depression of the 1930s, all Maggie’s first-wish-on-a-star dreams have come true. Her family has a new home. Maggie and her twin sister, Em, are enjoying school and their first ever new bicycles. Best of all, her parents aren’t struggling to make a living. Life would be a bowl of cherries – except for those pesky, lip-biting worries.  If those vanished silver dollars aren’t found. . . if the relatives can’t be helped . . . and if that maze didn’t hold so many mysteries! Mysteries that are squeezing all the happiness out of Maggie’s dreams.  Can Maggie find her way through the tangled maze before time runs out?

 What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding? The most challenging aspects are the social media and non-writing related activities.  Self-promotion does not come easily to me! The most rewarding aspect is just writing and finishing a story – having it feel ‘done.’

What is your top tip for an aspiring writer? Keep writing! Don’t stop or be discouraged because publication doesn’t happen right away. Try new things like entering contests or writing something different. 

What are you working on at the moment? At the moment, I’m doing the final editing of a western for children. It’s part of a series – wish I could think of a clever name – but right now I call them the Jenny books. This one is The Cattle Rustling Catastrophe. It’s almost ready to send to the publisher. 

What do you like to read? My reading habits are hard to pin down!  I’m interested in just about everything. Currently I’m on an armchair travel kick – reading Heidi’s Alps, A Walk in the Woods, The Hitchhiker’s Diary, etc. Mysteries, westerns and historical fiction never let me down! 

Where can readers find you?

Donna 2Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Books-by-Donna-Alice-Patton- 1111365852244019/

Website: www.donnaalicepatton.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/donnaalice22@donnaalice22

Blogs:  http://www.layers-of-life@blogspot.com






Meet Author – Nancy Wood

Nancy grew up in various locations on the east coast of America, and now calls central California nancy_wood_author_photohome. She retired recently, having spent 35 years as a technical writer – translating engineer-speak into words and sentences, which she describes as like translating ancient Greek, where you’re not too familiar with the Greek part!

From September, 2016 to August, 2017, she and her husband wandered across the planet, visiting France, Spain, England, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand, ending up in the delightful city of Ghent, Belgium for three months. They’re still on the move, having just returned from Amsterdam, where they participated in a home exchange. They’ll be travelling in India in December and January. You can check out their travel blog at: hansandnancy.wordpress.com. In addition to travelling and writing, Nancy is a keen photographer, especially macro photography. She keeps a photography blog at: nancywoodphotos.wordpress.com.

What is the title of your latest book? My latest book is called The Stork. It was released by Solstice Publishing in February 2018. It’s the second book in the Shelby McDougall series. This book picks up Shelby’s life five and one-half years after the events in Book 1, Due Date. The Stork can be read after Due Date or as a standalone. I included plenty of backstory for a couple of reasons: I didn’t want to require that readers read Due Date before reading The Stork. And, because of the gap between the two books (six years), I knew that no one would remember any of the characters or the story line!

Book blurb for The Stork: It’s been five and a half years, and Shelby McDougall is finally on track. Back in Santa Cruz, California, she’s sharing an apartment with her nancy the stork-001brother, and is in her second year of criminal justice studies. She’s landed her dream job as intern to local PI Kathleen Bennett. And her stone-cold love life is heating up. Her past is behind her. Almost.

A late-night phone call puts Shelby’s perfectly ordered life into a tailspin. One of the twins she put up for adoption has been kidnapped, snatched from his home in the middle of the night. There are no witnesses. After meeting the family, Shelby knows something is off. The adoptive parents tell her the children don’t sleep. They eat constantly, and their IQs are off the charts, qualifying them for either Ripley’s Believe It or Not or a sideshow act in the circus.

Against her better judgment, knowing that every cop in the state of California is doing their best to find this boy, Shelby agrees to help. By the time she realizes she’s up against something powerful, something evil, it’s almost too late. As Shelby fights for her life and that of the kidnapped boy, she learns the shocking truth about her babies. And she also discovers her own truth, a lesson she has to learn over and over: her best instincts might have unexpected, damaging, consequences.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding? Most challenging: Making the time to write. For me, it’s something I have to do every day; it’s truly a practice. Most rewarding: Holding the actual book with an actual cover in my hands!

What is your top tip for an aspiring writer? Don’t let your inner critic wear you down. It’s there, it’s persistent, and it’s deadly. Best ignored!

What are you working on at the moment? I’m working on the third, and final book, in the Shelby McDougall series. I have the plot figured out, and am currently working on outlining each chapter. Once that’s done, I’ll start to write.

What do you like to read? Before I decided to write a mystery, I never read crime fiction. Now, it’s all I read! When I was growing up, there was Agatha Christie and that was about it. Now, crime fiction includes any subgenre of literature you can think of. Literary, social, cultural, historical, romantic, horror: it all can be incorporated in a mystery. There’s something very compelling about a one-size-includes-all genre! I also love a series; getting to know a character over time and in multiple settings.

Where can readers find you?

  • Website: nancywoodbooks.wordpress.com
  • Email: nancywoodbooks@gmail.com
  • Buy links: 
  • The Stork: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079N77LQ9
  • Due Date: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00876174M – About Due Date (Book 1 in the Shelby McDougall series): Surrogate mother, Shelby Nancy - due date-001McDougall, just fell for the biggest con of all—a scam that risks her life and the lives of her unborn twins. Twenty-three year-old Shelby McDougall is facing a mountain of student debt and a memory she’d just as soon forget. A Rolling Stone ad for a surrogate mother offers her a way to erase the loans and right her karmic place in the cosmos. Within a month, she’s signed a contract, relocated to Santa Cruz, California, and started fertility treatments. But intended parents Jackson and Diane Entwistle have their own agendaone that has nothing to do with diapers and lullabies. With her due date looming, and the clues piling up, Shelby must save herself and her twins. As she uses her wits to survive, Shelby learns the real meaning of the word “family.”

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A Busy Day (not) Writing.

Up at 6am and off to the pool for a swim. After all a healthy body leads to a healthy mind, saves time showering at home and all those laps provide thinking time for plots and character development.

Home to cook and eat breakfast (can’t be creative on an empty stomach)

9am. Check emails, Twitter and Facebook. Need to keep in touch with putative readers and do a bit of marketing. So what if I get side-tracked by videos of cute kittens andP1000226 playful puppies – they could make it into a story one day.

10.30. Time to take the dog for a walk, fetch the paper, pick up a bit of shopping. Put a wash on when I get home – more thinking time.

11.30. Coffee break and read the paper. Not just to keep abreast of the news, but authorial research, you understand. There may be something about authors; or book, film, and play reviews. Even stuff about language and grammar which could come in useful for my blog.

12.00. My goodness, the room looks dusty, better give it a quick tidy. Put the wash out on the line, pull up a few weeds and some essential dead-heading whilst I’m out there. Clearing the decks so I can get down to work. Except I’m a bit hungry …

1pm. Time to prepare and eat lunch – food for the mind.

2pm. Another stint at Twitter and Facebook. And now it really is time to get down to work. Must just clean the keyboard and screen first. Spend time looking at the now Cauchy - pensivespotless screen and chewing my thumb.

4pm. Dog is fussing round wanting another walk – might as well give in as I’ll get no peace otherwise.

5pm. A little light Pilates. All that sitting staring at a screen is bad for the back – pre-emptive action needed!

5.30. Gosh, is that the time? I really MUST write something. 700 words simply fly along. Result!

Reward myself with a choc-ice. Still hungry, so …

7pm. Cook and eat supper.

8pm Attend friend’s launch – her 30th book. Buy a copy. She tells me she’s half way through the sequel. She promises to buy a copy of mine when I get round to finishing it. How rude!

10pm. Back home. Check what I’ve written during the day. Delete half of it. Check emails, Twitter and Facebook. Friend has already tweeted and added photos to Facebook about her launch.

11pm. Into bed to read the start of friend’s book. It’s really rather good – where does she find the time to write so much?

I do get some things finished! Links to my books






Playing with words and meaning.

The Peterborough was a daily column in the Telegraph newspaper for best part of a century. it was almost always funny,  often knowing, and sometimes a bit saucy. One editor was asked where on earth such a column fitted in a newspaper known for its conservative – and Conservative – readership. He replied that he saw the column’s role as ‘the antidote to the rest of the paper.’ Certainly a respite from news of appalling events across the globe and nearer home.

Anecdotes were sent in by readers, or staff members – some of them were probably too good to be true, but they were included anyway. I recently came across a collection of ‘editor’s favourites’ and decided to share a few of the ones that, as well as perhaps making you smile, also illustrate what a wonderfully playful language English is. The French may have fancy descriptions – ‘jeu de mots’ and ‘double-entendre,’ for example – but their language can’t beat ours for sheer exuberance and humour, intentional or otherwise.

Here are a few of my favourites from this collection:

bikini topAdvertisement in a shop in Hawaii selling beachwear: You will never find better or more exciting bikinis than ours – they are simply the tops!

The house in a Scottish beauty spot offering: Bed and Breakfast with Local Honey.

The advert for a: collapsible bed – ideal for guests.

Under a poster outside a community hall there was an advert for a talk: Baldness – is there a cure? Under which someone had scrawled: No. Prepare to meet thy dome.

And in the local library there was another poster: Ecumenism means getting to know the opposite sects.

A rural council handout on the threat of sheep scab was headed: Mite Bite Might Bight Sheep.

This is from the short history of a boys preparatory school in which the music teacher said his favourite instrument was the viola, because so few boys played it.

Notice in an English public house: Don’t drink if you are driving – there is no cure for the mourning after.

A dentist with a sense of humour? Sign outside the building: Dental Surgeon 2th Floor.    dictionary

And finally, for the writers among you: “Your typing is very neat,” the office manager was overheard telling the new typist. “But you should use the office dictionary any time you are in doubt about a spelling.” “That wouldn’t work,” she replied. “I’m never in any doubt.” Ah, such connfidence!


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Are semicolons any use?

It is perfectly possible to write an essay, a book even, without using a semicolon. pen and paper 2Meaning can be conveyed just as easily with a comma or a full stop. Consequently there are no hard and fast rules for when you should or should not employ one.

But most of us still use them; at least now and then. Broadly there are four main situations where they can come in useful.

  1. To separate clauses:

It was nearly the end of the summer holidays; Emma would be starting her new school in a week.

Yes, either a comma or a full stop could be used, but a semicolon can be justified in giving a certain nuance to the meaning – was Emma dreading going to the new school?

  1. To create variety:

In a paragraph of short sentences, a longer sentence with two clauses separated by a semicolon, can help hold a reader’s attention.

It was raining. The mud was clinging to her boots. Her mac was sodden already. Her wet hair was dripping into her collar; and now her glasses had slipped right down her nose.

 To emphasise relatedness:

Susan wore a blue blouse with a black pleated skirt; Tom wore a blue shirt and black chinos.

  1. To separate items in a complex list:

I checked I had everything for the flight – passport, plane ticket and visa; eye-mask and blanket; travel sweets, an apple, and a small piece of chocolate.

For those that like grammar rules, some people argue that you should not use a semicolon after a short conjunction, such as and, but, or so. You should use one after long conjunctions – such as however. For the rest of us, maybe it’s whatever makes the sentence more intelligible, or interesting; that is the question we need to ask ourselves. (On re-reading that last sentence, I think a full stop would have been better.)


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Lessons from a Letters Editor.

pen to paperFor many of us, getting a letter published in a magazine or newspaper is the first step on a career in writing. It’s not that easy either, especially if you aim for one of the better known titles. So I found it interesting to read in yesterday’s Times an article written by the letters editor, on what criteria he had for choosing which letters he published.

Here are some of his recommendations:

  • The piece should be elegantly and succinctly written
  • It should be true
  • If it is intended to be funny it should make the reader laugh out loud.
  • Be brief – avoid overwriting
  • But not too brief – unless you are composing a haiku.
  • Avoid clichés and hyperbole.
  • Avoid overused words like – sensational, dramatic, desperate, chaos, panic – to ramp up your prose
  • Don’t tell the reader what to think – let them decide for themselves.
  • Don’t ramble – get to the point.

His advice struck me as useful for writers of any genre who were looking to get published. And, in line with his recommendations, today’s post is definitely concise.


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Word crimes – or how to catch a killer by their writing.

A book has just been published that is described as a ‘must read’ for any crime writer looking for ideas. I would like to suggest it could also be a useful guide for anyone wanting to include letters or other messages in their work that ring true for the characters they are portraying. I.e. Would my character really use words like that? Is the writing consistent with their age, level of education, intelligence etc?

The book in question is More Wordcrime – Solving crime with linguistics, by John Olsson. Olsson is a forensic linguist and, as the title suggests, this is not his first book on the subject. He is often used as an expert witness for trials where the authorship of letters, text messages, suicide notes etc. is in dispute. His job is to identify the use of words, slang, spellings, and grammatical structures that are out of the ordinary for the alleged writer of the text.

One case he cites is David Ryan, who was jailed for the murder of Diana Lee. At his trail his defence was that he wasn’t at the scene at the time of her death as she had sent text messages the next day. However Olssen’s examination of the text showed the last few texts were not in keeping with her usual style. (She didn’t use spaces after commas; he did and had sent the texts himself from her phone to deter friends and relatives from looking for her).

Often a message written by someone purporting to be another will show that they know enough about them to use a particular phrase they are associated with, but use it in the wrong place, or too often. One murder victim, for example, regularly started her Facebook messaging with ‘Haha …’ Her killer continued her messaging after the murder to distract from the actual time of death – but he put ‘Haha’ at the end of each message as well – something she never did.

Some of Olssen’s findings were not helpful to the police. For example witness statements from ordinary people that used technical terms (like ‘extrajudicial,’ or ‘proceeding in a vehicle’ instead of driving a car) would suggest the witness had been given some inappropriate assistance in writing their statements.

Aside from crimes he cites that could inspire a crime writer, his work demonstrates to all aspiring writers how to aim for authenticity in their fictional missives. You still might not find a publisher, and may decide that an actual jewellery heist, or kidnapping an heiress, would be more profitable than writing about it. But at least you stand a better chance of getting away with your crime should you choose to cover your tracks with fake texts and letters.

Links to my books