On Writing Romantic Suspense

Writing romantic suspense involves the skillful juggling of romantic elements and nail-biting suspense. A daunting task but so rewarding when all the essential ingredients come together in a well-crafted, character-driven novel.

Here are eight tips:

• Ask yourself: what is intriguing about the premise? What will attract readers to the book? In Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Series, protagonist Kinsey Millhone is a twice-divorced private investigator who is permanently stuck in the 1980s. In the Gilda Greco Mystery Series, the protagonist is a teacher turned lottery winner who moves back to her hometown and then finds herself embroiled in murder investigations.

Continue reading on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog.

Get in the Ring and Wrestle with Life

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

I receive a daily dose of inspiration from bestselling authors and coaches Marc and Angel Chernoff. Here’s a thought-provoking segment from last week’s email:

Far too often we think mental strength is all about how we respond to extreme circumstances…

• How did she perform on stage during that nationally televised event?

• Did he bounce back from that heart-wrenching divorce?

• Can she keep her life together even after suffering from a major, debilitating bodily injury?

There’s no doubt that extreme circumstances test our bravery, determination and mental strength, but what about common, daily circumstances?

Just like every muscle in the body, the mind needs to be exercised to gain strength. It needs to be worked consistently to grow and develop over time. If you haven’t pushed yourself in hundreds of little ways over time, of course you’ll crumble on the one day that things get really challenging.

But it doesn’t have to be that way…

Choose to go to the gym when it would be more comfortable to sleep in. Choose to do the tenth rep when it would be more comfortable to quit at nine. Choose to create something special when it would be more comfortable to consume something mediocre. Choose to raise your hand and ask that extra question when it would be more comfortable to stay silent. Prove to yourself, in hundreds of little ways, that you have the guts to get in the ring and wrestle with life.

Mental strength is built through lots of small, daily victories. It’s the individual choices we make day-to-day that build our “mental strength” muscles. We all want this kind of strength, but we can’t think our way to it. If you want it, you have to do something about it ritualistically. It’s your positive daily rituals that prove your mental fortitude and move you forward over the long-term.

The bottom line is that when things get difficult for most people, they find something more comfortable to do. When things get difficult for mentally strong people, they find a way to stay on track with their positive daily rituals.

Note: I highly recommend subscribing to Marc & Angel’s website.

Movie Reviews: Harriet, Parasite, and 1917

Each year, I try to watch all the nominated films before award season. I fell short this year but made up for it last week when I watched three of the Oscar-nominated movies: Harriet, Parasite, and 1917. Inspired and impressed by this diverse trio of movies, I decided to write and share my reviews:

Actress, singer and songwriter Cynthia Erivo delivers a stellar performance, one that is truly worthy of the nominations garnered during the recent award season. Erivo embraces the multi-faceted role of the legendary Harriet Tubman, a woman who is considered one of America’s greatest heroes

Born a slave on a Maryland plantation and known by the name Araminta “Minty” Ross, she decides to flee to the North. Miraculously, she survives the journey (over 100 miles) and makes her way to Philadelphia. There, she is assisted by abolitionist William Still (Leslie Odom Junior) and boarding-room owner Marie Buchanon (Janelle Monáe).

After taking the “freedom” name of Harriet Tubman, she becomes part of the Underground Railroad, repeatedly risking her life to return to the South and ferry over 70 slaves to freedom.

I was most impressed by the scenes showcasing Harriet’s ability to hear nothing other than her own inner voice. In stressful situations, Harriet loses consciousness as she slips into spells, which she describes as “consulting with God.” Afterward, she emerges with an ironclad sense of the action and direction to be taken during rescue missions. These amazing feats earned her nickname “Moses.”

An extraordinary tale of an American freedom fighter!

Described as a “pitch-black modern fairy tale,” Parasite has won numerous awards, among them four Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film.

Interested in examining relationships between different classes under capitalism, director and screenwriter Bong Joon Ho created an upstairs-downstairs tale involving the wealthy Parks and the street-smart Kims.

A twenty-something drifter Kim Ki-woo jumps at the chance to teach English to the teenage daughter of Mr. Park, a celebrated tech entrepreneur. Renamed Kevin by his status-conscious employers, Ki-woo hatches a plan to bring the rest of his unemployed family into the Park’s spacious, multi-level house. Father Ki-taek is the new driver, mother Chung-sook is the new housekeeper, and sister Ki-jung is the art tutor/therapist.

Determined to maintain their anonymity and successfully “con” the Parks, the Kims forge documents, invent aliases, and rehearse their lines. Bordering on preposterous, these schemes provide much of the dark humor in the film.

Gainfully employed, the Kims dare to dream about a different kind of future, one worlds away from their stinkbug and mildew-infested basement apartment. Unfortunately, those hopes and aspirations are quickly shattered. Without giving too much away, I will only say that several unexpected (surprising, shocking, and even horrific) twists to the storyline alter the trajectories of all the characters.

In a recent interview, Bong Joon Ho discussed the significance of the title. While most people would attribute the word “parasite” to the poor Kim family that has infiltrated the rich household, the director has a different viewpoint. He suggests that the members of the rich Park family could also be considered parasites. Unable to drive, cook, wash dishes, or study independently, they are forced to leech off the poor.

A must-see film that will linger in consciousness.

Director Sam Mendes has incorporated anecdotes from his grandfather, Alfred Mendes, who fought in World War 1.

Two young British soldiers, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), are given a seemingly impossible mission: Cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop the following day’s deadly attack on 1600 soldiers. General Erinmore (Colin Firth) has selected Blake because his brother is part of that battalion.

What follows is a journey into a wasteland of twisted barbed wire, corpses, and shell craters as Schofield and Blake make their way deep into the German trenches. While the former front line has been abandoned, there are still many dangers the two men must face.

It seems like only one camera has been used, closely following Blake and Schofield as they embark on this perilous journey. I could feel the tension and suspense as they sidestepped booby traps, encountered German soldiers, and ran through burning buildings.

While the story of two young men attempting to stop a doomed attack is a compelling one, it would have helped to include more historical context. Also, I would have liked more scenes with the senior officers and the Frenchwoman in the deserted building. Those cameos moved a bit too quickly.

A dramatic and powerful film!

Movie Trailers

Harriet | Parasite | 1917

Note: Harriet and Parasite are available on DVD.

Keep On Keeping On

I’m happy to welcome multi-published author Marsha R West. Today, Marsha shares valuable advice and insights gleaned from her writing journey.

Here’s Marsha!

Thanks for hosting me, Joanne. I’m honored to be on your blog today. The title of this post is my mantra: Keep on Keeping on. I developed it early in my writing life. And thank goodness I did, or I wouldn’t be where I am today. No, I’m not a USA best selling author, but I have a following. Fans who ask, “When’s your next book coming out?”

So, let’s go back to the beginning. I started writing because my mother was ill. One day I said to a friend: “I’ve read so many romantic suspense books, surely I could write one if I just knew what to write about.” The friend reminded me of the $13 million embezzlement in the school district, resulting in jail time and loss of jobs. I had left the school board sometime before all that took place, but I knew something about it. I finished the book of 145,000 words, knowing nothing about writing genre fiction or the fact, 145 K words was a bit over the going standard! LOL

But I joined RWA and a local chapter, entered contests, found critique partners, I wrote, and I learned. This is definitely a learn by doing business. You must put in the time and effort to learn the craft. I give a lot of credit to Margie Lawson for my selling the fourth book I wrote, VERMONT ESCAPE, to MuseItUp Publishing, a small Canadian e-publisher.

This was after lots and lots of rejections. That’s one reason I say: Keep on Keeping On. You’re the only one who can stop you from being published. And that’s if you give up. There were many times I almost did that very thing. The year before I sold, I was president of NTRWA. That really saved me. I had to write a president’s message for our newsletter every month, and that’s when I developed the Keep on, Keeping on mantra. Each of those articles was written to me as much as to the members. That was in 2012. VERMONT ESCAPE was released in 2013. I’m so glad I hung in there. I now have 7 published books. All are romantic suspense with older characters; some call this “seasoned romance.”

MuseItUp bought my next book, TRUTH BE TOLD. They wanted the next one, SECOND ACT, but it was the first of a four-part series, and they weren’t printing my books. I had readers who wanted books in print. That led to me setting up MRW Press LLC. I got my rights back on the first two books and headed into the Indie Publishing world.

Right now, I’m teaching a four-part course for Texas Christian University Silver Frogs program called Indie Publishing: Who Me? It’s fun to feel like I can pay forward all the help I received with folks just getting involved in this writing/publishing world.

Book 8 is my WIP and as of now, untitled. Hoping to release it later this year.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll check out any of my stand alone books or The Second Chances Series about 4 women in their 40s who’ve been friends since elementary school. Picture of Book Series Books are on B & N, KOBO, iTunes, & Amazon where you can order print books, too. All my books are set in Texas even if the characters don’t remain there. Hint: VERMONT ESCAPE.

Love to hear from you. 😊

Vermont Escape Blurb

Two years after the murder of her husband, someone guns down Jill Barlow’s father, a Texas State Representative. The authorities suspect a connection between the murders but can’t find proof. Jill longs for the peace she found when she visited Vermont after her husband’s death. With the perpetrators still at large, she flees to the small town of Woodstock.

The gambling syndicate, believing she has damning evidence against them, pursues her, shattering her dreams of peace. Trying to protect her grown children, she doesn’t tell them violence continues to stalk the family.

Despite having lost so much already, with the lives of her family and friends at stake, will Jill be required to make more sacrifices including a shot at a second chance at love with a Vermont politician?


Marsha R. West, a retired elementary school principal, is also a former school board member and theatre arts teacher. She writes Romance, Suspense, and Second Chances. Experience Required. Marsha lives in Texas with her supportive lawyer husband. Their two daughters presented them with three delightful grandchildren who live nearby. Charley, a Chihuahua/Jack Russell Terrier mix completes her family.

MuseItUp Publishing released her first book, VERMONT ESCAPE in July 2013; her second book, TRUTH BE TOLD, in May 2014. In the Fall of 2014, Marsha formed MRW Press LLC to provide print and e-versions of her books. SECOND ACT, Book 1 of the Second Chances Series follows up with a secondary character from VERMONT ESCAPE and begins a four-part series. ACT OF TRUST is Book 2 of the Second Chances Series. She released THE THEATRE, a stand-alone in 2016. It was followed by ACT OF BETRAYAL, Book 3 The Second Chances Series in 2017. In 2019, Act of Survival, Book 4 The Second Chances Series released. A new standalone will be released in 2020.

She contributed to ROMANCE & MYSTERY AUTHORS ON WRITING, edited by JQ. Rose. Also, in 2018, she had a short story, “The Colonel & Her Major” published in her writing chapter’s anthology, LONE STAR LOVE.

She has lots of fun doing book club & library presentations. You can contact her at marsha@marsharwest.com or through her website where you can also sign up for her NEWSLETTER, Blog, or check out any of her social media sites.

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Show Australia Some Love

I’m thrilled to announce the release of Show Australia Some Love, a three-volume anthology from The Wild Rose Press. My short story, “Lost and Found,” appears in Volume Three of Australia Burns.

Back Story

This project was the brain child of Wild Rose Press author Stephen King, an Aussie writer who wanted to do something for his country. In early January, he asked us (the authors) if we could donate stories for an anthology and have all royalties go to help in the efforts to aid victims of the Australia wildfires.

The Wild Rose Press community stepped up in a big way. Forty-eight authors donated stories. Editors, artists, and production staff donated their time and talents to edit these stories and compile them into three volumes.

Update from Stephen King

Recent rains have helped enormously, still there are fires, but not to the same extent as there were, and the focus now is more on recovery and rebuilding. To that end there are advertising campaigns now to stop what’s called the second wave disaster and that is people staying away from tourist areas and business who rely on travelers and visitors to survive. Most of our tourist destinations are unaffected, yet people think the whole country is gone, which of course isn’t true. The problem of course is that if people stop visiting, businesses will go broke, making the overall recovery much harder. With the rains, re-growth has already begun and some burnt out areas have grasses and shrubs recovering already.

Then of course there is the wildlife, and those organizations such as the RSPCA, and others are doing remarkable work rescuing animals and rehousing them. A lot of our native trees are Eucalyptus, and with millions of trees gone, Koalas only eat those leaves, so regrowth and resettlement is going on in huge numbers to save a cuddly species from extinctions in the wild. Kangaroos will bounce back, and in time, the feeling is most other animals will to, but the key words are – in time. In a lot of cases we hope the burnt trees themselves will regrow as they have evolved to grow after bushfires. I’m told with heavy rains in recent days some are showing green growth, which is encouraging.

All charities are ‘working their bums off’ but the one who seems to be doing the most is the Red Cross. So in closing, two things. Firstly – and I know I’ve said it before – my heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you for participating in whatever way you have. Forty eight stories simply is mind-blowing, and the offers for promotion, trailers, editing, cover design, formatting and of course redirecting the money has been so uplifting I can’t even begin to tell you – and for someone who uses words all the time – that’s saying something.

Secondly, if ever you’ve thought about visiting this country, now’s the time. And as Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee) once said in some fantastic famous ads in the US and across the world. “Come on down; I’ll throw a shrimp on the barby for you.”

Proceeds from the sales of these books will be donated to the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.

Buy Links – The Wild Rose Press

Volume One | Volume Two | Volume Three

All three volumes can be found at Amazon, Nook, iTunes, KOBO, Scribd, and other fine retailers.

About Volume Three

A collection of Paranormal, Horror, and Sci-Fi Fiction Short Stories.

Stories in this collection are contributed by authors who care about Australia and the relief efforts from the devastating bushfires. All profits from the book will be donated to charities involved with the recovery efforts. The publisher and authors are not affiliated with the charities. They simply want to show Australia their love and support.

Buy Links – Volume Three

The Wild Rose Press | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (US) | Barnes & Noble | KOBO

How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In an interview with Mark Victor Hansen (co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul), Dr. Wayne Dyer gives his advice on how to stop sabotaging yourself.