Saturday, November 12, 2011

Poetry Corner ~ Calling all POETS

Hi everyone,

Whoo Whoo -- it's POETRY day here on Mystery Writers Unite :-)

Here is my submission this week:


I opened a door for you and then turned away leaving it unattended.
When you entered you were so quiet in your approach that I didn't see you coming; I  welcomed you when you arrived.
Everything in life happens for a reason - isn't that what they say? That we learn something with each acquaintance we make.
I've given this some thought and when I'm alone I tremble with worry and delight about what lesson you are here to teach me.
What am I meant to learn under your tutelage? Are you here to teach me a lesson or is it the other way around?
At first glance, I didn't think you presented any key that linked into my life's journey.
Then as I pulled the layers away and really looked at you - so open and so vulnerable - I knew this was destined.
Do you know why? Would you tell me if you did?
The bounty you could offer is not tangible or even appreciated by many in this cold world because it doesn't sparkle and can't be bought.
It must be earned and people are lazy in this world of little effort and big expectations.
So they miss out, which is unfortunate because this gift is priceless and limitless.
Too bad, such fools they are to see someone in such materialistic ways.
I'm glad that I've risen above such nonsense.
Are you ready for me? Am I ready for YOU?

Have a great day!


Friday, November 11, 2011

SPECIAL EVENT IN HONOR OF OUR SOLDIERS (SEE BOTTOM OF POST FOR DETAILS) Remembrance Day (Veterans Day) ~ Taking Time to Pay Homage

Hi everyone,

Remembrance Day (Veterans Day, falls on the same date in the U.S.) is a day set aside by the Commonwealth countries to remember and honor the men and women who have died in war and military operations.

In our day to day lives, it is often forgotten that the freedom we enjoy was won through long battles and that many died so we could have that freedom.Today is the day to remember those that were lost to attain it. To pay homage to those that went and fought so we could be free.

If you live in the Ottawa area, please try and get out to one of the events planned for today. If you are not sure what those events are, please click on the following link that will take you to a list of the events in the area.

If you don't live in Ottawa, be sure to check out your local listings as I'm sure there is a Remembrance Day event. 

If you can't get out to an event, please take a few minutes to read the poem "Flanders Field" below, and  join me in a moment of silence to pay homage to loved ones lost in battle.

Flanders Field

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. 

--John McCrae, 1915

During World War I, John McCrae was tending the wounded and dying in the trenches at the Second Battle of Ypres in the Flanders area of Belgium as the Canadians held their ground against chlorine gas attacks. When a close friend was killed and buried in a quick grave marked with a plain wooden cross, John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields.

First published in Punch magazine in 1915, the poem In Flanders Fields has become an abiding symbol of remembrance worldwide.

Becky & Kate

*************************** SPECIAL EVENT******************************

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
-- Winston Churchill  

This weekend, November 11 – 14, Terri Giuliano Long, author of the bestselling novel In Leah’s Wake, joins 50 indie authors in Blog Tour de Troops, a charity blog hop sponsored by the Indie Book Collective.   

To celebrate, Terri is hosting Emmy-winning film editor Nina Gilberti, currently a full-time editor for the hit CBS crime drama Criminal Minds. Nina is also an indie filmmaker. On Terri’s blog, Nina talks about her upcoming documentary, When Jane and Johnny Coming Marching Homeless, a powerful film about the horrors faced by some veterans upon their return home after war. 

 In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle 
of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.
-- Douglas MacArthur

Did you know that one-third of the people living on the streets are veterans who served in the Vietnam War?

In addition to physical homelessness - whether couch surfing, living in a car or existing on the street – many vets also face emotional, psychological, and spiritual homelessness. While they may seem fine on the outside, within they struggle with the hidden wounds of war - issues like Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD), nightmares, hyper-vigilance, meaning they are on high alert all the time, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), drug & alcohol abuse and addiction, prescription drug addiction – resulting in high divorce rates, joblessness, spousal abuse, and suicide. Naturally, these life-altering problems also affect the spouse, children, and parents of veterans.

With her film, When Jane & Johnny Come Marching Homeless, Nina hopes to inspire our nation to care, to generate real compassion - and perhaps create a movement towards profound healing and understanding for these veterans and their families. 

Blog Tour de Troops

This Veteran’s Day Weekend, November 11 – 14, 50 indie authors are participating in a daisy chain blog hop to support U.S. troops. Anyone who leaves a comment on a participating author’s blog will receive a coupon for a free eBook  - plus the author will give a free eBook to one active-duty U.S. troop. This means you have a chance to collect 50, YES 50, FREE eBOOKS!! 

For details and a list of participating authors, please visit the Indie Book Collective site: 


Leave a comment on Terri’s blog and receive a coupon for an In Leah’s Wake eBook – for every comment, Terri will also give a free eBook to an active-duty troop.

PLUS, just for leaving a comment, you’ll be entered in a random drawing for one of these amazing prizes:
a $ 50 Amazon gift card, a copy of the Criminal Minds script for episode 701- the season seven opener written by executive producer and writer Erica Messer, SIGNED BY MS. MESSER AND THE ENTIRE CM CAST, PLUS an autographed photo of the Criminal Minds cast!

SECOND PRIZE (total 3) – autographed photograph of the Criminal Minds cast! 


With your comment, leave the name of a U.S. troop and he or she will be eligible to win an awesome care package, consisting of:  $ 100 Amazon gift card, a boxed video set of Criminal Minds, Season 6, PLUS an autographed photo of the CM cast!

* Winners to be determined by a random number generator, using

To learn more about the film When Jane & Johnny Come Marching Homeless and to enter the raffle, please visit Terri’s blog:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hero... or Sidekick?

Kate Burns

Who is the heroine or hero of your novel? And is that protagonist also the storyteller?

There are many discussions on writers' blogs about point of view and narrator modes. First person, third person, and the rare second person are some examples of point of view. And to narrow that down, third person omniscient, associated with epic novels, third person limited, or third person intimate, where the thoughts and experiences of only the narrator are the only ones shared. I think most of us are familiar with at least the top levels of those.

But I would like to dig into the subject of narrator modes today.

A common type of narrator in a commonly used point of view is the narrator-as-hero. This main character narrates the tale of their own involvement as protagonist.

That view affects the readers' experience of this character. Whether the point of view is first or third person, the reader rides along on the shoulders of the protagonist/narrator, and in a sense, becomes that character -- at least for the duration of the book. I'm not suggesting that a male reader hops into the skin of a hot young female private detective and suddenly understands the true pain of running down back alleys in high heels. That's crazy.

But a certain empathy is created. And that can make it challenging when you need to elucidate on the character's shortcomings. When it's done right, it's magic. Take, for instance, Tom Ripley in Patricia Highsmith's brilliant novel The Talented Mr. Ripley. (Spoiler alert ahead!!) Tom Ripley's character is illuminated to the reader solely through a series of his interactions with other characters, each of whom have a piece of knowledge about him, none the whole, and who are in only sporadic contact and communication with each other. By the time the reader figures out our antihero, people are dead. It's a masterwork of both plot and character.

Another way of really shining a light on a main character is to have the story narrated from the point of view of the sidekick.

Let's take an example from the most classic of mystery series, Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Dr. Watson sees in Holmes what the great detective could perhaps not see or reveal about himself. Such as... a cocaine habit...? Yesss.

This character device could be employed when certain things should be revealed about your main character that otherwise may not be discovered.

You could, through the magic of point of view, give the sidekick some scenes. Not all, perhaps a few. If you are having trouble giving a full view of your heroine or hero, try a little sidekick. Because sometimes the sides make the meal.

Now, tell me:

Can you think of notable sidekick/hero combinations that you think have really worked in books or movies?

Can you think of some heroes who could benefit from having a sidekick along?

Who narrates your story? Is it the heroine? Or her trusty all-seeing maid?

How does your sidekick illuminate your main character or protagonist? And would you ever be comfortable letting your sidekick tell part -- or all -- of the story?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Author Interview ~ Dr. Frank J. Edwards

Hi everyone,

What an exciting day for Mystery Writers Unite because I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dr. Frank J. Edwards author of the medical thriller Final Mercy, who has also written a collection of poetry and short stories called It’ll Ease The Pain, and two books of nonfiction on medical issues, Medical Malpractice and The M&M Files. (see below).

Dr. Edwards continues to write, teach and practice emergency medicine.  He and his beloved wife Mary Ann, an emergency nurse, live on the shore of Lake Ontario.

--- Interview

MWU: Wow! I spent some time looking over your website and have to say I was humbled. You are such a busy, busy man and yet you still find time to write and give back to others; very impressive. Tell me, at what point and why did you decide to divert from nonfiction writing to a fictional story?

Dr. Edwards:  First of all, please accept a huge thanks for inviting me to this interview, and don’t feel humbled by my resume.  I appreciate the compliment, but like anything else in life, if really you want to do something, you’ll always find the time.  Like all of us with the writing urge, I fell in love with stories early on and nothing seemed more wonderful than being able to create my own.  I started writing fiction seriously when I was knee-high to an intern, and the truth is that I diverted from fiction to non-fiction for awhile, not the other way around.  But a few years ago I finally managed to take a novel from start to finish.  Final Mercy is the result, and I’m not going back.

MWU: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk is (e.g. do you need total silence or prefer background noise, do you have a special place to write or something you have to wear to be inspired)? 

Dr. Edwards:  When the juice is flowing I can write anywhere anytime.  I love writing in coffee shops and airports when I’m travelling.  When my imagination slows down at home, I’ll move to another location in the house for a while.  The only kind of distraction I can’t abide for some reason is the sound of a television.  It’s like nails on the blackboard.  I think the most useful trick I’ve found whether I’m writing fiction or poetry is to do a little free-writing exercise for five or ten minutes to warm the spirit.

MWU: What books or authors have influenced your writing?

Dr. Edwards:  I’m a reading omnivore.  It just has to be good—the story heartfelt and the writing clean and clear.  I love Billy Collin’s poetry.  His wit, humanity, accessibility and playfulness free me up whenever I read him.  I also love the prose of another physician writer, Richard Seltzer.  The carefully observant way he examines his subjects and his restrained lyricism and ability to reach into his own heart leaves me awestruck and full of the desire create.  I still love Hemingway at his best, the way he trimmed away everything but what matters in a story.  And I love the historical suspense novels of Richard Harris—like Fatherland and Pompeii.  They show you how to turn research into brilliant tales.

MWU: This is a question I always just have to ask. Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?

Dr. Edwards:  We all hit the wall from time to time.  I used to teach my writing students—and firmly believe it myself—that there are two main sources of writer’s block.  One is when our internal censor gets the upper hand and wants to keep us away from the really interesting stuff deep inside.  The cure for this is free writing exercises where you just write without stopping or conscious thought, and it also helps to remind yourself, as Anne Lamott says, that it’s okay to write “shitty” first drafts.  The second source of writer’s block is when the well runs dry.  That’s when you need to take a break, go for a walk, hug someone, laugh, exercise and so on.

MWU: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing and how do you overcome the challenge?

Dr. Edwards:  There’s nothing worse than getting a hundred pages or so into a draft and suddenly loosing interest in the story.  Is it because you didn’t have enough story there to begin with?  Or is it because you’ve reached a plateau and simply need to rest and regroup before climbing up the next stretch of mountain?  I’ve come to this place many times and find it helpful to break away and sketch out other story ideas.  When you return to the original manuscript the next day, you’ll know. 

MWU: If there were a room of new writers here, what advice would you give them?

Dr. Edwards:  Never believe for a minute that you don’t have great stories to tell.  If you dream—and we all dream—they are there.  It’s just a matter of discovering how to reach them.  Once you reach the stories inside and bring them to the surface, it then becomes a matter of craft, and craft can be learned if you have the patience and desire.
MWU: In your medical thriller, are any of the scenes true to life or are they true to life medical issues that have been given a fictional twist?

Dr. Edwards:  Many of the scenes in Final Mercy involving medical events in the emergency department are very true to my own experiences.  Names and places changed to protect the innocent.  I wanted to put readers inside the minds of ED care givers so they can feel what it’s like—the excitement, the challenges, the fears and satisfactions.

MWU: Did you learn anything from writing Final Mercy and how was it different compared to writing non-fiction?

Dr. Edwards:  Everything we write, I think, teaches us something about the craft of writing and ourselves.  As much as anything, Final Mercy taught me all the steps involved in writing a novel.  It begins with pulling together imaginary characters and events into a rather shapeless blog called a rough draft.  Then, you must make many passes over this material until it becomes shapely and elegant, all the while trying to remove the braces and scaffolding you originally put up to make it stick together.  Towards the very end of the process, the final polishing stage, it becomes, at least in my experience, very much like writing non-fiction where you mainly have to focus on clear coating the prose.  

MWU: What was the hardest part about writing Final Mercy?

Dr. Edwards:  After I’d written two drafts of this novel, I wasn’t sure how good it was, so I enlisted the help of a professional editor, who essentially tore it to shreds, or so it felt.  It took me months to stop bleeding, during which time I worked on other things.  Then one day, I picked Final Mercy back up again, fell in love with the first paragraph and used much of the editor’s advice to make it a better book.

MWU: I haven’t met many writers that have jumped from one writing platform to another and it intrigues me that you have written non-fiction, fiction and poetry. I simply love poetry and have a huge collection of poems that I have written. I was wondering if your poetry is dark or uplifting. Also, have you ever gone to a poetry slam? If so, how was that?

Dr. Edwards:  Never been to a poetry slam, but it sure sounds like fun.  I have given a few formal poetry readings and loved it.  All poets should do that.  The feeling of connecting with people, of hearing and seeing their reactions, is really what it’s all about.  I wish you the best of luck with your work.

MWU: Medical malpractice is something every doctor must fear. Can you tell readers what that is like from the doctor’s point of view (e.g. what is involved, do they still practice while the suit is pending, who covers the cost, etc.)

Dr. Edwards:  If any reader is really interested in delving deeper into the subject, I’d recommend my book Medical Malpractice: Solving the Crisis.  It was published in the late 1980’s but can still be found on Amazon.  I say this only because it delves deeply into the human side of the situation from the perspective of patients and doctors, looking at all sides of the equation in the context of several very interesting cases.  In essence, though, doctors are human and humans make mistakes.  Negative things will happen from time to time.  Ask any doctor who’s been sued or threatened with a suit—and most will these days—and they will tell you how painful it is, whether the suit is frivolous or real.  Malpractice suits drag on for more years than you’d believe.  It’s not uncommon for the trial or settlement to not occur for five or more years after the event, during which time the doctor continues to practice, though many report suffering from depression over the situation.  The physician’s malpractice insurance covers the cost of legal representation and pays any judgments or settlements, though in the majority of cases, the doctor wins the suit.  Ultimately, though, doctors carry malpractice insurance because patients who are truly injured in a medical mishap are going to need compensation, and sometimes a great deal of compensation.  It’s just that our current system is slow, tedious, wasteful and very expensive.  The only folks who consistently gain from it are the attorneys. 

MWU: What are you working on now and when can your readers expect to see it?

Dr. Edwards:  I’ve just finished the rough draft of a sequel to Final Mercy, another medical suspense story I’m calling Bedside at this point.  I’m planning to have the character Dr. Jack Forester appear in one more novel after this.

MWU: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers?

Dr. Edwards: Just to say many thanks for the interview and best of luck to everyone with their writing projects.  Any readers who might have feedback regarding Final Mercy, I’d love to hear from them. 

---- Dr. Frank J. Edwards Books

Poetry and Short Stories:

Dr. Frank Edwards poetry has been published along with several of his short stories in the volume, It’ll Ease The Pain. He has also had a number of poems published in literary journals including The Virginia Quarterly Review.

Amazon (UK): It'll Ease the Pain
Amazon (US): It'll Ease the Pain


In addition to being an active writer of fiction and poetry, the author of the medical thriller Final Mercy is an active emergency physician who currently serves as Medical Director of Delphi Emergency Physicians.

His many years of medical practice have led Dr. Edwards to write nonfiction books and papers on medical issues, in particular two outstanding nonfiction publications, Medical Malpractice: Solving the Crisis and The M&M Files: Morbidity and Mortality Rounds in Emergency Medicine.

Amazon (US): The M&M Files: Mortality & Morbidity Rounds in Emergency Medicine and
Medical malpractice: Solving the crisis


Synopsis of Final Mercy:

Dr. Jack Forester, director of the New Canterbury University Hospital emergency department, is about to win an ongoing battle to modernize the Emergency Department when he’s stymied by the power-hungry dean, Bryson Witner.
Then someone tries to murder the former dean, Jack’s mentor, and makes it look like suicide.

Bit by bit, Jack uncovers facts that suggest several other recent tragic accidents may not have been in the least accidental.

The deeper he digs, the more riveting the suspense and danger, till the words “life or death” begins to take on a new and very personal meaning.

Amazon (UK): Final Mercy
Amazon (US): Final Mercy

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Does Everyone Have a Novel in Them?

Kate Burns, Co-Author

I'm thrilled to be here writing for Mystery Writers Unite. This is one of the most prolific and interesting new blogs on writing and the new world of publishing, and Ms. Illson-Skinner has honored me with the invitation to be a regular contributor. It goes without saying that any mistakes, opinions, and leaps of logic I make are heretofore my own and do not necessarily reflect on this site or its Host.

While contemplating my first article for this blog, I mulled over how to introduce myself, and thought about all of the tales I could tell about my journey in the new world of independent publishing. No one knows me. I could tell any tale I want!

However, in the interest of that not biting me in the keester later, I will opt for the truth. The truth, followed by a question.

Five years ago, I was not a writer. Far from it. I have a full time career doing work that I love -- Graphic Design -- and several hobbies to address any residual creative energy I have left over. I'm also a mom and step-mom. "Energy left over" is an abstract concept at the best of times.

I knit, crochet, decorate cakes, bake weird concoctions and force my family to eat them. I get ideas -- strange ones. Let's have a pirate treasure hunt at camp in honor of Pirates of the Caribbean Three. Not One or Two, idea didn't hit me then, but Three, hoo-boy, you couldn't get that idea out of my head. I slept, ate, drank, and drew plans for a big wild dollar store charged scavenger hunt the likes of which would be talked about by those little urchins for years to come.

So, five years ago, if you had asked me if I felt like outlining, writing, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting, synopsizing, blurbing, entering contests, sending query letters, studying the publishing industry, designing cover art, titling, self-publishing, and promoting a novel, I would have looked at you the way I look at my toddler. Cute, but I don't get the babbling, kid.

But over a glass of wine one Saturday evening, during a rare quiet moment, I looked out the window. The snow fell, as it had been falling for weeks, and dinner ticked over in the slow cooker. For the first time, I noticed how clearly I could see the apartment building we had worked so hard to get out of… and an idea began to form. Over the next few weeks, the idea sucked in everything: news, fears, atmosphere… even the falling snow. And, without passing 'short story', or even 'novella', it stopped at NOVEL.

By the time my husband Dave asked me what I was up to, I was in it deep.

When people find out you are writing a novel, particularly if you haven't tortured over writing since Grade Six, the reactions are startling. In my case, it was almost as if I had announced I was taking up Rocket Science for the Backyard Hobbyist. You writers out there know what I'm talking about. Reactions range from excited to dismissive, with a smattering of eye-roll thrown in, in case you don't understand exactly what boundaries you are violating. After all, who writes novels?… is the unspoken question… the unspoken answer is, of course, Novelists.

Ah, Novelists.

Novelists are creatures sprung fully formed as Tormented Writers, wise from birth, lurking mysteriously at parties. Where they are born, no one knows, though one presumes that family and friend alike knew from the outset that they were Novelists.

The truth, though, is that the Novelist… is us. All of us. Anyone who wants to tell a story.

Hm. Pardon that. That's not exactly true. The Novelist is anyone who wants to outline, write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, synopsize, blurb, enter into a contest, query, publish, choose or design a cover, title, and promote a story.

(Maybe it's not such a surprise that my friends looked at me like I grew another head.)

The best reactions come when you reach a major milestone.

"How's your 'novel'?"
"Oh! So... are you published?"
"Yes. The Ophelia Trap comes out this month."

That reaction should be very satisfying. Except for one thing. Now that I am a Novelist, on the other side of the magical door, I find that everything looks much the same over here. Except now I can see another door, another threshold to cross. I want to write a series. And my family and friends don't cast funny glances my way anymore. Now they look at me with expectation. So... I'd better keep writing.

The rest, as they say, is history. History still being written, word by word, following ideas that have been released from an invisible cage.

As promised, the question: Is there a novel in each of us? And a bonus question: If there is a novel inside of you, what are you willing to do to let it out?

Comment like crazy, please. We love the conversation here at Mystery Writers Unite. And when you get a chance, check out The Ophelia Trap.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Hi everyone,

I'm so excited!! Now that I've had the MYSTERY WRITERS UNITE blog running for a period of time, I'm starting to get my footing and a feel for it and have to admit that it is a lot of fun and a challenge to produce material every day.  I do my best to make sure that the MYSTERY WRITERS UNITE blog is a great blog with good content and interesting things to read, ponder and hopefully provoke you to post a comment and visit again and again. QUITE SIMPLY: I WANT MYSTERY WRITERS UNITE TO BECOME THE #1 WRITING BLOG ON THE INTERNET!! In order to accomplish this, there is always something to do from approaching guest bloggers, to conducting author interviews and of course conducting research, writing, editing, posting, and, and,

To be honest, I've been so bogged down working and promoting the MYSTERY WRITERS UNITE blog (A HUGE THANK YOU TO ALL MY SUPPORTS, VISITORS AND FRIENDS AS YOU MAKE IT ALL WORTHWHILE!!) that I thought it would be a great idea to bring on a partner. It is with great happiness and pleasure to announce that Kate Burns, author of The Ophelia Trap, has graciously agreed to accept this challenge and is now a co-author at MYSTERY WRITERS UNITE. Kate will be posting to the blog on a regular weekly basis on Tuesday's and Thursday's and I hope you enjoy her posts :-)

Kate Burns
In addition to now having a partner in crime, it has been decided that "Poetry Corner ~ Calling all POETS" will be a weekly featured post on Saturday's and "What Can YOU Write in 6 Sentences?" will be a weekly featured post on Sunday's. I LOVE these posts because they encourage visitors to be interactive and provide samples of their work! Great fun! Great way to learn! Please visit and take part when you can!

Lastly, you may have noticed some great changes going on at MYSTERY WRITERS UNITE - a couple new pages have been added to the site and not only do we encourage you to check them out but we would also ask if you have something you would like us to add (an upcoming event, a book release) please send us a message and let us know and we would be happy to include it on the site.

Looking forward to hearing from you and please join me in welcoming Kate Burns to MYSTERY WRITERS UNITE!

Becky & Kate

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What Can YOU Write in 6 Sentences?

Hi everyone,

Like Poetry Corner (on Saturday's), I've decided to make "What Can YOU Write in 6 Sentences?" a weekly blog post as well on Sunday's because it is so much fun to challenge myself and others!!

Here is my submission this week:

I sit here in my pajamas, smoking a cigarette, sitting on the green padded love seat that has been stored away for winter in my cold garage that smells a bit musty from lack of attention. My mind is racing as my fingers tip tap one idea after another on the keyboard of my faithful MAC. I'm preparing a weeks work of blog posts and oblivious to my surroundings or others. Focused and hopeful that what I share with my readers this week will WOW them. I strive to be helpful, entertaining and supportive so they will feel inclined to visit again and again. Will I succeed?

Have a great day everyone :-)