KaylaAnn featured in Summer Lane’s magazine “Writing Belle: The Art of Storytelling”

Great news from writer/blogger KaylaAnn!


Today, I am being featured in Writing Belle Magazine, which is pretty awesome! Writing Belle Magazine is run by Summer Lane, author of 20 bestselling books.

In the Magazine, Lane features my upcoming book The Agency Games (working title) and a little bit about me. I even got to submit a guest article in which I discuss why “Consistency is Crucial.”

Be sure to CLICK HERE to read the full article!

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Crash Course: Improving Dialogue in Your Writing



Good dialogue is one of the most important elements in fiction. Some might argue that dialogue is the key to a “can’t put it down” novel. Here are a few things about dialogue I hope you’ll find helpful.



A definitionShut Up! He ExplainedDialogue is an invented language. Dialogue is not a reproduction of how people actually speak. It is the writer’s job to create effective, believable dialogue for the reader.

Here’s a book I highly recommend. There’s a newer version now available.


He said, She said: Tagverbs, Adverbs, and other Miscreant Uses of Dialogue
It’s ’fess up time. All writers are guilty of it. No matter how experienced a writer one may be, it’s a pitfall we must always be vigilant to avoid. So, at the risk of offending writers everywhere, I present a brief refresher course on dialogue.  
Overusing colorful verbs (or “tagverbs,” as I like to call them) as dialogue tags
In dialogue, the overuse of strong verbs used as tags tends to draw attention to the words themselves and become distracting to the reader. It’s an easy trap to fall into. Here’s what The New York Times Book Review had to say about best-selling author Robert Ludlum’s, The Bourne Ultimatum (yes, that Robert Ludlum):
bourne“Mr. Ludlum has other peculiarities.  For example, he hates . . . “he said” . . . and avoids it as much as possible. Characters in The Bourne Ultimatum seldom “say” anything. Instead, they cry, interject, interrupt, muse, state, counter, conclude, mumble, whisper . . . intone, roar, exclaim, fume, explode, mutter. There is one especially unforgettable (one): ‘I repeat,’ repeated Alex.”
Another common fault is using adverbs to describe how a character speaks. It’s so much easier to “tell” the reader how the character said something than “show” how it was said. Here are a few examples from McNally’s Secret, by Lawrence Sanders (yes, that Lawrence Sanders):
I said resignedly; father asked idly; I said heartily; I said hastily; he inquired anxiously; she said darkly; she said lightly; she said cheerily; I said cheerfully; he cried with unexpected fury; she said fondly; I said politely; he said proudly; he said with unnecessary vehemence; he said coldly; he said hotly; she said faintly; she said bitterly; she said crisply; I asked eagerly; she said doubtfully; he said grudgingly; he said mournfully; I added earnestly; she said hesitantly; I said gratefully; she said in a doleful voice; and my two personal favorites: someone remarked sententiously; I caroled as melodiously as I could.
*Examples for Your Perusal—which sounds better to your ear?*
“You’re fired!” Fred blurted hotly. (Tagverb ‘blurted’ and adverb ‘hotly’)
“You’re fired,” Fred said, slamming the folder on the desk. (“said” is hardly noticed)
Fred slammed the folder on his desk. “You’re fired.” (action denotes speaker’s temperament)
            “You always manage to spoil the evening,” Mary sobbed pitifully.
            “You always manage to spoil the evening,” Mary said, bursting into tears.
            Mary turned away to hide her tears. “You always manage to spoil the evening.”
A good rule: When a tag is needed, “he said/she said” works just fine in most situations. Use more colorful tags occasionally if you must. Always try to “show” how something was said rather than “telling” how it was said. 
Loaded dialogue (or, lazily packing dialogue with information)
*Do people really talk like this?*
“I suppose we could ask our son, Joe, to handle the lawsuit,” Mr. Jones suggested. “After all, he is one of the best attorneys in town, and we did put him through law school.”
“I know, dear,” Mrs. Jones replied, “but he is already representing his sister, the Harvard professor, with her slander case against the university newspaper.”
*Well no, but they might reasonably say something like this:*
“Let’s ask Joe to handle the lawsuit,” Mr. Jones said. “There’s no conflict of interest for an attorney to represent his parents.  Besides, it’s about time he did something for us. If he can afford to drive a Ferrari, he can afford to pay us back something for five years of law school.”    
“I know, dear,” Mrs. Jones said, “but I’m afraid it will conflict with his handling of Susan’s case.  If she doesn’t get tenure because of those lies the Harvard Heraldprinted, she’ll be devastated.  Joe won’t let that happen. You know what a protective big brother he’s always been.”  
The lesson?  If needed, you can impart information to the reader if you word the dialogue carefully.
word count
Dispensable dialogue (or, empty, wordcount-building dialogue)
“Good morning, Joe,” Sharon said, seeing her friend approaching down the hallway. “How are you today?”
“Fine, Sharon, and you?”
Sharon smiled warmly. “I couldn’t be better. Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?”
“Sure is. Couldn’t ask for better. Makes you want to skip work and go on a picnic.”
“It sure does,” she said, glancing at her watch. “Oh, well, back to the grindstone. Nice seeing you, Joe.”
“Nice seeing you, too, Sharon. Tell Steve ‘hello’ for me, would you?”
“I sure will, and please give Tammy my best.”
“I will. Well, have a nice day.”
“You, too. Bye-bye.”
(ZZZZzzzzz — While the above exchange is technically okay, it’s boring and does absolutely nothing to reveal character, show conflict, or propel the plot.)
A Reminder 
Dialogue is an invented language, not how people actually speak. Don't Forget
Dialogue is action and conflict (characters interacting with one another).        
Dialogue is drama (the story is unfolding, or moving forward by what the characters say).
Dialogue is immediate scene (characters are on-stage, acting out scenes before the reader’s eyes).
Closing Words from author P.G. Wodehouse 
“[A]lways get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a big slab of prose at the start.”

Deep Breathing

A Short-short Crime Story from Writer/Blogger Margot Kinberg!

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

Brittany hurried into the gym, almost catching her towel in the front door as it swung shut behind her. One minute to go. She quickly checked in at the front desk and rushed up the staircase to the second floor, where the evening yoga class had already gathered.

When she got to the second floor, Brittany slipped in as inconspicuously as she could and found a place towards the back of the room. The lights had already been dimmed, and most of the other people in the class were sitting on their mats, meditating. Brittany hated to interrupt other people’s focus, so, as silently as she could, she unrolled her yoga mat, took off her trainers and socks, and sat down. She had time for two deep breaths before Kimberly, the instructor, started the class.

As the hour went by, Brittany started to feel calmer. It had been a crap…

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Walk Away From it All*

From Mystery-Crime Writer/Blogger Margot Kinberg

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

An interesting comment exchange with crime writer and fellow blogger E. Michael Helms has got me thinking about crime-fictional situations where the sleuth is asked (or sometimes told forcefully (or worse)) not to investigate. That happens quite a lot in the genre, and it’s interesting to consider the many reasons why.

Obviously, the guilty party (or someone in league with the guilty party) wouldn’t want an investigation. I’m not really talking of those cases: the reason is patently clear. But there are other reasons, which can add a layer of interest and character development to a story.

In several of Agatha Christie’s stories, the sleuth is pressured not to investigate. For example, in Appointment With Death, Hercule Poirot is on a trip through the Middle East. Colonel Carbury asks Poirot’s help with a case he’s investigating. The Boynton family has been sightseeing in the area and took a trip…

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By M.J. Payne, Author, The Remembered Self: A Journey into the Heart of the Beast

THE REMEMBERED SELF is the story of my mysterious amnesia regarding big chunks ofThe Remembered Self my childhood.  I was the bookworm with no friends and no lunch who wandered the playground in isolation. I had recurrent nightmares of the same gorilla chasing me up a rickety structure and I always fell and never landed. This was the divided self I lived with. It was not until I graduated from college and had a year of graduate school that I didn’t recognize the face in the mirror. A slow leak of intrusive memories began. The floodgate opened after a brief ugly marriage and I almost drowned. Forbidden memories of graphic terror engulfed me and I recalled things I feared I could never tell anyone.

Telling is important. It is a bridge out of isolation. I remember sitting in a hospital waiting room across from another woman. I looked at her and smiled and she burst out suddenly saying she had something to tell me. I raised my eyebrows. We sat in the cramped MRI waiting area almost knee to knee. I asked her what she wanted to tell me. I watched her fidget with her curly hair that fell in silky tendrils to her shoulders. She looked down at her fingers knotted together in her lap and back up at me. Her huge eyes glistened with a film of tears. A painting of the indigo sea around a tropical island graced the wall behind her in the small alcove and her blue eyes seemed an extension of the deep, fathomless ocean.

“I was assaulted constantly when I was a kid. Sexually. I am so ashamed.” She lowered her head into fingers spread like a claw and her shoulders heaved. I leaned over and put my hand on her arm. She looked up. I got a pack of Kleenex from my purse and handed her one.

“You aren’t alone. Did you know that about one out of six boys and one out of four girls are abused before the age of eighteen?”

“No. I avoid the subject.” She dabbed her eyes and looked at me suspiciously. “How do you know that’s true?”

“Because I’m one of them and I look things up. Are you scared about your test?”

“Yes. I’m afraid I’m sick because it’s my fault. He said if I told he would kill my puppy. So I didn’t tell for a long, long time.”

I guess she told me because I was the only one there and if I rebuffed her no one would hear. Her fear of being alone was greater than that of telling. We talked for some time and I mentioned abuse could lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the signs of it: depression, panic attacks, and flashbacks; feeling like you aren’t in your own body, nightmares, headaches and body pain that comes sometimes without a cause. I told her that 60% of abusers are non-relative close family members. She nodded and said it was a friend who had dinner often with her family and watched her when they went out. When they came out to get her for her test we squeezed hands because we had made a connection. She carried my words into the fearsome test area. Never underestimate the comfort you can give.

In preparation for writing this post I looked at some statistics from PTSD United and discovered 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced a traumatic event which equates to about 223.4 million people. Up to 20% of them go on to develop PTSD – about 44.7 million have it at any period of time. That is equal to the population of Texas. Women are twice as likely to get it, and combat veterans are notorious sufferers of the disorder. I think it is time for abuse and PTSD to come out of the closet so people can get some help. THE REMEMBERED SELF: A Journey into the Heart of the Beast was hard to write. I did it because I could, and for the silent ones.


Author Bio

M.J. Payne is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Kentucky with a degree in MJ Payne3Literature and Creative Writing. She has a business background, is interested in human rights, psychology, history and laughing a lot. She loves dogs and race horses.

Find MJ at:

Twitter — https://twitter.com/MJPayneAuthor

Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005319435436&notif_t=frequent_feedback_digest&notif_id=1494881365520315

The Remembered SelfBased on a true story that begins in rural Northern California, a young girl grapples with a psychopathic father who abuses her himself and traffics her to a pedophile ring centered in a mansion riddled with secret rooms. The father participates in punishment rituals for nonpaying clients, and lives on the funds generated from this and trafficking his daughter. The child’s mother works at night and is unaware of what horrors are befalling her daughter, but knows her husband is dangerous. The mother and daughter flee from the father, chased by him and by a huge truck. As the girl matures into adulthood, she is overcome with ghastly buried memories as they emerge scene by scene, and she fights for her life while being pursued by demonic creatures in her dreams.





cellphone bombSomeone detonates a bomb using a cellphone–do we ban cellphones?




Someone crashes a car into a crowd–do we ban automobiles?car into crowd


Someone stabs a person to death with a knife–do we ban knives?Depicting Murders


Someone chokes a person to death with his hands–do we ban hands?choking a victim




REMEMBER–Almost ANYTHING can be used for evil. . . .

Sense and Sensibility


Sense and SensibilitySORRY TO MISLEAD YOU, but this isn’t a treatise on Jane Austen’s classic novel pitting one sister’s passion against the other sister’s sound reasoning, although that might make for an interesting post some day (Kait, you interested?). Full disclosure: way back when during high school, my English class was assigned Sense and Sensibility to read, followed by a book report. When school ended for the day I high-tailed it downtown to Cooper’s News Stand and the spiral rack which held Cliffs Notes for many of the classics. Fortunately, there were two copies available. I think I paid about three or four bucks for it, but it was worth every cent to spare the fifteen-year-old me from over three-hundred pages of drudgery (my opinion at the time). But I digress.

Deadly Catch newer coverA few days ago I was reading through a blog listing URLs on numerous topics helpful to writers. One that caught my eye was about using the five senses to enhance our fiction: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. I’ll admit to thinking, How mundane. Any writer worth his salt knows that, even most beginners. And then it struck me—what a pompous ass I was to think that! Mr. Know-it-all-Author, how often do you use the five senses to enhance your own fiction? And so I decided to put it to the test, using my first Mac McClellan Mystery, Deadly Catch, as the guinea pig.


I grabbed a copy of the book and opened it to Chapter One. With bated breath (oh, the drama, the tension!), I put myself to the test and began reading:


A quick flick of the wrist and the lure flashed in the rising sun, arched thirty or so yards alongside the grass flats and landed with a quiet splash barely a foot from the edge.

Making-notesMuch to my delight (and surprise) I was able to scratch off the first two of the five senses in just the second sentence of the novel. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

“flashed” = Sight.

“splash” = Hearing.

Whoopee! So far, so good. I wondered if my luck would hold. I ventured on. At the bottom of the first page and on to the second page of Chapter One, I read,

The lure wiggled and skirted the grassy edge for ten or fifteen feet when I felt resistance.


“Felt”—Hurrah for me! I now could scratch off sense number three: Touch. I’d only reached the top of the second page of my mystery and I already had used senses one, two, and three.

About halfway to the target a light breeze rose and drifted my way. That’s when the stench hit, almost gagging me.

Stench-of-DecayHot damn! “stench” certainly qualified for “Smell.” Four out of five senses used in the first two pages of Deadly Catch, and in order as listed on the blog I’d read, no less. Was it karma, or merely coincidence?

I could hardly contain myself as I ventured to the following page in search of the next—fifth— sense. Could I possibly go five for five, a perfect batting average of 1.000, or would my streak end at a very respectable .800? I took a deep breath and plunged ahead.

A couple pages into Chapter Two I found this:


I fished a roll of breath mints from my pocket and popped a couple in my mouth.

Hmm, does that qualify? Maybe, maybe not. The sentence doesn’t directly state anything about taste, but the implication is there. Mac had polished off a six-pack of beer while waiting for the Florida Marine Patrol to show up after he’d discovered the decomposed body he’d hooked beside the grass flat. It’s not a direct reference, but I think it qualifies. But not to worry: batting .800 ain’t bad at all—just ask any baseball fan.

Confidence word destructionSo, what’s the moral of this post? Well, I believe good writing will always include the five senses placed here and there throughout the story to enhance the reader’s enjoyment. Not on every page, or every other page. It just happened to occur in Deadly Catch. I had no idea of that when I reopened the book for the first time in many months. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. I don’t recall consciously planting the five senses in the opening pages of the book. It just happened. And that fact boosts my confidence in my writing.

Lesson learned? Using the five senses in fiction makes Sense and Sensibility (apologies to Ms. Austen).


What about you? If you’re a writer, does your work include these five senses to help enrich your readers’ enjoyment? And as readers, do our favorite books and authors employ the senses to widen our experience as we travel through the pages? Grab a book from the author of your choice and see how far into the story you get until you find all five. It’s fun, and a good way to test your reading chops!


Author E. Denise Billups releases new book!

E. Denise Billups, Writer

A Book Cover - Kalorama Road O For Rose 12-21-2017 scaled

I’ve been away, but not gone entirely, thoroughly engrossed in my characters, it was an effort that required any extra time I had left in a busy, chaotic life. Finally, I’m done with my third novel, Kalorama Road, titled initially, A Blog Affair. Much like marathon training I’d done over the years, the novel required effort, dedication, and diligence until I reached the finish line. And much as I feel after preparing and running a race, I’m happy it’s over, but wishing for more.

Excerpt from Kalorama Road

I’m not afraid to die. I’ve always believed I would die young. But not this soon, not here, not tonight, and not by those hands. Surrounded by tattered, aromatic petals, a dark silhouette watches my naked, bleeding flesh. I tilt my head, an eternally engraved image, a tormenting ghost—an inescapable, haunting memory. Sweet, soft, rose petals, a lifelong obsession. How…

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Book Review: Pea Body

Author/Blogger Denise Fleischer reviews PEA BODY: A Rollin RV Mystery, by Ellen Behrens



Book Review – Pea Body

By Ellen Behrens

A Rollin RV Mystery

Trade paperback

289 pages

Get the Book

While bird watching at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on the outer banks of North Carolina, Betty and Walt Rollin make a gruesome discovery: they find a body of a young woman. After being questioned by a volunteer wildlife specialist and two officers from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, they realize they know the woman. She recently gave them a kiteboarding lesson.

Soon after they are involved in a road rage incident because they are driving their RV slowly. When they turn off the road into a restaurant parking lot, they continue to be harassed by the truck driver. He barely lets them out of their vehicle. On top of that, he files a report against them. The fulltime RVers learn from Sargent Murphy that witnesses observed the whole thing…

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Let’s Go to the Movies*

Mystery Writer/Blogger Margot Kinberg Invites You to the Movies!

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

Going to the cinema has been a deeply ingrained part of many cultures for a very long time. I’ll bet you have memories of going to the cinema as a child. Or of going there on a date – and not actually watching much of the film. Perhaps you still go. There’s no doubt that the advent of the internet, streaming films, and other technology has changed people’s cinema habits dramatically. But the cinema’s still a part of our lives.

It’s little wonder, then, that it’s also woven into crime fiction. For instance, there are dozens of crime novels where a suspect claims to have been at the cinema. And, there are sometimes important scenes – even murders – that take place there.

For example, in Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Hercule Poirot works with Chief Inspector Japp and local police detectives to solve a series of murders that…

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