What Do You Do When Your Story Plot Takes a Hard Turn?


I write this post at the risk of my readers rubbing their temples and saying to themselves, ‘Trish has completely gone off the rails. Now she’s got voices talking to her, reaching out their hands and leading her down another story pathway? Has she gone completely nuts?’

I’m not a very organized writer…well, that is to say, I just let ‘er rip! I’m what’s known as a ‘pantser‘. A writer who dives into their work without a detailed plan or outline is often called a “pantser”. Yes, you read that right—it’s not a typo! The term ‘pantser’ comes from the phrase “flying by the seat of your pants.” These writers rely on their intuition and creativity to guide them as they write, allowing the story to unfold naturally without the constraints of pre-planning. Famous authors who embrace this approach include Margaret Atwood, George R.R. Martin, and Stephen King. So I’m in good company.

So here how it works:

I have an idea of a story plot but only in my head. When my brain is so full of the new story I must empty it out, I sit at my keyboard and began typing.  It’s going very well, the words are flowing and the story is going in the direction I had loosely planned.

Then one night, (120 pages in) about 3am (my best thinking time) I thought to myself, ‘this isn’t about Hannah Mae at all. It’s about her brother, Jerry and his music.’ I lay there and started dictating into my phone the salient points I wanted to tell. How young Jerry is a prodigy. He can play a song after he hears it just once. He can write the music down on paper. He composes effortlessly.
It was like Jerry reached out his hand and led me to his story path. And now with a bit of editing I am exploring his story and the musicians and mentors he meets as a young musician. It has been fascinating, for me, to research and learn about the ‘bluesmen’ of the 1950’s. 

I mentioned it’s happened before:  I had occasion to visit a state prison for men and as I sat waiting with the other visitors (mostly other women) their energy reached out to me and whispered, “you must write about us. The women who wait, the women who hold the family together until the day our man is released.’ 
I began writing their stories the next day.

Half way through writing this warm and fuzzy tale, I was interrupted when one of my characters took a hostage, at knife point, in the visiting room. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I remember yelling at the computer screen, “NO!!”   I considered ignoring what the character,  Charlie, had done. Back space the words, delete them, forget it had happened. But I couldn’t. It was already there on the screen and besides…it was a good twist and made perfect sense within the plot. It was meant to be.

I knew nothing about hostage negotiating. It was a delay of about two months while I researched and wove a new negotiator  into my story, how the other visitors relate to her (yes, she’s a female negotiator .) and remembering that the entire visitors’ area has been taken hostage too. 

Learn how to do the rest: story plot, character development, structure, arc, themes, rising action, inciting incident/s, and setting. 
But, TRUST YOUR GUT!  Your creativity, intuition, and (if you’re very lucky) your story characters should lead you through the story that must be told!

To receive my weekly posts, sign up   On the home page. Enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  





Book Review ~~ Thirty Days in Paris by Veronica Henry

5 out of 5 stars     Book Review

Good writers have the most wonderful ideas for a book. Great writers have the persistence, courage, knowledge, and passion to get the story written down,  weaving those ideas into the very fabric of existence. 

Veronica Henry is a great writer of contemporary stories with wonderful empathic, interesting characters.  And Thirty Days in Paris is no exception.

Juliet has just suffered from empty nest syndrome big time, and her husband is in some mid-life crisis that she can’t understand. They finally agree that they have grown apart and their marriage has reached its ‘sell by’ date. 

Juliet happens upon an advert:  “ TO LET. Charming ‘chambre de bonne’ in the 2eme. Situated a stone’s throw from the glamorous Rue Saint-Honore with its chic boutiques….” 
Paris, the city of love, has always lingered in Juliet’s heart. Now, fueled by whimsy and courage, she answers the ad. The tiny apartment becomes her cocoon, her canvas for reinvention.

The plot is delicious! Juliet’s courage to move from a suburban-Mom’s life to a soon-to-be single middle aged woman on her own is tantilizing. The writing flows like wine. The surprises? Oh, they sizzle like crepes in a skillet—each flip revealing a layer of vulnerability, resilience, and newfound purpose. Veronica Henry’s prose dances, and we, the readers, waltz along.

I highly recommend this book to my readers. 
Did you miss my interview with Veronica Henry? 

To receive my weekly posts, sign up   On the home page. Enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  




Eat And Get Gas ~ Book Review

                              4 out of 5 stars  ~~  Book Review

A story of the tangled threads of a family.  Complex in its strife but always with familial love.  Like any other family, the threads are co-dependency, love outside of wedlock, unrequited love, addiction, illegitimate kids, and secrets.  Do you know a family without secrets?  I don’t. 

The only real villain in this story is the Vietnam War.  When young men or old boys (depending upon how you look at that war) were sent to their deaths or returned, alive but damaged beyond repair.  PTSD wasn’t a thing yet and was pretty much left untreated.   

Despite the sometimes heavy subjects, J.A. Wright’s writing is superb.  Easy-going, light, a delight to read.  I highly recommend this book to my readers. 

To receive my weekly posts, sign up   On the home page. Enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  







From ‘no book’ to ‘finished book’? What does it look like?

Recently a fellow writer and friend asked me this question:  “What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like?  I asked other authors to answer that question in my monthly author interviews.  Having also completed 16 novels  I’d like to add my two cents:

I sometimes used my play script (by the same name) as my book outline/treatment.  As the scenario was so current (because it was a play), I found that flashbacks were a great way to flesh out each woman’s story and it served me well. It took me a year and four months to write and edit it. That equals 72,000 words.

I did not have a deadline and it probably would have really helped. I was my own deadline setter and that didn’t work out so well. On the other hand, I think having a publisher breathing down my neck would have stifled my creative flow.  When life got in the way I wouldn’t work on it for weeks but then I would get inspired and work on it for days, weeks, non-stop, sometimes 10-14 hours a day. So I guess it all evened out.  Whatever you do,authors, writers, publishers, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write for a few days… although I preach that you should write something every day.  But if you hit a dry spell, you’ll make up for it with better, more relaxed creative writing.

Because I inherently ‘rush’, I found that I had to watch-dog myself and be careful not to leave out important roads of the story. I was in early proofing of the final product of my novel and realized (in a countless re-read) that I had never described my female negotiator’s physical appearance. (Yikes!).  Again, (if the writer tends to rush) go back and re-read your work to see where you need to flesh out a chapter or a character.

I am not structured at all. I write a new project in my head for days, weeks and then when my brain is about to burst I begin putting it down on paper (computer). I also write out of sequence and I think that’s okay. My novel’s last chapter was completed months before the middle was written.

Some writers have actually written whole books while blogging; they found it less daunting by writing in segments. At the end they had a book and then they published.  If you need a deadline the days that you commit to writing a blog would serve.  For me this wouldn’t work;  I would feel too exposed having my rough draft out there for the world to see as I am a writer who slams it down the first time around and then edit, edit, delete, edit.  Did I mention that the lettering is worn off my ‘delete’ key?

Frequently I will begin a story that has inspired me, not knowing much about the subject. It has sometimes stopped me dead in my tracks while I researched (example: hostage negotiations or building a cabin in the 1920’s).   I had 8 pages of a new play about Winston Churchill written and  had to stop to do research. I find that it can be done while I am writing and that is what I prefer. It’s more fun and keeps me interested. I don’t think I would do well having my research all done before I put my story down. I find that the research itself inspires my story line.

And then there is that unseen, unheard phenomenon where, with any luck, the characters take over and you become the typist.  .  This has happened to me time and again, and while I resisted at first (being a control-freak) I now embrace and welcome it.  In Women Outside the Walls my character Alma, at sixteen, is abandoned by her promiscuous mother.  Alma is befriended by the ex-girl friend of the man Alma had a teen crush on.  They end up being room mates.  I could never have dreamed that one up;  but my characters got together and decided that this was what they would to do.

Book 1 in series

I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way to go through the process. Each writer should be unique in how they work. Instead of thinking of it as a project/deadline ‘thing’; think of it as a work of art, created just for you and by you. Where possible, let the characters lead you. They will never steer you wrong!

well, there you have it…the process such as it is for me and how it works.


To receive my weekly posts, sign up   On the home page. Enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  








A Good Writer is a Good Observer

A good writer is always observing and watching other people and their interpersonal relationships with others. Relationships are complex and rarely resemble yours. And of course…listening.  Everyone speaks differently, with a different word choice and a varied cadence to their speech.  This can translate to your writing and add another layer of ‘flavor’ to your dialogue.  

I also recommend watching movies or series to learn dialogue writing.  But, not just the ‘bad’ movies, poorly written, poorly directed, and poorly acted.  Watch the good ones too…ones you liked. 

I recently was binge-watching an older series, “Six Feet Under“.  One which I had loved when it was new and couldn’t wait for each episode to air.  I began watching for the simple pleasure of re-watching it.  But three or four episodes in, I began to critique it.  Especially the character of Ruth; the mother of the Fisher family.  She had a hot temper and I am certain that was ‘written’ in for the character.  However, the actor, (Frances Conroy) went from 0 to 10 when the script called for  temper.  There was no layering.  At first I blamed the writing…then the director.  My final analysis was that the

 writing (without seeing the script) was hardly at fault. Or maybe a little bit not having enough blocking written in. Don’t forget, emotion can be written as part of the blocking. 

Then I laid some blame at the director’s feet for not noticing that his actor had only two levels; calm and yelling. And the yelling came out of the blue and was all the same.  Why didn’t the director catch this?  Well, he did have a huge cast to direct and watch over. So mostly the responsibility lay with the lazy actor. An actor who wants to get as much as possible out of a part would look for those layers, subtle though they may be. Ed O’Ross (Nikolai, the fiery Russian florist) was excellent at layering his character’s emotions.  

No script or production is perfect. You can watch ANYTHING and learn from it.  Same with reading. I’ll give you an example; when I noticed a couple of authors using the same word or phase over and over in their work of fiction, I realized I might suffer from the same curse. My nemeses is the word ‘just‘.  My guard dog is the feature (in any word processing platform) ‘find’ or ‘replace’ and I use it to root out the 300 times I used ‘just’. (hahaha)

If you’re a screen writer, visuals are more important than diaglogue.  Your blocking can include the silent dialogue. Write in the non-verbal speech of an actor.  In ‘Six Feet Under‘, actor, Lauren Ambrose (Claire) and Jeremy Sisto (Billy) were superb with their non-verbal dialogue, using facial and eye expressions and body language. This credit I give to the director and the excellent actors.  

When writing stage plays the playwright should keep ‘action’ simple. Write some emotional blocking in but always remember the director is going to have their own thoughts about how the scene should go.  Be careful not to do the director’s job for them.  It won’t be appreciated.  

If you are a screenwriter or writing fiction you probably think you have no interest in theatre.  One of your best sourses to learn about writing dialogue is the theatre.  Live stage plays are the Mecca of good or bad dialogue.  Go there, observe and learn! 

Another link on the subject of over-usage of words.

To receive my weekly posts, sign up   On the home page. Enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  





I am the daughter, sister, wife and mother of a Veteran!

         Members of the military impacted my life in many ways. My life  was certainly changed by members of my family serving in the armed forces.  So what better time than on this Veteran’s Day to honor them….those who keep us SAFE and FREE!  And to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us and their country.


Gerald Guyer (cousin)   US Marines**WWI – gave his life in Normandy, France ** Son of Gladys; nephew of Violet, my mother.

W. Jay Woods

William Jay Woods (father)  US Navy ** WWII –   South Pacific – PTSD.  He met my mother in San Francisco, where she owned a bar and grill.  He returned from war  an alcoholic, experienced rages and had a parrot named Butch.

John Cable, ‘Dad’

Johnny Cable (step-father)  US Army/Infantry ** WWII Southern Pacific. Lost an eye, suffered from jungle rot and PTSD.  At five years of age I remember not being able to run in and jump on the bed in the mornings to ‘wake up Daddy’.  He would awaken ready to fight the ‘Japs’ and in those first few seconds he was back in the jungle.   He was a wonderful father but the horrors of the South Pacific battles were never far from the surface. He later served on a ship in the Korean War as a meat cutter.  He was instrumental in serving the troops a HOT Thanksgiving dinner on the beach that year.

family histories, family secrets, story telling, writers
my mother, Violet

Violet Guyer (mother) US Armed Forces ** Wife, sister, and mother of members in the military. My mother, who I write about, was auntie to Gerald.  She married Jay (active Navy) and Johnny (active Army) and was a military wife for two decades. She was mother to Jack (US Air Force) and Doris, (US Marines).

Brother Jack

Jack Borden (brother)  US Air Force
** Loaded B52 bombers – hot spots around the world – 20+ years of service.  My brother would come home from far away places like Germany, Iceland, Africa, Panama and because he  didn’t have a hometown girl, he would take me, his teenage sister, ballroom dancing.


                            Doris Borden (sister) Joined the US Marines, Reserve and was upgraded to active duty when the Korean War broke out.


Jack Henderson, US Air force

Jack Henderson.  (first husband) US Air Force * While in the military, he was on a ship in the Pacific
and witnessed one of the first A-Bomb test explosions off Enewetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  

Robert Berry, Navy Seal

Robert Berry (second husband)   US Navy Seals, US Coast Guard ** 20+ years of service.  Robert was a Navy Seal, underwater demolition during the Viet Nam years.  He later served as a warrant officer aboard an icebreaker and was certified to scuba dive under the Arctic ice.


John Sugarek, Viet Nam

John Sugarek (husband)  US Marines ** Viet Nam –   John was my husband for 30 years. He was kind-hearted and funny and everyone loved him.  I witnessed two of his  flashbacks from battle in Viet Nam (twenty years later)  and he suffered, untreated, from PTSD. Partially due to the PTSD (I believe) he died at his own hand in 2006.  His fellow wounded warriors celebrate him at the Whiskey Battery Reunion, once a year.marines


We are all grateful to our military for their unswerving bravery, service, and loyalty and we honor those who have come home, battered but alive.



MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    

To receive my posts sign up for my blog, blogs, blogger, writer, author, playwright, books, plays,fiction  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks! 


A New Mystery Series from Grace Burrowes ~ Book Review

4.5 out of 5 stars   ~~   Book Review 

Grace Burrowes is well into her new series, The Lord Julian Mysteries.  And Burrowes is the VERY BEST at writing in the 1800’s. There is no one who comes even close to her accuracy and care with the period.  She evokes the people, the places, the animals, and the activities, for her readers to ‘see’.  Her flavor never wavers. 


Book One, A Gentleman Fallen on Hard Times, is a mystery to the last page.  I don’t know why but this reviewer had it in her head that these would be murder mysteries.  Not so (so far as I’ve only read book 1), and the stories are richer for it.  No spoiler alerts in the form of a synopsis from this reviewer. 

I particularly love Burrowes’ rich character development.  Lord Julian and Lady Hyperia are perfect protagonists. And Lord Julian Caldicott is a welcomed addition to the list of Burrowes’ characters. 

 I am so looking forward to reading A Gentleman of Dubious Reputation soon and recommend A Gentleman Fallen on Hard Times to all of my readers. Book Three is out!!

Did you miss my interview with Grace Burrowes?

To receive my weekly posts, sign up   On the home page. Enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  May: Victoria Costello.  June: Laila Ibrahim, August:  Donna Everhart


Author, Donna Everhart ~ Interview

Donna Everhart is a USA Today bestselling author known for vividly evoking the complexities of the heart and a gritty fascination of the American South in her acclaimed novels. She received the prestigious SELA Outstanding Southeastern Author Award from the Southeastern Library Association, among many others.  Born and raised in Raleigh, she has stayed close to her hometown for much of her life and now lives just an hour away in Dunn, North Carolina.  

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, or special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ workspace.

DE. I have an office upstairs that’s pretty secluded, which I love. It’s actually the same office I used when I was working way back when in the corporate world. Since I left that occupation in 2012 to write full-time, the one big thing I’ve changed is adding bookshelves. Lots of them! These shelves hold my inspiration and of course, my entertainment. The books in the pictures were placed right after the bookcases were built when I was still organizing, and boy, that was a lesson learned. I must’ve moved my stacks at least three times until I finally settled on read non-fiction/craft books to be read and my own work.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat workspace, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, a glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

DE. We’re all so uniquely different with how we approach writing, so, I suppose you could say we all have quirks. I don’t necessarily need a completely pristine

 workspace, but I don’t want it so messy it’s distracting. I like medium point pens, although I don’t (and never will) work in long hand. The pens are for taking notes when I have an idea I don’t want to forget. And, usually, around 4:00 p.m., I often need a break, and I’m prone to have some caffeine so I can catch a second wind. It’s usually coffee, but if it’s really hot, (I’m in NC – it gets pretty hot!) I’ll opt for slightly sweet iced tea with a squeeze of lemon.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

DE. I found a body on the beach once. It was a young man in his early 30s who was pulled out by an undertow. It was right after 9/11 and eventually I found out he was fasting, and praying, and on that particular day, the day he was due to go back home to West Virginia, he went out for a swim and, sadly, drowned. I found out all of this through his mother who contacted me later. She was able to find my address from her other son who was a state trooper, and had access to information. She wrote to thank me for holding his hand until help came. Even though he was gone, I felt compelled to do that. It was kind of scary because his eyes were still open, and I SWEAR he could see me, but given other things going on with him physically, it was apparent he’d passed on. It was really tragic and sad.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

DE. I go right to the keyboard. My writing is too messy, (note the remark about long hand above) and I think too fast (sometimes) to be able to write anything legible. I even have trouble with my grocery list and deciphering what the heck I wrote on it.

Q. Do you have pets? Tell us about them and their names. 

DE. I don’t have any pets at the moment. I used to have Yorkies. First, we had “the girls,” Bella and Kiwi. We tragically lost them in the summer of 2012, within three weeks of each other due to that whole fiasco with jerky treats. (If anyone is wondering what I’m talking about, just Google dog jerky treats made in China and FDA.) About 4 months later, in December of 2012 we got another little Yorkie we adopted who was 3 years old. His name was Snickers, but we renamed him Mister. (close in sound) He was a mess, really quirky, was NOT food driven – at all. He had some health issues like IBD, and chronic pancreatitis. We also tragically lost him in the summer of 2021. I took him to get his teeth cleaned and he suffered a catastrophic event. It’s a long story, but it tore my heart to pieces. Right now, we don’t have any pups, but I keep going out to sites to poke around and look. I know one day we’ll have some again. I’m thinking of adopting a bonded pair, if I can. I think that would be perfect.

Q. Do you enjoy writing in other forms (playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc.)?
If yes, tell us about it.

DE. The only other form of writing I’ve done is a very short form of flash fiction. I used to write these one-hundred-word stories where five prompt words were

Coming Soon!

provided and the goal was to write a complete story (beginning, middle, end) in 100 words. I’m so consumed now with writing to contract that I’ve not done this in years, but it was fun, and actually really challenging – more so than you’d think.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

DE. You’re “looking” at a procrastinator.

Don’t miss part 2 of this entertaining interview with Donna next week. 


To receive my weekly posts, sign up   On the home page. Enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  April: Author, H.W. ‘Buzz’ Bernard.  May: Victoria Costello.  June: Laila Ibrahim, August:  Donna Everhart


Book Review ~~ Just a Regular Boy by Catherine Ryan Hyde

   5 out of 5 stars  ~~  Book Review

A Jewel.  Flawless, as is the norm for Hyde.  

A story of unconditional love and bottomless generosity of spirit.  
The characters are so richly drawn that writers of lesser talent or experience have cause to weep. 

This reviewer flirts with being bombastic, I know.  But I know with each book, [like the last], I crack open to the first page of the story, and I am lost in Catherine Ryan Hyde’s world be it runaways, old crotchety men, strangers coming together in unlikely, but totally believable situations, or in this case a “wild thing”. 
My readers know I abhor giving a synopsis of the story [ruining it for everyone]  and I will refrain once again. I will say this, ‘Just a Regular Boy’ will uplift you and make you happy that this author created these characters and you got to meet them!

This book is a must on your ‘books to read’ list. 

To receive my weekly posts, sign up   On the home page. Enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  April: Author, H.W. ‘Buzz’ Bernard.  May: Victoria Costello.  June: Laila Ibrahim, August:  Donna Everhart



Trisha’s poetry gets a Rave from BookReview.com

Title: Butterflies & Bullets
Author: Trisha Sugarek
Rating:  Must Read!
Publisher: Trisha Sugarek
Reviewed by: Eric Jones, Book Review

I knew Sugarek’s work in the past from her collection of short children’s plays, Ten Minutes to Curtain, which involve the complicated dynamics of growing up. Flannery O’Conner said that if you live through childhood then you have enough material to write forever, and Sugarek has been there and then some. Her short work for the stage has put her in the perfect position to transition from play to poetry with her new book, Butterflies and Bullets.

Even the title denotes the strange duality between innocence and loss, and that theme is prevalent throughout the work. Mostly in free form, Sugarek keeps everything in a minimalist range, lending focus to intimate moments like a man playing his Mandolin beside a fire or the quiet landscape of the Serengeti just before rainfall. These truncated pieces of life feel like literary snapshots. These are Sugarek’s butterfly collection. Then, of course, there are the bullets.

The bullets are also set in free form, however they deal with much more happenings and are more narratively set. My favorite poem is one of these. “Hair Cut… Two Bits” chronicles the return of a barber from war-torn Europe in 1934 via a freighter into the Mississippi from the Gulf. The story, though scarcely a few pages, manages to convey the loss, struggle, and triumph of war given a single, near microscopic, experience. Not to mention that it’s all the more topical today, given the current mess in off the shore of New Orleans.

There are many that are like these, managing to say a lot with only a little and Butterflies and Bullets comes off splendidly. The collection feels complete and utterly whole, no piece of the pie excluded. Such close ups reveal that every place is connected. The ocean, if you look closely enough, looks just like rain on the blistering asphalt of your driveway. Shanty Irish curtains, at a certain scale, are indistinguishable from the sculpted wood of a Native American totem pole. This is the nature of Sugarek’s poetry, that when you pull back you see how different everything is, but when you put it under the microscope, a butterfly is really just a bullet with wings. 
To receive my weekly posts, sign up   On the home page. Enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  April: Author, H.W. ‘Buzz’ Bernard.  May: Victoria Costello.  June: Laila Ibrahim, August:  Donna Everhart
haiku, poetry, pen and ink art, poems, Japanese haiku,