Mystery Mondays: Kelley Kaye on Writing Idiosyncrasies

This week on Mystery Mondays we welcome Kelley Kaye (also known as Kelley Bowles), The exciting news…Her second novel Poison  by Punctuation (Chalkboard Outlines Book 2) is being released tomorrow!  If you’ve read Death By Diploma, you won’t want to miss Poison by Punctuation.

Little Idiosyncrasies

My ideas for Character Development.

by Kelley Kaye

I’ve been told my strengths as far as writing fly in voice and character. So I wanted to take a minute to kind of examine a couple of neat things I’ve been finding out about, and trying for myself, as far as character development. Do they work? I can only go back to comments I’ve heard about my strength as a writer being in voice and characterization… So here we go:

As far as character goes, I think small is big. While it’s great if you have a big idea for the trigger that shapes your character’s basic personality, like a traumatic event from his youth or a colorful uncle from her present, that’s important. But I think it’s in the idiosyncrasies—the little habits or the minuscule events, all combined in to one big personality that make the character most memorable.
Does your character press her left toe into her shoe all the time? Left toe only? Why does she do that? My character was stung by a bee on that toe when she was four, and there’s a little scar there. Maybe it tingles when the phone is going to ring, if you’re looking for a small paranormal bent, or maybe she has to take off her shoe to rub the scar as the only way she knows to calm herself down. If she takes off her shoe to rub the scar before her calculus test or before the goodnight kiss at date’s end, it’s a small thing. But either scene tells the reader something about the character.

Yesterday I was clearing out a bunch of old books and I found a book on palmistry. I haven’t looked at it since I was a very young adult, I think I bought it because I had some sort of idea for myself, about reading palms for fun at parties. That never went anywhere, but now I thought, wow! Character who reads palms at parties. or at the breakfast table, or at Starbucks? That’s cool and interesting and could go all sorts of different places as far as plotline. Just from looking at a book on palm reading.

For my upcoming murder mystery—Poison by Punctuation—I continued with a tiny character trait for Leslie, one of the two main characters, but it’s turning bigger by the day. Leslie is super stylish, graceful, a fashion plate who (almost) always has every hair in place. But she has a sort of magic trick to correspond with her perfection, which works to help the reader know what kind of a person she is underneath. Whatever people around her need, she is able to produce. From where, nobody knows, but if it’s a Kleenex or a protein bar or…a pair of ski boots, somehow Leslie has it. She’s a little snarky, a little irreverent, and has no idea how intimidating she can be, but her magic whatever-you-need ability shows the big heart hiding in the sarcasm. It’s a small thing with a big impact.

The coolest new character trait I’ve decided to experiment with is a big thanks to YA Indulgences blogger Amber Barnes, and it’s called a character playlist. Thanks Amber! Seems like the most basic of ideas, but I never thought about it in terms of characterization. What’s your character’s top 10 musical playlist? Why are these songs in his top 10? We all know music triggers the most intense memories, so how can you use the playlist to help expand and define your (and your reader’s) knowledge of the character?

For me, all my characters have elements of me, but the playlist was nice because I could play with it beyond my own personal memories associated with the song. Anything by Peter Cetera transports me immediately to a dance in the gym of my junior high school, but Emma Lovett, my main Chalkboard Outlines cozy character, is only 27 years old. If I want Peter Cetera on her playlist, what cool little story is behind the reason she loves him? It doesn’t have to be a life-changing story, just something small. A little idiosyncrasy that can turn into big character relating.

Thank you for joining me today on the eve of my new release of Poison by Punctuation! I’m leaving you with Harper, my YA character’s playlist as an example, because I haven’t made playlists for Emma and Leslie yet… 😊Maybe I’ll make a list for Edward the librarian and Nate the skateboard-riding-through-hallways principal too, who knows?


  1. Belly of the Whale Burning Sensations ‘Belly of the Whale’ is, of course, Harper’s theme song. She feels so isolated in her body – like most teenagers do – that it’s like she is down in the belly of a whale in the bottom of the ocean.

    2. Closer to Fine Indigo Girls Indigo Girls – Closer to Fine

    Harper‘s mom, Isabelle, introduced her to this song. Isabelle wrote a paper on this song when she was in college, and she’s loved it and the message ever since. Isabelle definitely feels this way—like the more you can go with the flow and roll with the punches, the better off you’ll be. Harper is trying.

    3. No Roots Alice Merton

This, again, reflects Harper’s life theme. Since she’s not even sure she’s in the right family, she certainly doesn’t feel like she has roots anywhere.

4. The Man The Killers

This song is for Harper’s Uncle Pasta—the gay uncle who lives in the basement. He’s hilarious and awesome—totally The Man! 😜

5. Uptown Funk Bruno Mars

  1. Every Little Thing She Does is Magic the Police The Police – Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

Since Harper can envision her glorious future with basketball star Larson McCready—even though she’s never even talked to him—she can imagine him singing this song to her.

7. Breathe Anna Nalick- Breathe (2am)
The ability to say the right thing at the right time is an important and as yet unrealized skill for Harper. This song confirms how scary it is to put yourself out there for others to judge, but the song helps her know she’s not alone in feeling that way.

8. Blackbird The Beatles

Harper’s father, Michael, is this intense and driven man with very strong ideas and opinions. He’s the one who introduced her to the Beatles, but he was careful to explain that there are only a certain amount of Beatle songs that are genius, and some bubblegum poppy kinds that are lame. This, thankfully, he considers one of the genius ones because Harper thinks it’s beautiful, and feels like she is only waiting for HER moment to arrive…

9. Bohemian Rhapsody Queen

Harper and Uncle Pasta like to headbang to this song.

And, for 10., Harper chose Michael Jackson, because, well, any playlist is incomplete without Michael Jackson! Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

Poison By Punctuation

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 7.21.30 PMHigh school teacher Emma Lovett is finally recovering from her first year of teaching when she discovers another dead body. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this time, someone has killed a student, Kisten Hollis.

Emma and her best friend, Leslie, are desperate to solve this murder. But suspects abound. The perpetrator could be a teacher, an administrator, a member of Kisten’s zealous church community, or even another student.

Emma must juggle her teaching responsibilities, her new romance with handsome Hunter Wells, and interest from a hunky second suitor, all while searching for evidence to bring a killer to justice before someone else dies.

Who Kelly Kaye?


Kelley Kaye is the pen name for the cozy mystery fiction of Kelley Bowles Gusich. Kelley taught high school English and Drama for twenty years in Colorado and California, but a 1994 MS diagnosis has (circuitously) brought her, finally, to the life of writer and mother, both occupations she adores, and both of which were dreamed of clear back at stories surrounding her Barbie and Ken. Her debut novel, cozy mystery Death by Diploma  was released by Red Adept Publishing February 2016, and is first in the Chalkboard Outlines®series. Book #2, Poison by Punctuationis coming out April 24! She’s also writing YA under Kelley Kay Bowles with her novel Down in the Belly of the Whalecoming May 5. Yay, books!

Kelley is active on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedinand GoodReads, with a combined over 3500 followers. Her website is www.kelleykaybowles.comwhere she’s valiantly attempting to blog once per week. She has two wonderful and funny sons, and an amazing husband who cooks for her. She lives in Southern California.

Six Tips to Combat Writer’s Anxiety by Editor Erin Liles

Before you can use to edit your first draft, you have to write your first draft. That can be a daunting task and may even cause writer’s anxiety.

Editor, writer, and creative motivator is here with some great advice on how to get that first draft finished. And when you’re done, after you’ve celebrated, we’d love it if you tried Fictionary and let it help you turn your first draft into a story readers love.

Over to Erin…

Six Tips to Combat Writer’s Anxiety

By Erin Liles

Photo by Erin Liles

You know the feeling. You sit down at your computer, ready to write, and that blank white page glares at you, the cursor blinking accusingly, your heartbeat throbbing, underarms pricked with sweat. You start to hyperventilate. Anxiety.

Anxiety is not nice to writers. It’s a bully. It breaks you down. It whispers mean things in your ears like you can’t writeyou don’t have anything to sayyou’ll never write a book.

I’ve gone toe to toe with that bully, and she is formidable, let me tell you. And if you don’t do something about it, it can lead to the dreaded writer’s block.

So, now that we’ve established that anxiety does not make a good writing partner, let me ask you, why do you write? Hold on, I bet I know the answer. It’s probably something like, “it’s a passion.” Or it’s something in you, and you can’t not write. You love it. Right? Because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t do it, especially since, let’s face it, writing is hard! Particularly if you are writing a novel.

And if you’re like me, you buy books, you scour the Internet, you take classes, and gobble up as much information as possible. With all the information out there, some resources advising this, others advising that, some calling an idea one thing and someone else another, sometimes it’s even downright overwhelming.

Take heart! The best thing about learning to write better comes from all the things you’re probably already doing, but what’s more is that the best way to improve your writing is by doing it. There is no wasted writing. Every single time you write, you are learning how to write better.

But before you sit down to that terrifying blank white page, let’s do a few things to ease your fears, to get you excited to sit down at your computer and write. Because you can do this. Trust me, you can. It’s all about mindset. The anxious mind has its own agenda. Your job then is to direct the anxious mind into a more productive direction: the writing mind.

  • First, consider making your writing area a space you are comfortable in. If you have a desk in a designated place in your home, you might hang a bulletin board on which you pin inspirational quotes, images that represent something positive for you, pictures of your family, whatever makes you feel good. Or you could create a vision board, a visual representation of what you want to create. Place candles or other scented items in your space — whatever makes you feel good and excited to sit down and write. Make it a sacred space.
  • Meditation has been proven to lower stress, improve concentration, and increase happiness, along with myriad other benefits.
  1. Sit down at your desk. (You can sit anywhere really, but I find if I do this exercise at my desk, I come to associate it with peace and calm instead of anxiety about writing.) You can play some soothing music if you want to — YouTube as some great meditation channels.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Breathe in to the count of five.
  4. Hold your breath for three.
  5. Breathe out for seven.
  6. Take two normal breaths.
  7. Repeat for 10 minutes.

Focus on your breathing. If you have a thought, observe it and let it go. Don’t struggle. Let your muscles go slack.

You can also try this guided meditation for creativity:

  • Mind Map. Get some colored pencils or markers and a piece of poster board. Put your main idea (or your character) smack dab in the center of the page. From here, add ideas, subplots, characters, theme, setting, anything at all in varying colors. Just let the ideas flow and connect them however you see fit. Here is a good example of how to mind map your book:
  • Flow. Open a blank Word document or a notebook and set a timer for fifteen minutes. Begin writing about your story idea. Write whatever comes to mind — do not censor yourself in any way. Forget the typos. Forget the bad grammar or misspellings. Your only job is to keep your hand moving. No stopping. Let the ideas flow, and don’t worry if they are good or bad. The idea here is to get those creative juices going.
  • Visualize. Visualize success! Do this when you are relaxed, perhaps after meditating. Close your eyes. Imagine yourself writing, the words just flowing from your fingertips onto the page. How does this feel? What does it look like? What do you hear? Engage all of your senses, and visualize this image as often as possible throughout your day.
  • Rephrase. Identify your negative thoughts and rephrase them positively. Instead of saying I can’t write, say I can and will write. What’s more, take the word should out of your vocabulary. Saying you should be writing only creates more pressure, resistance, and you guessed it, anxiety. Rephrase to say I want to write!

Don’t let that blank page intimidate you. See it as an invitation to create. What gets put on the page can always be changed, but you can’t change what you haven’t written!

And remember,

“Creating something out of nothing is exciting. Filling the empty page with words, sacred words, is inviting.” ~Rachel Ballon, Ph.D.

Now get out there and write!

Erin Liles is a freelance editor, writer, and creative motivator who works with large and small publishing houses and independent authors. She is represented by Mansion Street Literary Agency. For more information visit

Mystery Mondays: Gwen Mayo on Co-Authoring

Happy New Year: Today is the kick off of Mystery Mondays 2017, and I have the pleasure of introducing Gwen Mayo, c0-author of Mullet Express. She writes with Sarah E Glenn.

Co-Authoring by Gwen Mayo

One of the questions I’ve been hearing about writing Murder on the Mullet Express with a partner is “How do you write with someone else?” The short answer is that I channel the Coen brothers.

Okay, so I just wish I could channel the Coen brothers. With seventeen films to their credit, they have one of the most successful writing partnerships in history. They claim that one of them does the first draft of a scene then passes it to the other, and he takes it up a notch. This back and forth continues until they both feel that they have the best scene they can produce.

What works for them doesn’t work for everyone. The mother/son duo that writes as Charles Todd spend a lot of time discussing their ideas and say that they can’t remember at the end of the book who wrote which line.

Sarah and I have worked out our own way of approaching writing together. We had to. Our writing styles are worlds apart. Sarah starts with whatever scene captures her imagination, and builds her book from there. Things get switched around a lot, and gaps have to be filled in as she draws the work together. I can’t do that. I start at the beginning of the book and write to the end. She thinks life needs a soundtrack; I want a quiet room when I’m writing. To team up on a book, we both had to compromise. I sometimes joke that we have a writing prenup.

Seriously though, writing partnerships are a lot like a marriage. You need to work out the plan in advance. Having those details in writing isn’t a bad idea. When a partnership goes bad, it can get as ugly as a divorce.

If you go into a writing partnership with mutual respect, cooperation, a willingness to discuss issues, and the ability to let the other person win disagreements that are important to him or her, chances are you will have a successful partnership. We try very hard to leave our egos at the office door. Each of us have books that are ours alone. Together we write in a different voice. It is not my book or Sarah’s book; it is our book.

What Does Gwen Write?

mmexcoverfrontIt’s 1926. The West Coast Development Company is staging its biggest land deal in Homosassa, Florida, selling pieces of a planned city to speculators who dream of a tropical paradise. Army nurse Cornelia Pettijohn takes leave to travel to Florida with her ancient uncle, who claims that he wants a warm winter home. When their car breaks down, they take the local train, The Mullet Express, into Homosassa. By the time they arrive, though, a passenger has been poisoned. A second murder victim boards the train later, iced down with the fish. Uncle Percival’s hidden agenda makes him the sheriff’s prime suspect. Cornelia and Teddy Lawless, a twenty-year-old flapper in a body pushing sixty, must chase mobsters and corner suspects to dig her uncle out of the hole he’s dug for himself.

Who Is Gwen Mayo?

dscf2897Gwen Mayo is passionate about blending the colorful history of her native Kentucky with her love for mystery fiction. She currently lives and writes in Safety Harbor, Florida, but grew up in a large Irish family in the hills of Eastern Kentucky.

Thanks for reading…

Offline Blogging Software

There is always something new to try or learn. This month, I decided to try the 30 day free trial of MarsEdit.

Why? I work offline most of the time. Living on a sailboat means I don’t have regular internet access, hence I need to write my blogs and upload when I have access.

I downloaded the free trial – I love a free trial. The free trial gives me time to decide if I want to spend my money on the software without taking the risk that I won’t like it.

My advice on first use: Once you download the free trial, check how many blogs you’ve written and set the refresh limit to this number. The first time in the software all of your blogs will download to your computer. After that’s done. reset the button to a lower number to speed up the process.

My likes:

  • When you write a scheduled post, the date columns lists the date the post is scheduled for so you can see your upcoming posts without having to go online. Sometimes I forget how far in advance I’ve written posts.
  • Easy addition of photos.
  • Adding categories and tags offline.
  • Works with WordPress – since that’s what I use for a blog platform.
  • Any time an idea strikes me for a blog and I happen to be working on my computer, I can pop over to MarsEdit and store the idea.
  • Free Trial.
  • MarEdit will download the latest version of a post when you hit the refresh button. This is helpful as I often write the blog but make changes when I see it online. These changes get sent back to my computer and then I have the latest version of the post.

Where I would like to see improvements:

  • Help file could be better. For example I couldn’t find an explanation of the Refresh vs. Refresh All command. I didn’t  try the community forum or the support function. Since I work mostly off line these are not features I would use.
  • I’d like to create folders so I can organize my blogs and couldn’t figure out how to do this.
  • I’d like to be able to add a link but I guess that’s not a reasonable expectation from software what is meant to be used offline. To do this, I underlined the text to remind myself to add the link once I was online. Then I submitted the post in draft status so it wouldn’t go public on my blog. There is a link function, but you have to know the URL, and if you’re offline . . .
  • If you do add a link offline, and you want to the linked URL to open in another page, you need to go online and set this feature
  • Even though I set the post date to a later date and left the Post Status button as published I thought the post would be published on the date I chose. Instead the post published immediately. This is fine, except that I have a schedule I like to keep. I thought If I set the date, then it would post on that date. I learned I had to set the Post Status to draft and the go online and set accordingly.
  • Not all of my pages downloaded to my computer.

I think the software is a little over priced. After the thirty day trial I’m not sure I’ll buy the software. I’m still very positive about it, but I think I’ll look around and see what else it out there. If the price was $29 or lower, I think I’d buy in now.

These are just my views on trialling the software. If you’ve had a different experience I’d love to hear about it.

Are there any programs you use to help you write or blog? I’d like to try something else before I make my final purchase decision.

Thanks for reading . . .


Unauthorized ad on my blog

Today I opened my “Should a writer blog” post and found an ad for Lasic surgery. Does anyone know how to disallow ads on a WordPress blog?

My blog is family friendly, and I have to say it worried me that an ad showed up in the middle of my page. What if it had been something not suitable? Yikes.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.