Category Archives: Guest Posts


AA8Marred is the new psychological thriller from New Hampshire crime writer, Sue Coletta, who is my close internet friend and cohort. Sue’s an exceptionally talented writer with a great sense of humor. In fact, she’s silly enough to drop by the DyingWords shack for a chat about herself and her newest novel which just came online for prerelease on Amazon and other digital retailers. Great to see you! *waves at Sue* Tell us… What’s Marred all about? And what’s with the woman hanging from the barn rafters on the cover?

Hey Garry. *waves back* I think the best thing I can say is what’s on Marred’s jacket blurb.

When a serial killer breaks into the home of bestselling author, Sage Quintano, she barely escapes with her life. Her husband, Niko, a homicide detective, insists they move to rural New Hampshire, where he accepts a position as Grafton County Sheriff. Sage buries secrets from that night—secrets she swears to take to her deathbed.

Three years of anguish and painful memories pass, and a grisly murder case lands on Niko’s desk. A strange caller begins tormenting Sage—she can’t outrun the past.

When Sage’s twin sister suddenly goes missing, Sage searches Niko’s case files and discovers similarities to the Boston killer. A sadistic psychopath is preying on innocent women, marring their bodies in unspeakable ways. And now, he has her sister.

Cryptic clues. Hidden messages. Is the killer hinting at his identity? Or is he trying to lure Sage into a deadly trap to end his reign of terror with a matching set of corpses?

Ooooo… Chilling! How much of yourself is in Sage Quintano, your protagonist?

I think all our characters have pieces of us. Don’t you?

AA1I used three main characters in Marred, alternating their point of views. I gave Sage Quintano parts of my heart and soul, the mushy part of me; her love for animals, family, writing, that sort of thing. But Sage lived through a brutal assault, which crushed her spirit. Deputy Frankie Campanelli, my snarky character, says things I only wish I could say. But at one time she would be a better representation of who I am. I’ve mellowed with age. Even Sheriff Niko Quintano, Sage’s husband, has a piece of me. His hard outer layer protects him from heartbreak, but when he loves he goes all in 100%.

When Marred is adopted into a screenplay, who do you want as the main characters? Now, c’mon. Every writer wants to see their book on the screen.

AA3Of course I do! When I wrote my first novel I would spend hours daydreaming about the screenplay version. Marred is my fourth novel, though, so I haven’t given it much thought. Let’s see. For Sage, Gillian Anderson, if she colored her hair sable brown. Jessica Alba for Frankie. She too would need to color her hair, dark with auburn highlights. Robert Downey Jr. for Niko, with short-cropped hair.

I used to own a hair salon, which is why I’m concentrating on the hair here.

You’re a bloody good writer, Sue. How were you as a student?

Aww. *blush* Thank you. As a student I was too busy socializing to worry about grades. Therefore, I got B’s and C’s rather than the A’s I should have gotten.

Ever take an IQ test?

No, but I’ve always wanted to.

What’s your typical writing day like?

AA7Crazy. I start early in the morning, around 4-5 a.m. Read for a while, then get to work by 7 a.m. and continue until 7 p.m., on average. Sometimes later. During the day I take a half hour to have lunch with my husband and two 15 min breaks, or one 30 min. break, to exercise.

Do you have a set process?

Writing process? Absolutely. First, I plan my novel. I use an Excel spreadsheet based on the principals in Story Engineering, Save the Cat, and a few other milestones from other craft books. Once I have my milestones mapped out, I write my scenes. Each scene should either setup the next one or pay it off. Each day I start by editing the scenes I wrote the day before, and then I continue on. This way, by the time I finish the first draft I have less overall editing to do. I realize that’s not the norm, but it works for me. Then I start my editing. First by searching for writing tics, words and phrases I tend to overuse, and then I do an overall read for continuity, hanging plot threads, clues, etc. I send it off to my critique partner and beta readers. Once I get it back I work on the suggestions/comments. One final read-through and it’s ready to go to the publisher.

You held out for a traditional publishing contract rather than going indie like a bunch of the rest of us. Why’d you make that choice?

AA2For a few reasons, actually. Number one, it’s always been my dream to be traditionally published. Number two, when you’re traditionally published more opportunities open up for you. Like going for prestigious awards, for example. Number three, I wanted to work with a team…cover designer, editor, proof reader, etc., without having to absorb the cost. It was a long, hard road, but well worth it.

How was your experience in working with a publishing house?

Great. Everyone has been so nice. It’s a fantastic feeling to know I have a talented team backing me, as well as offering support and encouragement. And, y’know, no more sending out query letters and hoping for a request.

What motivates you to get up in the morning?

AA4I love what I do. I get to kill people for a living and get away with it. What’s not to love?

Will you ever tell where you hide the bodies?


Hey – Would you attend an autopsy with me?

Sure. As long as it’s not mine.

Ha Ha! What’d you write before turning to crime?

Years ago, I wrote children’s stories. Odd combination, I know, but the stories were bursting to get out. I wrote a dozen or so. Someday I might publish them. Never refuse the muse.

Who’s your biggest writing-craft influences?

AA13Larry Brooks and Brandilyn Collins for craft advice. For authors, who I’ve learned from through reading their thrillers, Larry Brooks, Karin Slaughter, Lee Child, Thomas Harris, Katia Lief, I could go on and on.

Karin Slaughter. Love that crime writin’ name. What do you enjoy about the writing business?

The writing community rocks. I’ve never met so many caring, supportive people in my life.

Is there any one secret to great storytelling?

AA15Structure. It controls pace, creates empathy for your characters, aka rootability, and provides the reader a vicarious experience.

Hmmm… Great answer. What’s the best piece of life advice you’ve received and where’d you get it?

My mom told me repeatedly, “You can have anything you want out of life as long as you apply yourself and work hard. Dream big, because the sky’s the limit.”

Do you fit your Zodiac sign?

To a tee. I’m a double Libra, sun and moon.

Any tattoos?

Three. Back of my left shoulder, right ankle, and inside the right hip bone.

AA4Inside the hip bone? That musta hurt. Now, what’s the Top 3 on your bucket list?

I want to take a cruise to somewhere exotic. Visit Australia and smuggle home a Quokka. And hit #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List. Not necessarily in that order.

Where do you see yourself in a year? In five? In ten?

In one year I hope to have three of my novels released. I’d love to win the John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award for Marred. Wouldn’t the cover look great here? In five years, I hope to hit the NYTBL. In ten, drop from exhaustion. LOL

AA5So what do you want your dying words to be?

I loved, laughed, cried, danced, and shared my experiences with the world through my books.

Nice! Hopefully that won’t be said for a long, long time. Lots more writing to leave behind, ya know. Speaking of time. What’s your biggest time-vulture?

Facebook. I can’t get enough of hilarious animal pics and videos. Like this…


Awesome!  Okay, now it’s time to take the DyingWords 10-step psychological profile. You must answer all questions honestly, otherwise I’ll sic the hounds. And no phoning a friend. Ready?

  1. Pantster or plotter?  Plotter.
  1. Window or aisle?  Window.
  1. Print or digital?  Digital.
  1. Harley or Honda?  Harley.
  1. Coffee or tea?  Tea.
  1. Coyote or Roadrunner?  Coyote.
  1. Burial or Cremation?  Burial.
  1. Fine-tip pen or bold?  Bold.
  1. Handcuffs or leg-irons? Handcuffs.
  1. Orangutan or gorilla? Gorilla.

AA16Okay. Just a sec… have to plug them into the DyingWords Psycho-Analyzer… twirl the dials… press the button… wait a minute… and… hmmm… Yep! Saw this comin’. Says because you’re a methodical plotter, fearless with your view, progressive in technology, aggressive as a Hog rider yet refined as a tea drinker, persistent as Wile E. Coyote, choose longevity over being a flash in the pan, are bold with words, keep your hands cuffed to the keyboard, and have hide thicker than a frickin’ gorilla…

You’ll make a great best-selling, crime-thriller writer! Imagine that?

*Sue rolls eyes*

Alright, moving on. With Marred about to be released, what’s your next project?

Wings of Mayhem. About a forensics specialist who moonlights as a cat burglar and mistakenly steals a killer’s trophy box. Oops!

AA17Double Oops. You’ve got a great website, Sue. Tell us about it.

My site——is dedicated to crime. I post informative articles to help crime writers’ stories ring true, writing tips, editing tips, and feature guests from law enforcement and forensics fields. I also have a Crime Writer’s Resource, which anyone can use. But the site is not only for writers. For instance, I have the Crime Lovers Lounge. Subscribers will get a secret key code that will unlock— You’ll have to subscribe to see what I have in store. More on that coming soon. If you’re a writer with murder in your plot, grab a free pdf 60 Ways to Murder Your Fictional Characters.

AA19It’s been a long haul for you with it’s just-rewards finally happening. Tell us about your journey.

Actually, I’m wrote an entire post about my journey for Molly Greene. You can read it at:

I just did. Wow! What a story of determination and preserverence. You certainly earned your stripes. Now, last and most important, when and where can we get Marred?

To celebrate the pre-release, Marred is on sale for only 99 cents at these fine retailers. More retailers will become available in the coming weeks. Marred will automatically be delivered on 11/11/15.

Amazon US      Amazon UK      Smashwords

Thanks so much, Sue. Best wishes for Marred looking down from the top of the charts. I’ve had a sneak-peek at the ARC and it’s a top-notch, thrilling read. Great job!

*   *   *

AA9Sue Coletta is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime as well as the author of five novels. A 4K-word excerpt of Marred will be published in the upcoming anthology, Murder, USA. Her other titles will be available soon. Sue is also editing the How-To / No BS Guide Series on Crime Fiction Writing that are in progress. Connect with Sue on her social media sites:

Web/Blogsite  –

Twitter –

Pinterest –

Facebook –

Goodreads –

Amazon –

Google+  –



I’m a big fan of writer, marketer, motivator, and change-maker Seth Godin and follow his blog religiously. Seth has previously guest-posted on DyingWords and he generously agreed to return with this insightful piece about human nature.

AA1When there’s a wreck on the side of the road, we can’t help it. Despite our best efforts, we look at the accident, sometimes even slow down to get a really good look.


To remind ourselves it’s not us. To reassure ourselves it’s not someone we know. Phew. Rubbernecking is our way of reassuring ourselves.

AA2Often, though, we do precisely the opposite when it comes to the apparently unfixable, to the enormity of horrible events, to tragedies. (Enormity doesn’t mean “extra enormous.” It refers to the emptiness of something so horrible and large we have trouble comprehending it).

Time Magazine produces a cover that we can’t bear, so we don’t buy that issue. We don’t see the billboard. A disease appears uncurable, so we don’t talk about it. It’s easier to talk about the little stuff, or events with hope.

We also do it with science, to facts about the world around us.

AA3There’s a long history of denialism, defending the status quo and ignoring what others discover. That two balls of different weights fall at the same speed. That the Earth rotates around the Sun. That the world is millions of years old. That we walked on the Moon. The denials all sound the same. They don’t come from stupidity, from people who aren’t smart enough to understand what’s going on. They come from people who won’t look.

Why deny? It’s a way to avert our eyes.

Two related reasons, internal and external.

The external reason is affiliation.

AA4What happens to one’s standing when you dare to question the accepted status quo? What are the risks to doing your own research, to putting forth a falsifiable theory and being prepared to find it proven wrong? What will you tell your neighbours?

When adherence to the status quo of our faith or organization or social standing looms large, it’s often far easier to just look the other way, to feign ignorance, or call yourself a skeptic (n.b. all good scientists are actually skeptics, that’s how they build careers… the difference is that the skeptical scientist does the work to prove to her peers that she’s right, and acknowledges when she’s not).

There’s more data available to more people than ever before.

AA5And the prize for using statistics and insight to contradict the scientific status quo is huge. If a thesis doesn’t sit right with you, look closer – not away. Do the science, including acknowledging when your theory isn’t right.

The internal reason is fear.

AA6The fear of having to re-sort what we believe. Of feeling far too small in a universe that’s just too big. Most of all, of engaging in a never-ending cycle of theories and testing, with the world a little shaky under our feet as we live with a cycle that gets us closer to what’s real.

Part of being our best selves is having the guts to not avert our eyes, to look closely at what scares us, what disappoints us, what threatens us.

By looking closely we have a chance to make change happen.

*   *   *

AA8AA11SETH GODIN is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip and Purple Cow.

AA9In addition to his writing and speaking, Seth founded both Yoyodyne and Squidoo. His blog (which you can find by typing “seth” into Google) is one of the most popular in the world. He was recently inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame, one of three chosen for this honor in 2013.

Recently, Godin once again set the book publishing on its ear by launching a series of four books via Kickstarter. The campaign reached its goal after three hours and ended up becoming the most successful book project ever done this way.

His newest book, What To Do When It’s Your Turn, is already a bestseller.

Visit Seth’s website at:

Follow Seth on Twitter:


Rachel Abbott is psychological thriller writer who has sold over a million novels. Rachel generously shares her views on novel writing with DyingWords followers with this abridged piece which has been republished from her website,

A1The world is full of people who really want to write. For some, it’s a burning ambition. They dream about days of sitting in front of their computer (or even more whimsically, in their attic – with pencil and notebook), having great ideas and getting them all down on paper.

Some of it is like that. It’s exciting seeing your ideas grow and develop and watching the words appear on the page – sometimes it’s as if your sub-conscious has taken over and when you read back your latest chapter you think “where the hell did THAT come from?”. It’s a wonderful experience.

With the growth of self-publishing and the ease with which any writer can publish their work, that dream can become a reality.

But where do you start?

A2I’m sure that everybody writes in a different way. Some people say that they start with the title. Others say they just sit down and write and see what comes out. So I’m just going to talk about what I do – not because it’s the right way, but just because it’s the only way I know.

I start with a question.

In Only the Innocent the question was “What set of circumstances would be so bad that a woman would have absolutely no other option than to kill a man?

A4It had to be a scenario from which she couldn’t escape. But initially each avenue that I pursued left me with a “but she could do this or that” and it took a long time to work out what would make me kill a man. And for me, that’s the way it has to be. I have to think how I would behave, and not just one of my imagined characters.

For The Back Road I thought about a group of people, each with a secret that they need to hide.

The secrets had to be credible – secrets that you might encounter amongst your own friends. Or at least, the majority of them had to be. Perhaps in one case the secret is darker than the rest. Then I asked myself what kind of catalyst would it take to blow everything apart and expose the lies and deceit, and what would be the outcome. I have been to dinner parties or business dinners and seen looks exchanged between people and thought “I wonder what that’s all about?” knowing that I would probably never find out. To me, that dinner party is real.

That is always my starting position – what is the overall issue that the protagonist has to solve.

A22Then comes the incubation time. Once the initial idea is in my head, I start to carry round a notebook and pencil, and each time I have an idea that develops a character or plot point, I jot it down. There are always plenty of false starts – storylines that I begin to develop and then discard. I think that’s fairly normal (at least, I hope so).

Once I have a rough idea of the beginning – the inciting incident (the conflict that begins the action of the story and causes the protagonist to act) – and the end – how the protagonist solves (or doesn’t) the problem – I switch tack. I start to develop my characters, locations and timelines.

For each character, I find a photograph that matches my idea of how they might look.

A9It may be a picture of a famous person, or it might be a random person that I find in images on the Internet. It doesn’t matter. I grab their photo and put it into their character file. Then I begin to develop their characteristics – Age, date of birth, personality, likes, dislikes, greatest strengths and weaknesses, story goal, past traumas – a whole list of details which gives me a very clear idea of who they are and how they would behave. It also means that I know how to describe them, and because it’s all written down, I can always remember how old they are, what they drink, what secrets they have, what job they do.

Next come the locations.

I was recently interviewed for a blog, and the interviewer very kindly said “I find the atmosphere of place very strong in your novels.  I know those villages – I’ve met those people.  How do you get that atmosphere?

A3The answer is that I also know these places – because I have found photographs of interiors and exteriors of all the houses or other locations that are featured. In The Back Road I used Google street view to walk around the Cheshire village that I used as my main location, and found the perfect property for my protagonist. I was inspired by an atrium dining room that I saw on an architectural site, and grabbed that image too. I found a map and worked out which road would be “The Back Road” and then plotted where everybody lived. Only that way could I be sure that journeys were logical. Even at the dinner party, I wrote down the menu and a seating plan. It was important to know where everybody was sitting, so that I knew when people had to lean forward to speak across somebody, or when people’s eyes could meet.

Timelines are really important – and not just the timeline of the book.

A14Most people have a back-story – when did they meet? What are the major events in their lives? The back-story timeline is really important, because I have often read books in which a section has made me stop and think, “How old is this person? Does this make sense?” and anything that slows a reader down is bad news. If you are confident because you have the information in front of you, the reader will feel that confidence.In short, then, I need to know every detail so that when I write about a location or a person I have a very clear vision of them in my mind. In The Back Road, if I had any artistic skills, I could paint you a picture of every room in the house, and how the rooms connect with each other. It’s as clear in my head as my own home, and allows me to write with confidence.

Of course, the important thing is the story!

A16As you will have gathered, I am a fanatical planner, and I use two different pieces of software for my planning. My main tool is a piece of software called Scrivener. This has some fantastic features that I will talk about briefly here, but hope to do a more detailed blog post soon. However, it doesn’t do one thing that I need, and that’s to create the equivalent of a story flowchart. For that – and the initial planning stages – I use Storylines.

With Storylines I can either create a number of story threads, or character threads, and I can see them all at the same time on a cork board using individual ‘cards’. The board is arranged in columns for scenes and rows for character or plot threads. I can move these around and see all on one screen how the story develops and how and when characters appear in the story. It gives me the main outline of my book, and the software does so much more than this. You can write your whole book using nothing else, but there are some elements of Scrivener that I prefer for the writing process.

A5With Scrivener I create folders for each chapter, and then write scenes within a chapter. I can colour code scenes – for example, in The Back Road I coded scenes in relation to the level of tension. I could see when there were spots in which the tension dropped, and it gave me an opportunity to think about the scenes and how to ramp them up a notch.

Similarly, I used keywords extensively. The Back Road has a number of story threads, with huge potential to get lost! So each scene is given one of a number of keywords each of which relates to a thread. I can then search on the keywords, and find all the scenes, allowing me to read one storyline in complete isolation – a fantastic tool for checking consistency and story development. Scenes can be written in any order – once the structure is in place you can add a scene, move it around, put it in an ideas folder for later use – the options are endless. But with the structure in place, the writing can begin.

A8I could talk all day about the tools I use and how they help – but this is supposed to be an overview of how to get started. Remember, I am not for a moment suggesting this is the right way or the only way, but it might give you some ideas of where to start.

*   *   *

A15Rachel Abbott has written four psychological thrillers which, combined, have sold over one million copies. She self-published Only the Innocent in November 2011. It raced up the UK charts to reach the top 100 within 12 weeks and quickly hit the #1 spot in the Amazon Kindle chart (all categories) and remained there for four weeks. 

A10Only the Innocent was so successful that it was re-edited and the new version was launched in the US by Thomas and Mercer in paperback, audio, and Kindle versions on 5th February 2013, hitting the number one spot in the Kindle Store in August 2013. Her second book, The Back Road, was also published by Thomas and Mercer.

Her third book, Sleep Tight, was published in February 2014 and her newest, Stranger Child, was released last month.

A13Rachel Abbott was born just outside Manchester, England. She spent most of her working life as the Managing Director of an interactive media company, developing software and websites for the education market. The sale of that business enabled her to fulfil one of her lifelong ambitions – to buy and restore a property in Italy.

Rachel now lives in Alderney – a beautiful island off the coast of France, and is now able to devote time to her other love – writing fiction. For more information, see Rachel’s website, or follow her on Twitter.

Visit Rachel Abbott’s website at:

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