Communicating in another language by Helen Dunn Frame

When I lived in England and Germany years ago, I learned the languages spoken there. Believe it or not, British English was quite different from American English in the 1960s. Over the years, the two societies have adopted vocabulary from the other. Back then, friends would tell me that they often consulted a dictionary to understand my letters because I assimilated the Queen’s Own. When I moved to Germany, I attended the Volkhochshule (people’s high school) at night to learn German. The class numbered 100 with students from all over the world and they learned a level of German only graduate students studied. After three semesters, I received a certificate.

In the 1960s, Americans living in Europe lamented that the natives did not speak English! Even then, I felt that as guests in a country we should make the effort to speak their language. While I will be focusing on Spanish here, I firmly believe that when you are a guest in any country, you should make an effort to speak the native language. It also will facilitate your daily life.

According to, as of December 2017 Spanish is tthe third most spoken language behind English and Chinese. Even though I had studied Spanish in high school and college, and later had taken group and private conversation lessons, I entered Costa Rica without the ability to say much. Fortunately, I could read and write it that made recalling the spoken language from the computer in my mind much easier. Luckily, I lived in Puriscal where few natives spoke any English. Little by little, I could make myself understood even if for a time I suffered from present tense-itis. After a while, I could even communicate over the phone and think in Spanish. Nearly every day I learned or recalled a word heading toward conversational fluency if not perfection. I continue to study daily online on

Initially, I would tell Costa Ricans “Español es en mi computadora de mi mente pero no puedo enviar las palabras a mi boca!” It was especially true when I first settled in Puriscal because the spoken words felt locked in the recesses of my brain.

I soon learned that I knew more Spanish than I realized, just like you do even if you have not studied the language. For example, one day I asked a cab driver what the word in Spanish was for the wide street with tall trees in the middle of the parkway that led to my house. He said, “Bulevar” but I imaged it as a boulevard. Obviously, I knew the word from English and French.

Costa Ricans have used the phrase “Pura Vida” since the mid-fifties when they adopted it as they often do with words they take a fancy to speak. The phrase denotes a greeting, farewell, or an expression of a philosophy that includes enjoying life and having good spirits. Ticos delight when foreigners use the expression and such responses as “con mucho gusto” that replaces “de nada” used in other Spanish speaking countries like Mexico.

Many people who have lived in Costa Rica for years have never learned to speak Spanish; some think they do, which causes people to snicker. I wish I could do a study to determine whether a person’s inability to communicate correlates to their tales of bad experiences. When I need to transact business in English, I begin in Spanish and then asked for assistance in English. I found if I asked immediately, the person would say, “No hablo Ingles, Seňora”

When I have to transact business in Spanish when the words are not in my Spanish vocabulary, especially over the phone, it may require extra patience by the other person. People the world over become more helpful, I have found, if you first make the effort in their native language.

Some people feel that learning a foreign language presents a learning challenge when a person is a senior citizen but no one is too old to study even if he or she learns more slowly. Compared to German, Spanish is a piece of cake. It has nowhere near the two million words that English purportedly contains. Actually many words are similar in both languages. You already know quite a few which gives you a head start to assemble a vocabulary of about 600 words when you can certainly begin to communicate at least according to the experts. While not every English word appears the same in Spanish, you will delight at how many exist. Incidentally, one man I knew learned essential vocabulary words and infinitives and managed to convey basic information.

Words you know include those that end in “tion” in English because they end in “cion” in Spanish. Accents show the emphasis rests on another syllable other than what would be the normal pronunciation. Check p 557 in 501 Spanish Verbs for clues about pronunciation. It’s a book along with a Spanish-English dictionary that you should have in your library. Change nation to nación, action to acción, and repetition, repetición. How many words can you list ending in “tion”?

Words ending in “ly” in English end in “mente” in Spanish. Words ending in ssion like passion translate to pasión. To me it is interesting that Spanish will drop one of the double letters from an English word, but will make a double letter in some cases, for example Hellen. The meaning of some words like difícil, gasolina, and garaje seem obvious, even if pronounced differently. Words that end in “al” like special usually end in “al” in Spanish. In this case especial. Espinaca that means spinach essentially contains the English word.

Sometimes adding an “a” or an “o” to an English word nets the correct Spanish word but then most often not. A couple of examples: form translates to “la forma” and document, “el documento”. Another hint: each syllable generally ends in a vowel like ga-so-li-na. Just remember the “i” sounds like an “e” so natives pronounce it as ga-so-lean-a.

Another hint, the vowels are the same as those in English. . Spanish does not have the letters ‘K’ and ‘W. However, I have seen the word Komplete on a cereal product advertised in a newspaper. Spanish used to have words starting with a CH that separated them from those beginning with C but they are fading from the language. In any case, in order to learn even basic Spanish the secret remains: practicar, practicar, practicar. It does not matter if you do not say it correctly, just that you communicate. Ticos differ from the French who allegedly do not care what you say as long as you pronounce it correctly.

My accent sounds American no matter what language I speak although my dialect comes across as more International than from any particular area of the States. Check out this source for vocabulary:

With these tools, you can make a list of words you know that end in cion, mente, and words you suspect are correct in Spanish and verify them in the dictionary. While you may speak in the present tense to begin with, you can learn the simple past or preterito in the Verbs book. One way to start speaking in the future tense is to use “yo voy a” before an infinitive. You may even drop “yo.” For example, I am going to go. “Voy a ir.”

This blog is based on a chapter in the third edition of my book Retiring in Costa Rica or Doctors, Dogs and Pura Vida available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. This blog will replace the chapter in the fourth edition.


Helen Dunn Frame, formerly a commercial real estate broker in the Dallas/Fort-Worth Metroplex specializing in retail and restaurants, developed professional writing skills. In addition, living in England, Germany, and Costa Rica; and her love of travel (in 50 countries where she gained an appreciation of the value of diverse cultures) have provided background for books, blogs, and articles.

Helen wove many threads of her experiences into the fabric of GREEK GHOSTS followed by the second in the mystery series, WETUMPKA WIDOW. Living in Dallas during a major scandal resulted in SECRETS BEHIND THE BIG PENCIL. In a third edition, Helen advises Baby Boomers in her book about RETIRING IN COSTA RICA or Doctors, Dogs and Pura Vida. It features a new chapter, Retirement 101, which is also a booklet available on Kindle.

As a graduate of Syracuse University (Journalism School), and New York University (Master’s Degree in Sociology/Anthropology), major newspapers and magazines as well as trade publications in the United States, Costa Rica, England, and Germany have published her writing. She has edited newsletters, published a newspaper and other author’s books, created business proposals for clients, and spoken to groups.

To Be A Partner or To Write Alone By Serita Stevens

Image result for serita stevensThere is no doubt that writing is both a magical and a lonely profession. We sit at our computers – or some of us older folks at the original IBM typewriters and even others still handwrite– composing our creative works. At times we sit and stare out the window as our minds develop new twists for our stories and characters.


Often, we judge our self-worth by our daily writings.  If it’s been a good day and our writing has flown from our fingers, we feel confident of our skills and our abilities. We’re sure our words are gold and will soon (we hope) make us a lot of gold.  We’ve connected to the story, the character and success.  On bad days we wallow in despair.  No matter what we write, it’s dark, halting. Our mind fills with negative anxious thoughts about how terrible things are and believe we are hacks and will never succeed.


Many of us are introverts and prefer to write alone while others who long for the company go to places like Starbucks to write because they like the sense of people around them.  Even going places often does not meet the need for contact with others.  So, we consider the idea of writing with a partner.


Working with a partner has many pros and cons. I’ve worked a great one, a good one, and I’ve also worked with people whom I prefer not to talk to again. While the right co-writer can be next door or can be miles away many factors go into choosing the person who is best for you to team up with.  It is great working side by side in the same room with your partner, but that’s not always possible. Distance can be tricky to overcome so you both must be willing to work at the problem.


But do you want to write with a partner?  And what does that really mean to you?


In a couple of cases my agent had several projects that she wanted me to address. All seemed to have priority. Hmm.  So, I agreed to pair up with the other client she had and write together.  But did we write together?  I guess that depends on your definition of togetherness.


A partnership or collaboration is like a marriage and at times can be more intense than one and not to be taken on lightly.  Each of you have to define what it means to be a partner.  A good partner understands what it means to be a writer, is accountable to you and holds you accountable for what is promised.  They are someone for you to brainstorm with and someone analytically like-minded that you can talk though the crazy world that your character lives in and how you both will bring emotion and feelings into this story.


The first thing to consider is why are you seeking a partner?  Some of the positives include being able to divide up the work – which should include not only the first draft but however many revision drafts needed by the producer or publishing company.  It also includes editing and the costs of publicity and promotion.  Something most new writers fail to consider.  No, the publisher does not send us anywhere to promote the book. The effort is all ours now.


It’s crucial to consider their abilities and qualifications. Do they match or compliment yours? What are the abilities they bringing to the table that you lack?


The first time I worked with a partner was doing my Fanny Zindel series for St. Martin’s Press. Frustrated with the revisions my editor was asking for and beginning to doubt my own abilities to write the story that pounded in my head I wondered if I needed to quit. I met Ray by accident and found out that she had already published two Harlequin books, so I asked to read them. I was impressed with her style and writing ability.  It wasn’t so much that I lacked anything as I knew who the character was and the story that I wanted to write, but it helped to have a different set of eyes for a possible twist or turn in the story.


We lived close by and had many interests in common.  Because of her handicap, we ended up working mainly at her place with the computer monitor between us and passing the keyboard back and forth while we talked out the story.  When we had questions about the story and differences of where the character would go or do, we’d outline it.  If for some reason we still could not come to an agreement we visited a friend-therapist, and each presented the actions etc. from the character’s POV. Yes, our character had therapy!  We kept our own personal feelings out of the discussion and put forth points only that related to Fanny and how she would act and react to events in the story.


When you work with a partner, it is their voice that drowns out your subconscious voice.  Do they understand what it means to be a writer and the process of being a writer? If so their moral support should overcome your insecurities.


Next, do you like this person?  Some people might push that off to the side but writing together can be extremely intense. Many new writers believe that not only is the writing easy but that it’s just a matter of writing the first draft. They’re wrong.  It’s not only the first draft but as I said there are revisions, rewrites, publicity events and other things to consider.  You might be working together for not only months but even years after.  In fact, Ray and I went on to write a second book in the series for the publisher.  She and I joked that we saw each other probably more than we saw our respective romantic partners.  (Another good point for having things in common besides the writing.)


Because my first venture into partnership felt good, I was willing to try again.  Because of my own success a lot of people approach me with “I have a great idea. Why don’t you write it and we’ll split the profits?”  I found out the hard way that new writers have no idea of what really goes into the process of writing.  They never consider what I mentioned already – revising, rewriting, promotion, or any of the business aspects of writing. Some of them don’t even want to have an agent work with them because they have no idea what the agent is really doing for them.

Once, a friend at work had an idea. Because we were friends and I was intrigued with what he said, I agreed to help him with it. Having been though the writing process many times, I failed to realize he knew nothing of the process – outlining, developing characters, twists, etc. I jumped in full feet into the cement as I wrote a pilot and bible. My friend loved it and so did my agent who set up several network meetings.  But then the execs wanted some changes. My friend had no idea what to do and I was up to my ears in current deadlines. No money being offered and there was no guarantee that it would sell afterwards. Then my friend insisted he would receive 50% of whatever we made!  I realized then I had made a big mistake by not writing out a contact before we started writing and in California, at least, it’s assumed 50-50 unless there is a written contract.  So, we came to a standstill. Yes, it was his original idea, but I had run with it and developed it and done all the work for it as well as getting the meetings and pitching it.  No one will buy it until we have a signed contract so it’s in limbo right now and by now my passion for the project has faded.


As a member of MWA and a forensic nurse, I was continually asked medical questions especially about poisons. It became obvious that all the information was written in medicalese and difficult for the ordinary reader to understand.  As a nurse, part of our job is to translate what the doctor says into plain English for the patient to comprehend.  When a novice asked for help and suggested that I write a book on poisons, I considered it. Already on several deadlines of my own, I asked if she wanted to help and we would split the work.  Not only did I not check out her previous writings – one short story – but failed to consider that without her having medical knowledge, she would not understand much of the research.  I ended up rewriting many of her chapters, which were both passive and inaccurate, and was floored when she refused to work with our editor’s comments, help with the indexing or doing any promotional work. Needless to say our future relationship – even we were asked to do a second edition of the book – was strained.


Working at distance with several other partners also became awkward for me.  Again, it came to the definition of what is a partner and how does one work with partners?


One distance partner worked moderately well.  A young adult problem novel about a girl in a psychiatric hospital – based on my own experiences started many, many years ago, had been rejected numerous times not necessarily because of the writing but because those books were not selling then. Now my agent told me it was of interest to publishers. Again, I was on another deadline, and while I had not vetted this particular person, I took my agent’s word for it that she was a good writer.  In many respects this was not a real partnership since she took the 100 page outline I had written along with the 5 completed chapters.  Smoothing them out and adding a few twists, she polished and finished the book as well as helped promote it.  I would have liked to see it while in progress but I let my agent handle things and it turned out fine.


Two other long-distance partners had no real conception of what partnering was.  In one case, we had decided on a dual storyline. He would write the historical parts while I did the modern interweaving.  Unsure of his own ability, I had to practically pull teeth to get him to show me his drafts.  He finally decided the story was not worth the effort.  The partner who followed for this story was a multi-award-winning self-published writer, but she had no idea how to be a partner.  After much prodding and procrastination on her part, she wrote the whole book without showing me any drafts or asking any questions of how I wanted or liked what she was doing. No matter how many times I or my agent asked she would give excuses and say she would send the material…and never did.  In the end, the person who hired us decided the story she created was not right for them.


Then there was the partner who worked with a friend of mine.  She took my friend’s idea and characters and ran with it, writing a TV pilot BUT left my friend’s name off the credits. Then she copyrighted it under her name ONLY and sold it -under her name ONLY without giving my friend any credit for her idea or her work!  Alas, my friend had not written up a contract between them before hand and relied on verbal agreements.


Things to Question


Even if a friend or an agent introduced you, this partner could still be a flake.  Collaboration is like a marriage. You’ll spend a lot of time with them.  Are they really “writing savvy?”  Ask for referrals.  Are they punctual?  Responsible?


Spell out goals before you actually start writing and  put it in a contract.  Be clear about your personal expectations.  Write out what each of you want from the project.   Be specific as you can.  How many hours a week will you work and how will you handle life emergencies?  Who will take the lead? What will you do when there are questions about the story?  Will you have a third party to assess as we did?  How will credit, backend percentages shared, who will be the point person for contacts and what is the lowest you will accept for a sale?


Validate your partner and make sure that partner is at your level of writing. Consider carefully if this partner is up to par and can meet your standards.  Do some legwork on their past sales and their past writing.  Have they worked with partners before?  Is this person established or a wanna be?  Lack of experience doesn’t mean a reason to reject someone, but it’s crucial to match skill sets, an understanding of the industry, the genre, and what it takes to sell an item.


Will financial contributions be equal?  This includes costs for printing, postage, registration, gas travel, going to and from meetings, research, etc.  If you are better off than your partner should expenses be taken off the top of any sale?  Again, this should be in the contract. An unequal exchange can cause resentment – the slacker puts it off to your generosity, time, and wealth.  If the story is written on spec, you need to know that you both have the time to invest later into selling the project.  Keep all your receipts.  Keep it business.


You might want to read any feedback they’ve received from other’s notes and be sure to read samples of their work – which I sadly did not.  Another method is to collaborate on a scene and verify chemistry and vision shared for the story.  You do not want to be doing the heavy lifting, carrying the weight of someone whose craft level is less than yours. The result will be your personal voice, vision, energy is compromised or your “light” is diminished due to your partner’s psychic vampirism.  If anything, choose someone a bit ahead of your skill set and contact level to pull you up.


How sensitive are they to feedback and criticism?  Establish rules of communication beforehand.


A novice who doesn’t understand the industry might expect a quick and lucrative sale without realizing how drastically You might want to read any feedback they’ve received from other’s notes and be sure to read samples of their work – which I did not.  Another method is to collaborate on a scene and verify chemistry and vision shared for the story.  You do not want to be doing the heavy lifting, carrying the weight of someone whose craft level is less than yours. The result will be your personal voice, vision, energy is compromised or your “light” is diminished due to your partner’s psychic vampirism.  If anything, choose someone a bit ahead of your skill set and contact level to pull you up.


The novice often does not know or understand how the industry has changed.  Very few writers these days get the money they think they deserve or might have achieved in past years.  When Mary Higgins Clark signed a million dollar contact it made the news because it is news.  The average writer these days is lucky to get an advance and even luckier to get public relations done for them. As I said before most of us do our own PR.


Do you and your partner understand the story in the same way?  Do you understand the character’s goals, motives, flaws and desires in the same way? Feel the same way about the theme and messages in the story?  Do you love their story – I mean are you passionate about it?  Or do they love yours?  Consider you might be living with it for years of rewriting.  (Make sure that is in your contract.)


Should you work with a partner and then decide to later write alone again, you have to consider that as a partner you cannot take all the credit for the story have as the solo writer. How will your ego handle this?  Some of us insist that this great line, the essence of the script is your creation.  It also means that if you do split up, you’ll return to square one as if you have never published or produced on your own. They will only see you as a part of a team and doubt your wonderful voice with your partner can be repeated by you alone. One idea might be to write the partnership under a different name.


If you decide to write with a partner its about trust.  You have to trust in their writing ability; trust they’ll show up, trust they’ll respect your writing and that you both aspire for greatness.  You have to be willing to soldier on and see the same potential in them that they see in you.


What if they procrastinate and don’t do the chapters that they have promised?  Setting deadlines gets you both working.  Often when I work alone, it’s a lot easier to push deadlines especially if you have no accountability.  When you promised your partner a draft it’s a lot harder to push it off and admitting that you have let them down. A realistic deadline keeps you moving forward but also remember that life often intrudes, too.  It means that you must show up when you and your partner agree and be ready to work.  Procrastination is a solo indulgence. When you work with a partner you have accountability.


You might want to consider a possible probation period of one month working together.  Agree to a payment off for time used if you decide not to move ahead.


Bad signs –

Are they chronically late?  I often try to juggle too many things at once and it is something I have to be aware of.

Do you constantly argue about every point?  Do you process your main character’s POV


Does your partner constantly take calls and texts from other people in your writing time? Writing time needs to be special.

How deep does the partner’s passion for the project run? Is she realistic about time frame to set up and sell the project once you are satisfied with the polished draft?  It might take 10 drafts before you and the editor or producer are satisfied.

Lastly, if this is a potential romantic partner be aware that dating or sleeping with your partner is a different scenario than writing with one. Bear in mind that a writing relationship – if it goes sour – can destroy any friendship or romantic possibilities.  Use a safe word if things get heavy and out of the writing conversation.


A partnership can work out…if you do your homework.  Good luck.

Handling a controversial subject in a mystery by C.T. Collier

After All Those Years, the Truth


Being a woman of a certain age, I’ve witnessed decades of changing mores about sexual orientation. When I was in my teens, few people talked openly about sexual orientation. In my family of origin, since several close relatives were nuns or priests, a conversation might touch on celibacy but rarely on lesbian or gay lifestyles. Times have changed.


As I approached the writing of the third book in my mystery series The Penningtons Investigate, I needed to do some serious research if I expected the central issue to be the consequences of a woman’s realization, after years of alcoholic drinking, that her sexual orientation was lesbian.


My research began with informal conversations with more than a dozen people who had experienced similar life-changing realizations about themselves or a loved one. Sometimes the awareness was precipitated by sobriety; sometimes it was more gradual. In most cases, strong emotion accompanied the awareness, along with the significant impact on close relationships, but no murders.


To give breadth and depth to my understanding, three respected resources helped me develop the backstory for my character Marguerite LaCroix. Of primary importance was a unique book from the AA Grapevine published in 2014, Sober & Out: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender AA Members Share Their Experience, Strength, and Hope. Two books from Hazelden were also helpful: Michael Shelton’s 2011 book Gay Men and Substance Abuse: A Basic Guide for Addicts and Those Who Care for Them; and Sheppard & Kathryn Kominars’ 1996 book Accepting Ourselves and Others: A Journey from Addictive & Compulsive Behaviors for Gays, Lesbians & Bisexuals.


If you’re a writer, it won’t surprise you that 95% of the extensive backstory I wrote for Marguerite’s subplot never made it into the book. What’s there in Sipped for the reader to see is only what’s necessary to move the book along toward the ultimate solution. And it is filtered through Lyssa Pennington, who served as Marguerite’s AA sponsor, and through Kyle Pennington who had a soft spot for Marguerite. So, the subplot of Marguerite’s delayed realization of her sexual preference and the accompanying fallout in her life is presented in a few brief scenes, scattered throughout the story, as the Penningtons come to grips with their friend’s death under suspicious circumstances.


Brief as those scenes are, I could not have written them without having a firm research base to draw on and a detailed understanding of Lyssa’s and Kyle’s individual relationships with Marguerite. In the end, I hope I have presented Marguerite’s dilemma with sensitivity and insight, in a way that honors her decision.


What do you think, dear readers and writers? Assuming an author has done his or her research, how much backstory should the author include in the book?


Author Bio for C. T. Collier: C.T. Collier was born to solve logic puzzles, wear tweed, and drink Earl Grey tea. Her professional experience in cutthroat high tech and backstabbing higher education gave her endless opportunity to study intrigue. Add to that her longtime love of mysteries, and it’s no wonder she writes academic mysteries (The Penningtons Investigate) that draw inspiration from traditional whodunits.

Book summary for Sipped:

Meet the Penningtons: Lyssa, Ph.D. Economics, and her husband “the handsome Brit” Kyle, Ph.D. Computer Science. When their clever minds ask questions, clever killers can’t hide.


After a rough semester, Professor Lyssa Pennington just wants to post her grades and join her husband, Kyle, in Cornwall for Christmas. First, though, she’s expected to host an elegant dinner for Emile Duval, the soon-to-be Chair of Languages at Tompkins College.


Too bad no one told Lyssa murder is on the menu. And, by the way, Emile Duval is an imposter.


Who is he really? And who wanted him dead? Without those answers, the Penningtons can kiss Christmas in Cornwall goodbye.


Author Links:


Facebook: kate.collier.315

Twitter: @TompkinsFalls




            Writing under more than one name isn’t new. (Think of the Bronte sisters!)

Many authors today, particularly those writing mystery/suspense or romance write different genres under different names. (Think Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kate Emerson.) And, a trend that is likely to increase, publishers often want to “start a new name,” hoping for more reviews, higher pre-orders, and more interest than if using the name on a previous series.

That’s what happened to me when, 18 months ago, Crooked Lane Publishing asked me to write a new Maine mystery series. All my other books – 22 of them – for adults and for children – were  written under “Lea Wait.” A new name?

Okay. I agreed. Certainly, many of my friends were choosing new names. How often do you have the chance to do that? Tired of always being on the bottom shelf in bookstores, I chose a name which would fall in the middle of the alphabet. Cornelia Kidd was also the maiden name of my paternal grandmother, so it had a family history. My editor agreed. She also agreed that my pseudonym would not have to be a secret, so my fans could (we both hoped) find my new series.

Cornelia Kidd’s first book, Death and a Pot of Chowder: A Maine Murder Mystery, would debut June 12 of 2018, but a year ago I started to let people know about her.

When I handed in the manuscript, I made sure that my acknowledgments at the end of the book are signed “Lea Wait,” and all my “Lea Wait Books” are listed.

I set up a Facebook page for “Lea Wait/Cornelia Kidd” and started posting both on it and on my Lea Wait page, explaining why I would soon have two names. I made sure I had the rights to, although I linked it to my usual website, I also reserved a gmail address for Cornelia Kidd.

Whenever I spoke at a library or conference, I mentioned both names. By the time Malice Domestic rolled around last month I was handing out postcards for Death and a Pot of Chowder headlined, “Love USA Today best-seller Lea Wait’s mysteries? Don’t miss the exciting debut of the Maine Murder Mystery series, written under her pseudonym, Cornelia Kidd.”

(Fans on my snail mail promotion list receive postcards when I have a new book published; those on my email promotion list get a short newsletter/announcement.)

I’m hoping that many of my fans continue reading the two series they already know – and that they’ll check out Cornelia Kidd’s books, too. It’s a little early to tell. But I’m already planning to sign books in my new series “Cornelia Kidd, AKA Lea Wait.” After all – can’t hurt!

The Multi-Author Series, Old and New by Catherine Dilts

Here’s some old news. The Nancy Drew mystery series was the product of multiple authors. While the books in the series were written by different people, all Nancy Drew authors, male and female, wrote under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene. Here’s something new I wasn’t aware of until recently: Many modern series also have multiple authors.

With readers hungry for series, publishers may contract with several authors to create novels in rapid-fire order. Some series are credited to a fictional author, such as Nancy Drew’s Keene. Others display the originating author’s name, but may be ghost-written partially or in their entirety by a contracted author, such as is the case for many novels by James Patterson.

This publishing method does have critics. In a 2015 article in the Atlantic, the practice of farming out books in series to various authors is described as economically disadvantageous for the author. (This hasn’t been my experience. Maybe in the past, or with unscrupulous publishers, authors got a raw deal ghost writing.) The Atlantic article admitted there’s another side to this. “Ghostwriting might constrain writers, but it can free them, too.”

I was surprisingly ignorant of this phenomenon until I received an invitation to write two novels in an existing series. At first, I did not think this sounded interesting. How could writing a story using someone else’s characters and setting be creative? Then I read the first three books in the series, and decided this could be a fun venture.

In this case, the series is not published under a fictional name. Each book in the series bears that writer’s name. Some may choose to write under a pseudonym, but it made sense for me to use my name, under which my novel series and my short stories are published.

I was assigned a time of year, and given a detailed author guideline booklet containing character biographies, descriptions of the town and the Manor, and even photos of the main characters. Almost all authors selected for this venture have been traditionally published, and have experience following editor requirements. This is important, as your story must fit the tone of the series.

I plunged in, and found I enjoyed plenty of creativity. I’m sure I couldn’t have done it if I didn’t love the books, the characters, and the adorable Watson, a stubby tailed black and white cat. My first book in the series, number fourteen, will be published this year under the title Ink or Swim.

Readers subscribe to the series much as one subscribes to a magazine. Annie’s Publishing releases a new book in the series once every four to six weeks, thus the need for multiple authors. One writer simply cannot produce at that speed.

Here are the questions I had about write-for-hire jobs that you might also be asking:

How did I land this gig? I was recommended by an editor as an author who would be suitable for writing a gentle cozy. My writing style and track history made me a good fit. The offer came out of the blue.

What are the challenges? As a small press author, I have not been unduly pressured by deadlines. Writing for Annie’s, I have hard-stop deadlines for proposals, drafts, and final edits.

Am I disappointed I won’t get royalties? Not at all. The up front payment is generous. I have published with small presses, and the royalty system has been less than lucrative for me. With this process, there is no wait. Once you deliver an acceptable manuscript, you receive payment. With royalties, you may wait months, or years, before you see any money. If you received an advance, you won’t see another dime until you earn out that advance.

What are the benefits? The money is good. It’s more fun than I imagined to write a novel based on someone else’s concept. My name will be seen by many more readers, who might then take a chance on my small press series.

I nearly turned down this opportunity out of fear and doubt. Could I produce what the publisher needed? Was I selling my artistic soul for a quick buck? Then it occurred to me that the write-for-hire job was the proverbial opportunity knocking. I might not receive another offer like this. I decided to take a chance, and now I’m loving every minute.

The Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library is available now by subscription.

My small press series, Rock Shop Mysteries, is available here, and at Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Bio –

Catherine Dilts made her first fiction sale by murdering an annoying coworker in the short story The Jolly Fat Man. She found it such a satisfying experience, she went on to kill again. A 2017 Derringer Award finalist, Catherine is better known for lighter fare, including her Rock Shop Mystery series, and two books in the Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library series. She tested the waters on the dark side of fiction with Unrepentant Sinner, published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and Do-Over, appearing in the Blood & Gasoline anthology July 10 (available for pre-order now). Catherine’s day job in a factory as an environmental compliance specialist provides inspiration to keep writing, with the hope of eventual escape.

Boot Camp for Fiction Writers by Randy Rawls

            I suppose every writer, no matter whether a million-seller or working on the first manuscript, has his/her theories about the “rules” of the game. And, I’m betting, each of them has given thought to writing a “How-To” book—if not in the near future, then somewhere down the line.

Well, I did, and I did. I call it Randy’s Boot Camp for Fiction Writers. Please understand that it carries no promises of a NY Times bestseller. In case you’re wondering, no “How-To” writer can cause that to occur. So, if you see such a promise, RUN, DON’T WALK in the opposite direction. No, my book cashes in on my thirty-years of chasing around the edge of this business. I came into writing fiction as naïve as any writer ever has. But, after the first few rejections, I realized it was time to learn, no, make that LEARN. Thus, I set out to do exactly that.

My first move was to take several months off and read every first-person mystery I could lay my hands on. Fortunately, I lived near a large library in Dallas. The librarians soon grew used to my pestering them for another recommendation. When their inventory was exhausted, it was inter-library loans. They thought I was nuts while I knew they were wonderful.

Why first-person, you might be thinking. Because I had LEARNED enough to know I had no control over that monster called Point of View (POV). A friend was kind enough to not only point out how inept I was but to recommend first-person.

As an Army officer in a previous life, I had adopted the adage of “learn from the experts.” That was my goal as I poured through the mountain of books. I don’t know how many there were, but I reached a point where I was ready to try writing again. Thus was born the Ace Edwards series featuring a PI in Dallas who took on cases in small towns in Texas. Six books later, I was still learning.

I was also attending writing conferences and listening to agents, editors, and other writers. Once I move into learning mode, I become a sponge, soaking up every opinion I can.

During those six books, I moved from Dallas to South Florida and realized I needed to change my protagonist. Tom Jeffries came along as a much harder-case PI than Ace had ever considered being, followed by Beth Bowman, a PI in Coral Lakes, Florida. I’m still writing Beth and recently published the fourth in her series.

With my “How-To” book, I now have fifteen on the market.

I write all of the above to simply establish that I have accumulated numerous lumps as I’ve learned this business. Not to say I’m an expert, but I have absorbed a ton of information. And I’ve captured much of it in Randy’s Boot Camp for Writing Fiction. It’s available from Amazon in hard copy and ebook. Give it a look-see.

Buy link:

When Life Gets in the Way of Writing by Amy M. Bennett

At one time, when I was much younger, perhaps even as a schoolgirl, I had a dream of being a writer. You know, “a writer”, much in the way that children would answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”


“A policeman.”


“A doctor.”


“A rock star.”


At the time, I truly believed that one went to college to get a degree to become a writer and, upon graduation, one simply wrote a book, had it published, got paid, repeat every year or so, and lived happily ever after doing a job one loved.


Obviously, I was meant to write fiction.


As an adult, I discovered that all the writing classes in the world would not guarantee a successful writing career. Neither would any awards or prizes given in writing competitions. And, cruelly enough, neither would the advent of self-publishing which meant eliminating the pesky agents and editors that stood in the way of seeing one’s book in print.


Writing, as a career, leaves much to be desired (mostly, a means of paying one’s bills and buying groceries.) Yet it is a rewarding career if one has the passion and talent to at least draw a small audience to one’s work. The truth, however, is that one still has to have a way to pay the bills (mortgage and utility companies have very little regard for a writer’s passion and talent, unless that writer is Stephen King and the bills are being paid on time.) For most writers, this means having to have a “real” job, in the “real” world, where one must interact with “real” people, whoever they may be. And, as so often happens, the writer is not alone in living his or her “real” life… family, whether by blood or choice, also demands that the writer engage in gainful employment.


Of course, this offers a fiction writer an opportunity to collect material to be used in future work. Sadly, this means having less time to spend writing. Especially when work and family demands its fair share of the 24 hours allotted to a writer each day. Writing is rarely a 9-to-5 job where one can clock in and block out the world and actually get some writing done. When day-to-day life includes work, laundry, cooking dinner, caring for children or the elderly, and spending time with your spouse, it’s easy to relegate writing to a weekend or a half-hour interval when one isn’t busy (see, I told you I was meant to write fiction!)


And even when a writer does succeed in landing a publishing contract (usually from a small independent publishing house) and actually does collect a check (albeit small and probably not even minimum wage if all the hours put in writing, editing, and promoting are figured in), there is always a possibility of something going wrong. If a retail giant like Kmart can go under, how much more likely is it that a small publishing company will be felled by something as simple as the editor-in-chief/publisher having a health crisis?


All these things have happened to me on the way to becoming a published author. The hardest, to be honest, was NOT having my publisher’s health compromised by a stroke (although requesting my rights back to my work was gut-wrenching, since I considered my publisher a friend, not just my boss.) I was able to secure another publisher and my Black Horse Campground series is in the process of having new editions issued under my new publisher’s imprint. Currently, I am caring for my elderly mother and holding down a full-time job since I cannot afford full-time care for her (not that she would accept it, unless it’s from me!) As a result, my writing time is severely diminished. I try to write when she sleeps but I need to sleep, too! The sixth book in my Black Horse Campground mystery series is moving very slowly, but sometimes, one has to reorganize priorities. And I know that eventually I’ll have a lot more time to write and I realize that the time I have with my mother needs to be treasured.


Life is what happens when you’re not paying attention, so I’ve been told. I’m making an effort to pay close attention to every facet of my life, the good and the bad. And someday, it might be distilled into a day in the life of one of my characters. After all, a writer’s job is to make his or her stories true to life. What better way than to actually live in the moment of every day life?


Author Bio


Amy Bennett’s debut mystery novel, “End of the Road”, started as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2009.  It went on to win the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series, followed by “No Lifeguard on Duty”, “No Vacancy”, and “At the Crossroad”. “A Summer to Remember” is the fifth book in the series. She is currently working on the sixth book in the series.


When not sitting at the laptop actively writing, she works full-time at Walmart of Alamogordo (not too far down the road from fictional Bonney County) as a cake decorator and part-time at Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso (where you can find some of the best wines in the state of New Mexico, including Jo Mamma’s White!)  She lives with her husband and son in a small town halfway between Alamogordo and Ruidoso.  Visit her website at and The Back Deck Blog at