Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Welcome, CJ Bahr

But Why?

Motivation. It’s what good writing contains. Why are your characters doing what they are doing? Why do they feel a certain way? Here’s a look into one of my writing tips…always ask “but why?”


I can’t say I came up with this challenge. It first appeared to me in my monthly Friday Nighters critique group, though I’m sure it’s older than that. I’m not sure how many times my pages came back with multiple “but why?” in the margins. I soon came to despise them; however, I later embraced them. You see, by not taking the easy way out, it forced me to look at the various motivations in my WIP and validate or clarify them, for myself and more importantly, my readers, making my writing richer.


For example, in how many movies, as an audience member, have you watched someone enter a dark and scary basement knowing the character was crazy because he/she was going to die, get captured, tortured, fill-in-the-blank. You think to yourself the character is a complete idiot, call 911, get backup, turn tail and run, anything but enter the basement! As the audience member you just asked yourself the first “but why?”


The easiest explanation (in a horror movie) is the audience needs the scare/suspense so we’re gonna send the character into implausible danger to make it happen. It doesn’t matter why, just so long as we have the big scare. Well a movie may get away with this, but your story won’t.


Have enough unanswered “but whys” in your WIP and it will make the reader shut down in disgust thinking your hero/heroine is stupid.


The good news? It doesn’t take much to fix the unanswered “but why”. It could be a simple thought in your character’s head (if he/she is alone): I really don’t want o go into this dark and scary basement, but the circuit breaker is in there and I really want lights on about now. Motivation now revealed, your character’s IQ has jumped by leaps and bounds.


If you have two characters eyeing the dark and scary basement, you could have them arguing:


Bob: “Are you crazy? The killer is probably down there!”

Jane: “But we need the lights on, besides there are two of us and one of him.”

Bob: “Screw that, let’s get out of here.”

Jane: Be brave, we can do this.”

Bob: “Fine, we’ll go down into the dark and scary basement, but if we die, I’m blaming you!”


Not the best of examples, but I’m sure you get my drift. It’s a great question to work into your internal editor. And if you can’t figure out your “but why”? Well, you could “cover it up” and hope no one notices. Not the best of choices. Or you could “hold it up”, have a character point out the problem and shine a glaring flashlight at it. Oh, and there’s one “but why” fix you could get away with (probably) just once: “I have no idea why…” the “gloss it over” trick. After all, remember Casablanca?


Signor Ferrari: “…why, do not know. Because it cannot possibly profit me, but…”


Actor, Sydney Greenstreet’s line is a classic example of a “Plot Hole / Motivation cover up”.


But it’s better and more believable if your motivations are justified. Do you have a favorite “but why” solution? Share it below in the comments sections.


Don’t take for granted your readers know the unmentioned motivation or see the gaping hole in your plot, remember to ask yourself, “but why?”




Author Bio:


First published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Sword & Sorceress" anthology, C J was bitten by the writer's bug and hasn't stopped since. The Wild Rose Press published her award-winning first novel, "Walking Through Fire"— a Scottish ghost romance. She is currently working on the fourth book in the interconnected standalone series, The Fire Chronicles, as well as a new Urban Fantasy starring a kick-ass Time Enforcer.


When her pen isn't scribing, you can find her busily cutting and tracking music for film and television.  With over thirty years of music editing experience, her credits range from "Northern Exposure" and "The Muppets Christmas Carol", to "The Kill Point", "The Following", and ABC’s hit comedy, "The Middle".


In her downtime, you’ll find her curled up with a cup of tea, her cats and a great book in Tarzana, California.




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Twitter: @cjbahr





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Cassanne Thomas returns to New Orleans to start her life over and becomes the target of a supernatural serial killer. Escaping her close call with death, Casi is the only witness to the crime and finds herself placed in protected custody by a handsome Cajun detective. But with her dark, troubled past, trusting the police is the last thing she wants to do.


Detective Lucas Avery, the top homicide detective in NOLA, is unaware of the supernatural world surrounding him. With the killer stalking the streets, he vows to shield the beautiful, enigmatic, Casi with his life while fighting his growing attraction to her. He's been burned before.


Danger chases Lucas and Casi from the streets of the French Quarter to the wilds of the bayou. Will they be able to stop a monster, straight out of a nightmare or become victims themselves?




Casi screamed and covered her ears, though too late. The loud boom made her ears ring. Who was shooting at them? She tried to see, but Luc’s weight had her effectively pinned. Squealing tires along with a string of Cajun curses from Luc, had Casi guessing the shooter had fled.


Luc holstered his weapon when Casi spotted the blood dripping off his arm.


“Oh my God!” She pushed at him. “Let me up. You’re hurt. You’re bleeding!”


Luc rolled off her and did as she asked, while gripping his thigh with both hands. Her gaze left his arm drawn to the blood oozing out between his fingers. The thigh wound appeared much more serious. She tugged her phone out and quickly dialed 911. But before it connected, Luc’s bloody fingers grabbed her phone and disconnected the call.


“We can’t call this in.” Luc exhaled harshly and gritted his teeth as once again, he applied pressure to his leg.


“You’re shot. You’re bleeding from multiple places. We need an ambulance!”


He shook his head. “Can’t. We need to leave. Now.”


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Monday, September 27, 2021

It's a Book Festival

 It’s been a long time since I’ve been to an in-person book event, but I’m excited to announce that I’ll be at one on Saturday, October 2 in Hoboken, NJ!


Like I’ve said many, many times, writing is a solitary event. We all sit in front of our computers and talk with our made-up characters, live in our made-up worlds, and become invested in our made-up problems. While it’s comfy in there, the real world is what allows us to function as human beings, and sell our books. 


It also allows us to fill our creative wells. Whether it’s visiting a museum, or garden, or having a meal with friends, we need human interaction and creative inspiration in order to continue to write our stories.


And once those stories are written? Well, it helps if we can sell them. Sure, I sell my books online, and there are always sales—I can track them daily (a fact which can sometimes be quite puzzling—what is it with not buying any books on Tuesdays???). But there’s nothing like talking to readers, finding out what interests them, and matching them up with a book they’ll like, even if it isn’t one of mine. I know a ton of authors, and I’m always happy to send readers to them if I think they’ll enjoy their books.


Thanks to the pandemic, there hasn’t been a lot of human interaction, but thanks to the Hoboken Library, that’s going to change this weekend for me. I’ll be at their book festival with a ton of other authors in a variety of genres. And I’ll be with three other author friends who write great books—Miriam Allenson, Carol Van de Hende, and Victoria Jayne. So stop by, walk around, enjoy the fresh air, and make sure to say hello to me! 


If you mention this blog, I’ll give you a special discount!

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Welcome, Misty Simon

 One of the most fascinating parts of being a mystery author (or a murder worder as a friend called me the other day and I loved it enough to adopt it as my own!) is the question What If? 

As I look around at different places, different people, different scenarios, I often make up stories involving those places or people at the center. I change them as I see fit, giving them backstories that probably have nothing to do with who they really are, incidents that have probably never happened, challenges that they might never face.

Like the guy who walks around the block seven times a day but never stops anywhere. Does he do it exactly seven times every day? Is there a significance to seven? Or is he clocking himself or his steps? Does he have OCD and can’t stop until he walks seven laps? If he fell would he have a hissy fit if someone tried to make him go to the hospital without finishing that last lap? And then my favorite question to follow up on What If is Why… 

The absolute joy of being able to play with the concept of what if is one of the things that keeps me coming back over and over again to tell more stories involving people and places that catch my interest. But he Why is the big juicy cheery in my Shirley Temple. Why do they do these things? What happened in his or her past that keeps them in this pattern?

I keep these places and people in a file. I probably should have it on the computer but raise your hand if you like stationery! A well placed stickie is one of my favorite things and I adore that they have so many colors now.

But I digress… Back to What If?

Take the setting for my upcoming book Par for the Hearse. The amusement park where the book is set is real. It sits back behind what is now a flea market, a speedway, and a train museum. It’s stood for years on the edge of this property. Many years ago our family rented it to host our enormous family reunions. It’s closed now but I wanted to bring it back to life for this story. And the what ifs abounded.

Who would have access? What if that person decided that someone knew too much? Or what if the person had died because someone finally had enough of their attitude and things went downhill from there? I love the way stories come together and almost seem to write themselves once I give myself up to the What If. People come in and out of the story. Some stay and others end up getting cut, but without the What If there would be no story to start with. 

I love writing with my hometown as a backdrop too (though I don’t ever call it that because I don’t want to get in trouble for killing everyone in town!). There are so many possibilities. That shop that seems to have a new store every time I drive down Main Street. The woman who sits in her windowsill and flicks the curtain back and forth every time a car or person goes by.

What is she waiting for? Is she worried that someone is coming after her? Is she just that nosy and thinks that everyone in town needs to pass her inspection? But what if she saw something she wasn’t supposed to see and is the on the bad guy’s radar because she’s the only eyewitness? Would she call the cops? Or is she hiding something so she can’t call the cops because that would mean she’d get caught too?

Why does she sit there? Is she wishing that she was anywhere else? Is she waiting for a relative to come home that never made it? Is she unable to move beyond the window because she’s afraid she’ll miss something like she did when she was a child?

The possibilities are endless. And What If and Why lead you to notice so many details along the path that we all walk. I leave my phone in my backpack when I’m walking. I let my gaze dart all over the place and try to take in every detail I possibly can. The one blue wall in a sea of gray, the graffiti on the side of the train going through town. The way someone deliberately planted red and blue tulips in a row, alternating colors. Was it that important? Why?

Now I’m fully aware that most people just do things because they want to. Maybe she likes the colors next to each other. Maybe the guy walks seven times because that’s a mile and that will help him stay healthy. Maybe the woman looks out the window because she’s waiting for the delivery man to give her a package she’s been waiting for and she doesn’t want her dogs to bark at him.

But when you’re a murder worder you have to make things connect. If you have a woman who flicks a curtain then that package ought to be super important or she’s there to see something that later she’ll tell the sleuth about. If the man walks around the block then he has to have a reason or he’s not useful to your story. But the What If leads you down avenues you might never have explored. And the Why makes you think of reasons to explore more.

As a murder worder that’s one of my favorite things to share with readers. Let’s go explore – emotions, situations, people, feelings, locations. All ending ina big old dollop of justice. Par for the Hearse has a ton of what ifs in it and I enjoyed playing with every single one. I hope you’ll join me in the fun!


Catch up on the Tallie Graver Mysteries until Par for the Hearse releases in December 2021!


Bio: Misty Simon always wanted to be a storyteller…preferably behind a Muppet. Animal was number one, followed closely by Sherlock Hemlock… Since that dream didn’t come true, she began writing stories to share her world with readers, one laugh at a time. She knows how to hula, was classically trained to sing opera, co-wrote her high school Alma Mater, and can’t touch raw wood. Never hand her a Dixie cup with that wooden spoon/paddle thing. It’s not pretty.

Touching people’s hearts and funny bones are two of her favorite things, and she hopes everyone at least snickers in the right places when reading her books. She lives with her husband, daughter, and two insane dogs in Central Pennsylvania where she is hard at work on her next novel or three. She loves to hear from readers so drop her a line at

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Monday, September 20, 2021

Food Is Love

I love to cook and bake. The best therapy for me is to pull out my baking ingredients and make cakes and cookies and other treats. However, if I did that as often as I need to, my entire family would weigh 500 pounds each. We are a big sweets-loving family.

I also love experimenting with ingredients and seeing what meals I can invent. I used to do this all the time back when I was single. Once I met my husband, though, I had to severely limit my experimentation because of his pickiness when it comes to food. While he’s significantly improved in that area, he still likes what he likes, and other than for health reasons, really doesn’t want to try new things. 


My kids were also picky, so although I’ve never been prevented from experimenting for myself, when it came time to cook for everyone, tried and true recipes won the day. Besides, I’m not a short order cook, and the thought of making different meals for different people did not appeal to me. Not to mention, it would have made it very difficult to teach my kids to eat what was presented to them.


So, much of my love for cooking has fallen by the wayside. I still did it, still tried making new foods occasionally, but only using ingredients I knew were on the “approved list.” We were limited, but it was better than nothing.


Fast forward to today, when both girls are away at college and law school, living in apartments. With kitchens. That they have to use. I was all excited, thinking about the shopping we’d do together to outfit their kitchens, the recipes I’d pass along for them to make their favorite foods. But with covid and limited time and their strong wills, my idea of what would happen differed significantly from reality. Again. So I let them take the lead, stayed in my lane, and reminded myself that it was okay.


And then the FaceTime calls started.


“Mom, how do I cook this?”

“Mom, can you send me the recipe for the chicken you make that I like?”

“Mom, how do I store this?”

“Mom, we need more pans, can you help me pick out the right size?”

“Mom, can you watch me do this to make sure I’m doing it right?”


Suddenly, everything was worth it and all is right in my world.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Welcome Back, Darlene Fredette

 Inspiration For a Title…


Titles are my worst nightmare. They are probably the biggest struggle I have when writing a story. I start writing and hope at some point the inspiration for a title will come. But with most of my books, the title is lost until I write the last chapter. However, I did not have a nightmare with Cherry Red. The title came before the story! 


We are huge Rolling Stones fans in this house (saw them three times!), and one of my favourite songs is ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’. There’s a line Mick Jagger sings… ‘we decided that we would have a soda, my favorite flavor, cherry red’. I love that lyric and I knew it would make a great book title. And there is no copyright infringement because I am using a flavor, not the song.

My publisher introduced their One Scoop or Two themed stories, which had to have an ice cream flavor in the title. I thought cherry red is a great flavor! The storyline for Cherry Red soon followed.


As Stones fans, we were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Charlie Watts (the best drummer ever!) I dedicated this book to my husband, but I would like to add Charlie as well.

(The photo is just some of the Rolling Stones souvenirs we have in our china cabinet.)


Author Bio:

Darlene resides on the Atlantic Coast of Canada where the summers are too short, and the winters are too long. She writes contemporary romances with a focus on plot-driven page-turners. When not working on her next book, she can be found with her husband, her daughter, and her yellow Labrador.


Blurb for Cherry Red:

This summer, ice cream entrepreneur Carly Redd's only focus is expanding her business—until she's coerced into attending her ex's engagement party. Showing up without a date is unthinkable. She reluctantly agrees to be escorted by her brother’s co-worker, although doing so breaks her rule of not dating firefighters.


The daughter of the town’s fire chief should wear a Do Not Touch sign, but firefighter Noah Harding's interest blazed the moment he saw Carly. Agreeing to be her fake boyfriend is a no-brainer, but convincing Carly to trust him with her heart is harder than extinguishing a fire.


Overstepping the platonic-only rule is as dangerous as fire and ice swirling into a tempting combustion.


Excerpt for Cherry Red:

“This might seem like a strange question, especially since we’ve just met, but would you be interested in going out for a coffee? Or an ice cream?” Noah rested an arm on the bar.

Carly glanced down at her jeans and black T-shirt embroidered with the company name and logo…a cluster of red cherries. In a room full of women all dolled up in fancy—and some a bit scanty—dresses, why would this incredibly handsome man ask her on a date? “I appreciate the offer, but I’m not interested…”

Noah raised a brow. “I know you like ice cream, so is it the coffee, or me?”

“What? No. I mean, yes.” She took a second to collect her scrambled thoughts. “I like coffee. I just don’t hang out with firefighters.” Not that he was a real firefighter. Did impersonators count in her rules of men to avoid? She never dated a stripper, but she wasn’t sure she could have a relationship with a guy who was paid to take off his clothes and have other women fawn over him. Not that the guy asked her on a date…just a simple coffee. His frown made her feel badly. “I’m sorry. It’s nothing personal.”

“Burnt in the past? No pun intended.” He smiled.

She couldn’t help but smile back. “Something like that.”


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