You know stuff, use it | Story Empire

One of the first things I learned as a writer is, “Write What You Know.” Okay, I can see the importance of that when writing non-fiction. For instance, I once thought I would write a book based on my experience of being a cancer survivor’s wife. I planned to write about our experiences throughout my husband’s treatment and recovery. But somehow, the book never got off the ground.

Why? Because my deepest desire was always to write fiction. And through my journey, I’ve found that real-life experiences often make the best stories.

Fellow author, C. S. Boyack talks about that over at Story Empire today. Why don’t you pay him a visit and see what he has to say?

Source: You know stuff, use it | Story Empire

Behind The Story ~ Full Moons

On a September night—I believe it was the year 2000—I went outside to my deck. A full moon was already above the trees. I stood listening to the sound of insects, breathing the fresh night air, and looking up at the night skies.

Autumn would arrive in a matter of days. Where had the summer gone? Wasn’t springtime only yesterday? I couldn’t believe I was looking at the last full moon of summer. Suddenly, an idea for a book title popped into my head.

Excited about my idea, a story began to form. I pictured the setting—a lake with cabins nestled about. I imagined a woman standing outside at night when she saw something strange at a cabin on the opposite side of the lake. Character names began to weave their way into my imagination.

When I went back in the house, I opened my word processor and wrote a few paragraphs. Even though I didn’t have the slightest clue on how to structure a novel, I didn’t want to forget my idea.

Since the age of ten, I dreamed of becoming a writer. However, except for writing a short novel my senior year of high school and a few poems, I’d done nothing to fulfill that dream. After coming up with the perfect title and storyline, it took another seven years before I took online writing classes and began to write. Even then, my writing was mostly non-fiction.

Flash forward to 2011. Texas experienced its hottest and driest summer in recent history. Triple-digit temperatures remained well into September. Wildfires were rampant throughout the state. Many rivers and lakes began to dry up. People discovered items previously hidden beneath the waters—including part of the space shuttle Columbia that had exploded over Texas eight years earlier.

And my story idea, which originated on a September night eleven years earlier, was still in my head. I sat at Chili’s one day with a friend who is also a writer. We talked about the recent underwater discoveries, the drought, and as writers often do—we discussed writing.

“Did you hear about…? I think I’ll incorporate that into my novel and have it set in 2011 during the drought.”

“Good idea,” she said.

It took almost another three years before I made a concerted effort to finish the manuscript.  Character names changed. The title changed. In fact, the only similarity between the completed draft and the original idea is that a character does see something strange and inexplicable at a lake.

Unseen Motives will go out to beta readers within the next couple of weeks. Another round of edits will occur before I send it to an editor and then comes the final edit. It’s been a long journey and has taken many twists and turns, but it’s nearing the end.

Next week, I’ll introduce you to the protagonist, Stephanie Harris. Hope you’ll join me to learn more about her and her quest to discover the truth about a twenty-year-old crime.

Oh, the original title? I still think it’s a good one—and to date, no one has used it. Someday I may write a story that fits. And this year’s last full moon of summer? It’s Friday, September 16. If you get a chance, get outside and enjoy those night skies.

Behind The Story ~ Fathers

Many years have passed since I walked out the door that late March morning without saying good-bye. I wasn’t angry, just in a hurry. You were busy and I reasoned that we would talk that afternoon. How I wished I’d listened to that inner voice that told me to go back in the house. Or the one that kept nagging me all day. “Call your Dad and tell him you love him.”

I even went to the phone several times only to hang up before dialing. Each time I argued with myself. “It’s a beautiful day. Dad will be busy in his garden. He won’t answer the phone.” So I never called.

The end of my workday finally came, but as I drove home, I decided to stop at the bank to see about obtaining a loan for the car I had ordered—a brand new blue Camaro. I recalled the day I came home and told you about it.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“It’s blue.” You smiled when you said it, but I knew the meaning. It wasn’t a Ford, but blue was your favorite color.

When I arrived home, I couldn’t wait to tell you the banker approved my loan.

“Your father is outside,” Mom said.

I ran out the door, but we never got the chance to talk. Only minutes earlier, you were alive.


My father passed away when I was twenty-one years old. His death was sudden and unexpected. He never saw my new car, or met my future husband. He wasn’t there to walk me down the aisle when I married.

I’ve thought about that last day many times and wished I could go back and do things different. If only I’d gone back inside the house. If only I had listened to my instincts and called him. If only…

I take comfort in the fact he knew my love for him. Or be thankful for the last family dinner we had together. There were no harsh words—my parents, brother, and I sat together at the table, laughing and joking with one another.

It occurred to me recently that I’ve lived the majority of my life without my father. Although I’m not a psychologist, I begin to question the reasons behind some of the stories I write.

In my novella, The Stranger, the protagonist Julie grows up not knowing her father. Her quest to learn more about him and his family is a source of strife between her and her narcissistic mother. It isn’t until Julie has adult children of her own that she decides to do some genealogy research—with surprising results.

Stephanie Harris is the protagonist in my upcoming novel Unseen Motives. After the death of her great aunt, Stephanie returns to her hometown of Driscoll Lake for the first time in twenty years. Her visit stirs up pent-up emotions she carried since her father’s suicide. To make matters worse, he was the prime suspect in the murder of the mother of one of Stephanie’s best friends.

I didn’t plan to write two books so close together in which the protagonist grew up without a father. However, in order for the story lines to work, there couldn’t be another way.

If you haven’t read The Stranger, you can obtain a free copy by subscribing to my mailing list. You’ll hear more about Stephanie and Unseen Motives in future posts. I plan to publish the novel in late summer.

To be clear, my father died of natural causes. My mother was kind and loving—not self-absorbed like my character Julie’s mom. I’m grateful for the years we had together. Someday I’ll write a story where the protagonist’s father is alive and well! But until then…