Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Six Steps to Help Prevent Financial Abuse of the Elderly

I have been working on two short stories this month. Although the stories are very different, they share two similarities. Both involve my series character Seamus McCree and crimes against the elderly or mentally diminished.

Fellow Writers Who Kill blogger Tina Whittle and I are writing one of the stories together. That one is for an anthology expected to be titled 50 Shades of Cabernet. The co-authoring thing is a new experience for me, and I am enjoying it. (I hope Tina is, too.) The second story is my planned submission to the fourth Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime anthology titled Fish Out of Water.

This need of mine to write about financial abuse of the elderly is not new. Perhaps it stems from my current responsibility to handle my mother’s finances, and I am more aware of the potential. Maybe it’s because I write about financial crimes. Criminals always follow the money, and today’s retirees as a group have a lot of money. Maybe it’s because news articles have suggested the way we now treat elder abuse is similar to the way we used to treat child abuse: severely underreporting the extent of the crime, blaming victims, allowing institutional practices to remain unchallenged. Whoa! That’s a charge.

Consider these facts:

Much as child abuse often happens within the family, according to AARP, nearly 60 percent of the Adult Protective Services cases of financial abuse nationwide involved an adult child of the elderly person.[1] According to a study sponsored by the Journal of Internal Medicine, friends and neighbors account for another 17%, and paid home aids 15%.[2] In this study, only 10% of the reported cases are perpetrated by strangers.

We don’t know for sure what percentage of total financial abuse is reported. Victims are often unaware. When they do realize they are victims, they are often too embarrassed to report the crime. Sometimes they are afraid to report the crime, fearing physical or psychological abuse from the perpetrator. Those suffering from dementia, depression, or disabilities are most at risk.

Sometimes the abuse is hard to catch, taking the form of “loans” that are never repaid, cheating not only the victim, but others who should have shared in the estate. Often the crime is simple theft, extracting money from an ATM, writing checks to themselves, buying stuff with the victim’s credit cards.

Taking a few simple steps can make it more difficult for perpetrators of elder financial fraud.

(1) As early as possible make sure you (and your parents, if alive) have an estate plan in place, including a will (and/or living trust) and health directives. Discuss your wishes with family so everyone knows what is to happen if you can’t take care of yourself in the future. This may be an uncomfortable conversation with your loved ones, but bright sunshine on your finances helps makes it harder for the mold of later abuse to take hold.

(2) Be wary when “new best friends” enter the life of a loved one. Any hint of “sharing” finances or the new friend “taking care” of finances should shoot off rockets of concern.

(3) Institute checks and balances wherever possible. Only a small percentage of lawyers and financial advisors are crooks, but alarm bells should go off if your lawyer recommends a financial advisor or vice versa. Independently verify referrals. Conversely, you may be able to use a lawyer or financial advisor as a resource to help prevent financial fraud.

(4) Use technology to help monitor spending. Credit card companies provide transaction alerts, which can provide early warning of a stolen number. If you worry about a relative who is still independent but potentially at risk, you can purchase monitoring services to spot unusual activity. An example is EverSafe.[3] (I mention them only as an example of what can be purchased. I have not used them and have no personal knowledge of how well they perform.)

(5) If one family member is responsible for a parent’s assets, make sure a second person has the ability to review transactions, asset statements, etc. I use DropBox to store my mother’s credit card, bank and mutual fund statements so one of my sisters can look over my shoulder. This protects Mom and also allows my sister to easily take over if something happens to me.

(6) If anything seems suspicious, ASK QUESTIONS.

Is financial crime against the elderly a concern for you, either for yourself or a relative? What have you done about minimizing risk of abuse?

~ Jim

This post first appeared on Writers Who Kill 2/21/16


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Earl Javorsky - Guest Author

Earl Javorsky’s first novel, Down Solo, was released in December, 2014. After a long stint trying to make it as a musician in LA, he went back to my first love—writing.

What is your most recent excellent read (book, short story or essay) and why?

The best work I read this year is The Ninth Step by Grant Jerkins. The writing is mean and lean, right out of the Elmore Leonard school, and the plot moves forward with a weird inevitability that is structurally perfect. Everything that happens is the logical outcome of the main character’s actions, but her choices are skewed by her alcoholism and her desire to manage its unintended consequences.

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I wrote an article on this, which can be found at . It indicates that I’m an organized, disciplined plotter, and it’s only half-true.

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I do not finish everything I start. The most recent book I stopped reading was Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson, although I got a kick out of Nobody Move. I wanted Tree of Smoke to work for me, but it didn’t. Gotta care about the characters. At least one of them. Usually, I’ll flip to the end and read the last three pages, basically in order to defeat the temptation to continue. Once in a great while the end will make me wonder how the author got there and will bring me back to engaging with the story.

Name three not-well-known authors you would recommend and tell us what you like about their writing.

Oh boy . . . So, these writers are not really obscure; they’re just not in the general, mainstream conversation.

I’ll start with Lucius Shepard. His imagination is so off-the-wall it puts him in a category that might only include J.G. Ballard. His work ranges from fantasy (of which I’m not generally a fan) to science fiction to simply delirious. Kalimantan, Life during Wartime, and Eternity and Other Stories are definitely worth look at.

Then there’s David Benioff, who is better known for his work on Game of Thrones. Benioff’s books City of Thieves and The 25th Hour both have tremendous heart and are perfectly rendered.

Finally, there’s Nic Pizzolatto, whose Galveston is a fine, atmospheric work, again with a lot of heart. Pizzolatto went on to create True Detective, which I think is one of the most interesting TV series ever.

What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?

Hopefully not much. My original pitch to my current editor (Lou Aronica at The Story Plant) was that, as an editor and proofreader myself, I could promise a clean manuscript. He replied that he couldn’t look at unagented novels but could use a proofreader. I worked for him for over a year before he decided to give my own writing a go. The fixes he suggested were minor but important—same with the line editor.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

Trust Me came out of some of my own experience struggling with alcohol and drugs, along with observation of a real character—a shrink who generously mentored a lot of people but made totally inappropriate overtures, sometimes successfully, to attractive young women (he was in his late 60s). I gave a bottoming-out alcoholic drug dealer a sister who appears to have committed suicide. In following the trail of her story, he finds allies that lead him to the truth about his sister’s death and a way out of his own predicament.

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

Ack! So many. But actually I consider myself a moderate in the prescriptivist/descriptivist wars. I don’t, however, think that the fact that many people will say something like “The worst thing happened to Molly and I” exempts it from a red pencil at editing time. Also, I lament the demise (and misuse) of the subjunctive, as in if/were constructions.

Name three writers from whom you have drawn inspiration and tell us why.

I guess I’ll have to go with Elmore Leonard, Graham Greene, and James Lee Burke. Collectively, despite their differences, they are masters at creating characters and predicaments where the narratives roll out not mechanically but with great precision and inevitability while still leaving room for surprise. I would include John Le Carre and Iain Pears, along with Michael Gruber, who—especially in Tropic of Night—gets hauntingly weird without leaving the detective genre.

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

Pay attention to anything Elmore Leonard says about writing, especially this: Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Beyond that, read, write, take a class. Join a read–critique group. Leave it when the experience gets old, but stay in touch with the people you like. It helps to be in a culture of writers and not exist in a creative vacuum. Read Strunk and White. Own a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style. Know the rules so you can break them. Be satisfied with the intimacy you can create with whoever reads your work and hears you as you want to be heard.

To find more information about Earl Javorsky and his writing check out and visit

Here’s a quick blurb for Down Solo (provided by an author I really enjoy)

“Earl Javorsky’s bold and unusual Down Solo blends the mysterious and the supernatural boldly and successfully. The novel is strong and haunting, a wonderful debut.” 
~ T. Jefferson Parker, New York Times bestselling author of Full Measure and The Famous and the Dead

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Jim Jackson - Guest Author

So I screwed up. Someone originally had today’s spot, but their publisher pushed back the launch of their book and I moved them to a later date. Good so far. Then I neglected to erase their name from today’s date and so didn’t schedule anyone else. And that, fair readers, is an introduction into the almost, but not quite, organized life of Jim Jackson (a.k.a James M. Jackson), author of the Seamus McCree novels and a wonderful nonfiction bridge book for intermediate players of the game. I decided to fill the hole in the schedule myself. Without further ado, here are the questions I selected and my answers.

What is your most recent excellent read (book, short story or essay) and why?

I don’t recall when or what I first heard of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, but it was sufficient to cause me to check it out. On Amazon it had a 4.8 rating with over 18,000 reviews. On Goodreads over 100,000 people had rated it with an average of 4.5. In a world where people can hardly agree that today is Tuesday, I wanted to find out why the book scored those numbers. The novel has it all: a captivating slice of history, compelling relationships, vivid writing.

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

This was not a problem for The Nightingale and, given there are always excellent reads available, I don’t know why it is so difficult for me to realize that just because I pick up a book, I do not have to finish it. I have gotten better at putting down a book after forty or fifty pages if I am not enjoying it. But once I make it past that decision point, and despite my economist’s understanding of the fallacy of sunk costs, I usually plow through the to the end and then kick myself for wasting my time. If a book is filled with grammar errors or sloppy writing, I’ll put it down on page two without regret even if everyone says it’s a wonderful story.

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

Using me as a noun, as in “Me and George are playing a game.” Not only is it grammatically incorrect, it puts the speaker ahead of George in importance.

What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?

Long, convoluted sentences written without the skill of William Faulkner, yet littered with parenthetical phrases obscuring the landscape of an idea as a Lowcountry river exhausts itself before it reaches its final release in the ocean: so near to its goal, yet delayed by the sinusoidal curves broadly carved through the marshes with their fecund life hidden by the placid surface of the water.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

I start each novel with a premise and a question and let the characters take the story away. In Doubtful Relations, the fourth Seamus McCree novel, I wanted to explore the core values of the McCree family. To set the characters in motion, I asked Seamus’s ex-wife’s husband to disappear. I didn’t know why, but I figured the questions his disappearance would raise would ensnare Seamus, Paddy, and ultimately the entire extended family. In that crucible, the true family relations would reveal themselves. And they did.

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

I prefer total quiet. I like to hear my characters talk; I like to picture them in the scenes I word-paint. If I need to block out background noises, I use New Age music or sounds from nature tracks. Give me songs and I sing along. Classical doesn’t work because I start humming the tune.

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

I write first drafts by the seat of my pants, following characters as they tell me the story, which means only when I finally type “The End” do I understand what the story is. My second draft removes dead ends I wandered down, eliminates excess characters, and creates scenes to give the plot cohesion. In subsequent rewrites, I typically add description and emotion and cut travelogue and repetition. After the final tightening, I usually end up with a few thousand words more in the manuscript than I had in draft one.

You have an all-expense-paid long weekend to spend with three guests. The Starship Enterprise has agreed to beam you to the place of your choosing, so travel time is not a consideration. Who are your guests (and why) and where are you staying (and why)?

I’d have the Enterprise do some time travel to pick up my three guests (and provide translation services and meal preparation). I’d bring Jesus of Nazareth, Benjamin Franklin, and my great-great-great-grandfather James Caleb Jackson together at my place in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in late August, after the mosquitoes have died off and before the first snows. We’d share walks in the woods, and I’d have time for private conversations with each one.

What would Jesus think about Christianity? I’d pick Franklin’s brain about “Original Intent” as the United States was formed, and would be interested on his take on Einstein’s gravitational waves. I’d get to directly hear stories from my ancestor about his life as an early abolitionist circuit speaker, his relationships with William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Gerrit Smith, John Brown, key players in the suffragette movement and later Clara Barton; how he came to invent the first “ready-to-eat” cereal; the life and times at the Jackson Health Resort, and a gazillion other things I’d love to know. I’d spend plenty of time getting out of the way and listening to the conversations among the three.

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

“There is no great writing, only great rewriting.” ~ Justice Louis D. Brandeis

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ken La Salle - Guest Author

Several years ago, Ken La Salle embarked on the adventure of becoming a full-time writer. Since then, he has released dozens of titles, produced his own audiobooks, and is having a great time. [ed. Note: love that attitude.]

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I have a rule for when I read, which coincidentally is the same rule I apply to movies and TV shows. I call it the “Pissed Off” rule. If I’m reading a book and something pisses me off, that’s it. I’m done. This can apply to characters doing stupid things or just to bad writing. When the purpose of something is to entertain me, I figure I don’t need to put up with anything that will piss me off.

Now, there are exceptions, of course. And I try to give everyone a fair shake, because the flip side of that is that it’s possible to learn from things that piss you off. Oftentimes, when I see some particularly bad writing, I ask myself, “How would I have approached that? How could the writer have done this more successfully?” Bad movies are a great way of learning from the writing mistakes of others, because they usually cost less time than a book.

But when I’m done giving second chances, that’s it. Down it goes!

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

Sometimes, my background noise is my computer’s fan. (It’s a bit old and noisy.)

I remember being in my twenties and writing alongside my friend, Tim. We would shout ideas back and forth with music blasting in the background, foreground, and off the ground entirely. I have no idea how I was able to concentrate and, as I’ve grown older, I’ve become the kind of person who enjoys silence when I write. Honestly? I’m keen on silence most of the time. Old age is a bitch that way.

What is your most recent excellent read (book, short story or essay) and why?

The Journals of Spalding Gray, found as part of a display in a department store!

I was a huge admirer of Gray and, before he passed away in 2004, I had begun performing my own autobiographical monologues. (I released my first full-length monologue, That Olympic Peninsula Layby, last year.)

Witnessing how different his system was, not just for writing but also for coping with life, has brought a smile to my face since the first page. I have very little time to read but when I do it’s nice to spend time with someone who almost feels like an old friend.

Do you read reviews of your books? Why or why not?

I’m just going to come out and say it. I’m a review whore. I wait for every new review with baited breath, but especially love the ones that take me by surprise. I’ve been so happy to see how the reviews I’ve attracted have been getting better over the years, especially since some of the early ones were pretty brutal.

But writing is not just my vocation. It is also my pleasure, my fun. So, it’s a treat to know that someone else enjoyed a story (especially when it’s a story I wrote) as much as I did. Better still, it’s a lovely feeling to hear about how someone found a level or an insight in one of my books I didn’t even know was there.

What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?

I tend to write extremely long sentences that can often be mistaken for run-ons but are actually composed that way intentionally so that the reader gets a sense of stresses felt by the character or the rush of an experience as it happens, which I can understand might cause an editor to pull on his or her hair or hair piece or maybe even their dog’s hair but is actually not at all meant to have that effect. You know?

(And then, we cut them down like old growth weeds.)

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

Like many writers, I began as a strict pantser, because I believed that in order to convey a sense of wonder I had to be engaged in that wonder entirely. I couldn’t reveal any secrets to myself about the story or a character. Otherwise, it would be old hat by the time I got there. I’d lose interest.

Recently, however, after spending many years waffling between pants and plots, I developed what I feel to be a workable compromise, which I call “The What and The Why.” Simply put: I plot the what. I outline what happens. I’ll even go so far as to outline when it happens and how it happens. But I tend to leave the “why” out of the equation. I like to get to know the characters and allow their motivations to take me through each sequence of events, thus leaving enough of the mystery there for me to discover as I go while also having outlined a story I believe will work in the long run. And sometimes the “why” will change the “what,” which is also fun.

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

I always add words on the second draft, sometimes significantly. It is at this point when I paint in the colors.

You see, I’m a dialogue guy. I love dialogue. But I don’t necessarily love the details in the picture. I don’t care so much about what people are wearing or how they look; my focus as I write the first draft is to tell the story. After I’ve done that in the first draft, I go back with my paint brushes and color everything in.

After that, I cut as though I’m weeding, trying to find the devil in all those details. This is when I’ll hand it to my beta readers and I’ll make more cuts after each read. Then, it’s off to my editor. After all that, though, I still usually come out ahead.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

I’m actually in the process of releasing a new title as I write a new title. Both are quite different so I’ll take on both of them.

In the next month, I’ll be releasing my first comedy album, inspired by such “theater of the mind” geniuses as The Firesign Theatre. As I get further in my career, I’ve realized that writing is only a part of it and I want to perform as well. This has resulted in audiobooks and sketch comedy on my YouTube channels, but I have always wanted to do a comedy album.

It’s surprising how much turning 50 can light a fire under your butt. Before that date arrived, I decided I would release my first comedy album with my sketch comedy group, the 3rd Wall. As an independent artist, however, this meant writing and directing and producing the album myself, which took more than half a year. But it’s great to shift gears and take on projects that are outside of your comfort zone, and doing a comedy album was unlike anything I’ve done before. The album is called The War on Green and it will be released through CD Baby very soon.

The title I’m currently writing is a sequel to my romantic novel, Heaven Enough. So many readers asked if there’d be a sequel, though I wrote it as a stand-alone novel, I had to pay attention. In the coming months, I will be writing not one but two sequels and I’m nearly halfway through with the first.

Without a planned sequel, my first task was to go back and read Heaven Enough and refamiliarize myself with the material. Without giving too much away, I realized that the main characters had experienced so much trauma that I couldn’t just move ahead to the next chapter. Instead, I decided to use Heaven Enough as a sort of prequel and asked myself, “What happens to a person to who experiences trauma like that? Where do they go next?”

The answers have been utterly surprising. Again, while plotting the whats and waiting on the whys, I find myself surprised and occasionally devastated by the answers. My life is an emotional roller coaster as a result and I am thankful that my wife, Vicky, is so patient. (She has no idea why I’m so emotional but she’s very accepting.)

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

This isn’t a business for the faint of heart and “writing” is never just about writing. You need to be on your guard. You need to be a jack of so many trades. Long story short: If you aren’t willing to put everything aside and devote your life to this, make it your religion, it ain’t gonna happen.

And if you do those things… it probably still won’t happen.

Accepting that is step one.

You can find much more about me, my writing, and the 3rd Wall from my website at I’m also active on Facebook ( and Twitter ( In addition to the many titles I have available on iTunes, you can also find my podcast, The Monday Morning Show, available for free a couple times each week.

Here’s a blurb for Heaven Enough

Heaven Enough is a poem about longing, about wishing for something more. "What would it be like if I had heaven enough?" it reads. Matt Murphy reads these words for the first time at his wife's funeral. After a death shrouded with mystery, it is the first time he learns that she wrote poetry. He and Diva were married for nearly twenty years, when she is struck by a car and killed instantly—randomly—on the wrong side of town. When her brother, the "monk," appears for the funeral, Matt is set on an unprecedented course. The two find Diva's computer filled with preparations to hike the Pacific Crest Trail...and she was leaving without her husband. Matt takes it upon himself to hike the trail and sprinkle her ashes along the way. What happens in the first two hours is dumbfounding. What happens next changes his life forever…

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

James Morris - Guest Author

Fellow Kindle Press author James Morris is a former TV writer with credits including “Smallville” and “Crossing Jordan.” His young adult thriller What Lies Within and his New Adult novel Melophobia were published by Kindle Press.

You have an all-expense-paid long weekend to spend with three guests. The Starship Enterprise has agreed to beam you to the place of your choosing, so travel time is not a consideration. Who are your guests (and why) and where are you staying (and why)?

My father passed away in 2008, and I would pick him. I would pick my wife, Melissa. And the third guest, strange as it sounds, would be me from high school: I would try and tell that young version of myself all the things I wish I’d known then – about the rhythms of life, its ups-and-downs, and to not worry so damn much. And I’d go to the most beautiful place I’ve ever been: Kauai.

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

I actually have no background noise – no music, nothing. It gets too distracting. If anything, I might have classical or electronic, but no lyrics! The lyrics draw me away. I don’t mind the chitter-chatter of conversation or cars passing – everyday life noise. I certainly don’t need absolute quiet. I just need a pad of paper and a good pen (as I usually write longhand first. I’ve heard anecdotally that writing by hand versus typing uses different parts of the brain. Not sure if it’s true, but when I’m feeling a bit stuck, I sometimes mix up how I write, and it helps.)

As another aside, I try not to be too stringent in my writing needs; too many needs generally means I’m procrastinating. It’s never about “Well, the keys on the keyboard are sticking;” it’s more: “Why am I avoiding writing today?”

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I am most definitely a plotter, and maybe that speaks to the books I generally write: fast-paced, and usually concerning a moral question. I’ve tried the seat-of-your-pants thing, and it’s never gone well. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never taken part in National Novel Writing Month. I know it works well for other people, but not for me. I think it comes from my background in screenwriting: you had to have a story, an outline with all the beats filled in to give to the executives; they of course would weigh in, and the story would change.

So I’m very comfortable with taking an idea, pulling it like taffy, and writing down the major beats. Then I can go in and have a ton of fun writing scenes and allowing myself to “get loose” knowing I’m safe within the borders of a story that (I think) works. The beat sheet always changes along to the way to various degrees, but I know where I’m going to start and I know where I’m going to end.

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I used to have an almost OCD-like need to give a book I picked up a full read, but as I’ve gotten older, my time more limited, and the range of choices higher, well, I’ve grown to just let things go. If a book doesn’t keep my attention, then I set it aside. Sometimes, I realize I’m simply not in the right mood and that same book I’ll pick up weeks or months later, and finish. But other times, I realize pretty fast: I’m not the right reader for this book, and it goes into the Goodwill pile. I won’t name any specific books because they certainly have audiences with other readers – just not me.

Do you read reviews of your books? Why or why not?

I have a feeling any writer who says they don’t read their reviews is lying. Yes, my writer friends say not to, and I’m getting to the point where I agree. I am definitely trending towards not reading reviews. But as an honest answer, today? I do.

Here’s the good: you like seeing the validation of your work. Even for mediocre reviews, I find seeds of things to keep in mind for future works. Hmm, I think, that’s not a bad critique; I wish I’d caught that sooner. The bad? Well, it’s easy to go on an emotional roller-coaster. Hey, here’s a great review! Only to be followed by a scathing one. The up-and-down, I’ve found, is not healthy. But the other thing I’ve noticed is I think: what could I have done to please that reader? And that’s a very dangerous road, for it begins to make me second-guess my own instincts.

It’s also strange when one of your books gets better reviews than another, even though you worked just as hard on one as the other, and you start to think: well, maybe I’ll write more like that. But I can’t. Each book, to me, has its own tone, its own style. They are my literary children, each with their own characteristics. Rationally, you know not everyone likes everything. But we’re not rational creatures, are we? Short answer: I read reviews. But down the line, my answer will most likely be no.

What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?

I work very hard with beta readers to make sure that my draft is fairly clean before any copyeditor sees it. So it’s never a matter of cleaning up grammar; it’s the usual things: I’ve become too close, too biased to see a logic flaw that I’d forgotten. An author, I forget who, described novels as “a long piece of writing, usually with a flaw.” The quote was in the context of writing novels versus short stories. And I found that description apt.

A novel of any length is going to have a flaw somewhere – logic, or otherwise. Same with movies. It’s just so hard to have a story, which is all manipulation anyway, that is completely seamless. I know, too, that I generally write thrillers. Pace is important to me. And usually character is not as fully developed as it could be. It’s something I continue to work on. That’s probably the concise answer to your question. I know from reading my reviews that readers of Young Adult who wanted to “swoon” were not fans of What Lies Within. But that’s okay: What Lies Within is a thriller. And I found that fans of horror and thrillers enjoyed it, even with its label as “young adult.”

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

It’s a complete mix of adding and subtracting. I’ve found from first to final draft that I have reduced and added so much that the word count remained nearly the same. It’s hard to say what I cut: it’s not as simple as saying “I cut redundant information.” It’s more expanding an emotion here, cutting dialogue there, adding some padding, or removing a scene that serves no purpose. And each project is different. I try during the revision process to find “the tone” of the book, almost like a real sound in my mind, and match it so that from the first page to the last, it’s consistent in every way. For What Lies Within, it was a sense of unease; for Melophobia, I wanted to bring more sensitivity to the writing, to the world, to describing sounds through words.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

Melophobia was initially born from an idea long ago when a friend told me he thought the United States was on the verge of revolution during the Vietnam era. Maybe he was right. Maybe he was wrong. But I liked the back-story of: what if there really had been a revolution, and the government cracked down on the concerts and the music that seemed to fuel the Anti-War movement?

The question then became: what do you do with that? Do you tell the story from the initial revolution? That seemed too political, and too historical. So I thought: how could I make it more contemporary and tell it from the point of view of someone who grew up in this new world where life would seem normal? Once I did that, it became easier to find conflict in my main character’s life. Of course, in retrospect, it all sounds so easy to find those links, but they take time and lots of wrong turns first!

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

Write because you love it; there is no other reason.

For more information about me, check out my website at:

Here’s a blurb for Melophobia

Melophobia: fear or hatred of music.

The time--now; the place--America, but in a world where the government controls all forms of art and creativity. Any music sowing the seeds of anarchy is banned--destroyed if found--its creators and listeners harshly punished.

Merrin Pierce works as an undercover Patrol officer assigned to apprehend a fugitive musician who threatens the safe fabric of society, only to confront everything she thought to be true - her values, upbringing, job, and future.

Can love survive in a world without music?