After attending numerous workshops at RWA conferences and meeting with critic groups, I’ve come to recognize the value in listening to suggestions from established authors and literary agents. They know the business and structure for successful formula writing. Over the years, I’ve written and edited short stories and business documents, but undertaking the process of creating a sellable, memorable novel is a whole different matter. Here are a few simple tips I’ve held onto and would love to pass along to new authors.

Whether suspense or mainstream fiction, the first paragraph is essential for setting the tone in your story. It should grab your reader’s attention and be viewed as the first piece in a disassembled puzzle. While writing Flaherty’s Crossing, I wanted my readers to sympathize with my main character’s damaged soul and allude to the fact that she would be undergoing a tremendous emotional journey before the book’s end. Thus the first two lines needed to be equally strong and thought-provoking.

The last grain of sand was about to drop in her father’s invisible hourglass and there was nothing Kate Flaherty could do to stop it. The realization launched a shutter up her spine.

In Severed Threads, I chose to grow the suspense in this book in a more deliberate, graduated fashion. If you notice, by the fourth line, I’ve already hinted that my treasure hunter is going to find himself distracted, which becomes a tangled up mess as complications in his endeavor increase to the point of destroying his life.

Chase Cohen tumbled over Stargazer’s side and into California’s cold Pacific Ocean, his dreams of riches so close he could barely breath. Five years of diving for corporate salvage companies had taught him to restore his senses as quickly as possible. To concentrate and remain focused on his purpose. Yet every time he entered this icy underworld, he found himself briefly caught up in his surroundings.

Lastly, remember that a good suspense novel needs a great twist, leaving your readers surprised and completely dumbfounded. If you weave subtle hints or elements into your story – whether it’s a conniving character or unseen disaster – be sure to keep that final “gotcha” moment waiting in your closing pages so that your readers are left hungry for more.

Buried Threads, the second book in my Threads series, continues the drama from Severed Threads with the same fun, mismatched crew. Even in a follow-up story, it’s just as important to provide everything your audience is going to need – time, place, foreshadowing…even the main character's attitude – in the first sentence and as you can tell by the following lines, my protagonist is going to have a crazy, harrowing adventure.

Rachel Lyons arrived at the departure gate just as the plane was boarding for the 11:30 A.M. flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo with 15,800 yens in her purse, a heavy Coach duffle bag and growing sense of apprehension over Trident Ventures’ new assignment. In preparation for her trip, she’d read dozens of books about the Knights Templar and absorbed as much basic Japanese as her brain would allow. She’d forced herself to appreciate the nuances of exotic Asian cuisine – although eating raw squid when it could so easily be cooked would forever remain a mystery.

Interested in reading more about my books and upcoming releases? Visit my website at And be sure to leave a comment following this post for an opportunity to win an autographed copy of my latest award-winning release, Severed Threads.

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