Writer's Notes

Amy Bennett: It Takes a Village… to Create a Village!

The month of May has seen our “Writer’s Notes” topic “It Takes a Village.” All authors have different villages who help them on their publishing journey. Last Friday, Marilyn Meredith shared her version and today, Amy Bennett, author of the Black Horse Campground Mysteries published by Oak Tree Press has some equally interesting thoughts.

Amy BennettBy Amy Bennett

The myth of the solitary writer is a romantic ideal cultivated by introverts who want to be heard, but don’t want to get out of their pajamas and talk to people. However, solitude—while great for actually putting words on paper—does little to help a writer create stories and characters.
Fiction generally revolves around one or two main characters and the secondary characters who populate their world. In order for a writer to make those interactions come alive on the page, they have to be realistic. And the best way to achieve this realism is to draw from interactions with actual people.
Despite the attraction of the mythical life of a “solitary writer”, most writers have to live in the “real” world in order to make ends meet. Therefore, the opportunities to interact with other people in real life settings is part of the everyday life of a writer. It’s necessary for a writer to inject an element of truth into their fiction in order to engage the readers. Writers use actual people they know, places in which they live and work, and events that really happened to create their stories, although it’s essential to tweak the details in order to avoid problems and maintain friendships. Trust me; the fact that I have worked full-time at Walmart as a cake decorator for nineteen years has little to do with the fact that I write murder mysteries!
A writer has to create characters that affect readers in ways that are both good and bad. We’ve all met people that evoke strong feelings, even if the meeting was merely a customer service interaction (believe me, that’s a great way to find murder victims… and villains! On both sides of the counter!) Those feelings are used to create compelling characters. Conversations we have with various people—those we like, those we loathe, those with whom we enjoy interacting, and those we avoid like discounted sushi—teach us how to write dialogue that rings true.
Adobe Photoshop PDFI set my series in a small, New Mexico town because that’s what I knew best and it was a setting I felt was sadly underused in fiction. But I had to introduce readers who knew little about it and make them feel at home. What do the characters see, hear, smell, and taste as they move through the book’s landscape? That’s what helps a reader to disengage from their everyday life and live in the story. It’s no surprise that a pleasant experience at a KOA Kampground several years ago is what sparked the creation of my Black Horse Campground mystery series. Would I have been able to create it, the characters, and the story by simply staying at home and never actually seeing what it was like to be in the campground, to talk to the owners and find out why they loved what they did for a living? Maybe. But to miss out on all the fun of discovery?
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 Cross Road. A Summer to Remember is the fifth 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
Buy links:
Barnes and Noble:
Oak Tree Press:
Writer's Notes

What’s Up?

By Thonie Hevron

I haven’t posted a progress report since November 12, 2016. I’m overdue and hope to make up for it with this. Last winter, I wrote that I had re-gained my book rights from Oak Tree Publishing due to the publisher’s ill health. In the intervening months, I’ve taken two major vacations, struggled with some worrisome health problems (all good now) and polished my third manuscript, With Malice Aforethought. I’ve been submitting queries to agents (for representation) and publishers (for a contract).

authorThis week alone, I sent three queries out to two agents and a publisher. The deal is, I must wait for a response. But here’s the kicker: the timeframe for an answer (if I even get one) is anywhere from three weeks to six months—yikes! Who has that kind of time? Normally I wait a few weeks, then move on to another agency. All these queries must be researched. Agents receive from 20 to 100 queries a day. Given that workload, it wouldn’t be wise to submit a mystery query to an agent who only handles children’s book, would it? And even more checking is needed to make sure my mystery agent handles thrillers/police procedurals as my genre is defined. Again, a cozy (think Agatha Christie) mystery literary agent wouldn’t look twice at my sub-genre.

So. A lot of work. Which takes away from writing.

Book report:

I have a fourth book in the wings. I wrote it in the mid-90’s so it needs updating and re-structuring. I hope to have it ready for a publisher/agent later this year.

open bookAs if I don’t have enough to do, my blog seems to be growing. A third retired LAPD officer is now sending me stories in addition to Hal Collier and Ed Meckle. Their posts are entertaining and serve my mission to de-mystify police officers to the public but particularly writers.

However, lately, I’ve been feeling like I’d like to butt in, too. Not stories but commentaries on the writer’s life, hence Writers Notes. So, I plan to write one post per month and publish it on Fridays. On May 12th, I’ll begin with, “It Takes a Village,” my take on the myth of the solitary writer.

My friend and colleague, Marilyn Meredith, will offer her ideas on the same subject on May 19th.  Amy Bennett, author of the Black Horse Campground Mysteries, will chime in on May 26th. I’ll provide links so you’ll be able to click right onto their websites.

June will bring another challenge. What topic and who will weigh in?

%d bloggers like this: