1. 1.Elizabeth (Libby) Frisby
  2. 2.Shawn Hopkins
  3. 3.Lisa Proulx
    4. Anthony Carbis
    5. Marja McGraw

1. Elizabeth (Libby) Frisby

Elizabeth (Libby) Frisby, President, Integrated Solutions Consulting
“Effective writing is an important tool in achieving results in any organization. It is even more crucial when an organization is cultivating changes,” said Elizabeth (Libby) Frisby, President, Integrated Solutions Consulting.
Integrated Solutions helps organizations develop and manage their strategic, human capital and organizational changes.They develop and provide personalized processes and support materials to turn goals into reality and align individual and organizational plans and systems to gain a competitive edge.
“Clear communications are critical to harnessing an organization’s efforts to develop leadership and strategic direction, employee teamwork, internal growth, and customer satisfaction. By writing clear and consistent proposals, e-mails, performance reviews, reports, and presentations, management and employees advance their individual and business goals.“
Frisby encourages her clients to spend time developing employees and managers to learn how to express themselves more effectively. “If we follow a few simple rules, like stating our expectations up front, we facilitate desired results. Clear writing also elicits clear thinking and better decision-making.”
For additional information on Integrated-Solutions Consulting, go to
For more on effective business writing, see “Strand’s Simply Writing Tips: Effective Business Writing – 1” as published in the Integrated Solutions October newsletter, Integrated Communications, available at

2. Interview: Shawn Hopkins, Author
Progeny, The Solomon Key, Noahic, Even the Elect
Q How do you get started writing your novels?
A I’ve written four novels, though two have really been variations of the other two, but my system going into them has been different each time. Now, as I start my fifth novel, I think I’ve finally nailed down a process that really works for me.
I don’t outline until I’m to the point in the story where I can see the end. Until that point, I guess you can say I write “by the seat of my pants” though with a general idea of the overall storyline. Once I’m about half way through, I can start plotting out the details because by then the story begins to dictate what it is and what needs to happen. Up until that outline, I plot out chapter by chapter. I decide what I want the chapter to be and treat it like a book in and of itself (which is how I press onward, tackling one chapter at a time, one foot in front of the other).
In helping visualize the chapter and reign in the vague nature of endless possibilities, I’ve begun to sketch out the scenes from the chapter in storyboard form. I’ve found that it saves me a lot of edits. Draw it out in pictures and then describe the pictures. That process forces me to write a tighter scene, focusing in on what’s happening and how to best maximize its potential rather than rambling through a scene blind and having to rework it over and over
again, trimming off unnecessary excess.

JOYCE:  First, thank you for sharing your expertise with our readers. We appreciate your generosity. I’d like to turn now to character development. Your books, e.g., PROGENY and THE SOLOMON KEY,  “blend the real world with things beyond our nature.” How do you develop engaging characters within this realm? 

SHAWN: As for the characters, I tend to begin with a concept and insert characters into it as the story demands the need for them. Obviously, you need a point-of-view (POV) and so that's where I start. That person is the easiest person to create in a way, because they have to be able to move the story along, which means their background, age, talents, etc kind of come in preprogrammed by the story. For example, in my novel The Solomon Key, it was necessary that my POV be some kind of ex-soldier/intelligence, otherwise he wouldn't survive to chapter six.

In Progeny, I needed vehicles to get a lot of information across to the reader. So the evolution of the story dictated that such knowledgeable characters be created. As I'm going through the prologue of my new novel, I'm trying to figure out a way to bring some human elements to the characters in the midst of a story that is a pretty basic and straightforward horror/suspense novel. In the midst of being chased by supernatural forces, I want the reader to feel the reality of what my characters are going through, which means a certain level of sympathy. I like giving my main characters some kind of personal struggle that haunts them, that makes them seem more human. I didn't do that in my first novel and it really bothered me afterwards. So my characters generally start out being molded for me based on what the story is going to require of them, but the back story, the struggles and hidden demons the characters have that will be worked through chapter to chapter are what I really have to plot out. Sometimes it takes a few chapters before I know a character well enough to create their past, but I try to start with some general idea.

JOYCE: What is the key to good character dialogue? Do you ascribe different
characteristics to the dialogue based on your character's traits?

SHAWN: It’s funny you should ask that. One of my latest reviews claimed that my dialogue was “wooden.” Whatever that means! So, I guess if you were to ask that reader, I really have no business answering this question. 

However, I’ll pretend that I do (so far that’s the only negative review I’ve gotten, and it still managed to come with a couple of stars). Sometimes how good dialogue sounds depends on whose mouth it’s coming from. If you’ve ever seen the Star Wars auditions with Kurt Russell (and others), they’re reading the script and it’s HORRIBLE! The script sounds like trash and makes the actors look just as bad. But then they bring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fischer in to audition and suddenly it all works (though not even the great cast selected for the prequels could salvage that dialogue). 

Anyway, I’ve noticed that if I’m reading a novel and the dialogue sounds unrealistic and boring, I can envision the characters as, say, Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster (or whoever), and then the dialogue suddenly works because I’ve infused their mannerisms and personality into the scene. I mean, if you were to read a novel about Jack Sparrow before seeing Johnny Depp act it out, you probably wouldn’t have had the same amount of fun with the dialogue. 

So I think that what I try to do is to construct the characters in such a way that their traits and personalities dictate how the readers interpret the dialogue. Does that make sense? I think the authors who really capture that are the ones who can have a whole page of back and forth dialogue between two characters without ever having to use a single word outside of the quotes to explain to the reader how the dialogue should be interpreted. You know exactly how sarcastic, funny, angry, etc. the characters are being based on the way the author has already familiarized you with them. 

So I guess I try and get the reader to know the character’s temperament so that when he/she is engaged in dialogue, they know how to read it. With that said, there’s still bad dialogue. I’ve seen it in some books where you’re just like, “Are you kidding? They’d never say that!” So if you can match the dialogue with the character’s personality, then the two help define each other. 

I’m not sure that I told you what the “key” is for dialogue… I guess just staying within the boundaries you’ve created with your character development. I personally LOVE the dialogue in Dean Koontz books. I think he does an amazing job at defining his characters with dialogue, which is kind of going at it from the other side, but he knows how to write and I’m still learning so… maybe someday my wooden dialogue will sprout some fertile branches and I’ll be able to do that too!
*Shawn Hopkins is an independent author who has published four novels. Fascinated by humanity’s mysterious past (and future), his four novels find their inspiration via some of history’s stranger instances of the unknown. Paranormal and conspiratorial, Shawn’s writing has been called “an action-packed thrill ride.” He is currently working on a sequel to Progeny and a prequel to The Solomon Key.  


3.  Lisa V. Proulx, Author
Horror novels and stories of inspiration
Q How did you get started writing horror stories?
A I am a laid back 70′s chick who loves to write horror! I grew up watching scary movies and my favorite show as a kid was Dark Shadows. I have been writing horror since I was in elementary school and my first story was, LILY WAS A WITCH. I was about eight years old.
In 9th grade, my English teacher liked my poem, SCREAMS OF NO REPLY and had it published in the newspaper. I felt like a celebrity!
Q What do you do to get started writing?
A I have read so much about outlines and arcs and all that good stuff, but honestly, I just sit down and write. Maybe I should do an outline or an arc but I never have. The words come to me so quickly that I need to write them down now! With my first book PUNCTURE, I did make notes of the characters and their likes and so on but that is the only time I have ever done that.
Q What inspires you to write? Where do you get your ideas?
A For my horror novels, I like to write about things that scare me, like insanity or people coming back from the dead. I get a lot of those ideas from nightmares or my own fears. I think in a weird way, if I write about them, then I have some control over them.
For my inspirational books, I write from real life, real experiences, and it’s raw, brutal and honest. I feel, how can I help or inspire someone if I am not being truthful and let them in on what I have gone through. I am also inspired by the desire to help other people. It’s funny how some of my books will scare you and the others will heal you. Maybe there is a method to my madness!

 *Lisa V. Proulx is the author of the vampire novel PUNCTURE, which was published in 2004 and MOTHER’S MONSTER, a short horror story, which was published in the anthology DOSES OF DEATH in 2005; DRAGGED INTO DARKNESS (2011) – how an abusive husband dies and tries to work his way out of hell ; and BENEATH THE BATTLEFIELD – a civil war ghost short story about a soldier who writes letters to his mother about the horrors of war. She has also written the inspirational: THE RAINBOW WON’T WAIT — Nonfiction: A dying mother’s advice for the obstinate daughter she is leaving behind.
She is also a feature writer and columnist for her hometown newspaper where she has worked for the past ten years, and she writes a weekly column chronicling events in her area.
Smashwords Author Profile
Also published in The Barefoot Review…

4. What the Experts Say: Anthony Carbis - Entertain with a Perspective

JOYCE: Thank you for returning to share your expertise with my readers. Today we’re looking at the role of characters, how you develop them, and the importance of dialogue to making them real.

ANTHONY: I think people care about characters that show they have vulnerabilities regardless of the period in which the story is set. If someone’s having a bad time through no fault of their own, I believe the reader will experience feelings of empathy.

When I write dialogue I always imagine the character and try to make what they say and the way they say it in keeping with their personality and history. Many of us have different ways of reacting in stressful situations. I think it strengthens the portrayal of the character to mention the nervous twitch or the darting eyes between the dialogue.

JOYCE: How do you write action, romance and other scenes so that they stay in character?

ANTHONY: The only thing I can say is that I always try to feel what the characters are going through regardless of what type of scene I’m writing about. Emotional involvement is, I feel, the key.

JOYCE: What do you believe is most important about your books?

ANTHONY: So far my work has been about trying to entertain the reader while presenting him or her with a perspective, or a way of thinking about what they are. For centuries many people have thought of themselves as individuals who are separate from their surroundings. I believe that this is a misunderstanding of life that has led to fear, selfishness and pain. Like many writers I am trying to pass on a message that has been passed on to me but I want people to have fun while they’re receiving it.  

*Author Anthony Carbis lives in the U.K. on the southwest coast of England. He has studied Eastern philosophies since the age of 18. He spent thirty years of being a jobbing singer/guitarist in England's West Country.

His books are available on 

Murder and Enlightenment -- a Victorian crime story with a dark edge and a little added meaning

People Pubs and Enlightenment - about a fictional singer/guitar player interested in Eastern religions who describes “followers of the holy trinity of brewing, fermenting and distilling.”


5. Marja McGraw, Mysteries with a Little Humor

Q-1: How do you get started writing your mysteries? 

A: I start writing before my fingers ever touch the keyboard. An idea will present itself and I start making notes to myself. Sometimes I’ll even think of a line of dialogue that I don’t want to forget and sometimes that simple line can cause the story to change directions. However, in all honestly, I never know what’s going to inspire a story. In the case of Old Murders Never Die, I was looking at some pictures I snapped of old buildings during a trip my husband and I took across Nevada. It suddenly struck me that a story about being stranded in a ghost town could be a lot of fun. It was, too.

I try to think of things that readers have enjoyed for generations, like a spooky old house, and start from there. Mystery readers, for the most part, enjoy dark and stormy nights and the readers are my inspiration. I try to give them what they want, as long as it’s something I can enjoy, too. Believe it or not, I always have the reader in mind when I look for a story idea, but since I’m doing the writing it needs to be a storyline I can become involved in.

Occasionally I know exactly who the guilty party is before I start a book. However, there are times when the story takes a path I hadn’t planned on and I end up changing culprits. The clues, or red herrings, fall into place as I write. I can’t recall ever going back and adding a clue, although I have changed them slightly.

Writing mysteries, at least for me, isn’t an exact science. Every author has their own process, and while mine may look a little haphazard, I think the end results speak for themselves.

Joyce:    Welcome back, Marja. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your expertise with my readers. Also I want to let everyone know that BOGEY’S ACE IN THE HOLE (A BOGEY MAN MYSTERY) is now available.

Marja: Thanks. I’m glad to be back. However, I need to repeat that writing mysteries, at least for me, isn’t an exact science.

Joyce:  All the more reason to listen to how you produce your mysteries. As a fan of mysteries, I like your books a lot – both the Sandi Webster and the Bogey Man Mysteries.  Your characters fill your stories and make me want to read more to understand what happens to them. What do you do to make them engaging?  

Marja:   I try to write my characters as though they’re someone I know in real life. They aren’t, and I want to clarify that so my friends and relatives don’t think I’m writing about them. I’d like the reader to be able to relate to the characters. They all have little idiosyncrasies, just like you and me, but I generally exaggerate them to a degree. If you find them engaging, then you can probably relate to them on some level, which means I’ve done my job. 

Joyce:  I personally really enjoy their names, and can more quickly envision the people based on them.  Where do you get the names? 

Along those same lines, in most cases I’ve tried to use common names that people can relate to. Personally, I can relate to a Sandi easier than I can relate to a Marja. Interesting, because I receive compliments on my name and yet I’d never use it in a book. Well, who’d want to use their own name anyway?

On the other hand, in The Bogey Man I included a character named Purity Patton. She was relatively famous and I wanted a memorable name. Susan or Linda just didn’t seem to be appropriate for this character. I also included a man named Jolly, although he wasn’t a particularly happy person. His parents tried to give their children some traits by giving them names associated with the way they hoped the kids would turn out. I know someone who actually did this.

In an upcoming book I have a peripheral character named Chloene. I posted a contest on my website asking for name suggestions. Someone entered the name of someone they’d known who had a very sad life. She wanted to give her a happy ending instead of the way things really turned out. It’s a good name and the reason for entering it in the contest touched my heart. Chloene needed a better life than the one she was handed.

Joyce:  That’s awesome. As authors, we don’t often get to rewrite the ending of real-life characters.  If only we could.

How do you write dialogue? Do you ascribe certain character traits and then write dialogue to match them?

Marja:  I try to keep dialogue as real as possible. Every person I know has an individual “voice”, and I try to do the same with my characters. Frequently people don’t speak proper English, but use language that suits their lives. A convicted felon with many years in prison probably isn’t going to say, “Pass the tea, please.” He’s more likely to say, “Gimme a beer and make it quick.” 

Even little old ladies might surprise you. My grandmother frequently came up with comments that stopped me cold and gave me a good laugh. Seniors are a lot more savvy than we sometimes give them credit for, and I want the dialogue to be as real as possible.

Chris Cross’s dialogue is pretty easy because he frequently uses 1940s slang. A lot of people aren’t familiar with that slang, so consequently there are times when his wife, Pamela, will have to respond with something that defines what he was talking about. He’s not crazy and doesn’t think he’s really Bogey, so under normal circumstances he speaks just like Joe Blow from down the block.

Now that I think about it, apparently I do define a character and then write dialogue to match the person’s traits.  Let me remind you about the convicted felon I referenced above. In the context that I wrote him being sweet, kind and gentle wouldn’t portray the type of man he was. I created a character such as this in Prudy’s Back! and he was rough, to put it mildly. His dialogue wasn’t polite or friendly, and he wasn’t someone you’d probably want to meet on a dark street at night. However, let me add that I use very little profanity in my books. Even with a character like this one, it isn’t always necessary.

As a reader I want the dialogue to ring true. As a writer, if I’m not sure I like the sound of what a character is saying, I’ll read it aloud. Sometimes I have to laugh, and I think, “What were you thinking?” And I rewrite.

Marja McGraw is originally from Southern California, where she worked in both criminal and civil law enforcement for several years.
Relocating to Northern Nevada, she worked for the State highway department. Marja also did a stint in Oregon where she worked for the County Sheriff's Office and where she owned her own business, a Tea Room/Antique store. After a brief stop in Wasilla, Alaska, she returned to Nevada.
Marja wrote a weekly column for a small newspaper in No. Nevada and she was the editor for the Sisters in Crime Internet Newsletter for a year and a half. She's appeared on television in Nevada, and she's also been a guest on various radio and Internet radio shows.
She writes the Sandi Webster Mysteries and the Bogey Man Mysteries, and says that each of her mysteries contain a little humor, a little romance and A Little Murder!
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