SPEAKER: Linda is a member of AWSA, and is available to speak to your organization, at your conference, or as part of a workshop.
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AGENT: Linda is a an agent with Hartline Literary Agency. She would love to represent that next great American novel! She will look at nonfiction, but she LOVES FICTION--historic, suspense, romance or all of the above.

AUTHOR: Linda writes romance in all categories, but what is her fave? Suspense, and not only suspense, but SUSPENSE SEALED WITH A KISS

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Have you had an event, so frightening, that you just had to sit down and put the frightening experience to paper? Suspense! A terrible, wonderful, scary thing to waste.

My experience was on a dark and stormy night.

Oops, wrong story. Let’s try again.

Snow battered the wiper blades, the wind howled, and my twelve-year-old daughter had a birthday sleepover. Already, the roads were nearly impassable as we crawled at a slo-mo pace. This better be some birthday party, I thought.

Sliding around a corner, we saw the house. Huge. Birthday balloons waved hello in the front window and a couple balloons were slammed hither and yon on the mailbox by the wind.

We unloaded my daughter’s things, but as she turned from the car, the color drained from her face.

“Mom. I forgot my pillow.”

“Okay, well have fun.” Had to get out of there before she could say… .

“Mom, I can’t sleep without it.” Too late.

I realize I was never nominated Mother of the Year. (Although I’m sure some shrink somewhere, if he talked with my kids, would nominate me for some kind of mother, but I digress).

“All right, all right. I see the writing on the wall. I’ll—be—baack!” Drove home through almost a foot of snow now. Wind still howled, snow still yada, yada, yada.

When I returned to her friend’s home. I stared at the house this time. The trees’ gnarled branches gave the house a creepy look. As if giant arthritic hands surrounded it. I gulped. What did I know about these people? They were veritable strangers and


Okay, reality check. I knew their kid, had met them at a school function, and hadn’t heard on the news of any bodies found in their back yard. NOT YET!

And anyway, if she had a problem, she’d call in a Michigan second (ours are different from any others, you see).

Left the pillow in the hands of a grateful daughter (remember that, Rachel, when the shrink asks) and started the engine so I could battle at least 18” of new snow. (I might exaggerate just a bit from time to time).

As I drove away, car sliding side to side, I couldn’t help wonder, what if Rachel were only five? What if she couldn’t call if a problem arose? What if I couldn’t get to her in the storm? What if I’d missed the mug shot of those people on American’s Most Wanted? What if . . . oh why did I ever leave that tiny baby in the hands of those felons!!??!!

Arriving home, sweat speckling my forehead, heart rate somewhere near five hundred, I sat down at the computer, and BLOW OUT THE CANDLES AND SAY GOOD-BYE was born:

In Toledo, Ohio, five small girls huddled together, tears their only comfort. The van imprisoning them drove away from a recently emptied house. One girl couldn’t stop shaking, another continually wiped her nose on her coat sleeve, and two clutched at each other with clawed hands, never taking their eyes off the couple in the front seat. Anger vaulting to the surface, the fifth girl, brave beyond her years, dug fingernails into her hand until the tender skin bled.

The vehicle wasted no time heading for Chicago where, once again, the wheels of corruption would turn another truckload of frightened five-year-olds into pure gold.

Use those rare opportunities when unbelievable, heart-stopping fear strikes to hit the keyboard and write suspense. You only get the opportunity to encounter really creepy a few times in your life.

Anyone with a similar experience that forced you to hit the keyboard?


  1. So cool!

    You've given me an idea, definitely. My biggest memory like that is too powerful not to use in a story! Thanks!

  2. Do all writers need deep psychoanalysis or only me? Hope I share this weird sense with a lot of others.

  3. LOL I LOVE your sense of humor:)) You write more than suspense.
    Good way to look at what's happening around us and I admit that I have a heightened sense of the drama when something out of the ordinary happens.
    I'm sure I heard creaks in my house last night after we went to bed--does someone know our routine? ;)

  4. No, but the man hiding in the attic spying on your every move might just be taking a break, practicing pilates. So just ignored the squeaks.
    Seriously good to know I'm not the only one who has an idea with each stranger sound or happenstance.

  5. Lately I've been contemplating trying to write suspense. I never thought I had a good enough imagination for it. But, suspense are some of my favorite books.

    I never thought of using an innate fear as a starting place. Thanks for sharing such a funny and great post!

  6. I read suspense (closer to the murder mystery type than to thrillers), but I've never had the nerve to try to write it. And I've repressed all those memories from my deep, dark past. :) But who knows what lurks in my future?

  7. Go Kathryn and Karla! Why not try it? Suspense moves a bit quicker and while you need solid characters, mine, at least, are plot driven. Don't ignore your characters, but move the plot along in a such a way the reader feels the fear skittering down her spine and has to keep reading in order to quell that fear. Yeah, go scary!!! A great Christian suspense writer is Brandilynn Collins. Her books are awesome!

  8. As you know, Linda, I write in many different styles and genre (genres?)but suspense/thriller is something I've only touched on briefly. But I do have terrifying notions hidden somewhere just south of my medula. One of them has been outlined...what the heck...I'll look at it again. Thanks for the nudge.

  9. You bet. I love to see people get excited about suspense. It's my all time fave. And thank you, Jon. You were such an encourager when my writing was LESS THAN STELLAR. Even less than okay. All right, it was garbage, but you were a wonderful cheerleader and I'm grateful!

  10. Linda, one of my phobias is snakes. Hate them, due to an event in my childhood. So-o-o naturally, my first suspense: the antagonist put rattlesnake(S) in the cabin of one of the women he was trying to terrorize. Okay for me to write about it; not so okay to experience it. :)

  11. What a slithering, slimy, scary piece of suspense. Yeah, I'm not exactly afraid of them, but I do give them a respectfully wide berth. Now put me in a room with spiders that I don't see coming, and you have instant death from fear. Don't even have to pull the trigger.
    Isn't it funny how we are able to work through our own phobias by writing about them? Saves a few hundred dollars on some shrinks couch, don't you think?

  12. Great post! I've been working on a suspense book for about four years (it won 2nd place in the Genesis Mystery category in 2008) but it's actually based on a true incident that happened in my life. I just took that and upped the ante a little by making it worse than it was. Thanks for the nudge to keep working at it. Also read your post on the Daphne and Genesis contests - although I didn't enter the Genesis this year (due to a published book disqualifying me :)), I did judge and have to say it is HARD to make comments that will help and not wound another writer. Thankfully, I received many thank you emails to let me know I had managed to encourage others even when their scores weren't the best. I'm trying to remember that when I look at my own scores from the Daphne - one perfect score and the others so-so - for a book that WON a contest. You're right, it's all subjective.

  13. Thank YOU for the hard work voluteering to judge. It can't be easy knowing you're handling someone's baby and hopefully don't drop it. You judges are wonderful to give so much time to a thankless job.
    THAT SAID, my entry next year will be number 126-hint, hint! Thanks again from all of us!

  14. Linda, I love this story of yours!! :-) Terri, she is really hilarious! Even in her suspenses she has this sneaky, sarcastic humor. LOve it! LOL
    Great post Linda!

  15. Jess, I'll mail you the ten dollars, thanks for the kind words.