The Dreaded Middle by Nancy Radke

Writing the beginning of a book is exciting and fun. The author puts the pot on the stove and throws in the main ingredients.



The Beginning

At the beginning the author has plenty of things to write about. New characters can be described physically, named, and their most important character strengths and flaws shown as needed. New families can be created and new friends or enemies described.

Then there is a new setting ready to be explored, which includes place and time of year. In my latest Lucky Dog cozy mystery this was my first major change in the series, as the story begins in a December snowstorm. The snow makes it difficult to drive and this becomes one of the reasons a “clue” doesn’t get very far.

The beginning of a story also sets up the plot question which brings in the conflict. In a mystery, the question is usually going to be “who killed —?” If it is a romance, the question will be “who gets the heroine?” Or “who ends up with the hero?” In most of my books, such as Turnagain Love, there is only one choice. In others, such as Dangerous Inheritance, there are two fellows interested in the heroine and she has to choose between them.

The beginning is great fun to write. The book fairly charges along by itself. The ending can be seen, but there are still many words to write. To have a book start, then end without any development of the plot, wouldn’t really be worth reading. The writer now comes to the middle. Many would-be writers stop here. Their files are full of books they started but never finished.

The Middle

What do you put in the middle? Here is where the pot simmers and boils. Rather than looking at it as a dreaded empty space, the writer should be happy. Now is the time for the plot development that fleshes out the characters of hero and heroine, that enriches the conflict they face, that builds the emotions they feel. It is the time when the reader discovers the how and why of the actions and feelings of the main characters. It can be greatly influenced by the choices they make or the environment they are in.

The middle determines the final choices that the hero and heroine make. If it is not logical, the reader will be disappointed. They must choose in a way that reflects who they are. The reader has been expecting this choice. If the book is a mystery, the villain must be hidden until the end, but the middle must provide the clues.

The End

The middle sets up the ending. The pot comes off the stove and the food is eaten. A good book will leave the reader feeling full and satisfied, enjoying the taste of the combined elements. The plot made sense. In a mystery, the now-revealed villain had a strong reason for what he/she did.

How many times were you able to discover the villain before the author revealed him? This is what makes writing the mystery so difficult. In my favorite book, Scorpion’s Trail, I was able to keep the Scorpion hidden until the ending, yet the clues were all there.

Scorpion's Trail

(On Friday the 14th, I will put Scorpion’s Trail in a Kindle Countdown, starting at 99 cents.)

The Blessing of a Baby by @_NancyRadke USA Today Bestselling Author

I have a new “title,” besides that of bestselling author. My grandson and his wife just made me a great grandmother. It happened this week, so I’ll write about my precious new baby for my April blog. She’s a sweet little girl who took her own time getting here, coming on her own schedule, not her mother’s, who had it all planned out for last Thursday. The baby had other plans, almost making it to my birthday.


Babies are a delight to any family and our little one is no exception. She makes me want to include a baby in an upcoming book, just to remember what a blessing a newborn is. They were able to bring her home from the birthing center a few hours after she was born, so we all got to hold her right away.

Living Near, Living Far

When my first child was born, we were living in Hawaii and our folks were in Alaska and Washington state, and they weren’t able to be there right away. My great granddaughter lives within walking distance, so I expect to see her often.

The ladies in our church family are providing two weeks worth of meals, so I was told to wait to do that.

When my daughter was young, I used to take her to visit her great grandmother at a nursing home. It was the highlight of the week for both of them and I feel it taught my daughter to be kind and thoughtful of older people. I’m looking forward to seeing her grow up.

I feel like I’m rambling, so will mention the book I have out this weekend. Scorpion’s Trail, normally $5.99, is on sale. The story has nothing to do with babies, but it is a romance that introduces my favorite hero, Hugo, who takes delight in teasing my heroine, Perri.

Scorpion's Trail

The Author’s Tools by @_NancyRadke

Authors use the Internet, resource books, movies, and their own experiences when writing novels. We refer to them as author’s tools. I thought I’d mention one of the more unique books that I use which sits on my writing table and has to be moved whenever I have company for dinner.

The book that I use for every novel is The Best Baby Name Book in the Whole Wide World, by Bruce Lansky. It has over 13,000 boys and girls names along with their meanings. It has been enlarged, but I expect most baby name books will work for this purpose. You might wonder why I use this until you realize that romance authors write books in series, and each series might have ten to fifteen books in it.

What’s in a name?

Author's ToolsI need a different hero’s name, heroine’s name, a villain or two, a best friend and parents. Sometimes a dog’s name, like Sam. That means twenty or more names at the very least that I don’t want repeated in that series. So once I have written enough of the story to figure out the personality of my main characters, I give them names to match their personalities. Then I mark that name so I won’t use it again. This is hard to do when I find names I really love, such as Tripp and Keely in the book, The Prisoner Returns.

Some of the names I will use as family names, such as Trahern, a Welsh name meaning “strong as iron.” The Trahern historical series has thirteen books in it with the fourteenth started. But many of the books in my modern-day Silver Bell series have the descendants of the Traherns in them. So, I avoid using the names again, except in the case of Prescott Trahern, whose ancestor Prescott was in The Bravest Woman in the Town. The modern Prescott and his son, Jesse, a forest ranger in Oregon, have to fight drug dealers and smugglers in the book Trouble Never Knocks, where they mention the early Prescott’s bravery.

Appaloosa BluesAppaloosa Blues, a book in the Sisters of Spirit series, features Adam and Johnny Trahern. So, you can see why I may spend an hour or more looking through the baby name book to give my “babies” meaningful names.

That includes nicknames. In the Sisters of Spirit book, Spirit of a Champion, my heroine, the sister of a prize-fighter, needed a name that matched her personality. If she found a cause she felt was just, she went all in for it. I gave her the nick-name, Stormy.

Here are the opening paragraphs for that book:

Victoria Tempest Drake, known to all as “Stormy,” threw the last of her father’s clean socks into his suitcase, stuffed them down into any remaining spaces, and pressed it shut. All she needed to do now was to call the cab and arrange for it to take him and her brother to the Boise airport. Then she would have her father’s house all to herself while she decided what to do with her Masters in applied mathematics.

She had three universities trying to recruit her at the present, she mused as she picked up the phone. Actually four.

“…results are not good.” 

“Tell me.”

The line was being used. Stormy started to hang up.

“You have three soft spots—one very large. If you fight again—ever—it will kill you.”

Scorpions TrailHer brother is determined to fight, and Stormy is just as determined to stop him. She battles for his life. She even takes on his opponent and the men who try to kill her to get her out of the way.

You’ll meet Hugo and Perri in this book. This is the same couple from Scorpion’s Trail and the same Hugo who is in the Brothers of Spirit stories.

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