The Audible release of The Mona Lisa Sisters on October 9, 2023, marked my first foray into putting my work on audiobooks.
After listening to author Alec Peche talk about the number of books she has released as audiobooks, I reached out to Lois Winston for help understanding audiobooks. Lois took the mystery and fear out of ACX in about a half hour. I was able to begin the process.
After completing all of ACX’s questions—extremely easy— I uploaded my manuscript. When these tasks were complete, I began the search for a narrator. There was a simple choice among a mere 200,000 or so. What!
I found the project tool and narrowed the search to over one hundred.
Listening to maybe twenty narrators, I narrowed the search to six or seven. The three at the top of my wish list were all royalty-sharing listed artists. I listened again to all three and dropped one. I sent an offer to my top choice. Her response was, “I belong to SAGA/AFTA. I can’t work for less than $250.00 an hour.” I didn’t care for her response when I pointed out she was listed as available for royalty sharing. I hope she corrects that before another new author wastes time listening to her.
On to my second choice, Connie Elsberry, she accepted my offer. Connie was a dream to work with, responsive and always timely—a consummate professional. Her voice was perfect for my female protagonist. Connie captured the protagonist and the story as if it were her own. I especially appreciated how she was able to communicate and deliver the emotions where I envisioned them. Listening to her recordings, I had to wipe my eyes once or twice.
Will I do it again? You bet.
I created a new project for Robbers and Cops and have asked several narrators to audition.
The Mona Lisa Sisters at Audible is waiting for you.
The first book in the Hector Miguel Navarro Series, New Liberty, is available from many sources. I’m taking this opportunity to share a teaser and Chapter 1.
Outside Phoenix, two gangs rule…
…and one police officer is caught in the middle.
How will he stop them?
Hector’s parents, wealthy east coast college professors, raised him to work towards making the world a better place. In New Liberty, Arizona, gangs have ravaged the city. As a young police officer who lost his mentor, he struggles with the question.
Why did his partner kill himself?
Across town, a small sickly-looking man approaching fifty is about to make a move. DeShawn “The Knife” Galloway has a reputation as a contract assassin who prefers to kill with the Japanese Tanto. And It’s time to take control.
The war will start on his terms.
In a world of human trafficking, drugs, and violence, two people’s lives are about to be intertwined in a way where only one can survive.
But this story isn’t all black and white.
This dark urban crime novel will grab you as it reveals far more than just greed and power. This one will keep you turning the pages.
A Hector Miguel Navarro Novel
And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and
Hades followed him. And they were given authority . . . to kill with sword
and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. Rev. 6:8
They were alive moments ago.
“I told you to use the GPS. Why’d you buy a Lexus if you aren’t going to use the gadgets?” The old woman chides her even older husband.
“The map program takes too long. Besides, the boy’s graduation isn’t until tomorrow.”
“I know, but we’re not even in Phoenix. We should have been there an hour ago. Admit it. We’re lost.”
“Okay. I’ll pull over and set the GPS. Will that make you happy?” The man was tired from the long drive. Even breaking the drive into two days from Oakland to the Arizona city was more than he should have undertaken at seventy. His wife had suggested they spend a few days in Los Angeles, maybe even visit Disneyland, but the old man had insisted. She had been right. I should have skipped poker with the boys this time.
“Now we’re lost, exhausted, and you finally agree with me. That doesn’t help much.” She was younger by a decade and had offered to help with the driving. The old man was always stubborn and refused to give up the wheel. “This neighborhood looks pretty sketchy. I don’t think we should stop here?”
“We’ll be fine. Besides, there’s no one around.”
A minute later, absorbed in entering the address in the GPS, it’s difficult for the old man with his arthritic hands and new trifocals. Hearing a banging on his side window, and without thinking, he hits the down switch.
“Hey, old brother, whatcha doing?” Standing next to the car door is a skinny kid, fifteen or sixteen. It’s hard to see his face. He’s wearing a dark hoodie with the front cinched down. His hands are jammed deep into the pockets.
“I’m checking my map. We’ll be going.”
“I don’t think so,” the kid says as his right hand appears. He’s holding a small pistol, barely visible in his large hand.
“He’s got a gun,” screams the woman.
“That’s right, Bro. You and the sister get out and walk away.”
The man may be in his seventies, but he’s not about to let a teenage punk rob him. Reaching to put the car in gear, he says, “No.”
The old man doesn’t hear the shot or feel the twenty-five-caliber bullet that passes through his skull and into his brain. The small lead slug comes to rest against the right side of his skull, ending his life. His wife screams as another teenager opens the passenger door and drags her out of the car. Drawing her head back exposes her neck. She sees the Ka-Bar. The blade, dull and heavy, is meant for work, not slicing throats. As the boy saws her neck open, cutting the carotid arteries, blood gurgles until she is dead.
“Don’t get blood on the seat,”
“That’s why I pulled her out. What about the old dude?”
“He didn’t bleed much.”
* * *
Now that they have killed the old couple, they aren’t sure whether to run or take the Lexus. Their problem worsens when three men emerge from Ernesto’s Pool Hall.
“What’re you doing?” demands Jerome. “Geronimo” Dixon. The easily recognized president of the 4-Aces. Even at fifty, he is an imposing figure towering over the men behind him. The man stands six feet five and carries three-hundred pounds—no fat—packed on a muscular frame.
The frightened shooter’s answer is a whisper, almost apologetic. “We jacked them for the Lexus. The old man gave us shit. We had to off him and the old lady.”
“Who the hell gave you permission to jack a car in 4-Aces territory?”
“No one, we didn’t. . .”
“Shut up and gimme the piece. What else you got?”
The boy hands over the small pistol and the other gives up the K-Bar, “All we got.”
Geronimo turns to one of the men standing behind him. “Get DeShawn.”
Within minutes, DeShawn “The Knife” Galloway is at his side—Geronimo motions for the young killers to stand behind the Lexus. Out of earshot, he hands their weapons to Galloway. “This’s going to bring a load of shit our way. Make the idiots disappear.”
“Forever.” The tone of Geronimo’s voice leaves no doubt.
“The old couple?”
“I ought to. If they weren’t innocent civilians, I would.” Geronimo lets out a sigh. “Leave them.
“Don’t nobody touch da bodies, nothing. No DNA to tie the Aces to this shit.”
Galloway calls the other men over and tells the first, “You drive. We gotta clean this up.” To the second, “Put the fools in my Escalade. You ride with me.”
Showing false bravado, the shooter speaks up. “Why?” Stepping close to Galloway, he looks down at the much older and shorter man and repeats, “Why?” adding, “I ain’t no fool, old man.”
Galloway raises his head and gazes into the face of the shooter. His expression is as lifeless as his eyes. The shooter does his best to maintain a defiant pose and succeeds for perhaps three seconds. His body begins to shake. The shivers betray the boy’s fear; without another word, he walks to the Escalade and death.
Here’s the link to the trailer created by Lisa Towles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvrdESP4jTI
Jill Hedgecock is the author of four suspense novels and writes monthly book reviews and pet columns for a Bay Area newspaper, The Diablo Gazette. Her work has appeared in Bark Magazine, Books N’ Pieces Magazine, and American West. Jill twice received the Distinguished Service Award from the Mount Diablo branch of the California Writers Club and has been selected by the Club to receive the 2023 Jack London Award. Her novels include the award-winning Rhino in the Room, Queen of the Rhino, and Between Shadow’s Eyes. When Jill isn’t writing, she dabbles in the fine arts and competes in dog agility. To learn more about her books and her developmental editing services, visit www.jillhedgecock.com. Jill lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with three rescue dogs.
Finding the perfect ending to a novel is hard. Just ask Hemingway, who wrote 40 different endings to A Farewell to Arms. Readers will often overlook slow pacing, lackluster characters, and seemingly endless descriptions. They will sometimes tolerate purple prose and melodrama. However, their patience will evaporate if, when they turn the final page, the author fails to deliver a gratifying ending. In this post, I will discuss:
- the importance of endings,
- six different types of endings,
- some dos and don’ts, and
- when the writer should know the ending
The Importance of Endings
Readers are more likely to take issue with a novel’s conclusion than any other part of the story. They have invested hours of their time and want the time spent to be worthwhile. If the ending delivers, fans will sing their praises about the brilliance of the novel. But if the ending disappoints, readers will consider all their hard work to get to that final page was all for naught. But not all reader’s expectations are the same. Some readers are content to allow the author to leave the conclusion open-ended. Others are interested only in the author’s version of events and feel cheated if a character’s fate isn’t revealed.
Dickens learned first-hand how failure to deliver a suitable ending can incite outrage. Because of public outcry, Dickens reworked the ending of Great Expectations. To this day, most readers only know the second ending. Dickens wrote of the revised ending: “I have put in as pretty a little piece of writing as I could, and I have no doubt the story will be more acceptable through the alteration.” Even with the rewrite, the controversy continued, though. George Bernard Shaw said of Dicken’s chosen ending for Great Expectations: The novel “is too serious a book to be a trivially happy one. Its beginning is unhappy; its middle is unhappy; and the conventional happy ending is an outrage on it.”
Six Ways to End a Novel
- Full Circle. In general, all beginnings in novels should link to the ending. But in this type of ending, the opening and closing similarities can be literal. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton opens and closes with the same sentence.
Hemingway used the same setting to employ a circular technique in For Whom the Bell Tolls:
Beginning Line: “He lay flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees.”
Ending: “He was waiting until the officer reached the sunlit place where the first trees of the pine forest joined the green slope of the meadow. He could feel his heart beating against the pine needle floor of the forest.”
Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie comes close to a nearly verbatim conclusion:
Beginning Line: “The last class of my old professor’s life took place once a week in his house, by a window in the study where he could watch a small hibiscus plant shed its pink leaves.”
Ending (in the Conclusion): “The last class of my old professor’s life took place once a week in his house, by a window in the study where he could watch a small hibiscus plant shed its pink leaves. The class met on Tuesdays. No books were required. The subject was the meaning of life. It was taught from experience. The teaching goes on.”
- Open-Ended. Vague endings are often used in series to allow for stories to continue or in standalone novels to allow readers to fill in the blanks. This approach is also frequently utilized in literary novels. The extreme version of this option, the cliffhanger, isn’t usually advisable because readers hate cliffhanger endings, especially in a series where they feel manipulated into having to purchase the next book.
Some novelists have taken this approach so far as to conclude their books with an incomplete last sentence. The Castle by Kafka ends mid-sentence. However, this wasn’t the author’s intention—Kafka died of tuberculosis in 1922 before the book was finished. But there are other books where the unfinished sentence is intentional, such as in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated, where the ending suggests the grandfather composing a letter to his grandsons has died before he completed writing his letter.
- Metaphorical. If done with finesse, metaphorical endings can be brilliant. Richard Wright employed a shining example of this method with his metaphorical and circular ending to Native Son using the sense of sound. In the opening scene of this novel, Bigger Thomas, a poor, uneducated, twenty-year-old black man in 1930s Chicago, is startled awake by an alarm ringing (“Brrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinng!”). The book concludes with a metal door clanging shut, another jarring sound. These opening and closing lines are in complete balance with the violent nature of this novel.
- Thematic Conclusion. Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild, which chronicles her journey hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail, provides a great example of a thematic conclusion. In the beginning, the narrator admires the view from a mountaintop and describes herself as taller than the trees, setting up the idea of a “human versus nature” theme. The novel closes with the sense that she is at peace with the wild nature of the world.
- Revelation/Surprise. Character-driven books often end with a revelation about themselves or the human condition. Mysteries and thriller genres are conducive to surprise endings. But literary fiction has also employed this technique. In Sara Gruen’s. Water for Elephants, the novel opens with an elderly man trying to remember his age and closes with a more confident man who knows that he’s 93 and that his age doesn’t matter. Twists must always be set up throughout the novel and well-executed to work.
- Ironic/Rhetorical. Rhetorical or ironic endings, especially those that end in questions, are usually aligned with an open-ended approach. However, a writer that relies on rhetoric should be aware that this approach can result in two-dimensional characters and weak plots. Just like ending a novel with a twist, using rhetoric to wrap up a book can be a slippery slope unless done exceptionally well. Humorous novels, such as Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where the main characters ironically head toward the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, have successfully pulled off this type of ending.
Dos and Don’ts
While there can be exceptions, there are general dos and don’ts a writer should abide by when drafting the conclusion of a chapter. A writer should also be aware of expectations specific to their genre. For example, romance novels must end with a happily ever after or happy-for-now scenario. A humorous novel can end with the punchline of a joke. Still, that approach would most likely be an inappropriate concluding line in the murder mystery genre, especially if the narrator is a somber detective.
- Tie up loose ends and resolve the main conflict
- Keep description to a minimum
- Show how characters have changed or not changed
- Include trivial details early that will play a role in the finale
- Continue the story after the climax
- Introduce a new character or subplot in the last 50 pages
- Create an Improbable Ending (don’t leave the reader with an eye roll)
- End with “It was all a dream.”
When Should a Writer Know the Ending?
It’s best to have a solid sense of your novel ending at the outset, but don’t be afraid to shift directions and allow yourself to trust the process. It’s worth repeating that finding the perfect ending to a book is hard. A great exercise is brainstorming ten different endings to your novel and then selecting the best one. If you’re stuck, try writing ten endings that wouldn’t work. Regardless of what type of ending you ultimately choose to wrap up your book, make sure that you resolve the main plot and tie up the loose ends of your subplots.
As I said at the beginning of this post, finding the perfect ending to a book is hard. But with a little bit of brainstorming and by understanding the various ways to wrap up your prose, writers can find that killer ending that will leave their readers happy, satisfied, and searching for your next book.
A similar version of the content in this blog post appeared as an article in the May edition of Books N Pieces Magazine.
ARTICLE: How to Write Chapter Endings That Make Your Readers Turn the Page and a Book Ending that Leaves Your Readers Satisfied – Books ‘N Pieces Magazine
The heading is my life in a nutshell. It’s my birthday, so I’m taking a break from the usual routine to tell you a little bit about me and answer two questions posed by fellow authors—who tried to stump me—they failed.
If you don’t already know, I’m an enrolled descendant of the Karuk Tribe of California. Combining police, private investigator, and corporate experience, I have about forty years of investigative experience. Earning a BA – History from California State University – Hayward took me a dozen years of poor scholarship. Nearly four decades later, I returned to school at Las Positas College. I took a break to earn an MFA-Creative Writing Program from the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, before finishing an AA in English from Las Positas.
I was fortunate to conduct and manage thousands of investigations throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. After forced retirement, I kept my investigative skills honed by volunteering as an investigator at the San Leandro, California, Police Department.
I want to begin with a shout-out to an incredible mentor, Ramona Ausubel. Ramona was one of my mentors at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is a fantastic author, and her latest novel THE LAST ANIMAL is the People Magazine Book of the Week. PRE-ORDER NOW!
Besides writing, my passion was long-distance motorcycle riding on my 2001 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic—my first scooter was a 1959 or 60 Honda 50 (I got stopped for drag racing on it). My sixty-year biker life ended last year when an accident left me with several broken bones—it wasn’t the first time.
Shelley Riley asks: What inspired you first to start telling tall tales? I’m not one of those who has been writing all their life. I was about to turn sixty-seven when the most incredible place I ever worked, PALM, was bought out, and the layoffs began. I ran security and investigations and got advance notice of pending layoffs. Near the end, my name came through.
Feeling strong and unprepared to retire, I began an unsuccessful job search. I learned all about age discrimination. I had sworn never to enter a Senior Center until a writing class was offered. I falsely believed it would help my stellar resume, so I signed up.
To my surprise, it was a fiction writing class. Amazingly, I fell in love with writing and gave up looking for any other type of work. I have two stand-alone novels, and Book One in the New Liberty – A Hector Miguel Navarro series comes out in a few weeks.
Michael A. Black asks: Your writing of dialogue in your books is fresh and realistic, yet it also moves the story along. What tips would you give to other writers for writing convincing and authentic dialogue? I learned early on that I had to leave out the normal jibber-jabber that occurs in our everyday conversations. However, dialogue has to seem natural and to the point, adding to the plot and character development. When I began writing, I included a lot of unnecessary chit-chat. With rewriting and the help of Critters, I started writing more explicit dialogue—there has to be a reason. I ask myself: Why am I writing this? I cut, reevaluate, and rewrite if the conversation is unclear or without purpose. Occasionally, the dialogue seems to wander. When this happens, I’m laying the groundwork for a future event or character development of someone not in the conversation.
I try to add a touch of humor at least once in each chapter, helping humanize my characters.
May will be busy as New Liberty is released, and I will be doing readings and book signings. I hope you can join me at one or more events.
1. 5/9/2023 – New Liberty release – available for pre-order
2. 5/10/2023 – I will moderate the Upstate South Carolin Sisters-in-Crime Mystery Book Club. Michael A. Black with be discussing Chimes at Midnight.
3. 5/13/2023 – Las Positas College Literary Festival – Book signing with local and indigenous authors. Tommy Orange is the keynote speaker. It’s FREE!
4. 5/18/2023 – Barnes & Noble, El Cerrito, 6:00 – 7:330 – Book signing with Lisa Towles
5. 5/20/2023 – NorCal Spring Author Showcase, Orinda Books, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. – I will read and sign
6. 5/272023 Barnes & Noble, Dublin – 1:00 – 3:00 Book signing.
7. 5/28/2023 – Barnes & Nobel, Walnut Creek – 2:00 – 4:00 p.m Book signing
You can find me at:
California Writers Club – Mt. Diablo
Crime Writers of Color
Sisters-in-Crime – NorCal
Sisters-in-Crime – Colorado
Sisters-in-Crime – Coastal Cruisers
Mystery Writers of America – NorCal
If you can, pop over to Lois Winston’s blog. Her guest today has the initials: GDC.
Links for my books:
The Mona Lisa Sisters
Robbers and Cops
New Liberty -Book 1 in the Hector Miguel Navarro Series
Donna Darling writes short stories and novels for readers of all ages. Her debut novel, an historical fiction titled The Three Marias, is inspired by her Puerto Rican roots. When not writing, she enjoys sketching her characters or drawing a scene from her story.
She is a member of the California Writers Club and belongs to a writer’s group of published authors who meet weekly.
Donna lives in Northern California with her family. She enjoys traveling and weaving stories with history.
Puerto Rico, 1895. Three sisters are embroiled in rebellion, betrayal, and lost love. A secret threatens their bond when caught in a web of murder during the Spanish American War. After the massive hurricane of 1899, the three Marias are faced with the difficult choice to stay and rebuild or leave their home and their land.
Answering a few of George’s questions:
I write short stories, flash fiction, and novels. I’ve tried poems and children’s, but it’s not my “thing.” I started writing when my children were small. I remember writing a story for each one to match their personality and age.
My son cried when he heard The Giving Tree by Shell Silverstein, then saw a gray hair on my head. He thought it was all over. I wrote an additional page for him, with an illustration at the end. Sorry Mr. Silverstein—Then I started coloring my hair.
Subplots are fun for me, and I think they keep the reader interested. Too many, and you lose them. It’s a balance, and you do have to keep the thread going. Remember to tie it all together at the end for a satisfying finish, and it’s a winner in my mind.
Although I do steal ideas from real life, I do not use real people in my stories. In The Three Marias, the characters are fictional, set against a backdrop of actual historical events in Puerto Rico during the Spanish American War.
Research is important, and sometimes I get lost in it. I’m fascinated by history and envision my characters living through historical events. I place them in the setting. What is going on around them? What trees or plants are native to their area? Wildlife? I think about my character’s daily life. What do they eat? What music do they listen to? How do they hear it? Live, or is there a phonograph, radio, or other? How do they speak? Formal or slang? Is there an accent? I research fashion, hair, and anything that might influence my character. What is happening in the world during that time? It takes time, but everything adds to the story.
It took me about ten years to write The Three Marias. Life happened. I took breaks and returned to the project that captured my heart. I hope you enjoy reading The Three Marias, available on Amazon.
Here’s a link to my book, available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0BKXRZH4J/ref=cm_cr_arp_mb_bdcrb_top?ie=UTF8
Link to my Facebook page: https://m.facebook.com/