My Writing Process

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I’ve been asked to participate in the My Writing Process blog tour, which has featured several outstanding authors. I’m quite happy to add my name to the list — thank you Becky Lower for inviting me.

Every author on this tour answers four simple questions about their writing. Here’s what I have to say:

The Work-In-Progress at my keyboard is a romantic suspense tentatively titled “Deadly Love.” It’s about a female police officer whose friend is in an abusive relationship. Every nine seconds in the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten, according to domestic violence statistics. My character’s best friend is a silent victim, as many of them are, but the heroine’s keen cop eye detects it and she tries to help. There’s a love interest in there too — a hunky gym owner with biceps to die for.

I hope that my voice and writing style make it different. Unlike many romantic suspense novels, my plots are based on true crimes and cases that I encountered as a career journalist. An arsonist on the loose in a suburb outside of Pittsburgh sparked the storyline for “Love’s Secret Fire.” A real-life shooting in a gas station and the reason for the killing became the murder my heroine witnesses in “The Devil She Knew.” My newest release, “Thief of the Heart,” stems from an actual burglary ring that police busted. Having first-hand knowledge and “off the record” details about these crimes adds to the details and reality of the books, which I hope makes them stand out from the others.

I write romantic suspense because, first off, I’m a romantic at heart. I try to touch the chord that I think every woman feels – the search for that true, undying love. As for the suspense part, I have a great admiration for law enforcement personnel and try to pay tribute to them in all my books. Every book features a police, fire or state/federal agent because they are the good guys who deserve our respect and loyalty. And they always win.

Well, this isn’t an easy question to answer. I’m a pantzer, first of all. No outlines. No idea how the middle of the book is going to read or where my characters will take me. I get the spark of an idea – whether from a real life crime lodged in my brain or the turn of a phrase I heard from the next table over – and it starts to percolate. There are stories already filed in my brain that I know I want to write and, much like a tornado swirling around and gaining strength, the plot comes into focus. Then I begin writing. I never number my chapters – the heading simply says Chapter – because my thoughts will tumble out not necessarily in the correct order. Often, chapter three or four turns out to be my first chapter. But once started, I simply write until it’s done.

I’ve got two really great authors lined up for you to read next Monday, June 9 – Robyn Bachar, who writes paranormal romance, and Lynn Crandall, another romantic suspense author.

Robyn Bachar enjoys writing stories with action, adventure, humor, and happily-ever-afters. Her paranormal romance Bad Witch series, historical paranormal romance series Bad Witch: The Emily Chronicles, and spicy space opera romance trilogy Cy’ren Rising are available from Samhain Publishing. Her books have finaled in PRISM Contest for Published Authors, the Passionate Plume Contest, and twice in the EPIC eBook Awards.
Robyn’s blog link is:

Lynn Crandall says she is one of those people who never works. I love writing and editing and that’s what I do for a living, but I do consider it a business. I also love reading, relaxing with my family, which includes one cat at this point, and spending time in nature.
Lynn’s blog link is:

I hope you will check out their answers next Monday and learn more about these two great authors.




Meet Lynn Crandall…

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I’m thrilled to be chatting today with Lynn Crandall, a new Crimsonista, whose book, “Dancing with Detective Danger,” will be released Jan. 21 and is available for pre-order now.

Thank you, Lynn, for agreeing to be a guest on my blog today.

Thanks, Rena. I’m happy to be here!

►Please tell me a little about your book.

“Dancing with Detective Danger,” a contemporary romance, is my second romance novel but my first with Crimson Romance.

Uncovering secrets and exposing truth are all in a day’s work for private investigator Sterling Aegar. But when her latest case threatens to reveal her own buried feelings for an old love, Sterling runs for cover.

A body in the bathtub and pleas from a jilted wife to find her wayward husband mean a welcome break from the usual humdrum cases Sterling and her sister, Lacey, are called to investigate. But when Sterling’s old flame, Detective Ben Kirby, walks into the murder scene, she feels her world spin out of control. Danger from thugs and murderers poses no greater threat than the peril she’d suffer if she lets daredevil Ben get too close.

Seeing Sterling for the first time in two years is for Ben like drinking in a healing tonic. He could never forget the way it felt to run his hands over her delicious curves or the way she touched his soul. She remains the one person who can make the emptiness in his gut go away. Finding the murderer is his job, but protecting Sterling from seriously dangerous people is his mission.

As the case unfolds, Sterling and Ben not only solve the murder and locate the missing husband, they confront secrets that set them each free from a painful past.

► Although this is your debut novel as a Crimson author, you are published already and a PAN member. Can you discuss the difference between the traditional path of your first book and your e-pub experience thus far?

Much has changed in the publishing world since my first book was published. For that book, the editor FedExed the hard-copy galley to me to mark up with an actual pen and FedEx back. My cover came the same way. Things such as acceptance, contract, and publication date moved pretty quickly for that print book, but it has moved faster with this second book, at the speed of the Internet, so to speak.

Qualifying for PAN felt wonderful, and I’ve appreciated the information I’ve had access to as a PAN member of RWA. I highly recommend it! I have to say, though, that the support and camaraderie of Crimson Romance authors has been like walking into a room where everyone turns to say hi. It’s been inspiring and helpful and has given my writing goals a boost.

►Who is your book dedicated to, and why?

Wow, what an interesting question to ask! I dedicated “Dancing with Detective Danger” to my husband. He’s been a major support for all my writing efforts from the very beginning. Since I freelance as my “day job,” he also has been someone I rely on to read my articles, and he always offers helpful input.

►What are the names of your key characters and how did you choose those names?

The female protagonist is Sterling and the male protagonist is Ben. But Sterling’s sister, Lacey, is a minor character who has an important role in the book and will be seen again in her own storyline.

I love names. If I had pets for every name that rolls through my thoughts and makes me say, Hmmm…I would have tons of pets. So when I begin thinking about a story and who the characters are going to be, the name is a first step. I brainstorm that, too. With my first book, the editor asked me to change the names of the main characters. That was hard because I loved those names but she said they were popular in books at the time. But I got a chance to find other names I liked.

►What was the inspiration for your most recent work?

In a sense, family and the impact of emotional baggage was the inspiration for this book. For “Dancing with Detective Danger” I wanted to feature a loving, supportive but healthy relationship between sisters. But the relationship between Ben and Sterling is meant to highlight how emotional issues of the past get triggered in the present and need to be dealt with in order for individuals to be able to have the happily-ever-after of a lifetime.

►What is your favorite line from this book?

I have a lot of favorite lines. LOL! I like this one: “We never settled anything. You may have, I don’t know, but we never settled anything.”

► What is your favorite smell.

You’re making me chuckle! Though food was the first thought in my brain, honestly I love the scent of rain. Love it!

►Name some of your favorite authors.

All the Crimson Romance authors. J And…Kelley Armstrong and Kat Richardson. I just recently reread “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte and fell in love again. Of course there’s also Jane Austin.

►Do you have a “go to” book when everything around you is crashing down?

That would be “Bitten,” by Kelley Armstrong.

►What advice would you offer aspiring authors?

Write. That sounds clichéd, but it’s true. It’s so challenging to find the time in a typical life to focus on writing but it has to be done or time goes by. It’s also so important to believe in yourself. I think a lot of writers do, but there are some of us who struggle with self-doubt, which will put what you love on the back burner.

►Describe your writing process.

As with all writers, I have ideas floating around all the time and sometimes one feels right—another cliché. A character constellation starts to cluster, eliciting more character constellations. I brainstorm, then research until I feel “full.” Then write. I’m a pantser, so there is an outline but it’s very sketchy.

►Please add anything else you would like to include.

I am in love with my characters. I hope readers will find Sterling and Ben have depth and are relatable to in the emotional ride they travel trying to live their lives and find peace and love. My tag line is, “Ordinary characters…extraordinary romance.” That’s because my work as a reporter and a writer has proven that average, ordinary people are fascinating and relationships are complex but offer much.

►Where can we find your book?, and .

Thank you for visiting with me today.


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“People lie, Rena,” my friend and co-worker Marilyn once told me.

“People lie. Chickens lay.”

Marilyn was helping me sort through the confusion of lie and lay. Bob Dylan had it wrong when he sang “Lay, lady, lay.” Should have been lie. I like to lay in the sun, is incorrect. I LOVE to lie in the sun!

Lay is an action word and needs an object. You must lay something down or lay it on the line.

Lie is a state of reclining — think relaxing — you lie down in a horizontal position.

The past tense of lie is lay, which is when it becomes confusing, unless you remember that the past tense of lay is laid.

My husband is out of town this week. I lie in bed alone. No lay or laid for me!


For the last three weeks, I promoted my book through a Goodreads-sponsored giveaway. I offered two books free, signed and delivered in time for Valentine’s Day.

Heat up your Valentine’s Day with “Love’s Secret Fire” I offered. It was the first time I’d tried something like this and I embarked on the giveaway with some reservations because all writers are basically insecure. What if no one was interested? What if the campaign was a flop? I’m relatively unheard of, maybe no one wants a book by a new kid.

Days after the giveaway launched, I took my first peek at the numbers. Wow! I’d broken 100. If I reached 200, I’d be happy. Cautiously, I checked back in a week – oooh – I had 246 folks interested. I was happy.

Yesterday, the contest closed with a whopping 554 entries. I am thrilled. My winners, selected by the good folks at Goodreads, live in Ohio and Washington State. I happily sent their signed books off to them yesterday.

Thanks to all who entered the contest. You gave my confidence an incredible boost. And maybe you’ll be lucky enough to win my next book! Stay tuned.


I’m combing through my completed manuscript, editing for errors, searching for stronger verbs and making sure I use the right words before I submit it to my editor and pray she will publish it.

If you are an English major like me, the wrong word in a sentence is akin to running fingernails across a chalkboard. Sometimes, when you see it in print, it may be attributed to a spellchecker error because running your piece through spellchecker doesn’t catch this – It was their, right on the table in front of them. The right word, obviously, is there. Forget spellchecker, that’s just sloppy writing.

Sometimes, it is a grammatical error, one that we may hear and say everyday and think is correct. LIKE and AS are perfect examples. Most times, folks will say, “Like I said, the weather is really unusual this year.” Cue the fingernails for me.

More correctly, it should read “As I said…”

You should use the word LIKE only when you are comparing something. It has to have an object with it. She ran like a bat out of hell. He sang like a banshee.

The word AS needs a clause with it. As I said, the weather here in Central Illinois is wonderful.

Like, do you know what I mean? No, that’s incorrect usage.

I’m hung up on PASSED and PAST right now. I want my heroine to run past the hero. Or should she run passed the hero?

According to dictionary, any use of the word PAST most often has an element of time related to it. As a preposition, PAST can mean: “Beyond in time; after; beyond the age for or time of; (in stating the time of day) so many minutes, or a quarter or half of an hour, after a particular hour.”

An easy way to remember — The past is behind you. Passed is in front of you.

PASSED is the past participle of the verb “to pass”. “To pass” means “To proceed, move forward, depart; to cause to do this.” He passed the puck. I passed my driver’s exam. The week passed quickly.

But here is the clincher – the word PAST can also be used as an adverb.

So in my case, my heroine will run past my hero because the verb is run.

Do I have that write? Or do I have that right?


I have one of those names that drives people crazy. Not Rena, although I have had people mispronounce those simple four letters. Most often, they default to Renee, as in the song “Just Walk Away…” but once in a while I get Renna, rhymes with henna. I usually smile, say “Long E – Reeeena.”

Once my byline was misspelled as Reena. It made me laugh. But I digress. It’s not my first name that gives folks problems, it’s the last. Or, more accurately, the last name Koontz when you are talking about more than one of us. How do you pluralize more than one Koontz? It’s that tricky Z at the end that throws people off.

More often than now, someone tacks on apostrophe S — as in Koontz’s. That’s the possessive form and means something that belongs to me – the Koontz’s house. I’ve seen just an S added — Koontzs. That’s simply incorrect.

It’s one of those grammatical problems I had to learn when Koontz became my name. Here is the rule: When words end in S or an S-sound (ss, x, ch, sh, z), the plural is formed by adding ES to the singular.

Here are the examples listed in The Elements Of Grammar: annex becomes annexes; church changes to churches; one dish turns into dishes; more than one hostess becomes hostesses; and quartz becomes quartzes.

Likewise more than one Koontz becomes Koontzes.


As a former reporter and editor, words are very important to me. Like the word very. It is a useless word, one that Mark Twain abhorred. He said, “Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very” – your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

I confess it still creeps into my writing. But I am, if you will, word-conscious and more tuned in than most to words that people use. My eyebrows raise when I read a sports article about the ‘physicality’ of the game or hear the weatherman predict ‘tornadic’ activity and I wonder if those are real words. They are. I looked them up.

A co-worker once threw a stylebook at me and said, “Take the time to look it up if you want to be a good writer.” And so I do. The word that sent her over the edge was toward. You move toward something, not towards. The ‘s’ grates on me now whenever I hear it.

The other day as I worked on my latest novel, I found myself reaching for the stylebook again. Is it me either or me neither? I wasn’t sure.

Use either to mean one or the other, not both.  And so I wrote,

            “I didn’t expect that to hap


pen,” she whispered.

            “Me neither.”