Saturday, January 16, 2016


John M. Daniel’s Blog
January 16, 2016

Greetings! This week, beginning on the third Saturday of the month of January, I’m pleased to present guest author Cora J. Ramos. I’m proud to say that thirteen years ago, I published Valley Fever, a short story collection featuring stories by Cora Ramos, along with stories by Sunny Frazier and JoAnne Lucas. I’m glad to say Cora is still writing, now concentrating on novels of romance and suspense, combined with a paranormal element.

Cora’s essay, as you’ll see, encourages writers to take chances. It acknowledges the appeal of outlining your plots in advance, but she shows what can happen when you abandon your outline and follow the thread where it takes you.

Makes sense. How can it hurt you? If you like where it leads you, you win. If you don’t think it’s working, you can repair it or toss it and start over. Revision is a wonderful gift. It improves your writing, and it forgives your mistakes. Remember: Nobody ever wrote a perfect first draft. So take chances. Now I’ll stop talking and let Cora J. Ramos take over.


Pull That Thread
by Cora J. Ramos

Remember the first time you found a loose thread on your sweater and wanted to pull it to see what would happen? Did you follow that impulse and unravel the sweater?

I’m not going to talk about the dangers of loose threads in your story. I’m the rebel who is going to encourage you to pull that thread.

After publication of my first novel, I was happily writing my shiny new follow-up story that focused on a male character that everyone loved in book one, writer Jack Hart. My plan was to follow the pattern set up in my first novel of dipping into a past life for greater insight into my main character. And, because of his character arc, I decided Jack needed to have a past life as a samurai. Wanting something other than the usual samurai stereotype, I chose a little known period in Japanese history, the Heian era, before samurai formed clans of their own.

And, this time I was going to plan my novel and not go all pantser. But I was forty pages in and BAM! Something happened that changed everything.

There was a loose thread.

I come from a mystery/suspense background, but my new critique partners were all romance writers. They quickly informed me there were rules for romance. There was something called an HEA (a must-have happily ever after ending). I didn’t have that in my first romantic suspense novel, Dance the Dream Awake. True to my mystery/suspense background, I’d left the ending for the reader to chew on.

My new critique partners now guilted me to create an HEA in this new novel. So, my past life samurai would have to have a romance.

After researching the time period, I fell in love with the “peace and tranquility capital,” Heian Kyo, world of the emperor, Japan of 980 A.D. (pre-Kyoto) and dove more deeply into the story. The world’s first novels by Japanese women in the early eleventh century were written during this era —The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, and The Pillow Book by Sei Shonigon. Both were about the gossip and romantic goings-on of the participants of the Emperor’s court.

This loose thread of Jack’s past life samurai story continued to fascinate me. I kept pulling that thread until one evening my critique partners all pronounced, “We want more of that story.”

I agreed, pivoted and pulled out that back story. It became Haiku Dance. I was tickled when my story editor, a history buff, became very personally engaged in researching the time period and place and helped me polish it. She even corrected a few of my haiku poems.

We all love to be surprised while reading. But how do you handle change when it rears its head while writing? Do you fight it, find a way around it, or give in and go with the flow to follow that thread?

Remember Robert Frost’s adage, “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” Pull that thread and keep pulling; you might end up with a surprising story you love, just as I did.

Cora J. Ramos is intrigued by the edge of things. She is an award winning author of stories of mystery and suspense that straddle that edge, whether slightly paranormal, a deadly decision or the place where science ends and magic resides. A collection of her short stories can be found in the anthology, Valley Fever, Where Murder is Contagious.

Her current novel, Dance the Dream Awake, a paranormal romantic suspense that dips into a Mayan past life, was published by Black Opal Books in 2015.
Her upcoming sensual romance novel, Haiku Dance, set in ancient Japan, will be released in the spring of 2016, by Black Opal Books.

She is currently working on Dance the Edge, the follow-up to Dance the Dream Awake.


NOTE: It's come to my attention that hot links in this post don't function; they don't open up the pages they reference. If this is the case, and if you want to visit the page, you should copy the link and paste it into the search bar of your browser. I'm sorry for the inconvenience.


And now a word from our sponsor…

Six Stories by
John M. Daniel

Common to the stories in Generous Helpings is the theme of California disasters. These stories, as different as they are from one another, contain such memorable events as the Loma Prieta earthquake, the Painted Cave fire, the Rodney King riots, and the devastating El Niño storms of 1983.

But the most important unifying theme of this book is suggested by the title: that people everywhere survive their problems and make progress only by helping one another. Generous Helpings is a slender volume of long short stories, and a big-hearted book.

For more about Generous Helpings and for ordering information:


Call for Submissions: 99-Word Stories wanted!

The deadline for February’s 99-word story submissions is February First. The stories will appear on my blog post for February 13, 2016.

note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.

Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to:

This month’s prompt for next month’s 99-word story:

 You’ll note that the stories will appear on The Joy of Story February 13. That’s Valentine’s Day Eve, folks. To celebrate this coincidence, I challenge you to try your hand at romance writing (sincerely or as a spoof). Use this sentence, or something like this sentence, somewhere in the story: “It was one of those kisses that murmur, ‘Let’s get lost…”

Reread Rule 3, above; this must be a story, not just an essay. If I receive your story by February 1, and  if you follow the rules, your story will appear on this blog February 13 and the week following.


As always, I thank you for stopping by. I hope you’ll return next week. Till then, stay well, write well, and make the most of the Joy in the stories you write and the stories you read.

photo by Clark Lohr


  1. John,
    I enjoyed Cora's post immensely. I'm a plotter times a million. For each book in my Malone mystery series, I created a chapter-by-chapter outline of what absolutely MUST happen. But, of course, my outlines are not written in stone and, when I find a loose thread (and I have), I do pull it to see what happens.

    1. Me too, Pat. Part of the fun for me is to outline a novel or a short story in advance. The other part of the fun is watching how the plot takes over and seeing how the whole thing eventually turns out.

    2. Patricia, I try so hard to be a plotter like you but alas, my pantser self soon steps in and takes off running in a different direction.

  2. I'm also a pantser, Cora. Sometimes story elements "pop" like confetti and sometimes backstory grows as I research. The best is when I can make backstory and history collide, with history giving life to my characters, and my characters making history real for the reader. Haiku Dance sounds fabulous, with a great character and fascinating history.

    1. I agree. The research and history were the culprits in my case. I fell in love with the Heian era -- and the great many restrictions to play against.

  3. I try to plot... I try really hard. But those loose threads are always telling me something. Nice post. Thanks.

  4. I try to plot... I try really hard. But those loose threads are always telling me something. Nice post. Thanks.

    1. Exactly! Thanks for stopping by John.

  5. Cora, thank you for pulling those threads. There are times when I plot, but I'm more of a fly-by-my-seat I love it when characters pop up and I follow their thread. I research information and fiddle with history, that's fiction writing!