I’ve been carrying around the characters of Lizzie Christopher and Nick Cameron for years. They’ve aged, worked in their respective professions, married spouses and had children. In my novels, they are both widowed, meet, and tentatively start merging their lives.

During a major birthday year, I finally created a Word document, labeled it Chapter One, and started writing my first novel. I ran out of gas after the first hundred pages, periodically tinkering with it and writing some character sketches.

In January 2014, we were headed into a brutal winter. I received an email from the Crime Writers Association with information about on line novel writing classes (writingclasses.co.uk). On a whim, I registered for what turned into a five month journey with intrepid writing tutor Elaine Murphy and an engaging group of classmates for the two courses. I completed a first draft of Custom Decorated Corpse in May.

Through the marvelous Sisters in Crime Guppies organization and the Midwestern Mystery Writers of America, I found readers who left my novel bleeding and slashed to ribbons. My Guppy critique group provides friendly support and great suggestions. A revision class with Linda Rodriguez pointed me in new directions in terms of character development and plotting. A story arc class with Ramona Long has kept me focused on a tight, coherent plot and character growth and change.