Guest Patsy Collins: Leave Nothing But Footprints

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Q: What was the inspiration for LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOTPRINTS?

Patsy Collins: You know how we’re always told to write what we know? Well, I do much of my writing whilst travelling with my photographer husband in our campervan. The novel is about photographers in a campervan… The storyline isn’t at all autobiographical, I promise, but getting two people to share such a small space is a good way for the reader to learn about them and watch their growing relationship.

The natural landscape is one of my interests, so I’ve made Eliot an eco campaigner. Mostly I want the book to be a fun, lighthearted read, but if it also encourages readers to take slightly better care of the world around them, I’ll be extremely pleased.

Q: How did Capri influence the story?

PC: Capri is used as a contrast to the main part of the story which takes place in South Wales. It’s an expensive, unusual destination, chosen by Jess simply for the luxurious facilities offered by the spa hotel. Capri represents the life Jess had before meeting Eliot. She enjoyed her holiday there, but it also highlighted the emptiness of her life. It’s not until she travels to the apparently less exciting Welsh coastline that she begins to find the sense of purpose she’d been lacking.

Q:What makes Wales the perfect place for this, and why does Wales make it different than setting it elsewhere?

PC: Partly it’s the fact that Jess and Eliot live, and work from, the campervan. They stay in empty fields and on quiet roadsides rather than on busy campsites – something which is entirely possible there, but much less practical in many other places. There’s none of the luxury Jess is used to. Learning to cope with that, whilst working hard and learning new skills, helps both reveal and develop her character.

The hills and beaches of Wales are rugged, spectacular and beautiful, but they can also be moody, forbidding and hard work. Kind of like Eliot. There’s not much that’s gentle and easy about the landscape, but the climbs and long hikes are definitely worth the effort. That’s reflected in Jess’s emotional journey.

Q: In general, how do you feel place affects your writing? What kind of details do you use to make your locations unique?

PC: The locations are very important to me, so much so that I do first drafts wherever the stories are set. That helps me get a feel for the place and of course makes research much easier.

With Leave Nothing But Footprints, I walked where Jess and Eliot walked. I climbed up to see the views which they photographed. Just as they did, I went out early in the morning and late in the day, to watch the effects of the changing light. I literally put myself in their place and noticed what they’d notice, tried to feel as they’d feel and react as they would. It’s a technique I’ve used before and found effective.

I don’t attempt to write a travel guide to any of my locations. Instead I try to capture the atmosphere with a few small details. The sand on the path, flowers which bloom alongside it and the sound of surf pounding onto the rocks below, form the background to one scene for example.

Q: What is your process working on a book, from inspiration to completion?

PC: First I create an outline of the plot and do some basic research, if needed, to ensure that plot will work. I pick the location and begin to think about the characters. Although there will be little to show for this stage, probably around 500 words, it can take months.

Then I start writing – on location if I can. Ideally I’d write the first draft all in one go, but that’s often not possible. I may hit a snag with the story, lose enthusiasm, or something unconnected with writing may cause an interruption. When the first draft is finally complete, sometimes years after I started, I leave it and write something else. That gives me the distance I need to start editing.

I’ll rewrite and leave the story as many times as necessary to get the novel as good as I feel I’ll be able to get it on my own. Then it goes to my fantastic beta readers. I’ll rewrite again, using their feedback. During each rewrite, I’ll research anything I don’t already know. That process will also be repeated until I’m satisfied with the book. After that, it’s just the usual copy editing and proofreading to arrange.

Q: Do you have any unusual rituals or objects you need around you when you write?

PC: Not really. Whether I’m in the campervan or at home I use the same laptop computer (I always write straight onto that, rather than on paper) and I drink a lot of tea.

Q: What are you working on now?

PC: I’m doing a ‘cosy crime’ story for NaNo. Four of my previous novels have had crime elements in them, but this will be the first one in which crime is the main genre. The action will be split between my home town and another seaside location I know well, so I’ve already got the settings fairly clear in my mind. I’m hoping that this time I really will manage my idea.

Thank you, Patsy, for joining us!

Jessica Borlase always gets what she wants. From cocktails in the exact shade of her manicure, holiday on Capri with friends, to a spacious apartment, her father’s money makes it possible. She enjoys the luxurious lifestyle and is grateful for his support, but frustrated to always be treated as Daddy’s pampered little girl. She tries to break free, by leaving Borlase Enterprises and studying photography.

Now what Jess wants is the utterly gorgeous Eliot Beatty; a world famous photographer who often uses his talents to benefit conservation projects. Her father attempts to bribe Eliot into taking Jess on an assignment in order to teach her the skills she’ll need to develop a career. Although annoyed at the interference, she’s delighted to discover this means two weeks with Eliot in the beautiful countryside of South Wales and close confines of a campervan. Trouble is, the man can’t be bought.

Jess eventually manages to persuade Eliot to take her. She believes she can earn his respect and that she’s ready for the hard work, long hours and living conditions far short of those she’s used to. She’s wrong on all counts. Can Jess learn to cope with the realities of the trip, and is Eliot really worth the effort?

Book link

Author Bio:
Patsy Collins will write anywhere she can reach in her campervan. She’s the author of five novels; four contemporary romances and one coming of age story with a difference. Hundreds of her short stories have been published in magazines in the UK, Australia, Sweden, Ireland and South Africa. She’s also co-author of From Story Idea to Reader – an accessible guide to writing fiction.

Patsy blogs about free entry writing competitions – and runs the womagwriter blog which is handy for magazine guidelines.



Savasana at Sea Cover tiny


Tomorrow, November 15, is the official release day of SAVANASA AT SEA, the first Nautical Namaste Mystery, under the Ava Dunne name.

This is an absolute case of I wrote the book I wanted to read, but couldn’t find. I worked in the office of a cruise line many years ago, and was drawn to the multi-cultural, international people that work on ships. Everyone has a story, and it’s a story worth telling. I also liked the aspects of a locked room mystery that being on a cruise ship held.

As a yoga practitioner, I’m annoyed when I see those who practice yoga portrayed as flaky or silly or dumb. Most of the teachers I know are smart and grounded and funny and talented. Practitioners are from all walks of life, so you have all kinds of people. They’re not generically flaky or stupid.

I knew I wanted to write a mystery. I wanted to use elements of the cozy mystery genre, but I also knew that the formula itself was too restrictive for what I wanted to say. Which is why this is labeled as “not quite cozy.”

I also wanted elements of comedy and romance. Early drafts had more of a chick-lit flavor to them, and the comedy felt forced instead of organic. When I let the humor and the banter flow from character rather than formula, it worked.

One of the things I loved about working on Broadway with diverse casts such as we had on shows like Miss Saigon and David Henry Hwang’s re-envisioning of Flower Drum Song was that we had the opportunity for real discussions about race, religion, sexism, oppression, and the casual comments we sometimes make, not realizing they’re hurtful. We could talk openly, without getting either offensive or defensive, about our experiences, and try to come up with ways to make the world a better, more tolerant place. Since we were artists, it often took the form of stories, plays, performance pieces, songs or poetry. I tried to capture some of that sense of collaboration in these stories.

I hope you like SAVASANA AT SEA. For those of you not familiar with yoga, “Savasana” is also known as “Corpse Pose.” I felt that was appropriate for a mystery, but I wanted to use the traditional name for the pose, not “Corpse Pose.”

At the back of each book, I also have an article with travel tips, and links to some of the real places mentioned in the book. Since the cruise route changes from book to book, it gives the crew — and the reader — chances to visit fascinating, beautiful places all over the world.

The book is available digitally, through several outlets. The Nautical Namaste website has more information about the series. I also have more background information about the crew, short bios written as though they’d be handed out in Welcome Packets, and information about the backgrounds of passengers relevant to each voyage.

We’re in negotiations for a small, traditional print run to happen at some point next year. The contracts aren’t signed, so it’s not a definite, but fingers crossed the numbers for digital sales will be strong enough to warrant a print run.

Below is an excerpt from Savasana at Sea:

“I wonder how many guests tried to hide in their cabins this time.” Roz McIntyre snickered as she joined us. She was a dancer on the entertainment staff, a tall, slender, dark-skinned woman with exquisite posture, who reminded me of a cross between a Daddy Long-Legs and a giraffe. From the moment I set foot aboard the Charisma, she decided we would be friends. Considering Geri’s hostility, I was grateful. “Hello, Sebastian. Hello, Sophie. How’s it going?”
“I’m sure we’ll hear in CB later, when the bets are paid off,” Sebastian replied. “Crew bar,” he added, for my benefit.
“I can put the damn life vest on in my sleep,” I grumbled.
“Let’s hope you never need to,” Sebastian dropped the joking tone.
“Bet Geri’s making you teach the two o’clock Pilates,” said Roz. “While she’s off assignating with Gary or Viktor. She hates Pilates.”
“She told some guy named Gary she didn’t have time for him right now,” I said. “Is ‘assignating’ even a word?”
“I’ll submit it to the OED when I get a minute.” Roz nodded. “Then it’s Viktor. Thanks for the tip. It’ll give me an ace up my sleeve against her when I need it.”
“Geri’s not supposed to mess with the ship’s second officer.” Sebastian frowned.
“Or he with her,” Roz shot back. “I don’t like Geri, but let’s not blame the woman for everything, shall we?” She tugged my arm. “Let’s grab something to eat. If you don’t eat when you can, you’ll pass out at the most inconvenient times.”
“Watch out for that one.” Sebastian nodded in Roz’s direction. “She likes bad men and good champagne.”


SAVASANA AT SEA Buy links here.

TRAPPED by Rhonda Pollero

Today’s guest is the wonderful Rhonda Pollero.  Rhonda, thanks so much for joining us. I will let the rest of the post be in her own words!


Welcome and thanks for taking the time to drop by for my musings. A short introduction first: I’m Rhonda Pollero and I write romantic suspense and funny mysteries with romantic elements. TRAPPED is my 48th published novel and completes the Finding Justice trilogy. But don’t be scared off, each book stands alone. More on that in a moment.

For those of you still on your journey to publishing, let me hit you with a number – it took me 10 years to make my first sale. Why? Because I was writing the wrong thing. I had dreamed of being a (then) Silhouette Desire author, so I kept banging out (I mean that literally, this was before computers, so we’re talking IBM Selectric) 3 chapters and they fell short, so I’d write three more chapters and so on and so on. It wasn’t until a dear friend and critique partner suggested I try my hand at romantic suspense that my world changed. I sold my first attempt at romantic suspense (written as Kelsey Roberts) in 1993. So, if you’re feeling frustrated, just remember it can happen, even after years of failure and/or frustration.

Now, about TRAPPED . . . my inspiration for this story came from watching a trial here in South Florida. There was no dashing hero, but I began playing ‘what if?’ And then I remembered another sad but real case I had followed. A teenager was shot in the head but the bullet ricocheted around his brain and did no damage. In fact, he ended up with the bullet lodged under the skin at his hairline and a few stitches. So, I kinda stole that scenario. Sensing a pattern here? I almost always get ideas from real life, then weave them into a story. Even down to my heroine’s name – Chasyn is the name of one of my daughter’s friends. So, I guess I’m a thief as well as a storyteller. In a nutshell, I was off to the races with a heroine who was the target of a determined killer being protected by a hot bodyguard.

I pondered how to blend those three situations and TRAPPED was born. My next step was to use Power Structure ( which is an organizational program. No, I have no interest in the company, I just love this product. It allows me to plot out a book, scene by scene, and keeps track of all my red herrings so I don’t drop a thread. I can track the passage of time in the story (so my characters remember to eat and sleep); and I can wrangle all those little details in one spot – descriptions, locales, timeline, etc. There are other organizational software programs, I just happen to like Power Structure but it does have a learning curve. Pantsers will hate me for this but my philosophy is if I’m going to my best friend’s house, I don’t need a GPS, but if I’m driving through unfamiliar territory, I need a map. And I want it at my fingertips. Do I stick to every plot point? Nope, I take detours on blue highways all the time as I flesh the story out.

All that upfront work allows me to write quickly. I can finish an 85,000-word novel in 6-8 weeks. I’m not tooting my own horn, I’m simply pointing out that a little planning is a huge time saver. And since I started my writing career at Harlequin, I had to learn to be fast. There were some years when I was writing five 80,000-word books, and I never learned to type, so any boost up in the speed department was very appreciated.

Am I suggesting you follow my example? Nope. I think everyone must develop their own system. Most people have success when they approach their writing the way they approach their life. If you’re a list maker, make lists. Like bullet points? Go for it. Like sticky notes? That works. But I really believe you need some way to organize the arc of your story for the sake of continuity.

My final suggestion is to find yourself a brutally honest, trusted critique partner. If you just want someone to tell you you’re brilliant, send it to your mother. In the real world, editors don’t pull punches, so you need to develop a thick skin. Remember I mentioned my critique partner who steered me toward romantic suspense? Well, the exact quote was, “Your action and dialogue are great but everything else sucks. Ever thought of writing romantic suspense?” She was a dear friend so no offense at her blunt assessment, and she was spot on. I’ve had editorial notes that simply said . . . sub-par, lacks emotion, cut this, I even had one editor write ‘this scene is unnecessary and trite.’ I NEVER take these comments personally. I know editors and readers (specifically the ones who enjoy ripping authors to shreds on review sites) who simply don’t self-edit their comments. Publishing is not for sissies. No matter how brilliant your work is, you’ll never please everyone. I’ll admit that I do peek at reviews from time to time, I’ll also admit that I don’t like being shredded – who would? But I keep those things in context. If I could write a book that appealed to the entire reading public, I’d be a very wealthy woman. Instead, I focus on crafting the best book possible and I really take editorial notes to heart. Because your novel doesn’t come with audio telling the reader what you meant to say. It should be on the page.

Thanks for allowing me to share with you. Best of luck to everyone! TRAPPED is available for sale now. And if you’re interested, the series includes, ABANDONED and EXPOSED, Available in eBook and trade paperback.



Chasyn Summers parked her Prius on the street adjacent to the courthouse on East Ocean Boulevard. Her best friend and witness, Kasey, was belted into the passenger’s side.

“Are you nervous?” Kasey asked.

Chasyn thought for a minute while she checked her make-up in the rearview mirror. The state’s attorney had warned them to wear subdued clothing and modest make-up. Something about making them seem more sympathetic to the grand jury. So, she had chosen a navy skirt and a cream-colored blouse and she had forgone eye make-up save for a touch of mascara and applied just a hint of blush-nude lipstick to complete the look. Her blonde hair was pulled tight into a neat ponytail. She couldn’t look more matronly if she tried. “I feel like a school marm.”

“Tell me about it. I spent over a hundred dollars on this dress and it really needs to be hemmed. After we testify, I’ll take it to the seamstress and have her turn it into a proper little black dress.”

“Well, for now we are not two twenty-somethings out at a bar at two A.M., we’re upstanding citizens who witnessed a murder.”

Kacey shivered. “I still have nightmares about that.”

“Me, too,” Chasyn said. “But at least this will help them arrest Dr. Lansing. Thanks to us, or more specifically you.”

“Should be a cake walk,” Kasey said. “Except remember, the state’s attorney said the defense attorney would probably attack both of us because we’d been drinking that night.”

“Hours earlier and only two drinks. I mean how many times does a girl turn twenty-nine?” Chasyn asked. “We were both stone cold sober when we walked out of that restaurant and found that poor girl on the pavement.” She smoothed a wayward hair. “Ready?”

“Sure,” they exited the car and walked the short distance to the court house. It was two buildings separated by a breezeway. Chasyn knew from earlier meetings with the state’s attorney that they wanted to be on the left side of the Martin County, Florida court house.

As they approached the buildings, she heard a loud pop and suddenly found herself falling forward. A split second later she heard a second pop and Kasey fell next to her. Kasey’s eyes were open but blood was trickling out of her mouth.

Chasyn was vaguely aware of people screaming. People running. Then she felt wetness and saw a pool of blood starting to form around her face. She smelled burned flesh and a distinct ringing in her ears.

After what seemed like a long time, someone came over to her and whispered, “You’ve been shot in the head. Try not to move.”

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