Methods of Writing

Shadow of Love


The craft is not just about writing. It is principally about re-writing. Some writers do a chapter by chapter outline, others write the first and last chapters to start off. Still others do a rough section-by-section, leaving room for change as one moves along. The last was my approach.

I started both Shadow of Guilt and the sequel, Shadow of Love, with a rough section-by-section outline, a rough one built in parts with just an idea as to where they were going. Did anything change along the way? Yes. I was going to have Chip stay in business to overcome his guilt, but I changed that for a more dramatic route. Ups, downs, you guess the conclusion.

But one thing is for sure in methods: always remember the seven year-old boy who told his father he was going to write a novel. Dad says fine, but do an outline first. Two days later, son hands this to his father: Chapter One: Robin Hood went riding. Chapter Two: The bad guys came. Chapter Three: They fought. Chapter Four: Robin Hood won. See, he sets the scene, then presents the conflict, then the battle, and then the conclusion. That’s how it should go!

Advice for New Authors from Samuel Jay


The biggest piece of advice I have for new authors is to do your homework, that is, learn the craft by studying it first. Find books on the profession; there are many to choose from. Also, go to classes held by the pros. For example, I went to one held by David Hagberg, a bestselling author, who scrawled this note on a first chapter I handed in: “Your scene-setting sucks.” After this, I decided to take a Writer’s Digest 6-month correspondence course, which included a mentor review of my draft outline and chapters into Shadow of Guilt with suggested revisions. Two years later Hagberg sent me this note about Shadow of Guilt: “Wow, have you come a long way.” And a review: “An intriguing premise, tight plotting, and well-defined characters who the reader cares about.” Not bad. Read, read, study, study, and go to writers’ conferences to listen to successful authors and meet editors and agents, learning what their interests are.

Surprises in Shadow of Guilt


On a night he could’ve been home and protected his family, prominent PR man Chip Keller (I’m a PR guy – you write about what you know!) finds himself alone in his office with his secretary after a fundraising event, a beautiful secretary, who, under the influence, attempts to seduce Chip, who nearly succumbs but he surprises us with how he deals with the temptation.

Unknown to him an arsonist out for revenge does the deed behind Chip’s home (Do not want to tell you too much of the story, rather you buy the book and enjoy the suspenseful actions and events). Chip arrives after the arsonist’s revenge. Now what? Will he overcome his guilt? I leave that surprise to you. And will he help a woman who also is drowning in guilt? And if he does, will he rescue her?

Secrets from My Upcoming Novel

My upcoming suspense novel, Deception (title subject to change due to several others with similar titles), will be published in the very near future following publisher edits, cover design, reviews, etc.  But I wanted to share a little bit about it with my readers. The heroine, Diane Gannon, a rising New York journalist, is excitedly waiting for her fiance, Lt. Jack Morro, to return from the Vietnam war in 20 days. But in the very next scene, we see Jack leading a squad as ordered by company commander Captain Jim Ivy, who eyes Jack and makes him the victim of ‘friendly fire.’

Why? Jack knows about a bribe Ivy took years earlier to deliver arms to Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution. The bribe was provided by American media giant, Roberto Vidal, a Venezuelan emigre and Castro supporter, who, having contact with journalist Diane, is in love with her.

Receiving a report that Jack is dead (false, he’s only been wounded and is in prison), Diane is shattered into alcohol and depression. Rescued by Vidal, they marry, and then Jack escapes, coming home to the bitter news that the woman he loves is married. Twists and turns until the conclusive battle between Jack and Vidal.

Will be available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Why I Became an Author

5703602800_cd014cc64f_n Writing is not only demanding but time-consuming. I was in the public relations business, and my days were always full, my nights a time to recover. What changed that came about because of my father’s unexpected passing. He owned a public water utility, and I had to take over its management as president. It was quickly evident that I had two choices: (1) staying in the PR business, or (2) selling it and taking over the family-owned water utility I chose the latter, and after a year of settling into the utility business I found that it was less time demanding and left me room for writing a novel.

My Favorite Suspense Novels

Among my favorite suspense novels, Lie Down With Lions, by Ken Follett (a favorite author) has to rank at or close to the top. It’s a romantic triangle about two men on opposite sides of the Cold War and the woman they both love, who is torn between them. This novel has  a fundamental basis for suspense. How will the passion of characters and the deception inherent in war play out? Who will win over Jane, who loves both men? How about the Cold War? Where is that going? It’s one of Ken Follett’s best novels.

Then there is the classic, And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie. We have ten strangers lured to an isolated island mansion. At dinner, a recorded message accuses each of them of having a guilty secret. The prose also helps send a message to the reader, namely, that each of these ten is vulnerable. Their vulnerability is even more apparent as they begin to die. The captivated reader wants to know how this is all going to turn out. Thus the suspense as the characters go down, one by one.

What Makes a Good Suspense Novel?

Cover2C for Website

What makes a good suspense novel? Simple. Open with a life-threatening situation that makes you wonder how the  will deal with it. And walk them through it, scene by scene, until the threat hits and you show the characters reacting in defense, sometimes physical, sometimes emotional. For example, Shadow of Guilt opens with an arsonist out for revenge on the hero hiding in the moonlit shadows of a treeline behind the hero’s home. And there’s his wife in the house, vulnerable and unsuspecting, along with the daughter. And the hero? On a night he could’ve been home, he’s doing a fundraiser for hospitalized kids.

What’s going to happen? Will he come home on time to defend his household? Or will he be delayed by meeting with and consoling his troubled secretary after the fundraiser (another move by a suspense author, namely, introducing a complication that delays the sub-climax).

So it’s a combination of incidents and character reactions that compels the reader to want to read more, to see how this is going to turn out. But it keeps going. Sub-climax to more complication as the characters try to defend themselves.
Sub-climax as the characters react to those around them.

Our Mothers Guide Our World

As a thirteen year-old, one Saturday I was playing third base for a grammar school baseball team.  In the third inning there’s a runner on first base, and the batter lines one into right field, so the runner takes off, rounding second, heading for me at third base.

Our right fielder throws the ball, and it comes right into my glove on one hop, about ten feet ahead of the runner.  But unfortunately, as I reach down, glove in hand, ready to make the tag, the runner starts his slide when he’s almost on top of me.  As a result, he stiff-leg crashes into me, breaking my left arm over my left leg.

I pick my arm up, and I see that it’s split in half, my left hand sticking straight up in the air.  In fright or on instinct,  I whack my split left arm with my right hand, and it snaps back into place.

Coach says “You better go home.”   No kidding.

I bike myself back home, head into the house, right into the kitchen, where in those days Mom seemed to spend most of her life.  She’s at the sink.

I say to her, “Mom, I broke my arm.”

Does she get upset?  No.  She says, “Let me see.”

I hold my arm up, and she says, “It doesn’t look broken to me.”

I explain what happened, and her retort is, “No, you didn’t break your arm.  You just think you did.”  (In other words, hey kid, I haven’t got time for what you think you did, I’ve got dinner to make.)

And then the magic words.  No matter what happened to me – falling off the jungle bars, falling off my bike and whacking my head on the curb – no matter what, she again issues her magic words: “Sit down and eat something.  You’ll feel better.”

I sit down at the kitchen table.  Out comes the ever present bowl of tuna fish, out comes the bread, out comes the milk.  She makes a sandwich and puts it on a dish in front of me.  I of course eat the sandwich, using my one good hand.

She then says, “Now, do you feel better?”

I say, “Yes.”

She says, “Good.  Take your basketball and go out and play.”

I remember standing in front of the garage, tossing the ball up at the hoop, thinking, ‘This is dumb.  I’ve got a broken arm.’

The next day?  Ho-ho.  My arm was as big as an elephant’s trunk, and Mom hustles me down to the doctor.

My mom?  Still, and always will be,  my idol.

My Hilarious Aunt Millie

Among my twenty Uncles and Aunts (all terrific), Aunt Millie has to rank among the funniest of them all. To wit:

One Saturday her husband, Uncle Mario, was reading the newspaper when Aunt Millie walked into the house soaked, head to foot, as though she’d been in a rainstorm. But it was a sunny day.

So he said, “What happened to you?”

She said, “I went to the car wash. It was the first time I ever went to a car wash. You can bet I’ll never go again. Never.”

“The car wash?”

“Yeah, the car wash. I drove up and paid, and my car starts going through. Then, with no warning, all of a sudden tons of water start pouring on my car. I got scared because I couldn’t see a thing, so I turned on my windshield wipers. Then, all of a sudden, this guy runs up waving his hands and yelling at me.

“I couldn’t hear what he was yelling, so I opened the window!”

One evening Uncle Mario arrived home from work and was disappointed to see dinner wasn’t ready, whereas it normally was. So he said to Aunt Mille, “How come? What happened, no dinner ready.”

Bustling around in the kitchen, Aunt Millie retorts: “Dinner not ready, and you’re complaining? Do you know what my day is like? Well let me tell you.

“First, I have to get the kids off to school, then I have to clean the house and make the beds, next I have to do the laundry, then the ironing, then go out and do the food shopping, then watch out for the kids coming home, see what they’re up to, then get the food ready for dinner, start the oven, and make the salad. For God’s sake, I haven’t even got time to wipe my ass!”


One year Aunt Millie decided to volunteer at the local hospital. To help out the nurses and help take care of the patients. Sometimes read to them, sometimes get them some food.

Everything was going along fine, especially with one poor soul who, as a result of an accident, had to have one of his legs amputated. His name was George. He and Aunt Millie struck up a good friendship and traded stories about family as he was recovering and getting used to his situation. It was this, it was that, jokes and stories.

But one day he was in a bad mood because of his handicap, and the more he thought about it, the angrier he got. He told Aunt Millie all about the accident and said he was going to get a lawyer to sue the other driver.

“You’re going to sue?” asked Aunt Millie. “You don’t want to sue. You haven’t got a leg to stand on!”


Samuel Jay novels are full of suspense, twists and turns. Said a Writer’s Digest reviewer: “Move over John Grisham. Samuel Jay is a masterful storyteller.”