Friday, November 4, 2011

How An Idea Became A Column, Then A Book, A Blog And A Newsletter–Author Morgan St. James

It’s my pleasure to welcome ‘new-to-me’ author Morgan St. JamesMORGAN-LV PHOTO here as the special guest blogger to talk about how an idea transformed into so many different things.

Morgan is the author of WRITERS’ TRICKS OF THE TRADE: 39 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ABCs OF WRITING FICTION. She is also the co-author of VANISHING ACT IN VEGAS, a Silver Sisters Crime Caper. 

I’ll let her explained how a simple idea expanded into a column, then a book, a blog, and a newsletter.

I began to write fiction about fourteen years ago, but my first book wasn’t published until 2006. You see, although I’d written many published magazine and newspaper articles, fiction was something new. Something that required learning the “tricks of the trade.” 

I teamed with my sister Phyllice, also a published writer but not in fiction, to cook up a mystery series—Silver Sisters mysteries—featuring identical twin amateur sleuths as different as Gucci and Goodwill and their 80-year-old mother and uncle who are former vaudeville magicians. We came from a zany family and had unlimited material to draw upon. Goldie and Godiva, the twin sleuths, are modeled after us, but I always say I’m not as selfish as Godiva, don’t live on a Beverly Hills estate although I once lived two houses outside of Beverly Hills and don’t write an advice column although people constantly ask me for advice.

On the other hand, Goldie, the over-the-hill flower child who owns an antique store in Juneau, Alaska, is pure Phyllice. My sister lived in Alaska for over 30 years, did own an antique store and has been known to dress in some pretty way-out vintage ensembles.

TRICKS FRONT COVERThe idea was good and the writing was polished (had we been writing non-fiction). As the rejection letters rolled in, we realized something was radically wrong. You bet it was. The problem was we didn’t know the ins and outs of writing fiction.

A year with a manuscript consultant resulted in us landing our first publisher for A CORPSE IN THE SOUP, which was named Best Mystery Audio Book 2007 by USA Book News. Several years of attending workshops and writers’ conferences followed, and with that I began to design and give workshops and talks about all the things that had torpedoed our manuscript years before. 

In 2009 I wrote my first columns for the Las Vegas edition of Once a week I reported on happenings in the writers’ community and eventually expanded to a second column called Spotlight, profiling local and visiting authors, events, organizations and more. That led to also taking on the Los Angeles Writing Examiner column a year later. By this time I had four novels in print and was working on a fifth. But, I wasn’t happy with the What’s Happening column. 

At long last I realized that my readership was largely composed of The Case of the Disappearing Crates 001writers or people who would like to write. I shut down What’s Happening and replaced it with Writers’ Tricks of the Trade. I’d learned so much over the years and I’m a good teacher. Years in marketing taught me to present even complex topics in plain, easily understandable language. Every week I tackled another facet of writing tips and techniques in both the Las Vegas and Los Angeles editions, and it caught on.

With hundreds of columns under my belt, I realized I had more than enough material for a book. Whenever I gave a talk, people asked if I had a “how to” book. I didn’t. But I do now. WRITERS’ TRICKS OF THE TRADE: 39 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ABCs OF WRITING FICTION was released in September 2011. While it was in the editing phase, I decided to launch a blog of the same name.

I’d been editing the newsletter for the Southern Nevada chapter of Sisters in Crime for nearly three years when we were forced to close the chapter because we couldn’t get volunteers to serve on the board. The newsletter had been such fun to produce that I found myself missing it. So what did I do? I segued to the Writers’ Tricks of the Trade Newsletter, with a much larger distribution and topic base than On the Prowl. The new newsletter publishes on the 15th of each month and is filled with information-packed articles from guest contributors all around the country, listings of writers’ conferences, brag pages for the readers and more. The link can be found on the blog or it loads automatically if you visit my personal website,

Meanwhile, the third Silver Sisters mystery, VANISHING ACT IN VEGAS had also been released in September and the fourth one, DIAMONDS IN THE DUMPSTER, is in work.

By now you might have gotten the impression that I’m an incurable workaholic, and if you did you are absolutely right. I find myself speeding up at a point in life when many my age are slowing down. After being successful in a variety of careers, I found my passion back in the late nineties when I began to write with serious intent. It’s funny, but at this point I’ve come full circle. My writing career kicked off back in August 1978 with an article for Designers West, a prestigious interior design magazine, and here I am, 33 years later, writing “how to” books and articles once again in addition to my fiction.

Besides the new Silver Sisters mystery, works in progress include CONFESSIONS OF A COUGAR, (a memoir of my first trip to Europe), BIG TROUBLE IN PARADISE, a completed manuscript that has yet to find a home (Hint: Paradise is a fictional federal prison), and a book I just decided to write last week, but haven’t firmed up yet. All I can say is that writers are often advised to write what you know. I firmly believe age is just a number—as a very active senior, that’s something I know a lot about. Perceiving someone as young doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve been shot full of Botox or have spent enough on procedures to buy a car. There is a lot more to it and that’s what I’ll explore.

You can find out more about me at, and My books, written as Morgan St. James or two under a pseudonym, Arliss Adams, can be found at most online booksellers or ordered from your favorite local bookstore.

Morgan, thanks so much for guest blogging. My, you do stay busy. I enjoyed learning how your book and newsletter came about. You just never know where life is going to lead us sometimes.

Now a little background on Morgan. A self-described workaholic who splits time between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Morgan is an entertaining speaker, frequently appearing on author’s panels and presenting writing workshops. She co-authors the award-winning Silver Sisters Mysteries series with her sister Phyllice Bradner, also writes as Arliss Adams, and her short stories have won awards. They appear in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL books, and other anthologies including her own anthology, “Women on the Edge.” 

Her “Spotlight” and “Writers Tricks of the Trade” columns appear weekly in Los Angeles and Las Vegas editions of, and inspired her recently released book WRITERS’ TRICKS OF THE TRADE: 39 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ABCs OF WRITING FICTION.

What are your thoughts on today’s post? Do you think someone should slow down just because of their age? Have you ever had an idea mushroom into other projects?


  1. Morgan, thanks again for guest blogging. Learning how an author came to write is always interesting. Wishing you much success with your writing.

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Morgan.

    Morgan - I'm so impressed that you followed the good ideas you had and allowed them to develop into something big. It just goes to show that one never knows where something will take one. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Interesting journey. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I love your story and how you wrote books with your sister. I will check out your books.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.