John M. Wills

Books and blog



A visit with Author Tracy S. Deitz


Please introduce yourself, when you began writing, etc.

My less-than-glorious start involved writing obituary announcements for a small daily newspaper in the 1980s, but I worked my way up to full-page feature stories. Since those early days, I’ve written two nonfiction books. The debut work, Employed by God: Benefits Packaged With Faith, focuses on how faith secures us in times of turmoil; the second book, Break The Cycle: Healing From An Abusive Relationship, shares healing resources with families suffering from domestic violence.

Do you write every day?

Since I teach full-time, I don’t always have the creative energy needed to write daily. Sometimes, I go in spurts and write six or more hours on weekends, then rest a few days and start again. I need down time to enjoy life and have new experiences that infuse the writing with vividness and freshness.

I know you have a recent book released. Please tell my readers about it.Tracy Dietz pic

Break the Cycle: Healing From An Abusive Relationship recounts the true story of a woman trapped in domestic violence and how she found solutions. The book began with my work as a trained advocate for survivors of domestic violence and includes resources for help. According to A. S. Gottlieb’s September 2008 article “Intimate Partner Violence” posted in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, one in four American women will be physically assaulted or raped by an intimate partner during her lifetime ( Because concerns about domestic violence are widespread, the United Methodist Women’s Reading Program selected Break the Cycle for its national 2014 reading program.

What inspired you to become a writer in your chosen genre?

My works revolve around my Christian belief that God is good and present with us every day. If we can hang onto our faith, He’ll carry us through every difficulty. I want to share hope with everyone who faces despair when life and circumstances beat us down.

What is your most rewarding writing experience?

I absolutely adore it when people in our Monday night critique group recognize a humorous section and laugh out loud at a never-before shared draft. Their affirmation keeps me working the long hours in solitude trying to create engaging characters and capture a moving scene.

Do you belong to any writing groups, or critique groups?

Yes, our Fredericksburg group meets at Books-A-Million. We have all ages, colors, sizes and genre writers, and we all respect each other’s efforts to hone our craft. I worked more than a year with this group slaving over draft after draft before ever a page saw the light of day in publication. I treasure the protection in the group’s feedback, knowing my colleagues will point out troubled areas before I go public and embarrass myself.

Are you working on a new project?

Yes, I’m contracting with a literary agent to solicit a publisher for a 300-page novel about three women in a small-town community who operate a modern underground railroad to rescue victims of domestic abuse.

Is there anything you would like to share with our readers?

Thank you for sharing life’s journey! Each of you enrich someone else’s day in a special way. Books open an avenue for us to confront our inner demons and embrace the best of who we can become. I appreciate the opportunity to fellowship and grow with you.

Please provide the readers with a link to your website, and links to your books.

My website is

Free resources for dealing with domestic abuse can be found at

Both books are available through Amazon via print or Kindle. Online reviews are very helpful, and I welcome your feedback.

Break the Cycle

Employed By God


Dialogue Tips

English: Exclamation Colon
English: Exclamation Colon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dialogue Tips


  • Dialogue should do one of two things: move the plot along or reveal character
  • “Said” and “asked,” are better than the multitude of other dialogue tags such as responded, agreed, etc.
  • Better still, use the character’s action as a dialogue tag instead. “No way.” Dan pulled out his gun.
  • Or use description as a dialogue tag. Cynthia’s silk skirt swirled around her long legs. “Are you coming or not?”
  • Go easy on the exclamation points. If the dialogue is exclamatory enough, an exclamation point is unnecessary. An Exclamation point should never be used in narrative. Elmore Leonard said, “Use only one exclamation point in a novel.”
  • Don’t ever have a character tell someone something that they already know to get information across. Maybe it is something that ought to be in narrative, but be careful of an information dump.
  • Though you want dialogue to be realistic sounding, don’t copy how we really talk such as: “Hello, how are you.” “I’m fine, and you?” Leave all this greeting stuff and comments about the weather out (unless it’s important to the plot).
  • When writing, start a new paragraph every time a new person speaks or does something. This will help the reader follow what is going on.
  • Even if the conversation is between two people, put a dialogue tag in every so often so the reader knows who is talking.
  • Never have one person speak for long periods of time. When we’re talking to one another, we interrupt, change the subject, etc.
  • Be sure the reader knows where the dialogue takes place.
  • Lastly, beware of talking heads. We need to see the characters and what they are doing during the conversation. No one sits or stands perfectly still while talking, and this brings you back to the fact that you can use an action as a dialogue tag. “Phil scratched his head. “What do you expect me to do about it?”

Courtesy of Marilyn Meredith, author of the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, under the name F.M. Meredith, and the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series.


The Conference

Casino logo
Casino logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the first day of the Public Safety Writers Association Conference. We’re at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, where we’ve held the conference for the last several years. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.

The Online Critique Group

English: Hands collaborating in co-writing or ...
English: Hands collaborating in co-writing or co-editing or co-teaching in online education. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my last post, I discussed the importance of having one’s writing critiqued. In order to improve, constructive criticism is a necessity. That short story, poem, or novel may seem perfect to you the way it is written, but with a little help it may become fabulous and worthy of publication.

If you do not have a critique group in your area, consider joining one online. Make sure that it truly is a critique group, and not merely a writing group. The difference is that a writing group will be just that: a group of writers who form together to produce a story or other work. The problem is they never critique, they just write.

Once you’ve begun researching online critique groups, consider the group’s makeup before making a decision to join. Who are the members, are they writing in the same genre as you? You may not get the feedback you need if you are a novelist, and you join a group consisting primarily of poets. How many other members are in the group? If there are more than a dozen or so members, that may be too many.

What are the guidelines regarding how much a writer can submit, and what’s the turnaround time? Be prepared to have your email inbox filled with questions and comments from group members. Depending on the group’s rules, you may easily become overwhelmed answering queries.

You may find the first group you decide to join is not a good fit. Members may be excessively harsh in their criticism, or the number of submissions may be too burdensome. If your search for an online group results in failure, it may be time to start your own. Just make sure the makeup of the group includes a good mix of established writers and newbies.

The bottom line—don’t be afraid to put your work out there. If you want to be successful, writing is like any other discipline, it’s best learned from those who have succeeded, and by trial and error.

Printed Book or Ebook?

English: A woman cuddling a pile of digital de...
English: A woman cuddling a pile of digital devices: laptops, smartphones, tablets, ebook readers etc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s your favorite method of reading books, print or on electronic reading devices? The book industry is still in a quandary adjusting to readers’ preferences. Ebook sales are up 43%, which is very good growth. However, compared to the previous three years of triple-digit increases, that number indicates a leveling off in digital book sales.

Sales numbers released by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group, indicate 457 million ebooks were sold last year. However, that number is lower than the number of hard covers sold—557 million.

I prefer the printed word. I enjoy holding a book and physically turning the pages—particularly if the book is one that I’ve written. Being able to turn back quickly to a particular chapter or section is much easier with a printed book. I can also easily determine how long a chapter is . . . do I want to start reading the next chapter if it happens to be a long one?

On the other hand, the eReader allows me to read several books at a time, without carrying the actual books around. This feature is particularly convenient when travelling. Moreover, when I finish reading a book, I simply open up another on my reader.

Obviously, reading a book in print or electronically is a personal preference. I know people who scoff at the notion of ebooks, pontificating about the importance of maintaining the integrity of the written word. Still others wouldn’t trade their Kindle, Nook, or iPad for the world.

My guess is this bifurcation of reading habits and the battle over preferences is far from over. As for publishers, it’s clear that they need to have one foot in each world.

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