Tag Archives: Coco Ihle

The Kinship of Music & Writing

How many times have we heard from our editor that our sentences are choppy, or sluggish, or don’t have flow? What does that mean?

I’ve found that years of studying music has helped me enormously with my writing. Music, like writing, has rhythm, flowing passages, abrupt changes, accents, etc. These entities are also present in sentences and paragraphs in writing.

In evoking a calm mood in a story, sentences can be longer with mild descriptive phrases much like the terms ‘largo,’ ‘andante’ or ‘legato’ that are present on our sheet music. If urgency or danger is something you want to demonstrate, shorter or more abrupt sentences may be in order; i.e., ‘allegro,’ ‘vivace,’ ‘presto,’ maybe even, ‘staccato.’ Dialogue can be emphasized in the same way. Choice of words is important. If a powerful, angry or frantic mood is present, words and phrases that are short and precise work better than longer ones. It sounds like common sense, but so many of us get this wrong in our excitement to establish the scenes. In music, one sees the symbols, ‘p,’ ‘pp,’ ‘mf,’ ‘f’ or ‘ff,’ which correspond to soft, very soft, slightly loud, loud, very loud, and ‘marcato’ is a term indicating accents. Those lexical items can also be accomplished with words if the writer is careful about selection.

I don’t know if what I’ve said has made any sense to you, dear reader, but, how about examples?

In my book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, an example of a calm setting with longer descriptive sentences is:

Massive stone pillars guarding the entrance stood like monoliths. Between them, intricate wrought iron gates shadowed black lace patterns on the lawn as the sun cast its late afternoon beams through the ancient ironwork.

Notice there’s a gentle rhythm to the words in the sentences as they meander through the description. The sentences are generally longer and the rendering of iron, lace, and sun are all complimentary to one another. The sentences flow.

If I were to write:

There were massive stone pillars guarding the entrance. They looked like monoliths. The ancient gates cast shadows that looked like black lace on the late afternoon lawn.

The information is basically the same, but the sentences are choppy and have no mood or flow.

In the next example, I deal with a tense, frightening moment:

Pressing her body flat against the wall, slowly inching further in, she stood dead still, praying she wouldn’t be seen. The footsteps were quite close now. Sheena held her breath. Turned her head to see who was about to pass. She wasn’t cold any longer; perspiration streamed down her body. Her head and heart beat like jackhammers. The lantern light was almost upon her. The footsteps sounded like claps of thunder in her ears.

Notice in this example, the sentences are choppy and shorter. This is intentional so the reader can feel the sense of urgency and fear in the words. Here I’ve used word accents like perspiration, heart beating, and loudness to give the reader the image of what is happening. These words are not equal to the others. They stand out in emphasis. ‘Mercato,’ in music.

If you think of your writing as a music score while you construct your sentences and paragraphs, you may very well have some really interesting passages. I test mine by reading them aloud. I’ve taped myself and played the tape back to get an even different perspective. Our own voices often sound strange to us, so it’s almost as though someone else is reading and we can hear when the rhythm is right. Try it. You might like it.

Anyone else have a trick they use to create a smooth flowing symphony of words?


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July 10th: Third Quarter Moon Day! Mysteries Abound – Grab One From Second Wind Publishing!

July 10 Last or third quarter moon. The moon is still a mystery despite our travels to that glowing night orb. Celebrate mysteries with a book from Second Wind Publishing!

An Altar by the River by Christine Husom
Book III of the Winnebago County Series

The death wish of a young man unveils disturbing activities of a hidden cult and the cover-up of an old shooting death case. The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department race to find the man with a fatal mission before the cult does. Who will find him first?
Other books by Christine Husom: Buried in Wolf Lake and Murder in Winnebago County

She Had to Know by Coco Ihle

Two sisters, separated by adoption, find each other and embark on a terrifying journey of discovery. Who is after them? The sisters are about to discover the secret a mysterious murderer will kill to protect. But, will the discovery save them?


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My Bucket List by Coco Ihle

I’m on the road right now going to writers’ conventions and signings and looking for a Wi Fi hot spot so I can send this.

Many of us have a bucket list of things we want to do, accomplish or experience before we leave this Earth. Some are extraordinary and some are more mundane. Mine have been few and rather simple. I’ve always wanted to find my birth family and part of that goal has been satisfied. I found my sister, Joanie, after searching for more than fifty years, but sadly, I also found a death certificate for my birth father and I assume because of the time element, my birth mother has also died. Somewhere out there is a brother and sister yet to find. The chances of my discovering their whereabouts is slim, but I keep hoping.

Another goal was to write a book about my family search and the discovery of my Scottish roots, and incorporate a murder mystery into the plot. Since I found Joanie, I was able to complete the book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, which was published in April 2011. It is the first in a series, so there is room in the storyline for the discovery of more siblings and/or further development of the sisters’ relationship.

Another item on my bucket list is travel. Having the opportunity to see and experience people and places, art, history and nature different from my own is a passion with me. I’ve been fortunate to have already seen much of Europe, the United States and Canada, but there are still so many more countries to explore. I haven’t been to New Zealand and Australia, Egypt and Jordan, India and China, Peru and the Galapagos Islands. The list could go on and on. I wish I were younger, only because that would give me more time. I know I’ll never be able to see all the things I want, but I’ll certainly try the best I can.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue writing about the adventures in Scotland of my two protagonists, Arran Hart and Sheena Buchanan, as they learn more about each other and the nature of murder. I hope you, dear readers, will follow along with me as we discover what will happen next in Arran’s and Sheena’s adventures.

Do you have items on your bucket list? What sort of things do you wish to discover or accomplish?


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The Benefits of Conventions and Conferences by Coco Ihle

What is the difference between conventions and conferences? My belief is that conventions are mainly for fans, but are also attended by writers, agents, editors, and publishers; whereas conferences are geared more toward the craft and business of the writing and publishing world.

I like to include both for a well-rounded perspective. My field is mystery and I classify what I write as traditional, maybe even cosy books. When deciding which to choose, my eye is open to how I can learn the most about my craft and whether or not I have the opportunity to meet other authors to ask what has and hasn’t worked for them. I also look for the chance to meet potential fans.

Another benefit to going to conventions and conferences is the infectious enthusiastic atmosphere that permeates every nook and cranny there. I started attending these events years before I had a book published,
and upon returning home, I couldn’t wait to get back to my writing in progress. I was refreshed and filled with the desire to exercise some of the ideas I had just learned, to try out a new approach with my characters or plot, or just bask in the delight of the new friendships I had made.

At first, smaller venues seemed to provide me with the most “bang for my buck” by the very fact that there were more opportunities and time to make the connections I wanted. The larger ones were good for showing me more of the whole picture and exposing me to more genres.

For beginners, I would suggest starting at smaller cons and conferences and work your way to larger ones. That way your experiences won’t be so overwhelming. Bouchercon, for instance, can seem a bit intimidating to a
newbie, although thrilling in its immenseness.

Everyone, these days, talks about the importance of networking. Cons and conferences are perfect occasions for this. Putting away your shy streak is tough, but necessary. Meet everyone you can. You’re most likely a reader, a fan. Start by complimenting a favorite author. If you don’t have one, you certainly will by the end of the event—probably several. Be brave, you’ll be so glad you were.

I’m off to Bouchercon next week. Wish me luck!


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My Handy Research Tools by Coco Ihle

I’ve found being a pack rat isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some of my trips to the U.K. were family vacations and because these were special occurrences, I didn’t want to forget anything. Taking photos, saving receipts, keeping a trip diary, buying brochures and even audio recording various tours and people became the norm for me.

This collection came in handy while compiling photo albums to share with the family later. I didn’t have to wonder where the heck a certain mystery photo was taken or try to remember an itinerary or timeline. I was so glad I had documented everything.

Since trip planning fell to me, I wanted to make the experience as rich as possible. One year, my (former) husband and I, his parents, and our son went to the U.K., rented a car, and set out touring England, Scotland and Wales on a six-weeks adventure. Since we had three generations in the car, my goal was to include sights that would interest everyone.

We saw battlefields, military monuments and museums, visited Brands Hatch British Grand Prix Race Track and had pints in local pubs to satisfy the guys. Madam Tussaud’s, the planetarium, taking a class in brass rubbing, listening to bagpipers in Scotland and seeing suits of armor up close were fun for our son. Visiting and staying in historic manor homes and castles, attending medieval banquets with the Ladies of the Court in period costumes and strolling in topiary gardens were treats for my mother-in-law and me. We all enjoyed driving through the lush countryside and stopping in quaint villages with their thatched roof cottages; and speaking with the locals gave us different perspectives on the things we had seen and experienced.  At every turn, we tried to make each day interesting and unforgettable.

One night, we stayed in the thirteenth-century House of Agnes Hotel in Canterbury, mentioned in Charles Dicken’s, David Copperfield. Another, in the The Feathers Hotel in Ludlow, a seventeenth-century coaching inn. Lord Crewe Arms in Blanchland was once an eleventh-century monastery and is said to be haunted. Lord Dalhousie at Dalhousie Castle flirted with my mother-in-law during our postprandial cocktails, and she blushed for weeks afterwards. I could go on and on.

To help refresh my cherished memories, I have shelves full of brochures, audio tapes, photo albums, music, artwork, you name it. When I began writing my book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, set primarily in Scotland, I needed details for descriptions of castles and the countryside, on people in the villages, their personalities and their speech patterns. Even though I had Scottish friends at this point, and the Internet, I relied heavily on my experiences and documentation of the many trips I had taken.

I’m so glad I am a pack rat! Any of you, pack rats, too? Has it been good, bad?


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Celebrating Three New Releases from Second Wind Publishing!

To celebrate our new releases, we are offering you a chance to win a copy of one of our new books! Three people, chosen at random from all those who leave a comment, will win a print book of one of the new releases, and three people will win a  coupon for a free download of an ebook version at smashwords.com. If you have a preference of which book you’d like to win, be sure to tell us the title or titles in your comment, otherwise you will be entered in all drawings. Giveaway ends May 18, 2011.

Our new releases:

1. Scorpion Bay by Michael Murphy:

A high tech motorcycle, a black disguise, a crusading newscaster’s quest for justice.When a car bomb kills the prosecuting attorney and a key witness against a powerful bioengineering industrialist, the blast shatters the life of the attorney’s husband, popular Phoenix television investigative reporter, Parker Knight.  After authorities hit a dead end, Parker risks his career and his life to seek his own revenge. Riding a high tech motorcycle and wearing a black disguise, the crusading newsman inadvertently becomes a media created superhero jeopardizing his quest for justice.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Scorpion Bay

2. She Had to Know by  Coco Ihle:

After the deaths of her adopted parents, Arran discovers her long lost sister’s name and, despite a terrifying premonitory dream, embarks on a quest to find Sheena. After reuniting in Scotland, the sisters search for the reason their birth father and his housekeeper mysteriously died and why Sheena’s life is being threatened. Led to a cryptic rhyme rumored to map the way to an ancient hidden treasure buried deep in the bowels of Wraithmoor Castle, the sisters follow the clues. A murderer follows the sisters. Will the secret passages lead them to discovery and triumph, or death and eternal entombment?

Click here to read the first chapter of: She Had to Know

3. Dear Emily by Louise Thompson

How could  a fine institution, born in Europe and perfected in America, disappear in little more than 100 years?

“Here  is My Life in the Fine Stores.  I hope it will bring fond memories to  many and a glimpse of what it was like to have superb service.  tasteful, well-made garments offered in stimulating surroundings. I doubt they will return.” –Louise Thompson

“What a fascinating account Louise Thomas gives us of the grand old days of the grand emporium! An easy, conversational style makes her memoir as much a pleasure to read as a letter from a good friend, yet it is an instructive lesson in American retailing history.” –Bryan Haislip, Former Editorial Page Editor of the Winston-Salem Journal

Click here to read the first chapter of: Dear Emily

For even more fun, click on the covers and you will find a delightful surprise!


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Interview with Coco Ihle, Author of She Had to Know

Today we are speaking with Coco Ihle, whose book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, has just been published. What is your book about?

SHE HAD TO KNOW has an autobiographical element to it and deals with two long lost sisters who reunite and nearly lose their lives searching for a hidden treasure and a murderer in a Scottish castle.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

I was a product of foster care and adoption, so my early life was spent fantasizing about finding my birth family with the thought of writing a book one day involving my search. It wasn’t until my early thirties that my Scottish roots were uncovered and a tiny seed was planted. In my fifties, one of my sisters was located and the book started forming in my mind. What better story to write than a mystery?

How much of yourself is hidden in the main characters of this book?

SHE HAD TO KNOW has two protagonists, the two sisters. I found it interesting that both sisters in the book have multiple characteristics of my sister and me. That is to say, one isn’t me and the other my sister, my fictional characters have traits that both my sister and I have, plus some. It just worked out that way. Does that make sense?

Yes, actually. Tell me, did you do any research for this book?

Yes, a great deal. Luckily, when I found out about my Scottish heritage years earlier, I joined a local Scottish society and met many Scots who shared with me stories of their lives and culture. My son and I joined the society’s bagpipe band and traveled to Scotland to order our bagpipes and kilts and to discover more about my homeland. To make things interesting, we stayed in several castles all over Britain. That’s when I knew one sister in my book would own a castle hotel. More trips were necessary for fact finding, and many hours of speaking with my wonderful Scottish friends helped me get the details down. I also used books and pamphlets that I gathered on my travels along with the phone and, toward the end, the internet. What can I say, I love research.

What challenges did you face when you wrote this book?

In part of the book I deal with reuniting the sisters. I already knew how I felt, but I needed to find out how my sister dealt with her questions of not knowing where she came from or why she was given up; that sort of thing. The questions were difficult to ask and the answers were tough to put on paper, because I wanted to emphasize the joy of the sister’s reunion, not dwell on the sadness of our lost childhood together. In the end, I left out much of the negative, though in the future, I may touch on more of the problems the sisters faced.

Another challenge for me was in simplifying the Scottish dialect so that everyone could understand it. I tried to be consistent with it so the reader would get into the cadence of the characters. I thought adding a glossary might help, too.

Do you think writing this book changed your life? If so, how?

Absolutely. In a couple of ways. My sister and I talked in detail about our lives before we met, and how we felt about all the things that happened and didn’t happen through the years. Our talks created a stronger bond between us.

Another way my life changed was, my adopted mother used to accuse me of starting projects and losing interest before finishing them. Well, I took that criticism to heart. I know she’s up there smiling down at me, because I finish projects now.

Do you prefer to write at a particular time of day?

Mornings are my favorite time, because my mind is fresh, but sometimes late at night when there are no distractions. Often, I’ll wake in the middle of the night with an idea or a phrase and have to write it down on a tablet I keep on my nightstand. And occasionally, I just have to get up and write that thought or idea in more detail.

Do you have a favorite snack food or beverage that you enjoy while you write?

Ha! That would be my famous cup of joe. I have a wonderful 16 oz. thermos mug that keeps my coffee hot, so I don’t have to get up so often for a refill. My right hand seems to be permanently crooked into the mug holding position. Just kidding. Occasionally, I like to munch on roasted almonds, too.

Why did you set your book to begin in 1985?

I’ve always been told to “write what you know.” Since my own search was done primarily before computers, I wanted to write my story before that era. As I continue to search for two more siblings, I’m finding the computer age has only complicated matters. Often, too much information can be as much of a hindrance as not enough. Also, found information is often incorrect, which can lead to wasted time and effort. If it hadn’t been for the Alma Society, which helps in family searches, I may have given up years ago.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

When I read a story, I want to be swept into it and escape from my life issues and just be entertained. I hope my readers will feel that way with my book. I also hope, people will be reinforced in their thinking that persistence is a virtue which almost always has its rewards. It certainly has in my life.

What do you like to read?

Mostly mysteries since that’s what I like to write, and I’m lucky to know some very excellent writers in my genre through conferences, conventions and listserves. Memoirs are another area I like and in which I have written. And there are some wonderful YA authors out there whose work in fantasy I enjoy. But, I like thrillers, too. Oh, dear, I just love to read and if it is well written, I’ll read just about anything that isn’t too violent or graphic.

Do you have a saying or motto for your life and/or as a writer?

Funny you should ask. My favorite is: “Aspire to inspire before you expire.” Isn’t that great?

I’ll say. Thank you, Coco, for taking the time to speak with us today.

You are most welcome. Thank you for having me.

Click here to read the first chapter of: She Had to Know

Click here to read an excerpt of: She Had to Know

Click here to buy: She Had to Know


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She Had to Know by Coco Ihle

After the deaths of her adopted parents, Arran discovers her long lost sister’s name and, despite a terrifying premonitory dream, embarks on a quest to find Sheena. After reuniting in Scotland, the sisters search for the reason their birth father and his housekeeper mysteriously died and why Sheena’s life is being threatened. Led to a cryptic rhyme rumored to map the way to an ancient hidden treasure buried deep in the bowels of Wraithmoor Castle, the sisters follow the clues. A murderer follows the sisters. Will the secret passages lead them to discovery and triumph, or death and eternal entombment?


Hours of compiling, arranging, rearranging and packing had left Sheena’s body fatigued, but her brain wouldn’t rest. She kept thinking about her father’s unknown cause of death. Something distracting would help, perhaps a book to read. Several were on the nightstand, and she looked through them. The Magus, by John Fowles, she’d already read. The next was Barbarians at the Gate, by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar. No, not in the mood. The third book was most curious. The aged volume of The Nature Library on Birds, by Neltje Blanchan, seemed especially heavy for such a small size. Sheena was immediately intrigued. The front cover had an illustration of a bluebird family: male, female and chick. How odd. This hardly seemed the kind of book her father would read.

The shock came when she opened the front cover. Inserted in a precisely cutout hole in the pages was a gun. Carefully, she extracted the weapon by the wooden grip and held it in the palm of her hand under the bedside lamp to get a better look. “MADE BERETTA USA CORP” was etched on one side of the blue-black metal barrel. The .22-caliber semi-automatic, just like the one she had learned to shoot a few years ago, was loaded.

As she was carefully returning the gun to the hiding place, she noticed a folded piece of yellowed paper tucked in the bottom of the hole. Laying the gun on the bed, she reached in to retrieve it and noticed the edges of the folds were weak and brittle. As she was carefully unfolding them, she felt a firm lump between her finger and thumb. A cracked piece of cellophane tape was stuck to one side of the paper, and under that, a key. A safe-deposit key. Stamped into the flat surface, were the initials, “CMB.” Chase Manhattan Bank on Madison Avenue, a few blocks away, was the bank on her father’s monthly statements. Why wasn’t this key in Father’s study with his other papers?

Turning the book over, she discovered another surprise. Inside this cover was another cut out section containing a small leather notebook, underneath which, a thick piece of cardboard separated the two compartments. She opened the notebook to the first page. In the upper right corner was written, “Oct./Nov.” Centered below was “This Book Belongs To: J.W.B.,” her father’s initials.

She plumped up two pillows and leaned back against the headboard, excited by this new discovery which appeared to be a journal. The entries were sporadically dated, and the writing, in her father’s hand, was scribbled and barely legible, as though written in a hurry. He had used initials rather than full names throughout. She read aloud the last entry dated the week before he died:

“Have the feeling I’m being followed. Yesterday, a car almost hit me outside the hotel. Driver didn’t stop, too dark to see license plate. Wonder if it has something to do with running into P.S. last week? Never liked that greedy snake.”

Sheena’s intake of breath was followed by an icy chill shivering through her body. With pounding heart she looked across the room at the photograph of her parents, singling out her father’s image and said, “What in the world happened to you? Did you die naturally? Or were you murdered?”


Coco, a product of foster care and adoption, spent over fifty years searching for her sister, whom she found in 1994. Thus the idea for SHE HAD TO KNOW was born. She discovered Scottish roots and plays harp and bagpipes, along with piano and cello. The Florida Writer’s Association published a short story of hers in 2009 in their first anthology. Coco is a member of MWA; SinC; FWA; The Alma Society, which aids in family searches; the DorothyL Digest and the Scottish St. Andrew’s Society.

 Click here to read the first chapter: She Had to Know

Click here to buy: She Had to Know

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