Oct 13

What do you read…

…….when you’re NOT writing?


A good writer is also a good reader, according to Stephen King in his book “On Writing”, which I like to dust off every once in while for inspiration.  It may seem like something simple, something that won’t really do anything but to give one’s poor over-squeezed brain a rest, but it’s so very true.

I write romance.  More specifically, I write erotic romance.  I also enjoying reading good erotic romance.  When I’m on vacation from writing, I read lots of erotic romance, some good, some not so good and some….well, you’ve seen the reviews on Amazon.   I’m not bashing. I’m just saying “à chacun son goût”.   Or to twist a Madonna lyric, “What works for me….may not work for you.”

But while I’m writing these spicy little stories I don’t read romance.  I read old Stephen King.  I read Ed McBain.  I read Louis L’Amour.  I read older Michael Connelly, specifically the Harry Bosch series.  I read Madeline L’Engle. I’ll even pick up The Magician’s Nephew if I’m in the mood.

Why?  Because I like to read different stuff than what I’m writing while I’m writing.  It gives me a little vacay from the romance world that I live in when I’m writing and gives my mind a break from my heroine’s or hero’s distress of the moment.

Reading in a different genre also give me great inspiration on dialogue, how men write men speaking and how men write how men perceive women outside of the romance genre.  How C.S. Lewis turns a phrase to describe Mr. Tumnus’ fright when the White Queen’s name is mentioned.  It’s great fun to take these literary ideas and mold them to my own devices.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  But it’s amusing to try and it clears the mind.

What do you read while you’re writing, if you find the time to read at all?

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Sep 29

What do you do when your characters won’t cooperate?

For those of you who don’t think of your characters as real, living, breathing people, you might as well stop reading now because some of what I’m going to say is going to sound really off the wall.  (And for those grammarians who will tsk tsk me and tell me that ‘it’s WRITE not SAY’, because it is the written word, well, then click that little button at the top of the post.)

I made a promise to myself to write at least 500 words a day.  Unfortunately, life interfered, as it does, and I have been off the wagon for a while.  To ease back into the daily joy of writing,  I went into a couple of scenes in my head, with first one character, then the other, to see how it would work out. Well, if it worked out, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post.

So what do you do when you characters don’t agree with you?  I tried arguing with them, but that just wastes time and breath.  They don’t listen and don’t care that you have to write 500 or even 250 words that day.  You know what they say?  “That’s not my problem.  You’ve got me doing something I would never do in a thousand years and there’s no way that I’m doing it.”  (Sometimes I get a ‘so there’ at the end from my female characters.

I have devised many ways to trick my characters into bouncing and behaving little creatures.  Hopefully, you too can use these techniques to jump start your work.

  1. Re-interview them – yes, it may sound insane, but I’ve taken to interviewing my characters before I start so that I have an idea of how they might react in certain situations.  Though I have the outline of the plot there, interviewing your characters might give you that extra information you need to really make things work.
  2. Give them a birthday – no, I don’t mean throw them a party (although that also might work) I mean literally, give them a birth date.  I’ve given birth dates to all my characters recently…and then that gives them a zodiac sign.  Voila!  Instant strengths, weaknesses and personality traits, and lots of ideas on what they like and dislike.  In addition, usually these books  and/or websites give you their compatible and non compatible signs – a good place to start if you want to escalate conflict between characters.
  3. Re-read – If have been away from a work in progress for a while, I go back and re-read (w/out editing) .  This helps to re-immerse myself in the story and the characters and often gives me a fresh eye on the narrative and plot.

So there you have it.  Those are the three techniques I use on a rotating basis to help jumpstart my writing.  Usually they work.  Sometimes they don’t.

What techniques do you use to recharge your writing?  Let us know!



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Sep 14

Beta Males – The New Black?

Beta males can be the best of both worlds.  While they don’t pound their chests or roar like the Alpha male does—and let’s admit on some level that’s actually appealing up to a point—they are crafty thinkers that get what they want by using their intelligence and maybe a little bit of brawn.  They reel us in with their charm, their humor and those sweet puppy dog eyes.  He’s the nice guy who’s had that crush on you forever, but was patiently waiting until that cruel Alpha broke your heart to comfort you.  He might be that “work husband” with whom you’ve collaborated on numerous projects and were too busy to see the love shining in those eyes until one night late at the office…..you get the general idea.

Remember Archimedes?  “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”  Certainly.   Long after the massively muscled Alpha has exhausted himself, Archimedes has moved whatever you needed him to move with a stick and a rock.  That’s how brawn can triumph over brains.

And don’t think the beta male doesn’t  have his superhero side.  Peter Parker is the shy beta with eyes for no one but MJ, but does she notice?  Nope, but she certainly loves Spiderman.

Jim from The Office had a crush on Pam for years, even though she was engaged to that guy from the warehouse (who was pretty cute in his own right, but Alpha all the way).

Justin Long from Die Hard 4 – Live Free or Die Hard  – He’s the brains that stopped Alpha Bruce Willis from locking up the car (by trying to hot wire it)  that was going to be their getaway car.  Instead he used the OnStar system within the car to get them to start it for them.  Brains, darling, brains.

The prince of beta males?  Hugh Grant in nearly every role he’s played on screen. Seriously.  Take  look at any of his movies and you’ll see that I’m not pulling your leg.

The Beta Male is the nice guy.  And they don’t always finish last.




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Sep 10

Alpha Males Gone Wild

I truly believe that in order to be a good writer of romance you also have to be a reader of romance.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that one copies the styles of other writers, but by reading a lot of romance novels, you, as a writer, are training yourself to see themes, tropes and other traits that run through many romance novels.   Once you understand these traits, you as the writer have a framework in which to work your literary magic.

This brings me to the characterization of the hero.  In many, many romance novels that I have read, and I am certainly not going to mention any names or titles, it seems, to be at least, that the hero is often, well, how shall I put it delicately, ah, a bit of “Pushy Paul”.  Why do I call him that?  Well, it seems that through most of the story he’s kind of a jerk.  He yells, sulks, bosses people (especially the heroine) around and is often primitive in their behavior.  However, through all this the heroine somehow finds him attractive.  Mind you, he may be good looking, but that attitude, please, he can keep it.  Some of these so called Alpha Males are more caricature than character.  When handled improperly, he can be overbearing, monstrous and controlling.  May I also add over-jealous and possessive bordering on the criminal?

Alpha males don’t always have to be loud, boorish and cavemannish to be an alpha male.  Instead, it is confidence (not to be confused with obnoxious arrogance), intelligence and protectiveness towards home, family and of course the heroine.  In my book (not literally) sound and fury signifies nothing.

Right now, I have a work in progress in which I am attempting to write an Alpha Male.  In many of my past scribbles, I’ve noticed that many of my heroes (whom I love dearly and treat with the utmost respect) have been more on the beta side, which I’ll write about soon enough when I  can catch a few more moments.

Now that I’ve had my little say on my little blog about Alpha males, let’s take a look at some Alpha males, or those roles that I think are Alpha males, in popular culture.  Remember, alpha is in the eye of the beholder, and I’d be interested to see how others perceive these same characters.

Stanley Kowalski – A Streetcar Named Desire – This character is almost a caricature, but Marlon Brando manages to have us sympathize with Stanley and see how Kim Hunter as Stella could love such a man.  We can also see how poor Blanche could be attracted to him.

Rhett Butler – Gone With the Wind – Here an alpha male is paired with an alpha female that refuses to bend to his charms and even , ahem, sexual prowess.  Well, she does, but doesn’t want  to let him know it and plays with his feelings until it is too late.  There was real love between Rhett and Scarlett, and he let her know often enough (remember the scene right before he goes off to fight?), but she was so stuck on Ashley (whom I guess was attractive enough but reminded me of a wet noodle—not appealing at all.)

Tyler Durden – Fight Club – Even the title gives it away.  Brad Pitt fills the role of leader well.  Poor Beta (or maybe omega?) Edward Norton didn’t have a chance.

Tony Soprano – The Sopranos – Totally alpha male.  And we always got to see his “softer” side.

Malcolm Little (X) – Denzel Washington – Malcolm X – Great, great movie. Great, great actor. Screen presence, charisma.  He WAS Malcolm X.   I’m still angry he didn’t get the Oscar win for this film and instead won it for the piece of trash Training Day. But we’ll save that for another day.

“Dirty” Harry Callahan-Clint Eastwood –  Dirty Harry Movies (I don’t think I need to name them all, though I could).  Strong, silent type who relied on his friends Smith and Wesson to do the talking for him.  I remember a brief scene from Magnum Force (a movie that also starred Hutch from Starsky and Hutch and Spencer from Spencer for Hire).  A woman sees Harry in the hall and says “What’s a girl got to do to go to bed with you?”  He pauses for a second then says, “Try knocking on the door.”  How classic is that?

Also Clint Eastwood in his spaghetti western – High Plains Drifter, Hang ‘em High, For a Few Dollars More….

John McClane – Die Hards – Bruce Willis infused his cop character (who was a tiny bit pathetic in the book, yes, there’s a book) with such gusto and bravado that we couldn’t help but root for him.  I was especially  impressed when, after he lost his shoes, walked across broken glass.

Sean Connery – No, not the James Bond movies, although those are clearly built for the alpha male character James Bond.  I’m talking about The Untouchables.  Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness had nothing on Officer Jim Malone.  “What are you prepared to do?”  Sean Connery stole that movie – when he was on screen, your eyes were on him, not first billed Kevin Costner for sure.

Blade – Wesley Snipes.  ‘Nuff said, right?

Jason Statham-The Transporter –– It’s not like we need to know the character’s name, but I think it was Frank.  Yeah, Frank.

There you go.  Those are my thoughts on Alpha Males and a little list of my faves.  As you can see, my Alphas won’t be stomping around, ordering people about in a loud voice, bullying people into doing what they want.  As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  Yes.  He said that.



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Sep 03

Building Characters

I suppose being an author and probably living with an author is an acquired taste, because some of us can be pretty eccentric.  Some us hear voices in our heads, urging us to “tell my story, tell my story”, others of our ilk wander around with ink stained fingers and index cards jammed in our purses or our pockets.  Or there’s a notebook full of scrawls in the nightstand drawer, or better yet, the glove compartment of the minivan.  Point is, as a writer, you’ve got a lot of characters to handle and bring to life.

Like many writers, I didn’t spring full blown from the earth and write a best seller my first time sitting down in front of a keyboard or putting pencil to notebook paper.  When I look back at some of the first stories, or half stories I penned, I cringe.  The characters are flat, they speak in cliches and the whole situations in which they find themselves are overblown and simply ridiculous.  Then, I read a few books on writing, a few more books on writing romance and a whole lot of articles and ebooks on writing erotic romance.

Some books I agreed with, others I frowned in confusion but sallied forth till the end.  I took a lot of notes, and hung a lot of printed sheets, checklists and quotations to the bulletin board over my desk.

Out of this research jumble, I happened upon several articles and resources concerned with building characters.  Before this, I had started with a plot, and manipulated my little stick figure characters through the plot with no thought as to WHY my people would do such things.  Once I read these articles on building characters however, I suddenly understood the importance of not being earnest, but creating charcters that were PEOPLE before they were puppets in my stage play of life.

While that may sound crazy, let me be the first to say that it works so well for me that I can hear them hissing in my ear as I type, “I would NEVER do that, how dare you!!”  And it helps, it works, sometimes it gets me over the writer’s block hump to look my character squarely in the eye and say, “Then tell me what you would do, please, I’m totally dying to know.”

How do I build my characters, you may ask?  Well, I use a ten page interview sheet that asks them everyhthing from their hobbies, the car they drive to the email addresses they use.  In addition, I also consult astrological signs – Is my character a Taurus, who likes nice things and little luxuries?  Is my heroine an Aries who doesn’t listen to reason because she doesn’t like to be told what to do?  Even if you don’t believe in astrology for whatever reason, reading the traits of each sign may help you build the personality of your character.

You might also use actors and/or the characters they play in certain movies.  Is he a computer geek like Neo in The Matrix?  Or how about an old cantankerous broad like Shirley MacLaine in Steel Magnolias?  Taking a second look at these characters also helps me to puzzle together a character’s personality.

The next time you get stuck with building a character, ask him/her when his/her birthday is (just tell them you want to get them a present, they don’t have to know the real reason).  I bet you can get some great traits added by giving them an astrology sign.






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Aug 26

But the Work Never Stops

I am currently working on yet another story – it’s a holiday themed story that I wrote about a year ago and am revamping.  Trouble is, the characters are changing in my head as I write and giving me a whole new story!  Granted, it’s a much better story ( at least I think so) but it’s so much more work for me.  What began as a simple editing journey has ventured into the world of more possibilities.

Granted, I’m not complaining.  It’s always fun when the characters, revisited though they may be, are giving new life to the story  – more creativity is what an author needs.  I like my characters, I love the story and I am also enjoying this new journey.

That’s it for today, I have to get back to the drawing board.



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Aug 10

Don’t I Feel Pretty!

I just got the news a few days ago that my first book will be published by Evernight Publishing.  I simply can’t put into words how totally thrilled I am that the hard work that I put into my writing has finally paid off.  So much work to do in the coming weeks, to which I’m looking forward.  And of course, I will continue to work on the several other projects that I have hovering on my hard drive.

In other news, I am enjoying the rather hot and humid New Jersey summer.  The sun has been out nearly every day and it has been simply lovely!

Signing off for now to do some work, but I will certainly keep you updated.



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