Ask a male author about your male character traits or thoughts.

Amazon links to my stories: Autumn Breeze, A More Perfect Union, Double Happiness, The Wolves of Sherwood Forest, Neanderthals and the Garden of Eden can be found down the right side of the blog.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Clarity in writing


Lack of clarity in a submission is the number one reason why an author’s work gets rejected. Think about it. Clarity can be, and for my purposes, is found in the previous nine reasons that lead to rejection.

1.      ! The use of symbols when words are better. An exclamation point has more than one meaning.

2.      Blasting queries. Using the one size fits all approach shows the agent or editor that you either didn’t think through your submission or you didn’t care.

3.      Not reading books on writing is like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Reading clarifies in the writer’s mind which of many paths to take.

4.      Not joining critique groups, going to conferences or joining genre organizations leaves the author uncertain how to proceed (and without kindred spirits).

5.      Commas are much like exclamation points regarding clarity. Using commas to show breathing, pause, surprise, confusion, stroke etc. confuses the agent or editor. Because the comma isn’t a word, it’s anybody’s guess why those extra commas are there.

6.      Overusing complicated and multi-thought sentences is like knocking out an opponent in a boxing match. Except you are the loser.

7.      If the first chapter is used to set up the story by immersing the reader in the normal life of the protagonist, the agent or editor will reject the manuscript. They don’t understand because the author’s purpose is unclear.

8.      Head hopping or omniscient narration leaves agents. editors and potential readers confused.

9.      A lack of emotion in a character leads to a lack of emotional attachment in the story by the reader. To be clear, emotion in a character, as I define it, is not all about crying, laughing, smiling, etc. It’s precisely how a character reacts, acts, thinks or talks in any given situation. Done right, the reader is hooked, because they “get” (understand) and identify with the character.

10.  Clarity.

Clarity brings a scene and book into focus. Say Moby Dick and most people will be able to speak in metaphors and about memorable characters.

Crisp dialogue gives a story a magical or charming quality. Is there anybody out there who has not a clue what movie this came from, “I’ll have what she’s having” or “Here’s looking at you, kid”? Here's a harder one, "nobody's perfect". Stilted dialogue is often bogged down and defined by clich├ęs, unnatural usage or wordiness. Less is more and original but understood expressions are what we all want.

Although interior intimate thought can meander to show indecision, we need to keep an eye on tentative resolution in the character’s mind or, at least, some change in the arc of the character. If the character is lost for too long, often the reader will find ways to lose the book.

A character cannot remain stoic while all hell is breaking loose about him scene after scene. Why? The character shows no change, no action. A novel is all about change. Otherwise it could be called the diary of a mad author.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Wall around my heart

I wrote this song, but can't sing. Anybody out there interested in collaborating? Must have a voice! We can put this on YouTube and share the rewards, if any. I'm good with any style and rewrite, well, rewriting is our business. Also this song can be flipped to the male POV (but you have got to be a guy, in that case).

Wall Around My Heart

by Bob Richard

I’ll build a wall around my heart,
And you’re goin’ to pay for it.
The surf licks your footprints,
But you aren’t really here.
Pretty boys playin,’ flirtin’, wear your face,
You’re gone baby, and that ain’t fair.
Is that you riding a breaker?
Waving bye, baby, bye. I swear.

I’ll build a wall around my heart,
And you’re goin’ to pay for it.

I pick up a shell, hear words of love,
Yeah…the gulls linger, laugh above.
My tears can’t stop falling on the tide,
Just makes sea levels rise.
In pirouette, I bury my toes. It’s galling,
No one to keep me from falling.

I’ll build a wall around my heart,
And you’re goin’ to pay for it.

Yes, you could come back to me,
But you don’t, do you?
Yes, we might dance on sand again,
But you won’t, boo hoo.
Mist tastes of kisses, the breeze of your body,
But you’ll not run back. You woe woe won’t.

I’ll build a wall around my heart,
And you’re goin’ to pay for it.

So, I’ll wonder along this beach for a mile.
A sea lion flashes a wicked smile.
Trip over seaweed, step on tiny creatures.
All I spy are your features.
Wonder if you’ll surprise me, change of heart.
Grab me, thrill me. Yeah, sure, sure, sure.
Maybe you’re over a sand dune with some other girl,
Sand on her bottom. Yeah. Sure. Sure. Sure.

I’ll build a wall around my heart,
And you’re goin’ to pay for it.

I’ll build a wall.
I’ll build a wall,
Around my heart.
[FADE, LAUGH] And you’ll pay, ’cause you miss me.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Santa's Wish

I wrote this for my grandsons because their mom, mu daughter, is battling cancer. I picked up ten-year-old Kai from school and asked him to read it. When he was done I asked him, his opinion. He liked it but said there was a comma missing five lines down: “About a year after Michael died[add comma] her baby started…” He also suggested I supply a reason for why the weight-year-old girl had a big vocabulary. Although Kai is well read, it tickled me because who’s smarter than a fifth grader?

Santa’s Wish

by RW Richard
dedicated to Kai, Ian and Sebastian

Mother and daughter, sipping hot cocoas, stood in a long line for Macy’s Santa. Although a workaholic City Attorney, Holly Lombardy, would always have time for her baby, Michelle. Besides, snow and high winds awaited them for their walk home down Broadway to Chelsea.

“Mommy, you got to.”

About a year after Michael died, her baby started a precocious campaign to get a boyfriend for her mom. Now, about three years after her husband’s death in Afghanistan, her eight-year-old, armed with more reason, became relentless. On top of that, her love of reading and school, Michelle played or read in her mom's home office, often while Holly engaged in complex conversations via phone.

“It’s you have to, sweetheart. Not got to.”

“Do you think of me? I might want a daddy presence in the house.”

Holly smiled. What planet did this little exasperator hail from? Nonetheless, Michelle was her whole world and Holly loved it that way.

“There are such little things, like love, to consider. I still miss and love your daddy.” The line to Santa moved closer to where she could just see an elf’s ear.

“We both know that love is infinitely big.”

“You don’t need to use big. It’s redundant.”

“You aren’t on the point, mommy. It’s called avoidance.”

“You’re called a nuisance.”

Her baby pouted. After Michelle spent some time looking at the train circling nearby, and a boy waiving, they were almost in front of Santa.

“Is he a classmate?”

“He’s just a boy. We need a man.”

Holly burst out laughing.

“Santa will see you now.”

Santa, aka NYPD Detective Sam Samuels, was indeed seeing them now. There she was, that hot shot NYC attorney. That hot everything woman with puckish face and blow-you-away personality. A woman that he admired from afar, being a gutless wonder.

Soon she’d be a little closer and if reindeers had antlers he’d find a way to speak to her.

The red-haired, curly-topped child climbed onto his lap. “What’s your name, little girl?”

“I’m Michelle Lombardy and this is my mom. You can call her Holly.”

Santa peered hesitantly into Holly’s eyes and saw that she was amused by her take-charge daughter. From what he could tell, they were cut from the same cloth.

“Hello, Holly,” he bellowed in his best Santa baritone. “And what do you want for Christmas, Michelle?”

“I’d like Play Station 4 with 1 terabyte and a Ken for my Barbie and Star Wars Legos and two different colored socks and a new dad and a husband for my mother.”

“Ho ho ho.” He belly-laughed. Peeked at Holly. She gave him a thumb up and then the thumb turned downward, as if she were emperor.

“Well, Michelle, you are on my nice list. So, you will be getting much of what you asked for.”

“I don’t want anything if I can’t get a new daddy. He died in Afgan-ah-stand.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. But he’s a hero in heaven.”


“Yes, and he loves you so very much.” Holly’s eyes welled over. “At the North Pole where I work, we make toys and gifts for good little boys and girls, but we have never made a person.”

“I know that.” Michelle frowned. “Well, maybe you can use some magic on a lonely but very handsome guy, because my daddy was handsome…who you think would be a good match for mommy.”

“Well,” he looked at Holly for guidance. She threw her hands up and her eyes took in the ceiling. “What do you say, Holly?”

“I’m happy. My baby is all I need.”

“She’s lying. She’s lying. Please Santa, look into her heart.”

“Well, Holly, I’m looking into your heart right now and I see a happy woman, who loves her daughter. I also see a man in your future someday but probably not by Christmas.” He winked, and Holly winked back. “You see, little one, true love is God’s department, and He will know when.”

“Weeell, okay, but if you do find somebody, please put holes in the gift box so he can breathe.”

He thought of the puppy his nephew was about to receive. “Of course, the rules and regulations book specifically calls out breathing as very important. Every elf is properly trained.”

“Thank you, Santa.”

With that and two candy canes, they were gone.

Next morning at 1 Police Plaza, after Sam reported that the ASM, ass-squeezing-masher, did not show at Macy’s the day before, he found his friend, detective, Paul Gottinger. While they talked Sam pulled up Holly Lombardy’s address.

“I’m smitten, Paul. I saw her, yesterday. I actually talked to her and now it’s eating me up.”

“Got a date?”

“No, she was with her daughter and I was playing Santa Claus.”


“Well, I was feeling full of eggnog, Christmas cookies. Besides, Mrs. Claus would have a fit if I looked at another woman.”

“Start at the beginning and leave no part out. No part.” Paul flipped out his interview book and chuckled. “Just the facts.” He touched the pencil tip to his tongue.

Sam told the story word for word.

“I know the super at the building she lives in. I’ve got an idea.” Paul said.

When Paul got ideas usually something crazy would go down, but he heard him out.

Early Christmas morning three men delivered a big box to the hallway right outside Holly’s door and then two men left the building. One of them, as planned, would call up to Holly and tell her of the present.

Sam sat legs too-crossed in a box that smelled like his buddies had stolen it from a fish factory. This is not good. He sweated, even though there were plenty of “breathing” holes. He had to admit to a touch of claustrophobia. Just like the time he had chased a perp into the labyrinth of pipes and cables, of and an ever-narrowing access tunnel under the 10th street subway. It wasn’t the man’s knife that bothered him. The man was small and wiry. Sam was 6’2” and broad-shouldered. He caught the bastard before he slithered down a rat hole. The jewels were recovered.

Sam faintly heard snippets of words by Holly with her daughter’s excited voice mingling.

“Oh my, what have we here?” Holly was not too popular with certain underworld types, so she paused and considered getting her Glock.

“It’s him, It’s my new daddy.”

“Or maybe an elephant.”


Watching her daughter tear at the box, Holly backed into the kitchen and grabbed a knife.

“Honey, please move away from the package.” She called her friend Joe, the super, who told her everything she needed to know. A good snitch is hard to come by.

“Michelle, this knife I have,” she shouted into a breathing hole, “can do two things. It can defend against stranger danger and open a box. At this point her nose registered a complaint. Either he’s fishy or he needs out of this box.

“Could Santa’s idea of a boyfriend be that 6”6” Italian, my counterpart in Brooklyn? He’s so good-looking. Could it be the mayor’s son? Not bad either. Or maybe a giant fish.”

“Come on, mom. Open it. Open it.”

“Or maybe, that James Bond lookalike. That detective, Sam Samuels. The shy one.”


Holly carefully cut through all the tape holding the front of the box and opened the flap. She beheld a beautiful man. A man she had always wondered about. Her baby, happy-faced, held out one hand. The other pinched her nose.

“Why don’t you come in, Sam, and stay awhile.” Yeah, maybe a long while.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Nothing to see here

9.                  Please don’t have something important happen in the first scene or chapter.

Writing gurus call what happens in the first scene or chapter various things, but before I get into the top seven points more completely, I want to explore a common misunderstanding associated with point 1. Writing experts suggest starting a novel in the middle of the action, in medias res [latin].
Some writers think this means that something is left out, like the who, what, where, when, why and how. But grounding your scene and starting in a crucial situation are not mutually exclusive. Of critical importance in retaining an editor or agent is in not making a usual mistake with in medias res. That is, dropping the reader into the middle of a life as usual moment. This is quite often followed by more of the same in following chapters until the writer realizes nothing much is happening and then adds a problem. Nope, this will not get you published. Seriously, if you really want to be published or even read by more than a couple people, don’t ever in medias res your manuscript into day to day events. Don’t worry about important information about your world or even building your world. This should be handled as flashbacks or back-story…and not usually, in any length, in the first chapter or scene.
As an example, let’s look at the beginning of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Natural Born Charmer.
It wasn’t everyday a guy saw a headless beaver marching down the side of the road, not even in Dean Robillard’s larger-than-life world. “Son of a…” Dean slammed on the brakes of his brand-new Aston Martin Vanquish and pulled over in front of her.
The beaver marched right past…
I get a lot out of this number one best seller’s start. He’s rich and bored. He likes women. The beaver intrigues him. This book will be fun, which is (often) a conscious promise to the reader from the author.
This first scene, as it develops, shows you what you need to know about the book and these two characters to want to continue reading.
This scene starter is also called the cute meet or meet cute. A cute meet is an unusual scene which often thrusts the hero and heroine into each other’s lives often in a humorous way.
We have in medias rex, and the cute meet. Writing experts expect the first scene to include one or a combination of the following:
1.      In medias res.
2.      A cute meet.
3.      A story question or story hook, also known as a story problem.
4.      An external, internal or both event that changes the life of a character or characters and induces the character or group to make a journey or quest. Also called the inciting incident.
5.      A promise to the reader.
6.      Readers bonding with your characters. A writing craft issue, of which there are many more. These craft secrets that agents, editors and good writers know will be summarized and explained in a later chapter. For now, regarding bonding, I’d recommend Save the Cat! by Snyder. Basically, the writer needs to show the humanity of the character when confronted by a small or large dilemma that challenges her beliefs, abilities or understanding of the world.
7.      Foreshadowing.
There are exceptions to beginning a novel using a combination of the big 7 above. But not if you want an agent or editor to call you. Oops, I forgot, this is a book on how not to get published. So do none of the above 7 points. The exceptions, if you must know, so that you can buck convention and write your own way can be found in Hooked by Edgerton on pages 96-117. It will be a cool day in hell… Remember the agencies and publishers are flooded with submissions. They establish rules for their interns to follow so that the massive pile up of paper or mostly these days, emails can be avoided.
The book Hooked exceptions are:
1.      The calm before the storm opening.
2.      The fish-out-of-water opening.
3.      The essential context opening.
4.      The frame story opening.
To be fair, if you meet face-to-face with an editor or agent and you explain why you chose one of the four above, you’d have a better chance. But remember they then, in-turn, have to tell their reader (intern) to allow for the technique.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Writers are loners (and their own worse enemy).

How not to get published, point 5.
Please do not join writers’ groups or go to conferences
When you want work done around your home many ask their friends for recommendations. It’s who you know. People do business with people they know. The same goes for writing.

They call it the slush pile for a reason. Slush has a negative connotation, as if you were wading through melting snow. Imagine wading all day long. You’d lose your feet. As said before, agents and editors and the people they hire to read are inundated. Perhaps they dread the slush. It’s a job.

You can get lucky. My first book, a unique story about wolves and men, before there were dogs, immediately got an agent. She was stymied with the editors she tried to get on board, perhaps because they didn’t know me or take the time to know me. My agent, who wasn’t that into her agency, I found out later, wasn’t good enough to qualify as the friend that recommends a home repair person.

It was at this point, I all alone, realized I needed help. First, I joined critique groups. I might have been a tad too sensitive to criticism. No worries, this is a common condition if you are a loner or that ivory tower genius. That helped me grow and become receptive to other people's ideas and suggestions, but still no bites, by qualified agents or editors. Then I joined a writing organization (RWA) and went to their monthly meetings and then conferences. Soon I was interviewing with agents and editors in person and they nearly always asked for my work. This increased my chances for success. Accepted or not you will often receive feedback that will help you improve. By the way, I was a male romance writer at the time, so sometimes I received doses of reverse discrimination. Basically, “you’re a male, why are you writing romance?” I just grew stronger.

My point is email off your query as a stranger and your chance of an agent or editor asking for more are somewhere between 1::100 to 1::1000. Meet people and your chances of their asking for material are better than 80%. I base this percentage on interviews with other writers at the same meetings or conferences. These odds are stunning.

The problem with joining things and flying to conferences, for many of us, is money. I get that. Do what you can. Critiques groups are cheap or free. Finding other writers to swap manuscripts with can be a tad more expensive if you join national organizations which could cost around $100. By surfing the net you may share with other writers typically for free.

Here’s a sample of useful sites:

If you are a recluse or loner or you can't get out, at least connect online and let people know your situation. You'll find kindred spirits.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

How not to get published, point 2.

1.      Please do blast a copy of your query.

There are companies that promote the query blaster, perhaps because fools and their money are often separated. A query is generally an email in which you ask an agent or editor to consider your work for publication. People teach courses on how to write them. There are writing books on the subject. To sum up, these pedagogical sources recommend three paragraphs plus a sample of your work. The short paragraphs are often in this order:

1.      Introduce yourself with short relevant resume .

2.      Describe your story.

3.      Write why you chose the agency, agent or editor and based on the books they represent why you are a good fit.

All this should fit on one printable page, minus the writing sample, which should be attached. Some books or teachers add to write using your author’s voice or style. That’s tough.

All this is well and good as a starting point. Let’s call it your generic baseline. Then you take this well crafted package and email it to 100 companies. Some suggest that you drop the part about how you are a good fit with so-and-so and the books they represent so that you can get that work out there in front of as many eyes as possible in as short a time.

You are wasting your money on a number of counts.

1.      You must do research on the agent and agency, editor and publisher to discover if you are a good fit and to personalize your query.

2.      Doing said research, you will discover that my soup kitchen analogy from Point 1. does not hold. Each agency agent publisher and editor have ways they want to see your material and they say so. It is your job to dig into persons, or companys’ web sites to discover this. If there is a difference between agent and agency or editor and publisher follow the agent or editor, because if you get past them, you’ll get your chance.

3.      These professionals are daily assaulted by creative usage of the English language. They need order and rules to speed up the process.

The agent or editor then assign, just as said in point 1., their interns to read all submissions and instantly reject any that don’t conform to the rules they published for the prospective author to follow.

Sorry, you have just been caste out into the cold. You’ve received your 100 rejections and you can now go about with your badge of honor telling every writer you know how you tried, am ready to quit. They’ll tell you to keep going and you might.

I have tried to tell multiple friends about this pitfall at conferences, meeting and critique groups, often to no avail. With limited persuasive time I had to move on and hope they’d consider my point.  One reason why people don’t listen to this obvious point is that they can’t do research on the computer. They’ll say things like Hemmingway did it his way. Hemmingway was a professional journalist with many contacts and those contacts told him what they wanted.

Besides the agent, agency, editor and publisher web sites you need to find these people. Ideally, you’ll meet them at a conference and you’ll like them and they you. This is way better than showing up as a stranger in their email in-basket. Barring this try sites like:

Sunday, November 19, 2017

How Not To Get Published

I have temporarily run out of things to say about the male point of view but I don't want to go dark. Therefore I'm going to write about something closely related that I'm passionate about, good writing. Besides, many of my readers have written to me and when they do the questions are often about the mechanics of writing.

Some people think that if you write with the talent of Ernest Hemingway or J. K. Rowling the world will beat a path to your door. You have the talent. You know it, but why all the rejections?
That’s because the gate-keepers all work out of the same kitchen. Imagine the number of manuscripts agents and editors receive every day. These people can’t even read 1/10th of what they receive. What do they all do? They hire college kids, or interns if you prefer, and give them rules to follow. Don’t we as employers do the same thing? The newbie is, by definition, someone to be trained. One of the rules is to stop reading immediately if anyone of the following shows up. Shows up quickly, I might add, because the writer’s style betrays, especially in the first five pages. Most agents and editors never get past page five.
Here are the top 10 rules agents and editors use to cut down the perceived crap they receive. There are no exceptions, unless you know somebody. But, remember this, good writing is good writing. Break the rules at your own risk. Remember the buck doesn’t stop with that someone you know.
In no particular order, because any one of these leads to an immediate stop-reading-and-send-the-polite-rejection letter.

1.                        !
Use the exclam at great risk of bodily harm! The editor will send out a 90 pound girl with pimples to beat you up! If your words cannot convey the meaning of the sentence you have automatically failed! Next! Exclamation points are closely matched by shouting! That is USING ALL CAPS!
The exclam looks like a baton with which you lead an imaginary band! The rule at the office is that the ! is a crutch! If you see one of these onerous beings in the first five pages put the pages into hazardous waste and move on, you have 205 more submissions to read before coffee break!
If you’re getting a little irritated by my ending every sentence with an !, then consider their feelings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What is an exclamation, anyway? Webster’s College Dictionary writes: 1. The act of exclaiming; outcry; loud complaint or protest, 2. An interjection. The definition of exlaim adds: to cry out or speak suddenly and vehemently, as in surprise, strong emotion, or protest. The problem with the symbol ! is that it is not a word, so the reader won’t know what you mean unless you describe whether it’s a cry out, showing surprise, speaking suddenly, showing protest, loud complaint or just loud. There’s only one way to impart the reader what variation of ! you are using. I.e. use precise words. If you use precise words than why use the symbol? You see how a reader might get confused? It is hard to show what the character means but it is necessary to become a great writer. Therefore, editors and agents have condemned the exclam.
The exclam is a substitute for good writing! If ever you feel compelled to put one on a page, ask yourself why! Could you strengthen that verb! Could you rewrite that sentence to impart meaning! Is it obvious what you are saying! Do you trust the reader to get it! Throw all your crutches away and eliminate fear! Write really good stuff!
Reference material: Renni Browne & Dave King in Self-editing for Fiction Writers say “…stylistic devices that make a writer look insecure… Exclamation points are visually distracting… trying desperately to infuse your dialogue or narration with an excitement it lacks.” They suggest using them only to show moments when the character is physically shouting or doing the mental equivalent! Don’t go there, especially in the first five pages! Since the reader will not have read a book on writing they still won’t know for sure what you are writing!

On separate point, last week I sat with my Filipina wife, her sister and her Puerto Rican husband. We watched Enchanted Christmas on Hallmark. Bravo to Hallmark. This is the first time I have seen other than whites as leads. (except for a gorgeous half-Japanese girl  heroine I saw once). The hero was Hispanic and heroine was half Hispanic. The story was great. I highly recommend it.