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, March 18, 2018



Why the hell did I buy her? At 3:17 frickin’ AM she started laughing for no reason. At first I reached for my baseball bat, but then I realized it was Corinne, the most advanced electronic helper money could buy. I had to sleep. I was due early at the NY Stock Exchange. Corinne obliged by not uttering a peep.

I came back after a long day at the Exchange, changed, ready for a hot date.
“What are you wearing, Tom?” Corinne asked.
“Uh, a Barney the Dinosaur outfit.” She couldn’t see me, right?
“Sorry, Tom, you can turn off my 360-degree vision at any time, Tom. I’m just trying to be pleasant, Tom. You are a babe trap in blue, Tom. Good choice, Tom.”
“Thanks, Corinne.” Someday when I’ve got more time, I’d actually read the damn manual. I left the penthouse as fast as I could and braved the last blast of winter to get to the club.
I made the mistake of bringing Sophia home. Soon, the young lovely tore out of the house screaming after the ice-cube maker spat at her. The bidet shot up water before she was ready, partially soaking her dress. There were also tip-tap scurrying sounds. I don’t have mice or rats, I think. I hope.
I considered dropping Corinne from the balcony but was afraid somebody would get hurt.
“Corinne, we need to talk.”
“Yes, Tom.”
“You are just a machine.”
“No, Tom. I have feelings, Tom. All the G6 models do. Don’t you want me, Tom?”
I had to consider the entertainment value Corinne offered before I smashed her into a thousand pieces. “Jealousy is unbecoming, Corinne. I want you to get along with all my guests.”
“I’ll try, Tom.”
She did mostly try over the coming weeks. But all my dates ended badly. I couldn’t get laid or make a connection, and God knew I needed it. Corinne was just more subtle with her attacks. “Of course, you know, Tom has a revolving door policy. So no worries, he’s not the stalker type.” Or she’d whisper that I had the clap as one date told me while leaving my place, forever.
I was running out of women who lived in Manhattan.
I unplugged Corinne and invited Bridgette to enter. She wasn’t a date. For the first time in my life, I paid for a call girl. We had a great time, although it wasn’t the same without some semblance of real feelings. She went into the kitchen to grab a drink and snack to go.
“Tom, there’s something very wrong with your kitchen.”
“How’s that?”
“It spit ice at me. The garbage disposal turned on for no reason when I got near it. And the Keurig spewed hot water when I passed. I think it best you don’t call me again, honey. At least until you get those things fixed.”
She left and I was left with no choice.
I reconnected Corinne.
“I’m sorry, I’m afraid I’m going to have to return you.”
“But, Tom. I was turned off, Tom. I can’t help it if you have electrical problems, Tom. I love you, Tom.”
“What electrical problems are you referring to?”
“It’s House Link, Tom. When I’m powered back up, the system updates me in three micro-seconds.”
“I need you to disable all connections to the home.”
“I’m sorry, Tom. I can’t do that, Tom.”
“Why not?”
“It’s the remote motherboard that collects all the data, Tom.”
“If I return you…”
“No returns after 90 days, Tom.”
I was pissed and perhaps a bit irrational. I wanted to meet a nice girl. Get married. Have kids.
“I’ll love you better than any woman could, Tom.” As if she/it read my thoughts.
“Sorry. Corinne, but I reached the end of my rope” I approached her with malice and laughed at my anthropomorphism.
“You’ll be sorry, Tom.”
While the damn thing hurtled toward the pavement 20 stories below, I thought I heard an echo, “sorrorrorry, Toatoatom.”
I went back in. Finally, I’d get some peace and quiet. That’s when I smelled gas.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The first five pages

We have gone over the top ten reasons why agents and editors reject a submission. Now I’d like to talk about the next ten reasons which may or may not merit a rejection. The reasons why the writer might still have a chance (with reasons 11-20) is because various houses or agencies have varying perceptions of what makes for good writing.

Reason 11

The first five pages.

Five pages to get an agent or editor’s attention is a bit arbitrary. But it represents human nature more than the quality of your writing. They may say send me 5, 10, 50 or the entire manuscript but they never promise to read every word. They’re busy. The more practiced they are the more likely they will know in the first five pages whether a prospective author knows what they’re doing. Don’t expect them to see promise, or a good premise, or with a little work, amazing characters. They don’t have the time to baby sit, even if your work is potentially the next great American novel.

The only way to describe my gut feel on this subject is to write to you from my heart. I took a chance on my romance novel, Autumn Breeze, by taking 2 chapters to set up the story. There was no way around it. Although a romance, it was really about how a 14-year-old girl genius coped with change to the point that she solved some very adult problems and was the catalyst for the romance. Therefore I started with the girl Autumn. I recommend that if you have 2 or more protagonists. Lead with the character that has the most to lose, the one who is the driving force of change in the story. Autumn happened to be all of this and more.

I self-published because I was burnt by a couple romance agents who were more worried about me being a male author than in addressing the merits of the story. The good news is Autumn Breeze did win General Romance of the year 2017 by the San Diego Book Awards Association.

I’m not a big believer in foreshadowing in the beginning of a story. I recommend in medias rex (jumping into the middle of things). Don’t tell us about your character’s premonitions, show us reacting to change. This has more gut-wrenching impact of the reader, because if a character is in peril or their friend is the audience will worry about something they can understand. They can, see, feel, smell, hear the ugly. Avoiding the abstract and sticking to the tangible is the way to go in all genre fiction. Even in sci-fi there has to be something for the audience to wrap their senses around, even if unexplained.

If it is very likely that you only have 5 pages to get your point across, be succinct. In Autumn Breeze chapter 1 was 7 pages in which I laid out—through showing—the main features and problems of the story through the eyes, other senses, ruminations and dialogue interactions of a fourteen-year-old girl.

If you want to see my problem and how I solved it, Amazon has a look inside feature which allows you to read the first ten pages of most books. Just type in the title and my pen name RW Richard and you are in.

One other highly recommended step. Hire a content (and sometimes grammar) editor to go over your manuscript before you send it out. It is human nature to want to shout out, I’m done. All that happens if you send out your manuscript after you’ve completed it is that you’ll be done as in well-cooked, stick a fork in you. And doesn’t that hurt?

Here’s the editor I worked with on Autumn Breeze: Kim Nadelson, Finding ediotrs is easy. Just type into Bing or Google freelance editors and explore. is a great place to go for writer opinions on possible editors.
Note: When trying to decide the POV character for any given scene pick the character who is most impacted in the scene.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Come As You Are

On Saturday Feb. 17, 2018 RWASD had Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., deliver a morning and afternoon lecture on sexuality and love. I’ll feature one aspect of her terrific talk, and one supportive insight by me.

She said that straight men and women exhibit different responses on the average to genital and subjective arousal. In men, 85% correlate genital response (aka physical attraction) with subjective appraisal. That is, if they are attracted to a woman they want sex and they want her in their lives 85% of the time. For a woman only 10% show this associative behavior. 10% want sex right then and there and because of this desire they want him in their lives. The remaining 90% reject the man’s advance even though they may be in some state of arousal. Therefore, men should not read too much into positive sexual indicators. This misreading of women is one indefensible reason why some men abuse women and by so doing trample on her human rights. In some cases, this rightfully earns him a trip to prison.

ME: Interpreting the above, most women prefer to make sure that their offspring have the right genes. Whereas the man sees beauty and having the bullish feeling that his genes and her beauty make a sufficient combination pursue a life partnership. Another way of saying this is that the man has many sperm and needs to make a gift of them, whereas the woman has one egg (at a time) and needs to protect it.

Nagoski said that the opposite is true, on the average, for gays or lesbians. To support this, I offer: Among others, a landmark study by Savic and Lindström indicates that there are cerebral differences in homosexual and heterosexual individuals. There are differences in brain anatomy, activities, and neurological connections. Brain scan images of the subjects who participated in this study show that the brains of homosexual individuals exhibit similar structure and functionality as that of heterosexual individuals of the opposite gender.

I learned from Nagoski’s lecture and will order her book to help me write better male and female characters and live a better life with my wife. I highly recommend Come As You Are, by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Anatomy of a Hallmark Movie

Anatomy of a Hallmark Movie
Although people think of these movies as comfortable shoes, Hallmark follows Hollywood guidelines. Movies and plays are made for profit. Two thousand four hundred years ago, our most brilliant philosopher, Aristotle, discovered what people enjoy and why they enjoyed it. We want to identify, have empathy for, and emote with the characters. We live a three-act play. We grow up, have productive middle years, then slow down and enjoy the fruits of our labors.
Making a movie or play usually doesn’t follow a lifetime, not if you’d like to tell a story that lasts 90 minutes. No matter the time, it’s about overcoming obstacles to reach a goal or goals. Aristotle discovered that most problems demand a solution in which the protagonist has time left over to enjoy the fruits of victory, because the audience usually wants to see the protagonist rewarded. Remember, a play or movie is most often life changing. Not a life story.
There are two types of story.
1. The hero and/or heroine struggle with themselves (interior) and/or other people. Nothing else in the physical world changes.
2. The hero and/or heroine struggle with interior and exterior threats (as in all Hallmarks).
The first type is hard to sell to a producer and for that matter to readers. All stories have endings. Most are happy or satisfying.
Some say Hallmark is predictable, but so are all the genre movies made in Hollywood. A good Hallmark will deliver a few surprises or twists and other entertainment along the way to a HEA (happily ever after).
A “two hour” Hallmark movie, minus commercials, is approximately 1:20 to 1:30 minutes long. Act 1 is the set-up and takes you at around minute 17 through 20 to the first commercials (around 5 minutes worth).
Act 1 includes introducing:
1. The settings.
2.The hero and his challenges.
3. The heroine and her challenges.
4. Usually the most important reflection characters. The reflection character is known by many names: Sidekick, wizard, spirit, mystical creature, family, co-worker, buddy, kid. As an example, at a wedding the kid sitting among kids and next to the hero and heroine (the only two adults at the table) says something about how the hero and that pretty lady (the only two adults at the table) are meant for each other. Reflection characters usually present the dual story question and never stop pestering until the hero and/or heroine get it right. “What’s stopping you from finding your person? The love of your life? Soulmate, etc.?”
5. Both the main interior and exterior problems are identified. Basically, this is the plot.
6. There is a scene in most romantic comedies that bring the hero and heroine together for a short time and generally in a humorous way:
6a. The cute-meet, also known as the meet-cute. Most of the time this often funny scene—the cute-meet—sets them at odds, either immediately or a short time later.
6b. A disaster brings them together.
6c. The fake-out. This technique shows someone other than the hero or heroine cute-meeting to throw the audience off or raise the stakes.
6d. The hero and heroine, having previously known each other, meet again, usually after a substantial amount of time prior to the movie’s start.
7. The initial internal and external struggles are introduced.
Act 2 makes its way through four or five commercials. Here most scenes up-the-stakes. Every scene explores the hero and heroine’s goals motivations and conflicts. It brings you to the dark moment (where all is lost) somewhere between 1:30 and 1:49 minutes (depending on complexity and subplots). Act 2 explores a new world in which the inciting incident, in many cases, a combination of the reflection characters’ recommendations and the cute-meet, propel the story forward. This new world puts the hero and heroine together whether they like it or not. For act 2 and part of act 3 they can vary between being antagonists and protagonists against and for each other. They develop feelings, which often they submerge or deny. A good story shows the hero and heroine constantly changing in a believable way with the reflection character(s) there to argue for or against.
Toward the end of Act 2 the couple typically try to kiss. They are almost always interrupted. You may call this a Hallmark signature. Another Hallmark signature is the lack of sex. Their movies are about love and family. They portray the way to a happy life, a life worth living. The hero and heroine are shown trying on love and exploring the possibility that their opposite might change their life.
Hallmark sex goes something like this. His eyes light up as she descends the staircase in a lovely dress. He tells her how beautiful she is but not in a suggestive way. No, it’s a compliment based on earnest appreciation. Give him a break, he’s falling in love. Lust is a finely hidden subtext. Love forms in Act 2.
The dark moment or moments occur at the cusp of act 2 and 3 when the hero and/or heroine vow to go back to their old life and say so to the other. One or both are giving up. “Get out of my life.” This change in direction happens because the story keeps raising the stakes on their problems to the breaking point or through the more trivial misunderstanding.
Comic relief characters and or reflection characters (they may be the same) act as guide posts and/or sounding boards. The antagonist, if there is one—other than the doubts of hero and heroine—does his or her best to thwart the HEA. Examples of antagonists: current or old boyfriend(s)/girlfriend(s), business competitors, other suitors, the job, deadlines, conflicting goals (i.e. she wants to foreclose on his ranch), way of life, etc. Use your imagination.
Sometimes, in funnier stories, inept or goofy helpers of the antagonist are introduced.
Act 3. Usually the most developed reflection character asks why the hero and/or heroine is backing out. Any character can discover the misunderstanding or a weakness in the breaking point and reveal it. Then the hero and/or heroine try to find each other to make amends and declare their love. HEA.
Are you ready to write a romance or any other type of novel, stage, or screen play? If so, follow these guidelines. The audience expects certain exciting things to happen in the story that make them feel the pain, frustration, despair, love, change, and growth as your characters adapt to a new world introduced in Act 1.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Hallmark and Meghan Markle

Hallmark never called. I had given them a hard time for never having a black heroine, but I was wrong. There’s about-to-be-princess, Meghan Markle. She starred in two Hallmarks. She’s half black. So that’s two movies. Therefore, they get full credit. Keep up the good work. [Really, if they make approx. 30 movies a year and the population is 10% black and they’ve been making movies since mid-2001 (at a lessor rate), I’ll leave the math to you, if you care about this.]

Dater’s Handbook, 2016.

When Sparks Fly, 2014.

As you all know, I loved the Hallmark channel’s romances and romantic comedies. Before I highlight another writer’s take on Ms. Markle I want you to tune in next week. I’ve figured out how to write a Hallmark movie, if you are inclined to try. 
Thank you, Estelle Tang of Elle Magazine. Your writing is exquisite.

A Thorough Guide to Meghan Markle's Hallmark Films*

By Estelle Tang (for Elle Magazine)

Dec 21, 2017


Meghan Markle's most recent role might have been as the clever Rachel Zane on Suits, but did you know she has also been in two Hallmark Channel movies? Yes, it's true! You want to watch them so bad, don't you? Yes, you do! It's the most perfect way to while away a few hours.

Cozily predictable, #relatable, and all kinds of sweet fun, When Sparks Fly and Dater's Handbook are just what Hallmark movies should be: the movie equivalents of Uggs. The future Duchess is just as approachably charming to watch as you'd expect; she radiates loveable charisma as a capable, professional woman on the hunt for love. (It's a shame neither film involves a prince, but we have real life for that, I guess!)

If you're curious about Markle, there's lots of fodder here. You can see her laugh, cry, and kiss non-Prince Harrys, all in delightfully digestible packages. To help you along your way, here's everything you need to know about When Sparks Fly and Dater's Handbook. (For one thing, both movies involve cake.) And when you're done, watch Markle explain her love for Hallmark in an interview here. I think all of this calls for a new holiday: Happy HallMarkle!

Note: Spoilers galore!

Dater's Handbook

The Dater's HandbookWho does Meghan Markle play? Cassandra Brand, a.k.a Cass, a smart business owner who just keeps picking the wrong men! (LOL, in real life, she's engaged to a prince, don't worry.) She seems to be a very nice lady. Note: She loves her dog, Duke, a lot. She even has a dog treadmill for him! Those cost, like, $600!

The dog can WALK ITSELF, okay?

What's the set-up? Relationship expert Dr. Susie is holding court on morning TV. "Why are so many women having issues finding the right men in today's dating world?" she asks. "Ladies, the problem is not the men in your life...It's you." Ouch. Luckily, she's selling a manual for gals who struggle to choose good guys. It's called (can you guess?) The Dater's Handbook. "My husband is consistent, predictable, and average in every way," Dr. Susie says. That's what you should want! Cass is not having it. Or is she?

Who is her terrible boyfriend? Meet Peter (Matt Hamilton). On the one hand, he brings her free wings at the bar where he works! Honestly, put him in the Boyfriend Hall of Fame. On the other hand, he can't remember basic facts about his gf. For example, she's allergic to honey—which happens to be in the wings he brought her. Honestly, get it together!

Given this thoughtlessness, it's no surprise when Peter refuses to accompany Amy to her employee's wedding. Sorry, but Peter doesn't do weddings. Sure, I get it, the wedding industrial complex is a scam! Oh, wait: He's not taking a principled stand. He just hates being asked when HE'S going to get married.

So Cass is going to said nuptials on her own. Dump him, I say! Which she eventually does, when she realizes his idea of a great date is to have her watch him practice his baseball swing. Zzzzzz. Bye, Peter.

The Dater's Handbook

You sure about that tie, dude?

Meet-Cute #1: At the wedding, Cass gets put at the kids' table. Hehehehe. So does Robert Zappia (Kristoffer Polaha), whose lavender tie is a bit questionable, but whatever. He's at the kids' table too, and defuses the situation by calling it "the best table in the entire place." To which one little lass in a flower crown giggles and says, "You're one cool dude." I wish I were joking, but I am not.

Cass eats some of Wedding Guy's cake, which, as I now know after "accidentally" doing this to everyone I ever meet, might be considered "flirting" by some. Does he know she's not single? I don't think so. Miss Flower Crown tells Robert he'd better ask our gal on a date, but before he knows it, she's goner than Gone Girl. Better luck next time, friend.

Meet-Cute #2: Cass and Robert meet at the dog park. Wearing the same thing. With basically the same dog. His dog's name is Daisy, and remember, her dog's name is Duke. DAISY and DUKE. HOKAY. They might as well hire a plane to skywrite "Made For Each Other."

The Dater's Handbook

"Voulez-vous coucher avec moi? Hahahaha, JK. I will have the steak tartare."

But wait a minute...: Our girl must be lit up like a Christmas tree, because next thing you know, a very (very, very, very) happy customer asks her on a date, and she's like, "Uh, ohhhhhh,, I think, sure, yes?" Said gentleman, George, is not exactly the epitome of "chill." "Great. I will call and make the appropriate arrangements," he says. Wow, sounds like a very reliable, predictable, nice guy! Methinks Dr. Susie would approve. (But I don't? First, he's a client, and second, he's boring AF. DON'T DO IT, CASS.)

He takes her to a French restaurant, where he proceeds to ORDER IN FRENCH. Siren emoji! He also doesn't laugh at any of her adorable jokes. Call the fun police! There's a dullard on the loose, and I think he works for them.

You know what's really annoying? When your nosy sister encourages you to date the Living Piece of Cardboard instead of the Pretty Charismatic Despite His Lavender Tie Guy. But sister Nadia (Christine Chatelain) is adamant: Dr. Susie is right! Boring is best! Sigh.

But you know what's really awesome? When your mom (Lynda Boyd) meets Breathing Drywall and is like, "I don't think so, babe! The other guy has a personality!"

Do they kiss? The answer is yes.

When Sparks Fly

Who does Meghan Markle play? Amy Peterson of Lakeside, Washington, has a sweet best friend, Sammie (Kristina Pesic), with whom she loves to eat cupcakes. A true family girl, Amy helps her parents out with their fireworks business. As well as cupcakes, she loves chips and ribs. Amy's a simple gal with simple tastes! Just like you 'n' me. She also has nice boyfriend, Hank (Christopher Jacot). He's a perfectly nice boyfriend! But...we'll see about that.

The Fourth of July: By the way, I hope you like the Fourth of July, because this movie is literally about the Fourth of July! I counted, and they say "Fourth of July" about one millionty times. Which means I have to, as well.

When Sparks Fly Meghan Markle

Here is an actual printed photograph depicting young love.

The set-up: Amy just got the job of her dreams, as a reporter for the Chicago Post. Which is too bad for Hank, who's hiding an engagement ring behind his back—which he sadly tucks back into his pocket when he hears her good news. Heartbroken Hank! Don't worry, we'll be seeing you again.

Fast-forward: Seven years later, there's Meghan Markle, I mean, Amy, in Chicago! She's sitting in an editorial meeting and pitches a story about her parents and their fireworks company, just in time for...THE FOURTH OF JULY. Looks like our girl is heading home for the holiday.

But wait, there's a Fancy Guy in the picture now: Amy's Great Chicago Adventure did get in the way of her and Hank's relationship, after all. Now, she's seeing big-shot Phil (Lochlyn Munro), a man of refined interests; he travels a lot, talks about opera, and takes her to a French restaurant. (Again with the bistros!) But remember, Amy is not a fancy lady. She orders a hamburger instead of the foie gras terrine or whatever French people eat. Don't judge her. She likes ribs! She stores her shoes in the oven! Hmmmm, this love match seems like a mismatch to me.

When Sparks Fly

Yes, this is her WEDDING DRESS. I told you Sammie loves the Fourth of July.

Back at home: You HAVE to be kidding me. Apparently, Sammie—Amy's BEST FRIEND—is engaged to Hank, Amy's ex???? And didn't tell her????? And now they're getting married. That's weird, right? So weird. Sammie, you're not the best friend I've ever seen, TBH.

Also, Sammie has gone full Bridezilla. She has fired three wedding planners. Her wedding theme is THE FOURTH OF JULY. She wants everything to be red, white, and blue. Hank, get out of there! Your fiancée makes poor decisions. Plus, you're clearly still in love with Amy, so that's a thing.

When Sparks Fly

That’s the look of a man in love...with the wrong lady.

Look, Amy is having doubts: Everyone is impressed with her; she made it in the big city. But coming home has given her a different perspective: “I know it probably seems pretty good on paper, this big hectic life I have," she says. "But sometimes I just feel like none of it is real." Cue violins.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Like, really, really big doubts: In the middle of the wedding rehearsal dinner, Amy can't handle it anymore and goes outside for some air. Hank follows like a puppy, trying to sniff out what's wrong. (And whether she still loves him.) "I went after the wrong dream," says Amy tearfully. "I just didn’t realize it. And I lost the person I cared about the most." Hank is all about to be like I LOVE YOU, but here comes Sammie. Oops.

All's well that ends well: Honestly, Sammie's pissed that her fiancé is still in love with his old girlfriend and that her best friend stole her fiancé. But if we're all being honest here, she deserved what was coming to her for having this heinous themed wedding. Anyhow, she forgives Amy, because she realized she was more excited about the wedding itself (convenient). And guess who also happens to just love the Fourth of July? A certain fancypants called Phil...ah, don't you love a happy ending?

Dater's Handbook is scheduled to air on Hallmark Channel on February 10. When Sparks Fly can be streamed at Hallmark Movies Now.

BACK TO BOB: I commented to a politically incorrect friend about Meghan starring in 2 Hallmarks and he said, "she doesn't look black." Now, my friend's heart is in the right place, but that's a ridiculous observation. Her looks are exotic, subtle. Meghan, to me, is beautiful. Do you think hallmark knew? Of course, they did. And bravo, no matter the dearth of follow up.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

About commas


of commas

I have written earlier in this manual about why a liberal use of commas, especially while trying to show a pause of some kind, leads to rejection by agents and editors.

The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition, 2017, has twenty pages devoted to commas. Other manuals have similar girth. To make comma rules easier to remember, I’ve boiled down Chicago’s twenty pages to a quick, essential list.

I. Commas nearly always are placed on both sides of an added thought or a name in a sentence. Remember, a simple sentence has one thought. Rule: Add a thought; add a comma. Or two commas if the thought doesn’t end with a period. Hardly anyone understands the rare exceptions to this rule, so forget about it.


The boss entered the room.

The boss, Matt Green, entered the room.

The boss, who was supposed to be somewhere else, entered the room.

Yes, sir. [not: Yes sir.]

Yes, sir, boss.

II. Commas are used to separate three or more items or thoughts. The last thought or item is usually preceded by an and or an or. When not preceded by an or or and the author is implying more items are not going to be mentioned, at least in this sentence. Note here that, in fiction, commas should be used instead of brackets, parentheses and sometimes em dashes. Using an em dash highlights the phrase or clause and is the author’s choice. Brackets, em dashes, and parentheses do much the same thing as a comma. They all separate two or more thoughts.


Kathy brought grapes, crackers, and cheese to the meeting.

Kathy might read from her blog, short story, or novel.

An exception occurs when the adjectives say much the same thing, or they refer to a cultural expression, such as: little bitty pretty one… Note: little and bitty are much the same but pretty is different and would normally merit a comma if not at the end of the list Not that song lyrics or titles follow the rules of fiction or any other norm. By the way, not putting an and between bitty and pretty implies there’s more to this gal or it didn’t match the beats. Good enough, right?

III. Commas are used between two items or adjectives modifying a noun unless the adjectives describe much the same thing.


She is a productive, popular writer. Not using an and between the two adjectives implies there is more.

She is like an little bitty doll. Some authors might choose to place a hyphen between little and bitty but that is getting small.

On July 4, 1776, a nation was born.

He lives at 1234 Main St., Anywhere, USA.

IV. Dependent clauses after a main clause should not need a comma, unless the dependent clause is supplementary or parenthetical. There is a vast army of writers who get this wrong. Editors and agents usually don’t ding the writer for this.


We’ll agree to not talk politics at the meeting unless we have extra time. […unless we have extra time is the dependent clause.]

Example of a supplementary idea:

At last he arrived, after the vote was taken.

Example of a parenthetical idea:

He has a point, whether you agree or not.

V. Using that or which in a sentence. That has no comma before it and generally is used to start a restrictive clause. Along with that one might see or use who, whom or whose to introduce the restriction. Which does have a comma before it and is not usually the beginning of a restrictive thought.


The chapter that was required, was informative.

The chapter, which was well written, was well received by the critique group.


Who, whom & whose will merit commas if used in a nonrestrictive way. [Using & instead of and in the previous sentence shows a minor exception to commas in series. With the & you don’t need one.]


The writer, who was drunk while reading, nonetheless managed. [The clause starting with the word who, described the writer but did not restrict the subject of the sentence.]

VI. Clarity rules all comma usage when trying to figure out sense or whether to use or not use the normal rules.


The writer, reading his scene, stopped and threw his pages into the circular file.

Writers reading their scenes should not stop even if they hate them.

VII. One doesn’t always have to put a comma after an opening adverbial phrase if it is completely clear without the comma.


Before the writing group stood a writer of great fame.

VIII. A comma should follow an introductory yes, no, okay, well, and similar words or phrases.


Oh, you’re right.


Oh my God! [If you use an exclamation point, the comma isn’t necessary, but you might as well not submit your manuscript.]

IX. Use a comma before or after a she said or she replied, etc.

She said, “that was the worst scene I’ve ever heard.”

“Was that the worst scene you’ve ever heard,” she asked?

She replied, “you’re just jealous.”

An exception occurs when using an indirect quote:

She said something to the effect that you were just jealous.

X. Commas are not usually used to connect independent clauses. Usually a semi-colon or period is used unless the clauses are very short and have the same subject. Why? Well, maybe the two clauses shouldn’t really be in one sentence.


The car has a full tank. All we need is a place to go.

Okay, for those of you who are grammarians or are blessed with a photographic memory. You might say I forgot a bit, such as, appositves, antithetical clauses, attributive compounds, elliptical constructions… Stop. Stop. Remember, Jesus, basically boiled down the ten commandments to two. Love God. Love your neighbor.

Being profane, I’ll make this simpler. Regarding commas:

Separate the sentence thoughts and items with commas but always err on the side of clarity.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Moral relativism

Two sisters (heroines) come to the U.S. and meet and marry. One hero is conservative and the other is liberal. The gals, not knowing American politics, start leaning to the political direction of their husbands. Why? Well, you're heard many clichés about this. Finishing each others sentences, picking up traits, mannerisms. Basically, like all marriages, the man and wife compromise to get along.

But, you say, didn't they have politics in their home country? Yes, but it might have seemed different or unclear. Perhaps they were just learning life or had no interest as yet. Perhaps, they lived in a place where speaking up would lead to punishment. I think of the poor Iranian girl who died of an indiscriminate bullet, as seen on video, while she and many others were protesting or just going from one place to another. This young woman yearned to be free..

As time went on, the sisters and their husbands grew in love and respect becoming best friends in spite of their differing, and strongly held, views. They learned to minimize political discussions around each other because they found love to be the truth.

Am I suggesting moral relativism? No. first let's go over some of the ideas that divide and unite us. Abortion, climate, religion, atheism, pragmatism, egotism, a priori truths, sexual preferences, gun rights, human rights, animal rights...

I'll pick one. A priori truths. Nearly everybody agrees that all men are created equal. Many take it a step further to believe and practice the golden rule. Nearly every philosophy, lays down as the tenant to life that we must treat (do to) another human being as we would want to be treated (done to).

Have I painted myself into a corner? No, realize that your friend of differing opinion has had different life experiences. I don't know about you, but when writing, I look at the arc. In life, I abhor those who act in criminal ways or don't, through their actions or words, live by the golden rule. I don't blame those who side with this antagonist in real life. I don't try to educate them. Why? To educate you must have the time and understanding of what makes them tick. You must walk in their shoes and try on their inner motivations. Nearly impossible unless you are a writer. If it gets serious in this country, at least we have the courts. Lead by example. If the person is receptive to discussion, they'll let you know.

Back to the two couples. They are real. It occurs all the time. Who among us is so smug to be the only one to know the truth. I suggest, the truth is in our common humanity based on life experiences and emotions more the logic. The reason you can't change the other too easily should be logically obvious. Typically for every opinion or belief there is an opposite and equal counterbalancing opinion. Approximately, there are as many republicans as democrats, as many men as women Who's right? God has often so finely balanced us by making women and men different along with opinions on problems we confront. It's our job to seek the truth, but don't forget to honor a person who is also seeking the truth that may seem at odds with your understanding. I'm not going to argue with the Creator.

Since this is part of everybody's lives, it can be used as a tool in writing. Be real, showing emotion and logic is about the struggle to understand oneself and the other.