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.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Wings by Christmas

This is the revised edition of a heart-warming short story:


Apparently, everybody wants to get their cars fixed before Christmas, but could anything or anybody fix my broken life?

Ruth found herself without car, not much food, unemployment running out, and soon—no home. But none of that mattered when she thought about losing her only daughter.

Her precious Tina was sick, very sick. Ruth put six birthday candles into a raisin bagel.

“I’m not hungry, Mommy. You can eat it.”

“But honey, you have to eat and make a wish.”

After the dinner, dessert, birthday party combo they watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time. What was it about little people watching movies over and over?

“How does an angel get to pick the person they want to help? To get wings.”

“I don’t know, maybe it’s somebody they knew or feel close to.”

“I’m going to die on Christmas Eve, so I can give you a present. I’m going to ask God if I can get my wings by helping you find a new daddy.”

Ruth turned her head away so her little girl wouldn’t see the impending flood. After she had learned Tina was dying of Leukemia, she ran through her savings grasping at half-baked dreams. All the accepted treatments had failed. Please God, save my little girl.

“Honey, the best way to help me is to stay with me.”

Tina stomped her foot, stubborn like her dad used to be. “You need a daddy. I’m going to get you one for sure when I get to heaven.”

“I bet you won’t have to go to heaven to get me one. I’m still pretty, right?”

“You are the most beautiful mommy in the whole world, ever.”

Ruth staggered through her words sobbing. “Well then, I’ll just take my pretty and go find a husband for me and a daddy for you.”

Was Winston, her daughter’s father, her husband a spirit up there now?


Doctor Max Fielding, head of research at CHOP, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, picked up the phone. “Hello.”

“Doctor Fielding?”

“Yes, sir.”

“This is Angel Winston. I need to get my wings. You’ve got an experimental Leukemia program. I’d like you to consider Ruth Trent’s daughter, Tina, of Philadelphia.”

“Your connection is weird, Angel.” It sounded like Angel was in the middle of a hurricane. “You mentioned wings, are you with the Air Force?”

“Never mind that now. Ruth lost her plant manager’s job. Lost her husband in Afghanistan. Her home is almost foreclosed. She’s taking leftovers from bakeries. Her car needs a new head gasket. And her daughter has chosen Christmas Eve to die. She’s stubborn.”

“Well, a number of things …”

“Yes, I know the 40 volunteers are confidential.”

“I have a heart, Angel, but we can’t be having this conversation.”

“Just check case number 17.”

“You are out of line. Who do you report to?”

“The guy on top. I take my orders from him.”

“Listen, sir. We must maintain hands-off fairness. I have to go.”

“I’ll send you their pictures and info. Take a look at her mother, ah, I mean the file.”

How did this person got his email?

Max’s cellphone chirped signifying texts:

My boss is all over me on this one.

This will change your entire life, promise.

Besides, there’s my wings to consider.

He must have been dealing with a madman. Still…

He picked up his phone and got his secretary. “Jamie, could you check number 17?”

His secretary reported 17 as just admitted to Saint Jude’s in fair condition.

Later, Jamie buzzed him. “Doctor, number 17 died 33 minutes ago. I am so sorry.”

“I know, a little boy, four years old. God awful. I’ll make the call, but I want you to run the lottery from the pool for a new volunteer, immediately.” He would never interfere with a blind and fair system, no matter how many Angel what-his-names called him.

More texts and emails came in. Max inspected them one by one, read all the very compelling info and then staggered when he saw a full-page image of the little girl’s mom, Ruth. He relaxed, now euphoric in reflection. Sweat on his fingers. This gorgeous woman used to go to the same gym. The most fantastic creature he had ever seen in his life. When they first met, she had to hold onto the weight bar to maintain balance and he would have caught her. She had exhibited signs of dizziness buit quickly recovered. This twisted his heart with the odd implication someone actually found him desirable without knowing he was a doctor. In fact, her physical manifestation of attraction had never been exhibited by any woman, ever, in his life. His looks were just okay, which made the incident surreal. Something incredible had happened between them, because, although he hadn’t lost his balance he felt like screaming yes.

Her empathetic heart, sweet disposition, overwhelming smile and their obvious mutual attraction had made them fast friends. He nicknamed her, Sunshine, to match her hair and life nurturing nature. The prospect of finding a cure for leukemia kept him in the lab, mostly. Then she disappeared by quitting the gym.

A new text came in: Ruth’s been eating too many donuts, lately.

Would this guy ever quit? He had to allow the lottery to proceed.

Jamie buzzed him. “The new and local volunteer is on your screen, doctor.”

“Thanks, Jamie, I’ll take care of the call. This time there is no time for me to wait for a nurse. Prepare the paperwork, shots, extraction-pac, and cross-matched RBC for transport.”

The secret lay in infusing the child with cancer killing T-cells. The patient might exhibit AIDS-like side effects. The mother needed to give consent.

It was no small miracle that Ruth Trent’s child, Tina, had now been chosen and they were close, living just off 54th and City Line. Considering how much he was excited to tell her in person, Max knocked his knee jumping up. His chair spun. Unfazed, he sprinted for his coat.

Just 33 minutes later, despite snow flurries, he pulled up to an old three story Victorian badly in need of repairs. The place loomed, perfect for Halloween, but, hopefully, without a scary ending.


Ruth had tried on her man-catching outfit when the doorbell rang.

“Oh my God, it’s you.” Max had always been polite, giving her space. She never gave him her address, email or phone. Perplexed. She smiled broadly while delivering a prickly line. “Well come on in, stranger. You haven’t turned into a stalker, Max? Have you?”

“No, not ever, Sunshine. I’m here to deliver a little good news.”

A little duplicate of her mother came running down the stairs.

“Are you my new daddy I’ve been praying for?” She shook his hand while nodding her head seeking a yes answer. He squatted for an eye-to-eye.

“Maybe, sweetheart.”

Aside from being stunned by his remark, Ruth really never knew who had the worst case of infatuation. She wrote off his remark as an effort to placate her daughter.

It worked out great, bagels and coffee, quite chic, if he only knew, that’s about all she had in the house. He explained that he was a doctor, his position at CHOP, and the experimental trials. She gladly signed every paper he slid over to her.

“So by some minor miracle the completely blind lottery picked you, Tina, to hopefully get well. I know nobody likes needles and shots but I’ve got little medical miracles inside this bag and brand new blood too. Would you like to see what I’ve got in here?”

“I’ll take the needles and blood, Doctor, if you’ll marry my mommy.”

“One miracle at a time, baby,” Max said. He looked into Ruth’s eyes, as if searching for a yes. Sure they had chemistry, like never in his life, but a life together?

He chatted up Tina with whimsical stories to divert her mind from the needles.

Entranced and unflinching, Tina sad, “So maybe I won’t have to die on Christmas Eve. Doctor, will you stay with us, on Christmas Eve, so I don’t kick the buckets? You see, I made a promise to my daddy that I would help him get his wings, starting that day.”

“I’ll be there.” A tear fell from Max’s eye. “If your mom says it’s okay.”

What could she say? She’d dare dream for her baby. Maybe he was miracle number two.

“I love your outfit, Sunshine. I’ve missed you like you would not believe.”

“Me too. You still make me giddy.” The first time she met Max, she had to grab hold of the weights rack being light-headed. It had been a sign and she screwed it up, until now.

“It’s a good start.” He said his goodbyes with hugs, and kisses on their cheeks.

Three solid weeks of stolen minutes and hours from his work brought them closer.


On Christmas Eve, the three of them decided to hang bells Max had bought. It was fun and with the initial medical results encouraging, appropriate. He had never had a better Guinea piggy. Her progress might break every record.

“It’s encouraging but she’s not out of the woods yet.”

Ruth, staggered by hope, wept.

Max gathered the girl and woman into a group hug. He had an instant family. Thanks to Ruth’s deceased husband, Max’s life would change forever. If only he could convince a certain someone that her angel husband, Winston, his mystery caller, believed they belonged together.

Tina tucked in and sleeping, Max casually maneuvered Ruth under the mistletoe.

“As your child’s doctor, don’t you think I deserve a kiss?” He pointed up.

“Well, I guess, it’s the least I could do.” He stared down into her wide-eyed blues, wistful smile, read her excitement, and knew she was his.

He kissed her, sweetly. What sounded like a crescendo of chapel bells rang in his head.

“Did you make the bells ring?” She tiptoed into another kiss.

They weren’t close enough to the tree to jostle the bells.

“I think, Winston, got his wings.” He wrapped her more tightly into his arms. “Would you consider marrying me? I mean if…”

She shut him up with another deeper kiss, promising everything.

With a beaming smile and breathless voice, she said, “Maybe.”

Sunday, December 11, 2016

“I’m available.”

Many men don’t stop to ask for directions.

Many women wait for a man to show interest or approach. Some wait forever for their mister forever.

Most men fear rejection, so they won’t say boo to someone they’re interested in. They sweated it in a corner, telling themselves all the reasons why she will run away screaming. Not your alpha heroes, right? Well, maybe the alpha hero is busy saving the world or expects a woman to approach him. He can wait a long time. Alpha heroes typically have a skill set built by dedication to one purpose. This type can be all thumbs and no words (of hello). What about the famous, the hero may remain shallow being fed regularly, but how will they know when it is time to settle down?

The answer to many of these problems is simple. The woman has to say something like, “I’m available.” Asking where they work, what they’re favorite color is, their sports team, beer, anything. All this, won’t cut it. Many men need direction (and won’t ask for it).

Telling them something direct will flatter their ego and let them know they’re appreciated. A man wants to know he will make somebody happy, and it’s a start. He’ll look at the woman with new eyes.

But, you say, your heroine is shy. Yes, and alone. She can try something demure like, “I want to jump your bones,” LOL. OR, try something like, "are you feeling what I’m feeling?" Let's tone this down. How about, "I like you." If she cannot speak, she’ll need a mentor on her fictional journey, because a smile won’t cut it. Smiles are pleasantries; refer back to the hero being rejected.

You can structure your cute meet anyway you like, but meeting has always been the point. That’s why the cute meet is something funny or dramatic. It bonds them, drives them crazy, or creates instant animus.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Men, women and dance

Men and women look at dance and dancing differently. On this subject, there is plenty of variation, so this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Just be aware of these male tendencies when writing your hero.

1. Generally, at a dance, men will wait until the dance floor is full so that they won’t look like fools or they’ll blend in when enough men have joined the floor. The women will dance with each other, get things started and form the majority of dancers, at least in the beginning. There are cultural variations here (as in Greece).

2. Women will be attracted to men who dance, but will dance with anyone (if their toes are spared).

3. Men will be attracted to good-looking women.

4. Women dance for enjoyment more than men do.

5. Men dance with women with the hope of ‘more.’

6. Men see dance as a prelude to sex. Scientists see dance as an artsy way of mimicking sex, showing off one’s fertility.

7. Women see dance as a means to love or to fall in love, although men aren’t above being affected by the dance.

8. Both sexes see dance as a way of expressing their health, rhythm, balance, suppleness, speed, an ability to predict and react to the movements of their partners, and showing style. Of course, all this harkens back to the original dance outside the cave by the camp’s fire in which fertility was equated with all those physical abilities.

9. Women could have danced all night.

10. The men, at some point, would rather get under the covers with their partner. Of course, all this suggestive activity produces pheromones and this will lead to euphoria.

As I said in the beginning, dancing means different things, on a case-by-case basis, but it is likely the writer will want to know why the hero or heroine dances.
I Could Have Danced All Night, My Fair Lady, Audrey Hepburn, 1964;_ylt=A2KIo9dVq0RYOhEA7Jb7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTEwc3RqM203BHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDVklEQzEEZ3BvcwM1?p=1+could+have+danced+all+night+audrey+hepburn&vid=2be61295cb3f3f527cdaec9e49824841&

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Virtual Boyfriend

Romance roadblock: Japanese women prefer virtual boyfriends to real-life men
Dear blog readers, I’ve just about ran out of ideas for the male point of view in romance fiction, so I poked around the internet and found the below. It might be used to inspire a fresh romance idea for a book. Enjoy.
Below is the Honey article.
“Love on demand: Women in Japan are increasingly ditching real-life men in favour of virtual boyfriends found on romance gaming apps.
After breaking up with her boyfriend at age 22, Tokyo resident Ayumi Saito discovered a romance game called Metro PD: Close To You. And she says the game's male lead filled the "lonely" void in her heart.
"When I was tired at the end of the day, before going to sleep, I was so relieved to hear his sweet and gentle words," Ayumi, now 31, told CNN. "Japanese men are shy and not good at flattering women. But girls want to hear 'I love you'."
The $130-million romance gaming industry is booming in Japan. In a country where nearly half of all women between the ages of 18 and 34 are virgins, it seemingly helps them tap into intimacy they're not otherwise receiving.
"These romance games make me feel I want to be in love with someone," a 26-year-old woman named Yuirka told CNN. "The boys in these games have something lacking in the real life boys -- they are so sweet."
The games tend to feature a female heroine who meets a slew of potential suitors on her life journey.
[Read more at]
"The strong and selfish men are the most popular," head of Voltage games, Nigahi Higashi, told CNN. "The most popular characters are strong on the outside and only sometimes sweet for you."
(Voltage tweaks their formula for North America audiences, where they say women prefer a "macho man, both mentally and physically".)
While some may say the gaming obsession is preventing Japanese women from finding off-screen romances, a recent government survey found that 40 percent of all singles in their 20s and 30s (men and women) aren't actually interested in having a flesh-and-blood romantic partner.
"[Women] dream of a guy who is handsome, controlling, and unreasonably in love with [them]," Marcos Daniel Arroyo, a software engineer at Cheritz games, told Vogue. "[The games provide] the fantasy of a relationship that cannot occur so easily in real life."

Sunday, November 20, 2016

He or she is a ten

When someone says something like he or she is a ‘ten’ or he/she is perfect, how do they know? Science answers this question. The apple of the beholder’s eye is not a ten but rather exhibits the ratio 1.618 all over their bodies including the face.

1.618… is called by many names, Phi, the magic number, golden ratio, divine proportion, God’s number, chemistry, “it.”

Nerd alert: Say a line is 1.618 inches. Tag it at the 1 inch mark. Science has discovered that 1 inch plus 0.618 inches is as 1 inch is to 0.618 inches. What? Take a look at the nautilus shell with its constantly smaller shells (all of the same ratio) as an example. Or Audrey Hepburn’s face. Or the hand (0.618) compared to the hand and forearm (1.618). Or check out Leonardo Da Vinci’s studies.

Somehow people sense nature’s simple design and admire or are attracted to it. Maybe it is in our DNA. No, stop. The length of DNA to the width is 1.618.

You might say, what about Samoans where girth is revered or the Kayan people with neck rings distorting their necks? All cultures, when shown women with various hip/body proportions will pick the divine proportion as the most desirable. Note they are not shown a woman who’s original figure is hidden by weight.

What does this mean to the writer of romance? If we can’t explain in some way why there is an initial attraction we may have missed an opportunity. Of course, there is way more to picking a mate than Godly perfection. There’s his/her heart, sense of humor, loving nature, nurturing, etc. Also, a person who feels they are a “6” may try for another “6” or try to get a “7.” Sometimes when two people meet there seems to be a nuclear meltdown.

Still, how do we know what perfection is if we don’t have a piece of God within us?
Also, important to us nerds, is Phi chemistry, biology or physics?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Edge

In real life and in some of our romances, the man adores the woman. This man dedicates himself to making her life better moment by moment. This brings him joy. This is a man who gets the meaning of life. Men and women were made for each other.

Most couples in fiction and real life do not adore each other. The man considers love (an active verb) hard work. Work he enjoys.

Some men have an edge. They struggle to balance their needs versus the needs of their partner. Perhaps they are doing important work, some project or devotion to the greater good of mankind. Can’t blame him. We can write him.

The edge often shows up in little or big spats, as clashes over the direction of the partnership. This is inevitable.

It can be unhealthy if anger enters the equation. It is unhealthy if anger mixes with domination of any kind. We can’t write that, can we?

Every facet of a man and woman’s relationship is fair game in romance fiction, but in order to achieve an HEA one has to show change from bad to good.

What kind of relationship do you have? What kind of relationship do you prefer to write?

Woman, John Lennon, 1980

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Bad boys and good girls

Don’t we all want to be loved? A dashing fellow comes along, tells our heroine everything a woman would want to hear, to make love to her. He doesn’t mean it, at least partially (he wears a gray hat). She worries if she’ll ever have the most beautiful feeling a human can have on this planet. She lingers. She submerges warning signs. She gives him extra chances. Why? Possibly, she desperately wants a HEA (happily ever after) and no one is standing in line. Her mom and dad nurtured her, she deserves it all, she’s a princess and her prince will show up someday, she’s beautiful, smart, funny, loving…

The hero is also not immune to worrying about finding a mate and love. A woman could come on to him seeing a meal ticket (not that women can’t or shouldn’t be self-sufficient), settling for mister-right in front of her, reacting only to her lust...
This is all good for a writer’s arc if you choose to write a bad boy story. I would recommend borrowing from inspirational romances. The lesson should not be: it is okay to marry a bad person, unless you are a nihilist. If you are, why not write tragedies.

Taylor Swift, Blank Space, 2014;_ylu=X3oDMTEwdWgxYXVoBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDVklEQzEEZ3BvcwMy/RV=2/RE=1478496288/RO=11/

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Can’t Stop the Feeling

Why would ripping a song apart help our writing? Most songs don’t have time for much of an arc, if any. They do have time for pathos or an emotion we can identify with. Better songs have a clear meaning as veneer, with undercurrents to satisfy the most intellectual listener. A writer of prose can accomplish this through showing mixed with dialogue and a pinch of dissonance.

There are many great examples of songs that just get to the listeners at a gut level, and they hardly know why. They just know they love the song. One such song, poorly named, Sukiyaki, was a huge hit long ago. It’s lyrics and lyrical quality are matched by the vocalist’s efforts. “Let’s look up as we walk, so that the tears don’t spill.”

Justin Timberlake’s, Can’t Stop the Feeling is more complex but just as elemental. In the song, he sings that his dance partner knows what he’s going through because she is feeling it too. Yet he is not 100% certain she understands what is happening to them so he asks her to break it down. It need not be a dance or a trip to the supermarket. It's everyman anywhere. They’re in love, they know it and they can’t stop their feelings. Why would they want to? Well, herein lies the intrigue. Is it a case of forbidden love? Or is their love too soon for a commitment? Or is it just human nature? We the listener decide how to interpret it. One thing many know of this hit. They can’t stop loving this song. The same applies to our writing, right?
Layer your writing. If you think Justin doesn't realize he's going deep, it's possible. He may be an unconscious competent. That's creative talent, well practiced.

Justin Timberlake, Can't Stop the Feeling, 2016;_ylt=A2KIo9aubhZYtywAbv37w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTEwNTJpbnQzBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDVklEQzEEZ3BvcwMx?p=can%27t+stop+the+feeling&vid=6aeb6deb5e3f6651e161251a5da16b9f&

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Ben and Lauren

Before you run for the hills, as I know some of you are not reality TV fans, listen up. ABC Family, now called, Freeform is offering Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After? on Tuesday night at 8PM.

I cannot recommend this, so obviously scripted, show to anyone who wants to check out reality TV offerings, unless you’re a diehard The Bachelor or The Bachelorette fan. Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell are so obviously in love, are so gorgeous a couple and have sdo much to offer each other, that I’ll eat my hat if any of the worries the show’s producers try to throw our way work out to be remotely “real.” If you are struggling for a definition of love or how a young couple should act, these two are the real deal.

Aside from watching fake drama, and knowing it, I can’t not watch. I never watch happily ever after the after shows or read such books, not just because they are labeled Chick Flicks or women’s fiction. As an example, on Hallmark last night, the Good Witch premiered its latest in the series. My wife and I agreed, it dragged. The plot was all too familiar, the romantic arc for the witch revolved around one line of dialogue at the end of the show, “I thought of you, last night.”

Okay, this will be my first bad review. I’m sure the show was fun for those steeped in the Witch’s lore. Call me a sap, but I like plots that revolve around happily ever afters (and many men do).

Sunday, October 16, 2016


I’m not going to dig deeply into religious faith, but to say, for most of us, faith is stronger or weaker at any given moment and for some nonexistent.

When our heroine and hero have faith in each other’s love, it is a beautiful thing. If only one has this faith, then it is misplaced or delusional. Most of us have insecurities that prevent us from ever being absolutely sure we are loved, like we love back. Isn’t it healthy to harbor a bit of skepticism? The return for allowing yourself to fall head over heels in love in the knowledge that your hero/heroine feels the same, is a deep sense of achievement and commitment. We are not meant to be alone so why think that way? Some say complete faith in the other is a sign of fanaticism/zealotry. Some portray a lack of complete faith by showing signs of jealousy, fear and pushing away.

It’s sometimes the arc and how the writer uses it to show growth or it can simply be a character trait. It could be that the hero or heroine sees faith in the other’s love as a mystical connection, making them greater than 1+1=2. They’ll believe in soul mates for the same reason. But, you don’t need these crutches. Yes, human beings thrive on fear. It is what keeps us alive. But don’t we aspire to more than survival? Can’t we touch the eternal truths? God blessed you if you (your character) have a love like this. If you write this type of character, your book might not be labeled inspirational, but it is damn close.
Some forms of love last forever.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Logic Versus Emotion

In the past, we have discussed logic and emotion as they pertain to making decisions and reached the conclusion that they balanced. NPR has recently broadcast, and various scientific communities have published, stating that emotion trumps logic. Humans are social, they contract with each other socially. They tend not to listen to a third person trying to correct something based on logic.

And when emotion is amped up, how will it affect your protagonists? Let’s take the case of exercise or sports (and there many more positive emotional situations). If the hero and heroine are finishing off a tennis match, dancing or walking out of an aerobics class, they are because of endorphins, more social, more bonded to each other. Whatever attraction there was is greater in these situations. If you write this type of scene, you may want to explore what happens to the wannabe or actual couple when they are down off their endorphin highs. How they progress, where does logic help them make decisions to move forward?

It is useful to note that heightened endorphin situations lead to sex and declarations of love. It’s hardly anything you need explain, but may want to, because not everybody gets it. I have to stop writing now, so I won’t be late for Zumba.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Are Rich and Columbia getting married?

Rich and Columbia were lovers. They were engaged. Rich started exhibiting strange behaviors or red flags. Columbia thought he had put his prejudices behind him. I know, romances don’t usually start after a promise to marry, so let’s call this one a possible tragedy.

The trouble started when Rich complained about Columbia, a gorgeous Hispanic woman, gaining a bit of weight. He professed his love for her was based on her wit, smarts, heart, and yes, her looks. But she still looked very good. She felt ashamed and tried to live up to his wishes and was winning the battle, in spite of being influenced now by a negative image of herself.

Rich’s pat phrase when pressed scared her, “He/she/they deserve it.” Columbia, a judge, heard this in court all the time when a physical or mental abuser would try to defend himself. She wondered how she could have missed the obvious signs that first showed as simple, driven to succeed, banter. She knew there was a fine line between success at work and ignoring ethical standards. She had at times struggled herself with knotty issues. But her faith and common sense always brought her back to the golden rule. He even suggested she couldn’t be fair because of her heritage. He Apologized,, but she was rapidly becoming completely disenchanted.

Then he started to complain about minorities of all types in an unending stream of insults. Talk about fatal flaws. Can Rich reform and really love Columbia, would anybody care at this point? Yes, Rich had many friends. They still cared, thought he could be saved. Wished him well. Will he change? Will he love her? You decide.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Your Hero is a Genius

Einstein said, Genius is …“regard(ing) old questions from a new angle.” Genius is not a know-it-all but a see-it-all. A true genius makes our lives more difficult, more unsettled. Said another way, it is not easy to change when a genius takes us down a different and new path. Think of how tidy the world was before Darwin. So we evolve.

In writing your hero as a genius be mindful of him earning it, and, of course, we as writers must show the process. Now, that’s tough, because change in a work of fiction must be believable and dramatic. Is your genius hero hard to live with because he is so focused on his creation [picture Doctor Frankenstein]? Must the heroine make him give up his contribution to humanity to love her? No, she should be a good partner and help. Even a genius can learn that one-plus-one is way more than two.

A heroine can be blessed with the same problem (genius). It’s all in how you decide to structure your conflict and characterizations.

The smartest person I had ever met was a secretarial school drop out [to be sung to Beauty School Drop Out], couldn’t do math unless it was home finances, and was “just” a mom. She seemed to read minds and mend hearts as if dispensing miracles. Her reaction time (quick wit & observations) was beyond scary. Say anything and it would be translated into what you really meant. She’d see what was missing from the equation or problem while the rest of us didn’t know we had an equation or a problem. I’m not talking male-female interactions exclusively. Her empathy for another human being gave her an EQ (and I suggest IQ) too high to measure. That’s the point of life, isn’t it? Love at work.

Don’t tell me your character is a genius, show me.

A rare Albert Einstein interview:

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Through the Looking Glass

Travel back through the mist of time to when you were dating. In that mirror, how had you seen yourself as qualified for a mate?

From the typical male point of view, the guy wants the most beautiful and loving woman that God had ever created. Any number of attributes can be added.

The average gal wants a man who will love her with abandon.

But it isn’t that simple. Numerous studies have shown that men and women access their chances either consciously or subnconsciously based on their own strengths and weaknesses. Their match is one who will most likely feel the same about them in the same way. That’s a match.

Were you a subconscious or conscious competent?

Step through the mirror as you create your hero and heroine. Now, the readers are looking at that mirror. Will they see themselves, someone real, someone they can relate to. Will the reader dream of your hero or heroine? More importantly will they see a good match in the looking glass?
Was Alice Through the Looking Glass allegory? Interpreting Alice as a look at impending adulthood may be a bit of a stretch but it's fun and thought provoking.
2016, Alice Through the Looking Glass Trailer:

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ninety-Nine Stories

Here is a re-post commemorating 9/11 as requested

Ninety-Nine Stories

A wall of searing blue flames pressed Hussam to the melted and broken windows. He couldn’t breathe and the heat was hell.

“It’s you,” the pretty girl from personnel ran up and said. Over the months, he had stolen glances of her and she did the same, both gutless wonders.

“I’m Hussam Fayyad, your boss’s boss.”

“I know. Save your breath. I’m Sarah Bernstein.” He knew.

They locked their hands, tight. Leaned out and hesitated. Then, Sarah’s wavy auburn hair caught fire.

“Marry me.” She screamed from the pain, tears evaporating. Taking off his jacket, he wrapped her head.

“I will. … I do.” Holding hands tightly, they jumped out from the ninety-ninth floor.


“I do,” she tried to say—her breath pushed inward by the rush of air—not that he could hear her anyway. She closed her eyes, he held unto her like a vise, as if they were one. Perhaps now they were.

"Mom and Dad, I’d like you to meet my fiancĂ©e, Hussam Fayyad.” Her folks' home, a big split-level in Oradell New Jersey, had beautiful large tile floors, a modern kitchen, with a menorah on the table. The candles had pooled on the tabletop.

“I guess it’s stupid for me to tell my daughter she should have chosen a nice Jewish boy?” Sarah’s mom asked rhetorically.

“We’re soul mates,” Hussam said.

“We’re besherte, mom.” She put it in Yiddish terms.


He dared not open his eyes and lose this vision of her mom and dad. He had always thought about Sarah, trying to get up the nerve to ask her out. Worried of cultural, political, and religious differences. He didn’t believe in treating women like second-class citizens, not at work, not in marriage. His hiring practices and office policies touted the heart of a modern liberated Muslim.

“We’ll always love the thought of you,” her mom and dad said, hugging him.

“We have to go to the wedding now,” Sarah said, pulling his hand.


At the wedding, Hussam’s little brother carried the ring on a purple pillow. Sarah always knew Hussam would come by, lean on her desk, ask her out. They’d marry; have three kids, two girls, one boy, or the other way around. They both wanted to be outvoted in either case. These gorgeous kids would grow up brilliant and loving, real menches; oh yes, two dogs, just right.

“I am so happy to have you in my heart.” Hussam’s parents, both a little portly, hugged her by the orchids stationed at the first row of seats in their garden.

Tears turned to rivers. Images rifted through her of falafel, lamb kebob, along with gefilte fish, Manischewitz Blackberry for the toast. Bruce Springsteen’s band struck up, ‘Here Comes the Bride.’

“He took my hand,” she explained to his mom and dad by way of apology.

“Thank you, pretty Sarah. My son, he always work, work, work.”

Sarah wished the world a better place, maybe a little less work, a little more love.

“He needs a strong Jewish girl to love him,” his dad said. They kissed her cheeks.

“I always had and always will love him,” Sarah said. She had harbored a tiny love, like a seedling, hoping to water it. No doubt about her feelings, now.

Martin Luther King without thinking forgot to add one word, Muslim. “…when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews, Muslims, and Gentiles, Protestant and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.'”

Sarah’s heart beat the rhythm of Martin’s words. She felt Hussam heard and saw Martin with her at the Lincoln Memorial, because he squeezed her. He’d never let go.

I am within you, Sarah.

I am within you, Hussam.

“Great Grand Papa.” Isaac Bernstein was gassed at Auschwitz, yet thin, young, suspendered, a silly fedora, munching on a pipe, his eyes opened to heaven.

“You bring the right man with you, mazel tov. Hussam’s great grand mom and pop are at the bridge table with your great grandma, waiting for me to come back. You see, I’m the dummy. Those two died in Gaza. Bam, to pieces.” He splayed his hands.

At the wedding, Cyndi Lauper spread her many orange, red, and yellow petticoats on the back step. With a sad face, she sang, 'Time After Time.'

The Rabbi and Imam smiled from under the canopy on this day of brilliant blue. They finished with one voice, “in death you will start, because love is eternal.”


Almighty God, Allah, blessed them, opened his arms, and said, “Kiss already.”


We kissed.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Birth of a Salesman

Hardly ever is the hero of a romance a salesman. When writing a spy, cowboy, millionaire, soldier, detective, fireman, is it because we feel the audience would be more interested and that for all but the millionaire and cowboy, more heroic? Well, that’s the point. The millionaire has money and the cowboy has cows, but the writer has talent. It’s the development of the character and his backstory that make the story compelling. Does the writer rely on crutches or good story-telling? Will the crutch disguise, in the writer's mind, good story telling?
Which brings us to the used-car, insurance, door-to-door peddler of God knows what. Most people do not want to interrupt their busy lives to entertain someone who is trying to solicit them. If sold properly, the reader would become curious about a character they might find 'different' or one they don't understand. They'll feel safe, not having to buy anything but the novel. Understand your salesman if only to shut him up, LOL.
Generally, don't we say?
“Not today.”
“I’ve got one already.”
“Sorry, I don’t want to discuss religion, politics…”
What if we could get into the head of a salesman and find out what makes him do what he does. I mean, it’s the characterization, right?
Some salesmen love their work, have empathy for people, hope to improve the person's—they are trying to sell to—life. What made them that way? Weren’t they smart enough to become a doctor or whatever else or maybe what they are doing is perfect for them. They meet new people, maybe make friends, share equal conversations on many subjects, find a kindred spirit…
How would they react if thrown into a life and death situation with the heroine?
On any romantic hero’s journey, he leaves his ordinary world for adventure and love. He might initially refuse the challenge. He will get advice. He’ll be tested, gather allies, mentors, enemies. He will approach the solution and seize the reward. He will travel back enriched by a new life changing experience. He may be rewarded with the lady’s hand.

The Death of a Salesman, Trailer, Play by Arthur Miller 1949, Movie & TV, various:

Sunday, August 28, 2016

James Patterson and Romance

James is repackaging the novella or short novel as Bookshots. It’s smart marketing. He wants approx. 30 chapters at approx. 1000 words each. There’s no reason I can see why this can’t be done.

James is also reaching out to romance writers to team up with him. What a blessing fore our industry. He’ll edit, so that his name and quality of writing permeates the romance writers’ products.

Is this doable? Well, it depends on how good you are at working with the world’s most prolific author.

There are caveats, IMO.

1. James talks about writing as if there were a movie camera rolling. This grounds the reader in the who, what, where, when and how and gives full flight to the pictorial imagination. Romance writers generally focus on interior thought, sometimes having their characters float. There’s every reason why you should develop both the exterior and interior and how they interrelate.

2. Can you develop a scene with an interior and exterior arc that is approx. 5 pages? Why not? Here’s a thought experiment. Take your 60,000 word published story and visualize it as cut in half. What can you give up that will not sacrifice the full arc of the hero and heroine? Many of us have published stories in which some words are devoted to characters from previous books or sub plots that may be droppable. These discards could be saved for a future story of those supporting characters.

3. Short chapters are one of James core beliefs. I.e., the reader leads a busy life and needs breaks. It’s our job to hook up our scenes to future scenes so that either the reader won’t put the story down or will eagerly await the next moment he or she can read.

4. One way of saving words is to give the hero and heroine a past and/or present at the start of the book. For those who love cute meets, you could change it to a cute awakening or a cute situation that forces them together (and for the first time, one realizes the other’s heart beats like theirs). For some of us, we can think back to that time when our feelings for someone changed. What was he or she doing that gave you pause? That lit that bulb?

As a guy, my experience was like a camera. That girl was so attractive (but there are many who are)? That girl was so funny, so… (fill in your preferences). I want to get to know her better. You’re hooked and so is the reader.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Jane Austen, Game Theorist

Jane Austen, Game Theorist by Michael Chwe

Here’s my executive summary of Jennifer Schuessler’s article presented below and an NPR interview.

First, I clued into this fascinating interpretation of one of our romance pioneers by listening to Freakonomics on NPR. Sheer luck on my part, because I had never heard the show before.

Jane Austen wrote Emma, 1815.

Emma, a twenty year old, decides she’ll never marry, but that she’s very good at matchmaking. She attempts to manipulate her friends into marriages she thinks are right for them. What ensues I would best describe as a bowl of spaghetti, with happily-ever-afters, in spite of and also because of her efforts.

In walks NPR. Steve Levitt (with Michael Chwe and Stephen Dubner). He presents the idea that Jane is the world’s first game theoretician. He defines game theory as generally applied on a small scale with few players. Emma plays a complicated game of matching people in Austen’s book. Gaming is all about thinking strategically. Chwe references Clueless, 1995 as basically an Emma adaptation and infers that all Austen stories highlight this type of strategic thinking and that the author does it consciously. “…that there are lots of little parables, or little asides in the novels, …but they do seem to be little explicit discussions of aspects of choice and aspects of strategic thinking.

{Your blogger, RWR adds: and tactical thinking}. I highly recommend checking out the NPR podcast which will take you to the written version.

Game Theory: Jane Austen Had It First


It’s not every day that someone stumbles upon a major new strategic thinker during family movie night. But that’s what happened to Michael Chwe, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, when he sat down with his children some eight years ago to watch “Clueless,” the 1995 romantic comedy based on Jane Austen’s “Emma.”

Mr. Chwe (pronounced CHEH), the author of papers like “Farsighted Coalitional Stability” and “Anonymous Procedures for Condorcet’s Model: Robustness, Nonmonotonicity and Optimality,” had never cracked “Emma” or “Pride and Prejudice.” But on screen, he saw glimmers of a strategic intelligence that would make Henry Kissinger blush.

“This movie was all about manipulation,” Mr. Chwe, a practitioner of the hard-nosed science of game theory, said recently by telephone. “I had always been taught that game theory was a mathematical thing. But when you think about it, people have been thinking about strategic action for a long time.”

Mr. Chwe set to doing his English homework, and now his assignment is in. “Jane Austen, Game Theorist,” just published by Princeton University Press, is more than the larky scholarly equivalent of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” In 230 diagram-heavy pages, Mr. Chwe argues that Austen isn’t merely fodder for game-theoretical analysis, but an unacknowledged founder of the discipline itself: a kind of Empire-waisted version of the mathematician and cold war thinker John von Neumann, ruthlessly breaking down the stratagems of 18th-century social warfare.

Or, as Mr. Chwe puts it in the book, “Anyone interested in human behavior should read Austen because her research program has results.”

Modern game theory is generally dated to 1944, with the publication of von Neumann’s “Theory of Games and Economic Behavior,” which imagined human interactions as a series of moves and countermoves aimed at maximizing “payoff.” Since then the discipline has thrived, often dominating political science, economics and biology departments with densely mathematical analyses of phenomena as diverse as nuclear brinkmanship, the fate of protest movements, stock trading and predator behavior.

But a century and a half earlier, Mr. Chwe argues, Austen was very deliberately trying to lay philosophical groundwork for a new theory of strategic action, sometimes charting territory that today’s theoreticians have themselves failed to reach.

First among her as yet unequaled concepts is “cluelessness,” which in Mr. Chwe’s analysis isn’t just tween-friendly slang but an analytic concept worthy of consideration alongside game-theoretic chestnuts like “zero-sum,” “risk dominance” and “prisoner’s dilemma.”

Most game theory, he noted, treats players as equally “rational” parties sitting across a chessboard. But many situations, Mr. Chwe points out, involve parties with unequal levels of strategic thinking. Sometimes a party may simply lack ability. But sometimes a powerful party faced with a weaker one may not realize it even needs to think strategically.

Michael Chwe, the political scientist who wrote “Jane Austen, Game Theorist.” Credit Reed Hutchinson

Take the scene in “Pride and Prejudice” where Lady Catherine de Bourgh demands that Elizabeth Bennet promise not to marry Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth refuses to promise, and Lady Catherine repeats this to Mr. Darcy as an example of her insolence — not realizing that she is helping Elizabeth indirectly signal to Mr. Darcy that she is still interested.

It’s a classic case of cluelessness, which is distinct from garden-variety stupidity, Mr. Chwe argues. “Lady Catherine doesn’t even think that Elizabeth” — her social inferior — “could be manipulating her,” he said. (Ditto for Mr. Darcy: gender differences can also “cause cluelessness,” he noted, though Austen was generally more tolerant of the male variety.)

The phenomenon is hardly limited to Austen’s fictional rural society. In a chapter called “Real-World Cluelessness,” Mr. Chwe argues that the moralistic American reaction to the 2004 killing and mutilation of four private security guards working with the American military in Falluja — L. Paul Bremer III, leader of the American occupation of Iraq, later compared the killers to “human jackals”— obscured a strategic truth: that striking back at the city as a whole would only be counterproductive.

“Calling your enemy an animal might improve your bargaining position or deaden your moral qualms, but at the expense of not being able to think about your enemy strategically,” Mr. Chwe writes.

The darker side of Austen is hardly unknown to literary scholars. “Regulated Hatred,” a classic 1940 paper by the psychologist D. W. Harding, argued that her novels explored containment strategies against the “eruption of fear and hatred into the relationships of everyday social life.”

But Mr. Chwe, who identifies some 50 “strategic manipulations” in Austen (in addition to a chapter on the sophisticated “folk game theory” insights in traditional African tales), is more interested in exploring the softer side of game theory. Game theory, he argues, isn’t just part of “hegemonic cold war discourse,” but what the political scientist James Scott called a subversive “weapon of the weak.”

Such analysis may not go over well with military types, to say nothing of literary scholars, many of whom see books like Mr. Chwe’s or “Graphing Jane Austen,” an anthology of Darwinian literary criticism published last year, as examples of ham-handed scientific imperialism.

“These ostensibly interdisciplinary efforts are sometimes seen as attempts to validate the humanities by attaching them to more empirical disciplines,” said Jonathan Kramnick, a professor of English at Johns Hopkins and the author of the 2011 essay “Against Literary Darwinism,” who has not read Mr. Chwe’s book. “But for some, myself included, literary studies doesn’t need to attach itself to any other discipline.” Even some humanists who admire Mr. Chwe’s work suggest that when it comes to appreciating Austen, social scientists may be the clueless ones. Austen scholars “will not be surprised at all to see the depths of her grasp of strategic thinking and the way she anticipated a 20th-century field of inquiry,” Laura J. Rosenthal, a specialist in 18th-century British literature at the University of Maryland, said via e-mail.

As for Mr. Chwe, he said he was happy if he could spread Janeism among the game-playing wonks. And which Austen character would he want leading America in a nuclear showdown?

Easy, he said with a laugh: “I would want Austen herself.”