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, 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.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Trait Assimilation

It’s well known that characters change during a story. They’re going somewhere, conquering worlds, falling in love. Often a novelist forgets that people rub off on each other. It’s human nature. Sometimes, people pick up speech patterns, sometimes they try new things. The hero and heroine educate each other. They introduce each other to their worlds. They become one. Like an old married couple or identical twins, they finish each other’s sentences. The possibilities are endless. In that, lies some of what is fun in writing.

This might seem trivial or difficult to show in words, but that’s what the reader expects. They want to see characters as real as you can write them.

The last scene in Some Like It Hot, 1959 (Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Kiss Me Crazy

Kissing lowers blood pressure 3.5%.
Is this true? I read it in a mystery novel, of all places. I searched on Bing and stopped when I read Dr. Fahad Basheer’s article published 1/7/2016. Basically, although the 3.5% wasn’t mentioned, this was all I needed. He writes: The kiss is a measure of a person’s feelings, of his or her love or attraction to another. A truly meaningful kiss can also act as a powerful mood booster, instilling a sense of confidence and heightened self-esteem in both parties. The strength of a kiss lies in the power it has to cause the release of serotonin and oxytocin peptides in our bodies.
Here’s a summary of his 10 points:
1. Relieves physical pain.
2. Lowers blood pressure.
3. Improves the health of our heart.
4. Boost immunity & help with allergies.
5. Improves oral hygiene.
6. Improves mood & decreases stress.
7. Relieves menstrual cramps. [This reminds me of the old chestnut: Not now, I have a headache.]
8. Relieves headaches & migraine. [My same thought as above here.]
9. Improves the tone of facial muscles.
10. Burns calories.
For those who want to read the entire artcile or the reasons behind the ten points go to:
As for writing, consider having fun with this in dialogue. Understand that a make-out session is beneficial for more than teenagers. Kissing can be an end to itself.
What the doctor did not write but implied: Kissing leads to sex. But kissing is so intimate, it is sex.

If you want a kiss, suggest the benefits, LOL. ...And get close.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

First love is a forever love

In last night’s Hallmark movie premier of Love Struck CafĂ©, one of the characters claimed that a first love is a forever love. This thought is to be considered while writing YA (young Adult) or Middle Grade. It may also show up in an adult romance as backstory, as in the movie. And well done, indeed.

Points for the statement:
1. Hormones are at their highest in life, making everything about love and bonding so intense, the hero and heroine can’t get enough of each other. Every moment is treasured and looked forward to with abandon.
2. Experiencing anything for the first time becomes an indelible marker for life.
3. The process of engaging in new ways of living and doing things, breaking old habits (things of a child), makes for unforgettable memories.
Points against:
1. The kids don’t know what they’re feeling (puppy love).
2. The kids confuse passion or sexual excitement for love.
3. The kids are naturally more egotistical and may not have empathy enough to really know each other.
Personally, although the points against have their lure, the first three for love being forever fit better with scientific studies on the subject.
No matter the portrayal, the writer needs to seriously consider these ideas in developing a romance for any age. At least, the story will have depth.
In the Hallmark movie, in backstory we see the youngerr versions wrestling with going off the college. The hero breaks up, without explanation, in order to not hold back his heroine. Many of us have been there and done that or have heard of such break-ups. BTW, her heart was broken, she blamed him, but oddly he never questioned his decision or at least it wasn't shown.

Perfect by Ed Sheeran, 2017

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Job versus romance

Job versus romance
Some traditional writers see a HEA (happily ever after) as a chance for the heroine to leave her job behind and become a mother and housewife. Although this is a legitimate choice, and every one has the right to choose, it minimizes conflict. Consider also, that God gave us talents and wants us to maximize them, if the mother has time, LOL. This applies to stay at home dads, as well.
In most modern romances, the hero and heroine struggle with career and each other. They want the best for their partner. They want to support the other without reservation, no matter the choice. Through the difficulties of the story and character arcs they show this capacity. The conflict enriches the story.
All I’m saying is consider these dynamics. Would you consider it a good choice if a M.D. heroine gives up helping the sick and dying to solely raise a family?? Probably not. A traditional writer would likely not choose this background for the heroine.
Giving back to others, aside from family, is love, just like romance. Ain’t we writing about love?

Sade, Feel No Pain, 1992

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Kiss Me in the Snow

Kiss Me in the Snow
I read this romantic comedy by Rich Amooi (funny name) on my vacation. I loved it. Rich and his lovely wife, who is also an author, recently joined RWASD.
It reads like a Hallmark movie. His subtle turns of plot and fresh dialogue was a distinct treat. The funny here is not in whether Rich is a comedic genius or not, he underplays the humor in any given situation. No, he tells a story in which both hero and heroine (plus a secondary romance) are at odds in all ways, always, right through the black moment.
Some of my readers have expressed concern about writing comedy and I thought of them, often as I read through the story. If you can put your protagonists through challenging situations in which people are not getting knocked off you write with natural humor. The heroine starts by making a list of “A list” dramatic actresses she wants to bump off, but she’s just expressing her frustration about only being an action (top-grossing) heroine. Her loving sister makes a suggestion of a get away over the Christmas holidays. Each swear off men and the plot roles on from there.
Note: I remember fondly our Mary Leo’s wonderful Harlequin Flipsides, like Stick Shift. By the way, both titles are naturally funny and it is hard to say why, because perhaps it’s just me and my search for double entendre in everything. Dear Mary and Rich, tell me it ain’t so.
If you just stick to the basics of getting your hero and heroine into embarrassing or challenging situations and up the stakes, as in every other novel, you’re there.
For another thing, get a cover artist who works in this genre.

Just follow the road map laid out by Aristotle and people will laugh their asses off.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Alpha hero goes on a date

Here’s a man able to meet life and death challenges with the cool and quickness of a James Bond, but frets and obsesses over a date. Note: there is a natural humor to this, but it so human. Many men and women go into a fit of histrionics when preparing for a date. They’ll try on different outfits. Brush their hair and then brush it again, sure that one loose strand will lead to rejection. He’ll cut himself shaving. Ruined! They’ll practice things to say, etc.
You might think I’m talking about a metro-sexual guy. Nope. Here’s a chance to inject a touch of flaw, excitement, show him as human, as interested. It is, after all, a life and death situation. Humans need love to survive, to be fully human. No less so, the alpha hero. Just don’t expect him to be in command of himself at home preparing, or maybe on the date. He’ll put his life on the line, but when it comes to making life happen (well, not usually on a first date) he’s a klutz (or somewhere in between James Bond and Barney Fife). He could appear normal, but inside he’s a tangle of insecurities. Or perhaps his stage fright disappears as he gains confidence and takes in the beauty that sits across from him. He’s a lucky man.
Al Jolson sings, About a Quarter to Nine, written by Al Dubin and Harry Warren, published in 1935. In this video he dances with his wife, Ruby Keeler, in the 1935 musical, Go Into Your Dance.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Elementary: Supply and Demand 101

Supply and demand can be applied to romance. It’s true that there is approximately the same number of men and women in the world thanks to the magic of the laws of nature. It is also true that long term profitability business models seek balance between buyers and sellers. Men and women, IMO, seek balance when they hunt for a mate. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say the entire planet has ten womern and ten men not yet pared off and they’re having a party. They may fight over the same person, but it is more likely they’ll consider their own strengths and weaknesses plus that of their group of ten. Take it a step further and they’ll consider the group and individual needs of all twenty. It’s not perfect. People make mistakes. The intent, for those thoughtful enough, is to consider, perhaps at an elemental level, the survival of the species.
This is why I say: Something else is going on here. Some will reach the gut conclusion that one person in the other group was made for them. They’ll both know it when they look into each other’s eyes or have some other interaction. The other eighteen back off, recognizing this new force of nature.
What part mysticism plays in the laws of nature no one knows. You can call it, fate or they were meant for each other, or use the word soul mate. It may be a biological directive, the finger of God. Who knows. I guess I’m saying that if you are writing a normal as opposed to a paranormal romance don’t forget to sprinkle a little uncertainty into the love equation. God (or nature) knows. We don’t (too well).
Examples of how you handled this are much appreciated.
I’ll give an example from one of my stories. In the story, the heroine is in a bar and walks over to a complete stranger and plants a kiss on him (that they’ll never forget). She walks away.

As Time Goes By, from Casablanca, 1942 Song by Dooley Wilson

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Thighs Fall Apart

Not to my none RWA readers: apparently, last week, I, in informing my RWASD chapter misspelled "Things." What followed was a ground swell of support for today's blog. True, this isn't quite the male POV although as a Catholic boy I can say that the girls shoes did interest me, or rather the character they reflected.

Thighs Fall Apart is the long awaited sequel to The Girl with the Patent Leather Shoes, the world wide best seller. Tan Tric has done it again.
For those who have not read The Girl with the Patent Leather Shoes it is about the struggle of a teenaged Catholic girl who is taught that the proper birth control, approved by the Pope himself, is to take 1 aspirin, place it between your legs and hold it there. We follow her teen years as she struggles with sexuality and her only viable outlet, exhibitionism.
In the sequel, Thighs Fall Apart, the young adult heroine leads an athletic life and is forever dropping her aspirin, especially around the football team. She discovers that there is more to life than the reflection off her shoes. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who has ever had a headache.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Entropy and other related thoughts:

I’ve talked about this before in a different way. Things Fall Apart, written by Chinua Achebe is a good fictional handbook on how things go wrong from conflicts in society, ones-self and outside influences.
For the hero of a romance, things should go wrong when he fails to focus on the heroine. First there’s doubt by the heroine, then there’s her friends and family who chime in. It seems no one lives in a vacuum and because we are social beings we can’t and often shouldn’t ignore the outside influence. However, this sort of problem adds tension to the plot. Will she fight for him? Will he find his way back to his focus on her?
I call it a “lay down” when the heroine ignores the warning signs. The HEA will occur. Unfortunately, many romances read this way.
Once upon a time, there was the perfect bachelor (on The Bachelor). Ben proposed to one of the most gorgeous women I have seen, Lauren. He kept putting off the wedding date. Lauren, so in love, did not push hard enough for changen or did she issue an ultimatum. ( I believe therapy was tried.) Anyway, she eventually left him and now has a boyfriend. Of course, she’d get a boyfriend as true as I breathe.
Contrast this to the latest couple on The Bachelorette. Rachel wants a winter wedding and what do you think her fiancĂ© said? “Whatever the woman wants she will get.” We’ll see. Some have said of Bryan that he wasn’t her best choice, that he won’t be true. I say he’s light years ahead of “the perfect bachelor.” Maybe Ben is a bachelor.

Rachel and Bryan's interview on Access Hollywood. August 2017.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Pearl of Great Value

A Pearl of Great Value
Alternate title: Take out the trash
Is it only fantasy to have the hero decide to change his life and dedicate himself to the heroine? No, it happens, perhaps not too frequently.
How does it happen? Start with the hero wanting to make her happy always and in all ways, because he’s crazy about her and top over teakettle in love. To do this, he needs room or time in his life. So he must take out the trash. Trash, in this instance, are those minimal, useless or harmful habits that eat up time. Suppose the hero is into video gaming to a fault.
We know of many married men who don’t like suggestions from their spouses about what to do around the house. But, for the hero of our story he relishes the opportunity to please her. He’d rather literally take out the trash than play Counter-Strike.
It’s not just about chores.
The hero can learn about her likes and try to like them too.
He’ll then learn to share her joy.
The hero might even learn to have fruitful conversations.
He might even watch a Hallmark with her, etc.
He’ll look for every opportunity to make her feel loved.
In the parable of A Pearl of Great Value (likened to Heaven) the person finding the pearl sells everything he owns to possess it. For us men a woman is the closest we’ll get to heaven on Earth.

All or Nothing at All, 2104, Switchfoot.

Sunday, July 23, 2017



Their arms rapped around each other, their bodies a perfect fit, her head on his chest. He wondered why he was so lucky. He peered down to see her eyes looking into his. A little out of focus, maybe dreamy. She was content if this was the right word. Did she love him? She had never said so.
He had first seen her in a crowd of hundreds,  maybe fifteen years before and was struck by her pull on his body, mind, spirit. Never before had he felt such a momentous tug. But he couldn’t get to her that day. The only thought he remembered, and it was as if someone was whispering to him, “someday she will be your wife.” He didn’t know her name, never saw her again until five years ago when they met at a local Brooklyn coffee house.
They developed an easy friendship. He marveled at the way she acted. Zany, sweet, challenging, laughing at his lame jokes, big eyed enthusiasm for life and for him. But friends they remained until today.
He was certain she felt the same tug on her soul, that she loved him as much as he did her. Today, he had decided, would be the day he’d find a way to get to the truth without disturbing their friendship. He decided to hug her a bit more intimately and longer than ever before.
So far she liked it. He took a chance and kissed her forehead. No pull back. Yes. Now all he needed was the courage to say it, but she interrupted him. With the same dreamy eyed look on her lovely face, she said in a completely relaxed voice, and you got to know this girl doesn’t relax much. She said, “so this is love.”

Til Then, the Mills Brothers, 1944

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Great American Pragmatist

Before I start, you may, while reading this think I’m talking about a non-fictional person. In the front pages of many novels before the story starts, the author or editor says something like, any resemblance to someone real is purely coincidental. Just to have fun I’ll say deliberately coincidental
Is your character a pragmatist or idealist? Pay attention to the core values of your hero/heroine and other characters because it goes to what motivates them. Infusing philosophy helps tell a valued story. How strongly does your character hold these beliefs or lack thereof?
Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition popularized in the United States around 1870. For those philo geeks, there is also the closely related Utilitarianism. Nobody claims to be a Utilitarian because it’s too hard to spell or pronounce.
Put simply: what is useful is good and what is pragmatic is good. They seem interchangeable but there is a subtle difference. Pragmatism is a more active philosophy. They choose to do something that will reap benefits for them. A utilitarian chooses something to take up or take because it is useful to them. Somebody else may have already done the work. Stealing said work is often done by the Prag/Uti character, if they think they can get away with it. If they think… Both philosophies are egocentric.
These philosophies may seem glorious statements of what made our Country great but they are at odds with the Constitution. All men are created equal if it is useful or works to the character. Many religions condemn these philosophies, calling them false gods. The struggle for the character’s soul is a human condition that transcends national boundaries.
Every day the character makes useful or pragmatic decisions. Is it better for health to eat more because it tastes good or should there be more strictness about cholesterol or sugar? Does a character go to a wedding 2500 miles away, spend the money, or focus on work and make money needed to survive or live more comfortably? Innocuous actions creep up on them when it comes time to make a really important decision that may involve moral values. The problem moral steadfastness starts with habituation. It’s hard to change and so they choose to make a moral mistake hardly noticing that they have become the Great American Pragmatist.
Some characters observe the world and see that those who grab the gusto or perhaps bend the rules to suit them (pragmatism at its core) get ahead in life. They make money. Some take it a step further and get pleasure out of besting another human being. Substitute screwing for besting here, if you like.
American politics and business are the most obvious places to go for examples of American pragmatism. Many of our leaders cherish and fully understand the constitution because they live their lives by core values in which they treat each human being fairly. All men are brothers, right?
Write it.
Your character can demonstrate his/her core beliefs through habitual action, willfully wrought or not. They also can grow or change. One often needs an arc for this, LOL. The heroine sets out to tame her man, as an example.
In pragmatic politics and business or life in general not constantly confronting, reflecting on the moral value of habits, can land the character(s) in jail or worse.

Fifty Shades of Grey, Promo for movie

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Romantic Suspense

Once in a while I take highlights from a book on writing. I needed to understand romantic suspense (and pure mystery) better so I bought Writing & Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron. Related to the late great screenwriter Nora Ephron. Taking romantic suspense one step further will ground the rom suspense in the genre's basics.
Much of below can apply to pure romance. Why? Ask Aristotle.

Writing & Selling Your Mystery Novel

“In order to become sort of good at it you have to be willing to be bad at it for a long time.” David Owen
At the heart of a mystery novel is at least one puzzle, if not several.
I should have seen that coming. (Reader)
Often the mystery examines serious themes and social issues.
Suppose, what if, and why anchor a well articulated premise.
Readers need to care about what happens to the compelling protagonist before the book opens and what’s going to happen to the protagonist after the book ends (if there’s a follow on).
Develop your protagonist’s dark past. (The dark past can be used to motivate in the present and it raises the stakes.)
Authenticity is key. Therefore research (passive and participatory).
Background, strengths and weaknesses, talents and skills.
Demeanor while under stress.
Names that fit. Sam Spade (hard nosed). Nick and Nora Charles (highbrow).
The crime and the victim’s secrets. The revelation of such twists the plot & propels the story forward.
Make the crime matter to the protagonist.
The villain. “...making my readers feel sorry for my psychopaths...” Ruth Rendell
Making the crime fit the villain.
Innocent suspects. “Everybody has something to conceal.” Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon.
Making innocent suspects look guilty. (Overly eager to answer questions, motive, etc.)
The supporting cast: sidekick, opposites attract.
The adversary: is not the villain. He drives the protagonist nuts.
The web of characters with competing goals.
Start with the setting (grounding): It’s been said that a vivid setting is like another main character and sometimes it is. WHEN WHERE CONTEXT. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH.
Plot is developed using the three act play.
Dramatic opening: Out-of-whack event (element of mystery to it) (cute meet in rom com), causes unanswered question,
The Plot twist is the most basic ingredient in a mystery.
In the end, climactic scene, fraught with mortal danger, hero and villain duke it out. This scene contains the payoff for the novel. Afterwards is the coda, a contemplative session in which lose ends are explained. The ending needs to be plausible, surprising and satisfying.
Two weeks ago I wrote about humor in romance and thought of how most of us not being natural comedic geniuses, would have difficulty writing comedy into the scene. Here's a concrete example of how to improve: Recall a funny remark by a friend and see if it applies or can apply to something in the scene. Another trick is to spot an illogical way of doing something (we all do dumb things, maybe just following the unquestioning crowd) in which the other character calls it out in some way.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Trouble in paradise

Trouble in paradise
The roses are fake but the marriages are real. So goes the ying-yang way the producers approach The Bachelor franchise on ABC. The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise are all highly rated. But ABC is in trouble. Recently in the filming of Paradise, two contestants engaged in a public sex act (about a half minute of cunnilingus) which disturbed two producers enough that they complained to Warner Brothers. The parent corporation started an investigation and found themselves guilty, not the contestants, although the bawdy couple got the boot. ABC rebooted and started filming anew.
ABC started a bit of soul searching and decided they were shocked that lots of drinking and raw public sex was going on in paradise. Unlike Casablanca, the rules for Paradise changed, presumably, forever. Now the contestants can have no more than two drinks per hour. That seems ridiculous to the naked eye. But before you cry foul remember how some of us approach the open bar at weddings. The drink max and unspecified new sexual conduct rules apparently have made their way into the old contract. For those who root for sexual hook-ups, don’t worry, there’s plenty of time in the sack where the cameras don’t linger. Let your imagination go as wild as the contestants. As one producer said, “it’s not like I work for a church.”
These producers had tried to create drama by offering unlimited drinks, less sleep, long soul searching interviews, Draculian contracts that say ABC can use anything of a personal nature and that they may be inaccurate in their portrayal of the contestants.
We do the same thing to our characters. We put them in stressful situations which elicit tears, change, fights, battles (of good versus evil) and resolution.
My problem is not with the sex, oh lordy. I want to know why these two contestants were singled out when others have done far more intimate on camera. Somehow I don’t think this is a black white thing. I certainly hope not.
Here’s 2 excerpts from an interview with one of the two booted contestants conducted by E! News.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Sixth Sense

There are five senses, right? Sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Fiction writers are constantly being told to use your senses. Good authors do when it organically fits the scene. But in romance fiction we need one more sense.
I’m not talking about anything paranormal, other-worldly, unexplained, ghostly, sci-fi, horror or fanciful. That’s a discussion for another time. I’m talking about the sense of humor. Okay, I know it’s not a sense, although the way some psychologists describe it, you’d think otherwise.
So why then, humor? If you’ve ever read various studies of what a mate wants in his/her opposite, a sense of humor ranks at or near the top. It often tops looks! Lightheartedness usually sustains a relationship (along with empathy, love, commitment). We write romance and yet one novel after another forgets to inject humor by either or both the heroine and hero. Sad.
This doesn’t mean you have to be a comedian or study humor, memorize jokes or construct clever phrases. Draw on your experiences at the least. Ain’t there always a cut-up in the crowd. Someone who found irony in something? Some joke during sex? Analogies will do nicely. Double entendres are easy. Deliberately taking the alternative and wrong meaning from something a person said. Just being witty.
Don’t overdo it, especially if you aren’t a Jack Benny, Henny Youngman, Robin Williams...
Consider a romance novel without humor. Would you ask yourself why the hell they got together? Would their life in the castle be as dreary as the cold damp walls?
When Harry Met Sally, 1989, the “I’ll have what she’s having, scene.”