Archive | March, 2015

Creating life-like characters –

31 Mar

If you have a problem with characters in your books, here’s an idea that might be of help to you. Investigate the various astrological signs. Really! Start with your own, of course, as that’s the one with which you should be most familiar. A friend wrote to me last month after the passing of the wonderful actor/writer, etc., Leonard Nimoy, forever known to posterity as Spock, and I recalled that he and I shared the same birthdate, although in different years.

Energy and passion are the words most often associated with Aries. True, and it gets us into trouble more often than not. It brought to mind some other big names I knew from past years, that would not resonate with others as much as Spock did. I have to say I didn’t know he was green! When Star Trek was first broadcast, we didn’t have a TV at all, and I think it was 1976 when we were able to get our first color set. But by that time, I was usually upstairs with my little portable B&W set watching PBS while I was sewing.

At any rate, I was thrilled to learn that basketball star and Hall of Fame-er Wayne Embry was born near Dayton on this same date.  Also, from my years of ushering at Severance Hall I discovered Pierre Boulez, who is a HUGE name in classical music was also born the same day, and turned 90 last week! He was here one year on our birthday, and I ran into him in the hallway. Not on purpose, either! However, I did have a program in my hand, and after I wished him Happy Birthday (in English) I blurted out that it was also my birthday. He returned the greeting in French! (Joyeux Anniversaire!) I asked him if he would autograph my program for me, and he did, a huge smile on his face. It was in French, of course, and so tiny as to be indecipherable, but still . . .

A few famous women who share the date are Sandra Day O’Connor, and Nancy Pelosi. Not to ignore Diana Ross in 1944 (who grew up not too far from where I lived while attending high school). Among the writers are Erica Jong, Tennessee Williams and Robert Frost. It’s a very popular date for determined, creative people!

So then I went looking for who else might have been born on my day. I found these sites, which mostly list the same people, but the first one here is unreal. If you read the paragraphs about Aries people, and you know me, you’ll have to agree they must have had me in mind when writing these descriptions. There’s just no other possibility. These are me. Warts and all.

So, if you need a character who is stubborn, and opinionated and bull-headed, you can’t go wrong by creating an Aries persona. If you study the traits of the various signs, your imagination will have an immense amount of information available to help you create real and diverse characters.

If you’d like to see who else shares your birthday, go to the first of the three links above, and enter your birthday in the search box. Happy searching!

Questions?  Comments?  Send me an e-mail!


What’s now has been and gone.

17 Mar

I spent most of the weekend playing with a neat little gizmo that converts photographic slides and negatives to digital, for easier storage on the computer. Consequently, I spent hours looking at my life from the summer of 1979 when I acquired my first SLR 35 mm. camera. It was a mostly automatic Pentax ME, and I loved it so much I promptly went out and bought another one – but this one was manual from the get-go – a Pentax MX. To go a step farther, I acquired several additional and interchangeable lenses and a motor winder for it. I was almost never without this camera, which took absolutely beautiful photographs.

Having no projector I was seldom able to partake of the fruits of my new toy on a large screen. But, I dutifully put them in plastic pages in a notebook which was always at the ready for any adventure. It would be very easy for anyone who only knows me now to extrapolate what I was most interested in back then, as my trusty digital camera photo collection mirrors that older one almost exactly.

Water, water, everywhere! Living in the Great Lakes area, and surrounded by water, that’s not a big surprise, although the variety of those scenes is endless. Lake Superior is really huge! However, it was a pussycat that day in the summer of 1979 when my then-husband and I accompanied my Dad and step-mother to the upper peninsula to see Tahquamenon Falls. The water tumbling over this cliff is intermittently gold in color because of the copper content in the ground upstream of the falls. Twenty-six years later, I used one of the photos on the cover of my novel Windsong.   (And then I re-did it in 2013, using the same photo, although somewhat differently.)

When we came back towards home again, we stopped for the afternoon at Mackinac Island, during the filming of the fabulous movie ‘Somewhere in Time’. We didn’t see any of that activity – as I recall, they were taking a day off – but we did take a horse-and-buggy trip around the Island. Although I visited again twelve years later, I used the former trip as initial background information for Secret Shores,  the companion book to Windsong, which was first published in 1991.  (The original Windsong was published in 1993.)

Back to the photos: Lots and lots of flowers, from teeny little mini-things to great blowsy roses or dahlias and other such gaudy blooms. Trees, of every kind and nearly every position possible for a tree to be in, as well as every location and season. Sometimes trees are swings or an anchor for a hammock. And living creatures: by far the largest category was butterflies, toads, spiders and turtles. Next was birds and ducks, and a dog or two. (Sorry, no cats. I’m allergic.) Hey! At that time, we lived out in the country. What can I say?  Now I live in the city, but I still take pictures of visiting deer and other wild creatures.

And mechanical things – one of my great loves. Bridges, boats (big and small) cannons, engines, trucks, heavy equipment, race cars  – all sort of things that make lots of noise. That’s me in a nutshell.

Yes, I had great fun doing this, and finding all the memories I’d forgotten, or thought were lost. But the biggest surprise of all is the number of new ideas – for books or stories – that sprang out of this hidden cache – (they’d been living in boxes on the shelf in my bedroom closet.) Honestly, though, ideas are everywhere! They don’t have to be inspired by a trip to your past, or your future. Just open your mind, and let them in.

Questions?  Comments?  Please write to me at

More about getting started —

4 Mar

It’s amazing to me how many questions people have about wanting to write a book. I love getting these questions, though, so if you have one, please do send it along!

How much time should I write each day?

How will I know when the book is finished?

When is the best time of the day to write?

How many pages will my book have?

Do I have to write it like it’ll look when it’s published?

I have a favorite answer (sort of snarky, but not necessarily) to those questions for which there is no particular right answer. I shrug my shoulders and say ‘How long is a piece of string?’  There is no right or wrong answer to these, they’re very personal questions, and what’s right for one may be totally wrong for another.

How much time should I write each day?

How soon do you want to finish your book? Or maybe a better answer is: How much time can you devote to it each day. There are probably as many answers to this question as there are  already published authors, and those who aspire to that category.  It is best if you can set aside a certain amount of time for each day, at a time when your mind is free of other details, and you can relax and concentrate on the task at hand.  That is your best time to be writing.

For instance: I am NOT a morning person. I tell people that no matter what time I get out of bed, I wake up at 10 am. I might be able to find the keyboard before then, and actually even write something, but will it make any sense? Most likely – not. So, I would not be a person who would write twenty pages before breakfast. Or at least my morning coffee!

On the other hand, I’ve discovered that my best and most creative time of day is after dinner, before bedtime. There’s a good solid chunk of 3-4 hours in which I can (if motivated and have a viable idea on which to expound) produce between three and four thousand words! Yes, I said 4000 words! At that rate, if I did that every night, I could end up with a 70,000 word book within a month. I know this is possible for me to do, as I’ve done it twice. Actually, they were both 70,000 word books, but they were both done in three weeks’ time!  Yes, you read that right. Three weeks!  Granted, I was not a very nice person to be around at the end of that time, but I couldn’t help it. I was driven.

I’ve also done two 110,000 word books in about three months’ time — each. I didn’t necessarily plan for those word counts, but that is the answer to question number two at the top of this post. I wrote until the story ended. I had little pre-conceived idea about book length, but for whatever reasons, they came out exactly as they were supposed to!  Also, I was working at the time of writing these books. But they just tumbled out of the computer. It was an amazing experience for me.

But there were times when it didn’t work that way for me, and there will, no doubt, be times like that for you. If you’ve planned your book so you know where it’s going, just hop back in the chair in front of your desk and get back to it. Write something. Write anything. Sooner or later, it’ll start to make sense, and you can continue with the writing. Always write forward – aim toward the end of the story.

How many pages will your book have?

Believe it or not, before computers, books were almost always of a particular number of pages.

Specifically, these were 184, 224, 256, 312. All of these numbers are divisible by 4, which is the number of pages in a folio. Several folios would be bound together and then comprise a ‘signature’. This is not necessarily a standard number, but the number of pages in any book would be divisible by 4. Slight tweaks could be made by changing the style or size of the font.  It wasn’t long before word counts were standardized according to the accustomed page size and style from a given publisher.

You’ll be happy to know that with the advent of Print On Demand, these numbers are no longer the main factor when determining the length of a book. It can be whatever size it needs to be in order to be complete.

If you are going to publish your book on your own, it can look however you want it to look, but a clean easy-to-read font will be a major help for any first time author. You do want to make it easy for people to read your book! Always remember that. Just because you can use twelve fonts on a page doesn’t mean you should! And in fact, you definitely should not! You might be better advised to hire a book designer for your first attempt. The designer will (or should) listen to what you want and produce something at least close to your wishes. If not, it’s just back to the drawing board again. Make your wishes known as clearly as possible, and eventually, it’ll all come together just the way it should.

But still – the most important thing to remember is – nothing happens until somebody writes something! So, what are you waiting for. Go sit down at the computer and start writing! Thank you.

Comments?  Questions? Please send them along to me at