Archive | June, 2015

Almost everything I ever needed to know I learned from a romance novel!

24 Jun

This makes perfect sense to me, if you consider that I never went to kindergarten! I started right into first grade at the age of five, and began learning right from the start!

But I was well along into my adulthood when romance novels became the big thing – in our world and in publishing. It’s amazing how such a female-driven force can be so poo-poohed by the male half of the population, which is slightly less than the female half. If they only knew – they, too, could learn a lot from these books.

The first thing they’d learn is that a GOOD writer can create worlds that are so believable you can practically reach out and touch them. No, I’m not saying that only women can do this. You’ll notice I used the word ‘writer’. I’m not prejudiced, except toward incompetence in either sex. There was a fabulous writer of romance novels in the 90s or so published under the pen-name of Leigh Greenwood, an androgynous name which served the author well. I said of his books, ‘if you didn’t know it was written by a man, nothing in the story would indicate that it was.’

In the second place, these novels are not just about love or romance, although they may have started life that way, these days, they mirror life in other respects, especially reality. They don’t tolerate brutality or sexism or racism, all the while extolling the virtues of honesty, faithfulness, integrity and civility. Can’t complain about that very much, can you?

I don’t much care for the word ‘bad’, so in this context, as in most things, I’ll just say there are good examples and not-so-good examples of writing, story-telling, editing and proof-reading – all readily apparent in the publishing world today. When all of these stars align in the heavens – the result is pure magic! (And you stay up way too late reading, because you simply cannot put the book down!) There are more categories of romance than you would imagine, unless you’re the category person for any of the many contests available to aspiring writers. Used to be there was contemporary and historical. But, of course, there are multiple sub-genres for each of those.

I learned that every place there is — on earth, is wonderful – to someone. If a well-done story can make you think that the place you previously considered to be the armpit of the world isn’t really that, but instead is paradise on earth, then who am I to argue? I think that every state in the US, and many other places must have at least one really strong adherent for that locale, and they write so winningly about it, you want to hop in the car and go see for yourself.

True, romance novels do tend to illuminate the lives of women – and how when they’re handed lemons, these sometimes down-trodden women figure out how to make terrific lemonade, or some other fabulous concoction. They’ve shed light on nearly every possible career choice, and probably created more than a few new ones (previously unknown) to help the heroine support herself and possibly her children as well, if that’s what it takes.

Sometimes, the stories deal in a considerate, yet explicit manner about health issues – for either sex of any age. My big epiphany came in early June, when I read ‘All You Need Is Love’ by Marie Force. This isn’t the first of her books that I’d read, but it’s one I’ll never forget. As the heroine Cameron wanders through these pages, accompanied by her internal monologues about life, career and men, more than once I thought ‘how did this author get so far into my head?’ I was dumbstruck as each one could absolutely have been an episode from my life. And then, Ms. Force put the hammer down, as Cam confessed to her new guy that she had ADD, and explained how she realized this and what she did about it.

Holy cow! I mean, seriously. When I was of school age, no one had ever heard of this condition. To be sure, my grandmother who had charge of me from age 9 to 13 used to continually tell me I had no ‘stick-to-it-ive-ness’ because I would flit from this to that to the other, enjoying myself immensely, and almost always excelling in the process. I thought it was natural at that time, because I’d always been that way, having no siblings, and being cheerfully encouraged by my Dad.

Of course, I drove everyone around me nuts by this, and still do, I’m (maybe) sorry to say, but for the most part I’ve had a very interesting life. Not always happy, but then whose entire life ever is?  I learned to overcome these momentary bumps, and keep going. But this was something else entirely. Immediately I turned to the web to see what it was really all about. This is what I discovered. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A chronic condition including attention difficulty, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

I think I must be the poster child for this condition. It’s so me, it’s not funny. But it makes such sense, and answers so many questions I’ve had in my life, it’s unreal. ​ That old saying ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ might have been written about me.​ I never knew that this was not the ordinary way of life!

Now that I’ve had a couple of weeks or so to think about this and the ramifications of it all – you’ll never believe my first reaction. It is R E L I E F. It’s one thing to be something, but it’s an entirely different thing to know it, and then to know why. I find myself much more relaxed and calm. Even when the phone and the internet went kerflooey for the better part of a week, I managed to keep my cool! I’ve also been able to lower the ‘hyper’ part of my life, and it’s so much nicer to be able to actually stop and smell the roses! I don’t feel like I have to be doing something amazing every minute of the day! And, I’m sleeping much better – fewer interruptions for lines from a poem, or a musical phrase or the idea for a new book waking me up at 3 am.  There’s more than enough hours in the daytime for them, and that suits me just fine!

I’m not going to pursue any medications for this – not at my age! But, I do try to keep this knowledge firmly in the front of my head, and pay attention to what it’s telling me. I’m also trying to lessen my impulsiveness and compulsiveness – both of which will happily conspire to drive you nutso if you let them.

I am beyond grateful to Marie Force for having written this book, and what better title for a book to change your life – All You Need is Love. Indeed. We all need love. It’s just that some of us need more of it than others do! As I used to tell my daughter – “When you most need to be loved is when you’re the most unlovable.”  Remember that, please.

Questions or comments? Please write to me at


What’s In a Name?

9 Jun

When you plunk yourself in the chair in front of your computer, and begin to write your story, do your characters emerge full-grown, complete with names and full IDs, or do they hide behind walls and refuse to show themselves to you without a formal introduction?

Generally, my characters tell me who they are before I start writing, but the minor players are sometimes bashful, and I have to go seeking their identity. Names come from various sources, and places, so it’s needful to pay attention. Sometimes more than others.

For contemporary stories, however, you can sort of let your imagination take wing. Or use any of the very helpful guides available to help new parents choose a great name for the addition to the family.

Androgynous names can be helpful, too, as I can easily attest – Kelly being one such. In one workplace thirty years ago, which never had more than a dozen workers at any one time, there were two named Kelly and two named Kim. The odd part was that one of each pair was male and the other obviously, female. None of the four of us had ever before encountered another person with the same first name, so if either name was called out, we all turned to see which one of us was being called for. It was SO weird! But fun  in a way, to suddenly become part of a world with seemingly too many persons named Tom and/or Jane.

It’s mostly men who are tagged with a number after their name, as in II, III, or IV. I think the only one that goes higher than that are European Monarchs of past years, who had great fondness for certain names: George comes to mind, as does Charles or Henry. In this day and age, however, I suspect that number is more of a burden than anything else, although it does demonstrate a family’s longevity.

Some names imply character traits that may or may not exist in your character. If you are determined to go against type, you would do well to provide a sentence or two explanation. For instance, an acquaintance of mine was named for a dear friend of her mother. However, the two women who shared that name never met. The younger one (let’s call her Blanche, to avoid getting tangled up in all the pronouns) hated her name, and couldn’t wait until she was old enough to change it legally. Which she did, and has been happily re-named since that time. A funny side issue: Blanche’s Mom accepted the new name with no trouble, and always referred to her daughter by the child’s chosen new name. Blanche’s mother-in-law, who herself had a nick-name totally unaffiliated with her own name, flatly refused to accept the change. This didn’t exactly make for happy family gatherings, always providing additional tension to a situation already filled with more tension than needed.

If you expect your character to have a happy old age, give a bit of thought to how well that name might age along with the person.

Movie studios in the 1930s were notorious for re-naming their up-and-coming stars. Think Roy Rogers, John Wayne and Gene Autry. Chances are they’d not achieved their manly star status under their birth names: Leonard Franklin Slye, Marion Mitchell Morrison and Orvon Grover Autry, respectively.

And then there were Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe. Hmm. Maybe there is something to this naming thing. These ladies were christened (in order): Frances Ethel Gumm, Margarita Carmen Cansino, Lucille Fay LeSueur and Norma Jeane Mortenson.

And of course, there was that wonderful song made famous by Johnny Cash:  A Boy Named Sue. It won Grammy Awards for Best Country Song as well as Best Male Country Vocal Performance. An interesting side note: in 1969, when it was recorded, the word ‘damn’ was edited out of the last line before the recording session. Imagine that!

If you’re writing a historical novel, you’ll find wonderfully unfamiliar and currently unknown names for your characters by delving into novels written during the time in question. Maybe there’s a ‘family’ name that’s always used for the first child, but maybe also, it could be used as a middle name rather than the first name. Tradition was much stronger and more important to the family in centuries past; much more so than it usually is in these unbuttoned times.

And, if you pay attention (a wee bit of research will help with this one) you can be fairly safe in naming female characters after flowers — the research is to be sure the flower actually was available in your country and year of choice. Males can almost always be named after a monarch.

A creative writer can usually think of some justification for nearly anything to be included in her/his book, but inventing names does require a bit of extra thought. On the other hand, it seems that real families of today – at least in Ohio – are delving into the past for baby names, which you can see by this article in our daily paper from last month.

So — Happy Name Day! — everyone!

As always, questions and comments may be directed to: