Villians. Hate them, love them, need them

There is something eerily appealing about the villain.  They serve so many purposes. Yet, are always true to themselves.  They’re the thorn in a happy ending.  The catalyst for revenge. The scapegoat for things gone awry. The wrench in well-laid plans.

They’re the characters we hate, but ones we need.  Without them the story would be just plain boring.

As with your heroine or hero, much care has to be taken in the villain’s development.  After all, they’re not stupid people.  In fact, most villains are educated and clever.  I don’t want to hate a dumb villain!  They wouldn’t give me the pleasure of hating them because they wouldn’t have the capacity to figure things out or be manipulative where they need to be.

One of the best reference books on writing villains is titled, “Bullies, Bastards & Bitches” by Jessica Page Morrell.  The book breaks down the layers of an antagonist and demonstrates how to develop the best one for your story.

The antagonist or villain appears in all shapes and levels of wickedness.  You may run across The Betrayer, the Gossip or the Liar or met The Power Hungry or Narcissist. And let us not forget the classic Cad or Femme Fatale.

The tactics of a villain are specific. As the book points out, “they don’t walk the walk, or talk the talk, they dare to perform the worst acts in order to make the most gains.” Some of their tactics include: taking extreme risks, controlling others by using guilt and loyalty or obsessing about details and a plan of attack.”

This describes a villain in one of my books to a tee.  She’s a wicked, wicked woman–educated, business savvy, self-serving, manipulative, and vengeful. And get this, people love her!  They marvel at how wicked she is, but look forward to everything she does throughout the book.

Villains are fun to write. And let’s face it, we all at one time or another enjoy reading about a dastardly deed and hoping that the villain gets their just deserts.   For the most part, the antagonist gives readers a chance to walk on the dark side or get a glimpse of how evil truly lurks …lol

Just think of some of your favorite books or movies where you just couldn’t believe how evil they were. Yet, you couldn’t help but wonder what they’d do next.  Here are a few of mine!Hans-Looking-Die-Hard-hans-gruber-18648743-1280-720 (1)

1. Hans Gruber, Die Hard

2. Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds

3. Jack Torrence, The Shining

4. Annie Wilkes, Misery

5. Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs

6. Norman Bates, Psycho

What I enjoy most about developing the villain is that you have license to decide their fate and whether or not they can be redeemed. Some are beyond redemption, yet others can see the errors of their ways. Who knows they may even earn their own book! Although that may be a challenging undertaking, it can be done.

If you’re struggling with the development of your antagonist, I highly recommend, “Bullies, Bastards & Bitches.”  It will provide great insight and direction on how to create a well-rounded villain your readers will love to hate.

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No man (or writer) is an island …

Living a writer’s life leaves many of us hovering over our computers and notepads, yet we shouldn’t forget that our solitary “islandlike” existence intertwines with others.

Our literary endeavors may be depend upon our individual prose, style and craft. But our work ultimately relies on the feedback from someone other than our characters. We depend on editors, agents critiquing partners, readers and yes, other writers to offer guidance, help and encouragement.

Therefore, I’m pleased to promote a fellow author’s invitation to name her latest book.

Jordan K. Rose pens novels that will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat, and her next book is sure to do the same. But she’s looking for a few good ideas for a title. And you can help!

Just click on the promotional box above (or to the left) to enter Jordan’s NameThatBook contest and let your creative juices flow. Have a little fun, and receive recognition if your title wins.

The writing community spans countries and continents, yet I find it to be surprisingly small and intimate, where everyone knows someone and where good deeds and well wishes are shared for years to come.

So, send a good wish and a little help to fellow writer, Jordan K. Rose. Enter the contest, and NameThatBook!

No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, By John Donne, 1624

Super Bowl fever …did you catch it, yet?

super bowlNot exactly.

I’m not a football fan (gasp …), so I’m going to take the time this weekend to write, and revise. The majority of my family members will be hosting their own Super Bowl party, touting their predictions on Facebook and texting their disdain for the other team. This means my phone will remain silent! Yippee!

I’m not watching the Super Bowl (horrified gasp …). However, I will tune in for some of the commercials. I’m still captivated by the subtle, and oftentimes, in-your-face creativity of the advertisers who come up with slogans and taglines that annoyingly stay in your head until you buy the product.

But I have contracted Super Bowl fever on one level. And should my family call me on Sunday, I’ll offer a bit of historical data about this year’s teams. (Yeah, right. That will go over big.) 🙂

This is probably old news for you football aficionados, but it was all new to me. The origins of the team names have great historical value.

For example, The Baltimore Ravens get their name from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem (a favorite of mine), “The Raven.” It seems as though Baltimore residents chose the name during a poll conducted by the Baltimore Sun. When I read this, I perked up a bit. It’s been said that the Ravens are the most literary NFL team. Yes, Edgar Allen Poe lives on! Evermore!

And The San Francisco 49ers, are historically golden or so their name implies. During the California Gold Rush, the largest gold rush in U.S. history, thousands of people of different cultures and background flocked to Golden State in search of their fortune, and their actions would be the beginning of the city of San Francisco. Although, the rush officially began in 1848, the first wave of prospectors looking to hit the jackpot came in 1849 and were dubbed, “forty-niners.”

I’m impressed. I think I’ll do a little more research about other teams’ names.

On second thought, maybe I’ll just save my research for next year when the Super Bowl comes to New York and New Jersey! At least then, I’ll have something to talk about at a Super Bowl extravaganza. (Hey, it will be the first time the Super Bowl has been to NY/NJ, I must represent!)

In any case, TGIF! Enjoy your weekend. For those of you watching the game or waiting for Beyonce’s wardrobe to malfunction, extra wishes for your Super Bowl weekend.

Steppin’ out with the Beautiful Blogger Award …

Big thank you to mlfables for nominating me for the beautiful blogger award.  I feel so special.  🙂  

Blogging transcends continents and countries and it gives us the opportunity to  touch so many people without leaving our homes.  I’m glad I’m along for the journey.

The rules for this award require that I write seven things about myself and then pass on the love (my nominations for this award are listed down below).  So here it goes:

Three Things I’ve Learned About Writing

  • A muse is the best friend a writer can ever have
  • Grammatical rules can be broken for the right price
  • Once you’ve written your first book, or story you’ll never read a book the same way again.

Three Things I’ve Learned About Reading

  • Biographies are wonderful means of measurement.  They offer a glimpse into someone else’s life and give me assurance that my characters’ lives can never be over the top.
  • Readers (especially lovers of romance) like to read about someone whose life is spiraling downward and how they fight to climb back to the top.
  • For a writer, other people’s books become textbooks.

One Thing I’ve Learned About Life

  • It has the potential to get better every day. It’s up to me to recognize that and act on it.

Now, I’d like to acknowledge the following bloggers and say thanks for making my world a little nicer.  My nominees for this award are as follows:

TGIF: Two days of sex, passion and books …

This weekend the New Jersey Romance Writer’s Conference, (NJRW) whose theme is “Unleash Your Passion,” happens and I’ll be there.

I’m looking forward to the lineup of guest speakers and presenters, which includes best-selling authors Sabrina Jeffries, Heather Graham, Susan Wiggs and husband and wife team, Jim and Nikoo McGoldrick.

There will workshops for writers at all levels, some include:

  • Using POV to create emotionally powerful scenes
  • The Core of Romance
  • Women’s Fiction: Hitting the Genre’s Sweet Spot (see, told you there’d be sex!)
  • E-pub, Self-publishing, Marketing and Selling the book and the Future of Publishing for the Writer

There are also editor/agent appointments for those pitching their books, a Literary Book Fair, where authors sign their books for their fans, and most of all, networking opportunities.

I’m not pitching a book this year. However, I will be handing out business cards (which ALL authors should have–yet to be published and published) and networking. I’ve met some of the most fantastic people at these types of conferences, not only as supporters of my work, but as friends.

The NJRW conference will also have a professional photographer on site to take studio and environmental portraits. Need a new head shot for your book or Web site? Say cheese!

While I’m there, I’m going to take a trip to Barnes and Noble, which is only 10 minutes from the conference location. There are a couple of new books I want to pick up.

    I find J.K Rowlings’ adult book,“The Casual Vacancy”very intriguing. It’s also on Nook, so I will be making my e-book purchase!

    Ken Follett’s,“Winter of the World” (part of the Century Trilogy), which is on Nook as well! Yippee!

    Actor and Director Penny Marshall’s, book “My mother was Nuts,” looks hysterical.

    I couldn’t buy books without including a Romance novel. “Return to Willow Lake,” by Susan Wiggs, one of the conference speakers, is on my list to buy. It’s on NOOK as well. However, I may purchase this at the conference, so that I can get Susan to sign it! Perfect timing!

By the way, the authors signing at the Literary Book Fair donate a portion of their proceeds to literacy. Nice, huh?

I’m taking a bag large enough to transport all my new books—those I plan to buy and those I don’t!

Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

How would Scarlett O’Hara pitch her novel?

The New Jersey Romance Writers Conference is fast approaching and I’m very excited. Although I’m not pitching a book this year, I hope to do so next year. In every one of my pitches so far, I’ve been fortunate enough to get a request for a partial or full manuscript. But lately, I’ve been wondering about different approaches, and how others make their pitch.

Since I’m a movie nut, I even wondered how some of the most memorable characters in film might have pitched their work. The first character that came to mind is none other than Scarlett O’Hara from “Gone With the Wind” brilliantly played by Vivien Leigh.

How would Scarlett O’Hara pitch her novel?

The editor averted his eyes from the loosely tied manuscript to the green-clad woman sitting across from him. He watched the velvet purse of the same hue–the one she swung back and forth like a pendulum–collect streams of dust that now covered the sparse, makeshift office.

“Miss O’Hara, no one in any of the 11 confederate states would publish this rubbish,” the editor said, his tone stern, yet somehow appeasing. He seemed uncomfortable sitting behind a desk, and it appeared to Scarlett that he’d be more suitable on horseback, or escorting her to the latest ball. She wondered how he taken on this position.

“Fiddle Dee Dee, Rhett Butler. I had Mammy …I mean I spent all day making sure my story had a hook. I even missed Ashley’s barbecue at Twin Oaks to revise it and now that ole mealy mouth Mellie …”

Butler drew a long puff from his cigar and then placed it in the crystal ashtray in front of him. Squinting through the opaque swirls of burnt cedar, he watched the aspiring writer’s reaction with more than a casual interest. “From what I hear, Miss Mellie is a very talented writer.”

Scarlett flung herself against the high back chair, sending a mass of fringe twisting about like a pile of unruly worms. The salon’s curtains used to fashion the gown didn’t leave much for modesty, and her breasts rose and fell with each pout, giving an unapologetic editor a full, unwavering view.

“You’re a beast, Rhett Butler,” she declared, snatching the bodice of her gown together, “And a cad, which is why you simply must publish my memoirs. You’ve insulted my womanly sensibilities. I am a better writer than Mellie. I’ve led a full life with juicy details that could make lots of money.”

“Scarlett, we’re in the middle of a war. People aren’t spending money to read. They’re trying to survive. Besides, your characters are one-dimensional. There isn’t enough conflict. Your heroine has had too easy a life. She sounds like a flirt, a trollop.” His bluish-grey eyes darkened with a mischievous twinkle. “She sounds like you.”

Scarlett stood and then sashayed toward the open window, the slight rustle of her worn petticoat and the boom of distance cannons, fought for the right to be heard. “Why I could be famous and save Tara with all my new wealth. And I wouldn’t have to marry that old man, Frank Kennedy.”

Rhett checked his pocket watch before standing to stretch his well portioned frame. “Scarlett, I’m not in the habit of throwing away money. But if I had an investment, a promise of sort, I’d see what I can do.”


“Keep your proposal and your offer, Rhett Butler. They matter nothing to me. I’ll find another editor or agent. There are plenty you know.”

Then she turned from the window, her eyes gleaming with determination. “Why …why I’ll stay on the other side of Atlanta where it’s still just humming with literary activity. I’ll stay at my Aunt Piddypat’s. She’s knows everyone in Atlanta society and can certainly find one of her editor friends to publish my book.”If that Beecher-Stowe woman can do it, so can I.”

Okay, so if you plan to pitch your book to an agent or editor, I don’t recommend following Scarlett’s approach. The guidelines in the article, “How to Pitch Your Book at a Conference,” will be safer and smarter. The list below gives you a quick overview. The article gets into the nitty-gritty and what you need to know.

1. Do Your Homework
2. Prepare a Pitch
3. Be Professional
4. Break the Ice
5. Conduct Your Own Interview
6. Get a Business Card
7. Make Lemonade from Lemons
8. End the Right Way
9. Pretend You’re From Missouri
10. Breathe

I’d still like to know how Scarlett would have done. 😉

Be a Brady: Spread the love one page at a time

“When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any if left, I buy food and clothes.” –Erasmus

Last Thursday, I met a woman at a volunteer event and we started chatting. We then (don’t ask me how) started talking about the oddest things that made us cry.

She cried off of The Three Bears. Yours truly, cried over the Brady Bunch. (Particularly the episode where Marcia enters Mike in the “Father of the Year” contest)

Be warned. I couldn’t get the Brady Bunch theme out of my head, so the poem below was written by the tune. Apologies for this. But there is a silver lining—you can’t hear me sing it. 🙂

Read on!

Here’s the story of a man name Jerry,
Whose children could read and write and spell
When they asked him how do you spell “ferry”
Of that, he could not tell

Then the one day Jerry met a student
And he thought she could help him, yes indeed
He was happy because he had done the right thing
The student taught him to read

Whew! Glad that’s out my system!

If you haven’t guessed, I was the student–one of 20 people–who taught a group of men and women to read. Jerry was a father of four who worked as a manual laborer and any document he needed to sign or know about, he’d ask a friend or neighbor to read for him. He came to the program wanting to better himself and have his children be proud of him.

Three months later, he could read all Dr. Seuss’s books, a few Nancy Drew books (He liked mysteries) and some articles in the newspaper.

In addition, he could finally fill out an application for employment with some assistance. That was a big moment for him. But an even bigger one for me–a mere 19-year old. I’d done something useful, and in turn, I’d deepened my love of the written word.

As writers, and lovers of the written word, we basically know when we fell in love. Imagine, those who can’t experience that joy, because they can’t read.

There are literacy programs nationwide such at UNESCO and the World Literacy Foundation that need people to teach others how to read. But you don’t have to go that far, look in your towns at the high school and colleges and libraries. They’re always looking for people to join an adult literacy program.

And once that task is done, and “your student” discovers the love of reading, there’s no stopping them.

Children love to hear a good story. My three-year-old grandson will grab a book and “read” to me, which is remarkable since he hasn’t learned as of yet. What he has learned is that at certain times during our reading sessions, the inflection in my voice means that trouble is brewing or something wonderful is about to happen. Now when he “reads” he imitates me.

There’s always a need to teach children to read through mentoring or just participating in programs such as Read Across America and RIF.

RIF “Reading is Fundamental,” continues to ring true. Without reading, it would be rather difficult to translate and understand other areas of study such as science, mathematics and technology.

If you’re thinking about it, or just want to keep in the back of your mental Rolodex, check out some of the places mentioned. If you’re really ready, then grab a book and get to reading or tutoring. Trust me. Your love of the written word will deepen.

And who knows you may get all choked up–just like I do from the Brady Bunch. Oh, and for your singing pleasure, the Brady theme song. Okay, everyone, once more with feeling!