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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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. 😉

Ogling Marlon Brando’s biceps

When I was fifteen, I worked as a page in my town’s library. Like any typical teenager, I never thought the job would cultivate my deep love of books. All I saw was the opportunity to save up and buy a 10-speed bike that I drooled over every time I went pass the bike store.

But working at the library propelled me toward my love of reading—so did ogling Marlon Brando’s biceps.


Okay, let me explain that one. (Hey, he wasn’t always Superman’s father!)

My job as a page was to clean the books (yes, clean them), particularly those with plastic covers with a little soapy water. I also had to arrange the books in category order, which included alpha, and then numerical order, and basically keep the shelves neat and orderly for patrons.

Back then, libraries were different. There were rarely computers. The head librarian was the only one who had a DOS-word processor (yes, I’m really telling my age with this one) to look up books cataloged throughout the library.

Every book was cataloged and referenced in long wooden draws filled with typewritten index-size cards that displayed the name, reference number, and location of the book. I sometimes had to make sure the cards were in order.

It was a lowly job. Most of the time, I was in the back, sandwiched between rows and rows of dusty, seven-feet tall shelves, (which I also had to dust), and old books. But the experience served a deeper purpose for which I am forever thankful.

I worked after school Monday through Thursday. But as my unconscious love of books began to blossom, I found myself hanging around the library on my day off—reading.

I began to love the smell of the library, dusty, but with a Pledge-like bouquet and the sturdiness of wooden tables and chairs. (If you hit your knee against the table, you’d surely be reprimanded for yelling within the hallowed halls of silence.)

More importantly, I began to appreciate the smell of books. They smelled of knowledge, and escape—something beyond my ordinary life.

One day at work, I recall cleaning Marlon Brando’s biography, which contained dozens of pictures of him in various roles, “On the Waterfront, “The Wild Ones,” and the one that held me captive, “Streetcar Named Desire.”

Complete with a tight t-shirt, and cocky attitude, I fell in love with Stanley Kowalski and Brando’s biceps. I read his biography cover to cover. It’s no wonder I didn’t get fired considering I read the books, just as much as I cleaned them. But Kowalski was a sexy, flawed hero—one I wanted to read more about.

So, I did.

Tennessee Williams’ play “Streetcar Named Desire” was the first I read in its entirety. I remember checking it out of the library to finish at home. A 15-year old reading Tennessee William’s instead of “Teen Beat” magazine?

Unusual, right? I admit. I was a strange kid.

However, Brando’s biography and “A Streetcar Named Desire” was the beginning of my wonderful journey—one that I’m still traveling.

We all discover our love of books and writing in a unique way, perhaps through our parents, or a contest, or just the fact that we need an escape from the every day.

However you discovered your love of books and writing, take a moment to remember. It’s a good feeling, which I believe helps to strengthen our love of the written word, and hold on, even when things like rejections and revisions get in our way.

TGIF: Writing, Finding Nemo and Richard Gere

Do you ever noticed that after a four-day workweek (that happens because of a holiday on Monday), you’re exhausted because you’ve crammed five days of work into four?

Since Labor Day, I’ve been trying to catch up and it has taken me until today to feel like I’ve accomplished something. Thank goodness the next big holiday isn’t until Thanksgiving (I can’t include Veterans Day because I don’t have off). I’ll be almost normal by then.

Anyway, Happy Friday!

The weekend is looking good. I have my writer’s group on Saturday. If you haven’t joined a group, think about doing so. It’s the best thing you can do for your writing career. I belong to an amazing group: Romance Writers of American-NJ Chapter (NJRW). I look forward to each meeting because I know we’re going to learn something different or we’ll learn to look at things in a different way. Our program this Saturday is on pitching your book and honing your PR skills to promote your work.

Finding Nemo 3D hit the big screen, and although I’m not a huge animated movie lover (I do love Toy Story though), I’m thinking about seeing Finding Nemo, particularly since I never sat through the original one. I may go with my daughters and grandson. Watching my grandson juggle those huge 3D glasses on his little nose is worth the price of the movie!

I really want to check out Arbitrage, the new thriller starring Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon. Of course, I’ll be taking mental notes. Something may trigger an idea for a book.

I loved them in “Shall We Dance” and their on-screen chemistry is great. Jennifer Lopez also starred in the movie and played the dance instructor. This clip is one of my favorite scenes in the movie because they danced the sexy tango!

Hope you have something good planned—even if it’s just kicking back and relaxing. Whatever you do, make sure you leave time for you.

See you Monday.

The Words: another lesson (and reminder) about integrity

Over the weekend, I saw the motion picture, “The Words,” starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid and Jeremy Irons.

When I first saw the coming attractions at, “The Expendables 2” showing, I knew I had to see it. The movie tells the tale about a writer who, at the peak of his literary success, discovers the steep price he must pay for stealing another man’s work.

I’ve heard the lukewarm reviews from the critics. However, I rarely listen. I tend to lean on the side of what I want to see, as opposed to what’s being touted as the next best thing. After all, the opinions are largely subjective—as are literary reviews.

Personally, I loved the movie. Anything that features a typewriter, computer, library, books, ink, pens and thoughts, hooks me. It’s the kind of movie with which all artists, particularly writers, can relate.

I wouldn’t dare spoil the opportunity for you to see this movie for yourself. But I will tell you a line in the film that really had me thinking. One of the characters (the soon-to-be disgraced publisher) told the soon-to-be disgraced writer, “You’re not the only author who has done this kind of thing [plagiarized].”

I thought about that comment and wondered how many amongst the greatest writers of our times have put their names on someone else’s works? For starters, I know that William Shakespeare’s, work had been questioned.

Now here’s a little more food for thought:

As a struggling, unpublished writer, would you take a potential literary masterpiece that fell into your hands without anyone knowing, and put your name on it? If so, would you be able to live with the consequences?

In a nutshell, “The Words,” is a thought-provoking journey that will make you ponder your life as a writer and the possible “what if.” I certainly did. Go see the movie and then tell me what you thought.

When in doubt …consult your crystal ball or (critiquing partner!)

As you may recall from a previous post, there are a few ways that I try to get over “writer’s block.”

Another way to get over the “non-writing hurdle” is to talk to your critiquing partner. If you don’t have one, I strongly recommend getting one. My critiquing partner suggested going back to a story that I wrote a few years ago, and see if it will work as a novella or short story.

Brilliant idea!

Sometimes, when we’re writing a full-length novel, and particularly the sequel of another book, it’s hard to get the thoughts to flow properly. It probably doesn’t help if you’re still trying to publish the first one. (I know it is with me as of late.)

We’re usually so close to our projects, we tend to miss what someone from the outside, looking in, might see. Your critiquing partner is the best person to offer advice, because they may be going through the exact same problem.

However, working on an unrelated project, can get your creative juices flowing and you may actually be able to finish with a minimal amount of angst.

I will go back to my second book, a sequel. But for now, my novella, which takes place in Puerto Rico …yum!) will keep me moving forward and keep writing top of mind.

Today is August 17 and the premiere of “The Expendables 2.” I’m psyched because I as mentioned, I will be taking mental notes of all the bad ass characters. Hey, you never know what might work in a WIP!

Have a good weekend. See you Monday.

An Affair to Remember: I Met Joe Black in Australia and he became my Bodyguard

If you haven’t guessed from the blog’s title, I’m a movie nut.

Okay, let me start over. (Remember, confession is good for the soul.) I’m a movie fanatic. I’m a movie fanatic. I’m a movie fanatic.

Ahh …just breathe. But hold on, there’s more.

This condition has been perfected over the years. When I was a pre-teen, I kept a notebook (five one-subject brown notebooks to be exact) of all the movies I’d ever watched, rated them and noted (with stars, in ink) whether or not I would watch them again.  My records were so meticulous that Siskel and Ebert, now Roeper, would be jealous. Yeah, I know no life. (Hmmm …I wish I knew where my old notebooks were.) 

But later on, I discovered that I wasn’t alone. For most of us, movies—like books—are a means of escape. Movies often deliver messages, influence behavior, spark reflection and literally change lives.  

Now, that’s a powerful medium.

I also find that movies serve as a vital and (wonderful) source of information and research. I recently blogged about my favorite fictional heroes and heroines of the silver screen who influence my writing. However, there are a few movies that also get me in the mood to write romance. They have a way of continuing to make me believe in happily ever after. (I also have to keep a box of tissues nearby.)

I tried to limit my list to the top 27 movies for writing romance and I can’t tell you how difficult that was.  Why 27 movies?  Because everyone always does the top 25, and I wanted to stay below 30. 🙂

So, here’s my list of favorite romantic movies. Each are special and have had an influence on my writing, and in some respects, my life. Perhaps there’s a few here on your list of favorites. If so, tell me about a favorite scene or line or why you could watch it over and over again.

  1. The Way We Were, Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand
  2. Somewhere in Time, Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour,
  3. Australia, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman
  4. An Affair to Remember, Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr
  5. Bridges of Madison County, Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep
  6. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton
  7. The Mask of Zorro, Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta Jones
  8. Sabrina (remake) Harrison Ford, Julia Ormond, Greg Kinnear
  9. Someone Like You, Hugh Jackman, Ashley Judd, Greg Kinnear
  10. Legends of the Fall, Brad Pitt, Julia Ormond, Aiden Quinn
  11. Meet Joe Black, Brad Pitt, Claire Forlani
  12. Love Jones, Larenz Tate, Nia Long
  13. The Notebook, Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams
  14. The Bodyguard, Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston
  15. The Wedding Date, Dermot Mulroney, Debra Messing
  16. Romancing the Stone, Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner
  17. A Walk in the Clouds, Keanu Reeves,Aitana Sánchez-Gijón
  18. The American President, Michael Douglas, Anette Bening
  19. Message in a Bottle, Kevin Costner, Robin Wright
  20. The Wedding Planner, Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Lopez
  21. Pretty Woman, Richard Gere, Julia Roberts
  22. Sweet Home Alabama, Josh Lucas, Reese Witherspoon, Patrick Dempsey
  23. You’ve Got Mail, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan
  24. City of Angels, Nicholas Cage, Meg Ryan
  25. Ever After: A Cinderella Story, Dougray Scott, Drew Barrymore
  26. Hitch, Will Smith, Eva Mendes
  27. Out of Africa, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep

Uh oh it’s only the beginning of the week and I feel a movie weekend coming on. Better go stock up on popcorn. 😉