Monday, March 29, 2021

Making Characters Come Alive

Compelling characters are simply the lifeblood of any good book. While you might be able to develop a fast moving plot that keeps a reader turning the pages, a truly memorable character—and, therefore, your book—should remain in the reader’s head even after the final page is turned. If the reader doesn’t feel connected to the characters or become invested in the outcome of the plot through the characters, then the pages are not going to be turned at all or your book will be forgotten as soon as the last page is turned. Even worse, your name as an author may not resonate with that reader the next time he/she visits a bookstore or goes online to look for something to buy.

Great plots are not easy to develop, but they are going nowhere if your characters are cardboard figures moving through their paces. The best plot in the world will fall flat without a well-rounded character who grabs the reader’s attention.  Even the best action-packed books and thrillers need characters who count. That includes not only your main characters, but your villains as well. Make the people so real that readers feel like they could encounter the person at any time. 

The main character or protagonist is the main source of the energy of your book, but every person he or she encounters should also be real. That includes your villain. In fact, part of that main character's make up can determine who or what your villain is.  

How does that work?  The key is in not only knowing your main characters' attributes and strength, but also the character's weaknesses as well. That is what you want to use as you develop your villain. It's not that they might be the opposite of each other -- though they might be--but knowing what fears or weaknesses those villains can exploit to drive the story. 

In any good story, your main characters are going to grow and change. That is the way to a happy ending for the main character. To do that you need to know how to achieve character growth, and what better way to do that than by giving them a strong challenge from the villain?

To succeed or come out with their happy ending, the protagonist must continually be challenged during the story and then growth and change by the end of the story. What better way to do that than by giving that character a strong villain with which to do battle. main

From mystery to romance, from fantasy to westerns, the battle between protagonists and villains is going to take place. While your heroes and heroines may be the focus of your plot, a strong villain is going to make the main characters in your story even stronger. They need to challenge your heroes and heroines to the point the main characters appear they are going to fail. Successfully overcoming a strong villain will make your main characters have to become stronger. The worse the villain, the stronger that main character must be.   

 REMEMBER - A plot is a character in trouble, both externally and internally.  The plot revolves around how the character is going to get her/himself out of that trouble so developing a good strong villain means that character is going to have to summon courage or strength he or she doesn't realize he or she has. Watching the character grow/mature and finally succeed provides for an involving read as well as a satisfactory ending.  It is like watching children grow up and learn lessons.  The reader wants to watch your characters be challenged, try to meet those challenges and after several attempts, succeed in the end.

Showing the reader the growth that results in success is not only going to mean a satisfying story but also a satisfying ending to the story.  a reader who might be looking for more of your books on the shelf

While villains may not be the main focus of your stories, they cannot be ignored. To give your characters a weak villain to overcome, means weaker characters.  Choose your villains and create them as carefully as you create your main characters.  The success of you book can often depend on that!


Now available at Amazon

Creating a Great Villain



Sunday, March 21, 2021

A Tasty Recipe for Spring Reading

 As we start to make the turn toward Spring on the calendar, isn't this the time when our thoughts really turn to love? What could be better that a fun romance to read in the coming month. This week My Writing Corner is featuring author Shirley Goldberg, and it sounds like she has the perfect Spring reading for us.

Shirley Goldberg is a writer, novelist, and former ESL and French teacher who’s lived in Paris, Crete. and Casablanca. She tells us that she likes to write about men and women of a certain age starting over. Isn't starting over the perfect theme for Spring? 

She says that her website offers a humorous look at living single and  dating inmid life. She is the author of two rom coms:. Eat Your Heart Out and Middle Ageish. They are both part of the series Starting Over.  Yes, definitely the right touch for Spring!

Naturally, Shirley says, her friends nag her to tell them which stories are true in her novels, but I don't think she's telling. But she does say that she likes characters who believe you should never leave home without your sense of humor. It's something she believes too.

Let's get a blurb from her newest release, Eat Your Heart Out.

When a tyrant in stilettos replaces her beloved boss, and her ex snags her coveted job, teacher Dana Narvana discovers there are worse things than getting dumped on Facebook. Time for the BFF advice squad, starting with Dana's staunchest ally, Alex—hunky colleague, quipster, and cooking pal extraordinaire. But when the after hours smooching goes nowhere, she wonders why this grown man won't make up his mind.

Want more? I did, so I asked Shirley if I could interview her characters.  Let's learn a little more about them, starting with Dana:

Tell us about this break up on Facebook?

The only thing I can compare it to is Carrie Bradshaw’s breakup on a Post-it note.Facebook is more public and since I don’t check Facebook first thing in the morning, a few teachers at my school know about it before I did. Not a way to start the day.   

What happened is we weren’t talking all that much anyway. Not since the confrontation at the hairdresser’s when he mocked my choices in food and literature. It was one of those breakups where the guy backs off and makes himself unavailable. I live in Connecticut. My guy might as well have been in North Dakota.

What do you want in your next romance… or do you want one?

Everyone wants romance, no matter what they say. An actual relationship is another story. Relationships require work. Romances? Not so much. If it’s good in the beginning, though, you tend to have high hopes. And expectations.

Watch out for expectations. A relationship kicks in once the two of you let go enough to be yourselves. My friend, Sunny, dated a lot and we talk about this stuff all the time. She dated twenty-five guys in a few months. You learn a lot from that.

Why do you normally turn to Alex?

Alex, who teaches theater, and I collaborate on teaching projects. We hang out together and often shop and go back to his place to cook. He’s really supportive and I try to overlook his hotness factor. We’re friends. Although…well, maybe I should stop there.  

What do you like best about him?

His sense of humor. He’s kind, giving and––did I mention hot? For a fifty-year-old guy Alex has it going. He has his issues, though. 

Why do you have reservations about him?

We’re friends. That’s a sticky situation. He’s asked me for relationship advice, if you can believe that. I think he embarrassed himself, but didn’t know who else to ask. The thing is Alex has been sending me mixed messages by smooching me. More than once. And he dates a lot. I know because I’ve seen him around town. He’s not ready for a relationship. 

Now let's hear from Alex:

What do you want most in a woman?

I’m a guy with a past, although it’s not what you think. Don’t bother guessing, I’m not telling. I want a woman who’s a best friend and more. The more part is essential but you can’t have one without the other. 

What draws you to Dana?

Now that you mention it, just about everything. She has a vulnerability that makes her care about other people. Also, well, I’m almost embarrassed to say this out loud. Only realized it when you asked the question. She likes me. A lot. She tries not to show it but it pops out in the little things. And since I feel the same way about her, I try to contain it. Yeah, yeah, this is a limp excuse, but I’m not ready. I hope I don’t miss the Dana boat. What’s the next question?

What frightens you about her?

Dana has known me for quite a while. My issues. She knows what my issues are. Especially one big problem I’m still wrestling with. That scares me. I’m working on it.

Thank you, Dana and Alex!

And thank you, Shirley, for introducing us to your fascinating characters.  Any comments or questions for Shirley?

Below you can find the links to buy Eat Your Heart Out as well as the contact information for Shirley.

Amazon Author page:

Buy Links


Apple Books





Sunday, March 14, 2021

A World of Wizards and Dragons

With all the chaos around us, who wouldn't want to get away and visit another world?  That's what we're doing today in My Writing Corner.  Let's take off to the fantasy world created by today's author guest, Darcy Carson. 

 Darcy hails from the Pacific Northwest in the Seattle area, where she says she lives with her
workaholic husband and a spoiled poodle. She has won numerous awards for her books.  Today she takes us far from that location to her magical fantasy world where dragons roam.. 

Her latest book is from The Dragon Returns Series, She Wakes the Night. 

Trell Langois escapes a thousand-year-old curse. Being trapped as a tree wasn't on her bucket list, but now she can continue as a healer. Traveling with her dragon, Torkel, she seeks out new cures to help others and meets Gren. An unfortunate soul who suffers from a dreadful disease.

Gren Oyg Har is a prince on a mission. In order to rule his father's kingdom, he must find a healer. Not just any healer, mind you, but one with a dragon. Yet, it is Trell who finds and rescues Gren, but wants nothing more to do with him. If not for Torkel, she would leave him behind.

Separate goals soon become entangled, and both Trell and Gren are on their way to falling in love until secrets better kept hidden become known--and threaten to destroy all they hold dear.

Lets get more from these characters, starting with Trell..

Tell us about this curse on you.  How did  you get it placed on you? 

It was a horrible accident. My brother Cress and his friend, both wizards, were each trying to outdo the other with their spells. His friend thought it would humorous to turn me into a tree. Well, Cress didn’t take it well and struck his friend. He fell and struck his head and died. There was no way to reverse the spell.

What does it mean?

After a thousand years as a tree in a magical dragon circle, I was eager to see the world. As soon as I finished my healing classes, I was ready.

How has it caused you problems?

Not as many problems as one might think. Once I accepted my fate, I learned great patience. And when the spell was broken, I was free to do whatever I wanted.

What do you want most in life?

To heal the sick. I learned great patience as a tree, and it increased my compassion for all living things 

Now let's hear from Gren. What is your goal in life?

To succeed in the quest my father has created for me and my brothers.  It’ll allow me to improve the deplorable conditions of my villagers.

What draws you to Trell?

She is at the center of the quest. Find the healer, find the dragon.

What is the problem between you?

I’m in disguise, which means our relationship has started off on false footing. If my secret is discovered, there will be no trust between us.


What is it like being the first full sized dragon in eons?

Someday I shall be king of all dragons. All I have to do is find my lair and the gemstone that calls to me.

Why do you follow Trell?

For her own protection. She is an innocent and I sense something is not true with the Untouchable accompanying us on our trip.

Why do you like the music the Untouchable plays?

I am a being from an ancient lineage. Music has always been part of my heritage.

That truly sounds like a magical winner of a story!

To contact Darcy, here are is the contact information. 




Thank You, Darcy, for being my guest and introducing us to your great characters..  Any questions or comments?

Sunday, March 7, 2021

A Story for Today

As we make the turn from winter to spring, it's a good time to look at new writing projects to work on as well as to search for some new authors to read and follow.  I am always looking around for new authors to enjoy in My Writing Corner.  My guest today is Bob Richard who writes for the Wild Rose Press as RW Richard. He has a BS in Physics and an MBA in management/marketing from St. Joseph’s university and was a champion swimmer as well as  a chess master with State titles (CA NJ NY).  So far he has written nine books and has won best contemporary romance of the year as well as other awards. 

Welcome, Bob, what do you see as some of the challenges of being a writer?

Being your own boss means you have to tell yourself to stop slacking, lol. And I don’t always listen.


Tell us about your road to publication.

In 2008, and inspired by my wolf/dog, I wrote an unusual novel about wolves and men 100,000 years ago. Got an agent but she couldn’t sell it so I self-published. Since then I have tried to engage agents or publishers but in the end had to self-publish. My novels have won awards for best romance. Now, finally, The Wild Rose Press, has picked me up.


How do you come up with your characters?

I don’t know. It just hits me as right. Once I chose the name for a young lady, Autumn Breeze. It became the title and I found it an easy association with the events surrounding 9/11.


How do you come up with plots?

Like my story about wolves and men, I realize that most people didn’t know something, that is, wolves had a symbiotic relationship with men thousands of years before men attempted domestication. I had to tell the story. Regarding 9/11, I read the CIA reports about a team of terrorists spotted in Vegas in August 2001. I put two and two together and had to write the story. That’s the way it goes for me. For some stories, if I don’t have that spark, I abandon them.

Tell us about your latest book, Cinnamon and Sugar. What made you write it?

 I remembered the odd event early in the Trump presidency when approx. 14 protesters showed up outside the White House. The counter-protestors numbered around 4000. I had to write a story with that as a baseline.

When I was caretaking my daughter, I read to her from my draft manuscript that I have since dedicated to her. I read to keep her mind off her pain and that she might have to leave soon. I never imagined her reaction. She cried, yes, of course, it’s a tear jerker, but it was more than that. It was how she loved, lived, and taught. She, being who she was, instructed a professional writer (me), on changes she wanted (demanded). Since it was on a subject (racial hatred and brother and sisterhood) that caused her to march just like her old man did with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she made me promise I get a “real” publisher and, “Dad can you help my boys?” I said, “yes, honey, all the royalties will go to them.” So, Lani became my third muse and 1st angel. The story is rated PG.

Tell us about the cover.

When I write I search for a model who is what I think my hero and heroine look like. I try to capture them in the process of struggle, since the arcs of the story and scenes are so important. In this novel, Cinnamon & Sugar, published by The Wild Rose Press, the two models attached are exactly how I pictured them. In the story, Alicia, is compared favorably to any number of young starlets. Humphrey when first seen melts Alicia’s resistance, but she’ll struggle on.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

If you don’t have a burning desire to write something that either bothers or intrigues you, don’t write it. When you do write, open your heart to criticism it will help you grow fast and study books on writing because they’re based on what agents and publishers want (plus the grammar).


What’s your next project? 

Being a chess master, I intend to write a chess romance. I have to tell this story.

Let's get a blurb on Cinnamon & Sugar:

Humphrey Bertrand's genius-level IQ can't help him find his moral compass. His family is filled with racial conflicts and he struggles to find his own way. But he cannot let anyone drown, regardless of their skin color. Alicia Bloom, a gifted valedictorian and poet runs away from an abusive situation. While she is thankful to Humphrey for saving her life, she doesn't want to be tied to anyone. When an attempt on her life forces them to hit the road together to stay one step ahead of a murderous maniac they wonder if their dreams of a future will be put on hold permanently.

How can people buy your book or contact you?



Barnes & Noble paperback:

Barnes & Noble ebook:

Thank you, Bob, for being my guest.  Any questions or comments for Bob?


Monday, March 1, 2021

Zooming to the Rescue - Writing through Co-Vid

Let’s face it – last year at this time when we were getting concerned about Co-Vid and our whole world began to change, we didn’t think we’d still be here a year later, worried about going out, worried about vaccines, worried about our loved ones becoming ill.

These are the times that make us all yearn for the good old days when life seemed so much easier. Now I’ve heard from many writers that they are having trouble writing uplifiting love stories because they just don’t feel like they can get in a happy mood.  I have to say, though, I have heard from a few who say that while the times are trying, they use their writing to lighten their world, and they like being able to create a world where heroes and heroines are battling each other and their hearts as opposed to a life or death situation every day.

No matter how you feel about the current pandemic, we can’t deny that it has changed our lives in so
many ways.  One of those ways has been my contact with other writers. For years I belonged to a critique group where we physically met once a week to read through our material out loud and make suggestions and corrections.  At least one or two Saturdays a month might be spent at a chapter meeting for one of the writing groups I belong to. There were book signings to attend or book fares where we could sell our books or get others’ books signed.

I miss those days. One of the last events I was to attend last year before everything changed was Left

Coast Crime in San Diego. It got cancelled the first day people arrived, but I had already made the decision not to go and wasn’t one of those who had to make arrangements to come home early.

But I am happy to report that conferences have still been taking place. Perhaps one of the best things that is happening right now is that they are being done virtually!  WE can attend them from the close confines of whatever room our computer is in. Some have been turned into “virtual conferences,” where Zoom provides the platform for us to all connect.

While we are waiting for the return of in person meetings and seeing each other again or just having lunch with an author friend, there are some great opportunities out there to expand your writing horizons.  Since we went into lockdown last spring I have attended three conferences—including one where I presented.

While virtual conferences don’t present the opportunity to hang out in the bar and talk to people or to meet new people during lunch or in the sessions, they do give us the opportunity to attend some great session and to still continue to learn how to hone our craft.  

 This past weekend I virtually attended this years’ rendition of Left Coast Crime. It was to be in Albuquerque and I

had been planning to attend. Instead, I spent this past Saturday attending sine wonderful sessions of authors discussing their “Lefty” nominated works and the writing process. Every session was informative and helpful and anything that includes the great, bestselling author Carl Hiaason and his particular brand of humor is well worth attending. 

But virtual sessions go beyond just conferences. One of the reasons I have not missed socializing with other writers are the many meeting opportunities I am finding with other writing groups around the country.  I belong to several national writing groups—such as Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Women Writing the West—and while I”ve been attending their meetings virtually, I’ve also discovered many other writing groups around the country have opened up their virtual meetings to people from different regions.  Since I’m working on a book set in British Columbia, I attended a session dealing with the BC court system.  I also attended a New England session, a Texas crime session, and I am constantly watching for other subjects that I might want to attend.

Our local groups have also opened up our meetings to people from around the country so I am getting

to connect with writers from all around the country.  Zoom has become a great way to connect with writers who normally may not connect or get away from their keyboards.

These opportunities are out there and I heartily endorse looking for them. Need research help on a
certain subject? Check around and see if there is a group offering such a program. Stuck on a scene and hoping for some feedkback, look around for writers’ groups that offer that or bring it up in a session with writers you have never met.

It's a good way to also introduce your writing and your books to a new audience. My book, How to Write a Great Villain, written with my frequent co-author Sue Viders, just released this week, and I felt so good being able to introduce myself to other groups I’ve never met before and show them what I am writing. Villains is now available on Amazon, by the way.

Yes, we are living in tough times, and while we’re slowly pulling through, it may be months before we are all back together. Meeting other writers virtually or hearing other points of view that you normally don’t get from people you know can be a good way to expand your writing horizons! And it might get you some new readers too!

Mysterious Doings

As the  summer begins, it is time to start selecting those books we want to take on vacation or for sitting around the pool or at  the beach...