Another interesting factoid about black cats. (They are healthy.)

The mutation that causes a cat’s fur to be black is in the same genetic family as genes known to give humans resistance to diseases like HIV. So perhaps their color has less to do with camouflage than disease resistance. Scientists hope that as more cat genomes are mapped, we may get a step closer to curing HIV.

Hummmmm. Any black cat owner could tell those scientists that black cats are — well — special.

Black Cats. Gotta love ’em.

There’s a lot to love about these black, fur-balls as evidenced by holidays in their honor. What, you say? Holidays just for a specific color cat?


The ASPCA celebrates Black Cat Appreciation Day annually on August 17.

In England, October 27 is National Black Cat Day.

I mention these because my latest clean small-town romance features a black cat. In fact the title is A Very Black Cat. I didn’t know when I sat down to write the book just how the cat would play against the other, human, characters but it worked out just fine.

Of course. Because Little Guy is a cat. Need I say more?

Check it out:


While writing in third person, what are some of the ways you can refer to the main character other than their name or ‘he’ or ‘she?’

 2018 3 24 writerOne of the easiest ways accomplishes more than just indicating which character is speaking or doing something.

It’s called a ‘dialogue tag’ and it simply means that you mix together the description of the scene with the actions/speeches of the character you wish to pinpoint.

Describe where they are or what they are doing, whichever is appropriate, in a sentence or two, then segue right into the dialog or action in the next sentence in the same paragraph.

Since you have just described either the character or some action involving the character, when you continue with dialogue or action your reader will automatically know who you is doing it.

This moves your action along much faster than if you divided your writing into description and also dialog/action because, this way, both are intertwined.

How can I introduce and describe and multiple characters in the same room?

 It can be done, but it’s best to follow the rule of three. This rule exists because few writers are good enough to write a scene containing more than three characters without their readers becoming confused. So limit your scene to three characters or less if you want your story to actually be read and understood.
How, you ask, can I limit a scene to three characters when there are many, many more characters that must interact in that scene? It’s easy.


Put your characters into groups so you have no more than three groups. Then go ahead and write your scene, except instead of describing individual characters, describe which group that character is a part of. It won’t matter which specific character is carrying the story, all that will matter is which group of characters is involved.

You can mention a character’s name to introduce the name to your readers but be sure that the reader understands which group that character belongs to.

If there are more than three groups, then your story is possibly too complex to be understood by any casual reader and should be changed. Simplified. Honed. Slimmed down.

How do you balance creative story telling with historical accuracy and how do you balance American exceptionalism against sounding like propaganda?

For the ‘propaganda’ part of the question, I can’t say it often enough. Use deep point of view, using the word ‘I’ if necessary for the first draft in order to get deep into the character’s mind. If you can do this, then sounding like propaganda isn’t a problem because you will be telling the story… and describing America… through that character’s eyes and if that character doesn’t think of what he/she is saying as propaganda, then neither will your readers.

The other point, balancing historical accuracy with storytelling is where the ‘choice’ truly comes in. If 10 writers are shown a scene and then asked to describe it accurately, you’ll get 10 different descriptions because they each see the scene differently. Same with history, which is a living, breathing and changing thing. Only the dates and who won or lost aren’t subject to interpretation. If you choose to change those things, then it’s a good idea to tell you reader in a ‘forward’ what you are doing so you won’t be inundated later by readers pointing out your inaccuracy.

Anyway, that’s the way it’s worked for me, though, to be honest, one of the reasons I love science fiction and fantasy is that I don’t have to worry about such things.

Ignore Your First Idea

I remember one workshop I attended on how to write fiction. It was put on by two very knowledgeable women who have given many, many such workshops. The fee wasn’t much but I considered myself fortunate to get a seat because there are long waiting lists to get into their workshops.

I learned a few things. One was that I can’t write their way because it’s too complicated. Lines connecting plot points and outlines and long, detailed descriptions of the characters and plots. Some attendees even mentioned going home and plotting points on a graph to help them write better.

That’s not me. Never in a million years and the women giving the seminar were very careful to advise anyone who doesn’t work well with their method to forget it. So I did. Except for one very salient thing.

Forget your first idea. The idea that caused you to sit up in the middle of the night and know … just know … that you had to write a book about it because it was so right. So perfect. So complete.

It might have been perfect, but I can fairly well guarantee that it wasn’t complete. Because few stories are complete when they first come to you. So don’t begin outlining, plotting or whatever you do when you begin to put your idea down on paper until you’ve stretched your mind and your imagination and gone beyond that first idea.

Think it through … imagine every possible scenario … come up with other similar but different ideas … check out the opposite of your original flash of brilliance … do whatever you have to do to get past that first idea. And the second. And the third. And, possibly, even the fourth. Surprise yourself.

Because when you reach for the stars sometimes you actually catch one. And when  you dig deep inside of yourself and come up with newer, better, fuller and more comprehensive ideas you are creating a newer, fuller, better story than you’d have imagined yourself capable of. Then write it.

The End Is Here

Endings are the most important part of any story. It’s what the beginning hints at and the middle reaches after slogging through a lot of muck. In a way, they are the exact opposite of theme because the ending is the one thing that the writer must not wait to figure out. It must be firmly in place before the first sentence is written.

Because the ending must be behind every sentence that’s written. The writer must know where the story is going in order to write words and sentences and paragraphs that will get the reader there without throwing the book against the wall in frustration because that wasn’t what they expected.

There are exceptions. Some great writers don’t know where they are going until they get there. Hans Christian Anderson is the writer I’m thinking of. He said he wrote stories to find out how they ended. But I firmly believe that his subconscious knew all along what the ending would be and he just followed its lead until it emerged into his conscience.

So unless you trust your subconscience to know more than you do and to lead you in the right direction, write the ending before the beginning. Most writers do. Some write the entire ending scene before starting their story. Most of us at least jot down a sentence or two on a slip of paper and tape it to the wall above our computers. Or, as in my case, on the computer.

Doing this one simple thing will make writing a story a lot easier and will get you to the end a lot faster and might prevent some future reader from throwing your book against the wall.

Messing Up Your Characters

Once, at a writers’ meeting, a fellow writer said he was quitting the group. His explanation? He’d had a happy childhood. We all understood. Some of the best writers out there grew up in unhappy homes. Not all, but a lot. Those unhappy childhoods gave them both content and incentive to write great stories.

I had a happy, normal, well-adjusted childhood. As a beginning writer, I started out writing what I knew about and that was happy, well-adjusted … and boring.

I realized I’d have to learn how to create characters that don’t put my readers to sleep or go to work at Walmart. I did so by creating characters who have difficulty with adversity because, like me, they’ve never known it and so, don’t know how to deal with it when it hits them over the head. It worked and I started selling.

I still struggle with the process.

As a writer, you must do whatever works for you to create great characters. You can throw problems you are familiar with at them or you can throw problems at them that you … and they … know nothing about. Doesn’t matter which as long as they end up with problems they can’t handle.

Your characters will grow, your story will be better and, most of all, your characters will be more interesting.

The Numbers Game

Mark Coker is one of my favorite writers.  No, he doesn’t write fiction.  Or, as far as I know, anything with a truly creative flair.  What he does do is explain numbers without trying to skew them.  And that’s a rare thing.

Actually that’s a huge thing, especially considering that he’s the founder of Smashwords, possibly the largest self-publishing venue out there.  If not the largest, it’s close to it.  A writer can download Mark’s free book on formatting for Smashwords, then follow the directions and, in an hour or so, have a book published for free that can be sold on any venue Smashwords has a contract with. And that’s a whole lot of publishers.

I’m sure that Mark Coker makes a decent living through Smashwords.  But, in his many narratives about Smashwords and e-publishing in general, he doesn’t skew the numbers to make it look like a writer will sell more books than is realistic. And that’s huge because honesty could cost Mark Coker income by making potential authors choose not to publish through Smashwords.

It would be easy to skew the numbers without being dishonest.  All that’s necessary is to post averages.  Since there are a few very, very high-selling authors out there who pull the number of sales and the resulting sales figures way up, if you only post the averages, selling books online looks way more lucrative than it actually is.

I suspect Mark Coker isn’t worried.  I suspect he knows something intrinsic about writers.  He could probably throw negative numbers at everyone and shout to the rooftops that e-publishing isn’t profitable for most writers.  And those writers would publish anyway.  Because writers are optimists.

So read anything Mark Coker has to say on the subject if you want the truth.  Then go out there and publish your work anyway.  Because maybe you’ll become part of that small, select group of best-selling authors who do very well financially.

The Waiting Game

Waiting to hear from an e-publisher may be as bad as waiting to hear from a print publisher.  I just sent Wolf Legend to Samhain Publishing and to The Wild Rose Press.  So now the waiting game begins. They say it’ll be weeks before I hear from them.  Okay, they say it might be a couple months.

I guess I shouldn’t complain.  I wrote for the confession market for many years.  That taught me how to truly wait.  I sometimes waited a year to hear back from them.  Or two.  I can’t remember ever waiting three years, but one year was usual and two happened occasionally.

Not always, of course.  I’d hear from them in two or three weeks if the story I’d submitted fit their current needs.  Once I even got a phone call to say they wanted to use a story immediately and that they’d send the contract ASAP.  That was nice.  But it wasn’t usual.

So now I’m about to find out about e-publishers.  Will I hear in a matter of weeks?  Months?  Or longer?

In the meantime,  I’ll get started on Earth Legend, the last of the Legend trilogy.  And I will try to be patient.

Welcome to the world of publishing.  And waiting.