An author friend of mine and I often compare our writing to cooking. After writing a draft, she likes to let her work “simmer”, while I refer to the process as “marinating”! As in cooking, the author must choose which ingredients to use, how much of each to incorporate, how long the dish needs to “bake”etc.

I could take the comparison even further and add that. like a chef, the author must choose exactly how spicy to make his or her stew and what spices are needed to achieve the desired effect. Possible ingredients might include dragons, hunky he-men, glamorous heroines, dastardly villains, cute kids, blood-thirsty vampires, sword fights, dorky geniuses, superheroes, ghouls or ghosts, wizards and elves, or spaceships and lightsabers!

Mix your chosen ingredients well, being sure to use proper grammar and punctuation. Pack into clear sentences that aren’t overly complicated. Form into neat paragraphs. Divide into chapters. Let marinate ( or simmer! ) until well-seasoned. Edit until done, then serve up to book-hungry readers! Voila!

Keep on “cooking”!


Some online sites are stealing authors’ work and giving it away for free. This piracy presents a real danger to the entire community of writers and readers. Some authors write for a living. They don’t make a fortune, and if they can no longer earn a decent living due to piracy, they may be forced to stop writing. Others, like myself, who aren’t dependent on their writing, could also be discouraged if not recompensed for their hard work.

These modern-day pirates need to know that they are essentially cutting their own throats. Not only are they damaging the livelihood of many writers, but they are also depriving readers of new works to enjoy. How sad that the greed of a few may discourage writers from practicing their art and deprive readers of the full enjoyment of their passion for reading.

Down with pirating!


Oh, my gosh! What a night! We drove to Danversport in a torrential downpour that turned the roads into muddy rivers! Driving conditions were the absolute worst I have ever seen, yet we made it safely to Danversport Yacht Club, even without an Ark! At first we were afraid that the terrible weather would discourage anyone from coming out. Of course, shortly after we arrived the rain stopped and resumed only intermittently. We were extremely glad we hadn’t let the storm stop us.

The venue was gorgeous. The Harborview Ballroom did indeed have a wonderful view of the harbor. Through the French doors we could see all the charming little boats and the deck and the patio below. It’s no wonder they host a lot of wedding receptions there.

The huge ballroom itself was a perfect setup for booksigning. Guests were able to roam up and down the aisles between long lines of tables, book shopping to their hearts’ content. And on each side of the room was a cash bar, attended by waitresses who went from table to table. In addition there were tables offering ice water, cheese and crackers, and coffee. Very fancy!

I started selling my books soon after we arrived and set up —even before the general public was allowed in. The night became absolutely spectacular when, in spite of the lousy weather, many people showed up. We renewed some wonderful friendships, made some new friends, and signed and sold a ton of books. ( Well, not literally a ton, but you know what I mean! )

I received many lovely compliments on the poster I made to advertise my Tartarus Trilogy, the space-themed tablecover, my book covers, and even my sci-fi-ish outfit! One of my husband’s friends brought copies of my books she already had for me to sign. And one of my daughter’s former colleagues from the Montserrrat College of Art dropped by to say hello. Mark Goddard of Lost in Space was there, as was Michelle McPhee of radio fame.

Downstairs was a restaurant, a live band, and scheduled talks by some of the attending authors. ( No, I did not give a talk. Public speaking is not my forte! ) The authors also donated copies of their books to a raffle  benefitting Breast Cancer Research. Pear Tree Publishing’s book events usually benefit a charity or worthy cause in addition to boosting the attendees’ careers/businesses and adding to buyers’ bookshelves.

All in all, we had a wonderful night. Even the capricious New England weather couldn’t dampen our spirits. We left eagerly looking forward to the next event. So far, it seems that each one is even more wonderful and more successful than the last.

Keep on reading. Keep on writing!


As I was asking, as a writer. what captivates you? I advocate writing about that, not attempting to cater to current fads.

For me, it was my love of space exploration, both real and fictional, and my observations of the human psyche. Combined with my love of cultural anthropolgy and Greek myths, this eventually morphed into my Tartarus Trilogy. The trilogy was a combination of all these things and more.

Once I had constructed my basic plot and peopled it with characters to be developed, I allowed my several passions to flow into place, putting meat onto the bare bones of the story.

I drew heavily on my art background, ( I majored in both Art and Art Education with minors in English and Art History ) thus allowing myself to imagine the alien spaces in my story, particularly the Great Hall of Ahn-eld and the Burial Vault of the Rulers.

I also drew on my love of languages, their development, similarities, and differences, to develop rudimentary Cytherean Basic, Erisian Standard, and both the Tartarian and the Ghendarian languages, which are sister-tongues. Other interests of mine that came in handy were costuming, jewelry-making, architecture and religion.

So hopefully, you get my drift. Forget about writing whatever happens to be currently popular. Instead, be true to yourself; embrace what you love; play to your strengths. You’ll be less likely to develop writer’s block, you’re more likely to persevere, and you’ll never get sick of reading your own work!

Best of luck in all your endeavors,


Is the above how you start writing a book? Not really a good idea! In order to write a good book, to stick with it for the long haul, and to successfully finish it, you need to be passionate about your subject matter. You can’t simply decide to write about whatever’s popular at the moment, be it vampires, werewolves, mysteries, zombies, or superheroes.

You need to write from your heart and soul, so if zombies don’t appeal to you, don’t write about them ( unless you plan on using zombies as a metaphor to explore what makes us fully human! )

What I’m trying to say is that you should be fully invested in whatever you’re writing about. If you aren’t fully invested, you’re going to discover one or more of these happening to you:

     1) You’re so bored that you quickly drop the book and never finish it.

     2) You get writer’s block and can’t think of a single useful thing you want to say.

     3) You write the entire book, but get so darn sick of it that you can’t bear to revise and edit it!

Time is precious; no one ever knows exactly how much of it they’ll get. So why waste your time trying to beat your way down a path you really don’t want to follow? Decide what you really, truly want to write about. What message do you want to send your readers? Or are you simply out to entertain them? ( You can do both at once, you know. )

What excites you, captivates you? What brings endless questions and ideas into your brain? Write about that! To be continued at a later date!

Keep on reading,


Once upon a time, long, long ago, I joined a local writing group. That experience proved to be an eye-opener in many ways. I learned a great deal, though nothing about how to improve my own writing. For instance, I learned:

     1. Many writers do not like to be criticized, even if the critique is polite and meant to be helpful.

     2. Many writers are extremely possessive of their creations and are seldom willing to make any changes, even necessary, positive ones.

     3. Some writers expect their readers to automatically “get” what the work is about, by some kind of mental osmosis apparently, and therefore, the author need not explain the meaning of his/her work.

     4. Many writers cannot spell, punctuate, use correct grammar, or construct a proper sentence ( let alone a paragraph! ) to save their souls. ( But because of numbers 1-3, they refuse to accept any critiques/ changes! )

Though enlightening, that one group experience was a bit of an ordeal for me. I attempted to be helpful to other members, but soon learned to keep my mouth shut. What I’d assumed to be a children’s fantasy story—tiny, shrinking hero who rode around in peoples’ pockets or pant-cuffs—wasn’t at all intended as such. Oops! And I discovered too late that the totally unnecessary incorporation of bird lore quoted straight from the encyclopedia was the main reason one writer had written her romance! Another big “oops!”

The most edifying things I learned from the group experience was that I wrote better than the other participants, that my story was more fully developed, more creative, and more entertaining than any of the other work presented. Those few group members who were into science fiction loved my work. And that was a great ego boost, which I was in dire need of.

But if I were ever asked to join another such group, I’d think long and hard about it. The pitfalls are many; the rewards, few. Unless you are well aware of what you’re getting yourself into, are sure you’ll learn how to improve your writing, and are willing to both give and accept criticism, you’re probably better off passing on the prospect. If you can’t find a group whose members actually know what they’re talking about, how about checking a few books out of your local library? You can find many books there to help you write more professionally.

Just some friendly advice—take it or leave it as you will.


At one of my recent book signings, a reader stopped by my table and asked whether I intended to continue my trilogy past the third book. She seemed to be a bit miffed by authors who come out with a series that never ends. I assured her I had no intentions of continuing the trilogy. However, I did have two prequels planned, which would delve into the backstory of some of the characters featured in my trilogy. Due to my own curiosity and reader interest, I’d been inspired to explore the rocky relationship between Richard Hughes and Malkis of Tartarus. I was also interested in how Hughes became friends with such varied characters as Guillermo “Guy” Gutierrez, Hiro “Howie” Watenabe, and Barad of Eris.

I have no problem with authors who write extensive series as long as there’s enough material to warrant sequel after sequel. Sometimes a series is necessary to do justice to a story, then to wrap it up. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books come to mind. But if the well is running dry—! A reputable author ought to have the wisdom to do his or her readers a favor and know where to stop. Have you ever tasted water from a well that’s down to its last few drops? Trust me, you don’t want to!

No one wants to read material that has been done to death and should be on life-support! Rather than go down that road, I’d advise authors to bow out gracefully, put their series out of its misery and readers out of theirs. I realize that many authors become entrenched in a series because it feels comfortable, it makes money for them, the publisher won’t let them quit, or because they simply don’t have fresh ideas.

Now I’m not saying that a good, healthy series shouldn’t be continued. On the contrary! Readers would be disappointed if you dropped it.But no author wants their series to become the butt of jokes, ala the movies’ “Rocky 65”!

Someday, in future years, I may decide to write the final chapter in my Tartarus Trilogy—if I can find the time, the energy—and the heart to do so. But now is definitely not the time. Keep on reading!


The other day I read a great blog by Angela Scott (no relation to Corona!) called Whimsy Writing. In her blog she discusses how crazy you have to be to become a writer. I agree heartily with the points she made.

First of all, writers don’t make much money. Such dreams are sheer fantasy to all but a tiny handful of writers. And most writers are complete unknowns. So much for fame and fortune!

And for all the non-rewards we receive we must suffer the slings and arrows of disgruntled readers, unappreciative editors, and unimpressed reviewers. All writers ( without exception! ) will experience some form of rejection: from publishers, from indifferent readers, and from the constant struggle to promote our own books.

Why, Angela asks, why would any sane person subject themselves to this abuse?

The consensus, according to the comments on her excellent blog, seems to be that writers write because we must! We have no choice in the matter. It’s either write or be driven insane by the voices in our heads. Several comments referred to characters as “the little people in our heads”.

Well, my “people” aren’t little, and I don’t think they’re entirely in my head, but I understand completely what other writers mean by this. My characters seem to lurk just over my shoulder, frequently telling me in no uncertain terms what they want to say and do next. From time to time, when I err, I seem to hear their voices: “No, no, no! That’s not me! I would never say/do that!”

Writers of fiction, especially, must live in a reality that isn’t real. We must create worlds that have never been, invent characters who have never lived, yet feel “real”. We must envision scenarios that most likely will never happen. Are we truly crazy?

Maybe so, but on the up-side, writing is fun, it’s challenging, and it’s rewarding in ways other than monetary. I regard writing as a calling that connot be ignored, an inner flame that cannot be quenched. But unless you are absolutely driven to write and to write your best possible work, you should probably stay safely sane and stick to the next best thing: reading!

All for now,


Why do I love science fiction and fantasy in all media?

Reality has certain hard and fast rules so you pretty much know what to expect. For example, if someone falls off a hundred-foot bridge, there’s a high probability that the person is going to die. But in SF&F any number of different outcomes is possible.

He or she may suddenly sprout wings and fly away or be halted in midair by a device that stops time. Superman, or some other superhero, may fly in at the last moment to rescue the poor soul. Or perhaps a vampire catches the victim in his arms and devours him or her! There’s no end to the possibilities, some of which might make perfect sense and some not.

What happens in SF&F is limited only by the author’s imagination. The reader/viewer/player can travel anywhere in time or space, do impossible things. It’s sort of like playing a game of chess in which the rules of play are suspended and anything goes. Therefore, the players must invent a new game with its own rules, its own goals. The game becomes fresh, exciting ( or certainly should be! )

I think that those people who “can’t get into” SF&F are the type who want/need absolute rules that can’t be bent or broken. They can’t, or won’t, suspend their disbelief in alternate outcomes long enough to enjoy the story being presented to them, to appreciate what imagination has wrought. To them, it’s all nonsense. They just cannot allow themselves to be swept away by anything that isn’t “real”.

I feel badly for them because these folks are missing out on a heck of a lot of fun, as well as on new ways of looking at the world. But I understand that’s simply part of who they are. No matter what you enjoy reading or writing, keep on with it!


Cardinal sin #1: being plain old boring! If all your main characters do, day after day, is ordinary things like waking up, showering, eating breakfast, dressing, going to work or to the gym, getting coffee, etc., etc. why the heck should anyone be interested? We all do those things! Nothing new here! Take us where we’ve never been before; let us experience something we’ve wished we could do, go places we’ve only dreamed about. Do not bore the reader to death: You need every one you can get!

Cardinal sin #2: confusing the reader! If you have a cast of characters longer than the Bible ( and they’re all named Erin, Eric, Eamon, Edward, Aaron, etc. Eek! ) you have a problem. Oh, and do not use unpronounceable names, a pet peeve of mine. Also, make sure the reader knows to whom your pronouns refer, ie:” He took it to him, and he grabbed it from him.” ( Say what? )

Cardinal sins #3,4,5, and 6: using poor grammar, using incorrect punctuation, not correcting your spelling, and not checking what every word you’ve used actually means! These errors can be easily remedied by doing a little research and by not depending exclusively on spell-check to find them!

Cardinal sin #7: being laughable when you aren’t intentionally writing comedy! It isn’t a compliment if your readers go into hysterics over your work when it’s intended to be serious. A for-instance: My daughters almost died laughing when they read this line I wrote in Judgment on Tartarus:” Grasping his dar’dul-adz firmly in his right hand…” Needless to say, I immediately changed that passage to be less laughter-provoking! ( This is only one of the reasons I advocate getting away from your novel before going back and looking at it with fresh eyes. I bet you’ll find yourself saying, “Oh! I didn’t mean to say that!”

And, finally, cardinal sin #8: being long-winded and rambling on aimlessly, adding nothing to your plot! In her Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice tends to dwell on insignificant details, such as the architecture of New Orleans, for page after page, but she’s not writing a travelogue! A writer in one of my groups interspersed her love story with straight-from-the-encyclopedia facts about birds! Spare me; if I wanted to read all about birds, I’d be reading a bloody bird book!

Hopefully, this blog has helped you watch out for some of the pitfalls a writer must navigate around. We all make mistakes, no matter how experienced a writer we may be. Writing is a life-long learning experience. So keep on writing,