Sunday, December 26, 2010


I'm posting this today in memory of my Grand-Dad, Herman Tygert Wells.  I hope a few others may enjoy it, too.

Friday, December 24, 2010



Thursday, December 16, 2010

Death of a Character - Is it Gratuitous or Does It Move the Story Along?

I normally read 3-4 books a week. I have an hour commute each way to work and am one of those people who has to read a bit before falling asleep. I've learned not to read Lisa Gardner before bed but Jo Davis gives me fascinating dreams. Mariah Stewart gives me something to think about and Shirley Rousseau Murphy gives me something to chuckle about. But characters come and at the end of a book or series they go. Some stay in our memory; others fade away.

Today while I was out walking on a break I found myself thinking about a book I'd just finished reading. I loved the hero.

Okay, reality check? I lusted after the hero and tried to figure out who in my real life was just like him. No one.

No, it wasn't that he was too good to be true. He was actually very well drawn and three dimensional. He had personality, charisma, charm, was intelligent and while emotionally vulnerable, he knew he was and resolved it for himself. It was marvelous to see his development through the story.

What turned me off on the story was the death of one of the characters. I didn't particularly care for her. She didn't resonate with me. She reminded me of one of those women who thinks she's hot stuff and doesn't care who she stomps on while completing her agenda. Still, there was something about her that, I felt, in a future story could be redeemed.

The book is part of a series featuring one profession. I can see from the introduction of a character in book 2, who shows up in book 3 that here may be a story in his future -- errr, I mean a story about him in our future. And from his there would be others in featuring this second profession -- if that makes sense.

To clarify, say for instance the initial series is about doctors and they have a police officer showing up in the ER. So the series about the ER doctors finishes out and then you have this hottie cop who leads off a second series. Does that make a bit more sense?

So while I was thinking this secondary "cop" character would make for an interesting story of his own with this female as his heroine, she's killed off. And not in a very nice way. I was stunned. It made no sense. Here was all this potential and she's just killed off. And the author made her really ugly in death. She was crushed and rendered totally unrecognizable.

Why? I couldn't see any reason for it. And the hero, who was her best friend, just moves on with his lady. Goes to the funeral but his life just moves along, as does the heroine, without the nightmares or sadness or remorse at the other woman dying. It read, to me, like gratuitious drama rather than an inherent thread that added to the story. Such a missed opportunity!

A few weeks ago I read another book that was the third in a series. Two secondary characters in book 2 were hysterical. I totally enjoyed reading them. The author treated her readers to some marvelous banter between the two and I was delighted to see one of them had his own story in book 3. It was an okay story, nothing special, but still an enjoyable read. And then the best friend gets killed off. And he wasn't just killed with a conk on the head or a bullet that hit a vital organ. Oh no, it was a long, lingering death that, again, read like gratuitous drama, not something that enhanced the story.

Okay, now I've had characters with qualities of people I haven't particularly had a good experience with die off. When you write fiction you can have the ending you would like to have seen in real life with the benefit of no one getting hurt. You have a moment (or longer) of catharsis, you have closure to a rotten experience and move on.

After reading these two books I've looked at the upcoming death of one of my characters. Does she really need to die to make the story work? Given the bad guy is someone awfully like Jack the Ripper that would be a yes. Jack didn't just scratch your arm and move on. He sliced and diced in a very definitive way. So yeah, in that case, killing off the secondary character fits.

How do you, as a reader, feel when a character dies? Have you pined for a well-liked secondary character that was killed off? Did you feel something else could have happened to achieve the same emotional ending without the needless drama? When is a character's death the right thing?

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Today we have a request from a reader to clarify the definitions of "regime" and "regimen."

REGIME:  a regular occurrence of a pattern or action; a mode of rule or management; a form of government or administration--specifically, a governmental or social system.

REGIMEN:  a systematic course of therapy; the characteristic behavior or orderly procedure of a natural phenomenon or process.

You can see, therefore, why reference to a "diet regime" makes one think of a national diet...probably not a bad idea in this day of mass obesity, but ungrammatical.  A "diet regimen," on the other hand, is therapeutic dieting.

Here's another one I encountered in my own reading and this was especially interesting:  gristly versus grizzly.

GRISTLY:  composed of cartilage

GRIZZLY:  sprinkled, streaked or mixed with gray

The interesting thing here is that an author and editor had used grizzly.  Someone took them to task, explaining that the proper word was gristly.  She should have done what she criticized them for not doing and looked it up.  The context in which the word was used was in the description of a murder scene.  Therefore, all three people were wrong because the correct word is "grisly," meaning horrible or gruesome.

We all live and learn. 

Friday, December 10, 2010


My release date for "The Comet" is getting closer.  It should be out in January, 2011 and just in case you can't tell, I'm excited.  This is my first straight as opposed to fantasy historical and it was a lot of work, a lot of research, but a heck of a lot of fun.  I'd like to share an excerpt:

An ambitious young Norman knight, Neel, is seriously wounded at the Battle of Hastings and nursed back to health by a Saxon girl, Rowena.  For her, it is only a matter of Christian duty and she is shocked to receive his proposal of marriage in return.  She dare not refuse, but how can she love a Norman?

For Neel, Normandy is only a bad memory.  His future lies in Rowena’s land and her bed, but he is not welcome in either.

From pastoral Sussex to the furthest reaches of Wales, he will seek to make her his own.

Fumbling at the gaudy tie, she drew out a necklace of stones like the eyes of a cat.  Carefully drilled and strung on a fine wire, they slid through her fingers smoothly.
“They are called topaz,” Neel explained.  Stunned, Rowena had neither moved nor spoken.  “They are the color of your eyes.  I have given Bryna a gown for you, too.  And a head covering.”  He smiled at her.  “I think you will like ours better.  All I ask is that you wear them for Christ’s Mass.” 
She remained obdurately silent, but she could not…dared not…refuse.  No doubt the gown was Norman.  He called her “little Saxon,” yet did not wish her to appear to be one.  And perhaps, if Ralf had spoken truly, he was correct and she wasn’t one at all.
“Here,” Neel said as if her acceptance was a given.  “Sit beside me and I will put it on you.”
Still mute, she perched rigidly on the edge of the mattress she had shared with him in perfect comfort when he was unconscious.  This time he was awake and aware and so was she-- jolted by every nuance as he touched her for the first time.
He was efficient, raising her wild hair with a hand holding its weight, parting it and dropping it forward over both shoulders so that he could fix the clasp of the necklace.  She felt the cold, rich stones against her collarbones and heard the tiny snick of the clasp as he put his claim on her.
He lifted her hair back carefully, not catching it in the necklace.  But he did not take his hands from her shoulders after he had done it.
She fell back upon manners, drilled into her by Bryna.  “I have nothing for you,” she said faintly.
“Then give me a kiss.”
There it was--the trap she had sensed.  She could wrest her body from beneath his hands and bolt for the door and he couldn’t stop her, but that was only postponing the inevitable.  Slowly, she turned her head to the side, not moving towards him but not moving away.
“Come,” he said softly, inching closer.  How was he doing that…hurt as he was? 
“Be careful,” she said, ambiguously.
“It’s just a kiss.”
It would be capitulation…unspoken acknowledgement of his ownership.  But just as the needs of the body had drawn her to offered food, other needs tempted her, too.  Trapped not by his hands but by her own indecision, she made no move to resist as he turned her within their circle, now at her waist.  It was an awkward position, though, leaving her in imminent danger of falling off the side of the bed.
“Better hold on,” he said, the devil incarnate.  She did, twining her hands in his fine tunic as he spread his palm against her back to support her.  The other hand cupped the back of her head.  Infinitely gentle, he lowered his face to hers, teasing at her lips.
“Very sweet,” he murmured.  It was nothing like she had thought a kiss would be.  She had imagined Ralf plunging his tongue into her as Leofric had done…pictured him groping her breast, hurting her, gross and fetid.
It was not like that at all.  Neel’s tongue traced the outline of hers lips, slow and enticing, not a bit revolting.  When his lips nudged hers gently she opened her mouth, sighing.  He kissed her slowly and deeply, a silken invasion that set her heart pounding.  Her hold on him increased, involuntarily, and she felt his response in the strength of his hand on her back, fingers splayed, supporting her.  Guiding her.  He drew her against his chest until she could feel her breasts taut and aching against his warm flesh and started to resist.  Immediately, his grip slackened and he lifted his face from hers.
“I’m only playing, little Saxon,” he whispered.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Would Alexandre Dumas Made it As A Writer in Today's Publishing World?

Okay, this is going to boil down to a question for the editors and historians or the editors who area also historians can answer best. I thought, however, I'd share my thoughts on my favorite author and my current read, Queen Margot aka Queen Marguerite. It took me about 100 pages to realize why I felt such an affinity to Margot -- the latin form of my name is Queen Marguerite. But that's not why I picked this book to read.

Like many readers I've associated Mr. Dumas with The Count of Monte Cristo, the Man in the Iron Mask and the Three Muskateers. He actually has quite an extensive back list -- or as extensive as you can when you've been deceased 140 years. Yet so many of his books continue to be enjoyed by readers. Le Reine Margot (Queen Margot) was published in 1843 and I've been enjoying reading it. I'm reading the English version so some of my questions might not be pertinent when viewed in its original French. Still, I am curious about a few things and most particularly, would Alexandre Dumas make it in today's publishing world.

I've given myself two reading gifts this year. The first is to go back and read all my old Rosemary Rogers' romances and the other to read all of Dumas' work that is available in English. Not even the extensive shelves of the San Francisco library have a copy of his Captain Paul so I started with Queen Margot. It is a wonderful story of political intrigue, adultry, unrequited love as well as requited love, a handsome hero or two, tests of faith and a host of royalty each with their own agenda. While I'm reading it for the sheer entertainment of the book, I am ever mindful of things that do and do not work.

Our reading and writing world has become devoted to pure points of view. You have either one character or another's thoughts controlling a scene.  Ms. Rogers' early books have multiple points of view, often in the same paragraph--I had no trouble following, especially in the love scenes because I figure there are two people in that bed (or other trysting locale) and as a reader I'm curious what they're both thinking and feeling. In her latest book, Scoundrel's Honor she adheres to the modern rule of one point of view per scene.

In Queen Margot readers see one point of view per scene and Mr. Dumas' writing is brilliant. It is clean reading, but not sterile. He evokes emotion on several letters and while he does not spare the readers' sensibilities with some of the more brutal scenes, they are essential to the story. They are not sensationalized but very much a part of the story. When he describes a character's outfit it is easy to visualize and the descriptions of the men on horseback, charging into a scene, evoke a sense of excitment. I applauded when Margot outwitted Catherine de Medici -- not an easy thing to do, even in a book.

As I said, this is an English version of the story. I'm not sure if it is a direct translation from the French or "cleaned" up to adhere to our modern rules of writing.

So my questions for the editors and/or historians or historians who are also editors are these:

Were his original books, written in French, done in a pure point of view?

What was it like to be an editor in the early 1800's? Or did they exist as you do today?

If given the opportunity, would you edit for Mr. Dumas? If so, why? What would draw you to wanting to edit his book(s)?

Do you think he would make it in today's world of publishing?

My answer to the last question, as an avid reader and a writer who aspires to write with the same mastery I see in his books is yes. Very much so.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

THE CHRONICLES OF ALCINIA - Book I - The King's Daughter by Miriam Newman

I was the King's daughter once, so many years ago that sometimes now it is hard to remember.  Before the tide of time carried away so many things, so many people, it was worth something to be the daughter of a king.
            Our little island nation of Alcinia was not rich, except for tin mines honeycombing the south.  It wasn’t even hospitable.  Summer was a brief affair and fall was only a short time of muted colors on the northernmost coast where my father sat his throne at the ancient Keep of Landsfel.  Winter was the killing time and spring was hardly better, with frosts that could last into Fifth-Month.  But from the south, where men cut thatch in a pattern like the bones of fish, to the north where rock roses spilled down cliffs to the sea, it was my own.
          One thinks such things will never change, yet all things do.
So begins the narrative memoir of Tarabenthia, born to a dying queen and an ambitious king.  The throne of her island nation should be hers.  Instead, her country is invaded, her parents murdered and Tia is sent in chains to the land of an enemy.

Consecrated to her Goddess, sworn to the service of her country, still Tia finds love in the arms of the enemy.

How will she return to fulfill her vow?
Winner of Coffee Time Romance Award
5+ at Conger’s Book Reviews
5 Blue Ribbons at Romance Junkies
Top Ten Finisher – Preditors & Editors Poll for Best Romance Novel of 2009


THE CHRONICLES OF ALCINIA:  Book I – The King’s Daughter
                                                           Book II – Heart of the Earth