Creating Characters: Tapping Into The Male Psyche

Today I’m sharing a portion of Ronie Kendig’s fascinating piece on creating believable male characters, a topic I’ve spoken and written about before, as two of the three characters that drive the narrative of my literary mystery (The Angry Woman Suite) are male, and I am not … so, whether you’re Wally Lamb and writing from the female point of view (She’s Come Undone), or as I and Ronie Kendig (Dead Reckoning/link below) have done, from a male perspective, how the heck do you do that and get it right? Here are Ronie’s thoughts:

“Writing is a literary expression of who we are, what we feel and how we think. It would be correct to say that in order to write the male POV accurately , one must understand the way men think (I hear many ladies snickering right now). That line of thought led me to the Gender Genie and/or Gender Guesser, an online program that analyzes chunks of writing to determine the author’s gender. The algorithm used is based off a study done between Moshe Koppel, Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and Shlomo Argamon, Illinois Institute of Technology, which found indicators within documents that were distinctively male and distinctively female.

The point is, while generalizations about males and females are often exaggerated, they are based in truth—there are differences in the way men and women talk and think. Writers have the great task of translating the known differences into plausible, compelling fiction and characters. To do that, we refer back to the science. And remember, these are generalizations.

  • Men provide answers that assume the receiver has no knowledge of the topic/object being discussed. In other words, they talk and act to provide INFORMATION.
  • Men tend to state demands (“Give me an iced tea.”) rather than preferences (“I’d like a Diet Coke, please.”) the way a woman would.
  • Men usually do not answer all questions or respond to everything said
  • Men are one-box thinkers. They say what they mean and focus on one topic. Typically, there’s no reading between the lines.
  • While men internalize their thoughts, they are generally not thinking about feelings. Paragraphs of internal diatribe on feelings do not belong in a man’s POV (or at least not heavily).
  • Men are not verbose. They take the shortest possible route through a discussion; unlike ladies who can cover ten topics with one conversation, (we’re just talented that way!).
  • While a man might notice a woman’s curves (just keeping it real), they aren’t likely to notice what the woman is wearing (“Hey, is that a new Kate Spade dress?”).
  • At a dinner party, the men are more prone to chat up friends, but women will have stronger radars, noticing not just who is there, but relational aspects (Why is John sitting so close to Sue?) because women are about INVOLVEMENT, connecting, relationships.
  • Use appropriate verbs. Men do not giggle. They chuckle. They guffaw (a strange word in and of itself).”

 

_____________________________________________________________

Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat. She married a veteran, and together their lives are never dull with four children and two dogs–a Golden Retriever and a Maltese Menace. Ronie’s degree in psychology has helped her pen novels of intense, raw characters. Since launching onto the publishing scene, Ronie’s Rapid-Fire Fiction has hit the CBA Bestseller List, won the prestigious Christy Award, named to 2012 Bestselling Fiction by Christianbook.com, finaled in numerous contests and reader awards, including ACFW Carol Awards, RWA’s Faith, Hope, & Love’s Inspirational Readers’ Choice Awards, Christian Retailing’s Readers’ Choice Awards, INSPY Award, The Christian Manifesto Lime Awards, and FamilyFiction’s Readers’ Choice Awards. Ronie’s titles include her debut title and spy thriller–DEAD RECKONING–the Discarded Heroes series (NIGHTSHADE, DIGITALIS, WOLFSBANE, FIRETHORN), the A Breed Apart series (TRINITY:MILITARYWAR DOG, TALON:COMBAT TRACKING TEAM, BEOWULF: EXPLOSIVES DETECTION DOG) and the upcoming (2014) The Quiet Professionals (RAPTOR 6, HAWK, FALCON). Ronie’s writings are also in the 7 Hours direct-to-digital novella collection (WHOLE PIECES), Central Park Rendezvous novella collection (DREAM A LITTLE DREAM), and the Denali Dreams novella collection (DARING HEIGHTS, TAKING FLIGHT). Ronie can be found at http://www.roniekendig.com, on Facebook (www.facebook.com/rapidfirefiction), Twitter (@roniekendig

 

 

Awards, Reviews, And Moving On To The Next “Woman”

I have taken a nice long novel-writing break since The Angry Woman Suite won the big San Diego book award (the Theodor Geisel Award) for ”Best of the Best” in June, 2013, but now that the holidays are behind us and I’m feeling caught up with myself again, I’m also feeling a need to dive back into the first draft of book #2, tentatively titled A Woman of Commitment, about a young veterinarian looking back on the mid-century conviction of her then-boyfriend for the murder of her best friend.

So before I re-bury myself in research (currently on how to commit the perfect murder (and one can research this particular “how to” via Google), here’s goodbye to an awesome 2013. And while this isn’t goodbye to blogging, it’s accepted (I hope) that I’m pretty “one- track” when caught up in creative writing; I will, though, check in from time to time and perhaps share snippets from A Woman of Commitment as I move along with her.

 In the meantime, I’ve shared (below) some of last month’s Goodreads and Amazon readers’ comments and ratings re The Angry Woman Suite (Amazon link: http://amzn.to/ZBCGGg). I have not edited readers’ spelling and/or syntax.

I value all your comments (um, just the good ones, actually) and the amazing generosity you’ve shown me since The Angry Woman Suite debuted. Thank you so much, and Happy 2014!

5.0 out of 5 stars An extremely insightful, intriguing and impressively written book!,

By John P. Cohan (houston, TX USA) – Amazon Verified Purchase

This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

I generally do not give reviews, but was compelled to do so with The AWS as the author deserves recognition for creative talent. Great characters who are well developed and worth getting to know. Take your time to enjoy this great book!

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read!!,

By Heather MAmazon Verified Purchase(

This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

This book was fabulous! You fell in love with different characters, hated others, and grew empathetic to the rest! Lee had some great life lessons that she taught to the reader, and educated us on history as well! The three different voices kept you interested throughout this book!

5.0 out of 5 stars The Angry Women’s Suite: thumbs up

By kristi nugent Verified Purchase(This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

A great book-club read. My book-club just finished and discussed Fullbright,s award winning book. A masterpiece in thought with characters you may hate at first, then love or …every reader at club has her own favorite character, either who they wanted to become or who they despised. I was amazed at how three protagonist all worked together to create a relationship, family struggles, a complicated web of emotional ties. Fullbright also seems to understand human nature, history and has a writing style that captivates from the first chapter. I bought this book on my Kindle on my iPad. I took a screen shot of her first two pages outlying the three protagonists inner circle. I referred back to it often and recommend to be sure to look for this especially in electronic version. This book for me brought up emotions but Fullbright was careful to not go too far, emotionally, but keeps you wanting to read to the end. The last half of the book has surprises.

4.0 out of 5 stars Very well written story 

By Mark Phillips – Amazon Verified Purchase

This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

Understated storytelling where drama is built gradually from well written and flowing episodes. The passage of time unveils a subtle yet interesting story with memorable characters.

5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual and compelling

By AMB Amazon Verified Purchased This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

This is not a light read, but it is one that drew me in and kept me thoroughly entertained throughout. Excellent writing, good characters and an interesting plot, this book deserves the positive reviews it is receiving.

5.0 out of 5 stars Unique read!

By Jaclyn HeiserThis review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

Awesome, unique, I was glued to it from beginning to end. Riveting story, great historical references. I Would definitely recommend!

5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!

By deborah leelingAmazon Verified Purchase This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

A real mystery! I read it straight through the day, couldn’t put it down. It kept me guessing until the very end!

5.0 out of 5 stars Very deep!

By bj2131Amazon Verified Purchase

This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

This book was rather hard to follow, but not so much that I lost interest. It got better and better because little tidbits of information were constantly being revealed. The way the author jumps back and forth between decades was like an interesting puzzle. I was constantly having to pay close attention to who was speaking and what era they were in. But, in the end, all my questions were answered. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone whose just looking for light reading. This author digs down deep into the heart and sole of her subjects, and sometimes it isn’t very pretty. But then, neither is life…sometimes.

4.0 out of 5 stars A Story of Forgiveness and Redemption  

By Tammy JohnsonThis review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

This book gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of three people whose destinies are hopelessly intertwined and the journey to acceptance and forgiveness…of self, of others, and of circumstances beyond our control. Historical significance mingled with hope for a different outcome in a story that is carried full circle from Washington on the Brandywine to the Vietnam Era, this story artfully ties the past with the present and art with life.

4.0 out of 5 stars the angry woman suite  

By Pamela Carroll (Mary Esther, FL USA) – See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase)

This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

It’s an interesting story and helps readers understand better why it’s important to nurture children. Ideally children should have a warm loving home environment; however, realistically, many time it doesn’t happen that way. For those times, there can be a serious consequence that is passed on to future generations. It’s alarming how many lives are affected by a seed of anger.

4.0 out of 5 stars The Angry Woman Suite  

By J. Shap Amazon Verified PurchaseThis review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

Hauntingly beautiful. Provocatively inspired. So many twists and turns, as in every life lived. As the story grows through differing eyes, you will be captured!

4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing

By Amber Henson (Huntsville, TX, US) – Amazon Verified Purchase

This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

Very different and loved every bit of it. A recommended reading for any one who enjoys a twists and turns.

4.0 out of 5 stars Quite the puzzle!

By MaryAnneAmazon Verified Purchase

This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

The story is there. It just takes a while to figure it out. Kind of like unwinding a tangle of thread. So many twists and turns and characters to figure out. Good narrative and overall tale.

4.0 out of 5 stars Captivating,

By lucyvanpelt27Amazon Verified Purchase This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

The Angry Woman Suite is a captivating novel with twist and turns that leave you hanging on the last words and wanting to push on through to the end to find out the outcome. Wonderfully written.

5.0 out of 5 stars Story of a twisted family and its fight for survival

By Kindle CustomerAmazon Verified Purchase

This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

I really liked the twists and turns of this story. Reminds me to be very careful of the way we act and talk in the surroundings of children, be they ours or someone else’s. Very well written and will keep you turning pages .

5.0 out of 5 stars Margie

By margie tenleyAmazon Verified Purchase

This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

This was one of the best books I have ever read . You usually know how it will end a lot of twist and turns but this book was challenging

5.0 out of 5 stars A great read!

By Carol Petersen – Amazon Verified Purchase

This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

Complicated plot and story, wonderful character development. I couldn’t wait to read till the end and then sorry it was finished.

4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read

By Kathrine J SchroederAmazon Verified Purchase

This review is from: The Angry Woman Suite (Kindle Edition)

This book is a paradox. I found the characters unsympathetic as a whole, but The Angry Women Suite is beautifully written.Many times I put this down determined not to read any more of it, but I couldn’t stop until I had finished it.

 

Via Goodreads:

Michelle rated it 5 of 5 stars

Amazing book! I don’t have words enough to condense a review into a few short sentences. there are so any dynamics evolving at one time that it was occasionally hard to follow. But the author does an amazing job keeping on track and wrapping it all up beautifully. Loved this book!

Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars

Fullbright crafts an intricate narrative, layered with fear, deception, heartache, child abuse, and constant chaos. An aging mansion in Pennsylvania, and a missing suite of paintings, become the bones binding together this skeleton of a family. The story unravels dramatically in detailed, diary-like accounts, written by three main characters, each representing jagged pieces of the past, the present and the possible future of the Grayson legacy.

I found Fullbright’s writing style to be poetic and musical, engaging all of the senses. I also found it to be haunting, staying with me days after I had finished reading the book. In fact, the farther back I stood from the passages, the more depth and detail I saw. It’s as if the characters and the story line continued to present themselves, demanding my attention, reminding me of some basic life lessons that should not ever be forgotten.

“It’s a ludicrous expectation for women to have of men, thinking they live to fill their empty spaces.”

This book is not an easy read, it does require attention and the ability to be patient while the story unfolds. Although each chapter is beautifully written, they require one another for the full impact, much like the way a photo-mosaic requires a distance to see the whole picture. I would recommend this book for individual enjoyment, but I do believe it would be an excellent book for a book club. In fact, I will be recommending it to mine.

Barbara‘s review

4 of 5 stars

Complicated, frustrating, compelling – a great read! Halfway through the book, I concluded that it was a book I would probably read more than once, which is something I very rarely do.
Alternating characters and across several decades, the narrator switches voice, detailing in first person narrative the development of characters in three generations, each with complicated stories which leave profound legacies for those who follow. If you don’t pay attention to whose voice you are hearing, you can quickly become confused (pay attention to chapter titles). To my surprise, the method works quite well.
The insights into how and why children might quietly accept physical and mental abuse and even blame themselves is quite disturbing. Also disturbing is hearing from an abuser how such abuse can be rationalized. One might expect there to a direct link from the dysfunction in one generation to the next, and yet perhaps such is not totally inescapable. There are surprises here. The ultimate answer to the question of whether personality is the product of heredity or environment will not be easily nor definitively answered.
Those who have lived in the Chadds Ford area of Pennsylvania (Delaware, Maryland) will appreciate the intertwining of art, music, and history in that area, from Revolutionary War times to the present. The characters spend time in different parts of the country, including time in the deep south as well as California, but it is the Chadds Ford area that features most prominently. References to the Revolutionary War are prominent no matter where the characters are temporarily based.
A fascinating book, which I will revisit.

Pooja (On books!)‘s review

4 of 5 stars

bookshelves: 2013, ohmyeffingodsobrilliant

Lee Fullbright’s writing is definitely what made this story seamless despite the breadth of the misery, damage, history, longing, lust, apathy, “matter-of-fact” twists and downright chills the book is packed with. Even more laudable is the tightly-woven intricacy with which the conflicts of the narrators are handled; leading to a coming of age, the letting go and making peace spanning over all of the three generations ! It takes an exemplary writer to be able to incorporate so much, and still leave us wanting more. I would’ve nearly thought it impossible before I read The Angry Woman Suite, so kudos to the writer for that!

One thing I must mention, though, is that The Angry Woman Suite is definitely not something you read when you’re in the mood for something fast or flippant. It’s going to demand every bit of your attention, suck you into the darkest corners of the human psyche and entrance you with its realness. It rewards the patient reader with its thoroughness and insights; with its re-readability and incredible writing… which definitely makes me want to recommend you make time for it!

Wendy ‘s review

5 of 5 stars

The writing is superb. The imagery brilliant and the writer seems to have thorough knowledge and understanding of psychosis and the different levels at which it affects its sufferers. This is not your average definition of crazy in stray jackets. It’s the type that goes on behind closed doors unnoticed or rather ignored. And then it builds members of society who are damaged and left unable to cope with life but have created just enough of a veneer to be considered “normal”.

My recommendation is that if you are looking for something challenging and entertaining you should certainly get the book. With that have something handy to throw, wail into or a friend to call. I can guarantee that unless you have had a perfect upbringing, your own demons will rise.

Stephanie‘s review

5 of 5 stars

This family saga was well done and super intense. Not many happy moments, but redemption always seems possible. The Graysons include two lovely individuals, but the rest are insane. I think maybe Buster was one of my favorite characters. He and Aidan are overshadowed by the fabulous Papa, however. Papa, we could all use a grandpa like you. Meeting you was worth reading the whole book. Elyse, I feel you.
I only hesitated to read this book because I didn’t want my darling husband to think I was “an angry woman”. The title is scary!

I realized after I wrote the review that the complex and finally insane paterfamilias was named Lear and he had three daughters. So obvious, yet I didn’t make the connection. I don’t like it when that happens.

Maria Barry‘s review

5 of 5 stars

Brilliant, utterly brilliant.
The darkness, the game play.
Anyone who has grown up in a dysfunctional family will feel the psychological games that exudes the pages of this novel.

The characters are full, rounded and jump off the page at you. I want to read it again, just to absorb the storytelling further.

Ladory rated it 4 of 5 stars

This was a very good book! The first few chapters especially pulled me in. I thought the author brilliantly captured how the mind of a precocious, gabby little girl worked. Her wise grandfather taught her a whole lot and I learned a lot from his teachings, as well! I was actually enthralled with the first third of this book. It gave me a lot of very good food for thought. It’s about three very dysfunctional families who included jazz musicians, artists, and historians. The storyline is very complex including murders, abuse, disease, and theft, and I felt lost a few times; but things were always explained eventually. So it does keep one guessing. The chapters were each written from the viewpoint of a different character. Some were more likable than others, of course, but the reasons for what drove these people to become what they did made sense for the most part, in my opinion.

I found the author to be very intelligent and insightful. I look forward to reading more from her!

Ginger rated it 4 of 5 stars

Thoroughly fascinating study of three characters told from each person’s first person point of view. A very well done study of the unreliable narrator as first person as the story unfolded. This would make a great book club discussion book.

One Book, One San Diego

calebs crossing

“One Book, One San Diego” is a community reading program (partnered by KPBS and the San Diego Library) wherein San Diego readers select, read and critique one book en masse.

This year’s selection is Geraldine Brook’s Crossing Caleb, ostensibly the story of Caleb, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard University, in 1665. I say ostensibly, because we know Caleb solely through the eyes and voice of Bethia Mayfield, daughter of a Calvinist minister, so Crossing Caleb is really Bethia’s story, in my opinion—which is fine. What’s really interesting is that Bethia tells her story (and, ergo, Caleb’s) in archaic, but gorgeously lyrical, 17th century language (and you can forget about finding the Kindle definitions for many of these now obsolete words, because our smart Kindles know they’re obsolete … I figured most of them out, though, to my satisfaction at least, by context).

I found the history fascinating, especially how hard Puritan life was—and I mean hard— and the clash between Calvinist and Native American cultures, and the—ugh—oppression of women in a patriarchal society. What I didn’t experience (and I think I was supposed to) was the depth and breadth of a twin-soul relationship between Bethia and Caleb. While the author discloses that information on the historical Caleb is thin, she had license, by virtue of this being fictionalized history, to depict a fully fleshed-out character. But what I got was a cipher. Bethia told me what Caleb looked like, and relayed words he spoke, but I never felt him, his essence, his draw, and so, while I knew and appreciated many other things in Bethia’s life—her yearning for education and her resentment toward her brother, for two—I rarely experienced Bethia’s Caleb. He remained elusive for me.

In light of the awe I have for Ms. Brook’s ambition and talent, and the fact that I was more than satisfied on so many other levels, I almost feel as if this is a niggling criticism—but, on the other hand, if this is to be a true review about the larger story of a woman touched by a man who defied the convention of his time and culture and voluntarily left his tribe for immersion in English education and religion, then that man had to have been super-extraordinary … I missed out on that oh-so-close opportunity to see and know him. I rated “Caleb’s Crossing” 4.0 out of 5.0 stars on Amazon.

The Angry Woman Suite: The Gold

gold-shiny-web

I’d almost forgotten I’d answered Readers’ Favorite’s call for submissions for the RF’s annual international competition. It seems a hundred years ago that I’d submitted my novel, The Angry Woman Suite, though somewhere in the back of my brain, I more or less remembered it was September that winners would be notified.

Yesterday was September 1. I sat down to my computer first thing, like always, and there it was, a big congratulatory announcement: The Angry Woman Suite had been awarded the Gold in the Historical Mystery category. Wow! The award ceremony is next month in Miami. Thank you, Readers’ Favorite!

Following is the lead judge’s critique (I’m amazed how s/he summed this book up—great job!):

“The Angry Woman Suite is quite a ride. Set in the early 1900s, it is a story of family conflict, mystery, drama, and love. Young Francis Grayson grows up with a slew of women referred to merely as “the women,” consisting of two aunts and a grandmother. Unfortunately, Francis is subjected to abuse at their hands. Young Francis does not know much about his history and even the true identity of his father is kept from him. Elyse, Francis’ stepdaughter, tells the story from her point of view in a rather compelling manner. A third narrator is history buff and schoolmaster, Aiden Madsen, who also plays the roles of music teacher and friend to young Francis. Francis is talented, something that runs in the family, but he lets his desire for fame get the best of him.

Filled with deceit, outright lies, anger and resentment, this book is very cleverly written, with different points of view bringing unique perspectives to the story. The characters are fully developed and easy to understand, and as the story comes together one finds oneself empathizing, loving and sometimes even hating them. The novel is quite a trip through time as the characters tell history as they see it. It seems that each character is on a quest for truth. It is hard to decipher whose version is correct, but this adds to the flavour of this outstanding novel.”

“Debut novelist wins top San Diego award”

Lee-Fullbright-receiving-her-Geisel-Award

The above header is a San Diego U-T headline, and I’m the “debut novelist.” The Angry Woman Suite (also a Discovery Award winner and Kirkus Critics’ Pick) is my baby—and I am still walking on air after winning the 2013 San Diego Book Award for Best Mystery last weekend AND then the Geisel Award for “best of the best.”

I’m still saying to myself, Really?

I went to the awards ceremony intending only to show my appreciation to the San Diego Book Awards Association for moving my historical-psychological mystery novel forward to finalist status—and was SURE I’d be home in bed with dog and book by 9 PM—in fact, couldn’t wait to get home to bed, book, and dog. I didn’t even prepare comments (and preparing for every eventuality (tsunamis, malaria outbreaks, stock market plunges) is part of my job—er, makeup; Felix Unger has nothing on me), but that’s how sure I was about the TEN hours of reading and shut-eye I’d scheduled for later that night.

Well, goes to show … let down your guard for one minute and the universe pounces—this time, though, in the best way imaginable—although the mind picture of me walking down to that stage twice with no comments prepared—a wordless writer!—makes me cringe (and laugh—gotta laugh, because, oh, the lovely irony).

What I ended up saying (I think) when I was “crowned” with that familiar red and white Cat in the Hat chapeau (San Diego’s Geisel Award, which is awarded to each year’s judges’ pick for “best in show,” is named for our city’s own Theodore Geisel aka Dr. Seuss, the world’s most beloved children’s author), was of course “thank you” (a million times) and then I told a little story (I think)  about DDF (my husband who passed last year), and how supportive he’d always been, and how thrilled he’d have been seeing this, and that I intended placing my two trophies alongside the very first print copy of The Angry Woman Suite, which became DDF’s, the book I’d presented to him shortly before he died (and he’d been ecstatic—seriously ecstatic).

But not quite yet.

Yep, you caught me: I’m still carrying them around with me everywhere.

(Of course not really) *smile*Image

JUDGING THE ANGRY WOMAN SUITE

AWARDS SEASON RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER:

Entry Title: The Angry Woman Suite   new TAWS Cover

Author: Lee Fullbright

Judge Number: 73

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.

Structure and Organization: 5

Grammar: 5

Plot (if applicable): 5

Character Development (if applicable): 5

What did you like best about this book?

“THE ANGRY WOMAN SUITE will stay with me for a long time. You created extraordinary characters, a compelling plot and original settings. I liked the background of history into which you invited the reader: Washington’s Headquarters, the museum, Grayson House, etc. However, I think the outstanding thing about the novel is the characterization. I liked that you opened with Elyse, an extraordinary child in an unusual family. But then, if you consider the family long enough, it might not be as unusual as we think, but it is Elyse with her insight and understanding who makes it seem that way. It is the three sisters, Magdalene in particular, who drive the plot of the book. For me Lothian is the least understood of the three. Then there is Francis, the abused little boy trying to make it big as an adult musician, and he does despite his unfortunate childhood. I admire the way you took all these unique characters and wove them into a story that captures and hold the reader’s attention throughout the book. I also wonder, as a novelist myself, how you balanced all of them in your mind. Wonderful read … I loved it.” –Judge 73

The O’Briens Among Us

It seems everyone has watched Masterpiece Theater’s Downton Abbey, which means we all know who Sarah O’Brien is—but if you don’t, here’s the in-your-face “thumbnail”: she’s a snotty, meddling, opportunistic lady’s maid at Downtown—and of course we all pretty much dislike and distrust her, because what’s there to cozy up to?

I’m working on a new novel; specifically, the development of characters (character development is my favorite part of novel-writing, which, if you’ve read The Angry Woman Suite, you’ve probably already guessed)—and I just realized I’ve created a character who’s very much like O’Brien (though she wasn’t inspired by O’Brien, but by someone I used to know). Because the worlds my characters inhabit are never black and white, rarely are my characters either (an exception is Lothian in The Angry Woman Suite). So when I start fleshing out a character, I list her or his not-so-shining qualities on one side of a page and on the other side those characteristics that are attractive—the ones that can make us doubt our own assessments, as in it’s just an eccentricity we might tell ourselves (about a “difficult one”), and we should maybe cut her or him some slack.

Because even O’Brien herself has a soft spot (for her nephew), so she can’t really be all bad.

And O’Brien has no clue she’s a meddler; she actually can be helpful, so she can’t be purposely cruel, right? Right?

She also doesn’t know that almost every time she opens her mouth she pretty much alienates everybody, because of a naturally critical nature—but she can be friendly and approachable as well.

Just as she doesn’t see she’s overbearing and judgmental, because she can be charitable and self-deprecating, too.

She doesn’t see herself as scheming or controlling, because what she also is, is quite bright, and intelligent people are often forward-thinking (we tell ourselves).

However, despite a sturdy IQ, her EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) is quite low and so she lacks perspective and empathy, as in how her words come across as demeaning to others. Ironically, she is an overly sensitive individual always on the lookout for slights. She is easily hurt, often feels misunderstood, and would be crushed if she knew how many people go out of their way to avoid her.

One can actually get on with difficult people for some time. Years, actually. How? Well, for one, it’s a good idea to not let a difficult person “in” too close. Tread carefully. Sharing feelings can become ammo for O’Briens at some point in time, against a sharer. O’Briens often want to “fix,” which is not helping or supporting; it’s taking over instead, running roughshod, stepping on boundaries and telling others what to do. And know ahead of time you will always be offending them in ways you can never possibly see coming. The O’Briens are seemingly wired to be offended. It’s the first thing they consider in the morning, as in why did so-and-so get me this present? Or not come to my retirement party? Or (if they did attend) leave so early? To their prickly minds, there are no mitigating circumstances.

And I think this must be the aspect of the world’s O’Briens—how easily offended they can be—that is the foundation of their most unpleasant qualities, those cutting remarks and undermining ways.

O’Briens likely have less than optimum beginnings, maybe even got kicked down the road early on, and unfortunately they’re not resilient, though they can be ambitious. They love an imaginary glory, and see themselves racing against “competitors,” elbowing them aside, tripping them up in their mad quests for long-denied recognition, and turning a screw or two before it’s turned on them—which obviously begs the question: With profiling like that, who among the O’Briens of the world wouldn’t be on the lookout for “offenders”?

Does it help knowing this about the difficult ones? That they probably had tough starts they could never put in perspective? Because … ahem … remember, perspective is something they completely lack.

Depends. On how much distance you can keep. Or how much you want to punish yourself. Because that’s what it feels like after a time of interacting with or having befriended one. It feels like you’re slapping yourself in the face.

Stories are always about overcoming conflict or giving into it. One way or another, a story must have conflict, or it’s just words. Which is why all O’Briens make for great characters—despite a “stiffness” they all, strangely, seem to have, they are conflict in motion. They thrive on it—but unless some upward momentum, some change, occurs, these characters are doomed to predictability. Their snottiness begins to outweigh their positive attributes, and once a balance is that tipped, the weight of an O’Brien becomes a pain-in-the-ass burden.

And so there’s the answer. At some point, when burdens become static, they morph from boring to heavy, to hurtful, and even sometimes dangerous (as in worse than slapping your own face). The difficult people of the world need to be cut loose when they become static, whether they are real-life PIA’s bad for anybody’s mental health, or (safer) characters in novels—or, yes, even fixtures like Sarah O’Brien of Downton Abbey.

Writers Looking Good

happydogThe other day a friend told me about the number of indie books she’s been reading lately (mainly via Goodreads giveaways—love that site), and how appalling (and really, really sad) the oh-so-apparent lack of copyediting is in some of these books. 

And yesterday I had lunch with a reviewer who told me she’d been given an indie non-fiction book to look at, and that she filled two pages of notes about what needed fixing, and that was the first chapter only!      

I’ve also been doing my fair share of indie fiction reading—and so before I get into ripping into those writers who are NOT securing copyediting for their “babies,” thinking they don’t need it (really? and now define “arrogance,” please), I have read three really great indie novels this year, and recently started another that is so excellent it’s keeping me awake nights.       

Now, for the (gentle) ripping:

I have been in your shoes, thinking I know it all, because I DO know the rules; I can punctuate and spell like nobody’s business, till the cows come home—BUT it oftentimes takes a pair of professional eyes to point out that I just stacked a cliché on top of five others—and the reason I didn’t already know this? Because I get so close to my projects and the elements therein—plot threads, characterization, dialogue—I oftentimes can’t see a cliché for the life of me (and, okay, before you consider banging your heads against your ipads here, enough already with the clichés—though that WAS kind of fun).

When I finished the first draft of The Angry Woman Suite, and polished it and then polished it some more, I took a section to my writers group, heart pounding, fearful of all the things they could say, like maybe go home and set your laptop on fire. 

But that didn’t happen; my story had them. Something else happened instead. I had typos! I had misspellings! (And, yes, I do know where spellcheck is, too—and it’s NOT to be 100% trusted); I sometimes had too many spaces between words, inconsistent formatting —and, ugh, way too many adverbs. How could any of this have happened, after all the hours I’d put into my baby, checking and rechecking?

Well, get this: After my writers group finished poring over the entire book, and after I polished some more, I gave my manuscript to a copyeditor who found even more boo-boos—and then another copyeditor after that, and she found stuff, too!  

Moral of this story:

If you’re a writer and you want your projects to play in the big leagues, indie OR traditional, you absolutely CANNOT get there without a professional copyeditor—trust me on this. Not just a proofreader, but a professional copyeditor who will do everything a proofreader does PLUS inspect for style and consistency and formatting and a million other things that can get by anybody—but not necessarily by your audience!

As for who I trust, and know to be the absolute best, I know a few. Here’s a resource I can personally vouch for: http://www.hjseditingservices.com/#

You might also message your favorite indie authors via Goodreads and ask who they recommend—and successful indie authors WILL thank you for asking, because the better you are, the better the whole here-to-stay indie movement will be. And then we’ll all look good.

 

 

 

 

The Next Big Thing

I’ve been a MIA blogger of late (bad life got in the way; the kind that makes everything besides breathing almost impossible), BUT THEN fellow author Kerry Dwyer tagged me for The Next Big Thing, and here I am, breathing and typing at the same time, mind you (and who was it who sneered I’m genetically incapable of more than one task at a time? Thwack! Take that!).

The Next Best Thing is about authors helping authors, and its premise is simple: Authors answer questions about their current works-in-progress. But before I answer mine, more about the intrepid author who tagged me: Kerry Dwyer:

Kerry Dwyer is a British ex-pat living in France and author of Ramblings in Ireland, an engaging read about, well, rambling about Ireland and the musings it inspired.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15821729-ramblings-in-ireland

Her current work-in-progress is titled The Book Exchange.
Now my questions and answers:

What is the working title of your next book?

A Woman of Commitment

Where did the idea come from for the book?

It came about via a murder that occurred in my hometown a few years back. Actually, just the actual site of the murder—a water’s edge—inspired the premise. I moved the time frame back to mid-century. The point of view is a veterinarian’s (Annie), twenty years after the murder, and the conflict is her long-held suspicion that the wrong person was convicted of her best friend’s murder. And, yes, of course there’s intrigue and suspense, a love story and all the rest.

The opening paragraph reads:

“The summer morning of 1963 that my boyfriend Benny Radisch told me he’d fallen in love with someone else was the same day that seventeen-year-old Katie Plowright’s body was found in a shallow grave near the river’s shoreline.”

What genre does your book fall under?

Pretty much the same as my novel, The Angry Woman Suite. Psychological mystery (minus the historical tag this time—I think).

What actors would you choose to play the part of you characters in a movie rendition?

This is a funny one (to me), considering I’m still “shaping” these characters (and will be all the way to the end). Hmmmm, I have no clue … but I’m seeing Silver Linings Playbook this next week, so I pick Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper!

How long did it take to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I’ll let you know when I finish.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Oh dear, I’m not very good at comparisons to other writers! Let’s go with this: I hope it will be compared (favorably!) to The Angry Woman Suite, how’s that?

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Other than the aforementioned real-life murder, my inspiration for almost everything has been DDF, my husband (who passed last year). He was the most remarkable person. Unduplicatable (and, yes, I know that’s not a word … yet). He was brilliant and had verve (love that word), and to be around him was to feel can-do, too. But this second novel has been meant, from its start many months ago, for my sister who passed last month.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Other than unsolved murder? And love gone oh-so-wrong? And characters who aren’t what they seem?

Well, for all you dog lovers, there’s a dog in it….

As part of The Next Best Thing, I’m to tag five other authors, and they are:

Paulette Mahurin, amazing human being, friend, and award-winning author of The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14061559-the-persecution-of-mildred-dunlap

Leonore Skomal, author of Bluff /http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15852327-bluff
Excellent read!

Leslie A. Gordon, author of the must-read, Cheer: A Novel http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15822672-cheer

Sean Keefer, attorney and award-winning author of The Trust (and back cover blurb provider for The Angry Woman Suite) http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10316920-the-trust

Martha Rodriguez, author of the children’s book, A Reel Cool Summer http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12062453-a-reel-cool-summer
and fellow member of RABMAD (Read a book, Make a difference), a group of authors who give back.

happydog

#1 at Amazon: The Angry Woman Suite

Here it is: This morning (day after Thanksgiving), The Angry Woman Suite, a Discovery Award winner and Kirkus Critics’ pick, is  sitting on a #1 spot at Amazon … check it out here:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Angry-Woman-Suite-ebook/dp/B007CLHQU2

And here, pasted and copied from you-know-who: 

Amazon Best Sellers Rank:

The Angry Woman Suite [Kindle Edition]

Didja see the #1, didja? Baby Rae and I are dancing…. The Angry Woman Suite is currently #1 in Historical  Fiction and #3 in Mystery.

Here’s Laurie Fuller’s amazing Wuthering Heights-ish cover again (’cause I like it so much): 

… and that link again: http://www.amazon.com/The-Angry-Woman-Suite-ebook/dp/B007CLHQU2

… and me and Baby wishing you happy reading and Happy Holidays (ours definitely are, so far)

New Beginnings

Um … is there such a thing as old beginnings? I always wonder about things like that, like when I see “Live band” advertised (or live anything) … as opposed to what? Dead band? Or, “fresh fruit” on the menu, as opposed to—well, you get my drift….  

At any rate, The Angry Woman Suite (award-winning psychological mystery)has a new beginning: a new cover and a new back cover text, and two whole pages of awesome editorial reviews added to it (and, yes, I’m showing it off here)—and check out this too, just for today: http://fire.kindlenationdaily.com/2012/11/10/check-out-todays-kfknd-book-of-the-day-on-your-kindle-fire-the-angry-woman-suite-by-lee-fullbright/

It’s a whole new edition, soon to hit distribution, and here is that very cool new cover (larger) by amazing artist, Laurie Fuller. It so captures the “Hitchcockian” vibe of The Angry Woman Suite:

The new back cover is still in development, layout-wise, but here’s a first peek at the new text:

new back cover text

And that’s it for today’s new beginning … hope you’re having a good weekend (how many times d’you think I used the word new in this post? And I write?

Sheesh….

The Summer of Berg

I’m in an Elizabeth Berg state of mind.

I recently finished my third Elizabeth Berg novel of the summer (okay, it’s almost November, I get it. I’m having trouble letting go of summer; I have trouble letting go of things, period), all given to me by the same friend. Now, if I’ve ever read anything Elizabeth Berg-ish before this past summer, I don’t remember—and you’d think I would, she’s quite prolific. I looked at Berg’s list of titles this morning, but nothing set off bells (though I wouldn’t set any great store by this).

I often think things are given to us, or arrive, or are placed in our path when they can serve or enlighten or comfort us most. When we are ready.

Without realizing, I’d been ready for the summer of Berg. 

The title of this latest Berg foray is Home Safe, and the blurb on the front cover, by Booklist, reads, “Berg is a tender and enchanting storyteller … A keen and funny observer, she is the poet of kindness.”

All three of the Berg novels I’ve read are about loss of a spouse; or more specifically, a way of life, a state of being; in a way, a slice of identity—or, another way of putting it, a loss of “home” in the metaphorical sense—that safe place—we all know what our safe place is (hopefully), whether it be that lost spouse, or friend, or our dog, where we’re so completely known and accepted and valued, all pretenses and defenses and drama and airs checked at the door, please, only authenticity wanted and allowed here. That’s it, that’s the safe place. That’s home.   

Berg’s books are not sad books. Her characters are not tedious. They are interesting, human and real, and Booklist is right: Berg is the poet of kindness. An incisive poet of kindness, to be more exact. She is not sappy or pithy, and she doesn’t hurry healing along. Doesn’t even tell you that healing is on the guest list. But she invites this unnamed thing in, in the guise of opportunity and new challenge (and, yes, even risk), and she sits it down, makes it feel at home. She wants it to stay a while, get to know it, not fight or challenge it, and so she sets up a conducive environment for it, surrounding herself and her characters with the right (healthy) people, and humor and gentle insight and compassion. No lectures are allowed. Only windbags lecture, anyway (something Berg’s probably already written about).

There are no easy answers in Berg’s books; no homegrown recipe for healing, no pie-in-the-sky how-to manual—but there’s unlimited acceptance and there is the unspoken awareness that we are all, at one time or another, feeling our way home, safe.   

And there is comfort in that; in that we’re in this life together. And we’re in it to mend (and, yes, we can mend); to rebuild, to keep moving, to thrive, not by burying loss and hurt or nurturing it, or distracting it by inciting drama, but by inviting healing in (and by showing all dismissive, lecturing, moralizing, whiny, self-aggrandizing know-it-all loser windbags the door—okay, those were my words, not Berg’s).

I typed up the following passage from Home Safe, and put it on the fridge:

“She sits down and puts her hand to her chest and rocks. Thinks of all she has lost and will lose. All she has had and will have. It seems to her that life is like gathering berries in an apron with a hole. Why do we keep on? Because the berries are beautiful, and we must eat to survive. We catch what we can. We walk past what we lose for the promise of more, just ahead.”    

Love this.

Dancing on Broken Glass: A Review

Dancing on Broken Glass is book club majesty, a novel readers can chew on and then talk up one side and down another, like a good, thought-provoking episode of The Big C (for those who don’t know Showtime’s stellar series, The Big C, it’s about a woman with cancer—brilliantly portrayed by Laura Linney—who finally, and hysterically, begins living with gusto after getting her terminal diagnosis). 

Dancing on Broken Glass (so put your combat boots on) by the very capable author, Ka Hancock (a psychiatric nurse in her non-writing life), is like that in a way—and yet it’s not. First off, it’s not hysterically funny, and there’s no suspense or mystery, and it’s overlong. About a marriage between a bi-polar man (Mickey) and a woman (Lucy) with a long history of breast cancer in her family, it’s not even a little bit funny. Still, I started the book falling in love, even knowing the premise couldn’t possibly end well (yet hoping otherwise), because I was enamored with Lucy’s voice. Hancock’s set-ups and characterizations are flawless. I loved Lucy’s grit, gusto, and her commitment. I wanted to hang with her. I wanted a good life for her.         

But here’s where the many lovers of this soap opera will begin wanting to throw their e-readers at me:

After Mickey’s first psychotic break (cringingly rendered by Hancock), before his marriage to Lucy, I wanted to hustle Lucy aside and say, “Sweetie, don’t do it! Run! If you marry Mickey, your entire life, the breadth and the scope of it, will be defined by this illness. Broken glass is nothing! Your life will be about picking your way through land mines!”

Of course, Lucy didn’t listen to me. The young never do.   

I commend Hancock for wanting to show mental illness as something that can be dealt with instead of run away from—I’d like to think we can face down all the monsters living under our beds. And I agree with the premise that mental illness shouldn’t be stepped around.

Unless psychotic states are involved—and then step lively and out the front door.

Despite the argument that real committed love is often messy, were I Lucy, I’d have had to love Mickey from afar, for my sanity. Saturday night dates maybe, but only IF Mickey’s meds were humming along. Because psychotic breaks can make “regular messy” look like Christmas in Paris.

It’s for this reason I wish Hancock had depicted Mickey’s bi-polar disorder as less severe, so we’d have had the opportunity to learn how this currently almost-ubiquitous diagnosis is successfully managed.

But see why Dancing on Broken Glass is ideal book club fodder? I’m still yakking it up.

Image credit: kostrez / 123RF Stock Photo