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, 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, on Facebook (, Twitter (@roniekendig



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.
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

Leonore Skomal, author of Bluff /
Excellent read!

Leslie A. Gordon, author of the must-read, Cheer: A Novel

Sean Keefer, attorney and award-winning author of The Trust (and back cover blurb provider for The Angry Woman Suite)

Martha Rodriguez, author of the children’s book, A Reel Cool Summer
and fellow member of RABMAD (Read a book, Make a difference), a group of authors who give back.


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:

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?


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

Our Year of Blogging

This month marks the one-year anniversary for Rooms of Our Own, the webbed site of three “rooms” housing me (writer) at, and photographer Geri Wilson in her own “room”—and right now we have a vacancy (interested parties can contact for a room of your own, “almost” ready for move-in and, naturally, no rent here in Blogland. Our only requirement, if you can even call it that—we’re pretty loosey-goosey, and our “rooms” are autonomous—is that you have a passion you want to write about and know where spell check is, and that you attempt a blog post every couple weeks—or more!—and, yes, I know I just said “autonomous,” but we live in the same “triplex,” a click away, and gotta keep the ‘hood up).     

So when Geri and I started this blog, we were so neophyte-ish we didn’t know about brevity (I still have trouble with this; I’m used to a big canvas!), or what we might look like a year down the road. I had a novel to introduce (The Angry Woman Suite, which wasn’t even out then), and uber-photographer Geri Wilson had a line of greeting cards (featuring her amazing photography) to debut. 

Where are we now, a year later, and what do we think of blogging in general?

Well, Geri is just returned from a photography expedition to Bryce Canyon, so expect those photographs to go up in her room anytime now—I’ve had a preview and they are awesome.   

And The Angry Woman Suite (Goodreads link here: is now the 2012 Discovery Award winner for Literary Fiction.         

(One thing, though is unchanged: Baby Rae and I still dance to Gregory Page every night.)

I have another novel in the works, but I also have an idea for something else (based on the truism that we can only talk about our stuff so much and so long without risking emptying a room and/or triggering our own gag reflex—both pathetic)—and it’s this:  

I want to write about other writers, and about other books in particular—btw, I just started Dancing on Broken Glass last night, and I think it’s going to be love.      

So, I will begin reviewing occasionally, starting with Dancing on Broken Glass (next post).

However, reviewing isn’t a permanent thing (what is?). I don’t read as many novels when I’m actually writing one, for two reasons: It’s too easy to subconsciously pick up another writer’s voice, and reading is passive (as in I’d get lazy and never finish my own work). But, until I pick up my own manuscript again (a few more months), I’m enjoying reading novels again!  

As for blogging itself, I do think it’s kept my brain limber, plus I’ve discovered I am totally capable of shorter sentences and paragraphs (and shorter posts!!)—however, I don’t think blogging has yet revealed how funny I am (and yes, I am funny in real life—everybody knows).

Writing Mountains

Crime writer Patricia Cornwell (of the best-selling Scarpetta series) said in a recent interview that writing is hard work; that “it isn’t just sitting around fantasizing, or having a drink with somebody and talking about how cool it would be if you write a story. It’s work.”(italics mine, because of course I agree)

Cornwell also said, “And research isn’t easy. But if you’re going to have a character who’s a musician, you should learn everything about that you possibly can.”

As an aside, The Angry Woman Suite (see sidebar), does have a musician; a pivotal character—and guess what? I don’t play an instrument or even sing (at least you wouldn’t want me to), and I don’t remember how to read music … everything this character (Francis) does in the way of music was researched.

But what really, really struck me about the Cornwell interview is when she said this:

“You don’t become a writer—you are one. And if you really are a writer, it’s like telling a songbird to shut up—you can’t … (and) you have to be willing to be bad at something to be good at it.”

So this is what I thought (and not for the first time): What kind of person is willing to really suck at something and feel like a total failure, and yet still get up in the morning and go back to her or his personal challenge?

A freakin’ masochist, that’s what.

My brother is a self-described non-athlete. He also just summited Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States. He said it was the hardest thing he’s ever done. The first time he tried climbing Whitney, he lost part of his gear. Back down the mountain he went, crestfallen. The following year he tried Whitney again, but his hiking partner got altitude sickness, so back down the mountain he went with his partner, because that’s the kind of guy my brother is.  

This year, like the two years before, he trained for months, hiking and climbing in San Diego’s backcountry, and the Sierras. He and his partner agreed that if one became ill, the other would continue to the top.

Why’d my brother keep plugging away at this mountain?

Because that mountain was calling for my brother’s personal best, and my brother heeded the call.   

It’s the call that goes out to each of us; to all athletes, professional or aspiring, and to all writers, seasoned or fledgling. You name the job or challenge, the call’s there. It’s the call that makes every morning a promise, and each day an opportunity to go a little farther and a little higher than the day before.

Patricia Cornwell also said this (about being sucky before you’re proficient):

“You are going to trip over your own feet … (and) you will never be good at writing the first time you try, any more than Nadal hit a tennis ball the way he does now the first time he picked up a racket…. The only way you get better is to just do it all the time. And if this is the inevitability of how you express yourself, you’re still going to get up after failures.”

And you will climb mountains.

PS The Angry Woman Suite is currently on a blog book tour, and it’s going very well– I love bloggers! And Emlyn Chand over at Novel Publicity. Check out GoodReads for new reviews each day….

Image credit: kamchatka / 123RF Stock Photo

Falling in Love Again

I am big-time in love, and it’s been a while since I’ve felt this way.

For the longest time (since even before The Angry Woman Suite came out in March, and my husband’s death in May), I’ve been reading only magazines before falling asleep at night—no time for the commitments books require (and this from someone who at one point routinely read 4-5 books a week—geez, did I have no other life back then?).

And then a friend handed me a copy of Elizabeth Berg’s The Year of Pleasures (pub. 2005), and I’ve been head over heels ever since. That I actually starting reading it is a bit of a miracle, since I try not to read novels when I’m working on my own stuff (I don’t want to subconsciously pick up another author’s voice).    

It’s a little book—but I actually do think most “miracles” are small, overlooked things—about a youngish woman—Betta—whose husband has just died. Okay, connection right away. But instead of being a pedantic, tear-your-heart-out story, this one is about renewal; about a woman moving to a small town with the goal of finding pleasure in “simple daily routines.”

It’s about reclaiming life—without claiming to have answers for anyone else. It’s about choice, as in it’s up to each of to choose contentment (over misery), and how we get from miserable to content is highly individualized. (Perfect for me. I hate when a book—or person!—thinks it’s the oracle of all things for everyone—it’s  just way too dang condescending, not to mention boring as all get out.)   

The prose is gorgeously simple. It had me about seven pages in (about Betta’s husband’s terminal cancer), at this:

“Near the end, I started looking for signs that the inevitable would not be inevitable … I watched the few leaves that refused to give up their greens to the demands of the season. I took comfort in the way the sun shone brightly on a day they predicted rain—not a cloud in the sky! I even tried to formulate messages of hope in arrangements of coins on the dresser top—look how they had landed all heads up, what were the odds?”

“Oh, I know, I know!” I wanted to comfort Betta, an instant sister of my heart.

But I couldn’t of course, and my comfort wasn’t needed anyway, as this sister of mine was already miles ahead of me. Instead I (and Baby Rae) curled up together on our new-to-us antique bed (a simple pleasure), cradled by plump lavender and green pillows (more pleasures), and we let Elizabeth Berg’s Betta show us the rest of her path and her new relationships, and we watched her revive old ones; and I cheered Betta on when she opened a new shop in her new town—c’mon, didn’t we all love playing “store” when we were kids?—and at the end of this deceptively simple and lovely book I was fulfilled and grateful when Berg wrapped these final comforting words around me, about contradictions:

“I thought of rich men who were poor; poor men who were rich; ascetics who lived with nothing so as to have everything. I thought of how ‘lost love’ is a misnomer, for love is never lost at all but only different in appearance, conforming with that well-known law of physics. John used to tell me that there was grace in mathematics and romance in physics. In this, as in so many things, he was exactly right.”

I hugged Berg’s book when I finished—literally. And considered that this is why many of us read.

I thought back on all the novels—okay, not all—that have given me something, starting with Alcott’s Eight Cousins, when I was nineish, about family—Oh, so that’s how it’s supposed to work! I remember thinking—to Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind when I was eleven, about war and love at odds and never giving up, and Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird of course, and … well, the list is endless, all the books that have formed me; taught me, and got me to thinking, and even, sometimes, brought me community. Berg’s small book, The Year of Pleasures, has been added to my list.

And it’s a new day.

(and blog tour starts tomorrow)           

Aha Moments

Sunset from Pt. Loma (San Diego, California) Photo by Geri Wilson

The topic of Aha’s—inspiration or ideas or those nano-seconds of perfection when we know, without qualm, we’re on the right track to something—has  come up more than once the past few days (which I’m sure is a sign). 

Put those occasions together with the most spectacular, and currently hot San Diego weather, complete with red sails in my Point Loma sunsets, and coming home from the office and getting into shorts and little else, and opening up the whole house so I can hear the mourning birds last thing at night and first thing in the morning, and the foghorns and the trains—and I’m practically brimming with ideas and inspirations. This is my favorite time of year; always has been.

Where I can hardly wait to, 1) get in the pool, and then, 2) get to my computer and start writing. Oh, those trips I can take in my head, and those perfect aha moments, the almost trance-like ones, when a story flows right through you.  

I asked two friends what inspires them.  

My one friend, a photographer, said, “Sage, and infants, and sunsets and waves … and the first (and very recent) realization that I could hike without pain, with the right shoes, after a (debilitating) car accident.” 

My second friend, an artist, said. “I love my creative and silly co-workers who help keep the atmosphere fun and lively! I love that my arthritic dog got up easily this morning and raced me to the top of the stairs. I loved taking a shower with the windows wide open and feeling the warm breeze, and I loved singing all the way to work with the Beach Boys.”

“And what inspired you to write this book?” 

That’s the question put to me by a book blogger who interviewed me about my literary suspense novel, The Angry Woman Suite (a Kirkus Critics’ Pick, 5-starred Readers Favorite, and 2012 Discovery Award winner for Literary Fiction). My answer centered on one of my biggest aha moments ever, ever, ever (after seeing my husband for the first time, that is):

“I was in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, sightseeing, and stopped at the Chadds Ford house where George Washington plotted his infamous Battle of the Brandywine. I wandered the battlefield, thinking about this lost battle and what was being fought for—freedom—and then there was a second, literally, when something took hold within my imagination: the beginnings of a novel about 20th century characters also struggling for autonomy. I knew on that day that one of my characters would be a woman looking back on her life, and that her journey to autonomy would be interwoven with another character’s similar journey, and analogously with Washington’s fight for freedom at Chadds Ford.”  

Along that same line, The Angry Woman Suite will be going on tour starting August 27th though September 21st, stopping at book blogs not only in the U.S., but also internationally. The tour is being facilitated by the incomparable Emlyn Chand of Novel Publicity, and I think it’ll be fun, maybe inspiring, and perhaps produce a couple more aha’s along the way … oh, and one other thing: I’m on Twitter now. I’d thought it would be impossible to say anything in less than three full paragraphs, but I’m getting the hang … follow me at @LeeFullbright, and I’ll follow back!         

Oh, and one last very important thing: A huge Congratulations! to San Diego jazz artist Gregory Page, my absolute favorite musician (sorry, after Mick, that is, who is, after all, a god), for his Best Jazz Album win (for Shine, Shine, Shine).  You’ve got to check him out.

Baby and I (below) dance to Gregory Page every night. Gregory also inspires me, and Baby’s dancing is improving.  

Try on a little Gregory Page and consider what inspires you.  

E-book at Amazon: The Angry Woman Suite

Hello, and finally! To all who’ve been following this blog—first, thank you!—and to friends and family who’ve asked, here it is, the first announcement:

The e-version of the novel, The Angry Woman Suite (about greed, murder, love gone bad, and imbalance in every single neurotic form there is—and who doesn’t love somebody else’s problems?) IS finally out as an e-book, yahoo! No, double yahoo!

The Angry Woman Suite e-book is now available from Amazon (and soon to be available for the Nook and ipad, too).

Here’s the link to my Amazon author page:

If you’re partial to print books (who doesn’t love print?), the print version of The Angry Woman Suite (the novel is also about redemption and love gone good—in fact, very good love, and who doesn’t love good love?—and check out the super Kirkus review link over in the right column on this page) will be in the Ingram distribution channel in about a week, and available via both the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites shortly thereafter—I’ll shout “when” as soon as I hear.  

And then I will be eternally grateful to each of you (forever) who posts a review or comment to my Amazon listing, and to Goodreads if you’re signed up with them, and to my Facebook page for The Angry Woman Suite, which is

I know it’s a lot, but reviews and comments (especially at Amazon, leader of the free world) are what can set The Angry Woman Suite apart from the—yikes!—1,800,000+++ other books listed at Amazon! It’s truly going to be an uphill battle (and writers never use clichés?). Simply put, I need Y-O-U. 

I’ve just seen the completed back cover text for the print version of The Angry Woman Suite and it goes something like this . . . actually, it goes exactly like this:

A superb debut that exposes the consequences of the choices we make and legacy’s sometimes excruciating embrace.—Kirkus Reviews 

When overbearing former big band star Francis Grayson mentions the “murdering bitches” who supposedly ruined his life, his resentful stepdaughter Elyse—always on the lookout for simple dirt on Francis—takes note. Intertwining narrative with Francis, Elyse stumbles across glimmers of big murder instead of simple dirt, while Francis moves perspective of his “bitches” back to the 1930s, to his childhood in Pennsylvania. His coming-of-age story centers on a mysterious painting and search for the artist who he believes can fix his feuding family. Aiding him in his quest is his mother’s lover, Aidan Madsen, who not only mentors Francis’ music career, but knows everything about two murders implicating the women in Francis’ family. The three narrators of The Angry Woman Suite—Elyse, Francis, and Aidan—weave together a picture of two disturbed families who meet their match in the young, determined to survive Elyse Grayson, and the human to a fault hero, Aidan Madsen.


    Thanks for stopping by!

An Improbable Life: Baby Rae, My Writing Partner

I arguably have one of the world’s most neurotic dogs. Her name is Baby Rae Fullbright—Baby for short. (Baby is for “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” and Rae is after my sister, Colleen Rae, who was with me the day I took Baby.)

Smuggled out of Tecate, Mexico as a puppy—a very sick, abused one—hers is an improbable life. That she survived puppyhood was the biggest improbability. But she didn’t survive unscathed. She has—how do I put this? Well, she has issues. Like a draining bathtub can send her into paroxysms of drooling and shaking. And she hates dogs. Considering she is one, how messed-up is that?

She fears men, eyeglasses, hats, bicycles, scooters, towels, riding in cars, looking at cars, screen doors, wind, leaves, and lizards (the teensy ones!)—and that’s nowhere near a complete list. That’s a “just getting started” list.   

She is the unlikeliest cattle dog (normally brave and energetic—but also loyal and incredibly smart). She is lazy (except she loves to “dance”). And she’s the total house dog (she doesn’t do rain or cold—and cold is anything less than 68 degrees). She sleeps on a down pillow. Wherever I am, she is. Unless I’m working at the office. But at home she never lets me out of her sight. Never. When I get ready for the office in the morning, those big brown eyes of hers are almost comically mournful watching me, as if I’m never coming back. It’s pitiful, actually. You’d think after eleven years she’d get it: I am coming home. I’ll always come home to you.     

But her world has rocked a little more than usual the past two weeks. I’d some Kindle pages to read (many pages, actually; for reference, the print version of my novel is 370-odd pages), and formatting to modify as necessary and turn back around in a week or so. This is a different kind of work than creative writing, where I take lots of little breaks and read aloud to Baby, for the rhythm of words and phrasing (and, yes, she always approves); where she and I are “partners.” But galley-type work is intense, extremely focused, as in no interruptions, please.

Well, I finished (in fact, I just finished!), but I know Baby’s missed our regular “talks,” and those silly “dances” we do while I cook dinner (no time for cooking!), or the workouts after (that’s my sad, pensive Baby above . . . ouch).

And, yes, I’ve missed her, too. She’s a special old girl in spite of her issues. Or maybe because of them. She’s my friend—my best friend. She gets me. I get her. She even understands English. The only thing she doesn’t understand is that she’s not ever going to be abandoned again, or hurt; otherwise, this dog is so smart you can have a conversation with her. And she doesn’t chew furniture, or pee on the rugs.

She just waits for me—and now I’m back. And we’re getting ready to dance.

Wooden Ships and Writing Fiction, Free and Easy

I love the sun—an excellent reason for living in San Diego—however, because I live on the peninsula, I generally experience more fog than sun. I don’t love fog but the deep, steady cadence of fog horns stirs something deep and primal in me—perhaps I was a seafarer in a previous life?

Hmmm . . . more likely I sold smelly fish dockside. . . .

But when the sun breaks through the fog or marine layer on the peninsula—and bear with me here, because I’m about to go all sappy on you—when it does, it’s like a benediction.

We celebrate the sun up on the point because it’s rarer here, and thus never taken for granted.

When it happens, it is the absolute loveliest thing to wake to sun streaming through my windows. What I see on a clear day, down the hill, is a sail-studded bay and the graceful arch of the Coronado Bay Bridge, and beyond the bridge, the hills of Mexico. To the left of the bridge is a city of silver skyscrapers shining in the sun, cradling an airport.   

And that view, instead of fog, is what has greeted me every morning this past week, thanks to a high pressure ridge, and it’s something we’re expecting for another full week.      

It was four days ago, right after I sent the last read-through of my novel, The Angry Woman Suite, back to my editor, and was thinking, What’s next? What do I do next, first? (if that makes sense) that I opened the newspaper and looked straight on at a full-page color sketch of a 3-masted Spanish galleon—so beautiful, she took my breath away. The stuff of dreams, of magic and adventure. I jumped into her story.

The galleon was called San Salvador, and she sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542—a full sixty-five years before the first English settlement on the North American continent. She was the flagship of an expedition led by Juan Cabrillo, the first European to explore San Diego Bay. Although Juan Cabrillo is memorialized by a statue at the tip of the peninsula, there is no remaining physical evidence of the beautiful San Salvador in San Diego.

But, oh, it gets better. . . .

Because there’s going to be. Funded in part by The San Diego Maritime Museum, and a very large contribution by an anonymous San Diegan, the museum is building a full-sized, historically accurate, working replica of Juan Cabrillo’s wooden ship.

In my backyard.

Okay, not literally. But almost.  

The San Salvador is being built on public land at Spanish Landing, across from the airport, an easy walk from my house—and so, of course, off I went with my brother, Brian, who also lives on the peninsula, a student of anything maritime and historical, to take a look at her.

It was still early morning when we set out—as I said, an easy walk—and climbing the Nimitz St. bridge, caught a glimpse of long reddish “fingers” touching the bluest of skies.  

We walked twenty feet or so along a winding underpass, past a myriad of mysterious tools and band saws and huge stacks of wood, until we emerged bayside again; amazingly, right next to varnished oak cross ribs rising ark-like from the keel, the backbone of what will be, in a year or so, a 92-foot, 3-masted wooden ship.

We didn’t speak . . . we walked the length of that keel and those ribs that look much like cathedral ribs turned skyward, and I imagined 16th century ship shipwrights piecing their wooden ships together without the help of naval historians or plans drawn on a computer and transmitted to a 93-foot by 35-foot lofting floor where today’s crew can look on a virtual drawing (made up of “jigsaw puzzle” pieces) of the ship for construction.

So how did those 16th century shipwrights build their ships?  

By the seat of their pants, come to find out. Trial and error. And probably always asking themselves, What’s next?

Because isn’t that what we all ask ourselves when we begin building something new for the first time, whether it be a house, a business, a painting, a Spanish galleon—or a novel?

What’s next? How do I make this work? How do I make this the best of the best? How to start, which direction to go, how to make my “dream” workable, and solid and beautiful at the same time? 

And that’s what I think is so cool about us. By that, I mean the big “us.” The human race. We reach, we move forward, and we build things from nothing but dreams and visions. We are innovative, and though our penchant for momentum is what often makes us giant pains in the patooties, too, it more often—and definitely historically—is what makes the human condition magnificent.

And that’s what I saw in that San Salvador skeleton. I saw “us” as builders—and it moved me, because the upside of us as a species is that we do bring the impossible to life. And if the first San Salvador, a “mere” vision before it became a launched reality and made history, wasn’t a stunning example of that, nothing is. And this second San Salvador was “just” a dream, too, before it became a keel and ribs on the beach—and the vision is that our second San Salvador will be used to travel the California coast as an ambassador for a city shining in the sun: San Diego.

What’s next?

Interestingly—to me, anyway, but especially on my “San Salvador day”—I’ve been asking myself, What’s next? a lot lately. I’ve started a second novel, and it’s slow going, primarily because I’ve been working toward the launch of The Angry Woman Suite, my novel about a double murder and the ensuing fallout on two generations—and I also have a fulltime day job and an ill husband: I’m busy.

But you know what they say about excuses. Plus, I don’t want to be one of those people who wave excuses around, until excuses become how they’re known. You know, like “the excuse lady.” Ugh. I don’t want to be that.      

What I want is to be a 16th century shipwright flying by the seat of her pants. Yes, I do.

Because building a story is also like working with jigsaw puzzle pieces. Making up believable primary and secondary characters; constructing a story arc, a plot line, secondary plots, dialogue that is spot-on, narrative with momentum, building tension—and, oh, did I once mention cohesion in all this?—a story with cohesion, where everything fits perfectly together, coming right up! Whew, where to start? And when you close up shop for the night, where to start again the next night?  

Of course it would be easier to plop down in front of the TV and tell yourself you’ll “work it” when you’re feeling the inspiration, when life isn’t so busy, when the day job’s not so hard, when you’re not needed so much, when you’re not so tired or put-upon—which is exactly how novels don’t get written.

And “plopping down” also guarantees a galleon won’t be built.  

So, what’s next? I asked myself on the beach the day I met San Salvador, walking the length of her keel and ribs and marveling at the idea, the sheer ballsiness, of her. Not just because she’s in my backyard, so to speak. But because she truly is rising from the ashes of a 16th century ballsy dream, from the hands of long-ago shipwrights who had to have asked themselves a few hundred times, “Oh holy hell, what do we have to try next to make this bloody thing fast and maneuverable, yet still big enough to hold people, horses, pigs, and cargo for weeks, months, on end, on the high seas?”

Variations of this question have always defined us, from inventing the wheel through to re-inventing it a bazillion times more throughout millennia—but the answer to “what’s next?” has always been the same: stay with “it” . . . stay the course; otherwise you’ll never know about bringing something home.   

So there you have it. Easy-peasy (do you want to slap me now?). Whether it’s a ship you’re building, a career, a family, your first book or the second, commit, and then fly by the sea of your pants. Trial and error. Stay with the vision, if for no other reason than the sheer ballsiness of rising to a challenge, falling down, and picking yourself back up again, until you finally bring your vision home. Because bringing home a dream is about as good as it gets.

As always, thanks for coming by! Till next time (and more on the ship and more on writing). . . .        


Anti-laments and The Angry Woman Suite Book Cover

I read a lot of blogs most mornings, and this morning (the day after the day after) I’m reading a lot of Christmas “laments.” You know, like it’s over, dregs everywhere, and what was it all about, Alfie? (Yes, I realize the Alfie thing dates me to pre-historic.)

So, this is the anti-lament. But, first, yes, it is over. Time to assimilate.

Separate the wheat from the chaff. Events and people are not perfect—though all dogs and some moments are. *smile* So, keep the perfect moments out, like accessories, and put the imperfect ones in a box, to be packed away—who needs to keep pulling them out to obsess over anyway?   

Christmas, 2011, is history. And mine was nice—at least the season was. The actual day was defined by a nasty head cold (mine) and seizures (my husband’s). We—he and I—know what to do about seizures by now; we’re experts. And we all know what to do about head colds (not a damn thing—the upside of a cold, though, was the perfect excuse for planting myself in the lawn swing with Baby Rae and playing with my new Kindle Fire, which I totally love).

The San Diego weather has been, and remains, a balmy 72+ degrees (that’s perfection). Now, there are some who argue that Christmas isn’t Christmas without snow, just as there are some who argue that Christmas is over-hyped and over-commercialized, and over-everything, BUT— 

That’s silly.

We all choose how much to participate, easy as that. I don’t have to go to the mall, or listen to carolers, or eat all that yummy holiday food—nobody does (except it’s fun: the music, merry-making, prezzies, and food, all of it). Point is, I see no need for making minor things, like commercialization and letdowns, federal cases, unless making things federal cases is your claim to fame (and, personally, I wouldn’t touch that one).   

As for snow at Christmas—ahem: my husband and I’ve shared many a snowy Christmas. We used to be skiers, until he got sick. We spent a dozen Christmases at Snow Summit in Big Bear, CA, and sometimes in Park City, Utah.

My husband and stepsons thought all that snow and ice and skiing = bliss. Hog heaven every Christmas.  

Here’s what I thought: lovely to look at but damn cold. Uber cold. Way too many layers of clothing required for taking the trash out (and, hey, why weren’t those blissful guys taking it out?? Short answer: something to do with my guys not seeing trash as, well. . . trash).

And ice is slippery.

Let me repeat: ice is slippery. If I had a free lift ticket for every time I ended up on my ass taking the dang trash out, I’d still be skiing. 

I’m way happier with the simpler 72-degree San Diego life. Barefoot and sipping a cold one by the pool, with a new Christmas book in hand. Ahhhh. Not 20 layers of clothing and big honking parkas, and hats that make my hair go smooshed, or reading a Christmas book under an electric blanket—oh, and water heaters that run out of hot water because, hey, I just happen to be the last one to shower because I was cooking everybody’s dinner and cleaning up (after a full day of skiing, too) while my three guys warmed their oh-so-sore muscles under steaming 20-minute hot showers, poor babies.

It’s okay; the foregoing is the stuff of family lore and giggles.

But back to the best parts: this simple weather and those Christmas books = the anti-lament.

Since I can remember, the best part of Christmas, besides food and music and lights, has been books. New books! Meaning, when I was a kid and my grandparents had packed up and left and the tree came down, the books remained, and so I never felt blue after the Christmas hoopla. In fact, I barely noticed a lack of hoopla, I was so engrossed with the worlds my new books offered.  

And my husband always gave me books, too. Books to read under electric blankets or at the pool, it didn’t really matter.

I didn’t get many print books this year. I resisted my first e-reader (2 years ago), but I am totally into my new Kindle Fire. I’m not giving up print books, but I’m here to tell you: the Fire is pretty cool.

Now, here’s where I am with my own soon-to-be-available novel, The Angry Woman Suite:

The cover is done, ta-da! Loooooooooooooooooove it! Artist Laurie Fuller did a magnificent job capturing Magdalene Grayson’s mystique (above). Kirkus Reviews posted the cover to their website, and took The Angry Woman Suite review public (although the book will not be available 1/1/12, which is how it’s listed at Kirkus—we’re running a bit behind. Looks more like 2/1 now—of course I’ll keep you posted!).

Happy New Year everyone! Be safe in 2012, and be happy. Love deeply, work hard, read voraciously, laugh often, get a dog (and you will laugh often), and get as healthy as you can. I’ll resume regular blog posts after the holidays (in-between reading all my lovely new downloads).

Heaven’s Not A Colon

Hi all, I’ve been hunched (and I do mean hunched) over a computer for 12+ hours a day, for a week, between clinic (day job) and last minute edits to my novel, The Angry Woman Suite, sent over from the editor at TP. 

And what I have to show for all this hunching and sitting? A spasm-y shoulder, red eyes, and a butt that’s spread another six inches.

Is it worth it?

Would you think me too weird if I were to say my idea of heaven is replacing colons with semi-colons and dashes with ellipses points? That I’m totally in my element hunting down slippery paragraph and page breaks?   

I’ll be wrapping up this proof in a couple of days, then the manuscript will be formatted again by Telemachus and downloaded to my Kindle, where I get to read the whole bleeping thing yet one more time, rechecking formatting for Kindle readers.  

Then The Angry Woman Suite goes to Smashwords for setup for the ipad, Nook, Sony e-reader, and all the rest (more on the print version next post). 


E-book trivia:

The Amazon Kindle, when first released in 2007, retailed for $400.00.

And, oh, the cacophony over paper books versus e-books! Of course, now we know it’s not a contest, but a done deal: it’s a co-existence between print and electronic, for now. We’ve all pretty much slipped over to the “dark side,” to electronic, even those who prefer paper (I will always have a love affair with paper, but who can argue with convenience and less money per book, going the e-way?). 

Blogger Nathan Bransford annually asks his readers if they will buy mostly e-books, and the results for this year, as well as every year since 2007, since the Kindle debut, are:

2007 . . . only 7% said they’d pick an e-book over a paper book

2008 . . . hanging in there at 11% (who said they’d pick “e” over paper)

2009 . . . picking up momentum at 19% (who’d choose e-book)

2010 . . . 32% say electronic is the way to go  

2011 . . . 47% say yes they do and will buy mostly e-books      

What a trend. Hope you’re enjoying the season! I’ll check back in a week or so. Oh! oh! oh! wait till you see The Angry Woman Suite cover–it’s coming along, and I love it. Can’t wait to show you!

The Creative

Alan Alda on the red carpet at the Emmys 9/11/...

Image via Wikipedia

Thanksgiving dinner conversation drifted to the subject of Alan Alda—why or how I can’t tell you, I was so intent on the epic spread my niece had produced (this girl can cook!), but it reminded me of a quote I’d clipped recently of Alan Alda’s, from a speech about creatives and creativity (and isn’t that really all of us and what we’re doing—or should be doing—with our time here, creating something?). When I got home, I pulled it out and fell in love with Alan Alda all over again. I thought, He gets it, he really gets it. And here it is:  

“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk, and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you discover will be wonderful. What you discover will be yourself.”—Alan Alda

 See why I love him? Madly?

Hope you’re enjoying the holiday season!