Author Archives: writingsbysay

Inspired by life with enhancement and modification to increase interest.

Jean Verno asked me to post this for her.


Inspired by life with enhancement and modification to increase interest.

By Jean Verno


Where do I get ideas? The most common and least complete answer is “from life”.

My stories begin with an image usually sparked by a something, song or an overheard conversation, a person or action that catches my eye.  A unique location or photo will give me a feeling that something interesting happened here, and I am drawn into spinning what fantastic event it would have been

Sometimes I will see a person in a public place and wonder how they got there or into that circumstance and before you know it, I have made up an impossible story. I never know where my imagination will go but the characters end up quite different than the original.

Give me a title and I’ll make up a story but if I have a story first, I struggle to find a title.

A story is told about the writer* who left journalism to become a novelist. When asked why he chose to leave a successful career for the unpredictable life of fiction he gave this answer.  “I was covering a major fire, it lasted all night and tragically lives were lost. I realized then that what I wanted to do was to write the story with a more satisfying outcome.” He went on to write very successful novels in which, ironically, many lives are lost.

In fiction, we can make things come out the way we want them too, mostly. Sometimes your characters just insist on following their own paths. Still, it is the author who decides which way the story ends.

Once I get these flashes of imagination I am usually sort of left hanging and then the work begins. It is like turning on the stove with a vague idea of cooking something. Now you have to assemble ingredients, decide what to add where, and how much. Should you chop or slice the onions or just use the dried flakes? How long should you cook it so that it is done perfectly, not raw and not overcooked? How should you serve it to best enhance the whole meal? And a big question, how do you let the world know that your wonderful creation is there and ready for them to consume with pleasure? And, hopefully look forward to more.

Getting ideas for stories is the easy part. It is the developing, plotting, refining, editing, adding, removing reediting, and on and on, that is the real work. That is the crafting; that is what leaves blood on the keyboards.

Life, after all is what you make of it but most people don’t make stories, poems or books. It is only those of us who believe that we can improve on the common experience by twisting it and twirling it and coloring it to our fancy that do.

*If you want to know who, email me. I couldn’t find the original source so I didn’t use his name.

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Where I Go To Find a Story

Kat asked me to post this for her:


The attorneys I work with have helped me with legal documents surrounding child custody and wills for my current WIP.

Kat asked me to post this for her:

My first volunteer job eventually morphed into a paying job with a victim advocacy agency. On the job training taught me the ins and outs of how to perform a sexual assault forensic exam. I also participated in numerous protest marches which served as the basis for Raising Kane, my contribution to the most recent LCRW anthology.  ( Life, Love, and Lust )

I once pumped a religious connection in order to furnish an alibi for the accused in my second novel, Try Just Once More. It involved the intricacies of how to get around the secrecy of the confessional.

Informational brochures sent to me as a donor to Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International have given me a wealth of information which I hope will serve as fodder for future novels/novellas.

I used the internet to research the modern day underground railroad, information used in Caper Magic.

Vacation spots have served to offer me some terrific settings for Try Just Once More and Caper Magic.

Personal experiences with a rotator cuff repair and gastric bypass were included in my novella The List. A ruptured appendix is featured in my current WIP

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Creating a Wise Reader

(This is from an old blog of mine.  I think it needs a repost.)

I have just finished reading The Writer’s Digest Guide To Science Fiction And Fantasy by Orson Scott Card

This book is, by far, the best book I have read about writing speculative fiction. (As an added bonus, there is a large section titled “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference”. OUTSTANDING.)

One of the sections is titled, Creating a Wise Reader.

A Wise Reader is not someone to tell you what you have just done. What you want is someone who will report to you, in detail and accurately, on the experience of reading your story. (Think of a play: after it is over, everyone will tell how brilliant you were. But, during the performance no one lies. If people are checking their watch or looking through the Play Bill, something is very wrong.)

You want to train your reader to notice and take notes on symptoms – what the story does to him. For this job, it is better if your Wise Reader is not trained in literature. You don’t want him to tell you how to fix your story, you want to know how it feels to read it.

Ask your reader:

  • Were you bored? Did you find your minder wandering? Can you tell me where in the story this was happening? (Let him take his time, look back through the story, find a place where he remembers loosing interest.)
  • What did you think about the character named _____? Did you like him? Hate him? Keep forgetting who he was? (If he hates your character for the right reason, that’s good news. If he can’t remember who he is from one chapter to the next, that is a problem.)
  • Was there anything you didn’t understand or were confused? Any sections you had to reread?
  • Was there anything you didn’t believe? Any place where you said, “Oh come on!” (This will help you catch clichés or places where you need to go into more detail in your world creation.)
  • What do you think will happen next? What are you still wondering about?

Treat the reader with respect. Your reader will need affirmation of her effort by you addressing what she felt in your manuscript. Unlike someone who tells you what is wrong with your story and how to fix it, The Reader cannot be wrong. How can she be wrong about her own experience. It is what it is.

Even if your reader is bothered by something that is very personal to them, and the general reader would have no issues with it, it is better to address it.

If your reader is your companion, you will develop a type of partnership that can enrich your relationship. If nothing else, s/he will understand better what you are going through.


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Some accepted truths need to be looked at differently

A linguistics professor was lecturing to his class one day. “In English,” he said, “a double negative forms a positive. In some languages though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However,” he pointed out, “there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative.”

A voice from the back of the room piped up “Yeah, right.”


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John Caligiuri asked me to post this for him:

We generally think of history as being cast in stone. How could things ever be different than as they turned out. For example, we read about the Civil War and believe that of course the Union won and the United States would go on to be a single united country that would dominate the world. In actuality that came very close to not happening.

We’ve all read about George Washington and the struggles of the Continental Army against the British Empire. It was a war we could have very easily lost.

That is the type of story I like to pursue. Change a simple event at a watershed time in history and follow the changed situation to a believable conclusion.

I am a lifelong student of history. My research took me deep into the studies on the Roman Empire. I have walked the roads and visited most of the sites referenced in the novel. This story emerged from my keen interest in and study of ancient Europe and my curiosity in asking “what if” at watershed events in history.

The novel I wrote, THE RED FIST OF ROME follows that “What if” scenario.
It is a Fantasy/Alternate History story set in the last days of the Roman Empire.

Life is cheap in the mid-four hundreds as the dying Roman Empire struggles with endless swarms of barbarians.

Lucius, the son of a Senator, joins the Legions prepared to face the savagery of his nation’s enemies. But his vision of the world is crushed when he encounters the depravity of Rome’s own rulers. Despite this reality, he defiantly clings to the ideals of ancient Rome.

In Gaul, Lucius discovers Dervla, a slave, brutalized by the worst of the Empire’s nobility. Thrown together by chance, they forge an improbable alliance that grows into love.

His indomitable nobility draws an unlikely coalition of others yearning for a better world. Those efforts draw the wraith of a power hungry despot who ruthlessly smashes the visionaries and drives them into hiding. They hatch a desperate plan, but it might be too late.

The Vandal horde is descending on the gates of the Eternal City and Rome is about to be ransacked. These idealists must find a way to come together, overthrow the Emperor and rally the dispirited citizens. Whether or not Rome can be saved lies in the hands of those who were named traitors.

I am currently working on an exciting project right now. The Last Roman’s Prayer is a sequel to the Red Fist of Rome set in the last days of the Byzantine Empire.

To learn more about John Caligiuri and the stories he creates go to:
To purchase THE RED FIST OF ROME, go to AMAZON.COM or

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A wonderful character study, filled with pain and remorse, joy and humor.

Kat asked me to post this for her. (If you having issues logging in to post a blog, please feel free to send it to me to post for you.)

Last weekend the hubs and I went away to a cozy spot on a small lake north and west of Syracuse. We go there often when he wants to fish and I can be alone to write without the usual interruptions of housework, laundry, dirty dishes and such. The “cottage” has all the usual amenities ex or hit the Redbox at Wegmans.

I’d been wanting to see “Philomena” for quite some time because I’m a huge fan of Dame Judy Dench; after watching this touching film, I’m so glad I did.
A word of warning, actually a couple words:
This is not the usual tear-jerker though if your heart doesn’t break at times for this intrepid character, you might consider a transplant.
If you’re expecting to see “M”, as in Dame Dench’s recurring role in the James Bond franchise, forget it. You’ll be hard pressed to find the silver-haired head of MI-6 and her sharp designer suits. The costume designer did a fabulous job in dressing M as a frump, likely shopping at the local VOA in the polyester pants and cardigan sweater section. And whomever created Philomena’s hairstyle wins the Mamie Eisenhower Award for tight curls and bangs.
The screenplay, based on a true story, tells of a retired Irish nurse who decides to search for the son she was forced to give up fifty years earlier. So if you’re looking for the standard joyous mother-son reunion type ending, kiss that hope goodbye. Though the ending is an uplifting one, and Philomena does ‘find’ her son, it is not what we would have hoped for her as we came to know her throughout the film.
Spoiler alert: the movie does not paint a favorable picture of the nuns who operated the “home” for unwed mothers, which came to be known as “the Magdeline laundries”. Though Philomena herself forgave the specific nuns for what they did to her, as a woman of the same generation, I found myself wanting to fly to Ireland and exert a bit of penance on those penguins.

This is a wonderful character study, filled with pain and remorse, joy and humor.

Try it, you might like it.

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The most important thing you can write today – ICE your phone



THIS IS IMPORTANT!  This needs to be in your and your children’s phone.  I know you can see the value of it.  Now, NOW, is the time to do it.  EMS is trained to look for this on the phone of a victim.


How to ICE your Phone


Step 1

CHOOSE a responsible person to be your In Case of Emergency (ICE) Contact.  Record their contact information.


Step 2

INFORM your ICE Contact that you have chosen them as your designated contact and provide them with information that may affect your treatment. Remember MAD or


“M” “A” “D”.

Medicines –List all current medications you are taking, including herbal and organic supplements because they can and do interact with some medications.

Allergies – List all known allergies, especially to medications, but also to foods.

Doctors – Include the names and phone numbers of doctors or other medical providers responsible for your regular care.


Step 3

ADD this contact as a new entry, with their phone number, in your mobile phone address book under the heading “ICE”. Example: ICE-William or ICE-Dad or just ICE.



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What are you currently reading?

Kat asked me to post this for her:


What are you currently reading?


I recently added the above question to the list of things I ask visiting authors when they bring their favorite character for a visit at my author blog, It enhances the character based interview and, I believe, shows another side of the brain that created the character.


So, putting my money where my mouth is, I am currently ‘reading’ [aka listening to the audio version] of John Sandford’s latest Lucas Davenport police procedural “Field of Prey”. It is a honey and despite that the author has written more than 20 novels in this series, the writing has not become stale.


Right here, however, I feel compelled to toss in the ugliest of descriptive words for any author’s writing style: predictable. The dialogue is still snappy and makes me laugh out loud. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the narrator, Richard Ferrone, is an absolute hoot. The secondary characters are unique and individual—and definitely never boring. So. . . in that regard, Mr. Sandford is predictable. Listening to the adventures of Lucas Davenport is always a treat; my one regret is that he writes only one each year.


Not to fear however, Mr. Sandford is not a one-trick pony. He also writes the Virgil Flowers police procedurals with the same snappy dialogue. Though recurring secondary characters are fewer than the Prey series, the story arcs keep my mind busy, trying to figure out who did it and w why. If you are into unique heroes, one who says ‘poop’ instead of cursing, has been married three times and remains semi-friendly with each ex-wife, who doesn’t fall asleep without first talking to God [Virgil is a preacher’s kid], this is a series to pick up.


You won’t be disappointed.


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MS Office Tip of the Week

To find the keyboard shortcut to an MS Office 2007 or later document, click the tab on the ribbon you want (you need to make it active) then pres the Alt key.  Boxes will pop up with the command you need.  ie.: to “double strike through” selected text, I press and hold Alt then 0 (zero) C.  (Alt + 0B for a single line through.)  My selected text is now struck through with a double line.  Undo is Alt + 8

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Microsoft Word Tip of the Week

Microsoft Word Tip of the Week:

If the capitalization of a section is not what you want, highlight your text, then press Shift +F3.  Each time you press F3, you cycle through: All caps, first letter caps, no caps.


Some of our members have short stories in the Halloween anthology A HANDFUL OF HALLOWEEN Twenty-Seven Tales of Terror and Suspense.

It is free Fridays and Halloween in October.  (Nook has a Kindle app, so you don’t have to upgrade to Kindle to read the stories.)

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