Character Depth is an Enviable Trait

If you envy an author’s character development skills, is that a sign of weak character?

I know. I promised something frivolous. And I had every intention of providing it until the main character in All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go.

I stand in awe of a writer who can begin a story with death and make it work. In the first paragraph, we are told the mother of two small boys will die and that this death will be exquisitely painful to the survivors and even, perhaps, to the reader.

What was to prevent me from slapping the book shut and saying, “I’m sad enough today, thank you very much”? Unless I had a penchant for misery. Or just enjoyed a miserable sort of predictability.

But that paragraph was so crystalline in its language, I couldn’t close the book without reading just a little more until I was thoroughly hooked.

Novels don’t usually begin with a death and there is good reason for that. In the arc of a novel, death is the big fear. A writer doesn’t often squander that dark moment on the first page. But Angell takes the risk.

It’s an interesting choice because the death of a character one cares about has a way of taking up a huge amount of psychic reader-energy. In a sense, by getting it out of the way in the beginning, Angell is leaving room for the surviving characters to act in context of their loss.

The strength of this book is in its brilliant character portrayals.

Charlotte, the boys’ nanny, who narrates the history leading up to the crisis and its aftermath is utterly believable and consistent.

Another reason I kept reading was to see how Angell managed to write children.

I can’t count the number of adult novels I have read with child characters who are saccharine, perhaps disobedient but only in the most charming of ways.

So I was anticipating failure, dreading it actually. But I shouldn’t have worried. Angell’s children are real children, believably irritating as a regular thing with those occasional moments of grace we learn to treasure as parents, teachers and caregivers.

I am trying to master writing and books like All the Time in the World, are the ultimate learning device. If you are trying to do the same, read this book. It’s an excellent lesson.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.


Brainstorming Alone is a Challenge

Don’t talk so loud. I can’t hear myself brainstorming.

One character study done. And I’m brainstorming over a messy plot board with some possible ideas. It’s a start.

What is so interesting to me about doing character studies is how well you get to know not only a character but also his back story – infinitely helpful when it comes to understanding the ramifications of a situation you drop him into.

So I know my hero now and I like him. I know what he likes and what he doesn’t like which is going to make his first meeting with the girl of his dreams pretty amusing. Because she is, on the surface at least, totally inappropriate for him.

And the plot board? At first I had a simple rectangle with strips of duct tape to make four acts and I used index cards (oooh, index cards) for each scene. Then I got fancy, thanks to a presentation at the Rhode Island Romance Writers’ meeting. Now I have a couple display boards and a lot of different colored and shaped sticky notes.

My guess is all that fancy stuff will lead me back to duct tape board and the index cards because, let’s face it, nothing beats index cards. But in the interim, all the colors, shapes, and mess gives me a sense of brainstorming even though I always associate brainstorming with being a member of a group of reluctant and resentful seventh graders who have to come up with a plan for a model Lincoln Memorial made out of sugar cubes.

The whole concept implies a group – I’m not sure brainstorming is possible alone.

And the word sounds so dramatic, full of portent and maybe a little dangerous – like watching the volunteer at the science museum demonstration with her hand on the Van de Graaff generator when her hair begins to stand on end.

Somehow it never feels that exciting when I’m trying to come up with ideas on my own. Maybe I should hire some reluctant seventh graders just to set the mood. I must have sugar cubes somewhere.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.



Invisibility Syndrome – It’s a Thing

Let’s conquer Invisibility together!

Unlike my usual light Friday fare, I am appealing to my readers to join me in the fight against IS. March is Invisibility Syndrome Awareness month but I thought we should get an early start by thinking about the ups and downs of invisibility. Convenient if you are a thief or a spy. But incredibly irritating if you want to see what is stuck between your teeth and try to find out by looking in a mirror.

Most stories about invisibility focus on the control factor – a ring, a cloak, a potion one can use at will. How delightful, one would think, to be able to pop in and out of sight. But for people who suffer from Invisibility Syndrome, stories like these are cruel jokes.

According to NHS, Invisibility Syndrome afflicts fully five percent of the population. For some, medication helps. But the side effects of that medication can be brutal. Strobe like flickering images and rendering one’s speech in tiny bubbles are two common complaints. Many patients forgo treatment and resign themselves to being translucent on a good day and transparent on a bad one.

How great would it be to be invisible?

Not very, says Dorothy Waldenfluher, who has suffered from this hereditary disease for forty of her fifty four years.

Waldenfluher first noticed her fingertips fading when she was celebrating a friend’s thirteenth birthday party.

“It looked like the present was carrying itself,” she recalled. “Everyone thought it was really cool.”

But soon, her ailment manifested itself in less amusing ways.

“I waited at a bus stop for three days once,” she said. “And supermarket lines? Don’t even ask. You know how sometimes people leave their cart in line because they forgot the milk? And everyone is irritated and pushes the cart out of the way? That’s my cart and I’m actually holding onto it.”


Waldenfluher has started a GoFundMe page to fund IS research. She has already exceeded her goal of $42,879.59.

“I may not benefit directly from the research,” she says, flickering slightly with emotion, “but I’m doing what I can to make sure the next generation is completely visible.”

I’ve purchased an invisible T-Shirt through the GoFundMe page. Please join me in the campaign. Buy your T-Shirt today and wear it when we march on Washington in April.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

book review

Book Review: They May Not Mean To, But They Do

Here it is. Your every so often book review.

I picked Cathleen Schine’s book, They May Not Mean To, But They Do, off the library shelf because the cover implied a kind of light impishness. And I know a book review of this sort is a lot more fun when I am laughing as I write it.

However, while the book is occasionally impish, it’s definitely not light. More of a “flickers of lit cabin windows while wandering in the dark woods” type of book. So, not a comedy. I would, however, qualify it as an important read.

They May Not Mean To is the story of a family growing older together. Schine pays close attention to the implications of the matriarch’s widowhood on her adult children. But she focuses even more intently on the widow herself. The balance between how Molly’s aging and widowhood effect her versus how her new status effects her children makes the book compelling. It is fascinating in a horrible “Oh no, the car is stuck on the tracks and the train is coming” sort of way.

The characters are complex and well fleshed out. But I don’t think Schine necessarily intended the reader to walk away thinking, “I wonder what happened to Molly?” The reader might but that may not be the goal.

Instead, the story is more an Everyman-type exploration of family dynamics in the wake of loss.

Shine pays careful attention to Molly’s complicated emotions and desires. Molly simultaneously wants and doesn’t want to spend time with her grown children. She wants and doesn’t want to be alone. And her children are legitimately torn between their desire to help and their resistance to making significant changes in their own lifestyles to do so.

They May Not Mean To is a good argument for the “There Are No Right Answers” theory of life. But I couldn’t help feeling frustrated at the lack of concrete solutions as I closed the book. Maybe that’s the point.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this book review, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.


Procrastination: Putting Me On Notice

Okay. It’s deadline time. No more procrastination. Right.

One of the hard things about writing in a vacuum is not having a deadline anyone will enforce. Procrastination is way too easy when you are your own boss. If I were working in a corporation, for instance, there would be consequences for missing a deadline – a blot on my work record, for instance, or a stern talking to with the implicit threat of losing my job.

But I am working for the Monumental General Corporation of Me. So those meetings in the boss’s office go something like this.

Boss: “Ms. Grey, I see you have not met our production quota this month.”

Me, squirming guiltily: “I meant to, but the siren call of avoiding cleaning the tub by playing online solitaire was too much to resist.”

So here’s the deal.

I am announcing to the world that by the end of February, I will have my character studies done and my plot structure outlined. Writing will start on March 1.

First step will be making excessively decorated signs to put up near my desk detailing the order of my tasks. Then I should check all my pens to make sure they are working. I’ve already re-organized my desk, in a previous attempt to avoid the inevitable. But the supply cabinet in my office – now that is badly in need of a clean out.

Of course, I can’t ignore the basic duties of running a household. That would be just selfish. So I need to factor in cleaning out the refrigerator, washing windows, scrubbing the bathroom tile and digging out sticky dust balls from between the radiator fins.

That should leave a few hours on the evening of February 29th to do the actual writing prep. Wait. This is a leap year, right?

Well, shoot.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this book review, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.


Zombies – It’s Not Easy Being Undead

The Problem with Zombies. Besides the obvious.

First, the plural thing. If a crowd of undead are zombies, what do you call one of them? Shouldn’t it be a zomby? And if not, why not? Is it just that Zomby sounds like the nickname for an undead Zumba fanatic? Because for all we know, zombies might enjoy zumba given the chance. It isn’t the zombies’ fault Zumba instructors run away every time an undead person walks into the classroom.

Second, poor fashion sense. Every zombie I’ve ever seen wears pants which need hemming and are a size too big, a ratty top and aged waterlogged hiking boots. This makes no sense, since zombies were buried in shrouds, presumably. So let’s assume when zombies re-animate, they shamble over to a discount clothing-by-the-pound store, raid it and walk through a few torrential downpours and a mudslide.

Why? Do they think they’ll have better luck catching people if they are dressed like Frankenstein? It’s hard to run in hiking boots which explains their awkward gait. You would think they would choose running shoes. For that matter, why wear clothes at all?

Right. So they can be in movies. Everyone wants to be a star. And once you’ve gone X-rated, it’s hard to find work in family films.

Third, poor vocabulary. There are only so many things one can convey with “Aaaaah”.

Do zombies recall nothing from their High School English classes?

Can you imagine dinner table conversation if you marry one?

“How was your day, dear?”



Then there is the Zombie diet, kind of paleo without any fiber.

We humans have an unreasonable belief in our own deliciousness. What makes us think we are tastier than a banana? Even if zombies have a desire for meat, wouldn’t they prefer to swarm steak houses? Sure the beef is cooked, but it can’t run away. And there’s ketchup.

They’re hungry, not stupid.

Frankly, I think the challenge for zombies is they haven’t discovered the food network and they don’t remember ketchup. These are solvable problems, people. Keep up.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this book review, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.



Book Review

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale

If you hate spoilers, don’t look at the picture of the horses. Oh. Too late. Now you’re stuck reading a book review.

I suppose if I were a truly omnivorous reader, I would value every reading experience equally. But I don’t. For instance, I avoid reading those small print multi-page mailings I occasionally receive from a credit card company delineating some minor change in its relationship with me, even though I know a tiny person hunched over a wee typewriter spent hours typing it with her miniscule fingers.

Furthermore, I am instantly suspicious of a person who writes a book review. Recommending books is a bit like recommending a sex partner. Just because the reviewer liked the way he made her feel doesn’t mean I will. Which sounds pretty hostile, especially for someone who is about to present you with a book review.

I’ve become choosy. Life’s too short to read books you don’t enjoy. I’ve found that like cooking dinner, the more work a book takes to complete, the less likely it is to be enjoyable.

Which is a long way of saying if I finish a book, I know I liked it. And I did like The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed fairy tales although I do think writing fairy tales for adults is risky business. Successful fairy tales for children, the stories which have survived over time, are not preachy. They are gory and harsh, with no perceptible political message. Maybe they had one once, but we don’t remember it now.

It’s harder for adults writing for an adult audience to resist the siren call of moralizing, especially since adult readers are prone to looking for secondary meanings. But Arden mostly avoids that, which is impressive because it is her first novel. Instead she kept me focused on a fascinating time in Russian history about which I knew nothing. And now can say I know a little bit.

If you decide to read The Bear and the Nightingale, be aware there is a useful glossary of terms in the back I wish I had known about to begin with. But because Arden writes so well, I didn’t really need it.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

indie publishing

Indie Publishing and the Cursing which Accompanies It

I wonder sometimes, where you are. That’s right. You.

Right now, I mean, as you read this blog entry. It is mid afternoon on a sunny winter day where I am and my office, the one remaining room in my apartment which needs painting is looking unusually cheerful. Primarily because I have reached a milestone in indie publishing.

Are you at a desk in your workplace, surreptitiously giving yourself a break? I hope so. Actually, I hope you are snickering to yourself and trying to hide it so none of your coworkers will notice.

Or maybe you are reading this on your phone as you wait for your children to be released from school. Are you sitting in your car, the sun creating a false sense of warmth as it beams in your windshield?

Or are you, like me, sitting in your home office and wondering how many ball point pens will fit in your tea mug? Twenty three. I tried more but then you can’t pull one out easily which defeats the whole purpose, I find.

I’m not always indolent but this afternoon I feel I deserve a bit of leeway when it comes to mug stuffing. I hadn’t realized when I began the process of morphing into a novelist how much time I would need to devote to learning the mechanics of indie publishing.

But today, I finally completed uploading both Not As Advertised and Hot Pursuit to – wait for it – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through Draft2Digital a whole bunch of other sites.

This major step in indie publishing required a great deal more cursing than I expected.

However, the potential cursing was infinitely reduced by the resources in David Gaughran’s book Let’s Get Digital. He recommends Guido Henkel’s awesome online guide to formatting for e-publication.  It turns out, mucking around with HTML is liberating. When things go wrong with the process, you have absolutely no doubt it is your own fault, which oddly is a relief. At least you know who to yell at.

Formatting for paperback is another matter entirely. I’m still proofing like crazy, but I can see the end of the tunnel there too. One would think paperback was less significant these days – lots of people get their reading matter electronically. But I can’t describe the lightning bolt of joy which ran through me when I first opened the box from Createspace with proofs of my books.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

index cards

Index Cards: Best. Office. Supply. Ever.

3 X 5 index cards are one of the best inventions of mankind, right up there with fire and ice cream sundaes.

Index cards are the perfect size for writing down one thought. Or for listing tiny quantities, like five things to pick up at the store. Or for tucking blank in my pocket for sudden brainstorms which might be forgotten if not written down immediately.

Index cards create the impression of organized thinking, a perception I appreciate even though I can’t always convince myself I am living up to it.

I can spread the cards out in mandala-like patterns and then line them up and compile them into a semblance of order, much like a Las Vegas pit boss. Wrapping the pack with a rubber band adds a homespun look. But like any important item in one’s home index cards come with their own set of accessories.

There are boxes of plastic or wood, decorative tins and even tiny little two ring binders for them. Not to mention the clever envelope style packet type index card holder.

There are miniature ring binder notebooks composed of index cards, neatly perforated on the top of each card for easy removal. One can find dividers for different categories , or even little tabs which stick directly onto the cards. Oh, and cute little pens with which to write on the cards.

And index cards come in different colors.

I’ve bought neon packs, pastel packs and even rainbow versions. But nothing beats tearing the cellophane wrapping off the traditional package of crisp, white index cards, their straight blue lines topped with a saucy red strip.

Also, one cannot underestimate the value of the blank back side. It is true one can buy index cards which are blank on both sides. But I feel the kind with lined front and blank back are the best of both worlds. Or is it blank front and lined back?

I can write my friend’s address on the blank side of a card and tape it to a box of three by five index cards I am mailing. Or, if I already have a label on the outside of the package, I can stick the card inside the box. This will come in handy in case the recipient is so excited by the index cards she forgets who she is and where she lives. It could happen.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.


Re-purpose Your Household Items

Reduce, reuse, recycle, re-purpose.

It seems to be a requirement for human beings that we re-purpose things. For instance, my paper clip jar is a re-purposed orange blossom honey jar. I like it because even though I washed the jar out thoroughly before I filled it with paperclips, for years the lid gave off the faint smell of orange blossom honey every time I reached for a paperclip. Now, even though the scent is gone, I have a pleasant sense of anticipation every time I fumble for a paperclip.

The solution works well, I think. My paperclips are prevented from scrabbling around my desk at night. They can’t poke fun at the pencils or form extensive chains. Nor can they escape onto the carpet to lie in wait for unsuspecting bare feet. Paperclips can get in all sorts of trouble if they aren’t properly stored. Plus the label on the jar is cute.

You can re-purpose plastic quart size yogurt containers.

These containers are incredibly useful, and not just for holding yogurt. They are my go-to container for small amounts of paint. I’ve used them as flower pots in a pinch.

But best of all is making magic with them. First, find a box cutter and slice off the bottom forming a saucer with an inch high rim. Then, fill it with water and stick a leftover inch long lettuce stump in it. A few days later, a miracle will happen. Spoiler alert: It involves lettuce.

Using items in ways they were never intended for can be unexpectedly satisfying, primarily because it makes you feel both clever and inventive. Then, you can post an account of your project on HomeTalk, a website with which I have developed an unhealthy fascination. Although I have never actually posted anything to the site myself, I stand in awe of some of the folks who have. I had no idea you could do so many things with plastic cups and paper towel tubes.

Reusing items one might ordinarily throw out is not only ecologically sound it’s good for the ego.

So I am considering what else in my life might be re-purposed. Oh, dear. That sounds dark.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.