Category Archives: My Blog

Where the rubber meets the road. How real life experiences and knowledge are woven into my writing.

Bringing a Story to Life – Being One With Your Character

MindMeld1“I think singing and acting go hand in hand.  Take an R & B singer; one song says, ‘I love you,’ the next is, ‘Baby, don’t leave me,’ the next is, ‘If you leave me then I don’t care.’  You have to drop in and out of different perspectives.”    – Ice T

As the release date for Bishop Pair, Metatron’s Army Book Two drew closer, I halted the book I was working on to do a final edit.

It’s a good idea to set a manuscript aside for several days to several weeks.  When you pick it up again, rereading with fresh eyes, you find mistakes or see where subtle tweaks can strengthen the story.

I remember you when.  Going back to Book Two meant having to go back in time.  My mind was in Book Five – Pawn Storm.  My character had gone through numerous life-changing experiences since Bishop Pair.

A lot happens in Book Three – Zwischenzug, and Book Four – Positional Play.

She was no longer the young woman returning to her home system to start a new life, and yet that is who she has to be in Bishop Pair, which meant that is where my perspective had to be.

Remember me?  Fortunately, putting myself back in the mindset of the “innocent” she was at this point wasn’t as difficult as I initially feared it would be.  Simply reading the story drew me into her world, enabling me to see it through her eyes.

And her heart.

 Going forward was another story.

What happened to you?  Have you ever run into someone you haven’t seen for years and find yourself astonished by the changes?

Going back to pick up the threads of Pawn Storm was like running into someone I hadn’t seen in years.  I had to take time to study the changes, understand who she’d become.  This was no easy feat.

Because Pawn Storm is a work in progress, there isn’t yet enough story for me to get drawn in.

 Even more challenging, with a release date days away, Bishop Pair is still fresh in my mind.

Christine is newly arrived at Dynamic.

To go forward, I had to become one with the character.

Getting into character.  Writing through the eyes of the character requires a bit of acting skill.  You have to put yourself in their shoes.

Switching between characters within a story isn’t difficult since, as the author, you have a bird’s eye view of everyone on stage, but going between set changes can present a challenge.

Especially if the character goes through a life-altering experience.

Who are you again?  Editing isn’t the only reason a writer might go back to a previous scene.  Going back in time can help the author reconnect with the character because the personality difference acts as a contrast, sharpening focus.

Though character evolution happens in every story, it’s tougher to manage with a saga.

Metatron’s Army is unique in that the story takes place over several books.  This was the best format to do justice to the story and  for me to illustrate character evolution that spans years.

This story telling format introduced unique challenges for managing character growth.

Staying true to the character as new characters are brought in, older characters are phased out, and secondary characters go through their own evolution is a full-time job.

Fortunately, in the seed of the challenge is an advantage.  I’ve been living with Metaron’s Army for the past thirty-five years.

Each book is more like a chapter for me

I know the characters well.

I already know who they will be at the end of the series.

The tough part is, as Ice T says, dropping in and out of different perspectives.

It can be mentally exhausting.

Bishop Pair, Metatron’s Army Book Two is now available for pre-order.

Bringing a Story to Life – The Life of a Character


My books usually end where they began. I try to bring characters back to a point that is familiar but different because of the growth that they have gone through. – Sara Zarr

Foreground.  As a writer and a reader, I prefer strong characters to strong scenery.

I can picture a forest easily enough.


Show don’t tell.

 A spy is a different story.

Male or female? Russian or British?  German or American?  Cold war spy or current day hacker? 

 As a writer, I have to remind myself not to lead the reader, to let them fill in the details.

 This is a balance in paranormal fiction where readers often have pre-conceived ideas, though little personal experience. 

 With Metatron’s Army, the characters drive the story.

It’s been this way since its inception 35 years ago.

That they found themselves in a science fiction novel was simply the “clothing they wore.”

Though some of the paranormal elements are tied to real life experience; the NDE.

The characters were born before the plot.

Though not by much.

Background.  Character motivation is important to me.  Why is a character the way they are?  What shaped them?  What continues to shape them?  What is driving them to do what they do?

As a reader, I hate it when I find myself thinking a guy/woman/child/etc wouldn’t act like that, wouldn’t do that.

As a writer, I spend a lot of time “getting to know” my characters, getting comfortable with them before putting them in their places (i.e. antagonist, hero, strong secondary character).  This process isn’t the same from series to series.

In Silicon Valley Hangover, the characters just appeared one day.  I had to spend time observing them, reading their body language, trying to understand why they were feeling awkward with each other.

The plot grew out of the answers to the “why’s?”

I try to learn as much about my characters’ motivation as possible so that writing them is seamless.

I spend time interviewing men or people of other cultures and/or religions to gain insight that helps strengthen the characters.  I talk with professionals, such as pilots, or those in the military, if I need their perspective. 

As a reader, I love it when I find a writer who either has experience or has done some great research.

Victoria Laurie comes to mind.

With Metatron’s Army, I had lived with some of the characters since the story began to take shape but it wasn’t until I started to write that I really got to know them.

 In fact, I’m still learning them as I go along.

Sometimes character roles flip.

In Metatron’s Army, I ended up liking one of the antagonists so much, I turned him into a hero.  A character who had been somewhat of a benevolent despot became a vindictive antagonist.

In the Middle.  To be vibrant and interesting, characters need to grow throughout/as a result of the story.

This is particularly important in a series.

Life experiences change people.  The same should be true of characters.

Remember your English tests?  How did the character change as a result of [the plot]?

In a single title, a writer can start at any point in a character’s life.

They are a child who grows, a teen who is on a journey of self-discovery, an adult who already  has the skills to take on the adversity presented by the plot.

With a series, it can be a bit more difficult.

You can start anywhere but you need to pay attention to character development.  If you drag it out the character stagnates.  If you go too quickly, you run out of options for character growth and the plot goes stale.

Metatron’s Army takes place over decades.

Some of them passed before the reader joins the story.

To deal with the complexity of the characters, the fact they have separate yet parallel goals in some cases, I have worked to keep each book self-contained, even as it is key to the overall series.

A good idea in a series, anyway, I think.

Pacing the writing.  A multi-tasker, I typically think ahead, even as I’m working on a project.

Sometimes, it’s the next book, sometimes, the next project.

Given the complexity of plot and character evolution in Metatron’s Army, to stay organized I have approached my writing differently.

I have several of the books written already, though most are in draft form.  This allows me to go back to an earlier book and adjust if I need to.

If, for instance, I decide to take a character in a different direction down the line – did I set it up to be a believable development/change/evolution?

I also go back and read previous drafts to ensure there is continuity in the series.

And, more importantly, in the characters.

Characters as writers.  This project is unlike any other I’ve done.

Thirty-five years in the making, it evolved through a series of visual shorts, in dreams and daydreams.

After decades of living with this story, I tend to slip into autopilot when writing.

That doesn’t mean the story has become” familiarity breeds contempt.”

My unconscious has introduced some surprises for me.

At the end of Positional Play, Book Four in Metatron’s Army, I found myself led to an unplanned, yet completely logical plot twist.

Through Metatron’s Army, I’ve learned that sometimes, characters know best.

Bringing a Story to Life – Chasing the Mood

4751420-mood-pictures“I’m in the mood for a melody ”       – Robert Planet, I’m in the Mood

There are some days I just don’t want to write.

Maybe it’s having written over 200,000 words in a little over five months.

Which doesn’t include emails or the articles I’ve written for and, or the words that never made it into the final drafts.

Maybe I’m just not in the mood, which may be a more valid excuse for a writer than one might think.  However, valid or not, it’s an excuse that can’t stand.  Writers need to write, even when they don’t feel like it.

Perhaps especially then since inertia is a tough thing to overcome.

Yet forcing yourself to write can have negative consequences.  I recently had to trash 8,000 words because they didn’t work.  The action and dialogue steered my characters out of character.

They would never have acted that way or said the words I’d written.

It wasn’t wasted work.  In writing, I felt productive.  I felt like I was doing something.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the right thing.

Time to take stock.

No Mood.  Not feeling in the mood to write is not the same as writer’s block.

I define writer’s block as feeling overwhelmingly lost.  You have no idea where to start. 

Not being in the mood is probably closer to inertia.  You know what you want to do.  You know what you need to do.  You just don’t feel like doing it.

Like cleaning out that closet/kitchen drawer/storeroom.

How to get past it?  Find the mood.

Mood = Emotion.  To find the mood, evoke the emotion.

Who.  Are you trying to make your character feel the emotion or the reader?

There are times  where the reader has information the character doesn’t.

Character.  I’ve had good luck getting in the mood to write by putting myself in my character’s shoes.

Picture yourself as an actor on stage.  The director is discussing what your character is going through, which inevitably leads to a discussion of how they are probably feeling because of it.

Imagining what the character is feeling at any moment, given what they are going through, enables me to connect to the mood of that character.  This translates to words.

What.  This is the mood of a scene.  What is going on?  What is the objective?

There is the objective of the character in the scene but there is also the objective of the writer.  What is the writer trying to accomplish by having the scene in the story? 

Purpose as Mood.  Is the scene moving the story forward or making the reader stop and take note?  Is something good or bad happening in the scene?

There are degrees of bad.  Has there been a tragedy that causes heartbreak or it is simply an irritation, like a run in a stocking on the way to a job interview?

Where.  Sometimes, getting out is the best way to move forward.

Setting the Scene.  There are times when I need to be in a location that mimics the atmosphere my character is in.

You’d be surprised how many locations can have a sci-fi and/or futuristic feel.  Think museums or the contemporary design of modern office complexes.

If you can’t go to such a place, surround yourself with images that accomplish the same idea.

Movie posters, or images you print yourself can work beautifully.

Location Location Location.  I have gone to coffee shops, pubs, libraries, and numerous outdoor locations to find inspiration, and while I’ve generally had good luck, I have also had it blow up in my face.

I was recently working at a coffee shop.  Everything was going well when all hell broke loose.  The local Middle School had let out and dozens of kids, along with their very talkative parents, descended on the tiny space.  The noise level was unbearably loud.  Not even listening to music could drown out the cacophony of thirty boisterous people crammed into a space the size of a large bathroom.

If you are going to go somewhere to write, make note of closing times and shifts in atmosphere that occur naturally, as in a pub at happy hour, or a coffee shop when school lets out.

If I ever need to write an irritated character, I know where to go to work.

On the Move.  I have had great luck grabbing my iPhone, earbuds, and tennis shoes, and going for a walk.  Listening to music often starts the flow of ideas and within ten to fifteen minutes, I’m writing scenes and dialogue in my head.

Speaking of music and earbuds…

While researching a solution to my frustration with the poor quality of digital music, I came across a site that enabled me to test the quality of my ear buds.

Excellent, and inexpensive.

The Sound of…Pain?  The process of listening to the various tones validated my long-held conclusion that EMF Sensitivity happens because the individual suffering symptoms hears ultra-low and very low frequencies.

I figured this out just prior to publishing Riding the Waves: Diagnosing, Treating, and Living With EMF Sensitivity.  The details of my discovery are in the book.

These sound frequenciess are translated into signals that, in EMF Sensitive individuals, tell the brain there is a threat.  Histamines are released as the Fight or Flee response is activated, resulting in a variety of physical symptoms that range from irritating to debilitating.  Though I no longer suffer from EMF Sensitivity, I do hear the ultra-low and very low frequencies.

Emitted by geologic fault lines prior to an earthquake, these sound frequencies can be heard by certain individuals.  They have been described by some as a clicking sound, and while I have heard this clicking, more often I hear a ringing tone.  The length of time and strength of pitch matches the magnitude and duration of the quake.

Though everyone in my family was able to detect this tone, I was the only one who had a physical response to it.

I am also the only one who can hear earthquakes before they happen.

The 30Hz Tone sent a painful electrical shock down my spine, with a particular zap on my lower right side, before going down my right arm and right leg. simultaneously.  This is the same sensation I describe in Riding the Waves – when I was in a New Age shop doing research with magnetic stones purported to be healing.

If people want to know whether or not they are susceptible to ultra-low and very low electromagnetic frequencies, listen to the 30Hz Tone.

Fiction on Facebook.  I will no longer be posting holistic health articles to Facebook.  I will continue to update so if you follow my blog you will receive email updates when new information has been posted.

And speaking of fiction…

Bishop Pair, the second book in the Metatron’s Army series, will be available Summer 2017. 

Bringing a Story to Life – Music to My Ears


Where words fail, music speaks.   – Hans Christian Andersen


Even as a writer I find it difficult to adequately describe the impact music has had on my life.




Listening.  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t listening to music.  From 8-track tapes to mp3s, listening to music has been a significant part of my life.

My first concert was Rod Steward at Pine Knob Amphitheatre.

Watching.  I loved watching Name That Tune.

I was always impressed by contestants who could name a song in three notes or less.

I loved the MTV shorts in which viewers were to guess the year, of three choices, based on musical trivia.

I rarely answered got it wrong.

Playing.  I played b-flat clarinet in a band and an orchestra.

I played clarinet for 13 years.  I also learned snare drum, took piano lessons, and fiddled with tenor sax for awhile. 

I love music, and playing an instrument can be relaxing, but it’s not my gift.

Living.  Some people recall where they were when a certain event happened.  I can recall where I was and what was going on in the world based on what songs were on the radio.

Alas, I don’t spend much time listening to radio anymore but that doesn’t mean music is any less of a gift for me.

Entertaining.  A number of movies have used music as a way to move the story forward.

High Fidelity is a fun, tongue-in-cheek example of the role music can play in someone’s life.  Electric Dreams shows how music can bring people together.

Throughout Metatron’s Army: Advantage, I use music to ground the character, and the reader, by providing perspective.

The Metatron’s Army series deals with multiple universes and multiple timelines, making perspective important.

Writing.  Shortly after I began working on Metatron’s Army: Advantage, certain songs popped into my head.  When they continued to mentally repeat, over and over, I compiled a play list.  Within a short time, I had my own soundtrack.

It was uncanny how the songs matched the scenes, the characters, the plot elements.

This has continued right up until the current work, Metatron’s Army: Positional Play.

Fourth in the Metatron’s Army epic.

Interestingly, the songs pop into my head before I even start writing.

Yet they perfectly match the mood and action of what I’m working on.

I’m not consciously creating the soundtrack.

There is no forethought that goes into choosing a song.  

Sometimes, I haven’t heard a song for decades.

Recently, a song popped into my head in the middle of the night.  It was from the 70s and at first I only heard the melody.  It took me until the morning before I remembered some of the lyrics.  Fortunately, I caught some shut eye in between.  I did a lyrics search on Google to get the name of the song then went to YouTube to watch/listen to it.

Not every song makes it into the playlist.

I read the lyrics of the 70s song while listening ,to determine if there was a relevance.  This time, nothing stood out and the tune didn’t end up in the playlist.

Instrumental.  Although the tunes in the playlist I made all have lyrics, the music that best defines the series, to me, is instrumental.

Coincidence or not, Nigel Stanford’s Solar Echoes, perfectly defines key scenes, including the opening of the book which matches nicely to Entropy, to me.

The music in the book trailers is also instrumental.

I have just released a new trailer for Metatron’s Army: Advantage.

The other trailer applies to the overall series.

Though I’m working on the fourth book, the second, Metatron’s Army: Bishop Pair, will arrive Spring 2017.

**  This is The Moody Blues is one of my all-time favorite albums, along with Emerson, Lake, and Palmer Works, The Beatles Rubber Soul, and Fleetwood Mac Rumors.


Bringing a Story To Life – What’s in a Name?

Whats-in-a-Name-Shakespeare“So, once I thought of the villain with a sense of humor, I began to think of a name and the name “the Joker” immediately came to mind. There was the association with the Joker in the deck of cards, and I probably yelled literally, ‘Eureka!’ because I knew I had the name and the image at the same time.”   –  Jerry Robinson
Years ago, I worked one on one with a mentor through the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Workshop.

This is a great workshop for aspiring novelists.

About midway through the story we were working with, I decided to change the name of my main character from what many would consider an old-fashioned, perhaps overly feminine name, to Kate.  My mentor’s response was overwhelmingly positive.

She pointed out that Kate better suited the character’s personality and was more appropriate for a contemporary novel.

It was a good lesson on the importance of a name.

What’s in a Name?  It seems obvious that the name should fit the character, and it should, but it can be more difficult than you think.

There are too many choices.

When deciding on a name, it’s good to consider the setting, (i.e. location, time period), any cultural influence, and the character’s personality.  Equally important, consider whether or not the name is a story in itself.

Why does the character have the name?  Were the parents trying to do something unique?  Is the name a nickname gained at some point in the character’s past?

A Character’s Character. It’s important to consider the personality and any character traits, along with where and how those traits were picked up, when deciding on a name for the character.

The Army in Metatron’s Army was inspired by coloring book characters.  Needless to say, their names were overly simple, and not suitable.

The characters in the story do not closely resemble the original cast of characters.  They have matured, grown in number, and were written appropriately.

Choosing more appropriate names was no easy task, in spite of the fact I’d been living with  these characters in my conscious and subconscious for years.

I knew their personalities, their strengths and weaknesses, their fears and hopes, and what motivated them. 

There were multiple time periods, locations, and cultures to consider.

Where to Start?  I drew from best-practices advice I’d received while attending a breakout session at an RWA Writer’s Conference.

These conferences are a worthwhile investment for any aspiring author, even those who don’t write romance and those who are self-published.  The information gained, the networking opportunities, and the ability to spend time among your peers is inspiring and invaluable.

The best-selling Urban Fantasy author  in charge of the session gave an incredible presentation filled with valuable suggestions that were relevant to this project though at the time I wasn’t considering it.

Sub-conscious as work?

Tap Your Resources.  One of the names was suggested by a family member.

I ended up loving the name, which conveyed strength and dependability, so much that I gave it to one of the main characters.

Try This.  I got a tip from someone who dabbles in world building.

“Try a name generator.”

 Organize.  Due to the complexity of this project it was important that I remain organized.  I created character groups, making notes when characters belonged in more than one group.

They would appear in multiple scenes or multiple books.

By the time I was finished, I was satisfied.

 I was also worn out.

In the end, all but two characters received new names.

A Name at Work.  Until a book is published, the name chosen by a writer is known as a working title.  Sometimes, the name of the book is changed prior to publication.

Typically a decision made by someone other than the writer, the name is changed for marketing purposes.

Choosing a title for this project was easy, if complex.

Coming up with Metatron’s Army was easy.  The subtitles that would describe each progression in the epic, not so much.

 I pushed the decision to the back burner and continued with the other projects I was working on. 

Over the next two years, I jotted down potential subtitles.

When it came time to begin the project, I looked over my list, considering whether the themes I’d written would carry through the number of books that make up the story.  About a month into the first draft, I decided to go with something entirely different; a chess theme.

My hero is definitely a  knight, complete with quest and qualified for rescue and just as a chess player must think several moves ahead, I need to think several books ahead every step of the way for this story.

A bit of research revealed that several chess terms perfectly reflected the theme of individual books.

Putting it All Together.  The process of choosing story and character names is thought intensive, but Metatron’s Army was particularly challenging.

I found myself slipping up, using old names while typing the manuscript.

It was also incredibly rewarding.  I am proud to announce the availability of the first in the Metatron’s Army series.

Metatron’s Army: Advantage, now available.

Bringing A Story to Life – Pictures of You


Use a picture.  It’s worth a thousand words.  – Tess Flanders

I’m just about finished with the first draft of Metatron’s Army: Zwischenzug.**

This is the third installment in the Metatron’s Army series.

 I have come to realize just how big a role images have played in shaping the epic.

The first images came from a Barbie coloring book.  As I pondered the falsely perfect smiles, perfect white teeth, and the expressions that suggested their lives were unrealistically perfect, I wondered:

  • What if they didn’t like being the princess/prince?
  • What if they didn’t like having to do the bidding of the kingdom at the expense of their independence and freedom?
  • What if they didn’t agree with their royal parent(s) about how the kingdom should be run but weren’t in a position to do anything about it?

Out of those wonderings came the makings of The Army in Metatron’s Army.

A few years later, I was reading the Detroit Free Press movie guide.  There was a full-page ad for an upcoming Michael Douglas movie.  Done in grey-scale I loved the lighting effects, the use of silhouettes.

I hung it on my wall.

 This image was the inspiration for The Council.

I had a metal globe pencil sharpener that wasn’t geographically accurate.  What may have been a typo ended up as a major city.

Multiple album covers have provided inspiration for plot elements and characters both.

In high school, I received a wall calendar for Christmas.

Sexy male models.

The March model sported suspenders but no shirt, and a cool hat, but it was his face that got my attention.

Razor sharp cheek bones that really did look as if they’d cut through his skin and an expression that said he could honestly care less.

The attitude conveyed by that expression was the inspiration for more than one character.

Years later, while visiting a New Age store in Mountain View, CA, I fell in love with the image on a greeting card.

This image really made an impact on me.  I’ve had it for over twenty years.

This image has provided inspiration for multiple aspects of the series.

Just after deciding to go ahead with the Metatron’s Army project, I found a romantic print that was futuristic and, in spite of being an illustration that bordered on comic book style, conveyed incredible sensuality.   As soon as I saw it I knew I had the perfect illustration of two of the main characters.

I smile every time I see it because, along with the other images, it symbolizes the magical synchronicity that surrounds this project, bringing it to life in a special and utterly unique way.

There is a practical side to using imagery for this project.  I decided to use a non-digital tool to help me stay organized.

A binder similar to those I used for proposals when I worked in corporate.

In addition to the project name, I have the Metatron’s Army mission patch that I designed on the cover.  Just looking at it keeps me focused when I’m feeling tired.

This project has been enjoyable but there are times…

Metatron’s Army Advantage will be available March, 2017

** Zwischenzug.:  An “in between move”, where a player, instead of playing the expected move, first inserts a move which the opponent must answer, before making the expected move.

Bringing a Story to Life – Day Dreams, Sleepless Nights


I’m not getting a lot of sleep these days, thanks to my Metatron’s Army Project.  But it wasn’t always that way.  In fact, the building blocks used to help me fall asleep.

The project came to life, you might say, some thirty-six years ago.  It was two years after the brain hemorrhage and my mother, brother, and I were living in my grandmother’s basement.

Needless to say, my life was a bit chaotic.

As I write in After Here: The Celestial Plane and What Happens When We Die, I channeled the emotional turmoil I was going through into writing and though I wasn’t writing Metatron’s Army, I was penning my first novel.

Which will never see the light of day.  Not only would it need a total rewrite, it’s a genre I don’t write.

This is when I got an idea for what would later become Metatron’s Army.

While coloring in a Barbie coloring book in my grandmother’s dining room.**

In the ensuing years, various pieces presented themselves and while I typically teased these ideas into short stories, some of them remained visual, in the form of mental movies.

What is fascinating about this project is that I can recall, in vivid detail, where I was and what I was doing when these various pieces fell into place.

I can remember sitting by a pool at my dad’s apartment complex in California (1984) when I got the image of the Iconoclast or laying in bed after moving back to Michigan from Silicon Valley (1995),, writing plot elements and viewing mental movies.

Though I hadn’t planned on actually turning the short stories into a novel, I kept them, figuring they would be useful someday.

If nothing else, they were practice.

And as for the mental movies?  Well, they were useful, too.  They helped me fall asleep at night.

I’d read that when trying to deal with insomnia, it was helpful to do mental movies with dialogue since it engaged both sides of the brain and, theoretically, tired you out more quickly.  All I know, is it worked.  The mini movies that contained pieces that are now finding their way into my project helped me fall into a peaceful slumber.

Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.

Now, when I bring any scene to mind, my brain engages and I begin developing plot elements and characters.  The mental movies, which were once so soothing, now act as slave drivers, leaving me feeling as if I’m slacking off.

Never mind that it’s two am and I should be sleeping.  There’s work to do!

Of late I’ve come to feel a bit like Amadeus in the scene where the phantom is driving him to finish his music.  Fortunately, I realize that I am in control of this situation.

Melatonin anyone?

It’s been a bit surreal to work on a project that has been living inside of me for so many years.

Funny, one of the synonyms for surreal is dreamlike.  Dreams  have certainly played a role with this project.

It’s exciting, too, and challenging.

It’s important to me that I do justice to this story, to the characters, the layers, the stories within the story.

 I now see I had to wait til now to write this story.

I could not have done this story justice before.  I didn’t have enough life experience to match the depth of the characters.

I had to live the ups and downs that life throws our way.

Which led to more insomnia, which led to more mental movies.

I had to dream more.

Explore the World of Metatron’s Army here.

**  The actual army.  Then I had to ask myself – who are these people?  What are they fighting for/what is the cause of their hearts?