Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Creating Characters by Paul Doucette

Creating Characters 

     What makes a good, believable character? Is it someone created as an idealized persona or someone flawed with many of the everyday manifestations of being alive as a human? 

     In my story telling, I opt for the later, mainly because I want my readers to see in them characteristics they can easily identify in people they see or know. This allows them to form a ‘connection’ with them, one where they can care about what happens to them, one where they can cheer their successes or their failures, depending on their role in the story. 

     When I create a personality in my stories I attribute to them characteristics drawn from people I know or have seen in a myriad of situations both personal and general (social). In choosing the genre of detective fiction I found that my main problem in developing a cast of characters was to avoid the trap of making them more than they would be in reality. 

     My stories are populated with people you would see everyday; people you may recognize among people you know. Remember that the cast you create in a story are another component of the environment they live in and therefore have to be recognizable, believable. I, for one, do not know many forty plus year old policemen who go to the gym everyday for two or more hours and beat on heavy bags or press two hundred and fifty pound weights, at least who families. This does not make that man any less a hero or good at his job. I have been fortunate in my writing career thus far to have received several reviews of my stories that put the emphasis on my locations, characters and language. 

     So, I will end by recommending that when you think about your cast of players consider them as people not stereotypes. Think of them as people who would like to have a beer with you at your favorite watering hole. Paul

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Artificial Intelligence – Can You Program Creativity? By BC Deeks, Paranormal Mystery Fiction Author

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is a trending topic these days, with applications like ChatGPT and Jasper being touted as replacements for human writers. These applications are models trained on a large codex of text data that can generate responses to questions, summarize long texts, write stories and much more. It is often used in conversational AI applications to simulate a human-like conversation with users—You’ve probably already been chatting with AI if you’ve contacted online Customer Service.

The jury is still out on whether the latest AI language model, ChatGPT, is actually intelligent, as defined by a machine's ability to behave like a human. They are still basically just a computer program designed to respond to text inputs and generate outputs based on patterns in the data they’ve been trained on.

So far, many uses for AI are controversial if not outright negative, including creating malware, Phishing and scamming, and cheating in school by letting students submit papers written by their computers.  A consultancy firm reportedly found that applications written by ChatGPT beat out 80 percent of humans.

In theory, AI can even be used to write a book. But would that book be a good story or just be a distillation of characters and plot from previously published works? If AI does not have intelligence, could it take the data and CREATE a unique and imaginative piece of work the way a human author does.

From my research, I gather AI software can generate a list of book plot ideas, suggest opening paragraphs, and output a batch of character sketches. If an author provided the program with a detailed outline of a story, it might produce a workable first draft of a novel. AI language models seem best suited to generating non-fiction web content or product copy and even then should be proofed and fact checked by the writer. I read an article generated by the Jasper AI application and it contained 7 typos and grammatical errors. The author had clearly not bothered to check the work before publishing.

Getting back to fiction, I don’t think authors will be out of work any time soon. If an AI language model was asked to generate a bestselling novel with a dragon and a wizard in a magical dimension, I believe the key components of a saleable novel would be missing — imagination and creativity. AI models can only pull from what has already been done; not imagine the things that are new and exciting. AI language models are, IMHO, another tool in a writers’ toolbox that might speed up the process of generating the words on the page. I'll admit to using a copy editing software program to help with my revision process for practical reasons. It helps me spot awkward sentence structures, grammatical errors and typos in my manuscript. But at the end of the day, human intervention is required to bring the magic to the story.

For the time being, I’ll be writing REBEL SPELL, book 3 in my Beyond the Magic trilogy, with minimal aid from artificial intelligence. Besides I love writing, so why would I want to give it up?

Monday, March 13, 2023

Maple Sugar Moon

                                                                   My BWL page

Here in Vermont, we are into Sogalikas, the Sugar Maker Moon, fourth in the lunar year. The Abenaki people say that they learned of a delicious treat from the red squirrel nation. Squirrels nip off the end bud of a maple twig and drink the sap flow from the tip at this time of year. The Abenaki were quick to imitate Brother Squirrel!

Now we boil down the sap in sugar houses all over Vermont. It’s a festive time of visiting and telling stories around the fires.

March is also the month to celebrate all things Irish— literature, song, dance and history, myth and legend. What rich heritage we can draw on from both the first peoples and the many immigrants, rich with their own stories, who came to our shores!

Sunday, March 12, 2023

A Bit of Blarney for St. Patrick's Day

                                         Please click this link for book and author information

I kissed the Blarney Stone! Well, almost. 

Last June my travel companions and I arrived at Ireland's Blarney Castle in a downpour. Since rain isn't unusual for the Emerald Isle, we were prepared and dressed in our full rain gear.  

The weather prompted us to duck into the castle, rather than stroll through the extensive gardens. We joined the line for the climb up a narrow, winding staircase to the top of the tower. Along the way, we enjoyed occasional views of the grounds and noticed the rain was letting up.   

Our goal was the legendary blarney stone, which was built into the castle battlements. Kissing the stone is said to grant someone the gift of the gab. Eloquent Irish politician John O'Connor Power defined gab as "flattery sweetened by humour and flavoured by wit." Myths abound about the blarney stone's origins. Some say that Irish chieftain Cormac MacCarthy asked a goddess for help with a lawsuit when he was on his way to court. She told him to kiss the next stone he saw. He followed her advice, won his case, and incorporated the lucky stone into his castle. A variation of this myth is that MacCarthy was en route to plead his right to keep his lands and title to Queen Elizabeth I. He met an elderly woman advisor, kissed the stone, and, thanks to his brilliant 'gab' convinced the queen to grant his wish. Other stories claim the blarney stone is a magical rock brought to Ireland from Stonehenge, Scotland, or the Holy Land during the Crusades. Scientific studies have determined the stone is local Ireland rock, but who can argue with legend?

Judging from the crowds on that rainy day, the stone's blarney works for drawing tourists. The long lineup snaked slowly towards the top of the castle. We paused at this warning. 

As we drew closer, we wondered if we'd have the nerve to lie down in front of all the tourists and kiss the stone. We saw an attendant give the stone a quick wipe between people, but was kissing it sanitary in this day of COVID-19?  

I decided I couldn't come this far without trying. Here I go - awkwardly. In addition to virus concerns, in order to touch the stone with your lips you have to lean your head way back through the gap along the castle edge. A man holds your body and bars prevent falls to the ground. At worst, you'd bang your head. But arching backward over a high drop-off is a creepy feeling of letting go. Did I really need any more gab to write my novels? Hundreds of lips had touched the stone already that day. I blew the blarney stone a kiss and was content with getting close. 

The view from the top was worth it. In the past, Blarney stone kissers didn't have bars for a safety net. Here's how far they could fall. 

By the time we returned to the ground, the rain had stopped and the sun came out. A fellow tourist snapped a picture of our group, with the castle in the background. It's the only picture of all five of us we have from our two-week tour of Ireland. 

The Irish are known for their sayings, blessings, and proverbs. I'll leave you with a few.  

May your home always be too small to hold all your friends. 

May you get all your wishes but one so that you will always have something to strive for. 

Every man is sociable until a cow invades his garden. 

May you have the hindsight to know where you've been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.

A kind word never broke anyone's mouth. 

May your thoughts be as glad as shamrocks
May your heart be as light as a song. 
May each day bring you bright, happy hours that stay with you all year long.    

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

The Emerald Isle 


Saturday, March 11, 2023

Fact or Fiction? by Karla Stover


Fact or Fiction by Karla Stover

By the same author. Available through BWL Publishing Inc.

Murder on the Line

Murder" When One Isn't Enough

Wynter's Way

Parlor Girls

On July 30, 1908, The Caucasian, a North Carolina newspaper, had an article about Anne Hill Carter Lee, mother of southern general Robert E Lee. And 115 years later the truth of the story is still being debated.

Anne Lee, born on March 26, 1773 in Charles City County, Virginia was always unhealthy. For one thing she had lost the vision in one eye, the result of an accident with a pair of scissors. In 1857, while away at school, she became so sick with an intestinal problem she was sent home to recover. Anne and her mother often traveled to springs around the state for the curing benefits. She lived a life constant pain. Her headaches, dizziness, and intestinal troubles never went away and as an adult she required constant medical attention. However, it was catalepsy that almost cost Anne her life.

Catalepsy is a condition similar to narcolepsy: during an attack the body becomes rigid and completely inactive; it ignores all out side stimuli and the patient is mute. According to the newspaper article, in 1804, Annie Lee had a fever that would not subside. Then she fell into a trance and appeared to stop breathing, the attending physician declared her dead. Her body was prepared for burial and three days later Annie Lee was  laid to rest in the family vault. 

According to one web article, while standing alone at the grave site, her husband, Henry, heard her calling for help. He opened the casket and found her still alive. However, the newspaper article says that while the sexton was cleaning the site and readying flowers to place on Annie's casket he heard a voice calling for assistance. Though frightened, he stood quietly and listened until the voice became louder and he was able to determine that it was coming from Annie Hill's casket. Opening the casket, he found Mrs. Hill very much still alive. Henry took her home and put her to bed. Recovery was slow but steady and "15 months later she gave birth to the 5th of their 6 children. She had a son who became General Robert Edward Lee."

In the 19th century, patents for safety coffins to prevent this atrocity abound. Frans Vester's included an air filter and a bell; John Krichbaum's had a fresh air inlet and a pipe for the entombed to rotate; Fredredrerick Borntrager's coffin had a clock-work fan to force in fresh air and an alarm system, and to my mind at least very interesting, was the patent issued on December 29, 2015 to John Knight for what he called a "Your Music for Eternity" system. It has a solar powered digital music player with a speaker in the casket and a headset jack on the headstone so living can leave recorded messages and / or the deceased's playlist. 

Fact 1: in 2001, 2014 and 2020 people were erroneously declared dead

Fact 2: Silas Marner, Romeo and Juliet, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Fall of the House of Usher and many other pieces of literature included catalepsy. It was a much-loved plot device.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Hockey Night in Canada Somewhere – by Barbara Baker


My seven-year-old grandson, Wyatt, loves to play hockey. As a gramma, who played on the Banff girl’s team fifty years ago, I got up the courage to play shinny with him and his dad. I felt naked without the hockey padding but tightened my helmet and stepped onto the ice.

The puck ricocheted off the boards and the slap of the sticks echoed off the mountains.

“Gramma scored,” my son-in-law shouted.

“Off course she did.” Wyatt tapped his stick on the ice. “She was on a hockey team a long time ago.”

Out of the mouths of babes. My heart melted.

Memories of playing hockey as a teenager flooded back. In the mid 70s two of my high school teachers started a girl’s team and enrolled us in the Minor Hockey League.

We had many obstacles to overcome before our first game:

-    learning the rules (important)

-    learning to skate on hockey skates instead of figure skates (challenging)

-    the art of stick handling, passing without losing the puck, and skating fast (equally challenging)

-    there were no funds to buy team jackets (minor detail – we knit toques for everyone)

There was a wide range of athletic abilities amongst us, but we were determined. Not even the 6 AM Sunday morning ice times deterred us.

(top row 3rd from the left)

We surpassed all our obstacles and our first game was against Jasper.

The game started. They skated fast. They deeked and passed and zipped up and down the ice like super stars. But we kept up. And then there was a bam. Our centre got slammed into the boards.

I stood in the box with my mouth open. My teammates wore similar expressions. Our coaches - speechless.

What the hell? We all looked at the ref. Nothing. He did nothing.

I watched our player lean against the boards and pull herself up. When my line went out I took my spot – left forward. Skate fast. Pass. Stay out of their way. That was my strategy.

I flew down the ice (it’s my memory, I can go as fast as I want). Just as I went to pass to a teammate, I felt a thunk. The next instant I was on my back looking at the overhead lighting.

I rolled over, got up on my knees and blinked. That hurt. A lot.

“It’s a long way from the heart,” Coach shouted. “Get up.” They were the exact words I needed to hear to stop the tears.

We lost 13 – 0. We should have been devastated but we weren’t. We were just thankful we could all still walk.

From then on, our practices involved: how to check, how to take a check, how to avoid a check.

Fast forward to our next game against Jasper. We lost 4-0 but we were all proud of our defeat. We hadn’t been thumped.

Our final game against Jasper was the Easter Tournament in Banff. In the first period there was a battle of sticks in front of their net. And then the red light went on. The red light!

We scored a goal.

It felt like the whole team scored that goal. And it was the only goal of the game. A shutout our coaches talked about for years. We were victorious.

           Now back to the goal I scored while playing hockey with my sweet grandson and my son-in-law.

Who am I to tell Wyatt the goal I scored was not intentional? I’d merely leaned on my stick to stop from toppling over after turning too fast. My stick hit the ice just in time for the puck to deflect off it and into the net. Almost like I planned it. But I didn't tell him any of that. I'll let him think I'm a super star for a bit longer. 


You can contact me at:

Summer of Lies: Baker, Barbara:9780228615774: Books -

What About Me?: Sequel to Summer of Lies : Baker, Barbara: Books



Thursday, March 9, 2023

The Do's and Don'ts of Querying Publishers by CHATGPT and Vanessa C. Hawkins



 Vanessa Hawkins Author Page

Soo, everyone has talking about AI, and unless you haven't heard, there are now programs that can deliver art, essays, and stories at the press of a button. Students, office workers and anyone who doesn't want to pay an artist for their work, rejoice! It's admittedly pretty darn neat. 



A lot of people--artists especially--are worried. Why? Because most of us already make peanuts. Imagine if some dumb AI can do everything we can, but only with a line of instruction. There are a lot of folks on the fence about it, and I suppose I am one of them, but I can certainly understand the concern and/or fascination. 

So I decided to try it out. I told ChatGPT to write my blog post for me! Let's see what it can--currently--do! 

Okay CHATGPT! Write a funny, how to blog post about querying publishers!

CHATGPT: Hello and welcome to this hilarious guide on how to query publishers!

Isn't that a little on the nose, ChatGPT? Ever hear of show don't tell?

CHATGPT: If you're a writer, you know that querying publishers can be a daunting task. But fear not, I'm here to provide you with some tips and tricks to make the process a little less painful and a lot more entertaining!

This must be ChatGPT's attempt at being witty... 10 Points for trying! CHATGPT: Step 1: Pick the right publisher The first step in querying publishers is to pick the right one. Do your research and find publishers who are interested in your genre. Don't waste your time querying a publisher who only publishes cookbooks when you've written a sci-fi novel about aliens who invade Earth to steal all our pizza.

This... is pretty good information, actually. I agree with you ChatGPT. Keep up the good work! CHATGPT: Step 2: Use a catchy subject line When you're sending your query email, make sure your subject line is attention-grabbing. Instead of "Query Letter", try something like "Please publish my book so I can afford to buy more ramen noodles."

Okay, well... as cute as this may be, it's poor advice. In my experience, publishers would rather you be on point. They've heard it all. They get hundreds if not thousands of submissions a day. Spare them your "attempt" at being witty and just get to the point. Example: Submission for Blah Blah Press. Some publishers will actually tell you what to put on the subject line, and if they do, follow it to the letter.

-10 points ChatGPT CHATGPT: Step 3: Be creative in your introduction The introduction is where you really want to shine. Start with a joke or a funny anecdote. For example, "I'm a writer, which means I spend most of my time talking to imaginary people. But don't worry, they're all very friendly."

Ugh, no ChatGPT. Bad. -20 points.

The first line of any query letter should be something along the lines of: My name is Author McAuthorson and I would like to introduce my novel, ChatGPT Is Trying Too Hard To Be Funny. It is a 70,000 word paranormal fantasy that takes place in Internet Space.

Again, publishers want the facts up front. They want to read the first line and be able to tell right away if your book is something they are interested in. After that, sure, you can hook them with a fun, witty, thought-out blurb, but again... Facts first, fun later.

CHATGPT: Step 4: Include a hilarious synopsis Your book's synopsis should be both informative and hilarious. For example, "In my novel, a young woman must navigate the treacherous world of online dating while also battling a horde of zombie llamas. Will she find love, or will she become llama chow?"

Technically, this is kinda true. Though a synopsis shouldn't leave someone guessing, it should be informative. There should be no questions of what happens at the end. A synopsis is a semi-thorough summary of events that happen in the book. I HATE WRITING THESE! Because to me, everything is important: read the book, butthead! But in a lot of cases I find synopsis' come out rather dry... If you can make yours hiliarious, go for it. CHATGPT: Step 5: Finish with a funny sign-off Finally, don't forget to end your query letter with a bang. Instead of a boring "Sincerely", try something like "Yours in pizza and puns" or "Cheers, and may the force be with you (unless you're a Sith Lord, in which case, never mind)."

Sure, you can do this if you want. I find it pretty cheesy, and personally cringe-worthy, but if the publisher got to the end of your query without throwing it in the trash, maybe they will enjoy it.

Ehh... no points taken off, but no points given ChatGPT.  
CHATGPT: And there you have it, folks! With these tips, querying publishers will be a hilarious and unforgettable experience. Who knows, your query letter may be so funny that the publisher will offer you a book deal just for making them laugh! 

Unlikely ChatGPT. Unlikely. 

So there. The do's and don'ts of querying publishers by ChatGPT and yours truly. What do you think? Personally, I think this particular AI has a way to go before it produces something I want to take credit for, though if it means getting Winds of Winter out, maybe George should give it a try. 

And you thought I was through with bringing him up, didn't you? Didn't you? Hahaha!

But seriously, I'd love to know what you all think of AI. Let me know! :)  

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Winter Travel by J. S. Marlo


Wounded Hearts
"Love & Sacrifice #2"
is now available  
click here 



    Last week I flew to Victoria, BC, with my 8-yr-old granddaughter to visit my newest granddaughter, an adorable blue-eyed 5-month-old baby girl. We expected warmer weather than back home in Northern Alberta.  Well, we got snow and cold wind.

    At Butchart Gardens, the poor flowers were trying to peek through the snow. 

    Not surprisingly the winter weather in western Canada wreaked havoc with all our flights. I felt like Eli in my novel The Red Quilt. Here's a short excerpt:

The winter storm battered the welcome sign swinging on two chains in front of an uninviting two-story house.

To Eli Sterling’s dismay, the charming holiday pictures on the Bed and Breakfast website bore little resemblance to reality. For the price he paid, he should have known better than to expect colorful lights running around the roof and windows, or an inflatable Santa with his fleet of reindeer ready to take off in the middle of a snowstorm.

His granddaughter would be disappointed when she woke up from her nap. He had promised her a special Christmas, not yet another heartbreak.

I’m sorry, munchkin. The five-year-old child under his care deserved more than a life filled with drama and broken promises.

Eli shifted his SUV into four-wheel drive and inched into what he hoped was an unplowed driveway, and not a ditch. The snow crunched under the tires, suggesting a layer of ice beneath the fresh powder. Afraid he might get stuck if he forced his way farther ahead, he stopped about twenty feet from the front door of the Bed and Breakfast. He left the engine running, and after jacking up the heat so Ruby wouldn’t freeze in her car seat, he got out to brave the storm.

A gust of wind tested his balance as he trudged through the snow. The bright red, orange, and yellow welcome sign creaked on its black chains. It looked freshly painted, unlike the rest of the house.
Welcome to Lisa’s Bed & Breakfast
Eli would have felt more welcomed if Lisa had shoveled the driveway and the porch.

The sun, which wouldn’t set for another hour, had gone AWOL in the middle of the storm. Though darkness hadn’t claimed the island yet, someone should have turned on the porch light.

Eli had arrived within fifteen minutes of the time agreed upon. Someone should be here to greet him. Besides, it was suppertime. Lights should filter through at least one window.

Unsettled by the lack of apparent life, he rang the doorbell, then after a few seconds, pounded on the front door.

“Hey! Is someone home?” Eli shouted over the wind, hoping his voice carried inside. “It’s Eli Sterling. I have a reservation.”

Seconds turned into minutes. As his fingers grew cold and numb in his gloves, it became obvious no one would answer. He returned to his SUV before he could no longer feel his hands, then after warming them up in front of the vents, he dialed the number on the Bed and Breakfast website.

“The number you are trying to reach is no longer in service.” The mechanical voice that showed no empathy toward him hung up before he could catch his breath.

“No, it can’t be...” Thinking he had misdialed, he tried again.

“Are we there yet, Papili? I’m hungry.”

The nickname that Ruby gave him when she was a toddler echoed in his ears as he listened to the same recording from the same mechanical voice.

Struggling to keep his spirits from plummeting, Eli pasted a smile on his face before looking at her over his right shoulder. “Not yet, munchkin. Papili got lost. Would you like a granola bar?”

Shrill giggles filled the vehicle. “Ask Siri, Papili. She’ll tell you where to go.”

Happy Reading & Stay Safe! J.S.



Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Writing in Multiple Genres by Eileen O'Finlan


I've heard it said that writers should only write in one genre. Why? I read and enjoy more than one genre. Why shouldn't I write in more than one? For me (and, I dare say, for most writers) characters and story ideas pop up in my head unexpectedly. I can't help what genre they fall into.

Though I began my writing career with historical fiction and that will probably constitute the bulk of my writing when all's said and done, sometimes the characters who visit my head are not historical. Sometimes they're not even human. Take for example, my newest release, All the Furs and Feathers, the first book in the Cat Tales series. Though the animals in this book are highly anthropomorphized, not a single human is in the story. Nor are any mentioned. For the animals of All the Furs and Feathers, humans don't even exist. Obviously, this is not historical fiction. It's fantasy. Not the epic sort of Lord of the Rings, but the cozy sort. I couldn't anymore banish the characters in it from my head than I could banish those in my historical novels.

So what's yet to come? Definitely more historical fiction. There's one in the works right now and another taking shape in my mind. As for fantasy, there will be more of the Cat Tales series to come, but there may be others as well. A few months ago I awoke from a dream that featured characters I haven't been able to get out of my thoughts ever since. I picture them in period clothing, but they live in a world that does not and never has existed. Fantasy!

The parade of characters that march through my mind on a regular basis range from historical to fantastical to contemporary. So for the moment, historical fiction and cozy fantasy are my focus. What else may come depends upon my cerebral visitors and how insistant they are about their stories being told.

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