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December 13, 2017

Back in 2016, I wrote an article called Focusing On The Bad Guys that sort of brushed on this subject. However, it wasn’t quite what I want to get at this time. I’ve further brushed on the subject here and there since I started the site. Today, like with many of my articles, I drew inspiration from a book I just read, though I won’t name said book. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that as a writer, I want to present the best story possible. As a reader, I have certain likes and dislikes. Of course, I’m not everyone, but I bet I’m not the only one who feels the same way about certain things. Will this affect who ultimately likes my books? Sure. Can I make everyone like my books?

Of course not.

All I can do is write not only to my best satisfaction, but with as much integrity as I can, and to what I gauge will please the audience the best, based on my sixty plus years of reading and what I’ve learned.

If that isn’t to everyone’s taste?

This is not from a literary perspective, but rather an action perspective. After what I took from a recent book signing event and another author, I want to make that perfectly clear!

Oh well…


Here, I have to quote one of my favorite cowboy actors from the 60’s and 70’s.

Jack Elam often played a bad guy, though later in life, he found a much better niche in comedy. With a bad (wayward) eye and a flair for being faux-serious, he made a perfect comical presence.

I once read an interview with him, after he retired to his home in Oregon, not long before he passed away. He grumbled about the changes in movies and how the bad guys were portrayed. I’m paraphrasing here.

“I don’t really care what the bad guy’s motivations are. Who cares what his mother or father did to him? What if he just wanted the money and robbed the bank?”


The bad guys are essential to any novel. It doesn’t matter how you define bad guys (or gals), the fact is, no matter what, you have to have conflict. The “bad guy” is only in matter of degree and description.

When we’re talking about mysteries, thrillers, adventure, westerns, or any story with a significant conflict, this usually involves one or more bad guys, non-gender specific. Even if it’s a disaster story and the main bad guy is nature, there always has to be a human element as well. It can’t be just nature without some human nature thrown in.

The question comes into how much real estate are you, the author, going to spend on the bad guy(s).

I usually dread, or at least blow out a long breath when I come to the sections where the author delves into the thoughts, feelings and actions of the bad guy or guys (once again, non-gender-specific). To me, though the intent is to justify why the baddie is being bad, it also slows down the action of the hero, the main gist of the story – in other words, the reason why I’m reading it in the first place.

These “pauses” to delve into bad guy character development bring the story movement to a screeching halt.



Way too often, authors waste time and resources, better spent elsewhere, rambling on the bad guy, when they could be carrying the story forward through the good guy.

This is exactly why I often cringe and blow out a long breath when I come to a bad guy chapter. That is, until I see how the author handles these things.

“I don’t really care what the bad guy’s motivations are. Who cares what his mother or father did to him? What if he just wanted the money and robbed the bank?”

            Good old Jack Elam comes to mind again. In fact more often than not, his goofy old face from The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County or some other comedy pops into my head. At these moments, I recall that quote.

Old Jack was dead on.

I don’t want to know why the bad guy’s mother treated him poorly. Just get on with it!

Now, if the bad guy’s doing something that moves the story forward, like setting up an ambush for the good guy, well…that’s okay to a point – as long as it doesn’t take five chapters to get there.


Someone like Stephen King would probably hate me. If you’re a big fan of King, you might, as well. He can take forever to get to the point. At the same time, there are plenty of readers that prefer authors that do get to the point.

There are plenty of King fans out there. There are plenty of literary leaning readers and authors as well. They eat up this wordy stuff.

There are also plenty of readers that cringe at old Jack’s comment.

At the same time, I bet there are lots of readers, and writers that like to get to the point.

To me, any story has to have a light balance of bad guy stuff mixed in. There has to be enough to justify why he or she does what they do, but not enough to drag the story down and take away from the main characters. That’s my take on it. When I get one of those books I can’t put down, you can bet it’s got those features.

How about you?

Happy writing!



December 6, 2017

Week after week, I talk about writing. A lot of the subjects deal with the things that but me as a reader. For the past two weeks, I read two books I couldn’t put down. These are authors that always have that effect on me. Why? They write to the standards I preach, at least for the most important ones.

Point of view.

Getting to the point.

No major flashbacks.

Some kind of payoff in the end.



I have to suffer to get there.

A week or so later, I may finish the book with an ultimate smile on my face, but I had to work for it. It’s not like I neglected other things to dive into the pages to keep reading. I took my time and “got back to it” when I could.

What’s the magic formula that makes those other rather rare ones a breeze to get through?

It boils down to my favorite pet peeves.


When the author controls the point of view, keeps it solid third-person with no head-hopping, does not write omniscient, I’m there!

To me there’s nothing more annoying than trying to keep heads straight, or find an author that can’t keep from playing hopscotch with characters within scenes.

Many of those books I can’t put down have multiple characters. The difference is that when they’re up to bat, so to speak, I know it and it’s their spotlight and nobody else’s.

That’s the difference!


There’s nothing that makes a book more work than an author who can’t get to the point. When there’s no action or story movement because the author has to delve into every bit of minutiae about the character’s feelings and motivations and life history before every single movement, well…

It shouldn’t take six chapters, or fifty pages to walk across the street.


To me, there’s nothing that kills story momentum more than major flashbacks. It’s okay to have a paragraph or two about something in the past.

Or, a prologue.

However, to bring the story to a screeching halt and jump “forward” to the past right in the middle of the story, or to do it multiple times, like playing hopscotch with the timeline, drives me crazy!

A linear story is much easier to take than one where the author can’t make up their mind when they want it to take place.


There has to be a reason for reading this story in the first place. If I’m going to invest money and time in your work, there’d better be a good reason for it!

Don’t give me this “real life” bullshit.

I don’t read fiction for real life. If I wanted that, I’d go to the library and get a non-fiction textbook or something.

Even so, even knowing or suspecting the protagonists are going to live doesn’t mean there can’t be other surprises along the way. If it’s a series, of course the protagonist is going to live, and probably several of the sidekicks. So what? It’s a series. It wouldn’t be one without survivors.

In one-off stories, to me, there’s no bigger waste of time than a story with a bummer ending.


Add to that, bittersweet.

For some, that’s what they want.


Not my thing at all and not for a lot of others as well.


Folks, all these are things I’ve preached about here at Fred Central. Books I can’t put down are magic because the writing is addictive and has all the qualities I mentioned above. That’s what I try to accomplish in my own writing. So far, from the feedback I’ve received, it seems to be working most of the time.

I’m happy with that.

How about you?

Happy writing!


November 29, 2017

The catchy title, notwithstanding, there’s more to this article. On one of my writer’s forums, the question, “Why are adverbs bad?” came up. I never even looked at the responses, expecting to see plenty of reasons why, with plenty of “So what’s” thrown in, especially from the self-publishing crowd as well as the “it’s the story that counts” crowd. Then there are those that say all rules are meant to be broken as well as no rules are absolute with a touch of whining thrown in.

Okay. Adverbs are as much a part of the English language as any other word. We use them all the time in our speech. Get that? Speech. Why not use them in narrative as well?

Ahem…let’s look at that a bit more.


In layman’s terms, an adverb is a word that enhances or modifies a regular verb. It adds color to a regular verb. Okay, what does that mean? It’s better to give examples.

“That’s exactly what I mean.”

She rarely does that.

“I’m absolutely sure.”

They seem to be okay, right? You can usually tell what they are by the “ly” on the end of the word.


We color our speech, in other words, dialogue, every time we open our mouth. Well, most people do. One can hardly say a sentence without attempting to enhance or emphasize what they’re saying. To alter the to be with something to clarify or elaborate it is part of what we do when we communicate with others.

Therefore, in dialogue, it’s more okay to use some adverbs.


Notice the adverb in the title of this section, “quite,” which is deliberate.

Narrative, on the other hand, is you, the author, conveying a word picture to the reader. It’s drawing the scene out and giving information in the most explicit way. That means you need to use word economy, without a lot of fluff. Extraneous words, like adverbs, should not be used if there’s a better way of saying the same thing.


Your job as an author is to make your story as little work for the reader as possible. Your job is to tell (or show) a story so that the reader shouldn’t struggle to get from A to B. The reading of your tale should be a pure pleasure, not a burden. The more crap you throw in the way, the more the reader has to struggle to not only get what you’re talking about, but to enjoy it.

The last thing you want to do is throw roadblocks in the way to prevent the reader from getting there.

I’ve preached this over and over again.

In this case, adverbs are clutter.

In dialogue, they’re a natural part of speech. However, at the same time, we certainly don’t write exactly how a person talks, do we? Do you write with all the ahems, and uhs, and irritating speech patterns that people do unconsciously? Of course not. You also don’t write every little quirk in speech either. Trying to read that would be irritating and well…unreadable. Therefore, you have to clean all that crap up, but at the same time, maybe drop a hint or give an example to show the reader a character’s speech pattern, maybe. In all that, you don’t put down every adverb someone throws into speech. Some, but not every one!

In narrative, adverbs come off as unnecessary fluff. Your job in narrative isn’t to impress the reader with fluff, it’s to get the message across, get the action and descriptions across in the most efficient manner possible. Adverbs, among other words, in most cases, don’t do that. There’s almost always a fix for an adverb. As an editor, I’m always finding ways to delete almost every “ly” word in a manuscript. Very rarely do I leave one in there. They can be justified, but not often.

Adverbs are fluff, they’re usually not needed and just add clutter the reader has to slog through to get from A to B.


Adverbs are bad if not used in the right context. I used them in this conversational and instructional article. Could I have eliminated some of them? Maybe, probably. However, I considered them and chose to leave them in for the purposes of ‘splaining to you, in my way, why you need to get rid of them.

They’re a part of our language. However, it’s best to minimize them and leave most of them to the dialogue.

Happy writing!


November 22, 2017

Our illustrious Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, has been presenting grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas. The gist of them are the improper use of words.


I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn, a famous musician. During our correspondence, I once told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He’s never let me live that one down.

The proper use of words is something a lot of, especially, new writers don’t always get. So, for your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson One.

Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who has gone through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

This is a common word that’s often used out of context. It can be a quandary for a writer and a quick trip to a dictionary or on line.


The first one is lie, lay, laid and lain.

Pres tense                               Past tense                   Past Participle

Be recumbent              Lie                                           Lay                              Lain


Joe is going to lie down. Beth lay on the bed for two hours. Margaret had lain on the bed for two hours.

Deposit                        Lay                                          Laid                             Laid

(set down)

Joe will lay the watch on the nightstand. Beth laid the watch on the nightstand. Margaret had laid the watch on the nightstand.

Tell an untruth             Lie                                           Lied                             Lied


Don’t lie, Joe. Beth lied when she said she liked you. Margaret had lied that night she was there.


Farther is something you can measure as in distance.

How much farther is the gas station?

Further is a continuation of a thought or idea – figurative distance.

Nothing could be further from the truth.


All together    all in one place, all at once

We gather all together to celebrate!

Altogether      completely, on the whole

That’s altogether a separate issue.

Along              moving or extending horizontally on

Move along, keep up the pace!

A long             referring to something of great length

That’s a long way!

Aloud              out loud

Meleena didn’t mean to say it aloud.

Allowed          permitted

No dogs allowed!

Altar               a sacred table in a church

She gazed up at the blood dripping from the stone altar.

Alter               to change

It’s not right to alter the sacred document.

Amoral           not concerned with right or wrong

They have an amoral view of life.

Immoral         not following accepted moral standards

Murder is an immoral way to handle that.


There’s sure to be more to come. I’ve outlined a few common mistakes writer’s make, whether through lack of knowledge or from just typos, we all do it occasionally. It’s good to catch this stuff before we get caught with “baited” breath.

Happy writing!


November 15, 2017

As writers, we all get our inspiration from different sources. While a writer of a certain genre is likely to cite that specific genre as their inspiration, when it comes to fantasy, my core source actually comes from a different perspective.


First off, no matter what genre I write – and folks, my thing is fiction, not non-fiction – everything I write is an adventure. Not only is the story basically an adventure, regardless of genre, but the entire production, from writing to editing to all the other stuff is an adventure as well. I talked about the novels that inspired me when I was a kid, and all of them except one (and even that “literary” classic) were adventure stories, some serial, some not. Sure, they may have been labeled mystery, or classic science fiction, but when you get right down to it, they were still adventures. That same ethos permeates my fantasy writing (as well as all the other genres I write).


Icky bug, my definition for horror, struck early. At first, I love/hated it when my cousin, Terry made me watch those old b-movie monster movies, They used to show them on Chiller Theater on Saturday or Sunday afternoons on KTTV Channel 11 in Los Angeles when we all came to visit Grandpa in Playa Del Rey (or as we called it), Playa della Ray. I still call it that, as a matter of fact. My Dad loved those movies as well and used to watch them when they’d occasionally come on TV back in Lompoc, where we lived at the time. When I started getting nightmares and ulcers from all that, Grandpa got fed up with it and took me to a movie studio somewhere near Playa Del Rey where they’d filmed scenes from Gone With The Wind, and showed me a phony burned out town. Once I saw how fake it was, along with my dad pointing out errors in just about every movie we watched, regardless of genre, I finally “got it.” Then, when that “inverted ice cream cone” with the tentacles crawled across the screen, or the gorilla in the diving helmet blew bubbles to kill people, things became fun.

Over the decades, I read and loved a host of icky bug novels and authors. That played a role in what creatures ended up in my fantasy novels.


To tell the truth, what most attracted me to fantasy novels was word of mouth and the awesome cover art. However, several things turned me off to them.

Number one was Lord of the Rings. This epic fantasy classic, first off, was written in omniscient point of view. Almost fifty years ago, when I first read it, I had no idea why I didn’t really like the writing, or why I struggled with it. All these decades later, I now know why. A few years ago, when I tried to read one of those books again, I couldn’t get through the first chapter.

Number two was the wordy text. The narrative dragged a lot. Unlike my adventure novels, this series did not easily get to the point.

Number three was that most other fantasy novels I tried to slog through lived up to those same issues, either with point of view, rambling narrative, or both.

Number four had to do with the cover art. A lot of times, the words inside didn’t even come close to living up to the cover art.

There were a few exceptions like the works of Andre Norton, but even then, I loved her science fiction stuff more than her fantasy.

The only fantasy writer that has ever kept my attention all the way through was RA Salvatore. However, it wasn’t enough that I went out and bought all his books. I had too many others in my more familiar genres to keep me going.


To get down to the true inspiration for Meleena’s Adventures, I have to look no further than Dungeons & Dragons. My wife and I were avid, dedicated players in much of the eighties when we lived in Turkey and Spain. Then, the more popular it became, the more assholes became involved and the whole thing lost its luster. That’s about the time the Commodore 64 and 128 came along and then the first computer role playing games. From there, I never played another pen and paper D&D game. I no longer had to put up with anyone else’s bullshit.

The core inspiration of D&D was still there, but it was other worlds, other rules.

I never intended to write a fantasy novel. However, since that’s mainly what my wife reads, she kept asking me to write a fantasy. I finally broke down and went for it. Little did I know how much I’d enjoy the process and get into the world of Meleena, then own the whole thing. I drew much inspiration from playing D&D and computer RPGs, but at the same time, that’s all it was. Inspiration. The real core of Meleena, despite the fantasy trappings, comes from all those adventure and icky bug novels, filtered through a D&D lens with maybe a little Ivanhoe and Edgar Rice Burroughs thrown in.

My goal was to write a rousing adventure in a fantasy world, and hopefully to live up to the cover art. Every writer has their story of what inspired them. What’s yours?

Happy writing!



November 8, 2017

I’ve brushed on this subject a bit in various marketing articles here at Fred Central, but never talked about the subject specifically, or my exact adventures, at least that I recall.

I’ve made one video…well to be correct, two on my own and my publisher has completed two until this week when we just completed number three. It’s being processed and tweaked right now. Different formats, different purposes, as you’ll see.


Back in late 2015, when I first started out with Treasure Of The Umbrunna, I wanted a video to post on line of me talking about the book. I’d already had something cooking for possible audio interviews with an internet site, which is a whole ‘nuther story, but it wasn’t something where my readers could see me in the flesh (or pixels), so to speak. That audio interview went well but I didn’t own it and it was only available for a short time, unless I forked out big bucks. Uh, no…sorry.

What to do?

Since I didn’t have any fancy video gear, or a studio, I opted for the “el cheapo” route and did it “eau natural” (or something like that). I wrote a script which was a series of questions and had my daughter set up my hand-held digital camera on a bookshelf aimed at my computer. Then I sat at said computer and answered the questions she asked me.

Simple, down and dirty, right?

Oh…kay, dirty is right. There were a couple of factors I never anticipated.

Angles: I have two monitors and one was supposed to have a full image of the book cover next to my shoulder. The problem is that in the video, my shoulder not only blocked most of the monitor, but you couldn’t make out the image.

Sound: While you could hear me speak as well as my daughter asking the questions, there was something unanticipated. The sound of the computer fan. It was LOUD.

Lighting: There were shadows that didn’t look quite right, unless you were a fan of Wayne’s World or maybe Chiller Theater or something.

It’s those little things you don’t think about.

Oh well. I had to throw away a whole bunch of “film” on that one.

We adjusted the angles, I spoke up, used an extra light source and did a fairly decent author interview that lasted about ten minutes.

The next issue was the massive file and how to load it on the net to my Meleena’s Adventures Facebook page. I had to get my publisher to compress it. Then, it still took multiple attempts and a LOT of waiting before it would upload to Facebook.

When it finally did, voila! I had an author interview.


I paid a few bucks to my publisher (this came extra from a contractor) for an animated Treasure Of The Umbrunna video. We came up with a concept and the contractor took off with it, created the graphics and the music and took care of all the legal details. When I saw the final product, which was about a minute and a half, I loved it!

The final MP-4 loaded easily to my sites and it was an awesome compliment to go with the book. That video is also on my Amazon page.

It started with taking off from one of my original book blurb concepts and turning it into narration. That, in turn, accompanied the animation and graphics that went into the video sequence. I had nothing to do with that, but I did have the final approval. I also had final approval of the music, which I loved right off. It was a collaborative effort.


For the new book, Lusitania Gold, I have one short snippet of a video, animated, that I’ve been trying to post. It’s only a 10MB MP-4, but for some reason, I cannot get it to load onto my Facebook page. I’m going to try and post it onto the Amazon site on my author page. I need to get it up somewhere. My Treasure Of The Umbrunna video is 32MB and it uploaded to my Facebook page with no problem. I have no idea if Facebook changed their standards or what.

I finally tricked the Facebook system into uploading the video by using my regular Facebook page. For some reason, my official Treasure page would not load it, but when I posted it through my normal personal page, it came right up.

Last Monday, when we did the professional quality author interview through my publisher, it was quite an experience. It was a lot of fun, what with camera angles, sound, setup, rehearsal and all the nuances involved. I think it’ll be a great video once it’s finalized.


Videos are great marketing tools because your readers get to see you in the flesh. On the other hand, the animated ones give them a chance to see something in motion, something flashy, something that dazzles the eye, if done well. It’s the commercial you couldn’t afford to put on TV.

It’s all about marketing. Use it wisely, Grasshopper.

Happy writing!


October 31, 2017

This will be the third time I’ve discussed describing characters here at Fred Central. If you’re asking why, it’s because the subject has come up often not only in writer’s group discussions, but on writer’s forums and among non-writers when discussing books. Yeah, folks, this is a popular subject. While I have plenty of other subjects to talk about, this one keeps popping up.

In the good old days, it used to be almost mandatory to describe your characters, down to the most intricate detail. Not too many decades ago, it was common to see the old cliché of the character looking in the mirror (or seeing their reflection in a department store window, as I got caught using) describing themselves through internal dialogue or through narrative. One way or the other, you had to describe each and every major character and most of the minor ones. Things have changed. No longer is it necessary to describe characters in detail. In fact, in many cases, agents and editors actually encourage authors to leave it up to the reader to draw their own picture.


Is there one correct way? Not really. There are, as usual, both extremes. Describe in detail and don’t describe at all. In certain instances, each method works. Which one is right for you? From the trends that I’ve seen, unless you’re an established author, or write chick-lit or romance, the most common method is somewhere in-between. Describe characters, especially for male-oriented stories or general appeal novels, by dropping an occasional hint and let the reader draw their own picture.


I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. A big nono was the character looking in the mirror (or seeing his or her reflection). That was the place to describe the character in detail, which became a list (which I’ve discussed earlier), another no-no. I left nothing to the imagination. If you happen to describe a character with traits the reader doesn’t like, they may be biased against that character throughout the story, no matter how the character acts. The character may remind them of someone they do or don’t like. I say, don’t make it easy for them. Let them decide.

A second big nono was comparing a character to a celebrity. Never EVER describe a character as looking like “Danny Glover” or “Megan Fox” or “Katy Sagal” or “Brad Pitt.” By doing so, not only are you being lazy, but you’re biasing your reader. What if your reader hates that actor? What if that actor does something extremely controversial in real life? Or, that actor plays a character so far from what your character is doing? It’ll draw your reader right out of the story.

Detach, the hero in my Gold series fudges the rules a bit. I describe him as looking either like the late Russian leader Vladimir Lenin, with hair, or a crazed biker. Is that comparing him to a celebrity? In a way I used to think so. The reason I decided to keep his description was as much an inside joke with the other characters in the story as it was the fact that most people today have no idea who Lenin was. A few years ago, I watched a documentary on Lenin and saw him in disguise with a wig. Detach didn’t look a thing like how I pictured him with hair! That was when I threw in the crazed biker description. His real description came from a biker I once knew who somehow reminded me of Lenin. Crazy rationale, but it’s worked. I’ve steered away from that ever since.

In certain genres, such as women’s fiction and romance, the readers like the character described in detail. In that case, you still have to be very careful how you draw the character. Even if you’re describing Brad Pitt, or Fabio or George Clooney, make sure you don’t actually describe Brad Pitt, Fabio or George Clooney by name. You may describe them exactly in your mind, but your reader is likely to paint a different picture.

For most genres, drop a hint here and there. Joe stretched his tall frame as he got out of the car. Mary rubbed her blue eyes in the smoggy air. Andy tugged on his goatee while he pondered his next move. Throw these little things out but spread them throughout scenes, not all at once. Gradually draw a picture.


When I originally wrote this piece, twice removed, in 2015, I decided to keep track of character descriptions of the past two dozen books I’d read before I wrote the original. Since then and including the sequel up until this version, it’s become a conscious thing that I do along with point of view and grammar and syntax. Since I review every book I read, all of that is part of my subconscious evaluation. It’s automatic and doesn’t interfere with my enjoyment (or displeasure) or make me want to pick up a blue pencil (well not usually).

What I have discovered over the years is that hardly any of the authors have directly described a main character in detail. I thought about it and for most characters, I have no idea what they look like except for a general idea. You know what? I don’t care. What they look like isn’t important. The story is what matters (and of course, how it’s told). On the other hand, I’m not reading romances (though some of them contain a bit) so I’m sure that’s a factor. I read thrillers, icky bug and mysteries. The only characters that are ever described in detail are occasional bad guys and special characters, usually to magnify evil or bad traits (sometimes in stereotypical fashion). However, the main characters usually don’t get that kind of detail.

Even if an author does describe a character, I generally forget that and fill in my own picture anyway, if I think about it at all. I imagine for some readers, they need to latch on to an image of that character and that’s fine.

I’m not telling you not to describe your characters in detail, but you don’t have to. It’s something you can leave to the reader’s imagination.

Whichever way you swing, give your readers some credit and freedom. They’re likely to take it anyway.

Happy writing!