Category Archives: Top 10 List

Top 10 Signs You’re Near the End of Your Novel

Editions of FrankensteinAs some of you may know, I’ve been finishing up the latest Leine Basso Thriller. Well, I have great news–THE BODY MARKET, Leine Basso Thriller #3 is fini ! Once it’s in my editor’s capable hands, I’ll be gearing up for the launch–right now it’s looking like a January 1st release. The book will be available for pre-order, so check back here or, hey! Why not join my mailing list for updates, sneak peeks, and other free stuff 🙂 ?

As I was nearing The End, normal activity just kind of fell by the wayside…you know, like showering, cleaning, cooking, answering the phone, emails…all that frivolous stuff…and I realized it happened at the end of each book with alarming regularity. I asked some author friends if they experienced anything similar and every one of them concurred. So, to prepare for the next inevitable episode of reckless disregard for personal care and housekeeping that ensues every time you’re close to finishing a book, here are the

Top 10 Signs You’re Near the End of Your Novel…

  1. You go into cardiac arrest and frantically hit ‘save’ every time your laptop screen blips
  2. The cat won’t even bother to come into the office because of the stench
  3. There aren’t any dishes in the kitchen—they’re embedded in your desk and the floor in your office and have dried, crusty green things growing on them that you consider having for lunch because you don’t want to take the time to cook
  4. You realize you no longer have a cat because you forgot to feed him and he’s decided to live at the neighbors
  5. You wonder when your spouse/roommate grew a beard and realize your protagonist has to have one because it’s a metaphor and will make the story so much richer whereupon you comb through your manuscript searching for places to insert the new description which changes the story so much you have to re-read the damned thing again and you’re sick sick sick to death of it and then decide to scrap the idea half way through
  6. You’ve forgotten your sister’s name and call her Max
  7. Your spouse/roommate opens the door and peeks  their head in and asks  an innocent question, like where’s the kitty litter, and you jump down their throat because you were in the zone in the middle of a scene and they freaking have no idea how hard it is to get there and now you’ll never ever find that flow again and don’t they know they just ruined the whole entire book because of that one stupid question and then they storm out of the house and don’t come back for a week and you can’t remember why they left because you’re back in the zone and writing again
  8. On Friday afternoon you think you’ve written THE Great American Novel, and PBS, Netflix, HBO, and Amazon will be falling over themselves to secure the rights to make it into a movie/series/extravaganza/orgy-of-fantasticness
  9. On Saturday, after a good night’s sleep, you know it’s the worst dross that has ever been devised by anyone, living or dead, and doesn’t deserve to breathe the same air as an ISIL terrorist and seriously, you call yourself a writer? You’re sure your career is over and your readers will think you’ve gone off the deep end and will tell you to just quit, quit now while you still have your dignity—and you consider it.
  10. You’ve been writing in someone else’s point of view for so long you’re surprised to see yourself in the mirror
  11. You go to the bathroom and devise a brilliant way to get your protagonist out of the corner you’ve written them into and try to take notes on toilet paper with a half-empty tube of toothpaste because there’s nothing to write with and you’re sure you’ll forget. Then, when you get back to your desk, you realize the idea won’t work and throw the painstakingly written notes in the trash and realize now there is no more toothpaste but that it doesn’t really matter because you haven’t brushed your teeth in weeks
  12. You can no longer find the living room because of the dust cloud
  13. You can’t remember where the ‘on’ button is for the vacuum, and wonder where the USB port is
  14. You think Personal Hygiene is a suburb of Cincinnati
  15. You get to the end of your Top Ten list and realize you’ve forgotten how to count

In Defense of Elmore Leonard and other Bloggy Things

(*Attention artists or friends of artists: be sure to read to the end–I’m putting out a call for entries after the main post.)

Elmore LeonardThe last guest post on this blog dealt with another author’s loathing of writing “rules”–more specifically, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Good Writing. I won’t list them all again, but if you’re curious, here’s a link to the post. I thoroughly enjoyed her snark and applaud her dislike of fencing a writer in with so many pesky rules. She preferred to call them guidelines, or suggestions. All points well taken and I agree with her–to some extent. Writing is a creative pursuit, and expecting authors to adhere to rules they don’t agree with stifles that creativity (and I’m not talking about grammar or punctuation here. These rules should be mastered early on in a writer’s career.)

What I take exception to is that Elmore Leonard’s rules were just that: his rules. For his kind of writing. And his gazillions of fans obviously enjoyed how he wrote his stories, so it worked. For him. I’m sure someone asked him to create a top ten list of writing advice and he did. As did Stephen King and several other successful authors. Now, I’m not saying these rules won’t work for other writers. They can and do. I generally agree with most of what Leonard listed, with a few caveats. But that’s just my opinion. Just as the rules were Elmore Leonard’s opinion. They aren’t intended to be a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. I don’t think he ever intended them to be viewed as commandments.

Take it or leave it.

I, for one, am a fan of Leonard’s work and have learned quite a lot from him and other masters of the genre, and I will continue to read and study those who have mastered the art of writing how I want to write. For the rest of my life. I haven’t read Nora Roberts, for instance, because I’m not a huge romance fan. But that doesn’t mean her rules (whatever they may be) for writing aren’t worth considering. They work. For her. And you surely have to agree that she’s successful at what she does.  Same for Stephen King. Neither of them give a rat’s @ss whether I agree with the way they work their craft. But if someone does want to know how these massively popular authors do what they do, those “rules” are there for the asking. Just read their books.

Okay. Off my soapbox now. On to

Other Bloggy Things

I’ve decided to begin a new feature on the blog where I plan to spotlight artists from all different mediums: vocalists, actors, musicians, painters, filmmakers, etc, as well as authors. I’m calling it the Spotlight Series (original, huh? 🙂 ) and over the course of the next few months I intend to showcase creatives from all sorts of disciplines (and nope, I don’t have a set schedule for when I’ll post them–just like most of the blog’s entries, it’s pretty much gonna be a random event). Yay, random!Spotlight Series logo

The idea hit me one day when I was in the middle of emailing back and forth with several people I know and realized each of them worked in a creative field–and not only as writers. I thought it might be fun to do posts highlighting their work, so the Spotlight Series was born.

If you know someone who you think deserves to be highlighted (even if it’s your fine self), I’ll be accepting suggestions through the end of June. Just email me at dvberkom8[at]gmail(dot)com with information about the artist (whether it’s you or someone you know). I’ll take a look at their work and possibly find a slot for them on the blog. There will be a few questions (not as extensive as Awesome Authors), and I’ll include jpgs or audio/video files of their work in the post. It’s at no charge to the artist and will give them some exposure they might not get otherwise, plus I get to meet interesting people and have cool stuff on the blog. Total win-win!

So what are you waiting for?



Guest Post: Breaking All The Rules

by Yves Fey

(or Breaking All Elmore Leonard’s Rules)

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Long before I learned these were best-seller Elmore Leonard’s rules, I heard them touted in the mystery community, and some in romance as well. Elmore Leonard was definitely a master, tightly plotted, great dialogue, sharp action. When he died recently, his rules were suddenly everywhere. I was reminded how I loathe just about every single one of them.

For one thing, it’s that they are called RULES. Anything called a rule is likely to make me bristle. As rules, they are okay for writing an Elmore Leonard style thriller, but even then I’d break a few. For writing anything else, it’s crossed swords at dawn in the Bois de Boulogne.cover for Dark Shadow

Rule #1. Never open a book with weather. Why not, if there’s a hurricane coming? Why not, if your setting is an important character? There are a lot of masterpieces out there that open with the weather. This includes that masterpiece of detective fiction, Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep—the weather followed by what Phillip Marlowe is wearing, so a double rule breaker. It also includes, very briefly, the opening of Leonard’s Get Shorty.

Rule #2. Avoid prologues. I heard this one touted as gospel. Readers think prologues aren’t important and skip them. Despite my scorn for any reader who thinks a writer would open a book with something unimportant, I have tended to follow this “rule.” I do not cut the prologue—I call it Chapter 1. See how unimportant it was? I would rather call it a prologue if it’s set several months in advance of the main action, but I don’t want readers skipping it. How many actually do? Is this apocryphal? There was an excellent blog post out there recently about all the recent bestsellers that opened with prologues, Like Water for Elephants and Life of Pi among them. In my next book, I think I will be defiant and call my prologue a prologue…

Rule #3. “Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue,” he said. “Years before I heard this rule,” she said, “I read a page and a half of a different bestselling author’s short terse dialogue, with “he said” after every sentence,” she said. “I mean ghastly,” she said. “Chinese water torture,” she said. “No, too subtle,” she said. “Sledge hammer!” she said – using a forbidden exclamation point. “Have I made my point?” she said.

Rule #4. Never use an adverb to modify the word “said,” he admonished gravely. This one gets blown up to never use an adverb. I mean, throw out a whole part of speech? Yes, look for strong verbs. But sometimes the strong verb isn’t there, and what you need to convey exactly what you want is a, gasp, adverb,” she said mockingly, tartly, nastily, uncertainly, snottily, icily, viciously, pompously. Guess what, adverbs can change the meaning of “said”.

Rule #5. Keep your exclamation points under control—you are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. Okay. You can use that guideline, not rule, guideline, to check on your bangs. But if you need a few more, use them. You’ll especially want them if you can’t use exclaimed. “Don’t ever (my rule) use them with said!” she said.

Rule #6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.” Suddenly actually means something. I have tried many times just to have what’s happening happen without it, and not have the action itself able to convey suddenness or abruptness. I do use it sparingly because of this “rule.” I wouldn’t ever use “all hell broke loose” except in the dialogue of someone who’d use the cliché.

Rule #7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Sparingly. Yep. I actually mostly agree, but some writers are very skilled at doing it.

Rule #8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. Some readers really don’t like to have characters described. Okay. Guess what? Other readers love to have characters described. So, write for the camp you’re in. Meanwhile, let me ask you a few questions. What does Scarlett O’Hara look like? And darling Rhett? What does Sherlock look like? What does Gandalf look like? Gollum?

Rule #9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things. Ditto the above for whether you want to do this or not. I love Tolkien. I love Thomas Hardy. I love writers who tell me what the world I’m wandering in looks like. I also appreciate writers who can make me feel as if they have when they haven’t. I don’t much like writers who make me feel like the people and places don’t exist except as flat squiggly letters on a page.

Rule #10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Okay. I’ll try to do that, as long as they’re skipping the parts I want to skip, because I try to write what I like to read.


Photo of the authorFloats the Dark Shadow is Yves Fey’s first historical mystery, set in the dynamic and decadent world of Belle Époque Paris. It won several 2013 Indie awards–a Silver IPPY in the Best Mystery category, a Finalist Award in the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards in mystery, and it was one of four Finalists in both History and Mystery in the Next Generation Indie Awards. It’s available in hardback, paperback, Kindle, and now as an audio book.

Previously Yves wrote four historical romances set in the Italian Renaissance, Medieval England, and Elizabethan England. She will soon be republishing these under her own name of Gayle Feyrer.

Yves has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon, and a BA in Pictorial Arts from UCLA. She has read, written, and created art from childhood. A chocolate connoisseur, she’s won prizes for her desserts. Her current fascination is creating perfumes. She’s traveled to many countries in Europe and lived for two years in Indonesia. She currently lives in the San Francisco area with her husband Richard Anderson, also a writer, and three cats, Marlowe the Investigator, and the Flying Bronte Sisters.



Happy Writers

2010 - A year plenty of HopesI just ran across this golden oldie by former literary agent-turned author, Nathan Bransford, on the Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer and thought I’d share. He’s hit the nail on the head, IMO.

Happy Saturday!

My Top 10 List of Kick-A$$ Women in Movies

I love to watch strong female characters in movies and read about them in books. When I was growing up, I read spy novels and watched a lot of James Bond movies. The Bond women were stunning but one-dimensional. I wanted to be the female equivalent of James Bond. I searched, but couldn’t find much in the way of this kind of female character, so I contented myself with made-up stories of women pirates and spies. Fast-forward to 2012. Everywhere you look, there are more and more strong, capable and kick-a** women.

I am so stoked.

When I wrote the first novella in my bestselling Kate Jones thriller series, Bad Spirits, I wanted to be sure to make the heroine toKate Jones Boxed Setugh, but I also wanted her to be flawed. She gains in her understanding of herself throughout the series and learns to trust, as well as take care of herself in dangerous situations. I have heard from as many male readers of the series as I have female, and consider that a compliment in so many ways. The fact that men enjoy a strong woman protagonist as much as women do speaks volumes about the shift in our society and the acceptance of strong, capable women.

 In my novel, Serial Date, I consciously chose to make the heroine as capable and badass as possible, and she has a ton of flaws. I’d always wanted to write a book about a female assassin, and chose to have Leine Basso, the heroine of the book, opt-out of the business by choice and ‘retire’. When Leine’s estranged daughter is abducted by a man claiming to be a serial killer, she’s forced to rely on old skills to find her, and must come to terms with who she really is. The second novel in the series, Bad Traffick, shows more of Leine’s badassity when she works to rescue twelve-year-old Mara from the hands of ruthless sex traffickers.

 Below is a list of my Top 10 Kick-A** Women in Movies. The list is by no means exhaustive—in fact, I came up with 25 off the top of my head, but this is a blog post, not an epic J.  I also didn’t include the many television characters who have contributed so much to female kick-assity.

And now, for the Top 10 Kick-A** Women in Movies (In alphabetical order)

  •  Captain Niobe  – The Matrix Reloaded (Jada Pinkett-Smith) Awesome, competent, resilient and fierce. I definitely wantMichelle  Rodriguez her in my corner.
  • Captain Trudy Chacon – Avatar (Michelle Rodriguez) I totally love Michelle Rodriguez and the women she portrays. Captain Trudy Chacon is one of the many characters she plays so well with a gnarly kick-butt attitude.
  • Carolina – Once Upon a Time in Mexico (Salma Hayek) If Salma Hayek isn’t the whole package, I don’t know who is. She’s gorgeous-sexy, intelligent and can wield a machine gun like a pro.
  • Evelyn Salt – Salt (Angelina Jolie) Say what you like about Angelina Jolie– I adore her willingness to take on the roles she does. She takes her image seriously when it comes to the message being sent to young women and I applaud her. Go, Angelina!
  • Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games (Jennifer Lawrence) The character of Katniss tapped into the powerful belief that a person can win through effort, perseverance and ability. The awesomeness of this story is that she’s also a young woman.
  • Mallory Kane – Haywire (Gina Carano) When I watched this movie I was struck by the pure physicality of Gina Carano in the lead role of Mallory. She’s all woman with sex appeal to burn, knows her way around a firearm and totally owns her power. So refreshing.
  • Ripley – Alien (Sigourney Weaver) What can I say? Sigourney Weaver is a total badass when she comes up against a freaking alien. Scifi/Fantasy delivers its share of kick-butt women, and Ripley’s an all-time favorite.
  • The Bride – Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 (Uma Thurman) OMG. I love these movies. Uma’s character has more determination than an army of Visigoths.
  • Tina Turner – What’s Love Got to Do with It? (Angela Bassett) Yes, Ms. Turner is a real person, not a character, but her tenacity and grace are so inspiring, I think she’s a kick-a** woman bar none and I had to include her. (Besides, Angela Bassett was amazing in the movie!)
  • Trinity – The Matrix Reloaded (Carrie-Anne Moss) How can you have a top list of kick-a** women without Trinity? Great emotional control and she knows her weaponry.

How about you? Which strong women characters do you love to see on the screen?

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