Sunday, December 19, 2010

Characters Trial by Fire (or Judge Judy)

Judge Judy and side kick Byrd
Judge Judy, that pint-sized bundle of legal dynamics and electric energy—what a personality.

She’s a no nonsense, don’t lie to me judge of human character, motive and probability. Whether or not you find her particular brand of justice, the way she has of grilling defendants and/or plaintiffs too strong and harsh, or just right, here is something you may not have thought to include in your writing arsenal. The printed word will be all the better for it.

What Judge Judy can do for your writing? If you are a novelist, Judy can help your writing whether you write crime, mystery novels, or some other genre.  If you are a novelist, no matter what genre, listen carefully to her words.

“Don’t tell me what you feel. That’s conjecture and that calls for a conclusion. Don’t tell me what she/he knows. Just tell me in, your own words, the facts. You can’t know how he/she feels; you can’t get in his/her head/mind. Don’t tell me we—you only know what you did, said, and saw—you can’t be in another person’s eyes, ears or thoughts." No head hopping for Judy - stay in one person's view point.

Judge Judy demands eye contact. “Look here, don’t look down, don’t look over there, look right here.” Looking her straight in the eye, would you dare tell her anything but the truth? If your eyes wander, so does your truth, focus, as you would keep your character(s) focused. 

Conversation—what you said, what he/she said, not an interpretation or generalization of what transpired. I want sentences, verbatim, what was said. You asked, she answered. She/he asked you answered. Don’t give me the gist of the conversation; give me the meat and potatoes – the word for word conversation.

The characters in your novel need to answer to Judge Judy’s directions. Show me, prove it, don’t generalize—show don’t tell. Give me your interpretation and I’ll be shouting—I’ll be the judge of who is right or wrong.

 She gives a whole new meaning to the phrase—show, don’t tell—doesn’t she?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Not All Mysteries Are of the Fictional Variety

“When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one but, you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” Leo Burnett

Case in Point!
A mystery, no actually two, surfaced in our small community the past week that ended our, perhaps, laid-back, serene-country atmosphere. I’ll only discuss one here today.

Perhaps the least mysterious, or maybe not…Let's test it out.

Can you imagine an armed bank robbery?  A bank robbery in a town of maybe 500 people if we stretch a little and count the dogs and cats too.

In the summer time, summer people and with the weekenders and cottage vacationers we may stretch up to 1,000.

If even half of those people that live here use the bank in our town, most are retired. There are four businesses in our village. Given the current state of Social Security (and believe me payments are meager and they doesn’t stretch very far) and the limited resources, there is very little money in this bank.

Now, picture Monday morning, peak traffic time is usually 9:30 or there abouts when everyone is going to pick up their mail (there is no postal delivery in our town/village – unless you live on the outskirts at least several miles away). This is the time the armed robber thinks will be a great time for a heist.

What would possess anyone to think he could rob a bank at gun point and get away any day, but particularly given the scenario I just described.

He didn’t— succeed--that is...12 minutes later he was sitting in a squad car about 9 miles away, wondering what happened.

Clues—every mystery writer needs to ferret out clues. Even if your book starts with the crime solved, the reader wants to know why—if not—how and a myriad of other answers to questions he may not know to ask.

Three essentials in every mystery are:
Motive: maybe he needs money – desperately, is a given

Means: He has a gun, a truck and he has done something similar before –he was just released from incarceration we find out later. How he came into the possession of a gun is another mystery if he is already a criminal.

Opportunity: Driving along a deserted or nearly deserted section of highway, there right next to the highway a bank—quickly he surveys the area, a gas station to the south—neat rows of storage sheds to the west, quiet street, fairly early(for him but not us country folk)…He parks his truck in the driveway between those storage sheds, out of sight. He meanders back to the bank, a 1/2 block away. The rest, as they say, is still a mystery.

If jail didn’t teach this man anything, there is something wrong with him, our system or both. It’s a mystery to me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Printed Words: Thoughts Are Things

Printed Words: Thoughts Are Things

Thoughts Are Things

Thoughts and Little Notes From Out There That Float on the Ether
“Apart from its vulnerability to fire, human hair is almost impossible to destroy. It decays at such a slow rate that it practically takes forever.”

“The polar bear has absolutely no fear of man—and will stalk people at every chance, even in the face of gunfire.”

            Writers are an information sponge. Facts, quotes, over-heard words, their ears and mind ever alert for that brilliant addition to their vocabulary, method, motive or anecdote to inject into just the right paragraph to mold their prose to fit the reader’s ear. The above tidbits come from as diverse sources as readers and writers are unique. They are from instant oatmeal packets, to books of notable quotes, to a tiny magazine called “Bits & Pieces” and motivation from internet marketing gurus.

Open up your mind’s eye and be ever alert for that gem that might change your thinking and your life. For, as Florence Shinn author of The Game of Life says, “The game of life is the game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later, with astounding accuracy.”

Thoughts drift like snowflakes accumulating in the nooks and crannies of our minds undisturbed until we need them. “Thoughts are things. Choose the good ones,” says Mike Dooley author of Notes From The Universe.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mysterious is Not Necessarily From a Mystery Writer

Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900) Born in Dublin Ireland

Irish Playwright and essayist was a flamboyant and sharp witted writer who exposed the hypocrisies of Victorian society. He was a firm believer in art for art sake.  His colorful personal life, and eccentricities as well as his effected demeanor drew much attention to him even before he became an acclaimed literary genius. His printed words live on.
Most of his works were written in the 1890’s. His first book, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) was not as well received as his plays. His barbed comedy aimed at the attitudes and habits of the affluent of British society. “An Ideal Husband (1895) was about a blackmail attempt on a public official. It would seem that play or at least it’s morale repeats itself every year or so, only the venue changes.

While not a mystery writer, per se, Oscar Wilde reveals the flaws in societies fabric. As the rich and famous so often find, with fame they no longer own their life. Homosexuality was not taken lightly back then and after two years of hard labor, his sentence for exercising his sexual preference, he died a penniless pauper in 1900. The imprisonment did not dull the importance of his life’s work, however.

America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between” Oscar Wilde 1882 a comment he made when he was on a tour in the US

Information gleaned from: The Intellectual Devotional, Revise your mind, complete your education, and roam confidently with the cultured class. David S. Kidder & Noah D. Oppenheim ©2006 Rodale

Monday, November 29, 2010

No Place Like Home by Mary Higgins Clark - a review

No Place Like Home
By Mary Higgins Clark
ISBN 0-7432-6489-4
Simon & Schuster 2005©

Readers often ask, “Where did you get the idea for that story?” In the case of No Place Like Home a New Jersey law was the source for Mary Higgins Clark.  A real estate law to be specific, but to be more specific a real estate agent must inform prospective buyers if the home he/or she considers purchasing carries a stigma that might cause psychological damage to the purchaser. Like ghosts haunting the place or other sinister things connected with the facility.

As a prelude—or an introduction that gives the reader a chill and sets the stage for what might be coming next, Clark includes the oft repeated chant…
            “Lizzie Borden took an ax
            And gave her mother forty whacks
            When she saw what she had done
            She gave her father forty one.”

An unthinkable crime, a child killing a parent, and wounding another. Ten-year old Liza Barton, in a dreadful scene of domestic abuse, is awakened by an argument between her mother and her estranged stepfather. She accidentally shoots her mother she was trying to protect her from that stepfather. She is arrested, but the judge finds her not guilty.

 Exonerated by the justice system, but not the town or her conscience, Liza is taken in by distant relatives from across the country, California cousins. Liza is given a new name to protect her and help her get a new start on life. Celia, twenty-four years later divorced and remarried receives a birthday gift from her second husband. He buys her a house, it turns out to be the house of her childhood, the house in Mendham, New Jersey where she killed her mother and wounded her step father.

The terror she thought she left behind resurfaces as they are about to move in to the new place. The lawn and house are marked up with messages of the old…Little Lizzie’s Place—Beware is painted on the front lawn. A skull and cross bones is carved into the mahogany front door, a doll with a toy gun is propped against that door and the siding is splotched with red paint.

“Blood. It wasn’t paint. It was Mother’s blood. I could feel my arms and neck and face becoming sticky with her blood.” Liza/Celia is transported back to that dreadful day.

Her husband is outraged. The real estate agent is beside herself with embarrassment and Lisa/Celia is ready to collapse, but dares not show the terror she feels.  Not until she can prove her innocence to her husband before she tells him or the town who she really is.

It all gets worse from here on out. Who knows her—who remembers what she did—why harass her all these years after she received an innocent verdict? Does her stepfather have anything to do with this?

The reader will fly through the pages, sharing Liza/Celia’s terror and fear so thick it is nearly palpable, all the way to the end. Hoping for a solution, some good in Liza’s life, wanting her to find peace and recognition as the innocent person she is. In a word this is an unputdownable recommended read.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

100 Words...That's all

I can do that - after all 100 words isn't much, although I do remember when I thought 250 words was like a cruise ship compared to a canoe - impossible. Now, I write without much thought to how many words. Sometimes a thousand words is easy, a chapter of 1,300 or even 2,000 isn't all that much. Call it all in a days work. But what happens on those days when it's as if your mind quit thinking in words, or pictures, or anything but spaghetti noodles.
Today was an exceptional day...The local Amberg American Legion held their traditional ceremony to light the lights on the the trees that honor the veterans remembered by those who gathered for the dedication. There were enough members who were recognized both living and deceased that two trees were needed this year. Each light lit was a donation to honor one vet - from those who had served in any conflict past,and to the present day.
The crowd was larger than previous years. The Legion president was hospitalized, gravely ill,  so another took his place...the ceremony was beautiful and memorable. It always is. Then a chili lunch was served by the Ladies of the Legion Auxiliary and a family-like gathering continued to bring the attendants closer together to remember all the good and appreciate what we have.
It was a good morning - perhaps too good because it left me at a loss for words to find something to say here - something other than my own selfish pursuits - Perhaps a huge thank you to all those past, present and future who care enough to give their all for our beloved country, The United States of America.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Where Did October go?

Well, It's November--off to a roaring start and I hardly finished doing October. {smile} 
I had a book released last month - Diamonds, Death and Deceit. The printed words are available in all electronic formats as well as print. Wings ePress, Inc is the publisher.
The book is set in South Africa, Ewando to be exact, not too far from Durban--You all know where Durban is don't you? Well, David Hemingway is an ex-FBI agent who decided to take his life in another direction after he lost his wife and infant son in an explosion detonated by a local crime syndicate.
Doctor, Alcina Danvers, a long time friend of his, invites him to come to Africa and set up a school with the Peace Corps to begin his new career as a teacher. He accepts, looking for the welcoming peace and quiet of a remote African village. At least that is what he thought he was going to find. Almost immediately he is caught up in the Xhosa people's struggle to maintain not only their native heritage, but their land and resources and their pride and life style. Who is he fighting? He finds out, eventually. After nearly losing his life and that of Alcina's, as well, in the process.
Pick up your copy and join us in this mystery/suspense adventure to the Dark Continent. Writing Wide: Exercises in Creative Writing

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Do You Garden? Do You have Garden Gnomes?

You might ask, "What does this have to do with the Printed Word?" I just read a very compact book you should know about. Look below before it's too late.

How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (And They Will)
By Chuck Sambuchino  
Ten Speed Press 
ISBN 978-1-58008-463-5 
Reviewed by Billie A Williams 

“Keep reading if you want to live.” Talk about a hook. If that doesn’t get you, nothing will. Am I reading Tess Gerritsen or Stephen King? Neither.  I’m reading How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack by Chuck Sambuchino. 

 I have three of these little Garden Gnome predators but they decided not to come out this year to sit in the Keebler Elves type doorway created by a major branch breaking off our willow tree.  When another one quarter of this willow tree toppled in a windstorm this summer, I realized how very clever these Garden Gnomes are. Sambuchino verifies my observation. 

A delightful tongue in cheek, but clever look at thwarting an eventual takeover awaits the reader. Garden Gnomes do seem to multiply. They come in various sizes and colors to fit any landscape or indoor d├ęcor. 

Tidbits of ‘Gnomenclature’ (coined by Chuck Sambuchino) impart knowledge and a question in the reader’s mind –truth or Sambuchinoed—you might ask. 

An interesting trip through some natural world wonders, complete with photographs, impart wisdom and exploration and do a great job of raising the curiosity level of the reader. This book is a delightful treatise on our penchant for collecting. It’s an innocuous, harmless habit – or is it? 

Would you worry about reaching into your mailbox if you knew that, perhaps, a gnome waited there to attack that hand?  Would you opt for a Post Office Box even though it cost you time, travel and money to retrieve your mail every day? See page 45. It’s scary. 

Do you know how to make quick sand? See page 36, it’s for your own defense. 

You know about crop circles don’t you? Do you know how they are formed? See Page 22 for insider information. 

On every page there is a footer, footers  marked by a pointed, little red, gnome cap. There is no escape! 

You’ll laugh. You’ll question the sanity of the message. You will look with new eyes on that garden gnome you thought was a mere, sweet little elfin garden ornament

I found myself wondering as I finished this marvelous small book; when will How to survive a Pink Flamingo Attack, be released? 

I highly recommend this book to gnome lovers/owners everywhere. Even if you are not a gnome owner, but a gardener or have a neighbor who gardens—you need to read this book for your own protection or for a laugh a minute if you prefer humor.
Billie A Williams
Money Isn't Everything, Best Seller
Mystery Suspense, Wings Press

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Whodunit makes the Bestseller List

It's hard to imagine how long the printed word has been thrilling, intriguing or entertaining people, but it's even more interesting to study the best seller lists since they first began somewhere around 1825 or so. We really have to stretch ourselves to imagine that far back so much has happened in the last 150 years or more.

I began to wonder when the first mystery may have hit the shelves, but more importantly when did one reach the distinction of bestseller?

Imagine, the year is 1902 and the list has been going for a while. You pick up the paper and lo and behold Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hounds of the Baskervilles is listed. It is still one of Doyle's most famous Sherlock Holmes novels and is officially the first 'detective story', to  make the bestseller list. [according to Michael Korda in Making the List, a cultural History of the American bestseller 1900 - 1999.]

But it wasn't until 1909 that the first American detective story made the list. The Man in the Lower Ten, by Mary Roberts Rinehart had the distinction and along with that, a tradition of women writers who used three names in their signature line. The tradition, it would seem with such notables as Mary Higgins Clark and others.

So the printed word continues to be interested in the traditions and genre's long ago built by those we love to read and hope to emulate in our own writing.
Billie A Williams (since I only use an initial I guess I don't qualify for the distinction mentioned above {smile})
Money Isn't Everything

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's Here....My own Printed Words

I need to deviate from the normal posts for just today. I am excited my new book is printed and ready for you. Antique Armor hits the shelves today -- September 1, 2010--from Wings available wherever fine books are sold.

Antique Armor is about a young woman who inherits an Antique shop when her Aunt Rosa dies (mysteriously I might add) a suit of antique armor is delivered to the shop after she takes it over. She has no clue where it came from, but bizarre things begin to happen as soon as it arrives. Is it cursed? Does it have paranormal powers, is it her imagination? When a note falls from the armor that says "She's killing me" our protagonist goes into accidental sleuth mode and wonders just what she has gotten herself into. Follow June Fabrizio as she tries to untangle the mess her family has involved her in. From Aunt Rosa, to sister Belinda and her brother Derek's strange death the tale keeps unfolding while she is never certain who is with her and who isn't.
An autographed copy is available from me...Billie A Williams if you are so inclined, send me an email and I can let you know what shipping will be. The book is $11.95 and postage is around $3.
ISBN 978-1-59705-537-2 [available soon at]
It is also available in electronic versions (ISBN 978-1-59705-483-6) and will be up at Fictionwise and Amazon soon.
Thanks for letting me toot my own horn.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Printed Words and Musical Scores

Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on WritingReading Margaret Atwood's Negotiating with the Dead, A Writer on Writing I've come across some amazing thoughts. She says the printed word and musical scores have many similarities. It's not the words on the page that make the tale remembered it's how the author played a musician would play an instrument. They both find the song hidden in the notes or the story hidden in the words. So true.

Someone once said, and I paraphrase here,  it's not the musical notes played that make the tune, it's the spaces between those notes, the pauses, and my step father was quick to say it's not the printed word but what is written between the lines that we need to read.  The author crafts his tale the way he hears them in his head using words as his musical notes, his song in 3/4 time or 4/4 beat.

Elsewhere, Atwood, when speaking of duplicity as she claims all writers are - two different people, "Wanting to meet the author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pate." The person is not the author and vice versa. I tend to agree with that somewhat, my characters come from my mind but they are not necessarily about me personally. I didn't rob a bank to write about robbery, I didn't murder someone to write about murder...I didn't own an antique store as my current accidental sleuth does, or a cafe as the sleuth in another of my books does...I was never a rodeo clown or bronc rider, yet all of these are a part of the me on the page. Duplicity, a slippery eel, not even identical twins but more like Siamese twins I'm afraid. Joined together but not the same, nor do they necessarily think the same or look the same.

There is more to ponder on this, but I'm so enjoying Margaret Atwood, I wonder why I haven't found her before.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Negativity and The Butterfly

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt
Positive Focus will create the life that you want to live!

Negative people are like human black holes. They drain your energy. They keep you from reaching your goals. They stop your life!
Brian Tracy...

And this is so true. It seems negativity spreads at the speed of light while happiness has to be sought out and captured on the run - well perhaps chasing happiness is wrong, maybe we need to stand still and allow it to come to the butterfly.   Your thoughts?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What Characters Can do For Your Fiction

It is said that fiction is life dressed up for a party and the writer controls the guest list. You can invite anyone, any type character you need or want into your story.

That makes writing a lot like acting--well, you see you, the writer, gets to play all the parts. Isn't that grand being behind the steering wheel all the time.

We think we are anyway. Sometimes, characters will jump in and just take over the ship - If you try to force them to go your way several things could happen.
1. You could alienate your readers because the story might not ring true to what your character would do in this situation you created.
2. You could wind up telling the wrong story and find yourself left blocked and never finishing the tale at all or it will not be the tale you are destined to tell.
3. Why fight it, go along with your character, at least until you see where s/he is heading. It may be a direction you never planned, but it may well be a better direction, a better what if. Try it!

When you create each character in your head you manufacture just enough details, enough information so that your reader can form his character to people your story that fits his mind or idea of the character. You will both be right...and it involves your reader.

Someone once said, "If your characters are having more fun than you, your on the right track." So roll out the red carpet and let your characters have a ball.
Writing WideWriting Wide: Exercises in Creative Writing or Writing Wider, More Exercises in Creative Writing

Monday, August 23, 2010

See Steve Ostrow in action.

If you've enjoyed the book review, but want more --here is a video link for you to see and hear Steve in action. - He turns his Printed Words into action.
Please be sure to check out his book it is a treasure trove of resources for every consumer and his style is a delight.
How To Sue A Telemarketer
When you are in the middle of writing that blockbuster novel or dynamite article you don't need to be interrupted by a telemarketer. Take action Steve can help. Click on the link above to buy his book. You'll be glad you did.

How To Sue A Telemarketer...

How to Sue A Telemarketer,
A Manual for Restoring Peace on Earth One Phone Call At a Time
Stephen I. Ostrow, Esq. and Ozmo Kramer
Reviewed by Billie A Williams

"Getting upset over a telephone call seems nitpicky. One termite is not a problem; left unchecked, better all the exterminator."

Tongue in cheek and a bit irreverent at times, How To Sue a Telemarketer combines strong ideas, and at times, strong language, with a clear and decisive call to action required by the reader. Lead, pushed and challenged to hit the telemarketer between the eyes for the interrupted dinner hour this book provides you with all the tools necessary to reclaim the peaceful family time without the unwanted interruption of the telemarketer.

From do not call lists to what telemarketers can legally do Ostrow and Kramer cover it all. A telemarketing worksheet is provided for you to be certain to get what you need to get from the telemarketer. From how to get the process rolling—to what forms you need to have in place before you arrive in court, you have it all in this reader-friendly, compact book.

In the appendix Ostrow and Kramer provide a complete Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) so that you can see for yourself what is protected and what is allowed in this telemarketing drama. Several of the forms that you will need to proceed with your plan to sue the telemarketer are also included.

Ostrow and Kramer provide a list of things that the telemarketer can be sued for – it’s not a blanket ruling that if someone telemarkets to you they can automatically be sued – if you are on the no-call list some telemarketers can still legally call you, but there are things you can do to stop them.

It’s not often you will find lawyer and humor in the same sentence let alone in a how to book, but this book offers them both. Sound legal advice from a couple of lawyers as well as it being presented with enough humor to take the edge off even the angriest consumer march to court.

An enjoyable read – and sure to give you a leg up on how to proceed when once again you are pestered while attempting to enjoy a quiet family dinner.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Organic Printing - you've heard of Organic Gardening -- Well...

 How About Green Printing? Shel Horowitz is the master of green -- Comments welcome.

Seven Weeks to A Greener Business
Week 1: Green Printing
By Shel Horowitz

Permission to Publish: As long as the biographical slug is
included unedited (or edits cleared with the author), permission
is freely given to republish and repost, in whole or in part. The
slug must be included.

HADLEY, MA: Printing is one of the easiest places to go more
Green in your business, whether creating documents on your own
office printers and copiers or buying commercial printing

In your own office:
•       Switch to duplexing printers, and train staff to print on
both sides of the page.
•       Buy only recycled printer/copier paper, with a high
percentage of post-consumer.
•       Use draft mode to consume less toner.
•       Consider, before printing, whether reading on screen is good
enough—do you really need a paper copy?
•       Rather than ordering (and then wasting) quantities of
letterhead, design electronic letterhead you can incorporate into
your document so it automatically prints each time you need it.

When buying printing services:
•       Specify recycled or FSC-certified paper.
•       Inquire about soy and vegetable inks.
•       Buy from a printer who is committed to eliminating or
reducing water pollution and paper waste.
•       Only print as much as you really need.

The primary author (with Jay Conrad Levinson) of the acclaimed
new book Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green,, Shel Horowitz is a marketing
and environmental consultant/speaker who helps businesses not
only go Green but also effectively market their Green commitment.
Emphasizing affordable, eco-friendly, and ethical approaches, he
has served clients across North America, Europe, and Asia. He is
the founder of the International Association of Earth-Conscious
Marketers and the Business Ethics Pledge. For a directory of all
his websites, please visit Reach him at
413-586-2388,, Twitter @ShelHorowitz

Accurate Writing & More, 16 Barstow Lane , Hadley, MA 01035, United States

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cardboard Characters?

If you are having trouble with your characters being flat and boring to your reader, you will certainly lose many that you could have called fans. "An attentive writer is midwife, nanny, uncle and undertaker to the story's characters." says Paul Raymond Martin in The Writer's Little Instruction Book. The title suggests there are 385 Secrets for Writing Well & Getting Published. and I certainly agree.

You must remember that your characters best side is reflected in their reaction/action from the detritus of personal experience.  Their deepest emotions are the stuff of reader enjoyment. If you can remember how it felt when you tripped on stage as you picked up your High School diploma, or caught your heel in your prom gown and nearly exposed your...well let the imagination fill in the blanks. Remembering your emotional reactions to certain situations are sure to give you methods and means to translate your characters emotions into real life for your reader. Don't squander that opportunity use it for all your worth. Create fallibly, memorable characters. Characters In Search of an Author could help you design that perfect mix of character and emotion.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Sinner's Guide To Confession

If that title doesn't peak your curiosity, what will? Phyllis Schieber takes us on a
sneak peak of her two outstanding books today.

A Sinner's Guide to Confessions
Kaye and Barbara are longtime friends, now in their fifties. Ellen, who is several years younger, develops a friendship with the other two women years later, solidifying this close-knit group. The three women are inseparable, yet each nurtures a secret that she keeps from the others.

Willing Spirits

Jane Hoffman and Gwen Baker, both teachers and in their forties, have a friendship that helps them endure. Years after Gwen is abandoned and left to raise two sons alone, she finds herself in love with a married man. After Jane is humiliated by her husband’s infidelity and Gwen must face her own uncertain path, the two women turn to each other. Now, as each is tested by personal crisis; Jane and Gwen face new challenges—as mothers, as daughters, as lovers. And in the process, they will learn unexpected truths about their friendship—and themselves.

To Young Women Everywhere
I came across a photograph of my friend Claire and I from the summer of 1969, the summer we spent touring Israel. I was sixteen, newly graduated from high school, and Claire was eighteen, almost nineteen.  Because I had skipped two grades, all of my friends were older. The photograph was taken at Eilat, Israel’s southern most city,  located at the northern tip of the Red Sea. Claire and I are horsing around in the water. I am perched on an inner tube, wearing a black and white bikini and a huge smile. I am trying to help Claire onto the tube as she struggles. She is also laughing. We look very happy. We had been camping on the beach for several days. It was incredibly beautiful. We were incredibly beautiful. When I stared at the photograph, I remembered my reaction when I first saw the photograph more than forty years ago. In those pre-digital days, you had to bring in the film and wait for the pictures to come back. I remember that I did not want anyone to see this particular picture because a little roll of fat was visible at my belly. I remember thinking that I looked so fat. I was always trying to hide some part of myself—my large breasts, my full thighs, my something, anything. I had a friend in graduate school who once told me that I look like a “Renaissance porno queen.” I laughed, but I did not want to look like that. I knew he meant it as a compliment, but I embarrassed by his observation. I should have been proud. What I would give today for that body… there are no words. And that is why I have a message for young women everywhere. I want you to look in the mirror and marvel at the tautness of your skin, the way your breasts stay high on your chests, and the lovely and luxuriant thickness of your hair. Stand naked in front of a mirror and appreciate your beauty, savor it, and celebrate it. It merits your appreciation.
These days I often think of all the times I was self-conscious about my appearance. I wanted to look like Claire. She was the perfect Sixties girl—tall and thin, long, straight, dark hair, and legs that began at her neck and just kept going. I had a crown of wild, curly hair. I also had a formidable chest, and curves that belonged on an older woman. It was a body that emerged when I was fourteen.  I bemoaned my appearance every time I allowed myself to take a peek at my naked body. My mother was adept at letting out the darts in blouses and dresses that were invariably tight. I straightened my hair, wore clothes that hid my full breasts, and dieted constantly, even though I was not fat (What I regret is not learning to exercise early in my life and taking something, anything into adulthood. Stand warned al you young beauties: exercise will prolong your beauty, and whether or not you believe me, you will be sorry if you don’t learn to exercise now). I also I wanted to look like Twiggy or Cher, the role models for
If I could go back to those years, I would flaunt my voluptuousness with abandon. I would never have straightened my hair (I used a horrible smelling product, Curl Free that made my hair coarse and lifeless. At night I would pull my hair up into a ponytail, roll it backwards onto an empty frozen juice can and secure it with long, metal clips. For good measure, I often ironed my hair on the ironing board, using my mother’s iron and a damp towel. My poor mother would monitor this process, fearful that I would set myself on fire!), and I would have looked more kindly on my body instead of wishing for thinner thighs, longer legs, and smaller breasts. The good news is that I have finally come of age. I am the woman I wanted to be then. It is true that my body has not followed suit, but I am comfortable with myself, a remarkable achievement. I practice yoga six times a week, whether I want to or not. And I ride a stationary bike at least three times a week. I’m working on that one.  I write about women like myself. We are friends, and wives, and mothers, daughters, and sisters. The women in my novels, WILLING SPIRITS and THE SINNER”S GUIDE TO CONFESSION are also the woman I am still becoming. I am ever mindful of how times passes, how much I have yet to do, and how grateful I am that I no longer straighten my hair. Of course, I am still critical of body, but I express that criticism with gentleness and humor. I know who I once was, and I know who I am now. It was good then, and it’s better now.

Sinners Guide to Confession and Willing Spirits virtual tour. To learn more about the tour, visit You can also learn more about Phyllis Schieber and her books at