On characterization

Just think what we would have missed without the rich, apt, quirky characters of so many worthy authors. Of course, everyone has their favourites, but for me, Dickens is squarely in the spotlight for such a wealth of them. The sad but brave Tiny Tim, put-upon Oliver, the evil while wonderful, avaricious Fagin; doomed Miss Havisham and David Copperfield. Then there’s the resilient, long-suffering Jane Eyre from Charlotte Bronte’s pen, Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird – who epitomized the good in man, and countless more noteworthy fictional human beings, enough to fill a large tome.

OliverOnce you have your story/plot figured out, how interesting it can be to people your work with characters. One of the many joys of writing, is the freedom it gives you to do – within reason – whatever you like. Most authors will have a pretty good idea of the genre of their book, and of the beginning, middle and end. Not all though. I’ve read of some writers who only have a rough plan and let their characters pave the path forward. You can read a plethora of ‘how to’ books, some with similar advice, some with original ideas, but, when it comes to YOU as author, the words will emerge from YOUR mind, which – remember, is totally unique.
Over the years, I’ve attended one or two writing groups where a few of the members have had only the woolliest ideas of how to write a novel, and our very intelligent, experienced teacher of one, tried guiding them in the right direction. One man was hung up on sex and paid little attention to characterization; he didn’t stay the course. Another, a sweet-natured woman, wrote a thick book wherein the sun always shone, everyone had irreproachable manners and the characters wouldn’t say boo to a goose. When gently criticized, she lost her temper and departed. Fortunately, most serious writers want to learn, and while I’m ‘rich in years,’ I know that the more I absorb, the more there is to learn….and that’s part of the joy of writing. Curiosity usually pays off, if it doesn’t polish you off….If you push yourself beyond your self-imposed limitations, you’ll doubtless improve. While, self-satisfied writers, I’m sure, are two a penny, serious writers should always strive to better themselves and give due attention to all aspects of their work, from the story-line/plot -. which is vital – to characterization, which could put YOUR book up there with the greats.

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A labyrinth of meanings…

labyrinthEvery now and again, most writers come across – or have a fascination for – . a word which either has contrary meanings or some peculiar draw, don’t they? My word of the moment (and for a while now), is labyrinth. I’ve used it several times and thought I knew what it meant. Wrong! Well, it wasn’t completely incorrect, as many other writers have used it in the same way…I’ll explain… (Have your cocoa and slippers ready…)

Labyrinth is defined as meaning “A complicated, irregular network of passages or paths, in which it is difficult to find ones way.” Or “A complex structure of the inner ear.” (While, of course, interesting to anyone with ear problems, I’ll respectfully put the second definition to one side.) The Cambridge English dictionary, however, defines the meaning as being a tad different (and an aid to pen chewing scribblers, or unsure key tappers) It’s added boardwalk, esplanade, pavement and bridle path, etc., And, in Greek mythology, a labyrinthine structure was built underground to house and confine a monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man called a Minotaur, belonging to King Minos of Crete. (Although why he couldn’t have purchased a Persian Blue feline or a Cocker Spaniel, from the local pet-shop, goodness only knows…) Some people do like to muddy history, don’t they?!

I digress…The first time I used the word labyrinth. I was writing about Dylan Thomas and Laugharne, where he compòsed Under Milk Wood and a whole raft of poems. Being half Welsh, I was on yet another trip to one of my favourite places in Wales: the third. The sun had shone on all three occasions, which was noteworthy in itself…It was Spring, tra la, and the synonymous daffodils were nodding approval, lighting the edge of the estuary like a stage-set. My imagination was way ahead of me, as I walked up the steep – wait for it – “labyrinthine path, under a dense, and untidy umbrella of green foliage – darkly mysterious while beckoning…” Suddenly inspired, the story/novel was to be called The Herons of Laugharne and I even had them (the herons) “picking their delicate way across the shallow waters like corn-footed ballerinas” I had , roughly, mentally written the first chapter before I reached the top of the labyrinth…Sadly, it’s still lurking somewhere between other, forlorn, quarter/half-finished attempts…Hey ho.

Being satiated by everything Dylan – from the modest shed in which he slouched over lines of poetry for days, his trusty whisky bottle rarely far away, to the Boat House where he lived with his wife Caitlin. I moved on. I did wonder what else he could have written had he not succumbed to the ‘devil drink,’ dying at the early age of 39 after downing around ‘13’ shots of the hard stuff ’ in New York city, but he left us some memorable lines and characters. How, once read, could you forget the words

“Do not go gentle in that good night.

Old age should burn and rave at close of day.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”


One, WONDERFUL, book which did, most deservedly, see the light of day, written by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, is called THE SHADOW OF THE WIND, and – if you haven’t read it, please do. A man in Spain, who had inherited a book-shop from his father specializing in rare, collector’s editions and secondhand books, took his young son to the: ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’ and bade him choose any one from the thousands secreted there. “Pleased with my choice, I tucked it under my arm and retraced my steps through the LABYRINTH , a smile on my lips.” That word again. Zafon’s writing is an absolute delight, his characterisation memorable. Anyone who writes: “…a waiter of such remarkable decrepitude that he looked as if he should be declared a national landmark.” And “The man’s oratory could kill flies in mid-air.” passes muster with me. As time passes and the young lad grows up, people seem to find ‘the book’ inordinately interesting, and literary curiosity becomes a race to discover the truth behind the life and death of the author: Julian Carax, and to save those he left behind.

As the Observer observed: “The language purrs along. While the plot twists and unravels with a languid grace.” And Stephen King said: “…a novel full of cheesy splendour and creaking trapdoors, a novel where even the subplots have subplots…one gorgeous read!” There’s not much I can add to that.


© Joy Lennick 2017


The trials & tribulations of a writer

maltese-greenstreetAfter the unmitigated triumph of my novel STRANGLERS IN THE NIGHT some twenty plus years ago, I strode purposefully forward in my Bali Manic shoes and Chanel suit, inhaling the sweet smell (No.5) of success, sipping champagne en route to a glittering literary future. And then the cookie crumbled, as they say…
The head Judge in the competition which led to my book’s meteoric rise, was foolhardy enough to admit having bribed the other judge as he was hopelessly in love with me… Sales ceased, interest flagged, and talk of a film was out the window. I was totally flabbergasted and cast down; as was the overweight, aged Judge who managed to bankrupt himself. A deep abyss yawned before both of us. I was vaguely flattered, but how could he have done such a thing?!

If you believe that, you’ll believe anything! I don’t even know where it came from… Do us writers EVER know? There must be some mysterious conduit into our psyches. Who cares, as long as it happens and continues.

Now the semi-true bit…

I woke up at 4.30 am thinking about characterization, but obviously, lines were somehow crossed.

Having worked hard on a collection of short stories, I had five in the bag. All eclectic and a bit zany. One was titled TAKING TIME & OTHER THINGS (confessions of a kleptomaniac), another HARD FEELINGS (the intimate memoir of a concrete manufacturer). The sixth was proving a problem. I tapped my teeth with a pen, as writers do, and realised it was just limping along, (the story that is)…Why? That trusty light bulb then pinged on. Of course, it was my antagonist!. He had as much menace as a new-born baby. Totally unsuitable. There lay a teaser…What to do? I’d interviewed a few ‘baddies’ before he arrived and begged me for the role. In a weak moment, being a soft touch, I said yes. He was in my office awaiting further instructions and I felt deep dismay at what I was about to do. But it had to be done.

Morning, Kevin, I said. You okay? How’s your mother’s leg now?

Mornin;’ better. He replied, looking crestfallen as if anticipating the worst, took a pristine hanky from a pocket and blew his nose. Loudly. He then drew himself up to his full five two height, sniffed and said:

You’re gonna fire me, aren’t you?

Afraid so…

Was that a tear in the corner of his pale blue eye?

Fuck it! he said, mildly shocking me. He never swore… and continued…

I’ve played the role of Tiny Tim on the stage … been someone’s cowardly younger brother and died of tuberculosis in a film, but I’ve never been a hero or a villain. Thanks for nothing! And he marched out of the room, missing my pathetic Sorry, Kev!

willemdafoe_7_rgb-470x335There were two more hopeful candidates sitting outside my office, I invited the ugliest one in. He was chewing gum.

Morning! Please take a seat. Name?

Hank James


Yeah, ma’am.

Any acting experience?

Yep, was in HOW RED WAS MY VALLEY and VAMPIRE LEADER, he told me, still chewing.

I took in his shifty, dark eyes, his tall, rangy, but wiry build, and his cauliflower ear and quickly said:

You’re hired!



Ciao for now.

Joy x


Under the spotlight – author Don Massenzio

DON MASSENZIOToday, it gives me much pleasure to welcome seasoned author Don Massenzio to my humble patio. He has travelled from northern Florida, fortunately safe from the devastation and threat of the recent hurricane.

Don was born in Syracuse New York to first generation Italian/American parents, and wasn’t sorry to leave the cold winters behind!


Welcome to my corner of Spain, Don. At least I can offer you blue skies and sunshine! Now we’ve had our refreshments, you can sit back, relax and tell us more about yourself.

Thanks! It’s great to be here. That beer and the tapas were mighty welcome. So, fire away!

Did anyone inspire you to write?

I had a second grade teacher who helped me find my love for reading. I would say that authors of the books I read inspired me to write. Earlier on, there were Dickens, Harper Lee and Tolkien, and later Stephen King, Jonathan Kellerman and a great list of authors.

In what genre do you prefer to write?

I love to read detective stories and watch classic detective movies and television shows. This is the genre in which I feel most creative. I do, however, enjoy writing short stories in many genres.

Have you a strict routine?

Quite the opposite. I write when I have the time. I travel 45 weeks per year for my day job, so I write in airports, in planes, in hotel rooms, in cars and on trains. Whenever and wherever I have free time.

If you were shipwrecked, who would you take with you?

My wife and daughter for sure; I’d also like to take someone who would know where to find water and food!

What three objects would you take with you?

My Kindle, loaded with thousands of books and something I could use to write, along with a solar-powered generator.

Do you have any hobbies, Don?

I am a musician. I actually went to music school for a couple of years and played professionally. Now I play the piano at church.

Have you any quirks or foibles you’d like to tell us about?

I am clumsy. It might be because I’m left-handed, but it’s a bit of a family joke. The more Massenzios there are in a room, the more accidents happen!

Have you a pet hate?

Yes, if I’m at a performance, like a concert or play, I’m very sensitive to other noise and disturbance. I know what it’s like to be on a stage, and it’s my view that, if you paid for a ticket, you should be quiet and devote your attention to the performance. If you don’t, it shows a lack of respect.

If you could pass a law, what would it be?

Hmmm, great question. No cell phones at the dinner table would be great. I think we’re losing the art of conversation because of these devices. If I didn’t have to carry mine for work, I wouldn’t use it.

What is your hope for the future?

Another great question. I feel like the world has taken a step backwards and is becoming more divisive. I have a nine year old daughter and I don’t want her to grow up in a country where racism and hate are rampant as they seem to be now.

If you could invite two literary figures (alive or dead) to dinner, who would they be?

Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King. I would just sit back and listen to their stories and their interaction with each other.

How would you like to be remembered?

I would simply like to be remembered. By my daughter for being a good Dad, by my wife for being a good husband, and by everyone else to be remembered as someone who tried to be and do good.

Thanks, Don. It’s been a pleasure meeting you and putting you under the microscope! Have a safe journey back to Florida and give my best regards to your wife and daughter.

Some of Don’s published work:












You can find Don at his blog:

© Copyright Joy Lennick 2017


And now for something slightly different..

footThere’s so much heavy, disheartening and tragic news around, thought I’d lighten the load for a while.

For anyone fed up to their back teeth with either flippant/kinky, or boring romances/gory, twenty-toed monster killings or utter nonsense all depending on your particular taste of course – here are a few books which promise (dib dib dib) to, at the very least, offer something unusual/bizarre/original to titillate the jaded reader’s palate. (The fact that they could be a load of old codswallop is neither here nor there.)

Forget the proverbial ‘Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman’. ‘LAGOON’ by Nnedi Okanafor presents a rapper, a biologist and a rogue soldier, who walk into a bar…

SLAPSTICK, OR LONESOME NO MORE’ by Kurt Vonnegut. Apparently, it’s about the last President of the USA… (Written in 1976, but could be quite topical!)

THE PASSION’ by Jeanette Winterson –Napoleon! Venice! More web –footed people! And a woman who is trying to retrieve her heart from a locked box…

THE BEAR COMES HOME’ by Rafi Zabor – The protagonist is a walking, talking, saxophone-playing bear. What more could you ask for?


I imagine, if you’re a reader/writer, you are as fascinated by people as I am. Here are a few facts about some of our more famous ‘Pensmiths’.

CHARLES DICKENS was a stickler for order and routine and wrote most days from 9 am until 2 pm. He always slept facing north as he believed it better aligned him to the electrical currents of the earth. Despite no formal education, he wrote 15 novels, 5 novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction; lectured and performed: all before he was 48 years old, when he tragically died of a stroke.

HARUKI MURAKAMI is working by 4 am – five or six hours – he then runs for ten kilometres and/or both swims 100 metres. Later, he reads, listens to music and is in bed by 9.00 pm. He says the discipline helps him reach a deeper state of mind.

JODI PICOULT says: ‘You can’t edit a blank page,’ so obviously gets on with it. She never suffers from writers’ block.

KURT VONNEGUT worked from 5.30 until 8.00, then again later. He swam, had ‘several belts of scotch and water,’ and did push-ups and sit-ups in between writing. (It must have helped, he lived to a respectable age of 84).

ERNEST HEMINGWAY wrote every morning, as soon as it was light, ‘Cool and quiet.’

HENRY MILLER advised not to work on more than one thing at a time; ‘to mix work with pleasure, go out and meet people and don’t be a draughthorse.’ He also said you should ‘not be nervous, work calmly, joyously and recklessly.’ And last, but ‘that cliché’…’

MAYA ANGELOU, poet and author, found the comfort of home too distracting, so rented a small, mean room in a hotel for months at a time, taking only her writing materials, a Bible, a bottle of sherry and a pack of cards. She had a calloused elbow from leaning on one side of her bed to write!

So, there you have it, for now. Just a few odds and ends for you to ponder.


© Copyright Joy Lennick 2017



Wake up at the back!

Steinbeck2The whole literary world seems awash with new writers: of all genres and capabilities. In their number – trust me I know – there are a handful who will make it big: and I mean BIG (genius among their ranks; some excellent writers but also moneyed writers WITH CONNECTIONS. It is not cynical to suggest this, just factual.) It was ever thus, but I’m not a party-pooper. Good luck to those who have reached the pinnacle of their profession, more particularly the authors who have worked hard to get there, for there is truth in the saying success takes more perspiration than inspiration… Although it is humbling to recall, and furthermore brings the egotists to heel, that Ernest Hemingway said ‘We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.’

However, the “connected” and more savvy/wealthy/technical scribblers among us, don’t need as much help, while there are plenty who do! I count myself in the latter category as I hesitate when I am faced by a ‘Push’ sign…over-think (dangerous) and tend to under-estimate any suggestion of talent.

In this technical age, more than ever before, the actual writing itself seems easy-peasy when faced with the maze of problems in getting your work/book “out there.” Having experienced mainstream publishing in the 1970’s/80’s – to be applauded – I can categorically say there is no comparison with what’s on offer today. Yes, it’s easier to be published, but most authors like to see their books sell. Right? Plus they like to be paid for all their sweat and tears; more than two/three euro per book would be nice…(Don’t choke over your cornflakes if that’s a surprise!) And therein lies a difficulty. Amazon and Kindle are choked up with every conceivable book on every conceivable subject you can imagine, and nowadays the ‘big boys’ are greedier.

The writing part of your book really could be the easiest when compared to ‘putting it out there’ and selling it. If you’re very confident, can sell yourself and your book, AND you can write well, you are well on your way to becoming a household name, otherwise it’s a struggle. And, remember, wise authors put much store by the design of their book covers, and the back cover blurb is almost as important. It can make the difference between luke-warm sales and brisk ones.

Apart from the totally original/genius/moneyed writers in our midst, there are plenty of tentative, talented people aspiring to get into print, and I genuinely feel concern for them. So – including myself in this plea – let’s sit up and take note before it’s too late.

So, what can we do to improve our success? Well, common sense tells us to ensure the quality of our writing is as good as we can make it. We never finish learning…or improving, and shouldn’t. We should all read as much as we can and keep our curiosity honed at all times. Being original and spinning a good tale is another must, and cliches should be avoided but not ignored. Rules should be massaged, and sometimes turned on their heads… In Doris Lessing’s words: ‘There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.’ Optimism is key.

I will forever be intrigued by the fact that 26 letters of the alphabet can spell magic, mayhem, mystery, fear, titillation, happiness and every other emotion you can think of, and the mystique of muses and inspiration remains. Although, in my own, very modest, writing life, there was never a “”Eureka” moment, I was inspired to plod on by John Steinbeck’s writing, read after…I had written a sentence almost matching one of his about a sunset in a short story. Not exactly a difficult task, but I was thrilled to have chosen the same words as a writer of his calibre. (He was, by the way, rejected by many publishers before succeeding.) Of course, we should never compare ourselves with the greats, and remember, we are ALL UNIQUE. Every last one of us.

Sadly, none of the above sketches out HOW to ensure readers buy our books. If you are a good speaker/actor/promoter/technology wizard, it counts for a lot, for today’s writer has to do a heap more than just write. Making videos, giving interviews and courting coverage by way of Twitter and Facebook, etc., makes sense, as does setting up a website and interacting with like-minded people.

As for finishing the book itself, Larry L. King suggests you ‘Write, rewrite; when not writing or re-writing, read. I know of no short cuts!’ I heartily endorse his advice. Good luck!

© Copyright Joy Lennick 2017


TWIG – The Writers Interaction Group

ctMitchellWhen author C. T. Mitchell and I last emailed each other, he didn’t have the slightest idea that he’d be a TWIG before the month was out! (He’s much more of a BRANCH really, but, like trees, our group’s starting out small… ).

The idea is to write a post, as usual, each month – but give a worthy author an airing, as publicity to a writer is as valuable as air!

C.T. Mitchell, a well-known Australian author of a dazzling array of murder stories – from ‘cozy’ to ‘dastardly’ – has written a plethora of Short Reads and full-length novels, which are listed below.




Secret of Barnesdale Manor

Murder on the Beach

High Stakes

Murder at Stonehaven

The Thin Line


Lady Margaret Turnbull

Murder at the Fete

Murder in the Village

Murder at the Cemetery

Murder in the Valley


Murder at the Manor

Murder Shot

A Sugar n’ Spice Culinary Cozy Mystery

Just Murdered

Killer in the Kitchen

Cupcakes, Cider & Crime


Father Douglas Cozy Mysteries

Murder and the Mechanic

Murder and the Jewelery Box


Murder by Butter Chicken

Murder of a Bollywood Star





Web:  /


The above is, you will agree, quite an impressive list of accomplishments. C.T. Mitchell and I hope you will enjoy choosing one or two, or maybe even more of his books to read at your leisure. It would be a crime not to.

Happy reading!