Thursday, September 16, 2021

Words of Wisdom from Patricia Smith

February 15, 1949 - August 23, 2021 Bellingham, Washington
Patricia Smith
February 15, 1949 - August 23, 2021
Bellingham, Washington
In addition to being part of the Blood Red Pencil Team, Patricia Burkhart Smith was a journalist and experienced professional developmental editor, working for publishing companies and private clients, as well as running her own publishing company. She described herself as, "a writer who wants to explore the creative freedom the Internet provides. I am also the proud mother of two wonderful children, but I still haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up, or even if I want to grow up. However, I am certainly tired of "growing out," hence, this blog."

Pat always said she had more hobbies than Hobby Lobby and her interests included gardening, cooking, mineral collecting, lapidary work, jewelry making, natural health, herbs, sewing, needlework, and stained glass.

Her published works included:

Fifty Shades of Santa: Clean and Wholesome Romance Short Story Anthology

Christian Family Guide to Total Health

What the Animals Tell Me 

Flipping Houses (Idiot's Guide)

Alzheimers for Dummies

Cupid's Quiver

Shadows After Midnight

In addition to her eclectic books, she graced the blog with great advice for writers:

Being Productive During A Pandemic

Best Ever Hacks for Writing When You Don't Want To

Fear of Writing

Best Ever Excuses for Not Writing

Do You Know Where Your New Year's Resolutions Are?

When A Book Humbles You

Cross My Path - a New Blackie and Care Mystery by Clea Simon

Killer Companions

Fear on Four Paws

Best Ever Critique Groups from History

What Makes You Laugh

What Do Romance Readers Really Want?

Cats and Cozy Mysteries Go Together Like Clotted Cream 

The Futility of Relying on AI Grammar Checkers

How To Tell Good Editing From Bad

How The Internet is Destroying Our Language

Is Editing A Dying Art?

How Not To Sell A Book

Pat's wit, wisdom, and her wonderful spirit will be missed.

Patricia's Obituary

Posted by Diana Hurwitz, author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Villains Are People Too, My Friend

To borrow from a famous politician, changing one word, Villains are people too, my friend. Yes, they are, and they need to be written with the same care that you give your main characters. They need to be full-bodied, three-dimensional people with a backstory that, though you might hate them, you see why they developed as they did. We want to know what made them who they are, and if you fail to do this, you might be writing a cardboard villain. It doesn’t take much finesse to write totally evil characters, sneering and plotting the most dastardly crimes, but that doesn’t make them whole, and it doesn’t make them memorable or believable.

The best villains are pitted against the noble hero/heroine: Lex Luthor vs Superman, Hannibal Lecter vs Clarice Starling.
I remember reading Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs, and Lecter was the epitome of evil. A sociopath, he had no moral compass, no reason he turned out the way he does. So why is he so compelling as a character? I believe in the movie, Anthony Hopkins’ brilliant portrayal gives Lecter an added dimension. Lecter first appears in Harris’s Red Dragon. In that movie, Lecter was portrayed by Brian Cox, and the hero was played by William Petersen, who would later become the first star of the original CSI.

In contrast, we have DC Comics and The Joker in the Batman films. Evil, yes, but because of his history as a tortured and abused child, we can muster some compassion for the way he turned out. That doesn’t give him a pass, but we better understand the pathology.

Villains are not always killers. Some are manipulators such as big business moguls, like Michael Douglas’s character Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. Totally amoral in his business dealings and quest for riches, he doesn’t care who he steps on to reach his goal. The screenplay was written by Oliver Stone, known for pushing the envelope. Gekko is a great character, a composite, Stone said, of many real life corporate raiders, many of whom went to prison for insider trading and/or fraud.

Shakespeare created some great villains -- murderous, duplicitous, and evil: Lady Macbeth, Iago, Richard III, etc.
Conan Doyle’s Moriarty, though appearing in only two books but mentioned in others, will always be remembered as the villain, taunting Sherlock Holmes in a battle of wits. I love Ian Fleming’s villains. Goldfinger, Dr. No, Ernst Blofeld, et al. So over the top and so much fun because they are over the top. Other literary villains might include, Anton Chigurh, the psychopathic villain in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men played in the movie by Javier Bardem, the shark in Jaws (I kind of felt sorry for him because he was just doing what killer sharks do), the Corleones in Mario Puzo’s Godfather books/movies, Darth Vader, and don’t forget Grimm fairytales.
The wicked witch in Hansel and Gretel, the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, and Disney’s evil stepmothers in Snow White and Cinderella, Cruella DeVille, and Scar from the Lion King. There are so many more, scaring children since the beginning of storytelling time. Some are downright frightening.

I’ve written my share of villains. The most evil is Stephen Baltraine in my book Threads.
He has no redeeming qualities, which goes against everything I said above, but he just took over, and I couldn’t stop him. Allowed and enabled by his parents to get and do anything he wants, he turns into a monster. Threads was the very first book I wrote, though I didn’t publish it until thirteen years later. Harley Macon, the villain in Mind Games is similar to The Joker in many ways. Twisted as a child by adults, he knows nothing but evil. But my favorite is my latest villain, Grady Parker, in we are but WARRIORS. He’s a killer for hire but with a skewed moral code that doesn’t always fit who you think he is.

We give heroes all the accolades, but it’s the villains who make our books interesting, as long as we make them compelling. I’ve wondered in the past if there was something inherently wrong with me that I could get into their heads and write them. Then I decided the villain was one of the most important elements of a good thriller, and if I had to become one for the time it took to write the book, so be it, as long as it didn't turn me into a schizophrenic.

Just as an aside, Hopkins, Bardem, Douglas, and Brando all won Academy Awards for playing villains, along with Louise Fletcher for playing Nurse Ratched for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Kathy Bates playing Annie Wilkes in Misery. Who wants to play the hero with those stats?
Polly Iyer is the author of ten novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, Indiscretion, and her newest, we are but WARRIORS. Also, four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Saying Goodbye to One of Our Team

It was with a sad heart that I read about the recent death of author Pat Smith (Patricia B. Smith). Not only was she an accomplished author, she was a valued member of the Blood-Red Pencil blogging team due to the many insightful posts she wrote, as well as her kind and generous spirit. From the time she joined as a regular blogger, she fit into our little family of friends and colleagues. Most of us have never met in person, but we’ve forged bonds through the years that are deep and strong.

Such was the case with Pat.  

Patricia B. Smith

After she got sick and was in so much pain, she still managed to get her blog posts written almost every month. She still managed to respond to the rest of us in our times of need. And she still managed to support everyone with comments on our blog posts.

I was especially touched when she shared her kind spirit with me. We both had episodes of severe pain over the past few years, and if I shared my struggles with the team she never failed to respond with thoughts and prayers. At one point, we talked about praying for each other on a regular basis - something I’ve done with other friends who are experiencing great pain and facing death. We agreed that the only benefit that can come from suffering is to offer it up for someone else.

Once Pat's pain was relieved, all of us here at the Blood-Red Pencil cheered, hoping that meant that she'd recovered.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

When Pat announced a few months ago that her body was failing, and she was resigning from the Blood-Red Pencil team, we were glad that she didn’t leave our private Facebook group that is the Office for team members. There, she occasionally posted that she knew that she was dying, and she shared her plans for making the most of what was left of her life. Primarily that meant spending time with family and doing as much as she could to bring joy and peace to her life.  

In late July she posted the following on her Facebook page: 

“Hi, friends. I've been fighting hard and relying on your emotional support for the past 3 years since my diagnosis. I am now officially terminal, but we don't know exactly what my final date will be. Please just continue to pray for me, particularly for pain relief. 

“I am otherwise content. I will get to see my son and his family before I go, my two sisters as well, and we are trying to figure something out to get my daughter over from Finland to say goodbye. Thank you all for your friendship and love.”

That post brought tears to my eyes, but it also made me more appreciative of her indomitable spirit.

This quote from Kurt Vonnegut Jr that Pat shared on her Facebook page is an appropriate one to include here. “Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.”

My impression of a woman I only met virtually and spiritually, is that she lived up to the message of that quote. She was steadfast. She was strong. She was sweet.

Patricia B. Smith

 Rest in peace, Pat.


Posted by Maryann Miller. Maryann has numerous credits as a columnist, novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. She also has an extensive background in editing. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Page read her Blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her most recent book is a short-story collection, Beyond the Crack in the Sidewalk, released by Next Chapter Publishing and available as an ebook or paperback.