Do You Know Bob and Mary Sue?

On these, our “Free Weeks”, more often than not, I like to stay on writing. In doing so, I’d like to formally introduce you to two people whom I had seen and heard, but until recently, I didn’t know their names. They are:

Bob” and “Mary Sue”.

I am sure that you have been acquainted with them as well.

I wish we had not seen them, and hope never to again, but that is wishful thinking.

Recently my long-suffering husband has heard me rant about inane “conversations” in novels.(Or maybe hasn’t been suffering because he probably hasn’t really been listening, but I digress.) The conversations go something like this:

Bob: “ Old Man Oldman’s house is looking good.
Rita: “ His son hired a lawn service and the painters have been in.”
Bob: “ Mr. Oldman isn’t able to come back home, is he, or are they selling the place? I thought it was tied-up in a trust.”
Rita, “Well, as you know, Bob, that was actually Mrs. Oldman’s house. She inherited the house from her father. When they read the will, they found that the man had put it in perpetual trust…”
Bob: “Oh, yes, I remember the story, it was because Dr. Casanova didn’t approve of Mr. Oldman’s family. He was afraid that Oldman was a gold digger and a swindler, like his sister.”
Rita: “That’s right, Bob, his artist sister, Connie. And so Mrs. Oldman’s father, instead of disinheriting her…”

The people in a scene go over the whole series of events and fine points of a situation, even though it is well-known to both of them.

Or you may have read something like this:

Mr. Winsome: “Bob, I need you to help me go over the Newhouse files.
Bob: “The Newhouse files?”
Mr. Winsome: “It was a high-profile case, years ago”.
Bob: [Snaps fingers].”I remember that case! I was working here that Summer as an intern with Iva Case, the head counsel. Why, I sat up all night reading and rereading the evidence! I was obsessed with it.
Mr.Winsome: “ I was at the Tierra del Fuego that year and never got to see all the notes.”
Bob: “Is there any new evidence?”
Mr. Winsome: “No, I ‘m just working on a hunch that there was more than met the eye”.
Bob: “I always thought Isolde Newhouse was the intended victim, although there was nothing to suggest that other than my distaste for her real estate tycoon husband, Byer. I was never convinced that it was an attempted robbery and that Reginald the gardener was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time .”
Mr. Winsome: As you know, Bob, the gardener, Reginald Sono was found murdered in the Japanese garden at the Newhouse estate and …”

People don’t converse that way. Bob obviously knows the background on both situations, so why would Mr. Winsome and Rita insist on (literally) repeating history and bore Bob with known details? While “Bob” is often allowed to interject details and has a number of “That’s right, Bobs” flung at him by his partner on the page, they are on the same page, so why waste each other’s time?

It doesn’t happen that way.

If one person has forgotten part of a story, the other person stops rehashing the situation as soon as they are both agreed that the first person remembers, unless there is more information to add. Even then, the new info is simply imparted and only those parts of the situation are discussed, not every nuance and detail in chronological order. These  conversations  are only written as a way to fill the reader in on past events, but it is so phony. Just such ‘conversations’ are included in many works, even those of big-name writers and these are called:

“As You Know, Bobs”, whether the person addressed is named Bob, Dick, or Harriet.

Try to avoid these. Do your best to impart information subtly, within the unfolding of the story. You can always tell a backstory through a flashback, a preface or by a narration.

Don’t make me grit my teeth and give my husband another excuse to stop listening to me!

“Mary Sue” is a minor character who can pull rabbits out of hats and she shows up in far too many stories, movies and TV shows. She’s one who just happens to have every skill that the protagonist needs at any given time: she’s the never-sleeping weapons wizard/ computer geek that had meteorological training and can tell exactly when a thunderstorm will hit to assist the heroes; she can diagnose over the phone what is wrong with a car and can tell the heroes how to fix it with a paperclip; she can speak most languages and has someone on-call who can, at any hour, translate a specific dialect from a small corner of a small country; by the sound, she can identify the flying machines coming at our heroes, the number, the country of origin,(and probably guess the country that bought them), the caliber of projectiles about to hit and when they will hit. She is an expert in music; she can inform the heroes that a stanza they heard is from one of Mozart’s lesser-known operas, so they can deduce that it is the clue to where the bomb/victim is being held…and she can then get the two heroes the perfect romantic table for two in the most exclusive restaurant in Luxembourg within an hour after the defusion/rescue, because her uncle is the maître d’.

In a romance novel, Mary Sue is the best friend, elderly neighbor or an aunt who can soothe the protagonist’s feelings, bolster her ego, impart wisdom to her, sort out her love-life and knows all here is to know about men, (even though she doesn’t have one of her own).She has keen insight and either knows the protagonist’s family’s secrets or helps her to uncover them. She has had many experiences where she learned an avid array of unexpected skills, (like plumbing, reading shorthand, the formula for a secret cure for  colds, the ablity to solve any puzzle and she can pull into an inside straight). She can make an outfit out of nothing and lends or gives the one piece of jewelry of hers that has value; she can expertly create a great hairdo from ruined locks, and knows someone with a Lear jet or limo who owes her a favor.( In other words, she’s basically a plagiarization of the fairy godmother in Cinderella.) Oh, and she always uses only fresh herbs which she grows herself and she makes the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, which she just happens to be pulling out of the oven every time the protagonist shows up at her door.

Yet, none of this is tongue-in-cheek, unlike The Professor in “Gilligan’s Island”. (The Professor’s endless education, experiences and continual knowledge was SUPPOSED to have been outlandish and funny.) Mary Sues” are unintentionally funny, and are  downright annoying. Worse, this foolishness distracts from the story, especially with the protagonist’s continual praise, confessions of wonderment and “I owe you dinner!” proclamations within a series. (In ‘action’ scenarios, you’ll usually read/hear, “I’ve learned not to ask how she knows that.”) Even when these characters are played as comedic relief, honestly, this ploy has been over-utilized…way too often.

[Although sometimes males are referred to as a “Gary Stu” or a “Marty Stu”, “Mary Sue” is a term used for both female and male characters of this ilk.]

Did you need my introduction to “Bob” and “Mary Sue”? Did you know their names? Surely you have known their work.

Do these people annoy you as much as they annoy me?

Posted in Books, characters, free week, movies, protagonists, Random thoughts, romance, Secondary Characters, Tonette Joyce, using talents, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ever Reached Cloud Nine?

Or… Are You Stuck on Cloud Eight?

By Jeff Salter

It’s free week here at 4F1H, so I thought I’d share a bit more about my humorous novel – Stuck on Cloud Eight – released in November last year by TouchPoint Press.


[The setup: an injured Rusty Battle is leaving the chiropractic clinic where Keri Winter has been applying his therapy. Keri assists him to the waiting room where they both encounter Dudley Poe.]

From the end of Chapter 2

Dudley’s eyes darted from his friend Rusty to his former neighborhood playmate Keri and back again.

Rusty also looked from face to face. “Have you two met?”

“Long time ago,” said Keri. “Grew up together ‘til he married a high school sweetheart and moved. Dud was the only boy who didn’t treat me like a leper.”

Dudley grinned.

“So you two came here together, I gather,” Keri said.

“Yeah, didn’t think I could drive. Plus Dud was responsible for my accident.”

Dudley began laughing. “Only the first part…”

“Yeah, yeah. The entire debacle was set in motion by you.”

“So what happened anyhow? I think I missed the whole story.” But she felt like smiling anyway.

“Too embarrassing,” replied Rusty.

More laughter from his driver.

“So nobody’s going to tell me?”

“Nope. But thanks again for your help, Keri.”

Love the sound of my name on his lips. She nodded and turned back toward the door to the therapy area. “Bye.” Keri watched as Rusty trudged out the door, Dudley chattering as they went.

Natlee zipped up beside her. “So what did you think?”

“About what?”

“The dreamy guy.”

“Just another patient in pain,” said Keri.

“You’re kidding.”

“I’ve worked on tall ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones.”

“But you’ve never worked on anybody that fine.” Natlee pointed toward the parking lot. “And he’s single, too.”

“How do you know?”

“I heard him talking with Suellen.”

“You can’t eavesdrop on patients, Natlee. That’s a HIPAA violation.”

“Turn me in, Keri. He’s fine, he’s tall, and he’s single.”


With considerable pain and several yelps, Rusty made his way through the parking lot and situated himself in the passenger side of his truck.

“What was she doing with your keys?” Dudley patted his pockets absent-mindedly. “I thought I had them.”

“You do — or you did. I gave you the spare I keep in my boot.”

Deep in his front pocket, Dudley finally located his key to Rusty’s truck and sniffed it gingerly. “You say this stays in your boot, Hoss?”

“Up near the top. I had a little pouch sewed inside my work boots. Got tired of locking myself out.”

“Should’ve told me.” Dudley took another sniff. “That’s nasty.”

“Well quit sniffing and drive.”

“You sure are bossy today.”

It’s the pain talking.

Dudley started the truck and eased around a small pothole where the parking lot emptied to the street. Then he picked up speed.

“So you know that girl?” Rusty asked again.

“Sure. Like she said, from way back.”

“What was she like?”

“Just a pestersome tomboy — skinny and flat-chested.”

“Not anymore.” And he’d spent a good while establishing her current credentials.

“You’re wasting your time, Hoss. She doesn’t date anybody. Hasn’t said boo to a man since she got home from college.”

“How long is that?”

“Don’t recall. I’ll ask Accolade.”

“Your wife knows her too?”

“Accolade knew her family. Keri lost her mom… her dad’s remarried and lives somewhere else.”

“That’s no reason not to date. Must be more to it.”

“Don’t mess with her, Hoss. She lives in a tree.



            Since Keri Winter’s tomboy childhood dream had been to one day possess her own tree house, it does not bother her one bit to be known as Tarzana after she actually builds her home in a tree.

With a steady job she enjoys, Keri invests most of her late mother’s insurance policy into the design and construction of the only inhabitable tree house in Greene County. The house is a marvel, both in its construction and everyday operation, and attracts significant attention. So does its only occupant.

But most of the young men in town hold no interest for her at all. In fact, she seems pretty unapproachable – literally and figuratively – with her head up in the clouds. It would take a mighty tall man to reach Keri’s level and attract her romantic interest.

And even if the right man could reach her, would Keri trust him?

Rusty Battle figures he’s got the right stuff, but in order to prove it, he has to get Keri’s attention.

They’re about to learn proximity can sometimes make the heart grow fonder…or it just might drive Keri crazy.

It’s difficult enough to get to know someone on even ground. Can she start over at a higher level?

Previous blogs:

Here’s a bit about the origins of the concept (and my love of tree houses):

Here’s my first announcement, along with two of the earliest reviews:

[JLS # 299]


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Changes in Time

This morning my youngest child stood patiently while I sprayed his hair purple and gold. A soon as his hair was decked out in Muskie colors he slipped his tiny hand into mine. The walk to school was filled with red, yellow, and orange tinged green leaves. Autumn is slowly changing our world and within a few weeks the green leaves will be gone and the growing will be blanketed in am array of colors.


With Fall comes Homecoming which is why my six year old was sporting purple and gold hair this morning. When we reached his school he excitedly dragged me inside with him.

“Come watch the marching band!” I started to shake my head in protest recalling how I had always done my best to avoid pep rallies in my younger years. The pure joy on that little boy’s face caused me to agree and allow him to lead me to the bleachers in the gym.


Every time someone said they liked his Muskie hair he proudly said, “My momma did it.” As the marching band entered my child bounced excitedly beside me. When they played the fight song Wyatt proclaimed that he will be in the marching band someday.


Watching the high school kids play I realized how much I was enjoying myself. I even decided that we’d go to the game if we make it back into town on time. Part of me suddenly wished I had attended more school events when I was younger. I am near certain that my new appreciation for school spirit is due to the excitement of my boy.


Is there something that you avoided when you were younger that you now look forward to?


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The Bigfoot File

As you probably know, I’ve been working on a story involving Bigfoot at an excruciatingly slow pace. Evidence needs to be painstakingly gathered, blurry and out of focus videos need to be watched. You know how it goes.

Well, here’s what happens when you name your computer file after an elusive, potentially-mythical creature:

It disappears.

It’s hard to find.

You know it exists, but you can’t prove it.

Welcome to my first adventure back into writing after summer vacation.

My fellow writer, Tess Grant, and I decided to have a mini writing retreat to celebrate our kids being back in school. We met at the library. I pulled out the notes  I had handwritten and prepared to type them into the computer. I happily added 600 words to my manuscript. Then I realized that there were 2 copies of my manuscript in the file, so I deleted one.

(You should feel a dark, scary tremor in the pit of your stomach right now.)

Somehow, by the mysteries of computer files, my manuscript was completely gone.

No problem, I thought, my program automatically backs up. It’s somewhere. I checked the various backup locations and cloud drives. The files either wouldn’t open or where 6 months old. Six months old, I could probably deal with, but there had to be something newer, right? Right?!

So I went home praying that there was a gremlin in the library that was preventing me from finding my newest file. I checked externals drives and found nothing newer. Then I found this wonderful thing in Windows 10 called File History. As long as you have it turned on, it keeps copies of your files at whatever interval you set. Luckily I had mine set for daily.


The manuscript was back… with its gremlins. I couldn’t get the second copy of Bigfoot to go away. I’d move some of it and it would appear somewhere else. I’d copy and paste and it’d appear somewhere else. It was maddening.

I finally gave up and copied out the manuscript into a new, hopefully gremlin-free file… which I named Sasquatch.

With the promise of blueberry bagels, it has remained well-behaved.

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TBR List, Part Eight

It’s been an insanely busy month, but I finally figured out a way to get some reading done. I didn’t want a repeat of last month, when I didn’t read anything except my own writing and a few news articles. Since I usually eat alone (hubby likes to eat at times that don’t fit into my schedule), I decided to open my ipad and read while I’m eating. This month I was happy to cross a few more books off my To-Be-Read List! I’ll give you short descriptions here, and if you click on the book covers you’ll be able to see my reviews on Goodreads.

mission-to-new-earth-bn-coverMission to New Earth by Diane Burton. I’ve had Diane as a guest here twice, and I’ve mentioned how much I enjoy her space travel futuristic romances. So when she told me she’d written a new book I jumped at the chance to review it. In this story, three teams of pioneers are sent to different planets in other galaxies to find an alternative place for humans to live, because Earth is becoming inhabitable. The trip for Sara and her team is one-way, and will take three years to get there. I’m not sure I would be brave enough to take that trip! I’m so excited about this novella and sincerely hope it develops into a new series.

snow-globe-reunionSnow Globe Reunion by Christina Lorenzen. I picked up this short novella because it sounded interesting. Christina writes sweet romance for one of my publishers, and her first two books were contemporaries. This story is a time travel, and I like the way it was handled. Somehow the thought of waking up in a scene that was inside a snow globe appealed to me. I really wondered how the heroine was going to get out out of her fix, but even more, I wondered what happened to the boy she left behind. This is a nice, entertaining story.

roche-hotel-3The Roche Hotel, Season Three by Mysti Parker. I read Seasons One and Two last year, so when I heard Mysti Parker had continued the series I just had to find out what happened to the whacky characters in the Roche Hotel. All my favorites are there – Jane Seymour, her ex-husband Nick, and Henry the Donut Guy, as well as the rest of the hotel staff. I recently read a Facebook post explaining that the stories were inspired by the time Mysti spent working at the front desk in a hotel. They say truth is stranger than fiction, and if that’s so I shudder to think what happened in the real hotel! I loved this installment and can’t wait for more.

buried-secretsBuried Secrets by Elizabeth Meyette. I had Elizabeth here as my guest a few weeks ago, before I’d had a chance to read her latest release. I loved The Cavanaugh House, which introduces Jesse Graham and her move from the big city to Seneca Falls, New York. So I was excited to read the sequel. Apparently, now that Jesse is able to see and detect ghosts, other ghosts are contacting her. Jesse’s starting a new job teaching at St. Bartholomew’s Academy, and sorting out her feelings for Joe. She doesn’t have time for these ghostly visits. And the attentions of the attractive riding instructor, while flattering, aren’t helping her sort her feelings for the rugged contractor.

So there’s my reading list for September. Now that I’ve figured out a way to keep reading even when my plate is full, I hope to pick up the pace. According to Goodreads, I’m four books behind schedule to finish reading my goal of 50 books this year. I’d better get going!

What have you read lately?

Posted in Books, Patricia Kiyono, TBR List | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Write” Here

Yes, not using “Right” was intentional, since this week we are discussing where we write.
And here I sit:

Where I do most of my writing:HP All-In-One

Where I do most of my writing:HP All-In-One

My HP All-In-One has been my place of choice for the past three years…except when it has broken-down three times this past Spring and Summer.

I used to make copious notes with much crossing out, but I found that sitting at a computer is better for me. For one, I can clearly see what I have written. My handwriting was never great, but after years of reading and dealing with my husband’s scrawl, the fact that I think faster than I write and now, have a bit of arthritis, typing is the way to go…even if I have never taken lessons and developed my own 3-4 fingers-on-each-hand style.

Back when I envisioned writing an easy entertaining and instructional cookbook, I made notes everywhere. When I worked at a daily job, I used small notebooks and wrote during my lunch breaks. I had a mini tape recorder and made notes while working around the house. That particular project never really worked for many reasons:1), Aforementioned bad handwriting and trying to figure out notes, 2), it much harder than I could have imagined to transcribe note and then keep track of them and, 3), with the explosion of The Food Network and celebrity chefs, no one can get a cookbook published who is not already famous. Oh, and you don’t even have to be a celebrity chef. Gwyneth Paltrow has put out several cookbooks which have been successful, although, I have no idea why. I perused the first one and she suggested using duck breasts instead of chicken throughout. (Good luck finding THOSE in your local supermarkets and fitting it into your budget; right now, family packs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts are going for less than $2.00 lb in my area. I could mail-order duck breast for approximately $20.00 lb, with shipping and handling, more.) So, I started a blog…which has been neglected, sadly.

And 4), two different mini recorders broke, (there is a sad story about someone trying to use a broken one that played but would not record).I have kept several mini tapes of notes, (what end, I have no idea).

I still have note books in my car, next to my bed and I take one when traveling. I have a small one in my purse, and while I do, occasionally make notes, I forget to use them. The drawback to the notes I made on my PC was that I failed to put most of them on a flash drive, and lost them in a crash last April. I now have a BIG external hard drive, but it is too late for so many story starts and ideas.

I am surprised to see what I have written, and often don’t recognize my own work. Does that happen to you?

I sporadically use my older computer, my Dell From Hell, which does work well as a word

my infamous Dell From Hell

my infamous Dell From Hell


I wrote a lot on that in earlier years on my old IBM.I still have it, but it is really inconveniently placed; I hate to get rid of it. It’s 20 years old, but a still workhorse.I think I’d do more writing in other places if and when I ever get a laptop. But who knows?

And although I am mostly a ‘panster’, I will go through some of my scenes or writings in my head and do a bit of editing, and that is usually done here:

Some people sing in the shower,I edit!

Some people sing in the shower,I edit!

Yes, in the shower!
Anyone else do thinking there?

Posted in authors, big plans, careers, experiences, Life, Preparing for writing, Random thoughts, Tonette Joyce, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Space, the Writing Frontier

Well, Actually… Writing About “Writing Space” Itself

By Jeff Salter

Confused yet? I thought the headline would be catchy, but we’re actually writing this week about the space in which we write.

Let me begin by stating my admiration for those of you – and there are many – who write in vehicles, on plank bleachers, at bus stops, on breaks, in coffee shops, etc. I can’t do that. Too much distraction. I have spent my share of time at kitchen tables or counters, but I’ve been more fortunate than most (in usually having some designated space for my writing).

When I was a high school junior, I bought (with my own hard-earned money) a portable electric typewriter which went everywhere with me for some 15 years. Whatever surface I could fit it on was where I “wrote” (whatever I was writing at the time).

In my six years (civilian and military) as a photo-journalist and editor, working on half a dozen newspapers or newsletters, I always had a desk and some sort of typing machine. I did my work-work there and occasionally fit in a bit of creative writing to boot.

In my 28.5 yrs as a library administrator (small system and large system), I was very fortunate to have my own office. For a sizeable chunk of that time, I would go in to the office on Saturdays to write my household checks and work on my creative projects.


No, this is NOT my actual study… but if you changed the color of the chair and removed the vase (with flowers) — this is about how mine looks.

That brings me to my 10 years (so far) of retirement.

In the farm house, where we lived for about 15 months, I had a tiny corner of the dining room — where a small, low table held my laptop. I wrote most of my first two novels there. Later we purchased a small workstation (which we setup on the second floor at the top of the stairs) and that was when we got my first desktop PC — a Dell.

When we began building our house, up the hill from the farm house, chief among my (relatively few) minimum requirements was a room downstairs for my militaria collection and a space upstairs for my study / office.

I no longer remember the exact dimensions, but let’s call it 9 X 16 feet (which I predicted was PLENTY of space). We equipped it with a new workstation (with matching credenza), two new bookshelves, two old shelves which my dad had gotten from his sister Isabel, two new filing cabinets, and an old (low) bookshelf we acquired in 1971. I’ve since added a footlocker to store manuscripts in. When I first moved in, my study seemed to have lots of room — so much that I even had a rocking chair to sit in while I read or proofread stuff.

The rocker didn’t last very long, because clutter soon began creeping upon me from every corner of the room. What had once been over 144 square feet of space eventually devolved into hardly more than a narrow pathway to my workstation.

Think I’m kidding?

Want to know how bad it has become?

For my fictional town of Verdeville, in fictional Greene County TN, I created some half dozen detailed maps of downtown, neighborhoods, and surrounding areas. Eleven of my 17 completed titles are set in this town/county, but I haven’t seen those maps in a couple of years. They must be under something or inside something, but I’ve had no luck finding them.

I’m certainly not boasting about having clutter in my office. Fact is, it would take perhaps a full week of non-stop organizing to get my writing study back in proper order. But I’ve never found that week to be available. With the nearly dozen active stories I’m working on – including a brand new one I just began on Monday this week – and well over a hundred other stories (well along, but temporarily inactive), not to mention many dozens of other undeveloped concepts… how can I possibly screech to a writing halt, just to tidy up?

Don’t answer…

Oh, before you go… has anyone seen my maps of Verdeville TN?


What is YOUR writing space like?

[JLS # 298]

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