Thursday, December 11, 2008

When your Muse won't cooperate

What do you do with a head full of ideas that don't want to be put on paper?  It's not the Dreaded Writer's Block.  The ideas are there but they develop a stubborn streak somewhere between your fingers and the keyboard.  If this happens to you, try something else.

Remember long hand?  Do the words and phrases come off your fingertips better when kicked back in your favorite chair with a pen or pencil in hand?

How about dictation?  Updated Voice Recognition software lets  you lean back, shut your eyes and tell your stories as they display themselves on the inside of your eyelids.

Or, maybe your Muse wants to get out of the house.  Try taking a recorder on a stroll through your neighbor or a local park.  Used to be when I did this people looked at me askance but these days they just figure I'm talking on a cell and move on.

Whatever works.  That's the key.  Once the words begin to flow you can let your characters takeover at least for the rough draft.  There'll be ample time to tame them later.  The important thing is to create something substantial enough to edit.  Write on!

Friday, September 12, 2008

How to begin

You try and try to get started on a new novel but nothing gets written until the characters are darned good and ready.  They'll let you know when that is so you might as well relax.  It ain't gonna happen 'til it happens no matter how hard you push your Muse.

Best Historical Fiction I've read in a long time.

The Phoenix by Ruth Sims (Writers Collective, 2004) 343 pages ISBN: 1932133402

This is one story you don’t want to miss. It had me crying before I got past chapter two and laughing halfway through chapter eight. The book is a marvel of passionate difficulties without ever feeling like an emotional roller-coaster.

There were a few point of view problems with description of what the POV character did not see but they were not severe enough to interrupt the flow. Altogether, the writing is superb, evocative. I found some details a bit jarring, not because they were out of place, but because I was surprised to discover that such things existed so long ago.

The author’s research is flawless, her writing tight and uncluttered. This is not a book for skip readers. Every word and comma is essential to the story, which, to this reviewer is exactly as it should be.

The love between St. Denys and Dr. Stuart is subtle, sultry and real; their emotion deep, rugged and lasting. I paused many time to sit back and let the intricacies of the story flow quietly through my mind.

One could not help but laugh at the thought of The Mrs. Aster with diamonds on her knickers.

The Phoenix thoroughly involves the reader. The specifics of both theater and surgery pull the reader into diverse scenes with ease, and hold them there – in the past – with Kit when his worthless excuse for a father comes after him. Tom Roarke is an excellently drawn villain. This reader could not wait to see him meet his end.

By chapter twenty-two, the urge to steal a glimpse at the end is strong and difficult to resist but you must resist it or you’ll miss the fun. As with any good drama, just as near unbearable the move toward the finale begins complete with comedy, unexpected misunderstandings and false hints.

Overall, I can’t remember when I’ve ever enjoyed a book so much. Get it. Read it then pass it along. This one is definitely worth sharing [if you can bring yourself to part with it at all]

Peggy Ullman Bell: author Fixin’ Things & Sappho sings.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

And the beat goes on - and on

Over 40 years ago, when I first became enamored with Psappha her true name was little known outside of academia. This is, unfortunately still true today. Rather than being honored for her creative genius her outstanding reputation is in shreds of Freudian angst.

Although I decry the need, I can well understand the current lawsuit filed by the people of Lesbos to halt the using of their citizen’s national designation in the titles of homophile organizations. Even here, Lesbos shows as a spelling error while the names of such places as Chernobyl , Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe even though Lesbos is ancient by comparison.

Yesterday, I was told that mention of SAPPHO SINGS, my fictionalized biography of The Poetess of Lesbos was inappropriate on “family oriented" email list for writers [mostly professional like myself]. "There are children as young as 11 here," I was told. How easily history is distorted by the uneducated in the name of protecting the children. What are they protecting them from? Poetic genius? Truth? Anything that goes contrary to the anal retentive Freudian Patriarchal perspective? It would seem so.

I'm here to tell you that my curiosity has not altered much throughout my life. Sappho, of Psappha as she called herself would have been every bit as fascinating to me at 11 as she was at 36 IF I had been allowed to hear of her which of course I wasn't.

I find it sad that so little has changed between my adolescence and now. Generations of ignorance and intolerance continue unabated. The great scholars of Greece lauded Sappho as they lauded Homer. Plato called her The Tenth Muse. Solon of Athens refused to die before hearing her latest work yet American men and women cringe from mention of her very name having never read a single word she wrote. I can't help but wonder just what it is they are so afraid of.

Incidentally, as I typed, not a single man's name was flagged as a spelling error no matter how long ago he lived. Yet, the lovely Sappho/Psappha is tagged - every time. I wonder why that is?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Author's Note


My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
SAPPHO SINGS is a substantially augmented and enhanced version of my fictionalized biography of The Poetess of Lesbos, previously published in part as PSAPPHA, a novel of Sappho

Although long dead, Psappha, as Sappho called herself in her own soft Aeolian dialect is and has been the love of my life for over 40 years. In my heart and mind she lives, loves and laughs.

Writing her story has been my profound joy.

View all my reviews.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Yahoo Answers

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


The Poetess of Lesbos


(to be released summer of  '08)

       sans apology, sans censure.

In this superb page-turner reminiscent of the great Mary Renault, Peggy Ullman Bell brings to life one of the most exciting and fascinating figures of the Ancient World - Sappho, "The Poetess."  A woman who surpassed the conventions of her time.


Excerpted from The Life of Greece by Will Durant

  (Simon & Schuster, N.Y., 1939)

“Sappho was a marvelous woman," said Strabo...

"Psappha, as she called herself in her soft Aeolian dialect, was born at Eresus, on Lesbos, ...Pittacus, fearing her maturing pen, banished her...

"After five years of exile she returned to Lesbos and became a leader of the island's society and intellect ... Eager for an active life, she opened a school for young women, to whom she taught poetry, music, and dancing; it was the first 'finishing school' in history....

"Her verse was collected into nine books, of some twelve-hundred lines, six-hundred survive, seldom continuous."

A new Sappho poem
Martin West
21 June 2005

From these fragmented lines, Ms. Bell has created a novel rich in the textures of ancient Greece, yet modern as tomorrow's fashions.
Bell has incorporated the fragmentary words and phrases still available into the novel in a way that makes them vanish into the fabric of the story like golden threads woven into an intricate tapestry so delicately that it becomes impossible to distinguish the imported threads from the weaver's own.
Readers familiar with the myriad of translations may recognize a word here or a phrase there but, as one expert in antiquities discovered, the author has herself become the voice of The Poetess to the extent that invented passages seem like newly discovered wonders from the past.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

It's a book!

SAPPHO SINGS, my fictionalized biography of The Poetess of Lesbos, is in its final stage of editing and should be ready for presentation to the publisher within the month.

SAPPHO SINGS is based upon and built around the existing fragments of Sappho's work.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Valentine's Day re-affirms its meaning - slowly.

One has to wonder when Valentines Day became no more than another children's holiday.  When reading my local paper yesterday I noticed an upcoming event called "A Sweetheart's Dance" and I thought how sweet.  Someone's hosting a dance for Senior Citizens but - no - this event is not for "Sweethearts" from when the word was deeply meaningful.  This is to be an event for Elementary School children.  I must admit to being appalled.  What do children know of "sweethearts"?  What should children know of sweethearts?  Nothing.

We, as a society, pair our off-spring at an an abysmally young age then wonder why teenage sex is a growing problem.

I saw another article in that same paper about a growing group of young adults and their families who are reinstituting the concept of courtship.  I'm pleased and amazed that they actually know what courtship is.

For those among you who may have never heard the word, courtship is a process wherein young people gather only in groups under strict adult supervision until such time as they express a sincere interest in a specific future life partner at which time the courtship begins - again under strict adult supervision.  Look up chaperone.  It is from courtship that St Valentines Day derives its true meaning. 

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Today I have the privilege of interviewing Author, Marvin D. Wilson. Good morning, Marvin, glad you could stop by and so kind of you to offer such fine incentives.

  • Everyone who reads this interview and leaves a comment will receive a downloadable PDF file first chapter sample of both I ROMANCED THE STONE and OWEN FIDDLER.

At the end of the month, once all the hosts have sent Marvin a complete list of all those who left comments, he will do a drawing and select 3 winners:

  • 2nd runner-up receives (his/her choice)
    either a print copy of I ROMANCED THE STONE (Memoirs of a Recovering
    Hippie), or, a downloadable PDF file copy of OWEN FIDDLER.

  • 1st runner-up receives the same choice.

  • The Grand Prize winner will receive both books.

I’m sure your generosity will be appreciated, Marvin. Before we begin, would you like to tell my readers a little about yourself?

I am a man of many careers and walks of life; first as a rock and roll musician, then a nightclub entertainer, I’ve been a Zen Buddhist lay-minister, a carpenter, woodworker and cabinetmaker, a small business owner, a network marketer, a building trades instructor, a drunken crack head, and am now a recovered old hippie, a non-religious Maverick Christian spiritualist launching a golden years career as an author. I’m kind of a nutcase. I can be a very good friend, although I might embarrass you in public with spontaneous and/or eccentric behavior. I can say wise things and also make wisecracks. I can tell a good joke and also be one. I have a wonderful wife of thirty years, three great fully grown children with four grandkids and one on the way.

Thank you. And now for those dreaded questions.

1. Your first book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, was the autobiographical I ROMANCED THE STONE and I noticed that one of your IM signatures is that of the "good" brother, Paize from your just released novel, OWEN FIDDLER. However, after talking with you and reading OWEN FIDDLER, I have to wonder - isn't Owen himself closer to your "real" personality than one might expect from a fictional character?

We are all multi-faceted complex beings. But, we are also equally endowed with the intuitive knowledge of right and wrong and have identical free wills with which
to make our choices. When reduced to choice-makers in a universe of basic
fundamental dualities and dichotomies, we are in this sense quite simple beings. When I was a youngster, my Dad used to tell me, “Marvin, there are always two ways to do anything. There’s the right way and there’s the wrong way. Do it the right way.” OWEN FIDDLER is the Marvin (or anyone else, for that matter) who ignores that simple but wise admonition and chooses to do the things the wrong way because it is either: easier, or more self-gratifying, or one of those (what I call) “short cuts to a dead end” in the pursuit of quick fix pleasure and/or happiness. Owen gets his name because he likes to dance, but never bothers to pay the fiddler. Hence, he is always in a state of owing (“Owen”) the fiddler, the proverbial karma debt collector. Paize gets his name because he is the opposite; he always makes sure he “Pays” the fiddler. I
believe in the truth of the Law of Attraction, so I am making conscious and
sub-conscious efforts to be more like Paize and less like Owen. Is Owen the more “real” me? I hope not, not anymore, at least. Used to be. I’ll leave the final judgment (on this plane of existence) to those who survive me.

2. Do you find that your work gets negative feedback due to its controversial theme?

If you mean the underlying Christian Theology in both books I’ve published to date, no, so far it hasn’t been a problem. I try to write in a way that is not at all “preachy” – I’m not evangelical with my writing, and actually I’m not a religious person at all. I leave dogma and outdated litanies out of it. I do my best to write
books that will engage and entertain readers from any faith or no-faith at all.
True spirituality transcends any particular religion. I suspect OWEN will be more controversial to traditional religious Christians than to the secular readership, because while I acknowledge the power of redemption and salvation, I poo-poo any notion that there is some evil deity with the power to damn us. We do a fine enough job of damning ourselves without some giant flaming boogeyman poking us in the arse with his spear as a prompt. Free will is the key to Heaven or Hell and it is always an erroneous copout to think or say, “The Devil made me do it.”

I ROMANCED THE STONE is somewhat “controversial” because I give testimony to a CURE for addiction … this goes head up against traditional AA/12-step philosophy, and STONE has met with some rejection from those folks. It’s the truth, however, and my own cure is not some fluke. Recent advances in treatment philosophy and methods have debunked the idea of “once an addict always an addict.” Addiction is a symptom of a deeper “dis-ease,” not the disease itself. Cure the
underlying disease, the symptoms go away naturally.

3. Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what kind?

No, probably because of my formal Zen training years ago. I like to do one thing at a time. The old Zen saying goes, “When you eat, just eat. When you sit, just sit.” So,
when I write, I just write. When I listen to music, I just listen to music.

Not that I can’t multi-task, I can do it with the best of them. That’s because
when I multi-task, I just multi-task. Sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not –
there’s truth in that. As for music, I love ALL genres of music … mmm, except
for the quasi new-age schlocky “easy listening” jazz. If I’m going to listen to
jazz, give me Coltrain, Miles, Weather Report, stuff that gets deep and out of
sight, delivering the WORD in the universal spiritual language of music. I love

4. Do you edit as you work, or do you prefer to get the whole thing down before switching from your writer to your editor mode?

You know, Peggy, it varies with me. When I’m in the writing “zone” and can’t type fast enough to keep up with the thoughts and inspirations, I have no time to slow down and edit. Editing involves thinking, and my best writing comes when I am
thoughtlessly absorbed in a sort of trance. Those spells can last for hours up to a couple of days. Might sometimes be the sloppiest mess of grammar and
punctuation you’ve ever seen puked onto a page, but the essence of the writing
is the best stuff I do. So, during those hallowed times, I just let ‘er rip until the inspiration runs dry. I refuse to re-read for at least a day … I need fresh eyes to evaluate it properly. When I do re-read, I then put on the editor’s cap, pull out my scalpel and start cutting the crap out of it. I have almost as much fun with this process as in the actual writing. Didn’t used to, it used to seem like work to me. But learning all I have from other professionals (including you) about crafting good prose has given birth to a new delight in me towards this part of the art. It’s a more conscious, savory fun than full speed ahead first drafting … finding and saving the nuggets, improving the pretty good stuff, re-writing the not-so-good-but-worth-trying-to-salvage stuff, and taking joy in hitting the “delete” button when you know it will
improve the impact of the story. If I’m not in the “zone” and writing just because it’s “time to get some work done” on one of my books, then I often do at least some of the obvious editing necessary as I go along.

5. Your vision of the devil's role in things is quite similar to that expressed by Piers
Anthony in his Incarnations of Immortality series. Have you read them? And if
so, what is your opinion of his work?

Well, if his vision is similar to mine, he must be a very wise man indeed! (smile) Honestly, I haven’t read them, but your question prompted me to go online and check his writing out. I’ve heard much about him. He’s a prolific writer who does seem
to write along some of the themes I take interest in. His reader reviews range from a few of the “This is crap – save yourself the time” kind, to lots of the “Brilliant! Best book I’ve read in years!” kind also, so that means he’s evoking emotion and stimulating thought and dialogue. Thanks for the pointer, I’ll pick up a couple books and read them.

6. On that note, what authors have inspired you? Which have turned you off?

Richard Bach and Herman Hesse are my number one and two favorites in the spiritual/inspirational genre. Gotta go with Stephen King in the suspense/thriller area. I’m not a big fan of that genre overall, but his writing technique and style are phenomenal. I’ve read his “On Writing” and keep it as a textbook.

In historical fiction, James Clavell’s “Shogun” blew my mind. I read it in my mid-twenties while on the road with my rock and roll band. Another band member had just read it; she handed me the still warm book and told me I should check it out. That was early afternoon. I got so lost in that book I read it straight through. Picture me in a shared hotel room in bed with my flashlight on (so as to not keep my
roommate awake) at 4:00 in the morning swearing to myself I’ll just read to the end of this next chapter and then get some sleep. A while later you hear me groan because there’s no way in Hell I’m gonna get any sleep without turning the page and finding out what’s going to happen in the next chapter. That’s good writing.

Who has turned me off? Many will consider this heresy, but Hemmingway. I’m not turned off by his writing and storytelling skills … he was brilliant, oftentimes genius. It’s just that he was such a racist bigot. I’ll be reading along enjoying every
phrase and plot nuance and then he’ll throw a “nigger” at me and piss me off,
disrupting the read. I’m not against using ethnically degrading words if they are placed properly within the context of a story. For instance, “Abdul’s face twisted and flushed crimson. He slapped his ‘so-called’ friend in the face with a shout, ‘Nobody calls me a Camel Jockey!’” … that is to me appropriate writing. But, “The nigger ran over to the fallen man and shot him twice in the head. Some nigger.” - that is not. That’s first person narrative with a shot of internal thought comment, and it’s a racist doing the storytelling.

7. What is the most challenging aspect of being a novelist?

Striving for perfection. As a published author, that is. You can write any way you like to your little heart’s content for you own personal pleasure or the entertainment
of your circle of friends and family. But when you step over the line into the world of professional writers, you’re in some deep waters occupied by a plethora of accomplished swimmers. I used to read just for fun, and I still do read for fun, but now I also read with more of an analytical approach. It’s my job. I want to add to the volume of well-written books out there, not contribute any to the piles of dung on the page. It’s kind of like becoming a musician. Before you understand music theory, how music is put together, what makes good sonorous combinations, what makes a well-written composition and why, etc., you can just enjoy yourself listening to music. After you cross the line into professional musician, you can’t help but “take the thing apart” in your mind as you listen to a tune or a symphony.

8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

I write books that are intended to deliver spiritual messages in an entertaining, oftentimes humorous, more than often irreverent, sometimes sexy and even ribald way, through the spinning of a good tale. It is my hope that the reader will have
been entertained along the way, and that he/she will have been given some food
for thought and inspiration at the conclusion.

9. Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

Keep your day job for a while, this is a loooooong process! (smile – no, make that a grimace)

Seriously, you have to believe in yourself, in your ability to communicate
through the written word. Develop thick skin, you’re going to get slammed from
time to time, but also be open to criticism. There’s no room for self-pitiful emotions in this business when it comes to perfecting your craft. Have your manuscripts read by professionals (not your friends or family) in the field and if the first reviews don’t come back so good, don’t pout about it. Set about with determination to improving your draft. When I sent my first manuscript I ROMANCED THE STONE in to the publisher’s editor the first time, it came back so marked up I felt like I had just flunked third grade English! Grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, passive voices, paragraph composition, she beat the crap out of my precious little baby.
What? You mean my cherished brainchild is not perfection just as it is?
ALL my family and friends think it’s sheer genius! (laugh) And that brings us to my last bit of advice.

Work with an editor – a good one, one who is not afraid to hurt your feelings and
step on your egotistical “style” toes in favor of well-written English. Style has its place, but overdoing it (especially as an “unknown”) can make you come off as amateurish. Do this BEFORE making submissions. Small pub houses (and they are the only ones you’re going to get through to as an “aspiring” author) these days more and more want to read polished manuscripts, not “diamonds in the rough.” They often don’t have the time or money to do all the work for you.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m about half the way through writing a third book, a fiction titled “Heaven’s Slope Ascended,” and have begun to sketch out a story synopsis for a fourth book. AND, I have accepted another author's invitation to do some collaborative writing on an historical fiction project. Besides the writing, I am in a feverish marketing mood, part of which is this blog tour.

For any readers who wish to know where they can get my books and/or how they can contact me, (and I LOVE hearing from new readers, enjoy dialogue and making new friends), here is my contact info:

OWEN FIDDLER – The Ebook is now available on and
. By the end of January, it should be on, and for Kindle Book lovers on Print copies will take a bit longer; the trade paperback version will most likely be out by mid-year 2008. For more info on OWEN FIDDLER, reviews, excerpts, and a 3 minute trailor video, go to:

I ROMANCED THE STONE (Memoirs of a Recovering Hippie) sells as a trade paperback on – If you would like a signed copy direct from me, contact me via e-mail at:

My MySpace is:

My Blog, Free Spirit, is:,

And my E-mail address is:

Thank you, Marvin. It’s been fun. Please stop around again when your next book comes out.

Thank you, Peggy. I got a bit wordy with some of the answers, but that’s because your questions were so stimulating, and they tickled some of my creative writer’s rib bones. Thank you again for hosting me today. My very best to you and your readers.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


On January 19th I will be conducting an author interview in this space with Marvin Wilson Author of I ROMANCED THE STONE and OWEN FIDDLER.
The Ebook is out right now, selling on and for only $5.50. By the end of January, it should also be offered on and it will be a Kindle Book on Amazon. The trade paperback version I expect out by mid-year. It will be available on Amazon and if not on the shelf at your local bookstore yet, you will be able to order a copy from just about anywhere. Print copies I estimate will cost in the $14 to $16 range.
Everyone who reads and comments on the interview will receive a small prize and will be entered into an author drawing for an even bigger one.
Watch this space January 19th.
Custom Search