The Howlers

In Bernie and the Lost Girl, there is a scene where the children run into a group of giant apes who howl at them.

This is the photo that inspired that scene.  They’re called Howler Monkeys and are native to South and Central America.

They’re widely considered to be the loudest land animal.  Their howling ability is very real, and, according to Guinness Book of World Records, they can be heard as far as three miles away through dense rainforest.  The function of howling is thought to relate to intergroup spacing and territory protection, as well as possibly to mate-guarding.

howler monkeys

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The Putty

When Bernie left the universe building putty on the planet, strange things began to happen.

The putty, being an essence of creative energy, ‘reached out’ in an attempt to ‘become’ something.  It was pure creation looking for substance.  It wanted a purpose and meaning for its existence.

This is the picture that inspired the scene in Bernie and the Putty.

putty hands

In fact, I still spend a lot of time thinking about putty…

putty 04

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The Monster Storms

In Bernie and the Putty, Billy created monster storms that ravaged Bernie’s world.  The raw power he put into these powerful storms caused them to set fire to everything that would burn.

This is the picture that inspired my description of those storms…


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What Does Bernie’s Dad Look Like?

What about Bernie’s dad, the Great Simeon?

He was a challenge.  Simeon is a world re-known universe builder who won an unprecedented THREE Universe Awards.  Unfortunately, the fame went to his head and he left his family behind in his pursuit of fame and fortune.

The flashy lifestyle led me to think of many different people, but who typifies this better than Liberace?  No one I can think of.

So Liberace became the inspiration for Bernie’s father, the Great Simeon…

Simeon 1maxresdefault
simeon 3 simeon 2

Later, as I added more refinement for my mental image of Bernie’s father, I found it here:


That’s when I realized that Elvis “The King” Presley was even closer to the image I was after:



So this is the process and the images that inspired the Great Simeon…


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What Does Lenny Look Like?

When I work on characters, I try to visualize them.  I need to be able to describe the way they look, their background, their history and more.  To do that, I look through pictures until I find one that ‘speaks’ to me.

Lenny was a tough one.  He’s geeky, confident, and more than a little out-of-the-loop socially.  And he’s strange by all accounts.

I thought first of the old TV show called Dobbie Gillis, where I was introduced to Maynard G. Crebs (played by Bob Denver).


Maynard had the right look, but he was too out of it, to be right for Lenny, who is very smart (book-smart, anyway).  This is the picture that finally resonated for me:


The only thing missing is a little fur-ball on his shoulder called Sissy.

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The Lookies

People often ask me where I got the idea for the ‘tiny eyes’ that watched Bernie in the opening chapter of Bernie and the Putty.  They turned out to be one of the most popular elements in the story.

Originally, the ‘tiny eyes’ were nothing more than an attempt to introduce an element of other-worldliness to the story.  That changed when one of my author friends (Linda Watkins) said, “I want to know more about the ‘tiny eyes.'”  When I tried to explain they were nothing more than an element of the description, she said, “That’s not good enough.  You need to write more about them.”

So, the tiny eyes were born.  For me, I like to be inspired by pictures.  A good picture helps me to visualize something so I can better incorporate it into the story.

This is the picture I chose as my inspiration.


These are meerkats, small carnivorians belonging to the mongoose family.  They’re native to deserts in South Africa.  If you haven’t checked them out, please do.  Their pictures are amazing.  I had a chance to see some at the San Diego Zoo and still remember their curious and friendly antics.

They were the inspiration for the lookies in Bernie and the Putty.

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How many books are there?

marketing 01I just saw this on Amazon.  It’s hard to believe there are so many books out there.  And these are just the ones on Amazon.

It gives some perspective to the idea of how hard it is to promote a book when there are so many others trying to do the same thing.



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Beta Readers Wanted

tumblr_ntbae1JXQ21tjufa4o1_1280I’m seeking beta readers for my new book.  The working title is Bernie and the Time Lords.

The plot takes up where Bernie and the Wizards left off.  You will recall that Bernie has a new job with The Business.  He is now a Troubleshooter and his task is to ‘fix broken universes.’

Bernie’s next assignment is a world created by the gods to produce a glowing powder that the gods sprinkle on their streets to provide illumination at night. For some reason, the miners have stopped producing it.  When Bernie investigates, he finds the problem is more complicated than just renegotiating for a different set of trading goods.  Everything on their world seems to keep changing.  Could it be that something is changing their past?  You know that Shemal (Bernie’s boss) prefers to solve problems by restocking problem planets with more cooperative species.  Bernie is under pressure once again to Shemal decides it’s better to do things his way.


tumblr_nn2ctyrrWf1tjufa4o1_1280A beta book means it’s not ready to be published.  I’m looking for input on the plot, the characters, and everything else.  I want to know what you think.  If you find things you don’t like, then I’ll do everything I can to make the book better.

A beta book has not been professionally edited, so you will find minor mistakes (typos, missing words, etc.).  After I incorporate your suggestions, that’s when I’ll submit the book to a professional editor for final proofing.

The book will be available in the standard ebook formats (.mobi, .epub, .pdf).


tumblr_nullr8B4ob1tjufa4o1_1280There are lots of things I want the book to do, and that’s why I need your feedback.  I want readers to:

  • like the characters
  • ponder big questions
  • not want to put the book down
  • love the ending
  • tell their friends about the book
  • and more

To do this, I need your help to:

  1. Tell me about characters that are not engaging so I can strengthen or remove them.
  2. Identify anything that’s confusing (chapters, paragraphs, or even dialog).
  3. Evaluate subplots.  The Universe Builders books have a lot of subplots.  If you think one of them is unnecessary or are not adequately resolved, help me identify it so it can be enhanced or removed.
  4. Provide feedback on the ending.  Can you think of a better one?  Was the book satisfying?  Does it make you interested in reading more in the series?  Does it motivate you to tell your friends about it?

Again, you don’t have to worry about typos, misspellings, missing words, or anything like that.  My editor will take care of all of those things.


work 17This is what we’re looking for to complete our selection:

  1. Beta readers are selected from those who sign up online.  (See “SO, IF YOU’RE INTERESTED…” below.)
  2. Readers must have read the first book, Bernie and the Putty.
  3. Readers must have completed at least one online review.  (I will select people who gave the book four or more stars.  Why?  I don’t think it makes sense to seek input from someone who didn’t like the book.  I can’t please everyone.  My goal is to please people who like the characters and basic ideas in the Universe Builders.)
  4. Readers must agree to provide feedback within forty days of receiving the book.  To give you an idea, Bernie and the Wizards is 92k words; Bernie and the Putty was a little longer at 112k words.
  5. Readers must agree to post a written review of the book shortly after it’s published.  (See “REVIEWS ARE NEEDED” below.)  If you’re interested in being a beta reader, but haven’t yet posted a review of Bernie and the Putty, it’s not too late.  These are places where you can post:  places to post reviews.


To collect your feedback, I’ll create an online form.  The form will ask for your thoughts and comments on various aspects of the book.

After reviewing everyone’s feedback, I may request the opportunity to speak with some of you by phone.  With your permission, I’ll call some of you to discuss your thoughts and comments in more detail.  (This may not be possible or practical for some of you (e.g., different countries, different time zones, etc.)


Image-21When the book is published, I’ll need as many reviews as I can get.  I’m counting on my beta readers to provide the first reviews for the new book.

On the day the book is published, I’ll send each of you an email to let you know.  I’ll then ask you to publish your review on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites.

I’ll also take excerpts from your reviews to use in promotional materials.

For each reviewer, as my way of thanking you for your help, I’ll send a signed print copy of the new book.


If you’re still interested in being a beta reader, let me know.  I promise to take your input seriously and do everything I can to make the book the best it can be.

[Yes, I’m interested in being a Beta Reader (click here)]

Thank you very much!


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Day at Whitehall Middle School

whitehall middle schoolWhat a fun day I had.

John Mierz, a teacher at the Whitehall Middle School, and I met at the Barnes & Noble book signing on November 6th.  The students there are preparing for a big writing assignment that will last an entire month.  John invited me into Ms. Kibart’s classes to talk with their seventh graders about writing and, in particular, how to develop strong and memorable characters.

tumblr_ntbaymGPK91tjufa4o1_1280I put together a PowerPoint presentation with things I’ve learned about character development, including strategies for introducing humor and compassion into the characters.

Such bright and inquisitive minds.  They kept me busy answering questions all day long.  Where did you get the idea for the book?  How did you decide what to name your characters?  How did you come up with the strange characters in Bernie’s woods?  Are you writing another book?

The time just flew.

I asked John and Vicky to invite me back next year!



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Barnes & Noble Mega-Signing

On November 6th from 6-9 PM, the Muskegon Barnes & Noble will be hosting a mega-event in which FIFTY Michigan authors have been invited to present their books.

Barnes and Noble Mega-Event

Come and meet the authors.  They represent every genre you can think of and they will have plenty of copies of their books to see and discuss.

You can get a head start on your Christmas shopping with a book signed by the author. What a wonderful gift!


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