Tag Archive for: AB Plum

The Joys of Collecting Kids’ Pictures Books

By AB Plum

Okay, we all know writers will read anything:

  • ·        Bread wrappers
  • ·        Installation instructions for electronics
  • ·        Op ed pieces
  • ·        The daily comics
  • ·        Unedited manuscripts
  • ·        Edited, re-edited, re-re-re-edited, final manuscripts
  • ·        Book contracts
  • ·        Downloaded e-doc instructions
  • ·        Kids’ illustrated books

Of the above list, kids’ illustrated books rank at my top.

In all honesty, I usually read the illustrations before I read the text. The illustrations most likely influenced me to buy the book. I view them with viewing art. (Most kids’ illustrated books cost more than an e-book, but they’re worth the price, IMO, because they are works of art).

In 2108, for the first time in decades, I didn’t request a kids’ illustrated book for Christmas. No real reason, except I bought two amazing books earlier in the year. And while I re-read my picture books more often than most other books, I turned again and again in 2018 to Cry Heart, But Never Break (Glenn Ringtved, Author. Charlotte Pardi Illustrator) and Duck, Death and the Tulip (Wolf Elrbruch, Author and Illustrator).

In a lyrical combination of words and drawings, these books about death leave me gobsmacked. Both verbal and non-verbal media complement each other and remind me my upcoming birthday is another opportunity to add to my collection in 2019.

What about you? Do you ever read children’s picture books? What’s a favorite one from your childhood?
Barbara Plum writes light and whimsical paranormal romance. Her alter ego writes dark and twisted psychological thrillers. She lives in Silicon Valley with her tekkie husband—because she rarely reads instructions for backing up her computer.

No illustrations for The Weird Magic Trilogy Boxed Set (Free for a limited time). Likewise no pictures for The MisFit Books 5-7, but now on sale for limited time. She knows her limitations and would never attempt to draw, paint, or capture a scene with a camera.

Peace to one and all

By Barbara Plum aka AB Plum

At this time of year, my cul-de-sac hops with holiday
  • ·        
    Dewali (November 7)
  • ·        
    Hanukkah (December 2-10)
  • ·        
    Yule (December 21-January 21)
  • ·        
    Christmas (December 24-25)
  • ·        
    Kwanzaa (December 26-January 1)

I’m aware many people don’t celebrate at this time of
year—for a variety of reasons. But. For family, friends, strangers, and
non-celebrants, I send out a personal hope for peace to shine—if for only a
moment—in your lives wherever you are.

**** Barbara Plum aka AB Plum lives off the Silicon
Valley fast lane but in the shadow of Google. She writes light, funny
paranormal romances and dark, gripping psychological thrillers. Both genres
provide escape on long winter nights. Find her books here on Amazon and


By Barbara Plum (aka AB Plum)

At a recent writers’ conference, the speaker threw out an epic challenge:

·        Write down our three favorite novels
·        Rank them in order of preference
·        Exclude children’s and YA titles, plus non-fiction, plus our own fiction

Groans eddied around the room. 
Surprised by the reaction, I finished the exercise within minutes and then went a step further. I quickly analyzed several common threads shared by my choices.

I arbitrarily decided to omit memorable characters. In my opinion, characters are the obvious reason that make books unforgettable.

Here’s my ranked list, including some common threads that speak to me.

1.     Valley of Decision by Marcia Davenport.
2.     Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
3.     The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Here’s what puts these books on my shelf of favorite fiction:

First, I read them all at pivotal points in my life:
·        Adolescence (just before leaving college)
·        Freshman year in college (admitted to an advanced English program)
·        Illness (at a turning point in my high-tech career)

Second, they’re all literary fiction (a bit of a surprise since I now more often read genre- fiction). The language and writing are evocative and layered in my three faves.

Third, they paint rich portraits of dysfunctional families (a theme I write about and find fascinating to read about).

Fourth, I compare much of what I read to these titles.

So, if I were marooned on a desert island without my magical red shoes, I’d take these three books. (I’d beg to take the King James Version of the Bible too because each of these favorite novels is told there at least once).

What about you? Is coming up with three favorites easier than naming only one? Of the three you identify, can you select one as “The Favorite”?


Barbara Plum lives and writes paranormal romance in the shadow of Google. Books 1 and 2 in Wicked Magic, her latest series are available on Amazon:  
As AB Plum, Barbara writes dark, psychological thrillers. Check out The MisFit Series Books 1-4 on Amazon:

Down with–yes, down with–cell phones

By AB Plum

Here goes another rant on a social phenomenon I dislike more than back-to-back TV commercials or politicians who lie to the public or the constant pop-up ads on Google, FB, AOL and everywhere else on the Internet.

Smart phones go to the top of my Bleh List every time.
Smart phones are ubiquitous.
Smart phones are addictive.
Smart phones may not cause brain cancer, but they impair the judgment of more and more users. A few examples:
·         walking in front of traffic with faces in phones,
·         going to the bathroom with phones,
·         going to bed with their phones,
·         texting while driving,
·         talking while driving,
·         checking the Internet or email while driving,
·         checking phone hundreds of time a day,
·         eating meals with friends/family while checking phones,
·         giving young children phones as gifts/rewards,
·         spending more time on the phone than with face-to-face people,
·         playing on-line games for more than an hour/day
·         using a smart phone for games during a memorial service

Uh-huh! I witnessed this last example two weeks ago at the funeral service for my long-time critique partner. In a standing-room only environment, one of the mourners clicked his “smart phone” throughout the service. From my vantage point, I’d swear he was playing games … but, admittedly, I am jaded.

And. Lest I seem like a total luddite, I’ll mention the ubiquitous presence of 
smart phones at a recent rally for reunifying immigrant families. Taking picture to capture the event for now and posterity seemed like a good use of smart phones. Giving those who couldn’t attend the rally seemed like a good use of smart phones. Sharing pictures and recordings on social media to get out the message seemed like a good use of smart phones.
So does the good judgment at the rally outweigh the bad judgment in the case of my friend’s funeral?

What do you think?
What would you have done at the funeral—before/during/after?
***AB Plum lives and writes in the heart of Silicon Valley. She owns a cell phone with no bells or whistles and uses it only in emergencies. Smart phones appear infrequently in The MisFit Series her dark, psychological thrillers. Writing as Barbara Plum in WEIRd MAgIC, her paranormal romance trilogy, witches and warlocks rely more on magic than smart phones.

Untitled Post

By AB Plum

The picture of a woman with forefinger to her lips greets me as I enter Cedar Crest Nursing Facility. Rays of sunshine slant through the dim reception area. A woman at the desk whispers for me to sign in. Behind her is a duplicate picture of the shusher at the front door. I write my name, mimic the discreet tone, and ask for Room 40.

Quiet permeates the hallway. Residents in wheelchairs or walkers congregate in doorways and near the nurses’ station. A few of the residents make low, unobtrusive noises. Air freshener—intended to mask old age, sickness, and death—screeches from the corners like a badly tuned violin.

My first and longest writing partner lies in her bed at the end of the long corridor. She is dying. 

The silence in her room is broken only by a nearly inaudible whirr of a machine next to her bed. When I approach her, she doesn’t open her eyes. Frequent doses of morphine provide a buffer against the pain.

And, the drug suppresses her tendency to shatter the silence with non-stop Wagnerian arias. She loves opera almost more than she loves reading and writing.

Close to ninety, she has written often about death—usually about the Holocaust. Escaping to England as a young child, she grew up safe. But death haunted her lovely stories.

“I do hope,” she said, paraphrasing Dylan Thomas more than once, “that I can go gentle into that long night.”

Long night versus good night, I reckon. She came to Cedar Crest more than a month ago–long enough to transfer to another room. She clings to no false hopes of recovery. Time, however, is stretching out too long.

As if reading my mind, she opens her eyes and smiles, asking without a segue, “Have you read Jane Austen, The Secret Radical”?

This question reflects how so many of our writing sessions began that I’m caught off guard. Before I can answer, the morphine claims her again. She’s gone to a temporary place of silence, where I hope she remembers she lived a good, long, gentle life.

AB Plum lives and writes in the shadow of Google in Silicon Valley. She is currently working on a light paranormal trilogy. WEIRd MAgIC features witches and warlocks. No vamps, weres, or zombies.


By AB Plum

Expecting Kay Kendall’s byline? Kay’s on hiatus this week, and I’m subbing.

Years ago (after we stopped chiseling words of wisdom in stone and around the invention of the printing press), I wrote a full page of “high school-news” every week for my daily newspaper.

Like Hemingway and others, I created on my Royal manual typewriter. I met my deadline every week—no matter what. I usually had a minimum of six to eight articles—laid out in columns. Memory says I earned about $.02/word so I sometimes padded my news.

Thinking about those journalistic feats, I realize I was never at a loss for words—or for topics. Now, some days, I find myself reaching for the right word or subject.

In turn, I wonder how many words now exist in English?

Google that question (or variations on it) and you’ll come up with differing views—some of which are pretty close to nit-picking.

Other questions then arise.
  • How many words does the average American use every day?
  • Is it scientifically accurate that men have a more limited vocabulary than women?
  • What’s the most common verb in English?
  • How many words does the average person speak/read a minute?
  • How many words can the typical six-year-old read/speak?
  • How many words do we use in a typical day on our cell phones?

You can see, the list goes on and on and on without asking how many words a writer writes every day? Or how many words in a 300-page novel? Or how do we writers decide on chapter length? Or how many words in a typical sentence? (Ask Hemingway, then read Stephen King). 

And OBTW, who, historically, is the most prolific writer in the English language?

I always thought it was Nora Roberts. Check here for some surprises. Here are a few more authors who, taken as a group, must’ve have used every word in our Mother Tongue.

Our Stiletto Gang blogs tend toward between 300-800 words. In these busy times, that seems about “write” to me. While I could wax on about this subject, I won’t. I am, after all, subbing for Kay. Expect her back on the third Wednesday in June.

In the meantime, enjoy a good book, letting the power of words take you into a new place, meet new characters, solve crimes, travel into space, slay a dragon, fall in love, and maybe shed a few tears.

Who’da thunk 26 letters could bring forth such awesome experiences?
AB Plum writes dark, psychological thrillers. She turned out about 500,000 words in the seven-volume MisFit Series. She gave up counting how many words she sliced and diced during edits. She lives in Silicon Valley.

In Praise of Prologues

By AB Plum

Do you skim prologues?

Dislike them?

Shrug when you finish and begin Chapter 1 (the real story)?

Feel “manipulated” when you finish the book?

Prologues stir up a lot of discussion among writers and readers. Personally, I like them if they’re more than hype. Winding up a seven-book series, I decided to use seven prologues in the final book. 

Crazy? Maybe. But. I think they work. Because they satisfy introducing unanswered background story questions from the previous books. 

Each of the min-prologues layers into the subsequent plot—though in one instance, the reader may get a surprise at the twist. In length, they range from three lines to one page. Two different backstories emerge. Ultimately, they tie the whole series together. 

Each mini-prologue falls under the general heading of Prologue. I used lowercase Roman numerals to distinguish each one.

Would I try this structure again?
Right now, I’ll say yes. As a writer, I really enjoyed the challenge. 

What about you? Would you take one look at those Roman numerals and throw the book against the wall? Would you read them and then delete the book from your eReader?

The Whole Truth marks a resting place for AB. Sliding down the slippery slope of writing noir has opened up a lot of ideas. This summer she plans to read more for pleasure, dance more for fun, walk more for health and write more about love.

MisFits, Psychopaths, and Late-Night Reading

By AB Plum

On April 30, I’ll upload to Amazon The Whole Truth. TWT is the final—seventh—volume of The MisFit Series, dark psychological thrillers about a psychopath’s impact on innocents he meets along his twisted journey.

After seven books, two thousand pages, and half a million words, this has been a tough story-telling experience. I am glad to write: THE END!
The MisFits

The End!

Here are a few of the issues/questions I explored in this series:
  • ·         Are psychopaths born or nurtured?
  • ·         What if a child grows up feeling/believing he’s unlovable?
  • ·         What are some signs of psychopathic behavior in children?
  • ·         How easy is it to identify a psychopath (as a child and as an adult)?
  • ·         Can a fictional psychopath elicit sympathy from readers?
  • ·         What impact does a psychopath’s behavior have after he dies?
  • ·         Can a shattered family of a psychopath regain equilibrium?

I am now looking forward to publishing a couple of more upbeat “romance” novels. Yes, I do still hope that loves makes the world go ‘round.  J

If you’d like to read the MisFit Prequel, The Boy Nobody Loved, grab your free copy here. Maybe, just maybe, the hints of complexities to follow will keep you up reading all night.

Until next month, when I plan to write about love in May!

The picture is just to prove that even though I write about the dark holes in the human heart, I can pass for “normal” when I go for my early morning walks in my ‘hood just off the fast lane in Silicon Valley.

Great Books Stand the Test of Time

Last month I invited 8 authors to dinner. Fun, exciting, and exasperating.

Exasperating because my guests reminded me of how little I read these days. In years past, I read at least a book a week. Somewhere, I’ve lost the time to do that. I now read—most frequently—in bed. Too often I fall asleep. Not because of the writing. Because I am … tired from writing my latest work or from marketing or from keeping up with the latest in the self- publishing world. Or, let’s be honest: because of poor time management.

Reading is still one of my favorite activities. I love nothing more—including marathon walking, aerobic dancing, political ranting—than reading. On my TO DO LIST in 2018 is to read—re-read a few of my favorite books:

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. She was, in case you missed it, one of the authors I invited to dinner last month. I love the “feminist” twist to this novel.

The Valley of Decision by Marcia Davenport. I read this saga in high school knowing nothing about robber barons or the United States on the brink of a world war. consider it close to the top of my favorite books of all times because of the characters, settings, themes, and writing.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. He is one of my favorite authors. His novels and short stories always peer into the darkness of the human heart. I now want to revisit this specific novel from the standpoint of an author also fascinated by dark hearts.

Dennis Lehane kept me turning pages through his Angie Gennaro-Patrick Kenzie thrillers. But Shutter Island grabbed me in a way few modern novels have. I believe—honestly, that I “got” the twist early on in the novel. Rereading, I hope, will convince me I was right (and give me a deeper insight into the whole story).

Dead Famous by Carol O’Connell left me puzzled reading it the first time and kept me asking questions about the story afterward. Mallory, as I recall, is neither the main focus nor the character who pushes the plot forward. She is unlikeable (like my psychopathic main character, Michael Romanov) and she is—perhaps—unlovable. This is one of the basic questions I asked in The MisFit Series: Is a child ever unlovable? It’s a question I asked my eight dinner guests.

If I finish this list in 2018, I have dozens more novels I intend to reread.

Have you read any of the above books? What’s your take? Would you reread any of them?

Here’s my latest addition to The MisFit Series:  

The Broken-Hearted Many. Influenced by Kathy Mallory, this sixth novel in the series takes the reader into a wounded family’s struggle to cope with the old lies and secrets which refuse to stay in the past.  

*** When AB
Plum isn’t delving into darkness, she enjoys aerobic dancing, marathon walking,
and occasionally cooking. She lives off the fast lane in Silicon Valley with
her husband.


By AB Plum

Sorry, Facebook. Despite your recent pronouncements that longer posts engage people at a deeper level, nothing beats face-to-face conversations. Sorry, Twitter. Good conversation requires more than 280 characters.

These heresies lead me to think about people I’d like to talk to at a dinner party. Politicians, celebrities, and sports figures don’t get invites. Instead, I prefer eight authors. 

In no order, here are the “giants” I would ask for an evening of food for thought. 
Overlook the minor point that many of my would-be guests are deceased.

Louisa May Alcott, how much did you tone down Jo to get Little Women published?

Henry James, was the governess sexually repressed or was her imagination overly active from being isolated with two precocious kids?

E.A. Poe, which is your favorite short story and what influenced you to write it?

Marion Zimmer Bradley, what influenced your decision in The Mists of Avalon to tell the story of Arthur from five different female viewpoints?

Neil Gaiman, how many versions of the first line of The Graveyard Book did you write?

Harper Lee, how much of Huckleberry Finn is in Atticus Finch?

Rick Riordan, when do you plan to publish another Tres Navarre novel?

Charlaine Harris, what is it fans missed in your conclusion of Dead Ever After?

Obviously, I’ll have to host another dinner party with more authors. I’m thinking at least 1,000 more magicians with words and ideas and stories that have stayed with me for years. While I’m working on my list, whom would you invite?


AB will have to postpone her dinner party for a few months until she publishes The Broken-Hearted Many, Book 6 in The MisFit Series. Release date is February 23. Then comes the final installment in the series, The Whole Truth, due in late April.