Tag Archive for: Crazy Daze and a Knight

New Year, New Decade, New Direction

by AB Plum

Welcome to the New Year, a New
Decade, and a New Direction

No writer’s block here. 

Gazillions of potential blog topics cry for the
Stiletto Gang’s “insights” over the next 365 days. This year, the
Gang has decided to add a new subject: the craft of writing fiction. We expect to
learn a lot from each other. We hope you’ll learn a lot about what goes into
writing word after word after word to evoke an emotional connection between
writer and reader.

Wednesday of each month

Look for a new craft post the first Wednesday of the

I’m up first—sort of like the first baby born each New

characters but names …

For me, the quintessential element of all stories is
characters (not necessarily human). We could do twelve months on developing
fictional characters, but I’m going with names—a subset, really, of that fictional

Also, I’m sort of a names nut. I collect unusual names—from
fiction, celebrities, and movies—pop culture at large. Magnus, The REal McCoy,
Risa, Ryn, Pierce, Detective Nick Ketchum, Bo “Peep”, The Stoned
Wall, and Lavender comprise some of the characters I’ve introduced in various of my
books. Here are a few basic ideas that drive me in finding the
“right” name: 

Names bring characters alive.
I have never written a novel or a short story for
which I didn’t have the main character’s name before
I started writing. Knowing that vital information adds dimension to other
aspects of that character I’ll introduce to readers almost from page one of the
novel. Examples of what a character’s name reveals to me: inner drive, personality,
goals, past secrets, childhood, disappointments, celebrations, etc.
of the best examples of characters whose names fit, IMO, appear in
Gone with the Wind.

O’Hara and Rhett Butler leap off the page when we meet them. The meaning of her
name is obvious (to native English speakers). His Old English name means
“small stream.”

stream” for a force of nature? Scarlett for a woman whose reputation as a
flirt grows worse throughout the novel.
You decide if the names fit the characters.
Names connote animals, places,
position, status, ethnicity, and more.
Wolf, Paris, Judge, Yuri.
I’m still waiting for a character to step
forward for whom I can use Wolf. I know the character type, but I’ve yet to
meet the specific fictional bearer of the name.
Names reflect culture, time, power,
ambiguity, certainty, subtlety and quirkiness

Octavia, Charity, Reina, Madison, Moxie
Crimefighter, Eulalia, Audio Science
I’d love to tell a story featuring a character
named Audio Science (the first-born son of actress Shannyn Sossaman). Maybe he
and Moxie in a romance?
Names reinforce gender, family,
history, religion, values, trends, imagination.
Caesar, Murphy, Napoleon, Lourdes, Peace,
Hannah, Pilot Inspectkor
Pilot Insectkor apparently comes from an indie
song and definitely sparks my imagination. I am still waiting for the right
character to claim the moniker.
Deciding on a name for a character—especially
for the Main Character(s)—is like naming a child. Making the name meaningful is
my first criterion in choosing a handle.

Risa, the heroine in my romantic comedy Prince
of Frogs,
means smile in Spanish. A pediatrician, she’s never met a kid she
didn’t like. Her smile is so big and genuine that her patients never cry when
she gives them their shots.
Nicknames and pet names can add depth,
complexity and insight to a character.
Risa enters the world with a mop of orange-red
The nurses tie a big pink bow on top of her head and present her to her mother with a flourish, proclaiming: La Ti Da! From then on she’s called La Ti Da because she’s so full of life, energy, and joy.
A few of my favorite names for fictional
characters include:
Elvis Cole (Robert Crais)
Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich)
Spenser (Robert Parker)
Temptation, OH (J. Crusie)
Chili Pepper (E. Leonard)
Scarlett O’Hara (M. Mitchell)
Sookie Stackhouse (C. Harris)
Hannibal Lector (Thomas Harris)
What about you—what are some of your favorite characters’
names? Any you hate?

Check back on Wednesday, February 5th
for the next blog on Writing Craft.

AB Plum, aka
Barbara Plum grew up in Southern Missouri. She knew she was in trouble
whenever her mother used her first and middle names in one breath. All three
names (usually yelled) meant a potential time-out until age 21. Her love of
names may have begun with her first puppy, Pickle Puss. Later, ThatCat and
YourCat became favorite felines.
Check out her
dark psychological thrillers and riveting mysteries :  https://abplum.com/
In the mood
for mood for paranormal or contemporary romance:    https://barbaraplumauthor.com/

A Love Letter to Subaru

By AB Plum aka Barbara Plum

Laughter, so
goes the cliché, is the best medicine.

Some days
Colbert is not enough to counteract the news headlines. Some days, despite
their screams, the headlines seem to begin and end with a whimper. Some days
news headlines demand a prescription for twenty-four hours of nonstop laughs.

Enter a
canon of television commercials. (Okay, this statement may reach too far, but
curb your disdain at the apparent oxymoron and read on).

The carmaker
Subaru has been doing its part for a long time to bring a smile to our faces.
They began their dog commercials around 2008. In 2013, they introduced the
“Barkleys” (a canine nuclear family of four—3 Golden Retrievers and 1
yellow Lab Retriever). The dozens of 30-second shots guarantee giggles,
guffaws, and outright belly laughs.

delivered without a spoken word (nearly heresy for a writer of fiction heavy on
dialogue). All with ordinary dogs placed in ordinary human situations. All
presented with tongue-in-cheek humor that makes me think if the world’s going
to the dogs, we should let it go.

I do not now or ever have owned a Subaru. I do not now or ever have owned stock
in Subaru. I grew up with canine companions, but none of them was a Golden
Retriever or Lab.


AB Plum, aka Barbara Plum, isn’t chortling over the “Barkleys,” she
lives, writes and pats all puppies she encounters on her daily walks in
Silicon Valley. Her latest romantic comedy,
Crazy Daze and a Knight is
one of the very few books she’s penned 
without a
four-legged, furry companion. 

But … All Things Considered features a ferocious feline. If you have time to
laugh, check out the Subaru dog commercials
here. And if the commercials don’t
brighten your day, check out
National Make a Dog’s Day.

Travel: A Path to World Peace

By Barbara Plum aka AB Plum

“Travel is fatal to
prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness …”  (Innocents Abroad)

On the other hand, there’s no
place like home.

After a summer of living in
Denmark, with side trips to Iceland, Scotland, Finland, and Estonia, I boarded
what I hoped was my last airplane for a while on August 31. We stood in line to
clear security at Kastrup, and I wondered if any other country besides our
Scandinavian haven had withstood such an onslaught of tourists.

Despite the hordes—and my
being patted down at the airport—the multitudes and I proceeded to our flights
without incident. Standing in front of Customs, I felt a frisson of tension.
(We learned before departing the US that Iceland is part of the Schengen Area).

So? You might ask.

Schengen Agreement … 

This Agreement allows people
and goods to cross 26 EU borders without visas or other kinds of border controls.
US citizens can remain in the entire area
a total of 90 days within a 180-day period. Pretty straight forward. (My husband traveled on his Danish passport and so avoided the “rules).

Yes, but …

I knew about the restrictions
before leaving the US on May 27 for Iceland. Iceland is part of the Schengen
Agreement. Six days there before going to Denmark meant I would exceed the 90-day allotment. I called
the Danish Consulate near my home in late April and got the reassurance that I could go to
any police station in Denmark and receive an extension of my 90 days.

Once upon a time, yes. In June 2019 …
I had to go to Danish Immigration with a long form filled out by my husband’s
lawyer-cousin. The clerks who handled my request warned us I would very likely have
my request rejected. (About a hundred people—Mid-Eastern women, mostly, with
small kids and babies—queued up to other lines to submit their papers). I never
learned the outcome of their petitions, but I realized my extension mattered
nothing compared to immigrants seeking asylum.

Ever optimistic about my own
case, I thought playing the “family” card would over-ride
bureaucracy. Family is a very big deal in Denmark. My husband’s family had
planned a major reunion for us and dozens of cousins on August 25. Our adult kids
were coming from the US to take part in the festivities. Et cetera. Et cetera. Etc.

Nothing personal … and no narrow-mindedness …
just the rules …

In less than a week, we received
the official word, delivered by Priority Mail. I had to leave on the 24th
or risk a hefty fine and exclusion from the EU for an unspecified time if I
violated the rules.
A trip to the American
Embassy resulted in no hope. Naively, I assumed someone in the US Embassy would
take up my case. Denmark, I learned, now has some of the strictest immigration
policies in Europe. And no, I could expect no help from US personnel.

A loophole …

A light shone at the end of
the tunnel though. One loophole existed. I could leave Denmark for 6 days (the
number by which I would exceed my stay) and then return to Denmark, giving me a
total of 90 days in the country.

But … but … where could I go?

The UK or Croatia. Or, of
course, back to the States. Choices, choices.
Brexit mania was all over the
European news in mid-July. Did I really want to go to London under those

After five minutes of
discussion about cheaper airfares, shorter flights, and another visit to
Croatia, my husband and I chose Scotland for our sojourn. I’d always wanted to
tip-toe through the heather—if I could visit during a rain-free period.


Raindrops keep dancin’ on my head …

Sunshine shone on us every
day except for our bus trip to Stirling to visit the castle. Since we’d enjoyed
perfect weather at Edinburgh Castle, we didn’t complain. Dozens of Scotsmen
told us how lucky we were not to have to resort to rain-gear, and we agreed.

Our six days in Edinburg flew
by. We missed the heatwave that hit the week after we left, and we returned to
Copenhagen almost glad for the need to make the side trip.

And yes, we tried haggis—almost
edible with a couple of cold local beers.

Our trips to Finland and
Estonia, planned before our imposed trip to Scotland, proved uneventful. Great
weather. Manageable crowds. Quiet and relaxing.

Heading home …

By the last week of August, despite
an amazing summer, we were ready to go home on the 31st.  An eleven-hour flight lay ahead of us so we
decided to check for lounge availability and pay for a more quiet place to
relax before takeoff. Pay, because Norwegian Air no longer provided free lounge
entrance for Premium passengers. If we upgraded to Premium-Plus status, then we
could stay for the 2-hour wait time for free. Another thousand dollars seemed
excessive …

As we checked with the desk
attendant regarding available space, she told us the charge would be $40
each.  We hesitated. Then, a young woman
behind us, offered to make us her guests. Surprised, but quite happy, we
accepted. We thanked her and discovered she’d grown up in Silicon Valley. She
now lives in Boston, but the world is a small place.

We settled in with coffee and
comfy chairs and marveled at our good luck. “Travel [really] is fatal to
prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

How about you. Do your travel
experiences support Twain’s statement?
When not traveling the world,
Barbara Plum and her alter ego, AB Plum, live in Silicon Valley. Her latest
romantic comedy, Crazy Daze and a Knight
is available FREE through Thursday. 

Flexing, Resilience, and Going Home

By AB Plum

In a little over three weeks,
I’ll board a plane for a twelve-hour flight to the US, headed for:


Silicon Valley.


After two-plus months in
Copenhagen without a dishwasher, I’m really looking forward to that luxury.
(No, washing dishes by hand wasn’t the hardest adjustment. But … I washed
enough dishes growing up as the oldest of six kids to say:  been
there done, that

On the other hand, washing
dishes here three times a day reminded me of how many people in the world lack
water to drink or cook or bathe or clean their teeth. Our three-room Danish
apartment would make those resilient people think they’d entered Heaven. Nobody
forced me to take this sabbatical so no whining allowed.
Frankly, I’ll miss the
incredible public transportation. It took me a day or two to remember to click
on and click off trains and buses—not too different from San Francisco. And
maybe the easiest adjustment. Never having to drive or find a place to park has
reinforced how glad I am that I like to walk (because the train doesn’t stop in
front of my apartment). 

Returning home, I’ll have to
re-adapt to shopping for groceries once a week instead of every day. Having
three niche markets fifty feet from our apartment has changed our buying habits.
I wonder, though, if I’ve seen the future here? Consumers load their own
grocery bags (plastic, paid for if they forget to bring one). Plastic surprised
me since in our part of California, plastic is banned from supermarkets.

When we first arrived in
Denmark, I vowed to learn to speak Danish.

Didn’t happen. I’ve learned
to read and understand quite a bit. My vocabulary has expanded and my
pronunciation is somewhat understandable to a tolerant native. But speaking
full sentences? Expressing more than the basics: Where is [the bathroom]? What time is it? How do you say … In most
cases, Danes reply in English. But the majority of grocery store clerks still
greet me in Danish and ask if I want a receipt.

The elevator continues to require
an act of faith to step into, but my heart rate kicks up only about ten beats
instead of twenty. Flexibility. Resilience. The little steps matter.
Going to the airport is the
next big step. We’ve opted to go by taxi because of our luggage—too much to
handle on the train. We’ve about accepted the fare—almost a quarter of one
airline ticket. We congratulate ourselves on our adaptability. The fare still feels outrageous …

We leave on a Friday—bedlam at
the airport as we know from our earlier flight to Scotland. We’re flying on a
budget airline. The gates are practically in Germany. We’ll probably worry
until we board about what we’ve forgotten. Maybe our new-found flexibility will
extend to asking, What difference does it make what we’ve forgotten?
Because … the one huge change
we soon embraced after our arrival?

We can live quite comfortably
with far less “stuff” than we have.

If we had to walk out of this
apartment with nothing but the clothes on or backs, our medications, our
wallets, our passports, and nothing else—not even our laptop—we’d get along

Have you spent an extended
stay in a foreign country?

What was your biggest

Did you feel a bit smug about
your resilience to new customs, food, language, etc.?

AB Plum and her alter-ego,
Barbara, have spent the summer in Denmark, making sojourns to Scotland and
Finland. The first trip required a great deal of flexibility to resolve some
immigration issues. The second trip required a whole new mindset relative to

Despite a few turbulent days,
Barbara will meet her deadline for publication of Crazy Daze and a Knight, a romantic comedy exploring a second
chance at love.
Available on Kindle August 27.


by AB Plum

Everyone would probably agree:  travel requires flexibility.
Moving to another country for three
months demands a lot of flexibility.
As I am learning during my three-month
great adventure in Copenhagen. (It’s not all about the pastries).
The first big flex point for me came
as soon as we reached our apartment.
As a walker, I always check out
places to walk. Quiet streets, little traffic, and sidewalks on both sides of
the street appeared promising.
Until … I realized bicyclists had
their own routes running parallel to the sidewalks. And cars could park halfway
up on those same sidewalks. Which, by the way, were blocks of two rows of cement
blocks side by side, separated by three-by-three cobblestone squares running
down the middle. Grates, front steps, and boutique displays occupied the space
next to the buildings. Another walker coming toward me left about two inches to
navigate. Damp or dry, those cobblestones were treacherous.
Time to flex.
Luckily for me, a cemetery is about
a quarter of a mile from our apartment. I figured out if I walked early in the
mornings, I avoided most pedestrians, bikers, and parked cars. When I walk to
and from the train—about half a mile from the apartment—I still clench my teeth
a lot. Nonchalance comes with time and practice.
Another flex point came with
settling into an apartment without a dishwasher in a kitchen about half the
size of my own. Hey, I grew up with my sisters as co-dishwasher. I could cope.
Hands in sudsy water might even generate conversations with several stubborn
Cooking with a minimal number of
utensils (as in 1 skillet and 1 sauce pan) tapped some ingenuity as did a
refrigerator with frost on the walls. (Yes, I contacted the apartment owner. He
suggested turning the temperature from 2 to 1 not worry). Okay …
Elevators have never appealed to me.
In a building over a hundred years old, they creep me out. On the other hand,
the two days the elevator stopped operating and I climbed sixty-six stairs to
my penthouse apartment, I could hardly wait to test my claustrophobic fears.
Now, I step into my vertical coffin,
compartmentalize my terrors, and bend my knees each time we lurch to a stop.
Flexibility is good for the body and the soul.
My biggest challenge?
My new laptop. The touchscreen
drives me crazy. I realize this technology has zip to do with living in Denmark
or anywhere else. But … I feel as if I’m in hell every time I try to access my
email, touch the wrong note, and end up looking at something I intended to delete.
I have seriously begun to doubt that I do, in fact, possess opposable thumbs.
Flexibility only extends so far.
Plum aka Barbara Plum is spending the summer in Denmark, putting the finishing
touches on her latest romantic comedy, Crazy Daze and a Knight, due for release
in mid-August.