Tag Archives: character

Creative Solutions for the Modern Writer

Harmony Kent is a dear friend, and a colleague over at Story Empire. She has a new book out that is designed to help us with our fiction. Make her feel welcome today, and use those sharing buttons.

Hello everyone. Harmony here. I’m excited to share my latest non-fiction book with you all today. Huge thanks to Craig for hosting me today.


Creative Solutions for the Modern Writer does what it says on the tin (or cover, lol), and offers tools to fire your imagination. With chapters on things such as using chess and tarot to develop stories, plots, and characters—as well as adopting the principles of nursing triage, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, horoscopes, and more—this little guide is full of fun tips and tricks to get your muse working overtime.


This excellent writer’s companion is available on pre-order now in ebook. And both ebook and paperback go on sale on October 9th.


Here’s an excerpt for you:

It’s lovely to meet you. This book is all about getting you writing and keeping you going, as well as offering aids to idea generation for your plots, characters, and story premises.

Before we begin (in the spirit of all great procrastinators) …



Apologies for the awful pun, but I’m sure for many of you, this bit of fun rings a bell or two … or three …

Experienced author, editor, and proofreader that I am, I still experience occasional challenges in getting going and/or keeping going. At such times, I’ve found it’s useful to have a few tricks hooked onto my writer’s tool-belt. Even when we have a great idea and know what’s expected of us, we can struggle to dirty that first, pristine, blank page …


With the help of this guide, as well as adopting a regular writing practice and developing good habits, you will have plenty of tools to get you out of any imaginative rut.



Author Bio

After spending around thirteen years as an ordained Buddhist monk, living in a Zen Buddhist temple, and six years after a life-changing injury following a surgical error, Harmony Kent returned to the world at the tender age of forty.

Now, she is famous for her laughter, and has made quite the name for herself … she’s also, um, a writer … and fairly well known for that too. She’s even won a few awards. Harmony lives in rural Cornwall with her ever-present sense of humour, adorable husband, and quirky neighbours.

Harmony is passionate about supporting her fellow authors.



Website: https://harmonykent.co.uk/

Story Empire (co-authored): https://storyempirecom.wordpress.com/

Amazon Author Page: author.to/HarmonysBooks

Twitter: @harmony_kent

LinkedIn: Harmony

GoodreadsAuthor Page

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/harmony-kent

Creative Solutions Pre-order Link: http://mybook.to/CreativeSolutions




Filed under Writing

Detour Trail, on Lisa Burton Radio

Coming at you with 1.21 jigawatts of power, all across the known universe and dimensions you’ve never even heard of, this is Lisa Burton Radio. The only show out there that interviews the characters you love to read about.

I’m your host, Lisa the robot girl, and we’re broadcasting remotely today from the field just outside my studio. This is because, my special guest today can’t fit inside the little Airstream that houses the studio. “Welcome to the show, Jake.”

“Lisa, Hi! Nice field, by the way.”

“Thanks. Now for our listeners out there, you’re actually a mule. Can you tell me a little about your parents?”

“The first thing I remember is my mother–she was a beautiful red mare–red roan they called her. She was so beautiful and gentle. She taught me manners–and to be careful around humans. My father? I only saw my father once; he was a big black jack–blacker than me, but I’m even bigger than he was.”

“So how did such a noble creature as yourself, wind up on a wagon train during the westward expansion?”

“I have to tell you about Tommy first. I belonged to Tommy; he raised me and trained me and taught me tricks. ‘Course I trained him too, and he talked to me, even when the other kids made fun of him. We went to school and to the store and everywhere together.

“But then Tommy’s father heard that a woman was in town buying livestock and supplies for her wagons. I knew Tommy’s folks needed money, and Tommy’s mother wanted to go back home–that was way back east. Tommy explained it all to me and showed me pictures of houses back east–not like the tiny dark cabins out here–and no trees. His mother looked happier in those pictures. I could see that–maybe more than Tommy. He loved it here. We’re settling the frontier, he said. But they needed money, and his mother made him understand that a mule wouldn’t be happy because there’d be no room for him there. Not enough grass either, I think.

“So Tommy led me to town; it took longer that way, and I nudged him a few times to tell him he should ride, but he shook his head and kept patting my neck as we walked along together. At first the woman told us that she didn’t need any more animals; I could see the other animals and chickens, and it didn’t look like she needed us. Me. Tommy turned away and wiped his eyes; we both thought she’d be better than a mule skinner or farmer. But Lorrie’s friend Star talked to her, and Tommy told them how smart and well-trained I was. Then he said that they needed me more than he did. The two ladies looked at each other; I could see that Lorrie was still undecided so I lipped her jacket and snuffled Star’s hair. I could tell they liked their horses and were good to their livestock. (Well, Sunny told me so.)

“They discussed my price after that; I didn’t understand the numbers, but Tommy seemed pleased until he turned and looked at me. He took me aside and explained what was going on, though I knew that already. Then he said good-by, and we all watched him walk away, but soon he began running, and I could hear him sobbing as he headed for the woods. I knew he wasn’t going home yet.

“Star knew more than Lorrie about loading me so she kept adding packs until I told them that was enough. You can say a lot by stamping your feet and shaking your head. Tommy could read me real well, and I knew I could teach them. When I remember Tommy, I remember how he took care of me and taught me things that I still use…”

“Lorrie sounds nice, but it almost sounds like she has her own problems getting out west.”

“Yes. I learned more about her from the horses, Sunny and Shadow. She was traveling with her uncle on a big wagon train, but he was killed by a thief who was after his money belt. Well, after that, the wagon master told her she couldn’t go with them, of course, because she was all alone. She needed to go back east and find a husband to take care of her. That made her mad, they told me. She even stamped her feet later, but she was polite to him. Naturally Lorrie didn’t agree, so she waited for another train. It was getting late for taking the Oregon Trail, but while she was waiting, she learned about a black couple–runaway slaves maybe–other humans guessed. And then she rescued a brother and sister from bullies. Together they joined another train–with her niece and nephew and her people, she always explained. And she had her uncle’s money belt and bought a couple more wagons–they did break down–and livestock. That included me, you understand. And she added a human family later on.”

“It sounds like the makings of a pretty good story. Two characters with tragic backgrounds come together to accomplish something great. I’ve read your bio, and there is much more to you than pulling a wagon. You’re almost a watchdog for the group. What can you tell me about that?”

“Lorrie did need me–as Tommy told her–and sometimes when there was danger, she didn’t load me up at all. She talked to me the way Tommy did and explained her–our–plan, and I ran loose or skulked alongside the trail and listened. And when we visited that old hotel far off the trail, I could smell the blood and death, and I pushed her out of the barn and stamped on the wooden floor. It was covered with dirt and straw, but I could smell the blood and bodies beneath it. She looked down and walked away and put me in a stall that she made sure was unlocked.

“The danger didn’t always come from men. Blizzards could trap us too. She took chances when running low on supplies for her people, and she and the oxen were buried once. They kept her warm, but the tent was buried under the snow, and I dug her out. I wrecked the tent, but when we made it to the nearest ranch, the people there looked at the tent and me and nodded. I think they gave us both the credit…

“The men along the trail warned us about the chances of a blizzard because winter was a lot closer now, but you never could tell, they said, how the weather would behave. Safest not to take chances, but Lorrie had to keep her people safe and supplied. And the livestock needed hay too, so she took a chance with the possibility of a blizzard and the cold. When she was trapped under the tent, I could hear her coughing, and I knew I had to dig her out, but carefully, so I tugged on the tent and dug when I could feel my way. She hugged my neck as I backed away and pulled her out.”

“What else is there to watch out for? Are we talking Indians here?”

“Oh yeah… That’s when we met Grey Cloud. His companion, Brock, was ambushed by Indians–a different tribe from our own Indians. Grey Cloud was a big gray wolf, and when he came to our cabin, naturally I lit out after him. I chased him around our cabin a few times until he vanished into the woods and up the mountain. He came back with a bloody rag; I let him show it to Lorrie while I watched; and I stood guard at the cabin later after Gray Cloud led us to Brock; he was badly wounded, but Many Stars took out the arrows and nursed him. Life became even more interesting after that.

“Later, because Lorrie’s companions did worry about her, she sometimes took a human with her. Like when she heard about the people disappearing at an old hotel far back in the woods off the busy trails. She just had to find out what was happening and laid a trap for them. I was outside in the barn, waiting and listening too. A man came out and went after the horses with a knife, so I went after him…”

“It sounds to me like everything is dangerous. There’s the weather, the environment, the Natives. I’ll bet there isn’t a decent shoe store for weeks in either direction.”

“Funny you should mention that. There isn’t a store of any kind, and supplies are hard to come by…. Lorrie traveled back and forth along the trail; sometimes she’d hire a mule train. I went along as a guard, of course. And we got supplies further west from a fort and ranches.”

“Jake, it sounds to me like Lorrie, Sunny, and the others really need you. It’s so important to be doing meaningful work.”

“Thank you, Lisa. I knew you would understand. Speaking of that… now I have to go home; they need me. It was great talking to you, Lisa. It’s harder with humans, as you may know.”

“I understand, Jake, and thank you for taking time to tell your story to our listeners today. Any last thoughts for your fans?”

“Be kind and be careful–and don’t overload anyone’s pack!”

“Jake appears in Detour Trail, by Joy V. Smith. I’ll include all the deets on the website. Do Joy and Jake a solid, and use those sharing buttons today.

“I’m always looking for guests, so if you know of a character that would like to appear on a future Lisa Burton Radio, drop me a line. Stay awesome.”


Westward bound on the Oregon Trail, Lorena Emerson is alone after her uncle is killed by a thief trying to steal his money belt. Ignoring the wagon master’s advice to go home, she rounds up others needing help, and they join a later wagon train and are soon slogging through dust and mud and steep mountain passes. It’s a long way to Oregon, and because another woman needs her help, Lorrie again goes her own way, leaving the wagon train and the Oregon Trail to travel onward—off the beaten path—with her small group of wagons. She’s helped by members of her wagon train, people she meets along the way, and the mule, Jake, an integral part of the story. You’ll meet them as they join in her travels and encounters with enemies and as she searches for a new home and supplies as winter reaches out its icy hands…. Settling the frontier isn’t easy!


Detour Trail, is available from Melange Books, the publisher, and elsewhere online : http://www.melange-books.com/authors/joyvsmith/detourtrail.html



Joy V. Smith has been writing since she was a little kid; she loved to read, and she wanted to create her own books, so she did, complete with covers. Now she writes fiction–her favorite genre is science fiction–and non-fiction. (She loves settling planets and the frontier, which is why she wrote Detour Trail.) Her short stories have been published in print magazines, webzines, anthologies, and two audiobooks, including Sugar Time. Her books include Detour Trail, Strike Three, and Sugar Time (revised print edition) She lives in Florida with Blizzard the Snow Princess and Pemberley the tortoiseshell kitten.

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Filed under Lisa Burton Radio

Spotlight Author, Jan Hawke

I actually have a couple of Jan's book on my TBR list, Milele Safari and a compilation she put together called Dreamless Roads. I'm working in that direction, but you guys know how TBR lists get.

Jan is here today to tell us about Milele Safari.

Milele Safari – An Eternal Journey …twines around a single day, in an unremarkable border village that snuffs out the lives of four people and shatters many others, only to draw the survivors back to a different time and, perhaps, a hope of atonement and peace. Step out on the journey and discover an Africa that could have been, is and might one day come to be.

Sophie’s choices

My pivotal protagonist in Milele Safari is Sophie Taylor, whose fiancé Tom, dies in tragic circumstances during the central incident that all the other main character storylines revolve around.

I didn’t know everything about Sophie at first and, believe me, it took a while to find out what her backstory was. If I’d had the chance to interview her, this is probably how it would have gone…

JH – Victoria Falls… sorry, Mosi-Oa-Tunya, holds a lot of significance for you. When did you first go there?

ST – It was for my sister’s wedding. I was fourteen and Claire and Grant were living in Zimbabwe, so they booked The Victoria Falls Hotel for the ceremony and reception (Grant was earning mega-bucks working in the Tobacco Exchange back then). The hotel’s a gorgeous place, like stepping back into the Edwardian colonial era. My parents loved it there, so we always started or finished our visits to Claire at the hotel, and flew via Vic Falls International.

JH – And the time you went there with Tom?

ST – (colouring slightly) That was almost 5 years later. I’ve got so many lovely memories of the southern side of the falls in Zimbabwe. That’s why I couldn’t go there in 2007 – I didn’t want to see the hotel again, in case it tarnished my memories. The Zambian side is more interesting anyway, for me. Like walking out to the edge of the cascades – you can’t do that from the Zimbabwe shore.

JH – It certainly is one of the most impressive sights in the world. Going back to your time working in Zambia, was this a gap year thing?

ST – It was, but also a lead-in to my university courses, so it seemed like a good idea to do some teaching assistant work with Voluntary Services Overseas. That all changed of course, after Tom was murdered.

JH – That must have been terrible for you. But why the switch from wanting to be a teacher to going to medical school instead?

ST – It wasn’t a snap decision exactly… I was all over the place after I got back from Zambia, first recovering from the miscarriage and malaria, and then I just fell apart basically – wouldn’t admit I was severely depressed until I broke down completely. Going to uni just wasn’t on the agenda for nearly a year. When I had got my head together a little, I decided that I was interested in learning more about psychiatric conditions and tropical diseases.

JH – Still a bit of a leap though?

ST – Not so much, really. I’d been seeing a lot of Youssef (Jettou, Sophie’s surgeon mentor) as he’d been coming to see me during his sabbatical and we’d been talking about PTSD (1) after I started the EMDR (2) therapy. Plus, both my parents were in the Forces in surgical teams, and Claire was a nurse with CAMEO (3). I was the black sheep of the family for not wanting to go into a medical profession!

JH – Youssef was a big influence on you, I think?

ST – A huge one, yes. When I first met him he was still recovering from a massive burnout that prevented him from carrying on as a mobile-unit surgeon with CAMEO. In fact, he came back to England with me to go into re-hab for alcohol abuse. He could see the signs of what I was going through and how it would lead into that downward spiral. I had no place to hide from him, because he’d been through something similar. He’s a world expert in malaria and yellow fever, and he really helped me get things in perspective over what caused me to miscarry Tom’s baby.

JH – Why was that, Sophie?

ST – (another blush) At the time I was blaming everything that happened on Teresa. She’d suspected I had a dose of malaria and had wanted to test me, but… Well let’s put it this way – I was so antagonistic towards her, I completely ignored her attempts to discuss why I was having so many abdominal problems, before she left for Tanzania. If I’d listened to her, even a little, then there might have been a chance that malaria would have been diagnosed sooner, and the pregnancy might have stabilised.

JH – You blamed Dr. Olatunde for Tom’s death too?

ST – Initially, yes. And if she hadn’t reacted to the situation in the way she did, then perhaps Tom wouldn’t have tried to intervene on her behalf so catastrophically. I couldn’t forgive her for a long, long time afterwards, as she was the catalyst for her own and Tom’s murders. It wasn’t until I met Henry and Helga Zimmerman in London 10 years later, that I began to understand Teresa’s background better, and how that influenced her actions that day.

JH – You were never close to her while you were in Zambia then?

ST – Lord, no! I barely tolerated her because she and Tom were thick as thieves. He used to get really mad with me because I was so rude to her – told me over and over that she was like his big sister. I saw her as a threat because I was jealous of how close she was to Tom.

JH – Even though she was a nun?

ST – I’m not proud of it! I was a stupid kid – what can I say… Plain old green-eyed monster.

JH – Well, thanks for being so honest about it, Sophie – that’s explained a lot!

ST – We can’t like everyone we meet at work. I don’t think she thought much of me either, but then she had more provocation. Can we have a break for a bit, please – I think I need a beer!

JH – Me too! Very thirsty work these interviews…


1 PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder

2 EMDR therapy – eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing. Developed in the late 1980’s, this type of therapy is commonly offered to people recovering from a violent experience and PTSD, particularly for war veterans, or victims of serious assault.

3 CAMEO – Co-ordinated Aid, Medicine and Education Organisation. An entirely fictional logistical umbrella group for several humanitarian organisations working all over the world.


Milele Safari – An Eternal Journey

Available on Amazon


Follow Jan Hawke on Social Media

Website: janhawke.me/

Twitter handle: @JanHawke

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Jan-Hawke-386239624841750/


Craig here. Jan is the Spotlight author at the Rave Reviews Book Club. This blog tour is one of her benefits. As a member, I get the benefit of hosting her and we both gain exposure. If this sounds like a club for you, please check them out at this link RRBC. Tell them I sent you.


Filed under Writing

Kill it with fire

Lisa* helped me into my editing jacket, and I was joined by Doubt the raven. We had to make our final character pass through The Playground. This pass involves Gina who carries the paranormal burden in the story.

Doubt pecked my hands raw, but I think I’m about finished. I love all my stories, but at this point in the game I never want to see them again. Am I the only one who feels this way?

Cover art is probably a month away, then I’ll ask for some advance readers. These people are encouraged to kick my butt and give me a chance to fix any failures I may have missed. I think it’s nice to share the artwork with advance readers.

Reminder: I am not seeking readers today. We’re just hanging out and complaining about editing.

Here’s what this story involves, in case someone is debating asking for an advanced copy.

My personal goal was to write three different stories that weave together to tell a complete one. There are three different point of view characters. I got this idea from the movie Pulp Fiction.

The story involves a business man who makes a new social media for children. He places the Playground Network inside a sequence of dolls and plush toys. At some point before chapter one, he realizes the power he has over our children. One of his soldiers is in every home. He turns to the occult to accelerate his plans.

Chloe is the character who represents the victims in this story. She acquires her ultimate dream of a Playground doll, and goes into a downward spiral under the influence of the network.

Gina is a cancer survivor and doctor. Her life is broken at the beginning of the story. She winds up being the only person who can stop the Playground Network from taking over. She doesn’t know what she’s doing, but has a capable mentor. Her story involves demons, the fae, and conjuring a dead oracle.

Clovis is a thug hired to retrieve stolen Network hardware. He’s bigger, tougher, and has a head start over Gina. He’s brutal and not afraid to use harsh tactics. (He was a lot of fun to write.)

This is a paranormal story with some science fiction sprinkles on top. I’ve looked at it until my eyes want to fall out. I’m sure I’ll love it again when it’s time to send out copies. Watch this space for the announcement.

It feels good to finish something. Yeah, it’s a phase of something, but it smells like victory.

Doubt is back on his perch, the paranormal office is dark, and it’s time to beg Lisa to let me out of this jacket.

*Lisa Burton is my personal assistant, and spokesmodel for Entertaining Stories. She’s also a robot.

PS: This is a prescheduled post, but I’m doing a quick update. The Cock of the South just cracked the top 100 in it’s subgenre. It’s been out there for over a year, and I’m sure it’s fleeting, but good news is welcome at any time.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,416 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)


Filed under Muse, Writing

Verbal Tics. Do you use them?

I use verbal tics in my fiction. These are little tells that can reveal background, character, or even eliminate the need for a dialog tag.

These tics are never part of my main character, at least they never have been. I reserve them for supporting characters. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

In Wild Concept, Lisa makes friends with a tattoo artist/biker dude. He tends to replace the words ‘has’ or ‘have’ with ‘gots.’ He might say, “We gots to go to the Sheriff’s auction tomorrow.”

This reveals a bit about his upbringing, and possibly about his education. When he drops a line like that, I really don’t need a dialog tag after I’ve set the stage.

I used a cast of thousands in The Cock of the South. (Okay hundreds, but it sounds so Cecil B. Demille I had to use it.) As a way of making a supporting character stand out, I gave him a verbal tic. Roald the dwarf comes from a different part of Europe than the rest of the cast. I chose to introduce his Swedish accent in dialect, but drop it for ease of reading. Therefore, he winds up ending a lot of sentences with “by golly.” He might say, “We can’t leave until we get them cows milked, by golly.”

I think it’s a fair way of reminding readers that Roald isn’t from around these parts.

I’ve done it again, by golly. (Sorry) In my new project there is a character named Wally who is a computer whiz. He tends to end most of his comments with ‘yeah’ in a questioning fashion. It might look something like this, “We’re going to the Sheriff’s auction, yeah?”

It gives me the impression that he’s looking for approval, and adds a bit of character to his section at the same time.

So how about it? Does anyone else use verbal tics when they write dialog? I’ve never done it with more than one character at a time, because it could get annoying. If you don’t use them, would you ever? Why or why not?


Filed under Writing

Is it a breakthrough, or a breakdown?

Our best laid plans didn’t work out. I figured a party on the Basque block would make for some good blog fodder. The appeal, for us, was the paella. This is a saffron rice dish made with clams, chicken, and chorizo. The pan they use is large enough for several adults to slide down a snowy slope. I own a paella pan that could hold a fair deep dish pizza, for comparison sake.

My wife got a text from a friend. The line was two and a half blocks long, and it was over 100 degrees in the shade. We went to one of our favorite little dive places for beer and a steak, and air conditioning. I may have to make my own paella if I can find the correct rice. You have to use the right kind.

This is a long winded way of saying I need a different topic today. I decided to make it about writing, in a round about way. I’m going to talk about Alice Cooper again. You can substitute your favorite balladeer.

Music is a great source of inspiration for me. I find ideas everywhere, but rarely talk about music. I grew up about the time disco became popular. My friends and I all hated disco music. We owned copies of Aerosmith Rocks, and every album Kiss ever put out. Alice Cooper was always my personal favorite.

After the concert Tuesday night, I downloaded a whole bunch of Cooper’s music. These are the album cuts I loved when I was younger. My vinyl, eight tracks, and cassettes are long gone. I may still have a CD lurking around somewhere.

Cooper was fortunate to work in an era where the album was king. Several of his albums tell a story from start to finish. This isn’t possible in our one-song-at-a-time era. In fact, From The Inside may be one of the greatest albums of all time.

Listening to this music as a writer puts a whole different spin on the music. Sure, Cooper has the advantage of sound and chords to inspire different emotions. I have to add emotion in different ways, but I get more words to tell my tales.

When I listened to the song The Quiet Room something struck me. This album is about being inside an insane asylum, and was based upon an alcohol rehab stint Cooper lived through. The lyrics are: How long have I been gone? Did winter kill the lawn?

It hit me; this is all about character. Who asks if winter killed the lawn? It tells me a ton about the character without having to go into incredible detail. Five words and I’m completely sucked in. Now I need to figure out how to do it myself.

Another song is called I Might As Well Be On Mars. It’s about a man who loves a woman who rejected him. He’s on the roof of a building looking at the stars. He looks down and sees cars. The setting is magnificent. What will he do? Is he a jumper? He spots the woman through the window of her favorite bar. I’ve been that guy. I was enamored of someone who never knew I existed.

There’s a lesson here about more than setting, which was great. It relates to me on a personal level. I’ll bet almost everyone has been in that situation at one time or another.

It’s a blog post, so I’m only going to touch upon these two songs. Sure, Cooper is all about dark humor, and there’s plenty of that in other cuts. The guy recorded with Vincent Price before Michael Jackson knew what a zombie even was.

I heard that good stories are all about delivering a powerful emotional experience. (PEE) I’m the kind of guy who has to see it happen before I really get it. I may be on the verge of a breakthrough here.

Emotions can be any kind as long as the reader gets sucked in. It isn’t only about love. Rage, fear, pity, disgust, lust, and depression are all emotions too.

Okay, one more. There is a love song called Millie and Billie. These two are batshit crazy, and they know it. Cooper presents the tale from deep point of view. (Think dialog mostly.) They know they’re crazy, but don’t understand why the things they do are wrong. There is no authorial intrusion, it’s all from the character’s point of view. No preaching allowed or needed. It’s a boy and a girl, I can relate, I follow along. I don’t relate to what they did to her husband, but it’s too late to back out now. I think this is good storytelling.

Note: I also had an epiphany. I hadn’t heard this song in twenty years. I may have borrowed a line from it in one of my upcoming short stories. The difference is I used Mason jars instead of baggies. I’m going to leave the sentence in place. Those of you with an advance reading copy can search “Mason jars” and find it.

I don’t know if the lesson is about a great hook, a PEE, setting, or what. I feel like I’m about to have a writing breakthrough. Maybe I’d better turn on my music and let Alice take me to Hell again.

How about you guys? Is there a lesson here? Is there more than one? Weigh in, maybe you can clarify my breakthrough.


Filed under Writing

Pets in fiction

Charles Yallowitz made a post the other day that really got me thinking. You can check out his post here.

I didn’t realize how many animals I write about. In my mind, they can really enhance a story and provide a few options along the way too.

People have deep connections with pets. This is good, because readers are people. Your pet character can be a source of great emotional pull. Emotions are like rocket fuel to a story. That’s easy to say, but hard to do for someone like me.

The first pet I ever wrote was a giant dog named Pigger. He’s in both of my trunk novels. These are trunk novels for a reason. I free wrote them with no idea what a plot was, or what a character journey should look like. When things got a bit dry, Pigger entered the story. He was the comic relief the story needed. Imagine a big battle scene followed by a narrow escape. Pigger runs through the short grass tossing a dried rhino turd in the air, begging someone to chase him. He’s happy to be alive and wants the main character to be happy too.

I also wrote a whole chapter from his point of view. Try it some time. It isn’t easy, but he rescued his master from a locked mausoleum.

When I wrote Wild Concept my use of a pet was important. Lisa Burton, the robotic main character, knows she’s going to get broken down and studied after her experiment ends. She rescued a huge rabbit that was headed for the butcher shop. The similarity to her own plight demonstrates a lot of her own mindset. Bunny winds up defending himself against a cat. (Think 40lb rabbit with huge back and leg muscles vs. 12lb kitty. The mule kick was awesome.) Lisa thinks, Bunny fought back…hmm.

Lisa also lived alone. I didn’t want page after page of internal thoughts. Turns out she’s an obsessive pet owner, and talks to Bunny.

I didn’t go pet crazy in Panama, but there is a white horse that doesn’t like co-main character Ethan Stafford. Towards the end there is a huge Panamanian beetle that takes up with Jinx, a supporting character. His big scene is to tap out shave and a haircut to alert someone.

I have to admit dropping pets from Arson. I had an alien race that were pretty primitive, but they can think and speak to a minor degree. Therefore, not animals in my mind.

In The Cock of the South, Gallicus the cockatrice fills a pretty big role. He’s a combination, rooster/snake/dragon. He and the main character share similar wounds when they first meet. I had him act somewhat catlike in a few scenes. He’s a great comfort to the main character, and also provides a few world building scenes. Then there is his big scene and he delivers.

In Will O’ the Wisp I used a fox. The fox is there throughout the story, but doesn’t become important until the very end. It makes a statement about the main character’s evolution and provides a certain cute factor all at once. (Right when the story needed a cute scene too.)

In my mind, pets are supporting characters. You can make them main characters if you like, but I don’t. They can serve as a metaphor, comic relief, backup to the main character, and all kinds of uses.

I don’t believe in killing the pet character. I can see why authors do, because it can really galvanize a main character. (Make sure your readers will weep when it happens.) It can also symbolize the beginning of something new in the main character’s life. I just think it’s been done to death, and look for an alternate way. I’m not saying I never will kill a fictional pet, just that I prefer something else. I even went so far as killing my main character instead. I won’t spoil it and tell you which book. (Trust me it’s good.)

Right now, I’m writing another dog character. He’s with another loner, and provides something to talk to. He gets a few funny moments, and a few heroic ones too.

Ethan’s white horse was just a horse. He was a breathing prop in the story. Bunny, the rabbit filled an important role. Once the animal goes from prop to pet you can never go back. From that point on you have a new character. Remember to include them in your scenes.

Pets work well as plants that payoff late in the story too. A dog can pee on a bully’s pant leg at exactly the right time for your main character to fight back. The dog knew it was time all along. He might even pitch in if needed.

Granny’s pet toad can say volumes about Granny’s secret membership in the local coven. You probably won’t even have to spell it out. (Spell, I crack myself up sometimes.) The old house cat can deliver a human ear to your main character to start the mystery rolling. The mynah bird keeps repeating some nonsensical phrase over and over. Turns out it’s an important clue to your mystery, and his dead owner used to say it.

Crank up the emotions by having your character rescue an abused animal. Remember to let the animal pay her back

Lisa & Doubt

My blog isn’t immune either. Doubt, the raven, is a regular on my blog. Where would my editing be without a healthy portion of doubt. Is that a metaphor?

Try adding animals to your stories. Even Mad Max had a dog and that was pretty dystopian.

Do you write animals into your stories? Are they pets or props? Tell me about them in the comments.



Filed under Writing

My roller coaster day

I had two goals this weekend: First, I wanted to get through edits on Will ‘O the Wisp, Second, I wanted to finish a book I’ve been reading.

It’s another bachelor weekend, and it sounded realistic. I never got to the story I’m reading. I wonder if all writers go through this?

I started at 7:00 this morning. I was part way through the edits, but the document was 193 pages long. Let the horror of that statement sink in for a bit. Okay, they were electronic pages and the numbers change depending on how I hold my iPad, but still…

God, I suck! Why did I ever start writing?

God, I suck. Why did I write this piece of garbage?

I don’t think this rule is right?

Spend three hours with The Purdue Owl, and other sources. Some of the rules are flexible. They’re more like guidelines, Arrrggghhh.

If the rule is flexible, I like my method.

Oops, I was really wrong here. God, I suck.

Consistency, consistency, consistency; even if I’m consistently wrong. Do I suck at this?

Wow, that was a good passage. Go back and read it again. That was the opposite of suck.

Oops, I’m supposed to be editing, not enjoying the story. I mean, I know how it ends.

Put a comma in, take a comma out. I hate rules.

Did I really think that up? That was really creative. Keep reading.

Back to the editing. This isn’t so tough.

Read three chapters and really enjoy them. God, this is a good story.

I hope people will read this, it’s really good. Back to editing.

Doh! How did I duplicate a chapter number?

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Editing is like being a character in one of my stories, only without bullets and hair loss.

Back to The Purdue Owl. Okay, I’m wrong.

This is the best story I’ve ever written. I’m a rockstar!

It’s 7:00 PM and I’m finished. I took an hour break for a sandwich, and to sandblast my eyeballs. I’d like to get back to the book I’m reading, but I don’t think my eyes will let me.

I am so grateful to the person who helped me with this. I’m more of a big picture kind of guy. Plot and characters are more appealing to me. The microscope work is not my forte.

Sure, I have to read through it again (more than once), and another friend offered up some structural comments that should really help. Still, I’m happy. This is going to be an awesome story, and it’s suitable for young adults. I’ve never written one that I thought was completely safe for the younger crowd.

Maybe I’ll tackle my reading tomorrow, but I have an appointment with Smaug and Bilbo in the afternoon.


Filed under Writing

Meet the Main Character Blog Tour

Ali Isaac passed the baton to me for this blog tour, and I’m pretty excited about it. She just released Conor Kelly and the Fenian King, and has been blog touring like mad. I read the first book in this series, Conor Kelly and the Four Treasures of Eirean, and thought it was wonderful.

She has a wonderful blog where she writes about the history of Ireland along with her writing adventures. It’s worth reading too, and is one of my favorite blogs: Ali’s Blog

She decided since I’ve just released Arson, it might be a good tour for me to participate in. I’m thrilled, and thanks Ali.


“Hi, Perry, and welcome back to the writing cabin. Have a seat and we’ll get started,” I said. “It looks like I have seven questions to ask you. The first one is, your name and are you fictional or historical?”

“Perry Wolfe. Arson is a science fiction story, so fictional, I guess.”

“So when and where is this story set?”

“It moves around a little. It starts out in the Pacific Northwest, but moves to a secure planet called Quantico II. The government owns it and all the cities are training facilities for different agencies. It was just too far from Earth to provide services without another base. I wind up living in Glynco II as an ATF cadet.”

“What should the readers know about you?”

“I’m one of those guys who lost everything. I was an elite space firefighter, called a space walker. One stupid accident, and I’m uninsurable.” Perry pulled the collar of his tee shirt aside and showed me the scar, about the size of a silver dollar. “I’m too young to spend my days watching GNN and talking about the good old days, so I applied for my sister’s old job with ATF.”

“You’re setting me up for the next one. What is the main conflict, or messes up your life?”

“You saw the scar. That’s an ebullism, there’s no pressure in space. If you get exposed to that, you can boil in your own gravy. Mine was a routine oxygen tank change. We practice this stuff, it just happened while I was in a zero G environment. My sister was murdered, and I applied for her job at ATF. I can’t fight fires, but maybe I could investigate them.”

“So you made a career change, based upon your accident?”

“Yeah, the insurance company didn’t even give me a physical or an interview. They just stamped me as uninsurable, and my fire fighting days were over.”

I leaned forward and asked, “So what’s your personal goal?”

Perry leaned back against his chair and smiled. “There’s nothing like being a fireman. I’d give anything to get back to that. I even thought about moving to a different country where the insurance laws weren’t so tight.” He pointed an accusing finger at me and said, “But you seemed to think I need something else. Like I was wrong for wanting to be a fireman. I even passed the Captain’s exam and everything. I knew I couldn’t do the physical stuff forever and I planned to move up.”

“Sometimes characters are wrong about what they need. What can I say? Okay there are two more questions about the working title and when the story might be published. I published Arson last weekend, so we get two freebies. Who should read this book?”


“Come on, Perry. Give a reasonable answer.”

“This is for lovers of science fiction adventure. I get to visit a couple different planets, examine some fires, and chase my sister’s killer too. That was a pain. Her case is an FBI case, and I’m an ATF cadet. So, adventure, science fiction, a mystery. It’s a wild ride.”

“It seems to me there was a bit of romance too.”

“Um, yeah. That caused it’s own problems. Maybe not a story for kids on that basis.”

“Okay, we get one more freebie. Hot dogs or hamburgers?”

“Yeah! I’m kind of a big guy, can I have one of each? And maybe something cold to wash it down?”

“We can do that.”


 It’s time for me to pass the baton. D. S. Nelson is another one of my blogging friends. Regular readers will remember when she read my tea leaves. She’s the author of the Blake Hetherington Mysteries. Make sure to visit her and learn about one of her characters.

Twitter: @WriterDSNelson


Filed under Blogging, Muse, Writing

Putting New Work out There

I’m going to try an experiment. I’m going to talk about some television shows, and try to draw conclusions for novelists. This may not work, but I’m going to try it. I’m choosing television, because more of us are likely to have seen the same show than read the same book.

Besides, it isn’t nice to call out a novel, which is the work of one stressed out author. Television is a team event, and it feels safer.

The idea is that new work has to meet certain landmarks. The idea is to keep me interested. This feels the same whether it’s a program or a novel.

One caveat. I’ve made plenty of mistakes. Any of you who read Wild Concept probably noticed a few. I’m not perfect, but I can still talk about this stuff. I’m a sucker for Science Fiction, Paranormal, and Fantasy. These shows all fit that bill in one form or another.

Sleepy Hollow is our first show. Ichabod Crane is resurrected in modern times. He’s the only live character in the show that wears clothing from the 1700s. He’s a nice looking white fellow with a pony tail. His modern day partner is Abby. She’s an attractive black girl. Oh, and the main bad guy doesn’t have a head.

Ichabod and Abby have a cute relationship. He’s way out of date, and as she helps him there is a nice, nearly romantic, tension that gets my approval. There are a few funny bits woven into a darker story line. Most of the lighter parts take place in broad daylight, and the dark stuff happens at night. You would think this would be pretty obvious.

For the novelist here are the points I appreciate. I can tell the characters apart. Black girl, white guy, no head – got it. Nice mix of light and dark, in more ways than one. I like Abby and Ichabod. I will go out of my way to watch this next year.

Authors don’t have the ability to use those kinds of visuals, but we have an advantage too. At least every page or two, we have to write “Ichabod said.” Pretty hard to get lost or confused. We can weave in light and dark moments, along with light and dark settings. The trick is to make our readers like the characters they’re supposed to cheer for.

I don’t give up on a book, program, or movie easily. I used to watch a show called Copper. I gave it about three episodes and quit. The stories were pretty good. I had a hard time keeping the characters straight. They all talked alike, refused to shave, dressed alike, and the actors looked alike. After about the fifth time asking “Which one was that?” I was finished.

Writers can give our characters some quirks. As long as our names are distinct, we won’t have much problem. If needed, one of them can go everywhere with a toothpick or something.

Almost Human is a decent bit of science fiction. It involves a white male cop, John, who has a prosthetic leg. His partner, Dorian, is a black cyborg. These guys bust on each other like actual people. They aren’t marionettes simply following a plot. They each have a quirk that makes them slightly less than everyone else. John is a grouchy old school kind of guy. Dorian is high tech and does some surprising things. Great sci-fi effects here too.

As a writer, putting opposites together might be a good idea. There’s a stress between John and Dorian, but they have a common goal too. They’re willing to go some crazy places with the stories. When Dorian scanned John’s balls it was hilarious. I like these guys too. Likable characters, I want to watch more.

Turn is a new show. It’s about an American spy ring during the American Revolution. The characters are distinct enough. Abe looks vaguely like Tom Hiddleston. It’s easy to tell him from the others. The settings are mostly gloomy, even in daylight. I’ve never seen anyone happy in this show ever. It’s pretty easy to tell that the Americans are the good guys and the British are the bad guys.

Abe ratted out some redcoats. The only one that needed to die, survived. He’s in American hands, but it’s all over for Abe if this redcoat escapes. This particular redcoat is an asshole. This works for me. Tell me who not to like.

There are good points and bad points to this one. Abe has a wife and son. We’ve seen him philandering with the local tavern owner lady. This doesn’t exactly make me cheer for him. It was three episodes before they told me that two brothers were both engaged. Abe was verbally engaged to the tavern lady. His brother, in writing to the other woman. When Abe’s brother died. Abe married his brother’s fiancé to honor the contract. Things like this actually happened in the 1700s.

They needed to tell me this earlier. I wasn’t exactly endeared to Abe when he was unfaithful to his wife and son. I might have turned away and never learned the truth. This story line brings a nice tension, particularly when the wife gave her approval to the tavern lady.

As a writer, I think it’s important to define the villain and the hero PDQ. If everyone sucks, readers might look elsewhere. I’ll give this one a couple more episodes, but I’m not sure.

Salem premiered last night. This looks at the Salem witches as if witchcraft were real. John Alden is obviously the hero here, I just don’t like him. He left his love, Mary to go fight Indians. he didn’t return for seven years. Go figure, Mary married someone else. There is a plausibility problem here for me.

This guy left for seven years, never wrote, and walks in like nothing changed. Mary is the main witch now, of course. Everyone scowls, everyone’s dirty, and everyone’s violent. (Okay, Mary seems to stay clean, and she’s always in black.) I have no reason to like a single person in this show. There is a redhead girl with a charming smile. She’s the only character that smiled in a whole hour. She’s a third tier character, and I’m cheering for her.

They could have taken 30 seconds to show Alden doing something nice. Lift a kid up to pick an apple, pet a dog, something. Lots of scowls, dirt, and grumbling from Alden instead. On the plus side, there were some cool special effects. This includes the coolest place to hide your toad familiar I’ve ever seen.

Not only do the characters need to establish who they are, the concept needs to have some degree of reality. Seven years, and Alden expected Mary to wait for him? He didn’t even write. I’ll give it a few more episodes.

So as a writer, I want to define who the hero is, and who the villain is. I want the characters to be different from each other. I want to use a contrast between light and dark, both in mood and setting. I don’t want to base part of my story on something that isn’t realistic. I also don’t want to withhold some important information that might cause someone to give up on my story. If I can include a bit of humor, so much the better.

So how many pages do I have to accomplish all this? I’m guessing about twenty. I think there’s a need to establish something on every page up to that point. What do the real experts have to say about this?


Filed under Uncategorized, Writing