Thursday, April 15, 2021

Defining Characters

Source: Geeden blog

How can an author create characters who are distinct individuals? The obvious answer is to know them. Many writers interview their characters, write their backstories, and get to know what events in their lives molded their current personalities.

When I ran across this Left Brain-Right Brain image, it helped me determine what characteristics might be grouped and represented in different individuals. (Both halves of the brain actually work together.) I made a chart of the characters in my current work-in-progress (WIP). Half of the characters jumped out as displaying more Right-Brain traits. Two showed more Left-Brain functions. And two presented with characteristics of Both.

I also considered Introvert vs Extrovert and filled in the chart with this characteristic. Knowing my characters’ occupations and how they react with others helped me determine which labels applied.

Then I analyzed the chart, and patterns emerged (Left-Brain behavior). I noticed my Right-Brain characters are Extroverts, and my Left-Brain characters are Introverts. One Both-Brain character is an Introvert, the other is an Extrovert. My WIP characters are four couples. Only one couple is mixed Introvert and Extrovert. The same couple is mixed Right and Left Brain. I wonder if these patterns exist in the general population or only in my imaginary book world?

Characters in Forever After: A Detective Scott McGregor Mystery

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Happy Anniversaries!

Today I celebrate two anniversaries – four years since I began writing (Camp NaNoWriMo April 1, 2017) and two years since I began retirement (April 1, 2019).

What have I done since those milestones? Published books and traveled the world.

How will I celebrate? No telling, but I’ll call if I need to be bailed out of jail.


Sunday, March 21, 2021


I’ve reignited my reading habit. I used to read two or three books a week but somehow stalled during the pandemic.

I grabbed The Caller: An Inspector Sejer Mystery by Karin Fossum from my dusty to-be-read pile. I was amazed at her skill layering in backstory and subplots for multiple characters. Fossum moved smoothly between multiple point-of-view (POV) characters in the same scene – something I’ve been taught not to do. I don’t know if writing styles have changed since the 2009 publication, if the difference in technique is due to the book’s Scandinavian origin, or if this is the author’s personal style.

Reading The Caller demonstrated lessons from an online class I just finished. POV, internal dialogue, backstory, descriptions, deep dives into thought processes and emotions, etc. all shone from the pages. I have frequently run across the advice to read – a lot – to improve your writing, and this book supports that advice.

The reading habit should be instilled early in a child’s life. My favorite children’s literacy program is AHHAH’s Pop Up Lending Library (PULL) Station campaign. View the PULL Station photo gallery to see these artfully decorated boxes which are filled with free books. If you want to build your own PULL Station, download a how-to manual.

Develop (or strengthen) a healthy Spring habit – Read!

Monday, March 8, 2021

Celebrate Everything!

The pandemic lockdown began one year ago in mid-March. I was attending my first ever book-related convention, Left Coast Crime, in San Diego. The convention shut down the first day.

Recently, the occasional bouts of cabin fever have hit more frequently. I’m burned out on online meetings, and writing doesn’t fulfill my need for escapism. Television, the great time waster, leaves me feeling restless.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Celebrating the little things will re-ignite my interest. And March has many things to celebrate – first month of the year starting with an “M,” daylight savings time change day, St. Patrick’s Day, the beginning of spring, and birthdays.

Millicent Hart’s birthday is March 26th. I won’t be throwing an invitation-only gala with formal dress, champagne, and hors d’oeuvres, or inviting the characters from the first Detective McGregor mystery, but I can have a real birthday cake. I’m looking forward to it already.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Valentine Gift

Silver Thaw by Wayne Woodcock

This year I gave myself self-care for Valentine’s Day.

Permission to kick back, relax, and enjoy the simple things. A conversation with a friend. A walk in the park with my dog. The beauty of nature in a silver thaw.

Permission to replace self-criticism with self-acceptance and to be proud of small accomplishments. A productive writing day. Meeting two writing goals in one week. That’s the “trick” to accomplishment – setting goals and meeting them.

I’ve strayed from the literary path and lost the daily writing habit. I stopped setting small, easily-attainable goals. Without the structure of a writing habit, my progress has floundered.

Baby steps will lead me back to productive writing habits. I can’t write a novel today, but I can write 500 words. And I can do it again tomorrow and the day after. For at least five days a week. Writing daily keeps the story fresh in my mind so I can be more productive with less stress.

These are the lessons I have to keep re-learning every time I stray off the writing path.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Sluggery Basics

When I was asked to create an online class based on a short fantasy piece I wrote for an anthology a few years ago, I was hesitant. But OmniOcademy “offers a whimsical interactive approach to education, entertainment, and enrichment,” so I felt my topic would fit right in.

I hit the internet and began researching slugs. I found some wild and crazy reproductive behavior, but I wanted to keep the material family friendly. Although Sluggery Basics: Raising, Training, and Showing Your Slug is based in fantasy, many scientific facts are included. The early chapters apply the pet care of dogs and cats to slugs. Later chapters equate slugs to horses.

It’s been stressful developing the Sluggery manual, taking a serious online writing craft class, working on the third Detective McGregor draft, and trying to have a life all at the same time. Now that the writing class is finished and the Sluggery manual is organized and under control, I’m less stressed.

In the last couple of days, I’ve seen the course come alive online. An intro page for the course exists on the Ocademy website. I’ve seen content from the first half of the course online. Today I watched the newly created introductory video. I’m excited.

Now I’d better get back to work and finish the remaining chapters.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Killer Suspense

Recently, I’ve been exposed to the richly layered and textured plots of other writers through Sisters in Crime (SinC) online classes and by beta reading a critique partner’s manuscript. In comparison, my plots are simplistic but seem to work well within the format of the short novel and the novella previously published as the first and second cases in the Detective Scott McGregor mystery series.

Detective McGregor’s third case, Forever After, is a suspense / thriller. The reader knows who dunnit from the start but learns the what, the why, and the resolution of the crime as the story evolves. Mastering suspense techniques will make the story shine.

Fortunately, “Killer Suspense,” a SinC online class taught by Simon Wood, begins next week. Simon will teach techniques for creating and maintaining suspense throughout the book that keeps the reader turning the pages. I’m looking forward to an intensive and rewarding class.

At the moment though, my greatest suspense is whether I’ll finish writing the Sluggery Basics manual before the Academy of Omniosophical Arts & Sciences online classes begin in early February.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year!

Historically on New Year’s Day, I’ve either made resolutions for the new year—that I usually don’t accomplish—or review the successes from the prior year. But 2020 is metaphorically in the rearview mirror, and my recommendation is: DON’T LOOK BACK!

2020 went out with a bang for me personally, though. On December 31, I was notified I won an award* for a story I submitted.

My 2021 calendar is already packed with online writing craft classes. And my publisher has me on a strict production schedule. (I’m going to stick to it, even though I love the Whoosh! of deadlines screaming past.) I owe her a project by the end of January – a ten-lesson training manual: “Sluggery Basics: Raising, Training, and Showing Your Slug.” The course will be presented online through the Academy of Omniosophical Arts & Sciences. My course description and qualifications can be viewed on the Preceptor (instructor) page.

My casino-themed book release party for the second Detective Scott McGregor mystery, Murder Goes on Vacation, was originally scheduled in January at my favorite English tearoom. Life intervened, and rather than having an online launch party, I’ve postponed it so my friends and family can meet in person.

Wishing you the best in 2021.

* Participation award. Everyone who submitted a story for the zoom Christmas party is receiving a prize. I’m guessing it will be a coffee mug with the writing organization’s logo on it.