writing characters

Meet My Character – A Blog Tour

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My friend and critique partner, the talented Heidi Noroozy, invited me to participate in a Meet My Character Blog Tour, where we talk about a character in one of our books. Today I’d like to introduce you to the heroine of my upcoming book FOREARMED.

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1.) What is the name of your character?

Callie Burns

2.) When and where is the story set?

It’s set in southern Arizona, in the desert country outside Tucson, and is contemporary

3.) What should we know about him/her?

Callie is a child psychologist who uses horses to work with troubled kids. She was drawn to this work because her childhood was marred by her father’s PTSD episodes. She also has intuitive abilities which help her in her work.

4.) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Callie finds a dying man while riding in the desert and becomes involved with finding who killed him. The police aren’t interested a dead illegal alien but her father fears the bad guys might come after her, so he insists on guarding her while investigating the murdered man. She’s drawn to the attractive Ranger who came to help, but has to keep her distance because he has very rigid views about people who try to sneak into his country. When one of her patients is threatened, she has to step outside the law and question her long-held beliefs.

5.) What is the personal goal of the character?

To live a quiet life helping children and find love with a safe, comfortable man. The last thing she wants is a repeat of her parent’s volatile relationship.

6.) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The title is FOREARMED

7.) When can we expect the book to be published or when was it published?

I expect to publish it as an e-book in December. FOREARMED should be available on Amazon and all the other book sites at that time.

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The following authors are next up on the tour. They will introduce their characters next week. Be sure to stop by their blogs.

Susan Schreyer, author of the Thea Campbell mystery series, lives in Washington with her husband, two teenage children, a couple of playful kittens, and the ghosts of an untrustworthy rabbit and a demanding old cat. She spends her “free” time writing stories about people in the next town being murdered. As a diversion from the plotting of nefarious deeds Susan trains horses and teaches people how to ride them, and when the weather gets to her she works in a veterinarians’ office. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Guppies Chapter of SinC, and is co-president of the Puget Sound Chapter of SinC.

Marsha R. West, who will be blogging next Tuesday, writes romantic suspense where experience is required. Her heroes and heroines, struggling with life and loss, are surprised to discover second chances at love. Marsha, who loves to travel, lives in Texas with her supportive lawyer husband. They’ve raised two daughters who’ve presented them with three delightful grandchildren. Her first published book, VERMONT ESCAPE, was e-released by MuseItUp in the summer of 2013 and her second TRUTH BE TOLD in 2014. Her third book, SECOND CHANCES releases from MIU in January  2015

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Desert photo:courtesy of Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/pmu4qpm

Categories: animals, blog hops, Books, Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy, healing, Horses, Mystery, riding, Romantic suspense, suspense, Uncategorized, writing characters | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Using Animals To Promote Plot and Theme

DJ Adamson.

My guest is D.J. Adamson, an award-winning author who has recently released her noir mystery novel Admit to Mayhem.  Her family roots grow deep in the Midwest where she sets much of her work. She juggles her time between her own desk and teaching others writing at two Los Angeles Colleges. Today she’s going to talk about how to use animals in your stories to reveal character and theme.

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I remember Stephen King once saying that if you were writing horror, you need to put a dog or child into the plot because the vulnerability of someone innocent creates horror without a need for a lot of words or description. In his novella Secret Window, the protagonist finds his dog on his doorstep, killed. Horrible! Immediately the reader feels the protagonist is threatened by someone evil. And the reader is waiting for the next horrible act. Blake Synder’s book Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need picks up on another animal use. Synder states that if the character does something nice, like saving a cat, then the character is immediately endeared to the reader. By the way, I think the Cohen Brother’s offered a giggle to Synder’s book by having their character in Inside Llewyn Davis literally save a cat and carry it around most of the movie. A joke the audience may not have gotten, but those of us who write immediately understood.

I use a cat in my novel Admit to Mayhem, a Lillian Dove Mystery series to do both what King and Synder suggest. I want the use of Bacardi to say something about my protagonist:

Cat Bacardi’s my cat, named for his brown and yellow coloring and my first drinking preference of rum and Coke. At the age of twelve, if you add enough cola, you forget all about the sweet tang of rum. Plus, Bacardi’s hair frizzed out from his body as if he’d stuck his claw in a light socket. When my hair was shorter, I’d woken up many a morning with that same look.

My protagonist Lillian Dove is a recovered alcoholic with a 5 year sobriety; however, sobriety is not a dominate theme in the book. This is not another novel about a protagonist that cannot keep sober (be it alcohol or drugs). Instead, Lillian’s objective in the novel and series is to take on life anew, with all its emotional, behavioral, and mystery challenges. With the description and affinity to her pet, I wanted the reader to get a feel for Lillian’s troubling past without doing a lot of backstory.

The overall plot of the novel begins when Lillian discovers a house fire and she becomes the only eyewitness to criminal arson. She is in jeopardy from someone who wants to stop her from identifying them. The plot is paced with events to create Lillian’s angst, but again, I wanted to offer my reader the vicarious ability to feel her anxiety and fear. So, I put Bacardi in jeopardy:

        It came to me then what was missing.

       “Where’s Bacardi? Bacardi’s missing.”

        “Who?”

        “My cat.” I got down on my hands and knees and looked under the couch. Dust bunnies but no Bacardi. “Bacardi, where are you?” …I got in my car and drove one block after another, up one street and then the next, calling his name out into the night… “Bacardi?” I followed behind them, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.”

        When I did get back to the condo, I couldn’t stay still. I searched each and every cranny I could think where he might possibly have crawled. Then I went back outside.

        I went without the Mustang this time. I walked and walked and walked the night away, calling.

        Several cats answered my calls. They patted quietly up to me purring as they rubbed against my legs. Others merely meowed back a hello. None were Bacardi. I know Bacardi’s yowl. It wasn’t until I came dragging back to the condo, exhausted, with a voice hoarse and feelings of failure that I allowed myself to truly take in the idea, “What if he never comes back? What if something bad happened to him?”

        Pike?

Pike is the major antagonist, and while Lillian may be threatened by Pike, and her mother may be threatened, having him possibly taken Bacardi is almost more than she can emotionally handle.

My novel is an amateur-sleuth novel which I classify as a soft-edged Midwest Noir. But no matter whether a writer is developing a conventional mystery, cozy, thriller or horror novel, the use of animals can help offer themes and provide movement of plot.

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Mayhem

 

With a contrary attitude to life and an addiction for independence, Lillian Dove admits she has not been a success in life. In fact, she considers failing as one of her addictions. Yet, when she comes across a suspicious house fire with a history of arson and murder, she instinctively attempts to help someone trapped. Lillian becomes the only possible eyewitness to criminal arson, and her life begins to spiral out of control.

 

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You can get Admit To Mayhem at:

http://www.amazon.com/Admit-Mayhem-Lillian-Dove-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00N1L0RVC/

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To learn more DJ and her books, go to:

Website:  http://djadamson.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/D-J-Adamson/154012774648993?ref=hl

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/@adamson_dj

Categories: animals, Cats, Mystery, writing, writing characters | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Top Ten Reasons I’m Thankful To Be A Writer

ElysaHeadShotRFP_4116.

Elysa Hendricks is the author of 14 full-length books, ranging from sweet contemporary to sexy sci-fi, as well as numerous short stories.  Her “real life” motto is: Boring is good. Excitement is vastly overrated, so she saves the adventure and excitement for the characters in her books.

In keeping with the season, today she is talking about the Top Ten Reasons She’s Thankful to be a Writer.

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With Thanksgiving approaching I thought I’d talk about some of the reasons why I’m thankful I’m a writer rather than a veterinarian or an artist. (Those were my other choices, but I I’m terrible at math and science, and the only thing I can paint with is words.)

10.  I’m thankful for my family and friends, because they give me a ton of bat-shit crazy material to work with. Of course, I always change the names and descriptions to protect the guilty.

9.  My health. Not having the stress of office politics or commuting in traffic keeps my blood pressure close to normal. And since I don’t go out much I’m not exposed to nasty germs. Of course, I do need to stop eating chocolate while I’m writing, and get up and move a bit before I meld to my chair.

8.  I love being able to spend hours online researching stuff without feeling like I’m wasting time. Even the time I “waste” playing Solitaire (the one game I play on my computer) isn’t really wasted. While I’m matching cards I’m also plotting the comeuppance of the villain or figuring out how to get my hero and heroine alone together.

7.  Wealth – cashing large royalty checks from the sales of my books. Well, I can dream, can’t I? A career as a writer might not be the path to monetary riches, but I’m more than compensated for my hard work in personal achievement and satisfaction.

6.  Having a vivid imagination, I can spend time in other places, times, and realities. I can climb mountains, fly planes and space ships, skydive, drive racecars and motorcycles, kill zombies or aliens, chase serial killers or terrorists, and have sex with a bad boy or two without taking any real physical risks or cheating on my loving husband.

5.  Being a writer allows me to work from home or anywhere I want. Under an umbrella on a tropical beach while a cute cabana boy brings me frozen Margaritas is my ultimate goal.

4.  When people annoy me I can write them into a story then torture and kill them without ending up in jail.

3.  I find it wonderful that being a writer I’m never bored or lonely. No matter what’s happening in my “real” life, I can escape into my fictional worlds. I can talk to my numerous imaginary friends and not end up in a padded room. They’re always telling me stories and nagging me to write them down. I often wonder what people who don’t write think about while they’re waiting in the doctor’s office or at the mechanic’s.

2.  I’m eternally indebted to my long-suffering husband who supports my writing and me. Otherwise I’d have to go out and get a job that pays money.

1.  And most of all I’m appreciative of the many readers who’ve told me how my stories have touched their lives.

These are just a few of the things I’m grateful for as a writer. What are you thankful for?

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Thomas Cash (TC) Riley is mad, bad and – dead. Killed in a one car-wreck, the twenty-nine-year old playboy is given one last chance to redeem himself for living a selfish, unfulfilled life and to determine his soul’s final destination.

To help his young daughter recover from the loss of her mother, Daniel Bishop, a widower who dislikes the country and is allergic to anything with fur, has moved back to his wife’s rural hometown to be close to her large family.

Katherine Sinclair, the local veterinarian and the single mother of an adventurous ten-year old son, is wary of the handsome newcomer. Once before she’d given her heart to a wealthy, charming man and she’d ended up pregnant and alone.

With the help of a lonely little girl and a brash young boy, can TC find a way to bring these two damaged people together? Can he remember his past and save his soul in the allotted time?

And can he do it all as a cat?

Excerpt:

“Mom, you’re squeezing too hard.”

JT complained, but Kat could feel him trembling and his heart raced in time with hers. She gripped his arms and thrust him out from her.

“That was the most foolish, dangerous stunt. You could have been badly hurt. If it wasn’t for this man. . .” Her voice trailed off as she looked up at the man now standing next to them. Her gaze traveled up his khaki-clad legs, skipped quickly past his slim hips over his broad chest to his face. The crowd of people – ancient, fussy Amelia Muellner with her troop of yapping Chihuahuas, George Baker and his hunting dog, young Timmy Widowski and his mother with his sick rabbit, and Missy Taylor and her cat – clustered around them, chattering and gesturing in excitement, faded away.

With the man’s body in silhouette against the sun, she couldn’t see his features, but like a stately oak tree in the middle of field of brambles, he radiated an aura of calm, of solid strength, someone to cling to when the weather turned mean and ugly.

Something twisted painfully inside Kat. Though her grandfather had always been there for her, in the last few years his health had failed and his mind had drifted to the past. She’d had to become the strong one, physically and emotionally. Then he’d died. Now there was no one in her life she could lean on, depend on, count on to be there for her when things got rough.

Anger at her weakness, her need for what she knew she’d never have sharpened her tone. “Thank you.” She saw the man recoil, but before she could start again, JT, fear forgotten jumped in without reservation.

“Man that was awesome, better than a carnival ride. Thanks. You saved my a -”

“JT,” Kat growled a warning.

“Butt,” JT amended quickly with a grin.

She stood, smiled and held out her hand to the man. “I’m Dr. Clark, Katherine Clark, Kat to my friends.”

A thrill ran up her arm as his strong, warm fingers closed around hers. With a nervous laugh she snatched them away. “Thank you again.”

“Daniel Bishop, and this is my daughter, Alana.” He laid his hand on the girl’s shoulder.

Kat recognized the name. He was Hannah Sager’s husband – widower. Try as Kat did, she couldn’t avoid hearing small town gossip. Hannah’s death had hit the close-knit Sager clan hard. Tall, thin, blonde, beautiful, brilliant and driven, Hannah had been the town’s bright, flaming star.

Kat had grown up with Hannah. As children they’d been inseparable, but after high school they’d grown apart. Still, the bond between them had never been broken, so when Hannah asked for advice on what to do about her future, Kat had encouraged her to follow her dream and take the job at a Chicago zoo. It wasn’t true, but the Sagers, especially Hannah’s mother felt Kat had only done so because she didn’t want any competition for her veterinary practice. After considering the Sagers almost a second family, their current enmity hurt. Though the Sagers didn’t have the social standing of the Sinclairs they were wealthy and powerful in the community, so Kat tread lightly around them.

Nor, according to gossip, were they accepting of Daniel. They blamed him not only for keeping Hannah away from them, but also as irrational as it might be, for her death.

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You can buy Must Love Cats at:

Amazon:  is.gd/mlcamazon04

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/366089

See the Video Trailer:  is.gd/mlctrailer01

Contact Elysa:

Web Site:  http://www.elysahendricks.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Elysa-Hendricks-Author/137316289643103

Categories: fantasy, Love, Mystery, Uncategorized, writing, writing characters | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Animals as Characters

Like most writers when working on a novel, I usually create detailed character sketches of the main actors in my stories. These will feature physical descriptions, often including pictures of people who look like the image in my mind. I also create family background, education, likes, dislikes, traumas, good times, and lots more. While most of this information never appears on the page, it is vital to envisioning a fully-fleshed character.

Since animalIMAG0335s often play parts in my stories, I also create histories for them, but most often I simply think of ones I have known. This is particularly true in my novel FOREWARNING. I modeled several of the animal characters on my own. In fact, in my first drafts I used their real names to keep their pictures in mind while I wrote. Only later did I change the names to protect the guilty. J

Even though the first horse we meet in Forewarning is named after my childhood buddy Star, she’s actually modeled after my husband’s horse. Like Koko, Star is a sweet, laid-back, bay Quarter Horse, who anyone can ride. Kasey uses her as an all-purpose horse, available to students and friends. In contrast, Paris, the escape artist, is a smart, high strung, energetic character, similar to my Portia. Her antics reflect how I would expect Portia to behave in a similar situation.

Goliath, Kasey’s faithful friend, is very similar to a dog we used to have. Tippy was a Border Collie cross and one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever encountered. Not very big, she nevertheless had the protective instincts (and bark) of a much larger dog. One time she even took on a Great Dane, who had to be three times her size, because she thought he was threatening one of the kids. We suspect her desire to protect may have caused her death. We came home one day to find the gate open and her gone. Later we discovered she had been hit by a car. Perhaps chasing an intruder?large__8489462528

The last animal directly modeled on one of ours is the cat Tiny. He’s a reflection of BK (barn kitty) who we acquired as a five week old bit of fluff. Like Kasey, I had been injured (by a friend’s horse kicking at mine and getting me instead) and was spending two weeks in a recliner with my leg elevated. My daughter brought home this tiny, scrawny kitten and he spent the first few weeks nestled against my neck. To our amazement, he grew into a monster of a cat with absolutely no fear of anything. Among other things, he loved to wrestle and play with our Siberian, Oreo. When BK was a kitten, the dog would let him crawl all over him, attack his tail, and even gnaw on a leg. As the cat got older and bigger, Oreo began to retaliate and the fun would begin. They really enjoyed playing with each other, although sometimes they got a little too rough for the house and I would have to kick them out.

If you were writing a story, do you have any animals that you’d include? Have any made a big impact on your life?

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Cat photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/vivalivadia/8489462528/”>N’Grid</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Categories: Books, Dogs and cats, horse personalities, Horses, Romantic suspense, Uncategorized, writing characters | Tags: , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Fear and How You See the World

© Forca | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Forca | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

A few posts ago I talked about Horses and Victims–about fear distorting how an animal or human deals with the world. Sometimes the reaction is a result of an over-sensitive individual having to put up with unaware or uncaring people, such as with my horse Glory. Sometimes it is a result of direct abuse. Recently I encountered an unexpected reaction which came from the latter source.

Last month I self-published a short story titled IMAGES – A LOVE STORY. Before I put it up I had several people critique and edit it. Everyone thought it was a sweet tale and seemed to enjoy it. Except for the last person who saw it. Her reaction totally astonished me.

My friend was extremely upset by the story. She thought the hero was manipulative, had ulterior motives and was not to be trusted. Going through it page by page, she pointed out all the suspect things he was doing. I was blown away by her interpretation of his actions. I would never have thought that about someone without a compelling reason. And frankly, she was amazed at the intensity of her reaction too. I’d really hit a hot button for her.

It seems she had been molested as a child and, even though she has been happily married for many years, that has skewed her view of men. Also, she has a daughter who has been in an abusive relationship, and she has worked with a battered women’s group. Talk about a different background from my nice, safe, sheltered life!  While I understood where her response was coming from, I didn’t think most people would feel the same and didn’t change my story.

But the incident pointed out again how differently people can react to the same stimulus. I’ve entered my stories in contests and received both perfect scores along with quite low scores in the same contest. Some people seem to really like my writing and others don’t. I’ve only gotten a few reviews for my novel, WYOMING ESCAPE, and mostly they’ve been quite good. But I did get one person who didn’t like the heroine at all–thought she was wimpy. Other people have admired her guts. As the saying goes, “different strokes for different folks.”

All writers go through the same thing and have similar stories. But it’s interesting to speculate on what provokes such opposing opinions. What happened in the reader’s life to cause this reaction? Hmm, fodder for a new tale?

Have youCover - Images - 2 encountered a really off-the-wall reaction to anything you’ve done? Were you able to discover the reason for the response?

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If you’d like to read IMAGES and compare your reaction to my friend’s, you can find it for Free on Smashwords.

You can also find WYOMING ESCAPE on most online bookstores.

Categories: abuse, battered women, Books, fear, horse personalities, Horses, romance, Uncategorized, writing, writing characters | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Horses and Victims

Glory #2Lacy cowered in the closet, her arms wrapped tight around her legs and listened to the footsteps coming closer and closer. The door swung open and she tried to scream but she couldn’t make a sound as the knife descended.

We’ve all read and seen variations on this scene, a victim, usually a woman or child, too frightened to do anything to help themselves. You’ve probably felt that way a time or two in less dire situations. I know I have. Interestingly, people aren’t the only beings that react this way. Horses and other animals often do too.

Today I’m going to finish my series on horse personalities and how they connect with writing novels. Since it’s been a while, I’ll do a short recap. Horses can be generally classified as four personality types. The extrovert-thinker compares to the typical alpha hero—confident, outgoing and brave. The extrovert-reactor is similar to the smart-ass heroines—emotional, reacting before thinking and taking chances. The introvert-thinker is more like a stalker villain—quiet, careful and determined.

The fourth type is the introvert-reactor—horses who are easily overwhelmed by their emotions. My horse Glory is a typical example. An extremely sensitive Thoroughbred, intended for racing, she was apparently handled inappropriately for her personality and was too timid to fight back. Instead, she shut down and stopped reacting to anything at all. She was very well-trained and my instructor had recommended I get her as a school master for learning dressage. (For learning an intricate skill such as dressage it’s best to have a horse that already knows what to do and can teach you to do it right.)

She seemed very sweet and obviously knew her stuff, so I decided to take a chance on her. And she ended up teaching me much more than I ever expected. It soon became apparent that she was very different from any horse I had handled before. Not only was she so sensitive that she hated being brushed, she was unexpectedly uptight, but expressed it in an unusual way. While most horses act out in some way if they’re upset, she shut down and turned it inside. During one of our first rides, we weren’t communicating well and suddenly she got a nose-bleed. When this happened again in different situations, I realized this was a stress reaction.

The thing that I found oddest was how afraid she was of making a mistake. I was used to horses trying to do what I asked and if it wasn’t quite right, we’d just do it again. Not Glory. If she thought she’d made a mistake, she’d either get a nose-bleed or stop and start shaking, obviously expecting to be punished. This fear carried over to the trail. Another horse could spook big time at something unexpected and she wouldn’t move a muscle. It was eerie.

I almost gave up on her the first year, she wasn’t much fun. But gradually she started being less uptight and we began to communicate better. It took a lot of years for her to really trust that she’d found a safe place and it was okay to express opinions on things. Now she will boss around the other two horses and she doesn’t worry about miscues. Now she really is MY horse and I am her person.

I’m so glad that girls and young women are being taught to stand up for themselves nowadays. We’ll always need helpless victims for our stories, but hopefully they’ll be less common in real life.

Have you encountered a situation where you froze and were unable to react? Do you use helpless victims in your stories?

Categories: Books, dressage, horse personalities, Horses, suspense, Trail riding, training horses, writing, writing characters | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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