Friday, August 31, 2012



Do you put extra effort into making your characters interesting?

One of the best compliments an author can here is “Wow, you have such vivid characters!  I feel like I know them.  I was so sad when the story was finished, I want to know what happens to them after they got married/ saved the world / found the treasure.” 

I have received this kind of compliment on two different occasions.  Once, a person was just raving about everything I did.  “I love your story!  Your characters are amazing!  Why aren’t you on the New York Times best sellers list?”  That felt good.  The second time someone complimented the people in my story the person said this: “Well, your story sucked, but at least your characters weren’t flat.” 

Ouch.  But hey, you gotta take compliments as they come. 

It can be a hard thing to make well rounded people come up from the pages.  Sure, in my imagination, everyone I write about is really cool and complex.  The male hero of the last story I wrote is a perfect example.  He played with dolls until he was a teenager, added Frank’s Red Hot Sauce to everything he ate, and really enjoyed watching Irish step dancing.  The challenge is to sneak in this information.  I am mostly a short story writer.  How can I work all the wonderful quirks into 20,000 words or less?  Sometimes it is a hard thing to do even in a novel.  One of the main criticisms of Twilight was that Bella had no hobbies except cooking for her father and loving Edward.  How hard would it have been for the author to sneak in something to round out her main female character just a little bit?  As in, “Bella really liked bird watching and knitting, but now that Edward was gone, she couldn’t concentrate on either activity.”

I’m not being critical to Stephenie Myer.  Heck, she’s a billionaire, and I’m still working on my first stories.  But I do make my point.  Characters are people too.  They have their warts and their faults, their good sides and their weakness.  They have hobbies and interests.  Just because something is going on in their life (AKA: whatever you are writing about, also known as the story), they are still the person they were yesterday.  A mature writer will realize his hero can be a jerk and his villain will have a fondness for small, furry animals.  Nobody is all good or all evil.  When you write your characters, you need to remember that bit of wisdom.  You can also take that as tough men drink wine coolers, little girls in tutus play zombie killer, and the uptight school teacher has pierced nipples.

I once heard that a writer should write out entire family trees and back stories for their characters.  Then they should discard it and start writing their stories.  To me, that’s a lot of unnecessary work.  My trick for writing well-rounded people:  take your character and assign it three odd personality quirks.  The housewife will like to skydive, paint her toenails black, and she runs three miles in the morning.  The baker will hate the taste of chocolate, takes 40 minute showers, and never celebrate his birthday.   They don’t all have to be contradictions, just specific odd things about the character you are working with.  The goal is not to add these tiny bits of information into the story, just to have it in the back of your mind.    It’s quicker than writing character bios, but same idea. 

So write those well rounded characters.  Write about that darling little girl who kills her parents!  Write about that gang of teenagers who feed homeless dogs! Heck, write about grandmothers who knit sweaters for all I care. 

Just make sure they are listing to Death Metal when they are doing it.     



Picture credit,

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pinatas and Pigs

It’s been a busy last two weeks.  I have been faithful to my writing obligations. I have been working on my short story collection, Almost Midnight, almost daily.  I have been re-writing the weaker stories and editing the good ones.  This will truly be my first e-book.  I am super excited about getting it out into the world.  I am hoping to have a Christmas time release date.    But a writer does not live on words alone.  I have been busy in other parts of my life too.


This is a piñata.  I never knew I had a talent for making them, but I guess I do.  My oldest son turned 11 at the end of August.  His birthday party was done in a zombie theme.  We found great party plates and I got some really cool stuff for the goodie bags, but I couldn’t find a piñata anywhere!  Ok, ok, I found a VERY nifty one on etsy, but it was over $80.00. Piñatas are a big thing at my house, so it was my job as mommy and chief party planner to make one.  I think I did a good job.

Here is my daughter taking a whack at it.  It held up pretty well to the kids bashing it to little bits.


In other news, we also got two pet guinea pigs.  Desmond and Gizmo are their names.  They are super fun and were easy to tame.  Only problem we’ve had so far is our dog wants to eat them.  Other than that, they are a perfect fit into our little family. 


So that’s about it for tonight.  I will be writing again on Thursday.  I don’t know if anyone else has started to feel it, but fall is coming to our little corner of the world.  Tonight is my first night of my “back to the grind” schedule.     The kids have been talking about Halloween.  Our pool will be closed this week.  It’s bittersweet.  I do love summer, but I am so busy that writing almost takes a backseat.  I have more time in the fall even if I’m working more and the kids have school.   And more time to write is always a good thing. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The House at the End of the Road

The road wasn't on the map, but somehow they always find their way to my house when it’s time. 

She came in the morning.  I was on the porch, eating my breakfast of pancakes and tea.  When her car drove up the road, I immediately smiled to myself.  Her look of confusion was exactly the same as all the others. 

The engine stopped when she pulled into my driveway.  Slowly, she got out, and looked around.  I could tell she had no idea where she was.

“Hello there, can I help you with something?”  I asked her while hobbling down the porch steps.  Sometimes they knew why they were here and sometimes they didn’t.

She didn’t reply.  She was trying to get a signal on her cell phone.  I wanted to inform her it wouldn’t be any use to her here, but instead I repeated my greeting.

She finally acknowledged me.  “Can you help me?  Somehow I got lost.  Something is happening that is very important but…”

She trailed off.  I felt sorry for her.  I feel sorry for anyone who finds their selves at my doorstep.  Her long blond hair blew around her in the morning breeze.  She was young, maybe eighteen or nineteen.  Either way, she hadn’t been driving very long.  It was easy to get lost.

I spoke gently to her.  “Come, sit with me, and we’ll figure out how to get you out of here.”

She hesitated.  I laughed at her watchfulness.  She would be a hard one to trick.

“Come on,” I told her.  “I am an old gentleman, who wouldn’t even hurt a fly, much less a pretty young thing like you.  Besides, it was you who wandered on to my property.”

“I guess you’re right,” she said, reluctantly.

“Of course I am.  Come have some tea with me.  I’ll help you find your way again.  Do you have your map?”

“Map?” she asked.  “I have my cell phone.  It has a GPS on it, if I could just get service!”  With that, she thrust her arm up into the air, waving around that little contraption as if it could save her life.

“No service out here,” I told her.  “You might as well be signaling God.  Come on.  Grab your map.”

I turned back to the house.  I knew she would follow me.  They always did.

By the time I had sat back down at the table and poured her a cup of tea, she had rushed up on the porch behind me.  She grasped the map in her hands.

I gestured to the chair.  “Sit down.  Drink some tea.  Tell me what’s wrong.”

She plopped down in the chair across from me.  “Ok, I don’t know what is happening, but I need help.  Something is going on… something bad.  I am lost.  Somehow I ended up on this road.  I need to get home right away.”

“Why?  Do you remember?” I asked her.

She paused.  “I can’t.”

I nodded.  “That’s ok.  Lots of people forget things.”

“And you want to know what else is odd?  I have this map on my front seat, like you said I would, and I can’t even remember how it got there!  It’s a map of my home town, but it’s strange, like it was made just for me!  See?”

She pushed the map across the table.

“It’s nice,” I offered.

“But look!  My house is identified on the map.  It says ‘my house’ and it was printed right when the map was printed!  Nobody wrote that in with a pen! 

I shrugged.  “You can print anything you want nowadays.”

She dragged it across the table and looked at it.  “But why would I ever need a map of my hometown?  I live there.”

“Well, you’re lost now, aren’t you?  Have a drink of tea and let’s look at the map together.”

“Where am I?  I mean, what’s your address?” Hailey asked.

“Why is that important?”

“So I know where I am.”

I shrugged.  “My road isn’t on this map.”

“You’re not helping me much.”

“What is so important about going home?”

“I don’t know.”  I watched her try to remember what happened.  “Someone needs me.”


“My brother.  And my mother, I think.  I really can’t remember right now.  I need to get help.  I can’t even remember what I’m doing.  I need a doctor.”  She paused.  It was coming back to her now.  “Maybe there was an accident.”  She shook her head, as if trying to remember.

“You’re right.  There was an accident,” I told her.  “This morning, driving to school, there was a truck.  It didn’t even see you pull out from that side street.”

She remembered and the horror of the situation terrified her.  “No!”

“I’m sorry, Hailey.”

“How do you know my name?”

“Now, don’t be afraid.  I told you I was here to help you.  And I will.  Here’s the deal.  If you want to get home, all you have to do is get in your car and drive away. Use your map.  It will help.”

“What about mom?  And my brother, Trey?”

“Well, I’m sorry to tell you, Hailey.  They’re going to die.”

“No!  How can I save them?”

“Well, if you want to save them, you can. All you have to do is call to them, and they’ll come.  They’re wandering around in the woods right as we speak.” I paused to take a sip of my tea.  “Of course, it’s going to cost you.  If I let you drive away with your family, I want your soul.  You can have it as long as you live, but when you die, it’s mine.”

Faint voices could be heard in the background. 

Hailey stood up.  “That’s them!  I can hear them!”

I waved my hand over her tea.  “They’re ok.  They’re better than fine.  A-ok.  Drink your tea.  Take a moment to think about what you want to do.”

“I want my family and I want to leave!”

“Well, if that’s what you want to do… go ahead.  Just know your soul is mine when you die.”

Hailey sized me up.  I realize there was something different about this one.  She had a lack of fear in her eyes.  She was brave.  And, really, she was such a cutie.  She picked the map up off the table and tore it in half. 

“Forget it.  No deal.  I’m leaving with my mother and my brother.  You cannot have my family.  You cannot have my soul.  It is mine. I am not giving it to you.”

She kicked the table.  What was left of my breakfast spilled all over.  Her mug of tea, which I so carefully poured, shattered to the ground. 

“Now look what you did,” I told her.  “Ruined my breakfast and made a fine mess for me to clean up!  Oh, well.”  I made a big show of sighing and shrugging.  “You’re free.  Your mom and Trey are waiting for you in the car.”

Her head swiveled around.  Her mother and brother were waiting in the car.  Trey smiled and waved.

She turned her attention back on me.  “Are you the devil?” she asked.

I stuck out my hand for her to shake.  “Call me Damien.  The devil is more of a job description.”

She shook my hand with a powerful grip.  “Am I really free to go?”

I nodded.  “Once you ripped the map up, I become powerless.”

“No tricks?”

“No tricks.  I promise.  Go on with you now.  I have a mess to clean up and you have reality to get back to.  Good luck with your recovery.”


“You think you just found this road by accident?”

“No, but…”

“All three of you are on the brink of death.  You’ll survive.  Long recovery, though.”

Hailey nodded.  She walked down the steps to her car, then paused and turned around.  “Sorry you didn’t get the souls you wanted.”

“Hailey, I’m a very old man who will live forever.  I have plenty of souls already, and I will trick people out of plenty more.  You’re a good kid.  Have a great life.  Come visit me after you die.”

Her eyes got large.  I had to laugh at her again.

“Not to join my eternal soul collection.  Just to share a cup of tea.”

“Will do, Damien.  See you later.”

She jumped into her car.  I stood on the porch and waved as they drove away. 

I started to clean up the mess.  I picked up the ripped map and balled it into garbage.  It wasn’t destroying the map that made her powerful.  It was the tea, or lack of it, I should say.  Silly girl.  If she would have drunk her tea like I asked her too, she wouldn’t be driving away.  She would have had to make a choice.  Oh well.  When she dies, I hope she comes back to share a cup with me.  Maybe she’ll bring her family along too.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cleaning Up My Head

So today is my first “super serious” day back in the writing game.  I say this because last weekend I had a blast at my family BBQ, so no writing got done.  Yesterday I did write, but not as much as I wanted to accomplish due to my son’s piano lesson.  Today, I have totally un-interrupted writing time.    

So what am I doing?  I’m basically cleaning up my head of all the great scraps of ideas that are running around inside.  I have a few un-finished pieces of work out there.  I want to be able to complete them.   I don’t like leaving things unfinished.  If I have a great idea for a story—I mean a really awesome idea—I will eventually get around to using it.  It might take me years, but I do usually end up incorporating it into my body of work. 

On the TO DO list today:

1-      Finish writing this blog entry. 

2-      Work on House, my collection of short stories based on each room of a house. 

3-      Take stalk of what I have published.  Sort out what I want to publish on my blog and what I would like to see in print. 

4-      Read what I have done so far on my novel.  Make notes.

There you have it. A little heads up, on Thursday I will be posting one of my stories.  I am not sure of which one yet.  You will have to tune in to find out!

Friday, August 10, 2012


So last time I talked about failure, this time I would like to talk about ambition. 

Ambition is what drives artistic people.  It turns our dreams into our reality.  It takes ambition to put what we see in our brains onto the paper and out into the world.  Of course, we say we make art to reflect what we see around us, to process our lives, to find beauty in the world, blah blah blah.  Don’t believe what we say.  Artist are mostly show offs.   *We want other people to acknowledge our work. *   I didn’t say praise, mind you.  Art for beauty’s sake and art for shock value are the same.  We want a reaction from others.  Because we’re all needy like that. 

I am guilty of this.  My main reason to write is because I got the stories.  I got a head full of them.  I have a laptop full of half finished work, notebooks with character sketches, and a half a million ideas floating through my head.  But I write them down to share with others.  I want a reaction from mankind. 

Which leads me to my word of the day: ambition.  It takes a lot of it to be a PUBLISHED writer.  If I want others to read my work, I’ve got to do the work of not only writing it, but marketing it too.  I’ve done very well for myself so far.  I have a half a dozen or so stories published and a beautiful (if neglected for awhile) blog.  I’ve got a Facebook and a Twitter.  I’ve sent out submissions by the 100s.  My next adventure?  A youtube channel.  I’m going to read my work to the masses. 

So, this being my second blog post in two days, I’m going to say I’m back on track.  My ambition is showing itself after a four month nap. Welcome back readers!  Check in every Tuesday and Thursday.   I will update, with bonus posting every once in awhile.  I guess since this is a Friday, this is considered a bonus post.  I feel like I’m just making up for lost time. 

Enjoy your weekend!  I will be at a family camp-out all weekend.  I look forward to this party every year.  Monday I’ll spend recovering.  By Tuesday, I’ll be up and running (and blogging!) again.

Photo credit unknown. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012



Nobody likes the feeling.  Yet, we’ve all experienced it.  It is so hard to get up and get started once you’ve lost sight of your goal.  When the enchantment is gone, it’s hard to bring it back.  But here I am, trying to conger the magic again. 

I’ve been gone from my blog since April.  Right at the beginning of the A to Z challenge, I just…left.  What happen?  Did I get kidnapped by aliens?  Was I working on some super-secret project?   Could I have forgotten my blogger address???  What happened to Rebecca???

Uh… no.  I don’t have any kind of good excuse to why I gave up.  I have a few poor excuses.  First, I picked doing collages for the A to Z challenge.  Bad mistake.  A collage can be time consuming.   26 collages are VERY time consuming.  I did three.  Then we went on vacation.  Somewhere between sliding down the water slide and stuffing myself full of over-priced dinners, I gave up on those damn collages.  When I got home, after a week, I felt bad about giving up on the A to Z challenge.  So I just kind of gave up on writing.  It’s not a smart choice or a good one.  But it’s the choice I made.

What did I do during all that time?  I homeschooled my kids.  I worked.  I hung out with my friends, cooked huge dinners, and swam in the pool.  I took up running.  I wasted a lot of hours on Facebook.  Did I think about writing?  A little.  In all honesty, it was easier to put it out of my mind.  It was something I would do tomorrow.  Or the day after tomorrow.  Or next week. 

Now it’s August.  My work has suffered.  A lot.  Every month, every week, every day I don’t hammer away at this, I lose.  So today, I picked myself up and said.  “No more excuses.  No more failure.”

I am writing once again.