Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: 1/20/17

Friday Fare is where I post links to the random articles that have resonated with me during the week.

The Interwebs were full this week with random, wacky, and good.

This week, the Mystery Writers of American (MWA) released their list of Edgar Award nominees.  At the end of last year, they announced the Grand Masters for the awards ceremony.  This article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press featured the work and career of Minnesota’s Ellen Hart.  (Related, here’s the list of “30 Essential” crime reads written by women over the past 100 years.)

One more shout-out for a Minnesota writer.  Nora McInerny Purmort has written movingly about her husband’s struggle and ultimate death from cancer.  Last year, she published a memoir “It’s OK to Laugh (Crying is Cool, Too)” and recently wrote a first-person account for Cosmopolitan magazine about how she started over after her husband (and father’s) death.

Last week, I talked about not quitting your day job.  So which authors actually make a living out of writing and sell (hundreds of) millions of books?  See here.

A hilarious “missed connection.”

Two food related bits … first and foremost, the Dubai-based chef that has become an unlikely Instagram hero.  (Seriously … he’s amazing.)

Finally, how can you go wrong with whiskey, chocolate, and salted caramel?


Listening:  I may just need to rename this section after Sturgill Simpson.  Because he was stunning.  Again.  He didn’t light the stage at 30 Rock on fire, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.  Check out “Call to Arms.”  In.cred.ible.

Reading:  As evidenced by the multitude of links above, I didn’t have a lot of time to read this week, apparently … sigh.

Fiction Update:  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand apparently I haven’t had a lot of time to write either.

Happy weekend!

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: 1/13/17

Friday Fare is where I post links to the random articles that have resonated with me during the week.

A lot of writers dream of quitting their day job in pursuit of a full-time career in writing.  In short, this piece reminds us to not quit our day jobs.

A literary agent shares six lessons learned from their first full year of working in the field.

And not writing related, but this recipe (and coffee … lots of coffee) has gotten me through a wacky week.

And speaking of coffee … the bassist from Megadeth is starting a coffee shop in Jackson, Minnesota.  I see a road trip in my future.


Watching:  Typically, I don’t watch a lot of television (beyond delightful shows like “Phineas & Ferb”, “Tom the Tow Truck”, etc.) but I’ve caught the first two episodes of AMC’s “The Night Manager” on Amazon Prime.  And it’s good.  I think I’ll need to find the original John LeCarre book for further inspiration.

Reading:  I’m still on my reading jag.  Finished “Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys …” by Lucinda Scala Quinn (Verdict: Meh.); “Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter” by Kate Clifford Larson (Verdict: Better); and just finished “Winter’s Bone” by Daniel Woodrell (Verdict:  Uff da.  Will need to read that one again.)

Fiction Update:  Earlier this week, I talked a little about some character issues I’m having.  Otherwise, I’m still slogging through my draft of “Dragonfly.” 

Happy weekend!

Fiction, Process, Uncategorized

Meandering (and some musings about character)

I originally crafted this post on Sunday, January 8, 2017 – just getting around to hitting “Publish.” Hope you’re having a good week!

Currently listening to: Blue by The Jayhawks (Seriously … I think this is one of the most perfect songs in existence.)

Current view:

Actually, I’ve remedied the empty coffee cup, but … details, shme-tails.

Saturday/yesterday was spent with my kiddos – trying to burn off energy in January without incurring frostbite.  I think we had a successfully exhausting day.

My bears. And their matching hats.
My bears. And their matching hats.

Since hubby got a day to himself yesterday, I am at my local Caribou Coffee and I’ve been noodling over some character issues.  Not my own (although – Lord knows there are a few), but the fact that the love interest in my novel “Dragonfly” is rather … erm, vanilla. And while I like vanilla (give me vanilla ice cream over chocolate any day of the week.  [unless it’s chocolate peanut butter and then eff vanilla]), in the context of my character – that means he’s bland.  Or as my fellow writer friend Jessica astutely observed “he’s a character who’s surrounded and overshadowed by other much more interesting characters.” Uff da.  Not good for the love interest.

There are books devoted to the issue of character development, so this post is by no means a “quintessential” overview of writing engaging characters.  (If you’re looking for someone who knows a lot about craft and character development, check out K.M. Weiland’s site “Helping Writers Become Authors.”) Here’s a look on how I’m “fixing” Mike Emerson.

  • Developing backstory.  Backstory is like salt – a little bit can enhance the flavor quality of a dish; too much can make it unpalatable.  One of the challenges of writing is giving your character enough backstory to make that person feel real and dimensional, but to subtly weave these nuggets in the story (see: “show, don’t tell” or more succinctly – don’t beat your reader over the head with a dead fish [I don’t know if that analogy even makes sense, but I digress …].)

    Here’s the other random thing about backstory.  There are things that I know about the character that will likely never see the light of day in my story.  And that’s OK.  My job as the writer is to know my character front ways and back.  Then to distill those images and that knowledge into something that the reader can get enjoyably lost in.

  • Physical description.  I’ve always had an idea of what Mike Emerson looks like.  And I think that I do a decent job of describing him in my draft.  In fact, I have a subfolder in my “Dragonfly” project folder for “Character Bibles.”  (Character bibles – I specifically have one-page sheets that I have sketched out for each of my main characters.  This includes details like height, weight, eye/hair color.  This can also include mini details of the character’s greatest strengths or greatest fears.  They aren’t necessary and I need to do a better job of referring to mine, but it’s a good way to ensure character details are consistent throughout your story.)  Along with the “biographical” details of my characters, I sometimes include pictures of people that “inspire” various characters.  For Mike Emerson, I’m going the “rugged / masculine” route and I have a couple pictures pinned on my Pinterest inspiration board for Dragonfly.  (And no – that’s not an excuse for me to troll the web for hot pictures of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Anson Mount.)

    So – why am I revisiting this issue to “fix” my character?  Well, sometimes when you’re in the thick of writing it’s easy to get lost in the midst of the forest’s trees.  I took a look at my Character Bible and pictures of “Mike Emerson” to revisit how I originally viewed Mike and to make sure I’m not straying too far from my character path.

The “final” thing I’ve thought about today are the quirks and attributes of my main love interest. That delves into how Mike Erickson walks and talks.  How he interacts with everyone from his landlord to his boss.  This is what boosts a character from something that’s one-dimensional to a character who will remind you of someone you’ve encountered in real life.

Mike Erickson’s quirks and attributes are informed by his background as a big city cop who has moved to a sheriff’s department located in a one-stoplight town.  (One challenge with this background is elevating this character sketch from a cliché.)  I’ve spent this morning building Mike Erickson’s inner world by mining my own mental catalog of various people that I’ve known and what makes them tick.

I feel like the time I spent this morning meandering about Mike Erickson was time well spent.  (Even writing this blog post – it helped to solidify some of the thoughts swirling around my head.)  So the next part is heading back to my SFD and imbuing all of these traits into Mike Erickson.  To take him from vanilla to something that’s been touched by a little bit of salt, pepper, chai, honey – whatever.  From bland to a bit more human.

And that’s what I’ve been working on today. 🙂


An update from Tuesday, just because I literally came across this.  This is what I’m listening to right now.  What’s sweet about this is at the very end of Sam Beam’s song, the extraordinarily competent and amazing interviewer is brushing away a tear.  Love the power of music.


Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: Happy New Year (1/6/17)

Friday Fare is where I post links to the random articles that have resonated with me during the week.

I was driving down to a charming town in southeast Minnesota to meet up with this guy and his lovely wife when the radio DJ announced that Carrie Fisher had died.  Afterwards, she played the “Han Solo and the Princess” love theme from Empire Strikes Back and immediately followed that with Paul Simon’s “Hearts and Bones.”  It was a perfect benediction for my sad heart.  I was probably too young when I discovered Carrie Fisher’s writing – I was a kid when I found a copy of “Postcards from the Edge” and received an education on the wit and prose of the woman I knew as Princess Leia.  And while the Interwebs and social media are filled with pictures of Ms. Fisher as Leia – Princess (1970s) and General (2016), my favorite roles are a toss up between her turn as the beleaguered wife in “The ‘Burbs”  (<– don’t judge me, I effing love that movie) or the jilted fiancee from “Blues Brothers.”  However, out of all the tributes that came out – this one, from her brother-in-arms and “space twin” Mark Hamill – was my favorite.


Listening to: This is literally what is playing right now on my YouTube.

Reading:  I can tell that I’m coming off of a successful writing jag – the desire to read has returned and I have a stack of books waiting for me at the library and several checked out to my Kindle.  This week I read Colleen Hoover’s “It Ends With Us.”  Chick lit is not typically my chosen genre for reading, but I literally could not put Hoover’s book down.  It had a great voice and a good pace.

Fiction Update:  This happened at the tail end of 2016.

20161216_180500I’m still doing some noodling in the pages to align the characters with where I want them to be, but the Sh*tty First Draft of “Dragonfly” is done.  I need to actually formalize my 2017 writing goals and will share them here once I’m done meandering them in my head.

Happy weekend!