What’s in your pocket?

I’ve carried a small Swiss Army Knife on my key chain since I could drive, over two decades. I replace it every few years when it gets dull or too banged up. I think this speaks to my pragmatism.

Ask any man what he carries everyday or what’s in his wallet and you’ll get a story about who he is: sentimental, minimalist, laborer or pack rat.

What does your character carry? How can that inform the reader about who they are? How can those items move the plot forward?

Betty is a worrier that’s been in many car accidents. Her car stocked with a sleeping bag, spare clothes, water, extra wiper fluid and jumper cables. This sets her up for survival when the alien invasion block her way home.

In the Dan Brown books, Robert Langdon wears a Mickey Mouse wristwatch. This informs his whimsical nature and potentially being a neophyte.

What do you carry everyday that informs your character?

Holiday Habit

A dear friend of mine reminded me of a one-act play I wrote in college. Like “White Hell,” it was also set at Thanksgiving.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my habit of setting stories during the holiday season. Here’s my rationale:

  1. Family and Personal Drama. Forced togetherness can amp up the tension, expose cracks in happy facades, and shine a light on childhood traumas.
  2. Reason no one is at work. I hate shows and movies where no one seems to need a job. How do you support yourself if you never go to work? Shouldn’t you be in school? Setting a novel at Thanksgiving or Christmas, gives me an easy excuse for why my characters have free time to find mischief.
  3. Shared Experience. Holidays have their own language and culture so the audience can collect with the characters quickly.

Ready for Winter

I don’t love cold weather, but I hate summer. I’m allergic to all things Iowa and spending time outdoors in the summer is miserable.

Count the Bald Eagles

I do miss going to the river and seeing dozens of Bald Eagles. The snow blocks out all the extraneous noise and all I hear through my Elmer Fudd hat is the dam churning, squirrels squawking and eagles chattering.

Started working on a new piece set in the Colorado high country during winter. My second novel-length project in which weather acts as a character. In White Hell, the winter storm acts almost as a villain, aiding the antagonist and creating another obstacle for the protagonist. In the latest piece, the weather and freezing temperatures are the catalyst for the inciting incident.

Currently Reading

I’m generally not a fan of writing books. There’s a whole industry devoted to aiding writers and scores of books about every minuscule aspect of writing. Most of them are nothing more than common sense packaged and marketed as a secret or revolutionary new method. Shenanigans.

I, however, have found this book to be very helpful in creating or clarifying character motivation and development. In my NaNoWriMo novel, I was struggling with one of my characters. Linus was flat and stereotypical. I really needed him to be something special to help carry the story forward. This book helped me find his motivation and make him whole.

The author’s also offer other “Thesaurus” books for emotions, negative or positive traits, urban or rural settings. I own most of them on Kindle, but cannot yet speak to their efficacy. What I really needed for the last book was a weather thesaurus to help describe the climate changes since I used weather much like a character rather than a function of setting. Maybe that’s the book I’ll write to enter the “train the writer” marketplace.


While working on a longer non-fiction piece, a professor once told me to add in the smaller details of my day; readers like the minutiae.

Juvenile Bald Eagle, Red Rock Reservoir, Iowa, January 2018

I didn’t believe him at the time, but after another decade as a voracious reader I appreciate the small things. It feels like voyeurism reading about a character’s bathroom habits or learning their favorite recipe for pasta sauce. It gives the mind a place to rest while processing the rest of the story.