FREE–yes, Deep Down & Dirty Writing Secrets on May 6

A Treasure Trove of Writing Tips– FREE

From the Amazon blurb:

Writing advice that gets you started and keeps you going.

Wouldn’t you love to have authors reveal the secrets of their successes to you? You get that in this collection of essays, many by award-winning authors, and all of them fine practitioners of the craft. Their insights provide you with tools, tips, and encouragement for your own writing.

It’s already getting great reviews, don’t miss out on this helpful tool for writers.

Deep Down & Dirty Writing Secrets is FREE on Kindle on May 6th, 2020. If you miss the 6th, get it free again on May 20.

PS, Don’t confuse a free day with Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited promo.

Talking to Your Characters–a Study Proves It

Majority of authors ‘hear’ their characters speak, finds study

Don’t usually do writing tips here–they usually come on the Views blog. But it’s been busy over there, so a change up. Just finished reading this interesting article in The Guardian. It confirms advice from writers to others:

Listen to your characters. Talk to them. 

Not sure how well I’ve been following that advice. I often do wind up having unfortunately extended dialogues at 4 am. Too bad it’s more often with those I want to call and engage on some semi-important matter having nothing to do with stories. “Oh, if only I’d said this.” Or more to the point getting the put down words just so.

Anyway, here’s a few snippets from the article. If you’re a writer, you’ll want to read it.

Researchers at Durham University teamed up with the Guardian and the Edinburgh international book festival to survey 181 authors appearing at the 2014 and 2018 festivals. Sixty-three per cent said they heard their characters speak while writing, with 61% reporting characters were capable of acting independently.

“I hear them in my mind. They have distinct voice patterns and tones, and I can make them carry on conversations with each other in which I can always tell who is ‘talking’,” said one anonymous writer. “They sometimes tell me that what I have in mind for them isn’t right – that they would never behave or speak that way. I don’t usually answer back,” said another.

What about you? Do you hear conversations with your characters? Maybe I do, while I’m writing dialogue. I must confess I do annoy my wife at times when I come up with the next line of a TV show or movie we’re watching (only at home of course–never on those rare occasions we were at theaters before COVID-19 closed them).

I probably do run what comes next in a story through my mind as Joe or Sally is about to speak. More so when I’m editing. But after reading this article, I must be missing out on a lot. One more snippet for you.

The bestselling crime novelist Val McDermid recognised the phenomenon, but explained that she is able to exert a measure of control. “They don’t just pop up out of nowhere,” she said. “But when I’m working on a novel, I have conversations in my head with them. When I’m out for a walk, there are all sorts of interrogations going on in my head and sometimes out loud. But if I’m not working with a character, silence.”

If you are in the majority of writers who do this, be assured–you’re fine. The report on the Guardian notes that the researchers didn’t find that any of those interviewed had any problem with mixing fiction with the real world.

After I post this, I’m printing the article and keeping it handy on my computer desk whenever I’m working no a story.

#WATWB for April–Serving the Pandemic Heroes from Pennsylvania

We Are the World Blogfest

Pandemic Heroes

EMTs, doctors, nurses, and countless other frontline health workers are treating patients and saving lives, many at the expense of their own. You see them on your local or national news, the newspaper or the web. They are the true heroes. There are so many more behind the scenes that make it possible for those on the frontline to continue what they are doing.

Here’s just one other bunch of people making an essential contribution.

Workers clocking out at Braskem Plant
Workers clocked out on Sunday after spending 28 days at the plant making material for PPE. Photo from CNN article.

As reported on the CNN website, more than 40 workers at a factory in Pennsylvania volunteered to stay at the plant for four weeks. They slept there, ate there and worked twelve hour shifts making polypropylene, a raw material for making N95 masks–as well as medical gowns and other PPE equipment.

Workers in Texas and West Virginia also did the live-in rotations.

We can appreciate and thank all the people doing what they can to deal with the pandemic–in our hearts and in our prayers, if not personally at this point.

The cohosts for this month’s WATWB are: Eric Lahti, Susan Scott, Dan Antion, Damyanti Biswas, Inderpreet Kaur Uppal.

Deep Down and Dirty Writing Secrets

Cover of Deep Down & Dirty Writing SecretscreA Treasure Trove of Writing Tips

That’s what this book is. It’s already available in paperback, but let’s skip ahead to Kindle. It will be out on May 1.  You can preorder it right nowfor just $2.99.

 E J Randolph, fellow writer, invited me and 10 other writers to collaborate on this very helpful book for writers.

From the Amazon blurb:

Writing advice that gets you started and keeps you going.

Wouldn’t you love to have authors reveal the secrets of their successes to you? You get that in this collection of essays, many by award-winning authors, and all of them fine practitioners of the craft. Their insights provide you with tools, tips, and encouragement for your own writing.

The book covers fiction and nonfiction. It includes samples of writing techniques used across various genres and for all sorts of readers.

Here’s a small sample from three sections:

From Kris Neri,

Why Write a Series:

On a purely practical level, writing a series just makes sense. If a reader bonds with characters, she can’t wait to get back together with them. Think about TV shows. Don’t we love following along with the same characters and their challenges week after week?

A series creates instant repeat sales when your second and subsequent books are published. Word of mouth builds with each new publication. . . .

Readers aren’t the only ones who enjoy coming back to favorite characters. It’s also a boon for writers. As the writer of a series, you have the opportunity to develop your characters to a greater degree with each novel you write than you do with just a lone novel.


From E J Randolph,

Deep Point of View is a portmanteau term for techniques that connect the reader to your protagonist. This term itself is rather recent and encompasses several methods and perspectives that are increasingly employed by story writers. You use these writing techniques when you want your readers to immerse themselves in the fictive experience to the degree they feel they are the main characters. Research shows that readers’ brains process movement in fiction as if they were moving, so your readers are primed to feel what your characters are feeling and doing. All you need to do is capitalize upon this reality.

From myself on writing a memoir,

Tell the truth as best you know it. It’s your story — write it from your perspective. Inevitably, your life intertwines with others — family, friends, coworkers or bosses. You may recall conversations that depict issues you want to describe. Words spoken by others that reveal an impact on you. Events that make up a scene.

Can you recall the exact words spoken by you or another some decades ago? Maybe not. You do have a memory of their manner of speaking, their personality, etc. don’t you? It’s OK to fill in some dialogue and event details that you couldn’t possibly remember. But you must be authentic in how/what others (and you) would say in situations—that’s the truth required of you.


Muriel and the Water Buffalo

Been gone so long!

Busy, busy, busy. Too busy. Things that took priority. They’re mostly all done now. 

Then came the sign. Must get back to writing. Projects WAY overdue.

Let’s start with this. I’ll be back connecting with everyone too, soon. 

Jim walked into a backyard, an unfamiliar one. Unlike the one behind his house in the semi-arid Southwest. The one with limestone broken into shards by bear grass, prickly pear, mountain mahogany, and more. This yard had grass—short, but not brown. Two women, unknown to him, sat on functional but nondescript lawn chairs. He paid little attention to them; his gaze drawn to the white-coated labradoodle lounging nearby. One of the 40-something ladies introduced the dog as Muriel. He sat down at a metal picnic table 15-feet away, expecting Muriel to come and investigate. She ignored him. He might as well have been in Silver City, where the dogs are quite laid back, disinterested in strangers.

He went inside via the back door—two steps and a landing perpendicular to the house. He passed through the simple kitchen. He had to get into town—errands to run. Light poured in from a cloudless sky through the front window. Now late afternoon, the sun would be down upon his return. He began closing the shades then they all came in, unexpectedly. Immediate and extended family—out of time and place. His sisters-in-law Alice and Cindy. His daughter, Michelle, fifteen years younger than today, and his wife Wendy.

Alice said, “Some guy called me, trying to get hold of you. Said you owed $4,400 for repairs to a car you rented.”

“What! Why the hell did he call you?”

“I don’t know. Said he tried to reach you but couldn’t.”

“Sounds like bull. Phishing, most likely. I’ve had the same number for seven years. Did the guy leave a number?”

“Yeah, sure. Here, I wrote it down.”

“Ok, thanks—I’ll straighten this jerk out.”

Jim went just ten feet away, back into the kitchen of the tiny house. “This is Jim. Did you call my sister-in-law Alice, telling her I owed you money for repairs to a rental car?”

“Uh, what’s your full name and what was the amount?”

“Never mind my name–$4,400. Now you tell ME when and where this car was rented. I haven’t rented one in several years and never turned one in damaged.”

“The car was rented in July 2019, in Norfolk, Virginia—to a James Skidmore. It needed extensive repairs.”

“Well my name’s not Skidmore. Didn’t go anywhere in Virginia in 2019 and sure as hell didn’t rent a car there. Maybe you made an honest mistake. But if you call me or Alice again, I’ll assume this is a scam and I’ll call the authorities—got it?”

“Uh, well, must be a glitch in our system. We will do some research. Thank you, Mister . . . Jim.”

Done with the call, Jim turned to find an unknown man, juice glass in hand, asking if Jim could turn up the kitchen light so he could read the calendar affixed to the refrigerator. Jim took the glass and put it in the dishwasher before brightening the room.

At that point, time was moving on to make the trip into town. Wendy wanted to go along. They drove through the neighborhood’s narrow streets, turning here and there. Finally, they came to an intersection with a highway. On an incline, the car wanted to roll back down. A bit of a challenge managing the brake and transmission awaiting a break in traffic to make it through to the other side, going left. Odd, he thought, cars haven’t had that problem for a very long time–unless they had a clutch.

After a bit, they made it alongside a very narrow median, only to wait for three people walking on the area beyond the pavement. What are people doing on an interstate? He thought. Of course, it couldn’t be an interstate. Instead of proceeding on to town, he turned off down a slight slope to a body of water—a large lake perhaps.

He began driving atop the boulders that improbably seemed connected into a roadway. To the right, he saw a water buffalo a hundred feet away, grazing on what he assumed were submerged grasses. He looked ahead, seeing another creature resembling the first. but it couldn’t be. Somehow, it was munching on the skull of a monkey—partially covered with hair, or perhaps grasses. How could a water buffalo hold a monkey’s head?

Paying attention once again to his driving, Jim noticed the boulders growing further apart—too distant to drive on. He turned the car get back up the hill but soon they were mysteriously on foot—without the vehicle. They competed with others hiking on a narrow path to the road they had left moments before. Only now, the pavement had become a congested pedestrian way, leading toward a shopping area.

They found themselves walking on bricks next to a man holding an ice cream cone. The guy reached over to refasten a bandage on the back of Wendy’s left hand. Jim was surprised. Wendy said nothing, a puzzled look on her face. The fix didn’t stick. A few yards later, the man tried again.

Jim said, “Keep your hands to yourself, buddy,” and rushed Wendy along, turning past the fellow into a food and shopping area. In front and to the left, Jim spotted an area of tables, set ten to fifteen feet apart. People sat eating and drinking. Some were listening to light acoustic music coming from a tiny stage a few feet ahead,  set against a bookstore wall. Wendy headed to the restroom, walking through open spaces between the chairs.

Jim urged haste, “twilight’s coming soon.”

So ended the very, very odd dream of an early Monday morning. A sign. MUST get on with writing.

Motivational Mistakes—Publishing Promises

A Cautionary Tale

That 2nd short story collection won’t be out for the holidays.

Sometime in 2020. Maybe for summer reading—or maybe in the fall. I’ve made much progress, but lots left to do.

Also coming in 2020, a month happily lost to a 40th anniversary trip! Life beyond writing

Here’s the thing–perhaps a clue to those inclined to the mistakes I made:

  • A self-imposed deadline as a motivational tool
  • Well thought out (seemingly) steps with due-dates
  • Forgetting that stuff happens, bumping the agenda
  • So, an Eagle Peak Annual delayed three months by care of another and illnesses of my own
  • Extensive planning required for that 25-day trip in 2020
  • A week away to a Florida retreat in December—planned and booked a year before

One might suppose that some authors with several books out can reliably predict when the next one will be out. Others, not necessarily. Less likely is the writer who has published only two. That includes me.

Self-motivation and discipline are essential for an author—especially a self-published one. I have those. What I don’t have is a crystal ball to predict events that overcome a publishing agenda. So, if you have a life beyond writing, here’s my tip to you: don’t be too free posting far-off book releases. More so when few words have been written.

I have publishing goals for the next ten years (year by year). They need revising. From now on, I won’t confidently proclaim, many months in advance, when those books will be out.

Still, the least I can do is repost a poem from five years ago.

Meeting Death in the Kitchen

In the darkness before dawn, I see Death in the kitchen

Draping itself casually upon a chair, penetrating blackness beckons

Yes, come then, get your glass of water—you have time for that

Ahh—just a sleepy eye deceived, a sweater left behind

I must speak to her about that


Compassion begins at an early age #WATWB

We Are the World Blogfest

On December 1st, here is November’s We Are the World’s Blogfest post. 


Hatred must be learned–it’s not genetic. What about compassion?

Two children holding hands, walking up to the school door
Black and White, one consoles the other in Wichita

CNN offered this from affiliate KAKE on two young boys who became friends:

The first day of school can be nerve-wracking. Especially when not everyone has such supportive classmates.

Two elementary school boys in Wichita, Kansas, set an example from which we can all learn: a lesson in kindness.
Courtney Moore dropped off her 8-year-old son, Christian, for the first day of school and watched as he sat down on the ground with another boy who was crying in a corner, she told CNN affiliate KAKE.
“He was consoling him,” she told KAKE. “He grabs his hand and walks him to the front door. He waited until the bell rang and he walked him inside of the school.”
Christian’s gesture, though, was exceptionally kind. The other 8-year-old boy, Conner, has autism.
And while he was so excited for his first day of school, he just got overwhelmed with all the commotion, his mom, April Crites, told CNN.
Conner decided he wanted to take the bus for his first day, but it arrived a little early. The doors to the school weren’t open quite yet, so everyone was waiting outside. It was noisy and there was a lot of chatter.
“He gets overwhelmed pretty easily,” Crites said. “And he’s very emotional. Tears come when he’s sad, tears come when he’s happy.”

Co-hosts for November’s WATWB are:
Damyanti Biswas Lizbeth Hartz Shilpa Garg

Peter Nena Simon Falk

An Impossible Agenda

It’s not impossible, just challenging—getting that second short story collection out in December. Especially when there’s much still to be written!!!!!

Here’s a tiny tidbit on a short piece—The Cytherians. It’s not done yet.

“Thar, is that you?” Drax asked uncertainly, gazing at his own reflection. “It’s Drax.”

“Why yes, Drax,” Thar chuckled, offering his typical wiggle of first the left and then the right hand. “Where are you off to?”

Drax grabbed his elbow, pulling the arm half way across his body, “Off to the market. Jarry needs ingredients for the party. You know she can’t serve just anything,” he said, drawing a smile in the air in front of his own face.

“Ah, the party. We will be there of course,” Thar returned the smile signifier. “Anything we should bring?”

“Oh, just that wine Zandy makes. Everyone loves it you know,” Drax said. “I better get on with it, the sun is getting higher in the sky.”

“Right you are, Drax. Waste no time then. See you then.”

The Cytherians, by necessity, are a shiny sort of people. The planet is very near its sun. The surface is very hot–too hot for more than a brief visit from the underground cities of Cytheria. With a thin atmosphere, the UV rays could be fatal. But at times, the residents have reason to emerge in daylight hours. When they do, any exposed skin must reflect all rays which touch them. Of course they could wear protective garments to do the same, but they evolved before resources to create them were developed. So most continue to rely on their nude bodies, wearing clothes only for ceremonial occasions.

The mirrored surfaces pose a challenge when meeting one another face to face. A reflection of oneself is what each sees on the other. Only the distinctive shape of the other’s head, torso and limbs differentiates the image seen. Words and gestures make the most important tools for communicating. Body language works well enough for discerning residents of Earth but only in a limited fashion on Cytheria.


In case you missed the Eagle Peak Annual from September–here’s a link to the Works in Progress Article, with many more previews of the short story collection coming soon. 

BTW: this weekend is a wedding anniversary–so I may not be as quick as usual responding to comments. 

Wild Things Are Among Us

Bobcats, Snakes and Spiders

They were here before us and live here still. The cats, reptiles and arachnids mind their business and we mind ours. There are others too–the roadrunners, the quail, the elk and the deer–to mention just a few.

The spiders have been with us all along–the occasional tarantula climbing the stucco-covered walls and once approaching the front door. It didn’t gain entry–couldn’t squeeze beneath the weatherstripping like the ants or the little lizards we found sunning themselves before the dining room wall unit.

I am the spider whisperer, gathering those within the house gently with a tissue or sometimes barehanded. “Have a nice day,” I may say, as I bid them farewell out of doors. Only once, a month ago or so, have I killed one. A black widow in the storage/work room. Likely as not, had I relocated it nearby it might have found its way back inside. A risky proposition, putting us at risk of serious harm. A fly swatter did it in.

A dead Black Widow spider on a fly swatter

The bobcat visited only a month ago as well. Perhaps 35 pounds or so–nearly the size of our dog Max. He offered an aggressive warning, from a 100-feet away. Happy was I that I had leashed Max before going out!. We haven’t seen the cat again–or maybe we have. My wife said she saw glowing lights in a tree two nights last week. Reflections of eyes too wide-set for a raccoon (which we have never seen here anyway) but not so large as those of a bear. Again a 100-feet away, to the north past the fence separating our property from a neighbor’s land. Besides that, we did see a paw print, two or three feet from the house–it might have been the cat’s. That’s the tip of a size 10 winter Croc to the left for size comparison.

Perhaps the track of a bobcat, to the northeast of a Croc tip

The snakes, too, are common enough. The rodent-eating bull snakes, three to four feet long, that don’t bother people. A variety of others live here too, of varying sizes and colors–striped and not. Over six years, we have seen just three rattlesnakes. Never as close to the house than this year. The year of bobcats and black widows. Three-feet-long and as thick as my wrist–some might say a splendid specimen. The black-tailed rattler crawled from below the great room window toward the knee wall across the patio. It curled itself around a roadrunner–a metal sculpture of one, to be precise, awaiting a hard rain to cease. Ironic–those birds eat snakes. Not ones the size of this one, of course. As the rain stopped, the rattler went on it’s way. We haven’t seen it since. Of course the photo is a zoom. It had the characteristic wedge-shaped head–all the better for venom-filled fangs.

Rattlesnake coiled next to metal sculpture

The elk are nearby now. We hear their surprisingly high-pitched voices. More will be here soon. October is mating season. The agave blooms are gone, but there are other things for them to eat. They will co-exist for a time with the grazing cattle, who will come at weeks-end, perhaps for three weeks this year. Careful driving and a closed gate keeps them and us from incidents, docile though they are.

The frantic flyers are fewer in number now. The brightly-colored hummingbirds travel farther south as the cold comes calling. Fifties at night now. That’s OK with them. Forties not so much. We filled the last bottles of sugar water yesterday. They’ll last as long as the visitors do.

Yes, the wild things are among us. Perhaps it’s we who are among them. We love them all. Perhaps they care not so much for us. We try to enjoy them, not harm them. Except for the few dangerous ones we cannot avoid–a scorpion or poisonous centipede in the house. And now the Black Widow. Worth the price of admission to our dream house.


#WATWB–Foster Otter Moms

We Are the World Blogfest

It’s that time again–the end of the month when we celebrate good news via the We Are the World Blogfest.

This one’s a little different inasmuch as it’s otters doing the good deeds, albeit with the aid of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Two sea otters in the water, hugging
Sea otters act as surrogate moms to orphaned pups at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Randy Wilder/© Monterey Bay Aquarium
Rosa and Selka get lots of attention in their starring roles at the public daily feedings at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, especially during Sea Otter Awareness Week.
But some of their most important work is behind the scenes, serving as foster moms to abandoned pups in the aquarium’s one-of-a-kind program to rescue, nurture and return sea otter pups to the wild.
Rosa and Selka are part of a group of surrogate sea otters who can’t be released back into the wild, either because of injury or inability to stay away from humans. But they still can teach these rescued pups how to be sea otters.
They show them how to eat crabs and crack open clams and mussels; they protect and guide the pups during interactions with other otters; and they allow the pups to imprint on their own species, teaching them that they are sea otters.
Lest you think this is a money making venture showcasing captured wild animals, far from it. It’s a nonprofit engaged in rescuing and restoring a population decimated by fur hunting long ago. Fitting for a WATWB post. See the full story on CNN Travel.
WATWB co-hosts for the month are: Sylvia Stein (@sylvia_stein07) Eric Lahti (@ericlahti1) Shilpa Garg (@shilpaagarg) & Lizbeth Hartz (@LizbethHartz)

Find more ways to be contribute to others by checking out this section of a larger article from the Eagle Peak Annual.