laughed till I peed
Readers, myself included don’t like cookie cutter, cardboard cutouts as characters. If a character is boring or not dysfunctional enough, I’m putting the book down.
As a writer I learned that the more layers a character has, the better your audience receives the character. That character’s bio doesn’t have to be explained in detail in the book, but it may be something you want to keep in the back of you head as you’re writing.
What’s their favorite food? What are their hobbies? What was their relationship with their parents? Do they have tattoos? Did they serve in the military? What type of movies do they like? Who’s their best friend? Where did they grow up? Do they have money? If so how much?
The answers to all those questions and everything else you can dream up for your character will influence every challenge they have to face, just like what you faced in the past affects who you are today.
For example, our main character in The Body Hunters, Danielle Labouleaux or Danny as she prefers to be called is biracial and grew up in New Orleans where she had a somewhat antagonistic relationship with her parents in her teens and early twenties. She was bullied as a child, not only for being biracial and also for a zipper scar that bisects her chest from heart surgery when she was six. She has a penchant for hot rods, especially her candy apple red Camaro, named Lucille. She loves to cook, which she learned from her Grandmere and she hangs on to friends for dear life because they were few and far between during her childhood. She also has a thing for buff, tattooed bad boys, who are really diamonds in the rough.
This is how we started our main characters and as Danielle’s story progressed, we added layers and layers of back story, fleshing her out as a character. Before long we knew what she’d say and how she’d react in any given situation.
The same technique can be used for the universe your characters exist in. It’s your universe, you make it up and mold it any way you want to.
Is it post apocalyptic? If so how did it get that way? Who’s the President? Is this the future? What happened twenty years ago?
The more believable your story and character are, the more invested your readers become in your story.
There’s a lot of injustice in the world. All you have to do is turn on the news and here about someone being victimized. As we all know, sometimes the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. How many times have we seen someone get a slap on the wrist for some heinous crime that’s left someone badly hurt, emotionally scarred or even dead?
I once read a book that started out promising. It was a good read, up until the end when the antagonist got away with his misdeeds. The two main characters were coerced into letting him get away with a slap on the wrist. I still hold a grudge against that author for that ending. Although it may not realistic when it comes to the real world, people want to see justice rendered, especially when they’re invested in a story.
As a writer, it’s something I take into consideration. Maybe it’s some form of vigilantism, but I personally want the bad guy to suffer and I know our readers feel the same way. Even though the antagonist is nothing but a combination of ones and zeroes in my computer, I want them to get what’s coming to them. Sometimes getting carted off to jail won’t do it, sometimes the punishment has to be extreme to satisfy the reader. Sometimes for punishment you have to think outside the box. It’s Raven Newcastle’s world and she can do what she wants.
If only things in real life were so simple.
I didn’t start out like this. I laughed at and sneered at the crazy people who just couldn’t get enough of their pets, treating them like children. Then I met my loving adorable husband. He was a feline aficionado, a rare quality in a man to say the least. He never denied his love of cats even to other men, secure in his own masculinity to say I love….Cats. We’ll save the other euphemism for another time. 😉
Now I am an animal lover myself don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t till I was on my own and had an apartment that I discovered all things feline. I was bound and determined to raise them with dignity, no cooing and coddling, they would grow to be the adult cats with the respect they deserved.
I worked with a woman at that time who had a Shih Tzu named Charlie. It was one of those mop dogs, the kind you wanted to stick a pole up its bum and mop the floor with it. Supposedly a cute small yipper. Charlie went everywhere with her and it was Charlie this and Charlie that. Charlie had to get his hair cut, She had to go right home and make Charlie’s dinner ect… I’m not joking when I say this, for the first six months I knew her, I thought Charlie was her husband till one day she comes into work and mentions Dave.
My world spun! how could this middle-aged woman be cheating on Charlie? I was aghast in horror! till another co-worker who snickered and laughed at me said Charlie was her freaking pooch!
Now this part is sad I’ll warn you. Charlie developed cancer and mercifully was given the gift of a peaceful death. My friend was devastated of course and she announced Charlie’s funeral would be held in two days for all those who would like to attend.
Wait, What? A funeral for a Swiffer?
My eyes rolled and I shook my head. Thankfully, I thought to myself, that I had to work and couldn’t attend, but I was lucky enough to share in the pictures of Charlie lying in his little doggie casket at his viewing. He was buried lovingly in a pet cemetery.
This whole melodrama was foreign to me. I was brought up that pets are animals and we may cry when they leave us but it is after all an animal and we move on. I believed that till my McTavish. I had Mctavish before I was married and he was a gift from a dear friend. Living alone I appreciated his company, his constant need for attention taking my mind off of the fact that I lived alone. He was a Scottish Fold and my constant companion.
When I married my husband, the feline aficionado, remarked that McTavish was my ‘first’ husband since a lot of my daily concern was for my aging cat. I was slowly starting on my journey to being one of ‘those’. We had by then added to our family several more feline children and as the years progressed on, our decisions even ones where to live centered around the cats. McTavish was by now an old man in cat years approaching 80 + years and I’m positive he appreciated that we moved somewhere that was one level only and I to this day believe it’s the reason he lived to 18 human yrs ,101+ feline, but even then I still hadn’t completely transformed into one of ‘those’ quite yet.
Then ‘they’ came.
The two bundles of lil’ dog love that insidiously completed the transformation and it all started with the first sweater I bought them. It was January in Detroit after all. The frozen north and the two little ones who weighed no more than a pound a piece when I brought them home needed extra warmth. They are after all Chihuahua’s and barely had fur.
They had to have coats!
Now there is nothing cuter than Chihuahua’s in hoodie parka’s except maybe this
and of course this
So now every time I go to PetCo and PetSmart passing by the mini coats, sweaters, booties, sundresses and team jerseys, I call my sponsor from Pet Clothes are Just Too Damn Cute Anonymous. My sponsor is my husband who says only one word. “NO” 😦
Though recently he did have to admit they did look awful cute in their hoodies.
Now if I can only get him to let me have one of these!
Have a sweaterific day!
Last weekend, I went to the theater to see Thor. I grew up with my father reading his Silver Surfer and Spiderman comics, which got me somewhat interested in the genre. Its been decades since I’ve picked up a comic, probably around the last time I picked up a She-ra doll, but I’m very familiar with the characters. I may not read the comics anymore, but I like to watch them on the big screen.
It being the first week of release of this particular movie, I decided to get my seat early. Sitting there I had a ringside seat as the other film goers found their seat. I was quite surprised to find that probably half or over half of the patrons were women. True, some of them may have randomly picked Thor, but for the most part I think Chris Hemsworth and Idris Elba were the big draw. That would explain the gratuitous shirtless scene in the movie with Thor. That scene definitely wasn’t for the fan boys, it was a shout out for the ladies.
Going back over the super hero movies that have been released recently, the common factor is that most of them are attractive men. You’ve got Chris Evans, Hugh Jackman, and Henry Cavill as leading men. All of them good looking actors playing superheroes, all of them with a female fan base.
I for one have watched just about anything Chris Evans was in, years before he ever played Captain America. I happen to think he’s good eye candy. Anyone remember Cellular?
And the buzz with the Man of Steel from the ladies over the summer wasn’t about the action scenes, but how well Mr. Cavill looked in that Superman suit. I for one enjoyed the shirtless scenes with the manly facial scruff. ; )
My own mother practically swoons every time The Dark Knight Rises is on TV and she hears Bane’s distinctive voice. She was so crushed when I told her he wouldn’t be in the next Batman reboot.
The trend even spreads outside of the superhero movie genre. I wasn’t interested in The Fast and the Furious until they announced that The Rock would be appearing in Fast Five. As long as he’s in the franchise I’ll park my butt in the seat for every installment. Though Fast Six should be called The Fast and the Furious: Sexy, Sweaty Bald Men in Tank Tops.
I’m glad to see that film makers are paying attention to what women want when it comes to movies. We don’t all want the same predictable rom-com’s and period pieces. Sometimes we just want mindless action and a good looking man saving the day. And speaking of the Rock, he was also the only reason I went to see that awful GI Joe sequel and if he’s in the next one they can go ahead and take my money right now.
This week, we’re preparing to release the third book in our drama/romance/mystery/paranormal series The Body Hunters. Our book release goes hand in hand with the giddy Christmas Day feeling you get with any great accomplishment. The road has been paved with challenges, both personal and book related for myself, Von and our editor, but this is the payoff.
Writing is what we love. Conjuring up drama and putting our characters through hell is what we were born to do. It took us a while to discover our gifts, but when we found it, it flourished. Sometimes the writing process can be the most frustrating thing in the word, but I wouldn’t trade my gift for anything.
If you have a gift or that special talent, use it. No more procrastinating, lying to yourself that you’ll get started eventually. If you’re a runner, go do that marathon you’ve always put of running. If you’re a chef, what’s stopping you from submitting that recipe? Writers, stop killing time going over the same material over and over again. Get that book published.
Don’t let anything stop you from fulfilling your dream.
I am an adult child of divorce. I was about sixteen when my parents decided to end things. To make a long story short, my father wanted to do what he wanted and my mother wasn’t having it.
Kids aren’t stupid and they know who looks out for them. I watched as my mother, a housewife for eighteen years, pulled out the newspaper the day after he left and went to work the next day. She worked jobs she shouldn’t trying to put food on the table. Recycling plant, cleaning toilets, construction; it didn’t matter, if the money was green she took the job. We may have had utilities off from time to time, but there was always food on the table, even though it may not be the gourmet cuisine you wanted. We learned how to make food last on a limited budget and we were never on any public assistance. The struggle bonded us deeply.
Now my father on the other hand was living the life he wanted with no responsibilities to tie him down. He went and married the woman he was seeing while he was married to my mother, about two months after the divorce was final. He went and bought that brand new red Mustang, not the type of car you would expect from someone with three kids. He wouldn’t call to check on us, but to brag about where he’d been on his vacation. He couldn’t come for his scheduled visits but he made sure we saw his shiny new sports car. He could care less that his kids were hurt, scarred and traumatized, it was all about him.
The same could be said for his parents. We were their only grand children, so on Christmas they doted on us with the huge gift boxes from Hudson’s. My grandmother would go all out with the beautiful hand knit sweaters and name brand items for kids. After my parents split, that was it. No Christmas gifts, no birthday wishes, nothing. As we struggled, no one called to see if the kids had shoes, coats, or even food. We were cut off completely, even though they only lived eight minutes away from us.
Now, the time in the hour glass is in our favor. We’re stable adults now, no drug use, no illegitimate children, my brother had his growing pains as a young black male growing up in Detroit, but these days he’s a workaholic and he’s fine. We’re as close to Mom as we’ve ever been.
Mr. Sherman on the other hand is another story. Having worked for Ford since he was eighteen, he makes a nice salary, but you can never tell. His life is a never ending spiral of dysfunction. The divorce from wife number three was final a couple months ago, so I know he’s looking for his next flavor of the month. He has no choice but to flit from woman to woman because he has no bond with his children and has to assimilate himself into their family. He’s the type who likes to rewrite history, like he was Cliff Huxtable; I have no problem reminding him what a terrible father he was.
Our relationship with him is awkward, like we’re operating at two different frequencies. When we talk he makes juvenile jokes, like he doesn’t realize we’re grown adults now. He doesn’t know me. He can’t tell you my favorite food or color. He’s even clueless about me being a writer, which I plan on keeping that way. Whatever he is, I’m stuck with him.
The ‘accessories’ on the other hand are optional. We eventually reconnected with my grandparents a when we learned after about fifteen years when we learned my grandmother was dying of cancer. We visited the hospital a couple times, but I felt the coldness, like I’d wandered into some random stranger’s hospital room. How pathetic is it when your own grandparents have to ask if you have any children? After a knockdown drag out debate with my brother and sister, we attended the funeral and started visiting with my widowed grandfather again.
Every week or every other week, we’d visit, go out to dinner or a movie. We even invited him over to dinner a couple times and my sister called him every day. A couple years later, a few of her daily calls went unanswered and he called back when he felt like it. He had a new woman in his life and little by little we could feel that chasm opening up again. My sister trying to be nice tried to give him another shot, but the writing was on the wall for me. Dear old sweet granddad used us as placeholders to keep from being lonely until he found another wife. After that I was done with the Sherman family completely. It’s been about two and a half years and I haven’t looked back.
Which brings us to the very reason I’m so pissed today. Sunday my father calls with his normal chit chat which results in him holding the phone in silence and me trying to come up with conversation because he doesn’t know what to say. Before he ends the call, he tells me to call my grandfather on Tuesday, cause it’s his birthday. Huh?
Today I had a missed call from my father and I know what he wants. If I didn’t know what he wanted, the text with my grandfather’s phone number is a clue.
I’m not calling him. Call me cold, callous, heartless, whatever, I’m done with these people. I’m not a toy you can take out of the box and play with whenever some one feels the need. My grandfather has kicked us to the curb twice; once as children and once again as adults, after we gave him a second chance. This isn’t the Oprah show where the long lost relative is hiding behind the curtain. Fake isn’t in me, so I’m not doing the loving granddaughter routine, pretending every thing is fine and make him feel better. I don’t think so.
People need to know that kids aren’t stupid. They may be little and defenseless and can’t do anything when you break promises or break their hearts. But they grow up. Be careful what you throw away.
Enjoy this short story!
The leggy blond sauntered down the long staircase one carefully measured step at a time. Angelique Leone the iconic bombshell with the curvaceous silhouette and come hither pout that adorned many soldiers walls, was in her third day of shooting. She was headlining in her second motion picture for Sandstone pictures of a four movie deal contract. The studio had pumped a ton of money into the flick and even more money into her glamorization makeover. Angelique Leone’s name on her birth certificate which was stashed discreetly away in her father’s safe in Texas, was Jane Lenny; not exactly a top billing box office name.
She arrived in Hollywood at twenty years of age with ten dollars in her pocket and a prayer to land any kind of studio contract until a friend in the business revealed to her the real game. It was a hard lesson and one Jane wasn’t happy to learn. Crying alone in her small rundown apartment after losing her virginity to a fat balding casting director on the proverbial casting couch, she contemplated suicide. Returning home would only garner her shame for her actions.
The call came that evening just moments before she was ready to swallow a handful of pills with the joyous news of a studio contract. Apparently the casting director liked her ‘audition’ and recommended her for a small role in a new movie. If the camera agreed with her she would be considered for a larger role in the next one. The meeting she had with the movie’s director the next morning would change her life forever, 1940 was going to be her year. The first thing he did was give her a new name, a name that would soon be synonymous with sultry sensuality and unbridled sex, a name that went before a team of studio execs to be decided upon and a name she was not allowed to have a choice in deciding.
“Cut!” the grumpy red faced director Ronald Sizemore yelled. “Damn it! Who’s to dumb fuck that put this stupid plant at the bottom of the stairs? Get it out of here.” He kicked the fake potted plants over. “Everybody take five!”
Angelique threw her hands up in the air and marched down the stairs. “How many times are we going to do this? My feet are tired!” She flipped her long platinum blond hair from her shoulders.
The 6’2” stoutly director glared at her. “You’ll do it as many times as I want you to. Don’t forget your place!”
Her place was becoming one of more influence thanks to her overnight meteoric rise in celebrity and he knew it. He hated the idea that this shy little Texan girl was learning how to wrestle control in a male dominated industry.
“I’m going to lie down. I’ll be in my dressing room alone.” She emphasized loudly.
“Lay off the pills today.” He barked back. His brown eyes angrily dared her to disobey.
She turned on her heel sashaying off the set and into the early afternoon sun. Donning her sunglasses she made her way across the studio lot and hopped on a golf cart heading to her private oasis, the dressing room she demanded without hesitation as her star power started to shine. It was a dangerous game of wills and she knew it. The studio machine had the power to make or break her if she didn’t play her cards right, a heady position for a twenty two year old who gained a lifetime of wisdom in the eighteen months since that fateful audition.
Her dressing room was decorated in all pinks, every shade available was represented. From the deep pink special ordered carpeting to the bubblegum lampshades. She hated pink. Angelique was simply sticking it to the studio for what she considered rape by the fat, nasty smelling casting director. The temporary dressing room cost about as much as a new car to redecorate. Ironically the more she misbehaved the more her star power grew.
The public loved her. Young ladies longed to be her. Men self fulfilled their sexual fantasies against the backdrop of her half naked pinups. The attention her small role in that first movie garnered her was a Hollywood dream. A well placed one liner catch phrase with fantastic lighting of her pouty full lips and she became America’s new sweetheart. It had even taken the studio execs by surprise. No one was more surprised than the demanding narcissistic director Ronald Sizemore who had hoped she would be another young girl in his stable of bevy beauties he could call upon for licentious scenery and behind the scenes sex. He assumed she was an innocent kitten he could use and abuse till she was washed up.
Angelique proved to be tougher than she looked given in part to her hard scrabble upbringing in the vast expanse of her father’s Texas ranch. Not to mention his liberal use of a belt for discipline. Her brothers fared worse under his tutelage of hard farm work and beatings, both boys leaving his tyranny as soon as they came of age. She was the only one left at home when his second wife also made an escape. Frightened to stay knowing she would be an easy target for his drunken anger, she boarded a bus and headed to L.A. with a promise of fame and easy fortune.
Frantic knocking on her dressing room door woke her from her slumber. Wrapping her silk dressing gown around her she opened the door to reveal two LAPD officers.
“Sorry to disturb you ma’am. We need you to come with us.” The tall uniformed officer said.
“What is the meaning of this?” She demanded.
Officer Brady responded. “Ronald Sizemore is dead. Please get dressed and come with us or we will be forced to take you like this.” The officer looked her up and down lecherously grinning.
She stumbled back and fell into her lounge chair. “Dead? But how?”
“That’s what we want you to tell us.”
The squad car pulled up in front of the station with its siren blaring, someone had already tipped off the newspapers and fan rags as light bulbs flashed incessantly blinding her even with her sunglasses on. Officer Brady roughly grabbed her arm from the back of the black and white dragging her away from the throng of cameras and reporters calling out her name.
She was seated in a hard wooden chair in a lonely room, her silk scarf still wrapped around her head and neck. She pulled a cigarette and holder from her purse. “Can I please get a light?” She yelled, aware that they were watching her from behind the two way mirror. Detective Jarden entered with his lighter in hand. Sitting himself across from her he lit her cigarette as she crossed her legs allowing her skirt to rise up enough to tantalize him. It didn’t go unnoticed.
“Am I under arrest?” she asked.
“No.” he replied.
“Do I need a lawyer?”
“Depends, did you shoot him?” He licked his lips as she adjusted the hem on her knee.
She raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow at him. “Up until now I didn’t even know how he died, how could have I shot him?”
Detective Jarden snickered pushing an ashtray her way. “You were seen having words with Mr. Sizemore before he died and it’s been rumored you had a beef with him. Do you own a gun Ms. Leone?”
“Of course, a single girl has to protect herself in this big bad city, but that doesn’t make me a killer.”
“You’re right, but what about the argument? You had words with him and then disappeared.” He lit his own cigarette and placed his fedora on the table next to his notebook.
“Ronald was a hard man to work for detective. He made many questionable demands and berated the staff constantly, doesn’t mean I wanted him dead. He had enough enemies for that.”
“But he is dead. Can you account for your whereabouts after one o’clock?”
Angelique sighed. She knew where this was headed. She had verbally threatened to shoot Ronald if he ever touched her again several weeks before. He didn’t like to be told no so he had punched her in the face daring her to complain, promising to ruin her if she didn’t comply with his demands. The bruises took days to disappear putting the movie shoot seriously behind schedule. The studio attributed it to the press as Ms. Leone’s ongoing bought with the flu.
“I was in my dressing room napping.” She advised curtly.
Sitting back in his chair unbuttoning his suit coat, Detective Jarden gave her a sly smile. “Napping? Was there anyone with you?”
She glowered in contempt. “No, I was alone the whole time.”
“Too bad, no one to corroborate your story.” He said tapping his ash in the tray.
“You also have no proof it was me. I know my rights detective, I demand you let me leave.”
Detective Jarden snapped his fingers and the two officers who brought her in appeared. “Take Ms. Leone home please.” He told them. “I’ll be in touch.” He said as she walked away.
Angelique took her constantly ringing phone off the hook, dressed herself in a silk floral nightgown and poured herself a drink. It had gone as planned. That jackass would never force himself on her again. The back alley abortion he had forced her to have that nearly killed her was listed as another bout of illness by the studio. Her son had laid in pieces on a crude table next to the coat hanger used to destroy him and she vowed then to kill the man who did this to her. She held the evening’s paper in her hands reading the headline. ANGELIQUE LEONE QUESTIONED IN DIRECTORS DEATH! Even bad publicity was good publicity.
She closed her eyes reliving her day. He had appeared in her dressing room ready for another romp. The whole scene on the set of overturned flowers and anger at the staff to call a break was planned by him so he could get her alone. They had done this dance before and she knew her steps well, he had seen to that with his repeated threats and punishments. He showed up to her dressing room fifteen minutes after her departure as to not arouse suspicion. Three knocks on the door was his signal it was him. She opened the door holding a handkerchief as a sign to the unseen men hovering around the corner hallway. George and John Lenny, her older brothers, gagged and bound Ronald dragging him to a waiting car behind her dressing room taking him back to the empty set. The always punctual catering truck took care of any set crew that lingered behind. The studio paid free food was always a sure fire guarantee to draw a crowd.
Her brothers had slipped him in the back entrance unnoticed amid the props and various scenery’s. Unbinding their victim and removing his gag, she gave him only one command.“Run.” She said as she raised her hand pulling the trigger. No one would have paid attention to the shot thanks to the noisy western they were filming in the next sound stage. Her aim was as good as any man’s her father had made sure of that. It was after all a necessary skill if you lived on a Texas ranch.
The bullet landed squarely in the back of Ronald’s head and exited out the front taking half his skull with it. Her brothers stealthily slipped her back to her dressing room and in mere minutes were driving out of town with the fired pistol.
“Ms. Leone, Ms. Leone, how does it feel to be cleared of all murder charges?” the hapless reporter pestered her on her way to the red carpet premiere of her new movie ‘Femme Fatale’.
She stopped and turned in her red dress designed just for her movie premiere placing her hand on her ample hip with a big toothy smile. “Darlings, was there ever any doubt!”
When I think back to the family holiday celebrations when I was a child growing up in the 80’s, I remember the family gathering at my grandmother’s house. The food would be set around the dining room table and the desserts on her buffet. Mom and Aunt Pat would see what needed to be done in the kitchen. It wasn’t yet known if Aunt Pam would be making a guest appearance, even though she literally lived right around the corner. My grandmother would have every thing covered in that cheap plastic wrap she used to buy, the food barely covered. We’d hold hands to bless the food, one random adult selected to say the prayer. Everyone would say Amen and we’d commence to making plates.
It was a guessing game as far as the meats, pick one at your own risk. Grandpa was a hunter, so you were subject to get raccoon, rabbit, or even goat on your plate. I remember the Christmas where my Uncle Phillip, jockeying for position to get closer to the bowl of chitlin’s knocks over several of my Grandmother’s house plants, spilling dirt every where. It’s thirty years later and he still can’t live that one down.
Now we wouldn’t eat at the dining room table, so everyone would take their paper plates out to the living room. God forbid if you spilled any of the red pop on the carpet. After everyone was stuffed, we’d either see what was on the TV or the rest of the evening would be spent catching up on family events. Aunt Pam would show up with her family, right after the dishes were washed and all the clean up work was done. ; )
These holiday celebrations from years past live on only in old photographs. The kids are adults now, some with kids of their own. Uncle Junior, my mother’s baby brother has been sleeping in his grave since 1999, Grandpa followed a few years later, and this year Grandma joined them in eternity. My parents have been divorced for years, Aunt Pat is still up in Grand Rapids, and Aunt Pam and one of her daughters are hours away in St. Louis. Life happened between then and now, which is why those holidays spent together are so precious.
Those are times that we can never get, which is why I don’t understand people nowadays. Instead of spending the holidays with their loved ones, they’d rather spend it in a tent outside a store, waiting to buy some item they don’t really need. When did Thanksgiving or the other holidays become so twisted? With today’s society and everybody focused on me, me, me, and what I need, they forget the real meaning. Worse yet, their shopping habits affect the poor people who work at these stores.
My mother works for a retail giant, the head of her office which is vital to the running of the store. We can’t spend the holiday together because she works Thanksgiving morning and then has to report to work at midnight the same evening to be ready for Black Friday. Now our holiday dinner has to scheduled before or after the actual holiday because some executive who’s having his holiday meal catered by the help decides they can make a lot of money on Thanksgiving. All so somebody’s kid can have that nice new tablet or laptop, which truth be told is last year’s model anyway. It’s something you might want to consider if you decide to venture out on Thanksgiving to shop.