Dog Blog #3: Choke Points


So, how does a choke point work in regards to lots of dogs and what is a choke point? I just had to rearrange my living room to eliminate two choke points. A choke point is a place in your home, maybe a hallway, or a restriction caused by furniture placement, that restricts the number of dogs that can comfortably fit through it or pass through it at one time. They pile up on each other and fights break out. I still have a choke point at my front door but because it’s where the dogs que up to get outside, they usually don’t fight in it.

Choke points were causing major fights in my house and dog fights are a bad thing. Your dogs can get seriously hurt. I have a special dog named ironically Happy. Happy is rarely happy but no one blames her. I rescued her from a chain. She’d been tied to it for eight years and starved and bred. She weighed 31 pounds when I got her. She now weighs 60 lbs. Happy is mostly pitbull. She had heart worms when I got her and serious mental problems. The vet said the muscles in her back legs were atrophied from eight years of not using them so she couldn’t be treated for the heart worms. I had to use cowboy methods to cure her, but presently, she has been diagnosed heart-worm free. Because of her atrophied muscles, poor Happy had to learn how to walk, trot, and run. She’d never done any of this. It took her two years to start dreaming she was running. Because of the years of abuse, Happy’s mouth has even been taped shut, Happy has episodes. Every once in a while, she goes after another dog for no reason, and almost always, this occurs in a choke point.

Her favorite dog to pick a fight with is the mastiff. Moregon’s neck is callused and thick with muscle and fur. Happy has no teeth. It looks as though she wore them out trying to chew through her chain. Moregon (Moose) outweighs her by 150 pounds and has a fine mouth-full of teeth. Mastiffs were bred to fight bears. Happy always gets beat up and still she persists. That’s the kind of thing terrible, chronic, abuse causes in dogs. If Happy was human, I’d say she is schizophrenic. What makes it worse is Moregon likes to sleep across doorways. It’s her nature. Mastiffs do this because they’re very protective and danger comes through doors. They know this. If Happy can’t easily egress her bed or a room because it’s blocked, she attacks. She was worse when I got her, but she still has these episodes, so we’ve been eliminating choke points, places where Moose can block her in.

When you have nine dogs, things like choke points have to be considered when you arrange your furniture. We now have a much more open arrangement and so far, no fights.

It doesn’t matter how small the dogs you own are. Choke points cause fights. My grandson used to help take care of a large group of Japanese Chins. Tiny dogs. They would get into fights just like bigger dogs and usually in a choke point. When you have nine dogs, running from 200 pounds to 10 pounds, fighting must be controlled. We use the mop and blankets to stop fights. If you throw blankets over the fighters, they stop. Since we have two dogs with Jack Russel blood, we have to watch them when fights break out. Chester never saw a fight he didn’t want to join. Chompers is the same way and he’s tiny.

Fights among big dogs are loud and terrifying and can cause serious injuries to your dogs. Think fast, have equipment handy at all times, and watch those choke points.

Dog Blog #2 Feeding Time


I know what you’re thinking. I’m going to talk about what I feed my dogs. Well what you feed your dogs is not nearly as important as how and when. Dogs are like humans. They feel comfortable when the routine is the same every day. This is especially important for rescues who have lost their trust in humans and the world in general. For an abused animal to know food will arrive every single day, twice a day, at the same time, is a security blanket they need. Setting a routine is the best thing you can do to heal their insecurities and win their trust. Food is everything to dogs. The promise of two meals a day, every day, means more to them than you can know, especially if they’ve been starved or neglected.

I have nine dogs. Feeding time is a little tricky. Every dog has a bowl and every dog has a place to eat. They eat in that same place every day. There is an order I follow, and they know that order. Without the routine, the order of feeding, there would be fighting and general chaos. Because I follow this order always, I can feed all nine dogs in the same room. None of them have to be separated.

The dog I’m going to talk about today is Chester, a half Jack Russel, half something else. I got Chester from a rescue operation in New Smyrna, Florida. He was pretty skinny and about nine months old. He had hook worms. I treated him for them immediately. Chester was abandoned by his previous owner in an apartment with no food or water for approximately a month. He is a survivor. Rescues like Chester who are starved develop some interesting survival habits. Chester knows cardboard such as toilet paper tubes will make the pain of an empty belly go away and not kill you. He is an inveterate garbage hound. I have to shut all the pantry doors because he will open bags or boxes of noodles and rice and eat them. No bug is safe around Chester. He licks the walls for moisture. He knows if he bites a water bottle, he can get water from the hole. He will lick his empty bowl and all of the empty bowls until they are shiny. I picture him going to his bowl in that abandoned apartment and licking it while hoping something will appear in it.

Chester can be a troublemaker. Jack Russels are killers. Chester is now three-years old and has fifteen rats under his belt, three squirrels, and we no longer have a mole problem. He is also an escape artist. We finally have the front yard of our acre Chester proof, but the back still has a hole he can squeeze out of somewhere in the palmettos. He doesn’t like escaping alone. He’d rather someone went with him. He’s a charming fellow and a nosy scamp who has already survived an encounter with a water moccasin. When there is a fight among the other dogs, Chester will jump in. Jacks are feisty. Peepers, the Boston Terrier, is his particular friend.

When I first got Chester he had bad dreams. He would cry in his sleep. He also has separation anxiety and he worries. Some dogs are worriers some aren’t. His bad dreams are gone, but if I leave for a few hours, he will knock me down with joy when I come home. Never forget dogs have feelings and emotions. Abuse leaves scars that time can heal but not erase.

Horses Don’t Like to Step on You

I know this is a weird thought, but horses do not like stepping on people. We’re squishy. The human body does not feel like secure footing to a horse so if they can and they want to, they will avoid stepping on you.

I once had a horse that would occasionally freak out when you put your foot into the stirrup preparing to mount. I knew this, but since it was something she’d never done to me before, I forgot. Bad idea. I was getting ready to pony my other horse off of her. I put one foot in the stirrup, grabbed some mane, and the mare exploded. I fell onto my back with two horses freaking out right on top of me. I thought I was dead for sure. When they both ran off, I sat up and examined myself. No bruises, no fractures, nothing was squished. I did, however, have hoof prints all over my shirt. The horses knew I was there and avoided stomping on me.

My husband the farrier used to rodeo. He had a stallion he rode all the time. After the rodeo he put Satan, great name, into the trailer and then went of and got roaring drunk. He found his trailer, crawled into the stall with Satan and passed out. In the morning, he was wet because the stud peed all over him, but never stepped on him. He was wet and the stud was sick of being locked in the trailer, but not stepped on.

Now horses know exactly where their feet are. I hear what you’re saying. How can that be? For one thing, do you know where your feet are? Of course you do and just because a horse has four does not mean he’s lost track of them. When I was a polo groom, I had one horse that would intentionally step on your foot if given the chance. I found that out the hard way. Broken toes. Boots can only do so much. He would watch out of the corner of his eye, and when I stupidly stepped in close to put on his bridle, he nailed my foot. He’d been waiting.

So, even though a horse won’t step on you, does not mean they won’t stomp on your foot, especially if by doing so they can avoid work. Horses only do one thing voluntarily and that’s eat. Some are kinder and more willing and some less. So always be careful, andIMG_3682 know if a stampede of horses is headed your way, hide.

So You Can’t Write a Sex Scene

So you can’t write a sex scene

By Janet Post

My writing partner for erotica, believe it or not, is my daughter, Mel. She’s a bartender/restaurant manager with three kids and she knows stuff, for example, stuff about looners (people who include balloons in their sexual activity . . .  I know) and plushies (stuffed animal/costume freaks). You really have to have some kind of experiences of your own to draw from if you want to write real sex scenes that touch the readers. And there are a couple of rules we came up with.

First–do your research. We write m/m, paranormal, kinky romance. I know–pretty out there. But we do our research. I watched a lot of gay porn, read guy on guy erotica and Mel has a lot of gay friends. They have no problem telling her the most intimate things in graphic detail. Thank god.

Second–sex scenes are scenes in your story and as such must have a purpose. They have to move the story line along in some way. This is how it works, your couple gets together and one whispers a secret to the other one. A sex scene may be the critical moment in the relationship, either a commitment moment or a breakup moment. It can be an important milestone in your character’s personal growth. But whatever it is, it has to have a purpose.

Third–euphemisms have been terribly maligned. I’m here to tell you they are a must. And you need to choose them carefully. If the moment is tender, use softer euphemisms. If it’s rough, guy-on-guy sex between two paranormal characters use rougher euphemisms. If you have two guys making love and you’re in the macho guy’s head use different euphemisms than  if you were in the softer guy’s head. Make what they call their parts part of their character.

Fourth and most important–sex scenes are action scenes. Be careful with the length of your sentences. Keep the verbs hot and energetic. Always try to stay out of passive voice. Don’t put too much introspection into the sex scene itself, leave it for the afterglow. Watch the redundancies, especially with proper names and pronouns, think about each word you put into a sentence. Moment in time and location can add a lot to your sex scenes. Is this the critical sex scene that seals the commitment or just a one-night stand?

And there you have it; four steps to writing a great sex scene. Don’t forget they are always emotional in some way, passion is great but is one of them cheating, is there guilt, is there fear of loss? Now go for it.


Writing With a Partner

drawing hands

Drawing by Janet Post

Writing with a Partner

Writing with a partner can be an uplifting experience filled with highs, laughter, and an exchange of ideas like no other. Or it can collapse into disaster losing you a friend and writing partner. I’ve experienced both. Here’s what I learned.

Have you ever wrestled with writer’s block? Sat at your computer staring at a blank page with nothing in your head but air? Ever know a reporter, personally? A reporter goes to work, sits at a desk piled with interviews to write up, events she’s covered to write about, and cut-lines for photos to create. Reporters don’t have time to wait for their muse to kick in. They must write, write well, and write prolifically.

That’s easier said than done when all the ideas are entirely your own and you must come up with an entire novel. Brainstorming with a partner can kick-start the plotting process and help you come up with imaginative characters.

I wrote with two of my adult children. I think the writing and the rapid-fire exchange of terrific and inspired ideas made writing the books I did with them a joy. I wrote eighteen erotic romances with my daughter. She was a bartender and heard stories and saw a side of life I did not. Her expertise on the seedy side of life, added to my knowledge and enabled us to create books with great characters and rich experiences. All are published under her name, Melanie Thompson.

The books I wrote with my son were all Young Adult. He’s a middle-school teacher with a vast knowledge of what appeals to young men and women. It helped that he had a teenaged son. His ideas were amazing. The books we wrote together flowed from brainstorming sessions that filled pages of notebooks. The YA was published under his name, Gabe Thompson.

Those were two of my writing-with-a-partner experiences. The third one was terrible. I’ve analyzed it carefully and decided at least one of the partners needs to have some authority to make it work. The third writing partner was an author but also an editor. I did the bulk of the writing so I felt like the story should go a certain way. She felt it should go a different way and brought in a Beta reader I didn’t know to bolster her opinion. She gave the reader editing authority on track changes and at that point, the writing collapsed. I believe that came from her thinking she had the authority and me thinking I had it. We collided in a very unpleasant way and our relationship has never recovered.

There are some real things to think about when writing in a genre containing characters with which you are not familiar. Getting help may be the way to solve some of the difficulties. Say you have a contract to write four chick lit books about women and the men they meet in the city. There you are, fiftyish, living in the country with your dogs, no friends in the thirty-something world, living the modern dating scene. Or maybe that’s the kind of book you want to write because it’s what you read. However, you don’t have any ideas about characters. Enter that friend you met in creative writing in college. She now lives in New York and is working in the restaurant world. Time to reconnect. She knows the people and the world. You went on and became a writer. Together, you have all the right stuff to create a great chick lit book.

Now imagine you’re in the same situation. You’ve published chick lit for five years but you’re tired of it. Young Adult is hot. You have grandkids or nieces and nephews in the right age group, but essentially you need to know more about kids; what they do, what they like, how they behave in school. It’s time to find a friend who teaches in high school, or you need to volunteer at the Y, at a high school, and learn the hard way. A co-writer who already knows kids is really the perfect answer. That person can give you plot ideas, help you create believable characters, and when you get stuck, can help you out.

There have been many successful writing duos. These two have penned best seller after best seller. Lincoln Child wrote a long article on the process he and Preston went through to tone and perfect their partnership. Child said, “Our collaborative process has changed significantly in the twenty-five—alas, yes, twenty-five—years since we started writing novels together. Initially, Doug (who at the time had more experience writing professionally, albeit nonfiction) wrote the first drafts of the majority of the chapters. I (as a former trade editor at a New York publishing house who spent a great deal of time not only editing manuscripts but at times suggesting wholesale revisions to the underlying plots) wrote up the initial chapter outlines, and then rewrote Doug’s drafts.”

Some other writing pairs that may surprise you: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, H.P. Lovecraft and Harry Houdini, Matt Stone and Trey Parker who started as two college buddies trying to crack each other up, became the comedy genius behind South Park, BASEketball, The Book of Mormon, and others, and Stephen King and Tabitha King.

Even if it doesn’t work out for you. Even if you think you could never work with someone else or don’t like sharing, if you want to write something big, with aspects or elements you know nothing about, and you have a friend who can collaborate with you and wants to take on the project; consider it. Writing with a partner can take some of the load off your shoulders. Input from a different viewpoint can make your work more interesting and better. And who doesn’t want that?



I live in a swamp with seven dogs, mostly rescues, my fourth husband, and an adopted daughter who is now sixteen. It’s from her I get knowledge of young adult writing. She’s quick to criticize and give me advice.

My son, Gabe Thompson, and I have partnered to write eight young adult books. Gabe teaches middle school. The first book of our series, The Vagrant Chronicles, Vagrant, has received four awards, two Best Books, one New Adult and one Science Fiction, an International Best Book for Science Fiction, and an Apple. The second book in the series, Mutant, just came out.

My first published novel was a Cracker Western, Alligator Gold, published by Pineapple Press. I wrote that when I retired from my job as a reporter. I have another Cracker Western, Cracker Justice, coming out next year. I went to a Florida Writers Association conference and met Lori Perkins. She encouraged me to write for her, so I wrote erotic romance with my daughter under her name Melanie Thompson for Ravenous Romance and then Start Media. I have over 30 published novels.

I just published The Young Adult Writers Journey, a complete how-to book for anyone wanting to write young adult fiction.

Character Chart for Writers

This character chart is a little over the top, however, if you fill most of it out and keep it, you will know your character so well, his or her story should just flow from your keyboard.

Character’s Full Name:   _________________________________________

Date book takes place:     _________________________________________


Name origin:

Nickname, if any (if so, explain its origin – e.g. who created it?):

Does s/he like the nickname?

Birth date:

Place of birth:

Ethnic background:


Degree of religious practice (e.g. orthodox, casual, lapsed):

Current address:

Does s/he rent or own?

Brief description of home (apartment, house, trailer, etc.):

Does s/he live with anyone?

Describe the area in which s/he lives (big city, town, rural, other):

Is this his/her ideal home and location? If not, what would s/he prefer?

Home decor (check all that apply):   ___ Expensive ___ Inexpensive

___ Carefully planned ___ Comfortable ___ Neat ___ Cluttered

When someone walks in, what’s his/her first impression?

Pets?     ___ No (why?) ___ Yes If yes, what kind and how many? Name(s)?  How important are they? How well are they treated?

Current occupation (include length of time, location, job title):

Job satisfaction (happy, discontent, ambitious…):

Income level:


Does s/he drive? What kind of car does s/he own, if any? (Make, model, color, age, etc.):

Sexuality? (e.g. straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, unsure…):

Marital status:

If married or currently romantically involved, with whom, and for how long?

List any significant previous romantic partners:

For current spouse/partner, what does the character call him/her (pet names, nicknames, etc.)?

How did they meet?

Any children (include names, ages, other parent if different from current partner)?

Describe relationship with each child (if any):




What is his/her body type (skinny, slim, athletic, curvy, overweight, muscular, etc.)?

Eye color?

Does s/he use glasses? Contacts? Hearing aid?

Skin tone (pale, ivory, ruddy, tan, olive,  brown, black, etc.):

Any prominent features, freckles/moles/scars/tattoos/ other distinguishing marks?

Face shape (round, oval, chubby, thin, long, square, heart­shaped, etc.)?

Whom does s/he most look like (e.g. famous person or relative)?

General health (good, excellent, poor…)?

Any chronic conditions?

Any current health problems?

How does s/he dress (mark as many as PRICE: appropriate):

__ Expensive     __ Average     __ Inexpensive   __  Cheap

STYLE: __  Haute Couture  __  Conservative  __  Trendy    __  Eclectic   __  Business

__ Sexy    __  Gaudy    __  Casual  __ Sloppy

Does s/he dress to be noticed? Why?

Any special jewelry? If so, why is it special?

Other accessories:

Grooming:          ___ Every hair in place, very neat (Why?) ___ Average grooming

___ Clean but sloppy ___ Unkempt (Why?)


(long, short, crewcut, locs, bangs, side­part etc.):

Natural hair texture (thick, thin, wiry, smooth, wavy, curly, nappy, etc.):

Current hair texture (if different from above):

Natural hair color:

Current hair color (if different from above):


Pace (does s/he talk fast, average, slow?):

Accent or dialect, if any:

Voice tone  (shrill, high, average, deep, squeaky, hoarse, harsh, authoritative, cultured, etc.):

Any favorite/habitual words/phrases or curse words?

Describe general vocabulary or speech pattern (e.g. educated, precise, pretentious, average, childish, uneducated, vulgar…):

Mannerisms/demeanor? ___ Cool/confident

___ Volatile/moody ___ Nervous/fidgety/shy ___ Other?

Typical posture: ___ Stiff and rigid___ Stands straight but not stiffly

___ Average, varies with mood ___ Slumped and defeated ___ Slouchy, careless

___ Relaxed ___ Other

Gestures:   ___ Doesn’t gesture much ___ Deliberate and controled ___ Only when excited/upset ___ Most of the time ___ Wildly/weirdly

Common gestures (e.g. nail­biting, hair patting, drumming fingers, clenched fists, hands in pockets, etc.):


Finances: (prudent/cautious, average w/some debt, lives paycheck to paycheck, deep in debt, criminal activity, etc.):

Describe any personal habits, e.g. smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling, etc. Are any of these addictions?

Morning Routine:

Describe the character’s morning rituals.

Who else is sleeping in the same bed? What time does he/she wake up? Is he/she cheerful in the morning? What wakes

him/her up ­­ alarm, spouse/lover, kids, pet? What does he/she do during breakfast­ read, watch tv, feed kids, etc.


Now describe the character’s workday or afternoon behavior. Does s/he work outside the home? How does he/she get there?

Does he/she anticipate, dread, resent the work ahead? Does s/he give the job genuine attention and effort? Does s/he enjoy this work? Is s/he good at this job? What would he/she rather be doing? How long and hard is the work day?

Does s/he stop for lunch? Where?


Does s/he eat at home or go out a lot? If the latter, what is/are his or her favorite restaurant(s)? At home, who prepares the meal? Who does he/she eat it with? What does it typically consist of? What goes on during dinner ­­ tv, conversation, fighting, reading, etc? Who cleans up?


What does your character do on a typical evening? Where? With whom? How much does he/she enjoy it? What is the ideal evening for him or her?


Does he/she go to bed at a consistent time?

Alone or with someone else? Does s/he usually fall asleep right way, or is s/he an insomniac? Does he/she dream ­­ a lot, a little, never? Are most of his/her dreams scary, pleasant, sexual, imaginative? Are there any recurring dreams? Does s/he sleep well or poorly (e.g. tossing & turning)?


What is s/he particularly unskilled at?

Any hobbies (sports, arts, collecting, gaming, etc.):


Home town (if different from current home):

Was his/her childhood happy? Troubled? Dull? (And does the character remember it accurately?)

Earliest memory:

Saddest memory:

Happiest memory:

How much school did s/he attend, if any? Did/does s/he like school? Why or why not?

Most significant childhood event:

Other significant childhood events, if any?

Significant past jobs:

Any police record? If so, what was the arrest for? When/where? Convictions? Sentence(s) served?

First crush or romantic love?

What was his/her first sexual experience? Is it a positive/negative memory?

Major accidents or traumas?  How is s/he still affected, if at all?


Mother’s name (include maiden name if known/applicable):

Mother’s current status: ___ living ___ deceased (If living, her age: ____)

Mother’s occupation, if any:

Describe the mother’s relationship with character:

Father’s name:

Father’s current status: ___ living ___ deceased (If living, his age: ____)

Father’s occupation, if any:

Describe the father’s relationship with character:

Any step­parents, foster parents, or birth parents (if not same as above):

If s/he is adopted, does s/he know?

Any siblings (include age and birth order, i.e. relative to main character):

Relationship with each:

Nieces/Nephews, if any:

In­Laws, if any:

Other than the above, who else in the story is part of his/her extended family (e.g.

cousins, aunts/uncles, grandparents, etc.)?


Who, if anyone, is his/her best or closest friend? Other close friends:

How in general does s/he react to or is perceived by… Friends? Strangers?

Spouse/Lover? Past spouse/lovers?

Own children, if any?

Other family members

Children in general?

Others who are more successful?

Others who are less successful?

Boss (if any)?

Underlings at work?


Authority (police, IRS, politicians, attorneys, doctors, etc.)?

Anyone who challenges him or her?

Anyone who angers him or her?

Anyone who asks for help?

What do most people consider likeable about him/her?

What do most people consider his/her biggest flaw?

Any secret attractions? If so, does the other person know it? Has there been any actual romantic/sexual activity?

In romantic relationships, is s/he generally monogamous or uncommitted? (If the latter, is s/he honest w/ partners?)

Is his/her sexual behavior inhibited, average, experimental, or reckless? Has this changed (and if so, why)?

Whom does s/he dislikes most, and why?

Whom does s/he like most, and why?

Who’s the most important person in his/her life right now, and why?

Whom does s/he admire (nonromantic), and why?

Biggest influence, and why (famous or not)?

Whom (if anyone) does s/he consider an enemy, and why?

Person s/he most misunderstands or misjudges:

Person who most misunderstands or misjudges him or her:

Has s/he’s lost touch with anyone who was once significant in his/her life? If so, why?

Worst end of a relationship (could be friend, romantic, colleague…)

Whom does s/he most rely on for practical advice?

Whom does s/he most rely on for emotional support?

Whom, if anyone, does s/he support (e.g. advice or emotional support)?


Any psychological issues (e.g. phobias,  depression, paranoia, narcissism, etc.)?

Is s/he an optimist or pessimist?

Meyers Briggs Personality Type:  (Don’t know? Take a sample test for your character.)

Most comfortable when …  (alone, hanging w/friends, drinking, etc.):

Most uncomfortable when …  (in a crowd, alone, speaking in public, etc.:

Is s/he cautious, brave, or reckless  in his/her approach to life?

What does s/he most value/prioritize? (family, money, success, religion, etc.)

Whom does he/she really love best?

What would he/she be willing to die for?

Is s/he generally compassionate, sensitive to others? Or self­involved/selfish/oblivious?

Personal philosophy:

What is his/her biggest embarrassment?

What is his/her greatest wish?

Any prejudices (race, culture, sexuality, religion, etc.)?

Political party or beliefs, if any:

Does s/he believe in fate or destiny? Is s/he superstitious?

Character’s greatest strength:

Character’s greatest flaw:

Other good characteristics:

Other character flaws:

What are his/her own favorite attributes  (physical and personality)?

What about least favorite?

Are these feelings accurate?

How does s/he think others perceive him or her? (And is this accurate?)

Biggest regret:

Proudest accomplishment:

Biggest secret(s):   Does anyone else know these secrets? If yes, how were the secrets revealed?

How does s/he react to a crisis?

What usually causes the problems in his/her life (romance, finances, friends, colleagues, personality flaws, health, etc.)?

How does s/he react to change?


What would s/he most like to change about her­/himself, and why?

Short term goals:

Long term goals:

Does s/he plan to achieve these goals, or does s/he think they’re unrealistic?

Will others be affected? If yes, does it matter to the character?

What, if anything, is stopping him/her from achieving these goals?

What does he/she actively work to gain, keep or protect?

What event or occurrence does s/he most dread or fear?

Which person in his/her life would s/he most want to emulate?

Which person in his/her life would s/he least want to emulate?













Copyright 2004 ­ 2015 by EPIGUIDE.COM, the Guide to Web Entertainment

This chart may be reprinted as long as above credit is included

Building a World for Your Teen Characters in Young Adult Fiction

This is an excerpt from my book The Young Adult Writer’s Journey. I drew the sketches in this book.

Laying the Foundation: Characters Characters are the foundation of your story. They’re the concrete pad you pour your plot and action on top of and into. Without great characters you don’t have a story. You have a two-dimensional, flat house, no walls, no sides, no floors, and it certainly isn’t going up. Real, three-dimensional characters can take your book to the stars.


drawing homeless coleHow many siblings does your main character have? Do his/her parents work? What kind of home does the character live in and in what world? Is it inner city or Middle Earth, the suburbs or some deserted island? If you chart what your character’s bedroom looks like, it will be there to refer to throughout the book. How much time did you spend in Bella’s room? In Edward’s? What did it tell you about them? Well, for one thing, Edward didn’t have a bed. What did that tell the reader? Maybe your protagonist is homeless or from a broken home. Maybe they spend fifty percent of their time with different parents who have different families. Chart it, even if you add to it as the character tells you about it throughout the story. Religion could be important to your character’s background. It could affect their behaviors, motivations or ideals, even who they choose as friends. Do they own pets? Chart the pet’s name so you don’t accidentally change it halfway through your book. Is it his ever-present companion, like another character in the book? Does it interact well with others? Does the character talk to his pet, rely on the pet for comfort, protection, or friendship? When you refer to your character’s family life, make notes about her childhood. Was it happy or troubled? Did she have a mean grandma who babysat her? Note her earliest memory and her saddest. Details like this make your book more real. Even if you don’t use every detail, it gives you a better insight into the character, which helps you reveal more about him/her to the readers, just not in a huge, sappy background dump that doesn’t move the plot forward in some way. Does your character have a soft heart or is he cold and unfeeling? Why? Is he terrified to speak in front of the class or outgoing and boisterous? Is your character generous or selfish or somewhere in
The Young Adult Writer’s Journey
between? If he was an only child, sharing might be an issue. Is your character empathic and sensitive to others’ needs or self-absorbed?

Recipe for a Successful Synopsis

I’ve heard writing a synopsis is one of the hardest projects a writer can take upon themselves. I’ve been successful with my method, selling over twenty books using only a synopsis. Writing a book that already has a home is a wonderful thing.

Here is my recipe.

Recipe for a successful synopsis



  • Introduce your protagonist or your lead character. Give that character Goals for his or her life and goals for this story. Give your lead motivation—the reason he or she behaves as they do – and the backstory that made them who and what they are.


  • Label your lead character’s inner and outer conflict – If it’s romance, the basic reason she and the hero can’t fall in love and get married on page 2. For example: Katy will never be able to love Matt until she truly believes that he loves her enough to accept all of her responsibilities as his. Katy has to learn that her burdens aren’t as onerous as she thinks. She needs to learn from Matt to set herself free of her self-imposed restrictions, restrictions that exist only in her mind. Katy’s outer conflict is dealing with her klutz problem and the resulting sprained ankle. Yadayadayada . . .


  • Introduce your secondary lead as you did your lead.


  • If it’s a romance, label their conflict. Before Matt Jeffers can love Katy he has to change from the pleasure loving playboy into a family man. This change can’t come about until he realizes that one of God’s greatest gifts to human beings is their family. Katy and her family will teach him this. Matt’s outer conflict is learning to deal with Katy’s life a complete culture shock for bachelor Matt.


  • Introduce any important characters such as the antagonist, the bad guy. Make sure he or she has motivation for all their actions, a goal for his life and a goal for the story and the necessary backstory.


  • Introduce any secondary characters critical for the plot.


  • Brief outline of your story including all the major turning points.


  • Statement of conclusion—how you resolved their conflicts, what your characters learned and how they changed.


Always include the ending. There’s nothing an editor dislikes more than having an author give some cute little note saying, you have to read the book to find out. They read your synopsis. Feel privileged and tell them the ending.

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye–no Girl!

I loved the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and all of Stieg Larsson’s three-book series. I read he died before seeing it become so popular, and his estate hired David Lagercrantz to continue the series. The newest book in the series, The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by Lagercrantz has maybe 50 pages which include the key character Lisbeth Salander. They are rushed and the characterization shoddy. The book is supposed to be about her. Apparently, Lagercrantz became enamored of a subplot about twins separated at birth and brought up in some wacky Swedish program to study twins. He spent most of the book going on and on about the twins, a pair I cared nothing to read about, delving into their past while he created a non-existent tie between them and Salander by using an evil researcher interested in twins. Salander had a twin. This tie between the pairs of twins is vague and barely part of the story.

If you’re a Salander fan, don’t read this book. The previous one by Lagercrantz was poorly crafted, long winded, and began the gradual dis-inclusion of Salander in her own story. I’m not saying Eye for an Eye is a bad book. No wait, it is a bad book. I really didn’t like it. I’m also saying it’s not about Salander. Some of the action scenes including her are so bad, I slammed the book down. Lagercrantz seems to think small, thin women can take one hell of a beating. He uses Salander like a punching bag, and her spirit, the thing you love the most about her, is missing. Lagercrantz has no feel for her character and there’s a general sense he doesn’t really like her.

Eye for an Eye is not about Salander. The Eye for an Eye part, is so minute as to be irrelevant. The book delves deeply into the psyche of the twins, their history, their thoughts, their feelings, and the story is totally about them. They had no part in Salander’s revenge which was taken for a Bangladesh girl Salander befriend’s while in prison, something Lagercrantz turns into a minor subplot. As I said, out of 347 long pages, only 50 may actually include Lisbeth Salander.

I looked into the bestowing of the right to write the Salander series and Larsson’s long-time girlfriend Eva Gabrielsson, has the same opinion I do. She said Larsson would be as horrified by the butchering of a wonderful character as I am. Don’t patronize Lagercrantz and don’t read his books. They suck.