Naked and Afraid from an Author’s Point of View

Have you seen Naked and Afraid? It’s a reality show on the Discovery Channel where two people (one male, one female) strip down to their birthday suits for a three week adventure in the forest.

If you know me outside of the internet, then you know I’m not the type of person who would take part in this type of show. That’s exactly how I feel, however, every time I put my writing out there for someone else to read. I click the “submit” button and suddenly my ego is fragile as an egg sitting within a nest built high in the treetops.

I feel both naked and afraid.

I’m not sure how better or worse that would be than cavorting about the woods for three weeks wearing nothing but my birthday suit accessorized with a canvas messenger bag. I can’t imagine the awkwardness of that situation.

And yet, I can clearly imagine it for my characters. Here’s an overview of how I think the main four characters of my Treasure Pines series might fare on Naked and Afraid:

  • Sam – He would do fine once he got past the lack of technology. All his Boy Scout training would come right back. Because he’s a single dad to a teenage son, he has a bit more modesty than his childhood friend, Ben. I could see him using the canvas sack like a kilt.
  • Maggie – She has a few pounds to lose and is extremely conscious about her appearance. While she could survive on grubs and plants for three weeks, her self-consciousness would be her downfall.
  • Ben – Maggie’s brother has no inhibitions. He’s a man’s man and has no problem killing animals to survive, cooking them in the wild, or making a salad of edible flowers. His only complaint would be that having to spend three weeks with another person would just slow him down.
  • Nell – Maggie’s best friend, she’s got the body of a personal trainer and the flawless skin of a model. She is very outdoorsy and loves sports. Her downfall would be her taste for fine dining and that bugs make her squeamish.

In the meantime, I won’t apply for Naked and Afraid any time soon. I’ll be in my home office where I’m happily Clothed and Comfortable.

Would you ever try out for the reality show? Or do you prefer to keep your wobbly bits safely hidden from inquiring minds? Let me know in the comments section!

While you think about it, here’s an SNL skit parodying the show which features Peter Dinklage who looks more ‘naked and annoyed’ than naked and afraid.

Spinning Characters from Real People – My Husband

A few days before Valentine’s Day, 2016 my husband asked me to take him to the doctor for what he thought was an incurable gas pain. I snickered and agreed, despite the early hour and my not yet having any coffee. Speaking of coffee, I’ll be right back.

Mmm, caffeine. Now where was I?

Oh yeah, gas pains. In my defense, late one night a few years ago my husband had me take him to the emergency room. He was sure his appendix was on the verge of rupturing. The attending physician prescribed him a heavy-duty painkiller, he passed gas (my husband, not the doctor), and we went home. Needless to say, I’ve had more than a little fun at his expense in the time since.

So imagine my surprise when this time the doctor sent us to the emergency room. The attending physician confirmed what the primary care doctor suspected. That afternoon, they removed his appendix.

You can bet your sea-salted, caramel ribbon Frappuccino this will make its way into a book.

Did you ever write a character based on someone in real life? Psst. Tell about it in the comments. Your secret’s safe with me!

In the meantime, check out this video. I’m not sure what’s more disturbing, the review or the game. Either way, it’s a real gas–pun intended!

How a Rainy Night Cured my Writer’s Block

I was smack dab in the middle of the first draft of my first full-length cozy mystery when I fell into a rut. This wasn’t an “I’ll be over here playing Candy Crush for a few days” kind of rut. This was an “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up and I’ll be over here until someone comes along with a crowbar to wedge me from this space” kind of rut.

Everywhere I looked, there were problems. The writing seemed stilted. The characters felt flat. And the plot? Boring with a capital “B”. Every time I opened the file, I groaned and closed it again. I went on like this for a couple of weeks.

Then I was driving home from my shift at our community center’s local volunteer-run library. It was pouring down rain and my oldest son, who is 18 and also a member of my writing group, was with me. As it usually does, our conversation turned to writing and our current projects.

I rounded a corner and the headlights of my truck swept over a cluster of rocky brush at the edge of the woods bordering the road. For a split second, it looked like a body lying there in the rain. Suddenly, I had an idea. And this idea led to so many other ideas.

  • What if it was raining during the opening scene of my book?
  • What if it rained that entire weekend?
  • What if the body was found in the rain?
  • What if the rain washed away some of the evidence?
  • What if…?

The ideas rained down until they formed a stream of thought that spilled into the rut and, as a result, ejected me right out of it. I got home and started writing up a storm, making small tweaks that added up to big changes.

Now my characters have a reason to be excited. The story directs the plot. And I can’t wait to find out who killed off old…well, you’ll have to read it to find out!

What do you do when writer’s block hits? Are you likely to sit and wallow in it? Do you have any tried and true tips to share? Let’s discuss them in the comments section!

On Sherlock and Siblings

Did you see “The Abominable Bride” episode of Sherlock? My family loved it so much that we saved the DVR’ed episode to watch again on Sunday afternoon with one of the neighborhood kids.

The first time I watch something, I’m almost always multitasking. #TheStruggleIsReal as a dear friend would say. The second time around I pick up on all the details I missed before.

What I Noticed While Watching the Second Time

This time I picked up more details about the relationship between Mycroft and Sherlock. From the introduction of these characters in “A Study in Pink” it is clear they have a love-hate relationship. Despite their snarky barbs directed at each other, we learn Mycroft has his younger brother under surveillance.

During this most recent episode we once again see Mycroft let down his guard about his true feelings for his brother when he says, “I was there for you before. I’ll be there for you again. I will always be there for you.” Why wouldn’t want Mycroft for a big brother? (Okay, fine. There is the surveillance bit.)

5 Sibling Pairs from Fiction

Here is a list of other popular sibling pairs from fictional sources, be it book, film, or some other medium:

  1. Jem and Scout – If you do not love this brother-sister duo from To Kill a Mockingbird, then I am not sure we can be friends. (Fine, we can still be friends. We just won’t discuss this.) And to avoid giving away spoilers from Go Set a Watchman, I won’t say any more about them.
  2. Luke and Leia – There I was, eleven years old, wondering if Luke and Leia would get married when all of a sudden it’s revealed they’re brother and sister. What the Ewok? That’s a plot twist that will live on for several generations.
  3. Cain and Abel – The original siblings straight from the Biblical tale, these brothers have inspired some of the best sibling rivalries ever to pop up in fiction, whether vintage classics or references from current pop culture.
  4. Zan and Jayna – One Saturday morning during my childhood I was watching Superfriends, when Jayna turned into this giant eagle, and Zan turned into a bucket of water which Gleek carried while riding atop Jayna’s back. I guess you had to be there, but it really made me wish I had a wonder twin who shared a super power with me.
  5. Elizabeth and Jane – On the surface, you might think these sisters from Pride & Prejudice, who could not be more opposite, would rival with Mary and Edith from Downton Abbey for the Most Competitive Siblings award. They actually get along well, and meddle in each other’s affairs for helpful reasons.

The world has no shortage of siblings. While Sherlock won’t return until 2017 (The horrors!) we’ll at least see a few more weeks of Downton before it wraps up. Here’s one of our first looks at Mycroft Holmes.

Who are your favorite fictional siblings? How do they stand up to your real-life siblings, or the siblings of other people you know? Let’s chat about it below!

Giving Your Characters the Gift of Forgiveness

Christmas is the season of forgiveness, but I’m here to tell you it’s not easy. Take a look at any social media network and you’ll find groups of people who are offended by everything from skin color to use of a certain phrase. While I am first to preach tolerance, there are some things that seem pretty unforgivable!

For example, I am not sure I can forgive LeAnn Rimes for butchering one of my favorite songs. “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” was fine just the way it was. There was certainly no reason for her to add a country twang and double the pace.

Another example of something that seems unforgivable is when someone tells a lie that involves my kids. Treat me like crap if you must, but please do not drag my boys into it. They are not angels by any stretch, but they are my angels and nobody’s going to lie about them.

And finally, let’s talk about pictures of me on social media. I’m not a huge fan. It’s taken me six years since first creating my Facebook account to be comfortable enough to post a selfie. When I find other people have posted them, I have a little meltdown bemoaning all my flaws to my husband, who patiently and lovingly suffers through it. Every. Single. Time. (Because after all, the photo on my book jacket will be much more flattering.)

Now that I’ve given some examples of seemingly unforgivable acts, look at them from the point of view of a character in a book.

  • A musician hears a remake of his song on the radio, and plots his revenge.
  • A neighbor lies about kids traipsing through her flower beds to hide the fact that a feral cat colony living in the crawlspace under her home is the real culprit.
  • A photographer posts a photo of a political figure online acting suspicious to social media and, as a result, winds up stalked by members of the mafia.

In each of the above situations, the character wields quite a bit of power. They can forgive or not, and that will weigh heavily on the outcome of your story. Just like whether or not I forgive people will affect the outcome of my story. I’m trying to come to terms with the second and third items on my list, but LeAnn Rimes will never hold a candle to Gayla Peevey when it comes to my favorite Christmas song!

Have you given your characters the chance to forgive anyone? Were any of their situations inspired by things in your life? Let’s chat about it in the comments section below!

Why Fiction Writing Is like Therapy

Writing fiction is like therapy. I enter a virtual room (within my brain) where a group of people (my characters) sit in a circle and tell me their stories. Sometimes their stories intertwine, and sometimes their stories are standalone.

And sometimes, their stories imitate things from my life.

Let’s look at Maggie Sawyer, for example. Unlike me, she’s in her mid-30’s and single. Her high school boyfriend has just re-entered her life, but they’re not hooking up any time soon. Like me, Maggie has some issues, one of them being a parent with an explosive temper. (Boy do I know about that!)

When Art Imitates Life

It’s no secret that artists create things that imitate life, and nothing makes art more appealing than a little tragedy. When I write, I slip the dark things from my life into my fictional works. It helps me confront them in a creative way.

Slipping those negative emotions into my fictional work also helps me take control of the details of the situation behind them. Sometimes I come up with a different outcome. Maybe even a better outcome.

Accepting the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Everyone has creative talents and I’m blessed with more than a few. During my quilting phase, I made memorial photo quilts. When on my knitting kick, I whipped up scarves and hats for the local cold weather coalition. And during my pen and ink era, I sketched pets that had crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.

Looking back, it’s easy to see how I’ve spent my entire life using art to get past the rough times in life. Depression and the holidays go hand in hand, and the ugly black claws are already threatening to sink in. If this happens to you, then please reach out and talk to someone.

For now writing is doing the trick for me. Whenever a dark memory threatens to drag me down, instead of wallowing in it, I’m pulling out my notebook and jotting down details. Making poor Maggie Sawyer suffer along with me in her own, fictional way really does help.

If you’re a writer, I’d love for you to chime in with your thoughts on this subject. And if you’re a reader, then let me know how you tackle the tough times, through the holidays or otherwise.

Happy Thanksgiving!